The $16,216 Preferred Handicap Pace at Freehold Raceway was a thrilling one on Feb. 10. Mark Herschberger piloted 19-1 Big Stretch Mark to victory after a nail-biter of a stretch battle.
Herschberger and the Laurie Molnar trainee started from post three and settled in fourth on the rail after the wings folded.
Just before the half, the pair of “Marks” took an opportunity to pull to the outside behind some cover. They sat second-over for more than a quarter of the mile.
Going into the final turn, Herschberger pulled the 11-year-old gelding three-wide to go head-to-head with the early leaders. He wasn’t the only one with a rally left in the tank though. The field stretched six-wide across the track and they all were within reach of the lead as they paced for home. When they crossed the wire, it was Big Stretch Mark by a nose in 1:55.2. Six horses finished within half a length of the leader. Even the eighth-place finisher was only off by 2-1/4 lengths.
The winning owners are Donato Falcicchio and Paul Jessop. A win bet paid $41.60.
This was one of three wins on the 13-race card for Mark Herschberger. The rising star at Freehold has 13 wins in 60 starts so far in 2024.
Vinny Ginsburg has had hot hands lately and kept up the momentum this weekend. After scoring a grand slam last Saturday (Feb. 3), he scored a triple today.
Freehold Raceway also welcomed a Monmouth County 4-H group, the “Hearts and Horseshoes” club to the track today. The group of over 20 kids and parents toured the backside and got to see the behind the scenes of harness racing in the paddock. They ate lunch in the paddock kitchen (thank you Theo!) and then came over to the grandstand to watch the rest of the races.
Also on Saturday, Anthony Verruso perched Landia on a helmet and vaulted powerfully for home to take the $12,162 American Harness Drivers Club (AHDC) Trot going away.
Starting from post five, Verruso floated Landia to race sixth while Hammer Creek (John Calabrese) coasted to the top in a :29.2 first quarter. Hammer Creek strolled to the half as Inukchuk Chuck (Tony Beltrami) lost ground from the pocket and left the leader to a four-length advantage crossing a :59.4 half.
Hammer Creek continued his dawdle up the backstretch with company oncoming. Drazzmatazz (Yogi Sheridan) plied a first-over push with Landia in tow coming to three-quarters in 1:30.2.
Drazzmatazz failed to down Hammer Creek coming to the final turn, but Landia darted for the front when unleashed by Verruso. Landia collared Hammer Creek spinning for home and slipped away to a widening win in a 2:01 mile. Hammer Creek settled for second, beaten two lengths, with Drazzmatazz first and 6-5 favourite Empereurthebest FR (James Slendorn) fourth.
Donald Maiorano owns and trains Landia, a five-year-old mare by Yankee Glide. Off as the third choice, she paid $10.80 to win.
AHDC action resumes next Saturday, Feb. 17 at Freehold Raceway.
Freehold Raceway hosts live harness racing on Fridays and Saturdays with a post time of 12:30 p.m.
(Freehold Raceway and AHDC)