Male drivers and their female counterparts staged their annual Saint Valentine’s Day competition Friday at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino, with the men rallying to win the celebratory chocolates
The event presented by the track and the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association featured two races — “The Battle of the Sexes Trot” and the “Guys & Dolls Pace.” Randy Tharps, Ken Weimer, Mike Wilder and Brian Zendt represented the men against the quartet of Lisa Beinhauer, Sharon Donella, Naquel Harvey and Cherie Keith.
Zendt captured the trot — the opening race — but with Donella and Harvey finishing 2-3, the score was tied at 18-18.
“I love this,” said Donella, who trains a small stable at The Meadows but seldom takes a pari-mutuel drive. ”You get such a natural high from driving. I thought I had this won, but I wasn’t able to open a big enough lead.”
The pace proved the difference, as Wilder, Tharps and Weimer swept the top three spots to lead the men to a 42-30 victory and the corresponding bragging rights.
“It was exciting and a lot of fun,” Tharps said. “But I knew that if I didn’t do well I would take a lot of heat from the boys.”
After accepting his box of chocolates, however, Wilder said the real winners were the track and its fans.
“I’d like to see us do more promotions like this,” Wilder said. “We had a good crowd, and I think it was this event that attracted them. The fans got to see that women drive great and as safely as men. No one should think that women can’t drive.”
In that spirit of fellowship, all participating drivers donated their earnings to the track’s chaplaincy program.
Meanwhile, the event may have helped The Meadows regain a popular trainer-driver. Keith left the business nearly a decade ago but said her experience Friday might inspire her to return.
“I miss it terribly, and I’m thrilled to come back,” Keith said. “I was surprised how it all came back to me when I got behind the gate. It’s possible I could get the bug again.”
Wilder had yet another sweet journey to the winner’s circle when he guided Spring Break to a 1:53.2 Lightning Lane victory in the $22,500 Filly & Mare Not Listed Preferred/Preferred Handicap Pace. Jans Luck was second, a head back, with Tremor Hanover third.
Randy Bendis trains Spring Break, a seven-year-old Dream Away-Siobhan mare, who soared past $600,000 in career earnings, for Joann and Joe Thomson.