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Billings Races Kick Off April 17

Published: April 14, 2016 3:26 pm ET

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The CKG Billings Harness Driving Series will kicks off its 35th season at Pompano Park on Saturday, April 17.

The Pompano date will be followed by a contest at Monticello Raceway on Wednesday. April 20. Then, almost weekly, there will be races for amateur drivers at various racetracks in the United States and Canada through late November.

Again the Billings will be run under the auspices of the Delvin Miller Harness Drivers Association.

The series, which began in the early 1980s, is considered the Grand Circuit of amateur racing. Known for its constant travelling sideshow over the years, some of the best amateur drivers in North America compete, or have competed, in it. And because of the success of the Billings Series, it has spawned various local amateur driving organizations.

“With amateur harness racing at a near frenzy pace, the Granddaddy of them all, the CKG Billings Harness Driving Association Series is getting ready for yet season of racing action," noted Steve Oldford, the vice president of the Billings Series.

The Billings starts with the first travel series races at the Isle of Capri at Pompano Park, in sunny Florida on Sunday, April 17 and then moves north to Monticello Raceway on the following Wednesday (April 20) for the first leg in the series eastern region. The mid-west region opener is slated on Sunday, April 24 in Ohio at Miami Valley Raceway.”

Due mainly to the success of the Billings Series amateur racing has now become integral part of the sport.

“This year amateur racing action has been complimented with weekly record braking handles in races at the Meadowlands and at Pompano Park. Wagering was also strong in the recently completed races in the NAADA Trotting Series at Yonkers, Freehold, and Monticello,” Oldford added.

“Amateur racing has never been more popular than it is now” interjected Tony Verruso, the CKG Billings Series president. “Just look at the handle at the amateur races and you can see we are a good bet.

“Various amateur clubs are now organized to help maximize the number of races we can get; add benefits to the tracks that host us; create an incredible camaraderie among the amateur drivers and benefit all of the charities each club represents.

“Tens of thousands of dollars are raised each year through amateur driving for the benefit of each clubs charity. The CKG Billings is proud to contribute its driver’s earnings to the Harness Racing Hall of Fame and Museum.

“We are again this year going with the five separate series format," Verruso added."We believe it was well received by members new and old last year so we thought it a good idea to give it another whirl.”

Verruso is referring to having five divisions of short series instead of having a seven-month, year-long event.

The Eastern Regional and the Midwest Regional will each have two short series and there will also be a Travel Series. And each will have series ending finales.

Obviously, the eastern division will encompass racetracks in the east while the western division will feature races at tracks in the midwest. There will be a travel division with events in both east and midwest and a few racetracks in Canada will host Billings events thus making the Billings a true international amateur series.

“The beauty of this format will allow everyone to race in any division. However, the points earned in each division will be calculated in that division only,” Verruso explained. “And the European Point System will again be used to tally each participant’s points.

“On the whole, participation was definitely up last racing season and we did also get some new quality members. Our goal this year is to continue that trend and we hope the new slot money being infused into Ohio will go a long way to rebuilding that driving base for us in the mid-west region.”

Again there will be Billings Gold and Silver Cup Finals at the end of the season and they will take place at Harrah’s Philadelphia on Sunday, November 20.

As usual, only drivers can be nominated to the Billings Series; horses have to meet the certain series criteria.

A complete listing of conditions and nominating costs can be had by contacting Verruso at [email protected] or Billings Series VP Steve Oldford at [email protected]. One can also get pertinent information on the Delvin Miller Harness Driving Series on the USTA website under amateur racing.

But remember, nominations by mail close on April 18. However, late nominations can always be made but at an additional cost.

(Billings)


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