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Ranger Returns To Racing

Published: September 13, 2014 7:06 pm ET

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Driver Bruce Ranger made a triumphant return to racing with a victory in one of the eight $25,000 Florida Sunshine Stakes held at the Sunshine Meadows Equestrian Village in Delray Beach, Florida on Saturday.

It was back on May 12 in the third race at the Isle Pompano Park, Ranger was involved in a three-horse accident and was catapulted from his race bike and landed on his bank, fracturing several vertebrae in his spine. Ranger, 55, is the all-time winningest driver in the history of the Isle Pompano Park with 8,733 career wins.

With no surgery, Ranger had been wearing a brace since the accident and took it off just last week after four months of healing and therapy.

“I jogged my first horse since the accident this week at Pompano Park,” Ranger said, “And it felt good enough to give me the incentive to try a just a couple of races today. My friend Mel Turcotte had a heart attack two weeks ago and I wanted to help him out and drive his two horses.”

In the fourth race $3,300 division of the Sunshine Stakes for two-year-old trotting colts and gelding, Ranger was aboard Ron Turcotte’s Victory Park in his maiden debut and the son of Arapa Victory was able to lead from start to finish, winning by three-quarters of a length in 2:05.2 over the one mile oval.

“It felt really good to sit in a race bike again,” Ranger admitted, “But we will see how I feel come tomorrow morning. This was a great first mile and Mel looks to have a nice colt. He was smooth going and has a nice gait. Two drives for me was just fine today. I think I will be ready to try a few more next week here.”

Ranger said he was waiting to jog horses until his new safety vest with added back protection had arrived.

Victory Park is co-owned by Barbara Turcotte, Vickie Howard, Pete Roccasano and Ron Ruggles.

The fastest mile on the program was registered by Markie and driver Bob Roberts in the fifth race $3,400 three-year-old filly trot. They sped away from the field right at the start, leading by as many as 10 lengths by the half-mile and went on to win by 20 open lengths in 2:02.1.

It was the first start of the year for the daughter of Proud Bushy, who was bred and is owned by Kim and Jay Sears of Osteen and trained by Kim Sears. Trotting JC Poss (Tom Sells) was second with Gold Star Ginger (Walter Ross Jr.) third. It was one of three winners on the day for Bob Roberts.

Other divisional winners were Paxxie (Warren Harp) in 2:05 in the $2,950 two-year-old filly pace; Caesars Forum (Marc Aubin) in 2:03.4 in the $2,800 two-year-old colt pace; Brandy (Bob Roberts) in 2:09.3 in the $2,950 two-year-old filly trot; Showing Off (Bob Roberts) in the $2,900 three-year-old colt trot, Limelight (Tom Sells) in the $3,500 three-year-old filly pace and Gold Star Kenny P (Mickey McNichol) in the $3,000 three-year-old colt pace in 2:03.3.

“Considering all the rain we had Friday and again early this morning, the track crew at Sunshine Meadows did an outstanding job," said Ranger. "Their racing surface was in super shape for today. I got to meet both the track super Brandon Mills and his assistant Scott Miller and told what a great job they did in preparing this place for the races.”

There were also two “celebrity” races in double-seater jogging carts held during the program. In the closest finish of any race on the day, Florida State Senator Maria Sachs barely beat Senator Joseph Abruzzo by a slim nose in the first event. The second race saw professional Mazda car race driver, Tristan Nunez, age 18, defeat his mother/manager Diane Nunez by three opens lengths.

“What an exciting race that was,” Senator Sachs said. “I have been riding horses all my life but this was something new and exhilarating, especially coming to the finish and beating Joe. This was a victory for all women!”

“I started out driving go-carts,” said professional race car driver Tristan Nunez, "And then two years ago when I was 16, I was hired by Mazda to drive for them even before I got my regular driver’s license, but this was something totally different and a great experience. These horses has such raw power and strength and speed. I really liked it and want to do it again.”

The $25,000 second leg of the Sunshine Stakes will take place next Saturday, September 20 at Sunshine Meadows Equestrian Center in Delray starting at 11 a.m. with free admission and parking. The Sunshine Stakes are sponsored by the Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association.

(Sunshine Meadows Equestrian Center)

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