The Pennsylvania fair circuit’s trotters, pacers, and horsemen moved to the east central portion of the state on Sunday and Monday for the annual meeting in this town, which is the next-to-last start on the PA fair circuit this year – and thus important for horses looking to solidify spots in the Fair Championships at The Meadows on Saturday, October 6.
One divisional track record was set during the meet, as the Russell Hanover–Applique Hanover freshman pacing gelding Aflame Hanover scorched the track with a 1:56.4 clocking while going wire-to-wire, far eclipsing the former mark of 1:58.1 set by Ya Gotta Go in 2010.
Aflame Hanover, who is 5-4-1-0 at the fairs and has been competitive with “the big boys” on the pari-mutuel circuit, is owned by driver Tony and trainer/wife Linda. Ironically, the horse who finished the distant second to “Aflame,” Way To Close, clinched the season-long points title for the baby pacing colts division with his place finish for Tony’s brother, Todd Schadel.
Among the group’s female counterparts, the star has been the Well Said–Chantal Hanover filly Crew Sock Hanover, who is trained and driven by Dave Brickell, also co-owner with Mitchell York – the same pairing behind 2016 North American freshman dash leader Camera Lady.
At Gratz Crew Sock Hanover was the first horse to post parade for the weekend, and she was also the first horse home, the 2:00 mile running her record to 9-for-9 on the Keystone twice rounds. (And it took until this race for “Crew Sock” to clinch her points title.)
Talk about dominating a division – in the two-year-old diamond-gaited colt ranks, Todd Schadel swept the two “A” divisions with Oceanato Hanover (7-5-2-0 at the fairs) in 2:05 and Sinister Hanover in 2:04.1. And with those results, a third member of Team Todd, Keystone Bentley, mathematically eliminated the opposition to become the points champion.
Among their filly counterparts, the winners were RT Gloria De Dios (2:02.2) and Imallthatmatters (2:05). This is the only freshman section that did not have a horse “clinch” its point title – the two it will boil down to at Bloomsburg will be Bumper Hanover (second at Gratz) and Misty Lane (third).
That the three-year-olds got to race at all on Monday was in part due to Gratz’s track surface, probably the most “waterproof” on the circuit, but in probably larger part due to the efforts of the Wiest family, who handled a steady rain with skill and kept an excellent surface under the circumstances for the horsemen.
Dave Brickell won Sunday’s first race with Crew Sock Hanover, and he took the initial Monday contest with the redoubtable Well Said pacing gelding Venier Hanover, who came his own last quarter in 28.2 to post a 1:57.4 victory for Team Brickell/York.
But Venier is not only not a “clinched” point leader, he’s not even in the lead in the division, as second again was Cirrus De Vie, the 2017 Championship winner, running his fair scorecard to 13-7-6-0 (all six seconds to you-know-who). Venier, who now has won eight in a row at the fairs, could even win at Bloomsburg this weekend, and if Cirrus De Vie finished second, “Cirrus” would be the point leader (Venier was not at his best early in the year).
The battle for point honours among the side-wheeling filly set is even closer after Monday wins by friendly rivals that date back to their high school wrestling days – Roger Hammer (Birch Bark, 2:01.2) and Same Beegle (Alexis May Hanover, 2:02.2). Geisha Seelster is currently in the lead, but depending upon Bloomsburg results both Keystone Diamond and Pretty Proud (the 2017 point and Championship winner) could take the honours.
Given the tricky weather on Monday, the two three-year-old colt trotters, both late bloomers at the fairs, were as impressive as anybody.
Tymal Advocate won in 2:00.3 to run his recent fair record to 4-for-5, while Show Me The Magic has triumphed in 5 of his last 7 fair outings after a 2:01 score. The sectional point title, though, will be another three-way late battle, among Grapple Hanover, Eiffel Hanover, and Yougottabecrazy.
The only fair competitor who had been able to clinch a point title before Gratz was the three-year-old Blow Back, who was second at Gratz to Bellamente in 2:03. Blow Back now shows a still-impressive 13-8-5-0 fair scorecard. She’ll have to stay at her best through Championship time, though, to deny Critical Hanover (11-6-5-0 at the fairs), who won the other Gratz division in 2:01.2.
Todd Schadel again was the big winner at Gratz, with six victories on both the training and driving side, and is uncatchable no matter the results at Bloomsburg, which races on Friday at 1:00 p.m. and Saturday at 11:00 a.m.
(Pennsylvania Fair Harness Horsemen’s Association)