Harness racing's greatest traveling roadshow, the CKG Billings Harness Driving Series, kicked off a three-day weekend with a trotting event Saturday at Batavia Downs in New York State which will be followed by competitions across the border in Canada; first at Flamboro Downs on Sunday and then at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Monday.
Tonight at his hometown track in western New York ‘Easy Dave’ Russo made a laugher out of the contest when he hustled Reiki to the lead from the seven-hole and they rolled on to an easy nine-length triumph in 1:59.4 over a sloppy racetrack.
When the wings of the mobile gate folded Russo found himself in the fresh air on the limb and he had no choice but to have Reiki take command which he did after a :28.4 first quarter. Once on top the field settled in behind Russo and his trotter had no challenges until Tony ‘Shifty’ Ciuffetelli moved Bazilion off the pylons as the field headed for the third stanza.
Still with a length-and-a quarter lead when the field trotted by the three quarters it was plain to see that Reiki was determined and the seven-year-old Cheyenne Rei gelding hit another gear as he rounded the final turn and then drew off to an oh-so-easy triumph. Bazilion hung on for second money while Ideal Longshot garnered the show dough for Billings president, Tony ‘the Capo’ Verruso.
Reiki won for the third time this season and paid $4.20. He is owned by Russo's wife Marissa.
Russo, who devotes most of his time training, has already harnessed 42 winners thus far this season and is just one victory short of 500 career winners. Tonight's triumph was Russo's third driving victory in just seven starts this year and 35th of his career.
(CKG Billings Series)