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Father-Daughter Team Go West

Published: April 10, 2013 2:33 pm ET

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Michelle Ruvola and George Bonomo will be hopping a plane to the left coast this week to participate in the eighth annual East-West Challenge for Amateur Drivers. They are joined by teammates Bob Krivelin and Dein Spriggs, hoping to get the better of their left coast counterparts.

This will be the second trip west for Ruvola. She competed in 2007 winning her first race (Cicely Coe – paying a whopping $140) in the Golden State and hopes to repeat that accomplishment. George Bonomo is making his first jaunt to the largest state and hopes to avenge his squad’s 2012 defeat.

For the past 16 years, part of Michelle’s “fun life” and passion has been driving and training harness horses. She has come a long way since her first race over a local county fair track. Her rush comes from the excitement of driving these equine athletes at speed while sitting three feet above the ground, in close quarters with other competitors and their steeds. That excitement is only exceeded by those instances where you are the victor with an "explosion of happiness." Michelle’s career highlights, after winning in California at 70-1 was the honour she received as the 2012 US representative at the Women's International Amateur Driving Championship Series in Taranto, Italy. She credits her father for giving her the opportunities to be involved in this exciting sport - and for being a "friendly" and "challenging" competitor. A mid-westerner, Michelle has been married to her husband Len for 23 years and has two children Lauren (21) and Zack (18). Her professional life consists of being vice-president of The Standard Companies, a family-owned, national supplier of Sanitation/Maintenance supplies and systems.

Michelle’s dad, George Bonomo, has been involved in the standardbred and thoroughbred industries since 1976 as owner and breeder. George was the co-founder and President of the Midwest Amateur Driving Association (MADA) and began his amateur driving career in 1998. George has particularly enjoyed his participation in international competitions which has taken him to, Germany, Sicily, Canada, New Zealand, and Italy. Bonomo is an active participant in the Billings Series. Out of the bike, he has served as president of Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association and is a board member of the Illinois Standardbred Owners and Breeders Association. Under the banner of 'the family that races together stays together,' George is married to 'Rosie,' a former MADA champion, has a son Michael, and another daughter JoAnn.

Both drivers are chomping at the proverbial bit to race later this week. George said, “I rarely, if ever, have the opportunity to drive in so many races in such a short time span on American soil. The folks out there put on such a wonderful show for us and treat us like we have been there forever. I am so grateful for the opportunity to race at a new venue, with my daughter, and hopefully bring the trophy back home.”

Ruvola is really looking forward to the event. “The Cal-Expo management team and horsemen have made this one of the highlights of the year for those of us that represent Team East each year. With all of the problems we face across North America, and given the uncertainty surrounding the immediate future of racing in California, Illinois and other states, it is a testament to those involved with this event that it continues, establishing a tradition I sure hope will go on many years to come.”

The series will be held this Friday and Saturday and features eight randomly drawn races and a charitable component benefitting the Sacramento Horsemen’s Association, a local organization that provides a facility and riding space on a non-profit basis for local horse enthusiasts.

(East-West Amateur Driving Challenge)

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