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Goshen Horsemen Contribute To Youth Day

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Published: June 6, 2009 9:13 pm ET

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June 6th was the first of three matinee racing programs at Goshen Historic Track this year with six races carded on Youth Day with the emphasis on offering entertainment - and horse racing — to the younger generation.

Most horses that competed did so for schooling or for qualifying for the pari-mutuel tracks, but it seemed that those races, which showcased some up and coming young horses, took a backseat to the main event, the Inaugural High School Scholarship Race, which followed the last matinee race.

Despite the fact that Larry Stalbaum qualified his recent Australian purchase, Quicksilvercandy A in an eye-opening 1:56:3 on the newly refurbished race track the day belonged to Ray Schnittker and his student-drivers.

In what was one of the most unique races ever presented, horsemen in and around Historic Track, banned together to not only raise money for eight local-area high schools scholarship funds, but in the process they proceeded to introduce harness racing to the younger generation.

The Inaugural High School Scholarship Race featured students from eight area high schools teamed with professional drivers on two-seat jog carts and they competed in a one mile race with the students at the lines and the pros riding shotgun.

Ray Schnittker, who last year won the Hambletonian with Deweycheatumnhowe, spearheaded the idea to get sponsors and raise $40,000, which in turn would be donated to each participating high school depending where they finished in the one mile pace.

Schnittker contacted local Athletic Directors and had them select the students who would like to drive in the Scholarship Race and once that was accomplished he trained each one at Historic Track prior to the event on June 6.

And by all indications Schnittker, and his people, did a great job. Eight pacers with two occupants in each cart, lined up behind the mobile starting gate for the special event and when the word go was given one couldn’t have asked for a more competitive or more enjoyable race.

Each student handled the reins, accompanied by a professional driver in case of emergencies, and every step of the mile was interesting especially after the half when drivers and jog carts were strung three-deep up the backstretch and around the final turn. But when the field straightened for home six of the eight teams had a chance to win and it was a battle right down to the finish.

According to Meadowlands regular, George Brennan, who was teamed with Shannon Mingall of Chester Free Academy, the kids as well as all the horsemen were yelling and urging their pacers on from the three quarters home. And the team of Brennan-Mingall must have been yelling the loudest because their horse rallied on the far outside in the final strides to gain a 2:07 victory over the team of Larry Stalbaum and Shawn Griffin, who drove for Goshen H.S. Third place went to the pacer driven by Washingtonville H.S. student Robert Burbridge accompanied by Mike Kimelman.

After the winners circle ceremonies with all the participants lining up for pictures Schnittker — the fifth place finisher with Mathew Martinez of Middletown H.S – personally handed out checks to the schools according to where their team finished.

The winning team earned $9,000 for their schools scholarship while the second place team got $6,000 for their H.S. scholarship Fund. Third place finishers earned $4,500 while those who finished fourth through eighth all earned $2,400 for their school’s scholarships.

Other high schools represented included S.S, Seward, Monroe-Woodbury, Port Jervis and Monticello.

And the kids who did such a wonderful job driving each personally received $1,000.

“We really got the community involved and we introduced the kids to harness racing,” Schnittker said. ”It was a great day and everyone who participated, even the professional drivers enjoyed themselves.”

Besides Brennan, Schnittker, Stalbaum and Kimelman other professionals who donated their time and efforts for this worthwhile project included Stephane Bouchard, Jordan Stratton, Gareth Dowse and Greg Merton.

After the ceremonies, Cameo Farms Steve Jones, vice president of the Historic Track Board of Directors said, “This was one of the greatest racing promotions I have ever seen and we thank everyone who was involved, especially the sponsors. It’s so great to see what horsemen can do when they band together for a common cause.”

(Goshen Historic Track)


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