A big night on Thursday (Dec. 15) buoyed Trae Porter in the inaugural Rosecroft/Freehold Driving Challenge, as he took home the title and the $1,000 first prize.
The series consisted of four races at Rosecroft Raceway on Thursday, Dec. 15 and four races at Freehold Raceway on Saturday, Dec. 17, pitting four Rosecroft drivers against four Freehold drivers. Porter won three of four races on Thursday, taking Race 5 with Select Friday, Race 6 on Homestretch Wes and Race 9 with Son of the Lynx. Along with a seventh-place finish in the other challenge race, that gave him 153 points going into Freehold on Saturday.
Porter finished no better than fifth in the four Freehold races on Saturday, but he built up an insurmountable lead and finished with 167 points. Russell Foster finished second with 157 points. Eric Abbatiello performed the best of the Freehold contingent with 124 points, including a trio of second-place finishes on Saturday. Tyler Miller, Jonathan Ahle and Vinny Ginsburg also represented the Freehold contingent, while Declan Donoway and Eric Davis drove for the Rosecroft side.
Saturday's festivities at Freehold also featured a bouncy reindeer race and a bicycle race, with the bicycles being donated to Habcore, a 501c charity which provides housing to veterans, low-income residents and special-needs residents in Monmouth County.
AHDC donates $5,000 to Harness Hall of Fame
On Saturday, the American Harness Drivers Club (AHDC), with thanks to the unwavering support of the Freehold Raceway management and race office, donated $5,000 to the Harness Racing Hall of Fame.
Tom Charters, one of the museum board members, was on hand to accept the donation. Anthony Verruso, President of the AHDC, said that "the drivers take support of the sport very seriously and relish being able to help any way they can."
In the lone trot event of the day, Tony Beltrami guided Dark Pool to a decisive victory.
When the gate sprung, King Cast (driven by Jim King Solomon) left strongly to try and protect pylon position. The two horse, My Big Kadillac (Mike Polansky), also got away quickly, but CHF Merodona (Joe Lee) soon looped them all and took the quick lead in the first turn. Dark Pool (Tony Beltrami) also floated off the gate and was able to drop in fourth.
Polansky chose to not drop in the three hole, so he fervently tried to get to the top. My Big Kadillac finally accomplished that task but not until he just passed the half in a sporty :59.4. Beltrami guided Dark Pool to the outside and was quickly followed by Campbellini (Dante Scattolini), who had broke in the first turn but quickly got back on stride to stay in the race. Masster Blue (Anthony Verruso) finally slid out third-over to try and follow the live cover. Dark Pool, taking full advantage of the good trip, wasted no time clearing the tiring leader up the backside with Campbellini dropping in right behind him to try and keep in stalking distance. But the new leader was too strong for the rest of the field and he drew off to win by two lengths. Campbellini held on for second with Masster Blue charging for third.
Dark Pool, a nine-year-old Cantab Hall gelding, is owned by Tony Beltrami and trainer Paul Fusco. The gelding was sent off as the second choice and returned $5.80 on the win.
The AHDC will be racing next Saturday, Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.
Live racing resumes at Freehold on Friday, Dec. 23, starting at 12:30 p.m.