by John Manzi, for NAADA
Monticello, NY — The front end was the place to be in the amateur races Thursday (Oct. 18) at Monticello Raceway, as Joe Lee and Alan Schwartz hustled their trotters to wire-to-wire victories in the fifth leg of the North American Amateur Driving Association (NAADA) Trotting Series over the Sullivan County half-mile oval.
Lee won his betting division with Makin Trouble K in 2:02.3, while Schwartz and Ladys Big Stormont connected for a 2:01.3 triumph in the other on a sunny but unusually blustery afternoon in the southern Catskill Mountains.
Lee, driving for trainer Bruce Aldrich Sr., sent Makin Trouble K toward the lead, which they gained before a :29 first quarter. But once on the lead, they had to rebuff multiple challenges before they passed the halfway point.
“My horse was a handful in the post parade and before the race, but once the gate let us go, he was fine,” Lee said in the paddock after his driving victory. “Once he settled down, he was gritty and raced good.”
At the three-quarters, they had put away most of the early competition — all but Sheer Action and driver Christopher Doherty, the grandson of Hall of Famer Jimmy Doherty.
Down the lane, Makin Trouble K and Sheer Action were side by side and were joined late on the far outside by Tough Get Going (Joe Faraldo). But as the field neared the wire, Faraldo’s charge hung and Jennifer Lappe ducked to the passing lane and rallied for second money with Celebrity Blue Chip. Tough Get Going had to settled for the show dough.
And although Sheer Action was just a length behind he winner at the wire, he and Doherty, who was making his first lifetime pari-mutuel start, finished fourth.
Makin Trouble K ($18.40), who won for the seventh time this season, is owned by Woody Hoblitzell. And for Lee, last years National Amateur Driver of the Year, it marked his ninth winning drive thus far this season.
The second split went similarly to the first when Schwartz sent Ladys Big Stormont toward the lead. When Bob Krivelin and Current Crisis closed the two-hole, Schwartz had little choice but to try to get the lead from Monica Banca and Master of Excuses, who had command.
“I really waned to race my horse from a pocket, but when there was no room long the pylons, I went to the front and I was a little concerned about the :28.4 first quarter,” Schwartz explained.
Once on top, Schwartz and Banca were open lengths in front of their competition. They raced one-two by the half in :59.3, and the order remained the same as they passed the third stanza in 1:30. At that point, Current Crisis (Bob Krivelin) was third, but he began to fade as the leaders rounded the final turn. Despite a two-hole trip the entire way, Master Of Excuses could not get by Ladys Big Stormont in the lane and they finished 1-1/4 lengths behind Schwartz’s trotter, who won for the 10th time this season. Jennifer Lappe rallied Multitaskr Hanover to finish third after he went off stride at the start.
Schwartz owns and trains Ladys Big Stormont ($3.70). It was Schwartz’s 11th seasonal driving victory and the 606th of his amateur career.