Virginia Breeders championship races usher out the 2018 Shenandoah Downs season

by Darrell Wood, for Shenandoah Downs

Woodstock, VA — Trainer/driver Mark Gray had two Virginia Breeders championship wins and 2017 2-year-old divisional champs Lemonaideshine and Freddie K retained their titles as 3-year-olds Sunday (Oct. 14) as the $347,000 eight-race championship slate brought the Shenandoah Downs season to an end. The 2- and 3-year-old divisional titles were decided among pacers and trotters of both sexes in the 21st edition of the series.

Gray’s Great Am I and Flaming Trix captured the $42,725 2-year-old colt trot and $43,950 2-year-old filly trot, respectively. The former wired the field and held off a pesky Psycho in 2:03.2 while the latter took the lead just past the half and in a thriller, fended off Zsa Zsa Dabor by just a neck in 2:08.3. Both trotters won their prep legs in easier fashion this past Monday, by 4-1/2 and 2-1/4 lengths. The pair are both owned by Anne McDonald.

Lemonaideshine is a Badlands Hanover gelding that has thrived in Woodstock the past two years. The Jimmy Viars trainee has finished no worse than second in 12 lifetime starts, all at either Shenandoah Downs or the County Fair meet that precedes it. He wired the $44,200 3-year-old colt pace field Sunday and finished just a half-length ahead of Gray’s Rocknroll Ace in 1:57.2. Chuck Perry, who won the season’s driving title, directed Lemonaideshine to his seventh win of the year in just nine starts.

Freddie K, who won his prep race in wire-to-wire fashion, mimicked that effort in Sunday’s $43,600 2-year-old colt trot but did it in a more dominating style. The 3-year-old Dusty Winner gelding maintained a four length cushion throughout most of the second half, opened up by six at the top of the stretch and crossed by that same margin in 2:04.3. Frank Milby guided the effort for trainer Carlo Poliseno and owner Charlie Dunavant.

In other sophomore action, Shez In Orbit won the $44,600 filly trot and gave reinsman Perry his second win on Breeders Day. The Renfrow Hauser trainee wired the field in 2:02.3 and won comfortably by 3-1/2 lengths over Half Moon Rising. Baddabingbaddabang cruised by the same margin of victory in the $43,400 filly pace. The daughter of Strong Player came home in a final quarter of :28.1 en route to a 1:58 finishing time. Chris Shaw drove for trainer Jeff Nisonger and owner Daniel Chanskey.

Dee Leftwich photo

Sketcher (inside) just edged Rusty’s Houdini in the $43,550 Virginia Breeders 2-year-old colt pace.

In the other freshman races, Hillbilly Camtastic handily beat stablemate Hillbilly Treasure in the $41,875 filly pace. Trainer Amanda Jackson’s pair finished one-two in the prep race a week prior and both were making just their second lifetime starts. Frank Milby drove the winner home in 2:06.1. Sketcher edged Rusty’s Houdini in the $43,550 colt pace, the day’s most exciting race. Reinsman Billy Carter led Sketcher to the front initially and nearly got a coast-to-coast journey. Driver Jason Thompson’s runner-up challenged outside on several occasions and even took the lead briefly at the third fraction but ultimately came up just shy to Sketcher. This was the only championship event not won by the prep race winner; the two flip flopped the finishing order a week prior. Sketcher crossed in 2:00.1.

In Saturday’s action, Speed It and John’s Dream captured respective $8,500 Open Trot and Pace co-features. Arlene Cameron’s Speed It shipped in from Harrah’s Philadelphia and wired a field that included former Open winners Southwind Ferrari and Held In Balance. John Wagner was in the sulky for the public’s betting choice and did not disappoint, winning by 2-1/2 lengths over Stormont Dundas in 1:59.

Fan favorite and track record holder John’s Dream won his fourth Open Pace of the season but had to come from behind to complete the task. The 5-year-old Dream Away gelding was last at the half and fifth at the third marker among six competing. Driver Chuck Perry led a surge outside in the final turn and crossed one length the best over Bobby The Greek in 1:55.3.

End of the season awards were presented closing weekend. Chuck Perry won the driving title with 26 victories over the 12-day meet. Marna Shehan’s 11 wins were tops among trainers in a tightly contested race. Arlene Cameron was second with 10 while Roger Hammer and Jimmy Viars tied for third with nine each. Horse of the Meet honors went to Shehan’s Peppermint Candy, a 5-year-old gray mare who won all three of her Woodstock starts this fall.

On Saturday, a pair of 14-year-olds were brought into the winner’s circle for a retirement celebration. Go Easy On Me and B Blissfull, the winningest horse ever at Shenandoah Downs, were recognized by an appreciative crowd. They were both rewarded with a large bag of carrots from Virginia Racing Commissioner Clint Miller.

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