A pair of retirement races close out 2018 at Monticello and The Meadows.
by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228
The goal was to go out on top. When it’s your last race before mandatory retirement, the simple goal is to try to be first. On Monday, December 31, while most were preparing to ring in the New Year, there were six 14-year olds preparing to race for the very final time at Monticello Raceway.
The race, written by Eric Warner, Monticello’s Race Secretary was the first race of the day and ran for a modest purse of $5,000. And that was fitting, because most of these horses spent the majority of their careers competing in races such as this.
As expected, it was a perfect start and with 14-year old grizzled veterans behind the gate, what else would one expect? Esprit de Kayjay, who ran in a farewell race at Freehold just two days ago, took off and took the field through the quarter in 28.1, but Delco Tross, at 24-1 was first over and feisty and he gained the lead through the half in 58.2 and three-quarters in 1:28.2. By the turn, his lead was five and had track announcer Howard Oil extolling his virtues. But Mayflowermoonshine, who stalked the entire race went to the three path in the stretch and was able to get past a tiring Delco Tross to win in 1:59.4.
The race was fun to watch; just six horses trying their best for the final time and it was good to see the winning time dip under (barely) 2:00 with that 1:59.4 clocking. Delco Tross was second, B Blissful third. There is no truth to the rumor that Mayflowermoonshine was spotted in the racino spending that $2,500 winner’s check on video blackjack.
Because most in the field (including the top three) are geldings, there will be no stud career in the waiting. Most will head to a farm, some will help train other horses and some will do nothing. For Mayflowermoonshine, the win boosted his overall earnings to $653,402. The winner, who ran his personal best time of 1:51.3 at age three, picked up his 55th career win in 425 starts. He also had 60 seconds and 66 thirds.
The other big farewell race took place at The Meadows, when Foiled Again raced for the final time. We all know his story. He’s won the most money of any Standardbred with over $7.6 million; he has 109 wins and has been honored all year long. In his farewell tour, he has visited 18 racetracks and collected not only thousands of admirers, but 11 wins.
This was not an easy race; this was not Mickey scheduling tomato cans for Rocky in any way, shape or form. And even though The Meadows has a 5/8 mile circumference, Foiled Again was assigned the 8 post. But like the champion he is, he was able to get the lead through an opening quarter of 28 seconds. Knocking Around was feeling it and he went first over to get them through the half in 57.4, then used a quick third panel of 27.1 to seize control. By this time, Foiled Again was fading and would end up fifth with Knocking Around holding off Shooter’s Dream to win in 1:53.4
Even though Foiled Again did not win in his finale, Knocking Around’s win was the 1000th for driver David McNeight, so with a cloud comes a silver lining and for McNeight, a milestone was had.
Foiled Again will now wait to see if he will be voted to the Harness Racing Hall of Fame. Most horses have to be retired for two years before they’re considered, but if you’re at least 12 and still racing, you’re eligible. I would think he’s a shoo-in and he was on my ballot, but we will know for sure by the end of January.
On this, the first day of 2019, we will wish all 15-year olds a very happy and peaceful retirement as well as wishing all horses a very Happy Birthday.