Eight 14-year olds racing for the final time at Monticello and Freehold
by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228
On Dec. 27, they will race for the last time. At roughly 2:45 pm ET, they will get behind the gate like they have done for years and in two laps, their racing careers will be over.
Monticello Raceway is hosting the Au Revoir Pace and six pacers have answered the call. That alone tells you how hard it is to find 14-year olds who can fit that last race into their respective schedules.
How hard is it? Monticello officials were hoping to have an Au Revoir for trotters, but like last year, only pacers will be on hand. Sadly, there won’t be a big crowd to cheer them on for the final time, but these horses have never raced before big and adoring crowds anyways.
In harness racing, horses can run through age 14. On Jan. 1, every horse celebrates their birthday and for the 15-year olds that means retirement. For some 14-year olds, they have been racing since age 2, making start after start year after year. For many, that means 13 years of racing on all types of tracks, surfaces and venues. Half-mile tracks, 5/8 mile tracks, 7/8 mile tracks, mile tracks, in the daylight, under the lights, at county fairs; you name it, they’ve raced them.
The field of six have combined to make 207 starts in 2019 and assuming they all go to the post, the final number will rest at 213. Leading the way is the favorite, Lucky Man, who is 8-9-5 in 43 starts to go along with $29,480 in earnings.
The one horse is the hard luck entry, but let’s give kudos to Christoffer Bliss, who is 0-0-1 in 20 starts with just $610 in earnings. But, hey, a win in this his final race with a $2,500 pay check would boost season earnings to $3,110.
Two horses are New Zealand breds and the most accomplished is Flem N Em N. The Kiwi is 5-13-4 in 42 starts with $35,320 in earnings. Most of his winnings have come internationally, so don’t expect the Monticello bettors to make him the favorite come post time.
The other Kiwi is the two, Mecurio N. He’s made 39 starts and sports a record of 3-3-8 and $8,710 in earnings. Yankee Devil will leave from gate three with 3-3-2 in 22 starts and $9,410.
Lightning Raider comes in with $33,402 and in 41 starts sports a 7-6-8 record and a win could get him over $35,000 for 2019.
And, just because these horses are old, doesn’t mean they’re slow. All six have run 1:58.2 or faster for their miles this year. The fastest (time wise) of the bunch is Lucky Man who ran 1:52.2 on a 7/8 mile track this year. Flem N Em N has run 1:52.4 on a 5/8 mile track. This race will be contested on Monticello’s half-mile and Lightning Raider has clocked a 1:55.2 on a half-mile this year.
This is where I wish marketing would come into play. It is the holidays, people are home and wouldn’t it be great for SportsCenter to show a clip or have a newspaper put in a blurb for its Saturday’s morning editions. That won’t happen, but here’s hoping that Monticello’s Au Revoir Pace is a dandy.
Freehold Raceway is taking a page from the Monticello playbook by staging a farewell race of their own. The Free-Old Pace will be run on Sat. Dec. 28 for pacers aged 11 and up with two 14-year olds in the invitation only race.
Bobjacks Angel A is going out with a bang, having won three of his last five starts. He didn’t begin racing until 2012 and in those eight years has made with 283 starts with 34 wins. This year, he is 6-6-5 in 27 starts with just under $25,000 in the bank.
Camwiser is the other 14-year old and he comes in with 4-5-4 in 41 starts and $24,175 in earnings. In 386 career starts, he has 56 wins and over $224,000 in earnings. He will start from post seven on Freehold’s half-mile track.
The race attracted one 13-year old, three 12-year olds and two 11-year olds and is scheduled to go to the post at 1:50 pm ET. The eight-horse field has combined to make 279 starts this season with total earnings of $161,267.
There are no millionaires racing at either track. These are the grinders, the warriors, the lunch-pailers who are going to the post for the final time. It’s good to see these 14-year olds get some special treatment.
They deserve it.