by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228
He did it. One of them had to, and when the smoke cleared in Friday’s Au Revoir Pace at Monticello Raceway, Lucky Man was the one feted in the Winner’s Circle. Five 14-year olds took to the track for the last time (Christoffer Bliss scratched) and only one could go out on top.
As expected, it was a clean start as Flem N Em N took the lead through an opening quarter in 27.3, before slowing things down to 57.3 at the half. The New Zealand bred held the lead through three-quarters in 1:27.3 but by that time, Lucky Man was pressing and was able to take the lead in the turn to draw away to win in 1:57.2.
Flem N Em N held for second with Lightning Raider third, Yankee Devil fourth and Mecurio N fifth—and last. The nice thing about the race is that all five horses and their connections cashed in the $5,000 race due to the scratch.
When you look at the final time the splits tell the story—and the consistency—of the veteran group. After a quick 27.3, the horses settled in and ran 30, 30 and 29.4 over the final three-quarters of a mile on a damp, cloudy, rainy day.
The win was the ninth of the year for Lucky Man, who adds $2,500 to his earnings, allowing him to pass $30,000 for the year to finish at $31,980. Flem N Em N leaves the track with $1,250 and of the five that raced, he wins the 2019 money battle with $36,570 in earnings.
Not to be outdone was the Free-Old Pace at venerable Freehold Raceway on Saturday. It’s not easy to find ready 14-year olds, so this race was written for horses that are 11 years and up and attracted three 14-year olds in the $5,000 race. A field of seven (one horse scratched due to sickness) prepared for battle at the nation’s oldest horse racing track.
Camwiser was one of them and he raced like he knew it would be for the last time. After a slow start, he shot to the front and cut all three fractions—28.2, 57.4 and 1:27.3. By the time he reached the three-quarter mark, he had company in another 14-year old named Bobjacks Angle who went to the outside and was able to overtake Camwiser in the stretch for owner and driver Steve Smith. The final time was 1:57.4 on the fast Freehold track.
The old guys put on a good show at both tracks and kudos to Monticello and Freehold for staging these affairs. The one thing harness racing will always have over thoroughbred racing is longevity and the sport should do its best to celebrate these warriors.
Bobjacks Angle came to the United States from Australia and the win was his seventh of the year, which is quite respectable for any age horse, let alone a 14-year old. In fact, he closed with a flurry, winning four of his final six races. He leaves the sport with 35 career wins and just under $300,000 in career earnings.
Hello Hot Shot finished third in the Free-Old. The good news for him is that he’s only 11 and still three years away from retirement.
The Freehold bettors certainly put their trust in the old guys. Bobjacks Angle paid just $2.80 to win and the Bobjacks Angle-Camwiser exacta paid out a semi-paltry $17.20.
Next week, it will be 2020 and I wonder what horses like Bobjacks Angle A, Camwiser and Lucky Man will be thinking when they no longer will head to the track to workout and race. I guess we all retire at some point, so let’s wish all 14-year old Standardbreds all the best in their retirement.