By John Manzi
MONTICELLO August 8, 2003 The C.K.G. Billings Series for amateur drivers in now in its 22nd season. Over 135 amateurs are participating in the event which began in May and will end in late November.
Over the past few seasons Peter Gerry, the organizations president, has split the series into two divisions, one in the East and the other in the Midwest and I have the pleasure of being the organizations publicist.
At series end, the five top drivers in the Eastern region along with the top five from the Midwest will meet at the Meadowlands on November 29 to compete in the $40,000 Gold Cup Final.
Over the year-long season the drivers have a chance to compete at over 45 different venues in the U.S. and Canada.
On August 4 three Eastern regional divisions were contested here, marking the second time that the Billings Amateurs competed at the Mighty M. And theyll be back one more time in late October.
But just to show you how amateur racing is making inroads in the sport, there were also eight Midwest region Billings legs set for two different county fair racetracks in Ohio on Tuesday, August 5.
But before I give the results of the Monticello events, I want to mention that former Billings Driving Champion Bob Krivelin finished second with his own 3-year-old trotting filly, Rapid Rail, while competing against professional drivers on August 2 at the Meadowlands in the prestigious $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks. Rapid Rail raced in front the entire way and was beaten by just a length in a 1:53:4 clocking, earning her amateur reinsman $125,000.
Krivelin was at Monticello Raceway two days later to compete in the second division of the Billings here with his veteran trotter, Unitas, but finished off the board. The winner of that event was Jimmy McGowan with Arnies Bud Lite as they cruised to a six-length victory in a very creditable 1:59:3. Dr Scott Woogen was second with Baltic Boxer while David Offenberg and Broke Even trotted home third, some 13 lengths behind the winner.
Irv Atherton moved his Keystone Fagan to the lead at the half-mile marker and opened daylight between himself and the rest of the field. And though the margin of open lengths was ever diminishing in the deep stretch, Keystone Fagan held on for a length triumph in 2:03:3 over a fast closing Ostello and Dave Kingstrom. Gary Barbere got DJ Source home in third, a length behind Kingstroms trotter in that division.
A final Billings contest saw Walter Blacharski send Virgnes Tetelestai to the front as the wings of the starting gate unfolded and score an easy gate to wire five-length victory in 2:01:4 over Monticello resident Gerry Fielding with Beanie Judy. Trot For Joy finished third for Harvey Stein.
As Billings 2003 enters August, Alan Schwartz leads the Eastern regional point standings over George Casale, 110 to 85. Bob Chapman leads Bud Hatfield in the Midwest region, 116 to 113. But by the time the Billings amateur drivers return to Monticello in October, there could be, and most probably will be, many changes in the point standings.
On Saturday, August 2 Gerry Fielding won the $4,000 Final of the Catskill Amateur Drivers Clubs Pacing Series with Cool Bayama in 2:01.1, while Kenny Heins copped the $2,000 consolation with Tricky Dickster in 1:59.
On Sunday, August 3 septuagenarian Dr. Howard Gill drove his outstanding 3-year-old trotting filly, Miss Gibbons, to a 10-length 2:00.4 triumph in their $8,200 NY Sires Stakes event. For Miss Gibbons, it marked her eighth win in 10 seasonal starts.
Finally, a big salute to perennial leading driver Billy Zeke Parker for his six driving victories on the Tuesday, August 5 racing program.