By Ted Waddell
HONESDALE, PA August 15, 2003 No matter which way you look at it, 141 years is a long time to wait.
And no matter how you time it, a sub-two minute mile time around a county harness track is pretty quick.
On Wednesday, August 9, Mitchell Gray of Marion Center, Pa. shattered the Wayne County Fairs standing harness racing record of 2:00.8. That mark was set by Lori McKnight behind I Love You Man in 1999.
Driving a swift-legged horse named K.T. Beaner, Gray posted a time of 1:59.8 in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes 3-Year Old Pace Race, causing fans in the grandstand to erupt with applause. The horse is owned by Kenneth Weaver.
Its the first time in 140 years that we ever had a horse go the mile in less than two minutes, said Jeff Firmstone, track announcer and race secretary at the Wayne County Fair.
Its somewhat historic, he added.
Firmstone noted that five horses were on the track, and Gray went to the top after some guys came after him to push him a little bit.
Thats how he got around the track to win by a couple of lengths, said Firmstone.
The Wayne County Fair track is a typical county fair track. It is 1/2 mile long and features tighter and flatter turns than harness tracks such as Monticello Raceway and Pocono Downs.
The drivers have to slow down going into the turns to stay on their pace, said Firmstone, who took over the announcers seat upon the death of his father nine years ago.
John Firmstone anchored that post for many harness racing seasons at the local county fair.
We had a great couple of days of racing, Jeff Firmstone said.
Harness racing was originally scheduled for four days at the 141st Annual Wayne County Fair, but the first couple of days (Monday, August 4 and Tuesday, August 5) were rained out at post time.
Wednesday started out just like the other two days, said Firmstone. We had a post time of 4 p.m., and at about two oclock the rains came up this valley so hard you could hardly see the other end of the midway.
It stopped about two thirty, so we went out and did a little work on the track. And at four fifteen, we went racing.
Grays reaction to breaking the track record?
Great! It was an awesome feeling, he said.