By John Manzi
MONTICELLO March 19, 2004 The St. Paddy Pace wasnt the best race on Monticello Raceways March 17 card, but is was the one the fans seemed most interested in.
And there wasnt one among the crowd who didnt know that an Irishman would be the winner.
Hall of Fame horseman Jim Doherty, who took time from his busy schedule to travel to Monticello Raceway to participate in the event, displayed the driving talent that enabled him to win more than 4,500 races thus far in his illustrious career. He guided Anthony DAcuntos Big Willy to a 2:01.3 victory over Cameo CamBon, driven by Greg Decker Jr., in a race that featured the talents of drivers of Irish heritage. Third place went to Lucky Draw, handled by Craig Mosher. (For the record, both Decker and Mosher are Irish on each of their mothers sides of the family.)
Not only were we very excited to have Jimmy here with us for the race, but we were even more excited when he ended up winning it because its the first time that a special invited guest has ever walked away with a victory in any of our Heritage Drivers Series events, said Shawn Wiles, who is the raceways general manger.
Having drawn post six with Big Willy, Doherty fired the Tylers Mark gelding toward the front-end but did not gain command until nearing the quarter pole. After they passed that point in 29:3 seconds, Doherty and Big Willy showed the way by the half-mile marker in 1:00.3.
At that point, Decker moved Cameo CamBon from fourth along the pylons up to challenge Big Willy. The two raced as a team up the backstretch and past the three-quarter pole in 1:30.4. But as they headed into the final turn, Decker tucked Cameo CamBon back behind Big Willy and waited until they straightened out in the stretch. Once again Decker made a charge with Cameo CamBon, but Big Willy was up to the test and drew off to a two-length victory.
Trainer Ray Allen had Big Willy in top form and I just went along for the ride, Doherty said in his usual soft-spoken, gentlemanly manner.
I dont usually drive pacers, but when John Manzi asked to participate in the St. Paddy Pace I made an exception. John and I go back a long way.
Among the drivers Doherty defeated in the event was his son, Mike, who won the inaugural St. Paddy Pace in 2001. His pacer, Radical Thought, finished fifth in Wednesdays event.
Coming the farthest to compete in the St. Paddy Pace was Graham Lewis, a United Kingdom native who is now racing a stable of horses at Plainridge Race Course in Massachusetts.
Hall of Famer Harry Harvey was also scheduled to compete, but had to withdraw because of a minor illness. And Ed Hennessey, who was to come in all the way from Grand Blanc, Michigan, didnt because his horse, McMichael, was scratched.