By John Manzi
MONTICELLO April 16, 2004 It was an unusual race with an even more unusual finish.
After all, how many races feature the talents of drivers of Jewish heritage? And then again, what are the odds of that race ending in a dead-heat?
Well, it all happened at the home of the unusual Monticello Raceway.
On Monday, April 12, the next to last day of the Passover Holiday Season, Alan Schwartz, driving Arctic Spur and Ross Cohen, up behind Miss Dimensions, crossed the finish line simultaneously, producing the first dead-heat victory in the six years of presenting the race exclusively for Jewish drivers. The final time for the contest was 2:02.1.
Schwartz and Arctic Spur, starting from the pylon position, took command in the first turn and kept Dr. Howard Slotoroff with Tripped Up searching for cover. Heading up the backstretch all the holes were closed, leaving Slotoroff and his pacer parked on the outside as the field passed the quarter pole in 29:4. Arctic Spur and Schwartz were comfortable on the front-end as they passed the half-mile marker in 1:00.2.
Heading up the backstretch the second time around, Mike Kimelman, with Forever Kwick, was the first to challenge and they paced up alongside Schwartz pacer and the two raced as a team by the three-quarters in 1:31.2 and into the final turn. As they straightened in the lane, Forever Kwick began to fade but trouble loomed for Schwartz in the presence of Miss Dimensions and Ross Cohen. They had been tucked in behind the leaders the entire way and in mid-stretch Cohen moved his mare to the passing lane and challenged Schwartz and Arctic Spur all the way to the wire, with both pacers finishing side by side. The judges took a few minutes to decipher the photograph and then posted the dead-heat sign.
I thought Ross had won it and Ross thought I had won it, Schwartz said after the race. It was real close and when they [the judges] declared it a dead-heat, we both ended up being right.
I train a fairly good size stable but dont drive that often, so for me to win the race was a great thrill, added Cohen as both drivers held their horses side by side in the winners circle.
The Passover Pace was the fourth leg of the Mighty Ms year-long eight-race Heritage Drivers Series. Already completed were races for African-American drivers, lady drivers, and drivers of Irish heritage.
The dead-heat finish presents a slight problem for us when we go with the series finale noted Eric Warner, the tracks director of racing. We initially planned to bring back all eight heritage event winners for the series final but now we have one more than planned after the dead-heat [victory] today.
Right on the heels of the Passover Pace, The Mighty M is again up to the unusual.
This time the raceway is seeking drivers for a Heavyweight Driving Championship which will be presented on Tuesday, May 11. The event is open to any driver tipping the scales at 200 pounds or more.
Lightweights need not apply for this event, joked Warner. The records show that most of the driving leaders in North America are 150 pounds or less, but were looking for talented reinsmen who weigh upwards of 200 pounds. And if we can get this race together it could easily be the biggest race of the year!
There has always been an ongoing dispute among harness racing fans that the weight of a driver is an important factor. And those who favor the lighter drivers are certainly in the majority.
But over the years there have been plenty of notable heavyweights in the sulky, including Hall of Famers Frank Safford and Clint Hodgins. And a few of the Myer boys out of Delaware and Maryland in the 1950s and 60s tipped the scales pretty good, too.
To assure their eligibility, the drivers will be weighed in front of the public before they take the reins for the competition.
The Heavyweight Driving Championship is open to any driver with a full or provisional license from the U.S. Trotting Association.
Potential participants are urged to contact Warner at the raceway by calling 794-4100, ext. 557 or by calling me at ext. 455.