By John Manzi
MONTICELLO June 30, 2006 Rain, rain, go away come again some other day, is a lament that has probably been decreed by most horsemen who are racing this year in the northeastern United States.
Inordinate amounts of precipitation have fallen along the eastern seaboard but despite it all, the shows go on.
After a fine card of racing during the torrential rainstorms on Tuesday, June 27 at Monticello Raceway, two conclusions can be drawn. The first is that the Mighty M racetrack can take a lot water and still be in good condition. And second, Billy Zeke Parker, Jr. will top the 9,000 career win plateau.
Although rivers and creeks were overflowing their boundaries and the grounds were saturated, the race card on June 27 was inundated with outstanding times, especially for the weather conditions. The slowest race on the card went in a time of 2 minutes and 0.4 seconds, with the majority of the races clocked in 1:57 or faster.
The $15,000 Preferred Pace went to Shadows Best Buddy for the second consecutive week. The 7-year-old Keystone Raider gelding went through the gutsiest of trips to win it in a time of 1:55.3 for driver Larry Stalbaum, especially since they raced on the outside until they finally made the front and moved down along the pylons in the final turn. From there Shadows Best Buddy still had enough reserve to hold off a late challenge by LCB and driver Steve Walters.
It marked the seventh seasonal win for Shadows Best Buddy and since the pacer had to start to from the eight-hole, he was dismissed in the betting and returned a $20.80 win payoff.
Another outstanding effort was turned in by Skeeter Todd when driver Ray Schnittker guided the 6-year- old Lon Todd Hanover gelding to a 1:55.3 victory in a $12,500 winners/over $10,000 Life Pace. In that contest, Schnittker used the front-end route and made every pole a winning one to score a 1 and 1/2-length victory over Bootilicious and driver Stephane Bouchard. It was the fourth victory of the season for Skeeter Todd, who paid $5.20 for win.
A second $12,500 winners/over pace was also on the card and that event went to the Carlspur and driver Larry Stalbaum after they combined for a stunning wire-to-wire victory in 1:55.1 which was the fastest clocking on the muddy afternoon card. Wrist Rocket finished second for Jimmy Pantaleano.
It was the fourth seasonal triumph for Carlspur. The pacer returned an $8.40 win mutuel.
With the great influx of outside horses and drivers making the headlines at Monticello Raceway since the introduction of video gaming machines at the facility in late June 2004, it seems some of the former locals have been displaced to an extent. But not so for Billy Zeke Parker Jr. the 13-time driving champion at the Mighty M.
Though Zeke doesnt seem to be getting the live mounts that he did in the past, the 52-year-old Maine native is always one to be reckoned with on the racetrack.
On Tuesdays card, he inched ever closer to the 9,000-career victory plateau after he reined two winners. Parker won the second race with Scootin Delta in 1:57.3 and the 11th race with TSM Spirited T in 1:56.4.
He now needs just four more wins to reach an incredible milestone, and when he does it will place him ninth on the all-time list for driving victories.