By John Manzi
MONTICELLO If you think the announcement that Southbound Trucker wins the open pace again at Monticello Raceway sounds redundant, it’s because it probably is.
But then think about how all the horses, drivers and owners who have been chasing the veteran pacer all season long must feel. It’s a safe bet that redundancy is probably not the most prominent emotion.
On the afternoon of Tuesday, Nov. 17, Southbound Trucker once again copped the weekly pacing feature as the veteran cruised to his 14th seasonal victory this week in a time of 1:55.4.
Greg Merton was again in the sulky for trainer Art Stamatien and, as usual, the 6-year-old Sharky Spur gelding did his thing from off the early pace.
Tricky Grin and Jordan Stratton fired to the lead, but they found themselves on the limb as Billy Dobson and Blueridge D’Bang parked them in 28.4 seconds before letting Tricky Grin take command. Stratton then led the field by the half in 57.4 seconds, at which point Southbound Trucker, who had been content to follow in fifth position, then moved to the outside and began his ramble toward the front-end.
Southbound Trucker took the lead on the outside as the field passed the third panel and from there it was catch me if you can and nobody could.
Merton eased up his charge in the deep stretch, but still finished 1-1/2 lengths ahead of a fast closing Bilmar Rustler, who was driven by Mike Forte.
Semalu Express sauntered home in third place for Billy “Zeke” Parker Jr.
“I find it almost incredible how Artie can keep him so sharp after 34 races this year and 39 last year,” Merton said of Southbound Trucker. “I don’t know how he does it, but I hope he keeps on doing it.”
With his victory, Southbound Trucker paid $5.20 for win and increased his seasonal bankroll to more than $76,000 for owner George Stamatein of Vinal Haven, Conn.