By Andy Simek
MONTICELLO June 29, 2007 Summertime is here and the stakes, along with the heat, are rising.
This season marks Monticello Raceway’s 50th anniversary and, to commemorate, the track is hosting “The Magnificent Seven,” a series of seven world class stakes races.
The first “Magnificent Seven” event of the summer, the Nevele Pride Final, was held on Monday afternoon. With a total purse of $338,000, it was Monticello Raceway’s biggest race ever.
Monticello Raceway Director of Publicity John Manzi said that even though there has been a decline in attendance since horse racing’s heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, “the races this summer are still paramount.”
According to Manzi, since the advent of the satellite and simulcasting, most people tend to stay off the tracks.
But these races, he hopes, will change all that for Monticello Raceway.
David Hanlon, President and CEO of Mighty M Gaming and Racing, said that “since we brought in the video gaming machines, we’ve been able to increase the purses by about threefold.” The increased purses for the races is something that both Hanlon and Manzi think will help to boost raceway attendance.
Monday’s race featured an all-star cast of harness racing Hall-Of-Famers, as well as a few of the fastest horses in the country. Some of those horses broke national time records at the preliminary stakes on June 18.
Among the drivers were Ron Pierce, who was guiding Anzio Hall, Catello “Catman” Manzi, who was driving Green Day, and George Brennan, who was driving Manfinity a winner of more than $100,000 in purses this year alone.
Based on last week’s preliminary round, the favorites to win were Mythical Lindy with driver David Miller and the aforementioned Green Day with Cat Manzi.
At the gate, Green Day, Manfinity and Hitwiththeladies, who was driven by Stephanie Bouchard, that took to the front of the pack.
By the half-mile marker, Green Day had taken the lead by a stride, with Manfinity and Hitwiththeladies running neck-and-neck behind him. Miller’s Mythical Lindy, the favorite to win, was left in the dust.
At the finish line, Green Day was able to keep the lead by a half-stride, with Manfinity in second and Hitwiththeladies an extremely close third.
Cat Manzi, who is second in the nation for total career wins, and Green Day set a new 3-year-old gelding record for the mile for the second time in two weeks. Green Day broke his old record of 1 minute, 58.1 seconds in the preliminaries with a time of 1:57.1 in the finals.
After the race, Cat Manzi said he was very pleased with both his own performance and that of Green Day.
“He’s perfect to handle,” Manzi said.
Green Day is owned by the Trilium Racing Stables in New Holland, Pa. and trained by Jim Raymer.