Day At The Track

New Zealand's Danny Blakemore takes the lead

07:09 PM 13 Mar 2016 NZDT
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New Zealand's Danny Blakemore Hungary's Andrea Fazekas, the only female driver in the Isle International Amateur Series
New Zealand's Danny Blakemore was a wire-to-wire winner with Head First in the second of four international amateur events on Saturday night at Pompano Park, stopping the timer in 1:56.1
Skip Smith Photo
Hungary's Andrea Fazekas, the only female driver in the Isle International Amateur Series, won the first of four Saturday night amateur events by guiding Princess Crown to victory in 1:56.4
Skip Smith Photo
On a festive Saturday (March 12) evening under clear skies and flags from 11 different nations gracing the Pompano Park winner's circle, the Isle International Amateur Driving Championship got underway with harness racing drivers from nine European countries, New Zealand and the United States in the limelight.
New Zealand's Danny Blakemore, a winner with the eight year-old pacing mare Head First in the second of four divisions, is the current leader in the competition while Germany's Michael Gutsche is next after he drove the 10 year-old trotter Play Fair to a 1:59 win.
Russia's Ivan Serik ranks third after the first night's action after rallying late with the seven year-old trotter Bad Angel for a photo finish victory in 1:59.3 and rewarding his faithful with a $44.60 mutuel.
Hungary's Andrea Fazekas is next after having kicked the amateur series off with a handy win with the the five year-old trotting mare Princess Crown in 1:56.4.
Dein Spriggs (U.S.A.) is next followed by Johann Preinling, Jr. while Jaime Bassa and Enrico Colombino are in a dead-heat for the seventh spot. Denmark's Michael Holmer is next while Norway's Nils Oliv-Holm and Finland's Taipo Hoikka complete the roster in the first of two rounds.
Indeed, the festivities kicked off with Ms. Fazekas giving Princess Crown picture perfect handling to score a two length win over pacesetting Baby Boy Grin (Dein Spriggs) in the aforementioned time of 1:56.4.
Mr Wizard, driven by Spain's Jaime Bassa, finished third, three lengths away. Witty's Winner (Danny Blakemore) finished fourth while Super Duke (Nils-Oliv Holm) finished fifth.
Trained by Jacques Dupont for Dennis Goyette and Paul Andre Lehoux, Princess Crown, a daughter of Elegant Crown, won for the initial time this semester and pushed her lifetime bounty over the $75,000--$75,722 to be precise.
It was the 136th lifetime victory for Ms. Fazekas--first in the U.S.A.--as she rewarded her faithful with a mutuel of $19.40.
Blakemore, a DVD store owner in his native land of New Zealand, followed trainer Gaston Lareau's instructions to a "T" as he took Head First right to the front and defied all challenges through panels of :28.2, :57.4 and 1:27.4 before a :28.2 c=scoot home sealed the deal in 1:56.1.
Internal Check, driven by Johann Preining, Jr., finished second, three lengths away, while Mighty Nice and drirver Michael Guetsche teamed up to be third.
Rock Groupie (MIchael Holmer) was fourth while Country Fresh, handled by Ms Fazekas, rallied for the nickel.
In a post race interview, Blakemore lauded the mare, the track crew and the trainer saying the mare was very willing all the way around and on a track that was so excellent that you could hardly hear the horse's hooves on the track. Just like Mr. Lareau said, 'she'll be sharp tonight if you put her on the lead.' It was a beautiful experience."
Blakemore then said that he expected that the DVD of the race would become the best seller in his store.
Trained by Lareau for Raynald Phaneuf, Richard Robert and Patrick Dillaire, Head First, an eight year year-old daughter of Headmaster, reached a milestone of sorts with her 25th career win--third this year in 10 starts--to push be career bounty to $93,205.
As the even-money favorite on the tote-board, Head First paid $4.20 to win.
Germany's Gutsche, a accountant by trade in his homeland, won the third event with the 10 year-old trotter PLay Fair, a gelded son of Self Professed.
Owned and trained by Darrell Wright, Play Fair led at every marker, stopping the tele-timer in 1:59 after a perfectly rated mile that included panels of :29, :58.3 and 1:29.1.
After the event, an elated Gutsche said, "this is a great thrill for me. I did win a race in the States some years ago but this one is very special, especially against these very talented, world class amateur drivers.
"I was told by Mr. Wright (trainer Darrell Wright) to try and go to the front and then stay there. That was kind of easy for me because, in Germany, I have a reputation of never letting anyone go by once I have the lead. Mr. Wright also warned me not to hit the horse--not even once--because he will stop cold! I followed his orders. This was very gratifying."
Play Fair won for the third time this year in eight starts and now has lifetime earnings of $446,357 on the strength of his 32 lifetime wins.
As third choice in the betting, Play Fair paid $13.00 to win.
The Saturday night finale went to the 21 to 1 outsider Bad Angel, with Russia's Ivan Serik in the sulky.
The seven year-old daughter of Valley Victor, used a furious rally in deep stretch to score by a nose in 1:59.3. over the pacesetting Guilford (Danny Blakemore) with Sorrento Hall (Michael Gutsche) third, 3 1/4 lengths away.
What About Brian was fourth for Italy's Enrico Colombino while Rel Cash Clown was fifth for Spain's Jaima Bassa.
BadAngel won for the initial time in 2016--her scorecard coming in 6-0-0-0.
This win, only her third lifetime in 89 starts, propelled her lifetime bounty to $45,501
Owned and trained by George Coblentz, Bad Angel returned the largest dividend in the series thus far--$44.60 for the $2 investment.
After the event, an elated Serik said, through an interpreter, "This is a great thrill for me. This is my first trip to the United States and everyone has been so very nice and accommodating. This is something I will always treasure and never forget."
Adding to this festive occasion was the appearance of the legendary Roger Huston, who called the entire nine race program.
Huston, who has called some 172,000 races during his career, said of the evening, "Something like this never gets old for me. It's just an honor to be a part of an international event like this!"
The grand finale of the Isle International Amateur Driving Championship concludes on Sunday night with an additional perk being the large carryover in the Super Hi-5--now close to $70,000.
Post time for the Sunday night card is 7:30 P.M.
by John Berry for Pompano Park
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