Cadence Hall had to duel for the early lead, but he was much the best once there, drawing off Saturday to score by 6-1/4 lengths and capture the Pennsylvania Fairs championship for harness racing 3-year-old colt and gelding trotters. In the process, he established a PA Fairs divisional record of 1:56.2 and became the ninth horse in the history of Keystone State fairs to win back-to-back titles.
On a sparkling, sun-drenched afternoon, The Meadows Racetrack & Casino staged $20,000 championships in all eight PA Fairs divisions. Also crowned were Ya Gotta Go (3cp), Livinwell Hanover (3fp), Mynah Hanover (3ft), NF Drum Roll (2cp), Avenue Of Dreams (2ct), Lima Beauty (2fp) and Barefoot Brook (2ft).
Aaron Merriman piloted a pair of fairs champions (Cadence Hall, Mynah Hanover) while Roger Hammer earned a driving double with Avenue Of Dreams (a horse he trains) and Barefoot Brook as well as an owner double with Avenue Of Dreams and NF Drum Roll.
Cadence Hall, who entered the championship off four straight victories, was stung early by Georgian Diablo but persevered in a swift 27.3 opening panel. His winning time eclipsed the previous fairs mark of 1:57.3 set by RT Gizmo in 2007. Georgian Diablo saved place, with Meadowbranch Red third.
The win by the-CR Campfiregirl gelding was especially gratifying for owner Susan Daugherty and trainer William Daugherty, Jr., who underwent quadruple coronary bypass surgery in September following a near-fatal fibrillation suffered while campaigning at the fairs.
Although he hasn't resumed training, he was in the winners' circle for the presentation. He said it doesn't take much to keep the two-time champ at the top of his game.
"The more you race him, the better he is," he said. "A lot of times, he had only one day off between races. It didn't matter. He stayed tight and sharp. I'll race him a couple times yet this year, but he deserves a rest."
In the other championships:
Ya Gotta Go (3cp)
He ranked only fifth in fairs points, but Ya Gotta Go moved first over like a champion, drawing off to prevail by 6 lengths in a fairs-record 1:53.3, a tick faster that the old mark held by Sfumato. Tony Hall drove the-Yankee Shuffle gelding for owner/trainer Rich Gillock.
"Rich was confident that we could pretty much race him any way," Hall said. "Rich said to move him whenever I felt comfortable. He felt really strong the whole time."
Livinwell Hanover (3fp)
Livinwell Hanover won with a determined uncovered bid for trainer/driver Paul Moore that carried her to victory in 1:56.2. Crafty Friend was second, 1-3/4 lengths back, while Bliss My Britches completed the ticket.
"I'm from New York, and I'm always scared to stay inside because the boys at the fairs outnumber me," said Moore, who acquired Livinwell Hanover earlier this year for the bargain-basement price of $2,500. "In fact, they sometimes call me ‘Air Jordan' because I'm taking so much air. So I just move her and keep the earplugs in as long as I can. Once I pull the plugs, it's all her."
Rosemarie Moore owns the daughter of-LA Daydreamer, who now will be ticketed for overnight events.
Mynah Hanover (3ft)
Mynah Hanover performed well in the PA Stallion Series and a Keystone Classic this year in addition to her fairs outings. That experience showed Saturday as she blasted to the front and won handily in a fairs-record 1:57.3, erasing the previous mark of 1:58 held by Blazing Caviar. The first-over My Good Side was second, 2-1/2 lengths in arrears, with SBM Georgian Star third.
Steve Schoeffel trains and Stephen Lander, Virginia Schoeffel and Kathy Schoeffel own the daughter of-Mystress Hanover.
NF Drum Roll (2cp)
While his entry-mate, Nucular Enemy, was on the front and thwarting all challengers, NF Drum Roll was sitting cozy in the pocket. The son of-NF Debutante poured through the Lightning Lane for trainer/driver/co-owner Todd Schadel to triumph in 1:56.2, a neck better than Strother. Top Of The Mark, the 14th seed in the standings, rallied for show.
Avenue Of Dreams (2ct)
Hammer sent Avenue Of Dreams to the front with a quarter-pole move, and the son of-Finalcrown Hanover cruised home in a fairs-record 1:57.1, lowering the previous mark of 1:58.2 established by Southwind Nitro. Ibanez was second, 2-3/4 lengths back, with Bob And Bobby up for show.
"I drove anotherwho could trot a lot but made breaks," Hammer said. "So I thought I'd buy this one. He's so long-barreled that I thought he would be all right. He's getting worn out, so he's done for the year."
Lima Beauty (2fp)
She squeaked into the championship as the eighth seed and hadn't been better than third at any point in her last six outings. But when Mike Wilder warmed up Lima Beauty, he discovered something he liked.
"I gave her a good score," Wilder said, "and I thought if I could get her away close and maybe get her interested, she would be better off. Boy, she was great."
Lima Beauty hustled to the front at a juicy 28-1 and scored by 1-1/4 lengths over Shootoutthelights in 1:59. Paints Hall earned show dough. Robert Rougeaux III trains Lima Beauty, a daughter of-Beach Happy, for Ruby Orr.
Barefoot Brook (2ft)
Hammered down to 1-5, thefilly performed like the heavy favorite, retaking the lead once passed early and winning in 2:00 for trainer Boots Dunn and Dunn Stable. Magnolia Grace was second by 3 lengths, with Meadowbranch Jill third.
"When she was just starting, she was scared of everything," Dunn said. "We had two other fillies who could trot right by her. But we could tell she was the one. I'm turning her out now. She's done enough."
Barefoot Brook is out of Rosebud Sioux, twice a PA Fairs champion in her youth. Now 9, she returned to the racing wars several weeks ago because she didn't "catch" in foal and won a conditioned trot Friday at The Meadows. Her daughter's championship performance Saturday gave the family an unusual double.