With March Madness well in the rear view mirror, the eyes of the world will be on Sacramento, California for the two-day, East versus West, Amateur Driving Challenge.
The 2012 edition of Team East features returning veteran amateurs Steve Oldford, Tony Verruso, Peter Gerry and Joe Faraldo. The team will trying to make it two wins in a row and bring the East within one win of their western counterparts (the series now stands at 4-2). Michigan native Steve Oldford is making his third trip to left coast and brings with him a perfect 2-0 record.
On the flip side, Team West features two first timers to the event. Karen Isbell and Amanda Fraser are relative newcomers to amateur driving. In contrast, Team West features win leader amongst the eight, Dave Siegel, and one of the more experienced driver in terms of starts with over 1000, with Richard Bertrand, who is fresh off an exciting final leg win at Pompano Park in the Sunshine Challege Pro-Am event.
Rick is looking forward to competing against some of the best amateurs in the east. “I have driven in a number of the East-West Challenges and they are always very competitive and a lot of fun. While we have a certain of style of driving and flow to our races, when these folks come out, you can throw all of that out the window. The “Wild West” is a very appropriate term as these races are truly special, very exciting, and a great variation to our program.”
California Amateur Driving President Dave Siegel reflects upon the short history of this event.
“I wish I could take credit for this concept as it is a winning one. Dave Goldschmidt, former race secretary in California, came up with this and it is an event that generally brings with it greater handle and more interest. I know our professional drivers get a kick out of watching a totally different flow of the race when you get 50% of the drivers coming in from points east.
"The public has indicated they like it as they have traditionally wagered a little more on these races. The purses are a little higher so they horsemen get a little bonus for entrusting their horses to the hands of amateurs. Most of all, it shakes up the program, and when you run the same horses with the same drivers for 130 days every year, well, it is understandable why the public appreciates an event like this which changes things up a bit.”
He went on to say, “I sure hope that this tradition can continue. We all know that we are at a crossroads in California and we all hope that racing does not cease in the largest state in the Union. I live close to Stanford which exists only because of harness racing (originally a Standardbred breeding farm), so we have so much history here. Management and most of the horsemen have been quite supportive of this event and would expect that to continue.
"But right now, my focus is on this weekend, and showing our visitors our great Californian hospitality for all but about 16 minutes or so of their time here during which time I will have no mercy on them!”
The races will be contested tonight and tomorrow night. Free programs and TrackMaster Greg selections for the Challenge races and all other races on the Cal-Expo cards on both nights can be accessed at trackmaster.com/calx
For information about the California Amateur Driving Club, the Challenge or Amateur Driving in general, please visit www.thecadc.com.