In years past, with the old A-B-C system for classifying horses, the JFA, or the Junior Free For All, was actually for the second best class of horses competing at a given harness racing track during those years. When Monticello brought back its Junior Free For All on Monday, June 18, one day after the Father's Day National Holiday, it wasn't , however, for purposes of classifying horses.
The race was for drivers who each carried a Jr. (Junior denoting second generation) after their last names and was meant to pay tribute to all dads, but especially to the fathers of the drivers who raced that afternoon.
On that hazy afternoon eight horses and drivers lined up behind the mobile starting and when the event became official, Greg Decker, Jr. walked away with the huge trophy after he reined KZ Bezz to an easy seven length victory in a time of 1:57.4.
Decker, a trainer who drives sparingly, had no trouble getting the 7-year-oldmare to pace her fastest mile in three years.
Decker set sails with KZ Bezz and sent the mare toward the front and they made the top before the quarter mile timer which flashed :28.3 as the trailing horses all found a seat along the pylons.
After a short breather Decker and KZ Bezz passed the hal in :59.3 and at that point Billy Parker, Jr. was the first to move with Moonlit Tori but the mare couldn’t get up alongside the leader. Moonlit Tori was stalled when Kevin Switzer, Jr. moved La Pensee Du Jour off the pylons and forced Parker’s pacer three wide as they field passed the three quarters in 1:29.
When the field headed into the final turn Decker put the pedal to the metal and KZ Bezz began to open up daylight on her competitors. At the head of the stretch Decker’s charge was well in command and the only thing in doubt was the margin of victory.
At the wire KZ Bezz had six lengths on her nearest rival, Ashley Cruiser, driven by the meets leading driver, Jimmy Taggart, Jr. who had a perfect two-hole trip after yielding the lead near the quarter mile marker. Third place went to 47-1 shot Mary Lou, capably handled by Fern Paquet, Jr. who came in from Tioga Downs just for the race. La Pensee Du Jour faded and finished fourth.
“I love that mare and she loves me,” Decker said not jokingly during the winners circle ceremonies.
He then went on to explain that he trained KZ Bezz a few years ago and that she raced well for him and his dad. “Just before we lost her she won her last four starts for us... Greg (Merton) won with her three times and I won once. I always got along good with her.”
Now the property of Tom and Susan McGuiness KZ Bezz is trained by Mike McCauley. She paid $6.10 for win.
Other drivers who competed in the Junior Free For All included: Jim Doherty, Jr.; Jimmy Marohn, Jr.; Mike Marx, Jr.; and Billy Parker, Jr.
After the race all the drivers were vanned to the winners circle where the trophy and blanket were presented. The drivers were each shortly interviewed by Monticello Raceway’s publicity chief, John Manzi, who just so happens to be a ‘Junior’ himself.
by John MANZI