Day At The Track

The $25,000 CKG Billings Gold Cup Final

09:39 AM 27 Nov 2017 NZDT
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Joe Lee after his victory
Joe Lee after his victory

YONKERS,NY - "Yankee Joe" Lee is celebrating today. And why shouldn't he? After all, he just scored the biggest triumph of his amateur harness racing career when he guided Dizzy Rizzy to a 2:34 victory over the 1-1/4 mile distance in the $25,000 CKG Billings Gold Cup Final this morning (Nov. 26) at Yonkers Raceway.

Second place went to Wygant Prince and driver "Coach Paul" Minore while "Tough Tony" Ciuffettelli garnered the show dough with Aventure.

A true amateur driver Lee has no race horses of his own and no specific trainer who he drives for and although he always gets first call on horses trained by Bruce Aldrich Sr. Lee travels the amateur circuit seeking drives wherever he can.

Driving today for trainer Nick Surick, whose trotter won the Billings Gold Cup last year at Harrah's Chester with "Hurricane Hannah " Miller at the controls, victory didn't come easy for Lee who has plenty of supporters at Yankee Stadium where he serves as the assistant locker room attendant for the New York Yankees.

"We had tough trip today but we got the job done," Lee related. "I tried leaving but Steve Oldford (with Gonna Fly) was giving Paul Minore and Wygant Prince a tough time. I then tried to slip down on the pylons to no avail but got lucky when Bob Krivelin's horse made a break.

"Sitting third I thought I had a good spot. Then Oldford pulled the pocket with over a half mile to go so I got to slip into the two hole. At the top of the stretch I rolled out of the pocket grunted at her (Dizzy Lizzy) a little and she rolled right past the leader and got there in time. I'm real honored to win the Billings Gold Cup for her connections."

It was the 11th victory this year for Dizzy Rizzy, a 7 year old Ken Warkentin mare. She is owned by the Nick Surick Stables, J L Benson Stables and Hannah Miller.

A rising star in the amateur ranks Lee's victory was his 15th this season after garnering 10 last year. His career began in 2010 but earnestly in just the past three seasons.

The $15,000 Billings Silver Cup Final was also a big thrill for driver Bobby "Rapid Robert" Ciavardini who also scored the biggest victory of his career when he guided Baltimor AS to a 2:32.2 triumph

As a youngster Ciavardini dabbled in harness racing but upon retirement from a professional career he got back into harness racing and his victory today was paramount to him, especially driving the family horse.

Now with a new trainer Ciavardini and Baltimor AS started from the two hole and enjoyed a two-hole journey. Following the lead set by Fox Valley Steffen and driver by "Doctor John" Kokinos Ciavardini got lucky when Kokinos carried them all the way to the top of the stretch. At that point Ciavardini moved off the pylons and rallied his veteran trotter to a head triumph over Fox Valley Steffen. Peter "Enough Talk" Kleinhans finished third with Toss Cartwright.

Baltimor AS is an 8-year-old Credit Winner gelding owned by Richard, Diane and Robert Ciavardini and trained by Tom Milici.

Both races went as non-wagering events.

by John Manzi for the Billings Series

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