Day At The Track

Johnny Grippa scores in 1:53.4 at Monticello

02:48 AM 31 Jul 2014 NZST
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Johnny Grippa, harness racingQ
Johnny Grippa in 1:53.4 at Monticello Raceway
Photo by Geri Schwarz

An astute horse player once said "time only counts in jail" when referring to handicapping a harness race. "Class wins out" he added.

Final times were usually a good barometer when trying to pick a winner in a horse race, but today that idea might not 'hold water'.

With all the new equipment, and there is plenty of it, and improving breed of horseflesh, the horsemen of yesteryear wouldn't believe the final race times that trotters and pacers produce today.

There were always fast times on the big mile tracks of long ago but final times on the double ovals have improved to where even cheaper claiming pacers today shade the two-minute mile--the former standard of excellence--and many obliterate it.

Monticello Raceway opened in June of 1958 and prior to 1974 there were just 12 recorded miles in 2:00 or faster. Now, a two-minute, or faster, mile hardly raises an eyebrow. It seems like the new time-standard is 1:55 which was a world record clocking in 1955 when a pacer by the name of Adios Harry was driven to victory by Luther Lyons one warm summer evening over Vernon Downs three-quarter mile oval.

Perhaps a time of 1:55 is a non-entity on the mile and 5/8th mile tracks, and that clocking is even becoming passé on half mile tracks.

However, a 1:55 clocking here at the Mighty M doesn't happen often and is a special local accomplishment. But yesterday, (July 29) there were two miles clocked faster than 1:55 and one that stopped the timer in 1:55.1 which excited- to an extent- the local rail birds

True, at some other half mile tracks if a horse can't pace in 1:55 or better he won't get much purse money. But here in the fresh Catskill Mountain air miles faster than 1:55 are far from commonplace.

The fastest mile on the Tuesday (July 29) card was turned in by a pacer named Johnny Grippa and driver Jimmy Devaux when they toured the Mighty M oval in 1:53:3. A time like that may not be special downstate but here it was the fastest mile of the year, thus far.

Johnny Grippa, a 6 year old Cam Cardshark gelding, owned and trained by Jack Sheehan, cut all fractions (27.2; 57.2; 1:25; 1:53.4) carrying a $12,500 claiming tag and finished one and half lengths ahead of Bettorsluckystreak (Jimmy Taggart, Jr.) and Memory Game (Mike Merton) who ended-up in a dead-heat for second.

Sent off at odds of over 5-1 Johnny Grippa paid $12.60 for win.

The other swift mile was recorded by Muscleshooter when driver Austin Seigelman yielded command at the quarter pole and retook before the paddock turn and went on to score a 1:54.1 triumph, three lengths ahead of Tyler's Great (Jimmy Marohn, Jr.)

Owned by David Hamm and trained by Chris Marino, Muscleshooter returned a $3.00 win mutuel.

By the way, the pacer who won in A:55.1 was Ideal Carver, driven by Bruce Aldrich, Jr. And every one of the 10 races on the card went in 1:59.3 or faster.

by John Manzi, for Monticello Raceway

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