Day At The Track

Legislators Challenge held at Yonkers

07:36 AM 21 Oct 2019 NZDT
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Harness racing
Legislative Challenge Group photo
Katy Gazzini photo

YONKERS, NY, Sunday, October 20, 2019--It wasn't harness racing parimutuel, but rather political bragging rights that were up for grabs Saturday night (Oct. 19th), with Yonkers Raceway hosting the Legislators' Challenge.

The 'Challenge' was comprised of four before-the-card races, featuring 17 New York State elected officials competing in double-seated jog carts...with sporadic assistance from the Raceway's leading drivers.

The opening division saw Bronx Democrat State Senator Jamaal Bailey carry both Pembroke Joey and Jim Marohn Jr. across the line. From post position No. 2, the trio went the distance in 2:11.1.

Assembly Member Andy Raia (R-Suffolk) was second, with Assembly Member Steve Stern (D-Suffolk) third and Assembly Member Stacy Pheffer-Amato (D-Queens) fourth.

"This was wonderful, a great opportunity to see what the harness drivers really do, and how important their job is," State Senator Bailey said. "Jim (Marohn Jr.) was excellent, a great steward, and I helped him out a little bit as well. It worked out pretty well.

"These are real athletes and it's a real skill set. You can't just wake up, roll out of bed, and think you're going to hop in a harness and do it, right? We have to respect these athletes and what they do. I have a greater appreciation today than I did yesterday, and even before that when I did the training. Phenomenal day."

Bronx Democrats found themselves at it again in the second Challenge event as Assembly Member Marcos Crespo--from post No. 3 with Shaun Vallee and Galactic Galleon N--edged past State Senator Shelley Mayer (D-Westchester) late to win in 2:10.1.

The lone five-participant field was completed by Assembly Member Andrew Garbarino (R-Suffolk), Assembly Member Michael DenDekker (D-Queens) and Assembly Member Taylor Darling (D-Nassau).

"I've missed some of the previous events due to scheduling conflicts, but that won't happen again," Assembly Member Crespo said. "I'm grateful to Yonkers and MGM for this opportunity, and really, a great experience to see the joy and the respect that people have for these racehorses and just the entire function of these races. It's a great experience.

"I think the plans (for MGM here) are exciting, and certainly the Bronx is one of the great beneficiaries. So many people call this place home, and this is their workplace. This is how they provide for their families, and also Bronxities who love to come here and enjoy their time. It's a great opportunity, and hopefully we'll see how things play out."

A Bronx Democrat hat trick was finalized in the third event as Grand Master and pole-sitting Assembly Member Michael Benedetto (with Jordan Stratton) led from start to finish in 2:10.2.

It was a match race to the wire, as multiple-season Challenge champion, Assembly Member Gary Pretlow (D-Westchester) took his shot from the pocket but missed. The quartet was completed by Assembly Member Anthony Palumbo (R-Suffolk) and Assembly Member Michaelle Solanges (D-Nassau).

"It was exhilarating," Assembly Member Benedetto said, joking that "I was able to break the Pretlow Curse.

"We're looking forward to working with MGM in its effort to do more at Empire City Casino."

The fourth and final Legislators' Challenge event gave the Democrats a clean sweep as Queens made the tally sheet. State Senator Joe Addabbo Jr., with Vallee and Vanquished N, circled their rivals from last to win in a night's-fastest 2:09.1.

From post No. 3, the trio defeated Assembly Member Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), Assembly Member Joe DeStefano (R-Suffolk) and Assembly Member Nathalia Fernandez (D-Bronx).

"It's about time Queens came in first in something," State Senator Addabbo said. "We had a good strategy and I had a great time."

All four winners have committed to defending their titles at the next Legislators' Challenge.

The event was a joint effort of the Raceway, its race office and horsemen along with the Standardbred Owners Association of New York. Upon conclusion, many of the participants and their guests stayed to enjoy the evening's 'other' races.

by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

 

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