This is the 17th edition of the Fair Sire Stakes Championship, which gives the horses with the best performances on the Keystone summer twice around circuit a chance to earn a nice payday and bragging right as they end their fair campaigns for the year. This year’s eight Championship races are worth $25,000 each, the biggest individual purses in the program’s history, making for the $200,000 night.
Since 2008, The Meadows, closest track to the majority of the fair competitors, has been a gracious host for the Fair Championships; before that they alternated between The Meadows and Pocono.
Speed records for the various divisional Championships:
2TC – 1:57.1, Avenue Of Dreams, 2011, Meadows.
2TF – 1:59.2, Keystone Carla, 2005, Pocono.
2PC – 1:53.4, Drive All Night, 2007, Pocono.
2PF – 1:55.1, My Gal Phyl, 2002, Meadows.
3TC – 1:56, Boytown, 2012, Meadows.
3TF – 1:57.3, Mynah Hanover, 2011, Meadows.
3PC – 1:53.3, Ya Gotta Go, 2011, Meadows.
3PF – 1:53.2, Talk All Day, 2008, Meadows.
Mein Schatz (PC) and She’salilfireball (PF) have a chance to become repeat Fair Champions Saturday after winning their 2012 contests. She’salilfireball has on paper by far the tougher task: of the 15 repeat Fair Champions (7 trotters, 8 pacers), only TWO have been fillies: trotter Rosebud Sioux (2004-05) and pacer Big City Hanover (2006-07).
Neither Mein Schatz nor She’salilfireball earned the most points in their division (based on a 5-4-3-2-1 earning for order of finish), either last year or this, and this fact, again on paper, seems to be a good thing, as the long fair season must take a bit of a toll on those who fight their way to the top of the point column: since points history started to be kept in 2002, only 14 of the 88 various divisional champions have been able to also win their Championship that year! (There was one last year, the 2TF Lady Broadway, who was sold in the offseason and has been racing creditably against top-level company this year.)
No Championship repeater has also won both point titles: TCs Cadence Hall and BS Woody, PF Big City Hanover, and PC Real Hanover are the repeaters who also notched the points crown in one of their two Championship years.
Here are this year’s point leaders in each division: 2TC, Mr Weaver; 2TF, Bella Palazzo; 2PC, Mister Chaos; 2PF, La Fiesta (#1 among all ‘13 2YOs); 3TC, BSMaxmimummoondream (also the 2TC pointleader in 2012); 3TF, Monroe County; 3PC, Jungle Of Terror (top 2013 point winner overall); 3PF, Have More Wine.
All of the top point winners filled their fields in the 3PC, 2PC, 3TF, 2TC and 3PF divisions, from front of the card to the back. The “lowest-ranked” points horses to make his Championship was 3TC Markup Hanover, who was #13 in the standings, but got in when others above him chose not to declare in by Tuesday’s draw time.
It’s appropriate that the 3TC division holds this distinction in 2013, as it did in 2012 – and capitalized on it in a big way: Boytown, #28 in the standings, got in when there were only eight entrants total, and not only won, but trotted the fastest mile in Fair Championship history, 1:56!
The Steve Schoeffel barn will be the busiest tonight, sending out eight starters in four Championship events. Schoeffel won the overall training title in 2013 at the fairs, and in the Sire Stakes category tied with the veteran Boots Dunn for the top rung – thus, no surprise to see the Dunn barn next in line with seven entrants in three events. There’ll also be plenty of activity in the barns of Jason Shaw (six starters in four events), and Roger Hammer and Dave Brickell (four going postward from each conditioner).
Rich Gillock was the trainer of Boytown last year, and this year his brother Mike will try to make it a “family consecutive double” in the 3TC with Luke Icewalker. Two other trainers also look to take a particular event for the second straight year: Steve Schoeffel with 3PC Hershey Please and Syl King Jr. with 3TF Homepage. And as noted earlier, trainers Aaron Johnston (3PC Mein Schatz) and Charles Myers (3PF She’salilfireball) are hoping for repeat wins – in different divisions, but with the same horse.
Schoeffel , who won both the Sire Stakes and overall fair driving titles in 2013, also will be the busiest sulkysitter Saturday, with mounts in all eight events. Roger Hammer and Chris Shaw are next in line, with six scheduled steers. (In 2009-2012, Hammer had a drive in every Fair Championship save one, and he missed that one because his horse was scratched.)
This season’s fair driving and training standings, and the all-time driving victory list in the Fair Championships, are attached separately. (No points for guessing who’s driven the most Champions.)
The entrants in tonight’s Fair Championships certainly have shown the winning touch this year, accounting for a total of 304 victories among them just in 2013! Monroe County has 11 visits to Victory Lane to lead all entrants: two of those were all-age track record trotting miles, at Meadville and Washington, and two others set divisional marks at their respective ovals.
Five former Fair Championship winners have gone on to win $500,000 or more in their careers. A trotter and a pacer have been trading the lead in the last few months: right now sidewheeler Keystone Rideau has the edge over San Remo Kosmos at $657,500 to $652,610. Pacers Eagle All ($574,884) and Sapphire City ($539,872) and trotter Light Headed ($502,143) are the other members of this distinguished club.
This certainly has been a fine year of racing on the Pennsylvania fair circuit, despite the rainout of six cards and part of another – the largest washout total since 2004. 6 all-age track records were set among 27 divisional track marks rung up over the year, and there were 19 “magic miles” in 2:00 or less, led by the 3PF Keystone Wanda’s 1:55.4 at Gratz, fastest on the local twicearounds in four years. (Ironically, Keystone Wanda, who also campaigned substantially at pari-mutuel tracks, wound up 10th on the points list and did not make her Championship!)
2TF Glide By Shooting and 2PF Sunsetonthebeach might have a “breeding edge” in tonight’s Championships, in that both their dams were Fair Championship winners: Glide By Shooting’s dam Shesfastandfurious won the 2006 2TF Championship, while Sunsetonthebeach’s mommy R N Artist triumphed in the 3PF Championship in 2003.
These Fair Championships are traditionally held in the first half of October, just after the summer fair season of traveling is over: the earliest date is October 1 (in 2002), the latest October 16 (in 2010).
Saturday’s area forecast at this writing is for no rain (if the track is “fast,” it will be the tenth straight year that the Fair Championships have been so blessed), and the afternoon high is scheduled to be around 80 degrees, which could give an expectation of a temperature in the low 70s by 6:55 post time. The record temperature on a Fair Championship Day is the 82 degrees during the early part of the October 9, 2007 card at Pocono. More logically, Pocono also holds the “record” for coldest climate for a Fair Championship, as the mercury dipped to 41 degrees by the end of the card on October 4, 2003 – which was also the last “off track” day for these races, as the surface rating was “gd +1.” (Must have been fun racing that night!) Meadows’ records are 78 on October 2, 2002 and 50 on October 5, 2004.
Part of the “incentive program” in Pennsylvania harness racing, designed to help boost the state’s all-important agrieconomy, not only provides purse money for talented horses (and their owners) and races such as these, but also provides rewards to the breeders of these horses, the owners of the foals’ mothers, who obviously have a hefty investment in their enterprises.
Of tonight’s 68 entrants, 47 horses can generate “maximum level” breeders awards, as their dams resided in the state for 180 contiguous days and foaled here. They would be eligible to receive 25-30%, according to the range of figures in recent years, of what purses their “offspring” would win – so, for example, a Champion getting a $12,500 winner’s purse could earn his/her breeder somewhere in the range of $3500, just for this one race.
Another 11 3YOs would be eligible to generate an approximate 7% “nonresident” breeder’s award if they finish in the money. The foals of 2010, this year’s 3YOs, will be the last to get non-resident money; the foals of 2011, this year’s 2YOs, must either be full program participants or get no breeders awards at all.
By Jerry Connors for the PASS Fair Circuit