Horsemen from the little town at the southeast corner of Maryland are making their presence felt across the state at Rosecroft Raceway. Two of the tight knit group of harness racing trainers based at the Pocomoke City Fairgrounds have found the winner's circle in recent weeks, with William Brittingham, Jr.'s Golly Me coming home victorious twice and Cliff White's Cedar Hall Boy achieving a new lifetime mark of 1:55.
Golly Me's March 13 maiden win, which was Brittingham's first training victory since 2009, was a bit of reassurance for the horse's connections, who had struggled with his health issues for months.
From the start Brittingham and his partner Charles Ward had high hopes for the horse, which Brittingham had picked out for them at Harrisburg in 2010. Although he'd had to spend a bit more than Ward had instructed, Brittingham was confident at the time the bay son ofand Western Gallie (a daughter of Galleria) was worth it.
"I had to go over a little bit," Brittingham said. "I said I hope Mr. Charles doesn't give me hell. After I told him how good he was bred he calmed down a bit."
Golly Me, who Ward says has the perfect name, started off perfectly.
"The second day we hooked him he went right on," Ward said.
Brittingham said he was the easiest horse he ever broke. But as the months went by that good behavior eventually had them worried.
"He didn‘t have any get up and go," Ward said.
Nevertheless, Golly Me did qualify at Ocean Downs as a 2-year-old. However, a check of the horse's blood count proved that he was indeed sick and had been for some time.
"Dr. (Roger) Omwake has been helpful in every way," Ward said.
After rest and treatment, Brittingham started back with the pacer.
When he continued to fail to live up to expectations, Ward opted to have him castrated. Complications during the procedure left Ward pacing up and down the aisle.
"He had fluid on his left side and an obstruction in the passageway for urine," Ward explained, joking that of course he and Brittingham had no idea of this when they'd been complaining of the horse's lack of enthusiasm. "There was no way we could tell."
Since the surgery, Golly Me has been a different horse, kicking the stall wall when he wants attention and showing life on the racetrack.
From five starts this year he has two wins, both in 1:59.1 for driver Justin Brenneman. In his most recent start at Maryland's five-eighths-mile track, he finished fourth, pacing in 1:57.2.
Golly Me isn't the only Pocomoke trainee enjoying some success this spring at Rosecroft, as older barn mate Cedar Hall Boy is coming into his own as well. The 6-year-old son of Perpetuity-Becky's Commodore shaved six seconds off his record with a 1:55 win at Rosecroft on March 20 for driver Corey Braden.
Cliff White says the horse has been good all along; he's just taken it easy with him to give him time to mature.
"I purposely let him learn and get confidence," he said, adding that driver Ray Robinson, Jr. had played a key role in that process when he raced the horse at Ocean Downs. "I'll always be grateful to him. He took his time with him and let him learn."
White still fondly recalls when Robinson steered Cedar Hall Boy to his first pari-mutuel win two weeks after White himself had won with him in an uncharted race at the Pocomoke Fair.
"At the start he was dead last by 14 lengths but he won in 2:01. Ray said, ‘Cliff did you really think I was going to let you outshine me,'"White recalled, laughing.
In spite of the horse's recent accomplishments White says he plans to keep racing Cedar Hall Boy in his home state unless he proves he's ready to face tougher competition elsewhere. Regardless of how he does in the future, White will appreciate the horse, given to him three years ago by horseman Dale Hall. The pacer got the longtime Tyson worker back into the horse business.
"He was a gift from the Lord," White said.
by Charlene Sharpe, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent