Age not a factor to Cal Expo drivers

12:24 PM 03 Jan 2014 NZDT
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Gene Vallandingham, harness racing
Gene Vallandingham -- I feel like I am 29 when driving

They say age is just a number, but sometimes those numbers can really add up.

As the field passed the opening quarter in last Friday nights ninth race, Tour Guide showed the way with Rather Be Playing In The Pocket and Early Boy looming in third. Nothing really unusual there as the field straightened for the backstretch in the conditioned trot.

However, trackman Marty Bridges pointed out something interesting about the three drivers who were guiding these leaders Steve Desomer, Pierre Girard and Gene Vallandingham. If you add their ages together, thats 219 years and that might be some kind of a record.

We checked Marty's math and he was right on. Steve Desomer is 77, Gene Vallandingham turned 73 in September and Pierre Girard had 69 candles on his last birthday cake. By the way, Gene ended up winning the race while relative youngster Luke Plano completed the exacta and 20-year-old driving sensation Tyler Smith finished in the show spot.

Vallandingham comes into this weeks action needing just 22 victories to reach the 3,000 plateau while sporting over $13 million in earnings. He was asked what its like to come down the stretch with a 20-year-old who could easily be his grandson whipping and shouting in the sulky next to him.

It doesnt make any difference, Gene related. Heck, I only feel about 29 when Im out there, so I dont mind driving against somebody whos only nine years younger. By the way, the kid (Smith) is doing a very good job.

A Stitch In Time headlines Sire Stakes

A Stitch In Time, a romping winner of the last two big-money gatherings for the division, looks to add to his reputation in Saturday nights $10,000 California Sire Stakes for the newly-turned 4-year-old pacing males.

A 15-race card is on tap with first post set for 5:20 p.m. The headliner will go as the second race on the evening, with the co-feature being a $5,000 Invitational Pace that occupies the third-race slot on the program.

A Stitch In Time is a son of Kents On Nuke who is owned and was bred by Mark Anderson, takes his lessons from Gordie Graham and has Mooney Svendsen handling the lines. He comes into this contest having posed for pictures in 11 of his 16 starts, including a 1:53 3/5 lifetime-best performance at Fraser Downs in October.

The dark-hued pacer was a prohibitive favorite in the two stakes decided so far as this meeting and did not disappoint on either occasion. He waltzed home with 10 lengths to spare in the November 16 affair, then came back two weeks later as the 1-9 choice and had six and a quarter lengths on his nearest rival when all was said and done.

Lining up against him this weekend are Hi Ho Disguise, who will have Dave Siegel at the controls; Kablooie with Luke Plano; Orlandos Express, who has the services of Chip Lackey; Bit Player, Steve Wiseman; and Me Tarzan with James Kennedy giving directions.

Looking at the Invitational Pace, One And Only has been assigned the outside slot after posing a convincing victory at this level two weeks ago. The 5-year-old son of Bettors Delight carries the banner of Richard Morita and David Yamada with Lino Pacheco training and Luke Plano in the bike.

One And Only was able to work out a pocket journey behind pace-setting Steuben Jumpinjack in that last Invite clash, engaged that rival at the top of the stretch and drew off to a five-length score in a sharp 1:52 2/5 tour. Stueben Jumpinjack will again be among his rivals along with Docs Zippy, Its Getting Hairy and Party Cove.

 By Mark Ratzky for Cal Expo Harness

 

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