After winning the first two legs of the East-West Challenge on Friday Night (April 13) , the amateur harness racing squad from Cal-Expo managed to hold onto their lead and ultimately defeat the Eastern team comprised of some of the top Billings drivers with a final score of 119-91.
The evening opened with Team West sporting a 14 point advantage after Dave Siegel went two-for-two in taking the first legs on Friday night. The Californians had little mercy on their guests finishing 1-2-3 in Saturday’s opener with Rick Bertrand pulling Dugout Andee at the three-quarters pole to swoop the field and onto victory.
Within striking distance, the team from the Atlantic rallied in the fourth leg of the event as Joe Faraldo piloted Jessalilpeace from mid-pack to score the easy victory. With his team finishing in three of the four top spots, they were not yet put away.
The event’s last leg was déjà vu all over again for Rick Bertrand, who won the final leg of the Sunshine Pro-Am Challenge about one month earlier with a come from behind victory to put his team into the winner’s circle. Driving odds-on favorite and known closer Quick On My Feet, Rick steered his charge as his name indicates and was quickest to the wire.
While Team East’s Steve Oldford and Peter Gerry finished second and third respectively, it was not enough to overcome the deficit leading into the last leg.
Amateur Club president, Dave Siegel, had the following to say. “We always enjoy hosting this event. This year in particular, having some of the leaders of the amateur movement compete made it extra special. The several hundred amateurs we have in this country owe a huge debt of gratitude to Joe Faraldo who heads the NAADA and organizes and hosts many international events, Tony Verruso, current president of the C.K.G. Billings Harness Driving Series, Steve Oldford, president of Great Lakes Amateur Driving Association, and Peter Gerry, who for many, many years steered the ship of the Billings organization before Tony. In addition, of this event’s eight participants, three of us are USTA directors. It is really nice to drive in races with people who are so passionate about the sport and amateur driving in particular. Also, it is safe to say that few if any of the eight participants would be horse owners were it not for amateur driving. Amateur events are key to keep folks like us interested in remaining owners and the tracks and horsemen that support our racing understand that.”
He went on in closing, “As always, on behalf of both squads, we are grateful to Cal-Expo management and horsemen for supporting this annual event. With many questions about the future about racing in California still unanswered, the mood around the track is somber. The race office really had its hands full in recruiting horses this year in particular and under the circumstances, they did a great job of overcoming adversity yet at the same time, fielding competitive races.”