Determined to be on the front end, Merton—sister to Mighty M regulars Greg, Mike and Tom Merton—rushed her pacer toward the lead from the five- hole and they made the front before the quarter mile timer flashed :28.3.
“I thought I had the best horse in the race so figured I’d drive her that way,” Merton said.
And she did.
Merton got Now It Begins by the halfway point in :58.2 and as they passed the third stanza in 1:28.3 Terry Donnelly had her pacer, K Z Bezz, tight on Merton’s back.
But as they circled the final turn and headed for paydirt no one made up any ground in the stretch and Now It Begins dashed off to a 1-1/2 length triumph over K Z Bezz. Third place, some six lengths behind the winner, was Lightning Madison and Jody Riedel.
Whitney Bell Goodblood was fourth with Mary Lou while defending champ Lisa Krom finished fifth with Sittinthemorninsun.
Veronica wasn’t the only Merton to win a race on that Monday card. Brothers Greg and Mike also had winning drives.
“This is my first win in the Lady Godiva and it feels great,” a joyous Veronica Merton said in the winner’s circle after her three brothers joined her for the ceremonies. “My brothers have nothing on me today.”
In order to fill the race Eric Warner, the tracks director of racing, had to reach out for participants. And the ladies came from both near and far just to be a part of the race for women only.
Sherry Cushing came from farthest away when she drove in from Farmington, Maine. Whitney Bell Goodblood traveled to Monticello from Vernon, NY , and Dr. Karyn Malinowski, Monica Thors and Terry Donnelly came in from various parts of New Jersey. Only Jody Riedel, Lisa Krom and Ms. Merton were locals.
But the traveling distance didn’t seem to bother the participants because races exclusively for ladies are rare.
“This (race for women) is such a great thing,” said Monica Thors who had her crew videotaping interviews and filming the race itself for her documentary ‘I Am A Harness Racing Horse’.
“Can’t you do a race like this every week?” she asked Warner by phone to which he replied.“ I’d love to if we could get enough women to participate on a regular basis,” he said.