Since Tony “the Capo” Verruso assumed the presidency of the CKG Billings Harness Driving Series he has made a few changes in the format, and all seem positive. One major change is instead of one lengthy series in both the midwest and eastern regions there are now two individual series in each region along with one in the travel division. That way it will to allow participants a better chance at being among the region leaders and hopefully keeping stronger interest, especially for those who may have started slowly as the season began. But make no mistake, the CKG Billings Harness Driving Series will, as always, culminate in the Delvin Miller Gold and Silver Cup Championship Finals, this year in late November.
The east region series #1 final went to “Coach Paul” Minore and Wygant Prince when they defeated Bob “the Headhunter” Hechkoff and Get Packin by a nose. Marvelous Marvin: Raber won the Midwest region Series #1 Final at the Meadows with Catching Katie in 1:57.2 by five over Good Friend driven by “Lawbook Larry” Farley.
With the third leg of the east region series #2 presented at Mohegan Sun Pocono on Sunday, August 17 Hechkoff made amends of sort when he won his $6,000 split with Tagmaster in a very credible time of 1:57.4 and defeated “Joltin’ Joe” Pennacchio and Quantum Lightning by four lengths. Third place in the mile went to Rebel Strike with “Mighty Matt” Zuccarello aboard.
“Joe had the favorite in the race from the four hole and I had post seven with my horse so I left strongly and made the front before the quarter (in :28.4) and the farther we went the stronger my horse was and we won it by four lengths,” Hechkoff related. “I got Tagmaster in April and he’s raced good for me since then.”
The victory currently finds Hechkoff atop the standings in east region series #2. Virgil Morgan Jr. trains Tagmaster who retuned a $14.20 mutuel payoff.
The other division went to Billing’s newcomer James Marshall IV whose family is no stranger to harness racing. His dad Jim III currently has driven 3276 winners and his granddad dates back to the golden years of the Standardbred sport. And is mom Donna Marshall is the daughter of long-time horseman, Bill Aiken.
After doing diligence in a series of qualifying races Jimmy IV jumped up behind his 3-yearold Chocolatier filly, Coin Collector- trained by his mom-- and made those who wagered on him happy after they gained command at the quarter pole and then traveled unchallenged on the fron- end to score as two-length victory over “The Capo” with Sam’s Honeybee in a time of 1:58. Third place went to Keystone Sadie, driven by Peter “Sycamore Ventures” Gerry.
Jimmy Marshall IV he made his first pari-mutuel drive a winning one and his filly Coin Collector paid $3.80 for win.