By john manzi for the Billings & NAADA Series
The cold and rainy afternoon of October 27 in the Catskill Mountains certainly wasn’t a day that amateur drivers could embrace still three races dedicated to the amateurs went to post on the betting card at Monticello Raceway; one in the CKG Billings Series and two in the North American Amateur Drivers series, with many participants competing in both.
“Hurricane Hannah” Miller added another victory --her 30th this year--to her seasonal totals when she won the Billings trot with Jack’s To Open. In NAADA action both Tony Ciufettelli and Alan Schwartz copped their respective divisions; Ciufettelli with Tagmaster and Schwartz behind Ladys Big Stormont.
Upon her return to the paddock a cold and shivering Ms. Miller managed a smile while hanging up the lines on Jacks To Open who was an easy 2:00.4 victor in the Billings Trot.
“I’m freezing,” she said, “but I’m happy that my horse was real strong today. He went a tough mile and still drew off to an easy victory.”
When the gate sprung four horses went for the lead which was commandeered by Bob “the Headhunter” Hechkoff with Justtherighttouch. When Miller ranged alongside Hechkoff with Jacks To Open the two horses raced head to head to the half and up the backside at which point Miller’s trotter took command with only the second and third place finishers in doubt.
As Jacks To Open rounded the final turn he had five lengths on the field which was opened to eight at the wire. A shuffled-back Mack’s Gold Band, with “Buffalo Bob” Davis at the controls, found daylight late and rallied to finish second, a length ahead of “Smokin’ Joe” Faraldo’s Permanent Joy.
Nick Surick trains Jacks To Open ($6.80) who’s owned by the Nick Surick Stable and Hannah Miller.
Alan Schwartz got the amateur soiree started with a gate to wire triumph with Ladys Big Stormont in the first of two NAADA trots.
Schwartz sent the 5-year-old Earl Of Stormont gelding to the lead, one that they never relinquished although Hannah Miller and Rocket Master supplied stiff pressure as the field headed for the three quarters.
Schwartz’s charge rebuffed Ms. Miller’s trotter and went on to score a length victory in 2:01.1 over the soggy race track.
“My horse is was testy behind the (starting) gate but once the race was underway he was perfect,” Schwartz said referring to Ladys Big Stormont’s winning trip.
With a two-hole journey throughout Bob Hechkoff’s, The Franchise, garnered second money and after his early rally Rocket Master just hung and finished third.
Owned by his driver and trained by Raheim Strong Ladys Big Stormont returned a $7.30 win mutuel to his backers.
The second NAADA Trot saw hot-handed Tony Ciufettelli sit back off the early speed with his own Tagmaster and then charge home an easy winner in a time of 2:04.
“After some fast early fractions over the soaked racetrack the leaders seemed to come back to me,” Ciufettelli said about the tiring horses on the front end. “I was back, off the early pace and when I moved him (Tagmaster) up the backside he took off like gangbusters and was the strong horse in the stretch. I guess the soft track was good on his (my horse’s) feet."
Trotalot finished second for Bob Hechkoff while 50-1 shot Saraboo garnered the show dough for Pete Seibert.
Ciufettelli also owns and trains Tagmaster who paid $41.20 for win. He (Ciufettelli) is currently the hottest driver in amateur racing. With his victory today the retired correction officer now has four consecutive driving victories and five wins in his last six starts.