by john manzi with joe faraldo for NAADA
Joe Faraldo first drove competitively in the amateur drivers’ ranks during 1980 and over the years the Kew Gardens, NY lawyer has driven 141 winners but none were as special as his overwhelming victory against the French amateurs at Vincennes on May 27. That Tuesday evening Faraldo scored one for Team America when he guided the betting favorite Valfluery to a resounding triumph at the historic Vincennes Racetrack in greater Paris, France,.
The famed French racing venue, built in 1863, was destroyed during the Franco Prussian War and then rebuilt in 1879. It sports France’s best trotters over two tracks-- one 1200 meters another 1900 meters. The place, like Paris itself, is beautiful. But beauty not withstanding, racing involves a great deal of racing luck as many of the world’s greatest drivers compete there.
Some thought Faraldo’s victory was pretty much assured if the French did not lock him in since he was up behind the favorite. Starting from the pole position in the 12-horse field with a horse noted as a slow starter Joe was confronted with the distinct possibility that the French strategy would be to lock him in.
After teammate Bob Davis took an early lead with the USA’s Tony Verruso nearby, the French gained the front and after his slow beginning, Valfluery was surrounded near the rear of the field seemingly unable to get out.
As the great French amateur Romain Poree had advised the visiting Americns the goal was to get to the outside. That however was being prevented and as Joe said " Valfleury was not too eager to be taken back to tenth and sixth over".
Despite finally being in the second tier more trouble ensued when the French leaders were slowing the pace considerably and way before the 1,000 meter mark in the 2,100 meter event Faraldo thought it was time to move three-wide and try to go to the front.
"He seemed just to takeoff, and we swooped the field up the backside never to be headed again". Faraldo said after of Valfleury’s march to the front. “The horse has now strung four straight wins and is from the stable that once trained Ready Cash.”
Not one to brag and knowing his limitations as a harness driver the outstanding lawyer added, perhaps with tongue in cheek, “It took great courage to put me on this horse, since it was my first win this year in less than a dozen starts and if I need to leave the country again for a win, NAADA has two series coming up with Italian and Hungarian amateurs this summer and I am getting psyched".
The way the USA tallies points in international competitions the American Team scored the win; but a French curve adjusted the math to a French win. The way Team America's point counter, Alicia Schwartz called it, "the Americans were second in the two team competition and the French were next to last". But as is said in all international amateur racing events winning or losing is not important; it’s the comradery shared that is.
One of the trip’s the most fascinating experiences was at Grobois, a training center wisely purchased in 1962 by Le Trot in order to insure a horse supply for the nearby cathedral of harness racing at Vincennes. Housing 1500 head and covering 400 -plus hecters, it charges horsemen, 3,000 Euros per month for thirty stalls, a walker, a four bedroom home for the trainer and living quarters for six separate caretakers and their families.
Le Trot's investment has secured the French racing industry in every way possible, from thoughtful breeding to export of French-breds across most of the continent to the import of racing signals from many venues including Yonkers Raceway.
Le Trot will help find a French horse for this year's October 14th International Trot at Yonkers Raceway and they are beginning to sell horses to American trainers to help solve our horse shortage. They will host some American trainers in an organized trip to France in November with the aid of the SOA of NY.
“During this Memorial day weekend, one could only feel the gratitude still felt by these people for the efforts of America in WWII on those beaches at Normandy similar to their testimony to our efforts in WWI acknowledged in the Prix D'Amerique,” Faraldo added.