by john manzi for the Billings Series
When the Midwest region of the CKG Billings Amateur Driving Series kicked-of its 2017 racing season at Miami Valley Raceway on Sunday afternoon, May 7 a lady emerged victorious in the one-mile trot and it wasn’t “Hurricane Hannah” Miller. The winning lady chauffer was longtime and accomplished Billings veteran, Michelle “the Belle” Ruvola.
With a thoughtful and patient demeanor she rallied Upfront Chip Daddy to a come-from-behind 2:00.4 victory over Ned “the insurance broker” Hodkinson’s Mutinyonthebounty. For Ms. Ruvola, a business executive from Naperville, Ill., it was her 39th winning drive.
“What a way to start the season!” Michelle said after her victory. “I was in the paddock thinking it's been awhile since I've raced. That edge of excitement I normally feel before a race was just a bit sharper than usual - and next thing you know- I heard the pounding of hoof beats around me; felt the track beneath me and even tasted the limestone mixed with horsehair (NOT recommended). And we were off!!”
Michelle and Upfront Chip Daddy started slowly from the two-hole but she gradually worked her trotter into a position where they would have a chance at a victory.
“Sometimes things fall into place and this was one of those races”, Michelle related via email. “We got away fifth on the rail - inauspicious beginning- and then we were trapped and being shuffled back. I knew I had a ton of horse, so when I saw a gap on the outside I sent Chip toward the opening, and he flew between horses. At the top of the turn , I decided that patience was not going to be a virtue, so I tipped Chip three-wide and gave him his chance to win. He was strong up the stretch and when he got neck and neck with Ned's horse (Mutinyonthebounty) he had his ears back, neck stretched forward and just kept digging into the racetrack for the win!”
The third place went to Strong Hope, driven by “Lawbook Larry” Farley.
It was the third seasonal victory for the 5 year old altered son of Chip Chip Hooray who is owned by Wolf Creek Farm (in Illinois). Dismissed and sent off as the longest shot on the board in the well-matched seven-horse field, Upfront Chip Daddy paid $20.60-$10.40 -$4.00 across the board.
Next action in the granddaddy of all amateur series will be in the eastern region at the Meadowlands on May 12.