Royal Red kicked off the second day of opening weekend at Shenandoah Downs with a stellar wire-to-wire victory in the $46,150 Virginia Breeder’s 2 Year Old Colt & Gelding Pace.
The Dream Away gelding, trained by Jimmy Viars, was sent off as the betting choice and did not disappoint. He was best among the field of five, triggering fractions of :28 3/5, :58 2/5 and 1:28.0 before crossing in 1:59.0, 3 1/2 lengths ahead of Southern Jamie. Chuck Perry, who a day earlier guided John’s Dream to a 1:52 1/5 winning effort in the 3 Year Old Colt & Gelding Pace, directed Royal Red in the impressive outing. Out of the Die Laughing mare, Royal Dieness, the victor earned his first lifetime score in four starts.
Renfrow Hauser trained three of the four entrants in the $48,475 2 Year Old Filly Trot and even though the horse he drove finished last, he got his picture taken with one of the trio. Driver Tyler Shehan collected his third win on Sunday’s card by leading Hauser’s Lizzybeth Taylor to a three length triumph in 2:17.0. The Gregory Pecs filly, who is out of Luring Me Away by Luring, took command of the race from Greta Garbo after the half. She crossed the three-quarter mark in 1:44 2/5 and cruised to a three length win over Garbo. Betsy Brown’s Irish Blessings took third.
A match race of sorts was held in the $42,050 2 Year Old Colt & Gelding Trot. The two entrants were both owned by Jane Dunvant, trained by Carlo Poliseno, and driven by a father-son combo. Carlo guided Dusty Fool while his son Cody piloted Yagot A Winner. While the latter went on a break coming out of the second turn, the former took advantage and coasted to a 2:06.0 winning effort with ease.
The inaugural weekend of pari-mutuel racing at Shenandoah Downs was greeted by large and enthusiastic crowds that cheered horses as they crossed the finish line, at the halfway point of each race, and even if they broke stride and finished a distant last.
On the track, Henry Lewis’s Vertigo Hanover won his fifth straight race at Shenandoah. Four of those came during a four day, non-betting County Fair meet two weeks ago and the most recent came Saturday during the actual Downs opener. “My horse won the very first race over the renovated track during the Fair, then won the first race at the actual meet on Saturday,” said a happy Lewis as he was purchasing three programs to keep as a memento of his horse’s success.
In Saturday’s second race, Explosive Muscles beat Toolbox by three-quarters of a length in a conditioned trot in 1:59 1/5. Nothing of great note there, except the winner was driven by 71 year old Gerry Longo and the runner-up was directed by 18 year old Logan Powell, a 53 year age difference between top two finishing reinsmen. Overall, driver Tyler Shehan completed the weekend with five victories while Longo and Chuck Perry had three apiece.
“I think we had outstanding, competitive racing,” said Racing Secretary Mike Wandishin. “The track crew, led by Superintendent J.D. Thomas with the assistance of consultants Dan and Greg Coon, did an unbelievable job of not only getting the track renovation completed on time, but providing horsemen with a top notch surface to compete over.”
Asked about the highlight of opening weekend, Wandishin wasted no time in his response. “John’s Dream 1:52 1/5 performance in the 3 Year Old Colt Pace was extraordinary,” he said. “The track record mark he set here should last until the next time he comes to race at Shenandoah. I have feeling he’ll be competing against top three year olds around the country the rest of this year”.
The most interesting aspect of the weekend did not happen in the sulky or over the stone dust. It happened at the admission gates. The first three customers to pass through the entrance at Saturday’s opener weren’t locals from the Town of Woodstock or even Shenandoah County. Sisters Linda Somers and Tracy Conway, and their father Alan Conway, made a 2 day, 16 hour drive down from Prince Edward Island to be first in. Fans of harness racing for over 30 years, they had a horsepower doubleheader planned Saturday — an early afternoon at the races followed by an evening NASCAR race in Richmond.
The inaugural Shenandoah Downs meet continues every weekend through October 9th with racing slated every Saturday and Sunday at 1 PM.