Hollywood’s Hits: Levy history

by Bob Heyden

Buddy Gilmour won three of the first 10 editions of the George Morton Levy — with Caramore in 1984, On The Road Again in 1985 and Dignatarian in 1987.

Foiled Again won the Levy back to back in 2009-2010, then last week won a conditioned test to become the sport’s first $7.5 million earner (284 94-63-41 $7,508,833).

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Burkes winning their first Levy with Maltese Artist.

Silver Almahurst set the all-time world record of 1:50.4 for a half-mile track winning the 1993 edition of the Levy. Covert Action won it in 1991, the first million-dollar winner ever campaigned by Ray Schnittker. There was also a decade without any Levys from 1997-2006.

The richest in the richest

When did the richest driver ever first appear in the richest race ever?

In 1979, seven years before he became the sport’s leading money-winning driver, John Campbell first appeared in the Woodrow Wilson, which would later carry a purse of over $2.1 million. In the ’79 edition, won by Niatross, the purse was $862,750 and Campbell missed the money spots while driving elimination winner Burt Paloma. Campbell did win twice on that card with Tingalayo ($15.80) and Matrix Hanover ($19.60).

About the time Campbell is set to drive for the final time near the end of June, David Miller could become the fifth different driver to be in second spot behind Campbell on the all-time money list. In 1987, Campbell surpassed Herve Filion at the top of the career money list at $59.2 million. Subsequently, Bill O’Donnell jumped into second place, then Mike Lachance and Ron Pierce. Miller is about $2 million away from surpassing Pierce.

Triple Crown exception

Only one Triple Crown race mark has stood with a trainer/driver at the controls. In the 2004 Yonkers Trot, held at Hawthorne, Trond Smedshammer drove Windsongs Legacy to a 1:53.1 victory. All other Triple Crown race records are currently held by catch-drivers

Trotting Triple Crown back to back?

It happened twice in the 1960s, but not since. Can Walner — or anyone — win the trotting Triple Crown the year after Marion Marauder did so?

It has been 48 years since it happened back-to-back when Nevele Pride and Lindys Pride turned the trick in 1968-1969, this coming after Speedy Scot in 1963 and Ayres in 1964 also did it consecutively.

Down Under double

Twice in Meadowlands history two trainers have each won over 100 races in a single meet. Both times it was a conditioner from the Down Under. In 1984, Brett Pelling won the trainers’ title over Ross Crogan by a 115-101 margin. In 2004, Mark Harder edged Noel Daley 107-105.

In both instances, it was another 36 victories back to the third spot. In 1998, Mark Kesmodel had 66 wins and in 2004 Mark Silva had 69.

Schnittker’s 2008 Daily Double for the ages

1. Schnittker got through the Hambletonian undefeated with Deweycheatumnhowe, a feat that has never happed before or since. The fact Schnittker had the only colt to emerge without a blemish in 91 editions is really saying something.

2. Schnittker sent out the only horse to defeat Muscle Hill — Homer Jay — in a $39,750 two-year-old New Jersey Sires Stakes event on July 3 at the Meadowlands. They were coupled at 60 cents on the dollar. A neck separated the two and Muscle Hill would never again taste defeat rolling off 20 straight from that point.

Quiz – Name this horse

Q. Who is the only horse to make over $50,000 one year on the pace and then over $100,000 in each of the next three years on the trot?

A. Crown Wood. In 1982, he earned $54,970 on the pace followed by earnings of $164,150, $238,430 and $119,540 on the trot in 1983, 1984 and 1985, respectively. Patrick Lacey owned.

Most unbreakable racing mark?

Sorry harness fans, it has to be Woody Stephens winning the Belmont Stakes five times in a row from 1982-1986 — Conquistador Cielo (1982), Caveat (1983), Swale (1984), Crème Fraiche (1985) and Danzig Connection (1986). The fifth and final was ridden by Chris McCarron, who recorded his first Triple Crown win in the process. He was the third choice, though. Pat Day turned it down for the favorite Rampage (who finished seventh), and Laffit Pincay, Jr. did also for Ferdinand (third).

The ages of the top three trainers across the wire in the 1986 Belmont Stakes was 72 (Woody Stephens), 79 (Walter Kelly) and 73 (Charlie Wittingham).

Think the fans were all over Woody going for the thumb? Think again. The winner in 1986 paid 8-1.

First Miss New Jersey upstaged?

In the 1984 Miss New Jersey, Showplace Trixie, at 10-1, posted the upset for team Remmen, while Artiste Bourg was second at 23-1 Buddy Gilmour and 31-1 shot Quinella Blue Chip was third for Clint Warrington, Jr.

Historic Freight also won on that card in a claiming race, two months before winning the Hambletonian. Historic Freight was available for $52,500 with no takers. Benny Webster drove the son of ABC Freight for trainer Skip Lewis. Here’s the irony: Jan Nordin was second in this claiming event with Vandy T. Nordin would have the favorite in the Hambletonian in Baltic Speed, who wasn’t quite up to it on that day, clearing the way for Historic Freight.

Pierce update

Ron Pierce is heading west this weekend to Montana to see mother Dolores Brower and then on to Alaska for the next four months.