by Garnet Barnsdale
Monday nights are usually somewhat quiet nights on the North American harness racing scene, with a handful of tracks running and with their races consisting mostly of overnights and claimers. One could be forgiven if he didn’t expect headlines to be made from any of those bread-and-butter type races.
Occasionally, however, if things line up right and you have a good horse fall into a good trip under ideal conditions, even on a Monday night harness racing history can be made; case in point: race 9 from Northfield Park on July 17.
When a salty field of eight aged trotters – with combined lifetime earnings of more than $2.6 million – lined up to face off in the open trot on this muggy night, little did we know that one of three mares in that field was about to ride a dream trip into the record books.
Like Old Times, a five-year-old Chip Chip Hooray mare out of the Royal Troubadour mare Royal Two, had carved out an excellent career to that point for octoganerian owner/breeder Keith Ross of Bellefontaine, OH. She came into Monday night’s race having won 25 of 69 starts and more than $450,000. The ultra-consistent mare had also been named the Buckeye State’s 2015 Horse of the Year on the strength of a slate of 11 wins and 4 seconds from 15 starts and a dominant 3 1/2 length win in the $225,000 Ohio Sires Stakes Championship Final. She held a lifetime mark of 1:54.4 to that point.
Clearly, Like Old Times was not the type of horse that “needed a trip” to win a race. A good trip on this night, combined with ideal weather conditions took Like Old Times to a new level and into the history books, however.
Starting from post 4, Like Old Times left for the front, but happily accepted the pocket as 32-time winner Somebody A S insisted on taking the front trotting to the quarter in :27.2. Just past that marker, Belle’svictory ring broke stride, which caused Kirty Dream to break momentarily and the field to scatter a bit.
As Somebody A S carved out fractions of :56.1 and 1:24.1 with little pressure coming from the backfield, Like Old Times was looking racy in the pocket, so around the final turn driver Peter Wrenn could wait no more and he popped the pocket to attack the leader.
Down the lane, Like Old Times cruised by the leader while under no urging and in trotting her final quarter in :28.3 she stopped the clock in 1:53, which was not only a track record, but also a world record for Older Trotting Mares on a half-mile track. The rest, as they say, is history and it certainly was a sweet moment for owner Ross and trainer Don McKirgan (who is also approaching octogenarian status) considering they have been in the business together for more than 40 years.