All eyes were on Scioto Downs as harness racing finally returned Friday and Saturday. Driver Chris Page and trainer Ron Burke dominated opening weekend in which $2,174,569, total, was wagering on the two cards — $1,054,294 on Friday and $1,120,275 on Saturday.
by Jay Wolf
In the spring of 1959, Charlie Hill opened Scioto Downs to replace the undersized Hilliard Raceway. Shortly after the opening the south Columbus track was tabbed as “Ohio’s Showplace of Racing.”
More than 60 years later, all the eyes in the harness racing world were back on Scioto Downs as it was the only harness track racing in North America, playing host to the first harness action since the COVID-19 pandemic forced CalExpo to close on March 31. The fans wagered $1,054,294 on the 12-race Friday night card. $1,120,275 was wagered on Saturday’s 12 races for a two-day handle of $2,174,569.
Friday night, the long wait was over with an action packed $9,000 claiming optional event for filly and mare pacers in the first race.
Six-year-old Duck Duck Dragon (Chris Page) over-came post seven and edged Foolish Heart (Brett Miller) by a length in 1:52.
The Dragon Again mare won for the third time in nine 2020 starts for the Burke Racing Stable and Weaver Bruscemi.
Page and trainer Ron Burke dominated the opening night of the Scioto Downs meet, winning six and four races, respectively. The pair added another win on Saturday evening.
Page finished the first two nights with eight wins in 21 starts.
“I can’t take all of the credit,” said Page. “With Ronnie Burke, I have a great support system with those guys. The grooms are working their tails off to make sure their horses are tight and ready to go. It’s kind of like the (Burke Stable) hasn’t missed a beat.”
The $18,000 filly and mare open pace was won by Rosemary Rose (Page) over the fast closing Sally Fletcher A (Brett Miller) in 1:51.2.
When the field of six was sent on their way, St Lads Gidget (Aaron Merriman) protected his rail position and set the fractions of :26.4, :55.2 and 1:23.1. Golden Paradise (Trace Tetrick) made a first over move, providing the necessary cover for the eventual winner.
Page tipped Rosemary Rose off the cover and looked to be clear, but had to survive the late rally of Sally Fletcher A, who came from last and was a scant nose short.
Rosemary Rose scored for the 31sttime in her career. The 6-year-old Foreclosure N mare is campaigned by Burke Racing Stable, Jason Melillo and Weaver Bruscemi.
Friday night’s co-feature was the $18,000 open trot that featured a dead-heat between Peggy Sue (Brady Galliers) and Eye Ofa Tiger As (Elliott Deaton) in 1:55.1.
The winners benefited from breaks by a pair of Burke trainees, Dylan The Great and the heavy favorite Workingonbroadway.
“Oh my gosh, how do you kill two birds with one stone?” asked Page. “(Ronnie) had two horses (break). It was one of those freak things that happen.
“(Workingonbroadway) got a little hot on me. Tonight he was really fired up. I should have kept him quiet a little more. It was user error.”
Peggy Sue is a 5-year-old Donato Hanover mare campaigned by the Galliers Racing Stable. Eye Ofa Tiger As, a Chapter Seven gelding, is owned by Aci Stuteri Ab and Kjell Johansson.
On Saturday evening, My Hero Ron (Aaron Merriman) won the $18,000 open pace going gate-to-wire in 1:50.
Gd Western Joe (Chris Page) and Geraldo (Kayne Kaufman) completed the trifecta.
The 8-year-old gelded son of Well Said is owned by Brian Wilt and conditioned by Danny Dubeansky. With the win, My Hero Ron is just $337 short of the magical million-dollar mark with career earnings of $999,667.
Despite being shut out on the opening night card, driver Brett Miller and trainer Virgil Morgan, Jr. teamed up with a pair of wins on Saturday.
Morgan has dominated the Scioto Downs training standings, looking for his 27thstraight training title.
Page is optimistic for a great 2020 season personally and at the Columbus oval.
“I am very fortunate. I have some very nice 3-year-old Ohio breds – Elver Hanover, Looksgoodinaromper and It’s Academic.
“The track was almost perfect. They had the Coon Brothers (Greg and Dan Coon) come in and work on it. It was fast tonight and I predict that the open horses will go in sub (1):50 each week.”
The two nights of racing capped off a wild week in Ohio.
On Thursday, May 14, Governor Mike DeWine and the Ohio State Racing Commission (OSRC) gave the horsepeople permission to race with strict health guidelines and no spectators.
The OSRC required all horses to qualify prior to racing. As a result, marathon qualifying sessions were held at Scioto Downs, Northfield Park, the Delaware County Fairgrounds and the Warren County Fairgrounds in the past nine days. More than 1,200 horses raced in those qualifying events.
Live racing action returns to Scioto Downs on Memorial Day (May 25) with a 14 race card. A $20,000 guaranteed Pick 5 pool will be available. Free past performance pages for the full card are available at www.SciotoDowns.com.
First post is 6:30 p.m.