Racing returns to West Liberty after 43 years

West Liberty, IA – Iowa harness racing held their first race meet since 1977 at the Muscatine County Fairgrounds in West Liberty, Iowa on Saturday (June 20).  Fourteen fields of trotters and pacers graced the track after a 43-year hiatus, posting record-breaking times early in the 2020 Iowa circuit.

The day began with a sub-2:00 mile setting the tempo for the meet.  Red N Hotallover, a 5-year-old Ryan N Hanover mare, took the first division of the Aged Iowa-Registered Pace in 1:59.  It was 17-year-old driver James Gould’s sixth lifetime start and second win after tallying his first with the same mare at Bedford, IA two weeks ago for owner & trainer Edmund Krapp. Not to be outdone, Iowa’s top pacer Minnie Vinnie took the second division of the Aged Iowa-Registered Pace in a blistering mile.  Will Roland drove the 5-year-old Millionaire Cam gelding in a wire-to-wire performance, hitting the half at :58 and accelerating to a 1:54.4 finish, an Iowa fair record. Minnie Vinnie is trained by Curtis Carey and owned by Jay Delong, Jeff Carey and Rick Huffman.

Cara Hauser’s 7-year-old trotting mare Al Mar Bonbon took the Aged Iowa-Registered Trot, besting a field of eight in a 2:01 mile.  The Sos Lunar Eclipse mare now has 26 wins and increased her lifetime earnings to $142,535.

May Day Maggie rolls around turn three with driver Chad Svendson. Photo courtesy of the Iowa Harness Horsemen’s Association.

Three divisions of 2-year-old pacers made their mark with faster miles.  Chad Svendson drove the first two winners, starting with Zipper Flipper in a 2:01.2 mile.  The Roll With Joe gelding began his freshman season with a 2:12 winning mile at What Cheer and a 2:06.4 second place finish at Humboldt.  Zipper Flipper is trained by Rick Huffman and owned by Huffman and Larry Mather.  In another pairing of Svendson, Huffman and Mather, May Day Maggie won the second division of the 2-year-old pace in 2:02.  From the first crop of Minnesota sire Special Forces and the Western Ideal mare Faithful Ideal, this was May Day Maggie’s second race and first career win. Connie & Duane Roland’s first-time starter Midnight Saffron took the final division of 2-year-old pacers in 2:06.  Duane Roland trains and drives the black filly from the first crop of Western Trademark.

Two fillies topped the 2-year-old trotters.  Tom & Kathy Shipley’s Royalty for Life filly She’ll Dew posted her second win in two weeks out-trotting many of the 3-year-olds in a 2:04.2 mile with Royal Roland in the bike.  Paul Hochstedler’s first-time starter TSS Haylies House cruised to victory in 2:13.1.  Trained and driven by Jason Ludwig, the Our House filly is out of the Crazed mare Celebrity Porsche.

It was all fillies again in the three divisions of 3-year-old pacers.  After reaching the half in :57.4, Jennie Ann cruised home in 1:58.3 knocking four seconds off her previous best . The Lettherockbegin filly is owned, trained and driven by Rob Anderson. After firing off the gate, Abilene posted a wire-to-wire win in 2:00.2 for owners Jim Springer and Gretchen Roland.  The 3-year-old daughter of The Panderosa is trained and driven by Will Roland. Duane and Roger Roland’s Somewherebeautiful continued her perfect 2020 campaign with a 1:59.3 win.  The Somebeachsomewhere filly is now five-for-five this year.

Itsonlymoneyhoney topped her personal best in a 2:01.2 mile with Mike Morales in the bike.  Trained by Dan Roland, the 3-year-old Banker Volo trotting filly is owned by It’s Only Money Stable. After racing on the pace in 2019, First Gunner found his stride on the trot taking the second division of 3-year-olds in 2:04.4.  The Amigo Ranger gelding is trained by Tom Shipley and owned by Kathy Shipley.

The final race of the day, the Free For All Pace, went to Duane & Connie Roland’s Roland N Rock.  The 8-year-old son of Rocknroll Hanover eclipsed all entries with lifetime earnings of $636,733 — more than double any other horse on the card.

In an exciting promotion to bring horses to new fairs, the Iowa Harness Horsemen’s Association is holding a Jackpot Race at three overnight fairs in 2020 with the first being at West Liberty.  Overnights typically have $1,000 purses.  After the races finished, a member of the crowd picked a number out of a hat and that race had an additional $5,000 added to their purse for a total of $6,000.

It was a good day for owners of 3-year-old trotters as Race 12 received the extra purse money.  The next Jackpot Race will happen at What Cheer next Saturday (June 27).  Racing that day is replacing racing at Alison, IA that was cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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