Four horses have earned their way into the RUS New York Fair Series final that will be featured at Monticello Raceway on Thursday (Sept. 5).
The non-wagering exhibition will be held in conjunction with the New York Sire Stakes County Fair finals. Post time is set for 12:50 p.m. with no scheduled race number or time for RUS yet.
Horses are required to compete in at least three races throughout the series to be allowed entry into the championship race. The series included nine opportunities to race at fairs across the state and one event held at Goshen Historic Track.
All participants will receive $600 for earning their way into the final race. Host track Monticello Raceway and the track’s horsemen’s association are generously putting up the funds. The winner will also receive a championship cooler.
RUS NY was formed in 2014 to increase interest in Standardbred racing and showcase the versatility of the Standardbred breed. The series, in its sixth season, received a $7,500 grant for initial purse money provided by the Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund.
“The New York Sire Stakes program congratulates the riders and horses who competed under saddle on the county fair circuit this year and wish them all well in the final. We are pleased to share these accomplishments on the New York County Fair finals program at Monticello,” said M. Kelly Young, Executive Director of the Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund.
Educating the public and cultivating racing fans is one of the primary goals of the county fair racing series in New York, according to Young.
“We are proud to partner with Racing Under Saddle-NY to enhance county fair racing across the state and this year the riders provided even more demonstrations and information to racing fans about the versatility of the breed,” she said.
Horses Eligible For The Final:
Akhenaton: This French-bred 9-year-old gelding has a history of racing internationally under saddle. The son of Nice Love is trained by Wesley Miller and went undefeated, going 6-for-6 on the fair circuit. He was ridden to all his victories but one by part-owner Hillary Hartnett and leads the point standings by 100 points. His total point earnings for the year was 300. He is a clear favorite to win the final.
RC’s Ready: Also trained by Wesley Miller, RC’s Ready has come on strong at the end of the season having picked up two wins and giving him a self esteem boost going into the final. The 4-year-old RC Royalty gelding tallied up three wins and two seconds throughout the series earning 200 points. Seasoned rider Vanessa Karlewicz will be riding this horse for the first time in the championship. Karlewicz rode three horses during the series, but has yet to take on this mount.
Railroad Lane: Has proven he can beat RC’s Ready as he had a strong come-from-behind-victory off a break in stride early on in a race at Hemlock. However, RC’s Ready also maintained a wire-to-wire win over him in Palmyra. The 6-year-old gelding comes into the championship race with one victory, three second-place finishes and a third at Goshen Historic Track, earning him a total of 137 points. The son of Chip Chip Hooray, trained by Michael Miller, has had three riders — Kara Duh, Cathy Gearwar and co-owner Michelle Miller.
Choke Hold: Had to be retired from harness racing in January when he turned 15 years old and was acquired by owner and trainer Michelle Miller to continue a racing career under saddle since there is no age limit like in harness. The Conway Hall gelding raced at six fairs without getting to the winner’s circle but showed to be competitive when coming home strong against Akhenaton in Boonville and almost nipping RC’s Ready in Trumansburg after an early break in the race. While Choke Hold may seem like the underdog in the race, having only earned 107 points, do not count him out as he is less likely to break stride on a bigger track and is proving to get stronger as the season goes.
The series has always included a top rider award. However, this year a bigger than ever rider challenge was added to the event to try to promote larger fields and more participation (as riders do not get paid unless they own the horse). Thanks to the sponsorship of Oneida Veterinary Associates, PLLC, Tioga and Vernon Downs, $4,000 was up for grabs for riders that participated in at least five races leading to the final. Points were given to riders in the same format used for horses regardless of what horses were ridden in each race.
Hillary Hartnett won the challenge by a landslide. Hartnett, who participated in every fair race earning 450 points, beat out Michelle Miller who placed second with 157 earned points. Six total riders participated in the series but few met the five-race requirement.
“The extra incentive did not work as well as planned as our participation was down this year,” RUS New York President Michelle Miller said. “A lot of our riders have gotten older, have families, jobs and other priorities so we thought boosting purses and adding funds for riders may help. Traveling becomes very costly and racing is also held during the week so that can be conflicting for a lot as well. Unfortunately, our expectations were not met, but it was not for lack of support or trying. We cannot thank the sponsors enough for providing this opportunity to our riders.”
According to RUS NY Sponsorship Director Cathy Gearwar, racing under saddle could not survive without sponsorship support. She said the group does fundraisers, but that is not enough on its own.
“We made sure to promote our sponsors in every way we could this year so they received the most bang for their buck,” Gearwar said. “Anyone who donates $200 or more gets promotional space in all the race programs. We offer cooler presentations so sponsors can become a part of the winning experience if they chose. Thanks to Prolifiq Sings we were able to get a trifold sign to present at all of our events including our horse show fundraisers. We promote on our website. If sponsors cannot donate funds we also take product to use for prizes and raffles. There is no donation too small as we appreciate any support given.”
This year’s sponsors included NYSS and Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund, Oneida Veterinary Associates, PLLC, Vernon Downs, Tioga Downs, Monticello Raceway, Saratoga Casino and Hotel, Triple Crown, Harness Racing Replays on Facebook, D’Agostino Group in Vernon, N.Y., Pure Country Campground, The Equine Tax Group, Hoof Beats, Big Dee’s Tack and Vet Supply, Pacesetter Tack and Supply, Blue Seal, T&K Harrington LLC, Party Tent Rentals of Schoharie New York, Southern Tier Harness Horsemen’s Association, Beckwith Racing, Knotty By Nature Kitchen Cabinets and Countertops, Russell Hoagland of Kevin’s Royal Automotive, Enge Training Stable, Mike Miller Racing, The Stables at MiraBella, Divine Equine Equipment for Champions, Iron Horse Graphics, Purina, Barb and Rick Bateman, and New York Central Mutual Insurance.