The Great Pocomoke Fair provides action packed day of harness racing

Pocomoke City, MD — The Great Pocomoke Fair once again provided an action packed day of harness racing Saturday (Aug. 3), highlighted by a double gaited performer and first wins for several horses and drivers, for fans on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

While many eyes were on The Meadowlands in anticipation of Saturday’s Hambletonian, the Great Pocomoke Fair catered to local harness racing enthusiasts with an afternoon of uncharted races designed to give those who often stay behind the scenes — the owners, trainers and grooms — the chance to test their skills in the sulky.

The eight-race card included the $1,700 Ellen Duncan Barnes Memorial as well as the Jack Dolby Stars of the Future event for drivers between 14 and 18 years old.

A Dandy Strike, owned, trained and driven by Gary Botsch, competed twice on the same card on two different gaits. Charlene Sharpe photo.

Spectators were also treated to what could be a first of its kind feat, as trotting-bred A Dandy Strike, owned, trained and driven by Gary Botsch, competed twice on the same card on two different gaits. The 10-year-old daughter of So Striking out of the Veeba Rova mare SBM Dandylyingirl finished fourth in the first race, a pacing event for fillies and mares who were non-winners of two pari-mutuel races, and went on to finish second in the eighth race, a conditioned trot.

“I don’t think it’s ever been done on the same day,” said Botsch, who’s been racing at the Pocomoke Fair since the 1980s. “I took her to the Frederick Fair before and I’ve raced her Wednesday on the trot, Thursday and Friday on the pace and back Saturday on the trot. I’ve seen horses in pari-mutuel races switch over, race one month on the trot and another month on the pace, but I’ve never seen it on the same day. I think this is the only place it’s ever been done.”

Though the mare is bred to be a trotter, Botsch said that in her early years she couldn’t trot fast enough to race so he threw some hobbles on her. She went on to race as a 3- and 4-year-old on the pace, taking a mark of 2:01.1 as a 4-year-old at Rosecroft Raceway.

“When she turned 5, she wasn’t eligible,” Botsch said, explaining that the non-winners of two was for horses 4 and under. “So my dad said let’s try her again on the trot.”

A Dandy Strike went on to race at pari-mutuel tracks on the trot, winning eight races and nearly $70,000 — taking a record of 1:59.1 — during the ensuing five years, while she makes pacing appearances annually at the Great Frederick Fair. Botsch joked that he’s maximizing the mare’s earning potential.

“She can do both but she’s not really fast at both,” Botsch said. “But I give her credit; she tries and she’s good natured to be around.”

At Pocomoke, Botsch said she was game on both gaits and went into her second race fresh.

“We had enough of a break that she cooled out and was ready to go again,” he said.

Though The Trixtor (Darin Lineweaver) took charge of the race, A Dandy Strike held off a challenge from Aldebaran Eureka to finish second.

“I laughed because the one horse pulled on her but she dug in and hung on for second,” Botsch said.

The fourth race on Saturday’s card showcased Delmarva’s young drivers. Participants included Joseph Minton, Alec Malone, Wyatt Long and Bryson Dunning. While three of the four have driven at Pocomoke before, it was 15-year-old Wyatt Long’s very first race. Long, the son of horseman Wayne Long, proved to have inherited the family’s knack for working with horses, however, as he sat calmly in the three hole before making a smooth move to the outside, guiding Foiledbythebeach (trained by Pocomoke native Darryle Dennis) easily past the competition.

The feature race on the card, the $1,700 Ellen Duncan Barnes Memorial, was won by New Jersey pacer So Take That, driven by trainer Alex Goldin, in 2:07.

Andy Markano leads out Castle Rock for the last race of his career. Charlene Sharpe photo.

And while it wasn’t the fastest race of the day, an $1,180 conditioned pace showcased two senior horses, 11-year-old Warrawee Monarch and 14-year-old Castle Rock. Though Warrawee Monarch crossed the wire first for driver Barton Dalious, Castle Rock (driven by Terry McClements) hung on for second in what his connections say will be the final race of his career.

The pacer, who has been owned by Delaware horseman Andrew Markano for the last decade, won a total of 27 races from 293 career starts. He took a mark of 1:52.2 and earned more than $155,000 in his lengthy career.

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