Celebrity Surfer finishes what he starts at Cal-Expo

by Scott Ehrlich, publicity director, Sacramento Harness Association

Sacramento, CA — He had yet to prove himself for a complete mile when facing the best on the grounds, but on Thursday night, April 12, Celebrity Surfer put it all together.

Trotters were spotlighted in the $7,900 Chaplain Jim Bordenkircher Memorial Invitational Handicap at Cal-Expo, in which Celebrity Surfer was able to shut the door on his opponents.

Prior to starting from post position three in the field of seven, driver Rich Wojcio was fairly confident.

“He was one of the contenders and I thought he had a shot,” said Wojcio. “I was going to play it by ear behind the gate as far as strategy. Once I saw that nobody on the outside was leaving, I decided to go forward.”

Leaving and racing three-wide until the field entered the first turn, Celebrity Surfer would seem, to the naked eye, to be rank, but Wojcio states otherwise.

“He was a little more aggressive than usual, but he was very good gaited and trotting fine in the turn.”

Not clearing to the lead until after the field had traveled 3-16ths of a mile into a :28.1 first quarter, Wojcio wasn’t concerned — at the moment.

“The lead wasn’t that bad, but the headwind on the backstretch wasn’t being kind to speed, so I was just hoping for the best at that point.”

Receiving no second quarter pressure into a moderate headwind, Celebrity Surfer would reach the half-mile pole in :58.2. Yet despite the easy :30.1 second quarter breather, Wojcio still needed to be convinced that all would turn out well.

“This horse has been stopping late, which includes last week when he had about a three length lead at mid-stretch and was fourth. So, it wasn’t so much the fractions, I was just hoping he would finish his mile.”

With the field now entering the final turn, Wojcio, via a couple of urges, was getting his charge ready.

“He likes to relax at that point and I was getting him prepared for the stretch drive.”

With no third quarter pressure, Celebrity Surfer would get another breather, this one in :29.2, as he reached the three-quarter pole in 1:27.4, all while getting a :59.3 middle-half rest.

“As it turns out, we needed that middle-half breather, in looking back, because he just hung on. At the three-quarter pole, I honestly couldn’t tell you what I thought his chances were because he hasn’t been finishing. He felt good at that point, but he always feels good at that point.”

Drawing clear by two lengths into the stretch and now in full gear, Wojcio would hand-urge and air-whip the 4-year-old to the seven-eighths pole with Oatmeister (Ed Hensley) now closing strongly in the middle of the track.

“I had Benn’s Fire (Bruce Clarke) on my back, which was obviously a concern, plus Oatmeister was starting to come on, so I didn’t feel comfortable until late when it didn’t seem like Oatmeister was going to get there.”

Continuing to be hand-urged and air-whipped with the exception of one urge with a sixteenth of a mile to go, Celebrity Surfer would hold on to win by a neck. Oatmeister rallied very nicely to be second, and Benn’s Fire was another 1-1/2 lengths back in third. Leased by John Stephenson and trained by Richard Dunneback, Celebrity Surfer would stop the timer at 1:56.2, a seasonal best.

“He finished well and got the job done. This was his best race in his six starts back this year, and perhaps he needed that many starts to get into shape. It was a much improved effort,” Wojcio finished.

Live racing will resume at Cal-Expo on Friday, April 13, and continue through Saturday. Post time each night is at 5:35 p.m. (PDT). On Friday, Cal-Expo offers Happy Hour between 5:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m., where $1 beer, $2 wine & 25-cent buffalo wings are offered.

Cal-Expo now offers guaranteed $10,000 pools on all Pick-4’s!

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