WASHINGTON PA – A two-day stand of Pennsylvania Fair Sire Stakes was held on Sunday and Monday at “Arden Downs,” as it was known when it was a stop on the Grand Circuit; now it is generally known at the Washington County Fair, literally just “down the road” from The Meadows.
The freshmen started off the action Sunday, and as has been the case as of late, the co-owning team of trainer Mitchell York and driver David Brickell swept the “A” two-year-old pacing filly action. First up was the Betting Line – Lazan Hanover miss Lazy Day Hanover, now one off the North American victory lead for freshmen after winning her seventh race in seven fair starts in 2:04.4; then came the A Rocknroll Dance – Tiamo distaff Tiamogonedancen, already a double track recordsetter at the fairs, and now undefeated in four fair contests after a 2:02.3 win.
Todd Schadel also set a PA fair season’s record when the Bar Hopping – Chiptomytlou gelding Top Me Off made his fair bow a winning one in 2:05.1 for himself, his wife Christine, and Rick and Regina Beinhauer. In all, Todd drove five freshman winners and trained four.
On Monday, trainer Roger Hammer swept the “A” colt events, although he drove only the trotter, the Possess The Will gelding No Name Yankee, who won in 2:04.1, also fastest trot of the meet. In the two divisions for pacers, Chris Shaw guided the Artspeak gelding Bipbopnallie, undefeated in four fair starts, in 2:01.3, with Roger finishing right behind with Life’s Marvalous, and then Hammer’s lieutenant Branden Smith built on four “B” level wins with the A Rocknroll Dance gelding Caffeine Buzz to win this “A” contest in 2:04.
Driver Eric Neal swept the three-year-old pacing filly “A” races, including posting the fastest time of the Washington meet, 2:01.1, with the Sweet Lou filly Loudoo Princess, winner of three straight for trainer Sharon Donella, also co-owner with Kathleen Quinn-Hodel and Virginia Trump. Eric also was victorious with the Well Said filly Summer Gig in 2:04.1 for trainer/father Randal and Neal Racing Stable LLC.
Todd Schadel’s five driving wins made him top Washington driver and gives him 41 on the fair circuit; he and Roger Hammer each trained four winners to tie in that bracket, and Schadel’s circuit-high total there is now at 39.
The return of racing to the Somerset County Fair in Meyersdale PA, with two-year-old PA Fair Sire Stakes racing set for Thursday at 2 p.m. and three-year-old contests on Friday at noon, is a special event, since it has been at least 60 years since harness racing was held at the southwest Pennsylvania twicearound, according to Sam Beegle, president of the PHHA and a single-digit youth when the racing ended.
“I married the daughter of one of the regulars there – George Heit Jr.,” Beegle recalls. “Other horsemen who competed there were Clay Hammer (Roger’s father); the Burtnett brothers, Al and Tom; and Al Washington. We have a picture of George wearing a soft cap racing at the fair.” (The Caliente hard-shell helmet started replacing the “soft caps” in the years approaching 1960, and no one in southwestern Pennsylvania would be surprised to know that Delvin Miller got a prototype “hard helmet” from the Pittsburgh Steelers and then lobbied racing management for their acceptance.)
Clay Hammer was the winner of five national UDR titles – and his son Roger has won eight to tie Stanley Dancer as the biggest earners of percentage crowns. Roger is expected to be at racing at the Somerset fair.
No one associated with the fair knows exactly the year or the circumstances when racing ended – although research notes that the fair itself was “originally started by the Meyersdale Harness Racing Association.” Racing there certainly goes back a long ways – on the Internet, in an old Horse Review, you can find a condition sheet for the 1905 meeting!