Win, Win and Win Plus Win Again
Christina Harley, Jason Levine and
Tommie Johnston try to qualify in an early heat.
John Welage, Dominic Blais, Craig
Fox, Owen Kyrollos and Anthony Lainesse play for a seat at the
Finalists gather at the big
board at Lancaster Downs.
Entering the backstretch in
the fifth ...
summer racing program at Lancaster Downs got off to its usual
fast start with most of the usual handicappers present. There
were eight programs run over three heats to determine who would
advance. Ken Gutermuth, Gadoon Kyrollos, and Christine Harley
punched their tickets in the opening heat on Tuesday evening.
Former champs Bruce Reiff and John Welage were left tearing up
tickets at the bettor's windows in the night program. In all,
this program featured five former champions with 11 titles.
Friday's heat was poorly attended but that didn't prevent
2008 champ Jason Levine and Scott Beall from acquiring prime
seats at the rail for the Final. The Drozd family, representing
another two former championships, left the track disappointed.
In the last chance preliminary, both Bruce Reiff and John
Welage earned their returns to the Final -- Bruce in spectacular
fashion after being down to an empty wallet after his fifth race
bets and clawing his way back in the sixth to cash out on top.
They were joined by veteran pony admirer Craig Fox who took the
third table handily. Dave Steiner joined the dejected prior champions
in this crowd whose total haul numbered nine plaques between
The stiffness of the competition to enter the field was also
represented by the amount of winnings required to succeed. Most
of the heats necessitated winnings of over $150,000 to be competitive.
The tracks, with the exception of Bruce's come-from-behind victory,
were indeed fast. Even Bruce needed $127K to advance. This gave
eight qualifiers for the Saturday evening Final, but Kyrollos
and Beall opted out of their hard won seats, leaving six players
at the rail -- all guaranteed laurels.
The weather outside the convention center apparently belied
the conditions inside as the track turned muddy for the whole
program and upsets were the rule rather than the exception during
the opening races. All contestants kept their cash close to their
vests and were frustrated in the early going. This, in turn,
kept even the wisest of handicappers from amassing a large amount
of cash. As late as Race 5, all the players remained competitive
and the bidding for the favorites became quite spirited.
The large amounts paid for the favorites (and some not so
favored) provided spotty results at the finish line. In the fifth
race, the vagaries of the dice sent the usual long shot betting
favorite Cockroach to an early lead only to be caught by the
favorite Lobster Tail at the wire. This set up an even greater
bidding war for prize money in the sixth. Favorites Jungle Monarch
and Mona Lisa were win and show and all long shot Captain Ahab
could do was place. It was a close contest to the end, but during
this week of weeks, Jason could do no wrong. When the prize money
and tickets were paid, Reiff and Fox were tapped out, Harley
had kept her stake and Levine's $95K finished just ahead of Welage's
$88K and Gutermuth's $75K. It was Jason's fourth title of the
Jason celebrates his fourth win of
the week as Christina laughs at you-know-who's predicament.