When trainer Ben Davis guided Julie Lou onto the Miami Valley Raceway track to warm up at 10:48 Saturday morning, the five-year-old mare was the first horse to ever set foot on the brand new five-eighths mile oval. Four hours later, 14 qualifying races had been completed successfully with high praise for the racing surface and an air of eager anticipation for opening night of the pari-mutuel meet this coming Friday, Feb. 7.
Due to the worst prolonged arctic blast in a quarter century in southern Ohio the qualifying standards were relaxed significantly to allow horses to both get a "tightener” under their belts and return to the "real” racing wars as soon as possible. A total of 155 horses were entered for the initial qualifiers which necessitated not only the 14 races on Saturday, but another four that were carried over to Sunday. The expansive new paddock at Miami Valley can accommodate 14 full field races, but not more.
With the temperature over the freezing mark for the first time in a long while, a first-stage thaw made the well-groomed racing strip slightly slower than it is expected to be in the coming weeks. Still 102 of the 110 horses that lined up behind the starting gate qualified with ease on Saturday. The quickest mile belonged to Don't Sugarcoat It, a 1:58.4 winner for trainer Terry Hall and driver Tony Hall. The five-year-old gelding, who won $49,662 in an outstanding 2013 season, was seventh at the quarter mile marker, fourth at the half but then threw a :29.4 final quarter split to pull away by 3-1/2 lengths.
Other sub 2:00 winners were pacing mare Upfront Miss Major, a 1:59.4 come-from-behind winner for the father-son trainer-driver duo of Jeff and Jason Brewer; and Glass Pack, a 10-year-old gelding approaching a million dollars in purse earnings, with a 1:59.4 garden trip victory for driver Tyler Smith and trainer Ron Best.
Driver Dan Noble sat behind four of the 14 winners on the day. Jason Brewer notched a pair of victories with eight other reinsmen getting one win apiece.
Beginning Friday night (Feb. 7) Miami Valley Raceway will present live programs five nights a week, Wednesday through Sunday, with all cards starting at 6:30 p.m. (Miami Valley(