It’ll be a big challenge for any single horse to win three of 2011’s most competitive, highest-profile harness races. But a whopping $250,000 bonus awaits the one talented enough to sweep this year’s Max Hempt Memorial at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, Delvin Miller Adios at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino, and Battle of the Brandywine at Harrah’s Chester Casino & Racetrack.
The bonus is about more than incentivizing top-quality racing. According to Sam Beegle, president of the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association, it’s an investment in the image of Pennsylvania harness racing as well as a way to ratchet up excitement–and spur wagering–among fans.
“One of our overriding goals is to encourage investment in Pennsylvania racing and agriculture. Competitive opportunities like this are key to those efforts,” he said.
“No horse has ever won all three,” said Jerry Connors of the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission. However, many have come close. Beach Towel (1990) and Cam’s Card Shark (1994) won the Adios and the W.E. Miller (as it was known then at Rosecroft) but were denied the chance to go for a triple due to the closure of Brandywine Raceway. The Adios-Battle double was won three times: by Romulus Hanover in 1967; Albatross, in 1971; and Nero, who won a division of the Battle in 1975. In addition, the Battle-Hempt double shows up in the resumes of Betting Time, a division winner in the 1960 inaugural, No No Yankee in 1978 and Badlands Nitro in 2008.
“Is it a long shot? Not necessarily,” said Beegle. “Right now, I think the chances for winning these three races are equal to or better than a Thoroughbred winning the Triple Crown.”
He added the bonus wouldn’t be possible without cooperation from the PHHA’s partners at the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association, its president, Richard Gillock, and the tracks. (PHHA)