It was the Bruce Aldrich Jr. show at Monticello Raceway on Monday afternoon. But then again it could have been an Aldrich show here many times over the past four years since the talented reinsman has captured the driving title at The Mighty M during that period.
On Monday afternoon Aldrich--again the Mighty M's leading driver--reined three winners on the nine-race card. However one of his three driving victories will stand heads and shoulder above all others in his career. That one was the ride he got behind Road Work Ahead in the third race. Not that the 1:59.2 clocking was special, what really mattered was the victory itself which turned out to be the 5,000th of Aldrich's career.
Most impressive about his victory with Road Work Ahead was that the pacer hadn't even hit the board in 20 previous starts this year. That made little matter to Aldrich who wheeled Road Work Ahead out second-over as they headed to the half and moved steadily toward the front which they reached prior to the finish when they wore down the pacesetter, NF Wind Chimes (Zeke Parker) and held off other rallies to score a one-length victory.
Usually one who expresses his thoughts after a winning drive Aldrich was especially pensive after reaching his new milestone but did offer "I'm proud and I'm glad it's over”, when asked how he felt .
The horse's lack of prowess notwithstanding, still Road Word Ahead paid just $7.10, a neat price for a pacer who was zero for 20 previously.
That triumph perhaps overshadowed Aldrich's victory with Diamond Tiara which marked the pacing mare's 15th seasonal triumph, and extends her lead in races won this year in North America.. Despite coming from a new barn (Al Annunziata claimed her for $9,000 last week) and having a new driver in Aldrich, the results remained the same. But her wire-to-wire clocking of 1:55.2 was her fastest this year.
After her race was made official, announcer Howard Oil proclaimed that there was a claim in the race, and you guessed it, Diamond Tiara claimed back for the same $9,000 tag by her previous owner Philip Schultz, and she was returned to the familiar surroundings of her previous stall in trainer Mike Watson's barn. (Watson had been the conditioner of Diamond Tiara prior to losing her to Annunziata.)
That triumph came just two races before Aldrich won his 5,000th and he was full of accolades about Diamond Tiara.
"She was awesome today,” he blurted. "I never even had to lift the lines. What a nice mare she is to drive.”
Since most of her victories were on the front end Aldrich sent Diamond Tiara to the lead from the pole position and coasted through fractions of :28.2, :57.4; and 1:26.4 before kicking in a :28.3 final quarter en route to her 1:55.2 victory which was two lengths ahead of runner-up Givemybest Hanover and driver Zeke Parker.
Owner-trainer Al Annunziata came to the winner's circle for the photograph and wasn't surprised that Schultz reclaimed Diamond Tiara. As he kissed the mare goodbye he turned and said, "I figured this would happen” but then added philosophically, "I spent $9,000 (on claiming her) and got back that and $2,000 extra is just one week.” (Monticello)