The competitors with the most and fewest lifetime winning drives earned the top prizes in the 2012 Sweetheart Pace and Sweetheart Trot as part of the Valentine's program festivities at The Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park.
A cast of nine female drivers was assembled for the races which carried increased purses of $5,500 from the usual $3,000 level.
In the Sweetheart Pace, Kelly Case of Pompano Beach, Fla., turned in a smart rated drive to score gate to wire with claiming pace mare Indianridge Sophia.
Midway up the backstretch after the :59.1 half, Laurie Poulin brought One More Molly out of the pocket to do battle to the final turn in 1:27.4. When the wire arrived in 1:57.1, Case was an upset winner at 6-1 with the 9-year-old mare by Grinfromeartoear-Lady Warbucks, owned and trained by Irwin Lubar of Tamarac, Fla. Misdori, driven by Whitney Goodblood, followed in for third.
Case now counts 771 lifetime winning drives and she was the only entrant with more than $1 million in career purse earnings in the bike.
"I had a really nice little mare to drive, and I admit I was a bit nervous late in the stretch when Laurie Poulin's mare got up alongside me," Case said. "Indianridge Sophia dug in just great when it counted and I think this cast of lady drivers really put on a great show here tonight."
In the Sweetheart Trot, it was a joyous moment for Luanna Beeson of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., as she earned her first lifetime winning drive.
She was sent off as the even money favorite with K M Sweet Dreams and made no mistake by guiding the 9-year-old mare by Famously-Ann K's Comet through fractions of :29.1, :59.1 and 1:29.2, leading up to the length victory in 1:59.4. New Revenue, driven by Diane Long, was a closing second and Bit O Lavec, partnered by Anne Schlichtig, was third.
"I really wasn't thinking of anything else except getting my horse to the front and then avoiding mistakes when I got there," Beeson said in her live trackside TV interview with Pompano's Gigi Diaz. "I just hope I don't have to wait another 49 years to get my second lifetime win."
K M Sweet Dreams is trained by Ed Hensley for owner Robert Weinstein of Bellmore, N.Y.
Following the completion of their events the lady drivers assembled in the winner's circle for Valentine's gift presentations from the track and casino and a group photograph.
The fiirst winner of the Horse and Groom of the Month for 2012 was presented during the Tuesday program at The Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park by the Florida chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association.
On the strength of sweeping all three of his starts last month, 4-year-old pacer Paper Beats Rock and groom Shirley Lepage won a close decision in the voting as the track's top performer in January over Special Sweetheart and Kommander Hawk.
"I have to credit (trainer-driver) Richie Simard for this horse's turnaround because he had a reputation for being rambunctious in the barn and an attempt was even made at one time to convert him to the trot," Lepage said. "Now, there are no tricks to him, his only quirk is that he really enjoys a hay net like the trainers used to hang out for a lot of Thoroughbreds. I'm not surprised he's found his stride, I think he was meant to be a good horse since he was a $40,000 yearling at the 2008 Harrisburg Sale."
Lepage received the check award from the local USHWA chapter which goes to each groom associated with the Horse of the Month. (Pompano Park)