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Mazel Tov! Charles wins first race in 18 years

April 06, 2010

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Before this year’s Passover Pace went to post on Monday,  the race had  were more ups and downs than any other in the 12 years that Monticello Raceway has been presenting the “Race for the Matzohs.” But for one happy participant the day and results could not have been better. Alan Charles, who raced horses in metropolitan New York years ago and who now is trying a comeback of sorts, was a last-minute replacement for Dr. Doug King, who unfortunately came down with a case of food poisoning and could not fulfill his driving obligation.
In the race, Charles hustled Lawrence Ashton’s Cody Little Gal to the lead as the wings of the gate folded and proceeded to go wire to wire for a 2:01.3 triumph.
“I was told  by the horse’s trainer (Jamie Gerard) that she (Cody Little Gal) could leave a little and was better on the front end so I went for the lead and when the eight horse (In Concert driven by Mark Liebowitz ) came at us I kept her on the limb,” Charles explained. “I felt bad the I roughed up that guy (Liebowitz) but my mare was hitting the bike in the turns and I really didn’t want to grab into her.“
Cody Little Gal put away In Concert as the field started up the backstretch and as she headed for the three-quarters challenges came from behind. However, Cody Little Gal was up to the test and drew off by three lengths as the field rounded the final turn. In the lane Charles asked his pacer for more and she responded and coasted home an easy two-length winner. She is owned by Lawrence Ashton of Gardiner ,N.Y. and returned a $16.90 win payoff.
Amateur driver, Derick Giwner, the editor of the trade paper Harness Eye, rallied Ms. Denise between horses to finish second while the  betting favorite, Nan’s Ace with Mike Kimelman aboard, took home the show dough.
When the excited and happy Charles reached the winner's circle for the trophy presentation the first words out of his mouth were: “Now I can get in next year’s race, can’t I?" to which director of racing Eric Warner, also there for the presentation, replied, "As a winner you’ll be invited next year, don’t worry.”
But Dr. King wasn’t the only driver who was unable to compete in the event. Last year’s winning driver PJ Lutman III was out of town and also not able to drive, though his brother Jimmy Shields filled in for him.
But the day began precariously when the publicity office got a call from the presiding judge at 9 a.m. saying that another Jewish driver was needed because of the late driver scratches.
A call was put out to Charles, who as luck would have it, was available and said he’d be there. For the past three years Charles  had been trying to get into the Passover Pace and despite having to get a New York State license and be fingerprinted prior to driving, he had to, on moment’s notice, drop what he was doing and come up from the Meadowlands to compete in the event.
And as fate would have it, Charles was rewarded with his first driving victory since 1992, though in deference to him he has been away from the game for more than 15 years.
Also part of the incongruity that comprised Passover Pace 2010 was the in and then out of the race by the Canadian pacing mare with the name fitting perfectly for the event, Gefilte  Fish. Initially she was going to participate but a prior race which landed her on the stewards list prevented her owner-trainer Sheldon Rose from bringing her in from Flamboro Downs in Canada.
The Passover Pace was the fourth leg of the Mighty M’s Heritage Drivers Series 2010 and the next scheduled Heritage Drivers Series event is the Maple Leaf Pace for drivers of Canadian heritage.
However, the Mighty M  has had numerous calls to have heritage events for drivers of Scandinavian extraction as well as a race for drivers of Hispanic heritage to which director of racing Warner said, “We’ll look into it and if we get enough drivers we’ll put on events for them, too.” (Monticello)
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