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Messenger, Taggart take Monticello titles

December 31, 2019

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The curtain fell on the 2019 racing season at Monticello Raceway on Tuesday afternoon. Between the races, awards for leading trainer and driver were handed out.

Trainer Gary Messenger won honors for leading dash winning trainers and Jim Taggart Jr. took top honors for leading dash winning drivers.

The relationship of Messenger and Taggart has been very prolific since Taggart became the main driver for the Messenger stable 10 years ago. The duo was responsible for the 2018 Monticello Raceway horse of the year Warrawee Preferred and many other top performers over the years. Both horsemen have been mainstays at Monticello for decades: Messenger is a native of Monticello, N.Y., and the 49-year-old Taggart hails from nearby Honesdale, Pa.

Messenger harnessed 488 starters over the course of the 2019 season at Monticello Raceway, with 113 winners, a UTRS of .383, and a 23 percent winning percentage. His starters earned $440,571, yielding earnings per start of $903. Among trainers with over 500 starts, Messenger ranked 12th in the nation with 153 wins and stable earnings of $797,354.

James Doherty Jr. finished second in the Monticello standings with 95 wins, trailed by former leading trainer Robert Lounsbury with 85 wins.

Taggart took top honors for leading dash winning drivers with 254 wins. Michael Merton was second with 211, and former multiple dash winning Monticello champion Bruce Aldrich was third with 208. Last season, Taggart finished fifth with 168 wins. Taggart’s mounts earned $893,141 for the year

Also on the card were four horses making their final lifetime start: the 14-year-olds Crypto Man, My Cool Breeze, Briar Creeks Angel and Elias Joy.

The 11-race card produced the second highest handle of the year: $810,575. (Monticello)

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