Okuskos Win 5 Thursday at Vernon
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Driver Howard Okusko, Jr. and his father, trainer Howard, Sr., enjoyed a successful evening at Vernon Downs on Thursday.
Okusko, Jr., a third-generation horseman at the Downs, posted four victories during Thursday’s 10-race program, including one in the featured pace with Wanda’s Choice, while his dad’s charge, The Big Cat, captured the night’s top trotting test.
Okusko, Jr., the defending driving and training champ for both wins and percentage, hiked his current leading win total for the meet to 50 while securing his third four-win outing at the track in 2007. He now sports 14 multiple win efforts during the meet’s 33 completed cards.
Drafting behind the pacesetting Midsummer Delight until the stretch drive in Thursday’s $10,000 eighth event, Wanda’s Choice rallied in a :29 second final quarter to eek out a head victory in 1:54.1 over the hard charging Amy’s Dreamboat and secure her third season’s score at the Downs for the Purple Haze Stables.
Okusko, Jr.’s other first-place finishes came with the trotters Wild Goose Lodge, trained by Jack Bailey for owner William Varney; Defiant Looks, trained by owner Dave Dewhurst and his partner Dominick Schillace; and the pacer Sesame Bagel, registered to Edwin Gold and Conrad Zurich.
Competing in the $6,300 ninth race, The Big Cat came on strong in the final furlong for driver Jimmy Whittemore to out-foot another closer, Valley Crown, to the finish in 1:58. It marked the second tally this term for the career winner of $223,827, who still belongs to his breeder Gunther Unflat.
Joe Nassimos produced his second driving double at the Downs this season after winning with
Brighton N and Mozart. Both trotters are owned by Lewis Miller and trained by his son, Wes.