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Riggins headlines NYSS races at Tioga

August 10, 2007

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The New York State Fair meet opens at Tioga Downs with 13 divisions of the 2-year-old pacing colts and fillies on Saturday evening with a total of $213,365 in purses for New York-bred horses distributed during the card.


Riggins, a 2-year-old pacing colt who set a Saratoga Raceway track record of 1:54 in his last outing, will headline the field of boys. The time was the fastest on a half-mile track by a 2-year-old colt so far this season, making him a national season’s leader.


“He went a super trip at Saratoga, probably the best trip I’ve seen a 2 year old go,” said trainer-driver Ray Schnittker. “It was his first time on a half-mile track and I didn’t know what to expect. All systems are go and he’s sound and healthy.”


Riggins, who will start in race 10 from post seven, is also the richest freshman on the card with $52,701 in earnings. He has already won the Historic Goshen Cup at the Meadowlands and a division of the New York Sire Stakes. From the first crop by sire Art Major, Schnittker purchased Riggins as a $95,000 yearling at auction last fall.


“He was a big, mature looking horse, but I thought it was just because he was older, he was a February foal,” explained the trainer, who says the colt continues to be larger than his peers. “A friend asked me which ones I liked and I pointed to him and said that was the one I was buying. I did and if he stays sound, I think he has a shot a being—what I call—a real horse. He’s pure speed.”


Schnittker co-owns the colt as part of the Buffalo Boy’s Stable, consisting of Ron Kelkenberg, Michael Tauro and Jerry Velesko, along with Howard Taylor, Frank Baldassare and David Pepin.


This colt is one of several that Pepin owns with Schnittker, including New York Sire Stakes standouts Jagger Blue Chip (competing in the third race on Saturday) and Ada Girl (racing on Sunday). Pepin owns the bar Dunbar’s in Ithaca near Cornell University, where Schnittker’s wife worked while pursuing her veterinary degree. While Pepin owned horses many years ago, he decided to re-enter the sport and purchased yearlings with Schnittker in the fall.


“He’s been really lucky and got in on some good ones,” admitted the trainer.


Schnittker will start five horses on Saturday, but fellow conditioner Ed Hart has unleashed his stable for the State Fair and will be starting 11 colts and fillies during the day.


An early non-betting event for State Fair fillies will start at 6:20 p.m. The pari-mutuel program kicks off at 6:50 p.m. with a special 14-race card worth combined purses of $248,365. Some of the top trotting mares in the country will compete in two divisions of the Miss Versatility, heading to post as races one and five. Lavec Dream, owned by frequent Tioga race announcer Peter Kleinhans, leads the pack in the first race.


State Fair racing will continue on Sunday with divisions for 3-year-old trotting colts and fillies. Some of these starters will likely return to Tioga Downs next weekend for the $225,000 Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial Trot on Aug. 19. (HHBNY)


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