It didn't take long for the visiting Spaniards to break out to a substantial lead in the Spanish & American Friendship Competition. At Yonkers Raceway on Tuesday afternoon (June 2) in the first of the three-leg amateur driving contest, the Spanish invaders finished one–two -three and opened up a big point lead, 29-13.
The star of the day was Jaume Riera after he guided Amalfi Coast to a solid one-length victory over Movement, driven by fellow countryman Bernado Cirer. And to push the NAADA team farther in the dust, yet another Spaniard, Miquel Capo, garnered the show dough with Sweet Ben. The best placing by an American team member was a fourth-place effort by Dave Offenberg. He cut the early fractions with Whatnblazes, but the trotter got leg weary in the lane and finished five lengths behind the winner.
After his victory a jubilant Jaume Riera was hard to contain. "Yonkers is a place I have been before and a track I occasionally wager on through the simulcasting to France and now I come here and I am so happy I have won my first race in America,” he said joyfully.
"Jason Bartlett, the leading driver at Yonkers, presented me with the trophy and it was all a big thrill for me. Also it was my third win in my last four starts but by far the biggest. By the way, two of my countrymen finished right behind me so it was a great day for team Espangna.”
Riera has been following the Yonkers races from his homeland via the international simulcasts to France which are also offered to many other European countries including Mallorca and the Basque Region of Spain.
"It was great to meet some of the other drivers, George Brennan, Brian Sears, Mark MacDonald, Daniel Dube and Pat Lachance, just some of the great horsemen I watch from home,” Riera added. "Everyone took the time to make us feel very welcome and helped us to know everything about the horses we were going to drive.”
The race winner, Amalfi Coast, is owned by JMF Racing and trained by Gilbert Garcia-Herrera. He paid $10.40 for win.
On Wednesday the competition moves on to Monticello Raceway where the participants will drive in races three and five on the 11-race card. There the same visiting Spaniards will drive against a different team of NAADA amateurs.
NAADA president Joe Faraldo drove for USA team at Yonkers on Tuesday and after the drubbing they took he was asked if the Americans still have a chance in the Friendship Competition. He didn't hesitate a moment and blurted, "Of course we do, they don't pay off at the half.”--By John Manzi