Bert Beckwith could not have picked a more beautiful day Monday for his memorial race, because the sky was a bright blue, the weather was picture perfect and Plainridge Racecourse was packed as the day belonged to D.T. Sumner and incredibly the G.M. Steve O'Toole for he was the legend's champion for 2010.
D.T. Sumner, a favorite among the betting public, didn't let any of his fans down by winning the Pasquantonio with Fitness And Fury for trainer William Berube in a time of 1:58 and paid $3.40. In the Hartmann, he won with Hey Shazam, which he also trains, in a time of 1:55 and paid $8.60. Finally, he won the Beckwith with Camityourinmyway for trainer Stephen LaCasse in a time of 1:55 and paid $9.60.
In other racing action, the colt Shoobee's Place, owned by David McDuffee, trained by Nifty Norman and with leading driver Jim Hardy in the bike, shattered the 3-year-old track record by four-fifths of a second, going in 1:51.1. The overwhelming favorite paid $2.40.
The day certainly centered around the Bert Beckwith Pace, but there was the Wall of Fame, which recognizes famous horsemen who will always be remembered because of their New England involvement. Monday's nominee was a slight exception to the rule, because he wasn't a horseman, he was one of the finest harness racing publicists and harness racing writers that ever picked up a pen.
His name was Joe Hartmann and for years he worked at Foxboro Raceway in many managerial capacities and was a major assistant to Gary Piontkowski there, as well as his right hand man when he was planning the construction of Plainridge Racecourse. It was Hartmann who arranged the Bert Beckwith Day in prior years and it would always go off without a hitch. A lot of people were deeply saddened when the announcement was made of Hartmann's passing this past March.
The news to Gary Piontkowski was devastating. He had just lost a true friend that was always there for him whenever he needed him. Piontkowski wanted to show the Hartmann family and all his friends how much he truly meant to him, so the best way to do it was to put Hartmann up on the wall with the rest of the "horsemen."
In front of a packed crowd on the street floor right next to the wall of fame, Joe Hartmann's covered painting was removed to see Joe with a racing program and a big smile sitting at a desk. It was as if Joe was sitting on the wall, it was so real and authentic looking.
O'Toole is on the wall, along with Greg Bowden, Leigh Fitch, Elmer Smith, Paul Battis, Willard Beckwith, Peter Blood, Jim Doherty, John Hogan and Bruce Ranger. They competed in the legends competition, but the big difference was that O'Toole was able to garner a second, a sixth and a first which totalled 79 points, giving him first place in the three-race total event.
There was a tie for second between two very talented legends--Jim Doherty and Bruce Ranger--with 58 points each and in fourth place was Peter Blood with 57 points. (Plainridge)