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Verruso wins Miller Gold Cup amateur final

December 08, 2009
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Tony Verruso and My Victory Song worked out a cozy pocket trip, then charged through the lane to capture the Delvin Miller Memorial Gold Cup in the finals of the C.K.G. Billings Amateur Driving Series on Monday at The Meadows. The championships featured two other trophy races, with Robert Miller (Starry Knight) taking the Silver Cup, and Michelle Ruvola (Sorce Of Victory) winning the Bronze Cup. The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association hosted the events.
 
Verruso left for early position and patiently stalked Bud Hatfield (Done Dreamen), the 6-5 favorite, for more than a mile. Verruso found all the clearance he needed in the stretch to score by thre-quarter lengths over Mitchell Walker (Rush N Supreme), who experienced traffic problems and was parked-out for most of the race. Hatfield saved show, with the 1 1/4 miles going in 2:30.3.
 
“After a mile, I thought he was all done,” Verruso said. “But I asked him for more, and he responded. I knew then I was the winner.”
 
It was his first time behind My Victory Song, a 7-year-old Ripken’s Victory-Arivata mare owned by David Carter, so he turned to trainer Gene Miller for advice.
 
“I didn’t tell him what to do,” Miller said. “But I told him what not to do. I told him not to have a plan but to look around at the start, see what was happening and go from there. People make the mistake of thinking that because we’re amateur drivers, we’re novices. We’re not.”
 
The other trophy winners required a bit of familial sacrifice to get home. Bob Miller’s points total earned him a berth in the Bronze Cup, but he found himself horseless when his mount was ruled out for failing to meet the track’s qualifying standard. Up stepped his wife Pat, herself a Silver Cup qualifier, and the owner of Starry Knight, who relinquished her drive so that her husband could compete.
 
With a front-end score, Miller upheld the family honor, covering the 1 1/4 miles in 2:31.4. Dean Beachy (Quantum King Leo) was 1 1/4 lengths back, in second, with Gregg Keidel (DW’s Perky Joe), who lacked racing room throughout, third.
 
“It was my first time to drive him,” said Bob Miller, who also trains Starry Knight, a 4-year-old gelded son of Dream Vacation-Eggs Over Easy. “Pat prepped him and drove him all summer, but she gave up the drive for me. That’s my sweet wife.”
 
Ruvola was in a similar situation, as transportation woes forced her horse to scratch from the Silver Cup. When her father, Billings veteran George Bonomo, heard the news he gave up his drive with Sorce Of Victory for his daughter. Bonomo ultimately picked up a Bronze Cup drive, but Sorce of Victory was much the best, erasing a 6 1/2-length deficit to complete the mile in 2:01.2. Bob Troyer (Candacraigh) was a nose back in second, with David Drew (Double A) third.
 
“This is awesome,” Ruvola, the 2008 Silver Cup winner, said. “It was a good run this season. It was fun.”
 
Mark Ford trains Sorce Of Victory, a 6-year-old Valley Victor-CD’s Sorce gelding, for Bonomo and his wife, Rose.
 
Ruvola gave Sorce Of Victory a congratulatory pat--and promised an even bigger hug for her father.
 
“He earned it,” she said. “I really owe this to my dad. He was willing to give up his drive so that I could drive.” (The Meadows)
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