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Zuccarello wins Billings Gold, then gets engaged

November 24, 2014

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After seven months of competitions in the C.K.G Billings amateur driving series, the $25,000 Gold Cup and $15,000 Silver Cup championships were contested at Harrah's Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon, with "Mighty Matt” Zuccarello victorious in the Gold with Rebel Strike. Kelly "Sky” Walker copped the Silver with Rush N Supreme.
Both events were on the betting card and each was contested at a distance of 1 1/4 miles, which has been the regular feature in the Billings Series finales.
For Zuccarello his 2:31 driving victory was only half of his prize that day. His friend Charlie Longo said that "Mighty Matt” hit the daily double at Harrah's Philadelphia on Sunday and he was not only referring to Matt's victory but more importantly Longo reported that Zuccarello proposed marriage to his longtime girlfriend Kim Velardi. He even got down on one knee in the winner's circle after his victory to make that proposal.
The road to that proposal began when Zuccarello left softly from the five hole and settled in fifth position with Rebel Strike. He was content to follow the leaders until the backside the final time around. When Bob "The Headhunter” Hechkoff moved Tagmaster in front of him, Zuccarello followed the cover and by the top of the stretch he had Rebel Strike within striking distance.
In the lane Rebel Strike was the strong horse and Zuccarello got him up in the final strides to hold off a hard-charging Catching Kate and driver "Marvelous Marvin” Raber to score a neck victory in 2:31. Keystone Sadie finished third for Bobby "Rapid Rail” Krivelin.
"It was the greatest day of my life,” Zuccarello offered. "I really had a perfect trip. It couldn't have been scripted better. And Charlie's right, I hit the daily double. It was real nice to end the season a pair of wins; Kim's hand and the Gold Cup Championship.”
It's true Matt felt mighty at days end but then again, so did Mike Simons who owns Rebel Strike especially when his horse got the lion's share of the $25,000 purse.
Rebel Strike paid $9.20 for win and for Zuccarello who is looking forward to next season; it was his fourth Billings triumph this year.
Another gentleman, Walker had sort of a daily double of his own on Sunday, too. He won the $15,000 Billings Silver Cup Championship with Rush N Supreme in a time of 2:30.4 and he is also is the owner of Rush N Supreme.
But Walker's journey to the winners circle was different than Zuccarello's. He too, started from the five hole but gunned Rush N Supreme to the front and got away with a soft 30.3. From there Walker rated his horse on the front end with each quarter trotted around 30 seconds.
After rebuffing a challenge by Dave "Steady As” Yarock and Rompaway Alvin as the field passed the third stanza Rush N Supreme trotted home an easy 1 1/2-length winner over Whatnblazes, driven by Dave "Yes Its True” Offenberg. Rompaway Alvin held on for third money.
Sent off the even money favorite Rush N Supreme paid $4 for win. For Walker it was his ninth seasonal driving victory and the 98th of his amateur career.
"The Billings Season was marked again by five separate series and we once again saw an increase in new members. Also noted was an upswing in participation from our core members. The shorter Series format seems to be well received by most and we will continue to make adjustments to try and refine it for the future,” said Billings Series president Tony "the Capo” Verruso.
"One such adjustment will be the increase of the money conditions and claiming price in the Midwest starting next year. The new slot money in Ohio has rejuvenated racing there and hopefully it will do the same for our membership in that region.” (John Manzi for Billings Series)
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