Sunday, April 14, 2013

Huckabone Earns first pari-mutuel driving victory

Lulu's Boy paced the fastest mile of the fledgling harness season, while provisional driver Justin Huckabone earned his initial pari-mutual victory on Saturday night (April 13) at Vernon Downs.
Lulu's Boy (John MacDonald) posts the fastest mile of opening weekend

Competing in the 10th event on Saturday's 13-race card, Lulu's Boy battled to a 1:52.1 score that made him the quickest of 23 winners during opening weekend of the track's 60th anniversary season.

With newcomer John MacDonald doing the steering over a "good" track, Lulu's Boy raced out to the early lead, and then drafted along behind Checkinthebox, who showed the way through the middle portion of the mile.  The hard-hitting 6-year-old gelding eventually roared back to the front in the stretch and drew off for a 3-1/4 length triumph.

It marked the initial victory in four current outings for the quick-footed son of Art Major-DDI, who is owned and trained by Ronald MacDonald.  John MacDonald had won the previous race with the Andy Gardner owned and trained pacer Sadler Hanover (1:55.2).

Justin Huckabone gets his first career parimutuel victory
Huckabone, an 18-year-old son of long-time Vernon veteran Claude Huckabone, Jr., guided his pacer Powerful Love to a 1:57.3 career-best score in Saturday's last event.  The third-generation horseman urged the 4-year-old pacing mare to the front entering the final quarter and on to a solid one-length tally, her first in seven season's starts.  His dad conditions the bay daughter of Artiscape-Time Power.

Driver Roman Lopez, who earned a double here on Friday night, recorded the first driving triple of the meeting on Saturday, scoring with the pacers Shaolin Master (1:57.4), Veto Hanover (1:53.1) and trotter Hold On Tightly (1:59).  The 53-year-old horseman leads all drivers and trainers in first-place finishes after two Vernon programs. 

Defending driving and training champ Rick Plano also posted a pair of tallies during Saturday's competition.

DOWNS DOINGS—Josh Kinney, who last season tied with Michael Miller at six for most provisional driving victories at the Downs, became the meet's initial "P" reinsman to win in 2013 after he piloted the pacer Bullish Blue Chip to a 1:54.2 tally in Saturday's fifth event.  The 6-year-old gelding is owned by the Turn N Burn Stable and trained by Jessica Okusko…The Downs will continue Friday and Saturday evening racing (first post 6:45) only through May 4.  Thursday nights will be added starting May 9…Vernon's 90-card campaign will continue through November 2…A complete racing and stakes calendar, as well as additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at www.vernondowns.com.