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Morrill wastes no time in getting off to a great start

It didn't take Jim Morrill Jr. much time to re-establish his domination of Western New York harness racing. Just two minutes and one second.

That's how long it took the 41-year-old reining sensation to win the first race of the new season and move into first place in the driver standings at Buffalo Raceway on Friday night.

"Stop the meet!" joked Morrill as he posed in the winner's circle with Dilingers Rockette ($5.80), a 4-year-old mare who led every step of the mile through the snowflakes over the "good" track for trainer John Leggio and owner Kathleen Weller.

Morrill also took the second race with Moshannon Sierra ($3.80) for trainer Thomas Guido III. The 7-year-old trotter scored a front-running victory in 2:05 2/5 and completed the first daily double of the season, a 1-4 combination that paid $12.60.

And so went the night. Morrill's horses finished in the money in 10 of the 13 races as he drove five winners, three seconds and two thirds.

"Morrill is on fire," track announcer Joe Zambito told the crowd of about 1,500 as Lyndale Scot ($4), his fifth winner, crossed the finish line in the seventh.

Morrill, a former star at the Meadowlands, moved to the local circuit last fall and blitzed Batavia Downs, where he won 128 races in 307 starts, a 41.7 percent rate with 70 more wins than runners-up Kevin Cummings and Jim McNeight.

The talented sulky master, who lives in the Boston hills south of the Hamburg track, said he plans to race here full time as a catch driver, or freelancer.

"The money's good, and we'll get as much of it as we can," Morrill said.

Local trainers have been quick to name him behind their horses. In a few of Friday's races, Morrill had his choice of two or three entrants.

Morrill's most impressive winner was An Apple A Day ($4), a 6-year-old mare trained by Marion Singleton.

The winner pulled away to take the sixth race in 1:58 4/5 after dueling Epic Venture (driven by Keith Kash Jr.) through a 58 4/5 half.

Owner Robbin Hill of Fredonia said Morrill is now 3 for 3 with An Apple A Day, who raced for a $6,000 claiming tag.

"She's a nice mare and she tries every time. Those are [Morrill's] words," Hill said. Morrill, Leggio and Weller struck again in the fifth race with Terminator Spur ($4.30), a 9-year-old trotter that came from sixth to first in the last half mile.

Morrill swung the gelding out after the first three-eighths of a mile, then followed the cover of Jacks Dream Girl (driven by Kevin Cummings) until the last turn, when he swung wide and ran down pace-setter Red Garland (John Cummings Jr.) in the lane for a 2:04 1/5 mile.

Morrill's first out-of-the-money finish came in the featured eighth race, a $6,000 pace for $12,500 females. His come-from-behind bid with odds-on favorite Rose Street Doll fell short as Kenneth "Doc" Holliday got long shot JD's Amnesty ($30.40) to win by a nose over Sacks Fulla Money (Kevin Cummings).

Holliday's second of three wins -- he took the third with Apple Dumpling ($5.40) and the 10th with TOsBoynamedsue ($7.70) -- prompted Jim Mango, the new chief operating officer, to say, "That's the guy who's going to give Morrill a run for his money. I said it then, and I'll say it again."

Holliday, an new import from Ohio, agreed. Sort of.

"I'm here. I'm going to stay here. . . . I'm going to do my best," he said. "It all depends on the horses you get to drive.


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