A pair of 2-year-olds --- filly trotter Munis Blue Chip and colt pacer He's Gorgeous --- who won New York Sire Stakes races on Buffalo Raceway's final weekend in July emerged as champions of their age-sex-gait classes at the NYSS Night of Champions at Vernon Downs on Saturday night (Sept. 26). Each won a $175,000 championship race very impressively.
Munis Blue Chip, driven by Tim Tetrick for trainer/co-owner Ray Schnittker, won her mile in 1:57 3/5, a track record for 2-year-old trotting fillies, taking three-fifths of a second off a Vernon record that stood since 1996.
When Munis Blue Chip won a $22,077 NYSS race at Buffalo on July 24, Schnittker did the driving. But this time he turned the reins over to Tetrick, one of the top catch drivers in the country
"I think these catch-drivers have an edge on me on a big track [Vernon is seven-eighths of a mile around]," said Schnittker, the Pendleton native now based in Middletown. "On a half-mile [like Buffalo Raceway or Batavia Downs], I don't know that it makes a difference, but on a big track they do it all the time and are confident."
Schnittker entered six horses in the stakes races. The three he drove himself finished sixth, sixth and ninth and earned no prize money. The three driven by Tetrick finished first, second and third and earned $152,250.
He's Gorgeous, driven by Jason Bartlett for trainer Linda Toscano and owner Kenneth Jacobs, won by 3 1/2 lengths in 1:52, a stakes record just one second slower than the track record for his class. He's Gorgeous won a $26,714 NYSS race at Buffalo Raceway on July 25.
"He was sick this week and was having trouble breathing and we had to put him on antibiotics. I was nervous tonight because I wasn't sure how he'd be," said Jacobs, of the Syracuse suburb of Baldwinsville. His namesake, Kenneth J, last October set the Batavia Downs all-ages track record (1:52) in winning the Robert J. Kane Memorial Pace.
Here's how other horses and people with Western New York connections fared in their races.
Tuesdays With Mom, a 2-year-old filly trotter owned and trained by Peter Arrigenna of Piffard and driven by Jeff Gregory, finished second to Munis Blue Chip and earned $43,750.
Proper Villain, a 2-year-old colt trotter driven by John Campbell for trainer Allan McCarty of Hamburg finished sixth.
Kash N Credit, a 3-year-old colt trotter driven by Jason Bartlett for trainer/owner Clint Galbraith of Scottsville, finished eighth.
OK Braveheart, a 3-year-old gelding pacer who set a Batavia Downs track record for his class (1:52 2/5) on Sept. 4, finished eighth.
Russell Hill, a 3-year-old colt trotter who set a Batavia Downs track record for his class (1:57 4/5) on July 31, finished fourth and earned $14,000.
Driver Jim Morrill Jr. of Hamburg was blanked in six NYSS drives. He finished second once, fourth four times and seventh once.
--- Bob Summers