By Gene Kershner
Special to The News
When you’re 83 years old and there’s one million dollars on the line, you go for it.
Hamburg native Bill Richardson will take his shot at the $1 million Hambletonian in East Rutherford, N.J., Saturday with his trotter, Tight Lines.
The 3-year-old bay gelding, a son of Yankee Glide, has won two of his last four races and is co-owned by Jesmeral Stable and driver/trainer Jeff Gregory.
“I’m realistic about this, but Jeff is very high on this horse; that he’s better than he’s shown so far. He has had traffic problems,” Richardson said. “As Jeff said to me ‘You’re 83 and the other guy’s 68 (Jesmeral owner Steven Finkelstein). You’ll probably never get another chance.’ So we’re going for it.”
Richardson, 83, is the president of the board of directors of Buffalo Raceway and is co-chairman of the board of directors at Trubee, Collins & Co., Inc., where he has spent more than 50 years in the financial services industry.
A one-time driver himself, Richardson won 16 races in his career and has stayed involved in an industry that he loves.
“I used to drive in some regular races and at the fairs for a number of years,” he said. “It was fun and I enjoyed it while I did it.”
To compete for the $1 million in the Hambletonian, Tight Lines will need to finish in the top five in the second of two divisional heats, each consisting of nine horses. The race will be televised from 4-5:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS Sports Network. Tight Lines drew the No. 7 hole, which is a concern for both owner and trainer.
“I talked to Jeff a day or so ago and he said we’re just not having much luck in the draw,” Richardson said. “I asked if it made much difference in the one mile track at The Meadowlands and he confirmed to me that it does, so we’ll need some luck.”
Gregory, who has won nearly 6,800 races as a driver, is bullish on the son of Yankee Glide, despite the outside slot.
“He was one of my better 2-year-olds training down last year,” Gregory said. “He’s learning. It doesn’t seem like he’s ever tired and he’s always willing.”
Like Richardson, Gregory is realistic about his horse’s chances but, like the lottery, you have to be in it to win it.
“Obviously he’s going to be a long shot, but this is a tough race to pass up,” Gregory said. “You don’t know how many more of these opportunities you’ll get.
“It’s a shot in the dark but we want to give it a try.”
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.