On Sunday at the Gratz Fair in this central Pennsylvania town, Beegle guided the Yankee Cruiser sophomore gelding Ginger Tree Marty to a come-from-behind victory in 1:55.2, the fastest mile in nearly four years on the Pa. fair circuit, and only one-fifth of a second behind the all-age Gratz track record of Lahaye. That extra tick would have been sweet for Beegle, since Lahaye was driven in his record winner by his friendly foe Hammer.
Actually, it was “hometown hero” Todd Schadel who set up the conditions for the fast mile, heading down the road in the Pennsylvania Fair Sire Stakes A event with Cruiserwillwin and setting fractions of :27.3, :56.2, and 1:25.3.
Cruiserwillwin turned for home still up by three lengths, but his opposition was narrowing in, and at the end it was Ginger Tree Marty, 9-1/2 lengths out at the half and four lengths off at the stretch call, who had the most kick to out-finish Keystone Steam by a half-length. Crusierwillwin was another half-length back in third after his gallant effort.
Ginger Tree Marty became the first horse to beat 2:00 twice at the fairs this year, adding this win to a 1:59 victory at Dayton. Ginger Tree Stables LLC, which consists of Beegle and Carl Vizzi, share ownership of the winner with Bob Reber Jr.
Another magic mile at the two-day event was posted Sunday in a division of the 3-year-old pacing filly A event when Bella Ragaza sat a pocket trip behind the speedy Keystone Nikki, then outfooted her home by a length in 1:58.2. Camera Lady was third. Another local favored son, Tony Schadel, drove the the daughter of Rocknroll Hanover to victory for trainer Linda Schadel, also co-owner with Roxanna Buffington.
Fastest trot of the two-day weekend meet was a 2:00.3 win by the 3-year-old Cantab Hall gelding for owner/trainer Aaron Johnston, who shares ownership with Brian Taylor. What was notable about this time was that it came in the B division of the Sire Stakes event, with the A divisions going in 2:02 and 2:01.4. In all, seven of the eight season’s records at the Pa. fairs fell at Gratz; only Venier Hanover’s remarkable 1:58 mile at Dayton, one-fifth of a second off the all-age track record in his second lifetime start, remained intact.
Shawn Johnston, the 2017 Boots Dunn awardwinner for most promising youngster on the Pa. fair circuit, topped all drivers with four victories; Hammer trained three winners to top that category and to retain the circuit leadership, with his 16 victories putting him four wins ahead of Jason Shaw. Jason’s brother Chris has an 18-16 lead over Hammer in sulky triumphs, with Johnston third at 12.
The Pa. fair action heads right back to the Lycoming County Fair in Hughesville, where the circuit makes its second stop for a 2-day event; the action, starting at 4 p.m. both Wednesday and Thursday, comes during the county fair. Sophomores will go on Wednesday, followed by the freshmen the next day.