Monticello, NY --- As Four Starz Ransom and Digital Photo raced through the lane, the former went off stride as they neared the finish line which opened the door for the latter to rally to a 2:05.2 victory in Monticello Raceway’s 14th annual ‘Race for the Matzos’ for drivers of Jewish descent on Thursday afternoon (April 12).
Alan Charles drove the winner confidently and luck was on his side when he got Digital Photo up in the final strides to pass the heavy favorite who was driven by Alan Schwartz. For Charles it was his second victory in the Passover races, having won the event two years ago.
As this year's event got underway Dave Yarock and B Muffler were the fastest from the gate and they trotted to the lead with Schwartz and Four Star Ransom tucked in the two hole. Charles and Digital Photo were a close third and the three trotters raced in that order until the backside when Schwartz moved Four Star Ransom for the lead and he was followed closely by Charles and Digital Photo.
Both trotters cleared B Muffler and they raced one-two on the final turn. When they headed for home it was a horse race between the odds-on favorite and the 11-1 longshot.
“I thought we were much the best but when I saw Digital Photo coming at us in the lane I knew it was trouble. And when my horse went off–stride it was all over for me,” Schwartz said dejectedly.
“I felt that I was going to catch him anyway but when I saw Schwartz’s horse go off-stride it felt like the parting of the Red Sea,” Charles related.
When Four Starz Ransom went off-stride Digital Photo charged to the lead and was a one length winner. Four Starz Ransom held on for second and third place went to Yarock and B Muffler.
“If it wasn’t for my very dear friend Peter Kleinhans I wouldn’t even have been in the race,” Charles explained after the race was completed. “Initially the horse I was to drive was an early scratch. Knowing that I don’t often get a chance to drive, Peter, who was down to drive Digital Photo after the (post position) draw graciously yielded his drive to me, knowing how much I wanted to be in the race and that I don’t get a chance to drive that often.
“And although many -- the betting public included -- didn’t think Digital Photo had much of a chance in the race I had good feelings despite all the rhetoric that was spewed prior to the race. And in the end, I guess I was right.”
Digital Photo is owned and trained by Richard Ruffles of Edmeston, N.Y. She paid $24.60 for win.
The Passover Trot was the third leg of the Mighty M’s Heritage Drivers Series and with his victory Charles has earned a berth in the series finale -- dubbed the All America Cup -- which will be presented later in the fall after the eight ethnic legs are completed. He’ll be joined by Bobby Williams, Jr., the winner of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Pace for African-American drivers, and by Jimmy Taggart, who won the St. Paddy Pace for drivers of Irish heritage.
Next up in the Heritage Drivers Series is the Lady Godiva Pace. That race, exclusively for women, is usually contested in February but it had to be postponed and now will be presented on Monday (May 14), one day after Mother's Day.