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Amateur challenge to be contested this weekend
Wednesday, April 5, 2006 - by David Siegel, president, the California Amateur Driving Club

The stage is set for what is hoped to be the first annual East versus West Amateur Driving Challenge, which will be contested at Cal-Expo Raceway in Sacramento, Calif.

Six races will be contested over two nights, Friday and Saturday, April 7 and 8, between five of the nation's top-10 C.K.G. Billings Amateur Driving Series drivers, to be known as the East Team, and the top-five finishers in the California Fall Amateur Driving Series, to be known as the West Squad.

Dein Spriggs, Tony Verruso, Al Schwartz, Greg Keidel, and Tom Williams have boarded their stagecoach and are headed due west; they will land not far from where gold was discovered. just over 150 years ago.

The East Team, loaded with high Universal Driver Ratings and experience, will take on the upstarts from the Golden State -- Tim Clevenger, David Siegel, Susan Boyce, Jason Maier, and Benny Alvarez.

The winners will be determined by a points system. The six races will feature a random driver draw, and will be contested with horses in a variety of classes. California amateur races, which began this past summer during the California State Fair, have been enjoyed by California’s wagering public, and have drawn averaged higher handles than similarly slotted non-amateur races.

"We are so thrilled by the 'Challenge' coming this weekend," California Amateur Driving Club (CADC) president David Siegel said. "I think we already have the best amateur program in the country and this will only enhance it further. We have a mix of owners, trainers, assistant trainers, and grooms racing here in our amateur events.

“I have read about some programs being a rich man’s game; this is not the case here. While our program is designed in large part to attract new owners, it still allows for a variety of participants. And the public loves it. They have spoken loud and clear with their wagering dollars.

“We are also so very lucky to have horsemen who clearly understand both the short-term and long-term benefits of a solid amateur program. Ours is already paying some dividends to the backstretch.

"But really the pinnacle of the program is the East versus West Challenge. This was the brainchild of Sacramento Harness Association TV analyst Dave Goldschmidt, and it is terrific for all of us. The public will get to see and wager on six very interesting races with a great new twist.

“Our guests get to experience driving on a new track in a different neck of the woods. Our professional drivers get to watch and be excited or amused, whatever the case might be, as we try to upset the experienced Billings pilots, but most of all, five of us get to drive in an awesome event."

Sacramento Harness Association general manager and U.S. Trotting Association director Chris Schick said “we really think this is an exciting concept and expect it to be very competitive -- and provide for great viewing and wagering."

To help promote the event, TrackMaster, provider of harness racing information to the wagering public, and a U.S. Trotting Association partner, will offer free handicapping products, including past performance programs, selections, and FAST sheets, for the Friday and Saturday Cal-Expo cards at www.trackmaster.com/challenge.

More information is available at the California Amateur Driving Club Web site, at www.thecadc.com