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West beats East at Sacramento
Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - by Dave Siegel, for the California Amateur Driving Association

While Team East knew that Sacramento was some ninety miles from the Pacific Ocean, they believed thaey might have actually been racing in it during the second of five legs of the East-West Amateur Driving Challenge, which took place at Cal-Expo Raceway this past weekend.

The first leg ended up in a tie between the two squads when Team West member Tim Clevenger's Keep Cool N ($7.40) won by open lengths.

Following that, the skies opened and the track went from fast to sloppy in a matter of minutes, and by the time the eighth race went to post the track was ocean-like on its surface -- and presented an extra challenge for the Challenge participants. The track was in great shape just below the surface, however, and the track crew was well prepared for Mother Nature's onslaught.

Dein Spriggs won the second leg when he piloted Oriole Angus ($5.60) to a one length victory, which put Team East two points ahead of Team West, 43 to 41.

The skies cleared on Saturday, and the eastern invaders were treated to a tour of the State Capitol by Steve Chambers -- tour guide extraordinaire -- and to a visit to Sacramento's Old Town, which is a throwback to the gold rush era.

The competition resumed in race number three on Saturday, which was the only trotting race in the Challenge, and Dave Siegel drove Kerri's Choice ($29.20) to a three-quarter length victory. The 13-1 shot was the longest-priced winner in the Challenge. Well Don N, with Dein Spriggs in the bike, finished second. Combined with a third, fourth, and fifth place finish by the balance of Team West, the win put the “Left Coasters” ahead by 12 points.

The teams had to wait a few minutes to confirm the outcome of the fourth leg when three geldings hit the wire within a whisker of each other. The “Polaroid” went the way of Team East when Alan Schwartz drove the free-legged pacer Perfect Chief ($11.80) to a three inch margin of victory over Green Fields (Jason Maier) and TK Diehard (Dave Siegel), who in turn had finished about one inch apart, in second and third, respectively.

The skilled piloting of Schwartz put Team East right back in it, just six points behind with one leg to go.

Northfield Park's director of racing, Greg Keidell, won the final leg by driving Hoosier Best ($7.20) to a one-half length victory over Jason Maier's True Believer, but due to the strong finish of the also rans driven by the West Coasters, Team West eked out a victory, 118 points to 111 points.

Detailed results, charts and race replays can be found on the California Amateur Driving Club (CADC) web site at: www.thecadc.com/standings_EastWest06.html.

Dein Spriggs, Tony Verruso, Alan Schwartz, Greg Keidell, and Tom Williams, five of the top-10 ranked C.K.G. Billings Amateur Driving Series participants in 2005 were excellent representatives of the East, and the Golden Staters, using their home field advantage, were Tim Clevenger, Dave Siegel, Susan Boyce, Jason Maier, and Benny Alvarez.

23 different Cal-Expo trainers entered 44 horses in the five-race series.

"I cannot begin to describe how much we owe to so many people for making the Challenge the huge success that it was," California Amateur Driving Club president and Challenge participant David Siegel said. "The horsemen were so supportive filling the races as they did, and I am so impressed with the number of them that see the many benefits of amateur racing in general, and such a special event as the Challenge, in particular.

“Our (track) operator, the Sacramento Harness Association (SHA), gave this event incredible support, contributing to the travel expenses of our guests, wonderful TV and radio coverage, and having the foresight to see the value to the fans, bettors, amateur drivers, and for the long-term health of the sport.

“Working with the horsemen to have full fields and competitive races would not have been possible without the hard work of the Fred Kuebler and his capable race office staff, and the great cooperation of the horsemen.

“California Amateur Drivers Club secretary Steve Chambers, a goodwill ambassador for California harness racing, dotted every ‘I’ and crossed every ‘T’ to ensure that all of the needs of Team East were taken care of.

“Finally, to have been honored in the presence of the best amateur drivers in the country, making the 3,000-mile trip for five races, is just a testament to their dedication to our industry.

“It was truly a team effort on so many dimensions, and in a time of many distractions from what is good about racing, it was so refreshing to have such great camaraderie off the track with such great competition on the track," Siegel said.

Sacramento Harness Association general manager Chris Schick summed it all up by saying "this is what harness racing is all about. We are happy to support the efforts of the amateur club, and look forward to hosting the Challenge again in 2007. It was a great success."