By Gary R. Rasberry
The stretch run was good for many of the pacers and trotters during the final night of the harness racing program at the Mercer County Fair on Monday.
There was no better user of the stretch than Dragon's Growl. Tom Hope took the pacer to victory in the Samples Memorial Pace, the county's stop on the Signature Series.
Dragon's Growl took its time staying behind leader Power Sahbra at the half and began to move closer past the3ò4 pole. On the final stretch run, Growl made its move, passing Power Sahbra for the win and 10 points in the Series race.
The win puts Dragon's Growl into first in the points race as leader Tattler's Jet did not race the Samples Memorial. Sahbra's nine points moves the gelding to second with 39 points.
The other big race of the night came in the Don Bates Memorial Stakes, honoring the late popular driver at the fair. It was Devilish Donnie who got the win, beating Andrew's Linedrive in the final quarter-mile. Russell Swartz, who won three races on Sunday afternoon, started the program right with a win in the opening colt pace, driving Willy T Laag to a win in 2:03 flat. Again, the stretch run was key as Willy got past SWF Day Trader -- who had won five of his nine starts in 2004 --in the final1ò8 of a mile to get the win. Swartz also got a win in the fifth, driving trotter Tally Ho Crown to a win in 2:03. This time, Tally Ho led most of the way, pulling away a bit at the line.
Among the other winners of the night, Legendary Charmer, with Chad Williamson in the sulkey, won a colt trot in a time of 2:061ò5. Celina native Bruce Schmidt picked up another win at the fair, his third of the program, driving Melvin's Got A Gun to a colt pace win in 2:003ò5. Robert K. Parker won the sixth race, a condition/claiming pace with Rain Man in two minutes flat.
In the final race of the night, another condition/claiming pace, Brandon Bates went wire to wire with Torpedo's Impact to edge out Trent Bates and Swingtown to wrap up the program.