by Jessica Otten
For many, pulling up to the horsemen’s gate at Northville during opening weekend was like taking a sigh of relief, the shipping three plus hours in winter weather conditions was over. Opening weekend went really well, we kicked off the first leg of the mini-series for both trotters and pacers, and even celebrated a milestone. General manager Mike Carlo said, “I was extremely thrilled to see the crowd return for live racing. We picked up right where we left off in 2016.”
Opening night was a full house. The clubhouse was booked full, the grandstands and lower level were filled with people, and although it was chilly outside there were still fans on the fence watching the races.
Onto the super stars of the weekend, before we get started on recapping the mini-series winners of the 1st leg. Friday night, Sarena Evans sent her first horse to the gate as a trainer, little did she know how special it would really be. Sarena has been “in love” with horses her entire life, growing up her dad had a huge breeding farm with Standardbred horses and it has been a huge part of her life ever since. When I asked Sarena why she wanted to get her trainers license you could tell she was very passionate about her horses. “I wanted to get my trainers license because I didn’t want to have to rely on anyone else to take care of my horses, I wanted to make sure they had the correct care, eachand every day leading up to race day, so I knew what was going on going into the race.” Sarena has worked very hard to get where she is today, she said “I am inspired every day by my family, my mom and dad along with everyone else have one hundred percent been behind me. My sister is a huge influence on me, she is the reason I do what I do.” Family is no doubt a huge part of her life. How could you not be nervous sending your first horse out to the track? Although Sarena has been working with the horses her whole life, being on her own meant something special to her. Her daughter, Taylor Novack is a huge help with Virtual Princess, considering that is Taylors favorite horse, she loves taking care of her week in and week out and getting her ready for the competition. Sarena and Taylor were both nervous going into the race, “she had been off a couple of months, qualified decent, but also drew the 8 hole. I was praying she would be my first training win, but I was a little leary going into the race because of drawing the outside and her being off so long, but this mare always seems to pull through when it means the most,” Sarena explained. “Half way down the lane my heart start racing, as soon as she hit the wire, I immediately burst into tears, it was so over whelming.” Everyone who gets their trainers license dreams of their first start as a trainer to be a winning one, it doesn’t happen very often but to Sarena it was like her prayers were answered. Virtual Princess made a group of people unbelievably proud that night. She is owned and trained by Sarena Evans, groomed by her daughter Taylor Novack and driven to victory by her little cousin Kody Massey. Sarena says that “it made that win so much more memorable because it was a family occasion, Kody knows my horses better than any driver, and she is very thankful that her little cousin was able to be a part of the memory.” Sarena would also like to thank Donna Frizzel, “Donna has taught me many things over the years, she has helped me become better, and for that I thank her.” Being outside watching the race with Sarena, you could tell how much it really meant to her, I don’t think words describe the emotion that was in the air when Virtual Princess hit the wire first, congratulation Sarena and here is too many more milestones during your training career.
Opening night kicked off mini-series action for the trotter and the pacers followed on Saturday. Very competitive fields that made for some exciting races. For the trotters, Denver Deal took the 1st division making a 3-wide move up the back side getting the victory for driver, trainer, owner Carl Putnam Jr. in 2:01.4. Browner Shuttle showed his driver, trainer, owner Darrell Wright that he was ready to roll, by drawing away in the stretch by 11 lengths to win his division in 2:00.3. Moving onto Saturday we had 4 divisions of the 1st leg in the mini-series for the pacers. Noah’s Shark, cruised to his victory going gate to wire, in 1:58 for trainer Casey Wolfe and driver John Moody. Second division was taken by Amazing Perch who raced from behind to get up for the win in time in 1:58 for the Kody Massey and Joe Cirasuola duo. The one eyed wonder Santa’s Special was neck and neck with Tommy Two Shoes down the stretch to win the 3rd division for driver, trainer, owner David Lake. The 4th and final division of the night was taken by the first time starter since April of 2016, Navy Lieutenant was nothing short of impressive, putting a new lifetime mark on his card, 1:58. Driver, trainer, owner Peter Otten, along with his partner Gerald Chapman and groom Jessica Otten were very happy with his performance. The finals for these mini-series will take place March 17th and 18th.
Overall, myself, I think that opening weekend was a huge success and we can only move forward from here! With warmer weather on the way I hope to see future weekends follow suit.
Complete April 2017 Newsletter