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By John Cirillo
My first Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace as Yonkers Raceway’s new, wet-behind-the-ears PR man in 1981 was a memorable one for many reasons. For one, it was my fledgling press conference, held outdoors in what was known back then as the Empire Terrace Gardens. The amazing Herve Filion, who recently passed away, was ultimately the winner with Icarus Lobell, flying high to a length and a quarter win. And most memorable is that on that day, I met the immortal Art Rooney, the Pittsburgh Steelers founder and Rooney family patriarch. After the presser, “The Chief” walked the facility with our great staff photographer Mike Cipriani and yours truly, sharing cigars with the maintenance workers, electricians, and many staffers, while talking football and racing. Pinch yourself kid, it’s real.
And so the Sheppard just upon mention of the race itself evokes fond memories. This year’s renewal is worth, and the stakes for two-year-old colts and geldings kicks of the stakes-laden summer calendar at Yonkers on Saturday night, July 15, with three $25,000 elimination races to be contested this Saturday night, July 8, to decide the eight finalists.
The first two finishers in each elimination and the two fastest third-place finishers will return for the finale.
The Sheppard is named for the man behind breeding behemoth Hanover Shoe Farms, and the three eliminations are slated as races four, five and six on the card.
A number of precocious freshman will battle it out in the elimination heats.
In the second division Wild Bill, with trainer Ray Schnittker driving from post five, won his debut in a sizzling 1:53.1 in Pennsylvania All Stars event (Pocono) this past Sunday night. The son of Somebeachsomewhere looks to his give his trainer/driver a second consecutive Sheppard victory, having won last year’s edition with Summer Side.
Invading from Ottawa is Kwik Talkin’, steered by “Air” Jordan Stratton from post two. The son of Well Said who is unbeaten in two career outings.
Another pair of winners headline the third elim, with Paprike Blue Chip, guided by Corey Callahan from post one, and Lucky Leonard (Schnittker, post seven). Paprike, a Roll with Joe gelding, won a Pocono overnight in 1:54.2, while “Leonard” —another son of Well Said —captured a Pennsylvania All Star event in 1:55.1.
In the first division, America’s Guest, with Brett Miller in the sulky from post three, is the quickest of the freshman entered in the Sheppard, raced-timed in 1:53 in his purse debut at The Meadowlands.
Saturday night’s 12-race card has a first post of 7:10 pm.