By Charles C. Marshall, Jr.
Newark, N. J., July 16—On our way back from the Roosevelt Grand
Circuit session we stopped off at Weequahic Park to have a look at the
matinee racing Saturday afternoon, which has been revived by local enthusiasts
after a lapse since 1943. There is lot of tradition connected with this
oval, which has been the scene of harness contests over a hundred years
ago. Records of the past show that the onetime stallion champion and
great family founder, George Wilkes 2:22, the pony son of Hambletonian,
raced at the Newark track. In the "thirties" the hoof beats
of such as Dean Hanover and Zombro Hanover made harness horse history
here. The pacing gelding holds the 2:011/2 track record but the two
year old standard of Dean Hanover at 2:05 and the three year old mark
of 2:033/4 by the Dillon Axworthy colt rank the highest, being World
Records at the time and still top performances in any league.
President Bill Francis, who is active as a trainer and driver here,
is the dub president, with executive vice president. "Jud"
Pearson in charge of publicity and also serving as an associate judge.
Vice president and treasurer Sam Chinitz does the race¬announcing,
with Bill Stevens clerk of the course, Ray Matthews presiding judge
and Arthur Owens racing secretary. Phil Bente is doing the starting,
using Octave Blake's phantom barrier, formerly used on the Grand. Circuit.
There were well over 2,000 spectators watching the matinee heats, which
are limited to strictly amateur, drivers, carts being used instead of
sulkies. Most of the fans watched from their cars or along the fences,
with the grandstand only partly filled. The local papers have been giving
nice coverage to the trots and paces and it should build up into a popular
diversion for this section. We particularly enjoyed seeing so many youngsters
getting a kick out of the contests. Over at the barns each starter seemed
to have several kids helping out and providing a rooting section besides.
Leon Jennings of Menlo Park showed the fastest mile of the season here
when he piloted his low headed Silver Moonshine to a wire to wire victory
in 2:14, going to the half in 1:044/5. The pair returned even stronger
to cut the mark to 2:133/5. The youngest driver here, 16 year old Rahway
High School student Bob McKee, won the B Pace with Scottish Song, taking
both heats. This is an unbeaten combination here, the pair having won
six dashes with the accompanying blue rosettes to show for it.
The Class C trot was an exciting race both dashes. In the first trip
Lee Princeton set the pace, Ben Kempner (the amateur who drove Runnymede
Hathorn in last year's Hambletonian) moving at the quarter to challenge
with Glendale, Berry. The pair trotted like a team past the cheering
stands and on to the three¬quarters, where Lee Princeton fnally
broke. The Mr. Chips gelding then held on for a length win over Rube
Ko San, driven by George Francis. This trio raced back in the last heat
of the day and provided the first dead heat here as Rube Ko San and
Glendale Berry passed the wire in a 2:171/5 tie. The Brooklyn driver,
Harold Williams, won the first heat of the D Trot in 2:21 rather handily
with Hollyrood Rick, but the second was a corker as Ben Kempner forced
the pace to the quarter with Runnymede Nancy, broke, but moved up gradually
again and came strong in the lane to finish only a short head behind
Matinees are to be held every Saturday and holidays at the track close
to route 22 after passing the Newark airport, insuring a renewal of
interest in the trotters and pacers in this section with a wholesome
sporting atmosphere. We have many pleasant memories of matinee racing
and amateur contests from our college days, when we belonged to the
Metropolitan Driving Club at Allston, Mass., in suburban Boston beside
the Charles River, and know that they add much to the trotting and pacing