Monticello Raceway presented its third annual All-Amateur Day on September 6 with all the participating drivers on the 10 race card carring amateur status. But by no means were they novices. And to say it was a success would be an understatement.


Nineteen of the country’s top amateurs came from far and wide and convened at the Mighty M  just to participate in what was billed  a special “Veterans Day at the Races’.  Each participating amateur driver paid $500 to be part of the day and monies were raised  for the Sullivan County Veteran’s Food Pantry.


Attending fans were asked to donate non-perishable goods and clothing for the less fortunate and at day’s end  a pick-up truck was needed bring the goods to the Federation for the Homeless, of which the Veteran’s  Food Pantry is a component.


Co-sponsored by the North America Amateur Drivers Association and Monticello Raceway  nearly $10,000 was raised along  with the food and  clothing.  


It turned out to be a day enjoyed by everyone who shared in the festivities. Every race presentation was done by a armed forces veteran and visiting veterans  were afforded  50 percent off the dinner in the casino’s Winners Circle Buffet and over $420,000 was wagered on the 10-race card on  the added race date to just accommodate  the all-amateur program.


“It’s getting bigger each year,” noted Alan Schwartz, a former Marine Corporal and Vietnam veteran, who is also the president of the Monticello Harness Horsemen’s Association.


“It has taken a while but officials and racing fans alike are beginning to realize and understand what amateur racing brings a lot to the game. Nearly every amateur driver owns horses, employs a trainer, and continually invests in the sport. And over the years the betting public is cognizant of their drivers talents and considering the wagering numbers today most enjoy betting on the amateur races.”


On the 10- race card three different amateur drivers each won two races. Dein Spriggs, a real estate magnate who traveled infrom Jupiter Fla. just to participate, scored a seven- length triumph with Beal Hanover in time of 1:58.1 and he also won with Multiple Cash in 1:58.4.


Dr. Scott Woogen, a gastroenterologist up from Richmond VA., also had a driving double. He won with Windsmith Molly in 2:01.1 and with Paulimony in 1:59, two pacers he co-owns with Brenda Messenger, the wife of his trainer Gary Messenger.


And Dave Yarock, a financial  planner from Tenafly, NJ, scored two driving victories on the program when he won with his own Bambina’s Sorella in 1:59.4 and with Game Jocko in 1:58.1.


Spriggs now has 375 career wins, Woogen has 119 amateur driving victories and Dave Yarock, who entered the amateur ranks in 2008, has 42 wins.


Other amateurs with driving victories  that day included; Steve Oldford, an automotive manufacturer’s rep from Croswell, MI; Joe Pennacchio,  a retired business executive from Delray Beach, Fla.; Kelly Walker,  a nursery  owner from  Davison, MI; and George Bonomo,  a CEO from  greater Chicago,(Naperville) Ill.


Besides the 10 pari-mutuel races  fans were treated  to a trotting race under saddle, which is beginning to be more than just a sideshow in the industry. And that nearly all of the participating riders are female it adds another dimension to the sport.


That non-wager contest was won by Michelle Crawford when she rode Vassar Hall to a 2:08.3 victory over John-Michael and Jodie Doherty. Third

place went to Docdor Chaser with Ruth Calcagni aboard.