BERLIN- The 62nd annual summer-long live racing meet at historic Ocean Downs concluded with a bang last Sunday with champions named in several categories including Horse of the Year, Driver of the Year and Trainer of the Year among others.
The 2009 live meet, which began back in late June and concluded last Sunday, was highly successful again this year, attracting thousands of visitors and locals alike to the storied harness track near Ocean Pines not far from Ocean City. Ocean Downs attracted an average of nearly 1,700 each night, which over the 40 nights of the live meet, equaled roughly 66,000 live racing enthusiasts.
Horse of the Meet honors this year went to 9-year-old gelding Mr. Thinker, son of the famous Glowing Tribute. Mr. Thinker won two legs and the final race in the Bud Light Late Closer Series. Mr. Thinker won six races in all at Ocean Downs this summer including five in a row during one stretch.
“He’s just a classy horse,” said trainer Charlene Polk. “I don’t do anything special in training him.”
Riding behind Mr. Thinker for all six of his victories at Ocean Downs this summer was Frank Milby, who was named Driver of the Meet at the conclusion of the live racing schedule last Sunday. Milby recorded 47 wins at Ocean Downs this summer after collecting just 28 during the live meet last year. The 31-year-old driver from Cordova, Md. finished just six wins ahead of second-place driver Chuck Perry, Jr., and graciously shared the award with others.
“Everyone knows that winning isn’t a one-man operation,” he said. “I want to thank all of my trainers and great owners for allowing me to race with their great horses.”
Finally, the Trainer of the Meet award went to Joseph Eisenhower, Sr., who took 17 horses to the winner’s circle during the 2009 live meet at Ocean Downs. Eisenhower enjoyed a strong season last year with 11 wins as a trainer, but upped the ante to 17 this year. Like Milby, the humble Eisenhower shared his award with others.
“I want to dedicate this honor to my daughter,” he said. “She has been through so much recently, but always makes time to come here and be here for me.”
With the awards dispensed with, the 2009 live meet at Ocean Downs concluded with a spectacular fireworks display, officially closing the summer-long racing series. Live racing will return next year for the 63rd time, but the facility will likely look much different by then. With the anticipated approval of slots at Ocean Downs, much of the grandstand area will be reconfigured to accommodate an estimated 800 video lottery terminals at the track.