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Action-Packed Saturday Success at Freehold Raceway

It was an action-packed Saturday at Freehold Raceway on March 16th. The day started with a tour of the paddock for Monmouth County’s Equine Science 4-H group who got to learn about harness racing. They saw the behind the scenes of the paddock and ate lunch in the paddock kitchen. Then they came over to the grandstand to see the action up close and join in a winner’s circle photo. Finally they went up to the judges’ booth to learn about that aspect of the industry.

Assisting with the tour and answering questions about racing from the group was Jessica Paquette, the announcer at Parx racing. Jessica was able to offer her insights from the thoroughbred world to the 4-H members.  Paquette received the call to visit Freehold Raceway today to guest-announce and conduct interviews for the International Women’s Day festivities taking place later on in the card. It was a perfect day to show the 4-H group (which happened to be composed entirely of girls) around and highlight the wonderful women in the racing industry.

Jessica took over the mic for her first-ever harness race calls starting in race seven, which was the Irish-Heritage Race sponsored by Peter and Mary Grandich, in Honor of Irish Joe Hanney. The drivers in this race were all of Irish heritage and randomly assigned to their mounts.

It was Gold Star Yoder and Jim Marohn Jr that went wire-to-wire to prevail in this race just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day. Peter Grandich, Irish Joe, and all of the Irish drivers joined Marohn in the winner’s circle, along with New York Jets greats- Joe Klecko and Marty Lyons who were in attendance for a meet-and-greet with fans.

They weren’t the only ones celebrating this win, though. Gold Star Yoder was formerly trained by Dennis Watson, a longtime trainer and driver at Freehold Raceway (among other tracks) who recently passed away on March 4, 2024 at the age of 74. When Dennis’ health declined, the horse was transferred to the Joe Gulotta stable. Dennis’ family, including many of his grandchildren, came out to the track following Dennis’ service this morning to cheer Yoder on. It was all too perfect that Gold Star Yoder would pick up his first win of the year on this day, with his former trainer’s beloved family there to root for him.

To make things even more exciting for the Watson family, another former Watson trainee, Lyons Steel (now trained by Jose Ramos) won the following race, the feature Preferred Handicap. On an emotional day for the Watson family, the horses seemed to know that they were winning in honor of Dennis and stood patiently as they were surrounded by his family for win photos.

The following race was the International Women’s Day race. Madeliene Young, an accomplished driver from Australia, made her first start in the United States in this race. She left from post five with 9-2 Matters Most on a mission to take the lead, which she did by the time they exited the first turn. From there she never looked back and opened up on the field. Though the other female competitors made up some ground in the stretch, it wasn’t enough to catch Madeliene. The 29-year-old Aussie import put an exclamation mark on her first drive in America. She was joined in the winner’s circle by the other drivers along with another great woman in harness racing, Freehold’s director of racing, Karen Fagliarone. In an interview before the race, Young encouraged any young women looking to get into the sport to “go for it”. It is clear that Madeliene herself is a go-getter and it will be exciting to see how her driving career progresses here in the states.

It was a successful day with a nice crowd, beautiful weather, and exciting races. Freehold Raceway returns with more racing Friday and Saturday starting at 12:30PM.