Big Red signs off career with season-end victory
Big Red Machine lived up to expectations at Vesey Street yesterday, winning the season-ending Champion of Champions to bow out of harness racing on a winning note.
Colin Mello’s nine-year old stud posted a first and second in the two heats contested in cool and overcast conditions to claim the coveted title on average time.
Eddie Roque (GV Crystal Ball) and David Burrows Jr (Mike’s Shadow) rounded off the podium finishers respectively.
Roque’s 11-year old stallion equalled its lifetime mark (fastest time) en route to posting the day’s fastest time of 1:03 flat in the second heat.
Burrows’ 13-year old gelding also posted its lifetime mark after running a 1:03/2 in the second heat.
However, the day well and truly belonged to Mello and track record holder Big Red Machine who claimed their second successive Champion of Champions crown.
Mello’s horse, that has dominated its respective division for the past three years, was retired after adding one last chapter to its glorious legacy.
“I’m extremely happy to win the Champion of Champions and go out on a high note with him,” an elated Mello said. “He is sound and healthy and it’s just the way I wanted to finish. I really wanted this one.”
After being drawn in the second and third holes prior to racing, Mello won the first heat by half a horse length ahead of Joe Vieira (Cherokee Kibbitz) and then pipped Burrows by a nose at the line to claim second and with it the overall title in the second heat. Roque and GV Crystal Ball won the second heat.
“I had a bit of work to do in both races,” Mello said. “But it was good, clean and fun racing. Everybody had level heads like it should be.
“I knew I had to finish within three fifths of a second of Eddie (in the second heat) and I was two fifths off which was what I needed. It would’ve been nice to win, but I didn’t have to.”
Mello’s stud will return to its birthplace in Indiana in April to be bred with other horses.
“He’s going to a good friend of mine out there so I know he’s going to be in a safe place,” Mello said. “He’s a special horse and it will never be another one like him.”
Roque, the most senior driver among this year’s Champion of Champions final foursome, was delighted to claim runners-up honours.
“We are really happy with the way everything went,” he said. “We were two fifths behind the fastest horse down here so it’s not bad.
“You can’t win them all and the guy that won deserved it.”
Burrows, who posted two thirds on the day, was pleased just to reach the Champion of Champions final.
“I was the underdog and not even expected to make the final,” he said. “But we did and it was some good racing.”
Burrows admitted he was surprised to see his horse set a new lifetime mark at this stage of his career.
“I wasn’t expecting him to go that fast,” he said. “But I’m happy with that because he done the fastest time that he’s ever done in his life at 13 -years old.”