ALTAMONT — While his lead was whittled down to just four points Thursday afternoon, Ronnie Gillespie left little doubt who was the best harness racer at this year's Effingham County Fair. Gillespie entered the day up 42-25 on Jared Finn, who went on a nice three-race run to start Thursday's action. Finn won the day's first two races and took second in the third, cutting Gillespie's lead to just 42-38.That'd be as close as it got, however. Gillespie took the harnesses on Who Called Kellie in the seventh race, and took American Desire a win in the eighth race to claim the driving championship at the Effingham County Fair for the second time in three years. Gillespie won the 2011 County Fair Championship as well as the Effingham County Fair championship, and Thursday's final day of Harness Racing at the fair in Altamont was invigorating for the Macon, Miss. native as he took home the title. "I'd say it's the best," Gillespie said. "Today was nice, it gets me excited as a driver."Despite Finn's push, the two wins and a second-place finish came in the only three races he was entered in. Gillespie's win on Who Called Kellie clinched the championship. Hillcrest Dynamite led at the halfway point, but Gillespie and Who Called Kellie came back undeneath at the three-quarter pole and cruised to the finish in 2:05.6. Gillespie rode American Desire in its first-ever race in the eighth race, going wire-to-wire for American Desire's first win as well.. Gillespie was holding off Go Run N Tell that until the three-quarter pole, which the horse broke stride, allowing Gillespie to win the eighth race by 10 lengths. Finn came out of the gates on fire Thursday. Riding Annrenee out on the first race, Finn held off Harold Finn Jr. on Willing Heart in a close race. Annrenee led the whole way, finally separting from Willing Heart and the pack at the three-quarter pole and winning by 1.5 lengths in 2:03.6. He had less competition in race two, as It'll Do was scratched, leaving just three racers. Finn still had to fight riding Richard Tracy, as WM Larry Binley led on Paradise Ragtime for nearly the whole race. Richard Traci and Finn made their move at the corner, taking the outside lane and sprinting past Paradise Ragtime to win in 2:02 by a length. Finn couldn't keep the win streak going in his third and final race of the day, riding Become Legendary to a second-place finish behind Dillon Cox on Spill the Beans. Finn made a late move on the outside, but couldn't get out there quick enough and settled for second. Cox and Spill the Beans won in 2:01.6.Jerome Daniels and So Photogenic rode to a huge 12-length victory in 2:05.8 in the day's fourth race, besting Stacy De Rousse on Teela Girl. Harold Finn Jr. fended off a huge pushe by Ava Destruction in the fifth race, as he and Frontier Rose rode to a wire-to-wire win in 2:06.4.Merle Finn Jr. kept the wire-to-wire wins going in the sixth race, winning on Wings in 2:06.5, holding off Shifting Interlude for the victory. The day's final race, the amateur driving race, was won by Raymond Morgan on AR Sissy, besting the field for the wire-to-wire four-length win in 2:02.6. The race also feature Leah's Hero, a 13-year-old horse that was the oldest at this year's fair. Gillespie was crowned the champion by a 52-38 margin over Jared Finn. As for going for a third win next year, the answer was a no-brainer. "Oh yes," he said. "I'll be back."
RESULTSRace 1 (Effingham County Sheriff John Monnet): 1. Jared Finn - Annrenee (2:03.6) 2. Harold Finn Jr. - Willing Heart 3. Robert Bracey - Perfect TheoRace 2 (Brad Meinhart Country Financial): 1. Jared Finn - Richard Traci (2:02) 2. WM Larry Binkley - Paradise Ragtime 3. Harold Finn Jr. - Viking KilowattRace 3 (City of Altamont): 1. Dillon Cox - Spill the Beans (2:01.6) 2. Jared Finn - Become Legendary 3. Paul Sabath - OGS Worthy AnthonyRace 4 (Cowboy Corner): 1. Jerome Daniels - So Photogenic (2:05.8) 2. Stacy De Rousse - Teela Girl 3. Antonio Love - Mister PhotoRace 5 (Mix & Patton Agency, Country Financial): 1. Harold Finn Jr. - Frontier Rose (2:06.4) 2. Ava Destruction 3. Clay Simpson - GlissandoRace 6 (State Representative John Cavaletto): 1. Merle Finn Jr. - Wings (2:06.6) 2. C. Alan Finn- Shifting Interlude 3. Michael Johnson - Do Not PointRace 7 (State Representative David Reis): 1. Ronnie Gillespie - Who Called Kellie (2:05.6) 2. Michele Morgan - Hillcrest Dynamite 3. Clark Fairley - Margie's WildchildRace 8 (State Senator Kyle McCarter): 1. Ronnie Gillespie - American Desire 2. Clark Fairley - Go Run N Tell That 3. Michael Johnson - Major MayhemRace 9 (Amateur Driving Race) 1. Raymond Morgan - AR Sissy (2:02.6) 2. Dakota Birch - Don't Let Up 3. Jonathan Piperakis - Chanel Daisymae