ALTAMONT — After falling one point behind Jared Finn in the driver champion standings through three days of Effingham County Fair harness races, 2011 champion Ronnie Gillespie came back with a vengeance Wednesday afternoon, capturing three wins, and one second-place showing, in seven races.
The Macon, Miss. native started the day with 24 points, but catapulted his way to a lengthy lead by securing 18 more tallies after a phenomenal fourth day.With one day left, Gillespie has opened up a 42-25 lead over Jared Finn. JD Finn is third at 23 points.
In the $1,500 Wessel's Grocery 2-year-old topline pace, Gillespie led from start-to-finish in the opening race. A late push from Liberal and driver Cornelius Cavett on the outside was thwarted by H-Andnharleythejet's closing speed, and Gillespie drove the horse to a five-length win in 2:03 2/5.
Now back in control of the champion standings, Gillespie stretched his lead by winning his second straight race in the $1,500 Altamont Pharmacy 2-year-old topline pace. Gillespie, driving Lostintheshuffle, stormed around the turn with a two-length lead and never looked back, taking the second race in 2:03 2/5.
With Gillespie not driving in the third race, it was somebody's else turn to drive to victory, and JD Finn jumped at the opportunity in the $1,500 Stanfield Chiropractic 3-year-old and up topline trot. Finn and Skyline Happy were in third coming around the final turn, but a late outside move and top-end closing speed fueled a 2:02 3/5 win. Michael White, driving Old Aunt George, led the race for the better part of 1.5 laps, but the horse ran out of steam and dropped to a distant fourth.
Hong Kong Kwyne and trainer-driver Dennis Gardner took the fourth race, a $1,500 First State Bank of Beecher City 3-year-old and up topline colt division battle. Valbon Reve, owned by Altamont's Susan Poe and Linda Beal, and driven by Gary Mills, finished in a close second.