Virgil Morgan, Jr. has been a mainstay at Scioto Downs for nearly two decades, winning the training title at the central Ohio oval every year since 1994.
During that time, he is unlikely to have seen a night like Saturday’s Super Night. The 16-race Super Night card features eight $150,000 Ohio Sire Stakes championships for 2- and 3-year-old pacers and trotters, plus the $125,000 Jim Ewart Memorial Invitational for older male pacers and four $30,000 opens.
Total purses for the night are nearly $1.5 million. It is the richest single racing program in Ohio history.
|USTA/Mark Hall photo|
|Virgil Morgan, Jr. has four horses in the OSS finals and two in the Ewart Memorial.|
Morgan has four horses competing in sire stakes finals and two — Pet Rock and Rockin Finish — in the Ewart. Pet Rock is among five millionaires in the nine-horse Ewart field, joined by A Rocknroll Dance, Fred And Ginger, Sweet Lou and Up The Credit.
“There’s definitely lots of good racing and good horses,” Morgan said. “It definitely should be a good night. The crowds here have been amazing on Fridays and Saturdays so this should even contribute to it more.”
Revenue from the introduction of video lottery terminals last year helped spur increases in purses.
“Last year our Super Night card went for just over $900,000 after the VLT facility was open for three months,” said Scioto’s General Manager of Racing Operations Stacy Cahill. “Now, another year later, we have been able to boost our purses and help our horsemen even more. We’ve had a great racing season so far and expect Saturday’s card to be another exciting event for our fans.”
Part of the excitement will be around the Ewart Memorial, which includes numerous stakes-winners such as Morgan’s Pet Rock, A Rocknroll Dance, Fred And Ginger, Up The Credit, Sweet Lou and Hurrikane Kingcole.
“You have to go back in time, but Scioto has had its share of great horses race here,” Morgan said. “But in recent years the purse structure was such that we haven’t had these kinds of horses. Stacy Cahill and (race secretary) Jason Roth have done a great job getting some of the premier aged horses in the business here.
“This is the first year after getting slots at Scioto Downs and hopefully it’s just something to build on.”
Pet Rock has won two of 11 races this year, but banked $558,508 — second most among all older pacers — thanks to earning a check in every start. He is the 7-2 second choice to A Rocknroll Dance (5-2) in the Ewart Memorial.
“He’s just ultra-consistent,” Morgan said. “In almost every start this year he’s paced in (1):48 or better. I can’t say enough about him; overcoming posts, being parked the mile and still having pace late, being first over — he’s just always right there.”
The 47-year-old Morgan is harness racing’s all-time leader for training wins and is five from 5,000 career victories. He led North America in wins twice, was second four times, and is No. 3 this year. He has made 999 starts, which are the most for his stable since 2008.
“You can race more here and it gives you more of an opportunity to race good horses here because of the purse structure,” Morgan said. “The sire stakes is a great program. The purse structure took a boost this year and it’s only going to get better when the three other tracks get their slots up and running.
“The future looks pretty bright here.”
There will be two different wagering opportunities on Super Night that are not available on any other race night at Scioto. A $7,500 guaranteed Pick-8 bet for the eight OSS finals is available for a minimum 20-cent bet; those finals are set as races 4-11.
There will also be a $5,000 guaranteed Pick-4 for races 9-12. The four races that are included for that bet are the last three OSS finals for 3-year-old pacing fillies, trotting colts and pacing colts, as well as the Ewart Memorial.
Before the races, there will be beanie and trucker-style hat giveaways. After winner’s circle pictures are taken and interviews conducted with the winning connections, t-shirts will be thrown to the crowd. There will also be drawings for Jug tickets, Ohio State cornhole boards, wagering and food vouchers.