Filly had gem of a victory for Bachrad

Russell Foster drives Star Sapphire to a win in the Jack Walls Memorial Trot Thursday at the Delaware State Fair. (Submitted photo/Harrington Raceway)

HARRINGTON ­— For those close to the sport of harness racing, Star Sapphire — the little filly that won the fifth race Thursday at the Delaware State Fair — was a sentimental favorite.

Star Sapphire’s well-known owner, Marv Bachrad, has been sidelined with some serious health issues, so he couldn’t be there to see his 3-year-old filly race in the $100,000 Jack Walls Memorial Trot.

Mr. Bachrad has been the publicity director for Dover Downs harness racing for the past 21 years, and a racing writer, journalist, handicapper, announcer, historian and champion of the sport since the 1960s.

George Frick, a former columnist for the newspaper, always referred to him as “Mellifluous Marv.”

We certainly would also call him a friend of the Delaware State News.

Over the years, this editor has had quite a few fun conversations about racing, the news business and his time at Brandywine Raceway when Pete Rose was among the dining room’s regular guests.

No doubt, anyone associated with the sport missed seeing his joy Thursday night.

Judy Davis-Wilson, a longtime friend of Mr. Bachrad, was among them.

“I wanted her to win so badly,” said Ms. Davis-Wilson, executive administrator of the Delaware Standardbred Breeders Fund. “But, you know, it’s a horse race and everybody’s got a shot.”

Star Sapphire, driven by Russell Foster, went to the front right at the start and got an almost immediate challenge on the outside from betting favorite Déjà Vu Blue.

But Déjà Vu Blue went off stride and had to be settled by her driver, Corey Callahan. She made another bid late in the race but Star Sapphire pulled away for the win.

“When the favorite made that break in the first turn, I’m like, ‘This race is over with. Star Sapphire will win for sure,’” said Ms. Davis-Wilson.

“From a horseman’s perspective, she just puts her head down and she tries so hard because she’s small.

Marv Bachrad

But you can’t tell how big that heart is.”

Star Sapphire is one of the horses in Mr. Bachrad’s Serendipity Stable. He owns the filly in partnership with Shirley Shand of Penns Grove, New Jersey.

The filly is a daughter of Mr. Bachrad’s mare, Victory Starburst. The sire is Anders Bluestone of Merrie Medo Farm in Smyrna.

“Marv’s been a terrific person to have horses with,” said Ms. Shand. “He absolutely loves the sport. That’s one of the sad things right now, that he’s not involved in going to the races and watching these horses.”

Earlier this year, Mr. Bachrad did a winner’s circle interview with Tui Stone, the trainer of Star Sapphire, after a win at Dover Downs.

Never one to miss a bit of interesting trivia, Mr. Bachrad pointed out that Ms. Stone’s father, the late Kenny Shand, was a pioneer of modern trotting hopples – straps used to balance a horse’s stride.

But Star Sapphire performs well without them.

“We always use trotting hopples on our horses,” said Mrs. Shand. “She’s one of the first that we have raced without them. She went pretty good without them, too.”

Matt Sparacino, the publicity director for Harrington Raceway, acknowledged Mr. Bachrad in the winner’s circle. In a quick chat Thursday, Mr. Sparacino said he appreciated having Mr. Bachrad as a mentor and friend in the sport.

“It was terrific to see Marv’s horse win, not to take anything away from those other owners who had horses in the same race, but he is certainly an easy person to root for,” said Mr. Sparacino. “You would be hard pressed to find someone as well-liked and respected in the business as Marv. I’ve known him for more than 20 years and he’s the kind of person that never has a bad thing to say about anyone.

“He was extremely helpful and generous with his time when I first became introduced to the business. He’s such a good-hearted person and has been a terrific ambassador for harness racing.”

***

After several days of rain, the Delaware State Fair attracted a large crowd Thursday night and the grandstands were unusually well populated for a night of harness racing.

In the winner’s circle, Delaware Gov. John Carney greeted Blazing Bobby Sox — owned by Arthur Stafford and Arthur Stafford Jr. — to celebrate the prestigious Governor’s Cup race.

Earlier in the track dining room, Gov. Carney signed legislation for a new Delaware license plate that will commemorate next year’s 100th Delaware State Fair.

Alongside him were Rep. Harvey Kenton of Milford, Rep. Bobby Outten of Harrington, and Sen. Gary Simpson of Milford – Republicans who retired from the legislature this year.

“As Joe Biden says, ‘This is a big deal for us,’” joked Rep. Kenton. “I cleaned that up a little bit, governor.”

“Thanks for paraphrasing that Rep. Kenton,” said Gov. Carney.

***

Leroy Betts, a past president of the Delaware State Fair, was caught in an act of good Thursday.

Mr. Betts is the owner and operator of Betts Construction. Among his legacies in business will be paving Dover International Speedway back in the 1960s.

“Leroy was quite busy,” said current fair president Ron Draper. “We have had a lot of rain and our parking lots were what you would call muddy.

“Last night, with all the rain we did have, we had to pull a lot of vehicles out of the parking lot. We had to do some massive upkeep so we could be ready for tonight.”

On a grader, Mr. Betts was cleaning up the parking lot after heavy rains had wreaked so much havoc around the place in the past week.

From July 21-25, Harrington had more rain than any other spot in the state, according to the Delaware Environmental Observing System.

It totaled nearly 8.5 inches.

A map on the system’s website showed the Delaware State Fair was the bullseye.

***

Storms seem to be a sure thing when Charlie Daniels visits the Delaware State Fair.

He put on quite a show Wednesday after fans endured a heavy rain.

One couldn’t help but reminisce about his 2005 appearance at the fair when a storm rolled in from the west and tested his ability to keep his big cowboy hat on.

The faster he fiddled, the stronger the storm grew. Unfortunately, he got in just two songs that night before having to alert the crowd to seek shelter.

Reach Executive Editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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