Jul. 26—GOSHEN — It was a good day Monday for harness racers from Starkville, Mississippi.
Terry Skinner, 33, and Clifton Bell, 29, won three races each during the nine-race second day of harness racing at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair. The wins netted the two Magnolia State natives $9,000 each.
SKINNER MAKES HISTORY
Skinner also made some history in the 2-year-old filly, third division race, tying a fairgrounds record by winning with a time of 1:59.4. He won the race with a horse called Rockin Bambi. Skinner also won races with Riggins Revenge (2:01.4) in the 2-year-old colt, first division race and with Bankruptcy Bound in the second division of 2-year-old filly racing (2:04.2).
"Riggins Revenge, he had been coming in a little short, so we (made some changes) and it helped him out a lot (Monday)," Skinner said, breaking down each of his wins. "The second horse (Bankruptcy Bound) ... the last race, I think she fell down. And then in her last two starts, she didn't even make it to the gate. So, (Tony Farina, the horse's previous driver) asked me (Sunday) if I'd drive him and I said, 'Yeah, I'll drive him.'
"... Rockin Bambi, she drew the inside (positioning), so that kind of helped of course. I just went along for the ride; she did the rest."
Skinner has been competing in harness racing professionally since 2010. He first got into the sport because of his grandfather, Henry Minor, who was also a harness racer. Skinner primarily races in Indiana now, but has made stops in Illinois, Ohio and Kentucky in the past. He said the Elkhart County 4-H Fair is one of his favorite stops during the harness racing circuit.
"You get to come to the fair and get cotton candy — all that stuff we don't need," Skinner said. "So, it's always a good feeling to come back to the Fair. ... I really like the track here, and they always have a pretty nice fair. This is actually my favorite Fair to come to."
BELL RETURNS WITH BANG
Bell got on the scoreboard during the third race of the day, guiding Luckychris to a win in the 2-year-old colt, third division with a time of 2:00. He then picked up wins with D Sparklin Virgin in the 2-year-old filly, first division (2:07.2) and with Rockin N Boogie during the fourth division race of the 2-year-old filly (2:03.4).
Bell also added a fourth-place finish in the day's final race, the IOSB FFA Pace.
"Luckychris, he's a nice colt. He's been finishing first or second in every start," Bell said. "... D Sparklin Virgin, she shocked me (Monday). I didn't think she had it in her. She's just OK; she's getting better and better. But (Rockin N Boogie), I really like her. We started with her late, so she's coming along right now."
The Elkhart County fairgrounds are also a special place for Bell, as it was the sight of his first ever victory as a harness racer back in 2013. Monday was the first time he had raced at the track since then, and he, like Skinner, complimented how well the track is set up.
"The turns are all even; you don't have any sharp turns," said Bell of the fairgrounds' track. "Your horses can really compete out here; they can race instead of just checking them up. ... I had a pretty good feeling we were going to have a good day because I told Curtis (Rice, his horses' trainer), 'We haven't been here in seven years. The track's ready for us.' We always do well at this track when we come."
Both Bell and Stringer have grown up together with the sport, growing a bond through harness racing. Being close friends also motivates the duo.
"That's my little brother," said Skinner of Bell. "Sometimes he wants to act like the big brother ... we've just been around so long that we that we're like brothers. It's like a competition because I won the first race, and then he won the third and fourth races, so he put the pressure on me, saying, 'I've got two wins and you've got one. You need to keep it going.'"
Monday's Harness Racing Results:
(Winning times listed only)
Race 1 (2-year-old colt pace, first division): 1. Riggins Revenge (Terry Skinner), 2:01.4; 2. Vel Bitter Chip (Kevin Lambright); 3. Vel Mark (Clay Craib); 4. Rockinwitharythm (Matt Rheinheimer); 5. Townline Lucky You (Jay Cross). Purse: $3,000.
Race 2 (2-year-old colt pace, second division): 1. JK's Valentine (Jay Cross), 2:03.2; 2. Family Four Ever (Jeffery Dever); 3. Vel Gorgeousforeal (Clay Craib); 4. Vel Larry (Kevin Lambright); 5. Shady Justice (Doug Rideout); 6. One Lucky Dude (Joey Putnam). Purse: $3,000.
Race 3 (2-year-old colt pace, third division): 1. Luckychris (Clifton Bell), 2:00.0; 2. DP Realordeal (Doug Rideout); 3. Vel Scotty Boy (Clay Craib); 4. Vel Wemiss U Dean (Kevin Lambright); 5. Cornicello (Lexi Sarkine). Purse: $3,000.
Race 4 (2-year-old filly pace, first division): 1. D Sparklin Virgin (Clifton Bell), 2:07.2; 2. Jammin Judy (Matt Rheinheimer); 3. Vel Ya Want To (Kevin Lambright); 4. Stage Lightning (Jay Cross); 5. AL Perfection (Clay Craib). Purse: $3,000.
Race 5 (2-year-old filly pace, second division): 1. Bankruptcy Bound (Terry Skinner), 2:04.2; 2. Rockin Q (Tyler Miller); 3. Hotshot Betsy (Jay Cross); 4. Swartz Bros Jane (Joey Putnam). Purse: $3,000.
Race 6 (2-year-old filly pace, third division): 1. Rockin Bambi (Terry Skinner), 1:59.4 ties track record; 2. Bluebird Venus (Tyler Miller); 3. Vel What A Journey (Kevin Lambright); 4. Marla's Got Legs (Joey Putnam); 5. Oh So Smooth (Lexi Sarkine). Purse: $3,000.
Race 7 (2-year-old filly pace, fourth division): 1. Rockin N Boogie (Clifton Bell), 2:03.4; 2. Latest Kiiss (Matt Rheinheimer); 3. Vel Miss Swift (Kevin Lambright); 4. Rockstars Dynamite (Doug Rideout); 5. Brookview Cadillac (Jay Cross). Purse: $3,000.
Race 8 (IOSB FFA trot): 1. Riverdancing Diva (Jordan Ross), 2:04.1; 2. Sunshine N Whiskey (Kevin Lambright); 3. Outofbait; 4. Love of Prayers (Jay Cross). Purse: $1,000.
Race 9 (IOSB FFA pace): 1. Isitlikeitlooks (Joey Putnam), 1:59.4; 2. Vel Charlie (Kevin Lambright); 3. HP Xanadu (John Hall); 4. ABS Realdeal (Clifton Bell); 5. Rewrite The Stars (Kevin Slabaugh); 6. AL Delta Dawn (Clay Craib); 7. Sirods Katiedid (Sanford Ropp). Purse: $1,000.
Austin Hough can be reached at email@example.com or at 574-538-2360. Follow him on Twitter at @AustinHoughTGN.