Ryan Stahl did not win every time he climbed aboard a sulky Monday, it's just that the two times he finished out of the money were overshadowed mightily by the times he did.
The Republic native drove to victory lane seven times Monday in the 14 harness races at the Seneca County Fair, getting wins in four consecutive races at one point.
Stahl, who regularly races at Scioto Downs and Northfield, said he's had a similar number of wins at other race tracks, but usually when he's competed in many more races.
PHOTO BY PAT GAIETTO
Ryan Stahl drives Zebra Stripes to victory in front of Midnight in Autumn, driven by Joey Mapes, in the night’s fourth harness race at the Seneca County Fair Monday.
Monday was a little special, he said.
"Seven out of eight, or whatever it was out here, that's pretty tough to do on a nightly basis," he said. "I knew I had a lot of shots with a lot of horses I was driving for other people; horses in the right spots.
"Everything worked out good," Stahl said. "Fortunately I was in the right position at the right time for most races."
Not at first, though.
His first trip to the track came in the second race, where he and Osborne's Fantasy ended fourth in the 3-year-old filly pace.
It would be a while until he finished anywhere close to that.
Stahl claimed the next four races before a cantankerous-acting The Light at the start of a 2-year-old filly pace forced him to the back of the pack. He wound up fourth in that race, then drove to victory lane in his next three races.
One of those latter wins included the night's fastest time, with Stahl driving Fredsabulldog to victory in 1:58 in an open pace.
It was the only race under two minutes Monday.
"The fractions set up good. Got away third [at the start] up close and they went to the half [mile] in 57 [seconds]," Stahl said. "That really set it up. A lot of times what throws big miles is fast fractions up front."
His other wins came with Lu's Dunn It Again in a 2-year-old colt trot (2:11 3/5), Zebra Stripes in a 2-year-old filly pace (2:04 2/5), MJs Victory Jody in a 3-year-old filly trot (2:07), Hannah Forever in a 3-year-old filly pace (2:00 2/5), Easter Bay in a 3-year-old colt pace (2:00 2/5) and Battleship Kelly in an open pace (2:00).
Mark Headworth and Tom Marts each won two of the remaining races.
Headworth drove Baby Slider to victory in a 3-year-old filly pace (2:03 1/5) and Trottin On Over to the win in an open trot (2:02 1/5), while Marts and Our Little Swishy took a 2-year-old filly pace (2:08) and he and Mantalic claimed a 2-year-old colt pace (2:03 2/5).
Dan Venier opened the night by driving Jetterbug to the win in a 2-year-old filly trot (2:07 4/5), Greg Bateson and Turbos Agreement took a 3-year-old colt trot (2:04 2/5) and Pierce Henry drove Tymal Recap to victory in an open trot (2:03 1/5).
This year's fair featured only one night of harness racing. For years the fair had three nights of racing before dropping that to two.
Despite having just one night this year, Stahl said he feels the fair will return to at least two, if not three, nights of racing soon because harness racing is making a comeback.
Stahl said revenues generated by the state's casinos has helped the sport regain a foothold in Ohio.
"Now it's just a matter of time of people breeding [horses] again. For sure, next year there should be two nights of racing because there'll be a lot more horses; definitely in two years it'll be back," he said.
"From the fair board's aspect, it's going to be great to have big fields - six-, seven-, eight-horse fields - with 12 races because that's really going to help," he said.