PHOTO CREDIT: MIKE LIZZI
A twister hit Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway Saturday afternoon, October 14 with fierce, record velocity at 4:05 p.m. as the world watched, and left an annihilated field in its wake two minutes later.
Italy’s Twister Bi, driven by Christoffer Eriksson, blew the doors off of nine classy rivals while obliterating the world record for 1-¼ miles to capture the $1 million Yonkers International Trot at the historic harness racing oval. The Italian flag-carrier did it in devastating style in a race timed in 2:22:1, smashing the record for the distance over a half-mile track set by last year’s champion Resolve (2:23:4).
Bettors world-wide jumped on the prohibitive 2-5 favorite trained by the Rhode Island expatriate Jerry Riordan, who cut his teeth on the New York harness racing circuit, and for two decades lived in Italy and now in Sweden. Twister Bi returned $2.90 for a $2 win wager.
The “Italian Tornado” Twister Bi put away Canada’s Marion Marauder, with Scott Zeron in the bike watching the performance in awe, by five and a half lengths. It could have been a wider margin. The second Italian representative Oasis Bi, was third with Kim Eriksson driving.
Twister Bi, a five-year-old stallion sired by the champion Varenne, vaulted his career earnings past $1.2 million with the 21st victory in his 50th career start for the awestruck owner Pasquale Ciccarelli.
Empire City president and CEO Tim Rooney, who resuscitated the Yonkers International in 2015 after a 20-year hiatus, made the trophy presentation following a whirlwind week hosting the connections of seven European world class trotters, two United States representatives and the standard-bearer from Canada.
Twister Bi got rolling on the outside at the half-mile mark to the outside of defending champ Resolve, who was trotting on the lead with trainer driver Ake Svanstedt at the helm. Then Italian champ, in full throttle, stormed to the front in magical style at the three-quarter mile marker, opening up as many as seven lengths to this snazzy call from track announcer John Hernan: “And look at Twister Bi running up the score…the door has been slammed here…it’s Twister Bi taking the Yonkers International Trot in dramatic style…Bravo Italia!”
Twister Bi became only the second “Italian Stallion” to raise Italy’s flag in the International in its 39th edition. There was a 40-year gap in between. Delfo carried the red, white and green colors of Italy in 1977 at Roosevelt Raceway for legendary driver Sergio Breghenti.
“He is a tremendous horse,” related Riordan in the winner’s circle tempest. You get stressed about a lot of things in a big race like this. I just wanted everyone to see what a great horse he is. He’s a whole other breed of cat.”
“The nicest thing was when everyone showed up to wish me luck,” added the white-locked conditioner, who groomed horses at Yonkers and Roosevelt as a young horseman. “People were bringing regards from friends from years ago.”
“Today I felt like I was home,” wrapped up an elated Riordan, as the Italian National Anthem blared over the public address.
But Jerry Riordan was back at home amidst a cyclone of emotions, and it was quite the homecoming indeed!
When asked through a translator how he was feeling after the exhilarating victory, the owner Signore Ciccarelli took a long, long pause: “I am speechless,” he said. Yes, speechless in any language. But once he composed himself, he added: “I feel like I am up there with the stars!” Ciccarelli was accompanied by his girlfriend Elena Villani, an Italian harness driver, to witness the historic triumph.
Said driver Christoffer Eriksson, “He was feeling really good today, I wanted to take it easy behind the gate and into the first turn. He was feeling really, really strong and wanted to take the lead (at the half mile). He is really good making the turns at high speed.”
The star-studded Yonkers International card featured a total of $3.3 million in purses buoyed by the $1.8 million New York Sire Stakes “Day” of Champions, and a pair of $250,000 Invitationals both captured by trainer Ron Burke – the Dan Rooney Pace (won by All Bets Off/driven by Matt Kakaley/time: 1:51:4 for the mile) and the Harry Harvey Trot (won by Crazy Wow/driven by Yannick Gingras/time: 2:25 for 1 ¼ miles).