“Never trust a man in a size three hat.”

Hall of Fame Thoroughbred trainer Charlie Whittingham made that line famous when asked about jockeys. Surely, one of the great things about harness racing is that one can breed, own, train and drive one’s own horse thus eliminating the frequently frustrating third party “jockey factor.”

Having said that, don’t let age get in the way either.

To that end, Colonial Downs turned back the clock on opening night (Sept. 8) with what arguably may be the oldest exacta in harness racing history when 78-year-old Jim Larente and 75-year-old Sam Miller finished first and second in the third race.

Larente, who was not originally scheduled to drive The Doctor, surged past Miller’s Mac Atack Mac in the stretch to capture a one length triumph in the $2,500 trotting event. The wagering public sent Larente’s horse off as the 8-5 betting choice and they were rewarded with a $5.00 win payoff.

And, then he did it again the next night.

On Day 2, Larente reached the winners circle again with Screen Saver, a three-year-old Tom Ridge gelding that he also trains, in the first leg of the Todd Parker Memorial Trotting Late
Closer Series.

Larente brought Screen Saver outside before the half, and his trotter started to make up lost ground through the Colonial’s only turn. In the quarter mile stretch, Screen Saver surged past tiring frontstepper Seven Bends just before the wire to win by 1 ½ lengths in 2:00 2/5.

Commenting on his opening night win, Larente, who had a win earlier in the year at Scioto Downs, said, “I had a lot of fun driving tonight and it was actually fairly easy. If you have a nice colt, it’s an enjoyable game. I know where the finish line is because I have been doing this for 60 years.”

He has been in harness racing since July, 1949, but admits, “I’ve slowed down a bit, but the game is still fun. If I ever stop having fun, I’ll let someone else drive my horses.”

Miller, on the other hand, promised his wife he’d retire if he got a driving win at the age of 75.
“I came pretty close tonight, but since I got second. I’ll be racing again this fall.”

A retired truck driver, Miller took to racing in the mid-1970s and after 30-plus years in the sport, he keeps doing it because “It keeps my batteries charged. I’ve tried letting other people drive my horses but a lot of times, the younger guys don’t follow directions, so I end up back in the sulky myself.”