As someone who knew Maxie Lee since childhood, horse owner Howard Taylor wanted to race in the $250,000 Maxie Lee Memorial Trot yesterday at Harrah's Chester Racetrack.
Thanks to a world-record performance by Buck I St Pat, Taylor not only raced, he ended up in the winner's circle.
Buck I St Pat and driver Tim Tetrick rallied from near the back of the pack at the half-mile point, overtaking leader American Lane on the final turn on her way to a one-length win over Man About Town and Before He Cheats in 1 minute, 52.2 seconds. The time equaled the Chester record and was the fastest ever for a female trotter on a five-eighths-mile track.
Maxie Lee, who died in 2001 at age 70, was one of the Philadelphia area's top harness-racing trainers and drivers. In 1990, he was the first African American to start a horse (Backstreet Guy) in the prestigious Hambletonian.
"It feels fantastic," said Taylor, a lawyer from Penn Valley who owns Buck I St Pat with Edwin Gold of Wayne, Abraham Basen of Las Vegas, and Ron Fuller of Ohio.
"I was close personal friends with Maxie Lee. I'd known him since I was 12 years old, and when they announced this race, it was the one I wanted to win this year more than any. He was a great guy."
One of two females competing against the boys in the Maxie Lee, the 5-year-old Buck I St Pat won for the eighth time in 10 starts this year and pushed her career earnings to $874,613. She is trained by Mickey Burke.
"To me, she's the best horse in the country," Taylor said. "She hasn't reached the bottom yet. She seems to dig in and find another gear when she needs it."
Buck I St Pat paid $3.40, $2.60 and $2.10.