12/12/2013 5:53PM

Monticello: Aldrich bests Wrenn in driver challenge

Geri Schwarz
Bruce Aldrich, Jr. (right) now has 610 wins in 2013.

When two of the top three drivers in terms of total victories show up at the same track to compete in a driver challenge, it is certainly worth some attention. As it turned out, the real winner was Monticello Raceway, which handled a hefty $661,788 on the 12-race card, a 33-percent increase in handle over the previous Thursday card.

Ronnie Wrenn, Jr., the current North American wins leader for 2013 at 665, did battle with Bruce Aldrich, Jr., who ranks third in the country with 604 victories. On his home turf at Monticello, Aldrich, the leading driver in the Catskills, tallied six wins and three seconds to best Wrenn (four wins) on the afternoon.

“I had a big advantage because I knew all the horses,” said Aldrich.

The matchup between the two prolific drivers was the brainchild of longtime publicity guru John Manzi, who is known for coming up with unique ideas to spur interest. The track also hosts a Heritage series for drivers of different nationalities and Battle of the Bosses, where racing executives race in jog carts.

For the track, clearly Manzi’s idea proved profitable. The average handle per race checked in at a robust $55,149 for each of the 12 races on the December 12 program compared to $41,465 per race the previous Thursday on a 13-race card.

“That’s why we try to do these things and think outside of the box,” said Manzi on the handle increase. “We would have done a lot better if we didn’t have the scratch out of the second race and the short field in race six.”