MOUNT VERNON — State Rep. Margaret Ann Ruhl and her horse, Golden Ruhl, held off Reporting Live, with defending champion and Mount Vernon News assistant publisher Liz Lutwick aboard, to win the 2009 Knox County Fair Charity Harness Race on Sunday.
The $600 prize money from the Knox County Horseman Association will go to Ruhl’s chosen charity, Mental Health of America of Knox County.
“With the economy the way it is, I know a lot of people are going to have some stress, and they are going to have to deal with it and there are going to be a lot of services that they can provide to help people around here,” said Ruhl, who finished in a time of 2:25.
Lutwick, who was racing for the charity Kno-Ho-Co-Ashland Community Action Agency, was driving on the outside down the stretch and just missed out on her second victory in two years.
“We didn’t win this year to give [Kno-Ho-Co-Ashland] anything, but last year we did,” said Lutwick. “Hopefully, we’ll win in the future. It was an exciting race. We didn’t win, but there were a lot of good people there. It was fun and we had good horses.”
Ruhl knew Lutwick was going to give her a challenge heading down the stretch.
“Actually, the driver let me drive down through there,” said Ruhl, who was raised on her family farm in Waterford. “The horse was real relaxed and was pacing right along. He seemed to know what to do. All of a sudden, I looked over and there was Liz and I said, ‘Oh, my gosh!’”
Ruhl quickly handed the reins back to the driver.
“I thought we were going to catch them,” said Lutwick, who has a small farm of her own. “That horse was really moving.”
DJMan, with local radio personality Adam Taylor aboard, led after the first lap but gave ground in the last half of the race, falling to fourth.
“Well, I thought for sure we were going to win this one,” said Taylor, who was racing for Arms of an Angel. “I knew that the others were behind me to the point that I thought that there as no stopping me. Unfortunately, the horse started tiring out. Sure enough, the horse slowed down and the others went on by.”
Taylor only practiced this week with the horse and the driver. With no other racing experience, he was a bit nervous.
“It was a fun ride,” said Taylor. “I went from gripping the bar so tightly that, I bet, there are still fingerprints in the paint, so I could finally release my hand and wave at everybody.”
Fortunately, Taylor got some sound words of encouragement before the race.
“My driver said to me, ‘Do you realize that this is the second most dangerous sport, next to bull riding?’ and I thought, ‘Wow, way to reassure me about this.’ I learned that roller coasters can’t be that bad,” said Taylor.
Knox County Fair Board Vice President Scott McCann finished third with his horse, John Deere Green. McCaan was racing for Hospice of Knox County.
Dennis Murray, Knox County health commissioner, was racing for the American Red Cross. He and his horse, Health Violation, finished fifth.