Part of the audience that enjoyed the first day of racing festivities at the 158th Paulding County Fair.
Part of the audience that enjoyed the first day of racing festivities at the 158th Paulding County Fair.
By Thom Pye for the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association

PAULDING – They came from near, they came from far ... just to race at Paulding County. The historic track located in the northwest corner of Ohio brought old friends (and some foes) together for the first Ohio Fair Racing Conference Stakes for the 2018 racing season. After an afternoon of occasional downpours, the trackmen had the half-mile oval ready to roll after just a slight delay for the 5 p.m. post time.

And the youngsters showed their stuff.

Lonesomeisonfire took the $3,540 division of the two-year-old colt trot for trainer/driver Ryan Miller as he bested six novice rivals in the first race. Handling the surface like a seasoned pro, the son of Winning Fireworks-Lonesome Pride brought quite a happy consortium into the winners circle. "All he had to do was stay trotting," they agreed.

The third race $3,520 OFRC division for two-year-old filly pacers woke up several seasoned railbirds as the Bruce Farquhar-trained Ambitious Lilly commanded a mile in 2:07.3h in her very first start. David Lake teamed the daughter of Big Bad John for owners Mike Farquhar & Bob Weisgerber of Paulding as she clipped off a final panel of :29.3.

"This is a filly to watch," said one seasoned veteran and her non-supporters just grunted in agreement.

Pierce Henry took Lori Davis' Upfront And Gone to the wire on as he steered the Chad Williams-trained altered son of Upfronthannahsboy in the $3,340 three-year-old colt pace in a snappy time of 2:03.4h.

And his supporters came out of the grandstand, along the rail, and from the barn area to stand smiling for the win photo.

Because it wasn't about the time or the purse ... it was all about the place.

Plaudits to Paulding for offering fan prizes after every race. We have never seen so many involved and happy faces in the grandstand.

Racing continues at 5 p.m. both Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, June 12 and 13, in front of the grandstand. Competition will be held regardless of weather.