The $75,000 William E. Miller Pace at Rosecroft Raceway tonight introduces another Haughton -- 24-year-old Tommy -- to area harness-racing fans. But this son of Hall of Fame driver Billy Haughton had nothing to do with horses in his youth on Long Island, where he was a high school football and basketball star.
He didn't start working horses until the summer after graduation. Then he went to college. After one year, he decided the harness-racing game intrigued him more than the books and team sports. That was three years ago.
Last year, after his brother Peter was killed in an automobile accident, Tommy was thrust into his first full season of driving as the No. 2 reinsman in his father's large stable. He won 47 of 158 races, finished in the money 98 times and earned $602,543 in purses. He also won a heat of the Hambletonian Stakes, trotting's Kentucky Derby.
Tonight, Tommy Haughton will drive Set the Style, one of the nation's top 3-year-old colts, in the Miller as part of a two-horse entry trained by his father. With BoBo, driven by Ben Steall, the entry is sure to be a strong favorite in the richest heat in Maryland harness-racing history.
Only two other horses in the seven-horse field appear to have the credentials to challenge Set the Style, who drew the No. 6 post outside his two prime rivals.
No. 5 Seahawk Hanover, driven by Ben Webster, may end up as the favorite, since he has raced more this season and won in 1:57 1/5 at Los Alamitos. The other major opponent is No. 4 To Ri Daon, owned by the Milby brothers of ycordova, Md., and driven by Dale Milby. Herve Filion originally was listed to drive To Ri Daon.
The other entries, with post positions and drivers, are No. 2 No Mirage, Eddie Davis; No. 3 Star Beau, driver to be named, and No. 7 Great Ore, Bobby Myers.
Set the Style, who paced a 1:56 3/5 mile in beating highly regarded Slapstick last year at Indianapolis, easily won his first two starts this year at Yonkers Raceway. Billy Haughton has said he thinks that Set the Style can be competitive with any 3-year-old pacer this season except French Chef, the champion 2-year-old who is rated No. 1 in the U.S. Trotting Association experimental ratings with a potential of a 1:52 1/5 mile.
The USTA rates Set the Style seventh on this list, at 1:54 1/5.