In late 1962 construction began on The Meadows, western Pennsylvania’s first pari-mutuel track, in North Strabane Township, Washington County. The track opened in June of 1963 and since 1967 The Meadows has been the home of The Adios 3-year-old colt and gelding pace. Named after The Meadows founder Delvin Miller’s famous stallion, The Adios annually attracts the top 3-year-olds in North America and is one of the most prestigious races in the sport.
The first ever Adios heat was won by Best Of All with Jim Hackett in the bike, stopping the clock in 1:58:2/5. The second heat was won by Romulus Hanover and Billy Haughton in 1:57:3/5.
At the time, to win the Adios you had to win twice on the same day. As a result of Romulus Hanover’s second heat win, he and Best Of All would return for a third heat race-off. In the race off, Romulus Hanover went to the lead and despite a charge from Best Of All late in the mile, Romulus Hanover was able to hold on to win in 2:00:3/5 for trainer/driver Billy Haughton and the Farmstead Acres Farm.
As a trainer Billy Haughton would win the first three editions of The Adios, winning with Bye and Large in 1968 and Laverne Hanover in 1969. He would also win again with Armbro Omaha in 1974.
The slowest Adios Final (with more than one horse in it) was the 1970 $86,740 Adios. The first two heats were won by Columbia George with Roland Beaulieu driving and Most Happy Fella with Stanley Dancer driving. In the third heat race-off, Columbia George was sent off as the 2-5 favorite. Despite almost stumbling at the start, Most Happy Fella made the lead and never looked back, winning in a time of 2:19:1.
The 1971 Adios was won by the horse who would become the top Standardbred sire of all time. Albatross, who was born in Washington County and whose career began just down the road at Arden Downs, captured the event in straight heats to give trainer/driver Stanley Dancer his second consecutive Adios victory.
The 1972 Adios never actually had a single winner. Strike Out with Keith Waples driving and Jay Time with Gene Riegle driving both hit the wire at the same time, providing The Adios with its first and only dead heat for win. The time for the $92,110 event was 1:58:1.
One of the most memorable moments in Adios history came in 1979. Sonsam came in as the heavy favorite with George Sholty. Over an off track in the first heat, Sonsam was pinned on the rail and never got out as Hot Hitter went on to win in 1:56:3/5. Returning for the second heat, Sonsam made a break and again Hot Hitter went on to win the final in 1:57. As Hot Hitter returned to the winners circle, driver Herve Filion stood in the bike seat, creating a moment that is still remembered by many to this day.
The 1980 Adios was a record-setting one. In the first heat, Storm Damage and two time Adios winner Joe O’Brien went right to the front and took the field gate-to-wire, setting a new track record of 1:54:1/5. The second heat was much like the first, Storm Damage again went to the front and never looked back, breaking his own track record, stopping the clock in 1:53:2. The mile was also the fastest mile ever on a 5/8 mile track.
The 1985 Adios was both the fastest and slowest of all time. In the first heat, Marauder stunned everyone when he upset heavy favorite Nihilator in a world record equaling 1:52:1. Nihilator would win the second heat but then was scratched from the race-off, meaning that in the third heat Marauder just needed to go around the track by himself and complete the mile. Driven by Don Richardson Jr, Marauder covered his walkover in 2:27:1 to make himself the Adios winner.
A year later, Barberry Spur became the first locally connected horse to win the Adios. Trained and Driven by Dick Stillings and owned by Roy Davis and the Barberry Farms, Barberry Spur came into the day as one of the favorites. Barberry Spur won the first division with Tyler’s Mark and John Campbell capturing the second. Returning in the final, Barberry Spur went to the lead and held off a late charge from Tyler’s Mark to win the Adios final in 1:52:1, a world record for two heats.
The 1993 Adios was one of the most memorable of the 1990s. In the second division, Jim Morrill Jr. and Riyadh moved at the 3/8 to take over the lead through a blistering 53:2 half. After cutting ¾ in 1:21:2 Riyadh opened up on Tibet to win in 1:50:1 with ease. The mile was a new 5/8 mile track world record. The other elimination was won by Ron Pierce and Mystical Prince. In the final Mystical Prince jumped over a shadow approaching the ¾ pole which triggered an accident which also collected Riyadh. While all horses and drivers escaped injury, longshot Miles McCool got through to win with John Campbell in the bike. Riyadh was able to break free and finished second.
Heading into Adios Day 1999, Dave Palone, longtime leading driver at The Meadows, had yet to win the track’s signature event. Blissfull Hall and Ron Pierce were sent off as the 3-5 favorite in the final and went right to the front over the off going. Washington VC and Dave Palone moved to the outside from 6th as Blissfull Hall led past ¾ 1:23:4. Moving three wide around the turn, Washington VC put away Blissfull Hall in deep stretch to win Adios 33 for Dave Palone and trainer Ron Coyne Jr in 1:52:3/5.
In 2007, May June Character did three things that no other horse will ever be able to say they did. He gave The Meadows’ longtime leading trainer Mickey Burke his first Adios win. He also was the last horse to win an Adios that was contested in heats, and he won the final Adios in front of the original grandstand at The Meadows.
In the 2007 final, May June Character got away 6th behind early leader Pandora’s Sox. Soon after the quarter Sutter Hanover took over from Pandora’s Sox and took the field to a 54:4 half. May June Character assumed the third over position behind stalled outside flow. Moving four wide at the top of the stretch, May June Character would blow by Won The West to win Adios 41 with George Brennan in the bike.
Due to construction of the new grandstand and casino at The Meadows, the 2008 Adios was held at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. This would also be the first time the eliminations would be contested a week before the final. In the third elimination, Shadow Play and Dave Miller made the front and cruised to a 1:48:2/5 win. The time was a world record for 3-year-old pacers on a 5/8 mile track.
A week later in the $350,000 Adios Final, Major General tore through the opening panel in 25:2 before being overtaken by Shadow Play at the 3/8 mark. Shadow Play then held off a late Pocono Pike charge from Major General to win the final in 1:50:4/5.
The Adios returned home for its 2009 edition at the all new The Meadows Racetrack & Casino. Going into Adios Week it appeared that Well Said would be the likely favorite after winning his elimination in 1:49, the fastest mile ever at The Meadows. Mr Wiggles and If I Can Dream captured the other two eliminations.
Despite being dealt post 9 in the final, Well Said was still sent off as the 2-5 public choice. Ron Pierce was able to make front with Well Said, but not until just prior to the half, timed in 53:3/5. After clearing, Well Said led into the stretch before being headed by Mr Wiggles. Behind Mr Wiggles, Vintage Master and Dan Dube angled three wide and swept by both of them to win Adios 43 in 1:49:2/5 at 13/1. The win was just the second in Vintage Master’s career.
2010 brought another longshot winner when Delmarvalous won in a wild finish. Going into the final there was no real clear cut favorite with Versado, We Will See, and Rockin Image taking most of the betting action.
Leaving from post 8, Brian Sears and Delmarvalous rocketed off the gate to the lead. Leading through fractions of 25:4, 53.1, and 1:20:3 he was headed by Well Said and even lost the lead briefly around the last turn. As the field fanned 6 and 7 wide Delmarvalous fought back late in the lane to win in 1:49:2 for Brian Sears and trainer George Teague Jr.
After the scratch of Allstar Legend in the final of the 2012 Adios, the field was reduced to six with Sweet Lou, Thinking Out Loud, and A Rocknroll Dance getting the majority of the wagering attention. A Rocknroll Dance and Yannick Gingras made the lead and set extraordinary fractions of 25:1, 52:4, and 1:19:2 while battling Sweet Lou. Sitting second back on the pylons behind Gingras was Bolt The Duer and Mark MacDonald. Bolt The Duer dove into the Lightning Lane and put away A Rocknroll Dance to capture Adios 46 in 1:47:4. The mile was the fastest ever on a 5/8 mile track and to this day stands as the stakes record for The Adios.
Coming into the final of the 2019 Delvin Miller Adios, Southwind Ozzi was made the 2-1 morning line favorite. Getting away fourth behind a three horse battle consisting of Prince Of Tides, Captain Victorious and Escapetothebeach, Brian Sears moved just after the half and cleared leader Prince Of Tides at the ¾ pole. After putting up ¾ in 1:20, Southwind Ozzi opened up in the stretch to win in 1:48, the second fastest Adios ever.
In the 53-year history of the Adios, only three people have called the race: Ken Kadar, Charlie Hinkle, and Roger Huston. Jeff Zidek (who helped ensure the accuracy of this paragraph) will take over as the voice of The Adios in 2020 after being one of Roger’s longtime co-hosts and fill-in on The Meadows Racing Network.
No driver has won the Adios more times than John Campbell. He has won it 8 times with wins in 1984, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994, 2002, and 2003. On the training side, Billy Haughton and Brett Pelling share honors for the most wins as a trainer, both winning the race 4 times. Haughton won in 1967, 1968, 1969, and 1974. Pelling had winners in 1995, 1996, 2004, and 2005.
The 54th Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids will be contested on Saturday, August 1, 2020 with a first race post time of 11:25am. While fans will not be able to be in attendance, they will still be able to play along and watch via Meadows Live! on any ADW, RTN, or The Meadows website. The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association will also be covering the card live on their YouTube channel with Dawnelle Mock and Gabe Prewitt anchoring the broadcast that begins at 11:15am.
The 2020 edition had attracted a field of 21 which was narrowed down to nine after three elimination races. The draw for the Pace for the Orchids was held on Tuesday, July 28 to determine post positions Saturday’s $375,000 final.
1.) Later Dudes
2.) Capt Midnight
3.) Catch The Fire
4.) The Greek Freak
5.) No Lou Zing
6.) Sweet Truth
7.) Chief Mate
8.) Captain Barbossa
9.) Elver Hanover
AE1) Captain Groovy
Cover photo courtesy of Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame