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Nine years to the day after terrorist attacks took the lives of NHL scouts Garnet "Ace" Bailey and Mark Bavis, the horse named in their honor by members of the hockey/horse racing fraternity will race at Belmont Park.
"I'm thinking, 'Can this really be?' It just takes on a whole new meaning" said Ottawa scout Lew Mongelluzzo, who has been the driving force behind keeping the memory of two colleagues lost in the attacks alive through the accomplishments of a thoroughbred named Aces Mark.
It hasn't been an easy road for Aces Mark, purchased four years ago by a consortium of mostly hockey people led by Mongelluzzo.
The horse didn't race for more than a year after suffering tissue damage that inhibited its breathing. Surgery to correct the issue left the horse with an infection, which further slowed its recovery.
But after a long period of convalescence, Aces Mark has been back at work for the past few months. The horse has four wins to its credit and will be looking for No. 5 on Saturday in Race 8 at Belmont Park. It will be Aces Mark's 21st race.
Win, lose or draw, it will be an emotional day for those who knew Bailey and Bavis.
Bailey was a longtime player and scout with the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings, among others. The two-time Stanley Cup winner as a player was 53 at the time of his death. Bavis, 31, was entering his second year as an amateur scout for the Kings. Both were passengers on United Airlines Flight 175, one of two aircraft that crashed into the World Trade Center on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
"It makes me want to cry," Mongelluzzo told ESPN.com of Saturday's race. "It's all about their legacy. This is an active way of keeping their spirit alive."