Day At The Track
Wally Hennesey, CeCe Levy & Jim Morrill

Levy family to present Levy Trophy

As in the years in past, CeCe Levy and her brother, Bobby Levy, will be presenting the harness racing trophy to the winner of the George Morton Levy, a race named in the honor of their father. This year joining them in the presentation at Yonkers Raceway will be Bobby's children Tristin and Gavin. The accomplishments of George Morton Levy are too many to mention and if he had not existed our sport may not have, too. Levy invented harness racing as we know it when he opened Roosevelt Raceway introducing pari-mutual and night time racing. He would also later introduce the mobile starting gate which would revolutionize the sport. Some of his other accomplishments include the implementation of the International Trot and the single heat racing. There is also a funny story from a few years ago. While on their way to the winners circle the Levy family members who were to present the trophy to the winner got separated from the Yonkers PR people and ended up on the outside of the winners circle and the security guard would not let them in to present the trophy. Later they were photo-shopped into the winning photo. CeCe said that she and her family are grateful beyond words to Yonkers Raceway for staging the George Morton Levy and honoring her father. CeCe also made a prediction that this year's race will be won by Tony Alagna's horse, Dr J Hanover. Pictures CeCe Levy & Freddie Hudson CeCe Levy, Freddie Hudson & Bobby Levy Wally Hennesey, CeCe Levy & Jim Morrill CeCe Levy at Goshen HOF CeCe and Dave Miller By Fred Hudson

Lakeisha Hall, harness racing

Burke starters behind eight ball in Finals

YONKERS, N.Y. – Harness racing trainer Ron Burke will start one horse each in the Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy Series Finals at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday night (April 21) and both will start from a disadvantageous post position. In a random draw, Lakeisha Hall and Rockin Ron both burdened with post eight. Despite the bad luck, Burke is keeping a positive attitude and isn’t surrendering before races even begin. “It’s awesome,” Burke said with a laugh. “I race in a lot of big races, so sooner or later you always have it, but you hate to start the year off with it. If anything, we’re going to err on the side of aggressiveness. I’d rather be parked and sit last and get nothing. If I get parked, maybe find a hole fourth or fifth, maybe upset the apple cart, but the idea of sitting eighth doesn’t appeal to me in either race. I’m not just going out there to take a ride around the track. I want to give my horses a chance.” George Brennan will drive the Lakeisha Hall, a 15-1 shot in the $373,000 Matchmaker Final, carded as race nine on the loaded 12-race program. In post position order, they will face Shartin, the 8-5 favorite, Sell A Bit, Medusa, Lady Shadow, Motu Moonbeam, Dudesalady, and Twinkle.  Lakeisha Hall’s path to the Matchmaker Final included a fifth in week one in her first start off the bench, a second to last year’s Matchmaker champion Mackenzie in leg two, a pair of victories in weeks three and four, and a third last week to rivals Dudesalady and Lady Shadow. Except in her first start, she’s been forwardly placed in all her races thus far. “She’s a very good mare and I’ve been very happy with her until her last start,” Burke said. “She had a little tie up issue last week and we got her through it, but I think it took just a little of the sharpness off her. I look for her to bounce back and be super this week. I thought, I’ve done the right thing to prep for this race, this is her home, so I have her ready to go.” Burke purchased Lakeisha Hall as a weanling with ambitions of her becoming a Kentucky Sire Stakes Champion. The daughter of Third Straight out of the Art Major mare Lantana accomplished that mission, winning the $175,000 KYSS Finals at ages 2 and 3. Now a 5-year-old, she’s exceeded expectations, earning 21 wins and $491,043 in 53 starts. The Matchmaker Final will be the biggest race of her career thus far. “We set out with a plan to win the Kentucky Sire Stakes those two years and we went out and bought three weanlings. We looked them over, broke them for a month, and then sold the other two and decided to try to keep the best one,” Burke explained. “The plan worked to perfection. She was 2- and 3-year-old champ and has been more than just a Kentucky Sire Stakes horse, so we were thrilled. “She really doesn’t have many stakes other than this and for her to draw the eight hole, that hurt, but it is what it is,” Burke continued. “Try to move on, at least get something. Crazy things will happen in these races, there’s a lot of money up for grabs. There will be constant movement in here, even if I have to be the one making the movement.” In the $532,000 Levy Final one race later, Yannick Gingras will drive Rockin Ron. The 20-1 morning line shot’s road to the series final was shaky. He posted a pair of victories in legs one and two and finished second by a nose to Western Fame in leg three before finishing fifth beaten 4 lengths in week four. Burke gave Rockin Ron the last week off and narrowly made the final. With 230 points earned, Rockin Ron was ranked eighth in the standings, only six points ahead of Missile J in ninth. “I thought I did the right thing and I had to sweat it out with Rockin Ron. I gave him last week off,” Burke said. “Usually, you do what’s right for the horse and they do race well for you in the long run. I had a great feel going into the race, I thought, if I can draw in the right spot we can be competitive. We got the eight, I said, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me.’ ” Although his races look good on paper, Burke doesn’t feel Rockin Ron, a $1.1 million earner who twice beat Wiggle It Jiggleit at 4, has been up to par in any of his races in the series. Burke was more impressed with the 6-year-old son of Real Desire’s qualifier and seasonal debut at the Meadowlands in February than his series wins. “Honestly, I haven’t been happy with any of his races. The race that he really raced well was the race he was second in. The next week, I didn’t feel like at any point he had pace, Burke said. “I pulled blood, I didn’t like his blood. I haven’t liked his stomach since he came back. That’s why I made the decision, sink or swim, I’m giving him the week off and going to try and get him right and get him ready for the final.  “We’ve done a lot of work on him the last couple weeks and I do think that he will be better,” Burke continued. “I look for him to be way improved this week.” In post-position order, Western Fame, Dr J Hanover, defending series champion Keystone Velocity, Evenin Of Pleasure, Somewhere In L A, Mach It So, and 2016 series champion Bit Of A Legend will start to Rockin Ron’s inside in the Levy Final.  First post time Saturday night is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the million-dollar card, click here.   By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

Queensland Racing Integrity Commissioner Ross Barnett

Court throws out race-fixing cases

Race-fixing cases against harness racing participants Dayl March and Leonard Cain were dismissed in Brisbane Magistrates’ Court this week, leaving the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission and the Racing Crime Squad red-faced. Both decisions cited a lack of evidence as the reason for the dismissals. The cases of March and Cain were the first match-fixing charges to be contested in court relating to QRIC’s harness racing investigations, which were conducted by the Racing Crime Squad. Last October, Barton Cockburn pleaded guilty to three charges of match fixing, pertaining to races in November 2016 and was fined $5000. Soon after, Michael Grant also pleaded guilty to different charges relating to the same inquiry. At the time, Integrity Commissioner Ross Barnett said Cockburn’s conviction “should put an end to industry speculation about whether the Commission would be able to gather sufficient evidence to obtain convictions”. “I hope the fact that two of the three people we’ve charged so far have now pleaded guilty will be a reflection of the evidence that was gathered in these matters,” Barnett said at the time. However, Cain and March chose to defend the charges and their cases were thrown out of court on Wednesday and Thursday. It is understood in the case of trainer-driver March, the Magistrate indicated there was insufficient evidence to proceed and the charges were subsequently withdrawn. Harness driver Leonard Cain had his race-fixing case dismissed in the Brisbane Magistrates’ Court.  In the case of Cain, a harness driver, it is understood the prosecution asked for more time to produce witnesses, but the submission was rejected and the case dismissed. Both QRIC and the Queensland Police Service declined to comment on the March and Cain dismissals on Friday. March has been sidelined and unable to compete since having his license suspended in April last year. Initially he did not seek a stay of proceedings because he had hoped the matter would be resolved quickly. Later, when it became apparent the case would drag on, he was denied the stay. Originally published as Race-fixing cases thrown out of court   By Nathan Exelby   Reprinted with permission of news.com.au    

The 2017 Melbourne Cup crowd

Australian betting market dominated by racing

Australia’s multi-billion dollar betting industry has undergone great change in recent years as the ubiquity of smartphones (86% of Australians now use a smartphone as their main phone) and the prevalence of sports betting apps allows Australians to gamble from the comfort of their own couch, on the wide open road, or even from the stands at the game. To understand the scope of gambling in Australia means gaining insight into what Australians bet on and who is doing the betting. The Roy Morgan Gambling Currency Reports delve into Australian gambling habits in depth including detailed analysis of betting and sports betting, poker machines, casino table games, keno, lotteries and scratchies. Sports betting has gained prominence in recent years but analysing the overall betting market shows that racing – whether horse racing, harness racing or greyhound racing – still commands nearly 75% of the Australian betting market. Horse racing is the dominant form of betting comprising 50.9% of the betting market with a further 12.5% bet on greyhound racing and 11.4% bet on harness racing. Sports betting itself equals 25% of the money Australians bet in 2017 and this is dominated by the two major football codes which comprise more than half of Australian sports betting. 7.6% of money bet in Australia is on NRL/State of Origin markets just ahead of the 6.8% bet on AFL related events. The balance of 10.7% is spread around all other sports including tennis, cricket, basketball, swimming, football, netball, cycling and many others. Australian betting market – December 2017 Source: Roy Morgan Single Source Australia, January 2017 - December 2017, Base: Australians aged 18+. n=14,422.   Australians aged 35-64 and those from NSW and Victoria most likely to bet Australians who like a bet, whether on the Melbourne Cup, Australian Open tennis, football codes of one sort or another, Ashes cricket, big sporting events such as the Olympics, Commonwealth Games or World Cup or a myriad of other sports available here and overseas, come in all shapes and sizes. Analysis of the 10.5% of Australians who’ve had a bet in the last three months reveals there are noteworthy differences with the proportion of Australians having a bet by age increasing until Australians reach retirement age at which point the likelihood of having a bet plunges. Only 7.2% of Australians aged under 25 have had a bet in the last three months compared to 9.3% of those aged 25-34 years old, 11.3% of those aged 35-49 years old and 12.6% of 50-64 year olds – the highest of any age group, before dropping to 10.2% of Australians of retirement age (65+). Analysing betting patterns by State & Territory shows a rougher co-relation. Australians in our two largest States are most likely to bet: 11.5% of Victorians and 11.1% of those from New South Wales (including ACT) have had a bet in the last three months. The likelihood of betting is underneath the national average in the all other States with 9.8% of those in medium-sized Queensland and Western Australia having a bet, 8.1% of South Australians and only 7.2% of those in Australia’s smallest State of Tasmania. The Northern Territory, which is home to many of Australia’s sports betting agencies due to favourable gambling laws, bucks this trend with 11.1% of NT residents having a bet in the last three months. Australians who’ve had a bet in the last three months: Age & State Source: Roy Morgan Single Source Australia, January 2017 - December 2017, Base: Australians aged 18+. n=14,422. Michele Levine, CEO, says Australians love of sport is well-known and for a sizeable number of Australians having a punt adds an extra something to the contest: “Over 2 million Australians aged 18+ (10.5%) have had a bet in the last three months whether on horse racing, greyhounds, or sporting events like the AFL, NRL, tennis, cricket or any of thousands of other sports available to bet on whether the sporting contest is undertaken here in Australia or almost anywhere around the world. “It is hardly surprising that Australians having a bet are far more likely to be men (13.9% of Australian men aged 18+) than women (7.3%) whilst there is a strong co-relation between age and the likelihood of having a bet. 12.6% of Australians aged 50-64 years old have had a bet in the last three months – clearly higher than any other age group compared to only 7.2% of younger Australians aged 18-24 years old. “Intriguingly the likelihood of having a bet also co-relates fairly well to the size of the State an Australian is from. The most likely Australians to have a bet are those from Australia’s largest States of New South Wales (11.1%) and Victoria (11.5%) whilst the least likely are from Australia’s two smaller States of South Australia (8.1%) and Tasmania (7.2%). “This disparity is likely related to the lack of professional sporting content available in smaller markets. As a comparison there are 17 professional AFL/NRL/Super Rugby/A-League clubs in New South Wales, 14 in Victoria, 7 in Queensland and 3 each in Western Australia and South Australia. There are no professional football clubs in Tasmania. “The relatively high proportion of Northern Territorians who’ve had a bet at 11.1% does buck this trend, however its worth remembering that the Northern Territory has long been a home to many Australians sports and horse racing betting companies due to the favourable laws in the jurisdiction. “To gain deeper insights into who the Australians that like to have a bet are, and more importantly, how much they are spending and betting when taking a punt, the series of Roy Morgan Gambling Currency Reports are an essential analytical resource to learn more about Australian gamblers and punters. “The Roy Morgan Gambling Currency Reports cover not only horse racing and sports betting, but also casino table games, keno, lotteries, scratchies tickets and poker machines.”   For comments or more information please contact: Roy Morgan - Enquiries Office: (+61) (03) 9224 5309 askroymorgan@roymorgan.com   Reprinted with permission of Roy Morgan

Speedy pacer A G’s White Socks has caused a minor upset by taking out tonights Group One $100,000 Taylor Mile. Trained by Greg and Nina Hope, A G’s White Socks was given a perfect run in the trail for the majority of the race behind the Tim Butt trained Aussie raider Let It Ride. Driver Ricky May had been sitting quietly behind the leader while the pace was on, and only had to flick the reins at the Rock N Roll Heaven 4yo to get him home easily up the passing lane to beat a classy field of 4yo pacers. Ricky who won the Taylor Mile in 2006 with Mainland Banner and also in 2015 with Mossdale Connor, was surprised the time was so quick tonight, as the horse was travelling so well in the trail. "He has definitely got a big motor, I was surprised they went that quick, he was travelling so good all the way," he said after the race. A G’s White Socks paced the 1700m mobile in 2-00.3, which equated to a slick mile rate of 1-53.9. The last 800m was cut ot in 55.8 with the 400m in 27.4 seconds. Eamon Maguire charged home late down the outer to grab second off the TAB favourite Star Galleria on the line.   Harnesslink Media

Unbeaten 2yo filly Princess Tiffany has taken out the Group One $110,000 Woodlands Stud Caduceus Classic tonight at Alexandra Park. Driver Natalie Rasmussen had the Art Major filly in a good spot for most of the race and she was too good for the opposition in tonights race, blasting up the inner near the line to beat stable mate Kayla Marie and driver Blair Orange. "She is the complete package this little 2yo", said Natalie after the win. "With her speed you can place her anywhere and she is so genuine and professonal. " I was getting a little bit worried when Blair got away on us a bit on the turn, but to her credit she just picked them up easily." The All Stars Stable landed the trifecta in the race with Bubbled Up and driver Brent Mangos running home in to third place. Princess Tiffany paced the 2200m mobile in 2-42.6, only 0.7 of a second outside the New Zealand record. The last 800m was paced in 56.4 seconds. Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen also won the $60,000 Haras Des Trotteurs Sires Stakes during the night with smart 3yo Winterfell. New Zealands top training duo were unlucky to have their good filly Luby Lou scratched out of the race with a minor injury, but got the job done with their second stringer Winterfell. Driver Natalie Rasmussen was happy with the effort of the Majestic Son gelding after he looped around to the breeze mid race and was too strong in the run to the line. "He is pretty green this fellow but he has got that bit of raw talent, and I just let him settle early before making a move. "I wanted to be near them at the turn and not be coming wide when the sprint went on and to his credit he is pretty tough and he stuck it out well,"  she said.   Princess Tiffany winning the Group 1 tonight     Harnesslink Media    

Hannelore Hanover is ready to get back on the racetrack and trainer Ron Burke thinks harness racing's defending Horse of the Year is entering her upcoming campaign feeling as good as she did at the end of last season. And that was pretty darn good. The 6-year-old female trotter closed 2017 with a three-race win streak that included the Breeders Crown Open Trot, making her the first mare since Moni Maker in 1998 to claim the trophy, and the lady's division of the TVG Series championships. Two weeks prior to beginning her streak, Hannelore Hanover recorded the fastest mile in history by a female trotter when she captured the Allerage Farms Open Trot in 1:49.2. On Saturday morning, Hannelore Hanover will qualify at the Meadowlands with regular driver Yannick Gingras as she prepares for the Arthur J. Cutler Memorial on May 5 at the Big M. "Everything seems really good," Burke said. "She feels like the way she felt at the end of the year last year, so I'm happy with that. Right at the end of the year she finally put it together. She was winning, but didn't feel right. By the end of the year, she got herself sounder, sharper. "This year right from the get-go she seems better, stronger. I'm hoping last year carries over into this year." Hannelore Hanover won 10 of 17 races last year, finished second five times, and earned $1.04 million for owners Burke Racing Stable, the Weaver Bruscemi partnership, Frank Baldachino, and J&T Silva Stables. For her career, the daughter of Swan For All out of High Sobriety has won 36 of 58 races and $2.47 million. Burke said Hannelore Hanover did not change much during the winter. "She is who she is now at this point in her career," he said. Hannelore Hanover is one of 14 horses from the Burke Brigade that will qualify Saturday. Among those joining her are 6-year-old male trotter Crazy Wow and 5-year-old male pacer Check Six, both multiple-stakes-winners last season; 2017 Little Brown Jug winner Filibuster Hanover; 3-year-old male trotter U Need Stones, a New Jersey Sire Stakes champion; 3-year-old male pacer Seeing Eye Single, an Ohio Sire Stakes champion; and 4-year-old male pacer Rock N Tony, an Indiana Sire Stakes champion who joined Burke's barn in November. "Right now I'm happy with everybody," Burke said. "Hopefully it will be a good year." Others entered to qualify Saturday include multiple Dan Patch Award-winning female trotter Broadway Donna, multiple O'Brien Award-winning female trotter Caprice Hill, stakes-winning male trotters International Moni, Lindy The Great, and Yes Mickey, stakes-winning male pacers Blood Line, I'm A Big Deal, This Is The Plan, Pedro Hanover, and Closing Statement, stakes-winning female pacers Darlinonthebeach, Blue Moon Stride, and Reign On Me and stakes-winning female trotter Plunge Blue Chip. Qualifiers begin at 10 a.m. (EDT). For the complete list of entries, click here. Ken Weingartner

East Rutherford, NJ - Friday night at The Meadowlands brings with it a ten race live harness racing card featuring the $52,500 final of the Shiaway St Pat series for trotters. An interesting field it is, with the ultra impressive leg #1 winner Deep Impact getting a slight 3-1 nod from the oddsmaker after skipping last week's leg #2. The carefully managed 5-year-old rolled right on by the field in a career best 1:53.1 a fortnight ago, looking like there was plenty left in the tank. He'll begin from post 9 for trainer driver Ake Svanstedt and owner the Van Camp Trotting Corporation. Deep Impact, however, is not in by himself and faces another fast, fresh horse in the speedy Sutton, leaving from post 7 for Andy Miller. After missing an entire season, Sutton disappointed as the heavy favorite in the first leg but redeemed himself with a scorching 1:51.3 last week and will have to be dealt with in the final. Julie Miller trains the accomplished 5-year-old for Andy's interest as Andy Miller Stable and partners Jason and Doug Allen. We're giving away lawn mowers, too via the "Spring Spruce Up" promotion. The guarantees are in place and the Jackpot Super Hi-5 carry over is way up to $192,943. Get your free pp's for selected wagers here. Post time is 7:15 pm. BIG M HIGH-FIVE CARRYOVER NEARING $200,000  Meadowlands players will have an opportunity Friday night unlike any other in harness racing: Wager a measly 20 cents and walk away at the conclusion of the 10th race with almost $200,000. “When live racing resumes this Friday,” said Jason Settlemoir, the Big M’s chief operating officer and general manager. “The Meadowlands will offer the second-largest carryover in horse racing, behind only the Rainbow Six at Gulfstream Park. The final race on the program will offer a Jackpot Super High-Five carryover that has now grown to $192,943. The popular wager has a 20-cent minimum.” “April has been a very good month at the Big M as the pools continue to grow,” said Settlemoir. “The competitive GSY Spring Fling Series amateur driving club trot was the first race of last weekend and handled $241,407. We never looked back. Our Pick-4 pool exceeded the $100,000 barrier for the third time this year ($105,082) and our average handle per race for the week was $226,917, compared to $188,099 for the comparable weekend a year ago. In addition, our 20-Cent Survivor Pick-10 pool was an all-time best $25,061. We can’t thank our fans enough for their incredibly loyal support.” Free program pages are available here. Live racing at the Big M is this Friday and Saturday. Post time is 7:15 p.m. MEADOWLANDS HAPPENINGS PARKING DURING VOLTA: Those heading to the Big M for live racing need to be aware of what to do when they arrive at the track to avoid a $20 parking fee, which is for those attending the Cirque Du Soleil Volta show. Volta will have performances on the same nights as live racing through Saturday, May 5. When track patrons arrive, they should stay to the right-hand side of the toll plaza to avoid the $20 fee. OWN A HORSE! The Big M’s popular “Own a Horse” promotion offers fans a chance to own a piece of a Standardbred risk free. Sign up on or before Saturday, April 28, and if you are one of 10 lucky contestants chosen during live racing that night, you’ll get a chance to own up to 10 percent of a Big M horse’s earnings during the month of May. CALLING ALL HANDICAPPERS: The World Harness Handicapping Championship, presented by DerbyWars.com, is scheduled for Saturday, April 28 at the Meadowlands and has a guaranteed prize pool of $75,000. The WHHC is a one-day tournament and has a welcome reception the evening prior.  Players that did not earn a seat through a qualifying event can directly buy-in for $1,000.  The WHHC contest format requires players to bet 10 races: their choice of seven Meadowlands races, plus three designated mandatory races from Buffalo, Vernon Downs and the Meadowlands.  Players keep all pari-mutuel winnings.  Prize payouts go to the top 10 finishers. Players interested in purchasing a buy-in for the WHHC can visit http://playmeadowlands.com/contest_detail.aspx?id=8240. ‘SURVIVE’ THE SUMMER: The Meadowlands’ Summer Survival Challenge kicks off on Friday, May 4, with registration scheduled to begin next week. Contestants will need to pick a winner in one of three selected races in a given week to advance and the player at the end of the contest with the largest mythical bankroll will win a grand prize of $1,500 and a spot in the 2019 WHHC final. DERBY COUNTDOWN: The 144th Kentucky Derby from Churchill Downs is the main simulcast attraction at the Big M on Saturday, May 5. Doors open at 9:30 a.m. Post time for the Derby is 6:34 p.m.  BEER HERE: The third annual Spring Beer Fest takes places on Saturday, May 19. The beer will be poured until 9:30 p.m. with VIPs welcome to arrive at 4:30 p.m. and those with general admission at 5:30 p.m. Those taking part will be treated to the best craft beer, cider, music, live harness racing and food the state of New Jersey has to offer. To purchase tickets click here.  Meadowlands Media Relations Dave Little

WASHINGTON, PA, April 19, 2018 -- When she takes to The Meadows racetrack in Saturday's $26,000 championship of the Margaret Provost Memorial Trot for the harness racing 3-year-old fillies, Kenziesky Hanover will bring an unusual name -- and an unusual amount of talent -- to the fray. The Margaret Provost (race 2) is one of four series finals for 3-year-olds that The Meadows will host Saturday, with a combined $101,900 in purses up for grabs. Also featured are: the Ruby Cook Memorial Trot for filly pacers (race 3), the Ben Wood Memorial Trot for colts and geldings (race 4) and the Tom Kirwan Memorial Pace for colts and geldings (race 9). First post Saturday is 1:05 PM. The naming of Standardbreds is a phenomenon that's part science, part art, part frustration. All names proposed in this country must be approved by the United States Trotting Association, the breed registrar, which limits names to 18 characters -- including spaces. Hanover Shoe Farms, perennially the sport's leading breeder, always uses "Hanover" in foal names. Add the space before it, and you're left with only 10 characters to fashion colorful, creative names. Hanover's Website lists well over 300 broodmares; naming their foals is a challenge that Hanover meets in part by inviting harness racing fans and Hanover staff to suggest names. Jodi Markle estimates that she's named about 40 foals in the seven years she's worked in administration at Hanover. She named Blaise MM Hanover for her son, for example; that horse has banked more than $285,000 and continues to race. In similar fashion, she named Kenziesky Hanover (Cantab Hall-Kandor Hanover) for Kenzie Sky, the 4-year-old daughter of her cousin, Mike Wolf. Weanling/yearling purchasers have the right to change the names bestowed by breeders, so even the most clever or appropriate monikers may not last. That's where the frustration can come in. "That's happened to me a couple times, but it doesn't bother me," Markle says. "I'll just reuse the original names somewhere down the line." Her colorful name won't allow Kenziesky Hanover to win the Margaret Provost championship, but her talent might. She was purchased for a modest $7,000 by J. Patrick Huber and Glenn Congrove, and her trainer, Bill Zendt knows what shut down the auction so soon. "I like her body and the way she looks, but her conformation is not the best," Zendt says, "I was a little leery, but when she went for so little, Pat Huber wanted her. She showed signs of being a nice filly last year, but she got a little sore, and we quit with her early." Indeed, she had only two starts at 2, but after a pair of in-the-money finishes to begin this season, she added Lasix and put it all together in last week's series leg and scored impressively on the front end in 1:57.2, fastest mile in the series thus far. "She raced good on the front, but I don't think it really matters," Zendt said. "There are three or four in the final who are real even, so it should be competitive. I don't know where we'll go with her after the series, but if she stays healthy, I think she'll compete." Kenziesky Hanover goes from post 5 with Brian Zendt aboard. Also on Saturday, Mychoice members can compete in a Thoroughbred handicapping contest, with Laurel Park the featured track. More information is available at the retail counter in the track's Racebook. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

Trois-Rivieres, QC - Following the same as Yonkers Raceway, management at the Quebec Jockey Club has announced that they are removing the passing lane at the Hippodrome 3R for the 2018 harness racing season that gets underway on Sunday, April 29. "We starting looking at the wagering on Yonkers around the end of January after they did away with their passing lane," said Murielle Thomassin, general manager at the Hippodrome 3R. "and we continued to look at their increasing numbers in February. "Sometimes there is no need to re-invent the wheel," Thomassin explained. "Of course, Yonkers did other changes that contributed to the rise in wagers, but this change was a no-brainer, we need to at least try it and see if our clients like it. The entire dynamic of the races will have to change. The strategies the driver's use will have to be much different and thought of. No more waiting in the hole until the passing lane to come out and steal the win." The passing lane was first installed at the Hippodrome 3R in the late 1980's. Track superintendent, Sylvain Blais, and his team has already begun working on restoring the old home stretch. "We were able to locate the old lane in the stretch," Thomassin said. "and it is still in the ground from 18 years ago. We just need better weather and soft grounds to complete the change. "We had more snow Wednesday, but it melted and now it's raining. Our fingers are crossed that Mother Nature cooperates this week and it looks like it will with warming temperatures and some sunshine to dry up the mess we have so we can do more work on the track." Thomassin said she has talked to various horsemen and when told about getting rid of the passing lane they have been very positive about it. "They understand that we are trying to better the sport and race quality," Thomassin added. "That additional purse money coming from the increase in wagering will mean purse increases in the future for them." There are new post times at the Hippodrome 3R this season. Sunday's afternoon program will begin at 12:50 pm and the Tuesday evening racing will start at 6:30 pm. For more information, visit www.quebecjockeyclub.com. From the Quebec Jockey Club        

HAMBURG, N.Y. --- A disappointing second place finish last week left a bitter taste in the mouth of Sportsmuffler. But on Wednesday night (April 18), she bounced back nice and tasted sweet victory by registering a two length decision over Aritzia Hanover in the featured $10,400 Open Pace for the mares at Buffalo Raceway.   After watching Aritzia Hanover reel off fractions of :28.4 and :58.4 to the half, Sportsmuffler (Drew Monti) began her first over journey to the lead. Getting to the top with a quarter mile to pace, Sportsmuffler ($3.10) used a :28.0 final panel to seal the deal in going the mile in a seasonal best 1:56.3.   Aritzia Hanover (Billy Davis Jr.) held on for second place while Hey Kobe (David McNeight III) rallied late for third.   It was the second victory in five starts in 2018 for the 6-year-old Sportsmuffler (Sportsmaster-Whatifthere'smore). Owned by Rose Campbell and trained by Steven Kiblin, Sportsmaster has now earned $14,309 this season and $227,165 lifetime.   Monti completed the evening with a triple in the sulky while Ray Fisher Jr. doubled. Kiblin finished the night with two training wins.   Racing will continue on Saturday night at 6 p.m. with a 12-race program scheduled.   For more information including the latest news, race replays, results, entries, simulcast schedule and upcoming promotions, go to www.buffaloraceway.com     Brian J. Mazurek, for Buffalo Raceway   Photo: Sportsmuffler taste sweet victory at Buffalo Raceway. Photo by Steve Roth  

YONKERS, NY, Thursday, April 19, 2018 - Sometime about a decade ago, a meeting of the minds took place. The purpose of the skull session was to put an end to rampant equine gender discrimination and 'invent' a harness racing companion event for Yonkers Raceway's George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series. The Levy, honoring the memory of harness-racing visionary and Hall of Fame founder of Roosevelt Raceway, was and remains a staple stop for the sport's best Free-For-Allers. The event, started in 1978 (as a one-dash affair), had been resurrected in 2007 after a decade-long hiatus, and the brain trust decided there was no reason the guys should have all the fun. Accordingly, Yonkers Raceway race secretary Steve Starr reached out to the good folks at Blue Chip Farms in not-too-far-away Wallkill, NY, with the idea of putting together a 'ladies only' Levy companion event for standout pacing mares. Hence, 2009 saw the beginning of the Blue Chip Matchmaker. It was/is as long (five preliminary legs) as the Levy Series, also for serious coin ($40,000 per division, per leg) with an rich, added-money final. Then, there's the 'Matchmaker' part of the equation, a lovely carrot at the end of the stick where the first three finishers in the final get a free breeding to one of the farm's pre-selected roster of world-class stallions. The winner gets first choice, runner-up gets second choice, third gets third. With this Saturday night's (Apr. 21st) $373,000 final going as the 10th Matchmaker, what better time-with apologies to Mr. Peabody and Sherman-to make use the WABAC Machine? It was the first Saturday in May, 2009, merely hours after Mine That Bird pulled off a 50-1 stunner in the Kentucky Derby. The first Belle of the Ball turned out to be a 5-year-old daughter of Noble Ability named Pancleefandarpels. "First time I drove her came after Jason (Bartlett) picked off in an Open Handicap here," Jordan Stratton said. "She was a fairly big mare who could take air and was easy on herself." Stratton and Pancleefandarpels won consecutive local distaff derbies-the latter from an assigned eight-hole-leading into the '09 Matchmaker. Competing in the all five prelims, the duo went 1-3-1-5-1 before drawing post position No. 3 in the $229,000 final. Stratton, who hadn't turned 22 years of age, remembered that night. "There was an early breaker (2-5 favorite Chancey Lady [Cat Manzi]) and I had to go a bit wide," he said. "I was able to get in (fourth), then moved first-up. "As I said, she could take air. She put away the leader (Omen Hanover [Eric Abbatiello]) and was sharp." Pancleefandarpels defeated Double Dream N (Brent Holland) by a length-and-a-quarter in 1:54.4, becoming the first name in the annals. After winning his second Matchmaker last season with Mackenzie A, Stratton tries for the hat trick Saturday with Sell a Bit N from post position No. 2. Now an 'over-the-hill' 30, Stratton has fond memories of Pancleefandarpels. "It was my first big stakes win, so definitely" he said. "People sort of forget about her, but she was very talented." Pancleefandarpels, a Peter Pan Stables homebred trained by Erv Miller, raced through 2012, ending her career with 35 wins and earnings of $1,057,244. This Saturday's Matchmaker goes as the ninth of a dozen races, right before the 31st finale of the Levy, worth $532,000. First post for the $1.3 million card is the usual 6:50 PM. Frank Drucker

WASHINGTON, PA, April 18, 2018 -- Expose Yourself put away the venerable Barn Girl with a quick backside burst and earned a convincing harness racing victory, her third straight, in Wednesday's $20,000 Filly & Mare Preferred Handicap Trot at The Meadows. The 2017 Horse of the Year at The Meadows, Barn Girl entered the race off three straight wins but had to work hard from post 9 to get the early lead in 27.2. When Dave Palone moved Expose Yourself from fourth, she exploited the favorite's vulnerability and scored in 1:55.1, matching her career best. The game Barn Girl persevered and earned place, 1-1/4 lengths back, with Ameliosi third. Ron Burke trains Expose Yourself, a 4-year-old daughter of Kadabra-Muscle Shirt, for Burke Racing Stable and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. Mile Wilder collected four wins on the 12-race card. Live racing at The Meadows resumes Saturday, first post 1:05 PM. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

In flight now back to the States, I have the opportunity to share additional observations and thoughts about the Down Under racing scene stemming from my month long Harness Racing related travels throughout New Zealand and Australia. While this has probably been about my fifteenth Down Under trip in the last eighteen years, the pace of Industry change is staggering and the challenges confronting the Down Under racing scene daunting. Both the general malaise felt by most North American industry participants, and the general negativity of crucial North American Industry trends, are evident Down Under. While the symptoms may differ, the underlying problem of relevancy in a new competitive environment seems to be afflicting the Industry worldwide. Lack of parimutuel handle, long a North American Harness Racing problem outside of the Meadowlands and Woodbine/Mohawk, is increasingly a problem. Down Under Corporate bookmaking companies like Betfair have taken huge amounts out of parimutuel pools, and fixed odds betting is now the pre-eminent vehicle for most significant wagers. This impacts both the Industry's bottom line and the ability of tracks to offer viable on site wagering. The Down Under structure of racing is totally different from ours, with Governmental, regulatory, and track management following a completely different model, but the siphoning off of betting dollars to these Corporates is threatening Down Under racing as off shore and on line betting is diverting North American wagering dollars from Industry and Governmental coffers. In this regard, New Zealand's new Minister in charge of racing has recently announced the hiring of a prominent Aussie Thoroughbred breeder and administrator to assess New Zealand's business model with an eye toward aligning all functional aspects to better regulate, coordinate, and optimize New Zealand's three breed racing industry. This is a much needed outreach, and all reports indicate that the individual chosen has a proven track record on point, but I think that an opportunity to really reassess NZ's industry structure looking at all global alternatives is being missed. The Aussie structure is very similar to that of NZ, and optimization might well require a fresh look at all alternatives. I am also concerned by the lack of a Harness Racing advocate in the mix, as Thoroughbred interests have a long history of structuring everything to suit their interests, often to the detriment of Harness Racing  interests. Just look at the fact that SKY/TAB still block international simulcasting of Down Under Harness Racing into the North American market while blithely saturating North America with Thoroughbred product! Hopefully, the speed with which one person can propose necessary changes will outweigh the dangers of Thoroughbred parochialism and lack of a comprehensive, globally focused analysis. Both in Australia and New Zealand, the Harness Racing industry is suffering from the effects caused by their lack of control of their own product. That is potentially a fatal flaw that, thankfully, we have not yet let happen in North America! The tracks have had all their simulcast/streaming rights assigned by contract to Sky/Tab. To be fair, the complicated Down Under racing income model has some compensating pluses - such as participation in income streams generated by other breeds and from sports betting - but they have become a supplier of racing product to a behometh that values only quantity of product supplied for wagering. As a result, race quality, programming quality, and international marketing opportunities suffer significantly. I spent a few evenings watching races on SKY and I could not believe how boring, annoying, and frightening the experience was! There was basically no race commentary, no interesting interviews or discussions, no soul at all..just wall to wall racing with dog, harness, and thoroughbred races immediately back to back. There is no concern to promoting racing, only to creating gambling addicts, which should be alarming to all! In the old days, many of the Down Under tracks, like many of ours' in North America still do, had really interesting programming of their races. That is totally gone now! A very interesting development is in play in NZ, where it appears the sale of PGG auction operations to NZ Bloodstock is in the works. There is a perceptive article on this subject on Harnesslink, suggesting that the harness industry, itself, should take over direct ownership and control of industry auctions as a means of keeping within the industry the approximately NZ$800,000 to a million dollars of net profit that these sales would generate to a lean, well run operator. The article suggests, and I agree, that these monies could provide a significant cash infusion to an industry in dire need of just that. In the short term, with good management and creativity, there is no reason that Alexandra Park and Addington could not take over operation of these sales to be held on site at their tracks. In North America, Hanover shoe farm's' brilliant strategic move in running the world famous Harrisburg yearling sale has been a major economic boon accelerating their ability for growth and investment. Both in Australia and New Zealand the industry would probably be wise to go in house with auctions! A few thoughts on various points....the best Down Under horses are now AT LEAST as good as North America's best! Absolutely no question about that! And they achieve this without the kind of veterinary support that we have....creating a truly international pacing championship race would make real sense now! It would need a huge purse ($)1 million, travel and quarantine solutions, big publicity, and be at the right time of the year (probably October/November). And it would probably be best raced every two years, alternating between hemispheres. Not easy, but this is the type of event that could be thoroughbred-like in its' popularity and global marketability. North American tracks should take a page from their Down Under cousins by having a special "birdcage" or room, where the track hosts (and toasts) winning owners after each race. They also supply a flash drive of the race, champagne, great conversation, and small, but nice, gifts! A gesture to owners worth it's weight in gold! Victorian racing is hamstrung by its' economic pressures resulting from years of poor management. They carry $28 million in debt and lost about $1.5 million last year. As a result, they hired a turn around specialist from outside the industry, and David Martin is delivering! Racing Victoria is slightly profitable this year. Amazing, as without corrective action, losses this year would've been in excess of $3 million! Sadly, because of racing's strange business model in Australia, this turn around was accomplished thru creation of more races at the expense of smaller fields and less interesting racing. Good for the short term bottom line, bad for racing long term, a fact realized by Mr. Martin. But to get to tomorrow, today has to be survived, and Mr. Martin has travelled throughout Victoria trying to explain the current state of affairs and the reasons behind Victorian racing strategy. This effort is admirable, and I sense that he is building a lot of good will even from those who don't like the remedy he is pushing. We need far more of our Industry leaders Down Under and in North America to follow suit. Racetrack owners and top management need to get out of the Board Room and communicate/interact with all elements of the Industry. There is no other way for our industry's administrators to understand the emotions and problems at play, and to hear the breadth of opinions they need to encounter to chart the right course. Too many of our leaders hide in ivory towers, oblivious to the thoughts, perceptions, and concerns - as well as opportunities - that are apparent to just about everyone else in the industry! What our industry needs everywhere is PASSION! It transforms, it motivates, and it is contagious! And racing's doldrums have eviscerated passion. Our leaders would sometimes be better served to make passionate mistakes than impassionate, reasoned decisions. Ours' must be an industry of passion, it is the only model enabling survival! On this front, I was extremely impressed with the Directors of Alexandra Park, Menangle, and Penrith. They are present most, if not all, nights when the tracks race. They are well dressed, pay attention to detail, are welcoming and observant. They are lifetime lovers of the game and they care! It was their real passion for the sport and their job that impressed me, their hospitality was a mere by product of that. Throughout this trip I met an incredible array of trainers, owners, drivers, grooms, agents, administrators,and racing officials....it was one of my most pleasant and enlightening trips! I could continue with quite a few additional observations, but perhaps on reflection I will at a later date. And, oh yes, I spent a lot of time with the almost twenty pacers and trotters that I have Down Under (with my cousin, Marc), and with our three trainers Down Under...and loved (almost) every minute of it! Gordon Banks

The field is entering the home stretch. And it’s still hard to pinpoint the winner. The race to be crowned 2017/18 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Master is anyone’s guess with just two legs remaining. The focus swings to Alexandra Park, Auckland with the running of this week’s $100,000 H R Fisken & Sons Anzac Cup followed by the $150,000 Canam Rowe Cup next week. Both events carry Gr.1 status Winners of Trotting Masters features thus far this season include Amaretto Sun (Dominion), Sparkling Success (Great Southern Star) and Tornado Valley (Grand Prix). None of the above mentioned will contest the Auckland classics which leaves the door slightly ajar for a late dive-bombing closer to claim the title. A scenario that unfolded last season with Habibti Ivy snatching the crown following the Auckland features. As it stands, Sparkling Success leads the race with 160 points but is that enough to secure the title? Can local star Temporale (currently with 60 points) produce the goods over the next week to claim a dramatic victory? The dual Gr.1 winner boasts an excellent record at the track with 8 wins and 7 minor placings from 17 starts. Suddenly, Temporale is thrust into the limelight in more ways than one. The Anzac Cup was introduced to the Grand Circuit calendar back in 2012 when champion performer I Can Doosit prevailed for trainer/driver Mark Purdon. Winners since include Stent, Superbowlcheerleader, Sheemon, Monbet and Habibti Ivy. There is a common thread that links the six previous winners; they were all prepared in the South Island. Can Temporale become the first North Island trained winner of the Anzac Cup? Will master horseman Tony Herlihy weave some magic in front of his local fans? Also representing the north are quality performers Speeding Spur (gate 13), Lemond (gate 4), Yagunnakissmeornot (gate 11), Realmein (gate 10) and Charlemagne (gate 6). Speeding Spur, prepared by father/son combination of John and Josh Dickie, is a six times Gr.1 winner including his latest effort at Addington in the Fred Shaw Memorial New Zealand Trotting Championship on April 6. His record at his home track is exemplary with 8 wins and 8 minor placings from 16 starts. Again, the south is well represented with boom four-year-old Enghien (gate 2) looking to maintain his unbeaten record at the clockwise track. Prepared by Greg and Nina Hope, the Woodend Beach couple is chasing their second triumph after scoring with Monbet two years ago. The dual Gr.1 winner will again be handled by Ricky May. Quality performers Bordeaux (gate 7) and Harriet Of Mot (gate 12) will gain strong support while Destiny Jones (gate 9) is looking for some luck from its tricky draw. Phil Williamson and Paul Nairn, both highly skilled horsemen, are represented by Monty Python (gate 1) and Alderbeck (gate 3) while One Over Da Moon (gate 5) must be respected. The first three placed runners are guaranteed a start in the 2018 Rowe Cup next week. The Anzac Cup is a 2200m mobile start event while the Rowe Cup will be staged under standing start conditions and run over 3200m. Chris Barsby

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Millstone Township, NJ - April 20, 2017 - Twenty Standardbreds are weighed and tagged to ship to the Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses   Because the  Standardbred Retirement Foundation (SRF) is presently paying for all the care, board and medical needs on 390 trotters and pacers it cannot take on these needy horses, but there are ways to help. The greatest need for each of these horses is a soft landing, a place to live out their last years. Their ages range from 12 -21. Here is how you and SRF can save these horses that likely have been pulling heavy farm equipment, and were used for transportation since leaving the racing oval.  If you choose to take a horse back that you bred, owned or trained or wish to help a horse, SRF will assist with the facilitation. The list with their prices are included.  For horses with a home offer, but the home is unable to pay for the horse and and the shipping (often to rural parts of the US), SRF will collect donations to help. For a horse with no safe place to go, if donations cover all expenses, the price of the horse, shipping to quarantine, then shipping again to a boarding facility for rehabilitation and retraining for adoption and several months of board, SRF will consider whether it can take on the responsibility of another horse.  This is approximately $3,000. For horses with no help at all, the controversial option that is being considered is humane euthanasia. The cost is, the kill pen's purchase price, in addition to shipping to a facility, the veterinarian and rendering, approximately $550. These horses, when shipped for slaughter, are  crammed into eighteen-wheelers for long periods of time en-route without any care for injuries or sickness. Some have open wounds, eye injuries, are starving; some are in their late years, others are just worn out. "Avoiding the decision for humane euthanasia means we are choosing to send them to slaughter. Slaughter is real and heinous," says Judy Bokman, SRF's Executive Director.     SRF reached out to other groups with no luck or there were caveats that don't align with SRF's mission. A NYS group is not taking in any new horses. A group in Ohio relinquish ownership and doesn't follow-up beyond one year, which easily results in the need for a second rescue of a horse. One group in Wisconsin has no formal follow-up program. People have lifestyles changes and for some, their horses become the victims, hence, SRF's lifelong follow-up program.   In 2017 SRF helped 550 Standardbreds in kill pens in addition to many other right off the track, of which nearly 400 are still under its care and expense, this is in spite of 330 adoptions secured for these and others that had already been with the 29 year old program.     The number of horses was 23 just yesterday, but when the kill buyer had a load ready to ship and and it wasn't full; we suspect that he pulled 2 from this group, as 2 are now missing from the list provided. To offer a home, make a tax-deductible gift to help SRF facilitate a horse to a home being offered, or to send a gift for SRF to afford taking on one, contact SRF AT 732-446-4422 or    CLICK HERE. Their deadline is Tuesday, April 24th at 4pm.    A choice can made whether a horse leaves the earth by the heinous act of slaughter or through humane euthanasia. Should some horses not receive help and you wish to provide a more peaceful passing please call us to discuss.            TAG # NAME SEX AGE TATTOO EARNINGS   PRICE SIRE/   DAME 1871 Mister Mystic N G,16 ZH205 $403,984 $800 In The Pocket-Seafield Mystic-Nero's Bebe 1877 Yankee Fur OR Stubling G, ? ? ? $720   1864 Nole G, 14 1BE96 $54,911 $810 Yankee Glide-CR Seminole Sister_Royal Trubador 1865 T-N-T Dozer G, 20 T4635 $23,102 $910 Sir Taurus-Midnight Oasis-Desert Night 1866 Forward Action   G, 15 4AE47 $761 $810 Moving Foarward-Action Goal_Ambro Goal 1868 Valid Movement G, 14 4DB75 $31,602 $800 Towner's Big Guy-Chevie Sprints-Sport Master 1863 Artistocracy G, 14 9BD28 $56,013 $810   Artiscape-Expensly Ashley-Expensive Scooter 1867 Loutopia M, 18 WC096 $0 $660 Sir Taurus-Golden LOu-Baltic Speed 1869 Demartini (formerly Whitsand Predator) G, 17 XR713 $0 $835 Grinfromeartoea r-Filly Bahama-Matt's Scooter 1880 Us Invader G, 20 T0018 $38,784 $660 Balanced Image-Picaboo Flame-Keystone Flame 43 Dale G. 15 8AC46 $10,454 $892 Inquirer Mandalay Bay-Overcomer No Tag Native Avenue G, 7 2J771 $3,460 $940 All American NAtive-Lady Welagin-Walton HAnover 688 Indiego G, 21 SC361 $0 $892 Die Laughing-Nude Indigo-Abercombie No Tag DC's Piggy Bank G, 15 5A679 $589,811 $675 Banker Hall-HT's Sweetie Pie No Tag Hillbilly Style OR Letsgo Dort G, ? ? ? $650   No Tag Bob J L G, 15 9CN42 $48,026 $600   Dauntless Bunny-Etoile De Mai-Rumpus Hanover N/A Captain G, 13 9C641 $1,540 $700 BREEDER SAVED Him and Took Him Home. No Tag RC Kettle Chip G, 11 4EC77   $12,099 $1200   Dream Vacation-Malhana Gunilla-Bonefish No Tag Jeremy Sharky G, 15 4A407 $255,982 $750 Sharkys Spur-One Of The Kids-Albert Albert No Tag Secret Impression M, 14 4B682 $49,380 $625 Go Get Lost-Tuf Tonya-TZ 760 Casimir Army Patrol G, 20 TR315 $0 $700 Shre Patrol-Casimir Mooky  
As in the years in past, CeCe Levy and her brother, Bobby Levy, will be presenting the harness racing trophy to the winner of the George Morton Levy, a race named in the honor of their father. This year joining them in the presentation at Yonkers Raceway will be Bobby's children Tristin and Gavin. The accomplishments of George Morton Levy are too many to mention and if he had not existed our sport may not have, too. Levy invented harness racing as we know it when he opened Roosevelt Raceway introducing pari-mutual and night time racing. He would also later introduce the mobile starting gate which would revolutionize the sport. Some of his other accomplishments include the implementation of the International Trot and the single heat racing. There is also a funny story from a few years ago. While on their way to the winners circle the Levy family members who were to present the trophy to the winner got separated from the Yonkers PR people and ended up on the outside of the winners circle and the security guard would not let them in to present the trophy. Later they were photo-shopped into the winning photo. CeCe said that she and her family are grateful beyond words to Yonkers Raceway for staging the George Morton Levy and honoring her father. CeCe also made a prediction that this year's race will be won by Tony Alagna's horse, Dr J Hanover. Pictures CeCe Levy & Freddie Hudson CeCe Levy, Freddie Hudson & Bobby Levy Wally Hennesey, CeCe Levy & Jim Morrill CeCe Levy at Goshen HOF CeCe and Dave Miller By Fred Hudson
CHESTER PA - The Bettor's Delight mare Divas Image, despite having to go first-over, paced her back half in a sizzling 54.1 to take the harness racing $18,000 featured distaff pace at Harrah's Philadelphia on Friday afternoon. Driver Joe Bongiorno got away third from the rail with the winner of $362,682, then sent her out and up first-over, and Divas Image responded, going a 26.3 split down the back in the process of gunning to the lead, and then tacking on a 27.3 back quarter to easily handle her competition by 3¾ lengths while taking a new lifetime mark of 1:51. Jennifer Bongiorno trains the fast five-year-old, who has now won two straight and 5-of-9 in 2018. The victory was perhaps a bit bittersweet, because on Monday Eugene Kurzrok, a partner in both the Our Horse Cents Stables and Stable 45, which shares ownership of the winner with J&T Silva Stables LLC, had passed away at 81. Among the ownership of such stars as Mission Brief and Southwind Frank, Kurzrok was among the sport's higher-profile owners, and the victory of Divas Image may help allay some of the grief of his friends and partners. For the total Friday Philly card, the "Ohio Millers" combined for half the victories in the 14 races, with David winning four times (the first three with Nifty Norman trainees) and Brett three. PHHA / Harrah's Philadelphia
YONKERS, N.Y. – Harness racing trainer Ron Burke will start one horse each in the Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy Series Finals at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday night (April 21) and both will start from a disadvantageous post position. In a random draw, Lakeisha Hall and Rockin Ron both burdened with post eight. Despite the bad luck, Burke is keeping a positive attitude and isn’t surrendering before races even begin. “It’s awesome,” Burke said with a laugh. “I race in a lot of big races, so sooner or later you always have it, but you hate to start the year off with it. If anything, we’re going to err on the side of aggressiveness. I’d rather be parked and sit last and get nothing. If I get parked, maybe find a hole fourth or fifth, maybe upset the apple cart, but the idea of sitting eighth doesn’t appeal to me in either race. I’m not just going out there to take a ride around the track. I want to give my horses a chance.” George Brennan will drive the Lakeisha Hall, a 15-1 shot in the $373,000 Matchmaker Final, carded as race nine on the loaded 12-race program. In post position order, they will face Shartin, the 8-5 favorite, Sell A Bit, Medusa, Lady Shadow, Motu Moonbeam, Dudesalady, and Twinkle.  Lakeisha Hall’s path to the Matchmaker Final included a fifth in week one in her first start off the bench, a second to last year’s Matchmaker champion Mackenzie in leg two, a pair of victories in weeks three and four, and a third last week to rivals Dudesalady and Lady Shadow. Except in her first start, she’s been forwardly placed in all her races thus far. “She’s a very good mare and I’ve been very happy with her until her last start,” Burke said. “She had a little tie up issue last week and we got her through it, but I think it took just a little of the sharpness off her. I look for her to bounce back and be super this week. I thought, I’ve done the right thing to prep for this race, this is her home, so I have her ready to go.” Burke purchased Lakeisha Hall as a weanling with ambitions of her becoming a Kentucky Sire Stakes Champion. The daughter of Third Straight out of the Art Major mare Lantana accomplished that mission, winning the $175,000 KYSS Finals at ages 2 and 3. Now a 5-year-old, she’s exceeded expectations, earning 21 wins and $491,043 in 53 starts. The Matchmaker Final will be the biggest race of her career thus far. “We set out with a plan to win the Kentucky Sire Stakes those two years and we went out and bought three weanlings. We looked them over, broke them for a month, and then sold the other two and decided to try to keep the best one,” Burke explained. “The plan worked to perfection. She was 2- and 3-year-old champ and has been more than just a Kentucky Sire Stakes horse, so we were thrilled. “She really doesn’t have many stakes other than this and for her to draw the eight hole, that hurt, but it is what it is,” Burke continued. “Try to move on, at least get something. Crazy things will happen in these races, there’s a lot of money up for grabs. There will be constant movement in here, even if I have to be the one making the movement.” In the $532,000 Levy Final one race later, Yannick Gingras will drive Rockin Ron. The 20-1 morning line shot’s road to the series final was shaky. He posted a pair of victories in legs one and two and finished second by a nose to Western Fame in leg three before finishing fifth beaten 4 lengths in week four. Burke gave Rockin Ron the last week off and narrowly made the final. With 230 points earned, Rockin Ron was ranked eighth in the standings, only six points ahead of Missile J in ninth. “I thought I did the right thing and I had to sweat it out with Rockin Ron. I gave him last week off,” Burke said. “Usually, you do what’s right for the horse and they do race well for you in the long run. I had a great feel going into the race, I thought, if I can draw in the right spot we can be competitive. We got the eight, I said, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me.’ ” Although his races look good on paper, Burke doesn’t feel Rockin Ron, a $1.1 million earner who twice beat Wiggle It Jiggleit at 4, has been up to par in any of his races in the series. Burke was more impressed with the 6-year-old son of Real Desire’s qualifier and seasonal debut at the Meadowlands in February than his series wins. “Honestly, I haven’t been happy with any of his races. The race that he really raced well was the race he was second in. The next week, I didn’t feel like at any point he had pace, Burke said. “I pulled blood, I didn’t like his blood. I haven’t liked his stomach since he came back. That’s why I made the decision, sink or swim, I’m giving him the week off and going to try and get him right and get him ready for the final.  “We’ve done a lot of work on him the last couple weeks and I do think that he will be better,” Burke continued. “I look for him to be way improved this week.” In post-position order, Western Fame, Dr J Hanover, defending series champion Keystone Velocity, Evenin Of Pleasure, Somewhere In L A, Mach It So, and 2016 series champion Bit Of A Legend will start to Rockin Ron’s inside in the Levy Final.  First post time Saturday night is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the million-dollar card, click here.   By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY
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