Day At The Track
Alexandra Park,Harness racing

Mile racing pattern is vastly different now

Punters shouldn’t be fooled into thinking tonight’s all-mile night at Alexandra Park is a gimme for those with the best draws. Because while mile racing in the north used to be about draws, draws and more draws, the nature of northern sprint racing has changed. So much so Alexandra Park officials now see the uncertainty of modern day mile-racing as a crucial turnover-driving tool. In days gone by, when mid-race pressure and horses who could fly the gate were  rarer, sprint races were often dominated by leaders and trailers, with those back in the field hopeless in 56-second last 800m chases. But Alex Park racing boss Regan Cotter says the new mile racing pattern is vastly different. “We have found the all-mile nights have been great for turnover, some of our best normal meetings of the season,” says Cotter. “Especially when we have miles with the better horses drawn wider or the second line, it adds some uncertainty and the average win dividend has been higher.” That was the case at the last all-mile night on July 26 when the average win dividend was $8.60 in the 10 races and even that was skewered lower by two subsequent Breeders Crown finalists in Perfect Stride ($1.50) and Kratos ($2.10) winning race they wouldn’t usually have been in. As for the draws, an increase in horses leaving the gate hard and increased mid-race tempo means of the 10 races that night only three were won by horses drawing inside barrier five. Six of the 10 races were won by horses drawn six or wider, the outside half of the field. All of which means punters shouldn’t be scared to back horses drawn wide or even the second line tonight, especially if the race looks to have genuine early tempo. One of those races could be the $25,000 feature pace, in which Juice Bromac (6) has gate speed and Check In (7) the staying prowess that the race could turn into a survival of the fittest. The same applies in the main trot where Sunny Glenns and Sertorius are drawn widest but are stayers who will have to work forward some and that might as well be early so their wide draws may not be as damning as punters think. Go Kiwi (race 5),  Henry Hu (R6) and She Reigns (r10) are others good enough to overcome wide draws with a little luck or tempo to soften up the leaders. While barrier draws may no longer be the be-all-and-end-all of mile racing at Alexandra Park they are still crucial the highest level because the good horses don’t stop and that should be the case at the Breeders Crown Finals night at Melton tomorrow. While Kiwi trotters Ultimate Stride and Liberty Stride are good enough to work and win, the good barriers for Princess Tiffany and juvenile boys Perfect Stride and Zeuss Bromac have enormously turned the tables in their favour on what should be a successful night for the small Kiwi contingent.   Michael Guerin

Anthony Butt,Harness racing

Butt keen to send trophies back to NZ

There is absolutely no question about which flag Anthony Butt will be flying at the Australasian Breeders Crown in Victoria on Saturday night. The New Zealand-born reinsman, who has established himself as one of Australia's leading drivers, hopes to send a swag of silverware back to his homeland when he drives four strong chances in group 1 finals at the feature meeting at Melton on Saturday night. Butt could help trainer Phil Williamson send two Breeders Crown trophies back to Oamaru when he drives Ultimate Stride and Liberty Stride. Ultimate Stride has dominated his opposition in three starts after crossing the Tasman. Butt does not think barrier 7 will be enough to stop that winning run. ''I am not too worried. I would sooner be drawn there than out on the back row,'' the driver said. ''I have been really impressed with this guy. ''He has got better and better since he has been here.'' Ultimate Stride dealt to his rivals in Breeders Crown heat with an 11m win. ''He won that race with a leg in the air, really,'' Butt said. The Oamaru trotter's main rival looks to be fellow heat winner Is That A Bid. Ultimate Stride was rated a $1.60 win price, ahead of Is That A Bid at $3, with Australian bookmakers this week. Liberty Stride stunned Australian harness racing fans with a stunning win from a hopeless position in her first run in Australia. She made a meal of the Victoria Trotters Derby, before qualifying for the 3yr-old fillies' trotting final with a fast-finishing second to Sunny's Little Jestic in her heat run. Galloping in two of her three Australian starts has resulted in the trotter being placed on the unruly on Saturday night. Butt does not think that draw will be enough to stop the filly, who was rated a $2.60 favourite this week. ''Her manners were a lot better last week; she was a lot more settled,'' he said. ''She is probably the best horse in the field, I think, but in saying that, she will have to be very good to beat them. ''It won't be easy from the draw. One thing I was particularly pleased with is her main rivals are drawn on the second row with her.'' Butt can only see one other factor, aside from her unruly draw, against Liberty Stride. ''She is still quite inexperienced. ''She hasn't got a lot of experience stopping and starting mid-race, but if it comes down to a dogfight late I think she will be hard to hold out.'' Heat winners Sunny's Little Jestic and Emerald Stride are both rated $6 chances behind the favourite. Australian bookmakers rated I Am Pegasus, who trailed Liberty Stride home in her heat, the second favourite at $3.90 this week. Butt's Australasian Breeders Crown chances do not end with Phil Williamson's trotting duo. The reinsman will drive Perfect Stride, a leading chance in the 2yr-old male pacers final, for Auckland trainer Ray Green. Butt will also drive Northern Oaks winner Best Western for another Auckland trainer in Jeremy Young. Best Western could be running for second, as she has to take on raging hot favourite and star Kiwi filly Princess Tiffany.   By Jonny Turner Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Manchego, harness racing

Cool Manchego takes aim at Maple Leaf Trot

After a slow start to her harness racing campaign, Manchego will try to resume her return to winning form when she heads to Woodbine Mohawk Park for Saturday's (Aug. 24) second of two eliminations for the Maple Leaf Trot. The 4-year-old mare, who was a Dan Patch Award winner in 2017, has won two of her past three races, including a stakes-record 1:50 performance in the Steele Memorial earlier this month. "She needed a little bit of time to get back into herself, but I think history has showed that when she's on top of her game she's tough to beat," trainer Nancy Johansson said. "She's a super nice filly. She's nice and relaxed now and nice to be around and happy. Earlier in her life, she was always a little on edge. Now she's as cool as a cucumber. She's really confident in herself." Manchego was one of five mares entered in the Maple Leaf Trot, which attracted 13 horses. The mares joining Manchego in the second elim are Hannelore Hanover, the 2017 winner of the event, and Emoticon Hanover. They will meet male rivals Crystal Fashion, Marion Marauder, Run Director, and Six Pack. In the first elim, the mares are Atlanta and Dream Together. They are joined by males Speeding Spur N, Dancer Hall, Cruzado Dela Noche, and Guardian Angel AS. Guardian Angel AS is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the first elimination, followed by Atlanta at 5-2. Crystal Fashion is the 5-2 choice in the second division, followed by Manchego at 3-1. The top five finishers from each elimination return Aug. 31 for the final. Manchego, whose career victories include a Breeders Crown in 2017 and the Hambletonian Oaks in 2018, was winless in her first five races this season. She was unlucky when it came to draws, getting posts seven, eight (twice) and 10 in her first four starts. She raced from off the pace in her first two starts, but it was too difficult to make up ground in the stretch. "People always say post position doesn't matter, that it's just a starting point, but it does matter because nowadays they go fast the whole mile," Johansson said. "If you're sitting eighth, you can't catch up. So, unless you're going to blast off the gate, which is what we ended up having to do." In the Graduate Series championship at The Meadowlands, when she started from post 10, she got to the front in an opening quarter of :26.2. She ended up finishing fourth, beaten only 1-1/2 lengths, in Atlanta's 1:49.1 world-record mile. Manchego was timed in 1:49.2. Two starts later, she picked up her first win of the season with a 1:50.1 triumph from post nine at The Meadowlands. She followed with her gate-to-wire triumph in the Steele Memorial on Hambletonian Day at the Big M and was the bettor's second choice in the Joie De Vie Stakes on Aug. 11 at Tioga Downs, only to get knocked out of contention by a horse that broke in front of her just after the start of the race. "It was a little disappointing she got wiped out last time because Dexter (driver Dexter Dunn) said she'd never scored down that good for him," Johansson said. "But she's very good and hopefully we can just keep her there." Manchego, by Muscle Hill out of Secret Magic, has won 21 of 34 lifetime starts and earned $1.69 million. She is owned by Barry Guariglia's Black Horse Racing. "It was a little frustrating early, but I was never overly concerned," Guariglia said about Manchego's start to this season. "They said just give her a little time and she'll come. And sure enough. "You always worry about desire. Once they throw it in mentally, then you're in trouble. But she's got the desire. She likes to do her work." Andrew McCarthy will drive Manchego on Saturday, sitting in for Dunn, who will be at Yonkers Raceway to race Bettor's Wish in his Messenger Stakes elimination. "That doesn't worry me," Johansson said. "Dexter has done a very good job with her, but I'm sure Andrew can do just as well of a job." The Maple Leaf Trot eliminations are races two and three on Saturday's card, which begins at 7:10 p.m. (EDT). The night also includes two divisions of the Eternal Camnation Stakes for 2-year-old female pacers and one division of the Nassagaweya for 2-year-old male pacers. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

This Is The Plan,Harness racing

Racing resumes at H3R Friday after record Prix d'Ete

Trois-Rivieres, QC - After a record-breaking Prix d'Ete weekend at the Hippodrome 3R, live harness racing resumes Friday evening with the final preliminary round of the Future Stars Series for two-year-old trotters. Last Sunday, race fans at H3R were witness to the all-age track record being rewritten by This Is The Plan and driver Daniel Dube in the $200,000C Prix d'Ete for four-year-old pacers. Stopping the teletimer in 1:49.1, This Is The Plan shattered the prior track record of 1:50.3 that was co-held by Sunfire Blue Chip (2014) and All Bets Off (2015). The time was also the fastest clocking ever on a half mile track in Canada and was just one tick off of the world record. Also, last Sunday, the track record for three-year-old pacers was tied by Ashleysbest and driver Pascal Berube in 1:52.4, equaling the mark first set by Duc D'Orleans in 2013. Friday's card features three division of the Future Stars Series as the young trotter vie for important points to make the $55,000C final on Sunday, September 8. The third race first division for colts features a great match-up between Babidibou (post 4) and Major Bay (post 1). Last week Babidibou crushed the field with a wire-wire 2:02.4 triumph by 12 and one-quarter lengths. It was the first ever win for the son of Royalty For Life, who will be driven again by Stephane Gendron. Major Bay was also a winner last week, also wiring the field in 2:04.1 by one length for driver Jocelyn Gendron. This son of Amigo Hall has won three of his four lifetime starts. The second colt division is the fifth race where Kenogami Coco (post 1) is the overwhelming 4/5 race favorite. Stephane Brosseau will drive the gelded son of Wheeling N Dealin, who was second last week to Major Bay. The fillies do battle in the seventh race with nine starters going for $10,000C. The big favorite is Emotions Durables from post one for driver Tyler Jones. Also sired by Wheeling N Dealin, Emotions Durables is on a three-race winning streak, scoring in identical time of 2:04.2 the last two starts. First race post time on Friday is 7:00 pm. For a free race program, visit From the Quebec Jockey Club

TVNZ's Matt Hall-Smith talks to Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis at Oreti Beach about their break out harness racing season, and the benefits of training on one of New Zealand's most famous beaches.    

Astute Henley Brook trainer Mike Reed is confident that New Zealand-bred two-year-old Pocket The Cash is poised to end a sequence of five minor placings by winning the final event, the Chevron City To Surf For Activ Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Pocket The Cash, to be driven by Reed’s son Mark, will start from the No. 2 barrier in the 2130m event and the plan would be to make use of the gelding’s good gate speed.  “We will be going forward,” Mike Reed said. “I think that we’ve got to go forward to keep the main dangers outside of us or behind us.” “I was very impressed with Pocket The Cash’s run last Friday night (when a fast-finishing third to smart fillies Remit Me Whitby and Star Fromthepalace). He went to the line really good and if he had been able to get clear earlier I think he would have won. But I’m not taking anything away from the winner, who was very good. “I think that Pocket The Cash can turn the tables on the fillies. He has pulled up well and I expect him to run a good race. He’s just got better and better and better.” In last week’s race Pocket The Cash raced in fifth position, three back on the pegs. He was badly blocked for a clear passage until the final 120m and was still hampered for room in the late stages. The Debra Lewis-trained Remit Me Whitby (Jocelyn Young) impressed with her stylish all-the-way win and should fight out the finish this week after starting from barrier four. The Peter Anderson-trained Star Fromthepalace (Deni Roberts) cannot be underestimated and is poised for a strong showing, even from barrier six. She charged home from last when second to Remit Me Whitby last week. Dissertation, a Well Said gelding trained by Craig Abercromby, will start from barrier five with Chris Lewis in the sulky and will be attempting to stretch his winning sequence to four after easy victories at Northam and Pinjarra (twice). Adding considerable interest to the race will be the debut of the Alta Engen, an Alta Christiano gelding trained at Capel by Andrew de Campo. Alta Engen is out of the Million To One mare Its Karma, who won six times from 46 starts and is a half-brother to Baylan Jett, who has raced 74 times for 11 wins, 24 placings and $103,676 in prizemoney. Reinsman Aiden de Campo is upbeat about the prospects of Alta Engen, who finished a good second to the smart youngster Longreach Bay (a half-brother to the brilliant Cott Beach) in a 2185m trial at Pinjarra on Sunday morning. The winner rated 1.57.8, with final quarters in 28.5sec. and 28.9sec. “We sat three back on the pegs in the trial,” de Campo said. “I pulled him out at the 500m and he ran the leader (Longreach Bay) to about a half-length. “Alta Engen is quite a big horse who has taken time to mature. He’s quite docile and every time we take him to the track he keeps improving. He’s got gate speed and from barrier one I’ll be trying to hold the front with him.” The father-son de Campo combination also has good winning prospects with American Delight (race one) and Handsandwheels (race 6). American Delight, a winner at five of her 11 starts, is awkwardly drawn at barrier six in the 2130m event but has the ability to overcome that disadvantage. She has won at her past two outings, scoring by two lengths over 2130m at Gloucester Park and then finishing solidly from sixth at the bell to win narrowly from While They Pray over 2100m at Bunbury last Saturday week. “Her form is really good,” said Aiden de Campo. “From barrier six we’ll probably have to press forward with her and if she happens to find the front, she’ll take a fair bit of beating. However, she’s versatile and can do a few different things.” Countess Grace and Mandy Joan are two of American Delight’s main dangers. But they have drawn out wide, at barriers seven and eight, respectively. Countess Grace set the pace and was an easy winner for the Reed stable at Gloucester Park on Tuesday night. Handsandwheels is in top form and has won narrowly, but impressively at his past two starts at Gloucester Park, over 1730m at a 1.53.9 rate and 2130m (1.55.6). He will start from barrier four over 2130m on Friday night and his clash with Im Soxy, Vampiro, El Jacko, King of Swing and Vultan Tin will be a highlight of the ten-event program. Fast beginners Im Soxy (barrier two) and Thereugo (three) have drawn inside of Handsandwheels and the battle for early supremacy will be most interesting. The Brian Clemens-trained Im Soxy will be handled by Shannon Suvaljko and Mark Reed has been engaged to drive the Sue Wiscombe-trained Thereugo for the first time. The speedy Thereugo last appeared three weeks ago when he led from barrier seven and finished a close third behind Handsandwheels and Im Soxy at a 1.53.9 rate over 1730m.  “It will be interesting to see what Thereugo does,” said de Campo. “They might cross to the front and take a trail. Handsandwheels sat outside Thereugo and beat him last start over a mile (1730m) and you would think that he couldn’t lead over 2130m and beat us. I’ll play it by ear. In an ideal world Thereugo crosses to the front and hands up to us. But it’s never that easy; we’ve got to come out and find a forward position and play it by ear.”   Ken Casellas

ANDERSON, Ind.--August 21, 2019-- TJ's Top Pick, with Trace Tetrick in the bike, became Harrah's Hoosier Park Racing & Casino's newest harness racing track record holder when he powered home a winner in 1:53.3 in the co-featured event of the evening, the first division of the $64,000 Indiana Sires Stakes action for two-year-old trotting colts and geldings on Wednesday, August 21. The 1:53.3 mark was a lifetime best for the freshman colt and also re-established the previous track record for two-year-old trotting geldings by nearly a full second, a 1:54.2 mark that he equaled in the last round of stakes action. In just the fifth start of his two-year-old season, TJ's Top Pick turned in a dominant performance to finish nearly five lengths in front of his next closest competitor and remain undefeated this season. His 1:53.3 victory also marked the seventh track record that has been equaled or re-established at Hoosier Park through 102 nights of live racing this season. Leaving from post seven in the field of seven, TJ's Top Pick left just enough to grab a seat along the rail in fourth. Osprey Hanover and Deshawn Minor would grab the early lead through the opening panel in :27.4. As soon as the field got straightened away down the backside, Tetrick gave TJ's Top Pick the green light and the colt quickly took command at the half in :57.3. When the field hit the three-quarters in 1:25.4, TJ's Top Pick was on top with a five length lead while the rest of the field was struggling to stay within striking distance. Turning for home, TJ's Top Pick found another gear and trotted away from the field with a :27.4 closing kick. Swan In Motion and Ricky Macomber Jr. rallied well late but were forced to settle for second while Emma Town Bud and Mike Oosting finished third. As the heavy 2-5 favorite, TJ's Top Pick returned $2.80 at the betting windows. "He's just so versatile," trainer Jeff Cullipher noted after the victory. "He really started to come around when we shipped into Hoosier Park in March and he's just been getting better every week. He's one of the smartest colts I've ever been around and I think he gets a little stronger every start." With the win, TJ's Top Pick became harness racing's newest $100,000 earner. The gelded son of Swan For All-J A's Ayd is undefeated through the first three rounds of Indiana Sires Stakes action and is owned in partnership by Jeff Cullipher, Pollack Racing, and Trace Tetrick. TJ's Top Pick was bred by Freeman Bontrager. In the second division of the stakes action, Brigotto broke his maiden in impressive fashion and pulled the 15-1 upset. Driven by Sam Widger for trainer Rodney Debeck, Brigotto staged a big rally late in the lane to score in 1:55.3. Leaving from post four, Brigotto found a spot along the rail in fifth and would let the dust settle before making his move. Simply Swan and Joe Putnam were on top through the opening quarter in :29.1 but would yield the lead to the heavily favored, Dude Included and Verlin Yoder just before the half. Dude Included led the field through middle splits of :58.4 and 1:27.4 but Brigotto was on the attack and tracking intently from first-over. Widger was patient with Brigotto through the final turn and when they straightened away from home, Brigotto dipped down to the inside and utilized a :27.2 final quarter to get the win by a length. Dude Included finished second while Rocket Lee Breeze and Jared Finn finished third. As the second longest shot on the board, Brigotto returned $33.60 at the betting windows. "He tries really hard," trainer, owner Rodney Debeck noted after the victory. "He made a break in his last start but he's still figuring things out so you have to expect that. He trained down great." With the win, the son of Bluto-Dream Act recorded his first win from six lifetime outings. Bred by Pond-A-Acres, Brigotto has now earned $35,201 in lifetime purse earnings. Indiana Sires Stakes action will continue at Harrah's Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Thursday, August 22 with three $47,000 divisions for two-year-old filly pacers highlighting the 13-race card. The 13-race card will also feature a $10,000 Guaranteed Pick-4 pool in Races 3-6 and a $10,000 Hoosier High-5 in Race 13. With a daily post time of 6:30 pm, live racing at Harrah's Hoosier Park will follow a Tuesday through Saturday schedule and be conducted through November 9. For more information on the upcoming entertainment or live racing schedule, please visit by Emily Ratcliff, for Harrah's Hoosier Park

Victorian harness racing trainer Gary Merkel has tried taking extended breaks from the sport over the years, but each time finds himself back at it again. Merkel is in his early 70s and trains in the Goulburn Valley at Tongala, 50 kms north-west of Shepparton and said he couldn't put a number on the times he has thought the time had come to pull the pin. "I did give it up on two or three occasions and honestly believed that was the end," he said. "We were breeding up to a few years ago and we quit on that - but we kept three racehorses to try and sell, so after around 50 years, here I am, still at it! "But we've made some great friends and the industry has so many lovely people, you get so much enjoyment out of it, so I guess that's what keeps us coming back." But, with a touch of irony, Merkel and his wife Kathy are highly enjoying their involvement at the moment. Bay mare Roslyn Gaye (Artistic Fella-Madam Narryna (Fake Left) has posted impressive wins at Shepparton on August 7 and 18 and this afternoon competes in the $7000 Betta Home Living Pace Final at Cobram. "We've drawn nicely in barrier two and she has led-up in her last five starts so I would think Chris Svanosio, our driver, will adopt the same tactics. If we don't get early pressure, we should be right in the fight," Merkel said. "Last season she had four placings from 14 outings and looked a long way from a win. I decided to try to do what suited her the best in the way of training, so between races she gets interval training - some sprints up the straight, but with not a lot of work. "It seems to be working with her. This season she's had 22 runs for four wins, five seconds and two third placings." The Merkels named the pacer after their daughter Roslyn Gaye, who lives in Brisbane. "Roslyn has been on the sick list in recent times, so her namesake pacer has been giving her a bit of a lift. The other kids up there have also got right behind the horse which is great," Merkel said. Madam Narryna, the dam of Roslyn Gaye, was an outstanding performer winning 12 races (Merkel drove her to eight of these) with 21 placings for nearly $50,000. "She had a whirlwind sprint. Many times, she would come from the back and just overhaul them," Merkel said. As well as Roslyn Gaye, Madam Narryna has left two other winners from four foals - Superband (three wins) and Narryna Jetstar (two). Madam Narryna was the best-performed of nine foals produced by the Merkels' Hilarious Way-sired mare Narryna Way with other winners including Narryna Guy (seven), Narryna Scotch (two) and Narryna Fella (one). "We've had our ups and downs on the farm with breeding horses. We've bred many over the years and you take the good with the bad, but most of the ones we sold ended up winning races," he said. "Back in the day we would also buy some older horses and fiddle around with them and try to improve them, and we had a lot of fun in the 2000s with a Village Jasper mare in Global Village. "She won 10 at tracks like Shepparton, Cobram, and Echuca and had 36 placings. And it's most satisfying when you get a win and people come up and congratulate you. That's one of the best parts." Merkel said his interest in harness racing went back to many years ago when he attended Technical School. "The school was not far from the old Shepparton showgrounds and I used to watch the pacers being trained. Then later my brother left me a horse because he had nowhere to put it," he said. "I was a builder by trade and owned two acres at Kialla where I made a little jog track. I got a copy of 'the green book' on how to train standardbreds, asked friends and listened to others. "We later moved to Tongala on 40 acres, where we are now, and have our own 650m track. I still get up at daylight and if I need to do some fast work, sometimes I will head into the Kyabram track." And as for a retirement date? Merkel said he really hadn't given it much thought lately. "We are equal first with Roslyn Gaye in a Horse of the Year award up here so to clinch that would be nice and I also want to race at Albury again because we have fond memories from years ago when we competed there with a horse named Bill Hickock."   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Whether a season is a success or failure often depends on expectation. Which means most punters and even trainer Steven Reid would struggle to give Star Galleria a positive report card for last season. On raw data that hardly seems fair. Star Galleria finished second to Turn It Up in and Auckland Cup and Cambridge Flying Mile and was a consistent player at the highest level. But when you have been given that most potent of equine gifts, blazing speed, close enough isn’t good enough. So Reid is hoping this season, which starts at the workouts next week for Star Galleria, is better. A lot better. “I suppose it was a good season but it could have been much better,’” admits Reid. “But what a lot of people forget is that he had an operation for an entrapped epiglottis and that effected him at both ends of the season. “He had an operation on that after the NZ Cup (seventh) and then it bothered him when he flipped his palate in the Hunter Cup (February) so he did a good job to run second in an Auckland Cup in between.” The problem is that Star Galleria, while he has won 13 races and $362,171, has a million-dollar reputation and after a ballistic early season victory this time last year huge money offers were being thrown around. They were turned down and Star Galleria won one more race for the season. Reid hasn’t given up on the now six-year-old making good on his gifts. “He has come back stronger, a lot stronger,” he offers. “And we now know one of the keys to him is keeping him settled in his races because after the operation he has an increased risk of flipping his palate. “But with his speed and him being stronger I think he can have a better season than last season.” And Star Galleria has plenty of local targets, with Reid hoping some small fields hold together in the north over the next two months to allow him a home-based preparation for the New Zealand Cup, with Tony Herlihy to retain the drive. Then he has the Inter Dominion returning to his back door at Alexandra Park on November 29, with doubts over a range of top-end contenders. “I think he actually thrives on the back up so I am confident he will handle the series, especially being at home.”That is well over $1.5million worth of races for Star Galleria between now and the New Year. And plenty of chances to live up to the hype.B   Michael Guerin

Recently crowned junior drivers’ premiership winner John Morrison has the chance to kick start his title defence this week. Morrison heads to Addington on Thursday night to seek his first win of the new season and to reunite with promising pacer Only In America. The 5yr-old has impressed by winning two of his three career starts for trainer Mike de Fillipi.  “He has done everything we have asked of him so far - only three starts and he has done a really good job,” Morrison said. “He has got a great gait and great manners -  he is typical of one of Mike DeFilippi’s – he is very well mannered and great to drive.” “He is a very good judge, so it good to be pulling his colours on.” Only In America has shown versatility in his two starts by winning from the trail two starts ago and by leading all of the way in his last win. Despite the horse showing a professional attitude, Morrison is weary of the pacer stepping in up in grade to race seasoned horses in race 8. The only other thing Morrison is concerned about ahead of Thursday night’s 2600m handicap is that Only In America has not raced for over a month. “He hasn’t raced for a month, so he might need the run a wee bit.” “So far he has done everything right and there is no reason he couldn’t [step up in grade]. “He will just get better with racing, I would say.” Rollova heads Only In America’s more seasoned opposition in Thursday night’s rating 50-72 special handicap. Though the David and Catherine Butt trained 4yr-old is a relative newcomer to racing himself, with only seven starts behind him. Rollova impressed in the first run of his campaign, with hitting the line strongly for third behind Flying Mister Ideal at Addington last week. Rollova shares the 10m mark with Only In America and other leading contenders Santanna Mach and Secret Bet. Morrison has two other chances to notch his first win of the new term at Addington. He will reunite with consistent trotter Crusher Collins in race 9. The Lyndon Bond trained 6yr-old has won once and placed six times from behind the mobile. “Crusher Collins has been going really good, she went good at Oamaru on Sunday,” Morrison said. “I got to drive her in the junior championship and she went really good then.” Morrison also drives Tiger Moth, who seeks a maiden win from race 2. The Graham Bond trained 5yr-old ran last in his last start at Ashburton, but he deserved a better fate. “I was really happy with Tiger Moth until he got knocked over at about the 600m – he was going really good.” “His trial form was really good and it wasn’t his fault – I got knocked off my feet. I though he would have been in the money.” Tiger Moth has his first standing start from the unruly in race 2 on Thursday night. If he can not crack a win at Addington, he should be able to be rewarded at short notice, Morrison said. “He would win in the race in the near future, I would think.” Morrison has a strong book of drives at Gore on Sunday. It includes three good chances for trainer Paul Court in Mongolian Marshal, Storm Prince and Stick Man.   By Jonny Turner Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Two well-bred winning Love You mares, Silicon Valley, (who has not been to stud) and Glenferrie Sunbird, (who has only been bred once, producing a colt to Andover Hall), are the latest additions to Yabby Dam Farms Annual Broodmare reduction sale. The lightly raced Glenferrie Sunbird is a half to the good winner The Foot Tapper and from champion Lyell Creek’s family which has been firing on all cylinders in recent years. Out of Pine Chip mare Blue Jacket, Glenferrie Sunbird is closely related to Group winners Marcoola, Armaretto Sun, Arboe, Ima Bourbon Girl, Kincaslough and Kahdon plus the group placed Le Reveur, Ballyronan and Ronald J, making her an outstanding broodmare proposition. Five-win mare Silicon Valley took a record of 1.58.9 in amassing earnings of $27,820. From the Pine Chip mare Micro Chip, she is a half to the group placed Cyberspace and two other winners. Her grand dam is the Group winner Inda Bank (t, 1.58.9, $138,660) who is a close relation to good winner The Almighty Johnson (t1.58.9m $199,169). Tricia Powell, the dam of recent 3YO winner Travel Bug, who is the only progeny of racing age, is among mares still available in the first annual broodmare reduction sale with an adjusted price. These include New Zealand champion Enghien’s half sister The Pink Diamond who won nine races in New Zealand and Australia, multiple Group one placed Amarula, Group one placed Moyabamba, NZ Trotting Oaks winner Commander Jewel and Group one winning Sundon mare Fiery Mountain Girl who is in foal to Love You. This is a genuine broodmare reduction sale, due to an influx of retiring mares from Yabby Dam Farms’ racing arm, and a change of direction, meaning a number of beautifully bred mares from its broodmare band are available for sale online on its website, on a first come first served basis. Yabby Dam Farms is offering a wide mix of mares, unproven, proven, young and old broodmares to suit all clients, from established breeders to new breeders wanting to get in-to the game, or those trying to get into that special family through an older mare. So here is a great chance to supplement your broodmare band from some of the southern hemisphere’s best families. Please call Dave on +64 21 245 2584 or email   Dave Sanders

NORTHFIELD, OH — He may very well be the Roy Hobbs of harness racing. In the classic baseball movie “The Natural,” Hobbs, portrayed by Robert Redford, endures 16 years between striking out a Babe Ruthian character known as Whammer and playing for the big league New York Knights as a 35-year-old rookie. A silver bullet delayed his debut. Cooper, a bay six-year-old harness racing trotter, had been missing in pari-mutuel action for nearly four years, a lifetime for a racehorse, when he showed up to compete at Northfield Park in early June. For a Standardbred who hadn’t raced in 45 months, he’s become an overnight success. Cooper, who failed to win a race in six starts in 2015 as a freshman and banked a measly $3,305, has ripped off six consecutive victories ($20,700 in earnings) at Northfield Park. Remarkably, he trots faster with each and every outing. Where has he been? He was busy pulling an Amish buggy around Sugarcreek, Ohio, a village in Tuscarawas County that’s about an hour south of Northfield Park. Cooper, no longer an equine limousine, seeks his seventh straight victory Wednesday night in the 10th race at Northfield. The masterminds behind the magical rebirth of the son of Canadian sire Kadabra, are longtime Sugarcreek friends Homer Stutzman and Firman Troyer. “He’s a total surprise,” said Troyer, who owns and trains Cooper after purchasing him privately from Stutzman. “Every time he races, he amazes me.” Stutzman, who bought Cooper at auction a few years back for a few thousand dollars, is not as surprised. “When I first got him, he (had a) sore behind and he also had a kidney infection,” said Stutzman. “I called an equine chiropractor and he worked on him. It just took some time for him to come up to snuff.” And when he did, Cooper started transporting the Stutzman family around town with improved smoothness. There were the usual trips to the store, to church and to the homes of relatives, all with great zip. It’s also when Stutzman heard a sound that made him think Cooper wanted to once again trot for his dinner. “I started hearing his hooves hitting the axles on the buggy,” he said. “That told me that he was really feeling good and stretching out.” So, Stutzman reached out to Troyer earlier this year and encouraged him to give Cooper a second chance at the races. “I have a day job in Sugarcreek, building doors at Provia Door, so training horses is a hobby of mine,” said Troyer. “Homer knows horses and he said he thought Cooper would do, so I decided to try him as a racehorse.” After getting him in shape at a stable in Sugarcreek, Troyer shipped Cooper to Northfield for a morning qualifying mile on May 30. It was the first time he’d been on a racetrack since Sept. 6, 2015, when he failed to finish in a race at Flamboro Downs in Canada. Not only did Cooper go wire-to-wire over a sloppy track to win the qualifier by 1 ½ lengths, he was timed his mile in 1:57 4/5. “My first reaction was that I wasn’t sure the timing device was working,” said Troyer. “That was mighty fast.” The timer was accurate and the impressive clocking earned Cooper the right to race for purse money at night. He has more than made the most of the opportunity, perhaps fearful of being returned to the life of a Sugarcreek taxi. Cooper has not only won all six of his starts by an average margin of 6 1/2 lengths, he has dramatically lowered his winning time in each subsequent outing, turning in an eye-popping career best 1:53 2/5 last Wednesday. “We never figured this would happen, but we’re enjoying every minute of it,” said Troyer. “Cooper is the best horse I’ve ever had. He has the nicest temperament. There isn’t a mean bone in his body. My little boy could race him.” And what does Mark Steacy think of Cooper? He’s the trainer who had him in his failed first year of racing. “What he’s done (at Northfield) is something you don’t see very often,” said Steacy. “I sent him back to his owner because he was just too slow. But good for him. Perhaps he just matured.” Troyer isn’t sure what has gotten into Cooper, but whatever it is, he’ll gladly accept more of it. “The future? I don’t know,” he said. “The future will just have to tell us what it is.” By Bob Roberts, Special to The Plain Dealer, reprinted with permission

Former AFL sharpshooter Rick McLean was regarded as one of the toughest players ever to pull on a guernsey - but fortunately there was a soft side to him when it came to his harness racing horses. Had McLean not gone against advice from veterinary surgeons and saved a horse he bred at his then Toolern Vale property many years ago, his sensational "Broadway" dynasty may never have materialized. "I think it would have been in the early 1990s when dad was faced with the dilemma of what to do with Broadway Gal," Rick's son and harness racing trainer Shannon said. "She was a handy horse he had bred by Muckalee Strike out of a mare he purchased called Neshia, but she went through a fence and ripped arteries in the lower part of one of her legs. The vets suggested she be put down, but dad said 'No way' and that was that," he said. "After being nursed back to health, she returned to the track and won a heap of races. I think it was 15. "Dad has owned horses for a long time. He had them with a number of trainers when he was playing footy (for Carlton and later Richmond), and loved a bet," Shannon said. Rick McLean, a powerfully built 185cm, 92kg full forward, joined Richmond at the end of 1971, after being cleared from Carlton, where he'd been starved of opportunities (with just 19 games). Rick McLean in his AFL heyday After joining the Tigers, McLean finished 1972 with a career-high 55 goals, with a best return of eight against St Kilda at the MCG. He left Tigerland in '74 to play for Burnie, in Tassie, before returning two years later for three more senior games. He averaged nearly three goals per game in his 39 appearances at Richmond, providing a strong and aggressive focal point. What would become McLean's foundation mare, the rejuvenated Broadway Gal finished her career with 20 wins and 15 placings for stakes of $100,000. But as good as she was at the racetrack, the mare, owned by Rick and sons Christian and Shannon, has proved to be a marvel in the breeding barn. From eight foals, Broadway Gal has left seven winners with combined success of 110 victories and 157 placings for more than $1.2 million. "Over the years he's spent a lot of time and money on them, but he always tried to have well-bred stock. While he has been getting the rewards for the last 20 years, it's been particularly satisfying in the last 10 years," Shannon said. Undoubtedly heading the list of the McLean breed, courtesy of Broadway Gal, was Broadways Best (29 wins, 29 places for $643,000). Then there was also Broadway Playboy (30w, 40 p $215,000); Broadway Play (20w, 32 p $173,000); Another Broadway (19 w, 18 p $106,000); Fifth And Broadway (9 w, 17 p $49,000); Spirit Of Broadway (5w, 14 p $28,000); and Just Tommy (3w, 7p $13,000). The daughter of Broadway Gal, the Safely Kept-sired Broadway Play is now also showing her talents as a broodmare. She is the dam of bay gelding Live On Broadway (By Art Major), bred by Christian, owned by Rick and trained at South Gisborne by Shannon. The five-year-old has had seven starts for six wins - the past five this season. "We are all certainly enjoying the ride with him. But it hasn't all been plain sailing because he had an enforced spell for over 18 months," Shannon said. After winning a 3YO Vicbred event at Maryborough in August 2017 Live on Broadway pulled up lame. "We thought it was an abscess," Shannon said. "This went on for five or six weeks so then we got an x-ray done and the vet found he had ringbone." (*Ringbone is a bone growth in the pastern or coffin joint. In severe cases, the growth can encircle the bones, giving ringbone its name.) Shannon said as a young horse, Live On Broadway tore half of his hoof off. "It was built up with Equilox, an adhesive hoof repair resin. We often wonder if his problems started from there," he said. "We were aware he had ability, so he got thrown out into the paddock for a long spell. He's not showing any signs of discomfort so hopefully it's behind him." Live On Broadway, with Chris Alford driving, was forced to race outside the leader at Yarra Valley on Monday and had enough in reserve to hold off a fast-finishing Machs Gold (Kate Gath). The pacer may have his next start at Cranbourne on Sunday. Shannon, who has been training for about 20 years, is nearing the 100 mark with 93 wins and 124 placings (over $1M in stakes) from 420 starters. "We're very family-orientated. My wife Jess is always there to lend a hand and our boys Jensen (4) and Hunter (6) love the horses. In fact Hunter's been at all of Live on Broadway's five races this season, so we think he's our lucky charm!"   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

YONKERS, NY, Tuesday, August 20, 2019--Sometimes, we realize communication ain't all it's cracked up to be. That's our story and we're sticking with it. When the list of Yonkers Trot entrants was sent out Monday (Aug. 19th), it numbered seven. Well, make it eight. A bad game of telephone omitted one...a Hambletonian-winning one. Forbidden Trade was indeed put in the box Monday for the 65th Trot, and for that omission in print, it's a mea culpa. "It wasn't in our original plan, but plans change," trainer Luc Blais said. "We let him tell us what to do and he's been training so well." Forbidden Trade, a son of Kadabra, was among the list of Yonkers Trot eligibles, supplemented after his 2-year-old season. He has won six of his nine starts at 3 ($671,484), the latest an Ontario Sire Stakes Gold event at Mohawk. The colt, has who made two half-mile-track OSS starts in his career, is owned by Serge Godin's Determination and driven by Bob McClure. Even with the 'addition' of Forbidden Trade, the limited number of entrants makes this season's race a one-dash-for-the-(half-million-dollar)-cash event, set for Saturday night, Aug. 31st. The new-and-improved alphabetical list of Yonkers Trot entrants, with declared drivers, are... Forbidden Trade (Bob McClure) Gimpanzee (Brian Sears) HL Revadon (g) (Jim Marohn Jr.) Livinonthedash (Marcus Miller) No Drama Please (Tim Tetrick) Osterc (Dexter Dunn) Sheena's Boy (g) (Dunn also listed) Soul Strong (g) (Dunn also listed) by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

Haras des Trotteurs-bound Sweden Cup winner Volstead leaves for Australia tomorrow after spending his two week post-arrival quarantine at IRT’s Karaka (Auckland) facilities in New Zealand. The first son of Cantab Hall to stand at stud in the southern hemisphere looked relaxed and in wonderful condition as he nibbled on a carrot offered by IRT handler David Cudden who accompanied him from his new permanent residence in America after a stellar racing career in Sweden. New Zealand and Australian breeders will be the first to welcome Volstead foals for the US-bred stallion who raced out of top Swedish trainer Stephan Melander’s stable winning 23 of his 72 race starts. A very sound, versatile and exceptionally fast horse, Volstead won races in each year from age 3 until 7 and from distances ranging from a mile (where he took a record of 1.51.5 on a 1000m track) to 2640m competing  against some of the very best horses in the world. He won some of Sweden’s most prestigious races including the 4YO classic Group 1 King’s Cup and as a 6YO, the international Sweden Cup, and during his stellar career also competed in the famous Elitloppet against the likes of world superstars Timoko and Propulsion. Standing at Haras des Trotteurs at Cardigan (Ballarat), Victoria, Volstead’s chilled semen will be available throughout New Zealand and Australia with $500 discounts available to Victorian Square Trotters Association and New Zealand Standardbred Breeders Association members. Enquiries to Dave Sanders, TEL +64 212 452 584.

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CHESTER, PA - The Captaintreacherous - Tulu Hanover freshman pacing filly Lyons Sentinel became the only three-time winner in her Pennsylvania Sire Stakes preliminary competition on Thursday at Harrah's Philadelphia, where she triumphed in 1:51.1. Now with three victories and three seconds (by a neck, a head, and a nose) in six starts, Lyons Sentinel has spent much of her racing career against the pylons until past the ¾, but here she got away fourth as Rocknificent (the 4-5 favorite off two previous SS wins), Shouldabeenatd and Primrose established themselves 1-2-3 past a 27.2 quarter, leaving the even-money second choice Lyons Sentinel in fourth and forced to move first-over at the :56.3 half. But David Miller was able to get the talented baby in high gear very quickly, and she had reached the leader by the 1:23.4 three-quarters, then slowly put away her rival. Annabelle Hanover, who had done well to follow the winner's cover, proved to be the major danger in the lane, but she had to settle for second, 1 1/4 lengths back, with Rocknificent another ¾ of a length back behind Lyons Sentinel, who came her own last half in :53.3 raw. Lyons Sentinel emerged as the leading pointwinner in the division's prelims (she had been tied for first with Rocknificent with two wins and a second, with each defeating the other in a photo), but now she goes, at least temporarily, to the top of the class as the group prepares for its PA Sire Stakes Championship here at Philly on Sunday, September 8. The classy winner is trained by Jim King Jr. for owner Geoffrey Lyons Mound. The Somebeachsomewhere - Fashion Ecstasy filly Beyond Ecstasy put herself squarely into the divisional picture with a new mark of 1:51.2 while winning her second PaSS event in the other division (both were worth $91,521). Beyond Ecstasy went frontward to gain the top by the :27 quarter, then yielded to the favored JK First Lady (Western Ideal out of the Horse of the Year JK She'salady) midway from the quarter to the :55.2 half. Beyond Ecstasy and driver Andrew McCarthy sat patiently in the pocket as Sweet Ace grinded up to third but no closer, pulled for the stretch drive, and outfooted her pacesetting rival by 1½ lengths, with Sweet Ace third. Beyond Ecstasy now has three wins and a second in five starts; she suffered interference in her other outing. The full sister to Filibuster Hanover is trained by Jim Campbell for Jeffrey and Michael Snyder and the Four Friends Racing Stable LLC. The Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission is the official tallier of the points earned in the Sire Stakes and the Stallion Series, but a quick, unofficial calculation performed after the last PaSS race revealed the following eight horses with the most points: 1. Lyons Sentinel; 2. Rocknificent; 3. Beyond Ecstasy; 4. Sweet Ace; 5. Baby Your The Best; 6. Shouldabeenatd; 7. JK First Lady; 8. More Than Kute. From the PHHA/Harrah's Philadelphia
Berlin, MD - NHyway Marcus leads a field of five trotters competing Sunday evening (August 25) at Ocean Downs as part of the Downs' salute to 'Women in Harness Racing'. The trotters will be competing after the fourth race with an estimated post time of 8:10pm. The sixth race on the wagering card is the Powder Puff Trot where nine women drivers will be competing in a 1 1/16 mile contest. Unlike previous RUS MidAtlantic events, Sunday night's tilt will be an exhibition race which will allow newcomers to RUS, both human and equine, to compete. "This race is different in the matter of we are bringing some new faces and horses into the race", said RUS MidAtlantic President Stephanie Jacobs, "We are always excited to bring in fresh riders and mounts. This exhibition race is different than most. With no purse, riders and horses with the support of owners and trainers are coming down with no other intent other than to show their passion for the sport. It is a true testament of the support we have". For riders Sofia Zingale and Molly Gara, the race provides a reunion of sorts, having both come from the show jumping world and the same college equestrian team. When asked about the race, Zingale stated, "I'm really excited for this exhibition race. I think it is fantastic Ocean Downs is supporting women in harness racing with both our RUS race and the powder puff drivers race on the same night. I love the fact that we have new horses and riders in this race. Seabuddy is a full brother to my usual mount "Egosnattitudes" and Rebel Soul has gate speed like you can't believe. It will be very interesting to see". On making her debut appearance, Gara claimed, "I've jumped horses my whole life and just recently got into harness racing. Now I'm so excited to try RUS and I think it's just the beginning"! The other newcomer in the saddle, Nicky Ratledge stated, : "[I] Can't wait to try out RUS. It's something I've always wanted to try with all the Standardbreds that I have ridden over my years of working in harness racing! I'll be conquering another goal!". While it will take a top effort to defeat Hyway Marcus who is in the middle of a five-race win streak (sulky and under saddle), newcomer Pembroke Bada Bing may present a challenge as he has been racing well in sulky at Pocono Downs and Harrah's Philadelphia; finishing a head behind Marcus after cutting the mile from post position seven. "Marcus continually gives me some of the best moments of my life", explains Sasha Moczulski, "so hopefully by opening this race up to new riders and having them experience the thrill of getting behind the gate, we can expand our sport. Having a unique horse that can race both in harness and under saddle just helps make our profession all the more exciting." The field for the exhibition race are:  1. Hyway Marcus (Sasha Moczulski) 2. Rebel Soul (Sofia Zingale) 3. Pembroke Bada Bing (Stephanie Jacobs) 4. Seabuddy (Nicole Ratlledge) 5. Puddin N Pie (Molly Gara) by Allan Schott, for RUS MidAtlantic
Omar Acosta-Cabrera of Hackensack, New Jersey, walked away with a 2019 Toyota C-HR as the grand prize winner of Meadowlands Racetrack's Championship Meet Horseplay promotion. From Friday, May 3rd through August 2nd, Horseplay participants attempted to throw their numbered horse into the window of a moving car. A winner, randomly chosen from all the horses that make it into the car, received a $100 betting voucher. Each night's winner was entered into a grand prize drawing to win the brand new 2019 Toyota C-HR on, Friday, August 2nd. Cabrera, who comes to the track every Friday night during the summer was ecstatic to win the Toyota C-HR. "This is so awesome," Cabrera exclaimed after his name was drawn. "I was looking for a new car so this came at the perfect time!" For every horse that made it into the Horseplay car, Meadowlands Racetrack donated $10 to the designated monthly charity. For the 2019 season, a total of $8,020 was donated to three local charities. The May donation recipient was A Lot to Grow:  The June donation recipient was Humane Society of Bergen County Lost Pet, Inc: The July/August donation recipient was Horse Rescue United - Since 2015 Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment has donated over $34,000 to local charities through Horseplay. For the most up-to-date Meadowlands Racetrack racing, event and promotions visit by Rachel Ryan, for the Meadowlands
This weeks Harness Racing Alumni Show features an interview with Canada's top racing CEO, Clay Horner.        

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