Day At The Track

Nick Roland returns to the Running Aces harness racing track as its leading driver and plans to have a busy first night Saturday when the facility just south of Forest Lake off I-35 opens its 10th season. Roland, a 34-year-old Grinnell, Iowa, native, said he expects to be in every race, 8-10 a night. Last year, Roland was among the top three finishers in most races and won about 30 percent of them. “That’s a pretty high win percentage in the harness racing world,” he said. “We’ve been at Running Aces every year since it opened.” The Pioneer Press talked with Roland about harness racing and his experiences at Running Aces. You were the leading driver at Running Aces last year. What is it about Running Aces that you like? It’s relatively close to where I grew up. My family has raced horses for a number of years in the area. I’ve grown up knowing everyone from the area. Being kind of the hometown guy around here, I get a lot of first choices on horses that other people don’t. You race your own horses as well as other people’s horses? We have between 20 and 25 horses at Running Aces. Those are the horses I have to drive first. After that, I drive for a number of other stables in the area. I may be listed as the driver of several horses in a race and I pick one. Where else have you driven? This past year, we went out to New York and stabled out there in the winter. We raced at Yonkers, Monticello, the Meadowlands in New Jersey, Saratoga. We also raced in British Columbia. Also, we’ve raced in Sacramento. Obviously, this is a full-time job for you. In December and January, it’s pretty slow. Other than that, it’s pretty much full time. How did you get involved in harness racing? My great-grandfather on my mother’s side started racing back in the 1950s, and my grandparents on my father’s side started racing in the 1970s. My parents met at the races. It was kind of bred into me. When did you decide harness racing was the sport for you? I grew up doing it. I was able to put myself though college by being able to have horses at my parents’ farm. My parents insisted I get a degree and get a real job. It’s kind of a gypsy lifestyle, racing horses. I worked at an insurance company for a year and I was miserable. I did that for a year and quit and decided I was going to race full time, and I haven’t thought about doing anything else since. Unlike in thoroughbred racing, where the jockey has to be diminutive, size isn’t as much of a factor. How big are you? I’m a pretty big driver. I’m 6-foot-1 and about 170 pounds. Size isn’t as much of a factor in standardbred racing. The sulkies are balanced to offset the driver’s weight, but you don’t want somebody huge on there. You don’t see many 300-pound drivers, do you? Not any more. There used to be some pretty big guys that were top drivers. Nowadays, most of the top guys aren’t as big as me. The guys are under six feet tall and probably around 160. In harness racing, is the driver also often the trainer? I’m the trainer on our stable and; for other stables, the driver varies. Most trainers use “catch drivers,” which means they use a driver they can hire. Generally, most trainers don’t drive full time like I do. At Running Aces, there are a lot of trainer-drivers because it’s a small, isolated area. It’s not someplace you can expect to make a good living just catch driving. Do you prefer pacers or trotters? (The majority of harness racing horses are pacers — where the front and back leg on each side of the horse move in unison; trotters have a front and back leg on opposite sides of their body move in unison). We do both. We have about half and half pacers and trotters. I guess I don’t have a preference. I like good horses, and it doesn’t matter to me if they’re a pacer or trotter. Standardbred horses are the standard for harness racing. Ever race any other breed? No, I haven’t. I have thought about getting into thoroughbred racing. With Canterbury Park being so close, there are a couple of guys I know and we were talking about going in together and claiming something there. We haven’t done it yet. It would be neat. How different or difficult would it be to train a thoroughbred? It’s hard to say because I’ve never done it. It is quite a bit of a different world. Thoroughbreds race, at most, twice a month. Standardbreds can race once a week. Standardbreds are much more hearty. What question are you asked the most when people find out you are involved in harness racing? Can you make any money doing it? I guess that’s the question I get asked all the time. And what is the answer? The answer is yes, you can make money doing it. If you’re a small-scale owner, you shouldn’t plan on it or count on it. The way to do it is to have a large number of horses so you can diversify your risk. If you have one that doesn’t make anything, generally you have one that makes up that loss. Are we talking profits in the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands? It really depends on the scale you’re willing to go. This biggest standardbred trainer, I think, earned like $20 million in purses. His owners generally are the same two or three guys. They spend a lot of money but have hundreds of horses. In 2012, our best year, our stable made a little over $400,000 in purses at Running Aces. It’s not all profit but that was a good year. We had between 15 and 20 horses. By Bob Sansevere Bob Sansevere can be heard Tuesdays and Thursdays on the KQRS Morning Show, and he does a daily podcast called The BS Show, which can be listened to live on the Tom Barnard digital radio network or downloaded via iTunes, Stitcher or thebsshow.net.   Reprinted with permission of The Twin Cities Pioneer Press

MAY 19, 2017 - The 2017 Ontario Sires Stakes season will kick off on Sunday, May 21 at Flamboro Downs as part of the Dundas racetrack's $460,600 Confederation Cup harness racing program. Ontario's best three-year-old trotting colts and geldings will highlight the Confederation Cup pre-show, competing in the Gold Series season opener. Waterdown, ON resident Scott McEneny will send out Tycoon Seelster in the first of three Gold Series divisions. The Angus Hall gelding was a three-time Ontario Sires Stakes winner as a two-year-old and finished second in the season ending Super Final. "He's come back pretty good this year," said McEneny, who conditions Tycoon Seelster for Chris Storms of Picton, ON. "He was a little bumpy last year, he didn't have the best gait, but he seems to be coming back a little better this year. He got a lot bigger, a lot thicker, over the winter." Tycoon Seelster and regular driver Paul MacDonell of Guelph, ON will start from Post 4 in Race 1 of the Confederation Cup program, going postward at 7 pm, with the other two $65,600 Gold Series battles scheduled for Races 2 and 5. Also making their 2017 Ontario Sires Stakes debut on the Confederation Cup undercard are the three-year-old pacing colts and geldings, competing in the first Grassroots event of the season in Races 4, 6, and 8. Prairiecreekprince and driver James MacDonald of Guelph will lead the pacing colts onto the half-mile oval, starting from Post 1 in the first $18,450 division for trainer Dave Menary of Cambridge, ON. "He's a nice big strong colt, he doesn't have very many lifetime starts so I'm hoping that he can kind of mature into a useful horse," said Menary, who trains the Mach Three gelding for Ryan Morefield of Brighton, MI. "I was happy with his second qualifier (May 15) and he drew really good on Sunday - the exact opposite of Sintra - so I'm super happy about that." In addition to first-time Ontario Sires Stakes starter Prairiecreekprince, Menary will also send out former Ontario Sires Stakes star Sintra from Post 8 in the evening's main event. Another son of Mach Three, Sintra was a commanding two and one-half length winner in his Confederation Cup elimination, halting the Flamboro teletimer at 1:52.4. "That's a big hurdle to overcome, but if anybody can do it I think he can," said the trainer of the gelding's outside post position in the $176,000 Final. Menary, whose operation is based at a farm no further than a Dustin Johnson tee-shot from the Flamboro Downs entrance, shares ownership of Sintra with Brad Gray of Dundas and Michael Guerriero of Brampton, ON. The gelding heads into Sunday's final undefeated in the first three starts of a four-year-old campaign that has seen him triumph in an April 29 overnight event at Mohawk Racetrack, the May 6 opening leg of the Graduate Series at The Meadowlands, and last weekend's Confederation Cup Elimination. Regular reinsman Jody Jamieson of Moffat, ON will pilot Sintra in his bid for a fourth win on Sunday. "The four-year-olds are really lucky, most of the starts are front loaded," noted Menary. "The Confederation Cup, and the Graduate Series, and even the Prix D'Ete in Quebec, they're all a little bit earlier in the year so before they have to test, you know these are nice horses, but before they have to test the real deep waters it gives them a chance to get started with their own kind." Scott McEneny will also harness a starter in the Confederation Cup Final, sending out Mr Wiggle Pants with Doug McNair aboard from Post 7 in the eleventh race. Mr Wiggle Pants, owned by Brad Grant of Milton, ON, finished third behind Western Fame in his elimination. In addition to Sunday's outstanding program of racing, Flamboro Downs fans will be treated to a host of trackside activities including giveaways and prize draws, stilt walkers and face painters to entertain the youngest fans, a miniature horse race and live music by local band Speakeasy. Details about the Confederation Cup program are available at http://www.flamborodowns.com/confederation_cup.html. For rules, notices, Program changes, up-to-date point standings, race replays, and more, visit: www.ontariosiresstakes.com Ontario Racing www.ontarioracing.com Follow the OSS on Social Media! @ONTSSNews  

If there is a correlation between looks and speed, harness racing trainer Tom Fanning hopes he's found it with Photobombr Hanover. "I tell my owners that I hope he's as fast as he is good looking because he's a good-looking horse," said a smiling Fanning, who owns Photobombr Hanover with Howard Taylor and Susan Kajfasz. "We'll find out about fast." Photobombr Hanover was fast enough to win four of nine races last year and earn $80,696 in purses. This season he finished second to Fear The Dragon in his debut May 6 in a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes for 3-year-old male pacers at The Meadows. He returns to PaSS action Sunday, this time at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. The colt is 7-2 on the morning line in the first of three divisions. David Miller will drive from post five in a field of seven. Filibuster Hanover is the 2-1 favorite and Boogie Shuffle is the 3-1 second choice. Fanning brought Photobombr Hanover along slowly at age 2. He had two wins in conditioned races and one in the Pennsylvania Stallion Series before ending the year with a gate-to-wire victory in the Simpson Memorial. His only off-the-board finishes came in a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and his elimination for the Breeders Crown. "I didn't feel he was ready to tackle the top horses, though he showed some potential that he could maybe go with them one day," Fanning said. "At the end of the year we raced him aggressively in the Simpson and he was very good and won pretty handily. So then we started looking forward to this year. "But you have to be so good in the 3-year-old pacing colt division; there are so many good horses in there. There's a fine line between the third- or fourth-best one and the 15th-best one. The top two are the top two, I think, so far this year." The "top two" are Pennsylvania-bred world champions Huntsville and Downbytheseaside. Hunstville romped to a 10-length win in his first start of 2017 and is the 2-1 morning line favorite in Sunday's second PaSS division at Pocono. Downbytheseaside also won his seasonal bow and is the 2-1 choice in Saturday's Art Rooney Pace elimination at Yonkers. Photobombr Hanover, a son of Somebeachsomewhere out of the stakes-winning mare Pilgrims Witchie, was purchased as a yearling for $30,000 at the 2015 Standardbred Horse Sale. His family includes female pacer Los Angeles, who enjoyed racing success in Ontario but is perhaps better known as the dam of millionaire Thinking Out Loud and grandam of millionaires L A Delight and Somewhere In L A. He is staked to a number of top events this year including the North America Cup, Max C. Hempt Memorial, Cane Pace, and Matron. "You've got to pick your spots," said Fanning, who has a stable of 25 horses and entered this year with a streak of four consecutive million-dollar seasons. "With the 3-year-old pacing colts in particular, it's really a battle of attrition because they race so hard every week. And it's a lot of traveling. It's rare that a horse can make it through the whole year." The colt possesses a sensibility that could be a benefit during the long season. "Miller really likes him because he'll do anything," Fanning said. "Whatever you ask him, he'll respond to. That will help him in the long run, so I like that about him. It makes everyone's job easier; mine, the driver and the horse. It's got to benefit them physically and mentally. It all adds up to good stuff. "We'll see how he does. I think he can compete with most of them. We'll see what happens this week and go from there." For Sunday's complete Pocono card, click here. First race post time is 7:30 p.m. and the three PaSS divisions are races 10 through 12. Ken Weingartner

Racing Integrity Unit general manager Mike Godber is defending his organisation's consistency around cobalt positives. Earlier this week, Canterbury harness racing trainer Cran Dalgety was hit with a $32,000 fine for presenting five horses to race with cobalt levels in excess of the 200 ug/L (micrograms per litre) threshold for the prohibited substance. Importantly, the Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) and the Judicial Control Authority (JCA), who handed down the penalty, agreed that Dalgety was guilty of negligence but did not intentionally administer cobalt or any other prohibited substance. Dalgety, a highly successful trainer best known for guiding the career of champion pacer Christen Me, questioned why Southland trainer Shane Walkinshaw escaped a presenting charge when two of his horses returned positive swabs for cobalt in late 2015. But Godber said attempting to compare the two cases was "drawing a long bow". Walkinshaw purchased an over the counter product and the label confirmed a small and legal amount of cobalt was present in the ingredients. However, the batch was contaminated and in fact contained 190 times the amount that was advertised. "In the Walkinshaw case we asked what more could he have done to prevent it and the answer was not a lot," Godber said. A raft of tests were done on the supplement and the Walkinshaw-trained Not Bad to determine that the product had been manufactured incorrectly. Both the supplier and the manufacturer took responsibility. Godber said the Dalgety case was different because the supplement, McGrouthers Equine Mineral Mix, was labelled as containing cobalt but it did not identify the amount. He said that put a significant responsibility on Dalgety to identify the level of cobalt in the product which he did not do. "If you look at the Dalgety case, it did not meet the criteria for there not to be a charge because there was clearly more he could have done," Godber said. He added that Dalgety's case was not helped by the fact the product was not being used by any other trainers in New Zealand and was not sold on a large commercial basis. Dalgety's counter to that argument was that he had been using the product without issue for more than 10 years and the label of the supplement said "will not return a positive swab" and "Licensed under Animal Remedies Act 1967 No 3392". It was later found to have not been licensed since at least 1997. The JCA decision said Dalgety's culpability was his failure to obtain appropriate advice on the use of a product containing cobalt after Harness Racing New Zealand (HRNZ) introduced a cobalt threshold 200 ug/L in May 2015. Godber added that products that were licensed under the act could still contain ingredients that were prohibited under the rules of racing. "It's really a case of buyer beware. The onus is on the trainer to make sure the product is free of any prohibited substances. "The message is, if you are in any doubt do not use the product until you have spoken to your vet." Dalgety also raised another case where two Canterbury trainers were not charged when they returned positive swabs for caffeine in 2013 that was also proven to be from a feed supplement. Godber said that was because the product did not show any signs of caffeine on its label and both trainers had sought veterinary advice. Dalgety described his $32,000 fine as excessive but Godber, who reiterated the value of the fine was set by the JCA, said he did not believe the fine was unreasonable given it was Dalgety's third offence in eight years. The RIU submitted for a fine between $36,000 and $86,250 but because it deemed the offence to be at the lower end of the scale, expected a penalty close to the $36,000 mark. Dalgety's two previous positives (caffeine and bute) were deemed to be unintentional with the caffeine being a result of contaminated feed and the wrong horse being treated with bute by stable staff. The RIU acknowledged Dalgety had been fully cooperative throughout their investigation. WHAT IS COBALT? Cobalt is an essential trace element that is naturally occurring in horses, dogs and other mammals but has been demonstrated to have an effect on the blood system by stimulating the production of red blood cells making for a similar effect to Erythropoietin (EPO) doping. By Mat Kermeen Reprinted with permission of Stuff

Three millionaires, one soon-to-be millionaire, and a quartet of sharp harness racing upstarts comprise the 2017 Maxie Lee field for Aged Trotters at Harrah's Philadelphia on Sunday, May 28th. It is one of three invitationals on the day's program, each going for a purse of $150,000. The leading money earner in the field is the 5-year-old Crazy Wow. The son of Crazed-Topcat Hall won over $1 million dollars as a 3-year-old, which included wins in The Colonial at Pocono and The Bluegrass at The Red Mile. Although the Ron Burke trainee had only one win as a 4-year-old, he finished the campaign strong with a narrow defeat in the TVG Free For All at The Meadowlands. So far this season, he has a pair of second place finishes, with his most recent being in The Arthur Cutler Memorial. The Cutler winner (Resolve), will compete in the Elitloppet at Solvalla Raceway in Sweden. Rene Allard trainee Charmed Life and Kevin Mc Dermott pupil Melady's Monet are also a part of harness racing's millionaire club. Charmed Life is riding a wave of sharp form. Her most recent start was a win in the Miami Valley Distaff, which spoiled the debut of 2016 Dan Patch/O'Brien Award winner Hannelore Hanover. Melady's Monet has also had a sharp beginning to his campaign. The 8-year-old gelded son of Revenue S-Keystone Melady has four wins in seven starts this season, only being worse than second once. Melady's Monet leads the potential Maxie Lee field in career wins with 44. 2015 Dan Patch winner JL Cruze will also be a part of the star-studded lineup. JL Cruze was the first trotter to clock a 1:49.4 over a mile track. Part owner Ken Wood, who owns a drilling company, began drilling in Africa 11 years ago with the hopes of getting people clean drinking water in impoverished areas. Much of JL Cruze's 2015 earnings were used for the cause. The 6-year-old gelded son of Crazed-Topcat Hall is less than $84,000 from the $1 million mark in career earnings. His most recent effort was a third place finish in The Cutler at The Big M. Canadian invader Odds On Amethyst will bring his sharp form to the Chester oval for the Maxie Lee. The 6-year-old gelded son of Muscle Hill-Mystical Sunshine has won 7 straight races on the WEG circuit, mainly against preferred types. The Pat Hudon trainee is not the only sporting sharpness however. Peter Tritton student Springback Sam N and Andrew Harris trainee Taco Tuesday fit the bills as well. The former is coming off of three narrow defeats facing the top rank at Yonkers, while the latter has won 4 of his last 6 against Open competition. The wild card is European newcomer Tuonoblu Rex. The America sired, Italian Bred son of Cantab Hall-Eternity Rex won his stateside debut in impressive fashion. He followed that up with an in-hand 1:53.1 win at Pocono, and a similar effort in 1:53 at Harrah's Philly. The Julie Miller trainee, who won a Grade 3 race at Paris's Vincennes Racecourse as a 3-year-old, has 9 wins in 17 career starts. The Maxie Lee Memorial Trot is named after long-time horsemen Maxie Lee. A native of North Carolina, Lee made a name for himself as a trainer and driver in the Philadelphia area at Liberty Bell and Brandywine. He had back-to-back Delaware Valley Harness Horse of the Year winners in the mid-1970s with Black Gamecock and Valley Ken. In 1990, Lee became the first African-American with a starter in the Hambletonian, with the Peter Haughton winner Backstreet Guy. Michael Bozich

CAMPBELLVILLE, May 18 - Just a single ticket correctly selected the top-five finishers in the final race Thursday at harness racing's Mohawk Racetrack to connect for a massive $152,710.35 (USD) Jackpot Hi-5 payout. The Jackpot Hi-5 carryover, which had been growing since mid-April, sat at $184,987.99 (CAD) heading into Thursday's card. A total of $26,703 was wagered into the pool Thursday. ER Quinn and driver Louis Philippe Roy scored a 25-1 upset victory in the Hi-5 race over Matrix Of Luck, who was the 3/5 favourite, to help eliminate many Hi-5 tickets. The top-five was then rounded out by Mister X, who finished third at 70-1, Blissful Years at 13-1 and Leafs And Wings at 3-1. The only winning Jackpot Hi-5 ticket cost just $16.20 and was purchased in the Oregon area. The Jackpot Hi-5 will now start from scratch on Friday evening. As always, Jackpot Hi-5 wagering is available on the final race every night at Mohawk Racetrack.   Mark McKelvie

Plainville, MA---Fresh off a victory at Yonkers Raceway last Friday, Tag Up And Go made his third visit of the year to Plainridge Park worthwhile by turning a garden spot trip into a harness racing victory in the $13,000 Open Handicap trot on Thursday afternoon (May 18). It was a three-horse breakaway at the start as Mistress Valentine (Mark Eaton) parked out Tag Up And Go (Bruce Aldrich Jr.) and seated Waiting On a Woman heading around the first turn. No sooner did the trotters hit the quarter in :26.3, Tag Up And Go took the lead and was immediately challenged and passed by Waiting On A Woman. Things settled down a bit in the second panel but at the half, Tuscanellie (Jim Hardy) pulled first over and rushed up alongside Waiting On A Woman and prompted that one to a 1:24.1 three-quarters. That move cost the hard-used leader when they turned for home. At the top of the lane Waiting On A Woman tired and drifted off the pylons, giving Tag Up And Go a clear path to the wire. But Tuscanellie was still full of trot on the outside and Hardy was driving her hard in the middle of the track. Tuscanellie put up quite a fight, but Tag Up And Go benefited from a perfect trip and out-sprinted the game mare to the wire, winning by a length in 1:55.2. It was the fifth win of the year for Tag Up And Go ($4.40) and it raised his 2017 earnings to $68,200 for owners Lester Gelardi and Anthony Passafaro. The 7-year-old gelded son of Angus Hall is trained by the meet's leading conditioner, Monique Cohen. In the co-featured $10,000 conditioned trot, One Swan For All (Wally Watson) was parked-out for three-quarters of the mile en route to a one-length victory in 1:55.4 over Ugly Stick (Ron Cushing), who was rimmed second-over behind the winner. One Swan For All ($6.00) is owned by Joel Wheeler and is trained by Lisa Watson. Mark Athearn and Wally Watson scored driving doubles while Gretchen Athearn and Lisa Watson trained those respective winners. The "Wicked Hi-5" pentafecta was hit in the sixth race and the one-dollar, 5-7-4-8-1 combination paid out an instant jackpot of $28,987.00. Live racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. By Tim Bojarski for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts  

Reasinforpleasin (Conway Hall) put in a harness racing career best effort in the Thursday co-feature at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Dave Spagnola trainee picked up second over cover approaching the half in the $9,000 feature for New York sired trotters and charged hard in the stretch before stopping the timer in 1:58.1 to lower his lifetime mark. Reasinforpleasin enjoyed success as a freshman two years ago and also did well in 2016 as a sophomore despite having only started nine times. On a scorching hot Thursday afternoon in the Spa city, the four year old trotter recorded his second win in seven seasonal tries with Frank Coppola Jr in the sulky. Scarey Karie (Phil Fluet) came on late to be the runner-up while longshot Thanks For Playin (Dan Cappello Jr) earned the show spot. Steve La Belle's Kinda Naughty (Conway Hall) prevailed in the other co-feature going coast-to-coast in 1:59 with Jimmy Devaux in the sulky. Live racing continues on Friday night at Saratoga with a 6:45pm first post. Mike Sardella

ALBANY, NY - The New York Gaming Association (NYGA) today released their Annual Statewide Economic Impact Report detailing the economic activity, education funding and quality jobs and local tax revenue generated by NYGA throughout the 2016 calendar year. With nine member facilities spanning every region of the state, NYGA once again demonstrated its role as an economic contributor to state and local government. The NYGA member facilities generated $3.3 billion in economic activity, including and a record high $905 million in education funding to support New York schools, bringing their total contribution to state education aid to a $7.5 billion over the past 12 years. In addition to supporting roughly 29,000 jobs, including 5,300 direct employees, NYGA spurred $87 million in much needed revenue to local governments, and generated over $221 million in support of New York’s Standardbred and Thoroughbred racing industries. “Every year, the contribution of our member facilities can be seen and felt across local communities. From generating a record high $905 million for education funding, to supporting billions in economic activity and tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, we are proud to be a partner in progress for New York State. Whether it’s generating tax revenue for local communities, bringing much needed funding into our schools, or helping families put food on the table by supporting job growth, NYGA continues to be a winning bet for New York State,” said Michael Wilton, Executive Director of the New York Gaming Association. NYGA facilities have been a strong source of economic activity on the state and local levels, providing critical funding for our schools, tax revenue for local governments, capital investment that generates construction jobs, and support for local businesses. The revenue NYGA members generate for racing and breeding also directly supports upstate agribusiness that includes family farms and thousands of jobs.  NYGA’s educational contribution has been growing annually, and now totals $7.5 billion for New York State schools since 2004. Furthermore, NYGA generated $87 million in tax revenue for state and local governments, bringing their total tax revenue contribution to $391 million since 2007. Top Line Findings Include: $3.3 billion in combined economic activity in 2016 $905 million generated in funding for New York State education aid in 2016, and a total of $7.5 billion since 2004. $87 million in tax revenue for state and local governments in 2016, and $391 million since 2007 $264 million in capital improvements to NYGA’s facilities in 2016, and $1.8 billion since building the original facilities $221 million in support of New York’s Standardbred and Thoroughbred racing industries $27 million for breeding and agricultural related businesses such as family farms, feed producers and veterinarians The full 2016 report, including a breakdown of top line findings from each of NYGA’s nine member facilities, can be found here:  

Between running their own breeding business together, along with their own separate real estate companies, Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld don't really have time to work themselves into frenzied anticipation for the harness racing season debut of their prized female trotter. That being said, Katz has not completely pushed Ariana G's 3-year-old season opener Friday at the Meadowlands to the recesses of his mind. "Both Al and I are very busy in our own business," Katz said. "We've experienced it enough to not think about it too much, and we haven't. We're very involved at this time of the year on the breeding side of things with foals; matings are going on, we're making preparations for the yearling sale. That really takes a lot of our time and attention in addition to our professional careers, which are demanding." However. . . "I can't help but say I've been thinking about her returning and looking forward to it for sure," Katz continued. "She's a very special horse so we're excited and looking forward to that. She has unlimited potential. She's a very exciting horse. I think in the eyes of many she's a very special horse as well." She was special enough to win the 2016 Dan Patch Award for best 2-year-old filly trotter after winning nine of 11 races and earning $743,967 in purses. Trained by Jimmy Takter and driven by Yannick Gingras, Ariana G won the Breeders Crown for 2-year-old filly trotters, the Jim Doherty Memorial, the Peaceful Way Stakes and New Jersey Sire Stakes championship. In March, Takter told Hoof Beats magazine "I don't think I ever had a better 2-year-old trotting filly." Bred and owned by Katz and Libfeld, Ariana G opens her campaign in a division of the New Jersey Sire Stakes with Gingras back in the sulky. She will start from post No. 3 and is the even-money favorite on the morning line after prepping with two qualifiers. In the first she went 1:56 with a last quarter-mile of :27.1 in finishing second to Magic Presto, and in the second on May 6, she won in 1:55.1 with a :27.2 last quarter. "She was well in hand doing that," said Katz, a Toronto resident who watched replays of both races. "Yannick didn't pop the earplugs or anything like that. So she's still got very good speed. "She also sat in the pocket around the top of the turn and she really accelerated. Her ability to turn on her speed when she starts accelerating is very dramatic. Yannick has commented about that in the past and that was certainly evident in her qualifier." So far, everything looks good to go with the filly. "From what Jimmy Takter said, he's totally pleased with the way she's come back," Katz said. "He's very excited and we're looking forward to her performance." What is interesting to note, is that the last three female trotters to be named the Dan Patch Award winner at age 2 -- Broadway Donna in 2015, Mission Brief in '14 and Shake It Cerry in '13 -- and four of the last five (Check Me Out in 2011) all came back to win the award at age 3. Takter has had three trotting fillies -- Shake It Cerry, Pampered Princess (2006-07) and Passionate Glide (2005-06) -- win Dan Patch awards as 2- and 3-year-olds. Katz feels it's not just a coincidence, noting that when outstanding horses have such a head start in ability early in life, it is tough for the next level to close that gap in just one year. "In the case of trotters in general, particularly if you have horses at the level that are winning Dan Patch Awards and so forth, all things being equal there's going to be improvement between the 2-year-old and the 3-year-old year, just because of the maturity, strength and experience," Katz said. "When a horse is really at the top of their class it's very difficult for an inexperienced horse to make up that much ground that quickly. "There's exception to every rule, of course, but typically, the horses that were the dominant 2-year-olds will be among the dominant 3-year-olds. Horses like Ariana G and horses that had very high speeds as 2-year-olds, if there's improvement they're up near record performances at that point if the normal maturity process takes hold." And while Ariana G's connections are certainly hoping for big things and have her staked in everything, they aren't making any bold plans or predictions past this weekend. "We'll go one race at a time, see how she goes on Friday night," said Katz, who with Libfeld was named 2016 Dan Patch Breeders of the Year. "Hopefully it's a good first outing for her and we'll go from there. I would hope we go through the New Jersey Sire Stakes program and get through the two races and the final, and then see what happens." * * * Nine Hambletonian-eligible male trotters will be in action Friday at the Meadowlands as the New Jersey Sire Stakes season gets underway. There are two divisions of NJSS for 3-year-old male trotters, with a total of 13 horses. The first division, a six-horse group, includes Hambletonian eligibles Fly On, Southwind Woody, Long Tom, and Deacon Tony. The second includes Hambletonian eligibles King On The Hill, What The Hill, New Jersey Viking, Southwind Cobra, and Signal Hill. What The Hill, from the stable of trainer Ron Burke, won last year's New Jersey Sire Stakes championship for 2-year-old male trotters and the Peter Haughton Memorial. ROAD TO THE HAMBLETONIAN A look at open stakes for 3-year-old male trotters and state-restricted stakes featuring Hambletonian eligibles Date - Track - Event - First - Second - Third May 6 - Freehold - Dexter Cup - Lord Cromwell - Gustavo Fring - Southwind Cobra Hambletonian eligible in bold. by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent  

A big weekend of harness racing this weekend as Flamboro Downs is hosting their biggest event of the year- The Confederation Cup. The race is for four year old standard breds and to give you some insight into not only the race, but event itself, Tim Bolen paid them a visit. To watch a 12 minute run down of the day click on this link.

YONKERS, N.Y. - Early in the spring season, Adam Bowden paid a visit to harness racing trainer Jimmy Takter’s farm to see his star mare Pure Country. After being away from her for several months, Bowden was impressed by how much his homebred matured over the winter break. “She came out of the barn and I could have sworn she was a colt,” he remembered. “She’s always been a bigger filly, but she’s added mass to her. Just broader, she looks stronger. I remember watching her train that day, I was like, ‘ooh, she looks scary good.’ ” Pure Country is the great mare that Adam and his father, Chris, had in mind when they created Diamond Creek Farm. After winning the Breeders Crown at 2, Pure Country earned $1,082,430 last year in 21 starts with victories in a host of Grand Circuit events, including the Fan Hanover, the Lynch Memorial, the Simcoe Stakes, the Glen Garnsey Memorial, and the Matron Stakes. Pure Country’s accomplishments earned her the Dan Patch Award for 3-Year-Old Pacing Fillies. “After her first season, it was one of those things where you kind of hoped she would have a season like last year, but you never expected it,” Bowden said. “It was more of a blessing than anything else and we were really proud of her.” Sired by Somebeachsomewhere, Pure Country is out of Western Montana, one of the first horses Bowden purchased. Along with his father, Bowden was confident the Western Hanover mare would produce a champion, but he grew weary and impatient after her first three foals failed to stand out. “The mare was pregnant with Pure Country at the time and I remember calling my father and saying, ‘I don’t know if I want to wait. I think we need to get rid of the mare. She hasn’t really given us what we thought she’d give us,’ ” he recalled. “I remember him telling me, ‘just be patient, be patient. She’ll come through for us,’ and she did and did it in a big way, so it was worth it.” Pure Country will make her 4-year-old debut as the 3-1 morning line favorite in the sixth race $55,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace at Yonkers Raceway Friday, May 19. In preparation for her first start of the year, Pure Country qualified twice at the Meadowlands, winning the latest in 1:50.1 April 29. She then scratched sick from the $100,000 Noble Memorial at Miami Valley May 8 before being entered back at Yonkers. “I was anxious to see her race at Miami Valley and she came up with a little  bit of a fever, so we had to wait, scratch her. She got better pretty quick,” Bowden said. In her first local start, Pure Country and driver Brett Miller will start from post five, surrounded by Yonkers veterans Mach It A Par and Regil Elektra, who are each 5-1 from posts four and six, respectively. Mackenzie A will make her first start since winning the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series Final from post eight at odds of 7/2. “Yonkers is tough and she drew in the middle of the field, but those are tough mares to have to race against. They’ve all been racing and they’re sharp and this is her first start of the year,” Bowden said. “I think we’re expecting a good performance, but you can’t guarantee victory in any race, especially over there against those mares.” Although this is her first start at the Hilltop Oval, Pure Country has half-mile track experience. She finished third in the first heat of the Jugette individually timed in 1:51.2 before placing fourth in the final. She also endured a tough trip to finish second to Betting Line in the Carl Milstein Memorial at Northfield Park last summer. “I think she’s versatile enough,” Bowden said. “I think her preference is a bigger track, but she’s got to get a start in somewhere. She got invited to the Betsy Ross at Chester on the 28th, so she needs a race before that and we’re running out of options if we wait any longer.” Lispatty, Medusa, Delightful Dragon, and last week’s winner, Freeze Out, complete the field of eight pacers in Friday’s feature. First post time is 7:10 p.m. Click here for entries for the card. by Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

May 17, 2017 - The superb Caen harness racing card this day began with the Q+ Prix Georges Dreux (purse €43,000, 2450 meters, 16 European starters) and the 1.13.2kr victory belonged to 1.7/1 Azaro d’Eva (7m Lynx de Bellouet) reined by owner/trainer J-M Bazire. 20/1 Apprenti Sorcier (7m Love You-Queen of Viking) was a close second for owner/pilot Pierre Levesque and trainer Thomas Levesque. 15/1 Bon Copain (6m Love You-Haie) was third for Franck Nivard. The next in line were Twins Fairytale,  Arlequine d’Em, Berry Felin and Paparazzi in the good quality field. The classique Gr. II UET Masters Series Prix des Ducs de Normandie (purse €150,000, 2450 meters, 10 starters) went to 1.10.5kr timed and 5.3/1 odds Amiral Sacha (7m Ganymede-Nostalgique Sacha) reined by Gabriel Gelormini for Ecurie Sidre and trainer Franck Lemare. Sacha now has 15 wins in 40 career starts for €1,013,430 earned. 4/5 favorite Aubrion du Gers (7g Memphis du Rib-J’Arrive du Gers) was second for driver/trainer/owner J-M Bazire, after four straight 2017 victories. 9/1 Traders (m Ready Cash-Graziella) was second for Yoann Lebourgeois and owner/trainer Philippe Allaire. Bird Parker, Billie de Montfort and Timone EK were next to the line and veteran Univers de Pan was scratched. The Prix Calvados (monte, purse €60,000, 2450 meters, 16 European starters) wen t to 1.12.8kr timed Vervein du Mont (6f Orlando Vioci-Douala) for Mlle. Audrey Laroche, off at 3.2/1. Franck Blandin trains the winner for Ecurie AB Trot. Ultra des Landes (9f Baccarat du Pont-Justive d’Or) rallied for second with Mlle. Noemie Hardy at 21/1 and 28/1 Aventurier Cehere (7g Niky-Il Oa de l’Orne) was home third for Antoine Wiels. The Gr. I monte Saint Leger des Trotteurs (purse €150,000, 2450 meters, 19 starters) went to 1.14.3kr clocked and 39.3/1 Eiffel Tower (3f Ready Cash-Nouvelle d’Atout) with David Thomain in the irons for trainer J-M Bazire and owner Mme. O.Raffi-Urani. 39.2/1 Emilius de Play (3m Hulk des Chjamps-Orielie des Play) took second for Matthieu Abrivard ahead of 8.3/1 Elegante du Mont (3f Saxo de Vandel-Lacovia) for Eric Raffin. Favored Eye Of The Storm was a miscue dq, his second straight dg but the first of his monte career. The Gr. II monte Prix Henri Balliere (purse €120,000, 2450 meters, eight starters, four year-olds) went to 1.13.4kr timed and 1.1/1 odds Dragon du Fresne (4m Saphir Castelets-Rosee des Bois) handled by Matthieu Abrivard for L.Cl. Abrivard, the trainer. 1.7/1 Dawana (4f Ready Cash-Sanawa) was a rallying second for Yoann Lebourgeois, and owner/trainer Philippe Allaire. Third was 5.2/1 Darlhey du Rib (4f Ganymede-Quille Castelets), that legendary Joel Hallis trains. On May 16 at Eskilstuna was the Reeb Kungofs Elektriska Mares (35,000SEK first money, 1640 meters autostart) and Delicious US (8f Cantab Hall-Ipsara LB-Lemon Dra) was victorious for driver Orjan Kihlstrom and the David Reden/Stall Zet team. The quick ,mare was timed in 1.11kr and recorded her fourth  win in four 2017 outings after a five for five 2016. She was 26 scores in 53 career starts for 6,481,572SEK earned. The even-money favorite bested 14/1 Spoil Me (5f Going Kronos) for Kenneth Haugstad and 13/1 Galactica (5f Super Photo Kosmos) driven by Lares Ake Soderholm. Delicious is expected to receive an Elite Race invite. As of today there are ten Elitloppet accepted invites albeit Delicious. Nuncio amd perhaps Amiral Sacha could join them. The ten are Bold Eagle, Timoko, Propulsion, Up and Quick, Resolve, DD’s Hitman, Dante Boko, Elian Web, Spring Erom and Cruzado dela Noche. Thomas H. Hicks  

Pompano Beach, FL - Screaming and shouting, cries of joy echoing throughout the grandstand. These echoes travel across the racetrack to where drivers, trainers, owners, and grooms can hear. Anyone within an ears distance can hear these chants and cheers. The atmosphere of the racetrack brings a variety of emotions whether it be tears of joy or sadness, screams of happiness or anger, the crowd is never silent. The noise doesn't fall short of the horsemen and women that work behind the scenes and stand near the paddock gate watching their horse race on any given night. However, there is one voice that overpowers them all, draining out all of the noise. Rather than putting the name to the face, people put the name to the voice for one track announcer, John Berry. John Berry is a man of many talents and wears many hats as most would say. “He is the Picasso of Harness Racing. Journalistic knowledge and professionalism second to none,” Wally Hennessey, Hall of Fame Driver and leading trainer at Pompano Park, recounts. Aside from a race announcer, John Berry has played a vital role in harness racing as anything from a race office assistant to a publicity man to a live broadcaster. It's no doubt that John Berry is one of many that form the base of the horse racing business. In the February 5, 1964 edition of The Horseman and Fair World, the week Pompano Park opened, there was a letter to the editor concerning time trials by John Berry. And here we are, 53 years later, and Berry is still at it---writing brilliant, informative stories, announcing on occasion, co-hosting the Pompano Park pre-race show, writing a handicapping column, and serving the horsemen and our sport with the same enthusiasm that was evident back more than a half century ago. Inducted into the Hall of Fame as a communicator several years ago, he has participated in school career days, countless charitable events, seminars, and many promotions to enhance the image of harness racing. He was even highlighted on a CBS (Chicago) news segment entitled “Someone You Should Know.” The feeling all horsemen know or come to know at some point in their careers is the moment when your horse is pacing or trotting lengths ahead of the pack at the three-quarter pole. Down the stretch and the win is a guarantee. That moment in time is brief but the memory of the feeling lasts a lifetime. At this point in John Berry’s life, it was like he had experienced this brief moment forever. “That was amazing, I must admit,” Berry smiled. “It was a surreal moment. “I used to get films from Sportsman’s Park---16 millimeter films---and I went to different nursing homes and rehab facilities lugging my 50-pound projector to put racing programs on for the patients there. “I went to the administrators of these facilities to see who needed a morale boost, so to speak.” Berry explained. “Then, I made programs up and put patients down as drivers of the horses. On this one occasion, the ‘winning’ driver was a lady that had a stroke several months prior and could not speak. “Well, after the race,” Berry said. “I went right up to her with her daughter alongside and congratulated her on her win. I asked her to tell me how she won the race (as the doctors and nurses were cautioning me that she couldn't speak) and she grabbed the ‘mike’ and, after struggling a bit, said, “I tried hard’. “To say that the doctors and nurses were amazed is an understatement,” Berry recalled. “Their jaws literally dropped. The administrators got ahold of CBS news about this miracle of sorts and, a few weeks later, when another show at the facility was arranged, CBS was there with a crew and it became a segment on a newscast in Chicago. “It wasn't necessary,” John said, “but they said this story must be told. “It merely propelled me to keep trying and looking for yet another miracle.” John Berry, a man with a long history that keeps growing. Aside from racing, he holds his own titles himself - for bowling. Interestingly enough, the 16-year-old's career in bowling led him to harness racing. In Chicago of 1959, Berry won a match that began his new and long lived career. “It was a match,” Berry recalled, “where four of us put up five dollars apiece with the winner taking $15, second place getting his money back and the lowest two scorers paying for the highest two bowler’s lines (games). “I bowled a 248, 268, and 258 and I took the money.” Berry said with a smile. “A gentleman by the name of Luke Schroer approached me after that match to give me a “tip” of sorts,” Berry added, “as he won some money betting on the match.” Although John refused the offer, they ended up going out for a bite to eat. On that August in 1959, Schroer had taken John Berry to the racetrack, up to a box at Sportsman's Park---”41-A” Berry recalls. From that night on, Berry had an ever-growing interest in the sport. The gentleman who arranged for Berry to get Sportsman's Park films, Don Stevens, introduced him to Stan Bergstein. Bergstein, who later would become harness racing’s only double Hall of Famer, being inducted to both the Living Hall of Fame and as a Communicator, helped John to get his very first position in the harness racing world, as an Associate Editor of the ‘The Illinois Sulky News,’ working for the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association. His first position led to other doors opening. These ‘doors’ included jobs in publicity and public relations at Balmoral Park. At Balmoral, he wrote press releases and worked on handicapping and interviews. “It was demanding since it turned out to be a seven day a week grind from early morning to late at night.” John said. Developing a passion as well as a talent for writing, John Berry won a few regional awards for journalistic evidence. In 1979, Berry accepted a position with the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey. His new agenda included handling publicity and public relations; and hosting the long running series of television shows featuring Stakes races from The Meadowlands, Freehold Raceway and Garden State Park. He also created and designed New Jersey's Stallion Directory and hosted several Miss Equine New Jersey contests. “The Board of the SBOANJ was extremely active in partnering with the racetracks to publicize the sport,” Berry said. “Tony Abbatiello and Ronnie Dancer led the brigade back then and one couldn't have asked for a more dedicated Board of Directors looking to move the sport in the right direction. “I worked with John Higgins, then the Executive Director, a very knowledgeable horseman.” Berry added. “I also worked with an extremely talented gentleman by the name of Leon Zimmerman, who know every nook and cranny in Trenton, New Jersey, where the political stuff went on. “Leon and I got elected to the Hall of Fame the same year,” Berry said. “and it was an honor to work with him and gain a bit of insight into the world of politics.” During that time, Berry won the prestigious National John Hervey Award for an article he wrote in 1979 for Hub Rail Magazine about the Little Brown Jug. “I have written many, many articles,” he said, “but this is, absolutely, one of my favorites because, when I put it in the typewriter---yes, we still used typewriters back then---the words just kept flowing and I, literally, didn't make any changes once the article was finished. “It included a Roger Huston race call and I have been told on many occasions that the reader could ‘hear’ Roger’s voice while reading it.” After three years with the SBOANJ, he accepted a position with the USTA as Public Relations Manager, working from an office, in Freehold, New Jersey, to cover the New York-New Jersey and eastern racing scene, which was blossoming at the time. When they asked him to move to Columbus, Ohio, he parted ways with the USTA and accepted a position with Sports Information Database (SIDB) as a Senior Editor for harness racing with the objective of putting the entire history of harness racing on computer. “I was honored to work with many of the great minds in sport, including Bill Shannon, the famed official scorer for baseball; Logan Hobson and Bob Canobbio, the inventors of ‘punch-stat’ for boxing matches; and one of harness racing’s great geniuses, Phil Sporn.” A consolidation deal fell through and SIDB went out of business. Berry was asked if he was interested in moving to South Florida to be Public Relations Director at Pompano Park. The track enjoyed its finest two seasons in history benefitting from promotions like a car giveaway, cruise nights, where 10,000 cruise passes were distributed to guests, and mall promotions. John Berry has always worked to make the name of harness racing go viral across the world. He gained more exposure to the track when he became the host of his own radio show, featuring big bands and jazz from the 1920’s and 1930’s. “The show featured music from many of the great bands that were left somewhat obscure to the vast majority,” Berry explained. “I guess you would call them ‘territory bands.’ While modern and pop music was taking over the radio stations, Berry’s interests in the ‘throwback’ tunes caught on in the public ‘ear’, so to say, and he had a lot of loyal listeners. Around this time, Berry was elected President of the United States Harness Writers Association and served that organization for a two-year term. In the 1980’s, he was lured into taking a position with a newly formed company--brainchild of well-known owner and breeder Eric Cherry. The start-up company, National Raceline, had a goal to provide results and race calls from tracks coast-to-coast. Within the company, Berry secured many racetracks that sent in results by fax for the information to be disseminated over a “900” network of telephone lines. In short order, the “Raceline” became the nation's leader in providing information on racing results with nightly calls growing by “leaps and bounds”. Later, he was approached by Allen Greenberg to see if he would be interested in conducting auctions aboard cruise ships. “I agreed to ‘try it for a couple of weeks’ to see if I liked it enough to continue.” Not only did Berry like the position, he was “auctioneer of the year” the first two years the award was given and broke several records along the way. During one of the auctions at sea, a representative of WPBT-Channel 2 Public Television approached John with an offer to go on the air during the station’s membership drives. Accepting the offer, John became one of the hosts of the show and eventually served the station during their on-air auctions. Conducting over 1,800 auctions within his career and raising money for many charitable organizations, libraries, and his beloved Harness Writers Association; the most expensive item sold at one of his auctions was an internet domain name --Sex.net--for $450,000. Serving as an auctioneer, Berry was absent from the sport for a few years. However, like any true horseman who cannot stray too far from the track, he returned after an offer from Isle of Capri’s director, Jim Patton, and Director of Publicity and Marketing, Steve Wolf, in 2004. Both directors persuaded Berry to return to the track, to work in publicity, serving as a “point man” for the upcoming referendum on allowing casinos to be built in Broward County. “Steve (Wolf) came up with an ingenious plan to canvas the area to try and secure support for the casino referendum,” Berry said. “which had failed in two previous attempts. “Well, we got it done and it was quite a scene as we broke ground and, here we are, with a now well established casino that has a 10-year history and racing is still flourishing in South Florida.” Today, Berry, now approaching his mid-70’s, continues to perform several duties at the track---a “three-of-all-trades” ---as he says. He particularly enjoys handicapping for his many followers and looks for “value” in his selections. “Hardly a man in now alive,” he says, “who paid his mortgage at 3 to 5!” One of his most memorable recollections from the handicapping floor comes from the time he predicted a dead-heat during a seminar at The Meadowlands in 1980. Other moments being earning his PHD--Professional Handicapping Degree-- from Tele-Track in 1983 after a six-for-six night there, selecting a “cold” pentafecta at Pompano Park this season, and a string of recent longshot winners in his nightly Pickin’ Berrys handicapping column, one as high as 50 to 1. “The prediction of a dead-heat was as much luck and handicapping skill---something like Babe Ruth predicting his home run at Wrigley Field. “I couldn't separate numbers six and seven and just happened to blurt out, ‘to tell you the truth, I cannot separate these two horses, so I think it'll wind up to be a dead-heat and it was!” Aside from picking his most memorable handicapping memory, John claims the most memorable race he has ever seen was on March 17, 1962 at Maywood Park in Chicago. “I've seen a lot, yes, from Su Mac Lad to Bret Hanover to Albatross to Niatross to Nihalator, to the stars of today but [this] was my most memorable race.” John describes the temperatures to have been wavering in the 30’s mixed with snow, sleet, and rain. “The track had turned into a quagmire,” John explained. “There was a horse named Scotsman, driven by Ken Lighthill, who won in 3:38 ⅗… yes, 3:38 ⅗, which was the slowest winning pari-mutuel mile in history. “It's a record that will ever be broken and it, indeed, is the most memorable race I have ever seen.” John has gotten some well-deserved accolades when in the announcer's booth, too, subbing for Gabe Prewitt when called upon. Racing fan Rich Stern from Chicago lamented, “I love his race calls. They are clear and concise and he's added some nice terms like ‘double-bubbled’ when a horse is three wide. “He gives those behind the scenes nice credit, too. I like that!” His meticulous morning lines have also drawn praise and he was the first and only Morning Line maker to make all horses the same odds--7 to 2--in a six-horse field last season at Pompano Park. The horses had all been around the same time, been beaten about the same number of lengths and were so evenly matched that they all deserved consideration. “I decided to make them all the same in the morning line and that race got huge attention from the media because of it!” Clearly, John Berry has a knack for talent as well as talent himself, in the harness racing world. As a publicity man, fill-in announcer, and writer among many other hats that Berry wears, he covers all bases of harness racing. “He is the equivalent of an encyclopedia of harness racing, a true gentleman,” Standardbred owner and trainer, John Hallett, conveys. Outside of racing, as mentioned before, John was a champion bowler, including capturing the Illinois State Bowling Singles in 1970 by averaging 246 for the tournament. And he is one of few who have ever bowled a perfect 300 game. He lives with his “bride of many years,” Abby and their Quaker Parrot, Pistachio, who, as he says, “brings us joy beyond belief.” Berry has had a lot of “firsts” during his career and plans on helping the sport he loves and its participants as long as possible. Today, John splits his time helping publicize the sport for the Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association in the am and doing the late shift in Pompano Park's racing operations office in the afternoon and night. Many horsemen know and recognize John Berry for his talent as a writer and his character as a horseman. “I've known John for many years. He's a nice guy and fun to be around. Working with him sure makes the day go by faster,” iterates Rosie Huff, who works with Berry at the FSBOA office. Berry related, “at the FSBOA, I am lucky enough to work with Rosie Huff, one of the most dedicated individuals with whom I have ever worked. At Pompano, I am honored to work alongside someone as great as Gabe Prewitt, who has an enthusiasm for the sport like no other. “We enjoy and respect each other's talent and company. “You could call it a ‘pari-mutuel’ admiration society!” If there is anyone that the sport of harness racing needs to clone to help promote the industry, they should look no further than John Berry. By Jessica Hallett, for Harnesslink   Jessica Hallett is a new correspondent for Harnesslink. Jessica, 17, lives in Margate, Florida and is currently a senior at Deerfield Beach High School. She is the daughter of Pompano Park owner/trainers John and Michelle Hallett.

Champion trainer Gary Hall Snr will play a strong hand in Friday night’s harness racing meeting at Gloucester Park. The Serpentine-based horseman has a classy band of pacers engaged to race and has realistic prospects of landing at least a double, maybe a treble and possibly a quartet of winners. The consistent Overboard Again represents the stable in the first race; the Fly Like An Eagle At Allwood Stud Pace (2130m) for the C5-C9 pacers and despite coming from gate eight, this bloke has a terrific each-way chance in an even race. Overboard Again has had two starts this preparation for a first-up win and a gutsy second behind Livura. He could ignite the Hall juggernaut early on in the card Harry Hoo gets his opportunity to break back into the winners' circle in the Follow The Stars To The APG WA Sale Pace (2130m), the second race, after drawing the coveted pole. The little Bettors Delight gelding has a good record when he can find the top and he's capable of giving Clinton Hall an early double after Overboard Again. The Halls have two runners in the fourth event, the Budget Stockfeeds The Pure Steel Qualifying Heat Three (2130m). Mach Time, who has drawn favourably in gate three returns to the track after a five-month spell and Zach Maguire (12) has been impressive with his two wins at Pinjarra after a four-month break. They are up against Nathan Turvey's former Kiwi Dana Duke from gate four, who has impressed with two wins from two starts in WA. The consistent Bettor Twisted (2) with champion reinsman Chris Lewis in the bike must also be given a winning chance in this race. The Ramsay Horse Transport MS Pace (2130m) is the next race on the card and Hall engaged concession driver Lauren Jones to rein Eyre Crusher in the M1-M3 event. The move paid dividends when Eyre Crusher drew the pole. Eyre Crusher has been in great form since returning from an almost two-year absence from the track, with two wins and a last-start second behind the smart Shandale in his five runs. He'll love the pole and will be favoured to post an all-the-way victory. The Hall stable then unleash the "big guns" in the Landmark Midvale MS Pace (2130m). Millionaire pacer Beaudiene Boaz and his classy stablemate Run Oneover ($403,093 in stakes) return to the racetrack after their Inter Dominion and WA Pacing Cup campaigns. They join forces with classy stablemate Ohoka Punter (almost a millionaire with more than $986,000 in prize money) in a formidable three-pronged attack on the race. Their clash with veteran trainer Bill Horn's in-form comeback pacer Heez On Fire, who has recorded "Black Irish-like finishes" to win at his past two starts since his Inters campaign, promises to be one of the highlights on a star-studded program. Punters will no doubt come hard for Ohoka Punter (Gate 7), Run Oneover (8) and Beaudiene Boaz (9), but it would be unwise to discount the winning chances of Heez On Fire (6) and the Greg and Skye Bond-trained Simply Susational (11). Wayne Currall

"I thought she'd been hit by a train - she had a gash over her eye, her knees were skinned, her ribs were cut and so was her elbow. She was a mess." This was harness racing trainer Jesse Moore's reaction when he saw his glamour mare Tricky Styx after she'd fallen over on a jogger at NSW trainer John McCarthy's stables. The $373,000 earner, bought by Moore and his wife Maree on a whim at a New Zealand yearling sale for $5000, was in Sydney competing against Australia's best mares in the Ladyship Mile series. "Tricky was so badly injured that we decided to let her recuperate in NSW before we brought her home. It's taken a long time to get her back to good health but shes fully recovered now and we're looking forward to seeing her race again." Moore said. Tricky Styx makes her return to the track in Friday night's $40,000 Group 3 WASBA Breeders Stakes (2130m) at Gloucester Park and the Moore's are happy to see "their girl" back racing - and delighted that she's finally drawn a gate. The all-the-way 2016 Pinjarra Cup winner comes out of gate two and has the slow beginner Forever Remembered draw inside of her. "We're very happy with her, I've only been able to give her the one trial." Moore said "That was at Byford and we went well and won in a quick time. We'll lead at all costs on Friday night. Each time she's led she's won." Tricky Styx will have to chase victory with a new reinsman with regular drive Aiden De Campo in New Zealand for good mate Matthew White's wedding. Up and coming young driver Dylan Egerton-Green well be taking the reins. "Aiden told me three weeks ago that he had to go to New Zealand.” Moore said. "He didn’t want to miss the drive on Tricky but he committed to going to Matt's wedding. It's unfortunate but I'm confident Dylan will do a good job for us." Moore said with Tricky Styx's M7 rating he would have to be selective in setting her for particular races. "We're fortunate we've found a suitable race for her at her return to the track and she's finally drawn a barrier." he said "But we'll set a program for her that won’t be too taxing; after all she's a rising six-year-old now. She's been good to me and Maree and we want to look after that." Tricky Styx faces some race-fit rivals on Friday night with the brilliant Sheer Rocknroll (Gate 10), the consistent Foxy Dame (3) and the dogged Dodolicious (9), the highest stakes earner in the race with than $444,000 in the bank. Wayne Currall