Day At The Track
Marcus Melander,Harness racing

Melander credits rise to good team

Marcus Melander's name will be on the U.S. Harness Writers Association's 2018 Rising Star Award, but the 27-year-old trainer says the recognition extends beyond one person. "It's a great accomplishment, but it's not really just my award," Melander said. "It's my whole barn. If I didn't have all these people working with me, I wouldn't do any good. That's why we've been having success; it's a lot because of them. We have a good team. And then you need to have owners that support you. That's very important, too. I'm lucky to have owners that support me a hundred percent." Melander, who joined Nancy Johansson as the only trainers to receive the Rising Star Award in the past 20 years, saw his stable earn $2.86 million in purses last year, good enough to finish 15th among all trainers in North America despite having the fifth-fewest starts (219) among all trainers in the top 50. His top horse was undefeated male trotter Gimpanzee, who saw his 9-for-9 campaign at age 2 rewarded with the division's Dan Patch Award. Gimpanzee's victories for owners Anders Ström's Courant Inc. and Lennart Agren's S R F Stable included the Breeders Crown and New York Sire Stakes championship. Melander's stable also saw 2-year-old male trotter Green Manalishi S win the William Wellwood Memorial and finish second in both the Breeders Crown and Peter Haughton Memorial. Another male 2-year-old trotter, Greenshoe, won the New Jersey Sire Stakes title. "We had a really good year, especially with the 2-year-olds," Melander sad. "We didn't have that many 3-year-olds, but the 2-year-olds did great." In addition, older trotters Cruzado Dela Noche and Crazy Wow -- both July additions to Melander's stable -- posted top Grand Circuit triumphs, with Cruzado Dela Noche capturing the Yonkers International Trot and Crazy Wow the Maple Leaf Trot. Those wins came at odds of 30-1 and 31-1, respectively. "We had a little luck getting Crazy Wow and Cruzado Dela Noche in the middle of the summer," Melander said. "You've got to have a little luck in the races, but both those horses raced great on those particular days." Melander, who employs a staff of a dozen people, enters 2019 with 60 horses in training and is looking to build off last year's success. "(Gimpanzee and Green Manalishi S) are doing very good," Melander said. "I brought them back in early December so they've been training for over a month now. They filled out very nicely. They're probably going to grow a little bit more during the winter. I'm very happy with how they're feeling so far." Greenshoe, Gerry, and Demon Onthe Hill add depth to Melander's group of male 3-year-old trotters. Greenshoe was limited to four starts last year because of immaturity and sickness while Gerry and Demon Onthe Hill both were winners on the Pennsylvania-stakes circuit. "Hopefully (Greenshoe) will mature more during the winter and develop a little bit too," Melander said. "He's a very fast horse, probably the fastest of any of my horses out of the 3-year-olds, but he was a little too anxious last year. He's been very quiet here at home. He's doing good. I couldn't be any happier with him at this moment. We'll see in three months. "The 3-year-old colts look really good. Gerry was a really good horse last year and Demon Onthe Hill is a nice horse too. He might be a little bit under the best, best ones, but I think we have at least four of them that could be top Grand Circuit horses." Among Melander's 2-year-olds are two high-priced female trotters, Fifty Cent Piece (who sold for $500,000 at the Standardbred Horse Sale) and Bellareina Dolce ($400,000 at the Lexington Selected Sale). Both are owned by Lennart Agren's S R F Stables. Melander, the nephew of trainer Stefan Melander, came to the U.S. from Sweden less than six years ago and worked for trainer Jimmy Takter before starting his own stable in late 2014. He is based in New Egypt, N.J., at a farm that was home previously to each the legendary Stanley Dancer and Continental Farms stables. He got his first Grand Circuit win in 2016 with trotter Long Tom, who was a 2-year-old at the time. The following year, Long Tom was joined by 3-year-old Enterprise and 2-year-old Fourth Dimension in adding to Melander's Grand Circuit resume. Fourth Dimension, who was injured last year and retired, ended 2017 as the Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male trotter. "We built (the stable) up, no rush really," Melander said. "The first year we had 10 horses, then 25, then 40 to 45 and now we have 60. And you get better horses. It really started that year we got Long Tom and Enterprise. They had success. And then we had Fourth Dimension. Those horses really put you on the map. "Everything has been developing great, really. I'm still developing too. I still have things to learn, it will come with age. Hopefully I've got many years left in this sport." Melander will be among the honorees at the U.S. Trotting Association's Dan Patch Awards banquet on Feb. 24 at Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando, Fla., at which time Trotter, Pacer and Horse of the Year will be revealed. For more information about the resort and banquet visit the U.S. Trotting Association's website.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com @harnessracenews @HarnessKenW      

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Qualifier for WHHC

Stephanie Davis of Brooklyn, NY, captured the January 12th World Harness Handicapping Championship Qualifier presented by DerbyWars.com at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Davis cashed on three early show bets to keep her in the contest and used her remaining $94 on a win bet in Race 14 on Rather Swell. Her win bet paid off at $754.40 giving her the $900 grand prize and a $1,300 seat into the World Harness Handicapping Final. This is Stephanie's first time qualifying into the WHHC; she is a regular at the National Handicapping Championship, having qualified 12 times. James Michael of Cherry Hill, NJ, also qualified for the April 13th Final with his second place finish in Saturday's contest. Michael hit on four of his ten wagers. The largest being a $385 score in the sixth race at the Meadowlands with a $50 win bet on Redonkulous. George Wagner of Warrington, PA, and Tim Platt of Little Falls, NJ also qualified into the WHHC Final with their third and fourth place finishes. The $400 Qualifier required contestants to place at least ten $20 minimum win, place, and/or show wagers on Meadowlands races. The World Harness Handicapping Championship presented by DerbyWars.com is a one-day tournament [April 13, 2019], with a welcome reception the evening prior. Players that did not earn a seat through a qualifying event can directly buy-in for $1,300. The $1,300 entry fee includes a $300 bankroll, with the remaining $1,000 going to the prize pool. The $150,000 prize pool is based on an estimated 150 entries. The WHHC contest format requires players to bet 10 races: their choice of seven Meadowlands races, plus three designated mandatory races. Players keep all pari-mutuel winnings. Prize payouts are to the Top 10. Derby Wars is currently hosting regular online Qualifiers for the Final. Players can qualify for as little as $22. Complete DerbyWars Qualifier information can be found at DerbyWars.com. Club Hawthorne, Buffalo Raceway and TVG/4NJBets are also hosting WHHC Qualifiers. Visit http://playmeadowlands.com/contest_detail.aspx?id=8240 for a complete qualifier schedule.   by Rachel Ryan, for the Meadowlands

Meadowlands,Harness racing

Meadowlands announces 2019 Stakes

East Rutherford, NJ - The Meadowlands' 2019 Grand Circuit stakes schedule will offer more than $13 million in purses led by Harness Racing's most coveted prize, the 94th edition of the $1 million Hambletonian Stake. The Meadowlands will again be the stage for two of the sport's biggest events. The track's signature Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace ($700,000e) headlines a card worth an estimated $2.5 million on Saturday, July 13. "The Greatest Day In Harness Racing", the $3 million Hambletonian Day extravaganza featuring an entire day of major Grand Circuit stakes, ends the "Championship Meet" on Saturday, August 3. With the help of our generous sponsors, all of The Meadowlands marquee stakes, which include many of the most sought after trophies for each division of trotters and pacers, will return in 2019. Nominations for those stakes close on February 15, 2019. The proposed stakes schedule remains contingent upon the pending purse subsidy having been approved by the New Jersey Legislature prior to the February 15 payment deadline and is subject to revision. The Meadowlands remains committed to racing integrity, adding a clause to the conditions for all Meadowlands administered stakes under the "Rules" heading that states; "...any owner who participates in a Meadowlands Stake or Early Closing event (with added money greater than $25,000) with a trainer who has an outstanding Class 1, Class 2 or TC02 positive test having occurred on or after January 1, 2019 and under appeal in any jurisdiction will be declared ineligible to participate in any Meadowlands Stake or Early Closing event for 12 months following the conviction if such trainer is subsequently found guilty relating to the Class 1, Class 2 or TC02 positive test." It is important to understand the gravity of this clause. Simply stated if a trainer appeals the penalty for a listed offence and continues to race while on a stay; if that penalty is upheld those owners that raced horses in stakes with the trainer in question would be excluded from racing any of their horses in any of The Meadowlands' stakes for one year from the date of the decision on the appeal. "Clean racing has been and remains a top priority at The Meadowlands," said Meadowlands President Jeff Gural. "The Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) shares our passion and has included virtually the same language in their stakes." Complete information including schedules, conditions and nomination forms may be downloaded from The Meadowlands website. Questions should be directed to the Racing Office at (201) 842-5130.   Nick Salvi

Jonathan D. Ford

Racehorse dies after fall through ice

A suspect is facing charges after releasing more than a dozen harness racing horses from the Stark County Fairgrounds. More than a dozen racehorses roamed the city’s west side early Monday morning after a man let the animals out of a barn at the Stark County Fairgrounds, police said. One of the horses later died after falling into the icy water at Meyers Lake. Canton Township firefighters tried to rescue the animal, but it drowned before it could be reached. Police and firefighters from several area departments, assisted by volunteers, managed to round up 14 other horses that were released and wandering area streets. Horses let loose from Stark County Fairgrounds, roam through Canton Dale Klick, president of the Stark County Agricultural Society, which operates the fairgrounds, said the 14 horses were returned to the barn and were seen by a veterinarian. Area trainers and owners board horses at the fairgrounds and use the track for training. The animals released Monday morning are harness racing horses that run at Northfield Park. Police arrested Jonathan D. Ford, 28, who formerly lived in Canton and now has a Mansfield address, on charges of breaking and entering, disrupting public service, inducing panic and possession of drugs. Police said Ford had two different types of marijuana when he was apprehended. He was taken to the Stark County Jail. Canton police haven’t determined why Ford released the horses, said Lt. Dennis Garren, public information officer. Police were called to the fairgrounds just before 5:30 p.m. and told the horses had been released. Ford was still on the property. Responding officers said Ford told them the horses wanted or needed to be freed. The horses ran through the neighborhood, police said. Officers and firefighters worked to keep the animals away from main streets, according to police reports. Perry Township police and firefighters and Canton Township firefighters helped with the effort. According to police, it took nearly two hours to get back to the barn. ShaneandRachel Taylor I took this video about 6am heading east on 12th to 13th St.. Just past Myers Lake. Did not want to turn light on camera. They already seemed pretty spooked. Facebook. Commented on The Canton Repository / CantonRep.com's public post Canton Township Fire Department’s water rescue team was called around 7:30 a.m. when a resident reported seeing an animal struggling in Meyers Lake. Firefighters arrived to find the horse swimming about 100 yards off shore. Assistant Chief Rick Morabito said thick ice near the shore made it difficult for the rescue team to get into the water quickly. The horse was treading and moving farther from shore as the rescue team reached open water. Morabito said the team was about 20 yards away when the animal went under. By Edd Pritchard  Reprinted with permission of the GateHouse Media Ohio  Reach Edd at 330-580-8484 or edd.pritchard@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @epritchardREP

A Putnam Township harness racing family lost all their horses in a barn fire Sunday morning. Putnam Township Fire Chief Greg Amburgey tells WHMI that his department was called out at about 6:15am to the barn located on property at Hinchey and Burgess Roads. Upon arrival, Amburgey says they found the structure fully engulfed in flames. They immediately began pouring water onto the barn, but it was a complete loss, including the seven horses inside. Amburgey says firefighters had to wake up horse’s owners and that the call was made by a neighbor after they heard an explosion, which was likely a propane tank kept inside the barn. The structure was a complete loss. He says a cause is unknown at this point, but it doesn’t appear to involve foul play. There were no other injuries. The Hamburg, Unadilla and Howell fire departments assisted at the scene of the fire, while Dexter firefighters covered the Putnam Township station. (JK) Reprinted with permission of www.whmi.com According to www.harnessracing.com longtime Michigan horsewoman Ann Russell and her daughter, Erin Spychala, lost their entire stable in the early-morning barn fire on Sunday morning (Jan. 13) in Pinckney, Mich. The fire was reported around 5 a.m. and killed all seven horses in the barn, including five Standardbred racehorses, one broodmare and a riding pony. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Russell and Spychala. To go to the GoFundMe page and donate please click here. www.harnessracing.com    

LEBANON, OH. - Another pair of "Claim To Fame" late-closing series got underway at Miami Valley Raceway on Monday afternoon (Jan. 14) as two divisions of $8000 claiming mares and two divisions of $15,000 claiming trotters went postward. Susie's Soul (Jason Brewer) won the fastest split for the distaffers with a 1:56.1 upset over Endeavors Ladyluck (Trevor Smith) and Bad Glamour Girl (Chris Page). The winner, owned by Grant Wilfong and trained by Jeff Brewer, paid $44.40. Dolly's Girl (Trace Tetrick) proved best in the second division, topping Carrie's Desire (Brett Miller) and Luna Hanover (Trevor Smith) in 1:56.3. Rhonda Manship owns the 7-5 favorite who was harnessed by Pat Melloy Jr. for the first time. Mikey Hanover (Tetrick) wired the quickest trot division in 1:57.1. The 7-2 second choice beat favored Winwood Scout (Brett Miller) and Mego Moss (Mike Oosting). Brandon Bartley was owner of Mikey Hanover for this start, but the 10-year-old gelding was one of three claimed from the contest. The other trot division lit up the toteboard, when Sarah Gator (Chris Page) downed Fleet Bumblebee (Dan Noble) and Undercover Strike (Simon Allard) in 1:58.1. Dispatched at 36-1, the Mervin Schmucker trainee-owned by Richard Ruffles-paid $75.40 for a $2 win wager. Racing resumes Tuesday afternoon, post time 2:05 p.m., featuring additional Claim To Fame first leg action. There will be two divisions of $12,500 splits for fillies and mares pacers as well as five divisions for $8000 male pacers. Gregg Keidel

Harness racing entries for the Blooded Horse Winter Sale close Wednesday Jan 16! The one day sale takes place on Tues, Feb.12 at the Champions Center in Springfield, Ohio. Take a break and join horsemen from 27 states and Canada as they converge at this 56th annual event to replenish their racehorses, look for young prospects, pick up broodmares, and sort through yearlings. Visit www.bloodedhorse.com to enter or to order a catalogue.  

Elkton, MD -- In this edition of Horse Highlight, Post Time with Mike and Mike teams up with New Vocations to feature the eye-catching, brown harness racing gelding, son of American Winner, Boytown who was donated by Kennedy Sports Corporation (Dan Kennedy). Kennedy has sent many horses to New Vocations over the years, ensuring his horses have a good home to go to. Boytown mainly raced in the Midwest, with 140 starts he was no stranger to the winners circle making the trip there 32 times. At age five, he took a mark of 1:52.4 at The Meadows in the Preferred trot, with Aaron Merriman abroad. During his career, Boytown made $433,140, his best season to date was in 2012 where he bankrolled over $100,000. "I only had him 8 starts before he started to get sore on me, and that is when I decided he deserved to go to New Vocations," previous trainer Clair Umholtz said. "He always gave us his all when he was on the track. He gave us a win in the Open while he was with us, that was pretty special, but what made him the barn favorite was his personality," said Umholtz. Previous trainer Alicia Hanners said, "He is one of the kindest horses I have ever come across, in my time being in this business. He came to our stable when my daughter was just seven years old, and he let her do anything with him, he was so gentle with her, and she absolutely adored him." Boytown is known for his big heart, not only on but off of the track. He is going to make someone very happy I am so glad he is going to New Vocations, he deserves the best," said Hanners. Currently at New Vocations, Boytown is enjoying his time and learning new tasks to advance into his post-racing career. "He has a great look for a riding horse with his pretty bay color and black points. His tail is so full it looks fake! He loves being a riding horse and is super fancy under saddle. We see him being a great trail horse and/or show horse." stated Standardbred Program Director Winnie Nemeth. Boytown is up for adoption, for more information check out the New Vocations website. Be sure to visit www.newvocations.org and view all of the amazing athletes they have for adoption, remember, make your next horse an ex-racehorse! By Jessica Otten, for Post Time with Mike and Mike  

A limited number of seats remain for Meadowlands Racetrack's 5-course Italian Wine Dinner this Saturday, January 19. Each course is paired with a wine that is crafted by smaller or lesser known Italian producers that use high quality, old world grape varietals. The dinner begins at 7:00 pm with live harness racing beginning at 7:15pm. The menu created by executive Chef Dennis Sammarone includes: 1st course: Assorted Italian Antipasti including eggplant, mozzarella, prosciutto, provolone & olives paired with Barbera D'Asti Superior 2nd course: Linguine Cozze E Vongole Scampi (pasta with mussels, shrimp, & clams in a white wine sauce) paired with Theresa Eccher Carricante-Catarratto 3rd course: Classic Caesar Salad paired with Mosparone "Brina" Piemonte Sauvignon 4th course: Grilled Strip Steak with Tuscan fries & creamed spinach paired with Agricola Bellaria Irpinia Campi Taurisini 5th course: Italian Ricotta Cheese Cake & Belgium Mousse Cake with Campania Passito Fiano di Agricola Bellaria The dinner is $70 per person (excluding tax & gratuity). For reservations call 201-460-4079. For the complete dinner menu click here. 

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, January 12, 2019 - Fresh off a five-win performance the previous evening, harness racing driver Jason Bartlett's Saturday night (Jan. 12th) saw him take down both of Yonkers Raceway's co-featured $44,000 Opens. Bartlett did it with a pair of fours. Bellows Binge ($19.40)-from post position No. 4-closed from third-over in the weekly featured pace, snapping Christen Me N (Matt Kakaley) at the wire in 1:54. Bettor's Fire N (Ron Cushing) grabbed third as the 62-1 rank outsider in a race that set up for the come-from-behind set when polester Run Oneover N (George Brennan) took no early prisoners. He stuffed 3-2 favorite Air Strike (Brent Holland) and Sicily (Jim Marohn Jr.) in behind, paying a :25.3 price for the privilege. After a :56.3 intermission, Sicily was out and moving again, engaging Run Oneover N in and out of a 1:24.4 three-quarters. Rune Oneover N was about to wear out his welcome early in the lane as Christen Me N moved from second-over. He made the lead late, but could not stall Bellow Binge. The latter whipped the former by a scant nose, while Aston Hill Dave (Tyler Buter) and Sicily chased home Bettor's Fire N for the minors For fifth choice Bellow's Binge, a now-5-year-old Bettor's Delight gelding owned and trained by Richard Banca, it was his first start in the Open/Open Handicap. The exacta paid $56.50, the triple returned $5,271 and the superfecta paid $14,357 (base $2 payout). Bellow's Binge outside number 4 (Chris Brokate Photo) Bartlett and pocket-sitting fave Andy Ray ($4)-from post No. 4--stalked Smalltownthrowdown (Dan Dube) throws intervals of :27.4, 57.3 and 1:26.2, then eased past by a length in 1:55.4. Third went to closing Mostinterestingman (Troy Beyer), with Royal Bachelor (Marohn Jr.), with Thisguysonfire (Jordan Stratton) settling for the remainder. For Andy Ray, a now-7-year-old Crazed gelding owned by Yinson Quezada and trained by Anette Lorentzon, his career cash went up and over a half-million dollars. The exacta paid $22.60, the triple returned $73.50 and the superfecta paid $426. Andy Ray (Chris Brokate Photo) Props also to millionaires Melady's Monet and Great Vintage, the trotter and pace who put up career wins No. 53 and 48, respectively, during the Saturday card. Frank Drucker

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - If you're going to rock the apple cart, then your name might as well fit the result. Saturday night harness racing at the Meadowlands, a win for K Ryan Bluechip or Geez Joe in the Preferred Handicap would have established the victor as the Big M's top pacer in training, but Constntlysidewys A threw a monkey wrench into the machine, going a big mile for owner-trainer Tahnee Camilleri, and scoring as the 9-2 fourth choice in the wagering in the $21,000 weekly feature. The race saw plenty of action as New Talent was the leader at the quarter before K Ryan Bluechip, the 5-2 second choice, came calling to poke a nose in front at the half before assuming the front end. Tuxedo Bay ripped out of three hole shortly thereafter to grab the lead at the three-quarters as Constntlysidewys A was advancing from first-over. At this point, 2-1 favorite Geez Joe was last in the field of seven in a third-over flow. Through the stretch, 15-1 Tuxedo Bay was stubbornly hanging in there as Constntlysidewys A continued to chip away at his advantage, and it wasn't until deep stretch that Constntlysidewys A would get past that foe, winning by a hard-fought head in 1:50.1 for driver Dexter Dunn. Geez Joe kicked home in :27 but finished an unthreatening third. Mindtrip was fourth. K Ryan Bluechip faded to fifth. Constntlysidewys A, an 8-year-old gelded son of Village Jasper-Miscilla, paid $11.60 to win. Lifetime, he has 26 wins from 102 starts and a bank account of $169,117. Dexter Dunn A LITTLE MORE: A meet-best $109,617 was poured into the 50-Cent Pick-4 pool, and despite favorites winning the last two legs of the bet, the return was a giant $11,646.50 after a 14-1 and an 80-1 hit the wire first in the initial two legs. ... Driver Dexter Dunn got a big leg up on possibly being named the Big M's "Driver of the Week". The New Zealand native, after winning three times on Friday, added four more scores on the Saturday card, finishing with seven victories over the course of the two-card race week. ... All-source handle on the 14 races totaled $2,704,027, meaning wagering has exceeded $2.5 million for five consecutive programs. ... The always entertaining Larry Lederman called the Saturday race card. ... Racing resumes Friday at 7:15 p.m. By Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations  

LEBANON, OH. - Granite and My Hero Ron have dominated the featured weekly Open Pace at both Hollywood Dayton and Miami Valley Raceways in recent weeks, Granite winning three times and My Hero Ron twice since December 8. They were joined in the Saturday night (Jan. 12) $25,000 Open at Miami Valley by Nuclear Dragon, the 1:49 track record holder returning to the races after a two and a half month layoff. While all three raced gallantly on a blustery winter night it was My Buddy Ninkster (Todd Warren) who surprised the favored trio with a stern stretch effort to pass them in the final strides of the 1:51.3 mile. My Buddy Ninkster is no stranger to the Miami Valley win circle as he won several top events during the 2018 meet last winter, propelling him to $102,290 in seasonal earnings. The 7-year-old son of Dali won eight times last year and his first 2019 triumph was the 35th in his stellar career which now sports a bankroll of $457,740. Warren was content to get away fifth in the star-studded field as Granite (Jeremy Smith) stopped the first three teletimers in :26.4, :55.1 and 1:23.1. At that point Nuclear Dragon (Dan Noble) drew even with the leader and the pair raced as a team around the final turn. At the head of the lane, Warren swung My Buddy Ninkster three-wide with My Hero Ron (Tyler Smith) fanning even further out for a thrilling duel through the lane. In the end, it was My Buddy Ninkster over Nuclear Dragon with Granite and My Hero Ron also lapped on to the winner. Bob Phillips conditions My Buddy Ninkster for John and Mary Krasnican of Illinois. Dispatched at 5-1 he paid $13.80 to win. Four first leg divisions of the $20,000 Claim To Fame Series were also contested on Saturday. Winners were Latest Desire (Trace Tetrick, 1:50.2), Always A Fighter (Tetrick, 1:52.4), Vintage Grand (Warren, 1:52.3) and Fan Of Terror (Tetrick, 1:51). While seven horses were plucked via the claim box from the first leg, only Fan Of Terror changed barns among the winners. Tetrick scored five wins on the program to run his total tallies over the past two nights to nine. The defending Miami Valley dash champion's other winners were Tyd The Glyde and Fools Desire in a pair of high conditioned paces. Racing resumes at Miami Valley on Sunday afternoon (Jan. 12) at 2:05. The matinee will feature three divisions of the first leg of the Claim To Fame Series for $30,000 male pacers and a $25,000 Open Trot.   Gregg Keidel

YONKERS, N.Y. – When harness racing trainer Wayne Givens entered his star pacer Sicily in the Sam McKee Memorial on the Hambletonian Day undercard, he felt the horse had earned a chance to perform on the big stage. The Art Major son out of the Western Ideal mare Capri Hanover ran up a score of Open wins in Delaware in the year leading up to the $260,000 stakes on August 4 and he even posted a mark of 1:48.2 at Dover Downs December 21, 2017.  However, Sicily was unable to showcase his prowess when he lined up behind the gate at the Meadowlands. Sicily raced at the back of the pack throughout the 1 ¼-mile route and finished last of 12 beaten 49 lengths. Although Sicily was a 72-1 outsider, Givens knew the lack of effort was uncharacteristic of his hard-trying horse. The trainer quickly discovered the horse was suffering from a heart condition. “He had AFib, his heart got out of rhythm,” Givens said. “I’ve only had that ever happen to me two or three times. When their heart gets out of rhythm, they just can’t perform. Oh yes, it is (scary) because you don’t know whether they’re going to recover or not.” After the initial fright, Sicily made a full recovery and Givens hopes he’ll soon be able to take on Grand Circuit competition again. This time, Givens has his sights set on the George Morton Levy Series at Yonkers Raceway.  Givens purchased Sicily out of the 2015 Harrisburg Mixed Sale for $39,000 for owners Legacy Racing and Reginald Hazzard II. The gelding showed promise, having competed in the Breeders Crown at 2 and Empire Breeders Classic at 3, but had not yet become a winner at the Open level. “Most of the time when I go to a sale and buy a horse, I pay a good healthy price and I just hope they stay that good and competitive,” Givens said. “But yeah, (Sicily) turned out to be a lot better. So far, anyway. The classes he was in, he looked competitive and I was just trying to buy a racehorse.” Now 7 years old, Sicily has amassed 23 wins from 109 starts and earned $482,554. However, Givens has never raced Sicily at Yonkers and the gelding went 0-for-5 locally for his prior connections, Ron Burke and Nik Drennan. Before Givens nominates his standout to the track’s signature event for older pacers, he will test the waters in the weekly pacing feature, the $44,000 Open Pace. “I want to see how he goes. I kind of want to put him in that series, the Levy. If he gets around that track, then we’ll plan on racing in that series,” Givens said. Sicily drew post seven Saturday night (January 12) in his first start at Yonkers since November 2015. He is the only horse with recency, as he finished second in the Open at Dover Downs January 3 while each of his seven rivals have been off at least four weeks. Jim Marohn, Jr. will take the place of regular Delaware driver Victor Kirby. “I’m just going to make sure he can get around. He’s a good horse and I just want to make sure he can get around those turns at Yonkers,” Givens said. “He’s a nice horse to drive. He doesn’t have anything about him, you want to stick with the same driver all the time, but (Marohn) will do a good job with him I’m sure.” Sicily’s rivals include 3-1 early favorite Christen Me, who finished second or third in three straight Open Handicaps before Yonkers closed for the holidays. Matt Kakaley will drive the 11-year-old from post two. Air Strike graduated from the 3- and 4-Year-Old Open with the changing of the calendar and drew post five for his first try in the pacing feature. Run Oneover is 9-2 from the pylons off a front-stepping score in a $30,000 overnight Closing Day. Aston Hill Dave, Bellow’s Binge, Quick Asa Trick, and Bettor’s Fire complete the lineup. Although Sicily tends to show speed off the gate – he blasted to the front from post eight in :26.3 last time out – Givens will leave that decision to Marohn.  “He gets behind the gate, he can look across and see how much speed looks like is going to leave inside,” Givens said. “It’s something you can’t really plan on before the race. I probably don’t have to tell him because he can look at the program and see that he leaves good.” Saturday night’s card also features a $44,000 Open Handicap Trot. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.  By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

Hanover Shoe Farms has announced that pacing stallion Stay Hungry has been granted exemption from the Stallion Restiction Rule. This exemption permits foals from Stay Hungry's first crop , as well as all future crops, to race at The Meadowlands, Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs. Stay Hungry stands his first season at Hanover Shoe Farms in PA for a fee of $6,000. His book is full and closed.   Bridgette Jablonsky VMD Hanover Shoe Farms    

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Apparently, Trolley did not get the memo. You know the one. The one where Muscle Diamond goes off as the 1-5 harness racing favorite in Friday night's featured $21,000 Preferred Handicap for trotters at the Meadowlands and wins his sixth in a row for fun. No, Trolley was clearly not on board with that. In what is developing into a great rivalry, Trolley and driver Marcus Miller powered their way past Muscle Diamond in deep stretch to win for the fourth time in five starts, using a little racing luck along the way. For the first three-quarters, it was the longest shot on the board, 43-1 chance Two AM, cutting the fractions. Muscle Diamond vacated the four-hole at the half and gradually made up ground on the leader as Trolley sat inside, racing in the three-hole as the flow developed, putting himself in a tough spot with no place to race. But at the top of the stretch, Miller found his way off the rail as Muscle Diamond was starting to create separation between himself and the rest of the field. In deep stretch, the relentless Trolley found a seam between horses and charged at the leader, and with a late burst got past the odds-on choice by three-quarters-of-a-length in 1:54. Dover Downs invader Fraser Ridge rallied well for third. As the 5-1 second choice in the betting, Trolley returned $12.00 to his backers for trainer Erv Miller and owners Michael Anderson, Leland Mathias, Greg Gillis and Louis Willinger. Lifetime, the 6-year-old son of Donato Hanover-Lakeside Bride has won 12-of-26 starts and banked $302,959. A LITTLE MORE: Wagering on the 50-Cent Pick-4 exceeded the $90,000 plateau for a fifth straight program, as $93,295 was pushed through the windows. ... Driver Shane Taggart recorded his first career win at the Meadowlands, guiding Nows The Moment to a 1:54 score in the sixth race conditioned trot. ... Dexter Dunn drove three winners on the card while Corey Callahan, Andy Miller and Pat Berry all had two apiece. ... All-source wagering on the 14-race program was $2,504,720. ... Racing resumes Saturday at 7:15 p.m. Special guest announcer Larry Lederman will call the races. By Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations

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Marcus Melander's name will be on the U.S. Harness Writers Association's 2018 Rising Star Award, but the 27-year-old trainer says the recognition extends beyond one person. "It's a great accomplishment, but it's not really just my award," Melander said. "It's my whole barn. If I didn't have all these people working with me, I wouldn't do any good. That's why we've been having success; it's a lot because of them. We have a good team. And then you need to have owners that support you. That's very important, too. I'm lucky to have owners that support me a hundred percent." Melander, who joined Nancy Johansson as the only trainers to receive the Rising Star Award in the past 20 years, saw his stable earn $2.86 million in purses last year, good enough to finish 15th among all trainers in North America despite having the fifth-fewest starts (219) among all trainers in the top 50. His top horse was undefeated male trotter Gimpanzee, who saw his 9-for-9 campaign at age 2 rewarded with the division's Dan Patch Award. Gimpanzee's victories for owners Anders Ström's Courant Inc. and Lennart Agren's S R F Stable included the Breeders Crown and New York Sire Stakes championship. Melander's stable also saw 2-year-old male trotter Green Manalishi S win the William Wellwood Memorial and finish second in both the Breeders Crown and Peter Haughton Memorial. Another male 2-year-old trotter, Greenshoe, won the New Jersey Sire Stakes title. "We had a really good year, especially with the 2-year-olds," Melander sad. "We didn't have that many 3-year-olds, but the 2-year-olds did great." In addition, older trotters Cruzado Dela Noche and Crazy Wow -- both July additions to Melander's stable -- posted top Grand Circuit triumphs, with Cruzado Dela Noche capturing the Yonkers International Trot and Crazy Wow the Maple Leaf Trot. Those wins came at odds of 30-1 and 31-1, respectively. "We had a little luck getting Crazy Wow and Cruzado Dela Noche in the middle of the summer," Melander said. "You've got to have a little luck in the races, but both those horses raced great on those particular days." Melander, who employs a staff of a dozen people, enters 2019 with 60 horses in training and is looking to build off last year's success. "(Gimpanzee and Green Manalishi S) are doing very good," Melander said. "I brought them back in early December so they've been training for over a month now. They filled out very nicely. They're probably going to grow a little bit more during the winter. I'm very happy with how they're feeling so far." Greenshoe, Gerry, and Demon Onthe Hill add depth to Melander's group of male 3-year-old trotters. Greenshoe was limited to four starts last year because of immaturity and sickness while Gerry and Demon Onthe Hill both were winners on the Pennsylvania-stakes circuit. "Hopefully (Greenshoe) will mature more during the winter and develop a little bit too," Melander said. "He's a very fast horse, probably the fastest of any of my horses out of the 3-year-olds, but he was a little too anxious last year. He's been very quiet here at home. He's doing good. I couldn't be any happier with him at this moment. We'll see in three months. "The 3-year-old colts look really good. Gerry was a really good horse last year and Demon Onthe Hill is a nice horse too. He might be a little bit under the best, best ones, but I think we have at least four of them that could be top Grand Circuit horses." Among Melander's 2-year-olds are two high-priced female trotters, Fifty Cent Piece (who sold for $500,000 at the Standardbred Horse Sale) and Bellareina Dolce ($400,000 at the Lexington Selected Sale). Both are owned by Lennart Agren's S R F Stables. Melander, the nephew of trainer Stefan Melander, came to the U.S. from Sweden less than six years ago and worked for trainer Jimmy Takter before starting his own stable in late 2014. He is based in New Egypt, N.J., at a farm that was home previously to each the legendary Stanley Dancer and Continental Farms stables. He got his first Grand Circuit win in 2016 with trotter Long Tom, who was a 2-year-old at the time. The following year, Long Tom was joined by 3-year-old Enterprise and 2-year-old Fourth Dimension in adding to Melander's Grand Circuit resume. Fourth Dimension, who was injured last year and retired, ended 2017 as the Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male trotter. "We built (the stable) up, no rush really," Melander said. "The first year we had 10 horses, then 25, then 40 to 45 and now we have 60. And you get better horses. It really started that year we got Long Tom and Enterprise. They had success. And then we had Fourth Dimension. Those horses really put you on the map. "Everything has been developing great, really. I'm still developing too. I still have things to learn, it will come with age. Hopefully I've got many years left in this sport." Melander will be among the honorees at the U.S. Trotting Association's Dan Patch Awards banquet on Feb. 24 at Rosen Shingle Creek resort in Orlando, Fla., at which time Trotter, Pacer and Horse of the Year will be revealed. For more information about the resort and banquet visit the U.S. Trotting Association's website.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com @harnessracenews @HarnessKenW      
Stephanie Davis of Brooklyn, NY, captured the January 12th World Harness Handicapping Championship Qualifier presented by DerbyWars.com at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Davis cashed on three early show bets to keep her in the contest and used her remaining $94 on a win bet in Race 14 on Rather Swell. Her win bet paid off at $754.40 giving her the $900 grand prize and a $1,300 seat into the World Harness Handicapping Final. This is Stephanie's first time qualifying into the WHHC; she is a regular at the National Handicapping Championship, having qualified 12 times. James Michael of Cherry Hill, NJ, also qualified for the April 13th Final with his second place finish in Saturday's contest. Michael hit on four of his ten wagers. The largest being a $385 score in the sixth race at the Meadowlands with a $50 win bet on Redonkulous. George Wagner of Warrington, PA, and Tim Platt of Little Falls, NJ also qualified into the WHHC Final with their third and fourth place finishes. The $400 Qualifier required contestants to place at least ten $20 minimum win, place, and/or show wagers on Meadowlands races. The World Harness Handicapping Championship presented by DerbyWars.com is a one-day tournament [April 13, 2019], with a welcome reception the evening prior. Players that did not earn a seat through a qualifying event can directly buy-in for $1,300. The $1,300 entry fee includes a $300 bankroll, with the remaining $1,000 going to the prize pool. The $150,000 prize pool is based on an estimated 150 entries. The WHHC contest format requires players to bet 10 races: their choice of seven Meadowlands races, plus three designated mandatory races. Players keep all pari-mutuel winnings. Prize payouts are to the Top 10. Derby Wars is currently hosting regular online Qualifiers for the Final. Players can qualify for as little as $22. Complete DerbyWars Qualifier information can be found at DerbyWars.com. Club Hawthorne, Buffalo Raceway and TVG/4NJBets are also hosting WHHC Qualifiers. Visit http://playmeadowlands.com/contest_detail.aspx?id=8240 for a complete qualifier schedule.   by Rachel Ryan, for the Meadowlands
East Rutherford, NJ - The Meadowlands' 2019 Grand Circuit stakes schedule will offer more than $13 million in purses led by Harness Racing's most coveted prize, the 94th edition of the $1 million Hambletonian Stake. The Meadowlands will again be the stage for two of the sport's biggest events. The track's signature Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace ($700,000e) headlines a card worth an estimated $2.5 million on Saturday, July 13. "The Greatest Day In Harness Racing", the $3 million Hambletonian Day extravaganza featuring an entire day of major Grand Circuit stakes, ends the "Championship Meet" on Saturday, August 3. With the help of our generous sponsors, all of The Meadowlands marquee stakes, which include many of the most sought after trophies for each division of trotters and pacers, will return in 2019. Nominations for those stakes close on February 15, 2019. The proposed stakes schedule remains contingent upon the pending purse subsidy having been approved by the New Jersey Legislature prior to the February 15 payment deadline and is subject to revision. The Meadowlands remains committed to racing integrity, adding a clause to the conditions for all Meadowlands administered stakes under the "Rules" heading that states; "...any owner who participates in a Meadowlands Stake or Early Closing event (with added money greater than $25,000) with a trainer who has an outstanding Class 1, Class 2 or TC02 positive test having occurred on or after January 1, 2019 and under appeal in any jurisdiction will be declared ineligible to participate in any Meadowlands Stake or Early Closing event for 12 months following the conviction if such trainer is subsequently found guilty relating to the Class 1, Class 2 or TC02 positive test." It is important to understand the gravity of this clause. Simply stated if a trainer appeals the penalty for a listed offence and continues to race while on a stay; if that penalty is upheld those owners that raced horses in stakes with the trainer in question would be excluded from racing any of their horses in any of The Meadowlands' stakes for one year from the date of the decision on the appeal. "Clean racing has been and remains a top priority at The Meadowlands," said Meadowlands President Jeff Gural. "The Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) shares our passion and has included virtually the same language in their stakes." Complete information including schedules, conditions and nomination forms may be downloaded from The Meadowlands website. Questions should be directed to the Racing Office at (201) 842-5130.   Nick Salvi
A suspect is facing charges after releasing more than a dozen harness racing horses from the Stark County Fairgrounds. More than a dozen racehorses roamed the city’s west side early Monday morning after a man let the animals out of a barn at the Stark County Fairgrounds, police said. One of the horses later died after falling into the icy water at Meyers Lake. Canton Township firefighters tried to rescue the animal, but it drowned before it could be reached. Police and firefighters from several area departments, assisted by volunteers, managed to round up 14 other horses that were released and wandering area streets. Horses let loose from Stark County Fairgrounds, roam through Canton Dale Klick, president of the Stark County Agricultural Society, which operates the fairgrounds, said the 14 horses were returned to the barn and were seen by a veterinarian. Area trainers and owners board horses at the fairgrounds and use the track for training. The animals released Monday morning are harness racing horses that run at Northfield Park. Police arrested Jonathan D. Ford, 28, who formerly lived in Canton and now has a Mansfield address, on charges of breaking and entering, disrupting public service, inducing panic and possession of drugs. Police said Ford had two different types of marijuana when he was apprehended. He was taken to the Stark County Jail. Canton police haven’t determined why Ford released the horses, said Lt. Dennis Garren, public information officer. Police were called to the fairgrounds just before 5:30 p.m. and told the horses had been released. Ford was still on the property. Responding officers said Ford told them the horses wanted or needed to be freed. The horses ran through the neighborhood, police said. Officers and firefighters worked to keep the animals away from main streets, according to police reports. Perry Township police and firefighters and Canton Township firefighters helped with the effort. According to police, it took nearly two hours to get back to the barn. ShaneandRachel Taylor I took this video about 6am heading east on 12th to 13th St.. Just past Myers Lake. Did not want to turn light on camera. They already seemed pretty spooked. Facebook. Commented on The Canton Repository / CantonRep.com's public post Canton Township Fire Department’s water rescue team was called around 7:30 a.m. when a resident reported seeing an animal struggling in Meyers Lake. Firefighters arrived to find the horse swimming about 100 yards off shore. Assistant Chief Rick Morabito said thick ice near the shore made it difficult for the rescue team to get into the water quickly. The horse was treading and moving farther from shore as the rescue team reached open water. Morabito said the team was about 20 yards away when the animal went under. By Edd Pritchard  Reprinted with permission of the GateHouse Media Ohio  Reach Edd at 330-580-8484 or edd.pritchard@cantonrep.com On Twitter: @epritchardREP
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