Day At The Track

Only Passing Thru (Jimmy Whittemore) was awarded first place due to a disqualification by Taco Tuesday (Leon Bailey) during the featured harness racing trot ($7,000) at Vernon Downs on opening night (4-19). It rained throughout the card but didn't dampen the spirits of the big opening day crowd. Warrawee Preferred (Jim Taggert Jr) charged to the front and put up all the opening fractions (:27.4, :59.0, 1:28.3). Taco Tuesday popped out of the pocket and took over the lead at the top of the stretch. Only Passing Thru ($3.90) made a three-wide move to challenge Taco Tuesday for the lead. Taco Tuesday drifted wide causing interference. Taco Tuesday crossed the finish line first but was placed second for interference. Warawee Preferred hung on to finish third. Only Passing Thru is a 5-year-old horse by Muscle Hill. Owned by Diane Whittemore and trained by Marrissa Chadbourne, he won for the third time in 10 starts this season. He now has 14 career victories. Jimmy Whittemore and Marrisa Chadbourne combined for three winners on the night. Their other wins came with Blameitonthenight ($2.30) and Bold Fresh ($21.20). Mr Lucky Star (Roman Lopez) came flying late to overtake the big favorite Barn Beast (Claude Huckabone Jr.) to win the first division of the Robert E. Keller Trotting Series ($4,000) in 1:56.1. Mark C Adams (Truman Gale) was third best. Mr Lucky Star ($6.90) is a 4-year-old gelding by Mr Cantab. Trained by Lopez for owners Joan Ellafrits and Lynn Wilson. It was his first win in two lifetime starts. Mr Lucky Star Irish Kate (Claude Huckabone III) went gate-to-wire to win the second division Of The Robert E. Keller Trotting Series in 2:02.2. Massive Impressive (Rick Harp) made a late charge but fell short to settle for second. Little Dave (Angus MacDonald) finished third. Irish Kate ($3.60) is a 4-year-old mare by Conway Hall. Owned by Donald Cosgrove and trained by Angus MacDonald, she won for the first time this season. She now owns five career victories. Vernon Downs returns to live racing on Saturday (April 20) with an 11 race card starting at 6:10 pm. For more information go to www.vernondowns.com. John Horne for Vernon Downs

HAMBURG, N.Y. --- Majestic Kat made it a 'purrfect' 3-for-3 at Buffalo Raceway on Friday night (April 19) as she splashed and dashed her way to the harness racing victory in the $13,000 Open Trot in 1:57.4 over the sloppy track.   After making a two week visit to Flamboro Downs where she registered a win and third place, Majestic Kat returned to the Western New York circuit where she was undefeated in two starts.   Driver Billy Davis Jr. and Majestic Kat were involved in a skirmish with Wheels A Turning and Southern Palms to take command to the opening quarter pole and were successful in getting there.   "It was obvious we wanted the lead," Davis Jr. said of his early going strategy. "She (Majestic Kat) is pretty handy racing from anywhere but she does like the front end." Once hitting the home stretch in 1:28.4, Davis Jr. said, "I wasn't really worried."   Wheels A Turning (Jim Morrill Jr.) finished in second a length behind while Southern Palms (Drew Monti) took third.   Trained by Maria Rice and co-owned by Jack Rice, Vogel & Wags Nags Stable and Pine Hill Racing LTD, it was the fifth win in 11 starts for Majestic Kat (Majestic Son-Order By Matilda). The 5-year-old mare has now put $35,416 in the bank this season and $197,007 in her career.   In the $10,000 Class A-B Handicap Trot, Lougazi came from nowhere and snatched a head victory over Keystone Apache in 1:59.0.   Sitting fifth and 5-1/4 lengths from the lead at the top of the stretch, Ray Fisher Jr. launched a mad charge with Lougazi in the stretch and posted the $16.40 upset win. Keystone Apache (Davis Jr.) took the tough luck second place finish with Empire Earl N (Jim Morrill Jr.) taking third, just a neck behind the winner.   Owned by Mary Warriner and trained by Ryan Swift, it was the second consecutive triumph for Lougazi (Lou's Legacy-Winning Blade). The 5-year-old gelding has now produced $16,000 in earnings on the campaign and $120,483 lifetime.   Davis Jr. completed the card with three winners while Fisher Jr. doubled. Rice, Buffalo Raceway's leading trainer, had a pair of victories.   Racing will resume on Saturday night at 6 p.m. with a 10-race card slated. There's a $438 carryover in the Pick-5 which begins in the second race.   For more information including the latest news, race replays, results, entries, upcoming promotions and simulcast schedule, go to www.buffaloraceway.com   by Brian J. Mazurek, for Buffalo Raceway

LEBANON, OH - Rylee Roo (Aaron Merriman) upset Queen Of The Pride (Tony Hall) following a stirring harness racing stretch duel in the $40,000 championship of the James K. Hackett Memorial for Ohio-sired sophomore pacing fillies at Miami Valley Raceway on Friday night (April 19). The daughter of Pet Rock, trained by Steve Carter, sat a cozy two-hole throughout before Merriman angled her to the outside and took a shot at the 1-5 favorite in the final eighth of the mile. Rylee Roo returned $15.80 for her 1:54.1 score over a rain-soaked sloppy racing surface. Coupled with Queen Of The Pride, the defending Ohio Sires Stakes champion, the exacta was worth $27. Queen Of The Pride, who won her elimination heat last week in a national season's best 1:51.4, cut reasonable fractions of :27.1, :56.3 and 1:26.1 before falling prey to the howling winds and wet weather conditions at the end of a :28 flat final panel. Bad Sammie (Brett Miller) and Avaline Hanover (Chris Page) also raced creditably to finish third and fourth, respectively, and earn automatic berths to next Friday's $50,000 Scarlet & Gray Invitational at Miami Valley. Rylee Roo earned $74,375 as a two-year-old with two wins and two place finishes in just six starts. With the $20,000 Hackett paycheck she is currently sitting on the cusp of $100,000 in earnings. Steven Price of Sandy Springs, Georgia, owns Rylee Roo-who is a homebred result of breeding his Western Hanover mare Moonlite Delite to Pet Rock. Rylee Roo The $25,000 Mares Open Pace on the program was captured by Golden Paradise (Ronnie Wrenn Jr.) in 1:53.3, besting Rosemary Rose (Chris Page) and Big Bad Jane (Dan Noble). The five-year-old daughter of Allthatgltrsisgold flashed terrific early speed to grab an easy early lead in :27, then continued at a catch-me-if-you-can pace through subsequent timing stations in :55.3 and 1:25 before coasting to the line an open lengths winner. Wrenn Jr. co-owns the winner with partners Sam Schillaci and trainer Tyler George. A $30,000 claimer through most of the current meet, Golden Paradise now sports six wins in 11 seasonal starts and $57,760 in 2019 purse earnings, all at Miami Valley. The final $40,000 Hackett Memorial final, for three-year-old Buckeye bred pacing colts, will go postward Saturday night (April 20) as the tenth race on the 14-race program. Seattle Hanover (Chris Page, 3-1) and Dislocator (Ronnie Wrenn Jr., 4-1) are the morning line favorites but a contentious race is expected as all nine finalists paced in 1:52.2 or faster in last week's eliminations. Gregg Keidel

Plainville, Ma --- After taking advantage of quick early fractions while he sat off the pace, Northern Skyway made a strong closing move to capture the $16,000 harness racing Open Handicap trot at Plainridge Park on Friday afternoon (April 19). Last week's feature winner Namesmuscle (Matt Athearn) went right back to work and led the field to the quarter in a moderate :28.4 split. At that point Nows The Moment (Mike Stevenson) was looking to turn up the heat and pulled from third to go after the leader and that's when the battle ensued. Namesmuscle had no intentions of giving up the front and Nows The Moment didn't have enough trot at that point to outmuscle Namesmuscle. So the two trotted side by side heatedly to the half in :57.2 and three quarters in 1:25.1. While that melee was in progress Northern Skyway (Bruce Aldrich Jr.) who had been coasting along fourth, pulled from that spot and started tracking the leading pair from a parked third position. As that trio rounded the last turn, Nows The Moment had finally gotten the best of the fading Namesmuscle, but Northern Skyway had tipped to the middle of the track and was fully underway. Aldrich kept driving Northern Skyway down the lane and he incrementally drew alongside and then passed Nows The Moment to win by a length in 1:55.1. Northern Skyway ($3.40) who had been making hay in the top trotting conditions at the Meadows since February got his first Plainridge win of the year in his second attempt of the meet for owner William Mc Elvain Jr. and trainer Mike Hitchcock. In the co-featured $14,000 conditioned trot, Mayfair Johnny B (Jay Randall) took the lead past the quarter and then never looked back; eventually trotting home in a brisk :28.4 to win by a length in 1:56. It was the second straight win at Plainridge Park for Mayfair Johnny B ($3.40) and his owner the Kellogg Racing Stable. Jackie Greene trains the winner. The driver and trainer combination of Wally and Lisa Watson led all horsepersons competing on Friday, each scoring a double in their respective category. Racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Monday afternoon (April 22) at 4 p.m. For more information about Massachusetts harness racing log onto the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts at www.sominc.net or Plainridge Park at www.plainridgeparkcasino.com. By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts

CHESTER PA - The Big Jim gelding Tiger Thompson roared to the fastest mile of the young season at Harrah's Philadelphia on Friday afternoon, fronting a good field at every call to win the $18,000 harness racing pacing feature in 1:50.1. Dexter Dunn got the strong Kiwi-bred to the lead before a 26.1 quarter despite the outside post seven, then got a breather to the half in 56. There was no catching the Tiger after that, by the tail or by anything else, as he streaked home in 54.1 - 26.4 to be 2¾ lengths clear of pocketsitter and countrymate Crockets Cullen N for his second straight win. (Yes, if you toss out that 29.4 second quarter, Tiger Thompson paced his other ¾ of a mile in 1:20.2.) Joshua Parker trains the razor-sharp Tiger, and he shares ownership in him with Nanticoke Racing Inc., Stephen Messick, and Prestige Stable. The top pacing mares event on the card, a $14,500 contest, also fell to Team Dunn / Parker, as Better Decision N followed the example of her stablemate and set sail on the lead, winning for the fifth time in her last eight starts, here in 1:53. A daughter of Bettor's Delight, Better Decision N blitzed home in 55.4 for trainer/co-owner Parker, Nanticoke Racing, and Donna Messick. And while they were at it, trainer/owner Parker, driver Dunn, Nanticoke, and Prestige thought they might as well take the other $14,500 high-level conditioned pace, with the pocketsitting Live Or Die gelding Robbie Burns N having his plans to catch pacesetting Great Vintage not go awry by a neck in 1:52.1; Barry Spedden is also co-owner of this winner. The $16,000 top trot saw Spee Club force wholesale tucks with an alert start from the rail, then continue on unpassed until crossing the wire in 1:56, tying his personal best. The son of Cantab Hall was driven to his second straight victory by Art Stafford Jr. for trainer D. Erin Neilson, co-owner with David Neilson. While it doesn't quite yet have the Saturday night appeal of its counterpart 100 miles up the Northeast Pennsylvania Turnpike Extension, the Philly claiming box got a lot of use today. Because of Sunday being dark for Easter, more claiming events than usual - five - were put on the Philly card, with every selling race seeing at least one horse change hands, and a total of eight claims totaling up to $109,000. PHHA / Harrah's Philadelphia  

LEBANON, OH - Miami Valley Raceway is seeking outstanding harness racing Ohio-sired three-year-olds for its upcoming $50,000 Scarlet & Gray Invitationals on Friday (April 26) and Saturday (April 27). The filly races, on both the pace and trot, are scheduled for Friday with the colts slated to do battle on Saturday. Elimination heat winners and finalists that finished in the top four of the James K. Hackett Memorial championships earned automatic berths in the Scarlet & Grays, but the balance of each field will be filled by Race Secretary Gregg Keidel from among those that are entered. There are no nomination or starting fees required for these events. "Recent form as well as 2018 earnings and accomplishments will be the primary criteria for filling the fields," said Keidel. "We had an impressive group of two-year-olds in Ohio last season, most of which have either raced in the Hacketts or have qualified in recent weeks. We hope to showcase the best Ohio has to offer next weekend in these early tests for $50,000 purses." Trainers are encouraged to enter online or call the race office by 10 a.m. on Monday for the filly divisions; and by 10 a.m. on Tuesday for the colt races.  

Chester V. Ault, 104, of Chattanooga was born in 1914 on a “frosty December day” in Cedar Bluff, Alabama. He was a long-time resident of Chattanooga, where his many ventures included founding a chain of Ault Hardware and Appliance Stores, developing North Crest Estates on Missionary Ridge and management of Ault Properties where he worked until his death at age 104. Chester was a great lover of nature. Famous for his beautiful dahlias and tasty tomatoes, he had a life-long respect for animals of all kinds. He traveled widely throughout the world visiting 11 African countries. There he not only spent time with the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, but hunted big game in Botswana.  He was an avid quail hunter who worked diligently to restore the quail population in Lookout Valley. A world traveler, Chester loved to entertain with his stories of climbing the Great Pyramid and traveling down the Amazon. However, Rome was to be his favorite city, where he returned 5 times to trace the life and death of St. Paul. Chester came into international prominence in 1971 while he and his first wife Katie were managing the harness racing stable of the Dave L. Brown Trust.  It was under their leadership that Steady Star became the fastest harness horse in the world and held the world record for 10 years. In 1997, both the horse and Chester were featured in Sports Illustrated and on CNN. Steady Star and driver Joe O'Brien setting a world's record, 1971 Proud to have served his country during World War II in the Army Air Corp, Chester was very interested in the history of the United States, learning that he was a descendant of both William Brewster and Isaac Allerton who arrived in 1620 on the Mayflower. He was a lifetime member of the Veteran of Foreign Wars. During his lifetime, Chester was a member of First Centenary United Methodist Church, the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club, Fairyland Club, The Walden Club and the Dahlia Society. He was a former member of the Brainerd Kiwanis Club and the Jaycees. He is survived by his wife Rosemary Wilbanks Ault, his daughter Cathie Ault Kasch, and two grandchildren Katie Kasch Bien (Keith) of Wildwood, GA and Andrew David Kasch of Hollywood, California as well as four great-grandchildren, Zoë and Mia Kasch and Tala and Silas Bien. He also leaves behind stepchildren Robert Wilbanks, Emmaly Wilbanks Manuel (Joe) and three step- grandchildren Meredith, Wil and Mary Melissa Manuel.  He was preceded in death by his first wife, Katie Brown Ault, his son, Van Robert Ault, his sister, Catherine Ault Gill and brother, Hugh Ault, Sr. The funeral service will be held on Monday, April 22, at 3 p.m. at First Centenary United Methodist Church. Visitation will be held prior to the service from 1–3 p.m. at the church. Graveside service to follow at Forest Hills Cemetery.  In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to First Centenary United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 208, Chattanooga, TN 37401. Arrangements are by Heritage Funeral Home, Battlefield Parkway.

Cream Ridge, NJ - 4/18/19 - Trial Victory, the aged harness racing stallion and son of the great Valley Victory, found tagged to ship for slaughter, has arrived at his new home in Alabama. The wonderful lady is a wildlife firefighter and is a rescue minded individual who already has a few just like him, rescued. She is delighted to receive him.   She, and the Standardbred Retirement Foundation (SRF) thank all who contributed to have him redirected to a safe situation, transported to quarantine, and shipped to his lucky opportunity to live out his life.   It is not easy to find a home for a stallion, a horse that is aged, and also blind in one eye, but this guy is finally experiencing a little luck in his life.   His new home shared, "He came with a healed eye injury leaving him 100% blind in the eye and does very well with it. Poor guy looks like something crushed the whole eye socket at some point, but he has no pain and no heat. He and my teenager puppy have already made friends. He's such a love bug and answers to "hey old man". He nickers when he sees me coming, food or not, and loves his ears scratched. He is an absolute gentleman. He still has his stallion moments of whinnying and thinking about my mare, but that's about it and then he goes back to grazing. I couldn't sleep the other night, so I went out and paid him a visit. He came up to me when I sat down and put his head in my lap while I rubbed his face and ears. Such a sweet boy! He has 4 acres to himself. It's wooded with a nice stand of grass underneath, and his hay roll."   Hundreds of Standardbreds are tagged to ship for slaughter every week. Many are in their late teens and early twenties, as breeding was prolific in the late 90's.   When these horses did not make the races, or made the races and had injuries, the vast majority of them were sold to the rural communities as workhorses. These communities typically treat animals as equipment. Used to plow fields, pull equipment, and as transportation, they are now ageing out as they like to "turn them over for fresh ones when in their teens". This is likely the reason for so many presently being shipped to the Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses. These practices still continue for the present horses on the tracks and in the breeding sheds. In the past two years, with the help of the volunteer group on Facebook, Save Our Standardbreds From Slaughter, SOSS, SRF helped more than 1,100 trotters and pacers just like Trial Victory divert from the trip to slaughter, to one where they can live out their lives, and do so with dignity. Thank you to all who helped.   Tax-deductible donations may be made by going to www.AdoptaHorse.org or by calling Tammy at 609-738-3255 or email at SRFHorsesandkids@gmail.com. DONATE TO SRF TODAY!   About Standardbred Retirement Foundation   Standardbred Retirement Foundation, since 1989, provides humane care and services for horse in need of lifetime homes, and in crisis, through rehabilitation, training, adoption, life-long follow-up or life time sanctuary and offering therapeutic equine opportunities for children and adults.   Tammy Cailliau Phone: 609-738-3255 Email address: SRFHorsesandkids@gmail.com    

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. – The Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund has awarded $150,000 in total grant funding between five organizations within the Standardbred breeding and racing industry. The Fund Trustees awarded grants at a scheduled board meeting on April 8 in which grant applicants were invited to present. Awards were based on the strength of proposal and its adherence to the statutorily mandated mission of the Fund. The following grants were awarded: The Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame received $45,500 to support its Education Department and programs. This grant proposal aligns with the Fund’s mission to support and promote research, educational programming, and preservation of the history and traditions of harness and trotting horse racing. The Goshen Historic Track received $45,500 to make repairs to the Arden Barn and blacksmith shop, one of the most historic barns on the grounds. This grant proposal aligns with the Mission of the Fund to provide funding in maintaining the historic racetrack that is designated as a national registered historic landmark. The New York State 4-H Horse Program received $44,000 to continue its education programming focused on advancing interest in Standardbreds. The Fund has supported 4-H for many years and Cooperative Extension has a long history of effectively providing education and awareness programs through its statewide network. The Harness Horse Youth Foundation received $7,500 for two summer youth programs at Goshen Historic Track in 2019. One will be an introductory level day camp and the other will be a five-day leadership camp for previous graduates of the first program. The Fund has supported HHYF camps in New York for several years. Racing Under Saddle—New York received $7,500 for the County Fair Racing Series. The program already has a commitment from ten fairs and would like to add additional events to promote the breed. This grant proposal aligns with the Mission of the Fund as Racing Under Saddle events are well attended at the County Fairs and this racing series has grown to become another way to promote and enhance New York’s Standardbred breeding and racing program. “We believe that our mission is best accomplished by supporting educational programs, research and racing purses. Each hold the potential to open new opportunities for people to become involved in Standardbred breeding and racing,” said Kelly Young, executive director, Agriculture & New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund. “We are honored to present the grant winners with this funding as they clearly uphold the standards of this law as well as our mission.” About the Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund:  The Agriculture & NYS Horse Breeding Development Fund is a public benefit corporation established in 1965 by the Laverne Law (Laws of New York, Chapter 567 of the Laws of 1965). The mission of the fund is to promote agriculture through the breeding of Standardbred horses and the conduct of equine research within the state. To carry out its legislative mission, the Fund administers the New York Sire Stakes races, Excelsior/State Fair Series races, and County Fair Races. Jason Politi | Baker Public Relations O: 518.426.4099 | M: 845.913.6394 jason@bakerpublicrelations.com www.bakerpublicrelations.com

Trenton, NJ — American Admiral may not know it, but he is in the midst of trying to prove if he’s ready to fight some bigger harness racing battles down the road. The 3-year-old colt pacer is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in a $15,000 division of Saturday’s (April 20) Bobby Weiss Series at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Since he has only been working with the horse since January, trainer Andrew Harris is unsure of how extensively he will stake him this year. “We’re playing it by ear,” said Harris, who made American Admiral eligible for the Reynolds and Art Rooney Pace. “It all depends on how he continues to mature. If he goes through this series and shows he can go with those type of horses like Turbo Hill, then yeah, we’re going to go that route. As of right now we’re going to play it by ear. We don’t know what we’ve got, we don’t know what the bottom is yet. If he continues to improve maybe we’ve got ourselves a New York Sires Stakes horse that’s got some possibilities. Or maybe we just have an Excelsior Series type horse. We’re kind of using this series to tell us what we’ve got.” The early reviews have been positive. At the recommendation of Harris, American Admiral was purchased by the Flemings (William, Ian and James) for $34,000 at the Standardbred Mixed Sale at Harrisburg in November. He was trained by Tony Alagna last year and had a first, second and third while earning $19,890 in 10 starts. Harris knew nothing about the horse, but thought he would provide the most bang for the buck among those up for sale. “They called me up and said they wanted to have a nice little horse to race for next year,” the trainer said. “There were a lot of horses I thought we might have to over-pay for. This one kind of came in under the radar. I saw he raced at Yonkers and Yonkers is primarily where I race anyway so I thought he might just be in the price range. He ended up going a little cheaper than what I thought I’d have to give for him.” As for what he liked about American Admiral, Harris said, “His breeding was impeccable. He wasn’t overly-sized but he was a little muscle horse and those are the types of horses I kind of like for Yonkers. I didn’t know what to expect. We just kind of got lucky. So far it’s all working out.” It is indeed. American Admiral has hit the board four times in five races, having taken two firsts, a second and third for $19,640 in purse money. After the purchase, Harris put the horse out in the field and never looked at him for six weeks. “I didn’t even jog him,” he said. “I needed to let him grow up and let him mature. If he did have any aches and pains they would heal out in the field. I just let him get freshened up. We just started fresh and started off the chalkboard. We made adjustments to his training as he needed something, but we started with (knowing) nothing. We slowly added certain things here or there but I didn’t know what he had before. I never looked or asked.” Harris brought the horse back on Jan. 1 and began working on him, and then eased him back into racing. He is fairly well behaved in the barn, but “He’s a little stud colt so he lets you know that he’s there. He’s not over rambunctious or anything like that but you have to watch him a little bit. He wants to play but his play is a little aggressive. He’s a nice horse, but you don’t want to get caught sleeping around him.” He is keeping folks wide awake on the track as of late. As American Admiral’s confidence grew, Harris began putting him into play a bit more. The strategy seems to be working, as the horse has won his last two races. “He’s just developing into kind of a nice little horse that I don’t know where his bottom is quite just yet,” he said. “I don’t have super high expectations for the horse but I think he’s going to be a nice little horse. He’s got a big engine and he wants to go. But you have to race him the right way.” Just what way is that? “We try to teach him to stay off the helmet a little bit until it’s time to press the go button,” Harris continued. “He’s just come to the point where we can use him now. He’s ready, he’s tight now. He wasn’t tight when we were starting. I brought him back a little bit slower than I usually do. Now his confidence is right and he looks like a totally different animal. He’s happy and strong. “And every driver that sat on him likes him. George (Napolitano Jr.) sat on him the other night and said ‘Wow, can this thing fly for a piece.’ That’s the type of horse you want. He takes care of himself for the mile right now as long as we don’t over-drive him too early in the race. He’s got as good of a move as anyone in that series.” Harris feels American Admiral is the best horse in his division in the Bobby Weiss, but knows that the final will be a different story. “I think Sports Legend and Turbo Hill are the two horses to beat in the whole series,” Harris said. “We kind of got lucky, we avoided them this week, so it will be interesting to see how we face up against them.” However it comes out will go a long way in determining where the American Admiral fleet ends up next. by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

Allmyxsliventexas, who made his seasonal debut last week, could hold the aces this time around in a strong renewal of the $10,000 Lloyd Arnold Pace that headlines Saturday night's Cal Expo harness racing card. Watch and Wager LLC will present 10 races with things getting underway at 6:10 p.m. and the main event is scheduled as the seventh event on the program. Allmyx'slivntexas was making his first start of the year as the 4-5 favorite in last week's Open and found himself with too much work to do in the stretch from last, settling for the fourth-place check. He closed out 2018 with four straight victories, including the Dave Goldschmidt, and competes for his owner/breeder Wayne and Rod Knittel with Bob Johnson training and Mooney Svendsen at the controls. He was a 1:50 victor at Hoosier Park last season. Coz and Effect was runner-up in last week's open at 25-1 after capturing a conditioned contest in his previous tour. James Kennedy reins and trains the son of Mystery Chase for Jose Castillo and he was a 1:54 winner here earlier in the season. Bettor In The Bank has accounted for seven of his 13 appearances on the year and the long-fused 9-year-old has to be given plenty of respect. Chip Lackey handles the dark-hued performer for owner Debra McCarthy and conditioner Gordie Graham. Rounding out the field are I'm An Athlete, King Of The Crop, To The Limit, Bettor's Promise and Gorgeous For Real. Kennedy has sights on driving title We don't want to jinx James Kennedy, but he comes into these last two weeks of the Cal Expo meet leading the driver standings while holding a seven-length advantage. While James has done well with the two pacers in his shedrow - the mare Lickcreek Speedway and this week's Lloyd Arnold participant Coz and Effect - he has recorded the majority of his victories as a catch driver. "It's been a fantastic meet," Kennedy related. "I really want to thank all the drivers and trainers who have given me some great opportunities. "Coming into the meet, I was pretty confident I would be in the top five, but I never really saw being the leading driver," he noted. "It's really been awesome." One of the highlights of the session for Kennedy has been handling the 9-year-old pacer Bettor In The Bank for Gordie Graham, recording seven Open victories behind the hard-knocking veteran. "He's been spectacular," his pilot related. "He always gives you everything he has and there's that big punch in the stretch you can always count on." Because they are both suiting up in the aforementioned Arnold on Saturday evening, for the second straight week James will be racing against Bettor In The Bank with his trainee Coz and Effect. "His last two races have been super," his mentor added, hoping for an upset this weekend. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

MONTICELLO – Last Wednesday afternoon at Monticello Casino & Raceway, there were probably 50 people inside the gambling hall that has 1,100 video-lottery machines. The empty scene demonstrated why its owner, Empire Resorts, plans to shutter the Sullivan County facility on Tuesday after 15 years in operation, making it the first so-called racino in New York to close since they were approved in 2001. Empire Resorts also owns the $1 billion Resorts World Catskills casino just six miles away, and the company says the two facilities simply couldn't co-exist. The betting at Monticello Casino & Raceway's video-lottery terminals has slowed to a crawl since the larger casino opened in February 2018, while Resorts World Catskills faces its own financial challenges. There is not enough business that remains at that VLT facility to justify the cost of operating it," Ryan Eller, Empire's president and CEO, said last week. The closure raises questions about the future of horse racing at Monticello Raceway and whether the VLTs can be relocated to another venue in the region, which Empire Resorts and state lawmakers are considering.         What happens next? Empire Resorts is vowing to keep open the venerable harness track, which started racing in 1958. But closing the VLT facility is drawing criticism from local officials and customers, who talked about missing the small, family atmosphere at Monticello. Resorts World "will never be like this. This is like a family here. You get to where you know everybody," Hunter Rhinesmith, 77, of New Jersey, who has come to the track since 1959, said as he and his wife left the racino last week. There are also concerns the company ultimately wants to dump racing all together, but Resorts World said it has no plans to do so. "The guardians of racing are the horsemen. Track operators are the guardians of their pocketbooks and nothing else," said Joe Faraldo, president of the state's Standardbred Owners Association. Hunter Rhinesmith talks about the imminent closing of the casino, at the Monticello Casino Raceway in Monticello, April 10, 2019.  (Photo: Mark Vergari/USA TODAY NETWORK New York)   The VLTs could get a new life in other locations in the region. A state bill would let the Catskill Off-Track Betting Corp. take over the machines and locate them in three locations in its region, which stretches across the Hudson Valley and into the Southern Tier. To counter the legislation, Empire Resorts has quietly floated its own proposal to reopen a VLT facility with 1,100 machines in Orange County, ideally near the popular Woodbury Common outlet mall.   Empire Resorts had downplayed relocating the VLT facility, but the USA Today Network's Albany Bureau obtained a copy of the company's 15-page proposal dated March 19 circulated at the state Capitol that boasts of the money and jobs a gambling hall in Harriman could bring to the region. On Wednesday, Eller confirmed Resorts World's interest in a new VLT parlor in neighboring Orange County. "We’re eager to explore various options to preserve the Monticello Raceway operations, and relocating the raceway video-gaming machines to Orange County would definitely go a long way to that goal," he said. "It creates jobs, increases revenue for the state of New York and education, and we look forward to continuing the dialogue with the state, Orange County, Sullivan County and all stakeholders." More: An exclusive, inside look: New York’s largest waterpark, The Kartrite, is opening More: Resorts World Catskills: Financial struggles grow for new casino, report shows Closing a racino The exterior of the Monticello Casino Raceway in Monticello, April 10, 2019.  (Photo: Mark Vergari/USA TODAY NETWORK New York)   When Resorts World Catskills opened in February 2018, Empire Resorts said it would keep open the VLT parlor at Monticello Raceway, hoping to serve enough customers so both could be profitable. But Resorts World has struggled to draw customers from the New York City area as it had anticipated, and it appears the new casino is simply pulling customers from Monticello. Resorts World's net win per day — the money left in the slot machines after payouts to winners — has been the lowest in the state at about $119 per machine. Monticello has been even worse over the past year: a mere $75 win per day, which is the lowest of any racino since the VLT parlors starting opening across New York 15 years ago. The amount bet at Monticello over the past year fell 50 percent compared to the year prior, records show. Empire Resorts announced in January it would close Monticello's gambling hall April 23. All players' points and perks will be transferred over to Resorts World. About 40 employees will remain at the racetrack, while the roughly 160 workers at the Monticello casino were offered either a severance package or a job at Resorts World. Mona Karasik, 65, of Bethel, said she is retiring as a slot engineer at Monticello, saying she wasn't offered a comparable position at Resorts World. "It’s a big loss, and I’m going to miss all my people," she said. "I have two physically challenged sons and to me this was my escape for the last 15 years. And my co-workers were the best. We were like a family." Mona Karasik a slot attendant, talks about the imminent closing of the casino at the Monticello Casino Raceway in Monticello, April 10, 2019. (Photo: Mark Vergari/USA TODAY NETWORK New York)   The state Gaming Commission said it is set to remove the VLTs, which the state owns. "The commission has been working with both Empire Resorts and the central system and game vendors to appropriately close the gaming activity and secure and remove all technical equipment," the commission said in a statement. The state gets a portion of the revenue from Monticello's VLTs to fund education, and the horsemen also get a piece for racing, as do local governments for hosting the facility. Those payments will now be covered by Resorts World Catskills. The state budget doesn't anticipate any reduction in revenue to the state. Resorts World, meanwhile, is lowering the number of slot machines it has: Last month, the state approved it going from 2,150 machines to 1,600 machines, 26 percent fewer than initially mandated. More: Resorts World Catskills struggling financially: report More: Resorts World Catskills, Tioga Downs to lower number of slot machines A horse track remains Harness racers warm-up their horses before a race at the Monticello Casino Raceway in Monticello, April 10, 2019.  (Photo: Mark Vergari/USA TODAY NETWORK New York)   While the racino at Monticello was nearly empty inside last week, the harness track outside had more horses than people. Just three or four people were along the rail watching the races last Wednesday afternoon, a sign of how horse racing has become reliant mainly on simulcast betting rather than on-track attendance. Indeed, attendance at Monticello Raceway in 1987 was about 426,000, state records show, but was down to a meager 13,000 in 2017. With the racino closing, there will be even fewer people on the property. The amount bet on races there fell from $13 million in 2007 to $4.6 million in 2017. Jimmy Walker, 81, of Monticello, remembered when the expansive grandstand at the track would be packed. He said he has been coming since it opened.  "The parking lots were full; you couldn’t find a place to park," he recalled. Video slot machines are pictured at the Monticello Casino Raceway in Monticello, April 10, 2019.  (Photo: Mark Vergari/USA TODAY NETWORK New York)   Faraldo said he fears Empire Resorts will look to get out of the remaining six years of its contract with the horsemen to run racing at Monticello. Faraldo said it would difficult to try, though: State lawmakers have opposed any inkling of talk of closing racetracks, citing the jobs they create. Moreover, state law requires any racino to maintain racing in order to keep their VLT license. Faraldo contended Resorts World's license could be in jeopardy if it decided to close racing, since Monticello's revenue sharing is now tethered to the casino. But Eller said it has no plans to close the track. "We have an intention and a commitment to continue to run racing operations for the foreseeable future," he said. "So we have no intent to shut down the racing operations. As long as we’re able to support it, we’ll continue to support it." More: How VLTs saved NY horse racing More: How upstate's new casinos are underperforming Talk of moving the VLTs The exterior of the Resorts World Catskills Casino Resort in Monticello, April 10, 2019.  (Photo: Mark Vergari/USA TODAY NETWORK New York)   Assembly Racing Committee chairman Gary Pretlow, D-Mount Vernon, introduced a bill in February that would turn over Monticello's VLTs and the track to Catskills OTB. The structure would be similar to the one by Western OTB, which owns and run Batavia Downs — a harness track with VLTs. Pretlow said the measure would put the track on better footing and allow the state and local governments to benefit from keeping the VLTs open. The bill would let Capital OTB open three smaller VLT facilities in the region, including potentially in Broome, Chemung, Orange, Rockland, Dutchess, Tompkins, Putnam or Ulster counties. "My concern has always been the viability of the racetrack, and that’s supported by the activity in the racino, not the casino," Pretlow said last month. "When they said they wanted to shut down the machines, I suggested that we, the state, take over those machines and make them part of Catskill OTB." The exterior of the Resorts World Catskills Casino Resort in Monticello, April 10, 2019.  (Photo: Mark Vergari/USA TODAY NETWORK New York)   Resorts World, though, has indicated it could run a VLT parlor in Orange County, projecting in its analysis that the facility would be a revenue boost for the region, include $100 million or more of investment from Resorts World and add about 400 jobs. Resorts World said it intends to talk to local leaders about the idea. Either way, officials locally hope that the soon-to-be empty casino at Monticello Raceway can be reused as a space for events or another full-time purpose. "It’s a great location for economic development," said Joshua Potosek, the Sullivan County manager. "There is a lot of real estate where they can do a lot of things." By Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Reprinted with permission of The Poughkeepsie Journal

Plainville, Ma --- Western Stepp spent the winter in Florida and went 0-for-8 at Pompano, although finishing second by a head and a nose in her last two harness racing starts there. But in only her second start back at Plainridge Park where she captured five races last year, Western Stepp got back to her winning ways by taking the $14,000 Winners-Over featured pace for fillies and mares in gate to wire fashion on Thursday afternoon (April 18). Western Stepp (Mitchell Cushing) flew off the wings and had the front by the eighth pole, seating an aggressive Always Be Lucy (Shawn Gray) in the process. She got to the quarter in :27.2 before tapping the brakes and slowing the second panel to :57.2. It was there that last week's feature winner Spilling The Beans (Mike Stevenson) pulled first up and drew almost even with the leader. As the pair paced up the backside, Spilling The Beans matched strides with Western Stepp but couldn't get the advantage. When they hit three-quarters in 1:25, Cushing fed his mare some line and she obliged him with a burst of speed. Western Stepp put away Spilling The Beans and established a two-length advantage coming into the stretch. Cushing continued pushing her by bouncing in the bike for the length of the lane and won by two wrapped-up in 1:53.3. It was the 28th lifetime tally for Western Stepp ($3.80) who is owned by Diane Dunn and trained by James Dunn. Cushing also took the $12,000 co-featured conditioned fillies and mares pace with Twin B Halo who tipped three-wide from fourth midway through the final bend to overpower Cantala (Nick Graffam) mid-stretch and win by a length in 1:55.4. Twin B Halo ($4.80) is owned by Bill Reepmeyer and Jackie Greene, who also does the training. Twin B Halo Drew Campbell and Mike Stevenson both had driving doubles on the card as well. There were some huge payouts in the day's fourth race when the favored Bliss And Luck (Paul Silva) was disqualified for interference. That allowed the 26-1 Fox Valley Salsa (Shane Taggart) to be moved into the win position by the judges where she returned $54.60. But the hammer really fell when the $2 trifecta of 7-1-6 doled out $20,998.60 and the $2 7-1-6-all superfecta returned $14,519.60. When racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Friday afternoon (April 19) at 4 p.m., there will be a carry over pool of $1,590.51 for the Wicked Hi-5 pentafecta in the sixth race. By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts

There were three divisions of the first leg of the Virginia O'Brien Memorial Pacing Series that took place as harness racing co-features on Thursday's matinee card at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Each division of the series for filly and mare pacers went for a purse of $10,000. Perhaps the favorite heading into the fifth annual O'Brien Memorial was Chase You (American Ideal). A winner of three of her four starts in 2019 heading into Thursday's first leg, Chase You has been a dominant force on the engine thus far this season. Bet down as the 2-5 public choice on Thursday, Chase You made the lead once again with Brett Crawford in the sulky. While the favorite certainly didn't prove dominant, she had enough to get the job done and record her fourth win in five seasonal tries, stopping the timer in 1:57.1. Though her effort couldn't be deemed dazzling, Chase You did enough to perhaps still be considered the favorite in the series for lady pacers. Qing Qong Bluechip (Brian Cross) set a lifetime mark in her division of the O'Brien Pace as the Henry Westbrook III trainee took advantage of a late break by her race's favorite and took over the lead in the stretch, one that she would not relinquish. Her second win of the season came in a career-best 1:56.3, a win time that proved to be the fastest among the leg one winners. Delightful Trysta and her trainer-driver Phil Fluet scored in the final division of leg one of the series, coming on in the stretch to prevail in 1:58.3, a time that also served as a career-best for the three year old filly. Both Qing Qong Bluechip and Delightful Trysta paid $11.60 to win in their mild upsets. Next Thursday's card will feature leg two of the O'Brien Memorial Pace with the $30,000+ Final scheduled for the following week. Live racing resumes at Saratoga on Saturday night with a 6:45pm first post. Mike Sardella  

Yonkers, NY -- With the addition of three added driving entrants the sixth leg of the harness racing NAADA trotting series, this week presented at Yonkers Raceway, was split into two divisions, both six-horse fields going $8000 before the betting card got underway. And when the judges hung the official signs series regulars Alan Schwartz and Paul Minore each hustled their charges to victories in their respective splits. Schwartz went an overland trip with his Ladys Big Stormont to score a 2:00.2 triumph while Minore used the front-end route to 2:01.4 victory with his own Glenferrie Dreamer over his rivals. In Schwartz's contest; he left softly from the five-hole with Ladys Big Stormont , took a tuck and was third along the pylons. Pearly Allen showed the way with Wygant Prince with Joe Pennacchio and Santini caught on the limb in the :28.4 first stanza. Heading to the half Wygant Prince and Santini were head-to- head with the former getting first call as the timer flashed :59. But up the backside Schwartz and Ladys Big Stormont rallied but were forced three- deep into the final turn. Undaunted, Ladys Big Stormont battled valiantly down the lane and kept a hard closing Osprey Vision and driver Joe Lee at bay for a neck triumph. Wygant Prince held on for third money. "This was one of the better races that my trotter has gone this year," Schwartz acknowledged. "We got pushed three-deep in the final turn but Ladys Big Stomont dug in and hung tough in the lane to hold off a fast-closing Joe Lee (with Osprey Vision)." In the second division Paul Minore guided his own Glenferrie Dreamer--he also owns Wygant Prince- to a hard fought victory over what appeared to be the tougher of the two splits. Miniore took advantage of the pole position and coasted to the lead in a :29.3 first quarter and caught a real break when last weeks winner, Tough Get Going (Joe Faraldo), had a tough time getting going after making a break before the start rendering him virtually out of the race. Dave Offenberg and Fiji made a serious challenge before the half but Glenferrie Dreamer kept him at bay after a breaking Noble Warrawee (Bob Hechkoff) scattered the field. And although they rallied to be second under the wire Noble Warrawee was disqualified . Third place finisher, Permanent Joy (Bob Krivelin was awarded second money. Fiji took home the show dough. The NAADA series moves back to Monticello Raceway next Thursday. by John Manzi for NAADA    

CHESTER PA - Tag Up And Go and Watkins emerged as the harness racing winners of the joint $14,500 features during the "Trottin' Thursday" program at Harrah's Philadelphia. Tag Up And Go enjoyed a drop in class, pointing right to the front for driver Marcus Miller and never locking back through splits of 28. 57, 1:25.1, and 1:53.4. Seven Iron raced in the pocket and stayed closest to the winner, but he was still 2¾ lengths behind under the line to the victorious Angus Hall gelding, who now has 42 wins and $560,466 to his lifetime credit. Rob Harmon trains the winner for owners Lester Gelardi Jr. and Anthony Passafaro. The 12-year-old Striking Sahbra gelding Watkins visited Victory Lane for the 50th time in his career, and boosted his earnings to $913,385, by winning in 1:55.2 in the other co-feature. David Miller was able to delay a first-over move until well past the 5/8, and the graybeard just kept rolling from there, leaving P L Icabod, who was on his back, a neck behind on the money for trainer Paul Stafford and owner Thomas Ceraso Jr. The Cantab Hall-Frau Blucher sophomore filly made her 2019 debut a successful in a $14,000 contest, stopping the clock in 1:56.4 for a new mark. Andrew McCarthy, who had four driving successes on the card, kept the Nancy Johansson trainee in third-over position, then showed enough sweep in the last quarter to be three lengths clear at the wire for Hauser Brothers Racing Enterprises LLC and Rojan Stables. The filly's dam was one of the best Pennsylvania Sire Stakes performers of all time, and this seasonal bow could set the stage for her daughter to go on to great success. PHHA / Harrah's Philadelphia