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YONKERS, N.Y. – After visiting his New Jersey stable Wednesday to train his pacers bound for the Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy Series at Yonkers Raceway, Ross Croghan is excited to see what the next six weeks will hold. Croghan will start four horses in the first leg of harness racing series action at Yonkers Raceway this weekend: Call Me Queen Be and Twinkle in the Matchmaker and Waikiki Beach and Hug The Wind in the Levy. Although he’d like to be with his stars full time, a barn of 44 horses in Florida keeps him away. “I’d like to be up there with them, but I just can’t be in two places at once,” Croghan lamented. “I trained all those Levy and Matchmaker horses (Wednesday) morning. I just wanted to make sure they’re all good. They all felt fantastic. I’ve got two mares in the Matchmaker, they’re both as sharp as racehorses can be.” Although $1.2 million earner Call Me Queen Be will make her seasonal debut from post three in the third Matchmaker division Friday night (March 16), Croghan’s focus will be on up-and-coming mare Twinkle. A $77,000 yearling buy out of the 2014 Lexington Select Sale, Twinkle went largely unnoticed last year after making her career debut as a 4-year-old. In the eyes of her trainer however, Twinkle has already shown hints of being something special. “She broke beautiful and she was just so smooth and even. You could put a glass of water on her back and you wouldn’t spill a drop. When you sit behind them and you feel that, you say to yourself, ‘that’s beautiful balance,’ ” Croghan recalled. “But then, by the time she had been training for three months, it was obvious she had growing pains. Usually by 3, they’re better, but she was just one of those horses that wasn’t.” Croghan talked owners Let It Ride Stables and Dana Parham into letting the young filly develop. Even as the opportunity for a 3-year-old season came and went, Croghan never forgot the promise Twinkle showed early in her training and never gave up on the daughter of Bettor’s Delight. “It took her a long time to become a sound horse that you could push on with. I just kept putting her aside thinking she will eventually grow up and her growing pains will go away and last year she did,” Croghan said. “In this day and age, you get pressured because you pay for stakes and there was a point where I thought the owners were going to say to me enough’s enough. I told them I really like this filly and they just said ok and just put up with it. I think they’re going to get paid.” When she finally began racing, Twinkle showed she could carry her morning talent to the races. She went 11-for-12 last year with another second-place finish, good for $101,250 in earnings. In just her third start, Twinkle posted a lifetime best 1:51.3 victory from post 10 at the Meadowlands with John Campbell in the sulky. Croghan remembers the Hall of Fame driver gushing over the filly post-race. “He came in and said, ‘I think you have something special here. Green horses are not supposed to do what she just did.’ ” Now 5 years old, Twinkle will make her stakes debut in the first leg of the Matchmaker Friday night. Eric Goodell will drive the 4-1 shot from post two. Series veteran Regil Elektra will start to Twinkle’s immediate outside while defending Matchmaker champion Makenzie drew post seven. Although the competition is more seasoned, Croghan is confident heading into the series after watching Twinkle out-train Call Me Queen Be this winter. “I’m not a guy that steps on the gas too much training,” he explained. “You just ask them to step that last eighth and you’re looking across and you see that one horse is almost coming out of their hobbles they’re pacing so fast and you look across at the other one and she still has the bit between her teeth. I’ve trained her plenty now and she’s impressive. If you speak to her and then look at your watch, you go, ‘oh my god!’ I’ve had a lot of good mares and this might be one of the best I’ve had.” In addition to his Matchmaker duo, Croghan will start a pair of horses in the Levy Saturday night (March 17). Although Hug The Wind is an outsider in the third division, Waikiki Beach figures to be a major contender in the evening’s second split. A five-time Group 1 winner in Australia and earner of $708,019 for Mark Purdon, Waikiki Beach started his career with 17 consecutive victories from April 2015 to May 2016. Although he was winless in five starts as a 4-year-old last year, Waikiki Beach still finished second in the Group 1 Chariots of Fire at Menangle February 11 and fourth in the Group 1 Miracle Mile February 25. However, after a string of off-the-board finishes in New Zealand in October and November, Croghan learned Waikiki Beach could be for sale. “I went down there to buy some horses and he was just on my radar,” Croghan said. “Sensational 2- and 3-year-old. He hit 4 years old against some of the best horses in the world. As a 4-year-old, it’s not that he raced bad, he just didn’t beat the top-flight ones. He was just on my radar to check out to see if he could possibly be on the market. Through a lot of negotiating and a lot of time, I got a deal done.” Waikiki Beach shipped to the United States December 4, 2017 and after a stopover in New Jersey, the son of Somebeachsomewhere out of the Bettor’s Delight mare Cyclone Beach joined Croghan’s main string in Florida. The kind-mannered horse has proven a pleasure to work with thus far. “He’s just fantastic. His manners are impeccable. He’s just a lovely horse,” Croghan remarked. “He’s a typical ‘Beach;’ he’s just got that fire in his blood. He’s a very, very smart horse, that’s what he is. He’s got a little bit of fire in his blood, but he’s very smart. “ ‘Waikiki’ is just turn-key. You could send a child out to train him, he knows what he’s doing,” Croghan continued. “Most foreign horses, it’s a big change for them to leave their comfort zone, especially coming over in the middle of winter. From day one, he just went out on the track, never looked sideways, never took a hold of you. He doesn’t wear an overcheck, he holds himself in perfect balance at all times. He’s just a pleasure to get ready. He’s just got those beautiful racehorse manners.” Croghan had Waikiki Beach ready to qualify at Pompano January 21 and a week later, he made his fist start on U.S. soil in the Open Handicap at the South Florida racetrack. Waikiki Beach won his debut in 1:51.4 and returned the following week to score in 1:50.2. After a brief freshening before the grueling Levy Series begins, Croghan tuned Waikiki Beach up with a 1:55.4 qualifier at Pompano March 4. While he considered the trial a success, he was surprised at how lazy Waikiki Beach was on the lead. “His qualifier, I would have liked to have gone a little bit quicker, but it was his first time on the engine and he was just a little bit lazy,” Croghan said. “He just didn’t quite get into it, but when Scott Zeron came off the track with him, I said, ‘is he ok?’ He said, ‘he’s lazy on the front end, but as soon as he saw that horse coming to him, there was plenty in the tank.’ ” Croghan thinks the ear plugs used in the morning contributed to Waikiki Beach’s modest qualifier. The gelding doesn’t wear them on race day. “He has won on the front end plenty,” Croghan said. “I got him ready and made sure he stayed nice and quiet. It’s just in that last qualifier, he was a little too quiet. But he had his ear plugs in and he doesn’t have them in the race. When I race him, I take the ear plugs off him. I just keep them in for training and qualifying.” Waikiki Beach will start from post five in his Levy division Saturday night. He’ll face 2017 series winner Keystone Velocity, who drew post seven. Although Croghan is confident, he admits there is no standout in this year’s series. “The draw is in my favor, it’s not in his, but it’s six weeks of racing. I can’t say that he’s not going to be razor sharp because I actually think he will be,” Croghan said. “Between the qualifier and when he’ll race it’s going to be 13 days, but I trained him two trips (Wednesday) morning. He just felt fantastic. I do expect him to step out pretty close to 100 percent ready. “He’s a nice horse and I think he fits that series,” Croghan continued. “I’m not going to call him a standout or anything like that. It’s a very even bunch of horses and when the final comes around, the draw plays a massive part of it. You’ve got to be lucky.” First post time at Yonkers Friday and Saturday night is 6:50 p.m. For Friday’s entries, click here. For Saturday’s entries, click here. Yonkers Sunday Post Time Yonkers Raceway’s first post for this Sunday’s (March 18th) matinee has been set at 11:45 AM. Races 5 (post time 1:30 PM) through 11 (post time 4:25 PM) go as the ‘French’  trots, with the 12th-race finale scheduled for 4:40 PM. Sunday’s ‘New York, New York Double’ consists of Aqueduct’s 3rd race (post time 2:21 PM) and Yonkers’ 7th race (post time 2:30 PM). Program pages accompany this release. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Two weeks after announcing an ambitious harness racing program that would see 24 French-bred trotters flown to North America to compete at Yonkers Raceway, Standardbred Owners’ Association of New York Executive Director Alex Dadoyan’s initial nerves have transformed to cautious optimism. With several of the spaces already filled, the program is attracting significant interest from local horsepeople. “We did bounce the idea off some people, but it was a big unknown how it was going to be received,” Dadoyan admitted. “Right away when we announced it, there was a lot of positive interest, which is really rare in this game. The owners, trainers, and horsepeople who called looking for more information all seemed genuinely interested in it, intrigued by it, and wanting to learn more about it. “The reception has been very positive,” he continued. “We have a bunch of people who are already lined up and have made their deposits and we have a bunch of people who say they are going to participate and we hope to fill the number that we’re looking for.” The SOA of NY’s pioneering program to import two-dozen French trotters was formed with several goals in mind. It serves to strengthen the relationship between Yonkers and the French trotting association LeTrot, entice French bettors to increase their handle on Yonkers’ races simulcast to France, and address a shortage of trotters competing at the track. The program will also give local horsepeople a chance to buy a horse at a relatively low price point who will be eligible to race in a rich series restricted to French-bred trotters. “There’s multiple things going on. We simulcast the races over to France and if people are betting on races from Yonkers, obviously races that have French horses that they know are going to be more attractive, more interesting to their bettors than horses they’ve never heard of,” Dadoyan explained. “If we were going to do this, we wanted to be able to card races that we could then send back over there,” he continued. “Those races are normally larger fields that we send over, so we weren’t going to do it and just bring back eight horses; that wasn’t going to achieve all of the goals, so we said, we’ll try to see if 24 people are going to be interested and ideally come back and card two full fields of races to send back there in the series for these horses that we bring over.” Organizing the sale of a large number of trotters to a foreign country isn’t a new endeavor for LeTrot. The organization routinely offers sales of promising high-steppers to developing trotting countries, such as Ireland. In this case, LeTrot will prepare a group of geldings 4-years-old and up who compete at a similar level for inspection by highly-experienced Yonkers horsemen. The team who selects the horses will be independent from those participating in the program and the horses selected will be randomly distributed to the 24 owners and trainers who commit to the program. “The thing that excites me, gives me a level of confidence is we’re taking over several trainers with us. The French are accustomed to holding these sales for other countries. They organize a bunch of horses and then people can come out and look at the horses,” Dadoyan said. “We’re going to get to go training trips with all of the horses and we’re going to have experienced trotting guys with us to make an educated assessment as to which of the bunch might have the best chance of having some success back home.” Each trotter selected will sell for $25,000 with an additional $3,000 shipping charge, meaning the total expenditure to buy into the program is $28,000. The trotters who make the cut will be eligible to race in a multi-leg series with a final to be held at Yonkers a few months after the horses arrive stateside. In addition to the purse money contributed by the track and the SOA, LeTrot will also add to the purses for these races. Specific details and purse-levels for the series will be announced in the coming weeks. “This gives the participants a chance to recoup their investment before they move to the local competition at whatever level they might end up racing at,” Dadoyan said. “We thought it was important to give an opportunity for these horses to just be in against themselves and it gives everyone a fair chance to make back some or all of their investment immediately. “When we card races exclusively for French-bred horses, the French Trotting Association will contribute money for the purses for those races, so we would have an amount of money contributed from over there for these races that are exclusively for French-bred trotters,” Dadoyan said. “It’s not a small amount of money. We’re going to make the races meaningful enough anyway, but it’s just a little something extra that we can offer everyone.” To participate in the program, a non-refundable deposit of $10,000 is required by March 26. The balance of $18,000 will be due by Thursday April 26. If the program is not fully subscribed by March 26, those making an initial deposit will be refunded. The selection of horses is scheduled in France during the period of the Yonkers shutdown at the end of May. If you are interested in participating in this program, please contact the SOA of NY at 914-968-3599 or via email at soaofny@optonline.net. All monies paid after the initial deposit will then be held in escrow in an interest-bearing account to the credit of the person depositing the funds. Space in the program is limited to the first 24 owners that reserve a slot by making a deposit.  YONKERS’ TUESDAY PICK 5 FEATURES $8,400 CARRYOVER, 20G GUARANTEE  A friendly reminder from Yonkers Raceway that Tuesday evening’s (March 13th) Pick 5 wager starts with a carryover of $8,478.75 and a $20,000 guaranteed pool. The Pick 5 is a 50-cent base wager comprising races 7 through 11 (if less than 11 races, it’s final five races during that particular card). It has no consolation payoff, meaning if no one selects all five winners (as was the case Monday night), the entire pool (minus takeout) moves to the next racing program. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – After a rare unplaced finish in her last outing at Yonkers, 6-year-old harness racing mare Safe From Terror will look to rebound in Friday night’s (March 9) $40,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace. Safe From Terror finished last in the distaff feature February 23 as the race’s 6-5 betting favorite, but trainer Rob Harmon noted the daughter of Western Terror has been battling a lingering illness since she arrived in his stable at the end of January. After trying to cure her with antibiotics on and off between races to conform to withdrawal times, Harmon finally gave Safe From Terror a week off to receive a full dose of medication. “She’s had a bug here and when we treat her, she’s good. But I have to stop treating her a couple days out because with the medicine, you just have to stop,” he said. “She just needed to get through it a whole week.” Safe From Terror finished sixth in her last start at Miami Valley January 19 before shipping east to Harmon. She finished second on debut for her new barn at The Meadowlands February 2 and again was the runner up in her next outing at Yonkers a week later. The daughter of Western Terror finally broke through with a win in the Filly and Mare Open Handicap February 16. Despite her sickness, Harmon describes Safe From Terror as “absolutely perfect.” A 49-time winner from 112 starts with another 30 placings, Safe From Terror has accumulated $931,207 in earnings. Out of In A Safe Place, Safe From Terror is a half-sister to Foiled Again and shares some of his gutsy qualities. “I wish I could pick her apart, I can’t. She’s a racer, she gives you her heart,” Harmon said. “She’s not a big horse, she’s a little horse. That’s the thing, she just goes, she’s got a set of lungs on her. She gives it her all when she’s healthy.” Safe From Terror came to Harmon’s stable after bouncing from track to track in the Midwest. Her owner, Dan Telle of Big Bad DT Racing Stable, set a goal for his mare to reach $1 million in earnings before she retires to broodmare duties. Unable to find a suitable place meet that objective in Ohio, Telle sought an east-coast trainer and called Harmon. “I’m lucky I got the opportunity to train her. They want to make $1 million and they thought it would be easier out here than running around Ohio,” Harmon explained. “A lot of the tracks won’t let her race there because every time she races there, she wins. She went to the Meadows and she won four or five and they told her not to come back there. Cleveland said the same, it’s just one of those deals. It’s a good problem to have.” Transitioning to Harmon’s stable came easy for Safe From Terror. She’s raced for eight other trainers throughout her career, including a stint for Ron Burke that saw her win the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Final and Nadia Lobell as a 3-year-old. “There’s really nothing to figure out with her. She’s been a nice horse. Everybody that’s trained her, they’ve done good with her,” Harmon said. “She came with her own harness and everything and there was no sense in changing anything. We haven’t changed anything.” Safe From Terror will start from post six in Friday’s distaff feature, carded as race six on a 12-race program. Matt Kakaley will drive her for the first time since her 3-year-old campaign. She’s 10-1 on the morning line. As Harmon looks to have Safe From Terror back in top form with the Matchmaker Series quickly approaching, he admits her luck could largely depend on post positions. “With her, I think the posts are really going to count because she can’t leave that hard and it looks like she doesn’t race that great from the back,” he said. “She’s always parked or making a quarter move to the front going to the half. That’s the only thing, we’re making a half move and she just keeps going once she hits the front. You just keep chasing her, she just keeps going.” Safe From Terror will face seven rivals Friday night, including 3-1 early favorite Divas Image, who captured four consecutive distaff features at Dover Downs before being compromised by outside post positions in her two most recent starts. Gina Grace is a 7-2 chance after drawing post three and posting two wins in her first four North American starts for Larry Stalbaum and Kimberly Asher. Millionaire L A Delight will debut for trainer Nancy Johansson off two sharp qualifiers, but is a 7-1 morning line after drawing post seven. Itty Bitty, Delightful Dragon, Carobbean Pacetry, and All About Madi complete the field. Absent from the lineup is Sell A Bit, winner of the Filly and Mare Open Handicap from post eight February 23. “I think she’ll be ok. I know Matt Kakaley is our driver and hopefully he can stick with her through the Matchmaker,” Harmon said. “Sell A Bit’s not in there this week, but when you get up to that upper class, they’re all good horses.” First post time at Yonkers Friday night is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. by Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

ONKERS, N.Y. – Blindswitch Racing Stable and harness racing trainer Al Annunziata will start a formidable pair in this week’s pacing features at Yonkers Raceway. Betabcool is the 7-2 co-second choice on the morning line in Friday’s $40,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap while Don’tcallmefrancis is the 3-1 early favorite in Saturday’s $40,000 Open Handicap. Created by David Litvinsky six years ago, Blindswitch Racing Stable boasts a roster of about 30 horses, the most recent to join the ranks being Have Faith In Me, a champion pacer in Australia and New Zealand Blindswitch owns in partnership with VIP Stable, Robert Cooper, and Gary Axelrod. To reach the point of racing competitively in the Opens at Yonkers and importing the some of the Southern Hemisphere’s top horses, Blindswitch built success on the backs of its “core” four horses. “The first horse we claimed was Pan From Nantucket,” Litvinsky said. “He was so good. From there, it was BJ’s Guy. It was just lucky claims one after the other. Then RU Ready to Rock and Rock To Glory. Those were the core that kind of grew the stable. They were super horses. We’ve just been lucky with the claims and the right horses.” After achieving success in the claiming game, Litvinsky turned his attention to importing horses from Australia and New Zealand. He realized an average horse Down Under could be a good horse in the United States and a top horse from the Southern Hemisphere could be superior when brought stateside. “I think we started maybe three years ago with the Australian horses. I deal with an agent that kept calling us and saying, ‘hey, you’ve got to get this horse.’ They were cheaper back then. They were cheaper than they are now because now everybody’s doing it,” Litvinsky explained. “The horses that came over here, they were just average horses there, average to below average. Some of these horses are bleeders and a little bit of Lasix really freshens them up and obviously, they can breathe. We said, ‘let’s get some of the better horses there and they can be something really special here.’ ” Betabcool was one of those top horses Blindswitch imported. Purchased last year, the daughter of Bettor’s Delight was a 19-time winner from 84 starts in Australia, including wins in two Group 3 stakes, the Cinderella Stakes and the Norms Daughter Stakes. She began racing in North America last February and has posted seven victories and earned $221,500 since. Despite her success, Betabcool was originally overshadowed by stablemate Quick Draft. “We got her around the same time as Quick Draft,” Litvinsky said. “Quick Draft was actually the more classy horse coming over here; she was supposed to be the real deal, but as soon as we trained them together the first time, we just all knew that Betabcool was going to be the tougher horse, the better horse. She’s a really gutsy horse.” To start her 2018 campaign, Betabcool posted a neck victory in a $20,000 overnight at Yonkers January 12 with Jason Bartlett in the sulky. She finished third in her next start January 26 before scoring a nose win over Regil Elektra at the same level February 2 after starting from post seven and racing 8 ¾-lengths behind early. “Betabcool, we gave a month off to freshen up. She had a big season, so we turned her out a little early and she’s come back really, really strong. She’s super sharp right now,” Litvinsky said. Betabcool’s impressive races justified moving up to the Filly and Mare Open this week, where she’ll meet last week’s winner Sell A Bit, Motu Moonbeam, who won at this level two weeks ago, and fellow class-jumper Cousin Mary. Juxta Cowgirl, Jag Out, and Annabeth complete the field. Betabcool will start from post three. “She got Bartlett, which is obviously a big bonus,” Litvinsky said. “She’s definitely better from off the pace. I’m hoping there’s little action up front and she gets away third and comes first-over, comes home late. She’s a different horse up front. She likes to chase for sure.” While Betabcool came from overseas, Blindswitch obtained Don’tcallmefrancis by more tradition means. Litvinsky acquired the Rocknroll Hanover gelding for $55,000 at the 2017 Meadowlands Winter Sale, seeing potential in the 2016 Anthony Abbatiello Classic winner to become a talented older horse. “He had an amazing 3-year-old season, made $150,000, beat some nice horses,” he said. “When we first got him, he was really good, then he started tailing off a little bit, he was tying up, so it took a little while to get him back to where he was at 3.” Don’tcallmefrancis won six of 37 starts last year, good for $74,770, but the 5-year-old is off to a faster start this year. He won four races in a row, including two for a $50,000 tag at Yonkers in January, before taking on Open company last week. Much to Litvinsky’s surprise, Don’tcallmerancis finished second by a nose. “I didn’t expect him to finish first or second last weekend,” he admitted. “There are some nice horses in the Open, it’s a big step up from a 50 claimer. When the horse is sharp, I guess he can beat anybody.” Saturday night, Don’tcallmefrancis will start from post three with Greg Merton in the bike and will face seven rivals, including Killer Martini, a 7-1 winner of the Open last week, Orillia Joe, who strung together three straight wins in January, and Dream Out Loud, who finished third in his last two Open tries. All Down The Line, Gokudo Hanover, Thisjetsabookin, and Soto complete the lineup. “If he gets a good trip, he can definitely win. I don’t think he’s going to win first-over, but if he gets the right trip, he can definitely catch them. It’s a very classy field.” First post time Friday and Saturday night at Yonkers is 6:50 p.m.  For entries to Friday’s races, click here.  Saturday’s fields can be found here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Cajon Lightning looked well-spotted when he drew the inside post position for his Yonkers harness racing debut January 20. Trainer Eric Ell entered the gelding in a $30,000 overnight off a win the Open Handicap at Dover Downs the previous week and hoped Cajon Lightning would show speed and control the race. But while Cajon Lightning was shipping up from Delaware, Ell received a disappointing phone call: the truck had broken down on the highway, putting Cajon Lightning in jeopardy of missing the race. “When he called me and told me he broke down, I got another truck real quick and started up that way, but then I started making phone calls and I tried to find somebody closer that could grab him and get him up there, but I couldn’t get it done as hard as I tried,” Ell said. “It took me an hour-and-a-half to get to him and switch trucks. Then I sat with the broken-down truck and waited for a tow truck and sent him on his way.” Despite Ell’s best efforts, Cajon Lightning arrived at Yonkers 25 minutes late, resulting in a transportation scratch. Although he missed a coveted opportunity to race from the rail on the half-mile track, Cajon Lightning will get another chance to compete at the Hilltop Oval this week when he starts as the 5/2 morning line favorite in the $40,000 Open Handicap Pace Saturday January 27. Cajon Lightning established himself as a force in the winter series at Woodbine in 2015 and 2016 when he swept the Autumn Series and finished second in the Valedictory Final, the Ontario Boys Final, and the WEGZ Final for Richard Moreau. Cajon Lightning came to Ell’s stable that spring, but found it difficult to adjust to the warmer climate. “He’s just not a real good horse in the summer time, he likes cold weather,” Ell said. “When I brought him down from Canada, it was starting to get hot here. He was ok, but wasn’t what we thought he would be. When it started cooling off at Dover, he got really good as a 4-year-old and a 5-year-old and this year, even better. He’s just a killer this year. He’s got some allergy trouble and stuff that bothers him in the summer, but he’s a much better horse in the winter months.” Now 6 years old, Cajon Lightning is sharper than ever. He’s posted four wins at the Open level at Dover since November 16, including a lifetime best 1:49.4 victory in a dead heat with Sicily December 7. In addition to his speed, Cajon Lightning has also shown versatility in his recent wins, scoring on the lead and from well off the pace. The son of Mach Three is 20-for-80 in his career with $265,570 in earnings. “He’s rounded into a real, real nice racehorse now and you can do anything with him,” Ell said. “He’s a pleasure. There’s not one thing he does bad. Perfect gentlemen, working around him in the barn, he ships good. He’s lazy warming up, he’s not a grabby horse. You put him behind the gate and you can sprint of the gate a quarter in 26 or you can take off the gate with two fingers. He’s just an all-around perfect racehorse. Nice horse to have around.” Although Ell says Cajon Lightning may be better on a big track, he decided to take his chances at Yonkers when the top classes at Dover struggled to fill consistently. He already ships barn standout Soto to Yonkers to race, so adding Cajon Lightning to the trailer was a no-brainer. “He’s a great big horse, better on a big track, but I raced him at Harrington some and he was good there and that’s a tight half-mile too, so I think he’ll be ok at Yonkers. We’re going to hope anyway,” he explained. Although a winter storm altered Cajon Lightning’s training schedule ahead of his first race at Yonkers, Ell thinks he will be ready for his test against rivals Orillia Joe, who rides a two-race win streak into this week’s Open Handicap, but starts from post seven, and Gokudo Hanover, who won three straight at Yonkers before finishing second as the favorite in last week’s pacing feature. “I train on a half-mile farm track and the day I really wanted to train him, I got him out and jogged, but that’s about all I could do,” Ell explained. “I got him trained the following day and I couldn’t go a real big mile, but he trained good and he was very eager, wanted to do it, and felt good. I just couldn’t give him as much as I wanted to. It doesn’t take him a lot. I think he’ll be ok.” If Cajon Lightning handles the competition and takes to the racetrack, he could prove to be peaking at the right time as the George Morton Levy Series is quickly approaching. “I’m curious to see how he’s going to fair up there. We’re going to put Soto back in the Levy if he gets a little sharper. He’s not at the top of his game right now. I’d like to see how this horse gets around the half. He’s sharper than Soto right now, but we’ve got to see how he handles the half. He’s an all-around nice horse and I can’t wait to get him up there and see what happens.” First post time Saturday is 6:50 p.m. Click here to view entries for the card. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY  

YONKERS, N.Y. – Although he’s established himself as one of the top open trotters in New York over the past few years, 7-year-old trotter Cash Me Out is still in search of an elusive harness racing victory in the Open Trot at Yonkers Raceway. He connected in a local Preferred May 28, 2017 and has finished second in the local Open five times, including losses by a neck, head, and nose. “He’s won the Open at the Meadowlands a couple times, a bunch of Opens at Saratoga. I’ve had a bunch of seconds, but just haven’t got it done yet at Yonkers,” trainer Kyle Spagnola said. “It just hasn’t worked out yet. There’s always been one that’s either gotten a good trip or one that’s just laid over the field, a lot of excuses, but hopefully it happens one of these days.” Cash Me Out will get another chance to post his first Yonkers Open win Sunday (January 21) when he faces eight rivals in the $50,000 feature. Carded as race 1 on the program, the 1¼ mile trot also features Dog Gone Lucky, Tight Lines, and Melady’s Monet. First post time on the French Sunday is 11:30 a.m. Owner Traylor Racing sent Cash Me Out to Spagnola in July 2015. By then, the son of Cash Hall had already established himself as a top horse in New York. He won or placed in four New York Sire Stakes legs as a 2-year-old and finished third in the final and at 3, he won or placed in another five Sire Stakes divisions for Mickey and Cheryl McGivern. “The McGivern’s did very well with him as a 2- and 3-year-old in the Sire Stakes program. That definitely got him started up the ladder with the money and he turned out to be a good racehorse,” Spagnola said. “He was one of the first horses I got for (Traylor Racing). That was definitely an exciting phone call to get. He was kind of off his game, he wasn’t really sharp when I got him, I don’t know why. He came back around.” Although he is an easy horse to drive, Spagnola admits Cash Me Out isn’t one to turn your back on in the barn. “He’s actually kind of a bully in the barn, thinks he’s tough. You’ve got to be a little careful around him,” he said. “He just tries to kick and bite you. I don’t think he means it, but he can intimidate you, anyway. Jogging him, he’s the nicest horse to jog. He’s very easy on the track, he’s pretty easy to drive. Cash Hall’s all kind of have a little attitude. Unless you have a carrot, he’s got his ears back.” Cash Me Out won 11 of 37 races for Spagnola in 2016 and 10 of 30 in 2017, earning $196,850 and $196,840 in each year, respectively. Although he narrowly missed achieving his goal of $200,000 in earnings in a single season, Cash Me Out has become one of Spagnola’s best horses to date, sporting career earnings of $851,839. “My goal the last two years was to get him over $200,000. I’ve come up short by a few thousand bucks the last two years. The Yonkers money definitely helps,” Spagnola said. “He means a lot to me. It was a privilege to get him and if everybody had one of him in the barn, it makes it a lot easier.” Cash Me Out brought Spagnola to the biggest race of the young trainer’s career last fall. After finishing second beaten a nose in the Open Trot October 7, he received an invitation to the $250,000 Harry Harvey Trot on the International Trot undercard. Although bettors dismissed him at odds of 33/1, Cash Me Out still earned a fourth-place check. “I kind of had a feeling, just going by the money and the horses who were still racing that time of year who could get around a half. I kind of had a feeling he might get invited,” Spagnola said. “They actually called me the night before the draw and they invited me. He finished second and before they even showed the replay, Steve Starr called and asked if I wanted to race him there. Of course, I said yes.” Since the Harry Harvey Trot, Cash Me Out has put together an impressive string of top-three finishes, only missing the board once in his last nine starts. He enters this week’s Open Trot off a runner up finish in last week’s trotting feature, where Money Maven beat him a neck. Cash Me Out drew post nine and is 5/1 on the morning line. “I have a good post because he doesn’t need to be on the lead. Now, not having the passing lane, the two-hole really isn’t that good. I think he’ll get away probably fifth in there and try to be first- or second-over,” Spagnola said. “The passing lane definitely changes his racing style. Usually he can just leave and sit the two-hole. He really likes that trip. Now, with no passing lane, you either have to get lucky or be out real early. “I think you’re better off getting away fourth or fifth now with that racing style and the mile-and-a-quarter definitely makes it interesting,” he continued. “I think he likes the mile better, but he doesn’t seem to have too much trouble with the mile-and-a-quarter. It’s tougher on him, I think. I think it’s tougher on any horse, but I think he prefers a mile.” In addition to the Open Trot, Sunday’s card features six other French trots with overflow fields at the 1 ¼-mile distance. Click here for entries. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Last summer, talented harness racing pacer Western Hill showed promise of becoming a top stakes 3-year-old. The Tony Alagna trainee finished second in his North American Cup elimination June 10 and fifth in the final the following week. After failing to make the Meadowlands Pace Final, the son of Western Ideal again finished second in an elimination of the Adios and earned a fourth-place check in the final. Despite the potential he showed, Western Hill fell out of form in the fall and began to toil in the conditions at Yonkers. After two seventh-place finishes at the non-winners of 8 level in November, owner and breeder Tom Hill called trainer Andrew Harris. “When I worked for Casie Coleman back in the day, Tom had a lot of horses with Casie and so obviously I had known him well through them because I took care of Western Silk on and off when she had her,” Harris said. “Over the years, we’ve talked on many occasions and it seemed like they were going to give me an opportunity here or there, but nothing ever came to fruition until all the sudden this horse. They said, ‘we want to continue on as a 4-year-old with him, we just want to give him a shot.’ Who’s going to turn down a shot on a horse like that?” When Western Hill arrived, Harris saw a sharp-looking, speedy individual. However, it soon became clear the gelding had lost his confidence amid the string of losses and tough trips, which saw him try to close from well off the pace on Yonkers’ half-mile oval. “When I first got him, the first thing I noticed was, even though he was in a brand-new barn that he had never seen before, he got in the stall and put his head in the corner,” Harris recalled. “He was a little pouty and he just wasn’t happy. “We turned him out in the field every day with other horses and let him go out and be a horse a little bit,” he continued. “I know that Alagna likes to train a little bit harder than some, so I backed off on his training and didn’t train him as hard and just tried to freshen him up that way. Not that that would work on every horse, but it seemed to happen to work on this horse.” In his first start for Harris November 27, Western Hill drew post three and picked up top driver Yannick Gingras. After a pocket trip, Western Hill finished second by a nose in the $22,000 overnight. The following week, Gingras put Western Hill on the lead and the gelding scored a 1-length win in 1:53.2. “I think Yannick was a huge factor in bringing that confidence back because he put him onto the lead and he liked it,” Harris explained. “When you lose form, drivers don’t put them in play.” With his confidence and attitude improving off two good races, Harris took Western Hill to Harrah’s Philadelphia December 17, and the gelding posted a blowout win. He again set the pace and opened a 6¼-length advantage in the stretch in a 1:51.3 mile. “When he went to Chester he was just in total command and looked like his old self where he was wanting to be a big horse. He’s not a big horse, but he wants to be a big horse,” Harris said. Off his impressive performances, Western Hill will get a shot against Open pacers tonight at Yonkers Raceway. An 8-1 longshot in the field of six, Western Hill will make his 4-year-old debut against the likes of 2-1 favorite Gokudo Hanover, who ended his 2017 season with a win in the local Open, as well as the runner-up and third-place finishers from that race, Killer Martini and Thisjetsabookin. Take It Back Terry, who won the Preferred Pace to close the season, returns in the Open as the 3-1 second choice and Shane Adam completes the lineup. The $40,000 feature is slated as race 6 on the 12-race program. “The group that he’s in with, I actually like this spot,” Harris said of the step up. “The horse on the rail of Scotty Di’s is a really nice horse (Gokudo Hanover). Hopefully we’ll sit close to that one and hopefully get a shot at him down the lane. He fits with that group.” Despite fitting the non-winners of $30,000 condition, Harris entered the Open ranks in hopes of facing his age group. With the 4-year-old Open failing to fill at this early point in the season, Harris was happy to take a shot in the aged ranks. “I did enter for the 4-year-old Open because I was hoping he could race against horses his own age. I thought that I’d have a clear advantage over them with how sharp he is right now,” Harris said. “The non-winners of 30, I think that’s as tough as the Open anyway. I knew he probably wouldn’t get handicapped the outside in the Open, he’d probably have a better shot at the inside where the non-winners of 30 is an open draw and he could have gotten the eight-hole.” Like his five rivals, Western Hill enters tonight’s Open Pace off a month layoff. Harris feels the time away from racing helped Western Hill’s soundness. “I didn’t really let him down. We jogged him all the way through and trained him up all the way through,” Harris said. “He’s fairly sound right now, so I think that way it helped him out a lot.” First post time at Yonkers is 6:50 p.m. To view entries for the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – The harness racing Pick 5 at Yonkers Raceway features a $15,113.25 carryover and $40,000 guaranteed pool Friday night. The bet, which offers no consolation payout, covers races 7 through 11 and offers a 50-cent base wager. Free past performances for the card are available here. Two of the track’s leading drivers, Jason Bartlett and George Brennan, discussed their drives in the sequence and their approach to racing without a passing lane on the half-mile oval: Race 7 Bartlett - #4 American Island (5-2): Ended the 2017 season at Yonkers winning or placing in six of his last seven races. In his last three starts, the Rich Banca trainee scored a victory from post seven for a $15,000 tag and posted two seconds, each by a nose, at this level December 8 and 15. “He’s been racing good and he’s had some tough post positions. He’s drawing inside, he’s got gate speed if need be. He’s not in a bad spot.” Brennan - #3 Blade Seelster (2-1): Class dropping Robertson pupil won 11 of 35 starts and earned $183,535 last year, but faded on the lead in his last two outings to close 2017. Brennan takes the lines for the first time since October 27. “He’s ok, he’s alright. Three hole, he’s got a good spot. He’s got a good record, a lot of wins last year. They used his early speed the last two starts and it didn’t do him anything and now he’s been off for almost a month going in. Is he up to it? You don’t know. It’s difficult, it’s really hard.” Race 8 Bartlett - #2 Big City Jewel (8-5): Won six of his last seven to close his 2017 campaign and makes his 7-year-old debut at the level of the claim for Robertson. Shows success on the lead and from off the pace. “I’ve driven this horse twice, I won with him both times. He’s a really nice little horse. He’s been racing really well, draws inside, so he looks pretty good. He’s just a handy little horse. The one horse (Bettor Reason N) is probably one of the horses to beat, I would say.” Brennan - #4 Northern Virgin (12-1): Burke trainee is a consistent check-getter, but hasn’t won since November 5 while down in class at Harrah’s. “Decent spot, ok. He’s a piece-getter. I’m not really sold on him to be a top one-two in there. He’s just kind of a big horse. He’s the kind of horse I’d like to be first-over with and just grind my way into it if I could. We’ll see how that works. (With the passing lane), if you’re sitting fourth, it’s most likely you were going to be first-over. Now that guy in the three-hole, he’s got to come out. Tuesday, a guy pulled out of the two-hole at the half, a couple guys pulled the two-hole down the backside early. A lot of these guys have never driven without a passing lane. I started driving with a hub rail and no passing lane; it doesn’t really matter to me because I’ve figured it out before. It’s interesting, now, you get away fourth and there’s a good chance you’re getting a second-over trip. It’s definitely changed it up, shuffled the cards a little bit and I think for the better, for sure. “There’s definitely a lot more action. I’ve found horses are coming from behind, some of the favorites are getting beat up early and used early where they generally wouldn’t before. They’re getting pressured and there’s more of a live flow because the horses are pulling earlier and they’re trying to get there from behind. There have been quite a few longshots in the first three days.” Race 9 Bartlett - #2 War Daddy (3-1): Won out of his last condition here by a nose November 27 before finishing fifth for a $40,000 tag December 16. Five-year-old gelding by Quik Pulse Mindale drops to the $30,000 level tonight and draws inside again. “He’s racing good. Looks like I’ll be following the one (Midnight Dylan N). He’ll be up close, with no passing lane, who knows, but he figures in there. It’s hard to say right now because none of the horses have been racing consistently. Everybody’s been coming off a break, so it’s hard to say. I think everybody’s been trying to get the learning curve with it right now. You are seeing people pop the deuce a lot more. I just think it’s going to hinder the horses sitting sixth, seventh, and eighth even more. I think you really have to be sitting up close. I’ve been going with the flow; the horses haven’t been racing, so it’s hard to try different things with them. A couple times I knew I would have gone back to the rail if there was a passing lane and I stayed out. Instead of leaving to get the two-hole, now you’re taking back to be first- or second-over, but you also see horses coming first-over who aren’t making up any ground either.” Brennan - #3 Go Collect N (9-2): Ended 2017 with an upset 2-length win at the non-winners of $10,000 condition with Brennan in the sulky. Races for a tag for the first time since joining the Di Domenico ranks last fall. “He’s ok, he’s moving up a bit, but he comes from a good barn. I’ve raced him from behind before, I’ve raced him on the lead before. He can do either or and he fits in there. He’s ok.” Race 10 Bartlett - #1 SOS Justified (3-1): Finished fourth at this level from post seven to close the 2017 season. Returned Opening Day with another fourth-place effort from the six post, beaten 2 ¼ lengths. “Drawn inside and I don’t think that’s a real tough race. He looks pretty good in there. He does well when he draws inside and that’s not a real tough group I don’t think. Most of the horses in there have raced (off the break). He should be better, he should be good in that spot. Raced good last week.” Brennan - #4 Adonis Bay (10-1): After posting a dozen wins season last year, the 6-year-old gelding opened 2017 with a fifth behind SOS Justified January 7. “I raced him last week, he was a little short. Looking to be a little tighter. He’s ok. He’s a piece-getter, but he’s not bad. He did win 12 races last year, so he knows how to win.” Race 11 Bartlett - #6 Pembroke Wildcat (5-1): Won an Open in Maine and placed in two local contests at the non-winners of $10,000 level last fall. Closed 2017 with a sixth-place finish for a $30,000 tag. Makes his debut off the claim for Robertson. “Don’t know much about this horse. Hasn’t raced, but the whole field hasn’t raced, so you can’t go by that. Looks like there’s a bit of speed in there, probably have to take back and be second- or third-over and see what happens.” Brennan – N/A (No Drive) In addition to the Pick 5 carryover, Friday’s card also features a $40,000 Filly and Mare Open Pace in race six. First post time is 6:50 p.m. by Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Millionaire trotter Melady’s Monet seeks to start the 2018 season of live harness racing at Yonkers Raceway the way he ended 2017’s, with a win in the featured Open Handicap. After a summer break, Melady’s Monet returned to the races in November and made short work of a pair of $25,000 overnights at Yonkers before finishing third in consecutive Open Handicaps. He captured the final feature of the year December 17 and trainer Kevin McDermott expects the 9-year-old to improve on the Opening Day card January 7. “He’s been ok, he hasn’t been as good as he was last year. He was 100 percent better in his last start,” McDermott said. “He always goes good fresh, a couple weeks off doesn’t hurt him, so actually I think he’ll come in better than his last race.” Despite a limited racing schedule last year than saw him compete from March to July and then again from November through the end of the season, Melady’s Monet still posted seven victories and another five placings, good for $159,600. The homebred gelding’s owners, Luca and Ester Balenzano of Melady Enterprises LLC, only like to see him race about 20 times per year. The Balenzano’s horse-first approach to racing makes training rewarding for McDermott. “When we gave him time off, we just gave him time off. Nothing ever happened to him,” McDermott explained. “He was getting assigned the eight hole in 12-horse fields and they just didn’t want to do that. They’re great owners. They’re so loyal to the horse and they want what’s good for the horse. That’s what you want, you want people that love horses.” McDermott kept Melady’s Monet on schedule during live racing’s holiday hiatus despite the frigid temperatures afflicting the northeast United States. “He doesn’t miss any days, he has to jog or train every day,” he explained. “The weather has been really tough down here lately, but he trained (Wednesday), he trained very good, so I don’t expect him to be short this week.” Although he is a quiet horse in the barn, Melady’s Monet can get hot on the racetrack. Through trial and error, McDermott has tailored the son of Revenue and Keystone Melady’s training regime. “He goes in the field every day before he jogs, even in the snow because he has to get out,” McDermott explained. “We don’t jog him in the jog cart, he ponies all week, tows alongside another horse. That keeps him quiet because he’s a very high-strung horse, so we just try to keep him relaxed. Most of the time at Yonkers, I don’t even warm him up because he gets so wound up before the race. I just let Jason (Bartlett) warm him up in the post parade.” Melady’s Monet will start from an assigned post eight as the 3-1 morning line favorite in Sunday’s $50,000 Open Handicap Trot. Regular reinsman Bartlett will drive. Carded as part of the French simulcast, eight other rivals will contest the 1 ¼-mile feature, including Cash Me Out and Tight Lines. “The eight hole is going to be a tough spot, but we’ll try our hardest,” McDermott said. “You hope Jason can somehow work himself into a four or five hole and perfect scenario come second- or third-up and hope he goes by them. “One thing about Melady’s Monet, he is 100 percent better from behind,” McDermott continued. “When he’s on the lead, he waits on other horses. He loves chasing horses. When he’s first-up, second-up, third-up, when he’s going past other horses late, he’s a lot better that way.” Although Melady’s Monet has never won at the 10-furlong distance in four tries, he has finished second twice, including as the runner-up to Bee A Magician in the $250,000 Invitational Trot on the 2016 International Trot undercard. McDermott thinks the added distance will play to the gelding’s strengths. “I think the more distance the better for that horse because he’s always coming at the wire,” he said. The 2018 season of live racing at Yonkers begins Sunday, January 7 with a first post time of 11:30 a.m. Bettors should note the half-mile racetrack no longer features a passing lane. For entries for Sunday’s races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Although it’s been over two months since Twister Bi stormed to a 5 ½-length victory in the Yonkers International Trot, harness racing trainer Jerry Riordan is still processing what the win means to him. The history and lore behind the International means Riordan sees himself reexamining and reliving that moment for years to come. “It does take time and it’s something that as the years go by, we’ll reflect on it. Probably even in a different way each time,” Riordan said. “Races like that, as the years go by they still keep giving you that pleasure and that satisfaction. “The International, it comes up every now and again,” he continued. “Legolas, who was second in the International Trot – he didn’t even win, he finished second – and they were showing a clip at the racetrack when he was second in the International and he was a big hero. I was thinking to myself, ‘we won it.’ Only for the biggest races will stuff like that happen.” Twister Bi not only won the $1 million stakes, he blew the field away. After pouncing on defending champion Resolve with one circuit to race, Twister Bi raced to a 7-length advantage on the backstretch through a mile in 1:53.2 before completing the 1 ¼-mile race in a world record 2:22.1. After his stateside triumph, Twister Bi flew from New York to Liège, Belgium. The 5-year-old son of Varrene made a stopover at a nearby stable for quarantine before completing a 10-hour road trip back to Sweden. “He was fine, he got home, he was happy. Even when he was aggressive on the racetrack, he’s always been a really cool horse in the barn as far as taking care of himself, traveling, that sort of thing,” Riordan explained. “He always eats well, he’s got a really good constitution, so that was no problem at all.” Upon returning home, Twister Bi enjoyed a few weeks off from training before resuming his work. Naturally, Riordan is targeting the €1 million Grand Prix d’Amérique at Vincennes Jan. 28 for his star trotter. This Sunday (Dec. 24), the Group 2 Prix Ténor de Baune will serve as a stepping stone to France’s biggest race. “We just started him back doing his normal thing, twice a week doing some speed. He’s at the point where I pretty much let him decide what he wants to do,” the conditioner said. “I put him in the sulky one time (last week), let him train himself basically. He’s sound, relaxed, so I’m pretty confident in him.” Unlike the four “B” races – the Bretage, Bourbonnais, Bourgogne, and Belgique – Prix d’Amérique prep races which are open to 4- through 9-year-olds, the Prix Ténor de Baune is restricted to 5-year-olds. Still, this year’s edition attracted a strong field as the winner earns a place in the Prix d’Amérique. Twister Bi will face Swedish champion Readly Express, who rides a 12-race winning streak including a victory in the Group 1 Grand Prix de l'U.E.T., his last Vincennes appearance, and in the Group 1 Jubileumspokalen at Solvalla where Twister Bi was the runner up. Carat Williams, the champion French 5-year-old, Charly du Noyer, champion French 4-year-old last year, and Traders, who beat Bold Eagle in the 2016 Prix Marcel Laurent, are all signed on in the 15-horse field. Riordan will also send out last year’s Criterium Continental winner Treasure Kronos. “It’s a tough race, tougher than usual. There’s going to be some horses like Readly Express. He wants to win because he’s the Swedish horse, Swedish bred, a lot of following up there, people have big expectations for him and he’s a very good horse. I think they’re going to want to win this race and be considered one of the contenders for the Prix d’Amérique,” Riordan said. “I think ‘Twister’ is as good or better than any of them, I really do,” he continued.” He feels as good as he ever did. We’ll know for sure how he took the trip to Yonkers on Sunday.” Riordan would relish a victory over Readly Express on Sunday. Although the Swedish phenom bested Twister Bi in the Jubileumspokalen, he did so while racing on the lead while Twister Bi was parked without cover the entire 2,140 meters and was still coming on at the finish, losing by only a head. “I said Readly Express got saved by the bell because Twister Bi was coming back at him at the finish line and he was all out driving him to the wire,” Riordan recalled. Although Christoffer Eriksson drove Twister Bi to victory in the International Trot and many of Twister Bi’s other successes this year, French driver Alexandre Abrivard will take the lines Sunday. Riordan stressed the change is necessary to help Twister Bi navigate the standing start from the 2,700-meter chute, the same configuration as the Prix d’Amérique. “The standing start, just being able to get your horse in position, get him out of there good. They almost always have recalls and if you don’t know the system, you can end up being a quarter-mile down the track and all the French guys are still up there walking in circles,” Riordan said. “If it was a starting car, it would be one thing, but with the standing start, I’m just more comfortable with a French guy driving.” Abrivard drove Twister Bi to a third-place finish behind Aubrion du Gers and Bold Eagle in the Group 1 European Trotting Masters Series Final at Vincennes September 9. After racing 18 ½ lengths behind the pacesetter in that start, Twister Bi finished just a half-length behind Bold Eagle. The Ténor de Baune will be Twister Bi’s fourth attempt at the standing start. In one prior try, he didn’t handle it well. Another time, he started well, but came away last. In his latest try in the Trotting Masters Final, Twister Bi came away in mid pack before losing ground. For Riordan, Twister Bi’s handling of the start Sunday is critical. “In this type of race, I don’t want to give away a possibility of winning by leaving last,” he said. “It’s really important that he gets away at least in the middle of the group. He’s a really good horse, but nobody’s going to make up 6 or 7 lengths on a top horse, it just doesn’t happen.” If Twister Bi qualifies for the Prix d’Amérique Sunday, he will join stablemate Ringostarr Treb, who earned a berth in the French classic by finishing third in the Prix du Bourbonnais Dec. 10. Riordan emphasized what starting two horses in the Prix d’Amérique would mean to him. “The progress Twister Bi has made, last year at this time, I thought it would be a stretch to get Twister Bi in the Prix d’Amérique. The horse has made tremendous development,” he said. “Ringostarr Treb, he was kind of a surprise because when he came to the stable, I thought he was probably on the downhill side of his career with his best races behind him. Instead, he turned out to be this dynamic horse. Everything we’ve asked him to do, he’s done it better. “He’s a cool horse, he’s a smart one. The standing start, if they have five recalls, that’s going to destroy Twister Bi, but the more recalls the better for Ringostarr Treb because he’s so cool in a race,” Riordan continued. “He’s got the right kind of characteristics for the Prix d’Amérique. I’ve always thought you need either a horse that’s super powerful or a horse that’s really smart and just strong enough and he’s like that. Twister Bi gives you a little stress because he gets a little aggressive. Ringostarr Treb is just a pleasure to race. “It would be surreal. There’s a lot of guys out there who are really, really good horsemen who have never even raced in it. It’s not wasted on me that I’m lucky enough to possibly have two in there.” By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. - As the longtime trainer and driver of $904,593-earner The Real One, Pat Lachance could easily take credit for much of the Mach Three gelding’s success. Instead, the harness racing horseman defers praise to owner Helene Fillion, who is understanding of The Real One’s off-the-pace style and doesn’t pressure Lachance to take the horse out of his comfort zone. “I think the key is the owner. We’re on the same page, we understand how he races and we understand that sometimes you’re at the mercy of the pace and it’s not going to work out, but you also know that if you fire him up and send him out of there, it’s not going to work either, so you try to race him the way he likes to race and try to win the race,” Lachance said. “That’s the biggest asset. I give her a lot of credit because she never puts pressure on him. He’s the kind of horse that if you had put pressure on him, he never would have been The Real One, he’d never be what he is, no question in my mind,” Lachance continued. “He’s the type of horse that if you put pressure on him, it’s not good. He wouldn’t be racing right now if that wasn’t the case.” Fillion bought then 3-year-old The Real One online for $10,000 in 2014 and initially trained him herself. After a slow start at Rideau Carlton, where The Real One failed to finish in the trifecta, Fillion campaigned her budding star to a win and three more placings at Hippodrome 3R. Recognizing his talent, Fillion sent The Real One to Lachance to compete for the rich purses at Yonkers Raceway. “She lives maybe 10 minutes from where I was raised as a kid until I was 10 on the farm in Montreal,” Lachance said. “I never knew her until this horse and she was looking for somebody who’s French-Canadian who she can communicate with and she knows I take care of my horses and I have a good reputation for taking care of them and she wanted to send them to somebody that she trusts. “It means a lot to me because you don’t see that as much anymore and obviously there’s not a lot of trainer-drivers around, I’m one of the few and people still like that,” he continued. “People still come to me because of that, so it makes me feel great, no question.” The Real One blossomed under Lachance’s tutelage. He’s won 41 of 150 races with another 50 placings. Last year, he took a lifetime mark of 1:50.0 when setting an all-age track record in the Open Handicap at Yonkers November 19. With six wins, including a 1:50.3 score in the Yonkers Open September 23 and $179,350 in earnings this year, The Real One isn’t showing any signs of slowing down nearing the end of his 7-year-old season. The Real One’s class and closing style help keep him in top form, Lachance explained. “It’s very rare that you see horses stay at this level for four years in a row. It’s amazing,” he said. “He’s just so consistent and just a nice horse, a top horse, and he just does his job. He loves to race, he stays sound. We’re very fortunate to have him. “He’s a closer, he likes to chase, he has one big run. He’s not a front-runner, he’s not a horse that you want to send out of there. He likes to finish up at the end and pick off horses. That style of racing, it just gives him a chance to stay good,” Lachance explained. As a trainer-driver, Lachance gets the opportunity to know his horses habits on the racetrack better than most. The Real One is no exception and Lachance understands exactly what he can and can’t do in the driver’s seat. “He can get a little grabby, he can get a little anxious. That’s the only thing he does wrong,” he said. “When he follows cover sometimes you’ve got to be a little careful with him that way. Besides that, he’s pretty much ok. You just can’t fire him up too much.” Despite posting a neck victory in last week’s pacing feature, an open draw in Saturday’s (Nov. 19) $40,000 Open Pace afforded The Real One the rare luxury of starting along the pylons. The Real One has started from posts seven or eight in three of his last five starts and hasn’t drawn inside post four since winning a $35,000 overnight from post two August 19. Lachance plans to be more aggressive as a result. “I definitely want to protect the rail a little bit, no question,” Lachance said. “I’ll try and get away as close as I can without firing him up to where he’s out of control. If I fire him up, he’s going to want to go a thousand out of there and that’s not good for him. I’ll try to keep him as relaxed as I can and try to keep him as close as I can and we’ll take it from there. “If we end up in the two-hole, great. If not, I can come first-up with him and he likes that, he doesn’t mind that,” he continued. “Hopefully things work out for us, but there’s definitely a lot worse spots than the rail.” The Real One is the 3-1 morning line choice in Saturday’s Open Pace, but isn’t the only local standout moving inside. Bit Of A Legend drew post four and off a third place finish last week, is the 7-2 second choice on the line. Caviart Luca, last week’s runner up, will start from post seven while Dr. J Hanover, a wire to wire Open Handicap winner Oct. 28, drew post eight. Orillia Joe, Maxdaddy Blue Chip, Scott Rocks, and Blood Brother complete the field. “Bit Of A Legend is probably the horse to beat in there, there’s a few other ones. They’re in the open for a reason, they can all win with a trip, so hopefully it all works out,” Lachance said. “We’ve been assigned the seven and eight hole quite a bit, so we have the rail now, so we’ll take advantage of it.” First post time Saturday at Yonkers Raceway is 7:10 p.m. For entries for the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Since taking out her harness racing trainers’ license in June, Jennifer Bongiorno has enjoyed immediate and steady success at Yonkers Raceway. She’s sent out 18 winners from 73 starts for an 18 percent strike rate and posted another 27 placings. Despite her flying start and a contingent of top-class horses in her stable, a victory in the lucrative local Open ranks has proven elusive. Bongiorno will have another chance at her first Open win with Georgie’s Pockets in Sunday’s $40,000 Open Handicap Trot. “I couldn’t be happier with the results. I give full credit to the horses I have and the owners I have behind me,” Bongiorno said. “The owners that I have behind me, big names that are able to provide us with horses that have talent and are able to go out there and win races. I definitely own my own horses in the barn, but you have names like Jerry Silva, Gene Kurzrok, Howard Taylor. I wouldn’t be able to do it without them.” This spring, Bongiorno found herself increasingly involved in managing the horses she owned while still balancing a full-time position as a harness racing broadcaster at The Meadowlands. Bongiorno knew her true passion was with the horses and with the help of her younger brother, driver Joe Bongiorno, decided to take the plunge into training her own stable. “I felt like I was constantly at work just worrying about the horses I owned and talking to different trainers that I’m friendly with and wanting to learn more about that end of the game,” she said. “So really, I just took a leap of faith and I knew I would have the support of my brother, which is immense. “I definitely feel I made the right decision,” she continued. “I go to work every day and I think I was at the point at The Meadowlands where it became a job for me, and now with what I’m doing, it’s not. I’m so passionate, I’m so happy. Every morning when I walk in, those horses are like kids to me. I love each and every one of them and they’re what makes me happy.” Bongiorno didn’t have to wait long to taste success. She scored her first win as a conditioner in her very first start when 5-year-old pacer Gratian Hanover won a $14,500 overnight from post eight as a 9-1 outsider June 20. “My first win, I’ve never felt that level of gratification before,” she said. “My first start was with my boy Gratian Hanover. He’s my absolute pet. Luckily, crazily enough, we had a win together. It was awesome.” Bongiorno will look to add to her win tally when Georgie’s Pockets races from post four in this week’s Open Trot. Joe Bongiorno will take the lines behind the 8-1 morning line chance who will face six rivals, including 3-1 favorite Home’N Dry, a winner of two straight local Opens, International Trot starter In Secret, and millionaire mare Charmed Life. Buen Camino, Tight Lines, and Wings of Royalty complete the field. “Opens at Yonkers are always difficult. It being a seven-horse field is not the worst thing, that’s for sure,” Bongiorno said. “He has speed, he can do it from off the pace. Versatile horses are always good to have. He’s given me no reason to think he can’t go with this group. Sometimes I think he might be a step below them, but he’s beaten Home’N Dry, he’s finished with In Secret before, so I see no reason why he won’t be competitive in there.” Although Georgie’s Pockets has posted 3 wins and another five placings from 15 starts and earned $86,114 since debuting for Bongiorno in June, the son of Muscle Mass almost didn’t come to her stable. After an agent approached her to buy him, Bongiorno felt the price was too high and passed on purchasing the 4-year-old. However, when browsing online listings soon after, Bongiorno’s affinity for sire Muscle Mass proved fruitful as Georgie’s Pockets appeared in the results for a more reasonable price. Bongiorno took him and brought Kurzrok’s Our Horse Cents Stables on as a partner. “What a nice horse he is. He was supposed to be in the Harrisburg Sale and we took him out because he is exactly what you would want in a horse,” Bongiorno said. “He has the most awesome personality. You walk in the barn and he’s the most spoiled horse. He comes running out, he just can’t wait to be around you. You would never know he’s a stud, which is cool. “He’s flawlessly gaited,” she continued. “Joe said after the first time he drove him, ‘you can leave with this horse on a loose line at Yonkers,’ and there’s not many horses you can do that there with. He’s perfectly gaited, perfectly sound and when you have horses like that, they make it as easy as can be.” Georgie’s Pockets’ style has proven a perfect fit for Yonkers Raceway. After disappointing on the five-eighths oval at Pocono, Bongiorno moved Georgie’s Pockets back to Yonkers, where he posted two straight wins at the non-winners of $10,000 and $20,000 levels in July. His most recent score, an 8-length romp for non-winners of $30,000 last five came October 7. “One thing about him is, he is a half-mile horse. There are certain horses that aren’t going to pick up on a big track, and he’s one of them,” Bongiorno explained. “He doesn’t really leave Yonkers now because we know he’s not going to be able to pick up his speed. He’ll go as fast on a half as he will on a mile. That’s just his deal.” Georgie’s Pockets’ most impressive effort in his trainer’s eyes came not when winning, but as the runner-up in 4-year-old Dia Monde’s track record-setting 1:54.2 effort in the Open Handicap Trot September 23. Although she’s being realistic about her chances in this week’s Open Trot, Bongiorno thinks Georgie’s Pockets has great upside for her stable going forward. If he can pull off an Open victory, it will be one the young conditioner won’t forget. “He’s only 4, I think he’s only going to get better. He’s a beautiful looking horse, he’s strong, and I can’t say it enough, he’s so happy, he loves his work. I think going forward he’s going to be a good thing to have in the barn,” she said. “I have three trotters that I think the world of racing: B Yoyo at Pocono and Rubber Duck and Georgie at Yonkers. Anyone would be so lucky to have one of them and to have all three of them in the barn is a true blessing. “I’m just so thankful for my life right now. I wake up and I feel so happy and so blessed. I’m very thankful to everyone I have supporting me,” she continued. “I think my brother is an incredible horseman and a great driver. ‘Georgie’ is a rockstar and I’m so proud of the horse he’s become. I’m still searching for that Open win at Yonkers, but I really will be very, very excited about that. If ‘Georgie’ can do it, with his personality, he would be so proud of himself.” First post time Sunday at Yonkers Raceway is 11:25 a.m. For entries for the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – After a breakout season in New York Sire Stakes, 3-year-old filly Clear Idea will test the waters in Yonkers Raceway’s $50,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace tonight (Nov. 10). The sophomore will face seven harness racing aged rivals, including last week’s winner Mackenzie A and Breeders’ Crown finalist Blue Moon Stride. Trained by Blake Macintosh, Clear Idea entered the $225,000 New York Sire Stakes Final Oct. 14 with 9 wins and another nine placings in 2017. Five of her wins came against her New York bred rivals at tracks across the state, including a 1:55.1 score from post seven at Buffalo Raceway. Although she drew post seven in the final, regular reinsman Mark MacDonald was determined to put the filly in the race. “She was at the top of her division. She had the seven hole, so we had to take a shot,” MacDonald said. “There was never a chance I was going to take back to last or second-last. Especially when guys were ducking, I was going to try and go to the front.” While much of the field came away in post-position order, MacDonald gunned Clear Idea to the lead in the opening furlong before allowing Obvious Blue Chip to clear the front. After a pocket trip, Clear Idea couldn’t catch her favored rival, but stayed for a second-place finish at odds of 12-1. MacDonald was happy with the effort and happier for his friend Macintosh, who also co-owns Clear Idea with Hutt Racing Stable. “She’s had her aches and pains throughout the season, maybe getting a little tired, I think if she had been on top of her game, I think she would have won, but second was good,” MacDonald said. “Blake Macintosh, one of my best friends, owns half of her and it was a nice little payday for him. Anytime you can win when a friend owns the horse, it’s always rewarding to win, but it’s extra rewarding when it’s for a family member or a friend.” MacDonald met Macintosh in the late 1990s when the pair raced at Windsor Raceway. Stabled across from one another, MacDonald soon began driving for Macintosh and the pair became close friends. “We were about the same age and we just got to hanging out. I was driving and I ended up driving all of his stable. One year, Blake was the leading trainer and I was the leading driver at Dresden Raceway. I remember we got gold Timexes,” MacDonald remembered with a laugh. “We’ve been really good friends forever, so that’s how long I’ve been driving for Blake. Pretty near my whole life.” Although driving for a close friend can make the wins more rewarding, it can also make the losses more agonizing. Although MacDonald jokes that Macintosh gives him a hard time after the races, “all the time,” the trainer never stays down on the losses for very long. “He’s very loyal. It doesn’t matter what happens, he’s a very, very loyal person,” MacDonald said. “Win, lose, or draw, you might hear about it a little bit, but he’s very loyal.” MacDonald first drove Clear Idea in her freshman season. After winning her first start in an overnight at Grand River in July 2016, MacDonald was aboard for several placings in Excelsior A stakes across New York. Her progression from a check-getter to a stakes winner impressed her driver. “She’s really come. She’s turned into a really nice racehorse. She’s a little lazy, kind of a late-bloomer, but she progressed throughout the year and she turned into a really nice filly and I think she’s going to be a really nice racehorse,” he said. “She was so good on a half, I was like, ‘you didn’t pay her into the Jugette? Are you crazy?’ She’s obviously an overachiever and clearly the way he staked her he didn’t think she was this good, but she is really good and I think she’ll be an open mare as an aged mare, I really do.” One of Clear Idea’s standout features is her versatility. She can handle any trip, which gives her driver options and makes his job easier. “She’s really lazy, really laid back, somewhat like myself,” MacDonald joked. “She’s easy to drive. She kind of drives herself, just depending on the post position and whatnot. She’s always in a good spot because she can go first-over, she can go to the front, and when she gets a trip, she loves it.” Clear Idea will face aged mares in tonight’s Filly and Mare Open Handicap carded as the seventh race on a 12-race card. She will start from post five at a 7-1 morning line chance in her first start since the Sire Stakes Final. “Obviously, that’s a step up, maybe two steps up, maybe even three,” MacDonald said. “We’ll just see what happens. I think if she’s close and has the right trip, she won’t embarrass herself. It’s really hard for 3-year-olds to go against aged horses. “I know he’s trained her up good, I know he has her conditioned well. That’s one thing about Blake, when he has them out, they’re conditioned well. He doesn’t miss a day,” MacDonald continued. “She hasn’t raced, but I’m sure she’ll put in a good effort, I’m sure she will. She needed to be freshened up anyway, in fact, she might even be better. We’ll see how she steps up, but she won’t embarrass herself, I guarantee you that.” First post time tonight at Yonkers Raceway is 7:10 p.m. For entries for the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Leading harness racing local driver Jason Bartlett is ranked number one in North America with $9.9 million in purse money won this season and third by wins with 497 victories. Just over $1 million of the 36-year-old reinsman’s earnings this season have come in New York Sire Stakes, making him the leading driver on the New York stakes circuit by earnings and his 24 victories top the win column. Bartlett will drive in all eight of the $225,000 New York Sire Stakes Finals at Yonkers Raceway Saturday afternoon (October 14). The rich races for statebreds are part of a $3.3 million card that includes the $1 million Yonkers International Trot, the $250,000 Harry Harvey Invitational Trot, and the $250,000 Dan Rooney Invitational Pace. Many of Bartlett’s contenders drew advantageous post positions and all but two are the first or second choice on the morning line. “It’s been a really good year throughout the stakes races for me,” Bartlett said. “Hopefully we can cap it off with a good day. The draws were favorable for me. Good spots, good horses, the home track. Now it’s up to me not to mess up. “I’m very grateful to all the owners and trainers for giving me an opportunity to drive all these nice horses,” he continued. Bartlett gave his thoughts on all eight of his drives in New York Sire Stakes Saturday: 2-Year-Old Colts and Geldings Pace CASUAL COOL (Post 3, 3-1 ML): The son of American Ideal is 5-for-9 this year with a pair of seconds and a third, good for $137,538. Bartlett drove in three of the colt’s victories, including a wire-to-wire win in NYSS from post one at Yonkers August 25. One of three sire stakes finalists Bartlett will drive for trainer Linda Toscano. Won his last start in the Simpson at Philadelphia October 1. “Nice handy little horse, can race either way. By the looks of that field, we have options. The one to beat is inside of us and the other one to beat is in the eight hole, so we’ve got some options going into that race. (Linda) has had a good year in stakes races this year and all of her babies seem to have got a little bit sick, but now they’ve been pretty good as of late. He had a race down at Chester coming in, the Simpson and he won down there, which is a plus going into this race that he was able to get a race in between the three-and-a-half weeks between races. He was very fortunate to get that race.” 2-Year-Old Filly Pace HURRIKANE SHORTY (Post 6, 5-2 ML): After posting two wins and two seconds with Jim Marohn Jr. at the lines, the daughter of Art Major won her first two starts with Bartlett in the sulky at Yonkers August 17 and 29. Although all her wins have come on the front end, the filly showed Bartlett a new dimension last time at Monticello September 19, racing off the pace to finish second beaten a half-length. Qualified in 1:55.4 at Philadelphia October 3. Brings an 8-4-3-0 record into the sire stakes final for trainer Kevin Mc Dermott. “She got a little sick there her last two or three starts and then her last start at Monticello, I was very happy with her racing off the pace. Kevin said she’s a lot healthier now. She got a nice qualifier in down at Chester, so she looks pretty good in there, too. She’d been raced a lot on the front end, so putting her on a helmet, trying to race off a helmet was something that I had been trying to do. That front end all year long is going to catch up to them sooner or later. She’s very versatile, she’s very quick off the gate and the way she raced at Monticello, you’re not scared to race her from behind.” 2-Year-Old Filly Trot LIMA NOVELTY (Post 2, 3-1 ML): Posted four wins and a second in NYSS company this summer, including a track record 1:57.3 victory at Monticello August 21. Made a break when trying open company in the Peaceful Way at Mohawk September 11 before finishing second in sire stakes individually timed in 1:55.4 at Vernon September 22 and qualifying at Pocono in 1:58.0 October 4. “We have not seen the best of her. She’s a very, very nice trotting filly. Very disappointing up at Mohawk, but very nice filly. She can do it either way, too. She’s won on the front and from behind at Monticello with a track record. She drew a very good spot too, in between the two favorites, so just kind of play off of other people there. She grabbed her boot behind and she just ran. I mean, she’s never run in her life. You would think that getting around Buffalo and Monticello and all those other tracks, in a straightaway at Mohawk, she’d be able to get around there easily enough. It was very surprising to say the least.” 3-Year-Old Filly Pace PLANET ROCK (Post 1, 6-1 ML): Winless this season in 14 starts, but the daughter of Rock N Roll Heaven enough seconds and thirds in sire stakes company to earn a place in the final and drew the inside post. Toscano trainee went 8-for-12 as a 2-year-old, but enters this year’s sire stakes final off a sixth in the Simpson September 20 and a seventh against older mares in a $17,500 overnight September 29 for Toscano. “She’s been getting better. I raced her on the front end at Monticello, she raced really well. I had never really driven her before and I put her back on the front at Chester and Linda said two weeks in a row on the front end for her is not the thing to do. She has enough speed to get herself involved early, and then hopefully we can find the right helmet.” 2-Year-Old Colt and Gelding Trot CLIVE BIGSBY (Post 3, 5-2 ML): Gelded son of Muscle Mass is 5-for-8 with another two placings to start his career. Impressed when winning a sire stakes leg from post seven at Yonkers by 3 lengths August 8 and won by 3 ¼ at Batavia August 27. Qualified for the William Wellwood Final at Mohawk September 18, but was scratched. Enters the NYSS Final off a 1:57.4 tune up at Vernon September 29 for trainer George Ducharme. “He’s an honest trotting colt. He’s also a very handy little horse. He’s a nice little horse. He tries, he tries really hard. Got a great little attitude and just a handy little horse. He’s one that you can play the gate and see what everybody else is doing and kind of react, but it looks like he’ll be pushing off the gate and going from there. He’s good. He gets over the track really well. He can stop and go, he’s very good that way. He was sick up there (at Mohawk), so that’s why they scratched him there. George will have him ready, that’s for sure.” 3-Year-Old Colt and Gelding Pace AMERICA’S FLEET (Post 3, 20-1 ML): The longest shot of Bartlett’s Saturday drives, the Edward Hart trainee is 4-for-22 this year, including a nose victory in NYSS at Yonkers July 10. Enters the final off a fourth in an overnight at The Meadows October 7. “He’s the type of horse that’s going to have to get tripped out pretty good. That race, it’s just going to come down to if there’s any speed or not. We’ve got to trip that horse out a little bit. With the right trip, he can go with them. He’s always been right there with those horses. He may not win a lot of races, but he’s right there. Seconds, thirds, fourths. He’s got a lot of nice checks throughout the year.” 3-Year-Old Colt and Gelding Trot GUARDIAN ANGEL AS (Post 1, 8-5 ML): After making breaks in the stretch of the Hambletonian Final and at the start of the Yonkers Trot, the son of Archangel finished second in NYSS at Batavia September 13 before winning in sire stakes next out at Yonkers September 23. Shipped to Lexington for the Bluegrass October 1 and finished second beaten a neck in 1:52.1. Anette Lorentzon trains. “We drew the rail and he looks like he raced really well out at Lexington. He got to stretch out before Yonkers, which is going to help him a lot. With the rail, he can leave and with him, he’s just got to mind his manners. With him, I just let him do what he wants to do and then I’ll just go from there. If he wants to go out of there, he usually drags me out of there anyways, but I’m not going to rush him to get to someplace I don’t need to be. I think I’ve got the best horse, we got a good spot not to do too much rushing, which I’m very happy to see. He can get himself in position, so I’m not really worried about that.” 3-Year-Old Filly Trot CELEBRITY RUTH (Post 2, 9-5 ML): Unraced at 2, Trond Smedshammer’s filly by Archangel is 4-for-14 this year with another six seconds and $359,113 earned, making her the third highest-earning finalist on the card behind 3-year-old pacer FunkNWaffles and rival Barn Bella. Has three recent wins over the track, including the Hudson Trot September 2 and a 1:55.3 score in NYSS September 14. Enters off a second in a $27,000 Yonkers overnight October 5. “Very nice filly. She’s quite handy too. She can leave the gate very fast, she’s been in very good spots and it looks like we’re in a very good spot for the final, too. Obviously the one to beat is Barn Bella. I know the half isn’t (Barn Bella’s) forte, so I’d expect her first-over or something like that. (Celebrity Ruth) has been very good in her races coming in, so I’d expect another similar performance from her. She was very good in the Hudson Trot and came back and was actually better in her latest race at Yonkers. She was very good at Batavia, so she’s coming into the race pretty good.” by Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Although harness racing owner Hans Enggren jokes that he doesn’t remember much nowadays, when it comes to his horse Resolve, he has plenty of fond memories to share. Enggren attended the Yonkers International Trot last year when Resolve won and the experience is something he will never forget. “The service that we got, the people were absolutely marvelous to help me from beginning to end. The race was amazing and the audience was amazing,” he said. “We felt so welcome and the race was amazing and to see all these people with video cameras and regular cameras.” Enggren watched last year as Resolve led at every call in the $1 million International. With trainer Åke Svanstedt in the sulky, Resolve won the 1 ¼-mile stakes by 1 ½ lengths and stopped the timer in 2:23.4. Although his connections dreamt of defending their title in the race’s 2017 renewal, a freak incident in early September threatened their plans. Before Resolve raced in an elimination of the Maple Leaf Trot at Mohawk Racetrack September 8, he suffered a snake bite. “He was turned out in a pretty large area and that’s when it must have happened,” Enggren said. “It’s such an amazing thing to be bitten by a snake when he went to Canada. I mean, gee whiz. That has happened to me once before in my life. I had a horse called Meadowbranch Ava. I liked her and I bred her and she was in foal and she was bitten by a snake. It’s just unbelievable. It’s the second time for me.” Resolve finished seventh in his Maple Leaf Trot elimination, beaten 6 ¾ lengths by Mambo Lindy. After the race, Resolve spiked a fever and the vet discovered the bite. “The vet had to give him some antidotes, which was pretty strong. I told my trainer to let him rest,” Enggren said. “In the meantime, he was rested, was treated. He has trained almost up to normality. He’s looking pretty good now and Mr. Svanstedt is very pleased with him and he said he’ll be alright for the race on the fourteenth. We are very, very careful with everything about the horse.” Although Resolve hasn’t raced or qualified since the Maple Leaf Trot elimination, Enggren and Svanstedt have pointed him for the International Trot. Enggren and Svanstedt didn’t want to rush their star back to the races after his incident. Enggren suggested they each develop a plan for the son of Muscle Hill’s fall season and reconvene to make a decision. “When he was hurt by the snake and I didn’t want him to race, I called Svanstedt up and I said, ‘why don’t you decide on what race you would love to be in more than any other race for the rest of the year,’ and I said, ‘I’ll tell you mine and we’ll call each other back.’ It was strange, we both picked the same race.” Enggren’s careful handling of Resolve this fall is understandable. He spent months trying to buy Resolve from his breeders Mike Pozefsky and Edward Wilson before a deal was struck in July 2014. Since then, Resolve has won a host of open stakes in North America, including the Mack Lobell, A.J. Cutler, and Maple Leaf Trot. Resolve has also enjoyed success overseas, finishing second to Nuncio in the 2016 Elitlopp Final and third to Timoko and Propulsion in this year’s edition. All told, Resolve is 18-for-62 with another 26 placings and has earned $2,743,033. “I fell in love with him when he was still a 2-year-old,” Enggren remembered. “I just fell in love with the horse and I didn’t give up. This was in October when he was 2 and it took till the sixteenth of July – it’s amazing that I remember that date because I don’t remember very many things anymore – and on that day, the very, very kind and nice owners and breeders of Resolve agreed on a price of which they would sell him to me." Enggren noted Resolve and trainer Svanstedt have developed a special bond in their time together. He credits this for much of Resolve’s success and it gives Enggren confidence heading into the International Trot October 14. “The horse is always doing his best and he wants to race. I think he’s getting up to that by the coming Saturday, I certainly hope so. Svanstedt seems to feel that everything is going to be fine,” Enggren said. “I understand that there are some very good horses and on paper, we know that we have beaten them before. I know the other horses in there, but I also know this horse has been so amazing on so many occasions that I think he’ll do fine. “I still say if he doesn’t pick up a check, I’ll be extremely surprised,” he continued. “I do know that he and Svanstedt are a team. It’s amazing how they are, both on the track, off the track, and when they just see each other in the barn. They just like each other so much. Everybody likes this horse. He’s just extremely kind and he’s amazing.” Although Enggren won’t be able to attend the International Trot this year – the 88-year-old recently spent a week in the hospital – he will be watching intently from home. Resolve has brought Enggren closer to his family and friends, who all convene on race days to root for the star trotter. “He’s a marvelous horse and I have made more friends because of him. We have a little theater here every time he races because my friends come and want to see him,” he said. “I think I will stay here and see the race and invite my kids and my friends and we’ll do it here.” More International Trot invitees will be featured as the race draws closer. The $1 million Yonkers International Trot at Empire City Casino will be raced Saturday (Oct. 14) at Yonkers Raceway. For more information, visit www.internationaltrot.com. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. - In Secret has been an unstoppable force at Yonkers Raceway of late. He boasts a six-race harness racing win streak dating to July 2, the last four of which have come at the Open level. In Secret’s driver, George Brennan, hoped the trotter’s exploits would earn him an invitation to the Harry Harvey Trot on the International Trot undercard October 14. To his surprise, the raceway announced In Secret as a representative of the United States in the $1m Yonkers International Trot this Monday (Oct. 2). “I was just hoping maybe we would get an invite to the $250,000 invitational they have that day,” he said. “It was a pleasant surprise when I saw it. It’s great.” For Brennan, the chance to compete in the International Trot is about more than the race’s $1 million purse. Although he drove Arch Madness to a fifth place finish in the $250,000 International Trot Preview in 2014, Brennan has lacked a horse for the International Trot since the race’s revival in 2015. “It’s my home track, Yonkers. It’s a very good horse. It’s been my main account, Ron Burke. It means a lot,” Brennan said. “There’s a lot going into it, a lot at stake to it. The stars are lined up. It’s really exciting.” In Secret’s win streak began when the 5-year-old won a $35,000 overnight at Yonkers July 2 for trainer Noel Daley. In his next start, In Secret debuted a winner for Ron Burke in a $42,000 overnight August 13 before winning his first local Open in Brennan’s characteristic wire-to-wire style in his next try the following week. In Secret wired the field in another Open August 27 before showing a different dimension when he won his third Open in first-over fashion September 16. In Secret won his most recent start at the Open level on the lead September 30. With his success, the son of Deweycheatumnhowe’s earnings have swelled to $354,385. “He’s done everything I could ask. I’ve raced him on the lead. A couple weeks ago, I had to drop in fourth, I raced him first-over. He came first-over and won that race,” Brennan explained. “He’s done everything I’ve asked of him so far and he’s responded to it. He’s pretty solid. He knows the track, he gets over the track perfect.” Making In Secret’s win streak even more impressive, two of his victories came from post six, another three came from post seven, and one came from the far outside. In Secret’s first two wins came at the 1 1/4-mile distance of the International Trot. Brennan also drove In Secret to victory in a 10-furlong overnight from an outside post earlier this year. “He’s good, he’s solid, he’s professional. He makes my job easy,” Brennan said. “I raced him earlier in the year for Noel Daley and he won that race also. I left for the lead, but somebody pounced. He sat the two-hole and he won easily. He’s versatile.” In Secret’s impressive feats haven’t come without a price. The difficulty of dealing with outside assignments week after week means In Secret never gets an easy race or trip; he earns every win, Brennan explained. “He’s got to work hard. Every week he does win is work,” he said. “That’s the only thing. It makes it tough going into (the International) because he’s had no cupcakes. Every race is work for him because of the post positions. But it is what it is and he’s overcome them, so let’s hope the success continues.” In Secret will get a final start in before the International Trot in this week’s $50,000 Open Handicap Trot, carded as race six Saturday night. In Secret will start from post eight, and Brennan doesn’t intend to pamper the gelding a week before the biggest race of his career. “I’m going into that race, it’s a $50,000 Open, that’s a heck of a purse, and I’m still trying to win it. We’ll go forward, try and get him involved, if not on the lead, involved somewhat, and we’re going in to win,” he said. “Definitely not racing him easy going in. When horses are good and horses are sharp, you’ve got to race them. That’s how you keep them sharp.” Looking ahead to the International Trot, Brennan hopes to draw a post position in the first tier where In Secret can have his nose on the gate. Although he isn’t sure how the presence of seven European horses and drivers will change the dynamics of the race, he is confident in his horse and his own ability on his home oval. “A lot of it is going to have to do with the post positions. I’ve never raced in Europe before. I’ve watched those guys race here before,” he said. “I’d like to draw a good post position and you know what, the European drivers are going to have to worry about me if I get a good post position. “He’s been pretty much automatic, push-button and I just hope it continues. Whatever the case may be, I know he’s going to give me a good race,” Brennan continued. “Whatever it is in the International, I know he’ll give me a good, solid race and that’s all I can ask for.” More International Trot invitees will be featured as the race draws closer. The $1 million Yonkers International Trot will be raced Saturday, October 14 at Yonkers Raceway. For more information, visit www.internationaltrot.com. Please note; Yonkers Raceway has set a 12 Noon first post for the Oct. 29th return of Sunday matinee.. The remaining five Sundays between then and the rest of the season are TBA. The card of Oct. 29th includes seven 'French' added-distance, overflow field trots, going as races 2 through 8. The 12-race card has a scheduled last post of 5:05 PM. Information regarding the return of that day's 'New York, New York Double' shall be sent when available.    NEW YORK DAY OF CHAMPIONS AND CONSOLATION RACES NOTE Yonkers Raceway and the New York Sire Stakes are reminding horsemen who have qualified for either Yonkers’ New York Day of Champions (to be held Saturday afternoon, Oct. 14th) or the consolation event (to be held at Monticello Raceway, Monday afternoon, Oct. 16th)  that all entries are due in Yonkers’ race office this Monday, Oct. 9th. Entry box closes promptly at 4 PM. Both series races shall be drawn Monday (Oct. 9th ) by Yonkers. For more information, please contact the Raceway’s (that would be Yonkers) race office at (914) 457-2627.     by Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

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