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YONKERS, N.Y. - Junior Guelpa has traveled New York City in the past, but his next trip to the Big Apple will be nothing like his previous visits. The French trainer and driver will bring trotting mare Bahia Quesnot across the Atlantic to compete in the Yonkers International Trot. The $1 million stakes, slated for Saturday, Oct. 12, will be Guelpa’s first time competing in the United States. “I want to see the Statue of Liberty again,” Guelpa said with a laugh last Saturday (Sept. 7) at Hippodrome de Vincennes. “No, seriously, it's a privilege to be able to participate in such a big race in the United States. “I have never had a chance to drive there and I do not know Yonkers, but I went to the United States and to New York City on holidays, to take some rest,” Guelpa continued. “There, it will not be the same. But I can't wait.” Guelpa’s excitement about the trip ahead was bolstered by Bahia Quesnot’s second-place finish in the Group 2 European Trotting Masters Series Final. Guelpa sent the 8-year-old straight to the lead at the start of the 2,700-meter stakes, beating Bold Eagle and Queer Fish to the top as the field exited the chute and joined the big track at the Paris racecourse. Racing into the stretch the first time, Bold Eagle and Björn Goop glided up on the outside and took the lead, crossing over to the pylons in front of Bahia Quesnot. However, Mindyourvalue W.F. and Bel Avis ranged up on the outside and peeled away in a speed duel. Soon, Bahia Quesnot found herself four back along the pylons and pinned in. Racing up the backstretch, Bahia Quesnot kept her nose pressed to Goop’s helmet and raced just to Propulsion’s inside. When the Swedish star tipped three-wide nearing the final turn, Guelpa yanked on the right line and slid out, looking to keep Bold Eagle jailed. However, as Queer Fish back peddled on the rim, Guelpa dove back to the pylons. With Queer Fish fading, Bold Eagle slid out and Bahia Quesnot followed the champion’s move. Guelpa angled Bahia Quesnot four-wide into the lane outside of Propulsion and for the first time in the race, the driver became animated. He leaned forward in the bike, prodding and swiping at his mare with the whip in his right hand and hitting the sulky shaft. While rival Cleangame made a break in the final 200 meters, Propulsion inherited the lead, but Bahia Quesnot kept coming as her driver kept asking. Although Propulsion’s nose hit the finish first, Bahia Quesnot was just a head behind. She trotted out past the post well ahead of the field. “Fantastic,” Guelpa exclaimed after the race. “Once again, she was great. She was the fastest horse in the race over three sections so it's fantastic. She recovered so easily too. I turned around after the post, I went back to the clubhouse and by the time she headed to the stables, she was breathing normally. She’s amazing.” By multiple Group 1 winner Scipion du Goutier out of the Install mare Queen Ines, Bahia Quesnot was bred by Alain Léon Lefebvre and is owned by Tahar Ait-Hamouda. Bahia Quesnot began her career in Cédric Herserant’s stable, winning six races including the Group 3 Grand National du Trot in 2016. However, after a 35-race losing streak, the mare found her way to Guelpa. “I had befriended her owner during a trip to Norway, where we each had a horse to run. We met there and got along pretty well,” Guelpa said. “A few years later, the mare needed a change of scenery. That's when she was sent to me.” Bahia Quesnot made her first start for Guelpa in the Group 3 Grand Prix de Noel at Cagnes-sur-Mer December 23, 2018. She won at first asking with her new conditioner in the sulky. “I knew she was already very good because she had achieved great performances. At work, she quickly became very good too,” Guelpa said. “She won straight out at Cagnes-sur-Mer. She’s not that good in the winter, but I was lucky that she’s still improving. “She has got her ways; she is a lady you know,” Guelpa said. “But she is kind and endearing. The people who care for her are in love with her. My sister Paola and Christophe Ceccareli take care of her on a daily basis.” Although Bahia Quesnot finished ninth second time out for Guelpa in the Prix Ourasi at Cagnes-sur-Mer January 3, Guelpa entered the mare back in the Group 2 Grand Prix de Belgique at Vincennes 10 days later. She finished second in the “B” race, punching her ticket to the Grand Prix d’Amérique in the process. Bahia Quesnot finished 10th in France’s biggest trotting race and after thirds in Group 1 company in the Grand Criterium de Vitesse Nice-Matin and Olympiatravet and a win in a Gold Division leg this spring, took a shot in the Elitloppet. Although she finished sixth in her Elitloppet elimination and didn’t advance to the final, Guelpa, who has 239 training victories since launching his career in 2012, was thankful to compete on such big stages. “It is fantastic to already have a horse of her class in your stable for a little trainer like me,” he said. “It's a privilege. She has allowed me to take part in the most beautiful races.” Since the Elitloppet, Bahia Quesnot has been the runner up in five grouped stakes: the Oslo Grand Prix, the Grand Prix de la Ville de Cagnes-sur-Mer, the Prix Maharajah, the Grand Prix du Département des Alpes-Maritimes, and the European Trotting Masters Final. Although her earnings swelled to 878,346€ from 84 starts, making her the richest horse Guelpa has trained, the defeats can be disappointing. “It's frustrating, that's for sure. But you know, the most important thing is that she continues to progress and repeat her best form,” Guelpa said. “I would prefer to be second six times rather than win once and not see her again. Sometimes, she didn’t miss by much, like the last time in Vincennes.” Guelpa will bring Bahia Quesnot to New York to represent France in the World Cup of trotting, the 10-furlong Yonkers International Trot. After she endured long land-based travel across Europe, Guelpa is confident about the trans-Atlantic flight. He is also confident about Bahia Quesnot adapting to the half-mile track at Yonkers based on her performance on the five-eighths ovals in Sweden. “The trip does not worry me because it will take less time to go to the United States than to go to Sweden. To race in Scandinavia, she had to stand 26 hours in a truck,” Guelpa said. “(The half-mile track) will not be a problem because she has shown that she is able to cope in Sweden. In addition, (the race) will be over a mile-and-a-quarter, so it will be perfect for her.” Once extended an official invitation by the race office, Bahia Quesnot will join defending Yonkers International Trot winner and Swedish representative Cruzado Dela Noche and Hambletonian winner Atlanta, who will race for the United States, as confirmed starters for the storied stakes. The remaining invitees will be announced over the coming weeks. Both Atlanta and Bahia Quesnot will vie to become the ninth mare to win the International. Bahia Quesnot looks to join 13 previous French winners of the International. “It's a great opportunity, a challenge and a reward,” Guelpa said. “There are many ways to look at things, but one thing is certain: it's fantastic, especially since I just settled with my horses on the training center of Grosbois to try to improve my career again and this race could also help me to reach new heights.” The $1 million Yonkers International Trot is slated for Saturday, October 12 at Yonkers Raceway. The card will also feature a pair of $250,000 invitationals, the Harry Harvey Trot and Dan Rooney Pace. For more information on the event and its participants, click here. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – San Domino’s United States harness racing debut went according to plan for trainer Andrew Harris. The Australian import started in a $17,500 overnight at Pocono Downs Aug. 17 and with George Napolitano Jr. in the sulky, tracked from fourth until the field reached the backstretch the final time. Napolitano picked up cover nearing the final turn and San Domino hit his best stride. With his driver horizontal in the bike and with a good hold of the lines, San Domino advanced into a 1:21.4 three-quarter split set by Rebellious. Turning into the stretch, Napolitano kicked out the plugs, angled three-wide, and went to a right-handed whip. San Domino pinned his ears back, extended, and glided past the pacesetter to score by a half-length in 1:49.1. “He was pretty impressive,” Harris said. “He got a perfect drive, George ‘Nap’ did an awesome job, got him a second-over trip. You know because it’s Pocono that you’re going to go fast. You can only put so much stock into a fast mile at Pocono on a nice, sunny day, but it was a good mile to see what he had, and he exploded home. “When he tipped him, he really did have a nice turn of foot, so he did everything that he was supposed to do and he looked great doing it and he came out of the race great,” Harris continued. “There wasn’t anything more to dwell on, it was just, OK, now where’s the limit, where’s the bottom on this horse and where are we going to find that?” By Somebeachsomewhere out of the Maple Lanes Strike mare Reggae Miss, San Domino went 14-for-51 in Australia from February 2016 to May 2019. Although he failed to make an impression in nine tries in grouped stakes company, San Domino earned $140,187 Australian and took a mark of 1:52.2 at Melton April 12, 2019. San Domino attracted the attention of Joe Pennacchio and Steve Oldford, who bought the 6-year-old gelding, imported him to the United States, and sent him to Jenn Bongiorno. After one qualifier for that stable July 30, the owners transferred San Domino to Harris and the new conditioner started dreaming. “It was the question of whether or not he was as good as None Bettor, or better,” Harris said. “It was that kind of mentality with him. I don’t know that they can compare them, but he is definitely a very nice horse, that’s for sure.” When he arrived in the barn, San Domino proved to have a big personality. “He goes out in the field with the Kiwi horses, loves his field time. He’s got a little quirk to him, he’s got a little bit of sass to him, but nothing serious,” Harris said. “In the barn, he’s great. His caretaker, Jamie, takes great care of him and loves him and he clearly loves her. He plays around a lot, but he lets you know he’s got a little attitude. He’s not all just friendly. If you get too close, he’ll let you pet him for about five seconds then all the sudden, he lets you know that’s enough.” On the track, San Domino takes his time, but Harris obliges the talented pacer’s laid-back training style. “On the track, it takes an extra 10 minutes to jog him than any other horse in the barn. Very lazy horse, just does everything at his own pace,” Harris said. “We let him get away with that, it keeps him happy. Training, he picks up the bit a little bit. He’s still not super aggressive, but he lets you know he’s got a little bit of a hold of you.” After his sparkling debut at Pocono, Harris brought San Domino to a $30,000 Yonkers overnight August 24. Starting from post three, Jason Bartlett put the gelding on the lead. Although he went gate-to-wire, he won by a neck in 1:52.2 as Rodeo Rock appeared to give San Domino all he could handle in the stretch. However, Harris thinks there is more in the tank. “He was actually a little bit sick and I don’t think his game is front-end. He’s just not used to being on the front-end. Most of his races down under were coming from off the pace,” Harris said. “I had an open bridle on him and Jason said his ears were going back and forth because he was looking at everything. I think it would have been more impressive last week if he wasn’t on the front because he would have been concentrating.” Harris added a hood with eye cups and San Domino responded well to them in training. He will start with the change of equipment in Saturday night’s $46,000 Open Handicap Pace. “It will be different this week because we’re adding a hood with eye cups to him so he can focus a little bit more on what’s in front of him and not what’s beside him,” Harris said. “Jason said even finishing, he wasn’t done at all, he was just looking at everything and he didn’t know what he was doing. It was almost like he was green up front. When you’ve got him on a helmet, he’s got a nice hold at the end and he lets you know he’s ready to explode whenever you want it. On the front was a totally different animal, and I wasn’t expecting that.” San Domino will start from post five in his first local Open try, just outside of Theartofconfusion, who established a new standard at Yonkers last week. The fellow Australian-bred pacer went to the front in race 11 on the Yonkers Trot and Messenger undercard, a $30,000 overnight. With Austin Siegelman in the bike for trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera, Theartofconfusion streaked through fractions of :26.2, :54.2, and 1:21.3 before kicking away in the stretch to win by 10 lengths in 1:49.3, logging the first sub-1:50 mile in the history of the Hilltop oval. “I think the way the Yonkers track is, it was going to break 1:50 sooner or later. The track is so good right now, I knew that kind of speed would be coming, didn’t know when, but it sure came the other night,” Harris said. “I’m surprised it came in a late race, not in the early races. That horse is a good horse, Gilbert does a fantastic job his with horses. Nothing surprises me with speed at Yonkers. When you shake a loose lead and you can keep carrying your speed. The horse obviously finished up strong. Those type of horses love to do that when they can shake loose.” The six-pack of pacers in the Saturday co-feature also include last week’s Preferred Pace winner Mickey Gee, who will start from the outside for Lance Hudson, last week’s Open runner up I’m Some Graduate, who will start from an assigned post two for George Brennan and Ron Burke, and The Real One, winner of the Open in two of his last five tries. Benhope Rulz completes the lineup. “I hope that we’re not on the front,” Harris said of San Domino. “I don’t ever tell Jason how to drive, but I can’t see Austin taking back. I have to think off that mile, that Austin will be going forward. I think we’ll be off the pace, but who knows once the gate folds. “I definitely think if we manage him properly, he’ll be a Levy horse next year,” Harris said. “He’s going to be a fun horse. We just have to keep him healthy, happy, and sound and he’ll do the rest.” Saturday night’s card also features the weekly $46,000 Open Handicap Trot and the $37,000 4-Year-Old Open Handicap Pace. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Quincy Blue Chip is a rare type to find for sale. Blue Chip Farms bred the Chapter Seven daughter out of the Cantab Hall mare Sirenuse and the filly accomplished big things for her breeder and owner. At 2, Quincy Blue Chip won four legs of the New York Sire Stakes for trotting fillies and placed in another three before finishing second to Winndevie in the $225,000 Final at Yonkers last September. At 3, Quincy Blue Chip returned to sweep the elimination and $209,500 final of the Empire Breeders’ Classic for sophomore trotting fillies at Vernon Downs May 17 and 27, respectively. She then rattled off another two wins and two seconds in New York bred stakes in the barn of Gareth Dowse, including a 1:53.2 lifetime best score at Tioga July 14. One day later, Quincy Blue Chip sold to Rich Banca in an online auction for $335,000. “She’s a good horse. You don’t see horses like her where you’re able to buy them very often, if ever,” Banca said. “I bought her on OnGait. I saw her race, but I didn’t see her in person before. It’s very hard to find good horses and she’s a good horse. She came up for sale and I bought her.” When Quincy Blue Chip arrived at Banca’s stable and the trainer finally laid eyes on her, he was impressed. “I loved her. She’s beautiful. She’s just a perfectly built horse,” Banca said. “She’s really good-looking. She looked really healthy; she was well taken care of. I couldn’t ask for more.” Quincy Blue Chip debuted for Banca and co-owners Barbara and Jim Boese in a $118,800 leg of NYSS at Monticello July 29. Starting from post two, the filly led at every call and posted a 1 3/4-length victory in 1:56.2. Quincy Blue Chip then returned to Vernon Downs Aug. 8 for another NYSS leg. Starting from post seven, driver Jim Morrill, Jr. had the whip on the filly’s tail leaving the gate in a bid to secure the early lead. However, Sweet Chapter and Sensibility left to Quincy Blue Chip’s inside and Woodside Charm blasted to her outside. Barreling three wide into the first turn, Quincy Blue Chip made a rare break in stride before a :26.2 opening quarter. Despite the miscue, which left her eighth 9 1/4 lengths behind, Quincy Blue Chip recovered to finish fourth. “Jimmy said they were just flying into that turn and it’s just something that happened. I don’t think there was any real reason for it, they were just going that fast. It just happened; she made a mistake,” Banca said. “I don’t think that was her fault, I just think she got pushed a little hard into the turn,” Banca continued. “I think she was really good even after she made a break. She came back to finish fourth. If that didn’t happen, I don’t think they could have beat her.” Quincy Blue Chip’s next effort gives credence to Banca’s high opinion of the filly. She went to Batavia Aug. 23 and streaked to a 2-length win over Winndevie in a track-record 1:55.4 mile. Quincy Blue Chip’s 11th win in 20 starts boosted her earnings to $525,387. “She was super. Jimmy said she was just unbelievable. She was great,” Banca said. Off her latest win, Banca feels Quincy Blue Chip has earned a chance to compete in open company stakes. She will do so for the first time at Yonkers Raceway Saturday night (Aug. 31) when she starts in the $124,334 Hudson Trot. Quincy Blue Chip drew post five in the first of four stakes on the card and will again have Morrill in the sulky.  “I just think she’s good enough. I think she’s good enough for it. It’s close to home and I wouldn’t miss it,” Banca said. “There’s good horses in there. It’s not going to be easy, but I think if she gets a good trip and nothing unfortunate happens, I think she’ll be fine.” Quincy Blue Chip is the 3-2 morning line favorite, but will have six challengers. Joe Holloway’s Starita will make her first start on a half-mile track. She won in the Reynolds at the Meadowlands July 6 and enters off a third in the $135,000 Zweig Memorial at Vernon Aug. 17. Jezzy’s Legacy posted a 4-length win in the Stallion Series at the Meadows Aug. 19 and drew the inside post in the Hudson Trot. Magical Beliefs won in the Arden Downs Stakes at the Meadows July 27 and enters the Hudson Trot off a third in Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Aug. 19. Sexy Wow, Golden Tricks, and Personal Paradise complete the lineup. For Banca, a win with Quincy Blue Chip on the Grand Circuit at Yonkers would be especially meaningful. Leading trainer at Yonkers in 2017 and third in the current standings with 80 wins in 544 starts, the Hilltop is Banca’s home track. Banca was also introduced to the Boeses through an SOA of NY program. “It would be unbelievable for me, especially since it’s at Yonkers where I race. The owners are great people and I would love to win the race for them,” Banca said. “The first horse I got for them was one of those French trotters (Adagio de la Tour). They called me up about getting one of those and it’s really just worked out. They own Weslynn Dancer and a lot of nice horses. They’re great owners and friends and it’s worked out great for us.” Saturday night’s card also features the $500,000 Messenger Stakes Final, the $500,000 Yonkers Trot, and the $122,224 Lady Maud. The $46,000 Open Handicap Pace supports the stakes-laden 12-race card. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. First post time is 6:50 p.m.  By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Trillions Hanover will have a big harness racing crowd rooting for her in Saturday night’s Lady Maud at Yonkers, and not only because she is the 7-5 morning line favorite in the $122,224 stakes. Trillions Hanover is owned by VIP Internet Stable and a number of partners who are new to the game own her through the fractional ownership group. “We’ve got several newer partners on her,” said Ed O’Connor, VIP Stable’s founder and Managing Partner. “We ended up getting several folks who are not our normal big hitters and they have been ecstatic with her. She’s been a fun horse all the way around and it’s not often you get a horse that’s first or second six-out-of-seven times as a 2-year-old, races huge as a 3-year-old, puts in a good mile just about every single time. She’s been really, really popular with our partnership group.” In addition to VIP Stable’s fractional owners, principal partners Falcon Racing and Paul Lang co-own the filly. A $20,000 yearling at the 2017 Harrisburg sale for trainer Tom Fanning, Trillions Hanover went 4-for-7 at 2, winning the $40,000 Pennsylvania Stallion Series Final at Harrah’s Philadelphia last September. This year at 3, Trillions Hanover has competed in a host of Grand Circuit events, including the Fan Hanover, Lynch, Mistletoe Shalee, and the Shady Daisy. She’s earned $130,968. “It is the absolute best advertising we can possibly have. Seeing a fractional ownership group is involved in these big races really gives credibility to what we’re doing,” O’Connor said. “It shows that we’re able to pick out good horses and put partners in a spot where they can have a lot of fun.  “And we really appreciate when it happens with a horse we bought as a yearling. There’s been several horses who we’ve done really well with, but they’ve been high-dollar purchases, we kind of already knew they were really good,” O’Connor continued. “In situations like that, you’re kind of in a no-win situation; if you do well, you were supposed to do well, if you do bad, you look really bad. This is the opposite. Yearlings, you just never know and when they turn out to do pretty good, it’s just really exciting.” Although Trillions Hanover’s two victories this season came in overnights at the Meadowlands, the Somebeachsomewhere daughter has been competitive on the Grand Circuit. She made the Fan Hanover Final with a third in her elimination at Mohawk June 8 and finished second in the Lynch Consolation at Pocono June 29. However, her biggest performance came on the Hambletonian Day undercard. Off a lifetime best 1:50 win at the Meadowlands July 26, Trillions Hanover started as a 15-1 shot in the Shady Daisy Aug. 3. Starting from the inside, she saved ground as the pace developed and stormed home with a :25.1 final quarter to finish second by a neck to Tall Drink Hanover in a 1:48.0 mile.  “That was super. All year, we knew she was really good, still maturing, has a ton of speed, and seems to have a really good late kick,” O’Connor said. “For whatever reason, we just had never been able to get a really good trip with her. When she was coming off cover, the pace had been slow. One or two times she had been on the front, she went really fast fractions, so we never really had a shot where things were going her way until Hambletonian Day. “She was able to sit in, let a lot of the horses mix it up, up front and she came flying at the end,” O’Connor continued. “I thought she was going to get home and in that kind of time, a 48-mile is huge. Coming home in :25.1, I don’t recall having a horse that’s done that before. It was really exciting, and we were really thrilled with what she did. It’s a good testament to how good she is and how good of a job Tom Fanning has done with her so far.” Trillions Hanover comes into the Lady Maud off two defeats in Pennsylvania Sire Stakes behind star filly Warrawee Ubeaut. Although Trillions Hanover has never raced on a half-mile track, O’Connor said it wasn’t by design and thinks she will handle it well. “I think it’s a coincidence. She’s not a huge horse, so I think she’ll fit in there fine. She’s Pennsylvania sired and she raced a light season last year, so there was really no reason to head over to Yonkers and she’s actually pretty lightly raced this year,” O’Connor said. “This is our first opportunity to head over there and we’re looking at her possibly being a good horse for Yonkers if we end up keeping her next year. That’s just a good spot to make money and if she’s as good on a half-mile track as we think she’s going to be, we think that’s really going to be a good spot for her.” George Brennan will drive Trillions Hanover for the first time in the Lady Maud and the pair will start from post four. Their five rivals include JK American Beauty, who is 3-1 from post one and enters with two wins and another four placings in New York Sire Stakes company this year.  Bestseller Hanover won the Lismore Pace earlier this year for Jason Bartlett and Scott Blacker. She was ninth in the Shady Daisy and won a $17,000 overnight at Pocono last out and is 4-1 from post five. Blue Ivy will start from post two and ships in from Kentucky after off the board finishes in Sire Stakes from tough post positions. Annie Hill and Abuelita Hanover complete the lineup. “It’s kind of an unusual situation. We’ve raced her three times in Sire Stakes and we’ve gotten beat by the best 3-year-old filly in the country and then we got to a more prestigious race like the Lady Maud and we’re pretty significantly down in class,” O’Connor said. “Not that there’s any bad horses in here at all, but there’s no Warrawee Ubeaut in here.  “So, we think it’s a tough race, she’s got to race well, but she’s been racing against the very best 3-year-old fillies in the country in just about every start this year. If she can work herself out a trip, we hope we can come away with a big check at the end,” O’Connor continued. O’Connor hopes to add another Yonkers stakes victory to VIP Stable’s resume. The group co-owned two-time George Morton Levy Series winner Keystone Velocity. “We love racing at Yonkers. We probably race at Yonkers as much as any place,” O’Connor said. “That’s been one of the tracks we’ve looked at as the place we want to go, even back when they were just starting to get the slots there. It’s a prestigious track, this is a prestigious race, and we’re really excited to be in there.” Saturday night’s card also features the $500,000 Messenger Stakes Final, the $500,000 Yonkers Trot, and the $124,334 Hudson Filly Trot. The $46,000 Open Handicap Pace supports the stakes-laden 12-race card. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.  By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Wisdom Tree’s first three starts at Yonkers all yielded the same results. The then 2-year-old filly started from outside posts and make breaks late in her miles, failing to earn a check in New York Sire Stakes company, including the $225,000 final October 14, 2017. Since that race, the Betterthancheddar daughter is perfect at the Hilltop in four tries and made amends for her freshman defeat with a 1 1/2-length score in the NYSS final for 3-year-old pacing fillies last fall. Wisdom Tree will look to run her Yonkers streak to five when she starts in the $46,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Friday night. It will be the Jeff Cullipher-trainee’s first start in the Yonkers distaff feature. “I think she gets over (Yonkers) very well,” Cullipher said. “She’s just really easy. She can leave, she’s very versatile, she can do anything. She’s great-gaited, that helps. She’s just a medium to small horse, she does everything right for a half-mile track.” Wisdom Tree went 11-for-18 last year and earned $436,111 for Cullipher and co-owner Tom Pollack. The pair bought Wisdom Tree out of the 2016 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale for $28,000. Out of the Artsplace mare Wisdom, Wisdom Tree caught Pollack’s eye as a half-sibling to Rich Wisdom. “Me and Tom Pollack, we go (to the sale) with a budget and she was within that. Tom actually had a brother to her and that’s how we originally noticed her,” Cullipher said. “We always try to get a couple of New York breds, we like the New York Sire Stakes. That wasn’t our forte, but we knew eventually we would branch out that way.” Cullipher, leading trainer at Hoosier Park in 2017 and 2018 and currently topping the standings, has branched out east as intended. He has about 20 horses at White Birch Farm in New Jersey and Wisdom Tree now races out of his stable when she treks east, having previously gone to Ed Hart. “Before, we would only send two, three out and we always sent them to Ed and everything always worked out good. Now, I’m enlarging my stable of my own,” Cullipher said. After Wisdom Tree’s NYSS final win last September, Cullipher took her to the Red Mile where she finished second a division of the Tattersalls in 1:48.2 October 6. She raced three more times through October 26, but only mustered two thirds and a fifth. Cullipher decided to give the filly a break. “We got pretty tough on her. We took her to Lexington and she went a huge mile, paced 48-and-2. That took a lot out of her,” Cullipher said. “We raced her a couple more times and she just wasn’t herself. She’s been good to us, so we just gave her extended time off and tried to shoot for this year.” Wisdom Tree returned with victories a pair of qualifiers at Hoosier Park in early May. Although she’s now 4, Cullipher sees much the same filly he did working with her at 2.  “She’s actually still the same today as she was training her down as a baby,” Cullipher said. “She never did anything flashy, but always did everything right. That’s still her today.” Wisdom Tree started 2019 posting a :25.3 final quarter to finish second in a distaff open at Hoosier Park May 22. She won her next start in 1:50.4 in the same class a week later, but made a break next out June 8. “She laid over those horses. The night she made a break, she came from last and was blowing right by them, but she did it coming off the turn and I think she was just going so fast she took a little dive in and overpaced herself,” Cullipher said. Wisdom Tree returned to her winning ways in her next start June 22, taking another Hoosier distaff feature in 1:50.4. After a local win in a $30,000 overnight July 5, Cullipher took Wisdom Tree to the Grand Circuit.  Wisdom Tree finished ninth with a tough trip in the Golden Girls July 13, fifth in the Lady Liberty while individually timed in 1:48.0 on Hambletonian Day, and fourth in the Artiscape in her last outing August 18. Year to date, she’s 3-for-9 with $62,971 earned. “Obviously, she’s made good money, but she’s just a tick below what she needs to be to really compete with Shartin and Caviart Ally. We’ll continue to give her a chance. She’s not getting embarrassed,” Cullipher said. “The money’s not on her card like we would like for it to be. That’s why when we can, we’re going to hit spots like Yonkers and hopefully we can do OK going for good enough money there to get some money on her card." In her return to Yonkers, Wisdom Tree will start from post two and face six rivals. Unlike in her 2- and 3-year-old seasons when she had 13 different drivers, Cullipher has tried to keep a consistent presence in the bike this year. Sam Widger drove in each Midwest start while Dexter Dunn got the call in her last three starts on the East Coast. Dunn will drive again Friday night. “I liked when Dexter called and said he would come and drive. It made me feel a lot better that he had the confidence in her,” Cullipher said. “That’s made things a lot easier this year. She’s been so easy, and easy to drive, so everybody seems to get along with her.” Apple Bottom Jeans is also dropping out of stakes company for trainer Dylan Davis. She finished second in the Rainbow Blue June 28, third in the Golden Girls, second in the Barton at Plainridge July 28, and paced 1:47.4 when fourth in the Lady Liberty. She is 5-for-18 this year with $272,015 earned and will start from post six with Corey Callahan in the sulky.  Alexa’s Power won this Open in her last start two weeks ago and drew immediately outside of Wisdom Tree for Jim Marohn, Jr. and Jim Campbell. Last week’s winner Betterb Chevron landed post four after starting from the seven last out. Jordan Stratton has the return call for Lance Hudson. Miss You was second to Betterb Chevron last week, but drew post seven this time. Feelin Red Hot was third behind Alexa’s Power and Dibaba in her last outing and will start from post five for George Brennan and Ron Burke. Nine-year-old mare Mach It A Par will start from an assigned post one. “I’m going to leave it in Dexter’s hands, but I think it’s going to work out very well. She’s versatile enough that she can do whatever she needs to do and I have the confidence in Dexter to have her in the right spot,” Cullipher said. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. First post time is 6:50 p.m.  By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Rodeo Rock will make his first start since June 30 when he races in the $46,000 Open Handicap Pace at Yonkers Raceway Saturday night. The 6-year-old was in the midst of his best season to date for trainer Robert Cleary before suffering from minor setbacks in the beginning of the summer. Rodeo Rock’s big 2019 season began at the end of his 2018 campaign. Although the Rock N Roll Heaven son had six wins on the season by last November, his victories had come in mid-level conditions and he didn’t make an impression with two fourth-place finishes in legs of the Levy Series last spring.  Rodeo Rock’s breakthrough came in a $29,000 overnight at Yonkers November 17. Rodeo Rock utilized a :27.2 final quarter to come from off the pace and score by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:53. Two weeks later, he returned to claim his first victory in the $44,000 Open Handicap Pace by three-quarters of a length in 1:52.4. “He was super sharp,” Cleary recalled. “He won a non-winners of 30 event at Yonkers last November. Brian Sears drove him, and he was actually fifth at the top of the stretch and he won going away and Brian never touched him with the whip. You don’t normally do that in non-winners of 30 at Yonkers. In his next start, he won the Open at Yonkers. It wasn’t just the start of this year, he finished off the end of last year very sharp.” After some time off over the winter, Cleary brought Rodeo Rock back in a Meadowlands qualifier this February, which he won in 1:53.1. The gelding proved he was still sharp in winning his first pari-mutuel start of the year March 2. “He got a break at Christmas and came back and qualified late February,” Cleary said. “He was super sharp, the sharpest he’d ever been. He won his first start at the Meadowlands, took a life mark of 49-and-4, swooped the field from last to first.” Rodeo Rock then came to the Levy Series at Yonkers. He captured divisions of the first two legs of the series March 16 and 23 before finishing third and second in subsequent legs March 30 and April 13, respectively.  Rodeo Rock drew post six in the $664,000 Levy Final April 20 and despite racing seventh 10 lengths off the pace at the quarter with Andrew McCarthy in the sulky, rallied to finish second 4 3/4 lengths behind Western Fame. Rodeo Rock earned $166,000 for his runner up placing, more than the $136,350 he banked in 28 starts last year. “It was a great feeling. I thought the horse deserved to be second because I thought he was the second-best horse in the series,” Cleary said. “No doubt about it, Western Fame was the best horse in the series. I would have loved to have sat on Western Fame’s back in the final and seen if we could’ve had a shot at him from the two hole instead of sitting seventh at the half.  “My horse was racing good and he deserved to be second there,” Cleary continued. “It was very exciting. It was great to race for that kind of money and it was great to pick up a purse like we did. It’s a great series when you have a sharp horse.” Cleary has trained Rodeo Rock since 2017 when the pacer still fit the non-winners of six condition at Yonkers. He praised driver Eric Goodell for helping develop Rodeo Rock.  “I have to give a lot of credit to Eric Goodell,” Cleary said. “He drove him a lot at 4, he raced him in the 4-year-old Open at Yonkers. He did a good job with him. He raced him the way he was supposed to race him. When he was in the right spot, he got him on the front or first-up. And when he was meant to ride the fence, he rode the fence. I think he did a good job in bringing the horse along. “He was an immature big horse that had some soundness issues at 2 and 3,” Cleary continued. “When he developed into a 4-year-old, he just became a bigger, sounder, stronger horse.” After the Levy Series, Rodeo Rock went to Pennsylvania to compete in the Great Northeast Open Pacing Series. He won a leg at in a lifetime best 1:49.0 at Pocono May 18 and followed it with a second in the Commodore Barry Invitational at Harrah’s Philadelphia May 26. However, when Cleary shipped Rodeo Rock to Northfield Park for the Battle of Lake Erie June 8, the horse finished up the track beaten 29 lengths. “He’s actually a really calm, relaxed horse, but he just can’t handle shipping,” Cleary said. “He shipped out there, I thought he was OK. He made no noise in the trailer, drank a little bit on the way out. But when he came off the trailer out there, he was very, very uncomfortable. We did what we could to make him as comfortable as possible. The way he warmed up, I actually thought he was going to be OK, but in the stretch of the race, he didn’t want any part of it. I had a veterinarian check him out after the race and he actually had a touch of a gas colic.” Cleary gave Rodeo Rock a few weeks off to recover, but after a fifth and seventh in his next two starts at the end of June, Cleary stopped again. “He raced OK one start at Pocono after the break. I raced him once more at Chester and he was horrible. He wasn’t acting good, he wasn’t feeling good, so I sent him to the clinic,” Cleary said. “They scoped his stomach and he had ulcers. I gave him two weeks in the field and I treated him heavily for his stomach. He’s acting much better. “You just have to go back to the basics, let them be a horse, let them get back out into the field,” Cleary said. “They’ll rectify a lot of those problems themselves when they get out in the field.” Rodeo Rock returned in a qualifier over a sloppy track at Harrah’s Philadelphia August 6. He came from 8 1/2 lengths behind in fourth at the half to win by 2 1/4 in 1:55.2 with Goodell back in the bike. Despite the slow time, which Cleary attributed to the adverse conditions, the trainer was encouraged. “The biggest goal going into the qualifier was to braven him up and let him run down horses because that’s what he loves to do,” Cleary said. “It’s a little bit hard to get a reading on it because the weather was so bad. It was an absolute downpour, so I think it was hard for every horse to get around the track. Eric knows him pretty well and was happy with him. He said he was very strong, he was very pleased with him, so I’ll take his word on that.” Rodeo Rock drew post six for his return Saturday night and will be paired with Goodell again. Dr J Hanover is the 3-1 morning line favorite from post four off a nose loss on the front end in this class two weeks ago. Control Tower, who beat Dr J Hanover in that start, was sixth last week from post six, but drew post two this week and is 10-1 for Austin Siegelman and Nick Surick. Perfectly Close has been claimed three times in his last six starts and now trainer Michael Temming is bumping him up into the Open ranks. He will benefit from an assigned post one. The Real One was third in the Open last week and won it July 27; he will start from post five. Shneonucrzydiamnd, I’m Some Graduate, and Imarocnrollegend complete the lineup. “I know the horses that are in there and I want him driven the right way,” Cleary said of Rodeo Rock, who he plans to campaign at Yonkers and in Pennsylvania for the remainder of the year. “We can’t overdrive him when he’s been off for two months since his last start. I’ll be more than happy to let him race like he did in the Levy Final. Let him race from off the pace and pace home hard, hopefully he’s got some pace on the end of it. “It’s not even about a check, it’s about the horse racing good and finishing up strong.” Saturday’s card also features the $46,000 Open Trot and $46,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace.  Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. - Tristan Sjoberg distinctly recalls a trip to Ake Svanstedt's stable in March 2018 when he visited his 2- and 3-year-olds in training. Before he left the barn, Svanstedt pulled out Six Pack. The freshman New York Sire Stakes Champion the previous fall hadn't embarked on his sophomore season yet, but Sjoberg loved what he saw. "He brought Six Pack out and said, 'take one good look, take one mental picture of this horse here right now, because this is the perfect conformation of a horse. This is the perfect horse,' " Sjoberg remembered. Sjoberg watched Six Pack's 3-year-old harness racing campaign with interest and soon, the entire trotting world followed. He won the Empire Breeder's Classic Final, the Stanley Dancer, the Yonkers Trot, the Kentucky Futurity, and the Matron and finished second in the Beal and the TVG Open Trot against older horses. By year's end, Six Pack's earnings swelled to $1,358,290 for owners Svanstedt, Jeff Gural's Little E, and Stall Kalmar. Six Pack also secured the Dan Patch Award for champion 3-year-old male trotter. Sjoberg got the opportunity to join the group this season and bought in under his stable Knutsson Trotting. "Jeff being a close friend and partner of mine, (Six Pack) was my favorite horse of the 3-year-olds and I was given an opportunity to buy into the horse earlier this year," Sjoberg said. "I thought it was great, so I took a piece of him and I'm very happy with that." Saturday night (August 10), Six Pack will return to Yonkers Raceway in the $46,000 Open Handicap Trot. Assigned post eight, the 4-year-old Muscle Mass son enters in the mist of a mixed season. Six Pack began his 2019 campaign with a 1:53.1 win in a $50,000 leg of the Graduate at the Meadowlands May 18. He was third to Crystal Fashion and Fiftydollarbill in the next leg June 8 and second to the latter rival in a third leg in a 1:50.2 mile June 21. Six Pack met Atlanta in the $250,000 Graduate Series Final July 6. He started from post nine and forged to the lead in a :54.2 half-mile, but lost to the Hambletonian winner by a neck while trotting 1:49.1 "I thought he was absolutely excellent considering where he was," Sjoberg said. "He wasn't meant to be 100 percent at that race. The Swedish trainers usually don't have them super ready at the beginning of the season, they do need a couple of tighteners and he is a big horse and we're expecting a long season. A lot of the big races are near the end of the season. "To beat Atlanta, you've got to get a good trip and you have to be 100 percent," Sjoberg continued. "He was probably 95 percent at the time. He wasn't quite enough and the form Atlanta was in was fantastic. It was a great race, one of my favorite races, even if we lost by a neck." Six Pack faced Atlanta and Crystal Fashion again the following week in the $450,000 Hambletonian Maturity. Starting from post 11, Six Pack got away seventh and was interfered with late in the 9-furlong stakes, finishing third behind his two rivals. Three weeks later on Hambletonian Day, Six Pack blasted from post nine in the $280,000 Cashman, but was tracked down late by Crystal Fashion and Guardian Angel As. "Six Pack is a big horse, he takes a bit of time to get going, and I think it's been a good season so far. I wouldn't call it a great one yet," Sjoberg said. "He's come back strong, he's had a lot of tough races, and particularly a lot of bad posts. He's been stuck on the outside, had a trailing post, he was interfered with, so he really hasn't had a lot of racing luck this year." Sjoberg, present for the difficult loss on North American harness racing's biggest day, felt the :26.3 first quarter compromised Six Pack. He also conceded the three weeks between races heading into the Cashman may have been too much. "I thought the first quarter really took a bit of sting out of him because he had to leave so hard from post nine to get to the front," Sjoberg said. "On those kind of days, no quarter is asked, no quarter is given. Nobody was letting anyone down to the rail. From post nine, there was just no hole to get to. He had to go to the front and I think that initially took the sting out of him. That whole first turn was a killer. "Three weeks in between races might not have been ideal from the Hambo Maturity to the Cashman," he continued. "In hindsight, maybe we should have thrown in one more race in between. I think that was a little on Ake's mind as well." With another three-week gap to Six Pack's next major target, the Maple Leaf Trot, Svanstedt aimed for a tightener and entered Six Pack in the local weekly trotting feature one week after Hambletonian Day. Besides the timing, Sjoberg also hopes Six Pack can make his case for a ticket to the $1 million Yonkers International Trot October 12. Atlanta has already accepted an invitation, and Sjoberg wants to see the rivalry continue. "The International Trot is one of the most absolutely important races for Swedish people. We don't even call it the International Trot, we call it the World Championship of harness racing, so that's really how important that race is for us Swedes," Sjoberg said. "I remember when I was at Roosevelt, I would get up early in the morning. It wasn't televised, but it would be on the radio. I would turn the radio on and listen to all those great races. I remember when one of my favorite horses won it (in 1987), Callit. Legolas, that was the first race he was beaten at when Ideal du Gazeau won. It's a very important race. "I'm super excited to have a horse that's in contention for this race," he continued. "I think with these kind of races, it's very important also to try and get not just the flag horses from abroad, but it's also important to look at the rivalries you have in North America at the time. You want to see those continue in the International Trot as well." Saturday's trotting feature also includes Eye Ofa Tiger As, who beat Will Take Charge last out July 27 and seeks a repeat win in the local Open Handicap from post seven. Weslynn Dancer's last Yonkers start resulted in an Open win and she returns after tries in the Armbro Flight, Cleveland Trotting Classic, and Spirit of Massachusetts Trot. She will start from post five. Tight Lines finished eighth in the Cashman and drew an advantageous post two dropping back into the Open. New Heaven, Cash Me Out, Lord Cromwell, and Such An Angel complete the lineup. Although Six Pack is likely to be a heavy favorite, Sjoberg isn't sure how the horse's trip will set up from the far outside post. Contrary to Six Pack's recent tactics, Sjoberg feels he is better off cover than on the lead. Six Pack's only loss at Yonkers from four starts came in a NYSS leg at 2 when he started from post eight. "I would love for him to get a helmet drive and get some cover and give the horse a breather and maybe attack with a quarter left to go. I would love some live cover, but whether that's possible or not, that's debatable," Sjoberg said. "Obviously from post eight, you either take him down immediately and hope you get good cover or you go to the front again. That's it," he continued. "There's some good horses there with Eye Ofa Tiger As, who's in the form of his life, and Weslynn Dancer, she's a very good mare. There's a couple of horses who are tough to beat on a half-mile track and know Yonkers. I think a lot will be decided in the first 50 yards." Saturday night's card also features the $46,000 Open Handicap Pace and $37,000 4-Year-Old Open Handicap Pace. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY  

YONKERS, N.Y. – Monday evening at Yonkers Raceway, Steve Starr gathered in the winner’s circle with about 30 of the track’s drivers, horsepeople, officials, and even the outrider. The group came together in recognition of Starr’s 47-year career at the track, which ended Monday as Starr announced his retirement. Growing up, Starr dreamed of becoming a Standardbred breeder and graduated from Delaware Valley College with a degree in animal husbandry. However, life guided him to Yonkers Raceway, where he took a job assisting Ed Parker and Richard O’Donnell in the race office in the mid-1970s. That job blossomed into a career and Starr soon became the track’s race secretary, a position he maintained through Monday.  Starr reflected on his career, the challenges facing the industry, and looked ahead to retired life with the SOA of NY’s Brandon Valvo Wednesday evening. BV: Congratulations on your career and on your retirement. How does it feel? SS: I’ve been retired for 24 hours and it feels great. I spent most of the day with my wife and my youngest grandchild, and I couldn’t be happier. I’m off on the right foot.  BV: They had a big ceremony in the winner’s circle for you. What was that like for you, how did you feel? SS: It was great. Over the course of the years, there have been so many great people in that winner’s circle and it really was a thrill to be down there. To have all those drivers and trainers and grooms and officials with me, I enjoyed it. BV: What made you decide now was the right time to call it a career? SS: Truthfully, I’ve put 47 years in and I’m going to be 70. I worked for the Rooneys my whole life, and it was great working for them and their family. They couldn’t have treated me any better over the period of 47-years and I have no regrets ever working for the Rooneys and (Vice President and COO) Bob Galterio. When MGM bought the place in late January, I just thought I was too old and too set in my ways to go forward with MGM and adjust to their changes. I spoke to my wife and I wanted to work until we got through the International Trot, but that’s two-and-a-half months away and we’d miss the whole summer, so I decided to get out now while the getting is good. BV: You mention the summer, do you have any plans coming up or anything you’re looking forward to? SS: Just staying local, I have a son and daughter. I live in Pleasantville, they moved to Pleasantville, with my grandchildren. I’m very happy right now. What my wife and I want to do is sell our house, we want to downsize, stay in Pleasantville. So, we have some work to do to keep us busy and once we do that, my new life will begin. This is still business. BV: How did you get involved in racing and how did you decide this was the career for you? SS: When I got out of college, I got the opportunity to work at some stud farms and I took that opportunity. I wanted to stay in the breeding business, that’s what my desire was early in my life. When I got to the farms, I felt they weren’t using me to the best of my abilities, so when an opportunity opened up at Yonkers, their assistant had moved on and I went down to interview for the job and I was very fortunate to start working for Ed Barker and the Rooney family. That was in 1974 and from there, my tutelage was under Ed Barker and Richard O’Donnell. In early 1977, I was given the job of race secretary and I was there in that position ever since. BV: What was it like when you first started working at Yonkers? What was the racetrack like back then? SS: It was great. It was $2 million a night in handle, good attendance. The work was outrageous, I never worked so hard. Ed Barker, he wasn’t a slave driver, but he was meticulous about how he wanted everything done. It was a tie and a coat when you went in to draw in the morning and then when you came back in the evening, it was a tie and a coat. There wasn’t a relaxed atmosphere back then, it was more business than anything else. The ABC system requires a lot more time than conditioned racing and that’s how I started. I worked that system until ’91 or ’92. It was a lot of work then; I can’t even tell you how much work. They days were 10, 12 hours, and those were good days. BV: You would spend a good portion of your day handicapping the horses and trying to classify them appropriately? SS: Yes, I learned that under Ed Barker and Richard O’Donnell. As an assistant, you work a little harder than most, but the whole system was different. You had to really watch those races pretty carefully so you could be sure about what you wanted to do. Move them up, move them down. These guys livelihoods were in your hands. It was important to do things right if you could. I liked it until Roosevelt closed and everyone was doing conditions except me. It was very difficult at that time to do ABC. When Roosevelt, was open, they could go to Roosevelt for a few months, then come to Yonkers for a few months. We both worked the ABC system, so it was easy to keep them classified and know where they were going to race. When we were the only ones doing ABC, every horse that came in had to be reclassified unless they were claimers.  BV: I imagine one of the biggest changes made during your career was the switch from ABC to conditions at that point? SS: Absolutely. It was night and day, like two different jobs. You give the horsemen more latitude to decide where they wanted to go. Your condition racing was by age, sex, money earned. There was a lot of opportunity to decide where you wanted to race, plus the claiming races. It really turned over the racing program more in the hands of the trainers and owners than the race secretary. There were a lot less arguments then, too. BV: What was it like when the casino came to Yonkers? SS: That was something brilliant, that was the greatest thing that happened to harness racing at Yonkers and in the State of New York. We were all in the same boat and the Rooneys kept that place going. When we opened the casino in 2006, it really made all the difference in the world. When we first opened, we got somewhere between $40- and $45 million for purses and that worked its way up to $50 million dollars. That made the biggest difference in the world. It sure made my job a lot easier. BV: Talk a little more about how the game has changed over the last 10 years or so. How has your job changed more recently? Everyone talks about the horse shortage; did you feel that at Yonkers? SS: Before we closed for the casino to be built, we were really struggling because the purses were not good. They still had the shipping to do, they had bridges to cross, and probably a lot of people just didn’t want to come to Yonkers. When we reopened, our purses gradually got much better. At that point in time, we had more horses than we knew what to do with. Eventually, that started to wean itself. The horse population is really bad at Yonkers only because for someone to ship to Yonkers, it costs about $250 and that probably doesn’t include the groom and paddocking, just for tolls and gas just to pull one of those trailers across the bridge. The expense is just exorbitant to get to us. Sometimes when they have to opportunity to race at Chester or Pocono, they race there instead. Now it’s more difficult and the only thing that makes it more difficult is lack of horses, but I’m not alone. I think that’s going to be one of the biggest problem the industry faces in the future. I think the horse population will be more important to deal with than anything else and I don’t think it’s far away, either. I would say probably within 5 or 10 years. BV: You look at entries for the top pacing races at a lot of the tracks, you have 20 or 30 New Zealand- and Australia-bred horses per night.  SS: That’s right, they’re filling these races, really. Especially the better classes. You can’t fill and Open and a Winner’s Over, you can’t fill those two classes. There was a time when you had an Open and two Winner’s Overs and they were pretty good horses. Now, you can’t fill them the same day, with mares, trotters, and the aged pacers. There just aren’t that many horses who can race in those classes. Chester and Pocono, if they didn’t have their series back and forth with the final, if they didn’t have that, they wouldn’t have any high-class races at their tracks. They don’t even try to fill Opens over there anymore. BV: How do you think that problem is going to be addressed? SS: I don’t think they’re taking it seriously right now. They know there’s a problem, but I really don’t think they realize how big this problem is going to be. There’s only one way to address it and that’s to have more horses. I don’t know how you get people to breed. These farms are putting out as much as they can. There really aren’t that many individuals that breed anymore, there’s just a few big farms that do most of the breeding. I don’t see that changing other than them increasing their broodmare bands and producing more yearlings, but I don’t know if they can do that or not. To raise a mare and a yearling and sell it is really expensive. BV: You mentioned the Yonkers International Trot at the beginning of our conversation. Talk about what it was like for you when that race was revived in 2015. What was it like to be a part of that? SS: I was tickled to death. I was scared. I didn’t know how it was going to work, I couldn’t speak anything but English. I was lucky, I was introduced to a guy from Europe. He’s a racetrack operator, but he’s also a friend of the horsemen. His name is Klaus Koch. With his assistance, we were able to put these fields together. When we started in 2015, it was not easy. The purse is $1 million, and you would have thought you weren’t giving them anything but a slice of pizza. It was comical. You have to wait a long time to fill these races because the Europeans don’t make a commitment right away. You have to be within a month of the race before they make a real commitment. It’s getting better now, but in 2015, they just didn’t want to make an early commitment. From the horseman’s side, I can’t argue with them, but as the race secretary, I wish they made up their minds a lot sooner. This year could be the best year ever. It certainly would have been if that French horse (Aubrion Du Gers) didn’t get killed in that accident on the track. He had already made a commitment to come with Dijon, the horse that won the Elitlopp. This was shaping up to be a really good race. Every horse I wanted to come was a grade 1 winner. This was the best year I ever had, it was unbelievable the way this was turning out and it’s still shaping up to be one of the best fields ever. I’m sure Bob Miecuna working with Klaus, they’ll get this race together. If the people who are interested now make a commitment, it will be a great race in 2019. BV: Listening to you talk about the International, it sounds like something you are really passionate about. SS: Oh, I was. When they came back with the race in 2015, it was $1 million. That was the second time we had a million-dollar race, we had an Art Rooney Pace for $1 million once. MGM was gracious enough without knowing much about racing to keep this race going. The SOA of NY of course, they’re very much a part of the race. They contributed 100 percent to the affair. BV: Talk more about the relationship with the horsepeople and the SOA of NY. That must have been a big part of your job as well. SS: It was, and I’ll tell you something, it’s a lot easier to get along with the horsemen than it’s not. Back in the ‘80s when Joe Faraldo and the SOA took over, it was a war zone at Yonkers. I didn’t know if I was going to make it home every night. But as things turned around and things got better, our relationship with the horsepeople got better. My relationship with Joe Faraldo and the SOA is 100 percent sound. They’re great people to work with, they’re reasonable, and if you work together and think together, you can make anything happen. The best way to run your business is to get along. Joe and I, we eventually many years ago started to get along and it really made things a lot better and I think it made the races a lot better, too. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Mike Napoli hit 267 home runs during his Major League Baseball (MLB) career, has 28 victories as a Thoroughbred racehorse owner, and now the 37-year-old is chasing his first win as a harness racing owner in the claiming ranks at Yonkers Raceway. A first baseman and catcher during a 12-year MLB run that included stints playing for the Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, and Cleveland Indians, Napoli is also a lifelong horse racing fan. Growing up in South Florida, Napoli frequently attended the races at Calder Race Course with his grandfather as he chased his dreams of becoming a professional baseball player.  Napoli was drafted in 2000 at age 19 and played in the minor leagues until 2005. Napoli made his MLB debut in 2006 and hit a homerun in his first MLB at-bat. Napoli was behind the plate for the post season in 2011 with the Rangers, in 2013 for the Red Sox, and in 2016 for the Indians.  When Napoli retired from baseball in December 2018, he sought action of a different kind. Through mutual friends, Napoli met a racing manager at Gulfstream Park during the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Napoli realized for the amount he was wagering on the races, he could get involved as an owner. The pair hit it off and exchanged numbers.  Napoli claimed his first Thoroughbred in January 2019. One quickly grew to seven and seven grew to 12. Within four months, the stable stood at 25-strong. Year-to-date, Napoli’s runners have won 28 races from 65 starts and placed another 19 times, good for $553,170. Napoli’s horses compete mainly in Florida, New Jersey, and New York.  Napoli took his first owner’s title at the Gulfstream Park meet that concluded June 30, topping the list with 16 victories. He also won his first stakes race when Heading Home took the $75,000 Jersey Girl Handicap at Monmouth Park July 7.  An avid racing fan and bettor, Napoli and his racing manager were enjoying an evening watching harness racing at the Meadowlands and Yonkers via simulcast. Whether fueled by the need for more action, the desire to try something new, or just too many beers, Napoli and his manager decided to dive into the harness game. New to the harness business, Napoli’s racing manager received Jenn Bongiorno’s number from a friend. He saw the trainer’s high win percentage and Italian heritage and was sold. Bongiorno recommended claiming the roan 10-year-old pacer Gypsy Leather and Napoli, a particular fan of gray horses, and his manager concurred. Knowing Yonkers was the place they wanted to be due to the good drivers, trainers, and purses, Napoli was in the box June 14. He claimed the 42-time winner from Brittany Robertson for $20,000.   Gypsy Leather debuted for Bongiorno and Napoli June 21, finishing second for a $25,000 tag after a pocket-sitting trip. He was the runner up again July 5 after setting the pace in a $25,000 claiming handicap and last out July 12, closed from 12 lengths behind to finish second by a nose from post eight. Napoli and his manager immediately noticed the primary difference between owning a Thoroughbred and a Standardbred is the timing between races. They often wait a month between starts at the flat track, but get action every week at the harness track. Although their business and expertise are anchored in the Thoroughbred game, Napoli’s racing manager conceded the economics of harness ownership appear to make more sense. Gypsy Leather will be back in action Friday night (July 19) at Yonkers. He will start from post four in a $25,000 claiming handicap and is the 8-5 morning line favorite in the six-horse field. Should Napoli get his first win as a harness owner in this spot, his racing manager, who wished to remain anonymous, predicts the star will be celebrating from South Florida. “I would say he’ll probably jump through the TV. He gets real excited,” he said. “We’ve had discussions about hitting a home run or about winning a race. He says it’s close to being the same. The racing, he gets butterflies in his stomach, he gets real excited and nervous. We discussed hitting a home run with 50,000 people in the stands and millions watching on TV. He says that was his job, it wasn’t really the same thing. Even though we’re a claiming operation right now, to us, you get that ‘W’ and it’s still a great feeling to win.” With continued success, Napoli could expand his harness stable. He is looking forward to visiting Bongiorno’s New Jersey stable, where he will doubtlessly enjoy another perk of harness racing: jogging his own horse. If his brief history as a Thoroughbred owner is any indication, Napoli could be at the top of the harness owners’ leaderboard in no time. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY    

YONKERS, N.Y. – When harness racing trainer Kevin Lare purchased Freedom Warrior off trainer Jimmy Nickerson in mid-June, the freshman gelding came with a warning. Although he already qualified twice with Tim Tetrick in the sulky, including a 1:52.4 second-place finish with a :26.4 final quarter, the American Ideal son had yet to race and was still green. “When I bought him, I had been told by Timmy Tetrick and the gentleman I bought him from that he’s just a 2-year-old, that he hadn’t learned yet and it didn’t take much for him to get really hot-headed, run away, stuff like that,” Lare said. However, to Lare’s surprise, he experienced no issues with Freedom Warrior leading up to the gelding’s first start in the eliminations of the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace last Saturday (July 6) at Yonkers. Freedom Warrior was two fingers when training with cotton-stuffed ears and an ear hood. However, for his first race, Lare opted for pop-out ear plugs. “The other night, I warmed him up, he was fine,” Lare said. “I passed somebody warming up, somebody passed me. I actually had to tap him with the whip because I wanted to go a good last quarter warming him up to make sure he was OK to get around that track. “I made an equipment change,” the trainer continued. “Now I’m in a race going for money, I go to the pop-out earplugs. I know he can hear through the ear plugs some from putting them in him at the farm; they’re not completely soundproof.” Just before the start of Freedom Warrior’s elimination, the last of three that evening, fireworks went off near the racetrack. Freedom Warrior heard them and became a runaway with Jordan Stratton in the sulky. As the race began, the fireworks went off again, and Freedom Warrior took off. “They set off some fireworks about 30 seconds before he went to go to the gate and Jordan said he lost his mind when he heard that,” Lare explained. “Jordan put him to the gate, and as the gate folded, Jordan said they set some more fireworks off as they hit the first turn, and he lost his mind again and Jordan was just a passenger.” Freedom Warrior pulled Stratton along, unratable and barely controllable. He was 3 lengths clear of the field past a quarter of :27.1 and after a half-mile in :54.4, the first-time starter was 10 lengths ahead of his nearest rival. Lare watched from the paddock, bracing for the worst. “I knew he was going to stop and that he was getting ready to come home in 40 seconds if he doesn’t fall. I’m thinking that he’s going to fall because he’s going to choke him off,” Lare recounted. “I thought he was going to choke, flip a palate, hopefully he doesn’t fall, but I just know he’s coming home in :35 tops. I just know he’s getting ready to pull up to a walk.” However, Freedom Warrior stayed on top by 7 lengths through three-quarters in 1:23.4. But fatigue soon began to set in. Waiting in the wings, a trio of rivals – Columbo, Hunter Hill, and Roll With JR – took their aim. Columbo took the first shot, edging to the outside at the top of the stretch as he appeared poised to go past the tiring leader. Meanwhile, Hunter Hill and Roll With JR loomed close behind. With only the top two finishers guaranteed to advance to the final, Lare was ready to pack his bags. “I know at that point in time the best he’s going to be is fourth, that these three are going right by him,” Lare said. “But when the first one got to him, he took back off and raced that horse. That was awfully impressive to me. I couldn’t believe it and Jordan couldn’t believe it either.” Freedom Warrior dug in, only letting Columbo past in the final sixteenth. The others never got to him and Freedom Warrior finished second by 1 ¼ lengths to earn a place in the $120,250 Sheppard Final this Saturday (July 13).  “Is he fast? Yeah, he’s fast. We saw that the other night. Without a doubt, he is a nice horse, but he doesn’t need many trips like that, for sure,” Lare said. “Jordan never did pull the plugs on him or touch him with the whip. He felt bad for the horse, as I did. I definitely was not coming back for the final at the half. I thought he was getting ready to walk across the wire. I did not see that coming at all. “I hope it’s that easy of a fix, that I can just go back and put the cotton in his ears. I can only hope,” Lare said. “You jog him without the cotton, the stone hits the wheels, here where we’re at, trains hook up right behind us and he does freak out. But when he’s got his ear hood on and the cotton in his ears, I can send my 12-year-old kid out to jog him and he wouldn’t be a problem.” Bred by Curran Racing, Adam Michael, and Heidi Rohr and trained down by Rohr’s husband, Freedom Warrior came onto Lare’s radar after being contacted by an agent. Lare and owner Forrest Bartlett have been searching for a talented 2-year-old for several years, and the pair felt Freedom Warrior was that horse. “I’ve been telling an agent for the last couple years that I’ve been looking for a top-notch 2-year-old if they could find one. The owner, Forrest Bartlett, we’ve actually tried to buy a few in the last couple years here,” Lare said. “He was always willing to step up to the plate. Forrest wasn’t interested in one that just looked OK, he wanted one that had a chance of being a top-ten horse. (The agent) called me and that was it, we got the job done from there.” Although one might pass Freedom Warrior by on looks alone, Lare was immediately impressed by the gelding’s gait and his ease of motion. “He’s not a big, strappy-looking horse or anything like that. He’s a gelding, so he’s not built like a stud horse or anything,” Lare said. “He’s not a looker, he’s not one that you’re going to turn your head and say, ‘wow, look at that horse.’  “But on the racetrack, he covers so much ground,” Lare continued. “When I sat behind him and trained him, I was impressed because he covers the ground so easy and he covers so much of it. When he picks them up and puts them down, horses that wear a longer hopple than he does, he’s covering more ground than they are every stride. He does it very easily and effortlessly. I really like that about him.” After purchasing Freedom Warrior, Lare took the gelding to Ocean Downs to qualify June 27. Although the heavy half-mile track was not ideal for the 2-year-old, it was the trainer’s last chance to get a trial in before the Sheppard. Lare expected a slow mile, but got more than he bargained for when finishing second a half-length behind Breeze Away B in a 1:56.2 mile. “The track was really deep. Jonathan said that was a 54-and-a-piece mile at Yonkers. So, I was very impressed with him that day,” Lare recalled. “I did have to make a couple equipment changes after qualifying that day, but that’s why I went down there, to find out exactly what I needed to do.” Freedom Warrior drew post six in the Sheppard Final and will again have Stratton in the sulky. Elimination winners American Rebel, Columbo, and Save Me A Dance drew posts two, four, and five, respectively while elimination runner ups Han Solo and Manticore will start from post one and post eight, respectively. Hunter Hill and Level Up, the two fastest third-place finishers in last week’s eliminations, drew posts three and seven, respectively.  “Of course, I would have liked to draw the rail in the final too. After what happened last week, I think he would have gained a lot of respect leaving the gate. I’m sure he’s going to be headed in the same direction anyway, we just hope it isn’t as fast fractions,” Lare said. “Of course, the six hole is no advantage there, but with his gate speed, it’s not going to hinder him that much. He is quick off the wings, but we just want to be able to settle him back down. “I think he’s got a huge chance. Personally, I think he’s the best, I really do,” Lare continued. “They’ve got him to beat in my opinion. All he’s got to do is get some honest fractions. He can pace as fast home as he was leaving the gate last week, he just can’t do it off those fractions.” For Lare, a victory in the Sheppard Final, the first open Grand Circuit stakes final for 2-year-olds this year, would be especially meaningful. The trainer hopes to see owner Bartlett rewarded for his purchase. “It would be great for Forrest Bartlett. He stepped up to the plate, he spent money buying this horse. He’s been a great owner for me,” Lare said. “I’ve had great horses before; he’s not the first one, nor do I hope he’s the last one, nor do I hope he’s the last one that Forrest buys. It would be great to win the first major stakes race the horse is in. That would be great for Forrest and great for me.” Saturday night’s card also features the weekly $46,000 Open Handicap Trot and Open Pace, along with the $37,000 4-Year-Old Open Handicap Pace. First post time is 6:50 p.m. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Monique Cohen will start two horses in the harness racing eliminations of the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace Saturday night at Yonkers Raceway: homebred Han Solo and Harrisburg buy Level Up. While the latter’s journey to the races was smooth sailing, Han Solo narrowly survived a brush with death to become the 8-5 morning line favorite in an elimination of the first open 2-year-old stakes of the season. By Mister Big out of the Jet Laag mare Leah, Han Solo is Cohen’s first homebred. Cohen owned Leah in partnership and campaigned the mare across the east coast from 2007 through 2012. When the partnership finally dissolved, Cohen kept the mare who’d won 27 of 181 starts and earned $124,264, primarily in the pre-slots era.  “She did it the hard way. She was my pet and every time she raced in a claimer, I was cringing that she would get claimed,” Cohen said. “When the partnership dissolved, I bought her out and we traded a pretty expensive trotter for a piece of her for just so I could keep her. “She was just a little ATM machine,” Cohen continued. “She didn’t make a lot of money, but she was always sound, she was always wanting to do her job, and she was just an all-around good little mare. She’s not a big mare, but she was just a friendly little mare that was my pet.” After retiring Leah to her farm in 2013, Cohen decided to give the gray mare a chance at a second career as a broodmare. On March 24, 2017, ‘Princess Leah,’ as Cohen affectionately calls her, had her first foal, Han Solo. “He looked like a donkey,” Cohen recalled. “He was pitch black and had so much hair. The only gray was around his eyes and his muzzle. He had the thickest hair you’ve ever seen and he was huge, huge. I felt so bad for this mare. “That summer, he started shedding that black fuzz and he started getting lighter and lighter as the summer went on,” Cohen continued. “By September, he was pretty gray. He was still dark gray, but not that black.” When it came time to wean Han Solo from Leah, Cohen sent the colt to the farm of nearby owner Nick Vamvilis of Seafood Delight Stable.  “[Nick] had a yearling he was weaning, Seafood King, and he said, ‘can you bring your baby over here because our baby is alone and he needs a friend.’ He’s only 15 minutes from our farm, so we turned him out there,” Cohen said. “Nick was going to switch Han Solo from one paddock to another paddock. He said he just went down and he couldn’t get him up and he called me to come out there.” Cohen and her daughter raced to Han Solo’s side and tried in vain to get the horse back on his feet. After some time, the vet arrived and pulled blood, but nothing physically wrong could be found with the colt. “My daughter, Sheena McElhiney, who’s a trainer said, ‘let’s throw everything and the kitchen sink at him, anything. At this point, what does it matter,’ ” Cohen recalled and the team began administering strong antibiotics in a last ditch effort to save Han Solo. “My daughter and I sat in the field with him overnight. He was trying to get up the whole night and he was just throwing himself 30 or 40 feet in the field. We put a tent over him the next day because it was so hot,” Cohen remembered. “In the morning the vet came, and the blood work just showed a little elevation in his white count, but he had no clue. He was calling doctors in Kentucky, New Bolton, everywhere trying to figure out what this was.” About 30 hours after Han Solo collapsed, Cohen made the difficult decision to euthanize the colt. Preparations were made and the vet was summoned. Just before the injection was administered to end Han Solo’s suffering, Vamvilis made a final plea. "By 4:30 or 5 o’clock that night, I called the vet back and said, ‘I can’t see him like this anymore,’ ” Cohen said. “We called everybody and we got the flatbed ready to haul him away. The doctor came and his assistant was getting ‘the blue shot’ ready. He had his head on my lap and Nick came over and just grabbed his halter and said, ‘come on Han, just get up, one more time.’ ” Han Solo leapt to his feet.  The somber crowd stared mystified as the colt’s legs trembled under his weight once more. After about five minutes of standing, Han Solo was steady again and walked across the paddock to the fence to see Seafood King. One month after his near-death experience, Han Solo began training alongside Seafood King and Level Up. Although he had a tricky disposition, Han Solo took to his work well. “He has a personality. He was good line-driving in only a couple days and then we put him in the cart. He likes to jog with other horses because he likes to play with them and plod along with them. As fast as they go, he’ll go. He loves his work,” Cohen said. “In the barn, he’s kind of rambunctious, but as soon as you put the harness on him, he’s ready to go. The first thing when you pull him out of the stall, you throw the harness on him.”  By June 1, 2019, Han Solo was ready to qualify. He won his first baby race on the front end in 2:03.1 at Saratoga and returned to the Spa the following week to score in another trial in 2:01.2. The results encouraged Cohen. “We qualified him up at Saratoga and he’s a little bit lazy. He’ll go as fast as he needs to go. I knew he could go faster because he’s gone faster at home on our five-eighths track. He had to get experience behind the gate, and he wasn’t afraid of the gate, he got right up on the gate, so that was nice to see,” she said. On June 19, Han Solo made his pari-mutuel debut in a $5,750 2-year-old maiden at Saratoga. Han Solo raced 4 ¾ lengths behind 1-5 favorite Herecomesbullville early and stuck to the pylons behind a :57.3 half-mile. As rival Shade Thrower took on Herecomesbullville nearing the three-quarters, driver Bruce Aldrich, Jr. put Han Solo in gear.  Angling three-wide around the final turn, Han Solo ranged up within 2 lengths of the leaders. Fully extended, Han Solo stormed down the center of the track and surged past Herecomesbullville in the shadow of the wire to win his debut at odds of 5-1. “That was very exciting. Everybody who knows him is so happy,” Cohen said. “He’s got a good following around here and they’re just so happy to see him on the track. After what happened to him, we just didn’t know what to expect.” After finishing second to 3-year-old Fargo Hanover in his second start at Plainridge June 28, Cohen entered Han Solo in the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace. The colt drew post one in the first of three $25,000 eliminations. The top two finishers and the two fastest third-place finishers in each elimination will advance to the estimated $120,250 final July 13. “The only thing he’s eligible for was the Massachusetts Sire Stakes, so we wanted to get him a little more experience. We thought this was a good race,” Cohen said. “After this, we’re going to give him a little break and then bring him back for the Mass. Sire Stakes. He’s just Mass. bred, so there’s not a lot of races for him. We wanted to get a little more mileage under him and he’s doing well and competing well, so we thought, why not, let’s take a shot.” Cohen will also start Level Up in the second elimination of the Sheppard. The Art Major colt drew post two and is 3-1 on the morning line.  Vamvilis purchased Level Up out of the 2018 Harrisburg Yearling Sale for $55,000. After two impressive qualifiers at Saratoga, a 16 ¾-length win in 1:59 at first asking and a 3 ½-length score in 1:57.3 second time out, Level Up finished on the board in two legs of the New York Sire Stakes at Yonkers and Monticello June 20 and July 1, respectively. “He likes to do his job. He can leave. He’s an easy one. We were really happy with getting him,” Cohen said. “He’s been doing well in the New York Sire Stakes. We’ve been really happy with him. “Both of them have been drawing really well so far. We’re just so excited that we have two babies we can really go out there and compete with.” Saturday night’s card also features the weekly $46,000 Open Handicap Trot and Open Handicap Pace, along with the $37,000 4-Year-Old Open Handicap Pace. First post time is 6:50 p.m. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. For entries to the races, click here.   By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

 YONKERS, N.Y. – The rich 4-year-old Open Pace returns to the regular Saturday night harness racing lineup at Yonkers Raceway June 29 and trainer Randy Bendis has been eagerly awaiting the class’ return. Although his pupil Bettor Than Spring held his own in facing older horses in the top classes at the Meadows, Bendis thinks the weekly $37,000 features will suit the gelding perfectly. “He’s raced really well here, but we’ve really been waiting on the 4-year-old Open,” Bendis said. “We knew Yonkers generally started that up around July 1, so as soon as we saw that on the condition sheet, we were heading back to New York for the year.” Bettor Than Spring came on Bendis’ radar last December after longtime owner Lewis Hauber expressed interest in acquiring a new horse before the end of the year. Bendis came across the Bettor’s Delight son, who Scott Di Domenico had listed for sale, and soon realized the horse had a special pedigree. He soon struck a deal and purchased the horse in partnership with Hauber and Jack Piatt. “I actually trained his mother. His mother was a very good horse for me,” Bendis remembered. “I didn’t realize that at first, but then we did a little more investigating and I saw that he’s out of Spring Break, who I campaigned for probably four years at the Meadows.” Bendis campaigned Spring Break at the Meadows from 2009 to 2012. She made 85 pari-mutuel starts under Bendis’ tutelage and earned $363,256 of her $787,057 career total in his stable. With 39 wins and another 72 placings from 178 lifetime starts, Bendis admired Spring Break for her robustness, a trait he sees replicated in Bettor Than Spring. “She was an invite kind of mare. Just honest, showed up every week kind of mare,” Bendis recalled. “She didn’t win all the time, but she gave her best just about every race and had staying power. I thought if he was anything like her, we could keep him around for four or five years and have a lynchpin for the stable. “He’s really a great horse to be around, a lot like his mother,” Bendis continued. “He doesn’t really look like his mother at all; she’s kind of a plain-looking, medium-sized bay and he has a big, striking, dark brown warhorse kind of look. But he does have a lot of her attributes: the gate speed, very good gait, and consistently gives you whatever his best is.” Bendis sent Bettor Than Spring to Ed Hart for a winter campaign at Yonkers to start the year. Bettor Than Spring recovered from an early break to finish second in his debut for the stable in a $20,000 overnight January 7. He then won three straight races, the last coming against older horses for $29,000 February 9.  After breaking again in his next start, Bettor Than Spring shifted focus to the Sagamore Series, which Bendis thought would fit him like a glove. Although Bettor Than Spring scored a gate-to-wire 1:54.2 victory in leg one, he went offstride the following week. He overcame post eight in the final preliminary leg to finish third. However, Bettor Than Spring pulled up and did not finish in the $60,200 final, his last outing at Yonkers. “He got off to a real good start. He was eligible to the Sagamore and he looked to be a layover kind of horse there,” Bendis said. “He ran into some health problems there. He had atrial fibrillation; his heart went out of rhythm.” Bendis brought Bettor Than Spring home to Pennsylvania, where he took up the gelding’s training. After some time off, Bettor Than Spring resumed his work and successfully qualified at the Meadows May 2. In addition to his atrial fibrillation recovery, Bendis made minor adjustments to help address Bettor Than Spring’s breaking issues. “I changed his shoeing a little bit and I think – fingers crossed – that shouldn’t be an issue in the future. I think he’s pretty much over that,” Bendis said. Bettor Than Spring was second-placed-first in the $20,000 Open Pace at the Meadows in a lifetime best 1:51.4 in his return May 11. He then rattled off three straight runner-up finishes before placing fourth and fifth in his last two outings. Bendis feels Bettor Than Spring has matured greatly after facing more seasoned horses. “He’s been racing some really classy older horses here and it will be nice to get away from them and back to the 4-year-olds,” Bendis said. “He’s been able to put himself in good spots and been able to sit two holes behind some pretty good horses. He’s giving his best just about every time. The last eighth, these older horses can kind of scoot away. He’s learning to do that, he’s getting better at it, but it’s different racing 6-, 7-, 8-year-olds who have made a million dollars.” Bettor Than Spring shipped back to Ed Hart this Wednesday (June 26) after drawing post five for his Yonkers return. He is 9-2 on the morning line with George Brennan set to drive. Albergo Hanover, who won four straight races at the Meadowlands to start his season and enters off two off-the-board finishes, will start as the 5-2 morning line favorite for the Bongiornos while Turbo Hill, who is 10-for-15 this year racing mainly at Pocono Downs, drew post seven and is 9-1. Skyway Quinton seeks three straight wins at the Hilltop and is 9-2. Mach And Cheese drew the inside in his Yonkers return and consistent check-getters Babes Dig Me and No Easy Day complete the lineup from posts two and three, respectively. “There’s some good horses in there. Yonkers is a great place to race, the money is great and if he holds up the way he seems to, he’ll make his money in there. He won’t win every week, but he’ll be a factor in there,” Bendis said.  Although several of Bettor Than Spring’s early season victories came on the front-end, Bendis thinks the gelding is more versatile now. Although he’s been leaving the gate at the Meadows, driver Mike Wilder has kept Bettor Than Spring off the lead, racing in the pocket in four of his last six starts. “He kind of gets lost on the lead. He just kind of relaxes on the lead and loses his attention a little bit. I think he’s a more seasoned horse now,” Bendis said. “I think he’d be OK if George decides to put him there, I think he’d be fine there, but 10 or 15 starts ago, he would make the lead and just wait on horses.  “He got caught one time, a horse rushed at him up the backside and got halfway by and he made a break coming out of the last turn there,” Bendis continued. “I think a lot of it was inexperience on the lead. He hasn’t been on the lead here at home at all; he’s been up close, but not on the lead. I think he’s a more versatile horse than he was back in February. He’s been racing top-class horses. “That’s the good thing about this horse, I don’t think you can put him in a bad spot. If they’re honking out of there, he can sit fifth or sixth and come with cover and be a factor,” Bendis said. “He likes a helmet more than doing the work himself, at least at this point. I’m really not concerned about the trip; I’ll leave that up to George.” Saturday night’s card also features the weekly $46,000 Open Handicap Pace and Open Handicap Trot.  First post time is 6:50 p.m. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. For entries to the races, click here By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY.

YONKERS, N.Y. – Although Solvalla Travbana sat under gray skies that intermittently pelted the harness racing track with heavy rains on the last Sunday in May, the dreary and unseasonably cold weather couldn’t put a damper on the celebration of a newly crowned an Elitlopp Champion. About 20 minutes after the finish of Sweden’s biggest race, the crowd of more than 21,000 clapped and cheered in rhythm while upbeat victory music blasted over the sound system.  On the apron, fans leaned over the fence, craned their necks, and waded into puddles along the rail to catch a glimpse of Dijon as he made his way back to the stabling area from the winner’s circle.  The striking bay horse’s arrival was preceded by a wave of photographers and media that swarmed around him. With a bright pink blanket draped over his back and a matching wreath around his bowed neck, Dijon bore the unmistakable air of a champion among this entourage. Flanked on either side by majestic white horses whose riders bore the blue and yellow colors of the Swedish flags they hoisted into the air, Dijon was the hero of the day. As Dijon made his procession along the track, his trainer and driver, Romain Derieux, savored the moment. Midway down the stretch, Derieux climbed onto the seat of his sulky and stood proudly over Dijon as he absorbed the praises of the Swedish crowd. With the lines in his left hand, Derieux thrust his right fist triumphantly toward the sky and the crowd’s roar intensified. This moment of pure elation was a dream that Derieux thought was dashed a week earlier when Dijon drew post position eight in the second of two Elitlopp eliminations. Starting from the far outside while rivals like Aubrion Du Gers and Propulsion drew favorably, Derieux braced for the worst as he and Dijon faced the starting gate for the first time on Elitlopp Day in need of a fourth-place finish or better to advance to the Final. “I thought I had a good chance, but when I saw number eight, I thought I was finished. It’s so hard to qualify for the final,” Derieux said. “Before the race, in my head, I thought, ‘start slowly,’ because with the eight, it’s so hard to take the lead. I started slowly and waited behind. And just the last 300 meters from the finish, I thought if I was fourth in the first race, it’s OK and if I wasn’t, I would return next year.” Derieux took off the gate and raced in seventh early. As Propulsion and Milliondollarrhyme moved to the outside with 1,000 meters to trot, Dijon stuck to the pylons. Shooting the gap third on the inside behind Milligan's School, he advanced within 3 ½ lengths of leader Aubrion Du Gers with 800 meters remaining.  Dijon kept to the inside around the final turn and when Milligan’s School moved into the two-path turning for home, Dijon found room to advance. Derieux went to the whip and cracked the lines against Dijon’s hindquarters. Dijon extended and advanced into third to make the final at odds of 17-1. After drawing post five in the Group 1, 3,000,000kr final, Derieux was determined to give Dijon his best chance to win. Dijon does his best work on the front end and that’s where Derieux intended to put him. With the scratch of first elimination pacesetting winner Readly Express out of the post parade, Dijon’s job got easier. “I didn’t think about Readly Express before the start. For the final, in my head, I decided to take the lead and make a very fast start. Without knowing about Readly Express, it was the same for me,” Derieux explained. “I think (Dijon) is better when he takes the lead. He likes that and he likes to start very fast. It’s easy for him to take the lead because he’s very fast at the start.”  Dijon blasted off the wings of the gate and crossed over to the pylons in the first 100 meters. Although he got leg-weary in the stretch, Dijon never looked back. He held off a late rally from Aubrion Du Gers to win the Elitlopp Final by a neck. “The last 300 meters, I go fast because I feel Propulsion, who has a lot more speed, and Aubrion Du Gers is behind him,” Derieux remembered. “I asked Dijon and in the last 100 meters, Dijon was a little tired, so I had to be careful about that. The track is so hard, so he didn’t like that. The track on Saturday was perfect and on Sunday with the rain, it was very hard. “It was superb. Before the race, I thought if I was third or fourth, it would be good. To win, it was incredible.” After Dijon’s Elitlopp victory, Derieux is considering the stallion for North America’s biggest race for older trotters, the Yonkers International Trot, slated for October 12 at Yonkers Raceway. Although there are logistical issues to overcome, such as the mandatory quarantine for foreign horses, before he would be willing to accept an invitation, Derieux feels the $1 million race would fit Dijon well. Bred by Derieux’s father, Louis, Dijon is a 6-year-old son of Ganymède out of the Coktail Jet mare Sonate d'Aunou. Derieux and owner Mauricette De Sousa purchased Dijon as a 2-year-old. “It was perfect for all because my father is the breeder and one of my best owners is the owner,” Derieux said. “I’ve had Dijon since he was 2 years old. I started with him in the qualification and the first race and every time after. It was perfect for me as the trainer and driver.” Dijon won his first start in an 11,000€ overnight at Nantes with Derieux in the sulky November 29, 2015 and won for 35,000€ at Vincennes two starts later on Christmas Eve. After placing fourth and fifth in a pair of Group 2 races and galloping in the Group 1 Prix Comte Pierre de Montesson to start his 3-year-old campaign, Dijon rattled off three straight victories at Cagnes-Sur-Mer before returning to Paris to finish fourth in the Group 1 Prix de l'Etoile. Dijon’s breakout performance came in his 13th start in the Group 2, 120,000€ Prix Abel Bassigny at Vincennes November 7, 2016. Derieux sent Dijon to the top in the 2,175-meter stakes, but was confronted by favorite Django Riff, who took the lead heading into the backstretch. Derieux angled Dijon out of the pocket straightening away and Dijon wore down the 3-year-old Champion to score a hard-fought victory. “At this moment, I knew he was a special horse,” Derieux remembered. At 4, Dijon beat Django Riff again in the Group 2 Prix Gaston Brunet. He also traveled to Italy where he captured the Gran Premio Tino Triossi and Gran Premio Giuseppe Biasuzzi. At 5, Dijon took a pair of Group 3 victories in Paris and Enghien before beating Orlando Jet and Django Riff in the Group 1 Championnat Européen des 5 ans at Vincennes December 12, 2018. After his Elitlopp conquest, Dijon is 13-for-51 with 1,046,762€ earned.  In addition to his speed, Dijon excels on smaller tracks. Derieux sees this as an advantage should he receive and accept an invitation to the Yonkers International Trot. “I think he’s better on the small tracks. I went one time in Bologne, Italy and it’s an 800-meter track like Yonkers,” Derieux said. “He likes to take the lead, so it’s easier to take the lead on the small track than a track like Vincennes. It’s difficult at Vincennes to take the lead the whole race. He’s very fast at the start, so it’s easy for him to take the lead and on the small track, when you take the lead, it’s better.” Should Dijon come to the Yonkers International Trot this fall, he would be the third Eliltopp winner to cross the Atlantic for the historic stakes since its revival in 2015, joining Timoko and Ringostarr Treb.  The $1 million Yonkers International Trot will be held October 12 at Yonkers Raceway. Invitations will be officially extended to participants by the Yonkers race office as the race draws closer. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. First post time is 6:50 p.m.    By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Champion trotter Gimpanzee will bring his undefeated record to Yonkers Raceway Tuesday evening (June 25) in a division of the New York Sire Stakes for harness racing 3-year-old trotting colts and geldings. The Dan Patch Award winning 2-year-old of 2018 will take to the track in a non-wagering split of the NYSS at approximately 6:10 p.m. Gimpanzee went 9-for-9 as a freshman, capturing victories in NYSS at Monticello, Tioga, Saratoga, Vernon, and two legs at Yonkers before scoring a 1:56.3 win in the $225,000 NYSS Final at the Hilltop September 22. The Chapter Seven son then posted consecutive 1:54.4 victories in the Breeders’ Crown Elimination and $600,000 Final at Pocono Downs October 19 and 27, respectively, to take divisional honors and give trainer Marcus Melander his first Breeders’ Crown win. “We turned him out after the Breeders’ Crown for a month, roughly. We brought him in early December and started training him,” Melander said. “He filled out very, very good. He didn’t grow so much, he’s not the biggest horse, but he filled out really nice. He definitely showed some speed now this year as well. He’s been having a lot of qualifiers and just one start so far, but I think he’s developed good.” Despite his impressive record on the racetrack and his Champion title, Gimpanzee keeps a low profile at Melander’s farm. However, one of Gimpanzee’s greatest assets is understanding when it’s time to race. “He’s very lazy. He’s like a 10-year-old gelding, he’s been like that his whole life,” Melander said. “He has no hurry at all. He’s a very nice horse to be around, but when he trains, you don’t think that he’s undefeated in 10 starts and made almost $700,000. You don’t feel that when you train him at home, but then he’s a totally different horse when he goes to the track. “When we train him down, he always feels good, he’s just lazy. But as soon as you bring him to the Meadowlands to train or qualify, he really knows what’s going on,” Melander continued. “I think that’s a good personality to have. He doesn’t get too excited at home, he does his work and he knows when it’s time to race.” Gimpanzee returned to the track April 27 in a Meadowlands trial, finishing fifth while individually timed in 1:58.3. He returned May 4 to win a qualifier in 1:55 and Melander pointed Gimpanzee to his first target, the Empire Breeders’ Classic eliminations at Vernon Downs. However, after only nine trotters declared for the $215,200 stakes, the race went straight to the final and Melander was forced to qualify Gimpanzee again May 18. “I just want to race him, but when he went to the Empire Breeders’ Classic, there was no eliminations needed for that race,” Melander said. “I didn’t plan that; I planned that he was going to race in there, so I maybe should have raced him at Vernon the week before in the Sire Stakes. Then the Sire Stakes went to Monticello and Buffalo and I didn’t want to bring him there.”  After tuning up in another qualifier in 1:53.0 with a :27.1 final quarter, Gimpanzee traveled to Vernon for the Empire Breeders’ Classic. He relaxed in third 3 ¾ lengths behind Mt Viktor early before driver Brian Sears mounted a first-over challenge nearing the half. Gimpanzee inched closer to Mr Viktor around the final turn and took the lead straightening away. With Sears motionless in the bike, Gimpanzee extended his advantage to 3 ¼ lengths to win in 1:54.0 at odds of 1-20. “It was good. He had qualified good going into that race, but you don’t know; it’s horse racing,” Melander said. “He was very good that day. He raced off the pace and he won easily. Brian was happy with him and it was a good first start. “For him, (the trip) doesn’t matter, honestly,” Melander continued. “He loves his work, it doesn’t matter where he comes from. Of course, on those bigger tracks, it doesn’t matter where you come from, but those half-miles, it’s easier if you go to the lead.” Gimpanzee’s Empire Breeders’ Classic win extended the colt’s undefeated streak to 10 and boosted his earnings to $695,730 for Courant Inc. and S R F Stable. With Courant owning Melander’s other two top Hambletonian hopefuls, Greenshoe and Green Manalishi, who each won eliminations of the Beal at Pocono Downs June 22, Melander doesn’t feel extra pressure to keep Gimpanzee’s record perfect. “My other horses are really good. Greenshoe is super-fast, he’s maybe a better horse, or at least faster than (Gimpanzee),” Melander said. “We try to keep them apart as much as we can here in the beginning. They’ll race each other in a lot of races later in the fall, but if we can keep them separated in the beginning, that’s great. “If I raced (Gimpanzee) in New York all year, he’d probably stay undefeated, but I’m not going to do that because he is more than just a New York Sire Stakes horse,” Melander continued. “But we wanted to start him out there in the New York circuit and we’re going to race him against those other colts late summer. Maybe start with one race before the ‘Hambo’ and then we have all of those other races all fall.” The deciding factor in Melander’s choice to bring Gimpanzee to Yonkers Tuesday was NYSS points. The colt hasn’t started in any NYSS events yet this year after bypassing legs at Vernon, Monticello, and Buffalo and needs victories in the series to get into the rich Sire Stakes final this fall.  “It’s really important for Gimpanzee to get some points for the New York final in September,” Melander said. “They go for a lot of money and we haven’t raced in any Sire Stakes so far, so we need some points. Yonkers is a track he goes around very good, so that’s why we’re racing him there.” Gimpanzee tuned up with a 1:53.4 qualifier at the Meadowlands June 15. He will start from post six with Brian Sears in the bike and will face five rivals in his $54,833 spit of the NYSS Tuesday evening: Chip Chip Conway, Cavill Hanover, Kredit Karma, Big Money Honey, and Lucky Weekend. Melander is confident. “I don’t see why I shouldn’t be,” he said. “It’s horses that he beat before and should beat again. Of course, he got the six hole all the way out, but for him, it’s a field he should beat. I’m confident. He’s been training good since the qualifier. If everything is right and he doesn’t make a break or anything, he should have a good start in there.” Tuesday’s 12-race wagering card includes two other divisions of the NYSS. First post time is 6:50 p.m. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Since Trotting Grace arrived on the east coast this spring, she’s quickly made a name for herself harness racing in the top conditions at Yonkers Raceway. The 4-year-old is 2-for-5 at the Hilltop and has a pair of runner-up finishes. Her last outing resulted in a victory in her Open Handicap debut, but trainer Travis Alexander thinks the mare is still improving. “I think her best races are yet to come,” the trainer said. “I don’t think we’ve seen the bottom yet.” Trotting Grace spent the first two years of her career racing in the barn of Steven Searle in Illinois and Indiana. She won five races and finished second in the $135,000 Fox Valley Flan Series Final at 2. At 3, Trotting Grace earned another seven victories, including five straight in stakes company.  Trotting Grace moved to the barn of Walter Haynes early in 2019 before shipping east for her first start with Alexander May 3. The Cassis daughter’s ownership group, comprised of Brian Carsey, John McGill, and Adam Friedland, sent the mare to Alexander with their eyes on the lucrative purses at Yonkers. “She was a very good-looking mare and she was clean-gaited,” Alexander recalled of Trotting Grace’s arrival in the barn. “That’s the first thing I noticed; she’s very good-gaited. She can get around the turns so well. That’s what helps her so much, she handles those turns beautifully. That just goes along with her good gait.” Although Trotting Grace finished sixth in her Yonkers debut in a $23,000 overnight, Alexander was encouraged. The start proved to be a learning experience for both the mare and her new trainer. “I was very happy to have a chance to see what she could do. As soon as they sent her out, we actually put her in the box before she arrived in the barn. She raced OK, she came first-over, needed a headpole, little things. We got to know her a little better,” Alexander said. Trotting Grace finished second in the same class the following week after riding the pocket. She was the runner up again May 24 after pouncing on longshot leader Warrawee Shipshape on the third turn and getting caught late by 1-2 favorite Winning Shadow in the stretch of the 1 1/16-mile race.   Trotting Grace broke through in her next start with Brent Holland in the bike, scoring a dominating 4-length victory on the front end at the $29,000 level June 8. She took advantage of an inside draw last week (June 15) to post a front-stepping win in the $44,000 Open Handicap Trot over Smalltownthrowdown in a lifetime mark of 1:54.1. The victories improved Trotting Grace’s record to 15-for-43 with $249,591 earned.  “I think that first start, she had to figure out the half and from there, she got it down,” Alexander said. “After that, she really started to click in our program. Getting better, and better, and better. Her last two starts, she was good. I feel that she’s improving. “With the rail last week, I knew we’d be up close. I didn’t know we’d be on the front, but it just worked out,” he continued. “Brent did a great job rating a nice mile and it couldn’t have worked out any better. She responded and that’s what good horses do, they respond when you give them the trip.” Trotting Grace will start from post five in the $44,000 Open Handicap Trot Saturday night (June 22). Brent Holland will be back in the bike and the pair are 9-2 on the morning line. Alexander feels Trotting Grace is continuing to improve and thinks Holland has played a key role in managing her energy on the track. “She trained very well (Wednesday). So, we’re taking it a race at a time,” he said. “She jogs and we train her a mile-and-a-half Wednesday for Saturday. She’s actually pretty calm and relaxed at the farm, not overly aggressive. At Yonkers, she gets pretty keyed-up. In the post parade, she can get pretty warm. Brent has done a great job getting her to relax in the race and it’s worked out pretty well.” The field for this week’s trotting feature also includes In Secret, who returns to the Open after a runner-up finish in the Preferred trot last out June 15 and is the 5-2 morning line favorite from an assigned post one. Smalltownthrowdown drew post four for Jim Marohn, Jr. and Rene Allard while Will Take Charge, the Open victor two weeks ago who was handicapped by post seven last week, moves inside to post three; the pair are each 3-1 on the morning line.  Ten-year-old Melady’s Monet returns off about a month’s freshening and will start from post two. Chasin’ Dreams, third in last week’s feature, completes the field from post six. “It’s post five in a six-horse field, so it’s not as bad. It’s going to be very interesting to see because I don’t know how Brent is going to approach it,” Alexander said. “There’s a lot of speed on the inside of her, but she can race off the pace, she can race off a helmet. I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried that this week.  “I’m not going to tell him what to do,” Alexander continued. “The owners, they like to go forward, they like to race and be aggressive. Sometimes you think everybody’s leaving and nobody leaves. It’s so hard to know how it’s all going to play out.” Saturday night’s card also features the weekly $44,000 Open Handicap Pace. First post time is 6:50 p.m. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY  

YONKERS, N.Y. – Twenty-nine two-year-old pacing colts and geldings will make their harness racing pari-mutuel debuts in four divisions of the New York Sire Stakes Thursday night (June 20) at Yonkers Raceway. Among the roster of freshman is Oreo Dream Extreme, an American Ideal son bred by Michelle and Al Crawford. Seeing the babies finally hit the track is thrilling, Michelle said. “It’s exhilarating. You have a checklist,” she said. “They sold, they sold well – check. They got into the right hands and are going to have a real shot – check. They made it all the way to qualifiers – check – and they made the races. You want the owners and the trainers to have a good experience so they come back to the well.” The Crawfords have invested heavily into the breeding side of the game in recent years; they bred 47 mares last year, 65 this year, and have 71 back in foal for 2020. It is a calculated move to fill a void in the spot. “When you look at the business as a whole, you really have a shortage of good horses. We felt that we would step up and be one of those breeders that would provide the market with quality horses that would go to the sales,” Crawford said. “The numbers have been historically down; however, when you have the mares that we have acquired at this point, it’s very, very exciting to see them go to the market.” Oreo Dream Xtreme’s dam is Spotlight On, a Western Terror daughter out of Southwind Laurel. After winning seven races and earning $83,967 on the track for John Butenschoen and John MacDonald, Spotlight On joined the growing broodmare band at Crawford Farms. The Crawfords were attracted to her family, which produced one of the sport’s recent stars.  Spotlight On is a half sister to The Art Museum, the dam of 2014 Champion 2-year-old Artspeak.  “Somebody tipped me off on that breeding,” Crawford said. “I thought she could have thrown anything.” The Crawfords matched Spotlight On with American Ideal, the sire who produced one of their most successful New York breds to date, Funknwaffles. Crawford loved the match and as a result, had a penchant for Oreo Dream Xtreme from the beginning. Crawford even let her son Max name the colt after his favorite ice cream flavor. “I liked him because I am a huge fan of American Ideal. I have an affection for American Ideal,” Crawford said. “(Oreo Dream Xtreme) just really had a good personality all the way around. Nothing was crazy or different about him, he was just one that I really wanted to see. He wasn’t huge and I don’t like huge for New York. Funknwaffles, by American Ideal, is lightly-built. He’s not necessarily the same build, but he’s a medium-sized horse.” The Crawfords offered Oreo Dream Xtreme at the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale and were thrilled when the colt hammered down for $60,000 to John Butenschoen. The trainer put an ownership group together, which included offering a piece back to Crawford Farms Racing. The partnership also includes James Crawford, Happy Hour Racing, and Richard Preziotti. “John is great. John supports our farm quite a bit. He really, really liked this colt; we loved the colt and we’ve always said we would support a trainer who supports us by taking a piece of the horses that go through the sale,” Crawford said. “I think it’s good business. They take the time to look at our horses and bid on our horses. We really believe in what we take to the market, so we’re always happy to stay in on them. “It was exciting because I really hate to see my babies go,” she continued. “Sometimes, I get ‘no, you can’t stay in’ and that’s tough, but it’s just the way it goes.”  About nine months after the sale, Oreo Dream Xtreme will make his debut in a $38,650 division of the New York Sire Stakes Thursday night. The colt drew post two and is a 9-2 morning line chance with Corey Callahan programmed to drive.  Oreo Dream Xtreme enters off a pair of third place finishes in qualifiers at Pocono Downs and Harrah’s Philadelphia in which he paced 2:01.0 and 1:56.3, respectively. Oreo Dream Xtreme posted a final quarter of :27.4 in both trials. “He seems to be doing everything right, and that’s all you can ask for. You start to hear more and more and he’s promising; he’s a nice little colt,” Crawford said. “I don’t think anyone can tell you what their bottom is until they hit the track. And you have to hope that the horse is going to get around a half. He did well on a five-eighths when he qualified, but at the end of the day, you don’t really know what their bottom is until they’re out there competing. “I think in the first few Sire Stakes you start to figure out who is going to stand out, if they’re going to stay in the Sire Stakes, what the competition is like,” she continued. “You just hope that based on the qualifying miles they’ve put in already that they’re going to be competitive. So, fingers crossed.” First post time is 6:50 p.m. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

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