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YONKERS, N.Y. – When Casie Coleman drew up the plans for McWicked’s 2018 campaign, Yonkers Raceway wasn’t among the potential targets for the star pacer. In fact, no half-mile tracks were, in part because Coleman believes McWick d is better on a big track and in part because owner Ed James of S S G Stable doesn’t like to race his horses on half-mile ovals. Coleman was surprised then, when James expressed interest in racing in the $250,000 Dan Rooney Invitational Pace on the Yonkers International Trot undercard, especially since the timing of the race could upset McWicked’s path to the Breeders Crown. Despite the risk, Coleman changed course with McWicked to make the race, carded as the 11th of 12 on today’s program (October 13). “It wasn’t on the schedule at all. I wasn’t planning to get invited to it. It’s nice we did, obviously,” Coleman said. “My plan was to ship him home to Canada Sunday morning and have a week off to get ready for the Breeders Crown; that was the original plan that I thought was going to be perfect.  “When we got invited, you can’t turn it down. I didn’t think the owner would want to go. If the Breeders Crown goes eliminations, he’s going to be at six races in a row going into that Crown final, so it’s not something I would recommend,” she continued. “I’m really praying the Open Pace will go right to the final and then we’re perfect if that happens, but if they go elims, we’re going to be scared to have a tired horse going into the Crown final. The owner, I told him about it and he wanted to go. He said, ‘we’ll take a chance,’ so we’re going and we’ll hope for the best.” McWicked is the top earning Standardbred in North America this year with $1,053,864 in the bank. Wins in the Ben Franklin Final, Haughton Memorial, Canadian Pacing Derby, and a 1:46.2 lifetime best score in the Allerage Farms Open Pace last time out at the Red Mile October 6 earned him an invitation to the Rooney. It’s the best season the 7-year-old McArdle stallion has enjoyed since his sophomore year and has bolstered his record to 30-for-89 with $3,375,376 in career earnings.  “He was really good last year. He wasn’t this good, but he didn’t get into a lot of those big races because they went by money earned on the year and he didn’t have any money earned on the year,” Coleman said. “Now that he’s got money on his card, he’s been in all the big dances and he’s as strong now as he’s ever been, no doubt. He thinks he’s 3 again.” In his most recent start, McWicked raced off frantic fractions of :26.1 and :52.1 set by Western Fame and Heaven Rocks. He followed Filibuster Hanover around the final turn and tipped wide past three-quarters in 1:19.1. McWicked struck the front with a furlong to pace and held off parked-out rival Lazarus in the final sixteenth to win by ¾ lengths. “I couldn’t have been any happier with the way it set up. ‘Wicked’ seems to get a lot of tough trips, he’s first-over a lot. He seems to respond to it, he always races really well obviously,” Coleman said. “When I saw the fast fractions up front and he was second-over, Lazarus ended up being parked the mile, so that was to our advantage. I was really happy for the way it was setting up. “He’s been pacing some pretty big miles and that track was the fastest track I’ve seen of any track,” she continued. “That track was lightning. I was definitely expecting a big, big mile and with the fractions, it set up to go a big mile.” Despite McWicked’s torrid winning and beaten times – he’s been sub-1:50 in all but one of his 2018 starts at a mile and sub-1:49 in five – McWicked is a lazy horse in training and until recently, was a muted personality in the barn. “He’s always been a cool horse. As a 3-year-old, he was a really quiet horse. He made no noise and you would never even know he was in the barn. Now, he’s doing double duty, he’s breeding and racing, so he’s squealing and roaring and he knows he’s the boss, basically,” said Coleman, who’s trained McWicked for the bulk of his career. “There’s not many horses I’ve had as long as him except for back when I had claimers because the other ones either go to be broodmares or stallions,” she said. “He’s been around a long time. It’s pretty cool. We always call him the mascot. There’s not many mascots that are in the barn that have made $3.3 million. We call him the mascot because he’s been there forever. “To drive he’s an absolute sweetheart. If you want to go a mile in 2:25, he’ll go in 2:40. He’s very, very lazy. When you watch him race, he doesn’t want much part of the race until they’re past the half. He’s always gapped out and that’s just him,” she continued. “As a 3-year-old, he used to leave more, but this year, he’s very lazy. He wouldn’t hurt a fly, he’s a nice horse, he just squeals and roars a lot, makes a lot of noise, makes sure everybody knows he’s there.” Only $180,990 of McWicked’s career earnings have come on the half-mile track. He finished fifth in the Little Brown Jug and third in the Messenger at 3. At 5, McWicked finished third in the Molson Pace before finally winning on the half at age 6; he took a $30,000 overnight at Yonkers in his 2017 debut March 11 and won a leg of the Levy Series a month later. He finished last in the Levy Final April 22 for trainer Steve Elliot and hasn’t raced on the half since. “He gets around the half fine, he’s good-gaited. I haven’t been to the half that much with him,” Coleman said. “When I went to the Jug, I was extremely excited about McWicked. I thought he would fly over the half and he was no good there, I wasn’t happy with him, he was flat. I never really did find out what it was.  “I’m hoping he’s fine,” she continued. “I don’t see why he’ll have an issue with the half because he’s very good-gaited and he’ll get around anything, but he’s definitely not at his best on the half like he is on a big track.” McWicked drew post 2 in the Dan Rooney Pace and is the 2-1 morning line favorite with regular reinsman Brian Sears in the sulky. Nuclear Dragon is 5-2 from the inside off a front-stepping 1:50.2 score at Dayton while Endeavor to McWicked’s immediate outside enters off a similar score at Hoosier.  Bit Of A Legend, who finished second to Wiggle It Jiggleit in this race in 2015, will start from post 4 off a win in the local $44,000 Open Handicap Pace last out. Evenin Of Pleasure, Mach It So, and Always At My Place complete the lineup after the late sick scratch of Lazarus Friday morning.  “I have no idea what Brian will do on the half,” Coleman admitted. “The rail horse has a ton of speed and the three horse has a ton of speed. I don’t know what Brian will do, but as long as we get away midpack somewhere, I’m happy. I just hope that we can get our picture taken again.” Today’s card also features the $1,000,000 Yonkers International Trot and the $250,000 Harry Harvey Invitational Trot. First post time is 1 p.m. For entries to the card, click here. For more information on the International Trot and its participants, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Sunday morning (October 7), there was no time for celebration in Chris Oakes’ barn on the backstretch at the Red Mile. Homicide Hunter, who set a world record for the fastest trotting mile ever the afternoon before, stood in his stall after going out to jog several laps with caretaker Therese Pierce.  Despite his remarkable achievement on the track, in the barn, Homicide Hunter was barely noticeable, standing silently in a dark corner of his stall without so much as a fuss as Pierce tended to him with the stall door wide open. “Not crazy. We went out for dinner afterwards, shared a few laughs, and we’re back to work today,” Oakes said as he looked admiringly into the trotter’s stall. “You can’t dwell on it too long, we have to work now, we have to keep going.” Homicide Hunter shipped back to Oakes’ Pennsylvania farm this week and will ship to Yonkers Friday to arrive in time for the 24-hour detention barn ahead of Saturday’s Harry Harvey Trot, a $250,000 invitational on the Yonkers International Trot undercard. The stakes will mark Homicide Hunter’s first local start since August 12 and his first start after setting the record. “He has a 10-hour ship back to Pennsylvania, then gets hauled Friday up to Yonkers, race, then be back to Pocono for the Breeders Crown. It’s a lot to ask of these horses,” Oakes said. “He’ll be getting a nice, easy week in the field. I’ve got a pool at the farm right inside the barn, they’ll get swimming a lot and get turned out. That’s what he really enjoys.” Homicide Hunter’s easy week comes off a grueling schedule. After winning the $100,000 Great Northeast Open Series Final over 10 furlongs at Pocono September 2, Homicide Hunter had a tune up at Pocono September 12 before shipping to the Midwest. He finished third in the Caesars Trotting Classic at Hoosier Park September 21 and fourth in the Dayton Trotting Derby September 28 before heading to the Red Mile for the Allerage Farms Open Trot. The Allerage set up perfectly for Homicide Hunter, who has come from off the pace in all of his recent stakes tries. Lindy The Great put up a quarter in :26.2 and after taking the lead heading up the backstretch, Will Take Charge passed the half in :53.2.  Homicide Hunter followed Lindy The Great and Pinkman in the flow third over to three-quarters in 1:22. Brian Sears tipped Homicide Hunter four-wide into the stretch and with a :26 final quarter under with minimal urging from the Hall of Fame driver, Homicide Hunter swept past the field to win by 3 lengths in 1:48.4.  Oakes thought Homicide Hunter could trot sub-1:50, but never expected a world record. He was thrilled to share the moment with owners Al and Michelle Crawford. The win improved Homicide Hunter’s record to 38 wins from 75 starts and boosted his earnings to $1,463,927. “I knew instantly that was a world record. I’m just very happy for the horse and for the owners, too,” Oakes said. “They bring so much to the game and you like to see good people like that do good. When they spend the money they do on horses like this, it’s nice to see things go right. “Luckily, they were on time in front of him, they were getting down there. That helped,” he continued. “The horses that were in front of him were racing hard and of course, he hadn’t been used yet. So, when he did get free, he was loaded.” Homicide Hunter raced barefoot in his record-setting mile, a decision Oakes grappled with before the race. It was his second time racing barefoot for Oakes; the only other instance came in the same race one year earlier when Homicide Hunter was second to Hannelore Hanover in a 1:49.2 mile. The shoes were back on Sunday morning, as they will be for his start in the Harry Harvey Trot. “The track was extremely fast; the conditions were perfect,” Oakes said. “I was contemplating whether I was going to take his shoes off or not, but if you don’t do it on a day like that, you’ll never do it. I thought it was the right conditions and he was OK with it. “This year, the only I thing I did differently was I put no boots on him at all. He wears trotting boots behind, like most of them do, the only thing I put on his hind legs were two wraps, keep it as light as possible, and it worked,” he said. The Harry Harvey Trot will be a completely different style of racing for Homicide Hunter than what he encountered at the Red Mile. He will shift from the mile track to the half, will face a big field of nine rivals, and will stretch back out to 10 furlongs. Although Homicide Hunter won a local Open Handicap Trot at 1 ¼-miles from off the pace earlier this year, Oakes doesn’t want to be too far back against a tough field Saturday. “He’s OK with Yonkers. Big change and maybe even a change in strategies too,” Oakes said. “I don’t know if we can be that far back at Yonkers, it’s a different style of racing there, a little bit more speed involved.” Homicide Hunter drew post 10 and with Sears back in the bike, is the 3-1 morning line favorite in the Harry Harvey Trot. He’ll face Guardian Angel As, the runner up in the Allerage for Annette Lorentzon, who drew post 3 and is 4-1 early. Warrawee Roo, who finished second in the Dayton Trotting Derby last out, is 6-1 from the inside post. The field also includes a host of recent local winners, including Top Flight Angel, In Secret, Yes Mickey, Gruden, NF Happenstance, Sortie and DW’s NY Yank. After his world record score, a win in the Harry Harvey Trot heading into the Breeders Crown would make an impressive campaign for the 6-year-old gelding. Oakes is just happy to be along for the ride. “This horse was a good horse long before I ever laid hands on him. His 3-year-old year in a very tough program in Indiana, this horse won 16 out of 18 (for Curt Grummel) and that tells you right there what kind of horse you’re dealing with. He’s a winner. He’s won half of his lifetime starts. It’s really all about him. I’m glad to be part of him." Saturday’s card also features the $1,000,000 Yonkers International Trot and the $250,000 Dan Rooney Invitational Pace. First post time is 1 p.m. For entries to the card, click here. For more information on the International Trot and its participants, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Training wrapped up on a hot and humid morning Sunday at the Red Mile. There were few clouds to provide cover from the beaming sunshine; the old barns and trees in the backstretch providing a reprieve from the sweltering conditions.  Jimmy Takter brought a horse in off the track and returned to his barn around 10 a.m. Relaxed a day after sending Lazarus to a second-place finish in the Allerage Farms Open Pace and the morning before starting Manchego and Tactical Landing on the Kentucky Futurity Card, Takter joined assistant Per Engblom at a table on the patio at the end of his barn facing the racetrack.  Still in his black, white, and green driving colors, Takter sat back. Legs crossed and comfortable in the shade, he pulled up a replay on his phone of Great Vintage’s second-place effort in the $44,000 Open Handicap Pace at Yonkers the night before and smiled as he watched the 10-year-old battle with Bit Of A Legend in the stretch while pacing a 1:51.1 mile. “This is one of my favorite horses,” Takter said, his eyes glued to the screen. “To do what he’s done and still be going at 10 years old is amazing.” Although Takter’s Hall of Fame resume includes four Hambletonians, six Hambletonian Oaks, 33 Breeders Crowns, an Elitlopp and a Prix d’Amérique just to name a few, Takter still has items on his bucket list as the Grand Circuit season winds down in his final year of training. Namely, he has never won the International Trot. It’s a race he’s dreamed of winning since he started his career in Sweden.  “It was a race that I saw a lot before I even came here. The French horses came over and won. This was a classic, classic race. I’m really glad they brought it back. People love it,” Takter said. “This was long before I came over here that I knew about the race and then it unfortunately disappeared for a while and wasn’t on the radar. Now of course, we just have two $1 million races in the sport, the Hambletonian and this one. “It would mean a lot. I would be really, really excited,” he continued. “This is my last year of training and to end up winning, that’s another stripe on my shoulder. It would be something.” Takter has competed in the International Trot twice before. He trained and drove Whiteland Image to a sixth-place finish in the 1995 edition, the last before the race would be revived in 2015. Takter started Creatine in the Yonkers International Trot’s reappearance; the Andover Hall stallion returned from a European campaign to represent the United States, finishing third after setting the tempo. “Long, long time ago. I don’t even remember it to be honest with you. I don’t think my horse was any good that day. They used me in the last spot, they had an opening or whatever,” Takter said of his International debut with Whiteland Image. “That was the year Melander won, His Majesty. Then I raced Creatine three years ago. He was third, so it’s time to do it now.” This year, Takter will start Ariana G in the $1 million stakes. The 4-year-old mare will represent the United States for owners Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld. One of the last of the 10 competitors to be announced, Takter accepted the invitation from Yonkers Raceway race secretary Steve Starr just after her win in the Dayton Trotting Derby September 28. “I had it in the back of my head that it would be interesting to race her there,” Takter said. “I know she’s only 4 and you never know, but she showed she could compete against the aged horses. Especially now that she won at Dayton, I feel very good about it. “I talked to Steve before Dayton and I told him, I don’t want to go unless the filly is good,” Takter continued. “He actually called and invited me for the $250,000 (Harry Harvey Invitational), and I told him I’m not going to jeopardize the Breeders Crown for that race, but I’d do it for the International Trot. I waited to see how she raced at Dayton and when she won there, then I knew.” Ariana G entered the Dayton Trotting Derby off a third in the Maple Leaf Trot September 1 and a sixth in the Preferred at Mohawk September 11. She tipped three-wide off the turn in the $150,000 stakes, grinding down Guardian Angel AS and holding off Warrawee Roo to post a 1:52.1 victory and establish a new track record. “I thought she was going to race good, but we were a little bit nervous because we had sick horses up in Canada and she hadn’t raced good the start before, so we were really a little bit worried going into it that she wouldn’t be herself,” Takter admitted. “I think she was 90 percent and I think with this start in her, I think we’re going to be good.” Ariana G’s off-the-pace win in the Dayton Trotting Classic is the 26th of her 37-race career. Victories in the Doherty Memorial, Peaceful Way, Hambletonian Oaks, Elegant Image, the Breeders Crown at 2 and 3, the Graduate Final, and Hambletonian Maturity contributed to her $2.3 million bankroll.   “She’s been a World Champion from 2 years old and she’s just been phenomenal,” Takter remarked. “Every year, she just gets a little bit more mature. Now she’s a 4-year-old, she’s starting to look more professional, but she’s been a class horse from day one.” Despite her impressive record, Ariana G has never raced on a half-mile track and has never raced further than 9 furlongs. She will have to navigate the turns of Yonkers’ half-mile oval five times in the 1 ¼-mile International Trot.  Ariana G will face nine rivals in the Yonkers International Trot: Arazi Boko (Italy), Cruzado Dela Noche (Sweden), Lionel (Norway), Marion Marauder (Canada), Pastore Bob (Sweden), Ringostarr Treb (Italy), Slide So Easy (Denmark), Up And Quick (France), and Will Take Charge (Canada). She drew post four and is a 5-1 morning line with Yannick Gingras in the sulky. “She’s never raced on a half-mile, but I don’t think it’s going to be an issue. She’s pretty handy,” Takter said. “I really don’t know the European horses too much. There’s a couple of horses who can really bust out of the gate good and I don’t know if they have the stamina. I think the two horses that are big contenders are ‘Ariana’ and Marion Marauder. Whoever gets the best trip is going to be close there. “I don’t think I want to see her do the dirty work too much,” he continued. “It’s a mile-and-a-quarter. If she’s sitting fourth or fifth with decent horses in front of her, maybe working out a second-over trip the last lap, would be the dream spot.” The $1 million Yonkers International Trot is slated for Saturday, October 13 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. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – The prestige and rich harness racing history of the International Trot can rear its head in many places. For Anders Ström, the race’s lineage materialized before him as he studied the yearling catalog of the recently concluded Arqana Trot Select Yearling Sale. Ström paused on hip no. 47, a colt out of Sirene de Mai, whose great, great, great grand dam, Une de Mai, along with her countless European feats, won the International Trot in 1969 and 1971.  “The race has seen many great winners, and I actually watched the 1969 edition on YouTube recently,” Ström said. “It was when French super mare Une de Mai beat Nevele Pride, as I was in the process of buying a Ready Cash yearling colt in Deauville from the Une de Mai maternal line.” Ström bought the colt for €170,000 and he will have a chance to make history of his own in this year’s renewal of the Yonkers International Trot. His stable, Stall Courant AB, will start Cruzado Dela Noche as a representative of Sweden in the $1 million stakes. “It would be (my) biggest win so far. Only Elitloppet, Prix d’Amérique, Hambletonian and the Swedish 4-year-old Derby can match it, in my book,” Ström said. “But this horse’s character makes it extra special. As he already has qualified as a sire in the Swedish system with high grades, a win here would boost his credentials for that as well. That would be very nice.” Ström bought Cruzado Dela Noche sight unseen out of the 2013 Harrisburg Yearling Sale for $28,000. The Pennsylvania-bred son of Muscle Massive out of the Credit Winner mare Alidade, then known by the name Arusa Hanover, looked the part, but it was something intangible that piqued Ström’s interest.  “I wasn’t at the sale because of business in Australia, but ‘Cruzado’ was one of five lower-priced yearlings that I bought on the back of advice from friends and agents who were at the sale inspecting horses,” Ström explained. “Cruzado was the one that had the extra special attitude which is why I renamed him with a name I had kept for a really good horse. The name comes from the Spiderman movie, when Peter Parker comes up with the idea for his suit.” Despite his early promise and standout spirit, Cruzado Dela Noche struggled to stay trotting in his 2- and 3-year-old campaigns; he made breaks in stride in 10 of his 28 races and qualifiers. Despite those setbacks, Cruzado Dela Noche finished third in the Peter Haughton Memorial and posted wins in a division of the International Stallion Stakes and a leg of Pennsylvania Sire Stakes as a freshman in Nancy Johansson’s stable. “He was slightly immature and whimsy to begin with, but tremendously talented,” Ström said. “We felt that he would mature over time, so we weren’t especially worried. Nancy and Marcus Johansson took good care of him in the early days which we are thankful for now that the horse is sound and makes a good career as an older trotter.” After a 3-year-old campaign that produced just two wins in 11 starts, Ström sent Cruzado Dela Noche across the Atlantic to trainer Stefan Melander and Courant Managing Director Sabine Kagebrant. The calculated move would allow Cruzado Dela Noche to take advantage of the 4-year-old stakes in Sweden and give him time to develop.  “We stake all our U.S. purchases to the rich 4-year-old program in Europe. It doesn’t cost much and they add a lot of purse money, so it is an easy business decision,” Ström explained. “Stefan Melander also has a great track record when it comes to the older American horse. “Melander’s training regime suits him perfect. He also has an ‘extra groom’ in Sabine Kagebrant, who has great experience with older star trotters, having worked with Stefan Melander, Björn Goop and Jörgen Westholm horses all over Europe,” Ström continued. “When Sabine is out of the office, she spends a lot of time with ‘Noche,’ makes him feel special and that works well for him.” At 4, Cruzado Dela Noche won the Group 1 Grosser Preis Von Deutschland and the Group 2 Norrlands Grand Prix. He also placed third in the Group 1 Sprinter Mästaren Final. At 5, Cruzado Dela Noche captured the Group 1 Copenhagen Cup. “He always does his best, I can think of only one or two races when he failed and there were good excuses,” Ström said. “One was in Elitloppet 2017, when he made a break at the gate in the elimination which otherwise likely would have given him the same trip as Resolve, who eventually was second in the final.  “That was hard to take. I think he could have matched Timoko on the day, he was in such good shape,” he continued. “But overall this horse gives us tremendous joy, just to see his attitude makes me wonder sometimes. He is so much more than just the average good racehorse.” Now a 6-year-old Cruzado Dela Noche has been lightly raced this season. The stallion was sixth in the Group 1 Olympiatravet Final April 28, third in the Copenhagen Cup May 13, scored his lone win this year in the listed Gösta Bergengrens Minneslopp May 30 before finishing fifth in the Group 1 Oslo Grand Prix. His short campaign was by design as Cruzado Dela Noche returned to the United States early to settle into a new chapter of his career. “We got invited in May and then we decided to give the horse the best preparation possible, with proper quarantine so he could get acclimatized to his new-old life in the U.S. Our dream race to target this season is the International Trot so we didn’t want to leave anything to chance,” Ström said.  “European races are run in a different way which isn’t ideal for ‘Cruzado.’ He likes the high, even pace better, which is why we staked him for the fall season in the U.S.A. just in case,” he continued. “Any which way, he raced really good in the spring, so we felt he was going upwards in form all the time.” Cruzado Dela Noche reemerged in a qualifier at Pocono Downs September 12 for trainer Marcus Melander. He led wire-to-wire in 1:55.2. The stallion got another trial under his belt at the same venue September 26, crossing the wire first in 1:54.2. “He has done quarantine, then two light qualifiers at Pocono, which he made look very easy,” Ström said. “He likes his life at Marcus Melander’s farm and he will get another sharper workout, like an ‘eye-opener,’ a few days before the race which I believe will be enough to take him to top form.” Cruzado Dela Noche, who will pair with driver Brian Sears for the first time in the International, will face nine rivals: Arazi Boko (Italy), Ariana G (United States), Dreammoko (Netherlands), Lionel (Norway), Marion Marauder (Canada), Pastore Bob (Sweden), Ringostarr Treb (Italy), Slide So Easy (Denmark), and Up And Quick (France). Although the field is one of the deepest in recent memory, Ström likes his chances. “I think this year’s field is absolutely fantastic, given the challenge with trans-Atlantic transport of international horses. All races in this class are tough. But ‘Noche’ has beaten Twister Bi, last year’s winner, fair and square before, from second-over in a Swedish record time over the same distance as the International Trot, on a slow five-eighths-mile track. That says he can compete with anyone on the day,” Ström said. “Now I hope Brian Sears up first time will give him an extra gear as well. From posts one to five he is a real contender, otherwise a decent chance to show anyway. I respect the competition and I believe the winner will be the horse that is best on the day and has racing luck.” The $1 million Yonkers International Trot is slated for Saturday, October 13 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, visit www.internationaltrot.com. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – The sun inched toward the horizon in the western Paris skies around 4:30 p.m. January 25, 2015, casting a soft golden glow over harness racing's Hippodrome de Vincennes. The crystal horse trophy Philippe Delon cradled in his arms captured the rays and it too gleamed in a golden hue as Delon raised it over his head. From atop the podium in the winner’s enclosure, Delon smiled as he looked into the stands at the thousands of fans who cheered, waved flags, and smiled back at him before lowering the prize back into his arms, staring down at it in disbelief.  Moments earlier, Delon watched as his homebred star Up And Quick streaked into the stretch with the lead in the Grand Prix d’Amérique. After grinding leader Mosaique Face into submission, Up And Quick kicked away from late threat Voltigeur de Myrt. Ahead by 3 lengths nearing the finish, driver Jean-Michel Bazire took both lines in his left hand, blew a kiss with his right, and turned to the crowd to give a thumbs up as he and Up And Quick passed the finish. In that moment, Up And Quick rose to the top of the trotting world. The Prix d’Amérique was the third Group 1 win of the Buvetier d'Aunou son’s career after taking the Critérium des Five Ans in 2013 and the Grand Prix de Paris in 2014. The victory improved on Up And Quick’s second-place effort to Maharajah the year before. Nearly four years later, the curtain is about to close on the final act of Up And Quick’s racing career and Delon hopes his trotter can deliver one more thrill on the world’s stage. Up And Quick will reach the mandatory retirement age in France when he turns 11 in 2019 and will no longer be able to target France’s biggest trotting spectacle. Instead, Delon set his sights on New York, sending his star across the Atlantic to compete in the $1 million Yonkers International Trot. The representative of France would be the first Prix d’Amérique winner since Lutin d'Isigny in 1985 to win the International Trot. “He’s given us everything a breeder and an owner can dream of,” Delon said. “We would love to see him finishing his last season with a bang in New York.” Up And Quick’s journey to the Yonkers International Trot has been rife with struggles. Although he scored a fourth Group 1 in the 2015 Grand Prix de Paris, Up And Quick’s attempt to defend his Prix d’Amérique title in 2016 proved disastrous. After finishing fourth in the Prix de Bourgogne and 10th in the Prix de Belgique, Up And Quick was up the track when 14th in the Prix d’Amérique after attending the pace. He pulled up with a fractured ilium, one of three bones that comprise a horse’s hip. "As after every major race, a battery of tests were conducted and now the verdict is in: a fracture of the ilium was detected,” Delon’s Écurie Quick Star posted on it’s website after the race. “It is very surprising that Up And Quick could deliver such a beautiful race. He must be a brave and sacred competitor to trot as he did when he was injured.” Although he did not require surgery, Up And Quick needed months of stall rest and would not compete again until returning a winner in the Grand Prix de Noël at Hippodrome de Wallonie December 29, 2016. He didn’t make it back to the French classics, but Up And Quick proved himself competitive on the track, winning a pair of Group 2 races in 2017, the Critérium de Vitesse de Basse-Normandie at Argentan April 29, 2017 and the Prix de la Communauté de Communes Thiérache du Centre at La Capelle July 9. Soon though, Up And Quick would suffer another setback. “He suffered from a small fracture in July last year and had to stay two months in his (stall). Before that, he’d broken a hip bone and had to stay four months locked in,” Delon said. “It takes a real champion to come back the way he did after that. Jean-Michel Bazire said that’s the true mark of a wonder horse, coming back to do what he does best.” After covering 82 mares in the winter, Up And Quick returned to the track again in March and successfully defended his title in the Critérium de Vitesse de Basse-Normandie, posting a nose win over Un Mec d’Héripré and Ave Avis in a scrambling finish. Although he rides a nine-race losing streak into the Yonkers International Trot, the €2.1-million earner finished third in an elimination of the Elitlopp, second in the Group 1 Hugo Åbergs Memorial, and third in the Group 2 Grand Prix du Département des Alpes-Maritimes.  Up And Quick was fifth last time out in the Group 1 UET Trotting Masters Series Final September 16 after getting pinned inside three back along the pylons in the 12-horse field. Facing a wall of horses in the stretch, Up And Quick finished 3 ¾ lengths behind Propulsion. Delon chalked it up to a tactical mistake; driver Wim Paal chose to follow Pastore Bob and expected a pocket trip behind the speedy rival, but ended up buried at the inside instead. “We chose the wrong leader. Wim Paal and I thought Pastore Bob was the one to follow, but he got us nowhere,” Delon said. “Propulsion was the one to beat and we never had a live chance. Just throw that race away. The horse is absolutely fine. He loves to work and to race. That’s what kept him going all these years despite a few health issues that belong to the past now.” Since the Trotting Masters Final, Up And Quick has prepared for the Yonkers International Trot at Haras De Sassy, about 130 miles west of Paris. His days are easy at the stud farm with trainer Antoine Lhérété. Delon fears the quiet lifestyle can’t be replicated at Yonkers. “He’s out all day in his paddock. He loves it. He works in the pool, too. He only gets in his (stall) at night,” Delon said. “That was a bit of a problem for us because he won’t be able to relax like that while staying at Yonkers. That’s my main concern today. At least he’ll be able to get out twice a day, but that’s not exactly the same. I hope they will lodge him in a good (stall) because like Dreammoko, he’s a stud, full of energy.” Up And Quick will face nine rivals in the International: Arazi Boko (Italy), Ariana G (United States), Cruzado Dela Noche (Sweden), Dreammoko (Netherlands), Lionel (Norway), Marion Marauder (Canada), Pastore Bob (Sweden), Ringostarr Treb (Italy), Slide So Easy (Denmark). The $1 million Yonkers International Trot is slated for Saturday, October 13 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, visit www.internationaltrot.com. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY with Manu Roussel

YONKERS, N.Y. – Yonkers Raceway will host eight finals of the New York Sire Stakes Saturday night (September 22) worth a combined $1.8 million. Tim Tetrick will drive seven of the 64 statebreds who seek championship titles, and the 36-year-old is confident in his horses. “The New York program is great. The New York breeding program is very strong and when you have that much money, you get better bred horses. It’s good for them to showcase their breed, “Tetrick said. “It could be a really good pay day.” Tetrick’s name tops the earnings list of North American drivers with his horses taking home $9.5 million so far this year. Tetrick drove Shartin to victory this spring in the $373,000 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series Final, Yonkers’ signature race for mares, and finished fourth in the Hambletonian Final with Crystal Fashion. The latter leads all standardbreds in earnings this season with $908,207 in the bank while the former is ranked seventh with $759,111 earned. “It’s been very good. I was close to getting my second Hambo’ there, winning the first heat and coming up short in the final,” Tetrick said. “Shartin has been a very good mare in the aged group and I’ve got some nice two-year-olds that are racing good. All in all, it’s been a pretty good year.” Tetrick will look to add to his impressive tally in Saturday’s finals and the star driver took time to catch up with the SOA’s Brandon Valvo about his chances. Race 2 - $225,000 NYSS Final for 2-Year-Old Trotting Fillies Hanna Dreamgirl – Post 8 – 20-1  Daughter of Chapter Seven won in the $10,000 Kindergarten Classic at The Meadowlands July 20 with Tetrick in the sulky and earned a spot in the Sire Stakes final with a victory in the series at Vernon Downs August 23 for Jim Morrill, Jr. The Linda Toscano trainee has another six seconds and thirds from nine starts with $97,164 earned.  “She’s pretty nice. Kind of a big mare. A half probably isn’t the best spot for her, but she has raced good and done OK on the half. She likes to trot, and you never know with the two-year-old trotting fillies. You might say it’s a bad spot, but three or four might run and then you’re sitting in the right spot to pick up the pieces. She’s a nice filly, got a lot of quality. I’ll just play it by ear. When I’ve driven her, she hasn’t been the biggest leaver. I’ll probably just look over to my left and hopefully some people make mistakes and she’ll definitely have to win from the back, that’s for sure.” Race 3 - $225,000 NYSS Final for 2-Year-Old Trotting Colts and Geldings Chapter Fashion – Post 7 – 7-1  Jim Campbell trainee won from post seven locally August 20, doubling up on a 1:56.1 score in the Tompkins Geers at Tioga Downs August 10. Tetrick drove in the latter race and looks forward to getting behind the son of Chapter Seven again after Jason Bartlett chose rival Thunder. Chapter Fashion enters off a break in stride in his last start September 14, but Tetrick isn’t concerned about the miscue.  “I’ve only driven him one time and he raced really good that time. I left out of there a little bit, floated, got away third. When I pulled him, he trotted right by the front-end horses and raced really well. He did it right. Jim’s having a great year, his horses have all been doing really, really well and I think the horse is definitely a player. If we had drawn in one or two spots, I would have liked him even more, but he’s still going to get a shot to get good money. "Jim asked me if I was going to be there, I said yeah and he said, ‘I’m putting you back on that horse.’ He’s a little squirrelly in the post parade. You think he’s going to be really aggressive, he wants to pull and lug on you but when you go to the gate, he says, OK what am I going to do here, and he lets me do my job. He’s all trot and doesn’t want to make breaks, so he’s pretty nice. I’m not worried about that. Jim will have him right. Who knows what happened, maybe he just got in a bad spot or took a bad step, but Jim said he didn’t really have an answer for it.” Race 4 - $225,000 NYSS Final for 2-Year-Old Pacing Colts and Geldings Hickfromfrenchlick – Post 6 – 9-2 Tetrick will take the lines for the first time behind the Schnittker-trained colt. The So Surreal son recorded a blowout 14 ¼-length win in the Landmark at Goshen in his debut June 29 and won the $100,000 Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace July 14. Hickfromfrenchlick posted two wins in Sire Stakes company in his next four starts, including a 1:51.3 lifetime best at Vernon September 3. “I’ve seen him race. He looks like he’s pretty tough, he looks like he can leave the gate good and he’s very versatile. He won the stakes race earlier in the year with Ray driving and I’ve always done good for Ray and Ray’s always done good for me, so I’m excited to get to drive him. I’ll talk to Ray and watch some replays and go from there. Mainly just feel the horse out when I get out there.” Race 5 - $225,000 NYSS Final for 2-Year-Old Pacing Fillies So Awesome – Post 6 – 2-1 Tetrick drove the daughter of So Surreal to three wins, including her maiden-breaking score in Sire Stakes at Yonkers July 6, another local leg of the Sire Stakes July 24, and a Sire Stakes split at Saratoga August 31. The freshman filly also earned a Sire Stakes win at Batavia with Morrill in the sulky. She’s earned $176,190 to date, the most of any 2-year-old on the card, and all four victories have come in wire-to-wire style. “She’s been awesome. She’s a professional, she goes out there and does her job. You want to leave, you want to duck, she’s got tons of speed and she’s been at the top of her class all year. I think she’s definitely the one to beat in there. She’ll be going forward. When you’re one of the better ones, it’s hard to give up three or four lengths early whenever you think you have the best horse. She’ll definitely be looking left when you go out of there. She’s all professional, she does what she’s supposed to do. She acts like she’s six years old and acts like she’s done it more than me.” Race 6 - $225,000 NYSS Final for 3-Year-Old Trotting Fillies Repentance – Post 8 – 9-1 Tetrick returns to the bike behind Diamond Creek Racing’s homebred Chapter Seven filly. She finished sixth with Tetrick in the Mary Reynolds at the Meadowlands July 7 and fourth in the Frank Zanzuccki on Hambletonian Day. The Linda Toscano trainee went 3-for-4 in Sire Stakes this year, winning at Tioga, Batavia, and Saratoga in her most recent start September 7. Toscano sends out two other trotters in this race while Åke Svanstedt will start five. “I’ve raced her a few different times and she is a talented mare. She’s well bred. I know the eight hole is going to be tough for her, especially with the entries. We’ll just have to play it by ear and hope somebody makes a mistake. We’ll have to get into the race somehow late in the mile. A couple times she’s raced good for me and a couple times she hasn’t. When I’ve gotten to drive her, it’s been against open company. That makes a difference, sometimes it’s a little tougher.” Race 7 - $225,000 NYSS Final for 3-Year-Old Pacing Fillies Wisdom Tree – Post 4 – 7-5 After going 3-for-11 as a 2-year-old, Wisdom Tree drew post eight in the Sire Stakes Final and made a break, finishing seventh. Now 3, the daughter of Betterthancheddar out of the Artsplace mare Wisdom has 10 wins from 13 starts and $274,851 earned this year. Wisdom Tree’s crowning achievement to date came when she beat open stakes rivals in a 1:49.4 score in the $142,000 Nadia Lobell at Hoosier Park July 6. Trainer Ed Hart will hand Tetrick the lines for the first time since last year’s Sire Stakes Final. “I drove her last year in the two-year-old final. She had go, but she made a break or got run into. She’s come back and been a great three-year-old. I’m excited to get to drive her again. It just worked out because Scotty (Zeron) and Matt (Kakaley) both had to leave and I was in the right place at the right time to get her back. They told me she’s just one good drive away from winning, so if she gets beat it’s my fault.” Race 8 - $225,000 NYSS Final for 3-Year-Old Trotting Colts and Geldings Cruising In Style – Post 5 – 8-1 The Andrew Harris-trained colt has just one win this year in a Yonkers overnight, but made the Sire Stakes Final with five seconds and thirds in the series this spring and summer. Jason Bartlett drove the son of Muscle Mass to victory in last year’s $50,000 Sire Stakes Consolation at Monticello and was named to drive in the final, but Tetrick picked up the drive when Bartlett opted for rival Clive Bigsby.  “I’ve never driven him. That was a pick up after they saw me on the sheet. He’s a good trainer, the kid does good. We’ve got the five hole, I know Åke’s horse and Linda’s horse are pretty tough, but hopefully we can get a good piece of it.” By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Bringing Will Take Charge to race in Saturday night’s Open Handicap Trot at Yonkers Raceway isn’t an expedient move for Jeff Gillis. He’s passing up a chance to race in the $200,000 Caesar’s Trotting Classic at Hoosier Park next week and he was certain to be assigned post eight in the weekly $44,000 trotting feature. However, Gillis made the choice to race the 5-year-old gelding at the Hilltop with good reason: the International Trot is just a month away (October 13), and Gillis is determined to represent Canada in the $1 million stakes. “That’s the whole reason for being down here. He’s eligible to a race at Hoosier next Friday that I may bypass. I’m not sure about racing him off six days with all the travel,” Gillis said. “It wasn’t a convenient time to come down from a scheduling perspective, but I really want to be in that race and I’m going to do anything I can to get him noticed.” Although Will Take Charge is in the midst of a career year, winning the Maxie Lee Invitational at Harrah’s Philadelphia in May, taking the Crawford Farms Trot at Tioga in a romp in July, and finishing second in both the Cutler Memorial and Cashman to the tune of $387,965 this season, Gillis doesn’t think the son of Kadabra has made enough of an impression to earn one of the 10 invitations to Yonkers’ signature race for older trotters. “The Maxie Lee, he was spectacular that day. To that point, he’d won off of cover and he’d won on the front, but we’d never grinded out first-over. That was the hand we were dealt that day and I was really impressed with him. I would argue that’s been his best race for me,” Gillis said. “The race at Tioga, I don’t think the field was quite as deep and he was never really threatened. Two very different races.” Will Take Charge finished eighth beaten 6 ½ lengths behind likely United States representative Crazy Wow and probable Canadian representative Marion Marauder in the Maple Leaf Trot at Mohawk September 1. Gillis doesn’t think Will Take Charge was at his best that night and believes his trotter will deliver a standout performance worthy of garnering an invitation Saturday night. “I gave him four days off after the Maple Leaf Trot and then just jogged him up until Wednesday and trained him. He’s ready to go tomorrow,” Gillis said. “We haven’t yet received an invite and I certainly want it. I’m hoping for him to race well tomorrow and in turn receive that invite. “I feel like after the Maple Leaf Trot, I’m not sure if they’ll invite more than one Canadian horse, but I was concerned that Marion Marauder had the upper hand on us and the only thing I could do to turn the tables is bring him down here and hopefully showcase him a little bit,” Gillis said. Will Take Charge will start from post eight in Saturday’s sixth race. The 1-mile trot attracted last week’s dominant Preferred winner Gruden and July 7 Open winner Weslynn Dancer. Madhatter Bluechip, New Heaven, Barry Black, Fashion Creditor, and Lord Cromwell comprise the lineup. Despite his outside assignment, Will Take Charge is the 5-2 morning line favorite with Mark MacDonald down to drive.  “I’m going to leave it up to Mark MacDonald. I don’t want him to get away eighth. I expect him to go forward in some manner,” Gillis said. “I think it will depend on how many leavers there are inside of him. I’m confident if he has to go to the lead, he’ll be good and I’m confident that he can do it from off the pace as well.” Will Take Charge won a local $30,000 Preferred Handicap in April, racing from off the pace to score a 1:56.1 win. Gillis believes Will Take Charge excels on small tracks and relishes the tight turns of the half-mile oval. “He trots the turns as fast as any horse I’ve ever had, as fast as the straightaways really,” Gillis said. “The smaller tracks are really his bread and butter; in fact, I’ve developed the opinion that he hasn’t raced quite as well at home as he has on the road and most of his starts on the road have been on the smaller tracks. “I really think, with him trotting the turns so good and I don’t know that this horse particularly tires,” Gillis continued. “He’s been a mile-and-an-eighth a couple of times and been second beat a neck both times. I think on a half, the advantage kind of shifts to him. I’d really like the opportunity to find out for sure.” Saturday’s 12-race program co-features a $44,000 Open Handicap Pace in race eight and a $35,000 4-year-old Open Handicap Pace in race nine. 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. – Rob Harmon was skeptical of the French American Trotting Club when the idea was announced. The trainer initially passed over the opportunity, but pressed by owners Dein Spriggs, Barbara Kurtin, and Barbara Lucarelli, Harmon took the plunge. Under the Harmon Racing Stable name, the quartet joined the program. “At first, I was kind of hesitant, I just didn’t know how it was going to be,” Harmon said. “Then I had a bunch of owners called me at the last second and there’s actually four of us that own this horse and they all just wanted to try it. When you break it down, it was only seven-grand per person, so it wasn’t that bad. We all just threw in for a quarter.” Harmon received Aigle De La Vallee, an 8-year-old son of Norginio out of the And Arifant mare Indian Queen. The gelding went 4-for-81 overseas, his last win coming under saddle at La Capelle in July 2015. Harmon wasn’t enthused when he saw the chestnut for the first time. “He was red. That was the only thing I didn’t like about him,” the trainer said. “He was OK, he’s a good-looking horse. I’m not a big red horse fan. That’s just me. If I go to the sales looking for a baby and it’s red, I’m not buying them. I just never had any luck with them.” Like his other chestnut endeavors, Aigle De La Vallee looked to be destined to disappoint after the first leg of the French American Trotting Club Series August 5. Off a pair of solid qualifiers, including a 1 ¼-mile trial in 2:31.2 with a :27.4 final quarter, Aigle De La Vallee made a break in the first leg. He finished a distant last in the 10-horse field. “He just got a little hot on Jimmy (Marohn Jr.). He got a little hot and he wouldn’t wear head poles, so we tried line poles and at 8-years-old, he’s set in his ways. He was just too hot,” Harmon said.  Aigle De La Vallee needed to requalify in order to continue racing in the series. Harmon took the gelding to Pocono August 8, but he again went off stride. Three days later, Aigle De La Vallee qualified at Tioga with hopples and got a clean line on his card. However, the hopples had the unintended effect of tiring Aigle De La Vallee and he only trotted the mile in 2:00.2. Yonkers qualifying standards dictate a horse must trot in 2:00 on a five-eighths track in order to race. “We trained him in hopples and I was actually going to do that at Pocono when we qualified him and I decided not to. Jimmy thought it was something extra to help him out, so I did,” Harmon said. “They were a little tight on him in the qualifier and he just got tired in them, so we weren’t qualified for the next leg.” Harmon sought out another spot for Aigle De La Vallee to race in order to qualify for the final leg of the series August 26. He needed a spot that would mesh with the Sunday schedule at Yonkers and that didn’t have purse caps on classes as Aigle De La Vallee raced in the $35,000 series leg in his prior start. Harmon found a $4,815 conditioned trot at Saratoga Friday, August 17 and entered, but Aigle De La Valle drew post eight with Frank Coppola Jr. named to drive. The trotter would need a 2:02 mile on the half-mile track to qualify to race at Yonkers. “I told everybody, let’s just take him to Saratoga and just let him race and he is what he is,” Harmon said. “I told Frank, ‘you’ve just got to go 2:02. I don’t care if he’s last, you just have to trot in 2:02 so I’m qualified for the last leg.’ He drove him that way and he raced good.” Complicating the time trial, a deluge hit Saratoga that evening and left the track sloppy. Devoid of any gate speed, Coppola took Aigle De La Vallee back to last and raced 10 ½ lengths behind at the quarter. Coppola guided the French trotter around two breakers in the opening half-mile and joined the outer flow in the second lap. Aigle De La Vallee advanced without cover from 7 lengths back and caught the leaders. Coppola tipped four-wide around the final turn and he swooped past the field to win by a length in 1:59.1. “He actually raced good, he had the eight hole in a monsoon. He ended up catching up to the field on the last turn, went four deep, and just trotted home good,” Harmon said. “Out of the eight hole, he overcame a lot.” Qualified for the final leg of the series, Aigle De La Vallee started from post two in the $35,000 second division August 26. He raced first-over and although he was passed by winner Versachet in the final three-eighths of the 1 ½-mile marathon, Aigle De La Vallee finished second to earn a spot in Sunday’s $120,000 final. “When we brought him back in the last leg when we were second, I told Jimmy, ‘just get away wherever you’re going to get away and just pull him and let him grind away.’ That’s what he did,” Harmon said. “He didn’t brush, he stayed first-over and just went one speed. Jordan Stratton came behind us and went around us, but we got up for second and that helped. “He’s the kind of horse who always goes :29 in three quarters,” Harmon said. “He’s just a grinder, he has no brush to him. The further we go, the better he is. He just doesn’t slow down, but he doesn’t have a big brush to him.” Aigle De La Vallee drew post seven in the series final, carded as the second of 10 races Sunday. Harmon is keeping his expectations in check for the 15-1 morning line, who will start just inside of series leader Ursis Des Caillons, who is undefeated at Yonkers in three starts. Last week’s other winner Versachet drew post four while earlier series winners Deo and Alpha d’Urzy will start from the second tier in posts 10 and 12, respectively. Bosse Du Fosse, Akhenaton, Uhlan Noir, Barry Black, Adagio De La Tour, Bioness, and Undici complete the field. “That would be unbelievable. It really would be unbelievable. I don’t see him doing it,” Harmon said of winning the final. “He’s going to have to have a lot of things go his way. That’s what we’re all in it for, don’t get me wrong.” Harmon doesn’t think the outside post will hurt Aigle De La Vallee. The trainer is rooting for action early in the 1 ½-mile race to set up for Aigle De La Vallee’s grinding style. “After he raced his last time, he showed that he’s a little more honest now. You know what you’ve got and he did trot a good race last time,” he said. “There’s just going to be a lot of road traffic for us. I’m glad I’m not driving, I’m glad I’m watching. “Even if we had the inside, he would get away in the same spot, he’s just not a big leaver,” Harmon continued. “We’re going a mile-and-a-half, I just hope everybody pulls early and tries to get position and then there’s just going to be a lot of tired horses and we can beat them at the end.” First post time Sunday is 12:15 p.m. The Empire Terrace will be open for Sunday brunch in conjunction with the series final. For free full-card past performances, click here.  By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Rene Allard admits Springsteen can be a complicated horse to deal with and the challenge is reflected in the colt’s results. His sophomore season has been a mix of impressive miles and dull efforts. He won the $500,000 Max Hempt Memorial and two divisions of New York Sire Stakes, but came up flat in the Carl Milstein, Adios, and Art Rooney Pace.  Allard looks to make amends for the Rooney loss when he sends Springsteen out in the $500,000 Messenger Stakes Saturday night (Sept. 1), slated as race seven on a stakes-laden card. The son of Rock N Roll Heaven drew the inside while rival Jimmy Freight landed post eight. “We’re happy with the season. Obviously, he threw a couple clinkers, there’s a couple races I wish he would have shown up better,” Allard said. “The final of the Art Rooney, he tied up that start and then the start at Northfield. Other than that, he’s a nice horse, he’s got high speed. We’re happy with him.” Springsteen suffers from tying up when he trains too hard and deals with trying conditions, like long trips to the races and drastic changes in the weather. He can also be a difficult horse to drive. All these factors converged two starts back in the Milstein. After shipping all the way to Ohio, Springsteen choked in the race when Lather Up broke to his outside on the second turn. “He had some tying up issues and he choked. (Lather Up) made a break and he shut his air off. He’s a real tricky horse,” Allard said. “When he sees the gate, he gets a little grabby and sometimes he shuts his air off. When he shuts his air off, that’s it, the race is over. That’s why the drivers have to be a little careful with him.  “If he doesn’t tie up and doesn’t shut his air off, he’s probably as good as any 3-year-old colt out there,” Allard continued. “So, we just kind of keep our fingers crossed that everything goes good and have the equipment on him to control him and so far, 90 percent of the time it’s been working out.” Everything worked out in the Hempt Final at Pocono Downs June 30. Springsteen followed the cover of Hitman Hill and Lather Up as Dorsoduro Hanover paced through a :53.1 opening half-mile. Simon Allard tugged on the right line before the three-quarters and Springsteen charged three-wide. He circled Lather Up past a 1:20.2 panel, the 1-9 favorite off his North America Cup and Hempt elimination wins offering no resistance.  Allard drove Springsteen confidently into the stretch, the colt drifting wide and the driver still holding the whip over his shoulder as he leaned flat in the bike. Allard finally went to the whip in the final sixteen as Nutcracker Sweet shot through up the passing lane and put a head in front. Allard sat up in the bike and gave Springsteen a pair of right-handers and the colt extended, edging his nose in front just as the glow of the finish line lights appeared. He registered a head win in 1:48.3. “He’s definitely got high speed and he’s a nice horse and it’s been a very fun ride, for sure,” Allard said. Allard bought Springsteen with Bruce Soulsby midway through his 2-year-old season. After watching Springsteen use a :26.1 final quarter to finish second in a Metro Pace elimination at Mohawk last September for Chris Ryder, Allard and Soulsby finally came to an agreement to purchase the horse during the Grand Circuit meet at the Red Mile, adding partners Alan Weisenberg and Kapildeo Singh.  Springsteen finished seventh in the International Stallion Stakes in Lexington Oct. 7, but the June 2 foal kept on improving. He registered his first win in a $12,000 maiden at Pocono Oct. 22 and won the Matron at Dover in his next start. Springsteen capped his freshman year with a win in the Governor’s Cup elimination and a seventh in the final after being parked the mile. “We watched him finish second in the Metro Pace elimination and he came a huge last quarter. That’s when he caught my eye and I was talking to Bruce Soulsby about it and we ended up making a deal in Lexington. Chris Ryder did a tremendous job training him down and getting him ready,” Allard said. “I don’t see why he wouldn’t keep on going and keep on improving. Last year, toward the end of the year he just kept getting better and better.” Springsteen finished a distant second to Jimmy Freight in his Messenger elimination last week, pacing a 1:51.2 mile and finishing 3 ¾ lengths behind the latter’s track-record effort. Off a 14-day break since his Milstein effort, Allard was happy with the trial. “He was first-over to a horse that was just unbelievable. That was a huge mile, off 14 days and we don’t do a lot with him between races,” Allard said. “He’s one of those that you can’t train real hard between races, so I expect him to be a little better this week. I think he should be tighter. We just kind of keep him on his routine, light work every day. We don’t work him real hard, just kind of steady all week. No hard, fast miles, a lot of slow miles.” Springsteen already won the Messenger post position draw. Although Springsteen typically doesn’t show early speed, Allard loves the prospect of starting along the pylons while Jimmy Freight will start from the far outside. Last week’s other elimination winner, Babes Dig Me, drew post five while the other runner-up, JK Wildfire, drew post four. Stay Hungry will try to keep his Triple Crown hopes alive from post six. Winston, Topville Olympian, and Nutcracker Sweet complete the lineup. “Everything kind of has to go his way, but he has high speed and I think he’s in a good spot there. He’s got the rail, the best horse has the eight hole. I think the draw could not work any better,” Allard said. “Brian (Sears) is going to have to work his magic. Of all the drivers at Yonkers, Brian is one of if not the best ones and I have a lot of confidence in him, so I’m going to let him do his thing.” Saturday’s card also features the $500,000 Yonkers Trot for 3-year-olds in race six where Six Pack is favored over Helpisontheway. Lindsey`s Pride, Lindy`s Big Bang, Maxus, Mississippi Storm, Tito, and The Veteran will try to upend the favorites. The filly companions to the Messenger and Yonkers Trot, the $129,014 Hudson Trot and $122,904 Lady Maud Pace go as races four and five, respectively. The night’s $44,000 Open Handicap Pace goes to post in race eight and features Bit Of A Legend and Evenin Of Pleasure. 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. – The husband and wife team of Michel Heijnen and Maria De Bruijn have just three horses in their racing stable, and French trotter Versachet is one. De Bruijn wanted to add a horse to the roster earlier this year. Heijnen wanted to claim a horse, but De Bruijn took a less conventional path, much to the chagrin of her husband.  “I was looking for another horse, and my husband said to buy a claimer,” De Bruijn said. You never know what you’re going to get with a claimer, so I said, ‘you know, I’m going to try a French horse,’ and he started laughing. But you never know.”  Heijnen and De Bruijn are natives of the Netherlands and came to the United States three years ago. De Bruijn sought a change from their life on the farm at home and after Heijnen made a trip to the Harrisburg Sale, an opportunity arose. Heijnen developed a bond with Chuck Sylvester and the Hall of Fame trainer asked them to work with him in Florida over the winter. “He went with a friend to the Harrisburg Sale and he went to Chester and met Chuck Sylvester,” De Bruijn said. “He liked it and he was joking with Chuck and Chuck called him and asked him what he was doing in the winter. He said, ‘you can come help me out in Florida.’ He went working for Chuck and we got our visa, sold our farm, and we’re here.” The French American Trotting Club was a gamble, as Heijnen and De Bruijn both understood. The Standardbred Owners Association of New York program brought 22 French-bred trotters to the United States to race in a series on the half-mile track at Yonkers Raceway. As the horses were randomly allocated to their new owners, De Bruijn wouldn’t get a chance to research her horse before he arrived.  De Bruijn drew Versachet, a 9-year-old son of Kaiser Soza out of the Podosis mare Houlette with 10 wins from 78 starts with another 19 seconds and thirds and $263,796 earned. The black gelding made an immediate impression on De Bruijn when he arrived stateside in June. “I picked him up and oh my god, he’s so big. He’s huge,” she said. “He was a little shy and a very friendly and nice horse. Sound horse. He doesn’t make a break up until now. I’m happy with him.” Versachet qualified at Yonkers July 13, finishing fourth and completing the 10 furlongs in 2:30.1 with Heijnen in the sulky. Heijnen and De Bruijn qualified him again at the Meadowlands 15 days later, but Versachet underperformed. He finished sixth beaten 9 ¼ lengths in 1:55.1 and Heijnen knew something was off.  “We qualified him first at Yonkers and he went OK. Then we qualified him at Meadowlands and Michel said he wasn’t so satisfied with him in the stretch, so we scoped him and we thought that he might bleed a little,” De Bruijn said. “We scoped him after the qualifier at the Meadowlands and the lady said he’s bleeding. We asked how bad it was and she said, ‘if it was my horse, I’d put him on Lasix.’ ” Heijnen and De Bruijn had never used Lasix in a race before as the medication isn’t permitted in Europe. Because he bled, Versachet was unable to race in New York for 11 days and he was forced to miss the first leg of the French American Trotting Club series August 5.  Versachet qualified with Lasix at Harrah’s Philadelphia August 7, finishing second in a 1:56 clocking. Ready to join the series, he started in a $35,000 division going 1 ½ miles August 19. After drawing post five, Heijnen had two options, to go forward and put himself in the race, or to take back. De Bruijn wanted him to be aggressive, but the move didn’t pay off. Versachet was parked the entire race, but finished sixth beaten just 3 ¼ lengths by Deo. De Bruijn was encouraged. “My husband drove him and he didn’t want to. He wanted a Yonkers driver to go with him, but I like it when he drives, so he did,” De Bruijn said. “Parked outside. He could have gone back or he could have given him a race and I said to just go from there. So he was parked all the way out one and-a-half miles. I think he raced nice.” Versachet drew post five again in Sunday’s sixth race, the second of two $35,000 divisions of the series’ third leg, the last before the $100,000 final September 2. Jordan Stratton will drive the 6-1 morning line shot. A first or second-place finish would likely earn Versachet a place in the final. “I think if he doesn’t get a bad trip like he had last week, he’s one, two for sure,” De Bruijn said. “Honestly, maybe I have too much confidence in him, but I think he’s one of the better French horses.” Versachet will face six rivals, including 8-5 favorite Uhlan Noir, who was third beaten a nose by Deo and Boss Du Fosse last week and starts from post four Sunday. Akhenaton finished seventh with a wide trip from post eight last time out, but drew the inside post Sunday and is 6-1. Aigle De La Vallee broke in the first leg of the series, but requalified and won a Saratoga overnight August 17. He’s 5-2 from post two. Aladin Du Dollar, Bolide De Nuit, and Verdi D Em complete the field. The first division of the third leg features both of last week’s winners in Ursis Des Caillons and Deo, plus first leg winner Alpha D’Urzy, and series-placed Undici, Bioness, and Boss Du Fosse. Adagio De La Tour and Very Very Fast complete the lineup. First post time Sunday is 12:45 p.m. The 11-race card also features a $44,000 Open Handicap Trot in race one. For entries to the races, click here.  By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Driver Louis-Philippe Roy’s ride with Jimmy Freight to date has already been a fulfilling one. One of the first major stakes horses the Quebec native has traveled with, Jimmy Freight has taken the 28-year-old reinsman to the Meadowlands Pace and the Carl Milstein Memorial. The next step in the pacer’s journey, the $580,000 Messenger Stakes, brings Roy to Yonkers Raceway for the first time. “It’s nice to be racing on those tracks I used to watch on TV, and especially competing against those elite drivers,” Roy said. “Just meeting them was a big thing for me a few years ago, now racing against them is even bigger.” Roy became Jimmy Freight’s regular driver this spring when the colt entered Richard Moreau’s barn. The pair have registered seven wins together, including a division of the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes at Mohawk and four splits of Ontario Sire Stakes. Jimmy Freight is 14-for-24 lifetime with $499,274 earned. “Jimmy is the easiest horse to drive, he can do whatever you want,” Roy said. “In front, off the pace, he doesn’t care, it’s the race that dictates the kind of trip will be the best for him, so that gives me more options and make my job easier.” Although versatile, most of Jimmy Freight’s success has come on the front end. He’s led gate-to-wire in four of his wins this season, including a 1:48.3 lifetime best at Mohawk August 4. The blazing mile came as no surprise to his driver. “He went a lot of fast miles against the OSS colts without needing any urging before, so I figured he could go that kind of speed if asked,” he said. Jimmy Freight wasn’t eligible to the North America Cup, but faced older pacers on the Cup undercard in the $100,000 Gold Cup. He came from 14 ¼ lengths out of it to finish third to Sintra and McWicked in 1:49 with a :26.3 final panel.  The Sportswriter son finished in a dead heat for third in his Meadowlands Pace Elimination July 7 and fourth in the final a week later, individually timed in 1:47.3. After two scores in Ontario Sire Stakes, including his 1:48.3 mile, Jimmy Freight went to Northfield Park for the Milstein. He set the pace there, but was caught in the final sixteenth by pocket-sitting Thinkbig Dreambig.  Roy is confident Jimmy Freight will register a Grand Circuit victory and thinks the Messenger is a prime opportunity to make the score. “I think he’s knocking at the door, I hope it’s going be his day soon,” Roy said. The Messenger drew 11 entrants, necessitating two $40,000 eliminations Saturday (August 25). The top four finishers in each elimination will advance to the final September 1. The rich Triple Crown card will also feature the $500,000 Yonkers Trot and the Hudson Filly Trot and Lady Maud Pace, each with an estimated $115,000 purse.  Jimmy Freight drew post four in the second Messenger elimination Saturday night. The 9-5 morning line favorite will meet Springsteen, a 5-2 shot from the inside post. The Rene Allard trained Rock N Roll Heaven colt finished seventh in the Milstein last out and won the Max Hempt at Pocono Downs in June. Stay Hungry won the Cane Pace on Hambletonian Day and looks to keep his Triple Crown hopes alive. He is 2-1 from post five with Doug McNair driving for Tony Alagna. Winston, Decoy, and Kwik Talkin complete the field. The first elimination features JK Wildfire, a 5-time winner this year who tries open stakes company for the first time this season. Jason Bartlett will drive for Brett Pelling. Babes Dig Me finished third in the Cane Pace and drew the rail for George Brennan and Alagna. Nutcracker Sweet was second in the Hempt and finished sixth in both the Meadowlands Pace and Cane Pace. Jordan Stratton will drive the Takter-trained Bettor’s Delight son from post five. Wild Bill and Topville Olympian complete the lineup. First post time Saturday is 6:50 p.m. The 12-race card also features a $44,000 Open Handicap Pace. For entries to the races, click here.  by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Trainer Jeff Cullipher got to know harness racing pacer Pistol Packin Mama well this spring at Hoosier Park. The 4-year-old mare raced against his star distaffer Au D Lox Bluegrass twice, once in the Filly and Mare Invitational May 19 and again in the Filly and Mare Preferred June 9. Pistol Packin Mama got the upper hand each time, including the latter start by a nose in 1:49.4.  Tragically, Au D Lox Bluegrass, a 17-time winner and earner of $377,339 died suddenly just after the pair’s final matchup. Soon after, Cullipher had the chance to purchase Pistol Packin Mama and he jumped on it with partner Tom Pollack. “We had a mare, Au D Lox Bluegrass, a very nice mare. Au D Lox, her last race she died just after she went across the wire,” Cullipher said. “Then an agent called us about Pistol Packin Mama and obviously we wanted to replace Au D Lox Bluegrass, so I paid up and got her.” An Ohio Sire Stakes Champion at 3 and a proven winner against older females already at 4, Pistol Packin Mama came to Cullipher sharp from the stable of Tyler George. However, Cullipher was surprised to find something familiar about The Panderosa daughter when he began working with her. “It’s unreal how two horses look alike, act alike, train alike, jog alike,” he said, referring to Au D Lox Bluegrass. “Pistol Packin Mama is a little smaller than the other mare was. Just a good horse. She’s professional about everything. Grabs a little, but nothing bad.” Pistol Packin Mama won her first start for Cullipher, taking a $20,000 Filly and Mare Preferred at Hoosier June 30. She posted a fourth, second, and third in her next three tries before earning an impressive win in her last outing August 4.  Pistol Packin Mama trailed the field as rivals She’s Heavenly, Rockin Racer, and Topville Cadillac battled three wide around the clubhouse turn. Pistol Packin Mama raced 7 ¾ lengths behind a :25.3 opening panel and a :53.3 half. Driver Trace Tetrick edged to the outside at the midway point and grabbed the second-over cover of Seventimesavirign.  Pistol Packin Mama swung three wide into the stretch with just 1 ¾ lengths to make up. Tetrick pulled the ear plugs and put her to a drive. Pistol Packin Mama took the lead with a furlong to race and drew away to score by 4 ¼ lengths. The 1:49.1 clocking is the fastest of her career. “Her last start was the highlight for us. She went 1:49.1,” Cullipher said. “She doesn’t seem to be a strong leaver. Trace Tetrick said at times she can leave and she’ll let you know when she wants to go. Other than that, try to get her in the right position and as soon as they turn for home, she knows the game.” Now 15-for-30 with another 13 seconds and thirds, Pistol Packin Mama sports earnings of $352,855. Despite her impressive performances at Hoosier Park, Cullipher decided to send the mare east to compete at Yonkers Raceway for trainer Ed Hart, eyeing a more consistent schedule and a chance at the big-time next winter. “There’s just not enough racing at Hoosier Park for her,” Cullipher said. “The Filly and Mare Open doesn’t go very often and we have a little relationship with Ed Hart, so we sent her out there to race at Yonkers for a couple different reasons. We wanted to test her a little bit on the half and next year when stakes season comes, the Matchmaker, that’s in the back of our minds right now.” Pistol Packin Mama arrived at Hart’s stable in good order about 10 days ago and will make her local debut in Friday’s (August 24) $44,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap. Matt Kakaley will drive the 5-1 shot from post six and off the three-week break, Cullipher expects the mare to stick to the off-the-pace style she employed at Hoosier Park. “I’m sure we’ll probably give her a trip,” he said. “I don’t know if she’s 100 percent tight just yet, but we’ll see how she goes around and make adjustments if needed and go from there.” The field assembled for Friday’s distaff feature also includes last week’s winner and runner up, Newborn Sassy and Tequila Monday, who will start from posts eight and seven, respectively. Mach It A Par finished fourth from post eight last time, but was assigned post five this week. Best Of Jenna enters off consecutive wins in the conditions and will start from post three. Annabeth, Angel’s Pride, and Lispatty complete the lineup. Friday’s 10-race card also features three $52,000 divisions of New York Sire Stakes for 2-year-old pacing colts and geldings. 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 the group of 22 French trotters arrived at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport in June, trainer Mark Ford was responsible for picking up six of them and transporting them home. While he was unsure what to expect from the batch of foreign horses, their easy temperaments came as a surprise. “They all just walked right out of quarantine and walked right off the trailer just like they were supposed to,” Ford said. “They’re very docile, well-mannered, and good at traveling. It was a pleasant little surprise. I didn’t expect it would be that good of a bunch.” Although Ford was initially skeptical of the idea behind the French American Trotting Club, which sought to bring a large group of French trotters to the United States to compete in a rich series at Yonkers Raceway, the trainer has been impressed by how the project came together. Ford commended Ron Burke, Ray Schnittker, and Mike Lachance for traveling overseas to select the horses. “You’ve got to do your part. It’s an experiment; everyone should do their part and give it a try,” Ford said. “I was a little surprised at how many decent horses came out of there and maybe they will be good enough to race during the winter time. “I think it’s a great idea. You’re stirring things up and trying to get rid of the same thing day after day after day,” he continued. “It was a lot of work for those guys to go over there in the middle of stakes season to do that and I think we all owe them a thank you. That was no easy task and every one that came over, for the most part, people have been very happy with.” Ford and owners George and Rose Bonomo drew 10-year-old Kaiser Soze son Undici. The veteran was 7-for-105 with $396,611 in earnings when he arrived. While his last win came March 30, 2014 in a 22,000€ overnight going 2,800 meters at Chartres, Undici has had plenty of placings since then, 25 overall in his career.  Ford made several changes to Undici’s equipment to help the trotter adapt to the American style of racing. He added hopples and a pole on the advice of Nicolas Roussel, one of Undici’s former trainers. “I don’t have anything to base it off. I don’t know how he was over there, but (Nicolas Roussel) sent us an email and said if you put the hopples on him, he’d be a lot better. You can’t wear poles over there either, so we put a pole on him. He needed a little bit of time to learn how to wear his rigging,” Ford said. Despite the equipment adjustments, Undici’s gait makes it a challenge to compete on the half-mile track. In four local starts so far, the gelding has two sixth-place finishes, a fifth, and a second. “He’d probably be a little better on a bigger track, but they don’t race on a bigger track at Yonkers,” Ford said. “He’ll touch a knee and bounce off a shin. He’s not real great-gaited and you have to be a little careful with him. He’s not a really big, robust, fast horse, but he’s ok.” Undici has spotted the field at least 11 lengths in all his local starts except for in the first leg of the series August 5. Undici got away fifth from the second tier in that start and moved first-over on heavy favorite Ursis Des Caillons with five-eighths to race. Undici sustained his bid, finishing a clear second to the favorite. The grinding style suits Undici, Ford says. “I think he just sort of plods along and it depends on what the other ones do. He goes one speed and if they come back to him, I think he’ll finish up good,” Ford explained. “I don’t think he’s the kind of horse where, if they walk around there and sprint real fast, he doesn’t have any speed. He just plods along.” Undici’s plodding style could be better-suited to the second leg of the series this Sunday (August 19), which will go 12 furlongs, two more than the $35,000 first leg. Undici drew post three in the first division, which will see him face Ursis Des Caillons, Barry Black, Adagio de la Tour, Very Very Fast, Alpha d’Urzy, Bioness, and Boldie de Nuit. Undici is 12-1 on the morning line with Steve Smith in the sulky. “I’d much rather have been in the other division,” Ford said. “I hate that mile-and-a-half stuff. I don’t think we’ve ever got a check in any of those mile-and-a-half races, but it probably will help him rather than hurt him because he doesn’t get away good and just sort of plods along. It seems like he can go six quarters in 30 seconds.”  Sunday’s card at Yonkers also features a second division of the series and a $44,000 Open Handicap Trot going one-mile. First post time is 12:35 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Although Delightful Memphis arrived in the United States less than two months ago, the Australian mare has already posted a pair of impressive miles for trainer Richard “Nifty” Norman. Friday (August 10), she’ll take her first shot in the Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace at Yonkers Raceway. Norman discovered Delightful Memphis while on a trip to Australia earlier this year. In the care of Mark Jones, the Bettor’s Delight mare had shown talent, winning two Group 3 stakes to begin her career and placing in another seven Group 1 or 2 stakes, including four runner-up finishes to the Purdon and Rasmussen star Spanish Armada. However, bleeding issues prevented Delightful Memphis from achieving her full potential in the Lasix-free jurisdiction. “I knew a lot about her. A friend of mine down there trained her and he told me about her,” Norman said. “I was down there on vacation over the New Year and he said she’d been bleeding a little bit and I thought she’d probably be better off up here. It was just a matter of getting it organized. She’s a good mare at home and she looks like she’s going to fit in pretty good around here too.” Delightful Memphis raced just a week before flying to the United States, finishing second in an overnight at Menangle. Despite the drastic change in seasons, she arrived in Norman’s stable fit and ready. “I think (the weather) is more drastic this time of year because they’re coming out of the winter into the summer and they’ve got their winter coat. It’s much more drastic this time of year,” Norman said. “This time of the year, with the weather, it’s probably best just to keep them racing well than try and lay them up. She had a pretty good winter coat, but we just clipped her up and she’s filled out real good and she’s a pretty nice mare. “They often get sick just because of the heat,” he continued. “So far so good, but you’ll see a lot of New Zealand and Australian horses getting stressed this time of year for that reason. So far so good, but I won’t be surprised if she does get a little sick at some stage.” Norman qualified Delightful Memphis July 14 at the Meadowlands. The 5-year-old September 28 foal got away in fifth and closed with a :27.1 final quarter to finish third in a 1:52 clocking. It was her first pari-mutuel start the following week however, that surprised Norman.  Delightful Memphis made her debut July 20 in a $17,500 overnight at the Swamp. She raced last of seven past the half 8 ¼ lengths behind leader Call Me Queen Bee. While the outer flow developed around the final turn, driver Brett Miller stayed inside, but laid flat in the sulky as his mare raged with pace.  Delightful Memphis tossed her head in behind horses, but as Miller found a seam along the pylons, he kicked out the plugs and let Delightful Memphis advance. Taking a few peeks at his left wheel in deep stretch, Miller ensured he didn’t go inside the pylons in the tight space and Delightful Memphis streaked past rival Monica Gallagher to finish third. She came home with a :25.1 final quarter and paced her mile in 1:51.2. “She was in good shape and she was good and fit and everything. She was nice and strong finishing, that was all I was looking for. I didn’t really want to go that quick. She was nice and handy doing it,” Norman said of the qualifier. “The bigger shock was when I raced her at the Meadowlands and she paced home in :25.1. That’s just ridiculous and Brett Miller said to me after, ‘I don’t think I’ve ever come home in :25.1 with a horse before and be that strong.’ She was dynamite.” Delightful Memphis won her last start at Harrah’s Philadelphia July 27, coming from off the pace to score by 1 ¼ lengths in 1:51.2. “She raced really good at Chester and had lots of pace finishing there too,” her trainer said. “That’s all I’m really looking for is just to get some good solid starts into her, get some foundation, and have her finishing up strong at the wire.” Delightful Memphis will make her first local start in Friday’s distaff feature. Dan Dube will drive in the $44,000 pace and the pair are a 6-1 morning line chance after being assigned post three. Caviart Cherie is a lukewarm 7-2 favorite off consecutive second place finishes in this class, but drew post seven. The field also features Made Of Jewels As, who won this feature July 27 and drew post six, and Rockstar Angel, who will make her third start on American soil for Chris Oakes. Vorst, Keystone Wanda, Change The Rulz, and Magic Forces complete the lineup. “She fit non-winners of $30,000; that’s where I entered her and it obviously didn’t fill, so they put her in there. It’s an open purse, I like that part,” Norman said. “I think she’ll be competitive. I think there’s another foreign mare in there that’s pretty good.” Although Norman knows Delightful Memphis can show speed – she has done so many times in Australia and New Zealand – he is content to continue racing her from behind at this stage of her stateside career as a protective measure. While this will be her first start on a half-mile track, he is confident Delightful Memphis will handle the turns. “I’ve seen her leave the gate good down home, I’ve seen her race on the front quite a bit,” he said. “She was bleeding a little bit down there, so I just didn’t want to put her in that situation where she’s on the front and getting run over or getting run down. We’ll try her like that for a little while and see how she handles it. “I think she’s really going to fit in good here in America,” he continued. “I think she could be a legitimate open mare. This will be her first time half-mile track. That will be a bit of a challenge maybe, but she seems to steer really good, so I don’t think it will be too bad. We train on a five-eighths, but she gets around it good.” First post time Friday is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.  by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – When Ed Gannon, Jr. picked up his French trotter Ubanji in June, the harness racing horse seemed unassuming enough. A nice-looking, well-built, long-bodied trotter, Ubanji made a good first impression on his new trainer. However, after spending a few days turned out at Gannon’s 60-acre farm, Ubanji made his first trip to the track and it became clear he would not be a straightforward horse. “We took him home on a Saturday, turned him out till Monday, we jogged him on Tuesday for the first time, not knowing what to expect,” Gannon said. “He was very aggressive on the track, very aggressive. I thought maybe it was because it was the first day, the horse had just shipped to the country, a lot going on, change of venue and maybe he just needed a couple days and he would settle down. It wasn’t to be. He got worse.” Later in that week, Ubanji was uncontrollable in his morning jog, running away with his driver. Gannon consulted with a few of the other trainers who received French horses and reflected on his own experience as a trainer. He formulated a plan to get Ubanji to settle. “This is what we have to work with, do the best we can,” he said. “The first week or two, it was a little disheartening because I had this horse you really couldn’t control.” Gannon tried making several equipment changes to make Ubanji more manageable. First, he put an overcheck on the gelding, but that made him worse. He tried different driving bits and lip cords, but Ubanji rejected them. Finally, Gannon found a bit that worked for the horse. Gannon then had to teach Ubanji to trot for speed instead of distance and to slow down after a mile or 10 furlongs. As Ubanji was accustomed to racing 2,700 meters or more in France, it was a learning experience for the 10-year-old. Unlike most standardbreds, who jog clockwise around the track and race counterclockwise, Gannon jogged Ubanji counterclockwise to teach the horse to settle. “I found over the years with mine, that if I jogged them the right way around the track, it teaches them that they don’t have to go fast all the time and it enables me to teach them control,” Gannon explained. “I’ve had very good luck with that. We’ve had some real doozeys that when you turn them the right way around the track, they would just go a thousand off the bat. Doing this, it teaches them not to feel like, ‘oh, I’m going this direction, it’s all out. “I was doing that for two weeks and then I started incorporating training in new speeds where I would go a half-mile, then speed him up for a half-mile, then slow him down,” Gannon continued. “Then I could start working with him that way and within two weeks, we had him where we had control of him.” With Gannon able to control the trotter, he then turned to fitness. Ubanji had raced only three times in 2018 before shipping across the Atlantic, the most recent of which came at Laval April 26. Gannon incorporated training miles into the son of Jag de Bellouet’s routine and brought him to the training track at Harrington Raceway for a test; Ubanji had been training on a private farm with only six other horses on the track at a given time. Gannon needed to see how the trotter would handle more traffic and noise. “I actually started carrying a watch, because I didn’t know what shape he was in only having three starts all year. That was another thing, trying to figure out what kind of condition was the horse actually in,” Gannon said. “We got him to where I thought he was in shape enough to go to the track. We took him to Harrington and I trained him on the back track because I wanted to see how he was going to be with a lot more horses and see how he handled. He wasn’t too bad. I trained him in 2:02 at Harrington on the back track and he was very controllable, and he was better. I was very surprised.” Ubanji qualified with Andrew McCarthy in the sulky at Harrah’s Philadelphia July 17. He went straight to the lead and finished second, trotting his mile in 1:55.3 with a :29.3 final quarter. His connections were pleased. “Andrew McCarthy drove him in the qualifier and I didn’t know what to expect with the gate,” Gannon said. “Andrew is a good driver and he said, ‘let’s put him right on the gate and see what happens. If he’s snaky or squirrely, I’ll go from there,’ and he did a great job with him.” Ubanji made his par-mutuel debut eight days later in an $11,000 overnight at Harrah’s. Racing with Lasix for the first time, the gelding again went to the top and this time, he stayed there. He posted a 1 ¼-length win in 1:55.1 for new owner Frank Canzone. The victory improved his record to 10 wins from 102 starts with another 12 seconds and 10 thirds. He boasts earnings of $326,196. “I put him on Lasix after the qualifier because we scoped him and it showed that he was bleeding. We thought with the addition of Lasix, maybe that would help calm him down a little bit more and maybe help with the bleeding issues,” Gannon explained. “It was a perfect race for him. He was very comfortable in the mile. Andrew was happy with him, he seemed better to drive that week than in the qualifier. He said he actually drove really good. That was a lot of positives and to win was an even greater positive.” Ubanji drew post two for driver Mark MacDonald in the first division of the French American Trotting Club Sunday afternoon at Yonkers. He’ll face nine rivals in the $35,000 split, including Bioness, who drew the rail off a 1:54.3 score at Pocono last out, Deo, who won his local debut July 2 before making a break in his most recent start, and Alpha d’Urzy, who is 3-for-3 in the U.S. for trainer Rene Allard. Barry Black, Uhlan Noir, Boss du Fosse, Adagio de la Tour, Aigle de la Vallee, and Bolide de Buit complete the lineup. “It would just be nice to be up near the front,” Gannon said. “I think my horse, if he gets around the first turn without any difficulty because everyone is going to be jockeying for position, I think after that he’ll drive fine and I think he’ll be competitive. It’s a tough division; of the two divisions, it’s definitely the best one. “I’m excited, a little nervous not knowing what to expect, but I’m excited at the same time,” he continued. “It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. I think the first week is definitely going to be the toughest because no one knows what to expect from the other horses.” Sunday’s card also features a $54,800 Open Handicap Trot in the first race and another division of the French American Trotting Club in race three. First post time for the all-trot card is 12:30 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. The second and third legs of the French American Trotting Club series will be held August 19 and 26, respectively and the $100,000 final is set for September 2. For more information, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Paul Kelley will send out the favorite Akhenaton in the second division of the French American Trotting Club first leg Sunday afternoon at Yonkers. The 8-year-old drew post three off a convincing win at Saratoga July 25, making him the 5-2 choice in $35,000 split. Kelley’s stable was well prepared to accept Akhenaton in June. Several of Kelley’s staff and assistants previously worked in Sweden and France and knew what to expect from the French-bred and raced gelding. Kelley also consulted with Alexandre Dessartre, a monte rider in France who worked with Kelley earlier this year before shifting his tack to thoroughbred trainer Jeremiah Englehart’s barn.  “Something that helps me, I have some Scandinavians that work in my stable that have spent time in France racing over there,” Kelley said. “For a while, I had a guy named Alexandre Dessartre. He was able to give us a little insight into what to expect in these French horses in terms of temperament and things like that.” Despite all the homework and foreign influence in Kelley’s stable, when Akhenaton arrived, Kelley found him to be straightforward. Soon, the son of Nice Love out of the Corot mare Iena de Mosta settled into his new home in Kelley’s Vernon Downs barn. “We turn horses out a lot. He’s got a paddock buddy, he’s got a horse he goes out with, so he’s happy about that,” Kelley said. “He’s really made a real easy transition. His appetite’s been great. If you didn’t know he was from France, you might think he just came over from New Jersey or Pennsylvania or something.” Although Akhenaton is new to the American style of racing and training, he has plenty of experience racing in France. He won five races and placed in 13 others from 62 foreign starts, earning 96,300€ in the stable of Colette Chassagne. Forty-eight of his starts, and all of his wins, came in monte, or under saddle, races. “The horses that we’re dealing with now coming from France, they’ve been around a little bit. From my perspective, it’s about trying to figure out what makes that horse happy, find that common ground where we can have the horse so he steers right, he’s comfortable to drive, but at the same time, the horse himself is also comfortable with the equipment that you’re put on him,” Kelley said. “You just have to find that common ground. He’s been racing monte and he’s been pulling a sulky. I don’t believe I can really teach him any new speed, it’s more about finding a happy accord between the two of us and hope by doing that, we can bring out the best in him.” Akhenaton made his debut for Kelley in a qualifier at Vernon Downs July 13. With his trainer in the sulky, Akhenaton took his place behind the starting gate, but soon after the wings folded, the trotter made a break in stride. Far behind the field, he broke again late in the mile and failed to qualify. Kelley made minor adjustments to get the trotter back on track for the start of the series. “I trained him a couple times prior to that unchecked; no overcheck, let him go with his head low and I thought he was really good gaited and pretty comfortable,” Kelley said. “When I qualified him the first time at Vernon, I did have an overcheck on him, but it was flopping pretty good, I let him go with a real low head. He was really good behind the gate, but when the gate released, he took about three steps off the car and he just dropped his head and went into a break. “I knew then that he needed something, that the overcheck was too long because he was a very good-gaited horse, I didn’t think there was any kind of gait issues to be concerned with, just a matter of getting his bridle right,” the trainer continued. “The first qualifier was a little disheartening, but we kind of figured that it was easily rectified because he didn’t seem like a tricky horse at all.” Kelley qualified Akhenaton at Vernon Downs seven days later. With assistant trainer Rene Sejthen in the bike and with his new overcheck in place, Akhenaton completed the mile in 1:57.2 and posted a final quarter of :28.  Convinced the trotter was ready to race, Kelley entered him in a $7,250 overnight at Saratoga July 25. The start would be a test of how well Akhenaton could handle the half-mile racetrack he’ll face at Yonkers. In addition, the Saratoga start meant Kelley could name Wally Hennessey to drive. Kelley craved the Hall of Fame driver’s wisdom. “When you can take a horse to Saratoga and have someone like Wally Hennessey take them, you’re going to learn a lot more because you’re going to get great feedback from Wally,” Kelley said. “There’s not too many guys in the business that can sit behind a horse and give you the real insight you might need to let you know that you’re on the right track.” Bet down to the race’s 7-5 favorite, Hennessey put Akhenaton in the race. He cleared the lead past the opening quarter and extended his advantage to 3 ¼ at the end of the mile, earning his first win in a sulky in 1:57.2. Although Hennessey was pleased overall, the 61-year-old offered plenty of advice to Kelley. Akhenaton drives on the left line, meaning he has a propensity to bear out the whole mile. While Kelley believes this is preferable to a horse who bears in, which makes it harder for the driver to negotiate the horse and to get him out and around the horses that he’s following. Kelley raced Akhenaton with a line pole and Murphy blind to try to keep the trotter straight. Hennessey felt the line pole was enough. “A line pole isn’t very restrictive at all. It allows a horse to still kind of cock his head into that line pole a little bit, but there’s enough there to keep him a little honest so he doesn’t get too crooked,” Kelley said. “Wally thought once the horse trotted off the car, the horse straightened up naturally on his own and he thought the line pole would be enough. With the Murphy blind, he can hear the competition coming, but he can’t really see it. Sometimes, the horses can relax a little more when they can see what’s going on. Wally just thought take the Murphy blind off and he’ll be nice and straight without it.” Hennessey also recommended that Kelley remove Akhenaton’s knee boots. Although knee boots help protect a horse’s legs during a race, they also make the leg thicker and can make it easier for a horse to grab himself, Kelley explains. As Akhenaton also wears wraps, Hennessey felt the boots weren’t needed. “Not that he couldn’t maybe touch a knee, but sometimes the knee boots stick out just enough where they can kind of trip a horse up, too,” Kelley said. “Even though you’re putting them on for protective purposes, they stick out just enough where a horse might touch it and it upsets his gait a little bit. Wally is a big proponent of trying to go with as little equipment as possible, which is something I like.” Off his successful U.S. debut and with the equipment changes made, Akhenaton will take on eight French-bred rivals in his division of the French American Trotting Club first leg in race three Sunday afternoon. Mark MacDonald will drive in the 10-furlong race. Ursis Des Caillons will start from post six for Jenn and Joe Bongiorno off two impressive qualifiers; he won a 1 1/4-mile trial in 2:30.4 at Yonkers July 13 and qualified again at the Meadowlands July 21, finishing second to Hambletonian entrant Fourth Dimension. He was individually timed in 1:53 with a :26.4 final quarter. Very Very Fast drew just inside Akhenaton for Bob Bresnahan and enters of a 2:29.4 qualifying win going 10 furlongs at Yonkers July 13. Ray Schnittker’s Aladin Du Dollar finished second in two qualifiers at Yonkers July 7 and July 20 and drew post one. Chaperon Felin, Vas Y Seul, Verdi D Em, Bamako Du Bocage, and Undici complete the field. Sunday’s card also features a $54,800 Open Handicap Trot in the first race and another division of the French American Trotting Club in race two. First post time for the all-trot card is 12:30 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. The second and third legs of the French American Trotting Club series will be held August 19 and 26, respectively and the $100,000 final is set for September 2. For more information, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

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