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Cenalta Call Girl, who has already captured the Annette Funicello Final at this harness racing meeting at Cal Expo, looks to add the $9,800 Robert Staats Final to her resume here Saturday night. Eight pacing fillies and mares will do battle in the main event, which goes as the 6th event on a 12-race program under the Watch and Wager LLC banner. First post is 6:10 p.m. There will be mandatory payouts on all wagers Saturday. Cenalta Call Girl is a 3-year-old daughter of Allamerican Merlin who is owned by Rene Goulet and Helen and Myra Empey and is reined and trained by Goulet. She comes into this contest having posed for pictures following four of her nine lifetime trips to the post and three of her four local appearances. On November 17, the bay miss proved a punctual 3-5 favorite in the Funicello Final as she came first-over to get the job done with Goulet. In last week's Staats Prep, Cenalta Call Girl exploded with a :26 4/5 final quarter to win going away by a length and a quarter in another impressive mile. Yeswellnomaybe was her most immediate victim in that affair and looms large once again for owner Fabiola Quevedo, trainer Edwin Quevedo and pilot Ryan Grundy. She has recorded four runner-up finishes from her six appearances at this meet. Completing the field are Free Radical, Alwaysalittlemore, Rockin Repeat, Cenalta Cougar, Wizzel Stix and Be My Lucky Lady. **** There will be no live racing here next week, with the trotters and pacers back in action on December 26 with a special Tuesday evening card that will begin at 5 p.m. There will also be racing that week on Friday and Saturday, December 29 and 30. Race pays tribute to Robert Staats Saturday night's feature race is named for Robert Staats, the prominent owner/breeder who passed away in 2011 at the age of 69 at his home in Reno, Nevada. Along with his wife Loretta, Robert Staats was active in the sport beginning in the early 1970s, with Bob Gordon handling the training duties for most of those years. Upon Gordon's passing, Rick Plano and Bob Johnson conditioned the Staats performers. Among those outstanding color-bearers have been Stand By, the brilliant New Zealand-bred race-mare and producer; her son Moxie, a 1:49.3 performer with more than $400,000 in earnings; Nemisis, a sparkling 1:48 winner; the popular mare Reno Rose; Bells To Be Rung; and the stakes-winning BG's Prodigy, who was named after Bob Gordon. Stand By was the horse who put the Staats stable on the map and she was his all-time favorite. The Down Under import had a 1:52 career standard and banked $255,000 in a brilliant career on the racetrack, then went on to be an equally outstanding broodmare. She was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2010. Stand By produced nine foals and they have earned more than $1 million, with her son Moxie retired to stud at the Desomer Farm and becoming a top sire in his own right. "Bob Staats was first and foremost a kind and classy gentleman," said Cal Expo General Manager Chris Schick. "Bob raced top quality New Zealand imports and California Sire Stakes competitors for nearly 40 years. We are proud to honor his memory here at Cal Expo." By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness  

Gerry Longo put on a show at Cal Expo last Friday night as he sent out four winners on the harness racing card, guiding three of them himself. The 71-year-old Longo kicked off his four-bagger when Sparkin Your Fire accounted for the Filly and Mare Open with Mooney Svendsen in the sulky, making it two straight scores at the head of the class. Longo came right back and captured the next race with HairwayTo Heaven to the delight of the chalkpayers and added victories with Place at the Beach and Gene Eugene before the 12-race program was concluded. Once a fixture at or near the top of the standings at this track, Hollywood Park and Los Alamitos, Gerry was away from California for three decades when he came out for this meet in 2014 and has been returning on a regular basis for the local action. "I can tell you that the weather is nice, the people are great and I'm impressed with the way they've upgraded the facility," Longo has said. When asked about his exit from the Golden State in the mid-1980s, Longo explained that he made the move to Chicago at a time when it looked like harness racing was about to go down for the count in California. "I did some racing back there in '78, '79 and '80, then I bought a place and started racing in Chicago full time," he said. "I like to travel, so I've also been racing at tracks in Virginia and Minnesota." Last Friday evening, he was traveling quite a bit to the winner's circle and it was great to see those green, black and gold colors getting photographed. Sparkin Your Fire, Capitol Hill clash Friday night's Cal Expo program is headed by a $6,600 Filly and Mare Open Pace that finds Sparkin Your Fire and Capitol Hill getting another chance to settle the score. A 13-race program is on tap with first post set for 6:10 p.m. and the main event is scheduled as the 4th contest on the evening. Sparking Your Fire is a 5-year-old mare who carries the banner of Peg Hoffman with Gerry Longo the conditioner and Mooney Svendsen doing the honors. She is coming off back-to-back decisions in the Distaff Open, storming home late for Svendsen on both occasions to get the job done. While the first of those tallies was going away by three lengths, the most recent saw her late heroics handing a neck decision on Capitol Hill. The latter will leave from the No. 6 post just inside her main rival for owners George McChrystal and Kathie Plested with Plested the conditioner and Steve Wiseman giving directions. She captured three of her first four outings at this meet between November 4 and November 25 at this Open level. There are two wagers that are offered here each night that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5, which is decided on the first five races on the evening; and the 20-cent Pick 4, on the penultimate four races. The Pick 4 comes with a guaranteed gross pool that has been raised to $30,000. *** There will be no live racing here next week, with the trotters and pacers back in action on December 26 with a special Tuesday evening card that will begin at 5 p.m. There will also be racing that week on Friday and Saturday, December 29 and 30. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

The start of a harness race is extremely important, and when it comes to getting the harness racing fields away in good order here at Cal Expo, Kenny Fowler is the man. Along with his assistant/driver Larry Dana, Fowler is responsible for making sure everybody is up close and personal with the starting gate when the car starts to speed ahead to send them on their way. "I'm coming up on my 30th year," said Fowler. "I started in 1988 with Larry Jones and then I spent 20 years as the driver with Bill Vallandingdam, and that experience was invaluable." For the last four years, Fowler has been the starter here at Cal Expo and does an excellent job of giving every horse and driver the best possible start. Much like a referee in a sporting event, when you don't hear much about them, that means they are doing a good job. One of the changes that has been made over the years is the switch from the traditional Cadillac to a four-wheel drive, which is especially import when it comes to traction and off tracks. "There are special challenges when it's raining, no question about that," Kenny related. "One is getting the wings on the starting gate closed before you get into the turn. When the wings are open all the weight is on the back of the car, so it's a little tricky. "To be honest, the wind and the fog are much tougher obstacles than the rain and a muddy racetrack." Robert Staats Prep matches pacing distaffers A well-matched field of eight pacing fillies and mares will do battle in Saturday night's featured Robert Staats Prep, with Rockin Repeat and Be My Lucky Lady among the major contenders. The feature will go as the eighth on an 11-race program under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post set for 6:10 p.m. Rockin Repeat and Be My Lucky Lady will have a rematch Saturday after finishing a head apart in a conditioned event here last week. Rockin Repeat got the better of that skirmish after sitting a pocket trip that evening. A 3-year-old daughter of Rockin Image, Rockin Repeat is owned by George Reider and Dave and Rob Haness with Reider training and Luke Plano once again doing the honors. Last week's 1:53 2/5 victory established a new lifetime mark for the sophomore. Be My Lucky Lady is a Hi Ho Silverheel's homebred who takes her lessons from Kathie Plested and will have Steve Wiseman at the controls. She has been runner-up in her last two trips to the post and is a nice fit with this group while leaving from the No. 6 post. Cenalta Call Girl took the measure of several of these rivals in the Annette Funicello Final last month and should be right in the thick of things. The Canadian miss races for Rene Goulet and Helen and Myrna Empey with Goulet reining and training. Rounding out the field are Cenalta Couger, Yeswellnomaybe, Alwaysalittlemore, Free Radical and Wizzel Stix. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

George Reider admits his barn "hasn't been lighting them up so far" at this Cal Expo harness racing meeting, but he's optimistic that things are headed in the right direction. "We had a good meet this summer at Running Aces," Reider noted. "At the end of that meet we purchased a few horses and now it's just been a case of getting to know them." One pacer in the barn that George is really pinning his hopes of is a 2-year-old who answers to the name of Pride of the Sierra. "I think he's going to be a real nice colt. We'll be qualifying him in a few weeks." Meanwhile, the Reider barn of 14 is starting to warm up and you can look for him to bemaking his share of winner's circle appearances in the near future and through the end of this session in the spring. George also mentioned that he's very pleased that his good friends Nick Roland, Jessica Johnson and Terry Kaufman are among the new connections competing here at Cal Expo "They've really added to our races and I'm so glad to see them competing here." Pair of Opens sit atop the marquee A $6,600 Open Pace featuring Jazzmanian Devil and Firedrake and a $5,500 Distaff Open Pace headed by Sparkin Your Fire and Capitol Hill are the main events on Friday night's Cal Expo program. Jazzmanian Devil is a 6-year-old son of Sand Shooter from the Artsplace mare Artbeat who is owned by William Condon, takes her lessons from Kathie Plested and will have Mooney Svendsen giving directions. The long-fused performer looped the field to prevail at 6-1 in the November 4 Open, had to settle for the show money at this level the following week, then got back to his winning ways at most recent asking as he came home in a sizzling :26 flat to get the job done by a neck. Firedrake also has two Open victories to his credit at this meeting for Set The Pace Racing LLC and driver/trainer Nick Roland. The Dragon Again gelding has posed for snapshots following 11 of his 20 starts on the year with a 1:51 2/5 lifetime standard that was recorded at Running Aces over the summer. Firedrake accounted for the October 28 top dance despite a tough trip from the demanding No. 10 post and also captured the November Open as the 3-5 favorite, but has had to settle for a third and fifth behind Jazzmanian Devil in the other two contests for the top pacers on the grounds. Looking at the Filly and Mare Open, Sparkin Your Fire carries the banner of Peg Hoffman with Gerry Longo the conditioner and Mooney Svendsen handling the lines. She got a nice prep race in her local debut in the November 25 distaff Open, then stormed home to prevail at 9-2 in the most recent clash at the top level for the pacing fillies and mares while taking the measure of favored Capitol Hill. The latter mare won three of her four outings at this Open level between November 4 and November 25 and had to settle for second in the most recent clash after being hard used on the front end. George McChrystal and Kathie Plested own, Plested is the trainer and Steve Wiseman will be in the sulky. There are two wagers offered here each night that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate, affording players the chance to gets some real value. They are the 50-cent Pick 5, which is decided on the first five races of the evening; and the 20-cent Pick 4, which covers the penultimate four contests on the program. The Pick 4 comes with a $30,000-guaranteed gross pool. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

Mystery Dragon, who has posted three impressive victories at Cal Expo since arriving from Canada, looms an overwhelming harness racing favorite in Saturday night's $8,300 Bill Conlin Memorial Pace. An 11-race card is on tap under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post set for 6:10. The Conlin will go as the sixth event on the program. Mystery Dragon is a 3-year-old son of Mystery Chase who is owned and trained by Richard Schneider and will once again be handled by Nick Roland. He has dominated his rivals in all three appearances at this meet. Sent off at 2-1 in his local debut on November 11, he came first-over for Roland at the half and went on to a convincing three and a quarter-length decision, lowering his lifetime standard to 1:54 1/5 in the process. Mystery Dragon was a punctual 4-5 choice at next asking after being hard-used early to command from an outside slot, then was the 3-5 chalk in last week's Bill Conlin Prep and did not disappoint his many backers as he never looked like a loser on the front end and came to the line with a length and a quarter on Richellu Cowboy. The latter is another Canadian-bred miss who races for Quentin and Kimberly Schneider with Quentin the conditioner and Steve Wiseman in the bike. She was able to leave into a nice trip in last week's Prep and came home well to gain the place spot in an improved effort. Rounding out the field are Lilbitofmama with James Kennedy; Herecomesthethundr, William Hernandez; He Grins Again, Luke Plano; Crash and Burn with Chip Lackey guiding; Lilmessinaround, Ryan Grundy; and He's a Navajo, to be piloted from the outside by Tony Succarotte. There are two wagers offered here each night that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5, which is decided on the first five races on the evening; and the 20-cent Pick 4 on the penultimate four races. The Pick 4 comes with a guaranteed gross pool that has been raised to $30,000. Bill Conlin remembered with Memorial Race Saturday's main event is named for Bill Conlin, the longtime sportswriter, editor and columnist for the Sacramento Bee who passed away in 1997 at the age of 84. "Bill Conlin, quite simply, is a legend, a real newspaper man who loved his work and his hometown of Sacramento like no other," related Sacramento Bee columnist Debbie Arrington. "With great wit, he covered sports and more in this city for six decades, first at the Sacramento Union and then The Bee. He know everyone - from Ronald Reagan to Al Davis - and was a daily presence in The Bee's Sports section until his retirement in 1985. "Through it all, harness racing remained one of his favorite sports, both to cover and to watch as a fan." Debbie noted that when Conlin passed away in June of 1997, Cal Expo's harness drivers paid tribute to him in the winner's circle before the race named in his honor, which was won by the great pacer and sire Little Steven. "It's wonderful that Bill's name still lives on at Cal Expo in a sport that he truly loved," Arrington added. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

The $7,500 Joe Lighthill Trot headed by Talkin Tootsie; an Open Pace featuring Firedrake and a filly and mare Open Pace highlighted by Capitol Hill share the harness racing spotlight at Cal Expo Friday evening. Friday's Joe Lighthill Memorial Trot is named for the outstanding driver/trainer who was a mainstay in California for decades and passed away at the age of 78 in 2006. Mr. Lighthill, who began his career in the mid 1940s, drove 2,272 winners for purse earnings just shy of $7 million and reined and/or trained some of the most outstanding performers of their generation. Included in that illustrious group were Meadow Skipper, Countess Adios, Tender Loving Care, Hickory Pride, Peter Lobell, Try Scotch and BC Count. "Joe was the consummate horseman and a good friend," said Vickie Desomer, who will send out Silverlode in Friday night's headliner with husband Steve in the sulky. "Time and time again Steve and I relied on him to get our young green horses safely around the track and he always did just that. He was truly one of the greats, not just in California, but across the nation." A field of eight will line-up for the Joe Lighthill Trot with Talkin Tootsie likely to attract plenty of attention for owners Martin Gary and Hank Wieseneck, trainer Bob Johnson and pilot Mooney Svendsen. He won an Open II contest two back and was runner-up to the streaking Pridecrest at most recent asking.. A Cenalta double for Gordon Empey Trainer Gordon Empey sent out a pair of pacers on last Friday night's card here and ended up scoring with both as Cenalta Eclipse and Cenalta Artistry got the job done. Cenalta Eclipse had Steve Wiseman at the controls with the 4-year-old gelding prevailing handily in his conditioned affair, while Cenalta Artistry returned a healthy $26 proving clearly best toward the end of the same program with Rene Goulet guiding the mare. This is Empey's second foray to Cal Expo from Canada, having such a good time last season that he has returned with another string of performers while enjoying the warmer Sacramento climate. A 71-year-old native of Alberta, Gordon only came to harness racing about 16 years ago and has now developed a love of the sport on all fronts. "I'd been to the races with my uncle when I was in my 20's, but just as a fan," he explained. "I guess I was about 55 when I was re-introduced to the game by some friends, then that led to buying some broodmares and going on from there." At first, Empey continued to do farming while breeding harness horses on the side, but it really got into his blood. "It was eight or nine years ago that we started racing more and more of them, and then two years ago I took out my trainer's license." Its nights like last Friday that make it all worthwhile. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

Before this harness racing meet, Rene Goulet had not competed here at Cal Expo in 18 years, but he's happy to be back and enjoying the warmer temperatures. "The people here are nice and friendly and it's been fun catching up with everybody," said Goulet, who has brought eight performers down from Canada along with his partner Glenda Smith. "It's also nice to get away from that cold and snow." Including in the group that came down with Goulet is the 3-year-old pacing filly Cenalta Call Girl, who has provided him with his first two victories at this stand, including a tally as the odds-on choice in last week's Annette Funicello Pace. Rene was pretty much born into the sport, learning about harness racing from the ground up from his father Art and uncle Al Goertzen. "I pretty much knew by the time I was 10 this is what I wanted to do," related the 50-year-old native Manitoba. Goulet cut his teeth on half-mile tracks, but has also done his share of driving on five-eighths and mile ovals in the Great White North. "I actually prefer a mile track like the one here at Cal Expo, because I like to let my horses sit and finish." When asked about his favorite horse, Rene is quick to point at KG Explorer, who is among the performers who have shipped down for this invasion. "He's 13 now and I've had him since I bought him for $1,500 as a 3-year-old." Pridecrest, Capitol Hill command the spotlight An Open Trot headed by the streaking Pridecrest; a filly and mare Open Pace featuring Capitol Hill and the Bill Conlin Prep headline the Saturday night action at Cal Expo. First post for the 12- race Watch and Wager LLC program is 6:10 p.m. The Open Trot goes as the fourth event, while the Conlin Prep is the sixth race and the distaff Open is scheduled as the eighth contest on the card. A 5-year-old son of Angus Hall from the Wesgate Crown mare Spilled Milk, Pridecrest races for Mark Hinshaw with Luke Plano doing the driving and training. He comes into this assignment with $177,000 in his lifetime account and will do his work from the assigned No. 10 post this weekend. The dark-hued performer made his California debut on November 3 and made every pole a winning one that evening for Plano crossing the wire with nearly 10 lengths on his nearest rival while establishing a new track record with the 1:53 2/5 final clocking. Suiting up the next week from the outside post in a field of nine, Pridecrest once again put on a tour-de-force mile as he stalked early, took over turning for home and drew off by six and a quarter lengths to prove a punctual 2-5 favorite. Taking him on are Becky Badger Baby for Nick Roland; Agrestores Comet, James Kennedy; One Chief, to be guided by Steve Wiseman; Talkin Tootsie, Mooney Svendsen; and Itzaziam, who leaves from the rail with Sean Smithpeters at the controls. Looking at the co-feature, Capitol Hill is a 6-year-old daughter of Badlands Hanover who has fired big-time in all four starts at the meet and has come away with a pair of victories, including last week's distaff Open in a very game first-over performance with Steve Wiseman. George McChrystal and Kathie Plested own with Plested the conditioner. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

Ryan Grundy is off to a good start to this Cal Expo meet, bringing down a solid group of harness racing performers from Canada who are proving quite photogenic. If the name Grundy sounds familiar, it's because Ryan is the 35-year-old great nephew of the late Jim Grundy, a mainstay on this circuit for decades and one of the best driver/trainers to every ply their trade in California. Jim Grundy passed away in 2009 at the age of 74. He made 2,617 trips to the charmed enclosure as a driver, with more than $10.3 million in earnings and was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2007. "I grew up around the horses," Ryan related. "I was probably about 6 years old when I knew this was what I wanted to do." It was Jim Grundy's brother, Art, who was a mentor to Ryan. "My grandfather is the one who taught me everything. He was very good at bringing young horses to the races and did all his own shoeing, which I also do." Ryan struck out on his own in his early 20's, starting out on the fair circuit in Manitoba. *** There are two wagers offered here each night that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5, which is decided on the first five races on the evening; and the 20-cent Pick 4 on the penultimate four races. The Pick 4 comes with a guaranteed gross pool that has now been raised to $30,000. Scary Harry heads contentions pacing feature A well-matched field is set for Friday night's $4,400 pacing headliner at Cal Expo, with Alan Horowitz Memorial runner-up Scary Harry, the hard-knocking Eastender and the classy One And Only among the major players. There will be 12 races on tap Friday evening under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post set for 6:10 p.m. There are another 12 events scheduled for Saturday night. A good case can be made for almost all of the participants in the main event, with Scary Harry likely to have his share of supporters off four straight solid miles since coming in from Hoosier Park. The 5-year-old Sportswriter gelding is owned, trained and driven by Chip Lackey and is coming off a tough head loss as the 3-2 favorite in last week's $20,000 Horowitz after clearing late in the mile. In his previous tour, he flew home in :27 flat to prevail in an elimination heat with a 1:53 3/5 final clocking. Eastender should be nice and tight after a solid runner-up finish under these conditions after some traffic issues last week. Luke Plano reins and trains the son of Cheyenne Rei for Maryann Plano and Nikki Hudson and he closed out his Running Aces campaign this season with a lifetime-best 1:53 2/5 tour of the Minnesota oval. One And Only is the richest member of the cast with his $260,000 bank account and sports a 1:51 2/5 career standard that was set in Pennsylvania three years ago. The veteran goes about his business for Richard Morita and David Yamada with Jessie Pacheco the conditioner and is making his first evening appearance since late August at Hawthorne. Completing the field from the rail out: Sapient Hanover with Sean Smithpeters; Senga Nitro for Ryan Grundy; Dupage's Z Tam, Nick Roland; Dontdoubtthelakers with James Kennedy; and Swagasaurusrex, who will be guided by trainer Gerry Longo. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

Fly Away and Scary Harry, impressive winners of their respective elimination heats last week, head the harness racing cast for Saturday night's $20,000 Alan Horowitz Memorial Pace at Cal Expo. First post for the Watch and Wager LLC program is 6:10 p.m. and the harness action continues on Saturday evening. Fly Away is an 8-year-old son of Allamerican Native who races for the partnership of Scott Ehrlich, George McChrystal and Kathie Plested with Plested the conditioner and Steve Wiseman in the sulky. After a runner-up finish on opening week, Fly Awaty was sent off at 4-1 in last week's second elimination heat while doing his work from the outside post in the field of eight. The trailer for a half-mile, he began to pick up momentum on the final turn, then flew home for Wiseman to get the job done by a half-length in a 1:53 2/5 mile. Scary Harry looked equally strong in his heat for owners Chip Lackey and Tim Clevenger and driver/trainer Lackey. He was reversed early, rallied with cover turning for home and came a sparkling :27 flat final quarter to prevail by a length as the even-money favorite. This 5-year-old is by Sportsmaster out of the Armbro Cadet mare One Cadet and shows a lifetime mark of 1:52 flat that was established at Pompano Park earlier this season. Like Fly Away he likes to pour it on in the stretch. Completing the field are Walker Meister, Cowboy Mathis, Oh Yeah, Mighty Fine Hi Ho, Jump The Shark, Allamerican Solo and Good Citations. Race honors memory of Alan Horowitz Friday night's Alan Horowitz Memorial is named for a major force in California harness racing over the last several decades and a member of the California Harness Horsemen's Association (CHHA) Hall of Fame who passed away in April at age 72. Mr. Horowitz, who wore many hats in the business, started out as a partner with longtime friends Donald and Barbara Arnstine and Steve Desomer with a $25,000 claimer named Quaker Byrd. Quaker Byrd won his first race for the partners and Alan was hooked. Moving on, Alan would eventually become a board member and president of CHHA. In 1994, Mr. Horowitz was instrumental in bringing harness racing back to Cal Expo in the form of Capitol Racing and was also its successful general manager. He was serving as the Executive Secretary of the CHHA at the time of his retirement in 2013 and continued to stay in touch with the sport that he loved so much. "It is impossible to overstate Alan's importance to the harness racing industry in California," said David Neumeister. "Simply put, if it were not for Alan, the sport would no longer exist in this state. "Between his time as executive director of Western Standardbred Association (now CHHA) and owner/ manager of our only yearling sale company when racing was flourishing in California, and his decision to retire from CHHA a few years ago, against all odds and some very powerful adversaries, Alan almost single-handedly took us from the brink of extinction in the mid-90s and formed and led Capitol Racing in Sacramento to several very successful years of harness racing in that city. "Were it not for his quiet determination and tactical brilliance, we would not be racing here today." Cal Expo is proud to present the Alan Horowitz Memorial on Friday night. On Saturday evening, Cal Expo will feature the Annette Funicello for pacing fillies and mares, paying tribute to the actress/singer and harness racing advocate who passed away in 2013. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness  

Everybody should get a call as good as the one harness racing trainer Luke Plano got from owner Mark Hinshaw last month. "He said he was looking for a winter home for his trotter Pridecrest and asked if I was interested," Plano related. "I'd seen him race a little at Hawthorne and didn't waste any time saying yes." All Pridecrest has done in two starts at Cal Expo is win back-to-back Open Trots by a combined 16 lengths, including a track-record 1:53 2/5 tour of the Sacramento oval two weeks ago. "He's a big strong horse with a tremendous gait and he doesn't waste any action," Plano explained. "Going into that first start here he had that solid resume and had trained well, but I can't say I was expecting a mile like that one. "He was pretty aggressive that night and was setting some strong fractions, but I wasn't sure how he was going to be in the stretch, and it turned out he was super." Pridecrest wheeled back in last week's top dance for the trotters and was equally impressive getting the job done from the outside post in a field of nine. He was first-over to command going to the final bend and went on to another romp at 40 cents on the dollar. "I wanted to see if he would be manageable and he was, although we did get stuck behind some poor cover for a bit there. Once again, he was very strong in the stretch and very impressive." Annette Funicello Pace brings out distaffers The $8,200 Annette Funicello for pacing fillies and mares headed by Cenalta Call Girl highlights the program on Friday night at Cal Expo. First post under the banner of Watch and Wager LLC will be 6:10 p.m. and the action will continue on Saturday evening with the $20,000 Alan Horowitz Memorial being the main event. Friday's featured contest is named for actress/singer Annette Funicello, who passed away in April of 2013 at the age of 70. Annette Funicello was married to harness horsesman/breeder Glen Holt from 1986 until her death and was a strong supporter of the sport. Cenalta Call Girl is a 3-year-old daughter of Allamerican Merlin who is owned by Rene Goulet and Helen and Myrna Empey with Goulet doing the driving and training. She comes into this assignment having captured two of her six lifetime appearances. Cenalta Call Girl recorded her first decision at Northlands Park in late September, surging on the money to be up in the final strides, then made her Cal Expo debut a winning one in the Funicello Prep last weekend as she did the stalk-and-pounce to perfection and drew off to a length and three-quarters score as the 3-2 favorite in a 1:55 2/5 performance. Free Radical completed the exacta in that affair at 13-1 to make a nice move forward in her second outing over this layout since arriving from Minnesota. The Hot Pans offspring competes for Set The Pace Racing LLC and is reined and trained by Nick Roland. Rounding out the cast are Be My Lucky Girl with Steve Wiseman; Alwaysalittlemore, Luke Plano; Rockin Repeat, David Siegel; My Hearts Conquest with William Hernandez; and Nat-A-Katt, who will be guided by Edward Hernandez. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

Richard Remillard has made his first trip to Cal Expo from Canada this season with 11 harness racing performers in tow, and he relates he's having a great time. "Everybody here has been treating us great, it's nice to get away from the cold and I can't remember the last time I've enjoyed the driving and training so much." A 62-year-old native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Richard always been around horses and fell in love with the trotters and pacers when introduced to harness racing by his brother-in-law as a teenager. He has spent most of the last 40 years dividing his time between his day job as a meat cutter and market manager and driving and training horses while maintaining a ranch in Winnipeg. "It was only about two years ago that I decided to concentrate solely on the horses," he explained. "My partner Val recently retired and after taking to Quentin Schneider, we decided to come down and give California a try before we get too old." When asked about all-time his favorite performers, Richard mentioned Incognito Chris, Elkinin and Baylor Out, the latter being one of the pacers who made the trip down with him for this Cal Expo invasion. Pridecrest sets sights on Open Trot encore Saturday's program at Cal Expo is highlighted by a $6,600 Open Trot featuring Pridecrest and the Annette Funicello Prep for pacing fillies and mares. Watch and Wager will present 11 races on Saturday and the action gets underway at 6:10 p.m. with the Funicello Prep going as the third race on the evening and Open Trot occupying the sixth-race slot. Pridecrest is a 5-year-old son of Angus Hall out of the Wesgate Crown mare Spilled Milk who is owned by Mark Hinshaw and is reined and trained by Luke Plano. He comes into this assignment with $174,000 in his career bank account. Making his Cal Expo debut in last week's Open, the Plano representative could not have been more impressive. He went immediately to the lead from his outside post, set the fractions without pressure and cruised home with nearly 10 lengths to spare. The 1:53 2/5 clocking shaved a second and four-fifths off the lifetime mark he established earlier this season at Hawthorne and he appears to be very much at home over this layout. He will be asked to do his work from the outside post in the field of nine this weekend. Talking Tootsie was the 8-5 favorite in last week's top dance for the trotting set and will be looking to make amends after finishing fifth that evening. Martin Garvey and Hank Wieseneck own, Bob Johnson trains and Mooney Svendsen once again has the assignment. The Cantab Hall mare was a winner at Pocono Downs in her previous outing, doing the track-and-attack to perfection for a lifetime best 1:54 4/5 clocking over that Pennsylvania five-eighths oval. Completing the field are Franks Best, Cadet, Becky Badger Baby, Franky Provolone, Silverlode, One Chief and Itzaziam. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

Windsun T Bird is still going strong as her 11th birthday approaches, with the pacing mare getting her meet off to a nice start with a 7-1 upset last Friday night at Cal Expo for harness racing owner/trainer Robin Clements and pilot Nick Roland. "Miss T Bird, as we call her, had been in quite a few tough races with a few being track record breaking at Aces, so I knew she needed a good break," Clements related. "I gave her a month off when she returned and she really took advantage of her rest. "When I started her back she felt like her old self, very strong and happy. I was actually amazed how well she was training back. I decided that I would qualify her, but with the rain predicted I decided to race her instead and give her that one race to tighten up." Robin originally put David Siegel up, but as he had a horse in the race, she found a very able replacement in Nick Roland, who is making a very nice impression in his first Cal Expo invasion. "Nick never drove T Bird before, but had raced against her the last few years at Aces and was familiar with her style," Robin said. "When they sitting fifth during the race I didn't expect much out of her, but when he pulled her past the five-eighths pole and she had her momentum going, I knew we had a chance to win. "Nick did a great job and gave her a perfect trip. I like that Nick always liked the mare and that makes for a great combination when a driver has respect for your horse." Clements added, "Maria Alvarez has done a great job grooming Miss T Bird and had taken care of her at Running Aces while she worked for Timmy and Denise Maier, and Jack Olsen who helps me train has done a great job as well with my horses. It was definitely a team effort. "Windsun T Bird is a gutsy mare who puts everything she has on the track, its all business with her, yet she is such a pleasure to work with and around and is our barn greeter so it's no surprise she is one of the favorites in the barn." Pair of Opens, Horowitz Eliminations set A $6,600 Open Pace for fillies and mares that features a contentious cast of nine; a $5,500 Open Pace that rematches Firedrake and Jazzmanian Devil and two elimination heats for the Alan Horowitz Memorial get the spotlight on Friday night at Cal Expo. There will be 11 races presented under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with another 11 contests set for Saturday evening. First post each night is 6:10 p.m. Jazzmanian Devil is a 6-year-old son of Sand Shooter who carries the banner of William Condo with Kathie Plested training and Mooney Svendsen again handling the lines. After getting a solid qualifier under his belt two weeks ago, Jazzmanian Devil was dismissed at 6-1 in last week's Open Pace. Last of the half-dozen turning for home, he exploded for Svensen once straightened for home and got the job done by a half-length in a 1:54 flat tour. Firedrake was the 4-5 choice in that contest but had to settle for a close third. He was a game winner on opening week from the tough No. 10 post, as he was hard used for position, tracked to the drive and dug in when it counted for the score. A 4-year-old son of Dragon Again from the Artsplace mare Everything's Easy, he races for Set The Pace Racing LLC with Nick Roland doing the driving and training. He was a 1:51 2/5 victor at Running Aces in early September. Completing the field are Senga Nitro, Baylor Out and Ragin's Flight. There are two wagers offered here each night with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5, which is conducted on the first five races, and the 20-cent Pick 4, which covers the penultimate four races on the evening and comes with a $25,000-guaranteed pool. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

Harness racing trainer/driver Nick Roland is a new face on the scene at Cal Expo, and you can look for him to be a frequent visitor to the winner's circle as evidenced by his three victories on opening night. Including among those scores was a win by Firedrake in the featured Open Pace from the demanding No. 10 post. Roland shows up with several driving and training titles to his credit at Running Aces, where he has plied his trade since the Minnesota track debuted 10 years ago. "My grandparents on both sides have been involved in harness racing going back to the 1950s, and my parents actually met at the racetrack," said the 35-year-old native of Iowa City, Iowa. Despite the fact his parents Royal and Lisa are also involved in the sport, they insisted that Nick get his college degree and he found himself working in the insurance business following his graduation. "I was miserable and after one year I had to come back to the racetrack," he explained. "It was at that point that my sister Tessa and I showed up at that first Running Aces meet with a few horses that we or our family owned." It's been a slow building process for Roland, but he eventually got to the position where he had owners knocking on his door and the ability to expand the stable to the point where he has led the meeting as both a driver and a trainer. "I've been very fortunate to have some great owners over the years and they give me the freedom to do what I want." While Nick normally has raced at Prairie Meadows and the Iowa fairs following the end of the Running Aces meet, this year the decision was made to come out and give Cal Expo a try. "We've got 20 horses and that's just about the right number," Roland explained. "I couldn't do it without my girlfriend Jessica Johnson and my right hand man Terry Kauffman, and so far so good." In addition to piloting his own performers, Nick is looking forward to competing in as many races as possible as a catch driver. That should result in a lot of pictures. Pair of Opens get the marquee treatment An Open Pace headed by Firedrake and a Distaff Open that provides a rematch between Capitol Hill and Lil Miss Knuckles are the main attractions on Saturday night's Watch and Wager LLC program at Cal Expo. There will be 10 races decided with first post at 6:10 p.m. Firedrake has been assigned the outside slot among the six pacers set for the fifth race as he seeks a repeat score for owner Set The Pace Racing LLC and driver-trainer Nick Roland. A 4-year-old son of Dragon Again from the Artsplace mare Everything's Easy, Firedrake proved a punctual 4-5 favorite in his Cal Expo debut on opening night. From the difficult No. 10 post position, he was hard used to the early lead before being covered up, then re-rallied in the drive to prevail by a neck over Ragin's Flight in a 1:53 3/5 mile. Set to line up inside him on Saturday are the Kathie Plested-traned pair of Jazzmanian Devil and Ragin's Flight; Almost Cut My Hair from the Bob Johnson barn; and the Richard Remillard reined-and-trained Baylor Out. Lil Miss Knuckles and Capitol Hill get another chance to settle the score in the Filly and Mare Open after finishing one-two in last week's clash at the head of the class in this division. Lil Miss Knuckles posted a 12-1 surprise in that affair for owner Fabiola Quevedo, trainer Edwin Quevedo and pilot William Hernandez, getting the job done by three-quarters of a length over Capitol Hill. The latter is a Badlands Hanover mare who goes about her business for George McCrystal and trainer Kathie Plested and lost a tough one last week after going a first-over journey. Steve Wiseman guides. Capitol Hill departs from the outside post in the field of seven with Lil Miss Knuckles just to her inside. Blue Note, Coastal Treasure, La Madawna De Rosa, Moonshinenmonkeys and Smash round out the field. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

David Siegel got a solid start to the Cal Expo meet last Saturday night while guiding a pair of harness racing pacers into the winner's circle. Native's Revenge, who is co-owned by Siegel and trainer Bob Johnson, got the job done in the third race on opening night card, with Walker Meister posting a $38 surprise in the 12th race with Siegel handling the lines for trainer George Reider. "Bob (Johnson) has had nice success with Native's Revenge here after a challenging campaign at Running Aces," Siegel noted. "He's a classy horse and seems to really like the track. "I was looking for a reliable horse to buy a piece of in Bob's barn to diversity my holdings and Native's Revenge fit the bill. So when he returned to the left coast, I purchased a piece of him and was fortunate that he fit the bottom conditioned class in his first start and returned to his old winning form here." David added that Native's Revenge is being pointed for the Alan Horowitz series, with the opening leg of that event scheduled for Saturday, November 11. A few hours after prevailing with Native's Revenge, Siegel once again got his picture taken after working out a pefect trip with Walker Meister and lighting up the toteboard in the process. "It's somewhat similar in that he had not been racing in great form at Running Aces," Siegel said. "It seems like Walker Meister has fared best here in California. "George approaches the return of his horses with a long-term view, that is six months of racing ahead, and he also wanted to give the barn a nice breather after Aces. So, as expected, most of his horses were a little short last week. "I had a conservative plan for Walker Meister, but when I looked left from the seven hole, there were very few that had that 'leave' look so I jumped out of there along with the horse I thought I had to beat in Hi Ho's Little Rev. "Mooney (Svendsen) did the right thing with that horse and retook. At that point I knew Bobby Johnson's horses were all ready to rock and roll on opening night and I thought I could be good enough to be second. "But Walker Meister kept right up at the half and that's when I thought I just might get there. By the three-quarter pole I had a good feeling I would win and the gelding was solid. "I use Speed Ratings and his 77 was about 10 points up from his recent Running Aces efforts. No doubt he likes the Cal Expo surface and maybe just likes being home. He'll have to step up now, but the way he raced I expect him to be quite competitive." Open Trot, Pick 5 carryover in spotlight A $6,600 Open Trot and a Pick 5 carryover of $4,400 with a $20,000-guaranteed pool head the program Friday night at Cal Expo. The trotters and pacers are now in action on Friday and Saturday evenings under the banner of Watch and Wager LLC with first post set for 6:10 p.m. There will be 10 races on both Friday and Saturday. The Pick 5 is a 50-cent wager which is conducted on the first five races each night and features a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. That low takeout is also offered on the 20-cent Pick 4 that covers the penultimate four races on the card. Looking at the featured Open Trot, racing secretary Robin Schadt has assigned the Luke Plano trained-and-driven Pridecrest the outside post in the cast of seven, with the other six sidewheelers drawing their slots. A 5-year-old son of Angus Hall, Pridecrest carries the hopes of Mark Hinshaw and invades from the Midwest having met some solid company at Hawthorne and Hoosier Park this season. He scored his most recent victory in an Open event on August 26 over a good track at Hawthorne, as he set a stalking journey that evening and ignited in the stretch to win going away by 2 1/4 lengths while rewarding his backers as an 11-1 shot. Taking him on, from the rail out: Agrestores Comet with Chip Lackey; Becky Badger Baby, Nick Roland; Itzaziam, to be handled by Sean Smithpeters; Talkin Tootsie, Mooney Svendsen; and Silverlode with Steve Desomer. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

The 2017-2018 Watch and Wager LLC harness meeting at Cal Expo gets under way Saturday night with a pair of Open Pace events headlining the card. First post for the 13-race program is 6:10 p.m. There will be Saturday racing this week and beginning next week there will be Friday and Saturday night action on tap. The seventh race on the card is a $6,600 Open Pace with a full cast of 10 set to face the starter, while a half-dozen fillies and mares are set for the fourth race co-feature. "Fans can look forward to a number of new faces this season," said Cal Expo general manager Chris Schick. "The talented Nick Roland stable is in from the Midwest, and the in the next few weeks we can expect to see Ryan Grundy, Gary Clarke, Richard Remillard and Rene Goulet from Canada. "This new dynamic should provide a highly competitive product with good wagering value." Speaking of Nick Roland, he will be well represented in the co-featured seventh race with Firedrake coming in from Running Aces and Cowboy Mathis shipping in from Hawthorne to represent his shedrow. ******** Saturday's action will include a simulcast of the full Breeders Crown program from Hoosier Park in Indiana. Jenn Bongiorno joins Cal Expo broadcast team Watch and Wager LLC is pleased to announce that Jenn Bongiorno has joined the broadcast team here at Cal Expo. Jenn will team with Hall of Famer Gary Seibel with nightly analysis of the popular Cal Expo Pick-4. She will replace Dave Brower, who has returned to the Meadowlands on a full time basis. Jenn is fourth generation harness racing, as her great uncle was Stanley Dancer and her grandfather was Harold "Sonny" Dancer. After graduating from Monmouth University with a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing, Bongiorno started working at Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment in New Jersey, where she was marketing coordinator, handling the social media and was also a member of the on-air talent. After five and a half-years, Jenn left the Meadowlands this April as she began to own more horses. "I felt I was more focused on them and wanted to take a more hands on approach with them. I received my trainers license in June and have a stable of 15 horses that my brother and I run together. I race primarily at Yonkers Raceway. "I'm absolutely loving being a trainer. It's more work than I ever could have imagined, but every morning when I walk into the barn, I feel a sense of passion and love that I've never felt. I said after winning my first race, I never felt that level of gratification before. "The TV portion of my job definitely became my favorite part at the Meadowlands and is something I truly miss, which is why when Watch and Wager presented me with this opportunity, I absolutely could not turn it down!" "I'm so looking forward to following Cal-Expo racing and giving the fans my handicapping opinions. Harness racing is such a great sport and through TV, I've gotten to interact with so many fans via social media and look forward to doing the same with the Cal-Expo fan base." "We were so impressed with Jenn's work at the Meadowlands" said Chris Schick, General Manager of Cal Expo harness. "Her knowledge and passion for our sport is very evident. We also want to publicly thank Dave Brower, and wish him well on his return home to the Meadowlands. Dave has agreed to make appearances to keep the California fans up to date on trends at the Meadowlands." By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness    

Watch and Wager, operator of Cal Expo Harness Racing, is pleased to announce that Jenn Bongiorno will join the broadcast team beginning opening night October 28th. Jenn will team with Hall of Famer Gary Siebel with nightly analysis of the popular Cal Expo Pick-4. She will replace Dave Brower, who has returned to the Meadowlands on a full time basis. Jenn is fourth generation harness racing, as her great uncle was Stanley Dancer and her grandfather was Harold "Sonny" Dancer. After graduating from Monmouth University with a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing, Bongiorno started working at Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment in New Jersey, where she was marketing coordinator, handling the social media and was also a member of the on-air talent. After three and a half years, Jenn left the Meadowlands this April as she began to own more horses. "I felt I was more focused on them and wanted to take a more hands on approach with them. I received my trainers license in June and have a stable of 15 horses that my brother and I run together. I race primarily at Yonkers Raceway. "I am absolutely loving being a trainer. It's more work than I ever could have imagined, but every morning when I walk into the barn, I feel a sense of passion and love that I've never felt. I said after winning my first race, I never felt that level of gratification before. "The TV portion of my job definitely became my favorite part at the Meadowlands and is something I truly miss, which is why when Watch and Wager presented me with this opportunity, I absolutely could not turn it down! "I'm so looking forward to following Cal-Expo racing and giving the fans my handicapping opinions. Harness racing is such a great sport and through TV, I've gotten to interact with so many fans via social media and look forward to doing the same with the Cal-Expo fan base." " We were so impressed with Jenn's work at the Meadowlands" said Chris Schick General Manager of Cal Expo harness. " Her knowledge and passion for our sport is very evident. " We also want to publicly thank Dave Brower, and wish him well on his return home to the Meadowlands. Dave has agreed to make appearances to keep the California fans up to date on trends at the Meadowlands". Cal Expo is set to open its 54 night stand on Saturday October 28th. By Mark Ratzky, publicity, Cal Expo Harness

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