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The first two times James Kennedy guided Dougs Hobby Horse for Rick Bertrand didn't turn out so well, with the harness racing mare making breaks on both occasions, but the third time was the charm as they teamed up for a decisive victory in last week's Gary Budahn Trot. "It was just a case of some bad luck in those first two starts," Kennedy noted. "She has a tendency to run in and in the first one she just didn't have enough room and jumped it off. The next time the gate was a little too slow and she made a break at the start." There were certainly no such troubles in the Budahn Final, as Kennedy was able to leave alertly with Dougs Hobby Horse from their cozy rail draw to push the early issue, settled into a tracking trip behind favored Silverlode and then ignited in the stretch for the four-length score. "I know she had the early speed to take advantage of the inside post and I pushed her out of there to get a good position," Kennedy said. "She was on her game, and my only concern was to take her out a bit on the turn to make sure she had plenty of room." This was the third win from five starts at the meet for Dougs Hobby Horse, who races for Bertrand and her namesake and breeder Doug Flores. She established her lifetime mark of 1:56 1/5 when she captured a conditioned event here last month. Interestingly, she is a daughter of Claudius Augustus, who carried the banner of Gary Budahn during his racing days, which included several impressive miles over this track. "It was an honor to win a race named after such an excellent vet and horseman as Gary Budahn," Kennedy said after posing for pictures in the winner's circle. Main event matches pacing distaffers A $6,600 Filly and Mare Open Pace is the featured attraction on Friday night's Watch and Wager LLC program at Cal Expo with Delightfully Wild and Melodies That Rock getting top billing. Delightfully Wild is a 5-year-old daughter of Bettor's Delight out of the Western Ideal mare Wild Ride Hanover who carries the banner of Richard Morita and David Yamada, hails from the Lino Pacheco barn and will have Luke Plano once again giving directions. She is looking for her third straight decision at this Open level, including last week's clash at this top rung over a good track in a heavy fog that saw her dead-heating for the score with Melodies That Rock. The latter is a 5-year-old daughter of Rockin Image who is owned by Brittney Nicole Thigpen, and is reined and trained by William Hernandez. She was a 27-1 upset winner of the Robert Gordon Final and then dead-heated with Delightfully Wild in last week's top dance for the pacing distaffers. Looking ahead to Saturday, the Marvin Shapiro Pace will headline the program with last week's elimination winners Cenalta Call Girl and Getter Queen Flush getting the top billing. Getter Queen Flush and Cenalta Call Girl both got the job done last week with solid come-from-behind scores while each going off at 8-5 odds with Nick Roland and Rene Goulet at the controls, respectively. A reminder that 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 of the evening; and the 20-cent Pick 4, which comes with a $30,000-guaranteed gross pool. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

Harness racing driver James Kennedy was able to work out a perfect trip from the rail with Walker Meister in last weekend's Shelly Goudreau Final at Cal Expo, rewarding his backers to the tune of $27 while lowering his lifetime mark to 1:52 3/5 in the process. Walker Meister goes about his business for George Reider and Rob, Kim and Dave Haness with Reider doing the conditioning, and it was a very special win for all involved. "I knew Shelly Goudreau and he drove a few horses that I paddocked back in the early 80s," Reider noted after Walker Meister's score. "I'll never forget when he won on a horse for me named Dalmead. "He was bigger than life to me as a kid back then, and I used to say that he had more talent in his baby finger than most people have in their whole body." George was paddocking a horse named Tajamon the night that Shelly Goudreau lost his life in a tragic accident in a race at Hollywood Park on August 27, 1982. "That was one of the saddest nights of my life," Reider recalled. "Shelly Goudreau was a great man and a great driver." As for Walker Meister, Reider said, "He's a tough horse with a bad wheel, and a lot of the credit has to go to his groom Jose Castillo, who we call Chicky, because he has to work very hard to keep that leg together." Open Trot, Pace getting marquee treatment A $6,000 Open Trot headed by the streaking Pridecrest and a $6,600 Open Pace that has enticed a contentious cast of 10 are the highlights on Saturday night's program at Cal Expo. There will be 11 races presented under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post set for 6:10 p.m. The Open Trot goes as the second event while the Open Pace occupies the 9th-race slot on the card. Pridecrest comes into the Open Trot having captured all four of his starts at this meet in impressive fashion since coming in from the Midwest. The 5-year-old son of Angus Hall is owned by Mark Hinshaw and is reined and trained by Luke Plano. Pridecrest established a track record when he won his local debut on November 3 in 1:53 2/5 and he has added three more victories, including the last pair while doing his work from the demanding No. 10 post, from which he will once again leave this weekend. Taking him on from the rail out are Majestic Lady Jo, Windsun Galaxie, The Evictor, Silverhill Volo and Talkin Tootsie. The Open Pace looms a wide-open affair with a full field set to face the starter. Eastender took the most recent clash at the head of the class on December 26 and will depart from the outside slot in the co-feature. A 6-year-old son of Cheyenne Rei, Eastender is owned by Maryann Plano and Nikki Hudson and will attempt to give driver/trainer Luke Plano a sweep of the featured events on Saturday's program. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness  

There may have been a deluge here at Cal Expo last Friday night, but apparently Quentin Schneider's harness racing performers didn't mind at all. Five members of the shedrow braved the elements on that card and the Schneider barn came away with three wins and a second on a night that seemed more fit for Noah than harness racing. Thing got off to a fast start for Team Schneider when Tick Tick Kaboom got the job done in the opener with James Kennedy at the controls. It was the fourth victory in the last six trips to the post for the 3-year-old pacing filly and she made every pole a winning one to prove a punctual 4-5 favorite. After Herecomesthethunder checked in second in the evening's fifth race, Smoke Eater and Glamorgal stepped up to capture the eighth and tenth races, respectively, to complete the hat track. It was a déjà vu mile for Smoke Eater, who for the second straight week set all the fractions and held safe by a neck over a pocket-sitting Musician with Mooney Svendsen at the helm. For Glamorgal and Kennedy, a wide rally to the stretch proved the winning formula as the mare responded gamely at crunch time to prevail by a half-length while rewarding her backers with a $14 payoff. All in all, it was a good night for Team Schneider. Barbarian, I'm An Athlete do battle I'm An Athlete, who has rattled off three straight wins including an upset at the head of the class; and Barbarian, his most immediate victim in that last mile, head the field for Friday night's featured Open Pace. Watch and Wager LLC will present 12 races Friday with first post set for 6:15 p.m. I'm An Athlete is a 7-year-old son of Art Major out of the Cam's Card Shark mare Female Champs who is owned by Ronald Rettig-Zucchi, is trained by Lino Pacheco and will have the services of James Kennedy. After capturing back-to-back conditioned events, I'm An Athlete returned to the Open ranks for his most recent assignment with Kennedy at the controls. He stalked to the lane, ignited when the question was asked and prevailed by a head over 2-5 favorite Barbarian in a 1:53 1/5 tour over a track labeled good. Barbarian is a 6-year-old son of Somebeachsomewhere out of the Western Ideal mare Righteous Renee who races for owner Robert Orr, takes his lessons from Sparky Clarke and will once again be guided by Luke Plano. He had a four-race winning streak snapped by I'm An Athlete last time, carving out all the fractions in that affair before being collared right on the money. He was very game in his previous four scores, including one from the demanding No. 10 post, putting his class and versatility on display in the process. Rounding out the field are Buddy's Hope, who leaves from the cozy rail slot with William Hernandez; Jazzmanian Devil, to be handled by Steve Wiseman; and Allymx'sliventexas, who will have Mooney Svendsen in the sulky. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

James Kennedy recorded a consecutive driving hat trick here at Cal Expo last Friday, guiding his own trainee I'm An Athlete to victory in the Open II pace, followed by a score behind Scooters Lady and then completing the harness racing triple with The Bearded Lady in the featured Annette Funicello Final. Interestingly, all three wins came from a tracking journey and each race saw Kennedy coming away at the end while rewarding the chalkplayers on each occasion. I'm An Athlete races for Ron Rettig-Zeucchi and was getting come class relief after racing in the Open I in his previous three outings here; Scooter Lady is owned and trained by Marco Rios and was graduating in her eighth start; while The Bearded Lady put in her patented late move to prove clearly best in the Funicello at 60 cents on the dollar. "I've had I'm An Athlete for two years now and while it helped to get some class relief, he went a real strong mile. It should give him some confidence when we move back up to the top level. "I'd only driven Scooters Lady once before and she gave me a real good finish that night, so I thought we had a great chance with the right trip. It worked out for her to be second over and she delivered." Kennedy kept the momentum going with The Bearded Lady in the evening's feature while making it two in the row with the daughter of Mach Tree. "Let's just say she's unique, because she is very mouthy and needs the softest touch possible. "If you noticed, I kept her off the gate so she would be able to relax, because she isn't nearly as good on the front end. She gave me another strong finish and was pretty impressive." Flameon, Silverlode battle in main event Flameon and Silverlode, who have been trading punches at the head of the class, get another chance to settle the score in Friday night's featured $6,000 Open Trot. A 13-race card will be presented under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post set for 6:10 p.m. The headliner will go as the third event on the evening. Flameon and Silverlode have been assigned the outside two posts in the field of six, respectively, with Chip Lackey once again guiding the former while Silverlode will again have the services of Luke Plano. The hard-hitting pair have met twice at this young stand, with Silverlode going coast-to-coast in the October 29 Open and holding safe by a head, while Flameon prevailed by a neck after a first-over trip in the most recent top dance two weeks ago. Flameon is a 6-year-old son of Angus Hall who is owned by Mark Anderson and hails from the Gordie Graham barn, while Silverlode is Desomer Stables homebred daughter of British Sterling. Rounding out the field, from the rail out, are the Kennedy Lindsey-conditioned Kickinitwithkohler; The Lehigh Legend from the Gene Vallandingham shedrow; the Sparky Clarke-trained Zoraze; and Windsun Galaxie, who takes his lessons from Lino Pacheco. **** There are two wagers here each night that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5, which is conducted on the first five races of the night; and the 20-cent Pick 4, which is decided on races 9 through 12 on Friday. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

Last week's initial Friday night harness racing program at Cal Expo was a good one for trainer Kennedy Lindsey, who ended up posing for pictures with the pacer Whatchamacallum and the trotter Katie Mouse. Both performers were making it two straight wins, with Whatchamacallum proving his 46-1 shocker the previous week was no fluke, while Katie Mouse was the 6-5 choice after recording a 9-1 upset in her prior appearance. "My entire barn got a little sick when we got back from Chicago," noted Lindsey. "I knew they were all going to be at least a week behind everybody else." Whatchamacallum is 5-year-old who carries the banner of Patricia Stevens and has been guided in his last two tallies by James Kennedy. He has been up close and personal in both those miles and won clearly on both occasions. "I was surprised as anybody when he won that first race, because I thought he would need another start," his mentor noted. "He set a new mark that night, and then he came back and set another one last time after getting roughed up on the first turn." Katie Mouse has done the track-and-attack to perfection for veteran Chip Lackey in her last two trips to the post and like Whatchamacallum, spent the summer at Hawthorne Park. "She kept racing first over in Chicago, and that's not the way she likes to be driven," Lindsey said. "She wants to sit in and come for the stretch, which is what she's done in her last two here. I thought she was the one to beat. "Our other horse in that race (Shez So Sassy) gets kind of hard to control when she makes the front and I had a feeling she was going to be in trouble when she was racing up there." Annette Funicello Final atop the marquee The $8,200 Annette Funicello Final for pacing fillies and mares is the main attraction on Friday night's card at Cal Expo, with The Bearded Lady looming the one to beat after posting a dominating score last weekend. There are 12 races on tap under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with a 6:10 first post for both the Friday and Saturday programs. The Bearded Lady is a 4-year-old daughter of Mach Three out of the Jate Lobell mare Madam Christie who is owned by Mark Anderson, hails from the Gordie Graham barn and will once again have the services of James Kennedy. In last week's Funicello prep, The Bearded Lady sat last for a half, began to pick up momentum on the final bend and then stormed home to draw of to a three and one-half length victory as the 3-2 favorite. Lining up against her on Friday are Rodeo Blues with Andy Arsenault; Wisecrack, William Hernandez; Queenofhot, Mark Kennedy; Wizzel Stix with Steve Wiseman at the helm; Slick Fall, Tony Succarotte; and Pa's Corn Squeezin, to be guided by Luke Plano. **** The 50-cent Pick 5 and the 20-cent Pick 4, which both come with a reduced 16 percent takeout, continue to pay well here with a nice bonus for the winners courtesy of that lower rate. Last Saturday night's Pick 5 returned $3,104, while the using the regular takeout it would have been $2,771, a difference of $331 per winning 50-cent ticket. The Pick 4 on the program was good for $5,321 for the 20-cent investment, with a $4,750 return with the regular take for an increase of a cool $571 for each ticket holder. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness  

James Kennedy, who is quickly approaching driving victory No. 1,000, will attempt to get closer to that plateau on Saturday when he guides the up-and-coming Midnight Adventure in Saturday night's California Sire Stakes for harness racing pacing colts. Kennedy comes into the program with 991 trips to the charmed enclosure, and three of those scores have come with Midnight Adventure, who carries the banner of his breeders Mark Anderson and Debra McCarthy and calls the Gordie Graham barn his home. "He's got a lot of talent, for sure," Kennedy related when asked about the pacer. "He was still a little green in that second start, making a break when I tried to get him into a hole and he got upset, but now he's pretty much push-button." Midnight Adventure has won his last two starts impressively, including the Lonnie Beck Series final, on both occasions engaging in heated stretch exchanges with Allmyx'sliveintexas. "They've had a couple of real good battles," the pilot noted. As for being on the verge of 1,000 victories, James admits he never could have dreamed of such a thing when he first started driving. "I don't know if you remember, but I went something like 0-for-165 before I got my first win. It was a horse named Watch Me Dream for my dad." Despite that less-than-stellar start, Kennedy has established himself as one of the top drivers and trainers on the grounds, currently housing nine performers in his shedrow. Among that group is I'm An Athlete for Ronald Rettig-Zucchi, who has rattled off three straight Open victories. "I enjoy getting behind my horses, and went I don't have one in a race, I like driving for other people. If I could, I'd love to be in every race every night." Pair of Sire Stakes matching sophomore pacers Two $10,000 California Sire Stakes for 3-year-old pacers highlight the Saturday night card at Cal Expo, with Midnight Adventure and Allmyx'sliventexas heading the colt division, while Little Emma looms large in the filly contest. A 12-race card is on tap with first post set for 6:25 p.m. Midnight Adventure is homebred son of Kent's On Nuke out of Kb's Midnight who races for Mark Anderson and Debra McCarthy, hails from the Gordie Graham barn and will once again have James Kennedy in the sulky. The dark-hued performer earned his graduation papers in his January 9 debut, then lost all chance in his next start in the opening leg of the Lonnie Beck Series after making a break. Midnight Adventure has been all business in his last two appearances, however, with a game victory in the Beck finale followed by a lifetime-best 1:55 1/5 score in a conditioned event last weekend. Allmyx'sliventexas is a Wayne and Rod Knittel homebred son of Hi Ho Silverheel's who takes his lessons from Bob John and will have Mooney Svendsen handling the lines. He romped in the Lonnie Beck opening leg and has been Midnight Adventure's most immediate victim in the Beck final and that conditioned contest last week. Rounding out the cast are Rock Of Ages with Luke Plano; Mathachusetts, to be guided by Steve Wiseman; and One More Chance, who has the services of Chip Lackey. Looking at the filly division, Little Emma is coming off a solid come-from-behind score in her third trip to the post. The Little Steven homebred races for Thomas, Haness and Reider with George Reider training and David Siegel at the helm. Sassy Catitude, Plain Awsome and Moonstone Beach complete the field. By Mark Ratzky

Frankthebank hasnt been around forever, it just seems that way. Last week the pacing son of Sportsmaster celebrated his 14th birthday, which means this will be his final year of harness racing, and judging by his performance in the finale of the Shelly Goudreau Final he appears to be set to make the most of it. Frankthebank is owned by Richard and Marlene Thomas and conditioned by George Reider. They actually lost the veteran via the claim box on December 5, but reached right back in the next week and he returned to the cozy confines of the Reider barn. Frankthebanks bank account coming into 2015 was just shy of $455,000 and he established his career standard of 1:51 flat five years ago while turning in a 1:54 3/5 tally at Running Aces during the summer. He finished second in the Goudreau Prep while coming from last that evening to conclude last years campaign, then was sent off at nearly 12-1 in last weeks final. James Kennedy was aggressive from the gate and made the top, then Frankthebank was covered up by odds-on favorite Real Attitude on the backside. The Thomas colorbearer dug in gamely and once again finished second, beaten a half-length by the late heroics of Sheer Desire in that event. He may not reach the half-million dollar mark before hes forced to social security, but it certainly wont be for lack of trying. A reminder that there are two wagers that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5, which this season features a 25 percent minor pool payout; and the 20-cent Pick 4, which comes with a $30,000-guaranteed pool on Saturdays and $25,000-guaranteed on Sundays. Jazzmanian Devil eyes repeat in Open Pace Jazzmanian Devil and One And Only, first and second in last weeks battle at the head of the class, top the cast for Sunday nights featured $6,600 Open I Pace. A 12-race card is on tap at the Watch and Wager LLC meeting with first post set for 4:55 p.m. The headliner goes as the eighth event on the evening. Jazzmanian Devil is a 5-year-old Indiana-bred son of Sand Shooter who carries the banner of William Condon, hails from the Steve Wiseman shedrow and will once again have Mooney Svendsen giving directions. Sent off at 8-1 in last weeks clash at the top rung, Jazzmanian Devil sat in a tracking position for Svendsen until the stretch, ignited when the question was asked and prevailed by a head over One And Only while coming a snappy :26 3/5 final quarter. One And Only comes into Sundays assignment on the verge of going over the $200,000 earnings plateau for owners Richard Morita and David Yamada and trainer Lino Pacheco. He established his 1:51 2/5 mark two years ago and will have the services of James Kennedy this weekend. A winner of back-to-back races to close out his 2015 campaign, One And Only moved back up to the Open I level for his most recent outing and lost a heartbreaker after a game, first-over effort with Kennedy in the sulky. Rounding out the field are Bettors Promise, who will give trainer Pacheco two looks at the outcome; Surprisingly Sweet, a second entrant for Wiseman; the Luke Plano-conditioned Rikybrnthegaragdwn; Endeavors King from the Gene Vallandingham barn; and Stable Eyes for Tim Clevenger. By Mark Ratzky, Publicity Cal Expo Harness

Its been a tough 2015 for the seven-year-old One and Only, but its finishing it up nicely and Cal Expo co-owner Richard Morita is looking forward to the next harness racing  season with the popular pacer. Morita owns One And Only with David Yamada while Lino Pacheco calls the shots with the son of Bettor's Delight, who is currently just shy of the $200,000 earnings plateau while sporting a 1:51 2/5 mark that was set last year. One and Only has made all his starts under the Morita/Yamada banner and Richard relates, We love watching him go around the track with his tail flying. After just clicking in one of his first 17 starts this season, One And Only has posted back-to-back victories here with James Kennedy handling the lines. The most recent came last week in coast-to-coast fashion while competing at the Open III level. It's good to have One and Only back home. He had a nice year at Yonkers in 2014, but when he went back this year, he got very sick. Luckily they treated him aggressively and Jen Sabot did a great job getting him back to the track. He missed a lot of the year, and by the time he started racing, he couldn't get raced on a regular basis. When he did, we got a lot of outside draws, and that is horrible at Yonkers. As for his current campaign, Morita explains that patience has been a virtue. Lino took his time getting him ready, and after a few weeks, he said he could tell that One was happy and knew he was back home. Lino told me he was really coming around and his last race shows hes getting back on his game. El Azteca, Flameon headline Open Trot El Azteca, who had his win streak snapped at three last week; and Flameon, who hung that half-length decision on him, square off again in Sunday nights $6,000 Open I Trot. There are 12 races on tap with a first post of 4:55 p.m. The feature will go as the third on the evening with a field of six to face starter Ken Fowler. After leaving from the assigned No. 10 post position in his four starts at this meet, El Azteca gets some relief as he does his work from the No. 6 slot with Luke Plano once again handling the lines. A 6-year-old son of Panama Hanover, El Azteca is owned, trained and was bred by Marco Rios. He has over $190,000 in his bank account and established his 1:54 3/5 career standard last season at Hoosier Park. The hard-hitting sidewheeler started the fall session here with three straight trips to the winners circle, overcoming that demanding 10 post on each occasion. He couldnt quite get it done last week from that marooned slot, narrowly missing to Flameon in a game mile. The latter is a 5-year-old Angus Hall offspring who races for Mark Anderson, hails from the Gordie Graham barn and will have Pat Galbraith once again at the controls. After having to settle for second money in three straight outings, he returned to his winning ways last week with a nice :27 flat final quarter while lowering his mark to 1:55 3/5 in the process. Completing the field are Northern Stormont for Steve Wiseman; Jessesjo with Chip Lackey; Its Not Over, who has the services of Mooney Svendsen; and Windsun Galaxie, who leaves from the cozy rail with James Kennedy in the sulky. By Mark Ratzky, Publicity Cal Expo Harness

It took him 12 stabs and he waited until the last big dance, but Tony Cheesecake got his overdue stakes trophy last weekend with harness racing driver James Kennedy in the sulky behind the Junior Wilkinson trainee. Coming into the final Sire Stakes for the 4-year-old pacing males, the Little Steven homebred had racked up a second, a third and nine fourth-place finishes while taking on the likes of Rikybrnthegaragdwn and King Of The Crop, but he showed revenge is a dish best served cold with last Saturdays score. It was really a case of his not being quite as good as a few of those pacers up until this year, related Wilkinson, who co-owns Tony Cheesecake with Billie Schwartz and David Rachford. Hed even been favored a couple of times in those stakes, which kind of surprised me, and he had to settle for minor awards on those nights. Hes a better horse now, and it certainly helped that he got a great trip. Kennedy left into the garden spot behind odds-on King Of The Crop, was able to sit behind a spirited duel with that rival and Rickybrnthegaragdwn, then came a sizzling :26 3/5 final quarter to post the 10-1 upset and earn his initial stakes decision in the last scheduled added-money event for this division. The one thing I told James was we couldnt be on the front end, Wilkinson explained. He was able to float out of there and drop into a perfect spot and got the trip. I have a lot of respect for the other horses, but it was his night. Tony Cheesecake is an example of that old adage if you dont succeed at first, try, try again. Sire Stakes, Open Pace and Trot featured A $10,000 California Sire Stakes for sophomore pacing males that matches Uringoodhands and Hi Hos Little Rev; an Open Trot headed by El Azteca; and a contentious Open Pace are the main events on Saturdays 14-race Watch and Wager LLC program at Cal Expo. Uringoodhands is a homebred son of Kents On Nuke out the Surmo Hanover mare Sparks Will Fly who is owned by Mark Anderson, hails from the Gordie Graham barn and will once again have James Kennedy at the controls. The dark-hued performer has accounted for three of the four stakes races decided for this group, the most recent coming in coast-to-coast fashion on February 28 as the 1-5 choice. He prevailed by a neck that night over the pocket-sitting Hi Hos Little Rev while equaling his mark with the 1:55 1/5 clocking. Hi Hos Little Rev has a stakes trophy and has been runner-up in the other three big-money dances. Vanessa Gilliam owns the son of Hi Ho Silverheels with Bob Johnson the conditioner and Mooney Svendsen handling the lines. He held off Uringoodhands by a neck in the January 17 stakes clash. Completing the field are Laissezmoipocouler, who leaves from the cozy rail slot with Williams Hernandez; Sounion, who has the services of Tim Maier; Lodi Machette Man for Pierre Girard; and Musician with Luke Plano. *********** Saturdays card features a $57,226 carryover in the Jackpot 6. The Jackpot 6 is a 10-cent minimum bet and is one of four wagers on the program with a reduced 16% takeout rate. The other reduced takeout wagers are the Hi-5, which is conducted on the final race and like the Jackpot 6 is a 10-cent minimum; the 50-cent Pick 5; and the 20-cent Pick 4, which comes with a $25,000-guaranteed pool. By Mark Ratzky, Publicity Cal Expo Harness

Kennedy loving position with El Azteca After being saddled with the demanding No. 10 position in recent weeks, El Azteca does his work from the 4 slot in Sundays featured Stan Bergstein Trot That sits just right with his regular chauffeur James Kennedy, who has established himself as one of the top drivers at Cal Expo and has formed a fine partnership with this outstanding trotter at this meeting. Despite having that 10 post handicap in his last three appearances, James has guided the Marco Rios colorbearer to two wins and a nose loss, making him look awfully tough over this weekends level playing field. Having the 10 hole is very tough, because you have so much extra ground to cover, Kennedy said. The drivers watch you at the start, and if you leave they try to torture you, and if you take back they do their best to slow it up. James no doubt realizes this because he has certainly had occasion to be on the other side of the equation, driving a horse who leaves from the inside with a horse or even two being assigned far outside draws. This is definitely the best trotter Ive ever driven and I want to thank Marco for giving me the chance with him at the start of the meeting, Kennedy continued. He tried to make a couple of breaks earlier on, but hes been perfect since and a real pleasure to drive. Hes a Cadillac out there. The bettors are likely to make El Azteca a solid favorite once again in the Bergstein and his driver shares that confidence. I wouldnt trade places with anybody, even if he we had the 10 post. Stan Bergstein Trot brings out El Azteca The $10,000 Stan Bergstein Trot, which will feature El Azteca, Its Not Over and A Crown For Lindy, headlines Sunday nights Watch and Wager LLC program at Cal Expo. There will be 12 races and first post is 4:55 p.m. The Bergstein goes as the fifth event and there will also be a pair of $10,000 California Sire Stakes that will be decided as non-betting events prior to the regular card. El Azteca is strictly the one to beat in the Bergstein for owner/breeder/trainer Marco Rios and pilot James Kennedy. He comes into this assignment with $141,000 in his bank account and a 1:54 2/5 mark that was set last season over the seven-eights Hoosier Park oval. The 6-year-old son of Panama Hanover won his first four starts this season, with two of those victories coming from the assigned No. 10 post position, then came up a nose shy at most recent asking while again doing his work from the demanding slot. El Azteca has proven that he can get the job done up front, from a tracking position or from the back of the pack and without the handicap of that 10 post on Sunday, is certainly the one to fear most with Kennedy back in the bike. Taking him on are Brussel Sprout from the Ray Burt shedrow; the Luke Plano-trained Winsom Kelly; Flight Of The Kiwi from the Marc Winacott barn; the Bob Johnson-conditioned Its Not Over and A Crown For Lindy, who takes his lessons from Gene Vallandingham. A reminder there are four wagers offered each night that come with a reduced 16% takeout rate. They are the Jackpot 6 and Hi-5, which are 10-cent minimum bets; the 50-cent Pick 5; and the 20-cent Pick 4, which comes with a $25,000-guaranteed pool. by Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness

Vanessa Gilliam is the owner of the promising 3-year-old pacing colt Hi Hos Little Rev, the Bob Johnson trainee who was runner-up in the first stakes race for his division earlier this month and will suit up once again in Saturday nights harness racing opener. She is also the operator of Second Wind Rescue, Inc., doing a terrific job giving horses the second chance they deserve. I didn't grow up with horses, Vanessa explained. I was a competitive volleyball player, and my parents encouraged me to pursue athletics instead of equines, because they felt horses were not only dangerous, but wouldnt pay for college. Gilliam ended up playing college volleyball for five years and for a short period some professional volleyball in Greece, eventually buying her first horse in 2007. It was a 4- year-old Overo APHA mare, she related. In March of 2008, I starting rescuing by purchasing three unbroken 2 year olds Quarter Horse type horses for $150 apiece. Fast forward to the summer of 2010, when Vanessa met veterinarian Dr. Audrey Clifton in Paso Robles at a restaurant where she was working a couple of nights a week. She vacations at Lake Nacimento every summer with her family. We got to talking about our occupations and instantly become friends. She offered to help me with dental work and stock me with essential medical supplies at cost when she was down here. We stayed in touch and I went up to Cal Expo to visit her in 2011. During my visit, I got to jog two horses around the track on a Saturday morning and I was hooked! Later that year she called me to see if I had room for three pregnant mares at my ranch. I was able to take two of them, Prettylittlerebel and Sharps and Flats. Both mares were bred to Hi Ho Silverheels. Hi Ho's Little Rev, who is out of Prettylittlerebel, was born at Second Wind Rescue, Inc. in 2012. When he was getting close to turning 2, Gilliam contacted Clifton to help her get the ball rolling with his harness training. Audrey has been very instrumental in making this journey possible, Vanessa noted. She got him a spot in Leon Smith's barn for the first half of training. With all the groundwork I did with him at my place, Rev was ground driven his first day there and hooked up to a cart by the end of the week. It also goes to show the great minds that this breed possesses. Being part of this process has been a huge learning experience which will help me better understand the industry and also the horses that are involved. It's stressful being a racehorse owner, but I'm enjoying the excitement of the journey. As for Second Wind, it has been a 501(c)3 non-profit organization since 2011. Vanessa has had 62 horses, representing 20 different breeds, come through the rescue facility over the last seven years. After owning a few Standardbreds, she noted, I'd put them as one of my top three favorite breeds, along with Friesians and Mustangs. In addition, she currently owns a cleaning business called Mo Betta Cleaning Services, waits tables a couple nights a week, and runs the rescue. I care for 15 horses, four llamas, two sheep, two goats, a potbelly pig, three dogs, two cats, nine chickens and 14 ducks, pretty much all by myself. On occasion, I have volunteers here helping with ranch chores and training. Our goal at Second Wind is to take unwanted, abused, and/or neglected horses, get them healthy, add value to them with training, and adopt them out to forever homes. Noble work, indeed. Introducing Second Wind Rescue Open Pace, sophomore Sire Stakes in spotlight An Open Pace that rematches St Lads Lotto and China King and a $10,000 California Sire Stakes for the 3-year-old pacing colts get the marquee treatment Saturday night at Cal Expo. The Sire Stakes goes as the first and the Open Pace as the fourth event on a 14-race card that is scheduled to get underway at 6:10 p.m. Four wagers are offered at a reduced 16% takeout rate, including the Pick 4 that comes with a $30,000-guaranteed gross pool. Looking at the Sire Stakes, Urungoodhands, a powerful winner of the first added-money event for the 3-year-old males pacers; and Hi Hos Little Rev, his most immediate victim that evening, loom the major players. Uringoodhands is a homebred son of Kents On Nuke who campaigns for Mark Anderson, is trained by Gordie Graham and will once again have the services of James Kennedy.After finishing second in his debut, the dark-hued performer suited up for the first stakes engagement for the division two weeks ago. He sat a tracking trip for Kennedy, exploded off the final bend and won going away by three lengths in a 1:57 1/5 mile. Hi Hos Little Rev is a son of Hi Ho Silverheels who is owned by Vanessa Gilliam with Bob Johnson the conditioner and Mooney Svendsen in his usual position in the sulky. He was a powerful winner of his second trip to the post on January 4, then had to settle for second in the aforementioned January 17 Sire Stakes after looming large at midstretch. Racing will be conducted this week on Friday and Saturday nights, with no racing on Super Bowl Sunday, February 1. Next week, there will be Saturday and Sunday night programs, February 7 and 8. Following that, there will be back-to-back three-night weeks with cards on Friday through Sunday, February 13, 14, 15; and Friday through Sunday, February 20, 21, 22. Mark Ratzky

A $24,192 carryover in the Jackpot 6 and a $30,000-guaranteed gross pool for the Pick 4 are among the wagering highlights on Fridays harness racing program at Cal Expo. The Jackpot 6 and the Pick 4 are both offered with a reduced 16% takeout rate, along with the Pick 5 and the Hi-5. The Jackpot 6 and Hi-5 are 10-cent wagers; the Pick 5 is a 50-cent bet and the Pick 4 comes with a $30,000 guaranteed pool and can be purchased in 20-cent increments. Going into Fridays program, the carryover on the Jackpot 6 stands at just shy of $25,000. The 10-cent minimum wager pays out 70% of the net pool to the tickets with the most winners, with the remaining 30% designated for the carryover on those nights. When there is only one unique winning ticket selecting on all six winners, the entire net pool for that night and the carryover is paid to the holder of that ticket. There was a mandatory payout when the last meet completed on December 21, with a carryover of $22,655 going into that program. A total of $45,33 was wagered that evening and the payout was $2,106 for each 10-cent ticket. Racing will be conducted this week on Friday and Saturday nights, with no racing on Super Bowl Sunday, February 1. Next week, there will be Saturday and Sunday night programs, February 7 and 8. Following that, there will be back-to-back three-night weeks with cards on Friday through Sunday, February 13, 14, 15; and Friday through Sunday, February 20, 21, 22. Open Trot, Distaff Pace, Sire Stakes set An Open Trot headed by El Azteca and Its Not Over; a Distaff Open Pace and a trio of $10,000 California Sire Stakes are on tap Friday night at Cal Expo. First post for the 14-race card is 6:10 p.m. Looking at the 4-year-old Sire Stakes Trot, Placer, Ahh Panama and Bank Of Lodi are the major players after finishing in that order in the most recent stakes clash for this division two weeks ago. Placer is a homebred son of Panama Hanover out of the Website mare Charlottes Web who races for Desomer Stables Inc. with Vickie Desomer the conditioner and husband Steve in the sulky. He prevailed by a neck over Ahh Panama in that last added-money clash on January, adding another trophy to his display case. Ahh Panama is a daughter of Panama Hanover who races for Hank Wieseneck, Marty Garey and Bob Johnson with Johnson training and Steve Wiseman doing the honors. A stakes victress last season, she is looking for some revenge after just missing in that stakes two weeks ago. Bank Of Lodi has been a stakes winner at 3 and 4 for his owner/breeders Mary Harris and Pierre Girard, with Girard training and Luke Plano in his usual spot in the bike. The New Age Hanover mare accounted for the December 14 stakes clash in coast-to-coast fashion, and then carved out the fractions in that last stakes get-together and was no match for Placer and Ahh Panama in the stretch. The 3-year-old pacing filly stakes will be a rematch between Avila Beach and Smash, who were one-two in the initial big-money affair this division, while the Sire Stakes for the 3-year-old trotters goes as a non-betting affair prior to the regular program. The Open Trot is set as the third race on the evening and should provide another great battle between El Azteca and Its Not Over, who have dominated things at the head of the class during this meeting. James Kennedy guides the former for owner/breeder/trainer Marco Rios, while Chip Lackey will be in his usual spot behind Its Not Over for trainer Bob Johnson. By Mark Ratzky, publicity Cal Expo Harness

Out of 31 races last week, a grand total of three were won in coast-to-coast fashion, and one of those was turned in by China King and harness racing pilot Chip Lackey while capturing the Open Pace at juicy 19-1 odds. The East Coast invader, who races for Gary and Jennifer Sabot and trainer Gene Vallandingham, had suffered brutal beats at the hands of the streaking St Lads Lotto in his previous two efforts, but was able to turn the tables last weekend with his 1:52 1/5 tour. To be honest, I didnt go into that race with the same confidence I had the previous two starts when he was just nipped, Lackey explained. Hed missed a couple of starts, it looked like there was plenty of other speed in there and after a night and a half of racing to that point, there hadnt been a horse win on the front end. On top of that, Id been having some pretty bad luck with my drives. That said, I always try to be optimistic when I go out there and I will say that Jen (Sabot) and Gene were pretty confident about China Kings chances and did a terrific job to have him ready. Lackey was able to buzz the pacer right to the front and cut out fractions of :27 2/5, :54 4/5 and 1:22 3/5 en route to the three-quarters of a length upset over the 1-2 St Lads Lotto, who had his seven-race win streak snapped in the process. This is a very nice one, Chip noted. There are a lot of horses who like to roll away from there and then you have to wrestle with them, but hell pretty much do anything you want and is very ratable. Everything considered, I thought they might want me to take back with him last week, but they said to let him fire out and thats what we did. It was a tremendous effort when you remember he hadnt raced in three weeks, and it also did a lot to raise my spirits after some tough luck. High Bet Hanover eyes another snapshot Sundays distaff pacing feature goes in two divisions, with High Bet Hanover and Js Littlerockstar heading their respective races. A 10-race card is set with first post at 4:50 p.m. High Bet Hanover comes into her contest having posed for pictures following four of her last five starts, with her only setback coming two weeks ago when she took on some very tough male rivals. The Bettors Delight mare, who races for Kc C Carvalho, is conditioned by Tim Brown and will have Luke Plano guiding, rattled off three straight victories here between December 22 and January 2, then had her work cut out versus the likes of A Real Miracle at next asking. Returning to face fillies and mares last week, High Bet Hanover was hammered down to 1-2 and did not disappoint her many supporters. Plano left into a tracking trip with his charge, took aim on the leaders in the stretch and swept by when it counted for a length and a half score. Js Littlerockstar has been a gem of consistency and will be well backed in the co-feature. James Kennedy owns, trains, drives and bred the Little Steven mare, who has multiple Sire Stakes trophies on her mantle. The bay miss has accounted for the last two stakes engagements for her division, getting the January 4 score after the disqualification of arch-rival Brewski, then hung a head decision on that foe in last weeks Sire Stakes clash in another big mile. Next week will find the trotters and pacers in action under the Watch and Wager LLC banner on Friday and Saturday nights, with no racing on Super Bowl Sunday, February 1. By Mark Ratzky, publicty Cal Expo Harness                                          

Those who remembered that Vari Forgetful was once a very good trotting mare have been rewarded to the tune of 58-1 and 14-1, respectively, in her last two trips to the post for harness racing driver/trainer Bruce Clarke. The 6-year-old homebred daughter of Armbro Variable carries the banner of Jack Coffey and has over $105,000 in her bank account with a 1:56 4/5 mark that was established at Pompano Park two years ago. That said, she did come into her January 11 assignment off a series of less-than-stellar efforts and had the 9 post to boot that night. No problem, as Vari Forgetful left into a stalking position and motored by everyone for the $119 shocker. Last week from the cozy rail, she did a curtain call at nearly 15-1 under Clarkes direction, again winning easily. Shes always been a very nice mare, but just like last year, it took her awhile to come around at this meet, her mentor noted. It was actually my fault the first couple of starts here because I should have changed her shoeing, then the race before her first win she had the second tier and got run into and lost any chance. Even though she had the 9 hole for that race two back, she had been training very well and were able to leave into a good spot. She finished strongly, and no question it helped that was in pretty cheap. While the 58-1 odds that evening didnt seem out of line, Bruce did say he was surprised she was such a big number in last weeks outing, especially considering she was moving from the 9 slot to the rail. I told the owner I thought she couldnt get beat in there because she was definitely back to her old self, Clarke said. With the inside, the plan was to float out of there and sit in the two or the three hole, and thats exactly how it worked out. El Azteca, Its Not Over head marquee El Azteca and Its Not Over, who have divided up the eight clashes at the head of their class at this meeting, are spotlighted in Fridays Open Trot. A 10-race card is on tap with first post at 6:40 p.m. and racing will be conducted this week under the Watch and Wager LLC banner on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. A reminder that through the month of January, the guarantee on the low-takeout Pick 4 has been raised to $30,000. The Pick 4 is one of four wagers offered each night with the reduced 16% takeout rate, the others being the Pick 5, the Jackpot 6 and the Hi 5. El Azteca has prevailed in the last two Open Trots for his owner/trainer/breeder Marco Rios and pilot James Kennedy. He comes into this assignment with $134,000 with a 1:54 3/5 career standard that was established last year at Hoosier Park in Indiana. In the most recent clash, El Azteca left into a stalking position for Kennedy, brushed to the lead turning for home and proved clearly best by two and a half lengths that evening. He has been assigned the outside slot in the field of five. Its Not Over is 5-year-old son of Panama Hanover who carries the banner of Richard Dryden and Debra Budahn with Bob Johnson the conditioner and Chip Lackey in his usual position in the sulky. Its Not Over made his most recent trip to the winners circle following the December 27 Open Trot, lost his best chance with an early break in the next appearance and then checked in second behind his arch-rival at most recent asking. Winsom Kelly, A Crown For Lindy and Franks Best complete the field. By Mark Ratzky, publicity Cal Expo Harness                

One of the best races of the meet could be for the driving crown, with Luke Plano, Steve Wiseman and James Kennedy staking a claim for the title through the first six weeks of this stand. Plano came into this week atop the standings with 20 trips to the charmed enclosure, bringing his lifetime total to 2,644 with $9.5 million in earnings. Luke is following in the footsteps of his father Rick, who was a leading driver and trainer in California for many years. There are some new horsemen here and that adds to the competitiveness of the racing, Plano said. Ill have a few horses in my barn, but I prefer to concentrate on the driving. Steve Wiseman is currently second with 18 victories to his credit at the meet, while leading the trainer stands with 15 of his representatives returning to have their picture taken. His total driving wins now stands at 2,136 with $8.2 million in earnings. Being the leading driver and trainer was the goal coming into the meet, Steve explained. Ive never won a training title before, so that would be nice, and Ive got a great crew to help me. James Kennedy is also off to a good start here with 13 snapshots and figures to be right in the hunt through the close of business in early May. Kennedy, who recorded a number of driving and training victories with the popular mare Haggin Oaks, currently sits with 866 sulky scores on his resume. (use as a reverse box) A reminder there are four wagers offered here every night with a reduced 16% takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5; the Jackpot 6; the Pick 4 and the Hi-5 on the nitecap. Featured Pace brings out A Real Miracle A Real Miracle, victorious in three of his five appearances at the meet, looks to keep the momentum going when he heads the cast for Saturday nights $6,000 Open Pace at Cal Expo. A 12-race card is on tap with first post set for 6:10 p.m. There is now Saturday and Sunday racing under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post on Sunday at 4:40 p.m. Beginning December 26, Friday action will be added to the mix. A Real Miracle is a 4-year-old son of Real Desire who is owned by Junior Wilkinson, Billie Schwartz and Ivan Axelrod, is conditioned by Wilkinson and is guided by Luke Plano. He established his 1:52 1/5 career standard this summer over the seven-eighths Hoosier Park oval. The Wilkinson trainee has clicked three times from five stats at this meet, including a dominating victory in the main event on opening week. After tiring in his next two tries, he returned to his winning ways last week as he made what proved to be the winning move for Plano on the backside and went on to a length score. In the most recent clash at the top of the class, A Real Miracle was dispatched as the 3-5 favorite and did not disappoint the chalkplayers. Plano buzzed the bay performer right to the front, moderated the pace and then held safe by a neck over the pocket-sitting longshot Mar Dream. The latter put a score into the favorite last week, as he sat the pocket journey and missed by only a neck while two and a half-lengths clear of the rest of the field A 6-year-old son of Cambest, Mar Dream is owned by David Neumeister, is trained by Bob John and will again have Mooney Svendsen at the controls. He has a 1:50 2/5 mark and over $171,000 in his account. Rounding out the field from the rail out are Cenalta Power for Ryan Grundy; Lifetime Louie with Dave Siegel; Ideal Smile, Steve Wiseman; and Pointsman, who will have the services of Chip Lackey. The headliner goes as the fourth race on the program. A reminder that there are four wagers offered here every night with a reduced 16% takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5; the Jackpot 6; the Pick 4 and the Hi-5 on the nitecap By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness    

El Azteca made a successful return to the harness races last weekend, capturing the Open Trot for his owner/breeder/trainer Marco Rios with James Kennedy at the helm, but there's more to the story. The 5-year-old trotting son of Panama Hanover hadn't seen evening action since June 5, when he won a conditioned affair at Hoosier Park as the 4-5 choice while lowering his lifetime mark to 1:54 3/5 in the process. "He came out of the race with an injury and the vet told me there was only about a 20 percent chance he would make it back to the races," Rios related. "Three months later, when he checked him out again, he was very surprised and told me it was about 95 percent that everything would be fine." El Azteca is the pride and joy of the Rios barn, with several Sire Stakes trophies on his mantle and earnings approaching the $120,000 mark. From his last 24 starts, 14 have ended up with smiles all around in the winner's circle. "I gave him a qualifier at Hoosier (September 24) before we left," Rios explained. "Then I trained him pretty hard when we got here, which is why I didn't put him in another qualifier. One thing about this horse, he always gives you 100 percent." Kennedy was guiding El Azteca for the first time from the outside slot in last week's gathering for the top trotters on the grounds and ignited when it counted in the stretch to hang a head decision on another local favorite in Franks Best. "James told me he drives just like a Cadillac," Rios said. His mentor added that plans call for El Azteca to stay here through the meet, meaning fans and his Open Trot foes alike figure to see quite a bit of this determined performer. El Azteca gets top billing in headliner El Azteca, who has posed for pictures following 14 of his last 24 trips to the post for his owner/breeder/trainer Marco Rios, heads the cast for Saturday night's featured $5,000 Open II Trot at Cal Expo. A 15-race card is on tap with a first post of 5:40 p.m. Racing will be conducted Saturday this week, expanding to Saturday and Sunday programs beginning next week. Plans then call for a three-night-a-week schedule starting on December 26 with Friday racing added to the mix. El Azteca is a 5-year-old son of Panama Hanover out of the Jonathan Lobell mare Jonathan's Girl who comes into this weekend's assignment with $118,000 in his bank account and a 1:54 3/5 mark that was established on May 29 at Hoosier Park. Making his first start since that victory in last week's Open over this layout with James Kennedy at the controls, El Azteca did the track-and-attack to perfection and was up by a head over Frank's Best in a game performance. Like El Azteca, Frank's Best is also owned and was bred by his trainer Bob Johnson and will once again have Mooney Svendsen in the sulky. The 7-year-old son of Armbro Scribe is just shy of the $200,000 earnings plateau and set his 1:56 2/5 career standard here two years ago. Sharpshootennorris has to be given a long look after checking in second and third in the last two top dances for the trotting set at this meeting. Steve Wiseman reins and trains the $472,000 earner for Bette Jean Calice and the 11-year-old sports a 1:54 lifetime mark on his resume. Rounding out the field, from the rail out, are Silverlode with Steve Desomer guiding; Its Not Over and Chip Lackey; Sharpshotennorris, to be handled by Steve Wiseman; and Silence Son, who has the services of David Siegel. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness

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