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Monticello, NY--In what started out as a furious contest for position ended in a romp for Soul Train and driver Joe Lee as the harness racing duo scored their second consecutive triumph in the NAADA Trotting Series this week at Monticello Raceway on Thursday afternoon, May 9. Lee, the New York Yankee's assistant locker room manager, bided his time and watched the early speed duel between Joe Faraldo, with Tough Get Going, and Alan Schwartz, up behind Ladys Big Stormont, and then rallied and picked up all the pieces to turn the contest into a laugher, winning by eight lengths in a time of 1:59.2. After Schwartz had gained command when the starter said go, Faraldo came alongside with a rush and Schwartz grabbed leather and let him go. But as they approached the first stanza Schwartz wanted to retake which he did but not after he was forced to trot at :29.3 second quarter before he had command. Meanwhile, Lee had settled along the pylons in the early going and after the battle on the front-end he moved his trotter to the outside as the field neared the halfway point. "I floated out of there and watched the leaders battle royally and when the dust settled I sent my trotter toward the front-end and "ole Soul" knew just what to do as he trotted to the lead and opened up daylight up the backside," Lee said. At that point Soul Train had three lengths on his competition at the three quarters and from there only the margin of victory was in doubt as Soul Train coasted home an easy winner. Connie Keeper (Tony Verruso) nosed-out Ladys Big Stormont for second money. The 8-year-old Trainforthefuture gelding is co-owned by Lee and Blindswitch Racing, Good Friends Stable and Santo Farino. He paid $3.20 for win.   by John Manzi for NAADA

Yonkers, NY--The eighth leg of the NAADA Spring Trotting Series was contested over the half-mile oval at Yonkers Raceway and when the results were finalized last years Amateur Driver of the Year, Joe Lee, emerged victorious over six others when he guided Soul Train to a wire to wire victory in a time of 1:58.2. In that non-betting affair Lee sent his charge to the lead and took command after Paul Minore grabbed leather on Wygant Prince as the first stanza timer flashed :28.4. Once on the lead Lee, who is the clubhouse manager for the New York Yankees, kept the pedal to the metal and led his competition by the half in :59.3 with Wygant Prince in hot pursuit. As the field headed up the backside Joe Faraldo moved Tough Get Going off the pylons and challenged Soul Train for the lead. But Lee's trotter was up the the challenge and kept Soul Train at bay as he passed the three quarters in 1:28.3. At that point young Brett Beckwith, who was sixth along the pylons, came calling with Dark Pool and although they were charging in the lane they ran out of race track and had to settle for second money. Tough Get Going hung on for third. Soul Train won for the third time this season and raised his seasonal bankroll to over $20,000 and upped his career earnings to $418,000. The 8-yer old Trainforthefuture gelding is co-owned by Lee along with Blindswitch Racing, Good Friends Stable and Santo Farina. With his triumph, Lee vaulted to the lead in series points and with just two legs remaining he has locked up a chance to draw for an all-expense paid trip to Italy to race against his Italian counterparts in northern Italy later this year. The series ninth leg will be contested at Monticello Raceway on Thursday, May 9.   by John Manzi for NAADA

Monticello, NY-- On a pleasant afternoon with the sun peeking through the clouds and the temperature hovering in the mid-50's the North American Amateur Drivers Association (NAADA) kicked off its 37th season with a trot at Monticello Raceway and when the judges hung the official sign Joe Lee was victorious after he guided Soul Train to an easy triumph in a 2:00 clocking. After getting away with a slow start from the four-hole Lee was content to follow the leaders in the early going before he moved his charge off the pylons and then rallied to the lead which was theirs as the field trotted by the half mile marker in :59. "I felt I had the best horse so I didn't want to follow the leaders and after we passed the quarter pole I moved "Soul" off the pylons and headed for the lead," Lee explained. Sent off the odds-on favorite, Soul Train opened up daylight on the field and led Wygant Prince (Paul Minore) by the half way point in:59 and were still in command as they passed the third stanza in 1:29. After sitting in the cat-birds seat Brandos Muscle Man, with Peter Kleinhans at the controls, made their run at the leader as the field straightened for home . Although they trotted by Wygant Prince they came up short and had to settle for second money, 1-1/2 lengths behind Soul Train. Joe Lee, who during the major league baseball season is the New York Yankee's assistant clubhouse manager, was thrilled with his trotter's performance today. "He's such a pleasure to drive, Nothing fazes him and he's so handy. If you want to leave just ask him or if you need to find a hole he's responsive," Lee said of Soul Train. "An old veteran (a $410,000 career winner) he knows just what to do." Lee co-owns the 8-year old altered son of Trainforthefuture with Blindswitch Racing, Good Friends Stable and Santo Farina. He paid $2.80 for win. The second leg of this NAADA trotting series will take place at Yonkers Raceway next Thursday, MARCH 21.   by John Manzi for NAADA

Monticello, NY-- To say that amateur driver "Yankee Joe" Lee is on a roll would be gross understatement. After winning the Billings Trot with Soul Train in 2:01.2 today (Thurs. Oct 25) at Monticello Raceway, Lee, the assistant locker room manager for the New York Yankees, now has three consecutive driving victories and has won four of his last five starts. Sent off as the even-money favorite in the six-horse field uncharacteristically Lee took his trotter of the gate and settled in fifth along the pylons as Brandos Muscle Man and Monica "the Norwegian Flash " Banca led the field by the first stanza in :29.4. "I took a chance taking Soul Train back at the start because in the past he never wanted to pass horses when we trailed but today he was definitely different," Lee explained. "He really surprised me when I pulled him going to the half and he easily trotted around Brandos Muscle Man and took command as we headed into the clubhouse turn." By the time Lee reached the three quarters Soul Train had five lengths on the field and at that point the only thing in doubt was the margin of victory. The lead over Brandos Muscle Man was opened to eight lengths as Lee and Soul Train headed for paydirt. Down the stretch Lee was looking for challengers but none came and they coasted home an easy 8-1/2 length winner in 2:01.2. However, in the deep stretch "Lady Jennifer" Lappe rallied Celebrity Blue Chip from fifth at the top of the lane to finish second, a length in front of Brandos Muscle Man. Soul Train is co-owned by Lee, Blindswitch Racing and the Good Friends Stable and trained by Jose Godinez. The 7-year-old altered son of Trainforthefuture scored scored his sixth seasonal victory and returned a $4.00 win mutuel.. For Lee, who was last years National Amateur Driver of the Year, it was his 11th driving victory this season and 48th of his career. by John Manzi, for the Billings Series

Yonkers, NY-- "Now that the baseball season is over I can concentrate a little more on my love of amateur racing," "Yankee Joe" Lee, the locker room manager for the New York Yankees said after he won a NAADA Trot this afternoon at Monticello Raceway. Well maybe it was that concentration Lee was referring to that enabled him to earn another driving victory when he won the Billings trot tonight (Thursday, Oct. 10) with On The Podium in 2:00.3 at Yonkers Raceway. After a wire-to-wire victory in the daylight at The Mighty M Lee found the winners circle under the lights with a covered trip after he gunned his trotter to the front and then sat comfortably in the two hole and followed Wygant Prince and "Coach Paul" Minore's lead. Although the 29 second first quarter took some sting out of Wygant Prince there was more stress for the old veteran when he didn't get a breather because he had to contend with a parked-out Gianni and driver "Mighty Matt Zuccarello. So while the aforementioned duo slugged it out on the engine Lee sat calmly in the pocket and was carried all the way to the top of the lane. Along the way Bobby "Rapid Rail" Krivelin with Permanent Joy, and Bob "the Brewster Flash" Ciavardini with Baltimor AS, worked their way into contention by the top of the stretch but not before Joe Lee scooted around Gianni and everyone was chasing On the Podium to the wire.. However, nobody caught him as Lee had a driving double, albeit at two different racetracks. Baltimor AS was second best while Permanent Joy had to settle for the show dough. Unlike the Monticello trots earlier in the day this was a non-wagering affair. Jose Godinez trains the winner for Lee, Tony Nicometo and the Blindswitch Racing Stable. For Joe Lee, who drove initially in 2010 and for the next five years only when he got time off from his obligations to the Bronx Bombers was he able to enjoy the competition of driving a spirited steed. During those years he notched five victories in 88 starts but since then he's had 41 driving victories and a National Amateur Driver of the Year Award bestowed on him last season. And his 10 wins thus far this year puts him in contention for another award. by John Manzi, for the Billings Series    

Monticello, NY-- The front-end was the place to be in the amateur races today(Thus. Oct 18) at Monticello Raceway as Joe Lee and Alan Schwartz hustled their trotters to wire-to-wire victories in the fifth leg of the NAADA Trotting Series over the Sullivan County double oval. Lee won his betting division with Makin Trouble K in 2:02.3 while Schwartz and Ladys Big Stormont connected for a 2:01.3 triumph in the other on the sunshiny, but unusually blustery, afternoon in the southern Catskill Mountains of New York State. Lee, driving for trainer Bruce Aldrich, Sr., sent Makin Trouble K toward the lead which they gained before the first quarter timer flashed :29. But once on the lead they had to rebuff multiple challenges before they passed the halfway point. "My horse was a handful in the post parade and before the race but once the gate let us go he was fine," Lee said in the paddock after his driving victory. "Once he settled down he was gritty and raced good." At the three quarters they had put away most of the early competition, all but Sheer Action, who was driven by Chistopher Doherty, the grandson of Hall of Famer, Jimmy Doherty, who was making his first lifetime pari-mutuel start. Down the lane Makin Trouble K and Sheer Action were side by side and were joined late on the far outside by Tough Get Going (Joe Faraldo). But as the field neared the wire Faraldo's charge hung and Jennifer Lappe ducked to the passing lane and rallied for second money with Celebrity Blue Chip as Tough Get Going had to settled for the show dough. And although Sheer Action was just a length behind he winner at the wire he finished fourth. Makin Trouble K, who won for the seventh time this season, is owned by Woody Hoblitzell. He paid $18.40. And for Joe Lee, last years National Amateur Driver of the Year, it marked his ninth winning drive thus far this season. The second split went similarly to the first when Schwartz sent Ladys Big Stormont toward the lead and when Bob Krivelin and Current Crisis closed the two-hole Schwartz had little choice but to try to get the lead from Monica Banca and Master of Excuses, who had command. "I really waned to race my horse from a pocket but when there was no room long the pylons I went to the front and I was a little concerned about the 28 and 4 first quarter.," Schwartz explained. Once on top Schwartz and Banca were open lengths in front of their competition and they raced one-two by the half in :59.3 with the order remaining the same as they passed the third stanza in 1:30 flat. Third at that point was Current Crisis (Bob Krivelin) but he began to fade as the leaders rounded the final turn. Despite a two-hole trip the entire way Master Of Excuses couldn't get by Ladys Big Stormont in the lane and they finished 1-1/4-lengths behind Schwartz's trotter who won for the 10th time this season. Jennifer Lappe rallied Multitaskr Hanover to finish third after he went off-stride at the start. Schwartz owns and trains Ladys Big Stormont who paid $3.70. It was Schwartz's 11th seasonal driving victory and the 606th of his amateur career. by John Manzi, for the NAADA Series

Yonkers, NY--Two short fields in the second leg of the North American Amateur Drivers Fall Trotting Series went postward at Yonkers Raceway on Thursday evening, Sept. 27 and when the judges hung the official signs, Dave Offenberg and Joe Lee each reined winners in their respective $6000 divisions. Offenberg copped his split with Fiji in 1:59.4 while Lee and Soul Train were first under the wire in their 1:59.2 clocked mile. With only four horses in the first division Offenberg was content to allow Paul Minore and his old War Horse ,Wygant Prince , zip the the lead and cut the early fractions in the non-betting affair. Not content to follow the leader Offenberg moved to the outside and the two raced side-by-side past the half and by the third stanza and it wasn't until mid-stretch that Fiji gained command but it was still a battle to the wire and at the finish Fiji was a neck winner over Wygant Prince. Third place went to Tough Get Going in rein to Joe Faraldo. Fiji is owned by the Allister Stable and trained by Eric Abbatiello, For Offenberg, it was his third seasonal driving victory and 54th of his amateur career. In the other split,also a non-wagering affair, Lee had a similar journey with Soul Train when he got away second behind Monica Banca and Master of Excuses and stalked her the entire mile. On the final turn Lee moved off the pylons and he rallied the veteran gelding to a 2-1/2 length triumph over Banca's charge. Traverse Seelster garned the show dough for Tony Ciuffetelli. Soul Train, a 7-year old gelding by Trainforthefuture, won for the fifth time this year. He is trained by Jose Godinez. For Joe Lee, last year's Amateur Driver of the Year, it was his eighth winning drive this season. by John Manz,i for NAADA    

Who said that amateur racing isn't fun? Certainly not members of the North American Amateur Drivers Association. After hosting three different European amateur organizations on American soil already this year four NAADA members; Joe Faraldo, Alan Schwartz,Paul Minore and Joe Lee, and their guests; will soon be winging their way to Palma De Mallorca for an international Friendship Competition with the Spanish amateurs. "Though some may be going earlier than others we are all meeting in Palma on the 4th September and racing will be on September 5th, in the morning, and on the 8th in the evening," noted NAADA Event Coordinator, Alicia (Mrs Alan) Schwartz. According the NAADA president Joe Faraldo,"We have had competitions, almost yearly, with the Spanish amateurs. We hosted them last year in the States and we came out on the short end in the competition. But winning or losing is incidental, what is important is the friendship and comraderie shared during the competitions." Tentative itinerary: Arrive in Mallorca on September 4th. Drive to the Finca for accommodations.-Relax and dinner at Italian Restaurant September 5th; -Races in the morning,-Lunch at the racetrack then back to Finca for a barbeque. September 6th ; Visit the Rafa Nadal Museum-Paella by Xisco and after party with Gin tonics--then back to Finca. September 7th; -Visit Ca'n Axartell Vineyards with wine tastings and tapas. Then visit the Pearls in Porto Cristo followed by dinner in Restaurant Sa Fonda September 8th-- Boat Trip with tapas and cocktails during the day and at night races in Manacor followed by dinner with the horse owners September 9th - NAADA members leave Mallorca; except for Joe Lee who will be staying on a bit longer to enjoy the scenery.. by John Manzi, for NAADA    

The first leg of the Friendship Competition between members of the North American Amateur Drivers Association and the visiting Italians is now in the books and the Americans drew first blood when Joe Lee piloted On The Podium to a gate to wire victory at Yonkers Raceway on Sunday afternoon, August 5. "He (On The Podium) was real good today," Lee said by phone after his driving victory. " The last time I drove him he was locked on one line but today he was nearly perfect." After leaving from the five-hole Lee hustled his trotter away from the gate as three others went off-stride before the first turn which left On The Podium six lengths and all alone when he passed by the first stanza in :28.4. Once clearly on top Lee began to tap the brakes and they passed the halfway point in :59.2 amazingly some eight lengths ahead of Masster Blue, driven by Italy's Roberto Michelotto. And when the two leaders headed up the backside Michelotto closed the gap but Masster Blue still trailed On The Podium by three lengths. At the top of the lane the lead was shortened to two lengths and Lee went to urging On The Podium. When they straightened for home a battle ensued but Lee's charge dug in and kept Masster Blue at bay and held on for a head victory in a time of 1:59.2. "I was glad to have an open-lengths lead when we headed for paydirt because I knew my trotter would fade in the deep stretch and that's exactly what happened. He barely had enough in the tank to hold off Michelotto's horse," Lee added. Third place went to the Americans when Jennifer Lappe and Mighty Surf finished two lengths behind the leaders. And the NAADA team gained valuablemore points when Global Revolution, driven by NAADA's Peter Kleinhans, finished fourth. Sent off as third choice in the 8-horse field On The Podium paid $8.60; $4.80 and $5.10 across the board. Lee co-owns the winner with Blindswitch Racing and Anthony Nicometo. Prior to the contest today at Yonkers some of the visiting Italians raced in the Hambletonian Amateur Series on Friday at the Meadowlands and Italy's Roberto Michelotto won his division with Cheeky Little Minx in 1:55.1 The final two races in the Italy v NAADA Friendship Competition will take place on Tuesday (Aug. 7) at Monticello Raceway. by John Manzi, for NAADA

MONTICELLO, NY- When the gate sprung in the North American Amateur Drivers Association's (NAADA) trot at Monticello Raceway on the pleasant afternoon of July 19, little was left for the imagination after "Yankee Joe" Lee gunned Soul Train to the lead and played catch me if you can, and nobody could, as Lee's trotter circled the Mighty M double-oval in a time of 1:58.2 to finish five lengths in front of six others in the sixth leg of the 10-race harness racing trotting series. "I had been racing him (Soul Train) from behind but he didn't seem to like passing horses when moved him so I figured I'd try to race him in front and it seems that's just what the old guy likes," Lee said while hanging up the line in the race paddock after the contest. "This is the third time we won on the engine." When the starter said "go" Lee hustled Soul Train to the lead and opened daylight on the field as a few got tangled on the first turn. But once in front it seemed like the farther the veteran trotter went the more his lead seemed impossible to overcome. Soul Train, sent off as the odds-on favorite in the race, trotted by the first quarter in :28.1 and Lee kept the pedal to the metal as they passed the halfway point in :57.4 with Paul Minore and Wygant Prince tight on his back. But that didn't last long when they headed up the backside as Soul Train widened to a three-length lead by the third stanza and then increased to five lengths as the field headed for home. With Lee swinging on him, Soul Train cruised home an easy winner. Keenan rallied to be second for John Calabrese as Wygant Prince faded and finished third. For Lee, who was last season's National Amateur Driver of the Year, it marked his sixth driving victory this year and his win today places him atop the NAADA Summer Series leaderboard With his triumph Soul Train, a 7-year-old Trainforthefuture gelding, raised his career earnings to over $383,000. He is co-owned by Lee , the Blindwitch Stable, Good Friends Racing, and Santo Farina, and trained by Jose Godinez. He paid $3.30. NAADA members are getting ready to entertain their counterparts from Italy in early August for another Friendship competition, the third time this season that the longstanding international amateur organization will be hosting amateur drivers from Europe. by John Manzi, for NAADA

MONTICELLO, NY--Amateur driver, Joe Lee, proved that when a horse is the best in a race send him to the lead and if he gets beat on the front-end then he wasn't the best when he started. But fear not Joe, your calculations were precise in the sixth race at Monticello Raceway on Thursday afternoon, June 28. When he drove Soul Train in the third leg of the NAADA trotting series he sent his charge to the front and not only did Soul Train win, but he made a laugh-er out of the contest scoring an 11-length triumph over seven others in a race timed in 1:59.1. "When I drove him here (at Monticello) two weeks ago we were comfortable on the lead and had three lengths on the field as we headed for home but in mid-stretch it felt like someone cut the lines and Soul Train 'caved-in'. But after the race we found out the reason he stopped (and finished a well-beaten fourth) was because he bled," Lee said. "We treated him and he raced like a champ this week. In today's contest Lee gunned Soul Train to the lead from the five-hole and the veteran pacer had command in a :28.2 first quarter. The lead then opened to two lengths as they passed the halfway point and when Soul Train headed up the backside he began to put distance between himself and the remainder of the field. The farther he went the bigger the lead became. It was eight lengths at the three quarters; nine lengths at the top of the stretch and 11-lengths at the finish. " I knew we were going to win it but I was surprised to find that there were no horses even close as we headed for home," Lee added. "It felt kinda strange to win by so many(11) lengths and a margin of victory of that magnitude doesn't happen often." The race turned out to be for second place when Woody and driver Bob Krivelin came from the back of the pack to finish second at odds of 33-1. Third place went to Keenan (John Calabrese) who was just a neck off Woody at the wire. Soul Train, a 7-year-old Trainforthefuture gelding, is owned by Blindswitch Racing, Good Friends Stable, Santo Farina and Joe Lee. Sent off as the slight favorite in the race he returned a $4.70 win payoff. For Lee, who was the Amateur Driver of the Year last season, it marked his 5th victory thus far in 2018. by John Manzi, for NAADA                  

Harness racing's greatest traveling roadshow, the CKG Billings Harness Driving Series, moved on to Yonkers Raceway where two solid six-horse trots were presented in the series eastern region prior to the betting card getting underway. When the judges posted the official signs "Yankee Joe" Lee and "Annie Get Your Gun" Stoebe were victorious in their respective $6000 splits. Lee was a convincing winner behind Soul Train in 1:58.3 while Miss Annie was home free with Uriel in a 1:59 clocking. Both horses used the front-end route to victory. Named the sports Amateur Driver of the Year last season Lee, the New York Yankees' locker room manager, has been heating up recently now with three wins and a second in his last five starts. Tonight he gunned Soul Train to the lead from post six and they made every pole winning one en route to turning back Evore Hanover and driver David "Poppa" Glasser by some 3-1/4 lengths. When the wings of the mobile gate folded "Yankee Joe" had his trotter in high gear from post six and they had six lengths on the field as they passed the first stanza. From there they were comfortably in front until they crossed the finish line. Third place went to Time Will Tell All in rein to"Mighty Matt" Zuccarello. Soul Train, is owned by Blindswitch Racing, Good Friends Stable, Santo Farina and Joseph Lee, and is trained by Jose Godinez. It was the second victory this season for the 7-year-old Trainforthefuture gelding. In her division Ms Stoebe started from the pole position, took no prisoners and used the front-end route as she and her veteran trotter passed the first stanza is a soft :29.4. Although they rebuffed a few challengers along the way Miss Annie and Uriel were easily in command all the way to the wire. Despite a garden trip in the two-hole No Recess and driver Bob "the Headhunter" Hechkoff couldn't make up any ground in the deep stretch and had to settle for second money. "Coach Paul" Minore and his old warhorse Wygant Prince made a run at the leaders at the halfway point but soon settled back along the pylons and sauntered home in third place some three lengths behind the winner. Uriel, a 7-year-old Explosive Matter gelding gave Ms Stoebe her second Billings victory of the fledgling season. Next Billings action will be at Saratoga Raceway on Friday, June 15. by John Manzi for, the Billings Series    

YONKERS,NY - "Yankee Joe" Lee is celebrating today. And why shouldn't he? After all, he just scored the biggest triumph of his amateur harness racing career when he guided Dizzy Rizzy to a 2:34 victory over the 1-1/4 mile distance in the $25,000 CKG Billings Gold Cup Final this morning (Nov. 26) at Yonkers Raceway. Second place went to Wygant Prince and driver "Coach Paul" Minore while "Tough Tony" Ciuffettelli garnered the show dough with Aventure. A true amateur driver Lee has no race horses of his own and no specific trainer who he drives for and although he always gets first call on horses trained by Bruce Aldrich Sr. Lee travels the amateur circuit seeking drives wherever he can. Driving today for trainer Nick Surick, whose trotter won the Billings Gold Cup last year at Harrah's Chester with "Hurricane Hannah " Miller at the controls, victory didn't come easy for Lee who has plenty of supporters at Yankee Stadium where he serves as the assistant locker room attendant for the New York Yankees. "We had tough trip today but we got the job done," Lee related. "I tried leaving but Steve Oldford (with Gonna Fly) was giving Paul Minore and Wygant Prince a tough time. I then tried to slip down on the pylons to no avail but got lucky when Bob Krivelin's horse made a break. "Sitting third I thought I had a good spot. Then Oldford pulled the pocket with over a half mile to go so I got to slip into the two hole. At the top of the stretch I rolled out of the pocket grunted at her (Dizzy Lizzy) a little and she rolled right past the leader and got there in time. I'm real honored to win the Billings Gold Cup for her connections." It was the 11th victory this year for Dizzy Rizzy, a 7 year old Ken Warkentin mare. She is owned by the Nick Surick Stables, J L Benson Stables and Hannah Miller. A rising star in the amateur ranks Lee's victory was his 15th this season after garnering 10 last year. His career began in 2010 but earnestly in just the past three seasons. The $15,000 Billings Silver Cup Final was also a big thrill for driver Bobby "Rapid Robert" Ciavardini who also scored the biggest victory of his career when he guided Baltimor AS to a 2:32.2 triumph As a youngster Ciavardini dabbled in harness racing but upon retirement from a professional career he got back into harness racing and his victory today was paramount to him, especially driving the family horse. Now with a new trainer Ciavardini and Baltimor AS started from the two hole and enjoyed a two-hole journey. Following the lead set by Fox Valley Steffen and driver by "Doctor John" Kokinos Ciavardini got lucky when Kokinos carried them all the way to the top of the stretch. At that point Ciavardini moved off the pylons and rallied his veteran trotter to a head triumph over Fox Valley Steffen. Peter "Enough Talk" Kleinhans finished third with Toss Cartwright. Baltimor AS is an 8-year-old Credit Winner gelding owned by Richard, Diane and Robert Ciavardini and trained by Tom Milici. Both races went as non-wagering events. by John Manzi for the Billings Series

Joe Lee, the New York Yankees assistant locker room manager and avid amateur driver, shocked the bettors at Monticello Raceway on Thursday July3) when he guided TKRs Metro Specs to a 1:58 victory in a Catskill Amateur Club Pace which in turn and sparked a $82.50 payoff. In all, three amateur contests dotted the 13-race Mighty M afternoon card; others were trots in the North American Amateur Drivers Association's Sumer Series. Alan Schwartz won his NAADA division with Ladys Big Storm in 1:59.4 while Dave Yarock reined Czech It Out to a 2:01.4 triumph in their split. Besides the foreboding rain the biggest topic of conversation among the railbirds was Joe Lee's shocker behind Woody Hoblitzell's TKR's Metro Specs. In this contest a sidebar could have been that three women were driving in the race but Lee's payoff stole the show. After starting from the eight- hole Lee send his pacer toward the front but they didn't gain command until they got around Bob Hechkoff's Italian Rebel as the quarter mile timer flashed :28.2. After passing the half in :58.2 Lee kept the pedal to the medal and turned back all comers to score a 1-1/4 length victory over Bob Davis and World Peace. One of the aforementioned ladies, Hannah Miller, finished third with Touchdown Mindale. "I've driven him (TKR's Metro Specs) a few times before and even won with him here at Monticello in late June," Lee offerred after the race "We were on the front-end in that one and I learned that he needs to be yelled at to keep him busy.So when we made the front today and headed to the half I screamed at him all the way home." In the first NAADA trot Schwartz also used the front-end with Ladys Big Stormont en route to victory over a fast-closing Landonfitz and Dave Yarock. Like TKRs Metro Specs , Schwartz' trotter didn't make the lead until the first stanza and even with early fractions of :27.3 and :58.3 Ladys Big Stormont held tough through the lane. Despite his shortening strides in the deep stretch Ladys Big Stormont held on for a head victory over Landonfitz. Permanent Joy took home the show dough for Bobby Krivelin. "My horse is best on the front-end but I can't always get him there," Schwartz offered. "When I race him from a hole he just doesn't like to pass horses. If we're third at the top of the stretch we'll probably finish third. "He was real good today probably because I had him turned out at my farm for three days and the green grass and the change of scenery seem to do something positive." Sent off as the betting favorite from the five-hole Ladys Big Stormont paid $5.80 for win. Dave Yarock got Czech It Out home first in the other NAADA Trot.After floating away from the four hole Yarock moved second-up behind Alan Schwartz with Keep It Sweet as the field headed to the halfway point. But when Schwartz's trotter began to fade nearing the three quarters Yarock wheeled Chech It Out three wide and in the deep stretch they wore down the pace-setter Highest Hill (Rich Gayten) for a length victory over Shez All Muscles and driver Bob Davis. Highest Hill held on for third. "The last time he (Czech It Out) raced he made a break behind the (starting) gate so I just wanted to keep him trotting. When I pulled him three wide up the backstretch he just kept rolling and we won it fairly easily," a happy Dave Yarock said Chezh It Out returned an $8.30 win mutuel. John Manzi

On Thursday June 23, with the sun bright in the blue summer sky and the temperature hovering around 80-degrees, two amateur races dotted the 11-race harness racing card at Monticello Raceway and when the judges hung the official signs, Alan Schwartz emerged victorious in the NAADA trot with Ladys Big Stormont in a 1:58.4 clocking while Joe Lee was the first home in the Catskill Club pace with TKR's Metro Specs in 1:59.1 In his contest Schwartz hustled his trotter for the lead but they had to go a steppy :27.4 in order to rest command from Highest Hill and driver Rich Gayton. But once Ladys Big Stormont cleared and settled down along the pylons Schwartz tried to give his charge a breather but as they trotted to the halfway point Bob Hechkoff was out and moving with The Franchise and they ranged alongside the leader as the timer flashed :58.1. The two leaders raced head-to-head up the backside but Ladys Big Stormont was strong enough to rebuff his challenger. When the field headed for home Ladys Big Stormont opened up two lengths and he needed every bit of that to turn back a late charge by Hannah Miller with Rev It Now. "My horse went a tough mile especially being parked to the(first) quarter in 27:4 and then having to fight head to head with Hechkoff's horse," Schwartz said after the race. "We did draw clear as we headed for home but my guy was understandably tiring and all I could think of in the deep stretch was 'where the heck is the wire'" When the photo-finish camera snapped Ladys Big Stormont was a head better than Rev It Now . A short length farther back in third place was The Franchise. Schwartz owns the winner whose trained by Raheim Strong. Sent off as the even-money favorite Ladys Big Stormont paid $4.00 for win. Schwartz has been participating in amateur races since the 1980's and now has 585 driving victories to his credit. A long time participant at Monticello Raceway against professionals he also serves as president of the local horseman's organization. In the other amateur driving contest New York Yankees assistant locker room manager, Joe Lee once again proved he knows his was around the racetrack after scoring is eighth seasonal driving victory this time with the Woody Hoblitzell-owned TKRs Metro Specs. Sent off as the hot favorite from the pole position Lee naturally sent his pacer to the lead and once on top they commanded the race and kept Monica Banca's Fox Valley Leo, who won this event last week, on the limb. After a :28.3 first quarter Lee slowed the pace and his horse was steadfastly in charge as they led the field by the half in:59.2 and the three quarters in 1:29.2 As they rounded the final turn TKRs Metro Specs had a two length lead which was slowly diminishing as they headed for paydirt. Kennanskingwilliam was enjoying a two-hole trip and driver Gerry Fielding used the passing lane to put serious pressure on the leader. However, at the wire TKR Metro Specs held tough for a head triumph in the 1:59.1 mile. Third place went to Murphy's Ideal, driven by Dr. Jennifer Lowrey. "We had clear sailing all the way until the final strides when my pacer began to get a little leg-weary," driver Joe Lee noted "Although Fielding's horse was coming at us my horse was strong enough to get home with the victory. Trained by Bruce Aldrich, Sr., TKR's Metro Specs won for the third time this season and returned a $4.20 win mutuel. By John Manzi for both NAADA and the Catskill Club  

Trenton, NJ --- Joe Lee is living the dream. He grew up in the Bronx, moved to Yonkers at age 13, and loved harness racing and the New York Yankees every step of the way. In 1995 he became a Yankees batboy at age 15 and, at 37, is assistant equipment manager for baseball’s most glamorous franchise. He became an amateur driver in 2010, won his first race in 2011, and is off to the best start of his career this season with seven wins, three seconds, and two thirds for $31,635 in purses in 36 starts. Since the start of 2015, Lee has garnered 22 of his 27 career wins and has hit the board 65 times after finishing in the money 17 times in his first five years. He owns two horses with former Yankee manager Joe Torre and his mentor, Buzzy Sholty. Along with driving and working in the Yanks clubhouse, Lee is a financial advisor for a firm in West Chester, N.Y. With the Yankees on the road recently, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent Rich Fisher talked to Joe about a wide range of subjects; on everything from John Campbell to Derek Jeter, to comparing great athletes with prized horses; to revealing how a Yankee player once donned his colors in the Yankee Stadium laundry room; to his mind-numbing first race and several other subjects. RF: So what’s been your more pleasant surprise this year -- the young Yankees being in first place or the best start of your driving career?  JL: Probably both. Seeing the Yankees in first place is great and getting to turn to go to the winner’s circle a bunch of times is a lot of fun. RF: What’s been the key to this start of yours? JL: The horses have been pretty good. Good horses make good drivers. I’ve just been lucky enough to put some of the horses in position to win. The rest is up to them and luckily, so far so good. I’ve just had good opportunities from some of the trainers I’ve been driving for. RF: How tough is it for you to get drives? Between being a financial advisor and assistant equipment manager, I would imagine it could be difficult. JL: Right now it hasn’t been hard because I’ve been doing pretty well. A lot of trainers see an opportunity to race in the amateur races because it might be a little softer; their horses don’t have to race as hard to get a piece. I think a lot of trainers have gained a little confidence in me over the years and fortunately I get a lot of phone calls. That’s really nice. I don’t have to go fishing for them. RF: Was it like that from the start? JL: I had some connections in the sport, so it wasn’t terribly hard for me to get some drives. Sometimes you feel the pressure like you have to do good with a horse. The difference between the amateur racing and being catch drivers, is they might be able to sit behind 10 or 12 horses a night and everybody gets to see them a bunch of times. But when you only have one opportunity, just that one race on Friday night, you want to put the horse in the best position possible and if you don’t people say, “Aw man, he can’t drive.” So there’s a little more pressure on that one drive because you can’t make a mistake. RF: What exactly are your days like with the Yankees? How long are you there before the game, how long after? JL: When the Yankees are home, I’ll go to the office first thing in the morning, and stay there until about 1:30 and then I’ll go down to the stadium by 2. I’m at the stadium until around after midnight. Then I’ll be back at the office in the morning. When the team is on the road, then I’m back in the office from 9 to 5. RF: So what are your duties for the Yankees? JL: All the clubhouse guys and equipment managers are in charge of having the equipment ready for the team, like their bats and uniforms have to be ready to go. We’re in charge of the food they’re going to eat. We feed them three times a day. We make decisions on what restaurants are going to come in and cook for us, what they’ll be eating for the day. It goes beyond baseball. We’ll help guys out if their families are in town and they want to go see a Broadway show or go to dinner at a restaurant. We’re making those reservations and getting them the tickets. It’s like being a personal concierge for them. We’re putting out fires all day. RF: I thought that was the job of (Seinfeld’s) George Costanza, the assistant to the traveling secretary. JL: (laughing) It’s sort of the same thing. That position doesn’t exist in real life. There are interns for the traveling secretary but no regular assistant. RF: Well George said a college intern took his place when he was fired. I guess he wasn’t lying.  JL: Basically that’s how it would work if that job did exist. RF: That clubhouse must be a happy place this year. Is it a little different environment from the Core 4 days, when you had a veteran crew that knew it should win, as opposed to a younger bunch that is forging their own name?  JL: The Core 4 weren’t veterans at one time, they were still a Core 4 but very young. I can remember when those guys first came up, and this is very, very similar. I was there back then and I’m seeing a lot of similarities between then and now. There certainly is a buzz in the clubhouse right now, the guys get along very well, there’s a great camaraderie between everybody. Not that there hasn’t been in the last couple years, but this year with a little more youth it’s just a little more of a buzz. Right now the confidence of the team is very high. These guys feel if they’re down two or three runs they know they’re always in it. There were a couple of standout moments this year so far that really showed them they could beat anybody. They beat Chris Sale in Boston. If you can beat Chris Sale in Fenway Park you can beat anybody. And also when they were down 9-1 at home and ended up winning 14-11, that was a huge moment. From there they’ve just been rolling. They’re pretty confident right now. It’s the same thing with the horses. You can have a horse that’s kind of going on his own all the time, but if he wins one race and he comes off a helmet and blows past the field, the next couple of weeks you’ll see a different horse. There’s no question a horse gets brave and so do the ballplayers. RF: I was actually going to ask you that? You’re around them both a lot. Can you compare pro athletes with racehorses? JL: All the time. The biggest comparison is there are some horses that can race week in and week out and deal with the grind of working that hard all the time and there are others that can’t. That’s the same thing in baseball. A lot of time you get players who are so sore and play every single day and they can just go out there and do it for that three-hour period for those nine innings and then worry about the pain tomorrow. And they’re very similar in their workout regiment. It’s very much a routine. Horses jog every day and they train three days out, then they race. The players have their routine. They come in, they watch video, they work out, they go have batting practice, they play the game, they go home. It’s the same thing the next day. It’s very, very similar. RF: Can you assess a horse through watching pro athletes and give tips to trainers?  JL: That’s a good question. I think the trainers have a good idea of what they’re doing. The guys that are surviving this game as long as they have, I don’t tell them what to do. Sometimes if the horse was running out or running in or just didn’t have it or is hitting himself in the race a little, the trainer would want to know that information. But they just take that little feedback and go with it on their own. I just stay out of their way. They’re the ones who are with the horses every day. They know their horses better than anybody. If there is an issue, the next week if you sit behind the same horse they’ll have fixed it. RF: I read where there aren’t any guys on the Yankees that have your interest in harness racing, but do you ever try to get any of them interested? JL: I own a couple of horses with Joe Torre. But a couple of the ballplayers know I race. Just last week, Adam Warren asked if I had raced lately. And we were watching some of my latest races. He gets a kick out of it. He actually keeps saying “I want to come to the races one night and watch you guys race.” I’ll get him out to the racetrack. Phil Hughes (now with the Twins) was always interested in watching me race. One day I was washing my colors at the stadium and I went to get them out of the dryer. He was standing in my colors, wearing them. Helmet and all, he was standing there near the washer and dryer with a whip in his hand. RF: Was he living out a fantasy, or what?  JL: I think it was more mocking me that I would even be doing my laundry in the stadium and that it would be my racing stuff. RF: They always say there’s a lot busting going on in the locker room. JL: Ohhh, believe me, I’m not exempt from it. RF: Brian Cashman’s family was big in the sport of harness racing. Do you ever talk to Brian about it?  JL: His dad ran Lexington for a long time and his brother John was a trainer and driver down in Kentucky for a long, long time. I just saw John Cashman III not too long ago. That’s how Brian met the Steinbrenner family; through harness racing. Brian grew up on a farm. John Cashman was training some of Steinbrenner's horses and they were very friendly. George was involved in both harness racing and Thoroughbred racing. RF: Do you talk to Brian about it much?  JL: Yeah, he asks me all the time “Have you won anything, when’s your next drive?” But he was never into the sport as much as his brother and father were. They were real, real horsemen, and Brian was more into baseball. RF: So with the hours you put in between investment finance and especially with the Yankees at home, some guys would say that’s enough and just relax on the couch. But you’re running out there getting in a sulky during free time. Harness racing must truly be a passion for you.  JL: I grew up loving the sport. My parents owned a couple trotters when I was a kid, we would go to the races all the time. Every Friday and Saturday night I was at the racetrack. I was the kid down at the fence, asking the drivers of the last two races if I could get their whip, stuff like that. Finally I said I have to see what it’s like to sit behind one, and the moment I sat behind one and jogged one, I gave up riding from there. It is a passion. To this day I don’t care if I’m 100-1 or 2-5; when the wings of the gate open, and the starter at any track -- and last year I drove at 13 tracks -- calls you and says “All right guys, get them together, bring them to the gate,” it’s a huge rush. There is just a rush of having the horse’s nose on the gate alongside eight to 10 other horses to your left and right. It’s just the competitiveness to try and win a race. To win something that you were just a spectator at your whole life, it was like all of a sudden today you were asked to play shortstop for the Yankees because Didi Gregorius couldn’t play. Who wouldn’t go out there and grab their glove and try to win the game with the team? Unfortunately we’re not a team with the other horses and drivers in the race, but you’re a team with the horse that you’re driving and it’s a lot of fun to try and get along with a horse that someone puts you on. You see that even in the pros. You’ll see one guy drives a horse every now and then and another guy drives the same horse every now and then and sometimes for some reason that horse responds to that one guy better than the other. I love that this Karets wasn’t winning early in the year and when I jumped on him he won three of his next four starts (for me). I just get along with that horse; he’s always relaxed for me. Just things like that, you look forward to. It’s almost like, when you get along with them, they know that you’re driving. It’s like “Oh, I’m going to put in a good effort for this guy today.” You almost get that feeling sometimes. It’s just the rush of it. I must have watched 100,000 races in my life before I finally sat behind one. To finally be in the same game. . . I’ve driven in a lot of the pro races before I did the amateur races just because of my schedule; and to go behind the gate and to your left is Jason Bartlett and to your right is George Brennan or Brian Sears or Jim Taggart or Bruce Aldrich. All these guys that have thousands and thousands of wins; and there you’re sitting. But there’s a chance you can beat that guy. Some of these guys are living Hall of Famers and you can beat them on any given day in any given race, and there’s a thrill in that. RF: Yeah, whether it happens or not, you have the chance to do it.  JL: Exactly. You have the ability to be on the same playing field as the guy you were betting on 100 times. I could practice every day for the rest of my life and I’m never going to be on the field at the stadium. But this is a sport where you can be at a professional level with the pros. If you try a little bit and work at getting your license and taking the test and doing what you have to do to get there, who could turn that opportunity down? To say “OK, John Campbell’s got $299 million in purses, but I might beat him in just this one race.” I never look at it like I’m trying to catch these guys. I’m never going to catch David Miller in wins or Dave Palone in earnings. But for that one race if I happen to be behind the gate with them on that particular day, I’ve got the same shot as anybody else. RF: Can you describe your emotions in your very first race?  JL: Joe Holloway gave me my first qualifying drive and, (laughing), it’s so funny, the difference between watching a race and being in it was nothing like I expected. To this day the whole thing was a total blur. It was at Freehold Raceway. All I could remember was that the starting gate disappeared; I had no idea where the starting car went after he let us go. I had the three hole and all I could think was, get down to the rail, and you just don’t even know what you are doing during the race. After watching a million races in my life, all of a sudden I had no idea where the quarter pole was, the half, the three-quarter. That oval became a total maze for me. It’s so different. It’s just a different perspective from watching it on TV, or on the apron of the track. All of a sudden you’re being swarmed by seven other horses leaving the gate at the same time. It was just total chaos to me because it sped up in my eyesight so fast. It looked so fast to me. I felt like we were going 150 miles an hour. I didn’t even know where I was. Thank God the horse knew to keep turning left. RF: (laughing hysterically) I take it things got better after that?  JL: Well yeah, now I think after so many drives the past few years, it slows down. The race is definitely slower in my eyes. I never feel it’s speeding out of control and because of that I think it’s taught me a lot of patience on the racetrack. You can make decisions easier when it looks slower in your eye. I can remember Joe Torre telling that to players. When games got away from players it was always because the game sped up in front of them and caused them to make errors, whereas a Derek Jeter always saw the game in slow motion, that’s how he could make those decisions and just look better than everyone else. He was able to keep the game at a regular pace in his eye. RF: Let’s go a step beyond. Describe the feeling after the first win. JL: My first pari-mutuel win was at Monticello on a horse that I owned, a pacer called Bad Obsession. I had driven her in a regular race. April Aldrich was training her for me up there. She was the favorite, I got away fourth or fifth, came first over and she grinded it out for me the rest of the way. My first pari-mutuel win was against the pros up there in Monticello. RF: What was that feeling like when you came across the line?  JL: You just try to enjoy the ride down the stretch. I knew I had the race won. I had gotten clear so I knew they weren’t going to catch me. You just can’t believe you’re going to be the guy going back to the winner’s circle. It’s never about the money. It doesn’t matter if you’re racing for $2,500 or $200,000, a win is a win. So yeah, it’s a great thrill. My parents were there to see that, that was nice. When you win one, you cannot wait to get behind the next one and try to win the next race because it’s such a great feeling. Who doesn’t want to repeat that feeling all the time? In amateur racing we’re pretty much racing twice a week at either Yonkers or Monticello. And every week they’re gracious enough to put a card up at the Meadowlands, so you’re getting two to three starts a week. It’s not easy to win a race at any time. You’ve got to enjoy them when they happen. They don’t happen all the time. RF: I know Buzzy Sholty tutored you, but exactly what did he mean to your career? Is it a stretch to say he made it all possible?  JL: Every bit of it. A hundred percent of it. He was the one that let me come down and start driving his horses. He knew I had a horse background when I was show jumping, so he was comfortable letting me jog his horses. Then we started training, and he helped me get my license. He introduced me to enough people that I could start making the connections to start talking to other trainers or owners about getting qualifying drives. We have a great relationship. I talk to Buzzy every day. He’s like a brother to me. I wouldn’t be racing at all if it wasn’t for Buzzy and Mike Sorrentino Jr. Those are guys that were lifelong guys in the horse business and they carry a lot of weight. A lot of people in the business know them and if they ask for a little help in letting me drive a horse, people were willing to do it for them, and that’s how I got the opportunity. RF: You became a Yankee batboy at age 15 so I’m guessing you were a big baseball fan. Were you as big a harness racing fan as baseball?  JL: A bigger harness racing fan than baseball. I was always into horses. There wasn’t a vacation I didn’t go on where we didn’t go horseback riding or I wasn’t show jumping horses or we were not at a racetrack. I’ve probably been at every track in this country, both Thoroughbred and harness. RF: Being into the sport as much as you are, was it as big a thrill to meet guys like Brian Sears and Tim Tetrick as it was to be in the same clubhouse as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera?  JL: Definitely! When you work with somebody every day, the novelty of that kind of wears off. Being in the clubhouse every day with Derek Jeter was kind of like, really no big deal. But the first time I met John Campbell I was 16 years old and he was sitting right outside the dugout. He was driving some horses for George Steinbrenner. I knew who he was, I was in my uniform bat boy-ing and I asked the team photographer to take a picture of John and I. John gave me his card and said “Send it to me when you get it developed, I’ll sign it and send it back to you.” I’ve known John since I was 16 and John and I became close friends. John helped me along the way too. Seeing John Campbell at the game, for me that was better than seeing Mickey Mantle (laughing). I didn’t care that Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter or Bernie Williams was in the dugout. I was like “John Campbell’s here today, who cares about Mariano Rivera!” I’m eating lunch and dinner with those guys every day. That’s boring compared to meeting John Campbell right outside the dugout. That was great. RF: What would you consider the highlight of your career?  JL: I would say three. My first win at the Meadowlands was the Hambletonian Amateur Race. I won that for Mark Ford with Upfrontstrikesgold. That was fun. Last year with winning the (Billings Amateur Series) Silver Cup down at (Harrah’s Philadelphia) with Captain Primeau, that was a lot of fun. The biggest thrill would be I got to beat the pros at Monticello one day in the mud and paid $183 to win. I beat Jim Taggart at the wire and was 90-something to one. That was (2015). I had driven the horse (Blowout) the week before and he was so bad, he wanted to go back to the paddock after the half. The next week, at the three-quarter pole, he still felt like he had something left and I started moving him. I tipped three wide and he was coming and I was like “Wow, I’m going to hit the board” and down the stretch I’m like “My God I might win this thing.” I turned to Jim Taggart at the wire and said “Did I get you?” and he said “Yeah, you got me.” His name was Blowout. It’s really a lot of fun when you think that you have no chance and all of a sudden the horse wakes up. RF: What do you see in your future?  JL: I would do the amateurs as long as I can. When one fits that I can win with, whether it be my own or somebody else asks me to drive, even if it’s a pro race, I’m all for that too. I’m always up for that challenge to race against the pros. It’s a different type of racing. The pro races play out different than the amateur races. They race a lot tighter and they’re a little pushier on the track, but I like that. I’ll be on both if the opportunities come. RF: Are you where you want to be at this point in your career?  JL: Right now I don’t think I would change a thing. I love being able to race as much as I’m racing. Last year was a thrill. I logged so many miles last year between winning a race at the Little Brown Jug in Ohio, to going to Canada to race, and this winter we raced a few down in New Zealand. RF: New Zealand!  JL: I never thought that going to Buzzy Sholty’s farm to just jog a horse on a Saturday morning would ever lead me to racing in New Zealand. That’s ridiculous when you think about it. You have to be half a nut job to even want to do all this and fly all these places and spend the money and pay for hotels. Here I traveled all the way to New Zealand. You’re talking an 18, 19 hour time difference, for two or three races. For six minutes worth of races! Short of landing on the moon to go race, what else is next? (On the New Zealand trip) my parents tagged along. We went to Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. We made a three-week trip out of it. I was not flying all the way to New Zealand for three races. That would have been nuts. These trips cost money, but at the same time, how do you put a price on going behind a racehorse? I can’t put a price on that. To me it’s worth every penny. by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent   

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