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Columbus, OH - Following the U.S. Trotting Association's 2019 Board of Directors Annual Meeting held March 8-11 in Columbus, OH, the USTA's Call to Action Subcommittee issued the following announcement regarding the issue of harness racing hidden trainers on Thursday (March 14). At the Call to Action Subcommittee meeting on Friday night (March 8) the committee updated their plan regarding the initiative to prohibit hidden trainers from continuing to ply their unethical trade by using program trainers (commonly referred to as "beard" trainers) when that hidden trainer is banned from being licensed or has been suspended. "The essence of the beard trainer problem is that trainers currently under suspension or whose license has been denied are conducting business as usual, they are making a mockery out of the industry," said Call to Action Committee Chairman Mark Loewe. "Currently, we have to rely on the state regulators and licensing is their only tool to combat this problem." "It is important to note that beard trainers are cooperating in a scheme to defraud the regulators and the public, so they are also culpable," added Loewe. USTA Director and Subcommittee member Joe Faraldo previously presented the concept of "regulatory discovery" to end this unethical practice. Essentially, regulatory discovery requires suspected beard trainers to provide a series of documents to regulators, who could examine the flow of money and other communication to ascertain they are just acting as a shill for the hidden, unlicensed trainer. If so, the beard trainer would also be suspended or have his or her license application rejected. "It is important to note that this process is not expensive for the regulators because it requires no additional detectives or other investigatory expense" explained USTA President Russell Williams. "And it should also be noted that it is very likely that it won't be necessary to get every commission to adopt regulatory discovery or to catch every beard trainer. A few prosecutions will go a long way," added Williams. The USTA first presented the regulatory discovery concept at Association of Racing Commissioners International meetings in Omaha, NE last July, and will pursue it to a conclusion. As a result, the proposal was assigned to an ARCI subcommittee for further consideration. The committee determined that they will submit it again for discussion at the ARCI meeting scheduled for August 8-10 in Saratoga Springs, NY. The USTA is also prepared to take the concept directly to regulators, track operators and horsemen's organizations. In fact, Faraldo indicated that the policy has already been implemented at Yonkers Raceway, where he is the president of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York. At this year's Call to Action Subcommittee meeting, the committee drafted three proposals regarding guidelines for regulatory discovery to be distributed to racing commissions, racetracks, and horsemen's associations, respectively. In addition, the USTA is also looking at its own licensing and membership structure to determine whether it can act as an association to implement regulatory discovery. Ken Weingartner

Harness racing driver Cory Stratton will be in the sulky Saturday (March 16) at Meadowlands Racetrack, but it is a seat he plans to take less often as he focuses on building his own training stable. The 26-year-old Stratton, the younger brother of driver Jordan Stratton, started his barn in 2018 after spending several years helping manage other stables and working for other trainers. He has 10 horses and is based at the Mark Ford Training Center, not far from his Middletown, N.Y., home. Stratton was the Monticello-Goshen chapter of the U.S. Harness Writers Association's Amateur Driver of the Year in 2010 and its Rising Star Award winner in 2012. He was driving at Monticello Raceway this year but stopped last month to focus on training. "I enjoy driving, but it came down to turning down more horses or giving up Monticello," Stratton said. "I just enjoy training more. I enjoy working with them all week and when they do well you know you've accomplished something. It's nice to see your horses do good." Stratton was working for trainer Travis Alexander when he decided to branch out. Another conditioner, Peter Tritton, helped Stratton get started by recommending him to an owner that had asked Tritton to train one of his pacing mares. "I didn't want to extend my stable," Tritton said. "I said (Stratton) would do a really good job. He's a hard worker. I know he's got ability. I told people I think he's worth a chance. He's young and keen and he does the work himself. It's always good to help the young people in the sport. I'd recommend him to anyone looking for a trainer." The 7-year-old mare sent to Stratton, Best Of Jenna, won eight of 25 races with him last season and has added two more victories this year. "She's kind of a nice mare," said Indiana's Jacob Graber, who helped his son, Mark, find Best Of Jenna's new trainer. "She's had some issues; she's hard to deal with. I didn't know Cory from Adam, but (Tritton) told me Cory would do a good job. He told me that if Cory can't get the job done nobody else will, and he was right. We're very pleased with Cory. There are other people in my area that notice that too. Cory is a nice guy and his brother Jordan is too. They're very nice people." Stratton credited his dad, Dave, brother Jordan, Tritton and Alexander as influences on his career. "I was happy working for Travis, it was good to work under him, but everybody wants to be their own boss," Stratton said. "When the opportunity came up I wasn't passing it up. "My dad was a really good trainer so I learned a lot from him. Peter Tritton has helped me out. He is one of my go-tos and he's a great guy as well. Having Jordan drive for me has definitely helped as well. Without him I wouldn't be where I am." Stratton won 17 of 66 training starts last year and $191,441 in purses. He entered Thursday with five wins in 34 races this season. "I'd like to keep growing, keep succeeding and doing well," Stratton said. "Mark Graber is a great owner and he really helped me. Without Peter Tritton and him getting me going again it would have been difficult. They sent me some quality horses. "Obviously it would be nice to have some stakes horses down the road or some sire stakes. But I'm happy just racing at the big tracks and doing well. I'm hands on, I work with the horses every day. I race them where they can win, in the right conditions. I'm not afraid to ship them around if I have to. If they're not racing good somewhere, I'm not afraid to take them somewhere else and freshen up their attitude. I'm not afraid to try things." Stratton will drive Swift As A Shadow, a horse he co-owns, on Saturday at the Meadowlands. He starts from post 10. "The horse drew the 10 hole, but he's been razor sharp," Stratton said. "He kicks home good, so I'll hope that the cover flow is good and he'll sprint home pretty good." On Friday (March 15) at the Big M, 5-year-old pacer On Cruise Control makes his second start for Stratton after arriving from Canada. The horse is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line in a GSY Amateur Series event. "He wasn't that great in his first start, but he was off a couple weeks," Stratton said. "He should be all right in there. I don't see why he can't do good. It could be a pretty good weekend." Regardless of what happens this weekend, Stratton is happy with his career decision. "I'm loving it," he said. "I'm enjoying the ride. Hopefully it never ends." Ken Weingartner

Ken Jacobs bought Somebaddude in January for two purposes - to shake from the winter doldrums while waiting for the harness racing stakes season to arrive and to have a horse to race in the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series at Yonkers Raceway. Jacobs has never had a horse in the Levy, but the "Dude" will change that Saturday. Somebaddude, trained by Linda Toscano, was among 47 older male pacers entered in this weekend's opening round of the six-week-long Levy, with the group divided into six $50,000 divisions. Somebaddude, who is one of only four 4-year-olds in the first leg, will start from post two in the second division. The Levy fields also include past champion Bit Of A Legend N (third division) and fellow 2018 finalists Somewhere In LA, Mach It So, Dr J Hanover, Western Fame (all in the first division) and Rockin Ron (second division). Jacobs, a longtime leading owner in New York with scores of Grand Circuit and state-bred stakes wins to his credit, bought Somebaddude for $90,000 at the Tattersalls January Select Mixed Sale at the Meadowlands. The gelding has won one of five races this year and finished second twice, including a runner-up finish in a conditioned race at Yonkers last month. "In January I was getting claustrophobic with all the snow and I bought two horses," Jacobs said, laughing. "I also bought a trotter from Finland, Whether Or Not. I bought Dude to put in the Levy. I don't know if he can beat the Levy type, but I figured I could have some fun and I've never had one in the Levy. It was kind of my goal to get one in there. "I'm having fun with both horses, I really am. It's nice to have something going that you can be proud of racing in the winter. I wanted to have something racing in the winter because it's a long wait for (the 2-year-olds). This gives me something to get excited about." Whether Or Not, a 5-year-old gelding by Cantab Hall, has won four of five races this season, all at Yonkers. Somebaddude is a son of Somebeachsomewhere out of New Album and his full brother The Wall also is competing in the Levy. For his career, Somebaddude has won seven of 36 races and earned $119,505. He was a two-time runner-up in the Kindergarten Classic Series at age 2 and has found his best form in the past several months. His 1:53.2 win at Harrah's Philadelphia on Dec. 16 caught Jacobs' eye and the gelding followed it with a 1:50.4 victory at the Meadowlands on Dec. 29, his final start prior to the Tattersalls sale. "I thought I could get him fairly cheap because he hadn't done a heck of a lot," Jacobs said. "But I knew they had just (gelded) him and he did a turnaround. "When he raced at the Meadowlands in December I was hoping he would come in second; unfortunately he won," he continued, adding with a laugh, "That cost me probably around $20,000, but I bought him anyway." Ken Jacobs The Levy and companion Blue Chip Matchmaker Series, which begins Friday for older female pacers, both feature five preliminary rounds followed by added-money finals April 20. A horse receives 25 points each time she or he races in a preliminary round. Points are also awarded based on finish, with 50 points for a win, 25 for second, 12 for third, eight for fourth, and five for fifth. "He's a 4-year-old going against aged horses," Jacobs said about Somebaddude. "There are a lot of good horses in there. We're going to see if we can get a couple checks and see where we end up. He just tries all the time. He's a nice little horse." Ken Weingartner

Medusa is revved up and ready to go. The harness racing 8-year-old pacing mare is set for her fourth appearance in the upcoming Blue Chip Matchmaker Series at Yonkers and will look to continue her good fortune in the event, which included a second-place finish in the 2017 final. "You always wonder, especially with a mare at her age, that when you shut her down the engine might not start back up," said trainer Randy Bendis, who co-owns Medusa with Pollack Racing. "But she really came back great. She's fresh and ready to go." A total of 35 mares entered Friday's opening round of the Matchmaker and were divided into five $40,000 divisions. Medusa races in the first, which also includes millionaire Newborn Sassy. New Zealand-bred star Shartin, the 2018 Dan Patch Award winner for best older female pacer and defending Matchmaker champion, is in the fifth division. For her career, Medusa has won 37 of 132 races and earned $881,743. She has spent much of her career competing at The Meadows and Yonkers, with nearly half of her career appearances coming at The Hilltop. Medusa has won 10 of 61 races at Yonkers, hit the board a total of 32 times, and earned a paycheck in 55. "She's got near world-class ability, especially on a half," Bendis said. "Her ability to get around four turns is what will keep her a factor this year. She is just a great half-miler. Shartin is just better than everybody, but she fits with the rest of them. On a half, a lot of it is the draw. If you get a good string drawing you can make a lot of money real quick." Pollack and Bendis, who is based in western Pennsylvania, bought Medusa at the beginning of her 5-year-old season in January 2016. Since then, she has produced three consecutive seasons with earnings between $206,444 and $246,691. "She's a warhorse now," said New York-based trainer Ed Hart, who conditions Medusa for Bendis when the mare is racing at Yonkers. "She's just a big, strong, good-looking mare. She's been doing it for many years. You can leave, you can take her off; she's just a versatile mare. You wish you had a barn full of them. Take care of her and she'll do the rest." The Matchmaker and companion George Morton Levy Memorial series, which begins Saturday for older male pacers, both feature five preliminary rounds followed by added-money finals April 20. A horse receives 25 points each time she or he races in a preliminary round. Points are also awarded based on finish, with 50 points for a win, 25 for second, 12 for third, eight for fourth, and five for fifth. Sell A Bit N, a two-time Matchmaker runner-up, also is among this year's group along with millionaire Mach It A Par. "It's a very tough series," Hart said. "She loves Yonkers, she loves the half; I think she should be fine with a little bit of luck." Following last year's Matchmaker, Medusa finished second to Shartin in the Chip Noble Memorial at Miami Valley Raceway before focusing on the top-level overnights for fillies and mares at The Meadows and Yonkers. Bendis is looking at a similar schedule this season. "I think she can go with the better mares early," Bendis said. "I think it would be a lot to expect of her in July and August on the big tracks to go with them. If we can get the first part of the stakes season, I think that's what we can ask of her. "Ed has done a wonderful job with her. She will probably stay (at Yonkers) for as long as it works. It sure has worked recently for us there." Medusa is a daughter of Bettor's Delight out of Mythical. She was bred by White Birch Farm. There are no secrets behind her success. "She's easy on herself, a sound mare, a happy mare; that's a good combination," Bendis said. "She likes her field time. In the winter it's tough to give them quality field time, but we just try to keep her as happy as we can. We train her up a little bit, but figure out what she needs week to week. She normally responds well. "She's in great shape. She's never trained a bad trip in her life for me. She's just that kind of mare. I'll shed a real tear the day we pull the harness off her for the last time because not too many come around like her." Follow the links for early Matchmaker program pages for Friday (March 15) and early Levy program pages for March 16. Friday's program pages will be finalized today (March 12); Saturday's program pages will be finalized on Thursday (March 14). Ken Weingartner

Columbus, OH - Longtime Pennsylvania harness racing horseman and executive Ron Battoni will represent Harness Horsemen International (HHI) on the United States Trotting Association's Uniform Medication Subcommittee, it has been announced. The alliance's goal is to develop comprehensive proposals on the use of therapeutic medications and recommended penalties for violations in harness racing. The USTA is resolute in its belief that there should be separate, uniform rules for separate racing breeds, and in May 2018 launched the Harness Racing Medication Collaborative, a group of academic and practicing veterinarians whose purpose is to assist in identifying and developing the scientific background for medication regulation in Standardbred racing. Battoni is best known for his more than 25 years as the executive director of the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen's Association (PHHA), but previously drove and trained Standardbred racehorses prior to becoming a racing official. He was integral to the construction of the state's Race Horse Development and Gaming Act, which allowed the introduction of slot machines to Pennsylvania racetracks. In his new role on the subcommittee, he will serve on behalf of HHI, which is comprised of 15 horsemen's associations throughout the United States and Canada. "Ron brings a world of practical experience to the subcommittee," said Russell Williams, President of the USTA, "and his experience both legislatively and as a horseman will be invaluable to our mission. I've known Ron for many years and have worked with him on several projects. He is a great choice for this position and I'm grateful for HHI's support." The other subcommittee members are Joe Faraldo (Chair), Mike Tanner (Staff Chair), Bob Boni, Sam Beegle, John Brennan, Mark Davis, Joe Frasure, Mark Loewe, Steve O'Toole, Dr. Andy Roberts, and Russell Williams. Ken Weingartner

When harness racing trainer Nancy Johansson answered her father's call, she was more than happy to hear she would be receiving a new horse in her barn. Her pleasure, however, escalated into sheer delight when the impending arrival's identity was revealed. "When my dad (retired Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Takter) called, he said, 'Get ready for a new horse in your barn,'" said Johansson. "He said to begin preparing because the horse was on the way and then he said, 'Oh, the horse is Manchego.'" It was announced shortly after her seventh-place finish in the $500,000 Breeders Crown on Oct. 27, 2018, at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, that Manchego would be retired to become a broodmare. Owned at the time by John Fielding, Herb Liverman and Barry Guariglia's Black Horse Racing, the daughter of Muscle Hill-Secret Magic was conditioned by the recently retired Takter for the duration of her two-year career. Guariglia, who is now Manchego's sole owner, intended to breed his 4-year-old mare to Walner after a winter vacation. His plans, however, were immediately altered after Takter's inspection of her physique subsequent to her return. "I think people are going to be really surprised when they see her," said Johansson, who manages an operation of 47 to 48 head with her husband Marcus. "She has really filled out and grown. She looks terrific and we are very excited to have the opportunity to race a horse like her." As a freshman, Manchego rewrote the history books with a perfect 12-for-12 season. Her major wins included the $330,800 Jim Doherty Memorial, the $252,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final, the $307,500 Peaceful Way final, and the $600,000 Breeders Crown final. She is the only undefeated 2-year-old filly trotter to win the Breeders Crown and the only unbeaten 2-year-old filly trotter to win a Dan Patch Award. "She is one of the greatest 2-year-old filly trotters of all-time," Johansson said. "She is a very special horse." Manchego's talent was again on display as a sophomore in one of the deepest divisions in recent memory. Not only did she have to contend with the likes of Trotter of the Year Atlanta, but world champion Plunge Blue Chip and the ever dangerous Phaetosive. Like Atlanta, Manchego also took on male rivals and acquitted herself admirably. In fact, she defeated Crystal Fashion by a nose in her $25,000 Earl Beal Memorial elimination, broke stride in the $500,000 final of that contest for the first loss of her career and was second by a nose to Met's Hall in the Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial. "That was a very talented group of 3-year-old trotting fillies," Johansson said. "She also raced against the boys, too, and it's quite possible she ran out of steam by the end of the season." Nancy Johansson In addition to her participation in those open events, Manchego captured the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, was nosed out by Plunge Blue Chip in world record time (1:49.4) in a $128,500 Delvin Miller Memorial division, and won the $172,000 Moni Maker. For her career, the mare has banked $1.53 million and compiled an impressive record of 26-19-3-2. She sports a lifetime mark of 1:50. Manchego's surprise return adds even more excitement to an already stellar division as Atlanta, Plunge Blue Chip and Phaetosive remain in training, as do 2017 Horse of the Year Hannelore Hanover, dual Breeders Crown winner and O'Brien Award winner Emoticon Hanover and the talented Dream Together. "I make it a special point to spend some time with her every day," Johansson said. "I feel like I am living in a dream; it's surreal. We are so very thankful." Ken Weingartner

Columbus, OH - The United States Trotting Association's 2019 Board of Directors annual meeting is scheduled for Friday (March 8) through Monday (March 11) at the Hilton Columbus at Easton. This year's meeting is starting a day earlier on Friday afternoon to allow for the addition of numerous subcommittee meetings and other working group sessions prior to the start of the usual committees and general sessions. The agenda kicks off with the USTA Youth Delegate Committee on Friday at 3 p.m. followed by the USTA Subcommittee - Call to Action at 6 p.m. and concludes following the Board Protocol Subcommittee at 7 p.m. Saturday's schedule leads off with the Executive Committee at 8 a.m. followed by sessions on USTA IT Education for board members and UC/Davis Genome Research, then subcommittees on Uniform Racing Rules and Legislative Advisory before lunch at noon. The afternoon slate is the Harness Racing Medication Collaborative Subcommittee, an Amateur Driving working group, the Fairs Subcommittee with the Communications/Marketing Committee meeting, starting at 3 p.m., ending the first full day of meetings. Saturday evening features the annual Welcome Reception sponsored by the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies and Van Gundy Insurance Agency starting at 6 p.m. The Board of Directors' General Session kicks off the Sunday (March 10) agenda starting at 8 a.m. Following is the agenda for the General Session: 1. Call to Order 2. Pledge of Allegiance 3. Roll Call 4. Introduction of New Directors 5. President's Report 6. Chairman's Report 7. Election of Officers 8. Executive Vice President's Report 9. Financial Report 10. Break 11. Subcommittee Updates a. Board Protocol b. Harness Racing Medication Collaborative c. Call to Action d. Youth Leadership Development 12. Standardbred Transition Alliance Update 13. Other Business 14. Group Photo Following the general session, President's Awards will be presented at the Recognition Luncheon slated for noon. Later in the day, the Racing Committee meets at 1 p.m., the Registration-Owners/Breeders Committee at 3:30 p.m. and the Rules Committee at 5:30 p.m. On Monday (March 11), the agenda commences with the Finance Committee at 9 a.m. The 2019 meetings will then conclude with the second Board of Directors General Session starting at 10:30 a.m. where committee reports will be made, the 2019 budget will be approved and USTA President Russell Williams will make closing remarks. For daily news updates starting Saturday, please visit the USTA website at Also, follow all the up-to-date news on and Facebook and Twitter pages. The hashtag #USTABOD19 will be used on social media throughout the meetings. Ken Weingartner

Columbus, OH - Through the end of February this year, the amount wagered through the USTA Strategic Wagering Program has increased by more than $2 million ($2,005,679) compared to the first two months of 2018. That 43.7 percent increase in harness racing handle was achieved through 219 guaranteed-pool wagers offered at nine different racetracks during the first two months of 2019. In addition, during January and February of this year, the total amount of guaranteed pools in the Strategic Wagering Program increased by $1,107,223 (39.6 percent) compared to the first two months of 2018 when there were 130 guaranteed-pool wagers offered. "Strategic Wagering is solid and has proven to generate interest and handle. The challenge is to figure out how to further leverage the program to increase pool liquidity," said Chris Schick, chairman of the USTA Strategic Wagering Committee. "These upward trends should continue as there are 124 Strategic Wagering Program offerings this March compared to 60 during the same month last year." In addition, two new tracks have been recently added to the program - Saratoga Casino Hotel in February and Rosecroft Raceway this month. Saratoga Casino Hotel joined the program with $5,000 Pick-5 and $25,000 trifecta guaranteed pools on Wednesdays and Thursdays, while Rosecroft Raceway will host their inaugural Strategic Wager on Wednesday (March 6) with a $2,500 guaranteed Pick-5 that will be offered on Wednesdays and Sundays. In 2018, 19 different racetracks participated in the program. Free TrackMaster past performances for the USTA Strategic Wagering Program can be viewed by visiting Up-to-date carryover information as well as those past performances are available on Twitter at @USTAStratWag. The U.S. Trotting Association, in cooperation with its member tracks, established the USTA Strategic Wagering Program in April 2011 to provide value to horseplayers by guaranteeing the size of designated betting pools. The responsibility for these guarantees is shared equally by the USTA, the track hosting the wager, and in some cases, with the local horsemen's association as well. Ken Weingartner

Columbus, OH -- United States Trotting Association President Russell Williams announced Tuesday (March 5) that former USTA President Phil Langley and USTA Director from District 1 Steve McCoy are the recipients of the annual USTA President's Awards. Williams will present the awards at this year's annual meetings in a Recognition Luncheon at the Hilton Columbus at Easton on Sunday (March 10). Langley, who resigned his position as USTA president at the end of 2016, was first elected to the USTA Board of Directors from District 5 in 1983. He began the first of his four terms as USTA president in 2003. "Phil had the ability to achieve a level of unified action on the USTA board that was unequaled during my time as a director," said Williams of his predecessor. "It has been deeply satisfying for me to build on his achievements." A 1959 graduate of Dartmouth College, Langley became racing director and racing secretary for the Chicago Downs Association and Fox Valley Trotting Club in 1965. He served in those positions as well as vice president of Fox Valley until 1998 when Sportsman's Park discontinued harness racing. Langley also was a member of the ownership group for both Balmoral Park and Maywood Park, served as treasurer of Balmoral and was director of racing at both tracks. In addition, he was a member of the Illinois Department of Agriculture Advisory Board, Racing Industry Charitable Foundation Board of Directors, Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame Board of Trustees and the North American Harness Racing Secretaries Association. He also served in an advisory capacity for both the Illinois State Fair and Du Quoin State Fair. Langley was inducted in the Living Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y., on July 1, 2007 and was previously inducted into the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Hall of Fame in 1994. Steve McCoy McCoy, who chairs the USTA's Subcommittee on Board Protocol, was appointed by the District 1 directors to the USTA Board on Jan. 22, 2014 to replace Sam "Chip" Noble. "In several sensitive and complex matters, Steve's analytical and drafting skills have made the USTA a stronger, more up-to-date organization that is more responsive to the membership than ever before," said Williams in making the announcement. McCoy is a former president of the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association and has served the OHHA Board of Directors for more than 15 years. He was introduced to harness racing by his father, an owner, breeder and equine veterinarian, and has been involved in the sport for more than 30 years as an owner himself. Among his top horses were Power Score, Spider Woman, Chip And Run, Striking Mystery and Give 'Em The Ax. He earned a B.A. degree (summa cum laude) from The Ohio State University in 1970 and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California at Berkley in 1973. McCoy currently serves as the General Counsel for The Showe Companies and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Best Lawyers of America since 1987. Ken Weingartner

Joe Holloway knows Rainbow Room will have to make up for lost time, but the harness racing trainer believes his pacing mare is ready for the challenge. Following a 15-month absence from competition because of an injury, multiple-stakes-winner Rainbow Room returns Wednesday (March 6) when she faces eight rivals in a conditioned race at Dover Downs. Rainbow Room drew post seven and is the 2-1 morning-line favorite with driver Corey Callahan. The now 4-year-old Rainbow Room won seven of 12 races at age 2, never finished worse than third, and earned $467,880 for owners Crawford Farms Racing, Val D'Or Farms, and Ted Gewertz. She qualified once in preparation for her 3-year-old campaign, but suffered a broken coffin bone and was sidelined for the season. "She looks good, she's sound," Holloway said. "But it's already a tough transition from (age) 3 to 4 and she didn't even get a 3-year-old season. She's basically going from 2 to 4 and I know I'm going to have to deal with little bumps in the road in the beginning. "Usually at 2 you just overpower horses. At 3 you have to be a little more versatile, but not as much as by the time you race the aged ones. Then you have to be versatile, you have to be able to handle stuff, so she's got a pretty steep learning curve in front of her. But I think she's going to be fine. I expect by the end we're going to be just where we want to be." Rainbow Room is a daughter of two Horse of the Year Award winners, sire Somebeachsomewhere and dam Rainbow Blue. She was purchased for $100,000 at the 2016 Lexington Selected Sale and is a full sister to 2012 Dan Patch Award-winner Somwherovrarainbow. As a 2-year-old, Rainbow Room won three preliminary divisions of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and the series championship. She also won the Kentuckiana Stallion Management Stakes and her elimination of the Breeders Crown. She finished third in the Breeders Crown final. She prepped for Wednesday's start by qualifying twice at the Meadowlands. She finished sixth in the first, timed in 1:53.3, and was third in the most recent on Feb. 15, timed in 1:53.2 with a :26 final quarter-mile. "I was happy with the second qualifier, happier than with the first," Holloway said. "Although with the first she went (1):53 and a piece and that's what I expected she could do. It's tough. It's a year from when she qualified (in 2018) but she only qualified once so she is a year-and-a-half away from competitive racing. "Hopefully I can race her in a couple of overnights before I race in the open. And then I can get a couple opens before I race top open company. But I expect her to have a great season. The main thing to be happy about is she's sound. Now we'll see what happens." Racing begins at 4:30 p.m. (EST) Wednesday at Dover Downs. Rainbow Room is in the 11th race, with an approximate 7:50 p.m. post time. For complete entries, click here. Ken Weingartner

Eugene D. "Gene" Oldford, 86, whose career in harness racing as a breeder, owner, and administrator led to his induction into the Michigan Harness Horsemen's Association Hall of Fame in 2013 as well as numerous other accolades, passed away peacefully on Feb. 25, 2019, at Blue Water Hospice Home in Michigan. Mr. Oldford was a longtime member of the MHHA board of directors, past president of Harness Horsemen International, and member of the U.S. Trotting Association. He received the 2014 HHI Person of the Year Award as well as multiple honors from MHHA including Board Member of the Year, Owner of the Year, and an Appreciation Award. Among his favorite horses was Godiva Hall, a multiple-stakes-winner and world-record-setting female trotter, in the mid-2000s. Other top horses included pacers Billmar Scooter and Park Avenue. His current group of horses included stakes-winners Two AM and Chin Chin Hall, a 3-year-old trotter who is eligible to this summer's Hambletonian. His son Stephen is a U.S. Trotting Association director and amateur driving champion. Eugene D. Oldford was born to parents Stephen and Clara (Hallett) Oldford on July 28, 1932, in Detroit. He graduated from Croswell-Lexington High School in 1950 and attended St. Clair County Jr. College and the University of Michigan. He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and was stationed in Panama. Mr. Oldford, along with his brother Bill, acquired Huron Tool and Manufacturing, now Huron Inc., in Lexington, from their father Stephen in 1958. The company was sold to US Industries in 1968. He founded Oldford and Associates, an automotive manufacturer's representative sales firm, in 1973 where he continued to work until his unexpected death. He was also co-founder of Black River Manufacturing, Port Huron, along with partners Jarold Hawks and Isaac Lang Jr. Always active in his community, Mr. Oldford served in various leadership roles on the Worth Township Board, Boy Scouts of America, Jaycees, Croswell-Lexington Little League, Masonic Lodge and Trinity Episcopal Church. Over the years, he gave generously to his community establishing the Stephen and Clara Oldford Scholarship fund to assist students attending St. Clair County Community College. Mr. Oldford is survived by his three children, Stephen (Gale), Susan Zappa and Laurie. He was blessed with five loving grandchildren, Michelle (Manny) Chavez, Troy (Kelly), Kara, Joey Zappa and Vincent; and three great-grandchildren; Alex Chavez, Bensen Chavez, and Brooklyn. He is also survived by special friend, Nancy Edmonson; brother, William; sister-in-law, Jill Meyers; niece, Kathy (Gwen) Johansen; and nephews, Will (Ann Marie) and Douglas (Amy) Gough. He was preceded in death by Sandra S., Barbara L. Edwards and Joseph R. Zappa. Mr. Oldford was a loving and generous man who made friends wherever he went. He deeply loved his family and friends and lived a very active and full life. Please join the family to celebrate Gene's life. A visitation will take place on Friday (March 1) at the Pomeroy Funeral Home in Lexington from 2-9 p.m. On Saturday (March 2), a funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. in Trinity Episcopal Church, Lexington, with visitation in the church beginning at 10 a.m. until the time of the service. Memorials contributions may be made to Trinity Episcopal Church, Project Blessing, Blue Water Hospice, The Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame or New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association @harnessracenews @HarnessKenW    

Orlando, FL -- Moments into his speech to accept the Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award on behalf of legendary pacer Foiled Again during Sunday's U.S. Harness Writers Association's Dan Patch Awards banquet, co-owner Joe Koury Jr. was halted by USHWA member Gordon Waterstone. Koury knew he had not exceeded his time limit because he was just getting started, so he was surprised. Surprise was about to turn to shock. "Don't you think we ought to have the award-winner here?" Waterstone soon said to Koury. Enter Foiled Again. Foiled Again turned the idea of a surprise party upside down when he emerged from behind the curtained stage area to the delight of the 320 banquet attendees at Rosen Shingle Creek resort. Only a handful of people knew in advance of Foiled Again's appearance, which was conceived by Waterstone with Foiled Again's co-owners Ron Burke and Mark Weaver. "I was wondering what was going on," said Koury, who like the entire Burke Brigade other than Burke, Weaver and Foiled Again's caretaker for the night, Devan Miller, had no idea of the plan. "Next thing you know, Foiled was coming out. I was absolutely shocked. It was a great experience. It was exciting." Said Joe Koury Sr., "When Foiled showed up, it was unbelievable. I was shocked. Tears were rolling down my cheeks, it was just amazing." "I didn't expect it; that's the last thing that would have crossed my mind," said Yannick Gingras, who drove Foiled Again for the majority of the gelding's career and won numerous major stakes together. "I thought it was really cool, something different." Many others had the same reaction, which was what Burke and his co-planners had hoped. "It was unbelievable," Burke said. "I knew it would be a hit, especially with my father (Mickey), but it was a hit with everybody. It was one of the coolest moments ever. We thought it would be something nobody would be expecting and would add a little bit of fun, and it did." Waterstone, who in addition to being a member of USHWA is associate editor of The Horseman And Fair World magazine, worked with the resort's staff to set up Foiled Again's appearance. It required an extra bit of insurance and a protective covering for the banquet room carpet, which was new. "I called Mark about bringing Foiled Again to the banquet and he said to talk to Ronnie," Waterstone said. "I called Ronnie and he said absolutely, but he wanted to do it as a secret. "It came off better than I thought it would. You keep your fingers crossed. The reaction was unbelievable. To be involved in this was really cool." Foiled Again was already staying near Orlando, at the Burke's winter stable in Astor. "Devan did a great job," Burke said. "She had to prep him for it and people were wondering why she was prepping him when he was just there hanging out. He looked incredible. I was thrilled." Unfazed by the cheers that filled the banquet room and the joyful commotion that soon engulfed him, Foiled Again stood perfectly for his admirers. photo Chris Tully "He was like a little showman," Joe Koury Sr. said. "He's like a celebrity, a celebrity of the humblest measure. It was just unbelievable. He's amazing. I love him to death." Foiled Again reached harness racing's mandatory retirement age of 15 when the calendar turned to 2019. He is the sport's all-time richest horse, with $7.63 million in purses, and ranks ninth with 109 lifetime wins. He received Dan Patch Awards for best older male pacer in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was Pacer of the Year in 2011. Last year, he embarked on a Farewell Tour that attracted numerous fans to racetracks across North America, as well as garnering mainstream media attention. He will be inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in July. Foiled Again is owned by Burke Racing, the partnership of Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, and the Koury family's JJK Stables. The group bought the horse in 2008 when he was 4. He was trained by Mickey Burke briefly before Mickey retired and handed the lines to his son Ron. "He's a dream come true," Joe Koury Jr. said. "To be a part of this with such great friends and partners is amazing. We were all young guys who, for the most part, were just getting started. He brought us up all together and put us on a different level. It's just been a phenomenal ride." And now that the ride is completed, Foiled Again will enjoy a life of leisure. "He's basically going to live my dad's life," Ron Burke said with a laugh. "They'll be hanging out together forever."   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association

Orlando, FL --- McWicked on Sunday became the oldest pacer in history to be named Horse of the Year, receiving harness racing's top honor to cap the U.S. Harness Writers Association's Dan Patch Award banquet at Rosen Shingle Creek. The 7-year-old stallion bested pacing mare Shartin N, 86-27, to claim the trophy. Atlanta, who was named Trotter of the Year, finished third with eight votes. Earlier in the night, McWicked was named Pacer of the Year, 95-31, over Shartin N. McWicked is owned by Ed James' SSG Stables and trained by Casie Coleman. Brian Sears was McWicked's primary driver, but David Miller also won on the Grand Circuit with the stallion. A son of McArdle out of Western Sahara, he was bred by Andray Farm. McWicked led the sport in earnings last year, with $1.57 million, and became the oldest horse in 43 years to top the money standings. For the season, McWicked won 12 of 19 races, capping his campaign with a five-race win streak, and hit the board a total of 17 times. The previous oldest pacer to be named Horse of the Year was Good Time, who was 6 when he received the award in 1952. Earlier this month, McWicked was named Horse of the Year in Canada. Coleman has trained three Horse of the Year winners in Canada, but McWicked was her first in the U.S., as well as the first for owner James. Sears, who drove McWicked in 12 of his 19 races, has sat behind four Horse of the Year honorees. "We've been fortunate to have three horses of the year in Canada, and to get it done here is pretty awesome," Coleman said. "Winning a double (Horse of the Year) with him, and doing it with a horse that's 7 turned 8, it's not often that it happens. Now we have to hope he can do it again next year. He's going to be another year older, but I see no reason why he shouldn't be just as good next year. We'll see what happens." McWicked's victories last season included the Breeders Crown, Ben Franklin Pace, William R. Haughton Memorial, Canadian Pacing Derby, TVG Series Open championship, Dan Rooney Invitational, and Allerage Farms Open. His 1:46.2 clocking in the Allerage was the second-fastest race mile in history. "It was a very tough group all season, and just the way he did it, his last start he was just as good as his first start," Coleman said. "His last start at the Meadowlands (in the TVG) he did it like there was nothing to it. It was scary how good we put him away. We're really excited to see what he can do again next year." Atlanta became the first filly to win the Hambletonian since 1996 when she captured the $1 million final Aug. 4 at the Meadowlands. Driven by Scott Zeron, she won eight of 14 races last year and led all 3-year-old filly trotters with $1.01 million in purses. Her victories also included the Kentucky Filly Futurity and Empire Breeders Classic. A daughter of Chapter Seven out of Hemi Blue Chip, Atlanta was owned in 2018 by trainer Rick Zeron, Michelle and Al Crawford's Crawford Farms, William Holland's Holland Racing Stable, Howard Taylor, and Brad Grant. She was bred by Order By Stable. The horse sold recently for a record $1.55 million to a group led by Michelle Crawford. "I'm very happy," Crawford said. "I was very excited to hear her for Trotter of the Year. I think she deserves it. I watched her from the beginning and she's just a freak, a really phenomenal filly. I can't wait to put her in the breeding shed and have her babies, but I'm not trying to get her off the track by any means. I'm excited for her future, but I'm not rushing her off the track. Not at all." The announcements of Horse, Pacer, and Trotter of the Year were made during Sunday's banquet. Previously announced divisional champions also were honored at the event. Division-winning pacers were 2-year-old colt Captain Crunch, 2-year-old filly Warrawee Ubeaut, 3-year-old gelding Dorsoduro Hanover, 3-year-old filly Kissin In The Sand, Shartin N, and McWicked. Division-winning trotters were 2-year-old colt Gimpanzee, 2-year-old filly Woodside Charm, 3-year-old colt Six Pack, 6-year-old gelding Homicide Hunter, 4-year-old mare Ariana G, and Atlanta. Other honorees included Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award winner Foiled Again, Driver of the Year Aaron Merriman, Trainer of the Year Ron Burke, Breeder of the Year Order By Stable, Owners of the Year Burke Racing and the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, and Rising Star Marcus Melander. Foiled Again surprised the audience of 320 by emerging from behind the curtained stage as part of the Bergstein-Proximity presentation that kicked off the festivities. The crowd rose to its feet and cheered Foiled Again, the sport's all-time richest horse who retired at the end of 2018 following a farewell tour that attracted numerous fans to racetracks across North America and garnered mainstream media attention. Also recognized Sunday at the banquet were the members of the 2018 Hall of Fame class, which will be inducted in July: Blair Burgess, Ted Gewertz, Joe Holloway, Jerry Silverman, Linda Toscano, and Ted Wing. For the complete list of award winners, click here.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association @harnessracenews @HarnessKenW      

The name of the 2018 Horse of the Year will be announced tonight (Feb. 24) at the annual U.S. Harness Racing Writers Association's Dan Patch Awards dinner at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Fla. But even if you aren't among the attendees you will be able to watch the announcement live via USHWA's Facebook page. After a cocktail hour and open bar sponsored by McWicked, the awards ceremony gets underway at 7 p.m. and will be available via the Facebook page, sponsored by Crawford Farms and Crazy Wow. At approximately 10 p.m., emcees Roger Huston and Jason Settlemoir will announce the winner of the E. Roland Harriman Horse of the Year trophy, which follows the revealing of the names of the Pacer of the Year and Trotter of the Year. To access USHWA's Facebook page, please click here. The entire video will also be available on the U.S. Trotting Association's YouTube page the following day (Monday, Feb. 25). Post time for the evening is 6 p.m., with a one-hour Red Carpet cocktail reception sponsored by the Southwind Frank Partners. Also starring on the Red Carpet will be Heather Vitale and Heather Wilder, with the two Heathers broadcasting live on their individual Facebook pages. It's your guarantee to see who's wearing what and what the attendees have to say about the festivities. Heather Vitale's Facebook page can be found here. Heather Wilder's Facebook page can be found here. Ken Weingartner

ORLANDO FL -- Ken Weingartner, the Media Relations Manager for the U.S. Trotting Association's Harness Racing Communications arm, and Phil Pikelny, who worked as a publicist, broadcaster, and co-author of a biography of the great pacer Rambling Willie, were selected for places in the mid-summer balloting which could lead to their being elected to harness racing's Communicators Hall of Fame, in voting conducted this afternoon (Saturday) by the directors of the U.S. Harness Writers Association (USHWA).   Weingartner, who first went to the racetrack pushed by his father in a stroller, graduated from Lycoming College and then worked in the central Pennsylvania area before returning to his native New Jersey. Ken's column "Horse Play" in the Allentown (NJ) Morning Press was honored in 2001 by the New Jersey Chapter of USHWA and brought him to the attention of the USTA, for whom he has worked in his present position since 2002.   In 2007 he was voted the Golden Pen Award by the Standardbred Media and Marketing Association, and Ken was doubly-honored in 2015, by USHWA's Monticello-Goshen Chapter and by Harness Horsemen International. Weingartner serves as the chair of USHWA's Journalism Awards Committee and is co-chair of its Hirt Sports Media Workshop Committee.   Pikelny was spotted by double Hall of Famer Stan Bergstein when he started a harness racing club at Northwestern University near Chicago, and then became the youngest publicity director in any major sport when he went to the U.S. Trotting Association at age 23. He combined with author Don Evans to produce the book Rambling Willie: The Horse That God Loved, which followed the career of the sensational standardbred who set records for both 2:00 victories and earnings -- with 10% of those earnings going to the church of Vivian Farrington, the wife of Willie's trainer. In 1981 Pikelny and the horse then went "on tour" throughout America, appearing at racetracks, shopping malls, and other media opportunities.   Phil worked as publicity director at Scioto Downs (OH) and at the standardbred meet at Del Mar (CA). He then went on to a long career in many facets of communications while continuing to speak at harness conventions and mentoring young publicists.   Pikelny and Weingartner will now be joined during mid-summer balloting by Hall of Fame nominees who will be decided in early July. Those that receive 75% of the yes-no voting will go on to receive the sport's ultimate prize, enshrinement in their respective Halls of Fame in Goshen NY.   The voting for the summer ballot spots for the communicators was very tight, with Weingartner getting 11 votes, Pikelny 10, Jay Bergman and Joe Kyle 9 each, and Bill Fidati 5 -- the last-named three sure to be strong candidates in upcoming years.     Jerry Connors

Dozens of harness racing pacers hailing from either Australia or New Zealand will compete at Yonkers Raceway in the next several days, which is a common occurrence. Less ordinary is the appearance of a trotter from Down Under, but that will be the case Thursday (Feb. 21) when Australian-bred La Grange makes his North American debut for trainer Per Engblom. La Grange, owned by Renee Spahr, is a son of Muscle Hill out of La Coocaracha. He was bred by Yabby Dam Farms in Australia and was a Group 2 winner during his 2- and 3-year-old seasons Down Under. Born in November 2014, he would be a 4-year-old back home, but is considered a 5-year-old in the U.S. because of the different breeding calendars. The stallion, who has won six of 22 career races and earned $68,723, drew post eight in Yonkers' sixth race, a $20,000 conditioned event, on Thursday and is 20-1 on the morning line with Yannick Gingras in the sulky. Four-year-old Seven Iron, a stakes-winner at age 2, is the 9-5 favorite from post one. "He's a nice horse," said Engblom, who welcomed La Grange to his stable in December. "I've seen in replays from Down Under, and from the way he feels when we're training, that he's a very strong horse. He can take a lot of air. He's very clean gaited; I just hope he's fast enough. He's more of a grinder than a speed horse, but I think he's OK." La Grange qualified twice at the Meadowlands ahead of Thursday's debut. He finished second, timed in 1:58, behind In Secret with Engblom driving and more recently won in 1:59 with Gingras in the bike. Engblom hoped to race La Grange last week at the Meadowlands, but the class did not fill. Rather than send the horse against open-level trotters, Engblom opted for the conditioned event at Yonkers. "There he can race in a class where he belongs," Engblom said. "Hopefully we can get him into the Meadowlands in a class where he fits so we can get started there. He's basically missing his 4-year-old year, so it's going to be a big transition. We'll see how he handles it. He was maybe a notch below the best ones Down Under, but he's a real good horse. La Grange will not be the first Australian-born son of Muscle Hill to compete in North America. Last year, colt Aldebaranwalkabout won two races, including a division of the Bluegrass Stakes, for owner Aldebaran Park Inc. and trainer Jonas Czernyson. Engblom will point La Grange toward several upcoming series for older trotters and also made the stallion eligible to some stakes races. "I don't know if he's going to be ready for the early stakes, but by this fall I wouldn't be surprised if he is," Engblom said. "He's got a series at Pocono, then we'll see. We'll see if he develops. He's a big horse, so I think he's going to be better with age. I think he'll be OK." by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

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