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YONKERS, NY, Saturday, July 14, 2018-They're 2-year-olds. Things happen. Such was the case in Saturday night's (July 14th) $100,000 Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace, Yonkers Raceway's premier event for 'open' frosh colts and geldings honoring the Hall of Fame founder of Hanover Shoe Farms. When the stone dust settled, Hickfromfrenchlick (Mark MacDonald, $5.30) emerged an open-length winner in a six-horse race that was not for the squeamish. At the outset, the eventual winner-from post position No. 2-was off the gate. His next-door neighbor to the outside, Just Plain Loco (Jim Marohn Jr.), tried to leave but threw in steps. He eventually righted the ship, but was wide into the first turn. Meanwhile, 4-5 choice World on Edge (George Brennan) led into the first turn, only to jump it off That left first starter and 58-1 rank outsider Can We Dance (Greg Merton) as sort of a default leader from his outside post. The bombardier put up intervals of :28 and :57, the latter as pole-sitting Hurrikane Kingklee (Dan Dube) tried to pull pocket, only to reconsider. Nearing the 1:26.1 three-quarters, the field truncated...even World on Edge, who then misbehaved again. Hurrikane Kingklee finally did dispose of the longshot leader, while Hickfromfrenchlick was right behind. The 'Hick' inhaled the tiring front-enders in the final turn, opening to two lengths into the lane. Hickfromfrenchlick then rolled home in his parimutuel debut, the final margin 3¼ lengths in 1:55.4. Just Plain Loco, who angled widest into the final turn, survived his race race-and-a-half to finish second, with another first-starter Treasure Tom (Jason Bartlett) third. Hurrikane Kingklee and Can We Dance settled for the minors, while World on Edge needs to think about what he did. For second choice Hickfromfrenchlick, a $47,000 (Goshen NY) plebe son of Larry Bird, er, So Surreal, co-owned by (trainer) Ray Schnittker, Nolamaura Racing and Thomas Spatorico, he's won both of his purse tries (Landmark at Goshen). The exacta paid $20, the triple paid $155 and the superfecta paid $367. "He shied from the car at the start," MacDonald said. "I was fortunate with the breakers to get away where I did and just sort of sit there. "When Danny (Dube, Hurrikane Kingklee) pulled, I was right behind him and he just sort of paced away. Ray (Schnittker) told me not to screw it up. A strange race. Glad we won." Saturday's $44,000 Open Handicap Pace was won by odds-on Always at My Place (Brennan, $3.10) in a season's-best 1:50.3. Sunday's (July 15th) matinee goes at 11:28 AM, with the first four 'French' trots going as both overflow-field and added-distance (mile-and-a-quarter) by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, N.Y. – The Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace is one of the first major Grand Circuit events for 2-year-old pacers, and according to trainer Tom Fanning, it takes a special kind of horse to win the $100,000 stakes.  “I think it’s a good value race if you think your horse is going to be handy on a half and they happen to be ready, I think it’s a good race to go in,” Fanning said. “I think you have to have a certain kind of horse. They have to be handy, good on the turns, and athletic to do well early on a half-mile track.” Fanning thinks he may have that certain type of horse in Just Plain Loco, a 3-1 morning line chance to capture the 54th edition of the Sheppard Pace tonight (July 14) at Yonkers Raceway. The son of Well Said out of the Bettor’s Delight mare Symphony in Motion didn’t turn many heads at last year’s Harrisburg sale due to his small size, but Fanning and co-owner Paul Lang liked what they saw and were the top bidders when the hammer fell at $15,000. “The owner liked him very much. I think he liked the pedigree and he was dual eligible. He was big on that, he was eligible to some races in New Jersey and in Pennsylvania. He was a real small horse, but I think his brother was also small. He wasn’t my top selection, but there were some things I did like about him,” Fanning said. Although Just Plain Loco was small in stature, Fanning was surprised by how athletic the pacer is. He wears a much longer hopple than would be expected for his size and proved to be a very nice mover on the racetrack. However, he was also full of energy and unfocused, so the decision was made to geld Just Plain Loco early in his training. “We actually gelded him pretty early. He really wasn’t focused in on his work. Once we cut him, he got better and better. He trained down pretty well then,” Fanning said. “He’s very good in a race. On the track, he’s very squirrely, looking at everything. We always joke, he never jogs in a straight line. But when it’s time to do his work, once we turn him to go a mile, he would straighten up. He was good about things, but he likes to fool around a lot too.” Although Just Plain Loco was training down well and making his times, Fanning felt because of his size, the gelding was having to work harder to keep up with the group. Fanning began training Just Plain Loco by himself and let him develop at his own pace. “He didn’t get beat in his training miles or anything, he just had to work at it a little bit more,” Fanning explained. “We had him in company until about March, but because of his size, I took him out of company and trained him by himself just because I didn’t really want to put any pressure on him. He would just do his thing, he’s go the time, he’d be willing enough to do it. I put him back in company in the middle of May or so when they were ready to qualify almost.” Just Plain Loco qualified twice in June. He made his debut at Gaitway, where he finished fifth in his first trial June 18. Although he was beaten 19 ½ lengths, Fanning was pleased with the effort; Just Plain Loco went 1:56.2 with a :28.0 final panel. He returned with a fourth-place finish, timed in 1:57.0 with :27.4 last quarter, in a Harrah’s Philadelphia qualifier June 26. “I was happy with both of them,” the trainer opined. “We had trained him before his first qualifier in 2:01 and he got beat pretty good his first race, but he came home in :28.0. I was standing about halfway up the stretch and I could see he had some go to him, he was pacing right along. It was deceptive because we weren’t going to push him. The second qualifier, he came home in about :56.0 and paced pretty good on the end of it again. He was wrapped up.” Just Plain Loco made his pari-mutuel debut in a $13,000 overnight for 2-year-olds at Harrah’s July 8. Although bettors dismissed him at odds of 14-1, Just Plain Loco worked his way to the lead and scored a length victory in 1:54.0. The tactics, if not the win, were even a surprise to his trainer. “It didn’t surprise me he won, it was surprising he went to the front,” Fanning said. “He got a little bit aggressive. When the gate opened, he got surrounded. He’s not a real aggressive horse, but he was right in the middle of the pack and he got a little excited, so (David Miller) just sort of paced out of there and he ended up on the front.” After posting a pair of inspiring qualifiers and a strong debut, Fanning decided to enter Just Plain Loco in the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace. He will start from post three with driver Jim Marohn, Jr. in the sulky.  Just Plain Loco’s five rivals include 3-2 morning line favorite World On Edge. The Ron Burke-trainee qualified in 1:55.0 at Gaitway June 4 before debuting a winner in New York Sire Stakes at Yonkers June 26. He will start from post five in the Sheppard. Hickfromfrenchlick posted a 14 ½-legnth victory in his debut at Goshen June 29 when beating one rival in a 1:57.3 (27.1) mile and drew post two in the Sheppard for trainer Ray Schnittker. Hurrikane Kinglee, Treasure Tom, and Can We Dance complete the lineup. “It’s hard to say. Two-year-olds on a half, it’s really hard to get a read on it. It’s hard to make a prediction,” Fanning said. “I think our horse will be good on the turns and if he races back to last week, he should be pretty close with these horses.” Saturday’s card co-features the weekly $44,000 Open Handicap Pace. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Wednesday, July 11, 2018--The phrase 'small but select' gets invoked for Saturday night's (July 14th) $100,000 Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace, Yonkers Raceway's premier event for 'open' 2-year-old colts and geldings. With just six entrants (down from 20 a season ago), all go straight to the gate for the finale, with Yonkers again paying homage to the Hall of Fame founder of Hanover Shoe Farms. The race began in 1964, with iconic Bret Hanover its first winner. It continued, sometimes as a split stake, through 2003, before being resurrected in 2012. This season's Sheppard goes as the sixth race during the dozen-race card, with first post at the usual 6:50 PM. There appears to be some aptitude among the happy half-dozen, led by statebred World on Edge (George Brennan, post 5). The son of Roll with Joe, co-owned (as Burke Racing) by (trainer) Ron Burke, Joe DiScala Jr., J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby and Adriano Sorella, made a successful purse debut here, winning his $53,000 division of the New York Sire Stakes late last month (down-the-road 1:57.1). At $50,000 (Harrisburg), he was the priciest of the participants. Another member of the Empire set is pole-sitting Hurrikane Kingklee (Dan Dube), who's been third in both of his sire stakes tries (here and Monticello). The Art Major colt is trained by John McDermott for co-owners Jonathan Klee Racing, Kuhen Racing and George Vierno. Just Plain Loco (Jim Marohn Jr., post 3) was a 14-1 upsetter in his first race for money, a 1:54 effort at the Meadowlands. The gelded son of Well Said is co-owned by (trainer) Tom Fanning and Paul Lang. "He's a small horse--maybe the smallest I've ever trained--but doesn't know it," Fanning said. "He's athletic and handy and should move forward off that start." Treasure Tom (Jason Bartlett, post 4), a Mach Three gelding---the other in the field--enters the Sheppard off a pair of Pocono qualifiers...both with Bartlett driving. We can't guarantee Larry Bird is going to be in and around Westchester Saturday night, but his nicknamesake (new word) is. Hickfromfrenchlick (Mark MacDonald, post 2) was a blowout winner in the $11,000 division of Goshen's Landmark Stakes (1:57.3, back half :56.3). The statebred son of So Surreal is co-owned by (trainer) Ray Schnittker, Nolamaura Racing and Thomas Spatorico. Can We Dance (Greg Merton, post 6), trained by Nancy Johansson, is another making his first purse try. The son of A Rocknroll Dance is a half-brother to Sweet Rock, a career earner of more than $611,000. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway  

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, July 15, 2017 -  Harness racing driver Jordan Stratton actually beat Jordan Stratton Saturday night (July 15th). Stratton and Kwik Talkin' ($5.60) held off odds-on Springsteen (Jason Bartlett) in a glorified match race, winning Yonkers Raceway's $110,500 final of the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace for 2-year-old colts and geldings. The mile tickled the teletimer in 1:53.4, two-fifths of a second faster than the previous stakes record of Hail the Taxi (2012)...also driven by Stratton. At the outset, Kwik Talkin'-from post position No. 7-was thrown in the fray, along with pole-sitting Springsteen, Real Rayenbow (Chuck Connor Jr.) and Hora Star (Greg Merton). 'Rayenbow' was the first leader, before the 3-4 choice Springsteen played leapfrog. Hora Star was seated as Kwik Talkin' drove on, making the lead just after a spiffy :27.4 opening quarter-mile. After a 56-second intermission and moving toward a 1:25.2 three-quarters, the 48-1 Hora Star made a second move, but never came near the leaders. The pair of people's preferences, who finished 1-2 in last week's fastest of three (1:54.4) elims, were about to have the final to themselves. It was Kwik Talkin', as the second choice, opening a couple of lengths in and out of the final turn before defeating Springsteen by a length-and-a-quarter. It was seven lengths back to Trump Nation (Eric Goodell), who photoed Phat Blue Chip (Brent Holland) for third. Persist Blue Chip (George Brennan) earned the final pay envelope, while Real Rayenbow, Hora Star and Damion Diesel Hahn (Ray Schnittker) completed the order. Trump Nation and Persist Blue Chip was last week's other elimination winners. For Kwik Talkin', an $18,000 (Harrisburg) a perfect (4-for-4) son of Well Said trained by Rob Harmon for Ontario co-owners Robert Robinson, Jacqueline Dinelle and Scott & Lisa Henry, the mile was a life-best effort. The exacta paid $9.20, with the triple returning $22.60. "He doesn't race as a 2-year-old," Stratton said. "He doesn't act as a 2-year-old," Harmon said of the winner, indoctrinated at Ottawa's Rideau Carleton Raceway. "I knew I've have to use him early, but once I made the lead, he rated the way an older horse would," Stratton said. Kwik Talkin Saturday night's $55,000 Open Handicap Pace was won by a pole-sitting, pocket-protecting Bakersfield (Holland, $21.80) in 1:51.3, the highlight of his chauffeur's five-win night. Bakersfield Frank Drucker  

YONKERS, N.Y. - Ottawa-based horseman Robert Robinson is no stranger to working with talented horses. Every year, he breaks and trains quality 2-year-olds before shipping them out to trainers who will campaign and race them. Among his former harness racing pupils are Gerries Sport, a multiple Ontario Sire Stakes winner. “I do train some horses for people that are pretty well respected, but once I get them ready, they go on to other places,” Robinson explained. Robinson started with a roster of 16 horses last fall, many of which were 2-year-olds for clients and a few of which were freshman of his own. Like in years past, nearly all of them shipped out as planned. Robinson now trains a stable of three horses and looks after one broodmare. This time, however, one of the talented 2-year-olds who made his way stateside is his own, Kwik Talkin. Robinson purchased Kwik Talkin, a son of Well Said and the Cam’s Card Shark mare Kwik Dial, out of the 2016 Harrisburg Sale for $18,000. A half to Pennsylvania Stallion Series-placed Kwik Mac and from a family that includes millionaire pacer Dial Or Nodial, Kwik Talkin drew attention at the sale, but for the wrong reasons. “Before I went to the sale, I looked at the video and he moved pretty good,” Robinson recalled. “I remember when I went to the sale, I went back to look at him a few times. He toed out a bit in the right front. I was with a good friend of mine who races in Toronto and he said, ‘does that right front not concern you?’ I said ‘not at all because I watched him trot, I watched him pace and he had lots of clearance.’ ” While others shied away, Robinson stepped up and took Kwik Talkin home. Partnering on the colt are Jacqueline Dinelle, Robinson’s wife, and an old friend of Robinson’s, Scott Henry and his wife Lisa. For the Henrys, Kwik Talkin is their first delve into racehorse ownership. “After my dad died, they bought my dad’s farm,” Robinson explained. “They got my number last year and they asked to buy into a horse. They ended up getting in on this horse and it’s the first horse they’ve ever owned. “I knew Scott from when I first started racing. His dad had some horses and his father is probably one of the first people who ever gave me a catch drive,” Robinson remembered. Training down, Kwik Talkin never had any bad days. Although he wasn’t a standout among Robinson’s stable, Kwik Talkin showed promise by winning his first qualifier in wire-to-wire fashion at Rideau Carlton May 31. It was in a schooling session at the track the following week that Robinson first realized he had a very talented colt on his hands. “In the two weeks between his qualifier and his first race, I took him to the track and schooled him with aged horses. Three of them were in to race that Sunday and went (1):55 and he just blew them away in the schooling,” Robinson said. “That was my first indication that he was going to be real good. I always thought he was a nice horse, but I thought he was a little bit better than a nice horse after that schooler.” Kwik Talkin continued to face older horses in his first two pari-mutuel starts at the Ottawa oval. He won his debut June 15 by 2 1/2 lengths, pacing a mile in 1:58.3 before doubling up with a 1:55.0 score the following week. In both victories, his owner and then trainer drove him. “He really impressed me when he went in (1):55. He probably stopped and went three or four times in the mile and whenever I asked him he just kept going,” Robinson said. Kwik Talkin’s impressive outings in Canada earned him a trip to compete in the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace elimination at Yonkers Raceway July 8, the only Grand Circuit event Robinson staked him to. Last year, Robinson was the underbidder on Summer Side, winner of the 2016 Sheppard Pace, and thought his colt could pursue a similar path. “I followed that horse a little bit and saw what he did, so I figured this was a good spot,” he explained. “He’s only got some Pennsylvania Sire Stakes after this, so he’ll end the year with seven or eight starts, which is probably a good thing. It works out good that the horse isn’t going to be over-raced this year.” Racing out of Rob Harmon’s barn, Kwik Talkin sparkled in his Sheppard elimination. After racing parked through an opening quarter of :27.4, Kwik Talkin cleared the lead, but was soon met with the challenge of Phat Blue Chip. Forced to yield, Kwik Talkin rated in the pocket until finding clear racing room a furlong from the finish. Angled three-wide by driver Jordan Stratton, Kwik Talkin charged down the center of the track with dead-aim on rival Springsteen. With minimal encouragement, Kwik Talkin streaked past his competition to score by a length in 1:54.4, the fastest of the three Sheppard eliminations by more than two seconds. His final quarter of :27.1 was the fastest on the 12-race card. “I felt there was a lot more under the hood. A lot of horses ship from Rideau Carlton to other tracks and will go faster because it’s not the fastest track,” Robinson reasoned. “I was kind of surprised after watching the other divisions that they could go that fast. I thought that was impressive.” Although Kwik Talkin is the 2-1 morning line favorite for Saturday’s $110,500 Sheppard Pace Final, it won’t be a walkover as he will start from post seven. Trump Nation and Persist Blue Chip, winners of their eliminations last week, drew posts two and eight respectively. Springsteen, Damion Diesel Hahn, Phat Blue Chip, Real Rayenbow, and Hora Star complete the field. “I’m just hoping he does well,” Robinson said. “I’ve done good for other people, but this is like the first one that I’m doing good for myself, so it’s a little bit more special. My partners went last week and my wife and I are going this week. It will be our first trip there, so hopefully he’ll be good.” First post time Saturday at Yonkers is 7:10 p.m. EST. For entries for the card, click here. by Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Thursday, July 13, 2017 -- Persist Blue Chip may have impressed his harness racing connections last week, but the gods of the open draw openly mocked him. One of three winners of their respective $25,000 elimination races, Persist Blue Chip was 'rewarded' with a trip behind Yonkers Raceway's eight-ball for Saturday night's (July 15th) $110,500 final of the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace. Yonkers' premier open stakes event for 2-year-old pacing colts and colts goes as the sixth race (approx. post time 9 PM) during the dozen-race card. First post is the usual 7:10 PM. The eight-hole getaway probably means a come-from-behind try from Persist Blue Chip, not a new experience. In his maiden-breaking (1:58.3) elim, he was last among the six-pack early before rallying up the cones to defeat Damian Diesel Hahn by a head. The son of Roll with Joe, a $57,000 Harrisburg purchase, goes out for co-owners (as Burke Racing)/trainer Ron Burke, Weaver Bruscemi, James Martin and William Switala. "I thought I could leave (in the elimination), but there was a lot of inside speed," driver George Brennan said. "He came home well, a good back half (sitting sixth, nine lengths from the lead) and that's what's going have to happen again in the final. "Chris (Ryder, owner/trainer of Springsteen) and Rob's (Harmon, trainer of Kwik Talkin') horses are both very talented and raced very well (finished 1-2 in the fastest elim). You play hand you're dealt. "He's a nice colt and Ronnie (Burke) said he's does everything right, so we just have to see how it develops." ...and continue Persist-ing. The Sheppard, which began in 1964 (a split stake for any number of years and unraced from 2004-11), once again honors the founder of Hanover Show Farms. The field for the finale, with drivers and early odds...1-Springsteen (Jason Bartlett, 3-1), 2-Trump Nation (Eric Goodell, 4-1) 3-Damion Diesel Hahn (Ray Schnittker, 20-1), 4-Phat Blue Chip (Brent Holland, 8-1), 5-Real Rayenbow (Chuck Connor Jr., 15-1) 6-Hora Star (Greg Merton, 12-1), 7-Kwik Talkin' (Jordan Stratton, 2-1), 8-Persist Blue Chip (George Brennan, 6-1). Trump Nation (first-start 1:57.1) and Kwik Talkin' (life-best 1:54.4) were last week's other elimination winners. Frank Drucker

YONKERS, NY, Monday, July 10, 2017--Yonkers Raceway's $110,500 final of the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace for harness racing 2-year-old colts and geldings goes Saturday night (July 15th), with an annual six-figure look at the stars of tomorrow. The Sheppard is carded as the sixth race (approximate post time 9 PM) of the dozen-race dossier, with the usual first post of 7:10 PM. The open draw came out in favor of Springsteen (Jason Bartlett, post 1), a solid second in last week's fastest (of three) $25,000 elimination races. Chris Ryder owns, trains (and last week drove) the son of Rock N Roll Heaven, an $18,000 Lexington purchase. The open draw did not come out in favor of Ottawa import Kwik Talkin' (Jordan Stratton, post 7), who defeated Springsteen by a length a week ago in that zippy 1:54.4 elim. The Well Said colt, trained by Rob Harmon for Canadian co-owners Robert Robinson, Jacqueline Dinelle and Scott & Lisa Henry, is 3-for-3 after that life-best work here last Saturday night. Trump Nation (Eric Goodell, post 2) and Persist Blue Chip (George Brennan, post 8) won last week's other elims in maiden-breaking miles of 1:57.1 and 1:58.3, respectively, both from off the pace. The remainder of the finale field includes Damion Diesel Hahn (Ray Schnittker, post 3), Phat Blue Chip (Bartlett also listed, post 4), Real Rayenbow (Bartlett listed again, post 5) and Hora Star (Brennan also listed, post 6) Program changes for the Sheppard, named for the founder of Hanover Shoe Farms, shall be made Tuesday night (July 11th). The evening before the Sheppard (that would be Friday, July 14th), the Raceway hosts the $170,499 New York Sire Stakes Art Watson Pace for 3-year-old fillies. Frank Drucker

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, July 8, 2017-Yonkers Raceway's premier open event for 2-year-olds colts and geldings, the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace, offered a trio of $25,000 elimination races Saturday night (July 8th). The first and third elims were prim and proper, but the middle one was dynamite. Ottawa invader Kwik Talkin' (Jordan Stratton, $3.40) proved he was kwik walkin' as well. From post position No. 2, he prevailed in a mile with much movement, whipping a stubborn Springsteen (Chris Ryder) by a length in a snappy 1:54.4. 'Phat' was third, beaten 4½ lengths. Those two, plus pole-sitting Phat Blue Chip (Jason Bartlett), mixed it up two- and three-wide through intervals of :27.4, 57.4 and 1:27.1. It was Springsteen getting first 'run,' ripping out of a three-hole and leading into the lane. He could not stall the winner, now 3-for-3 in his career after cutting his teeth at Rideau Carleton. For Kwik Talkin', an $18,000 (Harrisburg) son of Well Said trained by Rob Harmon for Ontario co-owners Robert Robinson, Jacqueline Dinelle and Scott & Lisa Henry, the mile was a life-best effort. The exact paid $17.20, with the triple returning $31.80. "Nice horse," Stratton said. "Hopefully, we draw well in the final." Harmon offered a bit more insight. "The owners called and asked if I'd take the horse," he said. "I didn't know anything about him. I trained him here (Yonkers) last Friday in 1:58 and he was getting around the track well. I just added a line pole outside, since he's sort of green and doesn't know a whole lot." Another example of why ignorance is bliss. Those three frosh are to be joined in next week's $110,500 finale of the Sheppard by the other elimination winners-maiden-breakers Persist Blue Chip (George Brennan, $10.20) in 1:58.3 and Trump Nation (catch-driver Eric Goodell, $23.40) in 1:57.1-as well as second-place finishers Damion Diesel Hahn (Ray Schnitttker) and Hora Star (Brennan) and Real Rayenbow (Jason Bartlett). Real Rayenbow cut the mile as the 13-10 fave in the final elim before fading to third. Persist Blue Chip ($57,000 Harrisburg) is a Roll with Joe colt, while Trump Nation, a son of Betterthancheddar, did not sell at auction. The Sheppard is, of course, named for the man behind breeding behemoth Hanover Shoe Farms. The open draw takes place Monday afternoon (July 10th), Saturday night's pair of $55,000 Open Handicaps were annexed (big word) by... --(Pace) Somewhere in L A (Bartlett, $4.70) in 1:51, matching fastest local mile of season; --(Trot) Homicide Hunter (Brian Sears, $10) in 1:55.4. Special Saturday props to Brennan for his five-win night, including the first four races during the dozen-race card. New York Sire Stakes hit town for the first time this season Monday night, with the $169,500 Hugh Grant Pace for 3-year-old colts and geldings. by Frank Druker, for Yonkers Raceway

My first Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace as Yonkers Raceway’s new, wet-behind-the-ears PR man in 1981 was a memorable one for many reasons. For one, it was my fledgling harness racing press conference, held outdoors in what was known back then as the Empire Terrace Gardens. The amazing Herve Filion, who recently passed away, was ultimately the winner with Icarus Lobell, flying high to a length and a quarter win. And most memorable is that on that day, I met the immortal Art Rooney, the Pittsburgh Steelers founder and Rooney family patriarch. After the presser, “The Chief” walked the facility with our great staff photographer Mike Cipriani and yours truly, sharing cigars with the maintenance workers, electricians, and many staffers, while talking football and racing. Pinch yourself kid, it’s real. And so the Sheppard just upon mention of the race itself evokes fond memories.   This year’s renewal is worth, and the stakes for two-year-old colts and geldings kicks of the stakes-laden summer calendar at Yonkers  on Saturday night, July 15, with three $25,000 elimination races to be contested this Saturday night, July 8, to decide the eight finalists.   The first two finishers in each elimination and the two fastest third-place finishers will return for the finale.   The Sheppard is named for the man behind breeding behemoth Hanover Shoe Farms, and the three eliminations are slated as races four, five and six on the card.   A number of precocious freshman will battle it out in the elimination heats.   In the second division Wild Bill, with trainer Ray Schnittker driving from post five, won his debut in a sizzling 1:53.1 in Pennsylvania All Stars event (Pocono) this past Sunday night. The son of Somebeachsomewhere looks to his give his trainer/driver a second consecutive Sheppard victory, having won last year’s edition with Summer Side.   Ray Schnittker won last year’s Sheppard behind Summer Side, drives Wild Bill and Lucky Leonard in Saturday’s elimination races Invading from Ottawa is Kwik Talkin’, steered by “Air” Jordan Stratton from post two. The son of Well Said who is unbeaten in two career outings.   “Air” Jordan, pictured steering Fast Eddie, drives fast Kwik Talkin’ in Sheppard elim Another pair of winners headline the third elim, with Paprike Blue Chip, guided by Corey Callahan from post one, and Lucky Leonard (Schnittker, post seven). Paprike, a Roll with Joe gelding, won a Pocono overnight in 1:54.2, while “Leonard” —another son of Well Said —captured a Pennsylvania All Star event in 1:55.1.   Brett Miller, who won last year’s Messenger Stakes with Racing Hill, guides America’s Guest in Sheppard In the first division, America’s Guest, with Brett Miller in the sulky from post three, is the quickest of the freshman entered in the Sheppard, raced-timed in 1:53 in his purse debut at The Meadowlands.   Saturday night’s 12-race card has a first post of 7:10 pm.   By John Cirillo

YONKERS, N.Y. - “We try to zig when everybody else is zagging,” VIP Stable’s Ed O’Connor said as he reflected on the partnership’s unconventional path to success with Keystone Velocity. Purchased for a hefty price as an 8-year-old who had missed years on the harness racing track, the 2017 George Morton Levy Series winner captured the Ben Franklin Pace last Saturday (July 1) at Pocono Downs. When VIP Stable starts a pair of 2-year-olds in Saturday’s Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace Eliminations at Yonkers Raceway, it will put its zig-zagging tactics to the test again. Phat Blue Chip and Paprike Blue Chip cost just $9,000 and $7,000 at auction last year, respectively, but are already proving to be valuable additions to VIP’s roster. Trained and co-owned by Tom Fanning, Phat Blue Chip was the first yearling sold at public auction in North America last year and will make his debut in one of the first open stakes race for 2-year-olds this season when he starts against the pylons in the second of three Sheppard Eliminations. “Tom liked him and he bought him for himself and approached us after the fact. We bought in. At the price he was, he fit a lot of the things that we look for,” O’Connor explained. “We buy well-bred horses, but we don’t buy six-figure type horses. They individually look the part, they look nice.” A gelding by American Ideal, Phat Blue Chip is the second foal out of the Camluck mare Warm Waffles and will be the first to race. Although he isn’t flashy, Phat Blue Chip does his work and has shown some promise. “He always showed ability, but was never one that Tom was talking about as being a superstar. There’s no indication yet that he’s going to be, but he does well,” O’Connor said. “He’s shown some ability and he looks like he might be worth the money we paid for him.” In his first qualifier June 19, Phat Blue Chip raced near the back of the field before finishing with a :27.3 final quarter. He returned June 27 at Harrah’s Philadelphia and starting from post eight, cleared the lead before sitting the pocket. Posting a :29.3 final panel, Phat Blue Chip ranged up to win by 3/4 of a length in 1:56.0. “We’ve got our fingers crossed. So far so good. He’s never had a problem, he trained well down the whole way,” O’Connor explained. “He qualified kind of easy the first time and came home really nicely. He won his next qualifier and it looks like he might be a nice one.” While Phat Blue Chip is a 3-1 chance in his $25,000 trial, trailing the 7/5 morning line choice Kwik Hanover, a winner in both of his two pari-mutuel starts thus far at Rideau Carlton, Paprike Blue Chip is the 2-1 favorite in his split, set to go as race six on the 12-race program. Paprike Blue Chip hammered down at the Goshen Sale just 10 horses after Phat Blue Chip. Trainer John Butenschoen found the son of Roll With Joe, a half to then 17-time winner Buddha Blue Chip and New York Excelsior Series winner Oh Sugar. “My partner Tom (Janes) was there with him, so we were kind of in from the ground floor on this one,” O’Connor said. “Paprike Blue Chip really fit the M.O. for the stuff we end up buying with John. He’s a Roll With Joe, who’s a good commercial sire. We look at the individual and John does a fabulous job picking out ones that just look nice.” While Phat Blue Chip doesn’t attract attention in the mornings, Paprike Blue Chip makes his presence known. “He’s been a little flashier the whole time,” O’Connor said. “He has always looked like he’s going to do ok. Paprike Blue Chip has been toward the better ones in John’s barn the whole time and we had some pretty big expectations for him for the last couple months.” Those expectations came closer to fruition when Paprike Blue Chip made his debut June 27 at Pocono Downs. Fresh off a third place finish to $450,000 buy Pro Beach in a June 17 qualifier at The Meadowlands where he was beaten just 1 1/2 lengths and posted a final quarter of :26.1, Paprike Blue Chip tracked winging leader Real Rayenbow before settling in the pocket up the backstretch. On the final turn, Paprike Blue Chip edged to the outside, glided to the lead, and bested the pacesetter by 1 3/4 lengths to stop the clock in 1:54.2. “John goes down to Florida every year with 35 or 45. They train three, four, five at a time. They’re used to passing, they’re used to sitting in holes. I can’t say enough good stuff about how he gets them ready,” O’Connor praised. “This is a good example of him having the horse ready to do what he needed to do from day one.” Like Phat Blue Chip, Paprike Blue Chip will start from post one in his Sheppard Elimination. To return for next week’s $110,500 final, the freshman must finish first or second in their eliminations or be among the fastest two third place finishers. “There’s no telling how good the rest of the fields are. They look like talented bunches in there,” O’Connor observed. “We’re just hoping we can get a clean trip and try to come away with some money. If we get lucky, maybe one or both of them proceed onto next week, but starting from the rail is a huge advantage.” First post time Saturday at Yonkers is 7:10 p.m. For entries for Saturday’s races, click here. by Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Monday, July 3, 2017 - Yonkers Raceway's premier freshmenfest, the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace, attracted 20 plebes for the harness racing 2017 edition. Thus, there are a trio of, $25,000 elimination races this Saturday night (July 8th), with the first two finishers in each-plus the two fastest third-place finishers-returning for the $110,500 finale a week from Saturday night. The Sheppard, named for the man behind breeding behemoth Hanover Shoe Farms, has its three elims going as races 4,5 and 6. Quite a few of these first-season gentlemen have already shown promise. The second division includes Wild Bill (Ray Schnittker, 5), a winner at first asking (1:53.1) in Pennsylvania All Stars event (Pocono) this past Sunday night. The son of Somebeachsomewhere looks to his give his trainer/driver a second consecutive (Summer Side) Sheppard victory. Down from Ottawa is Kwik Talkin' (Jordan Stratton, post 2), a Well Said colt who is 2-for-2 to begin his career. Another set of winners landed in the third elim, with Paprike Blue Chip (Corey Callahan, post 1) and Lucky Leonard (Schnittker, post 7). The former, a Roll with Joe gelding, won a Pocono overnight in 1:54.2, while the latter-a Well Said colt-won a PA All Star event in 1:55.1. The first division finds America's Guest (Brett Miller, post 3), raced-timed in 1:53 in his purse debut across the river. Saturday night's dozen-race dossier (post time 7:10 PM) also includes the requisite $55,000 Open Handicaps, with Luck Be Withyou (Brian Sears) and Awsome Valley (Jason Bartlett) in their respective eight-hole for the Pace (8th race) and Trot (9th race). For the full fields click here. Frank Drucker

YONKERS, NY, Thursday, March 30, 2017 - Nominations for Yonkers Raceway's Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace for harness racing 2-year-old colts and geldings close this coming Saturday (Apr. 1), with a however... ...and that however is since deadline day occurs during the weekend, nominations may be postmarked up to Monday (Apr. 3). The $100,000 (est.) race is scheduled for Saturday night, July 15th, with eliminations (is necessary) set for the previous Saturday (July 8th). The form is available here. For more information, please contact the race office at (914) 457-2627.   Frank Drucker

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, July 16, 2016-"I've had success with his family, and he was cheap." Such was the pre-race assessment of one Ray Schnittker Saturday night in advance of Yonkers Raceway's $100,00 Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace for 2-year-old colts and geldings. Schnittker and favored Summer Side ($4.30) kept their heads while others around them were losing theirs, winning by 3¼ widening lengths in 1:55.3. The $15,000 (Harrisburg) son of Well Said was put in play early from post position No. 6. He had company, including pole-sitting Southwind Diablo (George Brennan, and eight-holer Hurrikane Kingkong (Dan Dube), which forced a spiffy :27.1 opening quarter-mile. "Diablo," steppy behind the gate, was the first to do the dance of damned, before the quarter. Summer Side inherited the lead before yielding to Hurrikane Kingkong, parked into the second turn for the privilege. Nearing the 57-second intermission, Humboldt (Mark MacDonald), coupled with Southwind Diablo, also broke. He bothered a few of the back-of-the-bussers, as "Kingkong" led toward the payoff lap. Then out of fourth moved Chip Walther (Jason Bartlett), doing so with purpose. He took over at the 1:25.4 three-quarters, opening daylight in the final turn, until... ...oops. He blew up badly. That allowed Summer Side the chance to extricate himself from the cones, and he opened from there. Hurrikane Kingkong held second, with Rollin' About (Brent Holland) crossing the line third. However, after a lengthy look, he was set down for bothering fourth-place finisher Joe's Bid (Jordan Stratton) down the backside the second time, so those two positions were reversed. Pinkribbon Warrior (Tyler Buter) earned the final pay envelope, seventh-placed-fifth after all the misdeeds were adjudicated. For Summer Side, co-owned (with Howard Taylor) and trained by his driver, it was a maiden win in his third start. The exacta paid $29.20, with the triple returning $235.50. "I wanted to leave and sit a hole," Schnittker said. "I did, then Jason (Bartlett, Chip Walther) came about a hundred miles an hour and went by, and I thought I was in big trouble. "Things worked out, for us, not him." Schnittker, whose other Sheppard win was back in 1995 (Bingo Hanover), admitted he was prepared to move this one. "I had him in a '2-year-old in training sale' with a reserve of $80,000, but there were no takers." Now, he's out for the purchase price, and then some. The race honors the man behind the tremendous success of Hanover Shoe Farms Saturday night's pair of $45,000 Open Handicaps were won by... --Trot-Shake it Cerry (Dube, $18.40) in 1:54.2; --Pace-Doctor Butch (Holland, $8.80) in 1:50.2. Stakes action continues Monday night with the $150,425 New York Sire Stakes Clyde Hirt Pace (2-year-old fillies). Monday's Pick 5 begins with a carryover of $2,541.81 (50-cent base wager, races 7 through 11). by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, NY, Wednesday, July 13, 2016--Yonkers Raceway's weekend finds another visits from the statebreds and a glimpse--perhaps--at the stars of the future. Friday night's $167,874 New York Sire Stakes Art Watson Pace showcases the 3-year-old fillies in a pair of divisions, going as races 6 and 11. The opener, worth $83,937, offers up a three-headed, Ron Burke-trained monster in Dime a Dance (Matt Kakaley, post 2), Mother of Art (Joe Bongiorno, post 3) and Art Critic (George Brennan, post 8). Dime a Dance, a Roll with Joe lass, was third in the $100,000 Lismore Pace here in late May. Seafood Linda (Brian Sears, post 1), with a pair of Excelsior wins, and Soft Idea (Jason Bartlett, post 6), a sire stakes winner at Monticello, loom as main adversaries. Friday's second NYSS events includes Time on My Hands (Bartlett, post 4), thrice a winner in six seasonal starts. The daughter of American Ideal makes her first purse try In 23 days and her first money start since adding Lasix. American Ivy (Andy Miller, post 6) also makes her first 'real' start in the time frame and she tries for a third sire stakes win of the season. Saturday night's $100,000 Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace, the Raceway's premier open event for frosh colts and geldings, goes as the sixth race. If the lads knew what they sold for, Humboldt (Mark MacDonald, post 3) might have an attitude problem. The $130,000 (as I'm Really Special) American Ideal colt cost more than the rest of his rivals put together. Humboldt makes his parimutuel debut for owner Brixton Medical and trainer Jimmy Takter. He's partnered in the wagering with Southwind Diablo (Brennan, post 1). Summer Side (Ray Schnittker, post 6) was a solid second in a PA Sire Stake event, while Chip Walther (Bartlett, post 5) won a Landmark event at Goshen. The latter is coupled with Rollin' About (Brent Holland, post 2). Note that the Empire Terrace dining room is open Saturday night, featuring a limited a la carte menu, with seatings available from 6 PM-9:30 PM. Reservations (914-457-2457) are suggested. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers RacewayNYSS

This Week: Meadowlands Pace, Hambletonian Maturity, W.R. Haughton Memorial, Mistletoe Shalee, Stanley Dancer Memorial, Delvin Miller Memorial, Golden Girls and Miss Versatility, Meadowlands Racetrack, East Rutherford, N.J.; and Lawrence B. Sheppard Memorial, Yonkers Raceway, Yonkers, N.Y. Schedule of events: The stakes heavy Saturday (July 16) Grand Circuit card at the Meadowlands features the $732,050 Meadowlands Pace for 3-year-olds, the $471,800 W.R. Haughton Memorial for free for all pacers, the $471,200 Hambletonian Maturity for 4-year-old trotters, two divisions in the $306,500 Stanley Dancer Memorial for 3-year-old male trotters, the $223,150 Golden Girls for older pacing mares, two divisions in the $193,000 Delvin Miller Memorial for 3-year-old filly trotters, the $157,400 Mistletoe Shalee for 3-year-old filly pacers, and a $40,000 leg of the Miss Versatility for older trotting mares. Saturday Grand Circuit action also includes the $100,000 Lawrence B. Sheppard for 2-year-old colt pacers at Yonkers Raceway. Complete entries for the races are available at this link. Last time: Wiggle It Jiggleit got back on track at the Meadowlands Saturday (July 9), as one week after finishing third in the Ben Franklin, he shrugged off heavy rain and a sloppy track to record a sensational half-length win over rival Freaky Feet Pete in the $250,000 Graduate Series final for 4-year-old pacers. The winning time of 1:47.2 was a lifetime best for the defending Horse of the Year. Rock N' Roll World was third. One week after finishing third behind Always B Miki (as a 5-year-old, ineligible for the Graduate) and Freaky Feet Pete, Wiggle It Jiggleit was away well from post three. Freaky Feet Pete also left quickly and while parked had the lead at the quarter in :25.3. With Wiggle It Jiggleit right behind him, Freaky Feet Pete hit the half in :53.1 and three-quarters in 1:20.4 and appeared to get a bit of separation as they turned for home. But then driver Montrell Teague hit the gas pedal, and once again, Wiggle It Jiggleit, who returned $3.00 to win as the 1-2 favorite, had more than enough fuel left in the tank, edging clear in the final sixteenth to record his 32nd win in 40 lifetime starts for trainer Clyde Francis and owners George Teague Jr. Inc. and Teague Racing Partnership. In the $250,000 Graduate Series final for 4-year-old trotters, John Campbell gave Musical Rhythm a perfect steer from post 10, and after yielding the top before three-quarters, came back for more in deep stretch to storm home a convincing two length winner in 1:51.2. Musical Rhythm left quickly and was parked in second as Crazshana hit the quarter in :27.4. Musical Rhythm took over shortly thereafter, trotting past the half in :55.4. Wings Of Royalty, who got off the rail at the three-eighths and provided live cover for even-money favorite Maestro Blue Chip, ranged up to get the top at three-quarters in 1:23.2 as Campbell handled his charge with care through the far turn. Through the stretch, Maestro Blue Chip did not fire, and nearing the wire, Campbell swung Musical Rhythm out of the pocket and exploded home in the final sixteenth to record the win in 1:51.2, a lifetime best. Centurion ATM, a 30-1 longshot, finished second, with Crazshana third. Maestro Blue Chip faded to sixth. Musical Rhythm returned $12.20 to win as the third betting choice for owners Santo and Nunzio Vena, Claude Hamel and (trainer) Ben Baillargeon, and has now won 12 of 14 starts this year. Complete recaps of the weekend races are available at the Grand Circuit website. Grand Circuit Standings: In 2016, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farm is the sponsor for the 2016 Grand Circuit awards. Here are the current leaders: Drivers: 1. Yannick Gingras - 224; 2. Jordan Stratton - 221.5; 3. David Miller - 220; 4. Tim Tetrick - 216; 5. Matt Kakaley - 175. Trainers: 1. Ron Burke - 340; 2. Jimmy Takter - 208; 3. Jeff Bamond Jr. - 175; 4. Peter Tritton - 139.5; 5. Clyde Francis - 127.5. Owners: 1. Harry von Knoblauch - 139.5; 2. Bamond Racing - 117; 3. Burke Racing Stable - 85.9; 4. Weaver Bruscemi - 69.9; 5. Courant A B - 65. Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will be taking place next weekend at Saratoga, Vernon Downs, The Meadows and The Meadowlands. Saratoga will have the Joe Gerrity for older pacers; Vernon features the Zweig Memorial for 3-year-old colt trotters and the Zweig Filly for 3-year-old filly trotters; The Meadows will have eliminations for the Adios for 3-year-old colt pacers; and The Meadowlands will host the first leg of the Kindergarten Series for 2-year-old colt and filly pacers and trotters. by Paul Ramlow, for the Grand Circuit  

YONKERS, NY, Sunday, July 10, 2016--Yonkers Raceway's upcoming week finds New York Sire Stakes times two, then 2-year-olds. Monday night, the $166,374 Armand Palatucci Pace for 3-year-old colts and geldings. A pair of consecutive divisions, worth $82,437 and $83,937, respectively, comprise the event. Missile J (Tim Tetrick, post 4), already with the Art Rooney Pace here included in his 7-for-12 seasonal resume ($270,934), leads the second NYSS event. When last seen locally for sire late month, the American Ideal gelding found himself way too far back before closing for a non-threatening third. Linda Toscano who trains Missile J for co-owning stables KJ and Purple Haze, also sends out the uncoupled Carlos Danger (Pat Lachance, post 5). The son of American Ideal and Anthony Weiner nom de plume broke his maiden in his 16th career start, winning here (1:55) a week ago. Monday night's first NYSS grouping includes Artmagic (George Brennam post 2) and Roll Away Joe (Jim Morrill Jr., post 7), both of whom statebred winners the other time road show stopped by. Thursday night's $163,374 Michael Sorentino Trot finds two divisions of soph colts and geldings Dayson (Yannick Gingras, post 1), despite jumping it off in the half-million-dollar final of Pocono's Beal, looms a very short price in the $80,937 opening division. The Conway Hall gelding makes his first purse try with straps looking for a 12th win in his 16th career start. Dante (Ake Svanstedt, post 1), fresh off a win in the Vernon's Empire Breeders Classic (though 25 days between that start and this one), figures a puny parimutuel in the second ($82,437) sire stakes event. The son of Credit Winner has won three of his five seasonal starts ($207,245). Saturday night, the Raceway's marquee open event for frosh pacing colts and geldings in the $100,000 Lawrence B. Sheppard. No elims were needed this past Saturday as only eight entered. The Sheppard, honoring the man behind the tremendous success of Hanover Shoe Farms, is to be drawn Tuesday morning. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway  

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