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ROCHESTER — After a decade without it, some form of harness racing may be coming back to the Rochester Fair in the near future. Newly hired Rochester Events Manager Vicky Poland announced Thursday morning during a special business roundtable meeting that the Rochester Fair’s leadership is exploring the possibility of adding amateur harness demonstrations into the mix as they work to retool the struggling fair into a small, more traditional community event. “Certainly, it will be nothing like it was in the past,” said Poland, referring to the old 10-day fairs that featured horse racing attendees could bet on each day. “This will be more a chance for people to come into that area and watch that kind of event.” The Rochester Agricultural and Mechanical Association, the nonprofit group of stockholders that owns the fair and fairgrounds, canceled the 2017 Rochester Fair due to declining revenue and debts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. This year’s event would have been the 142nd Rochester Fair. In recent months, RAMA has made a number of changes that have allowed it to be confident in announcing that the Rochester Fair will return as a smaller, four-day agricultural fair from Sept. 13-16, 2018. Those strides include a reorganization of its board of directors, the hiring of Poland to bring additional events and revenue to the Lafayette Street fairgrounds, and a restructuring of the property’s $383,944 mortgage, which is held by Holy Rosary Credit Union. Numerous RAMA stockholders and longtime fair patrons have expressed feelings this year that the spirit of the old Rochester Fair changed when harness horse racing ceased in 2008. Fair officials have said they ended the once-popular program because it had been losing money for a number of years, in the process preventing RAMA from making key infrastructure repairs and improvements that will now be necessary to turn the fairgrounds into a more viable, year-round events venue. Should harness horse demonstrations occur at the 2018 fair, Poland said they would be held in the grandstand area. During recent Rochester Fairs, that space had been used primarily for a demolition derby. Poland said RAMA is attempting to hold “some kind of car derby” on one day of the 2018 fair, and is also exploring the possibility of having snowmobile grass drag racing. Thursday’s business roundtable was a joint meeting of the Rochester Economic Development Commission and the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce’s Business Advisory Board. Poland, a veteran of the local fair and event management circuit, was the featured and only speaker. In addition to disclosing details about horse events for the first time, Poland also outlined a number of events that are in the works for the fairgrounds over the next year. Those events include a cross-country snowmobile race, the return of the World’s Largest Yard Sale, car rallies in both April and October, a car swap in May, and a number of winter events, such as a winter carnival, sledding or sleigh rides to take advantage of the fact that Rochester stores its plowed snow on the fairgrounds property. Poland also reiterated the emphasis that will be placed on securing local vendors for the 2018 Rochester Fair and giving community groups the opportunity to be front and center in the festivities. She also announced that RAMA recently contracted with Cushing Amusements, of Wilmington, Massachusetts, to operate 20 or so rides in the fair’s carnival area. Previously, Fiesta Shows provided the carnival rides. Poland has said rides at the 2018 fair will be located near the back of the property and, unlike past years, won’t be the immediate focus as attendees walk through the main gate. Several of the 15 or so individuals in attendance at Thursday’s meeting said they came away impressed by RAMA’s new approach, mindset and vision for what the fair and fairgrounds could be in the coming months and years. One man described Poland’s remarks as “refreshing.” City Councilor Sandra Keans, a newly appointed interim member of RAMA’s board, said she thinks, based on Poland’s comments, that the Rochester Fair “might actually come back and be a successful event in the community. By Kyle Stucker Reprinted with permission of fosters.com site

Sunday, July 06, 2014 (Scarborough, Maine) - Maine Sire Stakes action returned to Scarborough Downs on Sunday (7/6) with the 3-year-old colt pacers taking center stage, racing three splits for purses in excess of $10,000 per dash. Trainer James Smallwood's roster came to the forefront on Sunday securing top honors in two of the tree divisions. Drama King (Dan Deslandes) mounted a convincing rally to overcome the unexpected early speed of Dansan Clyde before having to dig down deep to withstand the persistent late charge of Whip Chaser. The win marked the third consecutive trip down victory lane for the son of B Dramatic, who is owned by James Smallwood of Windsor, Maine. The mile was timed in a lifetime best of 2:00 flat. Whip Chaser (John Nason) was second; Dansan Clyde (Kevin Switzer, Jr.) faded to third. Alittlebitcountry doubled the pleasure of owner/trainer Smallwood, taking a speedy new lifetime mark of 1:58.4, erasing nearly 5 seconds from his previous best, with driver David Ingraham calling the shots. The son of Ashlee's Big Guy, like his stable mate, rallied smartly to secure his first stakes win of the season, out-dueling David The Saint (Mark Athearn) in the stretch to just get up at the wire. David The Saint was second; With Cracked Ice (Wallace Watson) rallying for the show. Blackmalin (Greg Bowden) took victory in the third division, reclaiming the form that made him a seven-time winner last season. The son of Shady Character led the field twice around the oval to secure his first sophomore score. Owned in tandem by Florence O'Keefe and Dean Malin, the gelding was never seriously threatened during the mile as he glided to an easy three-length margin, timed in 1:58.2, the fastest stakes split of the afternoon. Scarborough Downs was pleased to welcome the 3-year-old trotting divisions of the Maine Sire Stakes program as they relocated to the Seaside Oval after their divisions were rained out at Bangor Raceway on Friday (7/4). Three divisions were carded on a non-wagering basis, with Kate At The Gate (Gary Mosher) claiming victory in the filly division, timed in 2:01.3. The daughter of Current Cast is owned by the East Pond Stable of Waterville, Maine. The colts split out into two divisions with CCC (Kim Ireland), a daughter of Musclini, claiming victory timed in 2:03.2 as she was cheered on by owners Dennis and Deborah Foss of Rye, New Hampshire. Bickmore claimed victory in the second colt division as he made his very first start under the tutelage of driver/trainer Ivan Davies. The son of Noble Venture, owned by Stephen Hall of Newport, Maine, took a brand new lifetime mark of 2:02.1. In other news: Driver Drew Campbell continued to hold the hottest hand, scoring five wins on Sunday's program as he followed up on his grand-slam performance on Saturday. Live racing returns to Scarborough Downs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of next week at 4:30 pm and Sunday at 1:05 pm. By Michael Sweeney

Cam's Card Shark, one of the leading stallions of his generation, has just been retired from stud duty, but hopes are high in Ohio that one of his greatest progeny can carry on his dynamic legacy in the breeding shed. Shark Gesture, whose earnings in excess of $2.8 million are the most of the more than 1,700 racehorses that Cam's Card Shark sired and one of the fastest with a speed mark of 1:48.1s, will be represented by a crop of two-year-olds this season. Abby Stables in Sugarcreek, Ohio, is standing the big, dark brown stallion.  "Shark Gesture is the total package," Abby Stables' Teresa Maddox told Harness Racing Update."   Shark Gesture developed into a horse for the ages. A $110,000 yearling purchase by Norm Smiley, Shark Gesture raced from two to four, posting some impressive victories.  He was retired to the breeding shed due to an injury and stood as a stallion in Ontario for the 2008 season. Later that year, when the injury had fully healed and he trained excellently, Shark Gesture returned to the races and started three times. But it was as a six- and seven-year-old that he excelled, earning over $1.8 million. He beat some of the best aged pacers, including the likes of Foiled Again, Mister Big, Art Official, Boulder Creek, Artistic Fella, Shadow Play and Won The West 12 times, including by more than 10 lengths in the Hoosier Cup.  Maddox said because Shark Gesture disappeared from the breeding scene for three years people may be confused about his history.  "He really hasn't gotten a fair shake as a stallion," Maddox said. "If you go back and look at some of his races, he was phenomenal. He's well-mannered, he's intelligent and was a bear on the racetrack. It's just a breath of fresh air to have him in Ohio. We welcomed him with open arms." Shark Gesture can be seen in action on his page at www.abbystables.com . His web page comes complete with race footage, photos, pedigree, articles and both a downloadable and digital breeding contract.  "There is no reason because he had 44 foals that raced from his first and only crop as a stallion, standing in Ontario and bred to mostly Ontario-bred mares, that people should have forgotten about him because he went back to the races," said Smiley. "He is still a good horse.  This year he has two-year-olds that are training and I've got good reports on them. Trainer Fred Grant has a colt by Shark Gesture out of Boca Babe.  Fred owns the dam and owns a piece of the colt and said, 'he's very good-gaited, very sound, very willing and has lots of speed. I just love him.'" Trainer David Miller, currently training a two-year-old Shark Gesture filly named Hex, described her as a "big, strong, great-gaited, intelligent filly who is showing excellent speed." Another trainer, Jenny Melander, has a nice sturdy black filly named When Sharks Fly and echoed Miller's comments about Shark Gesture's offspring. "His foals are big and sturdy, with heart, speed, intelligence and strength," she said.   Shark Gesture is truly an anomaly. How many horses return to the races two years after retiring and earn almost twice as much, facing battled-hardened competitors? In total, he posted 31 sub-1:50 miles, 16 of those 1:49 or better and four of those sub-1:49. As a 2-year-old, he won the Bluegrass Stakes (recording a freshman mark of 1:51.3), the Simpson Stakes and an elimination of the Breeders Crown.  At three, he won the Breeders Crown, the Tattersalls Pace (with a sophomore speed mark of 1:49.1), the Bluegrass Stakes, the Simpson Stakes and the Progress Pace. In an abbreviated four-year-old season, he won the New Hampshire Sweepstakes. In his return to the races, he won the William R. Haughton Memorial two years in a row, the Canadian Pacing Derby Final (with a lifetime mark of 1:48.1), the Graduate Series twice, the Dan Patch Invitational Pace and the Bettor's Delight. He broke track records at Tioga Downs and Hoosier Park and tied the track record when he won the Canadian Pacing Derby. "He's won all the big races, beat all the good horses," Maddox said. "He beat Foiled Again (the top aged pacer last year) more than once. He beat Won The West. He's beat them all at one point or another. His owners believed in him so much, they told us the story (of why he retired and then returned to the races) and it was just a no-brainer for us." 2010 Graduate Final William R. Haughton Memorial Smiley recalled why he bought Shark Gesture. Even though he was big and growthy, Smiley liked him, viewing him six times. "There are certain horses you go to the auction and put a price on and you go to that price or a few bucks more," Smiley said. "With him I said I was buying him, period."  Smiley subsequently offered shares to his brother, Gerald, and Thomas and Louis Pantone. Typical of a Cam's Card Shark offspring, Shark Gesture grew into his body from two to three. He stood about 17 hands high and had a long stride. Early in Shark Gesture's two-year-old season, he won the Bluegrass in 1:51 3/5, but he was still developing and growing. As a three-year-old, he did some amazing things, none more so than winning the Breeders Crown only a week after he fell down in a mishap in his elimination race for the final. He finished third and was moved up to second, but Norm Smiley and trainer Erv Miller feared the colt might not survive the accident. Once the bike and equipment were removed, Shark Gesture stood up and walked off as if nothing had happened, although he did have some cuts and abrasions. Driver Brian Sears, Miller, Smiley and the horse's vet shook their heads in disbelief. "If that's not a tough horse, I don't know what is," Smiley said.   A week later, he won the Breeders Crown with George Brennan, who would become his principle driver, steering him in what was a clean trip, racing on or near the pace. "Nobody knew that horse like Georgie," Smiley said.  "George was tremendous with that horse from the first time he drove him." Shark Gesture raced only eight times in an abbreviated four-year-old season and was retired, his notable victory in the New Hampshire. Some of the notable offspring from the 32 starters from his first crop as a sire include stakes winner Piston Broke, 1:49.2s ($291,131) and Best Ears, 1:49.4f, ($188,483). After Shark Gesture recovered from his injury and trained solidly, Norm Smiley made the decision to bring the horse back to the races. It would prove to be a shrewd decision. In 2009 at the age of six, Shark Gesture came into his own, racing 29 times and winning seven, including the Haughton Memorial and Canadian Pacing Derby and topping all pacers with more than $900,000 in earnings. At age seven, he raced 12 times and winning seven, notably the Graduate, Bettors Delight, Dan Patch (by a whopping 10½ lengths), and repeating in the Haughton.  He finished second by a length in the Franklin. He was retired at the end of the season.  "He was just amazing," Norm Smiley said. "This horse never got the respect he deserved. He was a tremendous racehorse." By Perry Lefko, for Harness Racing Update

Marlborough's well known for being a hotbed for apple & shoe production. Many are unaware that Marlborough was once a mecca for harness racing. Here's a segment from WMCT-TV's award winning program "The Magazine" on this topic.

Roland (T-Joe) Joseph St. Pierre, 66, of Rochester, N.H., died Jan. 27, 2011, in South Carolina. Born March 18, 1944, in Berwick, Maine, he was the son of the late Joseph and Albertine (Fillion) St. Pierre.

Thomas Dillon, of Anson, Maine, who owns dozens of harness racing standardbreds, many with his son, Scott, sold two prized assets this month.

The Western New England Harness Horsemen's Association is reaching out to anybody that has a vested interest in the future of harness racing in New Hampshire. They are seeking owners, trainers, drivers and others who would like to see live racing return to Rockingham Park.

The Western New England Harness Horsemen's Association and Rockingham Park came to terms today (Wed. July 14)on a contract that will assist the horsemen's group in its effort to bring about a return of live harness racing and pursue an expanded gambling bill that would benefit the state of New Hampshire, Rockingham Park and call for the preservation of open lands through live racing.

A bill, that if passed into law in New Hampshire would allow as many as 17,000 slot machines and table games at the state's three racetracks (Thouroughbred and Harness) and one upstate resort, passed the State's upper house, 14-10, on Wednesday.

Harness racing suffered another blow after Rockingham Park in Salem, N.H. announced there would be no live harness meeting in 2010. The biggest losers in this scenario are the horsemen and women, many of which came from all parts of the country to race at the summer setting provided by one of America's oldest racing plants.

Rockingham Park, the home of thoroughbred and harness racing in the State of New Hampshire for the past 104 years, will not host a live horse racing meeting in 2010, the Salem landmark announced today (Wednesday March 10).

Harness racing returns to Plainridge Racecourse on Monday, August 31, after being inactive during the summer so has not to conflict with Rockingham Park's meet which closed yesterday (Sunday).The agreement not to run against one another was reached late last year with the hopes all parties would benefit.

Rockingham Park wrapped up the 103-year-old track's 2009 live harness racing meeting on Sunday with overall gains in handle as Earlivic rallied from far off the pace to score the biggest upset in the history of the Joseph Carney Memorial Trot.

Scorpion Moon will try to become the first back-to-back harness racing winner of the $30,000 Joseph Carney Memorial Trot as Rockingham Park wraps up the 2009 live harness meet on Sunday, but Slim Down and five other tough trotters also have designs on the trophy.

Harness racing horsemen Todd O'Dea and Walter Ross, JR. were honored in a winner's circle ceremony at Rockingham Park on Friday for their help in saving the life of a fellow horseman who suffered a serious heart attack last month during the afternoon of racing.

Drew Campbell posted an outstanding effort on Wednesday at Rockingham Park as the harness racing driver visited the winner's circle with horses he drove on four occasions.

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