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YONKERS, NY, Saturday, January 12, 2019 - Fresh off a five-win performance the previous evening, harness racing driver Jason Bartlett's Saturday night (Jan. 12th) saw him take down both of Yonkers Raceway's co-featured $44,000 Opens. Bartlett did it with a pair of fours. Bellows Binge ($19.40)-from post position No. 4-closed from third-over in the weekly featured pace, snapping Christen Me N (Matt Kakaley) at the wire in 1:54. Bettor's Fire N (Ron Cushing) grabbed third as the 62-1 rank outsider in a race that set up for the come-from-behind set when polester Run Oneover N (George Brennan) took no early prisoners. He stuffed 3-2 favorite Air Strike (Brent Holland) and Sicily (Jim Marohn Jr.) in behind, paying a :25.3 price for the privilege. After a :56.3 intermission, Sicily was out and moving again, engaging Run Oneover N in and out of a 1:24.4 three-quarters. Rune Oneover N was about to wear out his welcome early in the lane as Christen Me N moved from second-over. He made the lead late, but could not stall Bellow Binge. The latter whipped the former by a scant nose, while Aston Hill Dave (Tyler Buter) and Sicily chased home Bettor's Fire N for the minors For fifth choice Bellow's Binge, a now-5-year-old Bettor's Delight gelding owned and trained by Richard Banca, it was his first start in the Open/Open Handicap. The exacta paid $56.50, the triple returned $5,271 and the superfecta paid $14,357 (base $2 payout). Bellow's Binge outside number 4 (Chris Brokate Photo) Bartlett and pocket-sitting fave Andy Ray ($4)-from post No. 4--stalked Smalltownthrowdown (Dan Dube) throws intervals of :27.4, 57.3 and 1:26.2, then eased past by a length in 1:55.4. Third went to closing Mostinterestingman (Troy Beyer), with Royal Bachelor (Marohn Jr.), with Thisguysonfire (Jordan Stratton) settling for the remainder. For Andy Ray, a now-7-year-old Crazed gelding owned by Yinson Quezada and trained by Anette Lorentzon, his career cash went up and over a half-million dollars. The exacta paid $22.60, the triple returned $73.50 and the superfecta paid $426. Andy Ray (Chris Brokate Photo) Props also to millionaires Melady's Monet and Great Vintage, the trotter and pace who put up career wins No. 53 and 48, respectively, during the Saturday card. Frank Drucker

YONKERS, N.Y. – When harness racing trainer Wayne Givens entered his star pacer Sicily in the Sam McKee Memorial on the Hambletonian Day undercard, he felt the horse had earned a chance to perform on the big stage. The Art Major son out of the Western Ideal mare Capri Hanover ran up a score of Open wins in Delaware in the year leading up to the $260,000 stakes on August 4 and he even posted a mark of 1:48.2 at Dover Downs December 21, 2017.  However, Sicily was unable to showcase his prowess when he lined up behind the gate at the Meadowlands. Sicily raced at the back of the pack throughout the 1 ¼-mile route and finished last of 12 beaten 49 lengths. Although Sicily was a 72-1 outsider, Givens knew the lack of effort was uncharacteristic of his hard-trying horse. The trainer quickly discovered the horse was suffering from a heart condition. “He had AFib, his heart got out of rhythm,” Givens said. “I’ve only had that ever happen to me two or three times. When their heart gets out of rhythm, they just can’t perform. Oh yes, it is (scary) because you don’t know whether they’re going to recover or not.” After the initial fright, Sicily made a full recovery and Givens hopes he’ll soon be able to take on Grand Circuit competition again. This time, Givens has his sights set on the George Morton Levy Series at Yonkers Raceway.  Givens purchased Sicily out of the 2015 Harrisburg Mixed Sale for $39,000 for owners Legacy Racing and Reginald Hazzard II. The gelding showed promise, having competed in the Breeders Crown at 2 and Empire Breeders Classic at 3, but had not yet become a winner at the Open level. “Most of the time when I go to a sale and buy a horse, I pay a good healthy price and I just hope they stay that good and competitive,” Givens said. “But yeah, (Sicily) turned out to be a lot better. So far, anyway. The classes he was in, he looked competitive and I was just trying to buy a racehorse.” Now 7 years old, Sicily has amassed 23 wins from 109 starts and earned $482,554. However, Givens has never raced Sicily at Yonkers and the gelding went 0-for-5 locally for his prior connections, Ron Burke and Nik Drennan. Before Givens nominates his standout to the track’s signature event for older pacers, he will test the waters in the weekly pacing feature, the $44,000 Open Pace. “I want to see how he goes. I kind of want to put him in that series, the Levy. If he gets around that track, then we’ll plan on racing in that series,” Givens said. Sicily drew post seven Saturday night (January 12) in his first start at Yonkers since November 2015. He is the only horse with recency, as he finished second in the Open at Dover Downs January 3 while each of his seven rivals have been off at least four weeks. Jim Marohn, Jr. will take the place of regular Delaware driver Victor Kirby. “I’m just going to make sure he can get around. He’s a good horse and I just want to make sure he can get around those turns at Yonkers,” Givens said. “He’s a nice horse to drive. He doesn’t have anything about him, you want to stick with the same driver all the time, but (Marohn) will do a good job with him I’m sure.” Sicily’s rivals include 3-1 early favorite Christen Me, who finished second or third in three straight Open Handicaps before Yonkers closed for the holidays. Matt Kakaley will drive the 11-year-old from post two. Air Strike graduated from the 3- and 4-Year-Old Open with the changing of the calendar and drew post five for his first try in the pacing feature. Run Oneover is 9-2 from the pylons off a front-stepping score in a $30,000 overnight Closing Day. Aston Hill Dave, Bellow’s Binge, Quick Asa Trick, and Bettor’s Fire complete the lineup. Although Sicily tends to show speed off the gate – he blasted to the front from post eight in :26.3 last time out – Givens will leave that decision to Marohn.  “He gets behind the gate, he can look across and see how much speed looks like is going to leave inside,” Givens said. “It’s something you can’t really plan on before the race. I probably don’t have to tell him because he can look at the program and see that he leaves good.” Saturday night’s card also features a $44,000 Open Handicap Trot. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.  By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

Feeling lucky? At Empire City Casino you can try your hand at hitting the jackpot on the gaming floor or by picking a winning horse at the historic Yonkers Raceway. Located less than two miles from the Bronx, the casino complex boast more than 5,000 slot machines and hosts live harness racing a night, five nights a week, year round. Every race night nearly 100 horses from around the Tri-State area travel to the historic track to carry on the century old racing tradition.  Founded in 1899 as the Empire City Track by William H. Clark’s Empire City Trotting Club, the half-mile dirt track at the Raceway was built for standardbred harness racing, a practice that continues to this day. Untapped Cities Insiders were recently treated to an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of Yonkers Raceway where Insiders got to visit the paddock, watch races from the Driver’s Lounge and stand in the winner’s circle as well as learn about the history of the track and some tips and tricks on how to bet. Check out ten secrets of Yonkers Raceway that we learned on the tour: 1. Champion Horses Have Raced There Champion Horse Seabiscuit, Image via Wikimedia Commons, Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation Throughout its long history, over one million horses have raced at Yonkers Raceway. Though originally built for harness-racing, thoroughbred racing was brought to the track in 1907 by the second owner James Butler and continued until 1943. During that time some of the most legendary thoroughbreds made history on the track including the infamous Seabiscuit. Seabiscuit was a champion thoroughbred racehorse who became the American Horse of the Year in 1938 after he beat Triple-Crown winner War Admiral (who also raced at Yonkers) by four lengths in a special race at Pimlico. He was the top winning racehorse of the 1940s and set a new record at Yonkers Raceway when he won the Scarsdale Handicap in 1936. In 2012, vice president of Empire City at Yonkers Raceway Bob Galterio told Wag Magazine that “Seabiscuit won more stake races at Yonkers’ Empire City then at any other racetrack.” Thoroughbred racing ended at the Raceway when harness racing was reintroduced in 1943.   2. Drivers, Not Jockeys, Ride the Horses Driver Jordan Stratton talks with Untapped Cities Insiders in the paddock before a race Unlike in thoroughbred horse racing where jockeys need to meet specific height and weight requirements, harness racing drivers do not have the such restrictions. Drivers, also unlike jockeys, are not restricted to riding one horse. Drivers are assigned by the horses’ trainers and owners and can be assigned to multiple horses throughout the night. If a driver is assigned to two different horses during the same race, he gets to decide which one he will ride. When Untapped Cities Insiders visited Yonkers Raceway on a behind-the-scenes tour, we got to chat with driver Jordan Stratton who that night was racing 10 different horses! The drivers are also allowed to wear their own colors no matter which horse they are racing with, whereas in Thoroughbred racing the driver wears the owner’s colors. Drivers’ suits hanging in the locker room 3. The Cart is Called a Sulky A sulky is the two-wheeled, lightweight cart attached to the horse that drivers ride in. Though sulky is the technical term, most people just call it a race bike. The horses wear different types of sulkies when warming up versus racing. When warming up, the horses are usually taken out by trainers and not the drivers, so the warm up cart has a pouch for the trainers to rest their feet in. During the race, drivers keep their feet up on the sides of the cart so there is no pouch. You may also notice the straps around the horse’s legs. In harness racing, the horses must keep an even gait, or trot, and are not allowed to break into a gallop. The straps help to maintain this stride and prevent the horses from galloping. 4. You Can Spread Ashes on the Track Die-hard racing fans can actually become part of the racetrack at Yonkers Raceway. In very specific circumstances, fans are allowed to scatter ashes on the gravel track. Of course, anyone who wished to do so must obtain permission from the track first. Since Yonkers Raceway is one of the oldest and most historic tracks in the country, it is easy to understand why someone would have this final wish. 5. Races are Simulcast All Over the World You don’t have to be at Yonkers Raceway to place a bet on your favorite horse. In fact, you don’t even have to be in the United States. The races at Yonkers Raceway are simulcast worldwide including in countries like France and Australia. If you do find yourself at the Yonkers Raceway and want to place a bet on a race say at the Meadowlands or some other track that isn’t Yonkers, you can do that in the simulcast room. There you can take your pick of races to watch and bet on. Old school rules apply in this area, where you leave your stuff is your spot for the day. 6. The Judge Closes Betting with a Bell Sitting high above the track in a small room atop the grandstand the presiding judge has an amazing view of the entire track. George, who was officiating the races during our visit, said he can also see Manhattan from the judge’s box on a clear night. The judge has many responsibilities throughout and after the race, but before it even starts he has to close the betting. This is done by pushing a doorbell-like button on top of his desk. Once that button is pressed no more bets can be made either in-person with a clerk, online, or through an electronic kiosk. The judge is surrounded by monitors with replay capabilities and multiple camera angles of the track so he can keep an eye on everything that is going on and re-watch certain moments of the race if needed. In the room next door to the judge is the photo-finish room and there was a photo-finish while we were visiting the box! When that happens, the judge examines the photo and determines the winner. If there is a nose-to-nose-tie it is called a “dead heat” and the horses split the purse, or prize. The judge is also responsible for drawing the horses’ post positions, or where they start on the track. These positions are assigned randomly, as the inside is most advantageous spot. The judge also makes sure all of the horses have a driver. 7. Celebrities Used to Frequent the Racetrack Nancy Reagan and Frank Sinatra at Yonkers Raceway. Photograph Courtesy of Yonkers Raceway During the heyday of the track in the 1970s Yonkers Raceway saw a record average daily attendance of 25,800 people! Many of those were big names you would probably still recognize today. Yonkers Raceway has been frequented by the likes of celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and Ed Sullivan, famous athletes like Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Jack Dempsey and even presidents including Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. This noteworthy clientele could often be found at the Empire Terrace Restaurant where each table had a screen to watch the races and great views of the track out of the floor-to-ceiling windows. 8.  How to Pick a Winner and Place a Bet If you are looking for a more reliable way to pick a winner other than just going with your favorite horse name (which is common practice for the uninitiated) there are a few tips we learned on our tour. While watching the horses warm up, if you see one that looks promising, take note of the number and color of its saddle cloth. The color denotes the race number and the numeral denotes the post position, or where it will start the race. If a horse is wearing a blue saddle cloth with the number three for example, that means it will be the number three horse in the second race. Lower numbers usually have better odds of winning as they are always on the inner part of the track. Eight horses per race run at Yonkers. If you don’t have the order of the colors memorized, they are on the track, at the bottom of the simulcast screen and noted in the race day program. This is another helpful tool in helping you place your bets. The program will show you information on every horse including their odds of winning and past performances. Insiders got a special shout out in the program on the day of our tour! When it comes time to place a wager, you first need to figure out what type of bet you are making. The minimum bet is $2 and you can bet on a horse to win, place or show. If you bet for a horse to win, it has to come in first. If you bet on a horse to place, it has to come in first or second. If you bet on a horse to show, it must come in first, second or third in order for you to win some money. If you are shooting for higher payouts, you can make the bet more specific by betting an exacta, trifecta or superfecta. For an exacta, you pick two horses and specify which one will finish first and which will finish second. In a trifecta wager, you pick the first three, and in a superfecta you pick the first four. You can also “box” these bets which means the order won’t matter as long as the two, three, or four horses you chose all show. Watch out for how much you want to spend on that bet though, because boxing basically means you are making two, three or four separate wagers. If you are going up to a teller to place your bet, be ready to say it in this order: the race number, bet amount, type of bet, and number of the horse. For more helpful tips, the raceway website has a guide to horse racing for beginners. 9. The Horses Run Different Directions for Warm-Ups and Races When horses are warming up on the track they run clockwise and when they are racing they run counter-clockwise. This is the case with every horse racing track in America, however it is reversed in some other countries. There is no clear reason for the different directions, but one person at the track suggested it is so that the horses know when they should be going fast for a race and when to take it easy. 10. Races Start from a Moving Gate Attached to the Starter Car And they’re off! While most thoroughbred races start at a gate with horses stationary in pens, in harness-racing the horses are already moving when they get to the starting line. Horses are lined up in their positions and start to trot or pace behind a starter car that has motorized gates which fold up at the starting line. On our tour of Yonkers Raceway one lucky guests got to actually ride in the starter car and experience this amazing view:     Bonus: Horses are Drug Tested Just like human athletes, horses are drug tested to check for performance enhancing substances. After every race the winning horse must take a urine test which is conducted in the paddock. Drivers can be subjected to random drug tests as well. There is always a vet on staff at the races to take care of any physical issues the horses may have. The paddock is where horses and drivers wait and prepare for their races. Untapped Cities Insiders got to go inside on our special access tour.    Check out some more pictures from our tour below and become an Untapped Cities Insider to join us for our next night at the races this spring, and to take part in free behind-the-scenes tours and special events all over New York City year round!       By Nicole Saraniero Reprinted with permission of The Untapped Cities dot com site

YONKERS, NY, Wednesday, January 2, 2019 Yonkers Raceway's 2019 racing season begins this Monday night (Jan. 7th), with a dozen races at the usual first post of 6:50 PM. The Raceway's 234-program docket offers a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday schedule (nearly exclusively at 6:50 PM), with the seasonal schedule accompanying this release. As always, all dates are pending approval of the New York State Gaming Commission. A reminder that the next two days have morning draws... --Thursday, Jan. 3rd (draw for Tuesday, Jan. 8th)-- --Friday, Jan. 4th (draw for the Thursday, Jan. 10th)--. The entry box closes each day at 9 AM. The usual afternoon box closing/draw schedule returns Monday (Jan. 7th), with a double draw for Friday and Saturday (Jan. 11th and 12th). A current condition sheet is available at www.empirecitycasino.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/conditionsheet.pdf For more information, please contact the race office at (914) 457-2627.   Frank Drucker  

2019 was a very good year for Michael Merton, the 47-year-old Monticello native earned his first ever Leading Dash winner title at his hometown track Monticello Raceway with 267 wins, former Monticello Raceway dash winner Bruce Aldrich Jr. finished 2nd with 235 wins, followed by the young Austin Siegelman with 228 trips to the winner circle. The Monticello native was reared in the backstretch of Monticello Raceway as a youngster and is no stranger to the Catskill Mountain oval. Merton hit the road hard this summer as he also won the leading dash driver at Tioga Downs with 82 wins. Between Monticello Raceway and Tioga Downs, Merton amassed over $1,440,971 in purses and 349 wins. Merton's combined season tally of 382 ranks him 16th in the nation for wins Bob Lounsbury earning his 4th overall leading trainer title at Monticello Raceway with 93 wins, Gary Messenger was second with 80 wins. Bob Lounsbury also won the leading training award in 2013, 2014 & 2015. He also ranked nationally, in 2013 and 2015 he was the % leading trainer in North America for trainers having over 500 starts. The Bob Lounsbury Stable earned over $305,797 in 330 starts, an average of $926 per start for the 2018 season at Monticello Raceway.   Shawn Wiles  

Decades ago the great PR guru John Manzi came up with the idea of conducting a race for 14-year-old equines for their last start of their harness racing career. This unique niche event has been duplicated many times over the years by many tracks. Monticello Raceway Race Secretary Eric Warner is searching for 14-year-old pacers to participate in an Invitational Pace on Monday December 31 for a purse of $5000, check the Condition sheet for more details. Anyone interested should contact the Racing Office at 845 794 4100 ext. 557 or ewarner@empireresorts.com By: Shawn Wiles

Cash Me Out (Cash Hall) overcame post position eight to prevail on Sunday afternoon in the final harness racing feature of the season at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The $16,050 Winners Over for trotters was the feature on the matinee card and the Kyle Spagnola-trained Cash Me Out was one of a few participants that were dropping out of the Open Trot. Driver Phil Fluet forwardly placed the classy seven year old trotter who wound up mid-pack in the early going before moving first over on the race's favorite Wings Of Royalty (Shawn Gray). Cash Me Out grinded his way alongside the leader and those two did battle throughout the final half mile before Cash Me Out got the better of that rival to spring the mild upset at odds of 5-1. Wings Of Royalty was the runner-up while Karets (Bruce Aldrich Jr) earned the show spot. Cash Me Out's victory, that came in 1:57.2, was his sixth of the season to go with a dozen second-place finishes and eight thirds en route to over $142,000 in earnings. For his career, Cash Me Out has now compiled more than $975,000, inching ever closer to the million dollar mark. The feature winner paid $12.20 to win on Sunday and led an exacta and triple that returned $34.20 and $194, respectively. The 2018 racing season has come to an end at Saratoga with action set to resume in 2019 on Sunday February 17th. Mike Sardella

Miss Muscle (Muscle Mass) went coast to coast in her division of the harness racing co-featured trotting events on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel to complete a double for trainer-driver John Stark Jr. Stark's Miss Muscle lasted on the lead as her race's even money betting favorite on Thursday to score in 2:01.2 through a light snow in Saratoga Springs, NY. It was the sixth win on the season for the three year old filly. Jeter's Way (Muscles Yankee) also went wire-to-wire in an $11,000 division of the co-featured races for New York sired trotters. One of the nominees for Three Year Old Trotter of the Year at Saratoga this season, Jeter's Way had little difficulty recording his eighth victory in the 2018 campaign when he scored in 1:59.3, the fastest time among the winners of the matinee's co-features. While in someone limited starts, Stark enjoyed a strong '18 season led in large part by his group of young trotters some of which were on display on the Thursday card. Jeter's Way and Miss Muscle teamed up for fourteen victories this season. Phil Fluet's Lady Macbeth (Deweycheatumnhowe) prevailed in the other co-feature on the card, toughing out a first-over journey to win in 2:00.2. Live racing continues on Friday night as we head into closing weekend for the season at the Spa. First post time on Friday is set for 6:45pm. Mike Sardella

YONKERS, NY, Friday, December 7, 2018 - Tepid favorite Monica Gallagher (Jason Bartlett, $6.20) pounced from the pocket Friday night (Dec. 7th), winning Yonkers Raceway's harness racing $44,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace. Nose-to-gate from penultimate post position No. 7, Monica Gallagher left into a pocket behind Angel's Pride (Brent Holland). Her quarter-move attempt was rebuffed as Angel's Pride laid down early intervals of :27.1 and a flat 57 seconds. It was a :27.4 third quarter (1:24.4) to dispose of Keystone Wanda's uncovered bid from fourth, but 'Monica' was ready. She vacated the cones early, about to polish off much a better trip than the self-inflicted, horrid sojourn of a week ago. Monica Gallagher rolled by, widening to 2¾ lengths over Angel's Pride in 1:53.3. Pole-assigned Regil Elektra (Joe Bongiorno) was a three-hole third, with Delightfulmemphisn (Dan Dube) and Made of Jewels AS (Jordan Stratton) picking off the remainder. For Monica Gallagher, a 4-year-old daughter of Mach Three co-owned and D'Elegance Stable IX, Carmen Iannacone, T L P & Gandolfo Stables and trained by Richard Banca, it was her 10th win in 24 seasonal starts. The exacta paid $27.60, the triple returned $147.50 and the superfecta paid $794. YONKERS’ SATURDAY PICK 5 FEATURES $3,700 CARRYOVER, 15G GUARANTEE  A friendly reminder from Yonkers Raceway that Saturday evening’s (Dec. 8h) Pick 5 wager starts with a carryover of $3,735.44 and a $15,000 guaranteed pool. The guarantee is in conjunction with the U.S. Trotting Association’s Strategic Wagering Program. The Pick 5 is a 50-cent base wager comprising races 6 through 10 Saturday night. It has no consolation payoff, meaning if no one selects all five winners (as was the case Friday night), the entire pool (minus takeout) moves to the next racing program. Saturday’s Pick 5 program pages accompany this release. Frank Drucker

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. - The New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) hosted its Annual Awards Banquet December 2 at Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel, honoring the top horses, trainers, drivers, owners and breeders of the 2018 harness racing season. Awards were given to the 2 and 3-year old champions across the three racings series: the New York Sire Stakes, the Excelsior Series and the County Fair Series. This season's NYSS "Night of Champions" was held at the Yonkers Raceway on September 22. Taking home a combined $1.8 million in purses were champions Winndevie (Credit Winner-Vida De Vie), Gimpanzee (Chapter Seven-Steamy Windows), Money Shot Hanover (Art Major-Marinade Hanover), Reigning Deo (Rock N Roll Heaven-Little Miss K), Plunge Blue Chip (Muscle Mass-Dunk The Donato), Helpisontheway (Chapter Seven-Porque), Wisdom Tree (Betterthancheddar-Wisdom), and Rockapelo (Rock N Roll Heaven-Capelo Rose). The title of Leading Breeder went to Winbak Farm, Linda Toscano took home Leading Trainer and Jim Morrill Jr. was honored with Leading Driver of 2018. The 2019 Night of Champions' date was unveiled during the awards banquet. New York's richest night of racing will be held on Saturday, September 14, 2019 at Batavia Downs. The evening honored the NYSS Excelsior Champions, who took home $55,000 each at Saratoga Casino Hotel on September 23. The 2018 champions are Lifetime Credit (Credit Winner-Mariah De Vie), Labadee As (Conway Hall-Smith Hall), Heavens Challenge (Rock N Roll Heaven-Challenge Accepted), Cal (American Ideal-Hula's Z Tam), Michando (Muscle Mass-Haul'n Fanny), Nows The Moment (Credit Winner-Glide By), Special Kay Deo (American Ideal-Little Miss K), and Thor De Vie (So Surreal-Pebblebeach De Vie). The evening also celebrated the NYSS County Fair Champions, crowned at Monticello Raceway on September 6, following two months of racing at 20 county fairs across New York State. Each final carried a purse of $10,000, collected by Golden Gypsy (Ulay Boko-Uffra Girl), Hereyago (Muscle Mass-End of Innocence), Lily Hammer (So Surreal-Jens Underdog), Cal (Roll With Joe-Crystal De Vie), Good Luck Ginny (Lucky Chucky-Classical Ginny), Royal Bahama (RC Royalty - Becca J), Heaven's Diva (Rock N Roll Heaven-Village Bolero), and Super Roll (Roll With Joe-Calista). Joseph Chinado Sr. took home Leading Trainer, and his son, Joseph Chindano Jr. took home the title of Leading Driver of 2018. "It's always a special evening to be able to reflect on the past season and relive so many of the impressive moments from the New York Sire Stakes," said M. Kelly Young, executive director, Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund. "We want to thank Batavia Downs for their incredible hospitality and we look forward to being back here next fall for the 2019 Night of Champions." The USTA District 8 Champions recognized at the banquet included Winndevie, Thunder (Conway Hall-Cr Oh Suzanna), Brooklyn Lilacs (Rock N Roll Heaven-Sombodythatiustono), Hickfromfrenchlick (So Surreal-My Girl's A Star), Atlanta (Chapter Seven-Hemi Blue Chip), Perlucky (Lucky Chucky-Paper Girl), Alexis Faith (American Ideal-Cannae Cammie), and Trump Nation (Betterthancheddar-Late Flyin N). Atlanta took home the coveted title of Horse of the Year, while Toscano was named as Trainer of the Year, Morrill Jr. as Pari-Mutuel Driver of the Year and Chindano Jr. as County Fair Driver of The Year. The Bruce Hamilton Memorial Medal was awarded to longtime NYSS supporter and Standardbred owner, Kenneth Jacobs. The medal is presented annually by Harness Horse Breeders of New York State in recognition of outstanding contributions to harness horse racing and the improvement of breeding Standardbred horses in New York. About the Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund: The Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund (the Fund) is a public benefit corporation established in 1965 by the Laverne Law (Laws of New York, Chapter 567 of the Laws of 1965). The mission of the fund is to promote agriculture through the breeding of Standardbred horses and the conduct of equine research within the state. To carry out its legislative mission, the Fund administers the New York Sire Stakes races, Excelsior/State Fair Series races, and County Fair Races. Jason Politi | Baker Public Relations

Batavia, NY --- Another sloppy track greeted participants for Friday night's (Nov. 30) harness racing card but it was no impediment for Empire Earl N who double-moved to victory in the $11,500 Open handicap trot at Batavia Downs. Leaving from post four, Empire Earl N (Drew Monti) tucked second behind Crystal Sphere (Billy Davis Jr.) who led the field to the half in :59.1. At that station the outside train came with Labatt Hanover (Shawn McDonough) on the engine and post time favorite Lougazi (Ray Fisher Jr.) third-over in the caboose, As the group motored up the backside Fisher grew impatient and pulled Lougazi three-wide to try and sweep the field. But several steps into that move Lougazi made a break and the whole raced changed right there. Empire Earl N now had room to come off the pylons and Monti got him rolling around the last turn. After drawing next to Crystal Sphere, Empire Earl N continued right on by and under mild urging, opened up a length lead to win in 1:58.3. Now boasting $84,854 in earnings on the strength of nine wins this year, the 10-year-old Empire Earl N ($12.40) is having a career year for wins, earnings and mark for owner Kim Asher and trainer Riley Asher-Stalbaum. In the $8,800 Open II trot, Are You In (Kevin Cummings) turned a second-over trip past the half into a winning three-wide move at the top of the stretch where he passed Barn Winner (Ray Fisher Jr.) down the lane to win his fourth race of the year, timed in 2:00. Are You In ($5.40) is owned by Anthony Alessi and is trained by his driver, Kevin Cummings. Shawn McDonough had a huge driving triple on Friday, lighting up the board with two of the wins. He scored with Heza Swan ($60.00), Raylan Givens ($6.50) and Back To Motown ($26.80). With no winning ticket on the early Pick-5 on Friday, there is a carry-over of $570 and a guaranteed pool of $1,500 for the early Pick-5 on Saturday evening (Dec.1) when racing resumes at Batavia Downs. Post time for the first race at 6 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for Batavia Downs

JK Panache (Art Major) is once again a harness racing nominee for Pacer of the Year at Saratoga Casino Hotel and the ultra-consistent Dave Dewhurst trainee again showed why on Saturday night. A formidable threat in the Open Pace at the Spa for the last several years, JK Panache was the second-choice in the wagering when bet down to odds of 5-2 in Saturday's installment of the $20,000 Open. Driver Shawn Gray got the nine year old away well and sat patiently in the early going before springing JK Panache into action heading to the half. With longshot Yonkers invader Badix Hanover (Bruce Aldrich Jr) on the front end, JK Panache did what he always does. The classmaster attempted to grind the top one into submission while chipping away at the lead before putting him away in mid-stretch. JK Panache got up in time to prevail in 1:52.2 to record his fourth Open Pace win of the season and eighth victory overall. Though his last local Open win came in early May, JK Panache has been a regular runner-up in the Saturday feature and has recorded some victories in the Winners Over along the way as well. Badix Hanover was a strong second in his local debut on Saturday while Ourlittlegeneral A (Jordan Derue) followed the winner's cover to wind up finishing third. Paying $7.10 to win, JK Panache led an exacta and triple that came back $77.50 and $621, respectively. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga with first post time set for 12:15pm. Mike Sardella

It appears Lazarus can not only walk the walk but talk the talk. The Kiwi pacing hero faces one of the toughest challenges of his North American career when he starts from a daunting wide draw in the US$250,000 Dan Rooney Pace (one mile) at Yonkers, New York tomorrow morning (10am NZ time). On the tight Yonkers track Lazarus needs to get handy or more ideally lead inside the first 600m to give himself the best chance of a revenge victory over arch rival McWicked, who beat him in the second fastest race mile in history in Kentucky last week.  As was the case when he was trained in New Zealand, Lazarus has thrived on hard racing and is showing no signs of lightening off in condition, looking muscled and with a stunning summer sheen on his coat at trainer Jimmy Takter’s New Jersey property this week. “I think the hard racing has really brought him on,” says Takter. “He felt very good in his work on Wednesday and he will be hard to beat this Saturday even though he has a tough draw.” But Lazarus’s work on Takter’s straight sand track track on Wednesday wasn’t the only reason the Hall Of Fame trainer was smiling afterward. He was shaking his head in amazement at a story from Kentucky last Saturday relayed to him by fellow top trainer Ross Croghan. Croghan is the trainer of Lazarus’s former stablemate Heaven Rocks and the pair raced each other for the first time in the United States last Saturday. “Ross told me the most amazing story,” says Takter. “He said when Lazarus walked into the barn last week he stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Heaven Rocks, who apparently he used to travel with Down Under, and started yelling out to him. “It wasn’t a stallion thing because the other horse is a gelding but Lazarus started yelling at Heaven Rocks like he was an old friend and Heaven Rocks starts calling back to him. “It was like too old friends seeing each other and Ross said it was incredible to see and there was no doubt they were happy to see each other. “When I heard that story it made the hairs on my arms stand up. I know this horse is smart but they really are incredible animals.” Coming from a small-time trainer who spends all his time with the one horse that might sounds cooky, hearing it was Takter and Croghan is a magical equine moment. But Takter isn’t finished. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised because one of the first things I loved about this horse was he is always talking to the other horses. “When you are out there working him he is making noises at them, again not as a stallion but just cause he likes his job. The top horses always have charisma, he has a lot of it.” It is the same at Takter’s stables where Lazarus has become protective of the juvenile trotting filly he is stabled next too, not in an amorous way but as the big brother. “Any time we do anything with her he comes over to make sure she is all right and he gets really annoyed when we take her away. He misses her,” said Lazarus’s main handler Helen Engblom. It seems regardless of what happens at Yonkers tomorrow Lazarus is making a big impression in North America, on and off the track. Michael Guerin

Victorian trainer John Meade flew out to the USA on Sunday night thinking what could have been with his stable star Sparkling Success.  Meade was forced to withdraw Sparkling Success from next month’s US $1 million International Trot last Monday after scans confirmed the gelding had a hole in his suspensory. The couple decided to still make the trip to America without the horse after the months of planning and preparation that had gone into their once in a lifetime opportunity. “If the Yonkers track is what I think they are, I think they’ll look after us pretty well when we get to the track because I haven’t ripped anyone off,” John Meade said. “I did the right thing by Yonkers, it wasn’t my money I was spending going to America, it was someone else’s money. “You can’t rip someone off for $70,000 and not give them some miles, if the race had been next week we would have probably raced him but there was so much work he needed to do between now and the big race that it was only right to scratch him.” Sparkling Success is set to spend more than 12 months on the sideline recovering from the injury and Meade is looking forward to getting him back to the races. “The vet said the hole is contained within the suspensory, it hasn’t blown the side out of it. “He had platelet-rich plasma treatment last Thursday and I have had it done on my old horse Crescent Glory with great success but in saying that Sparkling Success is still going to need rehabilitation, six months in the paddock, then a bit of light work and then I just hope for the best.” The son of Great Success has suffered from leg injuries in the past but Meade confirmed this was a new injury. “It is definitely not the problem he had after winning the Vicbred as a 4-year-old, that was on the other leg. “His front feet stick out past his nose when he is trotting at top speed, the entire breed does it, and that puts immense pressure on the tendons and suspensory but do you want a horse that does that and can win races or have a slow horse that struggles to win.” Meade noticed there was some slight filling on the suspensory in the lead up to his last run in Australia and hoped it was nothing too serious. “I thought it might have been dermatitis he picked up from boot rub and I treated him for that and on the night of his last run when I put his shin boots on he felt really good and he raced really well. “When I got home after the race I treated his leg and the next morning it looked good and he wasn’t sore but I just had a gut feeling something wasn’t right so I asked the vet to scan his leg and that’s when we got the bad news.” Sparkling Success has won 17 of his 37 starts and earned $420,170 in his career. Greg Hayes

Ulster (Glidemaster) won his seventh Open Trot of the season on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel as the Amanda Facin trainee went coast-to-coast to spring the mild upset. Ulster marched out to the early lead in the $14,500 feature with regular reinsman Jay Randall at the controls. After going untested in a first half trotted in 57.1, Ulster had plenty left for the final lap. The race's 1-5 betting favorite and last week's Open winner were both uninvolved early and it cost them late as the speed held in the Open. Ulster wired the field in 1:54.3, the fastest of his seven Open scores this season. Longshot Judy The Beauty (Jimmy Devaux) sat the pocket and finished second while Charmed Life (Billy Dobson) came from last to finish third. Ulster, who was Randall's third winner of the day, paid $16.00 in Sunday's score and led an exacta and triple that came back a hefty $131.50 and $728, respectively. Live racing resumes on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga with a first post time set for 12:15pm.   Mike Sardella

Ulster (Glidemaster) has been the king of the Open Trot at Saratoga Casino Hotel this year. The Amanda Facin trainee established himself late last season as an Open threat and it was apparent early on in the 2018 harness racing campaign that he would be a force among the track's top trotters this year.  Ulster won the first Open Trot of the season at the Spa back in February and recorded three wins in the track's first four features for high-steppers this year. Though his last win in the Open came back in April, the veteran trotter had five Open wins to his credit in '18 when he went off as the odds-on betting favorite on Tuesday. Jay Randall is the regular pilot for Ulster and on Tuesday, the veteran reinsman powered the favorite out to the early lead in the $14,500 feature. The seven year old trotting star cruised through first half fractions of 28.1 and 57.4 before clicking off three quarters in 1:26.1. Under just mild Randall urging, Ulster drew away to win by three lengths in 1:55.1 for his sixth Open score of the season. Yonkers invader Madman Hall (Ray Schnittker) overcame a tough first-over journey to be second while Crazycat (Bruce Aldrich Jr) earned the show spot. With still a ton of racing left to be done in the 2018 campaign at the Spa, not only is Ulster the front-runner for Trotter of the Year but may well be a contender for Horse of the Year. Live racing continues on Wednesday night with a first post time of 7:05pm. Mike Sardella

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