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YONKERS, N.Y. – Although Delightful Memphis arrived in the United States less than two months ago, the Australian mare has already posted a pair of impressive miles for trainer Richard “Nifty” Norman. Friday (August 10), she’ll take her first shot in the Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace at Yonkers Raceway. Norman discovered Delightful Memphis while on a trip to Australia earlier this year. In the care of Mark Jones, the Bettor’s Delight mare had shown talent, winning two Group 3 stakes to begin her career and placing in another seven Group 1 or 2 stakes, including four runner-up finishes to the Purdon and Rasmussen star Spanish Armada. However, bleeding issues prevented Delightful Memphis from achieving her full potential in the Lasix-free jurisdiction. “I knew a lot about her. A friend of mine down there trained her and he told me about her,” Norman said. “I was down there on vacation over the New Year and he said she’d been bleeding a little bit and I thought she’d probably be better off up here. It was just a matter of getting it organized. She’s a good mare at home and she looks like she’s going to fit in pretty good around here too.” Delightful Memphis raced just a week before flying to the United States, finishing second in an overnight at Menangle. Despite the drastic change in seasons, she arrived in Norman’s stable fit and ready. “I think (the weather) is more drastic this time of year because they’re coming out of the winter into the summer and they’ve got their winter coat. It’s much more drastic this time of year,” Norman said. “This time of the year, with the weather, it’s probably best just to keep them racing well than try and lay them up. She had a pretty good winter coat, but we just clipped her up and she’s filled out real good and she’s a pretty nice mare. “They often get sick just because of the heat,” he continued. “So far so good, but you’ll see a lot of New Zealand and Australian horses getting stressed this time of year for that reason. So far so good, but I won’t be surprised if she does get a little sick at some stage.” Norman qualified Delightful Memphis July 14 at the Meadowlands. The 5-year-old September 28 foal got away in fifth and closed with a :27.1 final quarter to finish third in a 1:52 clocking. It was her first pari-mutuel start the following week however, that surprised Norman.  Delightful Memphis made her debut July 20 in a $17,500 overnight at the Swamp. She raced last of seven past the half 8 ¼ lengths behind leader Call Me Queen Bee. While the outer flow developed around the final turn, driver Brett Miller stayed inside, but laid flat in the sulky as his mare raged with pace.  Delightful Memphis tossed her head in behind horses, but as Miller found a seam along the pylons, he kicked out the plugs and let Delightful Memphis advance. Taking a few peeks at his left wheel in deep stretch, Miller ensured he didn’t go inside the pylons in the tight space and Delightful Memphis streaked past rival Monica Gallagher to finish third. She came home with a :25.1 final quarter and paced her mile in 1:51.2. “She was in good shape and she was good and fit and everything. She was nice and strong finishing, that was all I was looking for. I didn’t really want to go that quick. She was nice and handy doing it,” Norman said of the qualifier. “The bigger shock was when I raced her at the Meadowlands and she paced home in :25.1. That’s just ridiculous and Brett Miller said to me after, ‘I don’t think I’ve ever come home in :25.1 with a horse before and be that strong.’ She was dynamite.” Delightful Memphis won her last start at Harrah’s Philadelphia July 27, coming from off the pace to score by 1 ¼ lengths in 1:51.2. “She raced really good at Chester and had lots of pace finishing there too,” her trainer said. “That’s all I’m really looking for is just to get some good solid starts into her, get some foundation, and have her finishing up strong at the wire.” Delightful Memphis will make her first local start in Friday’s distaff feature. Dan Dube will drive in the $44,000 pace and the pair are a 6-1 morning line chance after being assigned post three. Caviart Cherie is a lukewarm 7-2 favorite off consecutive second place finishes in this class, but drew post seven. The field also features Made Of Jewels As, who won this feature July 27 and drew post six, and Rockstar Angel, who will make her third start on American soil for Chris Oakes. Vorst, Keystone Wanda, Change The Rulz, and Magic Forces complete the lineup. “She fit non-winners of $30,000; that’s where I entered her and it obviously didn’t fill, so they put her in there. It’s an open purse, I like that part,” Norman said. “I think she’ll be competitive. I think there’s another foreign mare in there that’s pretty good.” Although Norman knows Delightful Memphis can show speed – she has done so many times in Australia and New Zealand – he is content to continue racing her from behind at this stage of her stateside career as a protective measure. While this will be her first start on a half-mile track, he is confident Delightful Memphis will handle the turns. “I’ve seen her leave the gate good down home, I’ve seen her race on the front quite a bit,” he said. “She was bleeding a little bit down there, so I just didn’t want to put her in that situation where she’s on the front and getting run over or getting run down. We’ll try her like that for a little while and see how she handles it. “I think she’s really going to fit in good here in America,” he continued. “I think she could be a legitimate open mare. This will be her first time half-mile track. That will be a bit of a challenge maybe, but she seems to steer really good, so I don’t think it will be too bad. We train on a five-eighths, but she gets around it good.” First post time Friday is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.  by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – When Ed Gannon, Jr. picked up his French trotter Ubanji in June, the harness racing horse seemed unassuming enough. A nice-looking, well-built, long-bodied trotter, Ubanji made a good first impression on his new trainer. However, after spending a few days turned out at Gannon’s 60-acre farm, Ubanji made his first trip to the track and it became clear he would not be a straightforward horse. “We took him home on a Saturday, turned him out till Monday, we jogged him on Tuesday for the first time, not knowing what to expect,” Gannon said. “He was very aggressive on the track, very aggressive. I thought maybe it was because it was the first day, the horse had just shipped to the country, a lot going on, change of venue and maybe he just needed a couple days and he would settle down. It wasn’t to be. He got worse.” Later in that week, Ubanji was uncontrollable in his morning jog, running away with his driver. Gannon consulted with a few of the other trainers who received French horses and reflected on his own experience as a trainer. He formulated a plan to get Ubanji to settle. “This is what we have to work with, do the best we can,” he said. “The first week or two, it was a little disheartening because I had this horse you really couldn’t control.” Gannon tried making several equipment changes to make Ubanji more manageable. First, he put an overcheck on the gelding, but that made him worse. He tried different driving bits and lip cords, but Ubanji rejected them. Finally, Gannon found a bit that worked for the horse. Gannon then had to teach Ubanji to trot for speed instead of distance and to slow down after a mile or 10 furlongs. As Ubanji was accustomed to racing 2,700 meters or more in France, it was a learning experience for the 10-year-old. Unlike most standardbreds, who jog clockwise around the track and race counterclockwise, Gannon jogged Ubanji counterclockwise to teach the horse to settle. “I found over the years with mine, that if I jogged them the right way around the track, it teaches them that they don’t have to go fast all the time and it enables me to teach them control,” Gannon explained. “I’ve had very good luck with that. We’ve had some real doozeys that when you turn them the right way around the track, they would just go a thousand off the bat. Doing this, it teaches them not to feel like, ‘oh, I’m going this direction, it’s all out. “I was doing that for two weeks and then I started incorporating training in new speeds where I would go a half-mile, then speed him up for a half-mile, then slow him down,” Gannon continued. “Then I could start working with him that way and within two weeks, we had him where we had control of him.” With Gannon able to control the trotter, he then turned to fitness. Ubanji had raced only three times in 2018 before shipping across the Atlantic, the most recent of which came at Laval April 26. Gannon incorporated training miles into the son of Jag de Bellouet’s routine and brought him to the training track at Harrington Raceway for a test; Ubanji had been training on a private farm with only six other horses on the track at a given time. Gannon needed to see how the trotter would handle more traffic and noise. “I actually started carrying a watch, because I didn’t know what shape he was in only having three starts all year. That was another thing, trying to figure out what kind of condition was the horse actually in,” Gannon said. “We got him to where I thought he was in shape enough to go to the track. We took him to Harrington and I trained him on the back track because I wanted to see how he was going to be with a lot more horses and see how he handled. He wasn’t too bad. I trained him in 2:02 at Harrington on the back track and he was very controllable, and he was better. I was very surprised.” Ubanji qualified with Andrew McCarthy in the sulky at Harrah’s Philadelphia July 17. He went straight to the lead and finished second, trotting his mile in 1:55.3 with a :29.3 final quarter. His connections were pleased. “Andrew McCarthy drove him in the qualifier and I didn’t know what to expect with the gate,” Gannon said. “Andrew is a good driver and he said, ‘let’s put him right on the gate and see what happens. If he’s snaky or squirrely, I’ll go from there,’ and he did a great job with him.” Ubanji made his par-mutuel debut eight days later in an $11,000 overnight at Harrah’s. Racing with Lasix for the first time, the gelding again went to the top and this time, he stayed there. He posted a 1 ¼-length win in 1:55.1 for new owner Frank Canzone. The victory improved his record to 10 wins from 102 starts with another 12 seconds and 10 thirds. He boasts earnings of $326,196. “I put him on Lasix after the qualifier because we scoped him and it showed that he was bleeding. We thought with the addition of Lasix, maybe that would help calm him down a little bit more and maybe help with the bleeding issues,” Gannon explained. “It was a perfect race for him. He was very comfortable in the mile. Andrew was happy with him, he seemed better to drive that week than in the qualifier. He said he actually drove really good. That was a lot of positives and to win was an even greater positive.” Ubanji drew post two for driver Mark MacDonald in the first division of the French American Trotting Club Sunday afternoon at Yonkers. He’ll face nine rivals in the $35,000 split, including Bioness, who drew the rail off a 1:54.3 score at Pocono last out, Deo, who won his local debut July 2 before making a break in his most recent start, and Alpha d’Urzy, who is 3-for-3 in the U.S. for trainer Rene Allard. Barry Black, Uhlan Noir, Boss du Fosse, Adagio de la Tour, Aigle de la Vallee, and Bolide de Buit complete the lineup. “It would just be nice to be up near the front,” Gannon said. “I think my horse, if he gets around the first turn without any difficulty because everyone is going to be jockeying for position, I think after that he’ll drive fine and I think he’ll be competitive. It’s a tough division; of the two divisions, it’s definitely the best one. “I’m excited, a little nervous not knowing what to expect, but I’m excited at the same time,” he continued. “It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. I think the first week is definitely going to be the toughest because no one knows what to expect from the other horses.” Sunday’s card also features a $54,800 Open Handicap Trot in the first race and another division of the French American Trotting Club in race three. First post time for the all-trot card is 12:30 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. The second and third legs of the French American Trotting Club series will be held August 19 and 26, respectively and the $100,000 final is set for September 2. For more information, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Deo already has one win under his belt since arriving in the United States as part of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York’s French American Trotting Club. Sunday afternoon, the trotter will seek a second local score for trainer Scott Di Domenico ahead of the series first leg August 5. Deo announced his presence with a victory in a $13,000 overnight for non-winners of two races lifetime July 20. With George Brennan in the sulky, Deo came away evenly from the gate and settled into sixth racing 10 lengths off the lead. Brennan angled the son of Repeat Love off the pylons with five-eighths to trot and picked up the race’s 4-5 favorite Grammy Winner.  With the whip on his tail and with his nose to the helmet of Grammy Winner’s driver Tyler Buter, Deo advanced to just 3 lengths from the lead with a quarter-mile to race. Brennan tipped three-wide around the final turn and with the lines in his lap and Deo under a hold, the trotter breezed by his rivals. In the final strides, Deo extended, streaking away from the field to win by 3 ¼ lengths in 1:57.3. “I was really happy with him. I liked the fact that he raced from off the pace, closed good and was wide off the turn,” Di Domenico said. “He did everything very professionally to say the least. I’ve been happy with him right along from the day we qualified him. He left the gate good and to see a horse in his first start in this country, first start over the half win from off the pace, it was impressive. We’re pretty well tickled with him.” The French American Trotting Club intrigued Di Domenico from its announcement this spring. It didn’t take much convincing for the trainer, who is second in the local standings with 98 victories and $1.69 million earned this year, to take the plunge. “Any time that there’s something new at Yonkers or a series of some sort, I always try to be a part of it,” he said. “Yonkers is my home track and when this was mentioned, I spoke with Alex (Dadoyan) and Joe (Faraldo) and I certainly was pretty eager to be involved in it. Thankfully to the process, how everything shook out getting the horses, the guys going over there to look at the horses, I feel like I’m pretty lucky to this point and I’m pretty optimistic for the future of this horse.” Through the luck of the draw, Di Domenico was assigned Deo, a 5-year-old trotter with one win in 32 starts overseas for Romuald Mourice. The youngest of the French trotters imported, Deo is eligible to the conditions at Yonkers in addition to the rich series. “To this point, I like the horse, I like the fact that he’s five years old. I like the fact that he fits the conditions at Yonkers if the series doesn’t quite fit his style of racing,” Di Domenico said. When Deo arrived in Di Domenico’s stable in June, he proved a straightforward addition to the barn. Di Domenico approached the gelding as he would any horse from overseas and gave the horse time to adapt to his new surroundings. Deo impressed his new trainer with how quickly he took to the American style of training. “We gave him a week where we didn’t do anything with him, we just put him out in the pasture and let him put his head down and collect his wits,” the trainer explained. “When we started actually working him, he went out jogged like any horse, he trained like a horse who’s trained here a hundred times and he was not a horse that took a lot of guessing with.” Deo’s simple manner took his trainer by surprise. After watching replays of the horse’s French form, which included four breaks in stride in his last six starts, Di Domenico didn’t know what to expect.  “I’m not smart enough to understand how those races go or understand how to speak French and try to decipher what happened and the kind of sulky he wore and if they pulled his shoes off,” Di Domenico said. “It certainly gets you thinking about how you want to handle it and what you want to do. “He’s not had a bad day and he hasn’t been a bad actor. He hasn’t done anything that wasn’t expected of him. I think I was most impressed by that. Any time you get a horse from another country, it’s a new system, new people, different track surfaces, putting them on an airplane, you always have a concern of a lot of different things,” he continued. “To finally meet the horse and get him here and see how he’s acting and for him to be as simple and straightforward as he’s been, it says a lot about the horse and the people in France who had him before me.” Deo will make his second start for Di Domenico in Sunday’s fourth race at Yonkers, a $21,200 trot for non-winners of four races. He’ll start from post three as the 3-1 second choice on the morning line. Unlike in his first race, which was at a mile, Deo will stretch out to the 1 ¼-mile distance Sunday, the same distance he’ll face in the first leg of the series next week. “We’ll see how he handles it. It’s all new to the horse and to me,” Di Domenico said. “Watching the replays and going back and looking at some of his stuff in France, he didn’t always excel going long distances, but maybe the different track surface and the different training, maybe he’ll adapt to it and really like it. At this point, I’m really optimistic in that it’s something new and I’m really just excited and happy with him.” In addition to Deo, Sunday’s card at Yonkers features French trotters Barry Black in race two and Undici in race three. Sunday’s card also features a $44,000 Open Handicap Trot going one mile in race nine. First post time is 12:30 p.m. The French American Trotting Club Series begins with a $35,000 first leg August 5. The second and third legs of the series will be held August 19 and 26, respectively and the $120,000 final is set for September 2. For more information, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

Sandra Kaufman, Chairman of the co-sponsored SOA of New York/Yonkers Raceway Scholarship Committee, has announced that Jessica Hallett is the winner of the 2018-2019 Scholarship Award in the amount of $5,000. The second place award of $3,000 went to Savina Reid and Jennifer Lauer picked up the third place scholarship award of $2,000. Jessica Hallett is currently enrolled at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She is pursuing a double major in behavioral neuroscience and biology with a minor in forensic sciences. Jessica enjoys working in the barn with her parents’ horses and is a member of the NSU Equestrian Team. Jessica’s father John owns several horses racing in New York and elsewhere. Savina Reid recently graduated from Carnegie Mellon University and will be pursuing a medical degree this Fall at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden, New Jersey. Savina’s father David has been involved in standardbred racing her whole life and currently runs the Preferred Equine Sales Agency. Jennifer Lauer recently graduated from East Stroudsburg University with a biology degree and will be pursuing a veterinary degree at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Jennifer’s father Bruce trains a stable of horses racing in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. “This was the hardest scholarship selection process we’ve ever had,” noted Kaufman. “We got the most applicants – 17 – and truly the most qualified ever! If we could have, we would have given each and every one something towards their education. You could see they’ve all worked so hard to reach their goals. But the rules have us selecting the top three for awards and I’m confident our three winners will use these scholarships to fulfill their goals.” The annual SOA/Yonkers Raceway scholarships are awarded to SOA members, or members of their immediate families, or to covered individuals (backstretch personnel) or a member of their immediate families, for study beyond the high school level. The recipient is chosen on the basis of merit and financial need. From the SOA of New York

When a plane full of French trotters flew across the Atlantic in early June with the destination New York, there was a great deal of uncertainty as to how these foreign horses would look, adapt and fare in their new surroundings. Early returns for the French American Trotting Club Trotteur Français horses have been extremely encouraging. “We really didn’t know what to expect going over to France to look at these trotters,” said Standardbred Owners Association of New York Executive Director Alex Dadoyan. “I was very confident in the horsemen we were bringing with us – Ron Burke, Mike Lachance and Ray Schnittker - you had extremely talented guys with tons of experience working with some of the best trotters ever here in the US and also many many years of racing at Yonkers at all levels. But still, we didn’t know if the horses in France would be fast enough, could they trot around a small track like Yonkers, would they handle the travel and the new environment?” Those questions have been answered with a resounding yes thus far. 21 of the 22 French horses have already qualified since their June 16 exit from the Ark Federal quarantine facility at JFK airport and eight different French trotters have already been victorious, five in pari-mutuel races and three more in qualifiers.  The trotters are all gearing up for the first leg of the French American Trotting Club series at Yonkers Raceway on Sunday August 5. The series will have three rounds of $35,000 legs on Sundays in August and then a $120,000 Final on Sunday September 2. All races will be simulcast to France as part of the SOA of NY and Yonkers Raceway simulcasting partnership with Le Trot and PMU. The French American Trotting Club is a program developed by the Standardbred Owners Association of New York where an American contingent traveled to France to select two dozen French trotters to bring back to the United States for their new American owners who each paid $28,000 for the purchase and shipping of their new horses. The horses were randomly assigned to their new owners to prevent anybody from having an unfair advantage in the series. “This whole project was a huge gamble,” Dadoyan said. “It was a gamble for all the willing owners to each put up $28,000 and basically get a random horse, sight unseen. It was a gamble for the SOA of NY too. Would we get enough support from the industry and when we did, would we find enough horses to bring back and make the whole series go? “I can’t say enough about all the owners that took a shot and put up their money for this project,” continued Dadoyan. “It was a great showing of confidence and support for something new in the game. But equally important was the backing from SOA of NY President Joe Faraldo and the entire SOA of NY Board of Directors. When I first tossed the idea out to Joe about a year and a half ago his exact response was ‘are you crazy?’ But we kept kicking it around, going over ways it could work and slowly but surely put all the pieces in place to bring the project to fruition.” “The selection process needed many parts,” added SOA of NY President Joe Faraldo. “We needed knowledgeable horsemen willing to volunteer and go to France, the cooperation of Le Trot, full participation to purchase up to 24 head as equal in ability as possible, a totally transparent random draw and a lucrative series of races here at Yonkers solely for the horses purchased in the program.” Five of the French trotters are already well on their way to earning back their purchase price. Deo won at Yonkers on July 20 in 1:57.3. Bioness won at Pocono on July 23 in 1:54.3. Ubanji won at Harrah’s Philadelphia on July 25 in 1:55.1. Akhenaton won at Saratoga on July 25 in 1:57.2. Alpha d’Urzy has two wins already, scoring at Saratoga and Pocono. Deo is trained by Scott Di Domenico and owned by John McGill, Brian Carsey, Adam Friedland and Triple D Stables. Bioness is trained by Chris Oakes and owned by Northfork Racing Stable. Ubanji is trained by Ed Gannon Jr. and owned by Frank Canzone. Akhenaton is trained by Paul Kelley and owned by La Victoire Stable, Joe Sbrocco and Horseplay Racing Stable. Alpha d’Urzy is trained by Rene Allard and owned by Allard Racing, Kapildeo Singh, Earl Hill and VIP Internet Stable. As impressive as those five pari-mutuel winners have been, perhaps the most eye-catching trotter has been in qualifiers. Ursis des Caillons won his debut in a Yonkers qualifier winning by three lengths on July 13 trotting the mile and a quarter in 2:30.4 with a 27.3 final quarter. He followed that up with a qualifier at the Meadowlands on July 21 where he was second to Hambletonian hopeful and last year’s two-year-old divisional champion Fourth Dimension trotting in 1:53 beaten only three-quarters of a length. Ursis des Caillons is trained by Jennifer Bongiorno and owned by Howard Taylor and Thomas Lazzaro. Barry Black and Very Very Fast are the two other French trotters that have been victorious in qualifiers. To help celebrate the start of the French American Trotting Club series Sunday August 5, Yonkers Raceway will open the Empire Terrace Dining Room for a special Sunday brunch with French and American cuisine. More dining details will be released by Yonkers Raceway shortly but all French American Trotting Club participants are invited to brunch that afternoon as guests of the SOA of NY. From the SOA Of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Trainer Chris Oakes will start Agent Q in Friday night’s $44,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace at Yonkers Raceway, but in the daughter of Western Terror’s previous local start, the pair were on less friendly grounds.  Agent Q’s only other races at the Hilltop came in the elimination and final of the Lismore Pace in May 2017. Agent Q captured her elimination and started as the 1-5 betting favorite in the $140,770 final for then conditioner Aaron Lambert. However, Oakes’ filly, Tequila Monday, upset Agent Q with a 4-1 score from post seven. “That was a good one, I don’t think I was supposed to win that race,” Oakes said with a laugh as he recalled the action. “I remember her following Agent Q, Agent Q cleared, and Tequila Monday sat outside of her and pulled right up alongside of her. Probably nobody else could have kept up. She cleared her and was gone. That was a big mile.” Tequila Monday traded blows with Agent Q throughout last year with the latter taking the Lynch Memorial and Matron Stakes. Instead of continuing to race against her, Oakes added Agent Q to his training roster when owners Crawford Farms, Rochetti Cassar Racing, and Robert Muscara purchased the filly.  “Quite honestly, it just tells you how much power I’ve got as far as owners go,” Oakes said. “She’s a good horse and instead of having to fight against her, we ended up buying her and putting her on the team. If you can’t beat them, join them. That’s the way I look at it. “I just knew she was solid, she raced from the front, from the back and every time she raced, she put in a really solid effort,” he continued. “I knew coming back at 4, she’d probably be one of the top mares this year and I already had one, so they complement each other. Although Agent Q vetted out with a chip in her left hind ankle, Oakes and the ownership went through with the purchase. Agent Q underwent successful surgery to remove the chip over the winter and came to Oakes’ Florida barn in February to prepare for her 4-year-old campaign. Although she wasn’t a physical standout, her attitude signaled her talent. “Nice mare, she could have been a little bigger and stronger,” Oakes said. “She wasn’t an overly powerful looking horse, but definitely has the spirit and the heart, you could tell she’s real feisty. Definitely a really good horse. “Right off the bat, she got down to Florida for the winter and she was fine, there was never really any problems with her,” he continued. “She was eating decent. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a great caretaker. I’ve got Therese Pierce and she’s amazing. She got the filly and just loves on her all day long. It’s personal with them, they work all day long and they love what they do.” Agent Q won her first two starts for Oakes in the Great Northeast Open Series at Pocono Downs and Harrah’s Philadelphia May 13 and 20, respectively. Her debut effort came as a shock to her trainer as Agent Q raced last of eight around the racetrack before riding cover three-wide to the top of the stretch. Still in last with a furlong to pace, Agent Q quickened under urging from David Miller and streaked past the field to record a 1:52.3 score at odds of 5-2. “First win was actually a big surprise,” Oakes said. “She sat last pretty much the whole mile and Dave Miller, who had been driving her for the previous connections, I just told him, ‘just take care of her, first start, race her easy,’ and he did and she still won. She was dead last turning for home and just flew by them.” After her quick double to star the year boosted her record to 15 wins from 32 stars and $1.2 million in the bank, Agent Q recorded three straight losses, including a ninth-place finish in her Roses Are Red elimination where she was beaten 15 ¾ lengths at Mohawk June 9. Oakes took time to regroup. “It’s just weird how you take a wrong turn and you’re just trying to get back to where you were,” he said. “The horse had a bad night and we had to straighten her out and we’re back on track now.” Agent Q qualified back at Pocono Downs July 11, finishing second to 3-year-old star Springsteen. She was individually timed in 1:53.3 with a :27.1 final quarter. The effort gave Oakes enough confidence to enter Agent Q into the distaff feature Friday night. Starting from a drawn post six with Eric Goodell in the sulky, Agent Q is a 10-1 morning line. Agent Q’s six rivals include Magic Forces, who won two straight Filly and Mare Opens June 29 and July 6 before finishing eighth from post eight last out July 13. The Burke trainee drew post five and is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line. Caviart Cherie is the 5-2 morning line choice off a win in the Filly and Mare Preferred last week while Newborn Sassy is 3-1 from post seven off a win in last week’s feature. Bronze Over, Lispatty, and Medusa complete the lineup. Oakes admits this is a difficult spot for Agent Q to make her return. “I think she’ll race well. She’s in a little bit of a tough spot, there’s speed inside of her. I think she’ll race well, but is she going to go the mile of her life? No, she’s coming off a little bit of a layoff in a qualifier, so I think she’ll be better off another race or two.” First post time Friday at Yonkers is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.  by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY  

YONKERS, N.Y. – When the draw to randomly allocate the 22 harness racing trotters of the SOA of NY’s French American Trotting Club to their new connections was complete, trainer Jenn Bongiorno was excited to begin researching her new prospect, Ursis Des Caillons. When she viewed the gelding’s profile and saw he is already 10 years old and appeared small on replays, she didn’t know what to expect. “I started looking him up and I was like, oh my gosh, he’s 10,” Bongiorno said. “So we got an older one, but he has some nice races over there. From what we saw, we thought he was going to be extremely small. When we were watching replays, we thought we got a really small horse.” A son of Kool du Caux out of the Workaholic mare Jolie Nuit, Ursis Des Caillons won eight races and 239,580€ in France in the stables of Hubert Hardy and Nicolas Ensch. Although his last victory came November 20, 2017 and his two most recent starts resulted in disqualifications, Mike Lachance felt the 10-year-old was worth including in the French American Trotting Club. “I asked Alex (Dadoyan) who ended up training him over in France and he said Mike Lachance. Mike’s comment was that he’s very well-mannered and he handles the turns very well,” Bongiorno said. Bongiorno’s concerns about Ursis Des Caillons’ age were alleviated when he arrived at her stable in good order last month. Although she and brother Joe Bongiorno did find Ursis Des Caillons to be small and narrow, he looked like he would be suited to the half-mile track at Yonkers Raceway.  “I was excited to get him over here and when he walked in the barn, he was just very narrow and he was skinny, so we definitely got him some groceries and we took care of him,” Bongiorno said. “He’s put on weight, so I’m happy to see that. How he’s so narrow and small is not the worst thing when you’re going to be racing on a half-mile.” Bongiorno then focused on adapting the gelding to her training style and changing his equipment. She started with a blank slate and worked her way up. A shoeing change proved beneficial and Bongiorno now says Ursis Des Caillons trots perfectly. She also added a headpole, a piece of equipment not worn in France. “On day one, we just put a harness on him, put some cotton in his ears and he was fine, he jogged really well. Joe actually sat behind him day one and really liked him and every day he improves and adapts well,” Bongiorno said.  “We put on a shoe that we really believe in here with our trotters,” she continued. “He does have a headpole on. We approached it like he was a baby though because they don’t wear a lot of equipment over there. We actually jogged him with the headpole first to make sure he was going to be ok with it and then trained him with the headpole and he’s fine. I thought that was funny, we have a 10-year-old that we’re babying because we have to make sure he’s not going to be uncomfortable with it.” Ursis Des Caillons proved impressive in the mornings. He went a training trip ahead of his first qualifier and beat one of Bongiorno’s pacers. “When we biked him up, he passed one of my pacers and came the last quarter in 26-and-a-piece,” the trainer said. “Joe and I looked at each other and said, ‘we have a real horse here.’ Really the question was just if he was going to handle the half.” Ursis Des Caillons completed his first qualifier at Yonkers Raceway July 13. After racing in second early, driver Joe Bongiorno moved Ursis Des Caillons to the lead before the half. He won the 1 ¼-mile trial by 3 lengths, stopping the timer in 2:30.4 with a :27.3 final panel. Scott Di Domenico’s Deo finished second while Aigle De La Vallee was third for Rob Harmon. Very Very Fast captured the other French-exclusive qualifier that afternoon for Bob Bresnahan, beating Rich Banca’s Adagio De La Tour and Bob Bongiorno’s Uhlan Noir in 2:29.4. “When we came here the other day and Joe went a trip with him to warm him up, he was super. Joe thought he was going to handle the track perfectly and then he went out and that qualifier was really, really good. He was wrapped up, not asking him at all.” Bongiorno said.  “When he was coming over here, I thought we were going to have a nice horse, I thought we would improve him for sure, but after that training mile and qualifier, I really think we have one of the best ones.” Other French American Trotting Club participants Alpha d’Urzy and Bioness made their first pari-mutuel starts in the United States this week. The former won a $4,500 overnight in 1:57.1 at Saratoga July 15 for trainer Rene Allard while the latter finished third, individually timed in 1:54.4, in an $11,000 race at Pocono July 17 for Chris Oakes. Ed Gannon’s French trotter Ubanji finished second, individually timed in 1:55.3, in a qualifier at Harrah’s Philadelphia July 17. Yonkers will host qualifiers exclusively for the French Trotters at the 1 ¼-mile distance July 21 ahead of the start of the French American Trotting Club Series August 5. The second and third legs of the series will be held August 19 and 26, respectively and the $100,000 final is set for September 2. For more information, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

The Standardbred Owners Association of New York ("SOA") and Yonkers Racing Corporation have entered into an amendment of their current horsemen's agreement. The terms and conditions governing harness racing at Yonkers Raceway was just extended beyond the current expiration date of May, 2019 to May, 2021. The July 10th, 2018 agreement entitled the "First Amendment" will maintain the same number of annual race dates, as well as the current revenue stream for purses. Joseph Faraldo, President of the SOA of NY said, "The SOA Board of Directors has approved the negotiation of the terms and the execution of this First Amendment. I am pleased that this process was seamless and entered into with the knowledge and consent of the Raceway's new owners, MGM Resorts International, as the same portends a good working relationship with our new partners. Hopefully, this amendment will be followed by others in numerical sequence." Faraldo also noted that in April of this year MGM Growth Properties acquired the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park outside of Cleveland, Ohio and indicated, "We may now be referring to Northfield Park as our 'sister track' and vice versa. Coordinating post times may add some benefits to both tracks, with the racing fans the prime beneficiaries. In sum, despite the initial apprehensions expressed in some quarters, world class harness racing at the Hilltop Oval appears to have a very bright and elongated future." by Chris Wittstruck, for the SOA of NY  

Contacting through the SOA of NY, this morning harness racing driver Brian Sears issued the following statement pertaining to not be able to race in the Meadowlands Pace. Jeff Gural and I had several discussions earlier in the year. He made it known what he expected from me. I agreed to go to the Meadowlands in June during the break at Yonkers. After contemplating what opportunities I might have there, I went a different route. I'm pleased that we have come to an agreement that works for all parties and allows me to race at the Meadowlands and fulfill my commitments to the owners and trainers that have invested so much in our game. No further information was provided about what the agreement agreed to.        

YONKERS, N.Y. – Although SOA of NY President Joe Faraldo oversaw the selection of the 24 trotters for the French American Trotting Club, even he was surprised when Alpha d’Urzy showed up to qualify Saturday (July 7) at Yonkers wearing only an open bridle, an ear hood, and trotting boots with no overcheck or poles. The trotter wears less equipment than any horse in trainer Rene Allard’s stable. I said, ‘Joe, it’s because we understand each other. I speak French to him,” Allard said. “He just laughed.” With his minimal equipment, Alpha d’Urzy led at every call of the 1 ¼-mile trial with Jason Bartlett in the sulky. He stopped the timer in 2:32.4 and posted a :29.1 final quarter, besting Aladin du Dollar by 4 ½ lengths. “He trotted a good back-half. He’s good-gaited, he’s straight, and he gets around the turns perfect,” Allard said. “I barely have any equipment on him and he gets around Yonkers perfect. Maybe I just got really lucky. Jason said he was even better on the turns than in the straightaways.” Alpha d’Urzy is an 8-year-old son of Opus Viervil out of Amazone River and sports a 6-for-56 record with 118,550€ earned. He’s one of 22 French geldings who shipped to New York last month for the SOA of NY’s new series, which begins August 5. Two of the 24 trotters were unable to make the trip to America as they got sick and were unable to pass the stringent quarantine testing requirements for importation. The series required 24 participants to buy in at $28,000, with $25,000 allocated to purchasing the horse and $3,000 to travel. Trainers Ray Schnittker, Ron Burke, and Mike Lachance hand-picked the trotters and the horses were distributed to their new connections in a random draw. “I was the first one that sent the check in, as soon as I heard about it,” Allard said. “I’m always into progress and love to see new things happen and be involved in it. I thought it was a great to have a chance to get horses from a different place. I went to the Prix d’Amérique with my father for his 60th birthday and I went to all the farms. I was excited about it, especially knowing they were going to do races just for them.” Although Allard kept his expectations in check, he’s been pleasantly surprised by Alpha d’Urzy so far. The trotter arrived at his stable in great shape and was eager to get to work. “He looked really healthy, really good, he had a nice coat on him, he was in great shape. His front-end is a little narrow, but other than that, he looked good. When I trained him the first time, he looked like he was really fit, really in great shape,” Allard said. “Whoever took care of him for the few weeks before we got him, obviously they did the right thing and kept the horses in good form.” Since Alpha d’Urzy’s arrival in mid-June, Allard has trained the gelding two 1 ½-mile trips. Both times, the trotter impressed without exerting himself. “I trained him the first time and he did it really effortless and he was really fit,” Allard said. “I came back the week after, I trained him faster. I gave him a good back-half, good last quarter and he wouldn’t blow a candle out. He was really fit and really in great shape. I figured there was no sense in waiting, I’d just put him in to qualify.” The quick turnaround came to Allard’s surprise. Accustomed to horses arriving from Australia and New Zealand underweight, stressed, and sick due to the change in seasons from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere, Allard was happy to see Alpha d’Urzy handled his trip across the Atlantic well. “My horse never got sick, never missed a meal. He adjusted really well,” he said. “When he got here, I could have raced three days later, he was perfect. When they got here, I thought it was going to take a while before they were ready. I was even concerned about being ready in the beginning of August for the series, but surprisingly, mine came really great.” Allard’s experience has been shared by trainer Chris Oakes, who received 7-year-old trotter Bioness. The son of Sam Bourbon and Quiradelle D'hilly earned 119,590€ in 40 European starts before shipping to the U.S. When he arrived at Oakes barn, Bioness drew comparisons to Oakes’ $1.2 million earning trotter Homicide Hunter. “I love him, I absolutely love him, loved him right from day one,” Oakes said. “Big strong good-looking horse. I have a horse called Homicide Hunter and that’s who he reminded me of. Even when I trained him I told people, this horse reminds me of ‘Homicide.’ It’s funny because nobody knows what horse you’re going to get, you know nothing about any of them, other than you’re getting a horse. Rene came up and looked at him in the paddock at the qualifiers and he said, ‘this thing looks just like Homicide Hunter.’ ” Oakes found Bioness to be good-gaited, good-mannered, and intelligent. Like Alpha d’Urzy, the trotter wears minimal equipment. “I had no equipment card of any kind. Just a horse: four legs and a tail. You just feel them out as you go,” Oakes explained. “I could see he was sensible, so I ended up going with an open bridle. I could see the way he traveled, he didn’t need any boots at all. I just put a light set of trotting boots on and that was it. He’s very clean-gaited and wears next to nothing. I think we drew a nice horse.” Oakes put Bioness into an American style of training and the gelding responded. Oakes also thinks ample time spent turned out has helped the trotter adjust to his new surroundings. “I basically put him into our American style of training. I’ve got my own farm, so he’ll train and then he gets turned out a lot. I’m sure they’re used to that, they like that and I’m fortunate enough I’ve got my own farm, so they spend a lot of time out in the field just to keep them happy,” Oakes said. “He seems to have adapted really well. I’ve only had him here two or three weeks. I put him right to work and he didn’t skip a beat. He’s happy with his new home and seems to have adapted to our style. It’s going to be a little different than what he’s used to, but he shows he’s got speed.” Bioness qualified last Wednesday (July 4) at Pocono Downs with Oakes’ 20-year-old son Hunter in the sulky. It was Hunter’s first time in a charted race and he made his father proud. Bioness tracked in third throughout the 1-mile trial. Although he was 4-lengths behind Allard-trainee Gruden at the three-quarters, Bioness came home in :28.1 to finish second beaten just a neck. He was individually timed in 1:56.1. I just told him, ‘be careful out there. Make it a good experience for the horse and yourself.’ He’s very conservative with the horse and said if he had asked him he would have won it easy,” Oakes said. “(Hunter) has been training and schooling behind the gate, but never in a real charted race. I’m really very proud of him because he did a really nice job and it went really well and I’m going to let him qualify again this coming week.” Yonkers will host qualifiers exclusively for the French Trotters at the 1 ¼-mile distance July 14 and 21 ahead of the start of the French American Trotting Club Series August 5. The second and third legs of the series will be held August 19 and 26, respectively and the $100,000 final is set for September 2. For more information, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

With the first round of the French American Trotting Club races just over a month away at Yonkers Raceway, here are some procedural updates for the participants. Yonkers Raceway qualifiers for these trotters are tentatively scheduled for July 6, 14 and 21 at a mile and one quarter distance. The first leg of the French American Trotting Club series will be August 5 and then there will be a one week break before the second leg which goes on August 19. This break will give an opportunity for horses to qualify again should they need to do so for making a break off of a qualifying line. The second leg is August 19, the third leg is August 26 and the $100,000 final is September 2 at Yonkers Raceway. Horses coming over from Europe contain microchips for identification purposes and are not tattooed. The following tracks will have a microchip reader in the possession of the track horse identifier: Yonkers Raceway, Harrahs Philadelphia (Chester), Monticello, Freehold, Meadowlands and Saratoga. Anyone wishing to race or qualify at a track other than those mentioned above should contact USTA Registrar TC Lane to arrange for a microchip reader to be sent to the track where you wish to participate. From the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Driver George Brennan will take the lines behind Lispatty, Always At My Place, and DW’s NY Yank in this weekend’s $44,000 features for distaff pacers, open pacers, and trotters. Brennan shared his thoughts on his horses and their chances this weekend: Friday, Race 7 - $44,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace Lispatty – Post 4 – 2-1  Lispatty finished third in a leg of the Matchmaker Series earlier this year before trying the competition in the Pennsylvania Open Series in May. She earned a fourth-place check in three of five starts in that series before shipping back to Yonkers June 8. Since her return to the half-mile track, Lispatty dominated competition in two straight $22,000 overnights; she won wire-to-wire by 4 ½ lengths in 1:52.0 June 8 and stopped the clock in a blistering 1:51.1 last time out June 15 in an effort that surprised even Brennan. Lispatty, a 5-year-old daughter of McCardle who’s won 20 races and $524,445, won the local distaff feature four times last year.  “She’s got a good spot, she’s got the four hole. She’s been good. I’ve driven her for a couple years now and at Yonkers, she’s never been better. She went in 1:51.1 last week and at Yonkers she’s never been better. She gets around that track really good. I mean, 1:51.1, that’s a big mile that she did last week. She’s been very good and she’s actually getting better with the warmer weather. "She wasn’t at her best in the colder weather in the Matchmaker. She’s going to fair good. She’s inside her competition, she’s got the four hole, she can leave really well and she fits real well in there. I’m not saying she’s the best in there, but she’s got a good spot.”  Saturday, Race 6 - $44,000 Open Handicap Pace Always At My Place – Post 4 – 3-1  After going 10-for-31 last year good for $188,963, Always At My Place is just 2-for-12 halfway through the 2018 season; he captured a leg of the George Morton Levy Series March 17 and upset the $100,000 Levy Consolation at odds of 22-1 April 21. Always At My Place enters this week’s pacing feature off a string of narrow defeats. He was second to Heaven Rocks in a 1:50.0 mile in the Open Series at Pocono June 3, was beaten a head by Somewhere In LA in the local Open June 9 while pacing 1:52.0 and suffered a nose defeat to Western Dynasty after setting the fractions in a $27,500 overnight last Saturday.  “His last two races at Yonkers have been the best two races he’s had at Yonkers in the past two years. He gets around the track a lot better than he used to. He’s inside and he’s got a good chance. He struggles around that track a little bit, but he has an inside advantage and he’s good, he’s a good horse. He’s a solid horse, he knows how to win a horse race. "Last week he got beat a lip on the wire in 1:51.1 and came home in :27.1. There’s not many horses that do that at Yonkers, come home in :27.1 and get beat on the wire. No horses come home at Yonkers in :27.1 with a mile in 1:51.1.” Saturday, Race 7 - $44,000 Open Handicap Trot DW’s NY Yank – Post 6 – 6-1  The 9-year-old trotter proved he’s just as good as ever when winning the local Open Handicap Trot in 1:54.3 May 26. The speedy mile saw DW’s NY Yank assigned the outside post last out June 9, which he was unable to overcome as he finished fifth beaten 7 ¾ lengths behind Tight Lines. The earner of $1.2 million seeks his 50th victory Saturday night, but will have to do so from post six. “That’s going to be a tough spot, he’s got the six hole and that’s a tough spot. There’s speed inside and it’s hard. He’s a good horse, he’s a 9-year-old. "He’s got a track record he set as a 4-year-old of 1:54.2 and then as a 9-year-old he just won in 1:54.3. He’s still just as good, but he’s got a real hard spot. On that track, I just have to pick his spots a little bit. He is such a great horse, he’s a terrific horse, one of my favorites.” First post time Friday and Saturday is 6:50 p.m. For entries to Friday’s races, click here. For entries to Saturday’s races, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Since making her 3-year-old debut at Hoosier Park this spring, Wisdom Tree has been nearly unstoppable. The daughter of Betterthancheddar out of the Artsplace mare Wisdom posted three straight wins in overnight competition in Indiana and at Saratoga before jumping into New York Sire Stakes. In three legs so far, she’s 2-for-3 with another runner-up finish. The only blemish on Wisdom Tree’s 2018 campaign came in her first start of the year when she made an early miscue and finished seventh. “She’s a really nice filly. She’s a doll, I love her,” trainer Ed Hart said. “I think she was a little immature last year. She made the odd mistake. You could never move her too fast, you always had to be a little careful with her. She definitely matured. She’s a sweetheart in the stall, does everything right, just a classy horse.” Jeff Cullipher co owns Wisdom Tree with Tom Pollack and prepared the filly for her 3-year-old campaign before sending her east to Hart. Over the years, the relationship between Hart, Pollack, and Cullipher has proven fruitful. “I started training horses for Tom Pollack. He was also an owner with Randy Bendis and Randy sent me horses from The Meadows when they came out East to race, especially for New York Sire Stakes,” Hart said. “And then Tom branched out to Indiana with Jeff Cullipher and they race together. They do the same thing, when they come out east, they send them to me. “They always send me good horses and they’re good people to deal with. Jeff Cullipher developed this filly and trained her down. I just manage her out here and race her. It’s really nice,” Hart continued. “Jeff has a big stable out in Indiana, he’s a good guy to work with. It really is nice, it works out real well for me.” In her first start in Sire Stakes competition this year May 27 at Saratoga, Wisdom Tree raced from off the pace as the race’s 2-5 favorite Youaremycandygirl cut blistering fractions of :26.3 and :53.3. As the leader’s strides began to shorten nearling three-quarters, Wisdom Tree mounted a first-over bid. She struck the lead at the top of the stretch and powered away with a :28.2 final quarter to beat Alexis Faith by a length in 1:52.2 at odds of 8-1. “That was a pretty wild race,” Hart said. “My filly did it right, she pulled going to the half and she was coming first-over and ground that one down. She raced tough as nails, you can’t take anything away from her.” Wisdom Tree’s victory at Saratoga showed the filly has developed a new dimension this year. In 11 starts at 2, Wisdom Tree won three races, all of which came on the front end. She frequently made breaks in stride when forced to sit in a hole. Now more mentally and physically mature, Hart thinks Wisdom Tree has outgrown her breaking issues and is much more versatile. “Last year, when she was on the lead where you could steady her and keep her on her own pace, she was really good,” Hart explained. “She was never quick to come out of the hole, you could never force her into anything. This year, you can. She can leave, she can sit, she can do it all.” Wisdom Tree proved her efforts at Saratoga were no fluke as she finished second next out, pacing a 1:50.3 mile from post eight at Tioga Downs June 3. In her most recent start, Wisdom Tree posted a 4 ¼-length victory after sitting the pocket trip at Buffalo June 13. “I know Buffalo, I’ve raced there all my life and you’ve got to be really careful up there,” Hart said. “I was happy to see her get around that track and she handled it perfectly. Kevin Cummings said she never took a bad step. And there again, she left pretty quick and sat the hole and sat there nice. That was a nice trip up there for her.” Wisdom Tree will try to score her third NYSS victory of the year Thursday night at Yonkers when she starts in the third and final division of the state bred stakes in race 11. Wisdom Tree will start from post five as the 2-1 morning line favorite and will once again face Alexis Faith, the Casie Coleman trainee who finished second in a Fan Hanover elimination at Mohawk June 9. For complete entries, click here.  “I know Casie Coleman’s horse on the outside of us is a tough horse, I know she’s raced good in Canada. At that level, they’re all good, anything can happen. Hopefully we’ll get a good trip and we’ll see what happens,” Hart said. “I think Wisdom Tree is sharp. That Buffalo trip is tough. It’s a 6-hour trip each way, it’s a 2-day thing, but I think she’s sharp. She feels good.” Hart will also start Medusa in Friday night’s featured $44,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace. A 6-1 chance from an assigned inside post, Medusa will face the likes of Lispatty, Sell A Bit, Newborn Sassy, and Mach It A Par.  Hart broke Medusa as a yearling, but she campaigned with a host of stables including Paul Kelley, Ron Burke, and Randy Bendis before finally coming to Hart this spring for the Matchmaker Series. She was victorious in one leg and hit the board in three others to make the final, where she finished sixth. I her last start, the 7-year-old finished second beaten a nose in the Filly and Mare Open June 15. In her career, Medusa is 32-for-109 with $732,753 earned. “I had her a long time ago as a baby and she came back to me this year,” Hart said. “She raced tough in that series. Five, six weeks in a row is a tough series. Last week, she was super, but the fractions were a little slower up front, kind of played into her a little bit. That’s a really nice mare. Big, beautiful, sound mare. Pretty much tries every week and just another good horse.” First post time Thursday and Friday at Yonkers is 6:50 p.m. For Friday’s entries, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Monday, April 23, 2018 - After three preliminary rounds and sufficient whittling, the field is set for Tuesday night's (Apr. 24th) harness racing  $85,000 final of the Bonus Trotting Series. The event, co-sponsored by Yonkers Raceway and the Standardbred Owners Association of the New York, goes as the ninth of 11 races. Post time is the usual 6:50 PM. Seasoned Saint (Jim Marohn Jr., post 2) was the only perfect participant, winning all three of his series starts. The 5-year-old Dewycheatumnhowe gelding, co-owned by (trainer) Rene Allard, Bruce Soulsby and Alan Weisenberg, has won six of his 10 seasonal starts and half of his 32 career efforts. Allard also co-owns (with Blue Chip Bloodstock and John Lengacher) and trains the lone lass, Romancing Rachel (Mark MacDonald, post 3). The 4-year-old daughter of Muscle Hill won her first two starts before a tiring pocket third in the final leg. 'Rachel' has hit the board in nine of her 11 '18 tries. Due to overlapping ownership, Optimist Blue Chip (Andy Miller, post 4) completes this three-pronged posse. The 4-year-old Dewycheatumnhowe gelding, owned by Blue Chip Bloodstock and trained by Julie Miller, has gone 1-2-3 in his series starts. Bluebird Jesse (George Brennan, post 1) was another prelim 'two-timer,' the wins sandwiching a race mired by incessant road trouble. The 4-year-old Jailhouse Jesse gelding is trained by Scott DiDomenico co for-owners Brian Carsey, John McGill and Adam Friedland. Ei Ei O (Scott Zeron, post 8) also won twice before being victimized by an interference break a week ago. The 4-year-old son of pacing stallion Cam's Rocket is owned and trained by Arlene Cameron. Aces and Eights (Ray Schnittker, post 5), Icanflylikeanangel (Jeff Gregory, post 6) and Tyson (Yannick Gingras, post 7) each had a win in the series, the first two of this set at 14-1 odds. The 'bonus' portion of the series title is an additional $10,000 SOA payday to the winner, provided the owner(s), trainer and driver(s) of the horse throughout the series were association members before the first draw of the series. A $35,000 series consolation goes as the fourth race. Frank Drucker

YONKERS, N.Y. – Although trainer Ron Burke has sent out more than 40,000 starters who have earned more than $194 million in purses, he’s never had the opportunity to work with a French trotter. That will change this spring when Burke, Mike Lachance, and Ray Schnittker travel to France to purchase 24 trotters for the French American Trotting Club, the Standardbred Owners Association of New York’s pioneering effort to bring a contingent of European horses to compete at Yonkers Raceway. “Going over there, it will be a completely new thing for me. That I’m excited to see,” Burke said. “I’ve heard the training centers there are incredible, like nothing we have over here. I’ve never been to France, so I’m excited to go there, meet the people, see a different way of racing. I’m anxious to see it.” The Club will see the 24 selected horses randomly distributed to 24 registered owners and trainers. A few months after the horses arrive in New York, they will be eligible to compete in a multi-leg series with a $100,000 final. The program is aimed at strengthening the trotting fields on Yonkers Sunday programs, which are simulcast to France. “I love the whole idea of the program,” Burke said. “I think it’s forward-thinking and exciting. It really is interesting to bring the horses over here, see how they adapt, and see who does the best with them, and how they’re received by both the American public and by the French. They may bet even more on them because they know the horses.” The trio of American representatives will travel to France in late May to select the horses from a sale organized by LeTrot. Each of the 24 trotters selected will be a gelding aged 4-year-old and up of comparable talent. The ability to navigate the half-mile oval at Yonkers will be the biggest factor in selecting the trotters, Burke said. “The biggest things you’re going to look for are gait and some semblance of speed, that they show some ability to trot fast at least for a piece,” Burke explained. “But the biggest thing, you don’t want to go over there and buy bad-gaited horses, horses that are bred more for distance and less for speed. You’re going to look for horses that will like the American game even better.” In addition to the inspections typical of most sales around the world, the trainers will also have the ability to train each horse before deciding which ones to bring across the Atlantic. Burke feels getting hands-on with the horses will play to his strengths.  “Getting to watch them is great, but for me, sitting behind them is such a bigger advantage,” he said. “I do think I have a good feel for that. I probably train more horses than any guy in the country just due to the fact that I have such big barns and I train a lot. I spend a lot of time sitting behind trainers, so I’m actually excited to go over there and see if I can help in that way to pick out the horses that are competitive.”  Although he’s reached the pinnacles of the sport over the last 10 years, Burke hasn’t become complacent. He is excited for the rare opportunity to work collaboratively with and learn from mentors Lachance and Schnittker. “That was part of the draw to me was Ray and Mike. They are two very good horsemen who are also two of the best guys in the game,” Burke said. “To me, it’s one of the best parts of it. For me to go over there, it’s a chance to learn more from the best guys in the sport and two of the best personalities. To me, I’m very excited for that part of it.” Burke also hopes to study the differences between American and French training and racing. After a weeklong trip to Sweden proved influential on the conditioner, he is excited to discover unfamiliar techniques and methods that can be applied to the horses competing the Club and beyond. “Once you stop learning, you stop winning,” he said. “You’ve got to learn from everybody and these are two of the best and we’re going to meet the best French trainers. The time I went to Sweden, I learned so much in just the week I was there and saw things done totally different than we did over here. A lot of the stuff I do now, I justify like, ‘if it works over there, why can’t it work here?’  “Over there, nobody wears boots hardly. They just take them off. They end up taking shoes off,” he continued. “Why can they do it and we can’t? They strip the horses down compared to what we do. It was a completely different outlook.” Burke sees the French American Trotting Club as a great opportunity to try something new with minimal risk. In addition to its potential to spur more competitive trotting fields and encourage stronger international wagering, he feels the Club keeps the sport fresh and fun. “It’s a great idea, I don’t see a downside to it,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of owners and trainers who are really going to enjoy this and that’s the thing about the game. I want to make money, but the other thing about that game is it has to be fun and this is going to be fun, it’s going to be interesting, it’s going to be different. I’m excited to be a part of it.” In March, a total of 24 different owners each made a deposit of $10,000 to participate in the French American Trotting Club and acquire a trotter. Those owners are reminded that the balance of $18,000 is due on or before April 26. Le Trot will present horses for selection to the American trainers on the week of May 28 and the horses will be shipped back to New York and go through quarantine in mid-June. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

The Standardbred Owners Association of New York is pleased to announce that the French American Trotting Club has reached capacity and will move forward with the acquisition of French trotters to race at Yonkers Raceway. The French American Trotting Club will move forward with 23 or 24 participants, each acquiring a French trotter for $28,000 which includes shipping costs. The horses will be eligible to race without any further entry fee in a series at Yonkers Raceway exclusively for horses brought over in this program with legs carrying a $30,000 purse and a final for $100,000. We would like to thank all horsemen for their tremendous support and enthusiasm expressed for the program. Further information will be provided to the participants shortly. Tentative plans call for horses to be selected in France the week of May 28 and shipped back to New York in mid-June.  

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