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This Week: Cutler Memorial and Graduate Series, The Meadowlands, East Rutherford, N.J. and Currier & Ives, The Meadows, Washington, Pa. Schedule of events: This week's Grand Circuit racing will take place on Saturday (July 4) at The Meadowlands with the $170,900 Cutler Memorial for older trotters and three $50,000 divisions in the second leg of the Graduate Series for 4-year-old open pacers. The mares Atlanta and Manchego will battle again as part of an 11-horse field in the Cutler. Also on Saturday, The Meadows will host the $102,245 Currier & Ives for 3-year-old open trotters and a pair of $32,297 divisions of the Currier & Ives for 3-year-old filly trotters. Complete entries for the races can be found by clicking on this link. Last time: It wasn't easy, but Gimpanzee came from well off the pace to win one of two $50,000 divisions of the Graduate Series' second leg for 4-year-old trotters on Saturday (June 27) at The Meadowlands in a lifetime-best 1:50.2. Gimpanzee came from well off the pace to win one of two $50,000 divisions of the Graduate Series' second leg in a lifetime-best 1:50.2. Lisa photo. Driver Brian Sears opted to race the two-time Breeders Crown and New York Sire Stakes champion from off the pace after a highly contentious several-horse scrum into the first turn had him take back to seventh at the quarter. "I knew the horse to beat was Chin Chin Hall and I wasn't going to press my horse early," said Sears. The son of Chapter Seven-Steamy Windows was sixth in a third-over flow at three-quarters as Chin Chin Hall was sailing along on the lead. But Gimpanzee still had plenty of fuel in the tank. Despite having 4-1/2 lengths to make up through the final three-sixteenths, the Marcus Melander trainee was up to the task, rocketing home in :27 to best Chin Chin Hall by a half-length. Kings County was third. "Gimpanzee is everything you want in a racehorse," said Sears. "I thought (Chin Chin Hall) was going to be spent (in the latter stages) and I thought we had a chance. My horse is a gamer and knows what we are trying to accomplish. He put his head down and did what he had to do." Gimpanzee paid $2.60 to win as the 1-5 favorite in raising his lifetime numbers to 19 wins from 25 starts, good for earnings of $1,770,111 for owners Courant Inc. and S R F Stable. Southwind Avenger won the other Graduate division in 1:51.3 at odds of 22-1, for driver Andy McCarthy. Don't Let'em, the 4-5 favorite, broke at the start and finished last in the field of nine. Complete recaps of the weekend races are available at the Grand Circuit website. Grand Circuit Standings: In 2020, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2020 Grand Circuit awards. Here are the leaders following this past weekend: Drivers: 1. Brian Sears - 40; 2. Tim Tetrick - 32; 3. Dexter Dunn - 27; 4t. Aaron Merriman - 20; 4t. Dave Palone - 20. Trainers: 1. Ron Burke - 55; 2. Marcus Melander - 34; 3t. Nifty Norman - 20; 3t. Norm Parker - 20; 5t. (seven trainers are tied with 10 points). Owners: 1t. Burke Racing Stable - 11.3; 1t. J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby - 11.3; 1t. Weaver Bruscemi - 11.3. 4t. Black Horse Racing - 10; 4t. Oldford Racing - 10. Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will be taking place next weekend at The Meadowlands. The July 10 Meadowlands program will feature the second leg of the Miss Versatility for older trotting mares, while the massive July 11 Meadowlands card will offer the finals of the Graduate Series for 4-year-old pacers and trotters; Reynolds Memorial divisions for 3-year-old colt and filly trotters; and eliminations for the Meadowlands Pace. by Paul Ramlow, for the Grand Circuit  

Harness Racing This Week: Graduate Series, The Meadowlands, East Rutherford, N.J. and Arden Downs, The Meadows, Washington, Pa. Schedule of events: This week's Grand Circuit schedule will again feature Graduate Series racing on Saturday (June 27) at The Meadowlands with two $50,000 divisions in the second leg for 4-year-old open trotters. First leg winners Gimpanzee and Grand Swan will square off in the second division on Saturday. Grand Circuit action will also be held Saturday at The Meadows with two $26,764 divisions in the Arden Downs for 3-year-old filly trotters. Complete entries for the races can be found by clicking on this link. Last time: The Roll With Joe Open Pace, sponsored by Blue Chip Farms, was full of anticipation as Bettor's Wish kicked off his 4-year-old season following his dominant sophomore year and was upset by Backstreet Shadow (Tim Tetrick) at Tioga Downs on Sunday (June 21). Backstreet Shadow Backstreet Shadow and Tim Tetrick won the Roll With Joe at Tioga Downs. Fred Brown photo. Backstreet Shadow ($10) and This Is The Plan (Yannick Gingras) both timed the gate perfectly, with Backstreet Shadow making the lead through the first turn before the first quarter in :26.2. He would face no pressure through a :54.2 half, but None Bettor A (Andrew McCarthy) would pull the pocket heading up the backstretch, but he could not collar the leader, only getting within three-quarters of a length. Heading around the last turn, a host of others took their shot at the leader, but to no avail with Backstreet Shadow drawing off to win by 1-1/2 lengths in 1:49. None Bettor A held on to second, and after being parked the mile, Bettor's Wish (Dexter Dunn) closed to be third. Backstreet Shadow, a 5-year-old by Shadow Play, now has career earnings just shy of $575,000 with 22 wins in 46 starts for trainer Ron Burke and owners Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, Larry Karr, and J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby. Complete recaps of the weekend races are available at the Grand Circuit website. Grand Circuit Standings: In 2020, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2020 Grand Circuit awards. Here are the leaders following this past weekend: Drivers: 1. Tim Tetrick - 32; 2. Brian Sears - 30; 3. Dexter Dunn - 22; 4. Yannick Gingras - 15; 5. Mark MacDonald - 10. Trainers: 1. Ron Burke - 35; 2. Marcus Melander - 22; 3t. Brian Brown - 10; 3t. Tahnee Camilleri - 10; 3t. John McDermott - 10. Owners: 1. Black Horse Racing - 10; 2. Oldford Racing - 7.5; 3t. Burke Racing Stable - 6.3; 3t. J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby - 6.3; 3t. Weaver Bruscemi - 6.3. Looking ahead: Next weekend Grand Circuit action will once again be taking place at The Meadowlands. On the schedule will be the Cutler Memorial for older trotters and the second leg of the Graduate Series for 4-year-old pacers. Paul Ramlow

Harness Racing This Week: Miss Versatility, The Meadowlands, East Rutherford, N.J. and Roll With Joe and Graduate Series, Tioga Downs, Nichols, N.Y. Schedule of events: This week's Grand Circuit schedule opens on Friday (June 19) at The Meadowlands with the $40,000 opening leg of the Miss Versatility for trotting mares, featuring another battle between Atlanta and Manchego. Grand Circuit action will also be held this week on Sunday (June 21) with the $164,000 Roll With Joe for open pacers and three $50,000 divisions in the first leg of the Graduate Series for 4-year-old open pacers. Complete entries for the races can be found by clicking on this link. Last time: The 2019 USHWA Trainer of the Year Marcus Melander picked up right where he left off on Sunday (June 14) at Tioga Downs, picking up a pair of victories in the $50,000 Graduate Series divisions with Gimpanzee and Grand Swan. Gimpanzee won by 1-1/4 lengths over Chin Chin Hall in 1:51.2 Last year's Breeders Crown 3-year-old colt trot champion Gimpanzee (Brian Sears), making his first start of the year, quickly went to the lead from post six. He led Chin Chin Hall (Dexter Dunn) through a torrid opening marker of :26.4, before getting a breather in the second panel of :28.2 (:55.1). As the field moved up the backstretch, Gimpanzee faced no challengers and leisurely trotted through three-quarters in 1:23, with Chin Chin Hall and Reign Of Honor (David Miller) in tow. As they trotted through the stretch, no one could get close to Gimpanzee who was hand driven through the stretch by Sears, winning by 1-1/4 lengths over Chin Chin Hall in 1:51.2. Reign Of Honor wound up third. Gimpanzee (Chapter Seven-Steamy Windows) scored his 18th victory in 24 lifetime starts, pushing his earnings to $1,745,111 for owners Courant Inc. and S R F Stable. Grand Swan completed the Melander sweep with a game performance in the second division of the Graduate. Pure Chance (Aaron Merriman) wasted no time getting to the front, pushing the gate away to a 1-1/4 length advantage. Pure Chance would have company around the first turn in the form of Hatikvah (Mattais Melander) and Grand Swan (Brian Sears). Sears patiently guided Grand Swan to the front after an early three-wide skirmish just past the quarter in :27.3. Sears was able to control the fractions on the front end with a :29.1 (:56.4) second panel, leading Grand Swan and a parked out Hatikvah into the backstretch for the last time. Heading to the three-quarter marker in 1:25, Grand Swan tried to get away, but Merriman latched onto the Sears helmet and would take his shot through the stretch. The second victory for Sears and Melander did not come as easily as it had in the first division, as Pure Chance tipped to the outside turning for home. Under a drive, Grand Swan dug in late, winning by a neck over a hard-charging Pure Chance in 1:53. Explosivebreakaway (Tom Jackson) closed to be third. Bred in Indiana by Larry Miller Jr. and owned by Never 2 Late Stable, Grand Swan Racing, Bruce Soulsby and Alan Weisenberg, Grand Swan (Swan For All-Queen Mum) was able to secure her 19th career victory in 28 starts. Her earnings now stand at $624,107. Complete recaps of the weekend races are available at the Grand Circuit website. Grand Circuit Standings: In 2020, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2020 Grand Circuit awards. Here are the leaders following this past weekend: Drivers: 1. Brian Sears - 20; 2t. Dexter Dunn - 5; 2t. Aaron Merriman - 5; 4t. Tom Jackson - 2; 4t. David Miller - 2. Trainers: 1. Marcus Melander - 22; 2t. Chris Beaver - 5; 2t. Nifty Norman - 5; 4. Fred Grant - 2. Owners: 1t. Courant Inc. - 5; 1t. S R F Stable - 5; 3t. (eight different owners with 2.5 points). Looking ahead: Next weekend Grand Circuit action will be taking place at The Meadowlands and The Meadows. The Meadowlands will feature the second leg of the Graduate Series for 4-year-old open trotters, while The Meadows will offer the Arden Downs for 3-year-old filly trotters. by Paul Ramlow. publicity director, the Grand Circuit  

Nichols, NY - Tioga Downs will host the first harness racing Grand Circuit stakes of the 2020 season when the first trotting leg of the Graduate Series comes to town on Sunday evening.   Thirteen declarations split into two $50,000 divisions carded as races 11 and 12 on the fifteen race extravaganza.   Gimpanzee (Brian Sears) will face five rivals as he makes the Graduate his first start of hie 4-year-old campaign for trainer Marcus Melander and Swedish owners Courant, Inc. and SRF Stable. The son of Chapter Seven closed out his sophomore season powerfully with wins in the Yonkers Trot, NYSS Final and Breeders Crown to vault past $1 million in 2019 earnings.   The second split will feature trotting "Girl Power" as top mares Grand Swan and Pure Chance invade to the Empire State with powerful mid-west resumes.   Melander and Sears team up again to send out Grand Swan, who cashed in for over $400,000 by dominating the Indiana program last year for owners Never Too Late Stable, Grand Swan Racing, Soulsby and Weisenberg.   Pure Chance (Aaron Merriman) parlayed multiple wins in the Ohio Sires Stakes program with a few Grand Circuit scores into nearly a quarter million dollars in earnings for trainer Chris Beaver who shares ownership with Steven Zeehandelar.   Tioga will host the first leg of the Graduate Series for pacers on a card that includes the $175,000e Roll With Joe Open Pace and the opening leg of the 2020 New York Sires Stake for 3-year-old trotting fillies.   The Graduate Series moves to The Meadowlands for leg #2 for the trotters on June 27, leg #2 for pacers on July 4 and both $250,000 finals on July 11 at The Meadowlands on Meadowlands Pace elimination night.   The ive racing schedule at Tioga throughout the month of June is Sunday and Monday with a 4:00PM post time.   Nick Salvi    

Harness Racing This Week: Graduate Series, Tioga Downs, Nichols, N.Y. This is the opening event of the 2020 Grand Circuit season. Schedule of events: Tioga Downs will host the first Grand Circuit stakes of the 2020 season when the first trotting leg of the Graduate Series is held Sunday evening (June 14). Thirteen declarations split into two $50,000 divisions carded as races 11 and 12 on the 15-race extravaganza. Gimpanzee will face five rivals as he makes the Graduate the first start of his 4-year-old campaign. Mike Lizzi photo. Gimpanzee (Brian Sears) will face five rivals as he makes the Graduate the first start of his 4-year-old campaign for trainer Marcus Melander and owners Courant Inc. and S R F Stable. The son of Chapter Seven closed out his sophomore season powerfully with wins in the Yonkers Trot, New York Sire Stakes final and Breeders Crown to vault past $1 million in 2019 earnings. The second split will feature trotting "girl power" as top mares Grand Swan and Pure Chance invade the Empire State with powerful Midwest resumes. Complete entries for the races can be found by clicking on this link. Grand Circuit Standings: In 2020, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2020 Grand Circuit awards. Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will continue at Tioga as the track will host the first leg of the Graduate Series for pacers on a Sunday (June 21) card that also includes the $175,000 (est.) Roll With Joe Open Pace. Paul Ramlow

Nichols, NY – Tioga Downs will host the first harness racing Grand Circuit stake of the 2020 season when the 1st leg of the Graduate Series for 4-year-old trotters comes to the Southern Tier of New York on Sunday (June 14). The draw for the June 14 card will be on Thursday (June 11) with a box closing at 9 a.m. Electronic entry for the Graduate Series is now available on etrack. Be advised that post time for all Tioga Downs race cards will be 4 p.m. on Sunday and Monday for the month of June. Horses shipping in for stakes will be assigned stalls in a ship-in barn and will remain in those stalls through the race. There is no detention and the track asks horsemen to ship up day of the race and ship back out as soon as practically possible. The NY COVID-19 protocol is available on the web and the practices are much like they are at Meadowlands. We are pleased to host the Graduate Series and other stakes but must insist that these guidelines are followed explicitly as to not jeopardize the track’s status. The Graduate Pacing Leg #1, Roll With Joe Open Pacing Stake and the NYSS for 3-year-old filly trotters will all be raced on Sunday (June 21). Questions should be directed to the racing office at 607.699.7688. Dan Leary

East Rutherford, NJ - The Meadowlands has processed the February nomination payments for the extensive Grand Circuit program of stakes and Early Closers. The lists of horses paid into those races is now posted on the track's website.   The number of horses nominated was down slightly, just 4% from the 2019 payments. Several older horse divisions saw a remarkable uptick with the Graduate Pace and Trot both at an all time high while the WR Haughton and Sam McKee Memorials rose to levels that haven't been seen for years.   Be reminded that the sustaining payments come due (postmarked by) March 16.   Also two brand new Early Closers have been added for Older Pacing Horses & Mares with a single payment of $1,000 due by March 16. They will serve as supporting stakes to the Cutler Memorial on the May 16 nationally televised broadcast for an estimated purse of $85,000.   Information on the stakes process is available on the web or by calling the Meadowlands Racing Office at (201) 842-5130.   From The Meadowlands

None Bettor A and Rodeo Rock hope to make strong impressions on the Grand Circuit this year and the two older male pacers will begin their journey together by making their harness racing seasonal debuts in Saturday's (Feb. 29) preferred at The Meadowlands. None Bettor A captured last year's Battle of Lake Erie as part of a campaign that saw him win 12 of 18 races and $375,970. Rodeo Rock, who won eight of 21 starts and $349,650, was victorious in two preliminary rounds of the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series and finished second in the final. He also was second in the Commodore Barry Invitational. The two 7-year-old geldings are expected to head to the MGM Borgata Pacing Series (formerly Levy) at Yonkers Raceway when it begins March 14. The six-week series concludes April 18. None Bettor A won a qualifier in 1:51.2 on Feb. 22 at The Meadowlands. He finished second in a qualifier on Feb. 15. "He'll race this week and then get next week off before jumping into the (Borgata) series," trainer Andrew Harris said. "Hopefully he can earn himself a week off sometime in the series, but if not, this way he can go four or five races in a row if need be. It's tough. Things have to go right from the get-go. "He qualified great last week. It looks like they're ready to go (1):48 this week so I'm sure he'll get stretched out and whatever happens it will be good for moving him forward." Harris began training None Bettor A this past August. After joining his stable, the gelding won the Great Northeast Open Series final and finished second in the Bobby Quillen Memorial. The 2019 season was the Australian-bred horse's first year racing in North America. He is owned by Joe P Racing and Oldford Racing. "He's just one of the coolest horses I have in the barn," Harris said. "He doesn't do anything wrong. He was real anxious in his first qualifier but he'd been away (from the track) for a little while. Last week he was back to his normal self. "He's got good gate speed, but on a personal level, I just really like his demeanor in the barn and how he handles himself." None Bettor A, then in the stable of trainer Jennifer Bongiorno, won the Battle of Lake Erie at half-mile Northfield Park in a world-record equaling 1:49. "I think he's probably one of the better half-mile horses we'll see this year," Harris said. "But we've staked him to everything, so he's going to get his opportunities on the big track too." Rodeo Rock enters Saturday's preferred off a fourth-place finish in last week's qualifier won by None Bettor A. He was timed in 1:51.4. "He's been very good (coming back)," trainer Robert Cleary said. "We were very happy with the way he qualified last week. I thought it was pretty good, really." Rodeo Rock was sidelined because of health issues in midseason last year. He was away from the races for nearly two months but ended his campaign with four wins and two seconds in his last eight starts. "I was super happy with the way he raced in the Levy and the early stakes," said Cleary, who trains Rodeo Rock for owner Royal Wire Products Inc. "Then he ran into some health issues and we had to give him some time off, but he came back strong at the end of the year." Cleary plans to race Rodeo Rock on the Grand Circuit but will keep the horse close to his base in New Jersey rather than send him on extended trips. "He's a bad shipper, so I only staked him to the local tracks," Cleary said. "But he's as good on a small track as he is on a big track, you can race him anywhere and any way. He's going to have opportunities to make money. "He can carry his speed a long way, which is probably one of his biggest attributes. He's just a real good racehorse. He shows up every week." Racing begins at 6:55 p.m. (EST) Saturday at The Meadowlands. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA    

When opportunity knocked, Drew Monti answered. It led to the best season of the 25-year-old driver's career. Monti was amid what he called a "pedestrian" campaign at his home track, Buffalo Raceway, when he was presented an opportunity to drive regularly at Plainridge Park. It gave Monti the chance to make new, as well as strengthen previous, connections and drive in an increased number of stakes. By the end of 2019, his purse earnings were a career-best $2.24 million. Prior to last year, Monti had driven in two races worth at least $100,000. In 2019, he drove in 11. He won a Massachusetts Sire Stakes championship with Odds On Orlando and competed in Grand Circuit events at multiple tracks. He did not arrive at Plainridge until early June, but with the notable backing of Lindy Farms, posted 89 wins the rest of the meet. Only Mitchell Cushing and Drew Campbell won more races during that time. Monti also enjoyed success at Red Mile, winning 13 of 75 starts (only Dexter Dunn won more among drivers with fewer than 130 starts at the Lexington oval) while still finishing third in the standings at Buffalo and fourth at Batavia. "It was definitely my best year so far, including exposure," Monti said. "It's nothing even compared to what I'd gone through. Even just going to Plainridge for Lindy Farms and stuff, I feel like I made some big strides as far as taking it to the next level. "It's a great circuit at home, but if you really want to be in the game and do well, you have to get out there. Lindy really got me going. They got me out there and the rest of it snowballed from there. I'm very grateful to them for that." Monti has kicked off this year by driving at The Meadowlands and Buffalo. It is his first trip back to the Big M since the winter of 2017. He has nine wins in 86 starts at The Meadowlands heading into this weekend's action, when he will have a total of 17 drives on Friday and Saturday. "I talked with people about coming down and I'm glad I did," Monti said. "I'm happy to be there. It's been going pretty well, I think. "It's hard to pick where you're going to go. You kind of go where you're needed. Obviously, you've got to have enough work to make it worth your while. Anyone can say they're going somewhere, but to actually compete and have enough work to make it worthwhile is the key." Monti, a Buffalo native, has won 1,532 races in his career with earnings of $9.50 million. In addition to driving, he helps his dad, Darrin, with the family's training stable. The family ties make for difficult decisions when it comes to traveling. "I don't think it's a secret, I love Buffalo," Monti said. "I'm not saying I would be opposed to moving anywhere, but I like the area I live in and I'm very close with my family. That was one thing that was difficult for me. You can't be everywhere all the time. You've got to make sacrifices. Sometimes it was with our own horses back home. I'd be watching our horses race and it was the first time I wasn't the one driving them. That said, I can see the rewards. "I'm very happy with the last couple years and the way things have progressed. I'd like to continue at that pace. I'm not one to really push things. I like to kind of let it come to me. (Early last year) I was a little bummed because I wasn't doing that great at home. I was winning races, but it was just very pedestrian. It's funny; it just shows you how things can change." Monti, who so far in his career has won two driving titles at Batavia and one at Buffalo, hopes to have a schedule similar to 2019 this year. "I'm planning on going back to Plainridge, I'm planning to be available for stakes, Grand Circuit, stuff like that," Monti said. "I'll still make appearances at Buffalo as much as I can. It's hard to say because things can change so quickly and unpredictably. It's hard to plan exactly what you're doing." Because you never know when opportunity will knock.  by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA   

  East Rutherford, NJ - Horsemen should be aware of the following details as the nomination deadline for the 2020 Grand Circuit stakes at The Meadowlands draws near.   Payments will be accepted with a February 18 postmark as per USTA guidelines, what with the 15th falling on a Saturday and Monday the 17th a holiday.   The conditions for top money winning stakes format has been revised with the top eleven (11) money winners for 2019-2020 (per USTA conversion) accepted and all Meadowlands administered/sponsored stakes raced at the distance of one mile.   It is important to note that The Meadowlands conditions contain specific language regarding eligibility to participate in Meadowlands administered stakes. As you consider nominating your horses, be aware of these two articles: Disputes: All owners, trainers and drivers of horses nominated to this event must be accepted to participate at the Host Track or the nomination/entry may be denied without refund of previous payments. Any change of trainers made fewer than 30 days or within four starts of the date of this race will be reviewed by the sponsor and if not accepted, may result in refusal of entry. Sponsors reserve the right to amend conditions as deemed necessary without liability. Rules: A minimum of seven (7) separate interests may be required in any event or the event may be canceled. All starters are subject to the detention policy of the Host Track. The rules of the Host Track and its state Racing Commission along with the USTA shall govern unless otherwise specified in these conditions. These races are subject to the Stallion Restriction Condition (SRC); see Meadowlands website for details. Any horse nominated to any Meadowlands stakes/event must be in the care of an approved trainer by April 15, 2020 for any stake/event raced during the month of May and by May 15 for all other 2020 stakes/events. In addition, any owner who participates in a Meadowlands Stake or Early Closing event (with added money greater than $25,000) with a trainer who has an outstanding Class 1, Class 2 or TC02 positive test having occurred on or after January 1, 2019 and under appeal in any jurisdiction will be declared ineligible to participate in any Meadowlands Stake or Early Closing event for 12 months following the conviction if such trainer is subsequently found guilty relating to the Class 1, Class 2 or TC02 positive test. Nominator also agrees that any horse paid into any Meadowlands stake/event may be required to be stabled for up to 14 days at an approved facility within a 150 mile radius of The Meadowlands or the Tioga or Vernon Downs stable area or an approved facility in a state that agrees to cooperate in an out of competition testing protocol by the date set by The Meadowlands for that stake/event for the purpose of out of competition testing. Failure to comply with these conditions may result in any agreement created by the acceptance of any stakes payment to be declared void at the discretion of The Meadowlands rendering the horse(s) in question ineligible to race in those stakes/events with no liability to The Meadowlands and no assurance of a refund of payments previously made to the stake/event in question. A nomination to these events is an agreement to the above terms and conditions. Questions regarding the status of any potential nominator or trainer will be answered by the Racing Department at (201) 842-5130.   All pertinent information on The Meadowlands $15 million stakes program including schedules and payments is available on the web.   New Jersey Sires Stakes information may be found here.   SBOANJ stakes information may be found here.   Hambletonian Society administered stakes information may be found here.   by Nick Salvi, for the Meadowlands    

Wherever he goes, JL Cruze is still the man. "Everybody knows him, everybody loves him," trainer Eric Ell said about the 9-year-old harness racing trotter, who was a Dan Patch Award winner in 2015. "He's a household name around here. Everybody asks about him when he's not racing to make sure he's all right. They keep track of him. When people see him, they come up hugging on him. He's been unbelievable." JL Cruze might not be the Grand Circuit warrior of old, but he remains a fighter. And with two wins in three races this season, including a 1:51.2 score that is as fast as any win time he's posted since he was 6, he could be looking to turn back the clock. In addition to his 1:51.2 victory at The Meadowlands on Jan. 11, JL Cruze won in 1:53.4 over a track rated good because of inclement weather on Jan. 18. "He was incredible his last two starts," Ell said. "Two starts ago, he did it the old-fashioned way, like his old self. He was parked to the half in :54.3 and he won by a length and a half, last quarter :27.3 on the end of it. The next week, that was a great mile that night and he did it easily. "He's probably as sound as he's been since I've had him, and he loves doing what he does. He's better this year, even with the turns. You used to almost have to grab into him a little bit because he could get rough going. (Driver) Dexter Dunn said he's just whistling right around the turns now." JL Cruze's next start is Saturday at The Meadowlands in the preferred trot. JL Cruze will start from post 10 in a field that includes Pappy Go Go, who brings a three-race win streak to the event. "If he's as good as he was the last three starts up there, they'll know he's in there for sure," Ell said about JL Cruze. For his career, JL Cruze has won 37 of 104 races and $1.46 million. His most memorable victory came at The Meadowlands in 2015 when he captured the Graduate Series championship in 1:49.4 to become the first trotter to go faster than 1:50 in Big M history. He was limited to six races in 2018 because of surgery for a twisted intestine but returned last year to win six times and earn $100,720. He made all but one of his 26 starts at either The Meadowlands or Hoosier Park and Ell plans to keep JL Cruze on the big tracks again this season. The gelding is owned by Ken Wood, Bill Dittmar Jr., and Steve Iaquinta. "We didn't stake him last year because we didn't even know how he would be," Ell said. "We just did the overnights and he ended up making a hundred (thousand dollars) that way. He's getting pretty long in the tooth now. He's still competing well, but I don't know how well he would take all the shipping (on the Grand Circuit). But the time off might have helped him. He's been really good." As for what JL Cruze has meant to Ell, well, he's still the man. "Words can't say," Ell said. "I've had a lot of open horses that I've trained in my life, but never a world champion like him. He's just a tough rascal." Racing begins at 7:15 p.m. (EST) Saturday at The Meadowlands. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

Hightstown, NJ -- Chris Page put together quite the superfecta in 2019. The 36-year-old harness racing driver piloted Ohio's Horse of the Year in 2-year-old male pacer Elver Hanover, notched career victory 5,000, increased his workload on the Grand Circuit, and got married. "It was the best year of my life, horse racing wise and in my personal life," Page said. "I was very happy with all of it." Page won more than 400 races for the seventh consecutive year in 2019 and nearly set a career high for purses despite taking off all but one day in December for his honeymoon. The Ohio resident visited the winner's circle 435 times and earned $5.94 million. Although his purses failed to eclipse his $6.19 million in 2018, his average earnings per start were better in 2019. In addition to driving Elver Hanover, who was undefeated in nine races, Page drove Ohio champion 2-year-old filly pacer Looksgoodinaromper and had occasional drives with 4-year-old Mission Accepted, who was named Ohio's best older trotter. All three horses were from the stable of trainer Ron Burke. "It was a very good year," Page said. "Honestly, I've got to thank the Burkes. They're the ones that made it possible. Between them and (trainer) Brian Brown, they've been very good to me. "Everything just came together. The good thing about 2019 going into 2020, those horses that were 2-year-olds are coming back as 3-year-olds here in Ohio for the stakes program. With a little luck, we'll have a great year this year too." Page drove Elver Hanover, by Yankee Cruiser out of Edra Hanover, in all but one of his nine races last season. Yannick Gingras was in the bike for the gelding's 1:48.3 world-record score in a division of the Bluegrass Stakes at Lexington's Red Mile. Page was back behind Elver Hanover the following week when he closed his season with a win in a division of the International Stallion Stakes. "It's tough to say anything is perfect, but how do you say that he's not? More importantly, the horse got put away on top," Page said. "Anytime in the year, the horse never was taking tired steps. He was always pacing forward late. And he is user friendly. That makes my job so much easier when you can do whatever you want with a horse. "I saw a picture of him the other day and he looks like a tank. He might have grown a little bit, in height and filled out, and he's always been a good-looking horse, anyway. It makes 2020 exciting driving horses like that." Page drove Looksgoodinaromper in all 12 of her races, winning five. She became the fastest 2-year-old filly pacer on a half-mile track with a 1:52.3 victory at Northfield in a division of the Ohio Sire Stakes. "You can't forget about her," Page said. "I really liked her. I think she maybe got a little bit tired late in the year and we were drawing terrible. But she's a world-record-holder too." Page, who studied to be a veterinarian before turning his full attention to driving, got his first win in 2001 and topped 1,000 starts and 300 wins for the first time in 2009. With the exception of last season when he took his honeymoon break, he has been one of the five busiest drivers in North America on a regular basis. "Obviously, you have dreams; everybody dreams," Page said about his success. "But I kind of implemented a process and stuck to it. You've got to know a few people, but I believe in hard work. I put the work in, and I still do. Being there and trying to be cordial and respectful. These people, there are plenty of guys out there that they can choose to drive their horses. Sometimes, they might remember you for a simple hello. "That's kind of how I got started. I don't have family per se in the business. My parents didn't do it. I need every inch I can get. And timing. When I got started driving, we didn't have the slots here at the racetracks. Your Brett Millers, your Dave Millers, they went out east and it opened up some room for a young guy like myself to get started." Page likes to be as prepared as possible when he sits behind a horse. He also likes to help prepare a horse to maximize its potential. "I'm a program reader and nowadays with the replays, if I haven't driven a horse, I can type in his name and watch his last few races," Page said. "I do a lot of that; I watch replays quite a bit. It's like, Tom Brady watches film before he goes out and plays a game. You have to do your homework. I want to know as much as I can about the horse; what it can do and what it can't do. "The (young horses) I drive, the first few starts I kind of babysit them. I race them off a helmet and make sure they're pacing late. Once they get that figured out, then you can add another element. Most horses can leave or can learn to leave very easily. But on the flip side, not as many can race off the pace, do stuff like that, because they get hot. I really take pride in my work and really try to do best by the horse." Page was happy to take time off with his wife Brianna at the end of last year to enjoy a honeymoon, which included a week in the Bahamas and a week skiing in Michigan. The couple was married in September. "I never take time off," Page said. "I might take a day or two here or there, but not really any significant time since I started racing. She works in an orthodontist office. She works in the morning, I work at night, so to get to spend some time together is nice. Plus, it was Christmas time and we got to spend time with the families at Christmas. We just had a ball, really. It was the quickest month of my life." Was it difficult to adjust to not rushing around? "No, not at all," Page said. "I'm usually always looking at my watch because I have stuff to do, but for a whole month I didn't pay attention to the time. I kept telling myself I was on vacation and it didn't matter. My biggest chore was figuring out what to eat that day." A very good way to end a very good year. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

East Rutherford, NJ - The Meadowlands is releasing pertinent information on its 2020 harness racing stakes which will offer total purses in the neighborhood of $14 million. The marquee Grand Circuit stakes for older horses will have an important change in the racing conditions. The number of top money winning horses in 2019-2020 accepted for those events will decrease from twelve to eleven and the distance will be kept to one mile regardless of the number of starters. The races affected by this change are the Arthur Cutler, John Cashman and Dr. John Steele Memorials on the trot and the WR Haughton and Sam McKee Memorial FFA paces, Golden Girls and Lady Liberty FFA mare paces and Mistletoe Shalee for 3-year-old filly pacers. The Kindergarten Classic Series for freshman trotters and pacers will also race five legs for an increased purse of $20,000 each, all at The Meadowlands starting in July with the $250,000e finals set for September 18. The Reynolds and Tompkins-Geers Grand Circuit stakes for 2-year-olds have been moved from Tioga Downs to The Meadowlands in 2020. The dates for the freshman New Jersey Sires Stakes have been moved to later in the summer with the finals set for August 21.   The Tompkins-Geers pacing stakes for 3-year-old pacing colts and fillies will also be raced at The Meadowlands and have been placed to provide a start between the Meadowlands Pace and Cane Pace.   The popular Miss Versatility series for older mare trotters will offer five $40,000 legs this season. The stakes series will launch at Woodbine Mohawk Park in late May then shift to The Meadowlands for the other four legs from July through September. The $100,000e finals will again be on Jug Day at the Delaware, Ohio County Fair. The Meadowlands Standardbred Championship Meet will close on September 19 due to the Fall Thoroughbred Meet taking over use of the main track from October 2 through November 21. The Standardbreds will return on November 27 with the TVG Championships and Freshman Fall Final Four slated for Saturday, November 28 on a night boasting $3 million in purses. All staking information is available on the Meadowlands website. Please call the Racing Office at (201) 842-5130 with questions. by Nick Salvi, for the Meadowlands

This Week: The 2019 Grand Circuit season has come to a close. The 2020 schedule will be released in January. Last time: After working to catch cover up the far side, Shake That House ($20.20) vaulted three-wide off the final turn to collar Captain Crunch in the $335,000 Hap Hansen Progress Pace final for 3-year-old colts and geldings on Wednesday night (Nov. 27) at Dover Downs. Shake That House tracked down Captain Crunch to prevail by a widening neck in 1:50.1. Fotowon photo. The sophomore son of American Ideal landed in sixth early while 3-5 favorite Captain Crunch (Yannick Gingras) worked to clear American Mercury (Tyler Buter) through a :26 first quarter. As Captain Crunch, who won the elimination heat, sped along through a :53.4 half, Tim Tetrick angled Shake That House third-over - but the pair lost their cover upon reaching the backstretch. While the first-over Dancin Lou (Andy McCarthy) sustained gradual headway up the far side, the second-over Semi Tough (David Miller) angled back to the pegs upon straightening, forcing Shake That House to close a three-length gap in the outer tier into a 1:21 third split. Despite the extra work he endured, Shake That House had ample energy to swing three-wide around a stalled Dancin Lou well above the eighth pole and tracked down Captain Crunch to prevail by a widening neck in 1:50.1. U S Captain (Dexter Dunn), who was locked in from mid-division, rallied up the open stretch to take third. Shake That House, who also won the Max Hempt Memorial at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in June, eclipsed the $500,000 mark in seasonal earnings with the 10th victory of his career. Chris Oakes trains Shake That House for Crawford Farms Racing, Alan Johnston and the Northfork Racing Stable. Complete recaps of all the races are available at the Grand Circuit website. Grand Circuit Standings: In 2019, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2019 Grand Circuit awards. Here are the final leaders. Drivers: 1. Tim Tetrick - 1,416.5; 2. Yannick Gingras - 1,373; 3. Dexter Dunn - 1,054; 4. David Miller - 960; 5. Andrew McCarthy - 828. Trainers: 1. Ron Burke - 1,322; 2. Tony Alagna - 892; 3. Nancy Johansson - 727; 4. Ake Svanstedt - 677; 5. Marcus Melander - 628. Owners: 1. Courant Inc. - 289.5; 2. Brad Grant - 273; 3. Burke Racing Stable - 242.5; 4. Robert Key - 226; 5. Fashion Farms - 224.5. Looking ahead: The 2020 Grand Circuit schedule will be released in January. by Paul Ramlow, for the Grand Circuit  

This Week: Hap Hansen Progress Pace final, Dover Downs, Dover, Del. Schedule of events: The Grand Circuit returns to Dover Downs this Wednesday (Nov. 27) for the $335,000 final in the Hap Hansen Progress Pace for 3-year-old open pacers. Elimination winner Captain Crunch heads a field of eight in the Hap Hansen, the final stake of the 2019 Grand Circuit season. Complete entries for the race are available at this link. Last time: Six Pack went out a winner, capping his career by capturing Saturday's (Nov. 23) $350,000 TVG Open Trot championship by three-quarters of a length with a track-record 1:50 performance over a surface labeled "good" because of rain at The Meadowlands. Six Pack went out a winner, capping his career by capturing Saturday's $350,000 TVG Open Trot championship. Lisa photo. Manchego, the lone mare in the race, finished second and Guardian Angel AS was third. Gimpanzee, the 3-year-old taking on older trotters, finished fourth. Guardian Angel AS took the lead on the first turn while Six Pack, on the inside, and Manchego, on the outside, battled for second through an opening quarter in :26.3. Guardian Angel AS gave up the front to Manchego in a half of :53.4, with Six Pack third and Gimpanzee fourth. The top four remained in that order as Manchego reached three-quarters in 1:22.4, but Six Pack was on the move and came home with a :26.3 final quarter to hit the wire first. The winning time established a track record for 4-year-old stallion trotters. "It was a perfect trip for him," trainer-driver Ake Svanstedt said about Six Pack. "It was a fast first quarter and fast first half, so then I thought I had a good chance to win." Six Pack, by Muscle Mass out of Pleasing Lady, is owned by Ake Svanstedt Inc., Little E-Knutssontrotting, Stall Kalmar Inc., and L Berg Inc. He was bred by Brittany Farms. For the year, Six Pack has won four of 12 races and earned $581,314. Lifetime, the 4-year-old stallion won 19 of 35 races and $1.93 million. He will stand at Deo Volente Farms in New Jersey. Six Pack was a Dan Patch Award winner at age 3, when he became the fastest 3-year-old trotter in history with a 1:49.1 mile. This season, he became the fastest 4-year-old male trotter, with a 1:49.2 score. Always A Prince and driver Yannick Gingras went to the front from post eight and never looked back, rolling to a 1:48.2 win in Saturday's $350,000 TVG Open Pace championship. The margin of victory was 4-3/4 lengths. Bettor's Wish, the lone 3-year-old in the field of older male pacers, finished second and American History was third. Always A Prince, trained by Tyler George, set fractions of :27, :55, and 1:22.1 on his way to the win. It was Gingras' first drive behind Always A Prince, a 4-year-old gelding, who was sent off at odds of 5-1. "He certainly left a good impression," Gingras said. "(I was told) he's really nice to drive, he can race either way, and left it up to me behind the gate. When the gate opened, there wasn't much speed. A couple horses left inside of me, but I was able to get a really good first half, and I think it made the difference. "When I looked at the race, I didn't see a crazy amount of speed. I thought there were more horses that were looking to race from behind, so I thought maybe it could work out that way. But maybe once every 20 times it works out the way I think." For the year, Always A Prince has won four of 18 races and earned $362,835. He has won 23 of 40 lifetime starts and $855,710. Always A Prince, by Always A Virgin out of Glorious Princess, is owned by Carl Atley and Melanie Atley. He was bred by Emerald Highlands Farm. Complete recaps of all the races are available at the Grand Circuit website. Grand Circuit Standings: In 2019, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2019 Grand Circuit awards. Here are the leaders following this past weekend: Drivers: 1. Tim Tetrick - 1,396.5; 2. Yannick Gingras - 1,363; 3. Dexter Dunn - 1,049; 4. David Miller - 960; 5. Andrew McCarthy - 828. Trainers: 1. Ron Burke - 1,322; 2. Tony Alagna - 887; 3 Nancy Johansson - 717; 4. Ake Svanstedt - 677; 5. Marcus Melander - 628. Owners: 1. Courant Inc. - 289.5; 2. Brad Grant - 271.7; 3. Burke Racing Stable - 242.5; 4. Robert Key - 226; 5. Fashion Farms - 224.5. Looking ahead: The 2019 Grand Circuit season will conclude after this week; the 2020 Grand Circuit schedule will be released in January. by Paul Ramlow, for The Grand CIrcuit  

This Week: Fall Four and TVG finals, Meadowlands Racetrack, East Rutherford, N.J. and Hap Hansen Progress Pace elimination, Dover Downs, Dover, Del. Schedule of events: The Grand Circuit returns to Dover Downs this Wednesday (Nov. 20) for a $35,000 elimination in the Hap Hansen Progress Pace for 3-year-old open pacers. A field off 10 will compete for eight spots in the final slated for Nov. 27. On Saturday night (Nov. 23) Meadowlands Racetrack will host finals in each of the Fall Four events for freshman pacers and trotters and the TVG series for open pacers and trotters. The Fall Four features the $505,050 Valley Victory for 2-year-old male trotters, the $475,100 Goldsmith Maid for 2-year-old filly trotters, the $401,850 Governor's Cup for 2-year-old male pacers and the $411,000 Three Diamonds for 2-year-old filly pacers. The TVG finals consist of the $350,000 Open Pace, the $350,000 Open Trot, $175,000 Mare Pace and the $175,000 Mare Trot. Complete entries for the races are available at this link. Last time: Breeders Crown winner Gimpanzee and Hambletonian Oaks winner When Dovescry added another Grand Circuit title to their respective résumés with victories in the Matron Stakes for 3-year-old trotters on Thursday (Nov. 14) at Dover Downs. In the $208,300 Matron for sophomore trotting colts and geldings, Gimpanzee ($2.80) and Brian Sears sprinted to the early lead before yielding control to Chin Chin Hall (Dexter Dunn) at the completion of a :27 first quarter. The son of Chapter Seven was relegated to third as Don't Let'em (Yannick Gingras) brushed aggressively from midfield to clear with a circuit to go, but angled first-over to attack soon after stalking a :54.4 half. On the backstretch, Gimpanzee sustained a strong attack on Don't Let'em, taking charge effortlessly past three-quarters in 1:23 and drawing away at will for a 1:51.1 score. Chin Chin Hall emerged up the open stretch to take second, four lengths back, while Pilot Discretion (Andy McCarthy) rallied off cover for third. Marcus Melander trains 17-time winner Gimpanzee for Courant Inc. and the S R F Stable. The $176,150 Matron for 3-year-old trotting fillies saw Simon Allard send When Dovescry ($7.60) clear of Beautiful Sin (Ã…ke Svanstedt) and Only Take Cash (Tim Tetrick) into the first turn before controlling splits of :27, :56.1 and 1:23.4. With three-sixteenths to go, When Dovescry faced a bid from Evident Beauty (David Miller), who circled stalled cover to challenge on the final turn. The daughter of Muscle Hill successfully held her ground, holding off a late stand-side rally from Only Take Cash by a half-length in 1:52.2. Evident Beauty stayed on between fillies to maintain third. Rene Allard trains 10-time winner When Dovescry for the Go Fast Stable, Yves Sarrazin, Kapildeo Singh and Lawrence Dumain. After Dancin Lou snapped his four-race win streak in the Breeders Crown, Bettor's Wish ($3.20) got back in the win column with a 1:49.2 score in the $248,350 Matron Stakes for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings. Bettor's Wish worked clear of American Mercury (Tyler Buter) just beyond a :27 first quarter, but faced immediate pressure from Dancin Lou (Andy McCarthy) with a circuit to go and on toward a :53.2 half. With a quarter-mile to go, Bettor's Wish began to scamper away, turning aside Dancin Lou past three-quarters in 1:21.3. The son of Bettor's Delight was kept to task through the final furlong, and he maintained 1-3/4 lengths of clearance over American Mercury. Aflame Hanover (Corey Callahan) angled off the pegs at head-stretch to chase and just missed the runner-up spot. Trainer Chris Ryder co-owns Bettor's Wish, an 18-time winner and an earner of more than $1.8 million, with Bella Racing Ltd., Fair Island Farm Inc. and Bettors Wish Partners. Bettor's Wish has finished first or second in all 18 of his starts this season. Following a runner-up finish to Warrawee Ubeaut in the Breeders Crown, Tall Drink Hanover ($13.20) rode the pocket to victory in the $165,900 Matron for 3-year-old pacing fillies, reeling in her arch-rival in the process. Andy McCarthy put Tall Drink Hanover in play from the outset to seize early control, only to yield to prohibitive favorite Warrawee Ubeaut (Yannick Gingras) just behind a taxing :26 first quarter. After stalking a :54.2 half, Tall Drink Hanover found herself boxed as Sunny Dee (Brian Sears) offered first-over pressure up the far side. Off the home turn, Tall Drink Hanover angled to the open stretch and eclipsed the dueling leaders, beating Sunny Dee by three-quarters of a length in 1:50.2. Treacherous Reign (Dunn) lifted from third-over to narrowly take third over the engulfed Warrawee Ubeaut, who missed the board for the first time this year in her Matron defeat. Tony Alagna trains 15-time winner Tall Drink Hanover, a daughter of Captaintreacherous, for Alagna Racing, Marvin Katz and Riverview Racing. Complete recaps of all the races are available at the Grand Circuit website. Grand Circuit Standings: In 2019, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2019 Grand Circuit awards. Here are the leaders following this past weekend: Drivers: 1. Tim Tetrick - 1,366.5; 2. Yannick Gingras - 1,278; 3. Dexter Dunn - 1,019; 4. David Miller - 940; 5. Andrew McCarthy - 808. Trainers: 1. Ron Burke - 1,292; 2. Tony Alagna - 877; 3 Nancy Johansson - 672; 4. Ake Svanstedt - 637; 5. Marcus Melander - 623. Owners: 1. Courant Inc. - 284.5; 2. Brad Grant - 267.1; 3. Burke Racing Stable - 238.7; 4. Robert Key - 226; 5. Fashion Farms - 224.5. Looking ahead: The 2019 Grand Circuit season comes to a close on Nov. 27. Dover Downs will host the final stake of the season in the $300,000 (est.) Hap Hansen Progress Pace for 3-year-old male pacers. by Paul Ramlow, for the Grand Circuit  

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