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Friday featured the first leg of the Virginia O'Brien Memorial Pacing Series for harness racing fillies and mares at Saratoga Casino Hotel. There were two divisions of the series' first leg and each went for a purse of $10,000. Yonkers invader Speedo Miss (Roll With Joe) came to town with a record of four-for-four in 2018. The Mark Harder trainee has displayed versatility early on in her career and was impressive in local debut on Friday. Speedo Miss was the odds-on betting favorite in leg one of the series and wound up prevailing despite getting a difficult first-over journey with Frank Coppola Jr. in the sulky. Speedo Miss was first-over in a third quarter that went in 27.4 but fellow Yonkers invader Elegant Deo (Jimmy Devaux) couldn't put her away. Speedo Miss stopped the timer in 1:56.1 to extend her win streak to five and to all but ensure her spot in the series Final to be contested in two weeks. Maggies Way (Shawn Gray) finished second while Elegant Deo held on for third. The series' other division saw another first-over winner as Brett Crawford's Awake My Soul (Real Desire) pulled off the upset. The four year old mare overcame her overland trip to spring the upset at odds of 17-1, stopping the timer in a career-best 1:57.2 for Crawford who trains and drives the mare. Leg two of the series will take place next Friday with the Final being contested in two weeks. Live racing continues on Saturday night at Saratoga with a first post time set for 6:45pm. Mike Sardella

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - After a successful harness racing 3-year-old campaign in 2016 that saw him bank a little more than $360,000, Sutton did not race at all last year. Foot problems derailed his 4-year-old season, so trainer Julie Miller and staff worked patiently with the horse, opting to keep the son of Donato Hanover on the sidelines until April 6 of this year, a layoff of 16 months. Sutton proved worth the wait, taking the $52,500 Shiaway St. Pat Series Final for trotters at the Meadowlands Friday night. "I couldn't ask for anything more," said Miller after the victory. "He had a good week." And an even better night. Sutton didn't race like a horse with any problems, sitting fourth in the early going before moving aggressively to the lead at the half. The Andy Miller-driven 5-year-old then drew clear of 5-1 fourth-choice Perseverance by 2½ lengths at the head of the stretch on the way to an easy 1¾-length win over a late-closing Deep Impact in 1:53.1. Perseverance held third. "He had a solid mile last week (when he won leg two of the series)," said Julie Miller. "Right now, we have all of his issues under control." Sutton, who paid $4.20 as the even-money favorite, has now won nine of 29 lifetime starts and earned $475,263 for owners Andy Miller Stable and Jason and Douglas Allen. A LITTLE MORE: Gold Medal Swan ($3.00) took the GSY Amateur Driving Club Spring Fling Series Final in 1:56.3, winning his third straight since trainer Mark Silva took over the driving chores. ... Leading driver Jim Marohn Jr. had three winners on the card. ... The Late 20-Cent Jackpot Super High-Five failed to result in a single-ticket winner, upping the carryover to $197,059. ... All-source wagering for the 10 races was $2,078,568. ... Racing resumes at the Big M Saturday at 7:15 p.m. By Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations

Somedew Somedont (Chris Lems) takes the first leg of the Robert E. Keller Trotting Series($4000) on opening night at Vernon Downs (April 20). On a brisk evening at the Miracle Mile, Lems took Somedew Somedont (Deweycheatumnhowe) right to the lead from her outside post. Owned by Chris and Dale Lawton (trainer), the 3 -year-old fillie put up all the fractions 28.4, 59.2, 1:28.2, 1:57.4. The post time favorite, I win Hanover (Tom Jackson) would follow the entire mile. The 3-year-old gelding would come out of the pocket and give her a run at it but had to settle for second. Irish Kate (Jimmy Whittemore) would finish third. Somedew Somedont ($6.00) won in her first start of the season. It was third career victory in just 10 starts. Joe Nassimos had an opening day driving double. He would get wins with The Big Muscle ($8.10) and Velocity Kelli ($23.40). The large opening night crowd recieved free t-shirts and magnets plus got to see a spectular fireworks display after the 11 race card was over. Vernon returns to live racing tomorrow (April 21) with an 11 race card starting at 6:10 p.m. For more information go to www.vernondowns.com John Horne for Vernon Downs.      

LEBANON, OH. - Miami Valley Raceway's Friday (April 20) night co-features did not disappoint. Up Front Flor Ida (Kayne Kauffman) set a new track record for 3-year-old pacing fillies in the $40,000 James K. Hackett Memorial final; and Zoe Ellasen (Tyler Smith) established a new lifetime mark winning the $25,000 Mares Open Pace. As the winner of one of the two Hackett eliminations a week ago, Up Front Flor Ida entered the championship tilt full of confidence. Rather than coming from way back like she did in the elim, Kauffman sent her sailing from the outset with the big money on the line. Despite heavy pressure from Just Zip It (Keith Crawford) for the first five-eighths of the mile and then runnerup Kay Again (Chris Page) the rest of the way, the winner was able to rebuff all challenges enroute to a 1:52.4 score. It established a new track standard, lowering the previous 1:53 clockings by both Rose Run Skyler and Rosemary Rose in 2017. Up Front Flor Ida has now notched four wins in her first ten lifetime starts, banking $75,901 for owners Kevin McKinney and Virginia McKoy. With the triumph, trainer Tim McKoy's standout filly earned an instant invitation to next Friday night's $50,000 Scarlet & Gray Invitational for sophomore fillies. Runnerup Kay Again and show finisher Big Bad Goldie (Mike Wilder) also earned automatic bids to the next big dance.   Zoe Ellasen, who competed in last September's Jugette at the Delaware (OH) county fairgrounds where her trainer Ron Potter is stabled, won her first open class race in 1:52, a personal best. Although Zoe Ellasen has 14 career victories and $268,605 in earnings, it came largely in juvenile stakes competition. The 4-year-old daughter of Santanna Blue Chip has consistently been in-the-money since joining the older open ranks, but hadn't won until now. Smith, realizing that front-end speed was holding up well on this evening, put Zoe Ellasen on the point from the get-go and showed her heels to the field at every pole, reaching them in :27, :54.2 and 1:22.3 before reaching the wire in 1:52. Zoe Ellasen topped Cas Art Apparel and Juslikeaqueen in the $25,000 Mares Open Pace Conrad photo Clyde Perfect owns the winner, who bested longshot Cas Art Apparel (Josh Sutton) and Juslikeaqueen (Jeremy Smith). Zoe Ellasen paid $8.00 to win. When Donna's Dream won Miami Valley's 4th race on Friday night it gave veteran trainer Bob Phillips his 1000th win since the USTA began keeping records in 1996. Phillips was training long before 1996, and actually recorded 480 driving wins in the five year span from 1977-81.  Bob Phillips gets his his 1000th win                    -Brad Conrad photo   Gregg Keidel    

YONKERS, NY, Friday, April 20, 2018—Caviart Cherie (Brent Holland, $39.60) was a shrewdly-driven upsetter, winning Friday night’s (Apr. 20th) $30,000 Filly and Mare Preferred Handicap Pace. Making the first lead from her assigned post position No. 5, Caviart Cherie relented to Wishy Washy Girl (Jason Bartlett) before a 27-second opening quarter-mile. After a soft :301 second subsection (:57.1 half), pole-assigned Betabcool N (Joe Bongiorno) moved from third, though not much. Jewel Lehigh A (Scott Zeron) was stuck behind that dullard, the tow backpedaling before a 1:25.1 three-quarters. Meanwhile, Freakonomics (Eric Goodell) and 17-10 choice Carobbean Pacetry (Jordan Stratton) both ducked back inside, awaiting room and running out of real estate. Wishy Washy Girl owned a length lead into the lane, but Caviart Cherie—last seen here winning last month’s final of the Petticoat Pacing Series—edged out and edged by. The latter beat the former by a half-length in 1:55. Freakonomics and Carobbean Pacetry were a belated third and fourth, respectively, with Jewel Lehigh A and Betabcool N bringing up the rear of the half-dozen.  For rank outsider Caviart Cherie, a 4-year-old daughter of Well Said owned by Joe P Racing and trained by Matias Ruiz, it was her eighth win in 13 seasonal starts. The exacta paid $205.50, with the triple returning $700. Saturday night (Apr. 21st), the Raceway’s presents North America’s two richest race of the season to date $373,000 FINAL, BLUE CHIP MATCHMAKER     (9th race) PP-Horse                     Driver                         M/L   1-Shartin N                 Tim Tetrick                  8-5 2-Sell a Bit N              Jordan Stratton           7-2 3-Medusa                    Yannick Gingras         6-1 4-Lady Shadow          Jason Bartlett              7-2                                     5-Motu Moonbeam N Brent Holland            20-1 6-Dude’salady             Scott Zeron                15-1 7-Twinkle                    Eric Goodell               20-1 8-Lakeisha Hall           George Brennan         15-1   $532,000 FINAL, GEORGE MORTON LEVY MEMORIAL PACING SERIES (10th race)\ PP-Horse                     Driver                          M/L   \                                   1-Western Fame          Mark MacDonald        7-1 2-Dr. J Hanover          Brett Miller                  9-2 3-Keystone Velocity   Dan Dube                    5-2 4-Evenin’ of Pleasure Joe Bongiorno              8-1 5-Somewhere in L A   Jason Bartlett              5-1 6-Mach it So               Dave Miller                  4-1 7-Bit of a Legend N   Jordan Stratton            9-1 8-Rockin’ Ron            Yannick Gingras         20-1   First post for the $1.3 million card is the usual 6:50 PM.   FRANK DRUCKER

Millstone Township, NJ - April 20, 2017 - Twenty Standardbreds are weighed and tagged to ship to the Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses   Because the  Standardbred Retirement Foundation (SRF) is presently paying for all the care, board and medical needs on 390 trotters and pacers it cannot take on these needy horses, but there are ways to help. The greatest need for each of these horses is a soft landing, a place to live out their last years. Their ages range from 12 -21. Here is how you and SRF can save these horses that likely have been pulling heavy farm equipment, and were used for transportation since leaving the racing oval.  If you choose to take a horse back that you bred, owned or trained or wish to help a horse, SRF will assist with the facilitation. The list with their prices are included.  For horses with a home offer, but the home is unable to pay for the horse and and the shipping (often to rural parts of the US), SRF will collect donations to help. For a horse with no safe place to go, if donations cover all expenses, the price of the horse, shipping to quarantine, then shipping again to a boarding facility for rehabilitation and retraining for adoption and several months of board, SRF will consider whether it can take on the responsibility of another horse.  This is approximately $3,000. For horses with no help at all, the controversial option that is being considered is humane euthanasia. The cost is, the kill pen's purchase price, in addition to shipping to a facility, the veterinarian and rendering, approximately $550. These horses, when shipped for slaughter, are  crammed into eighteen-wheelers for long periods of time en-route without any care for injuries or sickness. Some have open wounds, eye injuries, are starving; some are in their late years, others are just worn out. "Avoiding the decision for humane euthanasia means we are choosing to send them to slaughter. Slaughter is real and heinous," says Judy Bokman, SRF's Executive Director.     SRF reached out to other groups with no luck or there were caveats that don't align with SRF's mission. A NYS group is not taking in any new horses. A group in Ohio relinquish ownership and doesn't follow-up beyond one year, which easily results in the need for a second rescue of a horse. One group in Wisconsin has no formal follow-up program. People have lifestyles changes and for some, their horses become the victims, hence, SRF's lifelong follow-up program.   In 2017 SRF helped 550 Standardbreds in kill pens in addition to many other right off the track, of which nearly 400 are still under its care and expense, this is in spite of 330 adoptions secured for these and others that had already been with the 29 year old program.     The number of horses was 23 just yesterday, but when the kill buyer had a load ready to ship and and it wasn't full; we suspect that he pulled 2 from this group, as 2 are now missing from the list provided. To offer a home, make a tax-deductible gift to help SRF facilitate a horse to a home being offered, or to send a gift for SRF to afford taking on one, contact SRF AT 732-446-4422 or    CLICK HERE. Their deadline is Tuesday, April 24th at 4pm.    A choice can made whether a horse leaves the earth by the heinous act of slaughter or through humane euthanasia. Should some horses not receive help and you wish to provide a more peaceful passing please call us to discuss.            TAG # NAME SEX AGE TATTOO EARNINGS   PRICE SIRE/   DAME 1871 Mister Mystic N G,16 ZH205 $403,984 $800 In The Pocket-Seafield Mystic-Nero's Bebe 1877 Yankee Fur OR Stubling G, ? ? ? $720   1864 Nole G, 14 1BE96 $54,911 $810 Yankee Glide-CR Seminole Sister_Royal Trubador 1865 T-N-T Dozer G, 20 T4635 $23,102 $910 Sir Taurus-Midnight Oasis-Desert Night 1866 Forward Action   G, 15 4AE47 $761 $810 Moving Foarward-Action Goal_Ambro Goal 1868 Valid Movement G, 14 4DB75 $31,602 $800 Towner's Big Guy-Chevie Sprints-Sport Master 1863 Artistocracy G, 14 9BD28 $56,013 $810   Artiscape-Expensly Ashley-Expensive Scooter 1867 Loutopia M, 18 WC096 $0 $660 Sir Taurus-Golden LOu-Baltic Speed 1869 Demartini (formerly Whitsand Predator) G, 17 XR713 $0 $835 Grinfromeartoea r-Filly Bahama-Matt's Scooter 1880 Us Invader G, 20 T0018 $38,784 $660 Balanced Image-Picaboo Flame-Keystone Flame 43 Dale G. 15 8AC46 $10,454 $892 Inquirer Mandalay Bay-Overcomer No Tag Native Avenue G, 7 2J771 $3,460 $940 All American NAtive-Lady Welagin-Walton HAnover 688 Indiego G, 21 SC361 $0 $892 Die Laughing-Nude Indigo-Abercombie No Tag DC's Piggy Bank G, 15 5A679 $589,811 $675 Banker Hall-HT's Sweetie Pie No Tag Hillbilly Style OR Letsgo Dort G, ? ? ? $650   No Tag Bob J L G, 15 9CN42 $48,026 $600   Dauntless Bunny-Etoile De Mai-Rumpus Hanover N/A Captain G, 13 9C641 $1,540 $700 BREEDER SAVED Him and Took Him Home. No Tag RC Kettle Chip G, 11 4EC77   $12,099 $1200   Dream Vacation-Malhana Gunilla-Bonefish No Tag Jeremy Sharky G, 15 4A407 $255,982 $750 Sharkys Spur-One Of The Kids-Albert Albert No Tag Secret Impression M, 14 4B682 $49,380 $625 Go Get Lost-Tuf Tonya-TZ 760 Casimir Army Patrol G, 20 TR315 $0 $700 Shre Patrol-Casimir Mooky  

As in the years in past, CeCe Levy and her brother, Bobby Levy, will be presenting the harness racing trophy to the winner of the George Morton Levy, a race named in the honor of their father. This year joining them in the presentation at Yonkers Raceway will be Bobby's children Tristin and Gavin. The accomplishments of George Morton Levy are too many to mention and if he had not existed our sport may not have, too. Levy invented harness racing as we know it when he opened Roosevelt Raceway introducing pari-mutual and night time racing. He would also later introduce the mobile starting gate which would revolutionize the sport. Some of his other accomplishments include the implementation of the International Trot and the single heat racing. There is also a funny story from a few years ago. While on their way to the winners circle the Levy family members who were to present the trophy to the winner got separated from the Yonkers PR people and ended up on the outside of the winners circle and the security guard would not let them in to present the trophy. Later they were photo-shopped into the winning photo. CeCe said that she and her family are grateful beyond words to Yonkers Raceway for staging the George Morton Levy and honoring her father. CeCe also made a prediction that this year's race will be won by Tony Alagna's horse, Dr J Hanover. Pictures CeCe Levy & Freddie Hudson CeCe Levy, Freddie Hudson & Bobby Levy Wally Hennesey, CeCe Levy & Jim Morrill CeCe Levy at Goshen HOF CeCe and Dave Miller By Fred Hudson

CHESTER PA - The Bettor's Delight mare Divas Image, despite having to go first-over, paced her back half in a sizzling 54.1 to take the harness racing $18,000 featured distaff pace at Harrah's Philadelphia on Friday afternoon. Driver Joe Bongiorno got away third from the rail with the winner of $362,682, then sent her out and up first-over, and Divas Image responded, going a 26.3 split down the back in the process of gunning to the lead, and then tacking on a 27.3 back quarter to easily handle her competition by 3¾ lengths while taking a new lifetime mark of 1:51. Jennifer Bongiorno trains the fast five-year-old, who has now won two straight and 5-of-9 in 2018. The victory was perhaps a bit bittersweet, because on Monday Eugene Kurzrok, a partner in both the Our Horse Cents Stables and Stable 45, which shares ownership of the winner with J&T Silva Stables LLC, had passed away at 81. Among the ownership of such stars as Mission Brief and Southwind Frank, Kurzrok was among the sport's higher-profile owners, and the victory of Divas Image may help allay some of the grief of his friends and partners. For the total Friday Philly card, the "Ohio Millers" combined for half the victories in the 14 races, with David winning four times (the first three with Nifty Norman trainees) and Brett three. PHHA / Harrah's Philadelphia

YONKERS, N.Y. – Harness racing trainer Ron Burke will start one horse each in the Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy Series Finals at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday night (April 21) and both will start from a disadvantageous post position. In a random draw, Lakeisha Hall and Rockin Ron both burdened with post eight. Despite the bad luck, Burke is keeping a positive attitude and isn’t surrendering before races even begin. “It’s awesome,” Burke said with a laugh. “I race in a lot of big races, so sooner or later you always have it, but you hate to start the year off with it. If anything, we’re going to err on the side of aggressiveness. I’d rather be parked and sit last and get nothing. If I get parked, maybe find a hole fourth or fifth, maybe upset the apple cart, but the idea of sitting eighth doesn’t appeal to me in either race. I’m not just going out there to take a ride around the track. I want to give my horses a chance.” George Brennan will drive the Lakeisha Hall, a 15-1 shot in the $373,000 Matchmaker Final, carded as race nine on the loaded 12-race program. In post position order, they will face Shartin, the 8-5 favorite, Sell A Bit, Medusa, Lady Shadow, Motu Moonbeam, Dudesalady, and Twinkle.  Lakeisha Hall’s path to the Matchmaker Final included a fifth in week one in her first start off the bench, a second to last year’s Matchmaker champion Mackenzie in leg two, a pair of victories in weeks three and four, and a third last week to rivals Dudesalady and Lady Shadow. Except in her first start, she’s been forwardly placed in all her races thus far. “She’s a very good mare and I’ve been very happy with her until her last start,” Burke said. “She had a little tie up issue last week and we got her through it, but I think it took just a little of the sharpness off her. I look for her to bounce back and be super this week. I thought, I’ve done the right thing to prep for this race, this is her home, so I have her ready to go.” Burke purchased Lakeisha Hall as a weanling with ambitions of her becoming a Kentucky Sire Stakes Champion. The daughter of Third Straight out of the Art Major mare Lantana accomplished that mission, winning the $175,000 KYSS Finals at ages 2 and 3. Now a 5-year-old, she’s exceeded expectations, earning 21 wins and $491,043 in 53 starts. The Matchmaker Final will be the biggest race of her career thus far. “We set out with a plan to win the Kentucky Sire Stakes those two years and we went out and bought three weanlings. We looked them over, broke them for a month, and then sold the other two and decided to try to keep the best one,” Burke explained. “The plan worked to perfection. She was 2- and 3-year-old champ and has been more than just a Kentucky Sire Stakes horse, so we were thrilled. “She really doesn’t have many stakes other than this and for her to draw the eight hole, that hurt, but it is what it is,” Burke continued. “Try to move on, at least get something. Crazy things will happen in these races, there’s a lot of money up for grabs. There will be constant movement in here, even if I have to be the one making the movement.” In the $532,000 Levy Final one race later, Yannick Gingras will drive Rockin Ron. The 20-1 morning line shot’s road to the series final was shaky. He posted a pair of victories in legs one and two and finished second by a nose to Western Fame in leg three before finishing fifth beaten 4 lengths in week four. Burke gave Rockin Ron the last week off and narrowly made the final. With 230 points earned, Rockin Ron was ranked eighth in the standings, only six points ahead of Missile J in ninth. “I thought I did the right thing and I had to sweat it out with Rockin Ron. I gave him last week off,” Burke said. “Usually, you do what’s right for the horse and they do race well for you in the long run. I had a great feel going into the race, I thought, if I can draw in the right spot we can be competitive. We got the eight, I said, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me.’ ” Although his races look good on paper, Burke doesn’t feel Rockin Ron, a $1.1 million earner who twice beat Wiggle It Jiggleit at 4, has been up to par in any of his races in the series. Burke was more impressed with the 6-year-old son of Real Desire’s qualifier and seasonal debut at the Meadowlands in February than his series wins. “Honestly, I haven’t been happy with any of his races. The race that he really raced well was the race he was second in. The next week, I didn’t feel like at any point he had pace, Burke said. “I pulled blood, I didn’t like his blood. I haven’t liked his stomach since he came back. That’s why I made the decision, sink or swim, I’m giving him the week off and going to try and get him right and get him ready for the final.  “We’ve done a lot of work on him the last couple weeks and I do think that he will be better,” Burke continued. “I look for him to be way improved this week.” In post-position order, Western Fame, Dr J Hanover, defending series champion Keystone Velocity, Evenin Of Pleasure, Somewhere In L A, Mach It So, and 2016 series champion Bit Of A Legend will start to Rockin Ron’s inside in the Levy Final.  First post time Saturday night is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the million-dollar card, click here.   By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

ANDERSON, Ind.--April 20, 2018-- Hoosier Park Racing & Casino is set to host its annual Talk Derby To Me celebration highlighted by a live simulcast of the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 5 from Churchill Downs. The day will include a full simulcast race schedule, official Derby merchandise, Kentucky Derby mega-bets, live harness racing starting at a special post time of 7:10 p.m., a derby hat contest, and a $10,000 drawing. Known as The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports, the Kentucky Derby is a $2 million one-and-a-quarter mile race featuring the very best three-year-old horses in racing. Hoosier Park offers convenient wagering for all races held at Churchill Downs. Advanced wagering will be available at Hoosier Park for the Kentucky Oaks on Thursday, May 3 and the Kentucky Derby on Friday, May 4. The signature Kentucky Derby race has an estimated post time of 6:35 p.m. EST on Saturday, May 5. A Grand Derby Day buffet will be offered, beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Kentucky Derby Day, for $26.95 per person. The Dan Patch Brewhouse will feature $3 craft beers and $3 pizza by the slice throughout the day. The official 144th Kentucky Derby collector glass will be available with the purchase of a traditional Mint Julep for $9. The official 144th Kentucky Oaks collector glass will be available with the purchase of a traditional Oaks Lily for $9. Kentucky Derby $500 mega-bet drawings will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on derby day. Guests will also have a chance to win a share of $10,000 by entering at a promotional kiosk starting at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 4 through 9:59 p.m. on Saturday, May 5. A special Kentucky Derby Day hat contest will take place at 5 p.m. on The Terrace Showroom stage with a first-place prize of $500. The top three winners will be determined by best presentation, originality and overall appearance. And starting at noon in the Terrace, guests may also donate $2 to the Standardbred Retirement Foundation for a chance to win $100 in wagers or free slot play between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Premium reserved seating is available for $50, and includes an all-you-can-eat buffet on Hoosier Park's lower level, a Kentucky Derby Day race program, two complimentary drinks, and a $10 racing wager. More information on Talk Derby to Me is available at www.hoosierpark.com. About Hoosier Park Racing & Casino: Hoosier Park Racing & Casino holds multiple awards for customer service, entertainment, gaming, dining, and team member culture. Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, a fully-integrated gaming and racing facility, features 2,000 of the latest slots and electronic table games and a 7/8 mile oval horse track offering live harness racing each year. Simulcast wagering is offered year-round at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, the Winner's Circle Pub, Grille & OTB in Downtown Indianapolis and Winner's Circle OTB & VooDoo BBQ & Grill in New Haven/Fort Wayne, Ind. For more information on upcoming entertainment and promotions at Hoosier Park visit www.hoosierpark.com. Hoosier Park Racing & Casino  

Plainville, Ma---State-bred Muscles Jared was a champion at two and runner-up at three in Massachusetts Sire Stake action. But it appears that the best may be yet to come as he is now two-for-two as an aged performer, notching his second harness racing victory in a $10,000 conditioned event at Plainridge Park on Thursday afternoon (April 19). Starting from post one, Muscles Jared (Truman Gale) took a quick lead before yielding to Cincinnati Miss (Greg Merton) at the quarter in :27.2. After that one seated, Gale quickly pulled his gelding, went right back to the front and became a passenger for the rest of the mile. The sharp-stepping Muscles Jared dictated back to back quarters of :28.4 and :28.3 while extending a lead that eventually became insurmountable. When Gale popped the plugs at three-quarters, Muscles Jared responded in kind and opened up a seven-length advantage rounding the final bend. With the race all but locked-up, Gale sat chilly down the lane and Muscles Jared hit the wire a wrapped-up winner in 1:55.2 over a wet track rated "good", which was a new seasonal mark. Muscles Jared now boasts $359,346 in lifetime earnings for owner Al Ross of South Dartmouth, Massachusetts and has a perfect race record for his new trainer Robert Gale. Shawn Gray and Drew Campbell each drove two winners on the card. Racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Monday (April 23) with an 11-race card that kicks off at 4 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts

CHESTER PA - NF Happenstance, the leading moneywinning harness racing horse in North America so far in 2018, added to her bankroll today (Thursday) by winning the $22,500 winners-over handicap trot at Harrah's Philadelphia in 1:54.2. Assigned the outside post in the field of seven, NF Happenstance made the lead before the 28.1 quarter for driver Jack Parker Jr., then rested to the half in 57.3. The victorious daughter of SJ's Caviar, trained by Carol Jamieson-Parker, had to get to the ¾ in 1:25.2 to see off the bid of the first-over Jack Vernon, and then through the stretch was chased by the horse riding Jack Vernon's cover, Rock Of Cashel. But NF Happenstance showed her determination and held off Rock Of Cashel by a neck, with Jack Vernon another 1¾ lengths back in third. Owner James Moore III now has a mare who has eight wins and three seconds in 13 seasonal starts, and is a winner of $140,450 this season. NF Happenstance has only two more days to wear her crown - Yonkers has the $373,000 Blue Chip Matchmaker Final and the $532,000 Levy Final on Saturday - but it's not likely you'll hear Moore or the Parkers complaining. In the $17,000 co-feature trot, the Holiday Road mare Holiday Promise made it three of her last four, going wire-to-wire, with the "Promise" exacta completed by Broadway Promise, who was a half-length back at the end of the 1:56 mile. Tony Morgan handled the sulky duties behind the winenr for trainer Josh Green and owners Howard Taylor and Richard Lombardo. PHHA / Harrah's Philadelphia

Thursday served as the rubber match for the USA/Hungary Friendship Competition for harness racing Amateur Drivers at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Hungarian drivers came to the States and competed this week in two races at Monticello and two at Yonkers in the "challenge" versus the American amateurs. Heading into Thursday's rubber-match, the score was two-to-two so the $7,000 trotting race at the Spa would decide this year's winner. Last year, the American drivers went to Budapest for the first annual Friendship Competition with the Hungarians prevailing. The 2018 edition also went the way of the Hungarians as Tamas Tanczer piloted Leave Your Mark (Yankee Glide) to a wire-to-wire victory in 2:00.2 on Thursday at Saratoga to lock up the title for Hungary. Autumn Estelle and Armbro Hall finished second and third, respectively, with their American drivers in tow but they were no match for Leave Your Mark whose victory was his first in two seasons. There will be several installments of the NAADA (North American Amateur Drivers Association) and the CKG Billings Amateur trotting races coming up this season at Saratoga as well for amateur drivers. Live racing continues on Friday evening at Saratoga with a 6:45pm first post. Melissa Simser      

Hannelore Hanover is ready to get back on the racetrack and trainer Ron Burke thinks harness racing's defending Horse of the Year is entering her upcoming campaign feeling as good as she did at the end of last season. And that was pretty darn good. The 6-year-old female trotter closed 2017 with a three-race win streak that included the Breeders Crown Open Trot, making her the first mare since Moni Maker in 1998 to claim the trophy, and the lady's division of the TVG Series championships. Two weeks prior to beginning her streak, Hannelore Hanover recorded the fastest mile in history by a female trotter when she captured the Allerage Farms Open Trot in 1:49.2. On Saturday morning, Hannelore Hanover will qualify at the Meadowlands with regular driver Yannick Gingras as she prepares for the Arthur J. Cutler Memorial on May 5 at the Big M. "Everything seems really good," Burke said. "She feels like the way she felt at the end of the year last year, so I'm happy with that. Right at the end of the year she finally put it together. She was winning, but didn't feel right. By the end of the year, she got herself sounder, sharper. "This year right from the get-go she seems better, stronger. I'm hoping last year carries over into this year." Hannelore Hanover won 10 of 17 races last year, finished second five times, and earned $1.04 million for owners Burke Racing Stable, the Weaver Bruscemi partnership, Frank Baldachino, and J&T Silva Stables. For her career, the daughter of Swan For All out of High Sobriety has won 36 of 58 races and $2.47 million. Burke said Hannelore Hanover did not change much during the winter. "She is who she is now at this point in her career," he said. Hannelore Hanover is one of 14 horses from the Burke Brigade that will qualify Saturday. Among those joining her are 6-year-old male trotter Crazy Wow and 5-year-old male pacer Check Six, both multiple-stakes-winners last season; 2017 Little Brown Jug winner Filibuster Hanover; 3-year-old male trotter U Need Stones, a New Jersey Sire Stakes champion; 3-year-old male pacer Seeing Eye Single, an Ohio Sire Stakes champion; and 4-year-old male pacer Rock N Tony, an Indiana Sire Stakes champion who joined Burke's barn in November. "Right now I'm happy with everybody," Burke said. "Hopefully it will be a good year." Others entered to qualify Saturday include multiple Dan Patch Award-winning female trotter Broadway Donna, multiple O'Brien Award-winning female trotter Caprice Hill, stakes-winning male trotters International Moni, Lindy The Great, and Yes Mickey, stakes-winning male pacers Blood Line, I'm A Big Deal, This Is The Plan, Pedro Hanover, and Closing Statement, stakes-winning female pacers Darlinonthebeach, Blue Moon Stride, and Reign On Me and stakes-winning female trotter Plunge Blue Chip. Qualifiers begin at 10 a.m. (EDT). For the complete list of entries, click here. Ken Weingartner

Saturday night's $10,000 Lloyd Arnold Pace at Cal Expo has lured a solid cast of nine, with Allymx'sliventexas, Bettor's Promise and I'm An Athlete among the major harness racing players. The Arnold will go as the 7th event on an 11-race Watch and Wager LLC program that is set to get underway at 6:40 p.m. The co-feature is a $6,500 California Sire Stakes for the 3-year-old pacing fillies which occupies the 2nd-race slot. Allymx'sliventexas is having a strong meet for his owner/breeders Wayne and Rod Knittel, trainer Bob Johnson and regular pilot Mooney Svendsen and will likely be favored in the main event. The son of Hi Ho Silverheel's has five wins from his 12 starts on the year, including a lifetime-best 1:50 4/5 performance on March 9, and recently went over the $100,000 earnings mark. In last week's Open, Allymx'sliventexas proved a very game winner as he was first-over into the pace-setting favorite Bettor's Promise at the half, engaged that one in the stretch and prevailed by a nose while coming a :26 4/5 final quarter. Bettor's Promise is very sharp right now and will be gunning for some revenge after doing all the heavy lifting last week and ending up on the wrong end of that photo. He established his 1:50 3/5 mark in his previous outing at the Open II level and goes about his business for owners Richard Morita and David Yamda with Lino Pacheco conditioning and Steve Wiseman guiding. Completing the field are Julerica, Pancella, Almost Cut My Hair, To The Limit, Eastender, I'm An Athlete and Lil Orphan Elmer. Pacing fillies battle in co-featured Sire Stakes In addition to the Lloyd Arnold Pace, Saturday's card will find the sophomore pacing fillies in action in a $6,500 California Sire Stakes. The added-money events for the 3-year-old pacing fillies have seen three different winners, with Brigitte Bordeaux taking the initial clash, followed by back-to-back trophy earners for Goturnumber and then Glad to Meet Ya taking bows after the most recent gathering two weeks ago. Goturnumber will not be in the starting line-up, leaving Glad to Meet Ya as the probable favorite in the cast of five after her big win where she earned her initial stakes tally with a six and a half-length romp. Brigitte Bordeaux will look to pull off an Arnold/Sire Stakes parlay for owner/breeders Wayne and Rod Knittel, trainer Bob Johnson and driver Mooney Svendsen, while Glad to Meet Ya is owned and was bred by Billie Schwartz and Junior Wilkinson with Wilkinson training and Luke Plano once again at the controls. Looking for an upset this weekend are Lucky Seven Oflodi, who has the cozy rail post with Tony Succarotte; Holy O'Neill, to be guided by Tim Brown; and Rhythm, who will have William Hernandez giving directions. There are two wagers offered here each night that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate - the 50-cent Pick 5, which is decided on the first five races on the evening, and the 20-cent Pick 4. The Pick 4 comes with a $50,000-guaranteed gross pool on Saturdays and a $30,000 guarantee on Fridays. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

John MacDonald has won three straight driving championships at Vernon Downs. He will begin his Quest for four in a row as Vernon Downs opens for live harness racing on Friday (April 20) starting at 6:10 pm. MacDonald won 185 races last season. His main competition the last three years came from Chris Lems, who was runner-up all three years. Lems will be on hand opening day but will only be there part time this season. Also returning is another former track champion, Jimmy Whittemore, who was third with 82 wins a year ago. Truman Gale (54) and Leon Bailey (30) round out the top five from last year. MacDonald will go for his third straight training title. He trained 57 winners in 2017. Andy Gardner returns to take another crack at the training title. He was just six wins behind MacDonald last season. Opening day features free t-shirts and schedule magnets while they last. Fireworks will follow the 11 race card. For more information go to www.vernondowns.com John Horne for Vernon Downs

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