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Cenalta Call Girl, who has already captured the Annette Funicello Final at this harness racing meeting at Cal Expo, looks to add the $9,800 Robert Staats Final to her resume here Saturday night. Eight pacing fillies and mares will do battle in the main event, which goes as the 6th event on a 12-race program under the Watch and Wager LLC banner. First post is 6:10 p.m. There will be mandatory payouts on all wagers Saturday. Cenalta Call Girl is a 3-year-old daughter of Allamerican Merlin who is owned by Rene Goulet and Helen and Myra Empey and is reined and trained by Goulet. She comes into this contest having posed for pictures following four of her nine lifetime trips to the post and three of her four local appearances. On November 17, the bay miss proved a punctual 3-5 favorite in the Funicello Final as she came first-over to get the job done with Goulet. In last week's Staats Prep, Cenalta Call Girl exploded with a :26 4/5 final quarter to win going away by a length and a quarter in another impressive mile. Yeswellnomaybe was her most immediate victim in that affair and looms large once again for owner Fabiola Quevedo, trainer Edwin Quevedo and pilot Ryan Grundy. She has recorded four runner-up finishes from her six appearances at this meet. Completing the field are Free Radical, Alwaysalittlemore, Rockin Repeat, Cenalta Cougar, Wizzel Stix and Be My Lucky Lady. **** There will be no live racing here next week, with the trotters and pacers back in action on December 26 with a special Tuesday evening card that will begin at 5 p.m. There will also be racing that week on Friday and Saturday, December 29 and 30. Race pays tribute to Robert Staats Saturday night's feature race is named for Robert Staats, the prominent owner/breeder who passed away in 2011 at the age of 69 at his home in Reno, Nevada. Along with his wife Loretta, Robert Staats was active in the sport beginning in the early 1970s, with Bob Gordon handling the training duties for most of those years. Upon Gordon's passing, Rick Plano and Bob Johnson conditioned the Staats performers. Among those outstanding color-bearers have been Stand By, the brilliant New Zealand-bred race-mare and producer; her son Moxie, a 1:49.3 performer with more than $400,000 in earnings; Nemisis, a sparkling 1:48 winner; the popular mare Reno Rose; Bells To Be Rung; and the stakes-winning BG's Prodigy, who was named after Bob Gordon. Stand By was the horse who put the Staats stable on the map and she was his all-time favorite. The Down Under import had a 1:52 career standard and banked $255,000 in a brilliant career on the racetrack, then went on to be an equally outstanding broodmare. She was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2010. Stand By produced nine foals and they have earned more than $1 million, with her son Moxie retired to stud at the Desomer Farm and becoming a top sire in his own right. "Bob Staats was first and foremost a kind and classy gentleman," said Cal Expo General Manager Chris Schick. "Bob raced top quality New Zealand imports and California Sire Stakes competitors for nearly 40 years. We are proud to honor his memory here at Cal Expo." By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness  

The start of a harness race is extremely important, and when it comes to getting the harness racing fields away in good order here at Cal Expo, Kenny Fowler is the man. Along with his assistant/driver Larry Dana, Fowler is responsible for making sure everybody is up close and personal with the starting gate when the car starts to speed ahead to send them on their way. "I'm coming up on my 30th year," said Fowler. "I started in 1988 with Larry Jones and then I spent 20 years as the driver with Bill Vallandingdam, and that experience was invaluable." For the last four years, Fowler has been the starter here at Cal Expo and does an excellent job of giving every horse and driver the best possible start. Much like a referee in a sporting event, when you don't hear much about them, that means they are doing a good job. One of the changes that has been made over the years is the switch from the traditional Cadillac to a four-wheel drive, which is especially import when it comes to traction and off tracks. "There are special challenges when it's raining, no question about that," Kenny related. "One is getting the wings on the starting gate closed before you get into the turn. When the wings are open all the weight is on the back of the car, so it's a little tricky. "To be honest, the wind and the fog are much tougher obstacles than the rain and a muddy racetrack." Robert Staats Prep matches pacing distaffers A well-matched field of eight pacing fillies and mares will do battle in Saturday night's featured Robert Staats Prep, with Rockin Repeat and Be My Lucky Lady among the major contenders. The feature will go as the eighth on an 11-race program under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post set for 6:10 p.m. Rockin Repeat and Be My Lucky Lady will have a rematch Saturday after finishing a head apart in a conditioned event here last week. Rockin Repeat got the better of that skirmish after sitting a pocket trip that evening. A 3-year-old daughter of Rockin Image, Rockin Repeat is owned by George Reider and Dave and Rob Haness with Reider training and Luke Plano once again doing the honors. Last week's 1:53 2/5 victory established a new lifetime mark for the sophomore. Be My Lucky Lady is a Hi Ho Silverheel's homebred who takes her lessons from Kathie Plested and will have Steve Wiseman at the controls. She has been runner-up in her last two trips to the post and is a nice fit with this group while leaving from the No. 6 post. Cenalta Call Girl took the measure of several of these rivals in the Annette Funicello Final last month and should be right in the thick of things. The Canadian miss races for Rene Goulet and Helen and Myrna Empey with Goulet reining and training. Rounding out the field are Cenalta Couger, Yeswellnomaybe, Alwaysalittlemore, Free Radical and Wizzel Stix. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

Mystery Dragon, who has posted three impressive victories at Cal Expo since arriving from Canada, looms an overwhelming harness racing favorite in Saturday night's $8,300 Bill Conlin Memorial Pace. An 11-race card is on tap under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post set for 6:10. The Conlin will go as the sixth event on the program. Mystery Dragon is a 3-year-old son of Mystery Chase who is owned and trained by Richard Schneider and will once again be handled by Nick Roland. He has dominated his rivals in all three appearances at this meet. Sent off at 2-1 in his local debut on November 11, he came first-over for Roland at the half and went on to a convincing three and a quarter-length decision, lowering his lifetime standard to 1:54 1/5 in the process. Mystery Dragon was a punctual 4-5 choice at next asking after being hard-used early to command from an outside slot, then was the 3-5 chalk in last week's Bill Conlin Prep and did not disappoint his many backers as he never looked like a loser on the front end and came to the line with a length and a quarter on Richellu Cowboy. The latter is another Canadian-bred miss who races for Quentin and Kimberly Schneider with Quentin the conditioner and Steve Wiseman in the bike. She was able to leave into a nice trip in last week's Prep and came home well to gain the place spot in an improved effort. Rounding out the field are Lilbitofmama with James Kennedy; Herecomesthethundr, William Hernandez; He Grins Again, Luke Plano; Crash and Burn with Chip Lackey guiding; Lilmessinaround, Ryan Grundy; and He's a Navajo, to be piloted from the outside by Tony Succarotte. There are two wagers offered here each night that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5, which is decided on the first five races on the evening; and the 20-cent Pick 4 on the penultimate four races. The Pick 4 comes with a guaranteed gross pool that has been raised to $30,000. Bill Conlin remembered with Memorial Race Saturday's main event is named for Bill Conlin, the longtime sportswriter, editor and columnist for the Sacramento Bee who passed away in 1997 at the age of 84. "Bill Conlin, quite simply, is a legend, a real newspaper man who loved his work and his hometown of Sacramento like no other," related Sacramento Bee columnist Debbie Arrington. "With great wit, he covered sports and more in this city for six decades, first at the Sacramento Union and then The Bee. He know everyone - from Ronald Reagan to Al Davis - and was a daily presence in The Bee's Sports section until his retirement in 1985. "Through it all, harness racing remained one of his favorite sports, both to cover and to watch as a fan." Debbie noted that when Conlin passed away in June of 1997, Cal Expo's harness drivers paid tribute to him in the winner's circle before the race named in his honor, which was won by the great pacer and sire Little Steven. "It's wonderful that Bill's name still lives on at Cal Expo in a sport that he truly loved," Arrington added. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

Before this harness racing meet, Rene Goulet had not competed here at Cal Expo in 18 years, but he's happy to be back and enjoying the warmer temperatures. "The people here are nice and friendly and it's been fun catching up with everybody," said Goulet, who has brought eight performers down from Canada along with his partner Glenda Smith. "It's also nice to get away from that cold and snow." Including in the group that came down with Goulet is the 3-year-old pacing filly Cenalta Call Girl, who has provided him with his first two victories at this stand, including a tally as the odds-on choice in last week's Annette Funicello Pace. Rene was pretty much born into the sport, learning about harness racing from the ground up from his father Art and uncle Al Goertzen. "I pretty much knew by the time I was 10 this is what I wanted to do," related the 50-year-old native Manitoba. Goulet cut his teeth on half-mile tracks, but has also done his share of driving on five-eighths and mile ovals in the Great White North. "I actually prefer a mile track like the one here at Cal Expo, because I like to let my horses sit and finish." When asked about his favorite horse, Rene is quick to point at KG Explorer, who is among the performers who have shipped down for this invasion. "He's 13 now and I've had him since I bought him for $1,500 as a 3-year-old." Pridecrest, Capitol Hill command the spotlight An Open Trot headed by the streaking Pridecrest; a filly and mare Open Pace featuring Capitol Hill and the Bill Conlin Prep headline the Saturday night action at Cal Expo. First post for the 12- race Watch and Wager LLC program is 6:10 p.m. The Open Trot goes as the fourth event, while the Conlin Prep is the sixth race and the distaff Open is scheduled as the eighth contest on the card. A 5-year-old son of Angus Hall from the Wesgate Crown mare Spilled Milk, Pridecrest races for Mark Hinshaw with Luke Plano doing the driving and training. He comes into this assignment with $177,000 in his lifetime account and will do his work from the assigned No. 10 post this weekend. The dark-hued performer made his California debut on November 3 and made every pole a winning one that evening for Plano crossing the wire with nearly 10 lengths on his nearest rival while establishing a new track record with the 1:53 2/5 final clocking. Suiting up the next week from the outside post in a field of nine, Pridecrest once again put on a tour-de-force mile as he stalked early, took over turning for home and drew off by six and a quarter lengths to prove a punctual 2-5 favorite. Taking him on are Becky Badger Baby for Nick Roland; Agrestores Comet, James Kennedy; One Chief, to be guided by Steve Wiseman; Talkin Tootsie, Mooney Svendsen; and Itzaziam, who leaves from the rail with Sean Smithpeters at the controls. Looking at the co-feature, Capitol Hill is a 6-year-old daughter of Badlands Hanover who has fired big-time in all four starts at the meet and has come away with a pair of victories, including last week's distaff Open in a very game first-over performance with Steve Wiseman. George McChrystal and Kathie Plested own with Plested the conditioner. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

Ryan Grundy is off to a good start to this Cal Expo meet, bringing down a solid group of harness racing performers from Canada who are proving quite photogenic. If the name Grundy sounds familiar, it's because Ryan is the 35-year-old great nephew of the late Jim Grundy, a mainstay on this circuit for decades and one of the best driver/trainers to every ply their trade in California. Jim Grundy passed away in 2009 at the age of 74. He made 2,617 trips to the charmed enclosure as a driver, with more than $10.3 million in earnings and was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2007. "I grew up around the horses," Ryan related. "I was probably about 6 years old when I knew this was what I wanted to do." It was Jim Grundy's brother, Art, who was a mentor to Ryan. "My grandfather is the one who taught me everything. He was very good at bringing young horses to the races and did all his own shoeing, which I also do." Ryan struck out on his own in his early 20's, starting out on the fair circuit in Manitoba. *** There are two wagers offered here each night that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5, which is decided on the first five races on the evening; and the 20-cent Pick 4 on the penultimate four races. The Pick 4 comes with a guaranteed gross pool that has now been raised to $30,000. Scary Harry heads contentions pacing feature A well-matched field is set for Friday night's $4,400 pacing headliner at Cal Expo, with Alan Horowitz Memorial runner-up Scary Harry, the hard-knocking Eastender and the classy One And Only among the major players. There will be 12 races on tap Friday evening under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post set for 6:10 p.m. There are another 12 events scheduled for Saturday night. A good case can be made for almost all of the participants in the main event, with Scary Harry likely to have his share of supporters off four straight solid miles since coming in from Hoosier Park. The 5-year-old Sportswriter gelding is owned, trained and driven by Chip Lackey and is coming off a tough head loss as the 3-2 favorite in last week's $20,000 Horowitz after clearing late in the mile. In his previous tour, he flew home in :27 flat to prevail in an elimination heat with a 1:53 3/5 final clocking. Eastender should be nice and tight after a solid runner-up finish under these conditions after some traffic issues last week. Luke Plano reins and trains the son of Cheyenne Rei for Maryann Plano and Nikki Hudson and he closed out his Running Aces campaign this season with a lifetime-best 1:53 2/5 tour of the Minnesota oval. One And Only is the richest member of the cast with his $260,000 bank account and sports a 1:51 2/5 career standard that was set in Pennsylvania three years ago. The veteran goes about his business for Richard Morita and David Yamada with Jessie Pacheco the conditioner and is making his first evening appearance since late August at Hawthorne. Completing the field from the rail out: Sapient Hanover with Sean Smithpeters; Senga Nitro for Ryan Grundy; Dupage's Z Tam, Nick Roland; Dontdoubtthelakers with James Kennedy; and Swagasaurusrex, who will be guided by trainer Gerry Longo. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

Fly Away and Scary Harry, impressive winners of their respective elimination heats last week, head the harness racing cast for Saturday night's $20,000 Alan Horowitz Memorial Pace at Cal Expo. First post for the Watch and Wager LLC program is 6:10 p.m. and the harness action continues on Saturday evening. Fly Away is an 8-year-old son of Allamerican Native who races for the partnership of Scott Ehrlich, George McChrystal and Kathie Plested with Plested the conditioner and Steve Wiseman in the sulky. After a runner-up finish on opening week, Fly Awaty was sent off at 4-1 in last week's second elimination heat while doing his work from the outside post in the field of eight. The trailer for a half-mile, he began to pick up momentum on the final turn, then flew home for Wiseman to get the job done by a half-length in a 1:53 2/5 mile. Scary Harry looked equally strong in his heat for owners Chip Lackey and Tim Clevenger and driver/trainer Lackey. He was reversed early, rallied with cover turning for home and came a sparkling :27 flat final quarter to prevail by a length as the even-money favorite. This 5-year-old is by Sportsmaster out of the Armbro Cadet mare One Cadet and shows a lifetime mark of 1:52 flat that was established at Pompano Park earlier this season. Like Fly Away he likes to pour it on in the stretch. Completing the field are Walker Meister, Cowboy Mathis, Oh Yeah, Mighty Fine Hi Ho, Jump The Shark, Allamerican Solo and Good Citations. Race honors memory of Alan Horowitz Friday night's Alan Horowitz Memorial is named for a major force in California harness racing over the last several decades and a member of the California Harness Horsemen's Association (CHHA) Hall of Fame who passed away in April at age 72. Mr. Horowitz, who wore many hats in the business, started out as a partner with longtime friends Donald and Barbara Arnstine and Steve Desomer with a $25,000 claimer named Quaker Byrd. Quaker Byrd won his first race for the partners and Alan was hooked. Moving on, Alan would eventually become a board member and president of CHHA. In 1994, Mr. Horowitz was instrumental in bringing harness racing back to Cal Expo in the form of Capitol Racing and was also its successful general manager. He was serving as the Executive Secretary of the CHHA at the time of his retirement in 2013 and continued to stay in touch with the sport that he loved so much. "It is impossible to overstate Alan's importance to the harness racing industry in California," said David Neumeister. "Simply put, if it were not for Alan, the sport would no longer exist in this state. "Between his time as executive director of Western Standardbred Association (now CHHA) and owner/ manager of our only yearling sale company when racing was flourishing in California, and his decision to retire from CHHA a few years ago, against all odds and some very powerful adversaries, Alan almost single-handedly took us from the brink of extinction in the mid-90s and formed and led Capitol Racing in Sacramento to several very successful years of harness racing in that city. "Were it not for his quiet determination and tactical brilliance, we would not be racing here today." Cal Expo is proud to present the Alan Horowitz Memorial on Friday night. On Saturday evening, Cal Expo will feature the Annette Funicello for pacing fillies and mares, paying tribute to the actress/singer and harness racing advocate who passed away in 2013. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness  

Everybody should get a call as good as the one harness racing trainer Luke Plano got from owner Mark Hinshaw last month. "He said he was looking for a winter home for his trotter Pridecrest and asked if I was interested," Plano related. "I'd seen him race a little at Hawthorne and didn't waste any time saying yes." All Pridecrest has done in two starts at Cal Expo is win back-to-back Open Trots by a combined 16 lengths, including a track-record 1:53 2/5 tour of the Sacramento oval two weeks ago. "He's a big strong horse with a tremendous gait and he doesn't waste any action," Plano explained. "Going into that first start here he had that solid resume and had trained well, but I can't say I was expecting a mile like that one. "He was pretty aggressive that night and was setting some strong fractions, but I wasn't sure how he was going to be in the stretch, and it turned out he was super." Pridecrest wheeled back in last week's top dance for the trotters and was equally impressive getting the job done from the outside post in a field of nine. He was first-over to command going to the final bend and went on to another romp at 40 cents on the dollar. "I wanted to see if he would be manageable and he was, although we did get stuck behind some poor cover for a bit there. Once again, he was very strong in the stretch and very impressive." Annette Funicello Pace brings out distaffers The $8,200 Annette Funicello for pacing fillies and mares headed by Cenalta Call Girl highlights the program on Friday night at Cal Expo. First post under the banner of Watch and Wager LLC will be 6:10 p.m. and the action will continue on Saturday evening with the $20,000 Alan Horowitz Memorial being the main event. Friday's featured contest is named for actress/singer Annette Funicello, who passed away in April of 2013 at the age of 70. Annette Funicello was married to harness horsesman/breeder Glen Holt from 1986 until her death and was a strong supporter of the sport. Cenalta Call Girl is a 3-year-old daughter of Allamerican Merlin who is owned by Rene Goulet and Helen and Myrna Empey with Goulet doing the driving and training. She comes into this assignment having captured two of her six lifetime appearances. Cenalta Call Girl recorded her first decision at Northlands Park in late September, surging on the money to be up in the final strides, then made her Cal Expo debut a winning one in the Funicello Prep last weekend as she did the stalk-and-pounce to perfection and drew off to a length and three-quarters score as the 3-2 favorite in a 1:55 2/5 performance. Free Radical completed the exacta in that affair at 13-1 to make a nice move forward in her second outing over this layout since arriving from Minnesota. The Hot Pans offspring competes for Set The Pace Racing LLC and is reined and trained by Nick Roland. Rounding out the cast are Be My Lucky Girl with Steve Wiseman; Alwaysalittlemore, Luke Plano; Rockin Repeat, David Siegel; My Hearts Conquest with William Hernandez; and Nat-A-Katt, who will be guided by Edward Hernandez. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

David Siegel got a solid start to the Cal Expo meet last Saturday night while guiding a pair of harness racing pacers into the winner's circle. Native's Revenge, who is co-owned by Siegel and trainer Bob Johnson, got the job done in the third race on opening night card, with Walker Meister posting a $38 surprise in the 12th race with Siegel handling the lines for trainer George Reider. "Bob (Johnson) has had nice success with Native's Revenge here after a challenging campaign at Running Aces," Siegel noted. "He's a classy horse and seems to really like the track. "I was looking for a reliable horse to buy a piece of in Bob's barn to diversity my holdings and Native's Revenge fit the bill. So when he returned to the left coast, I purchased a piece of him and was fortunate that he fit the bottom conditioned class in his first start and returned to his old winning form here." David added that Native's Revenge is being pointed for the Alan Horowitz series, with the opening leg of that event scheduled for Saturday, November 11. A few hours after prevailing with Native's Revenge, Siegel once again got his picture taken after working out a pefect trip with Walker Meister and lighting up the toteboard in the process. "It's somewhat similar in that he had not been racing in great form at Running Aces," Siegel said. "It seems like Walker Meister has fared best here in California. "George approaches the return of his horses with a long-term view, that is six months of racing ahead, and he also wanted to give the barn a nice breather after Aces. So, as expected, most of his horses were a little short last week. "I had a conservative plan for Walker Meister, but when I looked left from the seven hole, there were very few that had that 'leave' look so I jumped out of there along with the horse I thought I had to beat in Hi Ho's Little Rev. "Mooney (Svendsen) did the right thing with that horse and retook. At that point I knew Bobby Johnson's horses were all ready to rock and roll on opening night and I thought I could be good enough to be second. "But Walker Meister kept right up at the half and that's when I thought I just might get there. By the three-quarter pole I had a good feeling I would win and the gelding was solid. "I use Speed Ratings and his 77 was about 10 points up from his recent Running Aces efforts. No doubt he likes the Cal Expo surface and maybe just likes being home. He'll have to step up now, but the way he raced I expect him to be quite competitive." Open Trot, Pick 5 carryover in spotlight A $6,600 Open Trot and a Pick 5 carryover of $4,400 with a $20,000-guaranteed pool head the program Friday night at Cal Expo. The trotters and pacers are now in action on Friday and Saturday evenings under the banner of Watch and Wager LLC with first post set for 6:10 p.m. There will be 10 races on both Friday and Saturday. The Pick 5 is a 50-cent wager which is conducted on the first five races each night and features a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. That low takeout is also offered on the 20-cent Pick 4 that covers the penultimate four races on the card. Looking at the featured Open Trot, racing secretary Robin Schadt has assigned the Luke Plano trained-and-driven Pridecrest the outside post in the cast of seven, with the other six sidewheelers drawing their slots. A 5-year-old son of Angus Hall, Pridecrest carries the hopes of Mark Hinshaw and invades from the Midwest having met some solid company at Hawthorne and Hoosier Park this season. He scored his most recent victory in an Open event on August 26 over a good track at Hawthorne, as he set a stalking journey that evening and ignited in the stretch to win going away by 2 1/4 lengths while rewarding his backers as an 11-1 shot. Taking him on, from the rail out: Agrestores Comet with Chip Lackey; Becky Badger Baby, Nick Roland; Itzaziam, to be handled by Sean Smithpeters; Talkin Tootsie, Mooney Svendsen; and Silverlode with Steve Desomer. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

The 2017-2018 Watch and Wager LLC harness meeting at Cal Expo gets under way Saturday night with a pair of Open Pace events headlining the card. First post for the 13-race program is 6:10 p.m. There will be Saturday racing this week and beginning next week there will be Friday and Saturday night action on tap. The seventh race on the card is a $6,600 Open Pace with a full cast of 10 set to face the starter, while a half-dozen fillies and mares are set for the fourth race co-feature. "Fans can look forward to a number of new faces this season," said Cal Expo general manager Chris Schick. "The talented Nick Roland stable is in from the Midwest, and the in the next few weeks we can expect to see Ryan Grundy, Gary Clarke, Richard Remillard and Rene Goulet from Canada. "This new dynamic should provide a highly competitive product with good wagering value." Speaking of Nick Roland, he will be well represented in the co-featured seventh race with Firedrake coming in from Running Aces and Cowboy Mathis shipping in from Hawthorne to represent his shedrow. ******** Saturday's action will include a simulcast of the full Breeders Crown program from Hoosier Park in Indiana. Jenn Bongiorno joins Cal Expo broadcast team Watch and Wager LLC is pleased to announce that Jenn Bongiorno has joined the broadcast team here at Cal Expo. Jenn will team with Hall of Famer Gary Seibel with nightly analysis of the popular Cal Expo Pick-4. She will replace Dave Brower, who has returned to the Meadowlands on a full time basis. Jenn is fourth generation harness racing, as her great uncle was Stanley Dancer and her grandfather was Harold "Sonny" Dancer. After graduating from Monmouth University with a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing, Bongiorno started working at Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment in New Jersey, where she was marketing coordinator, handling the social media and was also a member of the on-air talent. After five and a half-years, Jenn left the Meadowlands this April as she began to own more horses. "I felt I was more focused on them and wanted to take a more hands on approach with them. I received my trainers license in June and have a stable of 15 horses that my brother and I run together. I race primarily at Yonkers Raceway. "I'm absolutely loving being a trainer. It's more work than I ever could have imagined, but every morning when I walk into the barn, I feel a sense of passion and love that I've never felt. I said after winning my first race, I never felt that level of gratification before. "The TV portion of my job definitely became my favorite part at the Meadowlands and is something I truly miss, which is why when Watch and Wager presented me with this opportunity, I absolutely could not turn it down!" "I'm so looking forward to following Cal-Expo racing and giving the fans my handicapping opinions. Harness racing is such a great sport and through TV, I've gotten to interact with so many fans via social media and look forward to doing the same with the Cal-Expo fan base." "We were so impressed with Jenn's work at the Meadowlands" said Chris Schick, General Manager of Cal Expo harness. "Her knowledge and passion for our sport is very evident. We also want to publicly thank Dave Brower, and wish him well on his return home to the Meadowlands. Dave has agreed to make appearances to keep the California fans up to date on trends at the Meadowlands." By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness    

Watch and Wager, operator of Cal Expo Harness Racing, is pleased to announce that Jenn Bongiorno will join the broadcast team beginning opening night October 28th. Jenn will team with Hall of Famer Gary Siebel with nightly analysis of the popular Cal Expo Pick-4. She will replace Dave Brower, who has returned to the Meadowlands on a full time basis. Jenn is fourth generation harness racing, as her great uncle was Stanley Dancer and her grandfather was Harold "Sonny" Dancer. After graduating from Monmouth University with a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing, Bongiorno started working at Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment in New Jersey, where she was marketing coordinator, handling the social media and was also a member of the on-air talent. After three and a half years, Jenn left the Meadowlands this April as she began to own more horses. "I felt I was more focused on them and wanted to take a more hands on approach with them. I received my trainers license in June and have a stable of 15 horses that my brother and I run together. I race primarily at Yonkers Raceway. "I am absolutely loving being a trainer. It's more work than I ever could have imagined, but every morning when I walk into the barn, I feel a sense of passion and love that I've never felt. I said after winning my first race, I never felt that level of gratification before. "The TV portion of my job definitely became my favorite part at the Meadowlands and is something I truly miss, which is why when Watch and Wager presented me with this opportunity, I absolutely could not turn it down! "I'm so looking forward to following Cal-Expo racing and giving the fans my handicapping opinions. Harness racing is such a great sport and through TV, I've gotten to interact with so many fans via social media and look forward to doing the same with the Cal-Expo fan base." " We were so impressed with Jenn's work at the Meadowlands" said Chris Schick General Manager of Cal Expo harness. " Her knowledge and passion for our sport is very evident. " We also want to publicly thank Dave Brower, and wish him well on his return home to the Meadowlands. Dave has agreed to make appearances to keep the California fans up to date on trends at the Meadowlands". Cal Expo is set to open its 54 night stand on Saturday October 28th. By Mark Ratzky, publicity, Cal Expo Harness

Watch and Wager LLC harness racing at Cal Expo is proud to announce that the $20,000-guaranteed Alan Horowitz Memorial for pacers has been added to the stakes schedule at the upcoming meeting that is scheduled to begin on Saturday, October 28. The series named for the man who was a major force in California harness racing over the last several decades and a member of the California Harness Horsemen's Association Hall of Fame.Alan Horowitz passed away in April at the age of 73. The eliminations for the Horowitz will be held on Saturday, November 11 with a $5,000 purse, with a $20,000-guaranteed purse for the finale on the following Saturday evening. The series is a starter allowance for horses and geldings that have started for a base price of $5,000 or less since August 15 of this year and have not won for a base claiming price exceeding $8,000 since that date. Also eligible will be fillies and mares who have started for a base claiming price of $6,000 or less since August 15 of this year and have not won for a base claiming price of $10,000 since that date. The top 10 money earners from the eliminations will qualify for the final. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

Despite one of the wettest winters on record in Northern California, final figures from the Watch and Wager LLC harness racing meet at Cal Expo that concluded last Saturday were positive. Average nightly handle was $809,724, representing a 5.4 percent increase over last season. Nightly on-track handle rose 2.5 percent and in-state brick and mortar numbers showed a major turnaround with a 14 percent increase. Out-of-state handle was down 1.5 percent and ADW wagering was the same as last year. Field size at the meet was up from 7.6 starters per race to 7.9, with the percentage of winning favorites being 36.25 percent. The popular Cal Expo nightly Pick 4 pool averaged $45,243. The training title came down to the final night, eventually resulting in a dead-heat between Kathie Plested and Bob Johnson, who both ended up with 55 victories. Lino Pacheco was third with 51 training scores. On the driving front, Luke Plano made a runaway of the title with 150 victories from his 607 trips to the post, while Mooney Svendsen was clearly second in the final standings with his 112 trips to the charmed enclosure. Last fall, Watch and Wager executed an additional five-year deal with the Cal Expo Fair Board. Opening night for the fall meeting will be Saturday, October 28, featuring a simulcast of the Breeders Crown from Hoosier Park. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

A quartet of California Sire Stakes for the 3 and 4-year-old pacers and will be showcased on closing night of the Watch and Wager LLC harness meet Saturday, with first post for the 12-race harness racing card set for 6:15 p.m. The team of owner/breeders Wayne and Rod Knittel, trainer Bob Johnson and driver Mooney Svendsen should be tough in both the stakes for the males, with Army Of One heading the 3-year-old contest and Allymx'sliventexas strictly the one to beat in the event for the 4-year-olds. A Hi Ho Silverheels' homebred, Army Of One has accounted for five of the six added-money contests for this group. Allmyx'sliventexas has dominated his division all season, establishing his lifetime mark of 1:51 4/5 while romping home by double digits in the February 4 stakes clash. In last week's score, Army Of One changed his tactics from front-end performances to coming from last in the compact cast for Svendsen and prevailing in the final strides with the 1:56 3/5 clocking, a second off the career standard he set in the February 25 Sire Stakes. *** Final figures at this Watch and Wager LLC meet will be encouraging all the way around, including an average nightly handle of over $802,000, representing a 4.5 percent increase over the previous meet. Field size also went up from 7.6 starters per race to 7.9, while there will have been 666 races run here this season compared to 612 at the last session. *** This being closing night of the meet, there will be mandatory payouts in all wagers. Harness racing is scheduled to return to Cal Expo on Saturday, October 2 Wayne Oke retiring following Saturday card Best wishes to Wayne Oke, who will be retiring from the steward's stand following the final race here at Cal Expo on Saturday night. "I would like to thank the CHRB for the opportunity afforded me," said Oke. "Also to express my thanks to all those I have worked with the past 10 years. Most importantly, the many friends I have made over those same years, I will never forget you." Wayne recalls getting his first taste of harness racing at the age of 8 in his hometown of Port Perry, Ontario. "The town was, and still is, a hotbed for harness," he related. "As with all youngsters growing up in small communities in Canada, though, my attention turned to hockey and was the focus of my young life." That dream ended for Wayne at the age of 18, when he blew out his knee while playing in the Boston Bruins farm system, thus ending those aspirations. He turned back to harness racing and is happy he did. "I actually worked in the business world for 12 years before I got into harness racing on a full-time basis," Oke explained. "Over the last 30-plus years I've probably worked at every major racetrack in North America. When I settled in Kentucky, I met and became friends with Marc Guilfoil, who was then the presiding judge at all tracks in the state." It was at Guilfoil's suggestion that Wayne took the judge's exam and began working with Marc in various capacities. In addition to working as a steward (or judge as they are referred to in the Bluegrass State), he has also been a racing secretary and a starter. It was after attending an accreditation course at Los Alamitos that he was approached concerning an opening for state steward by the CHRB and took up residence in the stand at Cal Expo. "The difficulties of converting from a long-time participant in racing to an official can be many," Oke said. "I've found that as long as you treat everyone with respect and are consistent and use common sense in your application of the rules, everything will work out fine." Of course, being a steward for harness racing and holding the same job with Thoroughbreds can be very different. "We have to be conscious of the horse's gait, their position relative to the pylons, as well as obvious concerns over interference and the drivers' adherence to the rules. "The function of the stewards in harness racing also varies greatly relative to the interaction with the racing office and other racing officials. The staffs tend to be smaller, requiring a more hands-on approach from the stewards." By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness      

The team of owners Richard Morita and David Yamada, harness racing trainer Lino Pacheco and leading driver Luke Plano book-ended last Friday's program here at Cal Expo, taking the opener with Pancetta and the nitecap with Bettormeboy. "Those were nice wins for each horse," Morita related. "Pancetta is really coming around now, after very limited starts over the past two seasons. Luke knows him best, and when Pancetta is right, he can race with any of them. "Leno Pacheco has done such a good job getting Pancetta sound, and with each completed start, he is getting stronger. The best is yet to come this summer, we hope. We are going to race him at Hawthorne for the start of summer, and see how it goes from there. He is superior on the turns, so a smaller track might be his ultimate destination." Bettormeboy completed the double last week, proving a punctual 6-5 favorite after attacking the leader first over on the final bend and gamely prevailing by a neck. "He found his game again, not coincidentally, when reunited with Luke for that latest race," his co-owner noted. "He was really sharp a little earlier in the meet, but tailed off a bit. We gave him a few easier starts, and he seems to be coming back on. That race was actually much more like an Open III event or something, with the likes of V Mack and Ragin's Flight in there. "All of the horses that Dave and I own will be headed to Chicago to race at Hawthorne. They have a lot of conditioned races there, including a late-closer for our fast improving mare, Delightfully Wild. Chip Lackey thought she might be a good fit there, so she will head there this week to prepare for opening week, with the others to follow. "Cal Expo is our home track, and we want to support them as much as possible through the end of the racing meet." Plano cruising; training title up for grabs While Luke Plano long ago wrapped up the driving title here, there is quite a battle going on for leading trainer honors between Bob Johnson, Kathleen Plested and Lino Pacheco with just two nights remaining. Plano comes into closing weekend with 141 snapshots from 585 trips to the post while sporting impressive percentages in all the pertinent categories. Meanwhile, Johnson has a one-length lead over Plested in the trainer race with his 52 victories, while she likewise has a one-victory advantage over Pacheco's 50 entrances into the charmed enclosure. It's certainly anybody's ballgame going into the Friday and Saturday programs, with each of those barns being well represented. Trotting Sire Stakes commanding the spotlight A pair of California Sire Stakes for the 3 and 4-year-old trotters have center stage on Friday night at Cal Expo, the penultimate card of the meeting. First post will be 6:15 p.m. for the Watch and Wager LLC program. In the Sire Stakes for the 4-year-old trotters, My Little Susie is a daughter of Claudius Augustus out of the S J's Photo mare Sue's Photo who races for A Piece of the Action LLC and is conditioned by Gene Vallandingham The hard-hitting mare has accounted for all three of the added-money contests decided for this group in 2017, putting her class and versatility on display in the process while winning on the front end and also getting the job done from a stalking position. She will be tough no matter how things shake out on Friday. Meanwhile, Gravel Girl moved to the head of the sophomore trotting class with her stakes score last week for owner/trainer George Luster and pilot Mooney Svendsen and looks to close out the meeting in style. The All in Tad filly made a break in her debut the previous week, but was all business at most recent asking as she sat the pocket to the lane and then ignited when it counted to waltz home with four and three-quarter lengths to spare. *** Saturday is closing night of the harness meet here at Cal Expo and there will be mandatory payouts in all wagers. Harness racing is scheduled to return on Saturday, October 28. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

Friday's main event is the $10,000 Kirk Breed Pace for harness racing pacing fillies and mares with Hare To Eternity, Shark Festival and Mikeleh among the major players. First post for the 12-race Watch and Wager LLC card is 6:15 p.m. and there is a carryover in the 50-cent Pick 6 of $12,279, with the sequence covering races six through nine on the card. The supporting card includes an Open Handicap Pace that goes as the first race and a California Sire Stakes for the 3-year-old trotters. The Kirk Breed Pace is named for the man who was the Executive Director of the California Horse Racing Board and previously served as a board member and general manager of the State Fair here at Cal Expo. Kirk Breed passed away in 2013 at the age of 73 after a battle with cancer. During Gov. Jerry Brown's first term in 1979, Mr. Breed was appointed general manager at Cal Expo and was credited with turning around the event's financial fortunes during lean times. He later became a lobbyist on behalf of the racing industry and also served eight years on the Cal Expo board of directors. Mr. Breed served as executive director of the California Horse Racing Board from 2008 until his death. During those five-plus years, he oversaw the regulatory agency's day-to-day business. He was involved in such high-profile issues as the restriction of the use of steroids; the reduction of permissible levels of bute; the transformation of the Santa Anita main track from a troubled synthetic to a dirt surface. "In his years as executive director, Kirk Breed provided invaluable guidance and counsel to everyone who served on the board," said former racing board chairman David Israel. "No one was more dedicated to assuring the welfare of the horse, the well-being of the participants and the integrity of the sport than Kirk." The Oklahoma native attended Oklahoma State on a football scholarship in the 1950s, while as the same time helping his father, who trained a stable of quarter horses. After graduating with a degree in zoology, Mr. Breed volunteered for the Peace Corps, spending time in Chile and Columbia and working at the State Department in Washington, D.C. Looking at the Breed field, Hare To Eternity is a 6-year-old daughter of Mister Big out of the Jenna's Beach Boy mare Hare Trigger who races for the partnership of Arnstine, Chambers and Wiseman with Kathleen Plested training. She went over the $100,000 mark in earnings when she sat a pocket trip and prevailed in a conditioned event on March 31, then stopped up to the Distaff Open two weeks ago and prevailed by a length over favored Mikeleh after being up close and personal during the mile. Mikeleh is a George Reider trainee who carries the banner of Little Bapa LLC. The Western Ideal mare made a big move to the lead in that aforementioned gathering at this level, showed the way to deep stretch and was unable to contain Hare To Eternity when push came to shove. The Plested barn will also be represented by Shark Festival, a Shadow Play mare owned by Medinah Racing and Scott Ehrlich. She will be looking for her fourth win on the year from 10 trips to the post. Rounding out the cast for the Kirk Breed are the Gerry Longo-conditioned pair of Sparkin Your Fire and Kiss On The Lips; Blue Note from the Rick Cisco barn; and the Lino Pacheco-trained Delightfully Wild. The field for the Sire Stakes, from the rail out: Gravel Girl with Mooney Svendsen; Bo Plenty, George Luster; Indio Azteca, who will be guided by Steve Wiseman; Never Onebadchange, Pierre Girard; Lodi Puppycat with Luke Plano; and Lodi Jazz Player, who will have the services of Chip Lackey. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

The harness racing Pick-5 went unsolved last Saturday night leaving a carryover for Friday of $10,100. Watch and Wager in conjunction with the USTA Strategic Wagering program have guaranteed the total Pick-5 pool at $40,000. The Cal Expo Pick-5 is a $0.50 base wager, with a 16% takeout, and is contested over the first five races. First leg post time is 6:15 pacific. Free program pages are available courtesy of Trackmaster. 

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