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YONKERS, NY, Sunday, August 26, 2018- Meadowlands Pace winner Courtly Choice is invading Yonkers Raceway for the first time Tuesday night (Aug. 28th), coinciding with the $173,500 New York Sire Stakes Armand Palatucci Pace for 3-year-old colts and geldings. Post time for the 10-race card is 6:50 PM, with the pair of $86,750 statebred events going as races 7 and 8. Courtly Choice drew post position No. 6 in the opening division, with Dave Miler again driving for co-owners (as part of Mac and Heim Stables)/trainer Blake Macintosh, Daniel Plouffe, Hutt Racing and Touch Stone Farms. For the season, Courtly Choice has eight wins in 11 starts ($612,018), entering off a down-the-road win in the $272,025 final of the Empire Breeders at Tioga (1:48.3). His 1:47.1 life-best did come in that $701,830 Meadowlands Pace last month. Tuesday is just his second New York Sire Stakes appearance of the season, having won a Memorial Day event at Vernon (1:48.4). He's only made one other small-track start, winning last season's $50,000 consolation of the NYSS at Monticello. If Courtly Choice gets a challenge, it's probably going to come from Heavenly Sounds (Jim Mahon Jr., post 3). The Rock N Roll Heaven colt, trained by Bruce Saunders for M&M Harness Racing, has won six races and more than $137,000 this season. He was snappy sire stakes winner here (1:52.4) late last month. Tuesday night's second and final group includes Macintosh's Rootin' Tootin' (Mark MacDonald, post 7), himself a six-figure performer this season ($102,307). Jersey Jim (Jordan Stratton, post 2) has not raced back to his frosh sire stakes championship form, while Ghost Dance (Scott Zeron, post 3), Keystone Tenacious (Marohn Jr., post 4) and Ideal Feeling (Jason Bartlett, post 8) were all finalists in the Empire Breeders Classic. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway  

YONKERS, NY, Sunday, August 26, 2018-Brian Sears won the 10,000th race of his more-than-distinguished harness racing career Sunday afternoon (Aug. 26th), reaching the milestone at his second home, Yonkers Raceway. Sears, as good a big-money driver as the sport has ever seen, found the plateau with death-and-taxes Chasin' Dreams ($2.30) in the $16,000, ninth-race trot. The 3-year-old Credit Winner gelding quarter-moved to the lead, then defeated Striking Encore (Jason Bartlett) by a pair of lengths in 1:57.1. After the achievement, as required by state and federal law, Sears was presented with the obligatory congratulatory sign. He began the afternoon getting win No. 9,999 with favored Top Flight Angel ($5.40)-the 2017 Yonkers Trot winner-in the $44,000 Open Handicap Trot (1:54.3). The 50-year-old Sears, a native of Fort Lauderdale, FL, has career purse earnings in excess of $186 million. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway  

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, August 25, 2018- Owner Adriano Sorella paid $30,000 for the privilege of Jimmy Freight entering the 63rd Messenger Stakes. We're surmising the other connections would be glad pay at least twice that much the privilege of Jimmy Freight exiting the 63rd Messenger Stakes. That's because Jimmy Freight (Louis-Phillipe Roy, $3.30) made Yonkers Raceway his very own veranda Saturday night (Aug. 25th), rolling in an elimination race while setting a track record in the process. The second jewel of the Pacing Triple Crown began with a pair of $40,000 elims, five- and six-horse fields to determine the eight finalists for next Saturday night's (Sept. 1st) half-million-dollar finale. 'Jimmy,' making his-and his driver's-local debut, made short work of the second soiree. From post position No. 4, he waltzed around Westchester (:27.4, :56.2, 1:23.4, 1:50.3) with the greatest of ease. That :26.4 kicker gave Jimmy Freight the track record for 3-year-old colts, a tick faster than Source of Pride (2013). Pole-sitting Springsteen (Brian Sears) was out from third down the backside, moved to within a length-and-three-quarters in the final turn before being rebuffed. Jimmy Freight widened to 3¾ lengths and a place in the annals. Stay Hungry (Doug McNair) tried his luck from off-the-pace, rallying for third without ever threatening. A loosely-pocketed Winston (Corey Callahan) wound up fourth, with Decoy (Mark MacDonald) and Kwik Talkin' (Jordan Stratton) both outrun. For Jimmy Freight, a son of Sportswriter trained stateside by Andrew Harris, it was his eighth win in 13 seasonal starts (career earnings now over $519,000). The exacta paid $10, the triple returned $17.80 and the superfecta paid $50.50. "He's just perfectly suited for the half-mile track," Roy said. "I never had to pull the plugs. When we were in the third turn, he wanted to go even more." The opening elim for the Messenger saw polester Babes Dig Me (George Brennan, $6.30) retake from Topville Olympian (Sears), then hold both that one and a first-up JK Wildfire (Jason Bartlett) at bay (:26.3, 56.1, 1:24.3, life-best 1:52.2). Babes Dig Me defeated JK Wildfire by a hard-fought head, with Topville Olympian beaten a neck. The battle for fourth was equally interesting, as 7-10 favorite Nutcracker Sweet (Stratton) was poor but had just enough to photo longshot Wild Bill (Ray Schnittker). For second choice Babes Dig Me, a son of Somebeachsomewhere co-owned by Brad Grant, Joe Sbrocco, Robert Leblanc & In the Gym Partners and trained by Tony Alagna, he's now 2-for-14 this season. The exacta paid $58.50, with neither triple nor superfecta wagering offer due to the abbreviated assemblage. "Cat Manzi, who works for Tony (Alagna) said I'd like him and he was right," Brennan said. "I learned he's handy and he can fight one off." The open draw is Monday afternoon (Aug. 27th) for the Sept. 1st card, featuring the Messenger, $500,000 Yonkers Trot No. 64 (second jewel of the Trotting Triple Crown), the $129,014 Hudson Filly Trot & $112,904 Lady Maud Pace. Saturday night's $44,000 Open Handicap Pace was won by favored Scott Rocks (Eric Goodell, $6.40) in 1:52.1. As for Sears, he won twice Saturday night, bringing the milestone-in-waiting career count to 9,998. Sunday afternoon's (Aug. 26th), latest "French' foray offers a first post of 12:45 PM. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway  

YONKERS, N.Y. – The husband and wife team of Michel Heijnen and Maria De Bruijn have just three horses in their racing stable, and French trotter Versachet is one. De Bruijn wanted to add a horse to the roster earlier this year. Heijnen wanted to claim a horse, but De Bruijn took a less conventional path, much to the chagrin of her husband.  “I was looking for another horse, and my husband said to buy a claimer,” De Bruijn said. You never know what you’re going to get with a claimer, so I said, ‘you know, I’m going to try a French horse,’ and he started laughing. But you never know.”  Heijnen and De Bruijn are natives of the Netherlands and came to the United States three years ago. De Bruijn sought a change from their life on the farm at home and after Heijnen made a trip to the Harrisburg Sale, an opportunity arose. Heijnen developed a bond with Chuck Sylvester and the Hall of Fame trainer asked them to work with him in Florida over the winter. “He went with a friend to the Harrisburg Sale and he went to Chester and met Chuck Sylvester,” De Bruijn said. “He liked it and he was joking with Chuck and Chuck called him and asked him what he was doing in the winter. He said, ‘you can come help me out in Florida.’ He went working for Chuck and we got our visa, sold our farm, and we’re here.” The French American Trotting Club was a gamble, as Heijnen and De Bruijn both understood. The Standardbred Owners Association of New York program brought 22 French-bred trotters to the United States to race in a series on the half-mile track at Yonkers Raceway. As the horses were randomly allocated to their new owners, De Bruijn wouldn’t get a chance to research her horse before he arrived.  De Bruijn drew Versachet, a 9-year-old son of Kaiser Soza out of the Podosis mare Houlette with 10 wins from 78 starts with another 19 seconds and thirds and $263,796 earned. The black gelding made an immediate impression on De Bruijn when he arrived stateside in June. “I picked him up and oh my god, he’s so big. He’s huge,” she said. “He was a little shy and a very friendly and nice horse. Sound horse. He doesn’t make a break up until now. I’m happy with him.” Versachet qualified at Yonkers July 13, finishing fourth and completing the 10 furlongs in 2:30.1 with Heijnen in the sulky. Heijnen and De Bruijn qualified him again at the Meadowlands 15 days later, but Versachet underperformed. He finished sixth beaten 9 ¼ lengths in 1:55.1 and Heijnen knew something was off.  “We qualified him first at Yonkers and he went OK. Then we qualified him at Meadowlands and Michel said he wasn’t so satisfied with him in the stretch, so we scoped him and we thought that he might bleed a little,” De Bruijn said. “We scoped him after the qualifier at the Meadowlands and the lady said he’s bleeding. We asked how bad it was and she said, ‘if it was my horse, I’d put him on Lasix.’ ” Heijnen and De Bruijn had never used Lasix in a race before as the medication isn’t permitted in Europe. Because he bled, Versachet was unable to race in New York for 11 days and he was forced to miss the first leg of the French American Trotting Club series August 5.  Versachet qualified with Lasix at Harrah’s Philadelphia August 7, finishing second in a 1:56 clocking. Ready to join the series, he started in a $35,000 division going 1 ½ miles August 19. After drawing post five, Heijnen had two options, to go forward and put himself in the race, or to take back. De Bruijn wanted him to be aggressive, but the move didn’t pay off. Versachet was parked the entire race, but finished sixth beaten just 3 ¼ lengths by Deo. De Bruijn was encouraged. “My husband drove him and he didn’t want to. He wanted a Yonkers driver to go with him, but I like it when he drives, so he did,” De Bruijn said. “Parked outside. He could have gone back or he could have given him a race and I said to just go from there. So he was parked all the way out one and-a-half miles. I think he raced nice.” Versachet drew post five again in Sunday’s sixth race, the second of two $35,000 divisions of the series’ third leg, the last before the $100,000 final September 2. Jordan Stratton will drive the 6-1 morning line shot. A first or second-place finish would likely earn Versachet a place in the final. “I think if he doesn’t get a bad trip like he had last week, he’s one, two for sure,” De Bruijn said. “Honestly, maybe I have too much confidence in him, but I think he’s one of the better French horses.” Versachet will face six rivals, including 8-5 favorite Uhlan Noir, who was third beaten a nose by Deo and Boss Du Fosse last week and starts from post four Sunday. Akhenaton finished seventh with a wide trip from post eight last time out, but drew the inside post Sunday and is 6-1. Aigle De La Vallee broke in the first leg of the series, but requalified and won a Saratoga overnight August 17. He’s 5-2 from post two. Aladin Du Dollar, Bolide De Nuit, and Verdi D Em complete the field. The first division of the third leg features both of last week’s winners in Ursis Des Caillons and Deo, plus first leg winner Alpha D’Urzy, and series-placed Undici, Bioness, and Boss Du Fosse. Adagio De La Tour and Very Very Fast complete the lineup. First post time Sunday is 12:45 p.m. The 11-race card also features a $44,000 Open Handicap Trot in race one. For entries to the races, click here.  By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, - Yonkers Raceway Friday night (Aug. 24th) hosted the $156,000 New York Sire Stakes Jim Crawford Pace for 2-year-old colts and geldings. Three divisions, worth $52,000 each, comprised the event. The opening group offered minimal suspense, as 1-5 favorite Major Blake (Jason Bartlett, $2.40) had an open lead virtually from the outset. From post position No. 3, he rolled through intervals of :28.2, :58, 1:26.2 and 1:55. Major Blake disposed of a loosely-pocketed World on Edge (Matt Kakaley) by a couple of lengths, with Chatelroll (Jordan Stratton) a wide and rallying third. Buddy Hill (Dexter Dunn) wound up a first-up fourth. For Major Blake, an Art Major colt co-owned by (trainer Sam Schillaci, Howard Berke and Matthew Bencic, it was his third win in four seasonal/NYSS starts. The exacta paid $8.60, the triple returned $27.20 and the superfecta paid $86.50. The second go-round saw Sheppard Pace winner Hickfromfrenchlick (Ray Schnittker, $5.20) stalk pole-sitting 13-10 fave Melodie's Major (Tyler Buter), then make up some distance to get him and get away (:28.2, :56.4, 1:24.2, life-best 1:53.3). From post No 2, Hickfromfrenchlick had to chase from 2¼ lengths off the final turn before winning by a half-length. Cup Fan (Marcus Miller) and Covered Bridge (Jordan Stratton) were third and fourth, respectively. For second choice Hickfromfrenchlick, a son of So Surreal co-owned by his trainer/driver, Nolamaura Racing and Thomas Spatorico, he's now 3-for-4 this season. The exacta paid $9.60, the triple returned $29.60 and the superfecta paid $117.50. The third and final sire stakes get-together was won by polester Artie's Ideal (Miller, $14). After stuffing Rock America (catch-driver George Brennan) in behind early, 'Artie' rated it well (:28, :58, 1:27, 1:55.1). He put away both a first-up Bicorne Hanover (Kakaley) and a second-over, 4-5 choice Reigning Deo (Stratton). Artie's Ideal defeated Reigning Deo by a length-and-a-half, with Bicorne Hanover third and Jet Rock (Jim Marohn Jr.) recovering from an early break to finish fourth. For third choice Artie's Ideal, a son of American Ideal owned by Bay Pond Racing Stable and trained by Erv Miller, it was his second win in four '18 tries (2-for-3 in statebred ranks). The exacta paid $36, the triple returned $83.50 and the superfecta paid $211.50. Friday night's $44,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace was won by Lispatty (Mark MacDonald, $14.80) in 1:52.2. Saturday night (Aug. 25th), the Raceway offers a pair of $40,000 elimination races for the 63rd Messenger Stakes, second jewel of the Pacing Triple Crown. PICK 5 GUARANTTED AT $10,000 SATURDAY A friendly reminder from Yonkers Raceway that Saturday evening's (Aug. 25th) Pick 5 wager starts with a carryover of $3,500.54 and a $10,000 guaranteed pool. The guarantee is in conjunction with the U.S. Trotting Association's Strategic Wagering Program. The Pick 5 is a 50-cent base wager comprising races 7 through 11 Saturday night. It has no consolation payoff, meaning if no one selects all five winners (as was the case Friday night), the entire pool (minus takeout) moves to the next racing program. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, N.Y. – Driver Louis-Philippe Roy’s ride with Jimmy Freight to date has already been a fulfilling one. One of the first major stakes horses the Quebec native has traveled with, Jimmy Freight has taken the 28-year-old reinsman to the Meadowlands Pace and the Carl Milstein Memorial. The next step in the pacer’s journey, the $580,000 Messenger Stakes, brings Roy to Yonkers Raceway for the first time. “It’s nice to be racing on those tracks I used to watch on TV, and especially competing against those elite drivers,” Roy said. “Just meeting them was a big thing for me a few years ago, now racing against them is even bigger.” Roy became Jimmy Freight’s regular driver this spring when the colt entered Richard Moreau’s barn. The pair have registered seven wins together, including a division of the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes at Mohawk and four splits of Ontario Sire Stakes. Jimmy Freight is 14-for-24 lifetime with $499,274 earned. “Jimmy is the easiest horse to drive, he can do whatever you want,” Roy said. “In front, off the pace, he doesn’t care, it’s the race that dictates the kind of trip will be the best for him, so that gives me more options and make my job easier.” Although versatile, most of Jimmy Freight’s success has come on the front end. He’s led gate-to-wire in four of his wins this season, including a 1:48.3 lifetime best at Mohawk August 4. The blazing mile came as no surprise to his driver. “He went a lot of fast miles against the OSS colts without needing any urging before, so I figured he could go that kind of speed if asked,” he said. Jimmy Freight wasn’t eligible to the North America Cup, but faced older pacers on the Cup undercard in the $100,000 Gold Cup. He came from 14 ¼ lengths out of it to finish third to Sintra and McWicked in 1:49 with a :26.3 final panel.  The Sportswriter son finished in a dead heat for third in his Meadowlands Pace Elimination July 7 and fourth in the final a week later, individually timed in 1:47.3. After two scores in Ontario Sire Stakes, including his 1:48.3 mile, Jimmy Freight went to Northfield Park for the Milstein. He set the pace there, but was caught in the final sixteenth by pocket-sitting Thinkbig Dreambig.  Roy is confident Jimmy Freight will register a Grand Circuit victory and thinks the Messenger is a prime opportunity to make the score. “I think he’s knocking at the door, I hope it’s going be his day soon,” Roy said. The Messenger drew 11 entrants, necessitating two $40,000 eliminations Saturday (August 25). The top four finishers in each elimination will advance to the final September 1. The rich Triple Crown card will also feature the $500,000 Yonkers Trot and the Hudson Filly Trot and Lady Maud Pace, each with an estimated $115,000 purse.  Jimmy Freight drew post four in the second Messenger elimination Saturday night. The 9-5 morning line favorite will meet Springsteen, a 5-2 shot from the inside post. The Rene Allard trained Rock N Roll Heaven colt finished seventh in the Milstein last out and won the Max Hempt at Pocono Downs in June. Stay Hungry won the Cane Pace on Hambletonian Day and looks to keep his Triple Crown hopes alive. He is 2-1 from post five with Doug McNair driving for Tony Alagna. Winston, Decoy, and Kwik Talkin complete the field. The first elimination features JK Wildfire, a 5-time winner this year who tries open stakes company for the first time this season. Jason Bartlett will drive for Brett Pelling. Babes Dig Me finished third in the Cane Pace and drew the rail for George Brennan and Alagna. Nutcracker Sweet was second in the Hempt and finished sixth in both the Meadowlands Pace and Cane Pace. Jordan Stratton will drive the Takter-trained Bettor’s Delight son from post five. Wild Bill and Topville Olympian complete the lineup. First post time Saturday is 6:50 p.m. The 12-race card also features a $44,000 Open Handicap Pace. For entries to the races, click here.  by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Trainer Jeff Cullipher got to know harness racing pacer Pistol Packin Mama well this spring at Hoosier Park. The 4-year-old mare raced against his star distaffer Au D Lox Bluegrass twice, once in the Filly and Mare Invitational May 19 and again in the Filly and Mare Preferred June 9. Pistol Packin Mama got the upper hand each time, including the latter start by a nose in 1:49.4.  Tragically, Au D Lox Bluegrass, a 17-time winner and earner of $377,339 died suddenly just after the pair’s final matchup. Soon after, Cullipher had the chance to purchase Pistol Packin Mama and he jumped on it with partner Tom Pollack. “We had a mare, Au D Lox Bluegrass, a very nice mare. Au D Lox, her last race she died just after she went across the wire,” Cullipher said. “Then an agent called us about Pistol Packin Mama and obviously we wanted to replace Au D Lox Bluegrass, so I paid up and got her.” An Ohio Sire Stakes Champion at 3 and a proven winner against older females already at 4, Pistol Packin Mama came to Cullipher sharp from the stable of Tyler George. However, Cullipher was surprised to find something familiar about The Panderosa daughter when he began working with her. “It’s unreal how two horses look alike, act alike, train alike, jog alike,” he said, referring to Au D Lox Bluegrass. “Pistol Packin Mama is a little smaller than the other mare was. Just a good horse. She’s professional about everything. Grabs a little, but nothing bad.” Pistol Packin Mama won her first start for Cullipher, taking a $20,000 Filly and Mare Preferred at Hoosier June 30. She posted a fourth, second, and third in her next three tries before earning an impressive win in her last outing August 4.  Pistol Packin Mama trailed the field as rivals She’s Heavenly, Rockin Racer, and Topville Cadillac battled three wide around the clubhouse turn. Pistol Packin Mama raced 7 ¾ lengths behind a :25.3 opening panel and a :53.3 half. Driver Trace Tetrick edged to the outside at the midway point and grabbed the second-over cover of Seventimesavirign.  Pistol Packin Mama swung three wide into the stretch with just 1 ¾ lengths to make up. Tetrick pulled the ear plugs and put her to a drive. Pistol Packin Mama took the lead with a furlong to race and drew away to score by 4 ¼ lengths. The 1:49.1 clocking is the fastest of her career. “Her last start was the highlight for us. She went 1:49.1,” Cullipher said. “She doesn’t seem to be a strong leaver. Trace Tetrick said at times she can leave and she’ll let you know when she wants to go. Other than that, try to get her in the right position and as soon as they turn for home, she knows the game.” Now 15-for-30 with another 13 seconds and thirds, Pistol Packin Mama sports earnings of $352,855. Despite her impressive performances at Hoosier Park, Cullipher decided to send the mare east to compete at Yonkers Raceway for trainer Ed Hart, eyeing a more consistent schedule and a chance at the big-time next winter. “There’s just not enough racing at Hoosier Park for her,” Cullipher said. “The Filly and Mare Open doesn’t go very often and we have a little relationship with Ed Hart, so we sent her out there to race at Yonkers for a couple different reasons. We wanted to test her a little bit on the half and next year when stakes season comes, the Matchmaker, that’s in the back of our minds right now.” Pistol Packin Mama arrived at Hart’s stable in good order about 10 days ago and will make her local debut in Friday’s (August 24) $44,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap. Matt Kakaley will drive the 5-1 shot from post six and off the three-week break, Cullipher expects the mare to stick to the off-the-pace style she employed at Hoosier Park. “I’m sure we’ll probably give her a trip,” he said. “I don’t know if she’s 100 percent tight just yet, but we’ll see how she goes around and make adjustments if needed and go from there.” The field assembled for Friday’s distaff feature also includes last week’s winner and runner up, Newborn Sassy and Tequila Monday, who will start from posts eight and seven, respectively. Mach It A Par finished fourth from post eight last time, but was assigned post five this week. Best Of Jenna enters off consecutive wins in the conditions and will start from post three. Annabeth, Angel’s Pride, and Lispatty complete the lineup. Friday’s 10-race card also features three $52,000 divisions of New York Sire Stakes for 2-year-old pacing colts and geldings. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.  by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Wednesday, August 22, 2018—We took a poll and decided there’s only one horse out there with a shot to win the Pacing Triple Crown. Take a bow, Stay Hungry. Having closed the sale in the $281,000 Cane Pace (life-best 1:47.3) during Hambletonian Day at the Meadowlands, Stay Hungry stays the course, invading Yonkers Raceway Saturday night (Aug. 25th) for eliminations of the 63rd Messenger Stakes. Stay Hungry, a son of 2008 Messenger winner Somebeachsomewhere, drew penultimate post position No. 5 in the second, $40,000 elimination. The first four finishers in both elims (races 5 and 6) return for the $500,000 final Saturday night, Sept. 1st.  (Author’s aside…since there were only eight entrants for Yonkers Trot No. 64, no eliminations were necessary. That half-million-dollar final also goes Sept. 1st) With eight of the 11 participants coming back, the odds are in Stay Hungry’s favor. That said, he landed in by far the tougher division, opposing—among others—pole-sitting Springsteen and $30,000 buy-in Jimmy Freight, who starts directly inside of him. Stay Hungry has danced every dance this season, finishing fourth in the $760.000 final of the North America Cup (Woodbine Mohawk), fourth in the half-million-dollar finale of the Hempt Memorial (Pocono) and third in the $701,830 final of the Meadowlands Pace. Then came the Cane, where he watched wicked numbers in front of him before rallying from ninth at the three-quarters with a personal :25.4 last stanza. For the season, Stay Hungry has three wins and three thirds in eight starts ($363,530). Tony Alagna trains for co-owners Brad Grant and Irwin Samelman Estate. “High speed and easy on himself,” driver Doug McNair said. “Start him up and shut him down and he doesn’t fight with you.” McNair, who has driven Stay Hungry in all but one of his 17 career purse starts, knew right away his escort had the goods. “From the start, he beat a lot of the best horses.” Stay Hungry’s frosh season (9 starts, 6 wins, 1 seconds) was highlighted by a win the $600,000 final of the Breeders Crown at Hoosier (1:50.4). He ended 2017 with a nose defeat in the $411,700 Governor’s Cup (Meadowlands). As for the Westchester and half-mile-track debut of Stay Hungry, McNair has no concerns. “(Trainer) Tony (Alagna) sent him over last week with Cat Manzi to work him out, and Tony has always had him tight.” Stay Hungry is three weeks between starts for Saturday’s race, the same interval—as McNair noted—between the Meadowlands Pace and the Cane.   “I just want to see him pace hard through the wire,” McNair said. “Obviously, I think he has a good shot to win no matter how we race him, but just pace hard through the wire.” by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

After seeing Wild Bill suffer an injury at age 2 and from bleeding issues this year at 3, trainer Ray Schnittker hopes his colt is ready to turn the corner beginning in Saturday's eliminations for the Messenger Stakes at Yonkers Raceway. Wild Bill, a full brother to Dan Patch Award-winner Huntsville, adds Lasix for his upcoming race following off-the-board finishes in his past two starts. For his career, he has won three of eight races and earned $58,391 for Schnittker, who bred Wild Bill with the late Charlie Iannazzo and remains the owner of the colt. "He hadn't been racing that well," Schnittker said. "We scoped him and he was bleeding pretty badly so we put him on Lasix. I think it's going to make a big difference. He trained very well on it and I think it'll be a factor. It seems like it really made a difference, but we're going to find out quickly on Saturday." The Messenger Stakes is the second jewel in the Pacing Triple Crown. Stay Hungry won the first jewel, the Cane Pace, on Aug. 4 at The Meadowlands. The final jewel, the Little Brown Jug, is Sept. 20. Stay Hungry and Wild Bill were among 11 horses entered in the Messenger. The top-four finishers from each of Saturday's two $40,000 eliminations advance to the $500,000 final on Sept. 1 at Yonkers. Racing begins at 6:50 p.m. (EDT), with the Messenger eliminations as races five and six. Wild Bill won the first two races of his career -- including a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes division that included future open-stakes-winners Nutcracker Sweet, Hayden Hanover, and Dorsoduro Hanover -- before consecutive fifth-place finishes that proved to be his final starts of the season. "He got a leg injury so we had to quit with him," Schnittker said. "He came back a hundred percent on that." Wild Bill is a son of Somebeachsomewhere out of Schnittker's mare Wild West Show, who has produced stakes-winners Stevensville, Cowboy Terrier, Beachesofcheyenne, and Huntsville. In 2016, Huntsville paced a world-record-equaling 1:49 mile and was named best 2-year-old male pacer. In 2017, he won the Meadowlands Pace and Cane Pace before retiring in October because of injury. His best win time of the season, 1:47.4, led all 3-year-old pacers. "He's definitely not Huntsville, but he's a pretty nice colt," Schnittker said about Wild Bill. "He's a lot smaller horse, but he's the same type of horse -- he wants to go. He's just nice to drive, two fingers and does everything right. He's a little smarter horse probably than Huntsville. I don't know if he's as fast. I think I'd rather have fast than smart." Wild Bill has a full stakes schedule ahead of him and Schnittker hopes the issues that have hampered the colt are things of the past. "If he can put it together here a little bit, I'd be tickled to death if he could hit the board in the final, we'll see what happens," said Schnittker, who will drive Wild Bill on Saturday. "I'd be surprised if he's not kind of right there. I'm looking for a strong second half of the year." Following are the fields for the eliminations of the Messenger. Jimmy Freight was supplemented for $30,000. First elimination: 1. Babes Dig Me, George Brennan, Tony Alagna, 3-1; 2. Wild Bill, Ray Schnittker, Ray Schnittker, 12-1; 3. JK Wildfire, Jason Bartlett, Brett Pelling, 7-2; 4. Topville Olympian, Brian Sears, Chris Oakes, 3-1; 5. Nutcracker Sweet, Jordan Stratton, Jimmy Takter, 3-2. Second elimination: 1. Springsteen, Brian Sears, Rene Allard, 5-2; 2. Winston, Corey Callahan, John Butenschoen, 8-1; 3. Decoy, Mark MacDonald, Jimmy Takter, 9-1; 4. Jimmy Freight, Louis Roy, Andrew Harris, 9-5; 5. Stay Hungry, Doug McNair, Tony Alagna, 2-1; 6. Kwik Talkin, Jordan Stratton, Rob Harmon, 20-1. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA 

YONKERS, NY, Wednesday, August 22, 2018-Yonkers Raceway's Sunday matinee this weekend (Aug. 26th) shall offer a first post of 12:45 PM. Races 2 through 5 go as those 'French' trots, with those post times at 1:10 PM, 1:40 PM, 2:10 PM and 2:40 PM. Post time for the 11th-race finale is 4:40 PM. Sunday's 'New York, New York Double' races are the first from Saratoga (post time one 1 PM) and the third from Yonkers (post time 1:40 PM). Program pages shall be sent when available. . After this weekend, the next Sunday matinee is September 2nd (post time TBA). by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway  

YONKERS, NY, Wednesday, August 22, 2018--Yonkers Raceway's live schedule gets an amendment next week as Thursday nights return Aug. 30th. It's pretty much a trade-off with Sundays, whose current cycle ends Sept. 2nd. Note that first post for Thursdays is the usual (for evenings) 6:50 PM. Thursdays are in play until Nov. 1st, while Sunday matinees return Nov. 4th. Also note there is no live racing scheduled for Labor Day Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 3rd and 4th. Aside from that, Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday evenings remain. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway    

YONKERS, NY, Monday, August 20, 2018--The public figured it out Monday night (Aug. 20th) with Yonkers Raceway hosting the $160,400 New York Sire Stakes Michael Sorentino Trot for 2-year-old colts and geldings. A pair of $80,200 events led to a pair of winning favorites. The opening division saw Gimpanzee (Brian Sears, $3) mock both an eight-hole and seven outclassed foes, an as-he-pleased 4¼-length win in 1:57.3 Away fourth early, Gimpanzee went up and over early (:28.3, :59.2) leader Cavill Hanover (Dan Duve) before a 1:28.2 three-quarters. Gimpanzee opened 3½ lengths into the lane, then finished it off because the rules said he had to. Our White Knight (Scott Zeron) did get into second (for the fifth time), with Bazillionaire (Trond Smedshammer) third and Brady Bunch (Andy Miller)--who missed the memo at the outset--fourth. As for Gimpanzee, the son of Chapter Seven hasn't been tested thus far, winning his first four (NYSS) races by a combined 16½ lengths. Gimpanzee is trained by Marcus Melander for Delray Beach, FL, co-owners Courant Inc. and S R F Stable. The exacta paid $44, the triple returned $307 and the superfecta paid $1,467 "He's just very mature," Sears--single digits away from 10,000 career wins--said. The evening's second and final grouping was won by Chapter Fashion ($5.90), who two-moved to the lead from post position No. 7, then held sway (:29.2, 59.3, 1:29, 1:58.1). Thunder (Zeron) tried it first-up, missing three-quarters of a length, with Chip Chip Conway (Jim Taggart Jr.) third and Xcuseme (John Stark Jr.) fourth. The other half of the field, including second-choice Keystone Cash (Jimmy Takter), all misbehaved at some juncture. For Chapter Fashion, a Chapter Seven gelding owned by Fashion Farms and trained by Jim Campbell, it was his second (consecutive) win in five '18 tries. The exacta paid $17.80, the triple paid $45.20 and the superfecta paid $438. "He seemed to get around the track alright," Bartlett said. "There was some movement, but we weren't going very fast." New York Sire Stakes continue here Friday night (Aug. 24th), with the $156,000 Jim Crawford Pace for 2-year-old colts/geldings. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, NY, Sunday, August 19, 2018-Favored Obrigado (Mark MacDonald, $4.20) pounced from the pocket Sunday afternoon (Aug. 19th), winning Yonkers Raceway's featured $44,000 off-going Open Handicap Trot. The weekly trotting feature went at the flat mile, the 11th of 12 races and well after the four added-distance 'French' races. Generously assigned post position No. 2, Obrigado worked around polester Dewycolorintheline (Ray Schnittker) as outside number In Secret (George Brennan) hurdled his six foes and made the lead. After early intervals of :27.1 and :56.1, Such an Angel (Brent Holland) tried it first-up from fourth. The bid was both brief and poor with In Secret finding a 1:24.3 three-quarters. He took a length-and-a-half lead into the lane, but Obrigado was lurking. That one edged out and edged away, prevailing by three-quarters of a length in 1:55. Charmed Life (Steve Smith) overcame a weak tow to grab second, with In Secret, Andy Ray (Jason Bartlett) and Dewycolorintheline rounding out the payees. For Obrigado, an 8-year-old Boy Band gelding co-owned by (trainer) Paul Kelley, Linwood Higgins, S R F Stable & Stable 45, it was his second win in five seasonal starts (career 44-for-90, earnings over $1.76 million). The exacta paid $38, the triple returned $244 and the superfecta paid $542. Sunday's verse of the 'New York, New York Double' featured a winning combination of 1-Glory to Kitten (part of entry, Saratoga's 1st race) and 7-Deo (Yonkers' 3rd race), returning $7.70 for every correct $1 ticket. Total pool was $6,992. The next Sunday matinee is Aug. 26th (post time TBA). by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, NY, Sunday, August 19, 2018--It's a froshfest Monday night (Aug. 20th), with Yonkers Raceway hosting the $160,400 New York Sire Stakes Michael Sorentino Trot for 2-year-old colts and geldings. Post time for the dozen-race card is 6:50 PM, with the pair of $80,200 statebred events going as races 6 and 8. The opening division finds Gimpanzee (Brian Sears, post 8) eying a fourth sire stakes win in as many starts. The son of Chapter Seven hasn't been tested thus far, winning those first three races by a combined 12¼ lengths. He hits town after a life-best 1:55.4 effort at Saratoga, a track record for that age group. Gimpanzee is trained by Marcus Melander for Delray Beach, FL, co-owners Courant Inc. and S R F Stable. Geldings Horns for Three (Jason Bartlett, post 1) and Cavill Hanover (Dan Dube, post 2) have each won twice in sire stakes competition, the latter edging the former earlier this month at Batavia. Our White Knight (Scott Zeron, post 5) has been a bridesmaid four times (with one third) in his five NYSS tries, while Brady Bunch (Andy Miller, post 7) has chased home Gimpanzee in his last couple of sire stakes efforts. The evening's second and final grouping has Thunder (Zeron, post 5) going after a third consecutive NYSS win. The son of Conway Hall, trained by John Butenschoen for co-owners Crawford Racing, Jeremey Day and VIP Internet Stable, was an off-the-pace, life-best 1:58.3 at Batavia in his latest work night. Chip Chip Conway (Jim Taggart Jr., post 3) has two wins and two seconds in a half-dozen seasonal starts, while Chapter Fashion (Bartlett, post 7) enters off an open stakes win in a division of the Tompkins (Tioga), a maiden-breaking 1:56.1. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, August 18, 2018-Tepid choice Somewhere in L A (Jason Bartlett, $6.10) finished what he started Saturday night (Aug. 19th), winning Yonkers Raceway's $44,000 Open Handicap Pace. Somewhere in L A-from post position No. 5-threw down intervals of :26.2; 55.4; 1:23 and 1:51.4. He whipped a pocketed McErlean (Brent Holland) by a length, with Theartofconfusion A (Mark MacDonald), Techtor Hanover (Dan Dube) and Always at My Place (George Brennan) rounding out the payees. For Somewhere in L A, a 7-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding co-owned by D'Elegance Stable IX, Carmen Iannacone, T L P & Gandolfo Stables and trained by Richard Banca, it was his eighth win in 20 seasonal starts. The exacta paid $32.20, the triple returned $102 and the superfecta paid $397. It was one of Bartlett's six wins during the dozen-race card. Sears won thrice, while New Zealand driving champion Dexter Dunn began his stateside odyssey with a pair of drives. Dunn finished third as an odds-on favorite and seventh with an outsider. Sunday's (Aug. 19th) matinee has a first post of 12:35 PM, with races 1 through 4 of 'French' theme, two at the mile-and-a-quarter and two at the mile-and-a-half distance. The 'New York, New York Double' is comprised of Saratoga's first race and Yonkers' third. Post times are 1 PM and 1:35 PM, respectively. A friendly reminder from Yonkers Raceway that Sunday afternoon’s (Aug. 19th) Pick 5 wager starts with a carryover of $4,390.53 and a $15,000 guaranteed pool. The guarantee is in conjunction with the U.S. Trotting Association’s Strategic Wagering Program. The Pick 5 is a 50-cent base wager comprising races 7 through 11 (if 11 or less races, the gimmick is the last five races on the card). It has no consolation payoff, meaning if no one selects all five winners (as was the case Saturday night), the entire pool (minus takeout) moves to the next racing program. Sunday‘s program may be downloaded at http://www.empirecitycasino.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/sun_program.pdf First post Sunday is 12:35 PM. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway  

YONKERS, NY, Friday, August 17, 2018-Newborn Sassy (Jordan Stratton, $14.60) rolled over favored Tequila Monday (Eric Goodell) late Friday night (Aug. 17th), winning Yonkers Raceway's moist $44,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace. Neither lass was visible to the naked eye early as Caviart Cherie (Mark MacDonald) led through a :26.3 opening quarter-mile. Magic Forces (George Brennan), perturbed in the pocket, took over before a :55.1 intermission. Vorst (Brent Holland) slipped out from third, but she wasn't the problem as Magic Forces maintained her lead in and out of a 1:23.1 three-quarters. Wide came 6-5 choice Tequila Monday and even wider-from post position No. 7-was Newborn Sassy. Tequila Monday quickly opened a length-and-a-half lead into the lane, but her rival was in hot pursuit. Newborn Sassy collared the people's preference in the final yards, edging away by three-quarters of a length in 1:51.3...a tick off her season's-best effort. It was about seventh lengths back to Magic Forces in third, with Mach it a Par (Jason Bartlett) and Vorst rounding out the payees. For third choice Newborn Sassy, a 5-year-old daughter of Western Ideal owned by CC Racing & Joann Looney-King and trained by Jim King Jr., it was her seventh win in 24 seasonal starts (third in last four tries). The exacta paid $49.40, the triple returned $148.50 and the superfecta paid $1,187. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway 

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