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YONKERS, N.Y. – In the early morning hours on Wednesday, October 2, Talvikki Niiniketo prepared to travel across the Atlantic Ocean with Zacon Gio ahead of the trotter’s start in the Yonkers International Trot Oct. 12. Joining Zacon Gio in his equine transport container, the pair were hoisted into the bay of a cargo 747 jumbo jet and waited for their departure to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport from eastern Belgium’s Liège Airport. For seating, Niiniketo made do with an overturned bucket. For safety, she held on tight. “It was actually really exciting. It was the first time to go on a really big airplane and when it leaves, sitting there in a big container on a water bucket,” Niiniketo recalled. “First, I was thinking, ‘how am I going to hold on.’ In the end, it was really easy. And also for the landing, I was sitting there on a water bucket with him. It wasn’t so bad. I think it’s worse where the people sit, you feel it more.” Traveling to the United States to compete in harness racing’s World Cup was beyond Niiniketo’s dreams even one year ago. As a self-described city girl, the idea would have seemed impossible to Niiniketo growing up in Helsinki, Finland. “I’m the only one from the family who likes horses,” said Niiniketo, who tried to recall her first equine encounter. “I don’t know, I just saw them and I loved them. I don’t remember, maybe it was some carnival or something where I saw this pony. Then I started riding school to ride the ponies. I actually had a riding horse, that was my first own horse, a riding horse. I did dressage. It’s a Finnish horse, a cold-blooded horse named Syntipukki.” Niiniketo’s passion for horses led her to the sport of harness racing. A desire to see the world took Niiniketo to Italy in the mid-2000s and she worked as a groom and caretaker in trainer Erik Bondo’s stable. Niiniketo returned home to Finland in 2008 to complete her schooling and with that accomplished, in 2011 she moved back to Italy where she’s lived ever since. After six years working for Bondo, Niiniketo sought new surroundings, eager to see how training varied from stable to stable. She came to work for Holger Ehlert in March 2018. Zacon Gio arrived in Ehlert’s barn a few months later and Niiniketo was assigned his caretaker. A son of Rudy Griff out of the Yankee Glide mare May Glade Font Sm, Zacon Gio was then a 3-year-old with nine wins in 16 starts, but had failed to factor in stakes company, finishing third of five in the Group 3 Gran Premio G. Stabile, eighth in the Group 1 Gran Premio Citta' di Napoli, and seventh in the Group 3 Gran Premio Regione Puglia. Thinking highly of the trotter and desiring to unlock his potential, owner Giuseppe Franco transferred the horse to Ehlert. Intent on getting Zacon Gio to the Italian Trotting Derby in late September 2018, Ehlert started the horse September 1 in a Cesena invitational. However, after getting a second-over trip and angling three wide into the stretch, Zacon Gio finished a flat fourth. His connections thought better of their Derby dreams. “We tried to make (the Derby), it was really short time,” Niiniketo said. “We raced him once almost immediately so that we could see how he was. He wasn’t good in that race. He wasn’t ready for the Derby. Thank god, the owners, even though it was really big money, they agreed to skip the Derby so we had time to try to make him better. We tried to make him better because no one knew what he would become.” In her time working with Zacon Gio, Niiniketo has learned to work with the trotter’s big personality. “He has a lot of character and he’s really playful,” Niiniketo explained. “Sometimes he does some things that are a little bit silly, but that’s only because he just wants to entertain himself. Maybe it’s boring to just go around the track, so he has to make something fun. “He eats all the blankets, he eats everything,” she continued. “When we had the bottled water (in quarantine) and I go to put the water in the bucket, he takes the bottles from me and throws them around. Blankets, he eats right away. If he feels it’s a little bit too warm, he takes them off right away and then it’s in little pieces in the box. He is the boss.” Zacon Gio reemerged for Ehlert October 25, 2018 when he cruised in a Bologna overnight. After that, the wins piled up. Over the following 11 months, Zacon Gio won his next 10 starts, including Group 2 successes in the Premio Citta' Di Torino and the Gran Premio Regione Campania and Group 1 wins in the Premio Unione Europea and Gran Premio Tino Triossi. “He’s been only getting better every race,” Niiniketo said. “He’s only 4. He’s growing mentally and he’s growing physically. From when he came last year, he’s really gained much muscle. He’s double that of when he came.” Zacon Gio’s exploits in Italy improved his record to 20-for-29 with $496,834 earned. Zacon Gio also garnered the interest of the Yonkers racing office, which awarded him an invitation to the New York track’s signature race, the Yonkers International Trot. Zacon Gio’s connections accepted and in late September, Niiniketo and Zacon Gio began their trek to America. They endured a long ride from Ehlert’s stable to Grosbois Training Center southeast of Paris, France. There, Zacon Gio went his final training trip before flying overseas, completing 2,000 meters over the Grosbois track October 1. Then, it was on to Belgium to board the plane before finally landing in New York. However, with a mandatory 48-hour quarantine, Zacon Gio couldn’t ship to Yonkers Raceway until October 4. “We were really worried about the 48 hours when we couldn’t see them, but in the end, it was quite fun because then we were free to go anywhere. After that, you’re stuck going to feed him three or four times a day and can’t really go so much,” Niiniketo said. “I’ve never been in America before. This is the first time. We went to the Empire State Building and we walked around. It was quite fun. We were in the city both days, just shopping.” Niiniketo and Ehlert worked with Zacon Gio at Yonkers in the week leading up to the Yonkers International Trot. Unlike at home, Zacon Gio spent nearly all of him time in his stall. Whenever the caretaker fretted over the upcoming race, she looked to the horse to settle her nerves. “He can’t go to the paddock. He’s used to spending a lot of time out, I just leave him in the paddock and I just take him in just before I have to train him. He gets ready and I go,” Niiniketo said. “Here, he has to be in the box, so he’s like a little bomb when you walk here. “The only thing that was worrying me was how would he take the trip. He’s been drinking and eating, but you never know because they can’t tell you if something’s wrong, so you never can be sure,” Niiniketo said. “All the team has been really nervous and they come and see, is he tired, is he OK, and I have to just keep in my head that I know him, I (work with) him every day, and I think he’s like always.” Zacon Gio confirmed Niiniketo’s intuition Saturday afternoon, October 12, when he crushed his competition in the $1 million stakes while running his streak to 12. Although driver Roberto Vecchione typically puts Zacon Gio on the point at home, the pair came from off the pace in the trotter’s first start outside Italy. Racing in fourth early, Zacon Gio hugged the pylons around the first of five turns in the 1 1/4-mile Yonkers International as Atlanta set a dawdling tempo and Uza Josselyn prompted to her outside. Entering the second turn, Vecchione angled Zacon Gio to the outside to follow the Swiss mare’s cover. Zacon Gio remained on hold for Vecchione until they reached the midway point of the backstretch the final time. Forced three deep by Guardian Angel As, Vecchione put the whip on Zacon Gio’s tail and the trotter took off like a Manhattan taxi getting a green light. Entering the final turn, Vecchione yanked out the ear plugs and by the midway point of the bend, Zacon Gio left Atlanta in his wake. With Vecchione calling out to his mount, Zacon Gio put up a 3 1/2-length lead in the stretch. In the final sixteenth, the driver took the lines in his left hand and letting Zacon Gio trot through the finish on a loose line, pumped his right hand to the sky in celebration. Slide So Easy of Denmark, who rode a pocket trip behind Atlanta, angled out behind the tiring pacesetter and finished second 3 1/4 lengths behind Zacon Gio. Marion Marauder of Canada was third. Niiniketo met Zacon Gio on the track and hooking a lead to his bridle, walked him to the winner’s circle. She held onto Zacon Gio as dozens of people – owner, trainer, driver, blacksmith, family, friends, and more swarmed around the trotter. Zacon Gio stood quietly as Italian flags fluttered around his head and his connections were hoisted into the air in celebration. Someone even tucked a flag into Zacon Gio’s browband in the chaos. “I’m always scared about the winner’s circle. When he won the first Gran Premio, that was in Florence, and there he also went really fast and should have been tired,” Niiniketo remembered. “Roberto gave the horse to me to take him. I drive around to go in because he’s supposed to be really nice after the race because he’s supposed to be tired. I went by some horses and he just put the tail up and was ready to go again.’ ” With pictures taken, Niiniketo walked Zacon Gio back to the paddock. When the trotter returned to his stall with his new white and blue Yonkers International Trot blanket draped over his back, the trotter stood tall, cotton-stuffed ears forward, eyes wide and bright, nostrils barely flaring as he breathed gently. His vanquished foes were blowing hard and restless after their 10-furlong journey around the hilltop oval. “He’s not ever tired. I’ve never seen him tired,” Niiniketo commented. “He’s just getting better and now this was again another step. He had to race against the older horses who are strong. We don’t know what the limit is.” Niiniketo walked Zacon Gio across the paddock to the washstand and waiting for their turn, the pair circled around with Zacon Gio on a loose lead as Niiniketo accepted a congratulatory phone call. After being hosed off, Zacon Gio took a few gulps of water from a bucket and completed the post-race testing procedures at his own pace before Niiniketo led him back to the barn down the hill from the paddock. Taking the horse path back to the barn, Niiniketo and Zacon Gio encountered three of the adoring connections and were greeted with chants of, “Zacon! Zacon! Zacon!” Niiniketo’s face lit up in a smile and one of the roisterers thrust a beer into Niiniketo’s hand. Zacon Gio stopped and waited quietly for his caretaker to take a few sips before she passed the drink back and the pair continued on their trek. After crossing the road feeding from the Yonkers Ave entrance, the horse path bent to the right, hugging the southeast side of the parking lot and winding downhill. At the bottom, it swung to the left again back toward the barn. On the half-mile hike, Niiniketo looked forward to giving her trotter a well-earned break after getting home. Zacon Gio will be reunited with his paddock, a luxury he was deprived of while staying at Yonkers. “The trainer makes the decisions and talks with the owner now, but I think he’s going to now have a little vacation and take it easy and then start to train for the Gran Premio Lotteria in May,” she said. “That’s our next big thing. I’m going to just forget about him for a week in the paddock so he can just do what he wants to do. Eat grass and be by himself. He likes it.” As Niiniketo approached the barn with Zacon Gio, she reflected on her time in New York. Only an hour removed from the race which more than doubled the trotter’s earnings to $996,834 and opened doors for more adventures to come, she tried to grasp the magnitude of the victory. “It’s been amazing and everything has been so nice,” Niiniketo said. “It’s so well-organized. You never have to worry. If there’s something (wrong), in five minutes, they fix it. That’s really nice. In Italy, it’s never like that. Here, in five minutes everything is fixed. “It’s a dream come true, of course. Doesn’t happen to every girl,” Niiniketo said. “It’s unbelievable. I can’t even get hold of it yet, what he just did, what we just won. It’s unbelievable. I couldn’t even imagine it a year ago. And I’ve been doing quite good with normal horses, but no one like him because there is no one like him, there’s no one like him.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. First post time is 6:50 p.m. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

Showing great closing speed after a three-wide move in the backstretch, Italy’s Zacon Gio pulled away in the stretch to win the $1 million Yonkers International Trot at Yonkers Raceway. Driven by Roberto Vecchione, Zacon Gio is a world champion four-year-old stallion by Ruty Grif and is undefeated in 2019 after nine starts. The seventh race feature at 1 ¼ mile started off with USA’s Atlanta (Yannick Gingras), out trotting Switzerland’s Uza Josselyn (Erik Adielsson) for control of the early lead going to the opening quarter mile in :28.1. Denmark’s Slide So Easy (Ake Svanstedt) was sitting in third place behind Atlanta. Past the half mile marker in a slow :59.1, Atlanta was still firmly in command with Uza Josselyn parked on the outside as Zacon Gio and Vecchione was second over in the flow to the three-quarters in 1:28. It was then that Vecchione asked Zacon Gio to go three-wide and his trotter took off, looped around Uza Josselyn and at the mile marker in 1:55.4, had collared Atlanta. Zacon Gio then cleared to the lead and went on to win by three and one-quarter lengths in 2:24.1. Slide So Easy was second with Marion Marauder (Scott Zeron) third. It was the 11th straight win for Zacon Gio, who is trained by Holger Ehlert and owned by Franco Giuseppe of Napoli, Italy. He paid $4.30 to win. “I saw that Uza Josselyn was not going to get the lead so I stay on the outside,” said winning driver Roberto Vecchione. “Once I cleared to the lead, I knew that we would bring it home. He has won 11 races in a row and some of those races were world record miles. He showed he has the potential to win this race. I credit his trainer for keeping him in good shape all season.” The $250,000 Harry Harvey Memorial Trot took place in the eighth race at 1 ¼ mile and early on it was Will Take Charge (Jordan Stratton) out dueling Emoticon Hanover (Daniel Dube) for the lead by the opening quarter mile in :28. Rich And Miserable (Tyler Buter) came first-over going to the half mile in :56.2 with Mission Accepted (Yannick Gingras) grabbing the second-over cover on the outside. Past the three-quarters in 1:26, Rich And Miserable began to show he was tiring and by the mile in 1:54.4, he began to quit as Mission Accepted moved to first-over and came after Will Take Charge. Down the stretch Mission Accepted was the strong horse, going on to win going away by two and three-quarter lengths in 2:23.4, which was two fifths of a second faster than the International Trot went in. Custom Cantab (David Miller) closed well to be second with Will Take Charge third. It was the fifth win this year for Mission Accepted. The four-year-old stallion by Manofmanymissions is trained by Ron Burke and is owned by Burke Racing Stable, Knox Services and D. Wills and Weaver-Bruscemi. He paid $5.90 to win. For full results and entries, click here. By Steve Wolf, for Harneslink

YONKERS, N.Y. – At the beginning of 2019, Atlanta appeared primed to have an exceptional 4-year-old harness racing campaign. On the heels of a sophomore season that included victories in the Empire Breeders Classic, the Kentucky Filly Futurity, and the Hambletonian, Atlanta’s connections should have been riding on cloud nine with their distaff star. However, after going through a public drama that ended with the mare being transferred from trainer Rick Zeron to Ron Burke, co-owner Michelle Crawford was nervous ahead of Atlanta’s seasonal debut in the $100,000 Miami Valley Distaff. “I think one of the most important races was in Ohio, her first start,” Crawford said. “We had that $100,000 race and we were watching with huge anticipation. We went through a lot of drama in the beginning of the year, she changed trainers and you don’t know how they’re going to start up again as 4-year-olds.” Atlanta extinguished any fears Crawford had with a 7 3/4-length romp in the Distaff May 6. Her first start with Yannick Gingras in the sulky, Atlanta led at every call and extended her advantage from a length at the half to 5 passing the three quarters before stopping the timer in 1:50.4. After the Distaff, Atlanta’s Grand Circuit victories continued to pile up. She took a leg of the Graduate at Woodbine June 1 then captured the elimination and final of the Armbro Flight over the following two weeks. Atlanta returned to the Meadowlands in July to take another Graduate leg and the $250,000 Graduate Final July 6, where she toppled male rival Six Pack in a lifetime best 1:49.1. In her career, Atlanta is 19-for-35 with $1,799,089 earned. Crawford isn’t sure what enables Atlanta to go toe-to-toe with males like Six Pack, but believes her mare by Chapter Seven is simply a standout. “I do know that some of the Chapter Sevens are freaks. I think they’ve shown themselves on the track for the last few years,” Crawford said. “You have Walner, you have Atlanta. There are some significant Chapter Sevens out there. I think when you have filly or mare like this, anything goes.” In addition to her victories, Atlanta finished third (and was placed second by the stewards) in the $450,000 Hambletonian Maturity and second in both the elimination and final of the Maple Leaf Trot. In the Maple Leaf Trot final, Atlanta left from post 10 and never saw pylons, tracking the cover of Crystal Fashion throughout. Despite her overland journey, Atlanta tipped off cover and cut into Guardian Angel As’ lead in the stretch, losing by just a half-length in 1:50.4. Crawford felt Atlanta’s defeat was one of her most impressive efforts yet. “Even though she didn’t win the one in Canada, I think she was the best horse in there that day,” Crawford said. After the Maple Leaf Trot, Atlanta recorded a hard-fought head win the Charlie Hill Memorial Trot at Scioto Downs and now looks to add the $1 million Yonkers International Trot to her resume. It’s a race Crawford has become accustomed to watching from the sidelines with dreams of winning. “Who doesn’t have that race on their bucket list? I think there are a few big races I’ve had on my bucket list and the International Trot, obviously we haven’t had anything in there before,” Crawford said. “To have a girl representing the U.S.A., I don’t think it can get better than that. “I’ve watched it before from the Yonkers bleachers and it’s just a really powerful thing when they come out and the flags are flying. It’s an honor to be part of that.” Heading into the Yonkers International Trot Oct. 12, Atlanta hasn’t raced since the Hill Sept. 7. She has one qualifying victory at Harrah’s Philadelphia Sept. 24 and worked out 1 1/4 miles at Yonkers before the races Oct. 1. The break in Atlanta’s racing schedule was by design. “I think that she proved to us that she can do what she needed to do and she had some fabulous wins. I think there is something to be said about treating them at this level like Thoroughbreds,” Crawford said. “Rick always did that last year, he treated her very much that way and it worked well. You don’t need to race her week-in and week-out to keep her ship-shape, I think you need to protect her a little bit. Ronnie has done everything in between the races to keep her up and in shape.” Even with Atlanta’s preparations at home and the qualifier, the workout over the half-mile track with Gingras in the bike was key. Atlanta made her first start as a 2-year-old in New York Sire Stakes at Yonkers July 18, 2017 and she made a break when trotting into the first turn. Her next start at Batavia produced an identical result as Atlanta jumped it off entering the first bend. She hasn’t started on a half since. “I think it was really important since she doesn’t race on a half-mile. Ronnie needed to know up front if he needed to adjust or make any changes,” Crawford said of the Oct. 1 workout, in which Atlanta successfully navigated the Yonkers oval, going 10 furlongs in approximately 2:26. “Yannick was pretty happy with her. I was pretty pleased with the mile,” Crawford said. “I think I would be more nervous if they came out of that training and said, ‘we need to change a whole bunch of things because it wasn’t that easy for her to get around.’ Then I’d be a little bit more nervous. She’s pretty pure-gaited. Given that, it should be a no-brainer for her.” Atlanta drew post position three in the $1 million Yonkers International Trot and will again have Gingras in the sulky. She is the 3-1 morning line favorite. Cruzado Dela Noche seeks a title defense for Sweden and drew post seven in this year’s International, one slot inside of last year’s runner up Lionel of Norway. Denmark’s Slide So Easy also competed last year and returns; he drew post one. Guardian Angel As will also represent the United States and will start from the second tier in post nine. Marion Marauder will make his third appearance in the International representing Canada. European sensations Bahia Quesnot (France, post two), Uza Josselyn (Switzerland, post four), Zacon Gio (Italy, post five), and Norton Commander (Germany, post 10) complete the field. “All of us are hoping she puts her head down and gets out of there and doesn’t look back, doesn’t look left or right, just keeps going,” Crawford said. “It’s hard to say. I can’t predict how the race is going to set up. There are some fabulous horses in there and a lot of those horses like to be parked all of their miles; they have the endurance, so you really don’t know. You have no idea what to expect, but I think Atlanta has proven to everybody that she definitely deserves to be there. “It gives you goosebumps to see the company she’s in and they’re all coming over to the United States for this crazy race.” Atlanta would be the ninth mare to win the International Trot and the first since the race was revived in 2015 after Hannelore Hanover and Ariana G failed to join the ranks of Peace Corps (1991), Kit Lobell (1989), Classical Way (1980), Delmonica Hanover (1973 and 1974), Fresh Yankee (1970), Roquepine (1967 and 1968), and Armbro Flight (1966). Crawford Farms Racing owns Atlanta in partnership with Bradley Grant and Howard Taylor, a group Crawford calls the dream team. The group will be in attendance Saturday to cheer their mare on. “We’ll all be there rooting her on together and I’m really excited about that, too,” Crawford said. “We’ve come a long way and we have a great partnership. It’s just a lot of fun.” The $1 million Yonkers International Trot is slated for Saturday, October 12 at Yonkers Raceway. The card will also feature a pair of $250,000 invitationals, the 1 1/4-mile Harry Harvey Trot and 1-mile Dan Rooney Pace. For more information on the event and its participants, click here. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. First post time is 6:50 p.m. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

Yonkers, NY - Both Guardian Angel AS and Marion Marauder have enjoyed harness racing success at Empire City Casino's Yonkers Raceway in the past and each will try to add to his accomplishments Saturday (Oct. 12) in the $1 million Yonkers International Trot. Marion Marauder, whose three lifetime wins at The Hilltop include the 2016 Yonkers Trot, is making his third appearance in the International. He finished second in 2017 and fifth in 2018. Guardian Angel AS, who is heading to his first International, has six career victories on the half-mile oval at Yonkers. Saturday's 41st edition of the International Trot brings together an invitational field of 10 older trotters, including 2018 champion Cruzado Dela Noche, representing nine nations. Guardian Angel AS, one of two U.S. representatives, is the 4-1 second choice on the morning line after drawing post nine in the second tier behind the starting gate. Atlanta, the other U.S. rep, is the 3-1 favorite from post three. Guardian Angel AS has won seven of 12 races this season and earned $664,634 in purses, which leads all older trotters in North America. The 5-year-old stallion has won at least one race on every sized racetrack in North America this season, including a half-mile world-record 1:52 performance at Northfield Park in the Cleveland Trotting Classic, Canadian-record-equaling 1:50.4 effort in the Maple Leaf Trot at seven-eighths Woodbine Mohawk Park, and a track-record 1:51.3 clocking in the Spirit of Massachusetts at five-eighths Plainridge Park. For his career, Guardian Angel AS has won 23 of 52 starts and $1.18 million. He is trained by Anette Lorentzon, driven by Tim Tetrick, and owned by ACL Stuteri AB and Kjell Johansson. Guardian Angel AS will start from the second tier for the second consecutive race, having left from the trailing position in the Caesars Trotting Classic on Sept. 20 at Harrah's Hoosier Park. He finished third. "I'd rather have my nose on the gate, that way I'd have a fair shot at using his gate speed if I want," Tetrick said. "(Post) 10 would have been better, where I don't get locked in along the rail. But, that's what God gave us, so we just have to work with it. "Anytime you get to race for a million, it's pretty awesome. Yonkers is a very historic track and I enjoy getting to race here every time I come here." Marion Marauder, a 6-year-old stallion, is seeking his first win in 2019. He has won 20 of 60 career races and earned $3.21 million for trainer Paula Wellwood and owners Marion Jean Wellwood and Devin Keeling. He was the 2016 Trotter of the Year after sweeping the Triple Crown. He was entered to race Sept. 30 at Mohawk but was scratched. "He had a temperature and hopefully that's under control," driver Scott Zeron said. "He's come into big events with three or four weeks off before, so I'm not worried about the layoff." Marion Marauder has raced six times at Yonkers and finished worse than second only once. "He's gotten around this track a bunch of times and has done well," Zeron said. "He's a relentless horse; he tries every time he gets out there. He's had an off year for the way he's been his whole career, so we're just hoping things are going to change. Hopefully I can trip him out and drive him the right way. "(The foreign horses) are very good. They can stay on the outside and take a lot of air, when a lot of our horses, we've just never taught them that type of system. You can't underestimate any of them." Atlanta is one of three mares in the International Trot field, with France's Bahia Quesnot and Switzerland's Uza Josselyn. Bahia Quesnot, who starts from post two, and Uza Josselyn, who leaves from post four, are both 5-1 on the morning line. In August, Uza Josselyn won the Group 1 Prix Maharajah at Solvalla in Sweden, with Bahia Quesnot finishing second in the championship event for trotting mares. Earlier in the year, Uza Josselyn finished second in the Group 1 Prix de France at a distance roughly equivalent to the 1-1/4 miles for the International. The Prix de France was won by Readly Express, with Bold Eagle third and Dijon (who later won the Elitlopp) fourth. For her career, the 8-year-old Uza Josselyn has won 32 of 70 races and $1.41 million. "She had some very good races in France going against the best horses over the same distance," said Barbara Aebischer, the caretaker of Uza Josselyn and wife of trainer Rene Aebischer. "It's her distance on Saturday, so we hope she does as well as there. "She always does very well. She always gives her best. She really goes with the heart." Bahia Quesnot most recently finished second to Propulsion in the Group 2 European Trotting Masters championship. She enters the International off three consecutive second-place efforts, with another Group 2 runner-up finish sandwiched between the Trotting Masters final and Prix Maharajah. Also an 8-year-old, Bahia Quesnot has won eight of 84 lifetime starts and $1.01 million. She has finished second on 16 occasions. "She's been doing really good," said Paola Guelpa, Bahia Quesnot's caretaker and the sister of trainer/driver Junior Guelpa, through a translator. "We got her in training in December last year and we have been working on her morale. She is very happy now and that's probably why she has been doing so well. Hopefully, she will get her big day soon." The International Trot has been won by a mare 11 times, most recently by Peace Corps in 1991. The International Trot was contested from 1959 through 1995 before being resurrected in 2015. Italy's Zacon Gio enters the International as the field's hottest horse, with 11 consecutive victories. This will be the 4-year-old stallion's first time racing outside of Italy. He has won 20 of 29 career races and $496,834. "He's just a really good horse," trainer Holger Ehlert said through a translator. "He's getting better and better and he knows how to do anything. He can wait, he can go on the lead, he can do any tactic. "I hope he gets a good race. It's not going to be easy because there are a lot of good horses, but my horse is very good too." Racing begins at 1 p.m. Saturday at Yonkers Raceway. The International Trot is race seven with a 3 p.m. (EDT) approximate post time. The card also includes the $250,000 Harry Harvey Trot (race eight) and the $250,000 Dan Rooney Pace (race 11). Following is the field in post-position order for the $1 million Yonkers International Trot. PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line 1-Slide So Easy-Ake Svanstedt-Flemming Jensen-10/1 2-Bahia Quesnot-Junior Guelpa-Junior Guelpa-5/1 3-Atlanta-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-3/1 4-Uza Josselyn-Erik Adielsson-Rene Aebischer-5/1 5-Zacon Gio-Roberto Vecchione-Holger Ehlert-8/1 6-Marion Marauder-Scott Zeron-Paula Wellwood-6/1 7-Cruzado Dela Noche-Brian Sears-Marcus Melander-8/1 8-Lionel-Goran Antonsen-Goran Antonsen-8/1 *9-Guardian Angel AS-Tim Tetrick-Anette Lorentzon-4/1 *10-Norton Commander-Conni Lugauer-Conni Lugauer-15/1 *Guardian Angel AS and Norton Commander start from the second tier. For more information, visit www.internationaltrot.com. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA     

YONKERS, N.Y. – Entering the 2018 edition of the Yonkers International Trot, Cruzado Dela Noche hadn’t started in a pari-mutuel race in four months and hadn’t won a major harness racing stakes race since capturing the Group 1 Copenhagen Cup in May 2017. Predictably, bettors dismissed the 6-year-old Muscle Massive son at 30-1 odds in the $1 million stakes. However, off two qualifying wins for trainer Marcus Melander and picking up Brian Sears, Cruzado Dela Noche worked out a brilliant trip in the 1 1/4-mile stakes, tracking Lionel’s first-over assault on leader Marion Marauder. With the plugs pulled and the whip on the trotter’s tail, Sears angled Cruzado Dela Noche three-wide with five-sixteenths of a mile to trot and joining Marion Marauder and Lionel, made it a three-across battle entering the final turn. Lionel put away Marion Marauder as he straightened into the lane and with Cruzado Dela Noche losing ground around the fifth bend, appeared to be on his way to International Trot glory. However, Sears went to the right-handed stick in the stretch and his trotter reengaged. As Lionel reached for the wire, Cruzado Dela Noche lunged, nailing his white-blazened rival in the shadow of the finish post. One year later, the enormity of Yonkers International Trot victory sticks with Sabine Kagebrandt, Managing Director of Cruzado Dela Noche’s ownership company Stall Courant Ab. “That brought us so much joy,” she said. “That meant a lot to us and it meant a lot to me because that horse brings us so much joy and he’s a really good horse and he has a really big heart. That he can take that win and show that he is an international horse, that’s the main thing. He had some wins in big races in other countries, but then he had one in America. “To win that big race under those conditions, it’s not so easy to go that many turns at Yonkers,” Kagebrandt continued. “It’s more money than the Prix d’Amérique, so it was a really big win for us and it was a big win for the horse. It means a lot, it’s a very big race to win, so we were so happy for that.” Cruzado Dela Noche’s Yonkers International Trot victory joined the Copenhagen Cup and Group 1 Grosser Preis Von Deutschland on the trotter’s resume, improved his record to 15-for-55, and boosted his earnings to $1,202,771. It was also the biggest win in Melander’s training career, which began in 2014 after he relocated from his native Sweden. The 27-year-old conditioner’s rapid rise to the top of the sport goes hand-in-hand with his partnership with Courant. “We love to be part of that. We’re so glad that he can make all that success,” Kagebrandt said. “I have known Marcus since he was a child and we have followed his move here to America. I think we were the first big owners that put horses in his stable. It started with one or two horses and then we started with more and expensive horses. We have always had a good faith in him. He has that kind of mission like we have, so we feel like it’s a good match. “We have the same view, how he should train and take care of the horses. We are very much involved also, talking about the training and where we should race,” Kagebrandt continued. “Of course, he’s the one who’s in charge, but he shares that information with us and we feel that we are part of it. That’s how we like it. We really love to work with Marcus. That’s really beautiful, I think.” Like Melander, Kagebrandt’s career is on the rise. Over the past year, Kagebrandt’s role at Courant evolved from doing the daily accounting and taking care of horses in the owner’s Swedish stable to managing the company’s budget and finances, selecting yearlings, and working alongside owner Anders Ström. A far cry from her initial aspirations of becoming a trainer, Kagebrandt appreciates the rarity of occupying such a role in a harness racing stable. “It’s really nice to work with Anders, we work really good together,” Kagebrandt said. “I really enjoy it. I travel all around the world to do what I love. I love my job. It’s beautiful. This kind of job, there are not so many jobs out there that are like mine.” Following his International Trot win, Cruzado Dela Noche finished sixth in the Breeders Crown Open Trot at Pocono and seventh in the TVG Free For All Trot at the Meadowlands. After a winter break, he returned this May to win the Arthur J. Cutler Memorial at the Swamp. Cruzado Dela Noche topped 11 rivals in the 9-furlong stakes to take the winner’s share of the $175,000 purse. Although he’s placed in another two stakes in six other seasonal starts, Cruzado Dela Noche hasn’t found the winner’s circle since the Cutler. He often comes from off the pace, but tends to run out of ground going the standard mile distance in America and Canada. “I think he’s been really, really great. He’s one year older, but he still gives his best. He gets home really fast every time,” Kagebrandt said. “He goes really, really good every time, so we’re really happy with him.” Cruzado Dela Noche only failed to earn a check once this season when he finished last of six beaten 14 1/2 lengths in an elimination of the Maple Leaf Trot at Mohawk Aug. 24. Although he made a long first-over move in that start, Cruzado Dela Noche tired in the final 3 furlongs, uncharacteristic of his typically strong final quarters. “He didn’t like the shipping and he was not to be recognized. He wasn’t feeling well. He wasn’t himself, that’s for sure,” Kagebrandt explained. “After that, he got some medication and he got to rest for two weeks to recover. He’s been training at home. Marcus and Mikaela (Melander), they have been really happy with him. He has been strong again and really happy and he’s doing his work really good.” After regrouping at Melander’s New Egypt, N.J. stable, Cruzado Dela Noche prepared to defend his Yonkers International Trot title with a 1:55.2 qualifying win at Harrah’s Philadelphia Oct. 1. Racing 10 lengths off the pace in third at the half, Cruzado Dela Noche moved on the outside and kicked away with a :28.4 final panel to score by 4 1/2 lengths. Returning to represent Sweden in the Yonkers International Trot, Kagebrandt is confident. She feels the added distance is ideal for the 7-year-old trotter. “He doesn’t have that kind of speed like Greenshoe, but he can go another lap,” she said. “I’m really hopeful for the International because it’s his distance. He’s so much better at longer distances and he’s shown that in Europe as well. That’s why I’m hopeful because now he finally gets a longer race and that’s what he’s best at.” Cruzado Dela Noche and Brian Sears drew post seven in this year’s International, one slot outside his starting position last year and one slot inside of returning rival and last year’s runner up Lionel of Norway. Denmark’s Slide So Easy also competed last year and returns; he drew post one. The new faces in this year’s edition are 2018 Hambletonian winner Atlanta, who will represent the United States from post three. Guardian Angel As will also represent the United States and will start from the second tier in post nine. Marion Marauder will make his third appearance in the International representing Canada. European sensations Bahia Quesnot (France, post two), Uza Josselyn (Switzerland, post four), Zacon Gio (Italy, post five), and Norton Commander (Germany, post 10) complete the field. “It is tougher. They have a really good field. They did last year, but this is tougher than last year, absolutely,” Kagebrandt said. “The class of this year’s International is really good. It’s good for the race, it’s good for everybody. “We have great respect for our opponents. This year, Atlanta and Guardian Angel As should probably be seen as favorites,” Kagebrandt said. “Among the Europeans, Uza Josselyn is super quick and Zacon Gio also comes with great reputation. They also have good post positions. We need racing luck to beat those horses for sure. But we have the best driver and a horse with a heart of gold.” Cruzado Dela Noche would join Su Mac Lad (1961, 1963), Roquepine (1967, 1968), Une de Mai (1969, 1971), Delmonica Hanover (1973, 1974), Ideal du Gazeau (1981, 1982, 1983), and Lutin d’Isigny (1984, 1985) as a repeat winner of the International should he prove victorious Saturday afternoon (Oct. 12). “It would mean a lot, especially with ‘Cruzado’ because we know he’s a really good horse,” Kagebrandt said. “It’s really hard for him to win races here. When he cannot open from the start, he always gets a bad trip. He really needs this win so people understand that he’s a great horse. It’s really hard competition, but I’m not worried. I think he’ll be in good shape.” The $1 million Yonkers International Trot is slated for Saturday, October 12 at Yonkers Raceway. The card will also feature a pair of $250,000 invitationals, the 1 1/4-mile Harry Harvey Trot and 1-mile Dan Rooney Pace. For more information on the event and its participants, click here. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.   By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

Harness racing trainer/driver Goran Antonsen learned a lot during his first trip to the $1 million Yonkers International Trot last year, and following the draw for this year's race, he wished he didn't need to recall some of the knowledge he gained. "I learned that post positions seven and eight are really, really bad," Antonsen said with a wry laugh after his Lionel, the runner-up to Cruzado Dela Noche in last year's International Trot, received post eight for Saturday's 41st renewal of the invitational for older trotters at Empire City Casino's Yonkers Raceway. Lionel is 8-1 on the morning line for the International Trot, which brings a 10-horse field representing nine nations to Yonkers Raceway. Atlanta, one of two U.S. representatives, is the 3-1 favorite from post three. Antonsen owns, trains and drives Lionel, a 9-year-old stallion who represents Norway. Last year, Lionel and Antonsen started from the second tier's post nine and raced in the outer flow for much of the mile. In fact, Lionel was first over from the half-mile point to the final turn, where he took the lead from Marion Marauder but was unable to hold off Cruzado Dela Noche, losing by a head. "It was a great experience," Antonsen said. "The driving culture here is very much different from home. I feel the last experience is important, especially now when we have post position eight, because when you have a bad (post position) you are so dependent on what the others do. "Even though we drew number eight we are still optimistic. But, of course, it is more difficult." Lionel has won 25 of 82 career races and just shy of $2 million. His victories include a handful of Group 1 events overseas, including the 2017 Olympiatravet (Olympic Trot). Following last year's International Trot, Lionel returned to action in Paris, but was not in best form. He got time to freshen up and Antonsen said the horse is entering this year's International in good shape. "When he was finished (in Paris) he was very tired," Antonsen said. "But he's been very good since July, when he started to find his top form. Now, he should be as good as last year." Despite Lionel's starting spot Saturday, Antonsen is enjoying his return trip to New York. "But," he said with a grin, "it would be even more fun if we had (post) two." * * * * * * The connections of Denmark's Slide So Easy, also a returnee from last year's International Trot, were on the other end of the spectrum when it came to the draw for Saturday's race. Slide So Easy got post No. 1, which caused his table of supporters to erupt in cheers when it was announced at Tuesday's luncheon in Empire City Casino's Good Time Room. "It couldn't be better, so we're very happy," said Thomas Clemmensen, who owns the 10-year-old gelding with Soren Christensen. Slide So Easy arrived in the U.S. earlier than his European counterparts and stabled at Ake Svanstedt's Legend Farm in central New Jersey. Svanstedt will drive Slide So Easy for trainer Flemming Jensen in Saturday's race. The horse has enjoyed a strong campaign overseas, winning seven of 11 races this year and finishing worse than second only once. His victories include a second consecutive Danmark Mesterskab (Denmark Championship). For his career, the son of North American stakes-winning stallion Quite Easy has won 39 of 95 starts and $405,585. "I think he is a little bit better this year, so hopefully we can have a good race and come out and win," Clemmensen said. "He can open very fast, so if he wants, he can take the lead. I hope that Ake will take position second or third inside and come out at the end of the race." Asked if that would be his instructions to Svanstedt, Clemmensen responded with a laugh. "I don't do that," he said. "I think Ake knows (what to do)." * * * * * * A horse representing Germany has never won the International Trot. Norton Commander will try to become the first on Saturday. Owned by Ulrich Mommert, the 5-year-old stallion is trained and driven by Conni Lugauer. He has won three of seven races this year and 12 of 24 lifetime, good for $146,519. He will start the International Trot from post 10. In August, Norton Commander finished third in the Group 1 Jubileumspokalen (Jubilee Cup). "We're very happy with him," caretaker Nick Elving said. "He always gives 110 percent in every race he does. We actually wanted (post) 10, to be an outsider." Several weeks ago, Lugauer was asked by writer Brandon Valvo what it would mean to win the International Trot. "I'm always thinking about victories, but I didn't think about victory in the International Trot," he replied. "The question is too big. I don't know." Racing begins at 1 p.m. Saturday at Yonkers Raceway. The International Trot is race seven with a 3 p.m. (EDT) approximate post time. The card also includes the $250,000 Harry Harvey Trot (race eight) and the $250,000 Dan Rooney Pace (race 11). Following is the field in post-position order for the $1 million Yonkers International Trot. PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line 1-Slide So Easy-Ake Svanstedt-Flemming Jensen-10/1 2-Bahia Quesnot-Junior Guelpa-Junior Guelpa-5/1 3-Atlanta-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-3/1 4-Uza Josselyn-Erik Adielsson-Rene Aebischer-5/1 5-Zacon Gio-Roberto Vecchione-Holger Ehlert-8/1 6-Marion Marauder-Scott Zeron-Paula Wellwood-6/1 7-Cruzado Dela Noche-Brian Sears-Marcus Melander-8/1 8-Lionel-Goran Antonsen-Goran Antonsen-8/1 *9-Guardian Angel AS-Tim Tetrick-Anette Lorentzon-4/1 *10-Norton Commander-Conni Lugauer-Conni Lugauer-15/1 *Guardian Angel AS and Norton Commander start from the second tier. For more information, visit www.internationaltrot.com. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA    

This Week: Yonkers International Trot, Yonkers Raceway, Yonkers, N.Y.; Courageous Lady, Northfield Park, Northfield, Ohio; John Simpson Stakes, Harrah's Philadelphia, Chester, Pa.; and Kindergarten Series, The Meadowlands, East Rutherford, N.J. Schedule of events: This week's marquee event on the Grand Circuit is the $1 million Yonkers International Trot, which will be held on Saturday (Oct. 12) at Yonkers Raceway. A field of 10 top trotters will head to the gate in the Yonkers International. Also on Saturday, Northfield Park will host the $120,500 Courageous Lady for 3-year-old filly pacers. Grand Circuit action this week begins on Wednesday (Oct. 9) at Harrah's Philadelphia with two divisions in the $114,800 John Simpson Stakes for 2-year-old filly pacers and two divisions in the $102,200 John Simpson Stakes for 2-year-old filly trotters. On Friday (Oct. 11) The Meadowlands will host the fourth leg of The Kindergarten for 2-year-olds of both sexes and gaits. There will be two divisions each for the colt pacers, filly trotters and filly pacers and a single division for the colt trotters. Complete entries for the races are available at this link. Last time: Division leader Greenshoe kept his crown intact as he patiently pushed for the front and faced little challenge when cruising to a 1:51.1 mile in the 127th Kentucky Futurity - going as a $450,000 single heat sponsored by Hunterton Farms, Stoner Manor Inc. and Menhammer Stuteri Ab - over a "good" track at The Red Mile on Sunday (Oct. 6). Greenshoe patiently pushed for the front and faced little challenge when cruising to a 1:51.1 mile in the 127th Kentucky Futurity. USTA/Mark Hall photo. Stablemate Green Manalishi S swept to the top from post eight while Gimpanzee raced first over to a :27.3 first quarter and supplied cover to fellow Marcus Melander trainee Greenshoe. Gimpanzee slid to the lead up the backstretch while Greenshoe, the 1-9 favorite, crept closer to the top through a :55.1 half with Pilot Discretion on cover second over. Greenshoe hit his best strides heading to the final turn, rushing past Gimpanzee to lead the field past three-quarters in 1:24. Through the stretch the millionaire son of Father Patrick-Designed To Be veered wide but kept to task while pursued down the center of the course by Don't Let'em, who took second. Gimpanzee held third from Soul Strong closing from the back of the pack for fourth. "I was really happy with the way things were working out; I wasn't getting any road trouble," said winning driver Brian Sears. "I was able to be patient with him and ease him up to the front. Then when I thought it was time to use him up a little bit he was there for me and was pretty much in hand. I was really happy with the way he scored down so I was getting a good feeling going behind the gate. He's got speed that really no other horse I can think of can go with." Earning $1,241,273 lifetime for owners Courant Inc., Hans Backe, Lars Granqvist and Morten Langli, Greenshoe - bred by Al Libfeld and Marvin Katz - won his 12th race from 16 starts. "I was here for the first time in 2007," said owner Anders Strom, who co-owns Greenshoe through Courant Inc. "I started my business as a horse owner for real in 2005 and set myself a target to have the world's best horse in 15 years and we are up by a photo finish now. Not to say the least to do it with this team of trainer, groom, driver, my co-owners which also will include Hanover Shoe Farms where he will find his new home next season." Greenshoe paid $2.20 to win. Complete recaps of all the races are available at the Grand Circuit website. Grand Circuit Standings: In 2019, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2019 Grand Circuit awards. Here are the leaders following this past weekend: Drivers: 1. Tim Tetrick - 1,170.5; 2. Yannick Gingras - 1,028; 3. David Miller - 792; 4. Dexter Dunn - 751; 5. Andrew McCarthy - 624. Trainers: 1. Ron Burke - 1,063; 2. Tony Alagna - 673; 3 Ake Svanstedt - 527; 4. Marcus Melander - 474; 5. Nancy Johansson - 421. Owners: 1. Brad Grant - 225.1; 2. Fashion Farms - 214.5; 3. Burke Racing Stable - 210; 4. Courant Inc. - 202.5; 5. Weaver Bruscemi - 186.2. Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will take place next weekend at Woodbine Mohawk Park with 12 Breeders Crown eliminations (if necessary) set to take place on Friday (Oct. 18) and Saturday (Oct. 19). Hoosier Park will host The Pegasus for 3-year-olds of both sexes and gaits and The Meadowlands has the fifth leg of the Kindergarten for 2-year-olds of both sexes and gaits. by Paul Ramlow, for the Grand Circuit  

Atlanta was made the 3-1 morning-line favorite for Saturday's (Oct. 12) $1 million Yonkers International Trot at Empire City Casino's Yonkers Raceway after drawing post three for the 41st edition of the invitational for harness racing older trotters. A 4-year-old mare, Atlanta will represent the United States in the 10-horse, nine-nation field. The draw for the race, which will be contested at the distance of 1-1/4 miles around Yonkers' half-mile oval, was held Tuesday (Oct. 8) during a luncheon at Empire City Casino's Good Time Room. Atlanta, the 2018 Trotter of the Year in the U.S., is one of two stateside representatives in the International Trot and heads to the race off a 1:53 qualifier at Harrah's Philadelphia on Sept. 24. In her previous start, she won the Charlie Hill Memorial on Sept. 7 at Scioto Downs. For the year, Atlanta has won seven of 11 starts and finished second on three occasions, earning $658,400. She has won 19 of 35 career races and $1.79 million. The 4-year-old mare is trained by Ron Burke, driven by Yannick Gingras, and owned by Crawford Farms Racing, Brad Grant, and Howard Taylor. "At the end, it was (posts) two, three, and five; it didn't matter which one of the three," Gingras said. "Post three is as good a spot you're going to get. We're really happy with where we're starting. "I feel really good because she trained here last week and she was so good. She was strong finishing, too, and went a good mile. I wasn't really planning on going super-fast, but she felt good and wanted to buzz her through one turn, and she did. I think all systems are go. We've got a good post, a sharp mare, and we'll see what we can do." Atlanta is one of three mares in the field, with France's Bahia Quesnot and Switzerland's Uza Josselyn. Bahia Quesnot most recently finished second to Propulsion in the European Trotting Masters championship and earlier this season was second in two Group 1 events, the Oslo Grand Prix and Prix Maharajah. Uza Josselyn also has two Group 1 runner-up finishes this year, in the Prix D'Atlantique and Grand Prix de France. Bahia Quesnot, who starts from post two, and Uza Josselyn, who leaves from post four, are both 5-1. The International Trot has been won by a mare 11 times, most recently by Peace Corps in 1991. The International Trot was contested from 1959 through 1995 before being resurrected in 2015. Guardian Angel AS drew post nine in the second tier and is the 4-1 second choice on the morning line. He finished third in his most recent race, the Caesars Trotting Classic on Sept. 20 at Harrah's Hoosier Park. His most recent victory was in the Maple Leaf Trot on Aug. 31 at Woodbine Mohawk Park. The 5-year-old stallion, also representing the U.S., has won seven of 12 races this season and earned $664,634. He is trained by Anette Lorentzon, driven by Tim Tetrick, and owned by ACL Stuteri AB and Kjell Johansson. "I'm not very happy with it; we're much better being on the gate, but it is what it is," assistant trainer Anna Lorentzon said. "Timmy has to work the trip out from there. "He feels good. As soon as I shipped him back to New Jersey he's been back to his old self. He's had a really good season, better than we were hoping. So far so good. It would mean a lot (to win the International). There is a lot of prestige in it and we're representing the U.S. It's an honor to do that." There are four returnees from last year's International Trot, including winner Cruzado Dela Noche. The 7-year-old stallion, representing Sweden for owner Anders Strom's Courant Inc., is trained by Marcus Melander and will have Brian Sears in the sulky. He will start from post seven. Other horses back for another try are Canada's Marion Marauder, Norway's Lionel, and Denmark's Slide So Easy. Marion Marauder is making his third appearance in the race; he finished second in 2017 and fifth in 2018. The 6-year-old stallion, seeking his first win of the year, has captured 20 of 60 lifetime starts and earned $3.21 million. He is trained by Paula Wellwood, driven by Scott Zeron and owned by Marion Jean Wellwood and Devin Keeling. Lionel, a 9-year-old stallion who has earned nearly $2 million in his career, finished second in last year's race while Slide So Easy finished eighth. Slide So Easy will start from post one, Marion Marauder from post six, and Lionel from post eight. Germany's Norton Commander and Italy's Zacon Gio complete this year's field. "Of course, it's a strong field," Gingras said, assessing the horses from overseas. "Uza Josselyn is a really strong mare and she's quick. Zacon Gio is unbeaten this year and everybody I've talked to says he's great on a half-mile track. He's a strong horse as well. Lionel, he's a little handicapped with post eight, but we saw what he could do last year. Bahia Quesnot has been really good in France. "(Atlanta) is not alone in the race. There are many horses that belong. Of course, we're one of them, but she's going to have to race hard." Racing begins at 1 p.m. Saturday at Yonkers Raceway. The International Trot is race seven with a 3 p.m. (EDT) approximate post time. The card also includes the $250,000 Harry Harvey Trot (race eight) and the $250,000 Dan Rooney Pace (race 11). Following is the field in post-position order for the $1 million Yonkers International Trot. PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line 1-Slide So Easy-Ake Svanstedt-Flemming Jensen-10/1 2-Bahia Quesnot-Junior Guelpa-Junior Guelpa-5/1 3-Atlanta-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-3/1 4-Uza Josselyn-Erik Adielsson-Rene Aebischer-5/1 5-Zacon Gio-Roberto Vecchione-Holger Ehlert-8/1 6-Marion Marauder-Scott Zeron-Paula Wellwood-6/1 7-Cruzado Dela Noche-Brian Sears-Marcus Melander-8/1 8-Lionel-Goran Antonsen-Goran Antonsen-8/1 9-Guardian Angel AS-Tim Tetrick-Anette Lorentzon-4/1 10-Norton Commander-Conni Lugauer-Conni Lugauer-15/1 For more information, visit www.internationaltrot.com. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

It is not often that harness racing graces the pages of FORBES MAGAZINE, but it happened today on their online version with a super story in the travel section. The story is authored by Gerald Eskenaz, a contributor to the Travel Section of Forbes, His opening paragraph kicks off with "Going to the racetrack might not be the first sightseeing adventure that comes to mind. But if you want to get the feel of an unusual New York experience—along with thousands of other howling fans—here is a terrific way to spend a Saturday afternoon: The $1 million Yonkers International Trot." He goes on to talk about the race itself, the dining and betting opportunites and there is some quotes and history from newly appointed Direcor of Racing Alex Dadoyan. Kudos to the staff at Yonkers Raceway and the SOA of NY for getting this story placed perfectly with the big race coming this Saturday.  To read the story on FORBES online click here.  by Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink

YONKERS, NY, Friday, October 4, 2019-Please forgive the late notice, however Yonkers Raceway has scrapped its scheduled live harness racing program for a week from tonight, Friday, Oct. 11th. The cancellation allows the Raceway to use the paddock for detention ahead of Saturday afternoon's (Oct. 12th) $1 million International Trot and pair of $250,000 Invitationals. The program shall be made up at a date TBA. The schedule change has been approved by the New York State Gaming Commission. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, N.Y. – When the European harness racing contingent for the Yonkers International Trot bedded down at Yonkers Raceway Friday afternoon, Slide So Easy wasn’t among their ranks. Denmark’s representative flew to the U.S. ahead of the pack this year. Accompanied by his caretaker Martin Bjerregaard, Slide So Easy arrived stateside last week and shipped to Åke Svandstedt’s Legend Farm in Wrightstown, New Jersey. “We went over a little earlier this year,” Bjerregaard said. “He’s not really that good when you have to do a long travel like that. We just wanted to come over a little earlier so that maybe he would settle in a little better.” Slide So Easy competed in last year’s renewal of the Yonkers International Trot, finishing eighth for trainer and driver Flemming Jensen. The long journey from Jensen’s stable just west of the northern Denmark town of Hjallerup to Yonkers proved tough on the trotter. “We’ve been doing travel to Sweden and Norway and he’s been OK about that. But being on a plane for eight hours, it was hard on him.” Bjerregaard recalled. “We were at the farm last Thursday, so a week ago. It’s good up here and he’s likes it, too. They have a lot of good paddocks and a nice trail, so that’s really good being up here. “He’s better this year, he really is,” Bjerregaard continued. “For him to be able to settle in, that’s good for him.” Not only has Slide So Easy settled in better, he’s also been better on the track this year. Now 10 years old, the son of Quite Easy out of the Smokin Yankee mare Elegante Frokjar is 7-for-11 overseas, racing in Sweden and Norway, in addition to his home country for owners Team Clemmensen & Christensen. Slide So Easy’s biggest wins this season each produced lifetime marks. He trotted a 1:10.3 kilometer rating when besting Coktail Fortuna by a neck in a 1640-meter Gulddivisionen leg at Kalmar June 23. Slide So Easy lowered his mark again to 1:10.2 in a 1600-meter League 1 trot at Charlottenlund Aug. 25. Slide So Easy has only been worse than second in one start this year, when seventh in the Group 1 Oslo Grand Prix at Bjerke June 9. “This is maybe his best season since we’ve had him,” Bjerregaard said. “Either he wins or he’s second and he’s been winning against really nice horses in Sweden. He did two new lifetime marks this year as well. He’s just been really good this year. “It is kind of a surprise,” Bjerregaard continued. “He is 10 years old and it seems like he’s the best he’s ever been. It is kind of surprising for him to be in that good shape as a 10-year-old.” Bjerregaard has worked with Slide So Easy since the gelding came to Jensen’s barn from Kenneth Nielsen in early 2016. Two key factors come to mind when the caretaker considered Slide So Easy’s success. “First of all, he really loves his job. That’s the main thing,” Bjerregaard said. “He’s easy going, he’s got a really good gait to him. He goes easy over the ground. That’s the main thing for him. Everything is just easy for him.” Bjerregaard grew up taking care of ponies. However, he dreamed of doing more with horses and began working in a racing stable as an after-school job. The pursuit of his passion led him to Jensen’s stable in 2015. “When I was 11 or 12, I wanted to be working after school. I got in touch with a trainer in Denmark and I started coming to his barn after school,” Bjerregaard said. “I did that for a few years, I was with him for two years full time. “I just went on with it, working for a couple of different trainers. I worked for Lindy Farms for two years over here and then when I went back, I called up Flemming. He was looking for people and I called him and he said, ‘let’s try it.’ I’ve been there for the last four years now.” Over those years, Bjerregaard has learned it’s better to cooperate with Slide So Easy than to fight him. “He’s a gentleman. Sometimes he can act a little spoiled, but I guess that’s me spoiling him. He’s good to be around. He’s a nice horse,” the caretaker said. “There are things you have to do his way and you don’t really want to fight with him about it. "Sometimes when you come back from jogging, he just wants to push you around and he wants to push his head up against you. You just have to let him do it. If you want to fight him, he just gets all mad, so that’s one of his things.” After arriving at Legend Farm, Slide So Easy got one day off in the field before returning to work. Bjerregaard likes the way Slide So Easy is training ahead of his second Yonkers International bid. “The first day we were here, I just turned him out in the paddock. He had been on a plane for many hours and he just wanted to get outside, so the first day he was only in the paddock. The next couple days, I jogged him a few miles. And then he trained Monday (Sept. 30) and he did train (Thursday, Oct. 3) as well. He’s just been jogging all the other days,” Bjerregaard said. “He’s doing intervals on the sand over here at Åke’s farm. I think Åke is going to take him a mile on his track maybe Monday (Oct. 7) just to see what he feels like,” Bjerregaard continued. “He’s been really good. He’s used to the sand from home, but still it’s different. He’s been doing it really in a good way, so I’m happy with him.” Slide So Easy will compete against nine trotters in the $1 million Yonkers International Trot Saturday, Oct. 12, including Cruzado Dela Noche, who beat Slide So Easy and nine others in last year’s edition and returns as the defending champion for Sweden. 2018 Hambletonian winner Atlanta and Guardian Angel AS will each represent the U.S. while Marion Marauder will race for Canada. The other European invaders are Bahia Quesnot (France), Lionel (Norway), Norton Commander (Germany), Uza Josselyn (Switzerland), and Zacon Gio (Italy). “It is really good horses this year. Last year, we drew the 10 hole and it wasn’t really good, but hopefully, we’ll get a better draw this year and maybe we can get a check or something. It is really good horses he’s competing against,” Bjerregaard said. “To win would be absolutely crazy,” he continued. “I don’t know what it would feel like, but of course it would be amazing. For us to just be here and competing against these great horses and hopefully he’s going to get a nice race and get a check or something. That would be really nice, too.” Win or lose, the experience of competing in the Yonkers International Trot isn’t lost on Bjerregaard. “It’s a good experience to be a part of. Everybody is good to you and it’s a big thing for us to come over here and compete in this big race. They’re just doing everything they can to make you feel at home, so it’s a really good experience and it’s a lot of fun.” The $1 million Yonkers International Trot is slated for Saturday, October 12 at Yonkers Raceway. The card will also feature a pair of $250,000 invitationals, the 1 1/4-mile Harry Harvey Trot and 1-mile Dan Rooney Pace. For more information on the event and its participants, click here. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races and full results, click here. by Brendon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Friday, October 4, 2019- Half of the field for the $1 million International Trot found its way to Westchester Friday afternoon (Oct. 4th), Just before 1 PM, Yonkers Raceway welcomed Bahia Quesnot (France), Lionel (Norway), Norton Commander (Germany), Uza Josellyn (Switzerland) and Zacon Gio (Italy). The fivesome arrived at JFK Airport earlier this week and went through their required quarantine period without incident before the hour or so trip to their 'new home'. Denmark's Slide So Easy has been stateside for a while. The above half-dozen join Atlanta (U-S), defending champion Cruzado Dela Noche (Sweden), Guardian Angel AS (U-S) and Marion Marauder (Canada) in the 41st International, set for a week from Saturday (Oct. 12th). Note the special matinee first post of 1 PM. The race shall be drawn at a Raceway luncheon Tuesday afternoon (Oct. 8th). by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, NY, Tuesday, October 1, 2019--"She passed." That was driver Yannick Gingras' post mortem after the harness racing trotting mare Atlanta worked out over Yonkers Raceway for the first time. The world champion 4-year-old trotter went through her paces prior to Tuesday night's (Oct. 1st) regularly-scheduled program, doing so in preparation for $1 million Yonkers International Trot here a week from Saturday (Oct. 12th). "I was very happy with her," Gingras said, adding Atlanta's negotiated her mile-and-a-quarter International Trot distance "in 2:26 or so". "She did everything I wanted, especially around the turns. I made sure to buzz her around the turns." The statebred daughter of Chapter Seven, who has never raced over a half-mile oval, has seven wins and three seconds in 11 seasonal starts ($658,400). Her last purse try was a win in the $220,000 Charlie Hill Memorial at Scioto (1:51.4) about four weeks ago. Gingras and trainer Ron Burke took Atlanta to Westchester in part having learned from not-too-ancient history. "We didn't bring Hannelore Hanover here before the (2016) International, and that was a mistake," Gingras said of the fast miss who broke in the turns. "I know (the International) is going to be tough, but (Atlanta) has held her own against some very good older horses. "At the end of the day, there aren't many million-dollar races in the sport," Gingras said. "I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't want to win it." Here is the video of her work out. https://www.dropbox.com/s/w0ngsmp098hcg07/yannick%20ruff2.mp4?dl=0 Post time for the International Trot matinee card is 1 PM. Post positions for 10-horse, nine-nation field shall be drawn Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 8th. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, N.Y. – What would it mean to you to win harness racing's Yonkers International Trot? Conni Lugauer pondered the question in silence for some time Saturday morning (Sept. 21), hours before his trainee Alegra B won the Breeders Crown Mares at Trabrennbahn Mariendorf in Berlin, Germany. Finally, Lugauer conceded. “This is a really good question,” he said. “I’m always thinking about victories, but I didn’t think about victory in the International Trot. The question is too big. I don’t know.” Come Oct. 12, Lugauer may be in a better position to answer the question. The German-born trainer will send Norton Commander to represent his homeland in the $1 million Yonkers International Trot. Although Lugauer hoped to secure an invitation to Yonkers’ premier race for trotters for months, his aspirations seemed crushed as the initial list of 10 probables didn’t include Norton Commander. However, after the defection of Sobel Conway Sept. 18, Norton Commander’s invitation arrived. “It was my opinion to put him in the race because he’s now arrived at the top. He’s been racing this year against good competition and he almost beat them quite often. It was my plan to get him into this race, actually,” Lugauer said. “We are proud of course and happy because we are a stable who wants to race in the big races. It’s impressive to race in America. It’s the next step in my vision. We are really proud about it. “First of all, the history. It’s one of the most famous international races in the world that we have. If you look at the winners of this race, they are mostly really famous racehorses. It’s the biggest point, I think,” Lugauer said. “It’s always nice for the European horses to race in America. And the last point is the prize money.” A native of Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany, Lugauer grew up in a harness racing family. His father, Johann, was a successful trainer and Lugauer became fascinated by the horses at a young age. At age 16, Lugauer drove his first winner and two years later in 1992, he became a professional trainer. He moved his stable to Sweden in 2004 and has been there since. Lugauer’s stable is now about 90 horses strong and in the midst of its best year to date. Lugauer has trained winners of 108 races from 397 races so far this season, good for 12.9 million Swedish Krona. In addition to Norton Commander and Alegra B, his stars include Ferrari Sisu, who finished second in the Group 1 Swedish Travderby. “This year is our best year in my career. We have some quite good horses,” Lugauer said. “I feel extremely confident and it’s a lot of fun at the moment.” Owned by Ulrich Mommert, Norton Commander came to Lugauer as an unraced 2-year-old. The tall chestnut sported white socks that reached his knees and a blaze that began just below his forelock and widened down his face to fully engulf his nose. “First of all, he’s a really beautiful horse,” Lugauer said. “He sticks out in the field because of the nice color and he’s a big one. He has the white socks and he has the really long legs. I felt quite early this horse had the future before him.” Norton Commander qualified at Lugauer’s Jägersro base Sept. 1, 2017 and won eight of his first twelve races from Sept. 11, 2017 through Sept. 19, 2018. After Norton Commander won a class 1 trial for 3-year-olds worth 125,000kr Dec. 26, Lugauer knew big things were ahead. Norton Commander is 3-for-7 in 2019. His first win this year came in a class 1 trial at Åby on the Olympiatravet undercard. Norton Commander next raced at Solvalla Elitloppet weekend, taking the class 1 final over 2,140 meters on the Saturday card. Norton Commander ran his win streak to three when taking a 45,000€ trot at Vincennes in a 1:10.9 kilometer rating for the 2,100 meters. Although Norton Commander enters the Yonkers International Trot off three straight losses, the 5-year-old hasn’t missed by much. Lugauer tried the Gift Kronos son in Group 1 company for the first time in the Jubileumspokalen at Solvalla Aug. 14. Norton Commander started from the inside post and Lugauer kept the trotter three back along the pylons throughout the 2,140-meter race while favorite Who’s Who tracked cover to his outside. Up the backstretch the final time, rival Vincero' Gar pulled the pocket and Norton Commander followed the move, shifting to the outside. The cover took Norton Commander to the top of the stretch, where he dived back inside for a clear path. However, he couldn’t outkick Who’s Who and Milliondollarrhyme, who each stormed down the center of the track to take the top two spots, respectively. Norton Commander finished third a half-length behind Who’s Who. “He was racing against the best 5-year-old horses in Europe in the Jubileumspokalen,” Lugauer said. “He was third and he was a little unlucky because I (kept him inside) for quite a long time in the race and didn’t come out early enough. He won at Vincennes in a time of 10.9 over 2,100 meters quite easily, so he has now arrived at the top.” Lugauer thinks racing at Yonkers will suit Norton Commander. While many trotters are faster without shoes, the trainer feels Norton Commander is just as fast with them, which plays to his favor on the Hilltop oval. In addition, Lugauer thinks the race flow will work to Norton Commander’s advantage. “He doesn’t have to go without shoes and I think at Yonkers, it’s better you go with shoes, so that’s a little plus for him. We are really looking forward to it, because I don’t think those horses will be running away from him,” he said. “I think also the racing system in America, how they drive the races, is also a plus for my horse because he likes a strong tempo and he’s also really strong in the end, so if he gets a good post, I’m almost sure he’ll do a good race and get some money,” Lugauer continued. Although confident in his training and in his horse, Lugauer respects the competition Norton Commander will face in the 1 1/4-mile Yonkers International Trot. His nine rivals will include defending champion Cruzado Dela Noche (Sweden) and 2018 Hambletonian winner Atlanta (U.S.). Guardian Angel AS will also represent the U.S. and Marion Marauder will race for Canada. The other European invaders are Bahia Quesnot (France), Lionel (Norway), Zacon Gio (Italy), Slide So Easy (Denmark), and Uza Josselyn. “Atlanta and those horses, they are really famous and really fast,” Lugauer said. “I’m really interested in how my horse handles those horses. But the European horses are also quite fast and maybe a little stronger for the distance.” Like most of the European connections, Lugauer’s main concern is the mandatory quarantine faced by the foreign horses. The European contingent for the International will be stabled at Yonkers for the week leading up to the International Oct. 12 and will spend most of the time in their stalls, with exceptions made for training and grazing in the track’s infield. “The quarantine, in my opinion, is the biggest challenge,” Lugauer said. “I don’t know how he’ll handle that because he’s normally out in the field a lot. That won’t be happening for 10 days before the race, so I don’t know how he’ll handle that, but normally, he’s quite uncomplicated, so I trust in him. I think he’ll manage it.” Although Lugauer won’t be in New York to see Norton Commander race in the Yonkers International firsthand, the trotter will be in good hands. Lugauer’s 25-year-old son, Marc Elias, will drive in the International as Lugauer must take the lines behind trainee Campo Bahia in the Group 1 Grand Prix de l'UET at Helsinki the same day. Elias has driven Norton Commander in four of the trotter’s 12 wins. Lugauer is optimistic. “It’s a dream come true because this is one point in my career that I want to do, race in America. This is extremely big for us, but now we will see what happens.” The $1 million Yonkers International Trot is slated for Saturday, October 12 at Yonkers Raceway. The card will also feature a pair of $250,000 invitationals, the 1 1/4-mile Harry Harvey Trot and 1-mile Dan Rooney Pace. For more information on the event and its participants, click here. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. First post time is 6:50 p.m. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Tuesday, September 24, 2019- By way of introduction, here are your 10 harness racing entrants for Yonkers Raceway's $1 million International Trot, set for Saturday afternoon, Oct. 12th. Alphabetically (country of representation)... Atlanta (U-S) Bahia Quesnot (France) Cruzado Dela Noche (Sweden) Guardian Angel AS (U-S) Lionel (Norway) Marion Marauder (Canada) Norton Commander (Germany) Slide So Easy (Denmark) Uza Josellyn (Switzerland) Zacon Gio (Italy). From Frank Drucker, Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, NY, Friday, September 20, 2019- Yonkers Raceway has announced its field of 10 world-class harness racing entrants for the $1 million Yonkers International Trot, set for Saturday afternoon, Oct. 12th. The 'as of now' list, alphabetically and with country of representation... Atlanta (USA) Bahia Quesnot (France) Cruzado Dela Noche (Sweden) Guardian Angel AS (USA) Lionel (Norway) Marion Marauder (Canada) Norton Commander (Germany) Slide So Easy (Denmark) Uza Josellyn (Switzerland) Zacon Gio (Italy). A year ago, it was 30-1 shot Cruzado Dela Noche who snapped Lionel at the wire in the mile-and-a-quarter event, prevailing in 2:24.3. Marion Marauder finished fifth, with Slide So Easy eighth. This is the 41st International Trot and fifth since it returned after a two-decade hiatus. The special matinee program-first post 1 PM-also features a pair of $250,000 Invitationals, the Harry Harvey Trot (also at 1¼ miles) and Dan Rooney Pace. As in the past, International Trot Day features giveaways, themed food and drink specials, music and more. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

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