Day At The Track

MILTON, SEPT. 17, 2020 – All four of the winners in Thursday night’s two-year-old pacing colt Grassroots action at Woodbine Mohawk Park picked up their second harness racing victory of the Ontario Sires Stakes program and marked themselves as horses to be reckoned with heading into the postseason. In the first $23,150 division Proline and driver Bob McClure eased away from Post 1 into seventh as Kyuquot led the field to a :27.3 opening quarter. As Mustang Beach completed the third lead change heading by the :57.3 half, McClure was tipping Proline out behind fan favourite Stonebridge Rex, who shadowed Rau Ru. The challengers marched steadily forward and although Mustang Beach had a two length margin at the 1:25.3 three-quarters, he was soon under heavy attack. Rolling out from behind Stonebridge Rex, Proline unleashed a :26.3 last quarter to claim the victory in a personal best 1:53.1. Stonebridge Rex was one and one-quarter lengths back in second and Rau Ru was two lengths back in third. “He’s got lots of speed. I’m very pleased with him now,” said Campbellville, ON resident Luc Blais, who trains the colt for Determination of Montreal, QC. “His last two races, we can’t get better than that I think with the way he did that.” The win was Proline’s second straight in Grassroots action, with the first coming in the Sept. 8 leg at Woodbine Mohawk Park. With two wins and one sixth, the speedy youngster finishes up the Grassroots regular season in sixth spot in the standings with 103 points. No Plan Intended and driver Jody Jamieson also employed a come-from-behind strategy to capture the second division from Post 7. The fan favourites powered down the stretch to a two and one-quarter length victory in 1:53.1. Proline’s stablemate Shazam Blue Chip finished second and Big Bang Bang completed the top three. “Honestly tonight he didn’t seem as strong as last week (Sept. 8), but a couple of two-year-olds in the barn have been coughing. We did take his blood the other day and he didn’t show any signs of sickness, but we might have to keep an eye on him because he didn’t finish as strong, not terrible, but he was a lot better last week,” said trainer Stephanie Jamieson. “He’s got a lot of heart that horse, he’s a tough little bugger.” Moffat resident Jamieson trains No Plan Intended for her father-in-law Carl Jamieson of Puslinch, ON and Brian Paquet of Quebec, QC. The partners also bred the son of Up The Credit, who the elder Jamieson trained and the pair co-owned through his $1.3 million racing career. With two wins, one second and one sixth in his Grassroots career, No Plan Intended heads into the postseason in a two-way tie for second with 128 points. Sharing second spot with No Plan Intended is Take Control, who cruised along on the front end to a one and one-half length victory in the third division. In rein to Louis-Philippe Roy, the Control The Moment son  stopped the teletimer in a personal best 1:52.3. Big Teddy finished second and Last Bet was third. “The 10-hole last week (Sept. 8), he kind of didn’t get into the race, but he finished really strong. So today was good that he had a chance to get into the race,” said trainer Dan Lagace of Cambridge, who shares ownership of the gelding with Ben Mudry of Toronto, ON. “He’s been a nice little colt. He was only $8,000 so with a good finish in the next couple of weeks he’s had a pretty good year.” Thursday’s victory boosted Take Control’s earnings to $30,982 through seven lifetime starts. Unlike Proline and No Pan Intended, he posted his first Grassroots win in the Aug. 22 leg at Hiawatha Horse Park and finished sixth from Post 10 in the Sept. 8 leg. The final $23,150 division saw Second Bruiser romp to his second straight 1:51.4 victory, hitting the wire one and one-quarter lengths ahead of Cadillac Bayama. Watch My Beverage was seven lengths back in third. “He’s pretty awesome. He was amazing last week and I think he was even better tonight,” said driver James MacDonald. “It’s a cool night, a little breezy and 1:51.4 for a two-year-old this time of year, and the way he did it, he’s just a really nice colt. Hopefully he keeps progressing. He could be anything.” Guelph resident MacDonald drove the Believeinbruiser son to the win, his second in three lifetime starts, for trainer Vernon Cochrane of Fergus and his co-owner Stefan Piekos of Palgrave, ON. The win netted Second Bruiser 100 points and puts him in seventh spot in the standings. The top 20 point earners now advance to the Oct. 1 Semi-Finals from which the top five finishers will move on to the $75,000 Grassroots Championship at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Oct. 10. Complete results from Thursday’s program are available at Woodbine Mohawk Park Results. Grassroots point standings can be found on the Ontario Sires Stakes Leaderboard. On Friday night the three-year-old pacing colts resume their Gold Series rivalry at Woodbine Mohawk Park after taking a break to compete in Grand Circuit action in recent weeks. The colts will battle for $156,400 in Race 8 on the program, which gets under way at 7 pm. Fans can download a program here.   OSS Program Information For rules, notices, Program changes, up-to-date point standings, race replays, and more, visit:   OSS Program Administration Ontario Racing

MILTON, ON - September 17, 2020 - The march to the Mohawk Million is entering the final stage with slot owners required to finalize the two-year-old harness racing trotter that will race in their slot by Monday (September 21) at Noon. The Mohawk Million for $1 million (USD) will be the richest Standardbred race contested in Canada since 2012. The event for rookie trotters will headline a $2.5 million-plus card on Saturday, September 26 at Woodbine Mohawk Park. The Mohawk Million had nine slots available for purchase at a cost $110,000 (USD) each. The tenth and final slot in the race was awarded to the winner of last Saturday's William Wellwood Memorial, On A Streak. The winner of the race will receive the traditional 50 per cent of the purse. All starters will receive at least one per cent of the purse. The purse distribution breakdown is listed below: 1st: $500,000 2nd: $225,000 3rd: $108,000 4th: $72,000 5th: $45,000 6th-10th: $10,000 Each slot is an entity that may be sold, traded or subject to lease. The slot owners must declare a horse to race in their slot by Monday (September 21) at Noon. The nine slot owners are listed below: Brad Grant Courant Inc. (Anders Strom) Determination (Serge Godin) Diamond Creek Racing (Adam Bowden) Dreamland Farms (Gina Ghent) Fashion Farms (Jules Siegel) Glengate Farms (Jim Bullock) Jeffrey Snyder John Fielding The Mohawk Million card will also feature the $720,000 Metro Pace, $455,000 Shes A Great Lady and $215,000 Milton Stakes. Eliminations for those three events take place this Saturday (September 19). by Mark McKelvie, for Woodbine Entertainment

DUNDAS, ON - SEPT. 17, 2020 - Due to an electrical fire Flamboro Downs was forced to suspend the Thursday, Sept. 17 harness racing card following the third race. Only one of three Grassroots divisions for the two-year-old trotting fillies had been completed prior to the suspension of the program so the remaining divisions, along with two Prospect Series divisions for three-year-old trotting fillies, have been rescheduled to Saturday, Sept. 19 at 3 pm. The Grassroots and Prospect Series divisions will be contested as drawn, with no wagering, prior to the start of Flamboro Downs' Saturday program. The Grassroots division scheduled as Race 5 on Thursday evening will be the first race, going postward at 3 pm on Saturday, the Grassroots division programmed as Race 6 will be Race 2. The Prospect Series division carded as Race 8 on Thursday will go postward as Race 3 and the Prospect Series division slated as Race 10 will be the fourth and last race of the non-wagering event. From the Ontario Sire Stakes

Jovial Bendigo harness racing farrier John McDermott isn't sure how his dance moves looked as he was cheering home his longshot winner this week, but he's adamant he's sticking to his day job. "I don't think there would have been much finesse at all. I'd best describe it as a bit of a rap dance. I know I had arms and hands flaying around everywhere," he laughed. McDermott was watching his first-starter from about 50 metres from the finish line at the Ballarat meeting on Wednesday night when he went from being satisfied - to realizing he was about to land a winner. And judging by the performance of 137/1 shot Waikare Colleen (Tennotrump-Waikare Patricia (Last Sunset) on her two-year-old race debut, there's sure to be many more to come. To watch the video replay click here. Driver Scott Rains pushed forward from a front line barrier to land one-one early. But after the leaders sorted themselves out, Rains found himself leading the outside division. "I was happy because our aim was to get around safely and do it right," McDermott said. "She was in the death-seat, but looked comfortable and we knew she would trot all the way. Coming up the straight, I was so pleased that she was still hanging in there," he said. When Maryborough veteran Mark Hayes kicked on the leader Igniting Stride on the home corner, Waikare Colleen was up for the fight and wouldn't go away. She did her best work over the final stages to win by nearly two metres in a most creditable mile rate for the 2yo maiden trotters of 2.04-5. "I haven't had a square-gaiter for a long time. And this is the first two-year-old trotter I've raced, although I did drive one over 20 years ago for Paul Morrissey. It was called Just Like Jack and we won a few as well as running third in the Redwood and Sires Final," McDermott said. "We really haven't any big plans for this girl because we thought she would take time being so big. She's paid up for the Sires and that's about all. We've put her in at Maryborough next Monday as there's nothing much else about." McDermott said he was surprised by the long odds of Waikare Colleen at Ballarat because the filly had been trialling quite nicely. "The first two were against older horses and she was far from disgraced because we didn't bustle her at any stage. Then at her latest trial she ran third against her own age group and peeled off a 29 second quarter," he said. "We are working a team of four at present. Scott (Rains) has now driven a few winners for us and he was pretty excited as well with Waikare Colleen." The filly is raced by John's wife Kelly, his mother Shirley and the estate of Max Lancaster. She is one of two live foals from Waikare Patricia (13 wins, 16 p for $150K) - the other being a Sebastian K yearling colt. Waikare Patricia was raced by the McDermott family and was sensational in 2013 with wins in the $30K Glenferrie Kahdon Trot, $15K Empire Platinum Trot Final, $10K Petstock Platinum and $10K Empire Platinum. Three generations of the McDermott and Waikare family tree – Ciarah, Sophie and Brady McDermott with Waikare Colleen (left), John and Kelly McDermott and the “family matriachs” Shirley McDermott and Waikare Colleen’s grand-dam, 27 year old (interdominion place-getter) Waikare Gold. Waikare Gold (by Golden Greek), also raced by the McDermotts and the grand dam of "Colleen", amassed 15 wins, 44 placings for $131K. She had five foals to race, all being winners. Another notable apart from "Patricia" was Waikare Aristocrat with 15 wins for $124K. McDermott said the late Max Lancaster, who lived near the Snowy Mountains, had been good friends with his dad, Henry, who died in early 2007. "Dad reckoned Max was a gem - he loved taking him to the trots. He always said Max was like a good luck charm. "Two of the horses have been named in honor of the late wife of Max-her name was Patricia Colleen. Their children told us that when Waikare Patricia was racing, it had added five years onto the life of Max. He passed away a couple of years ago and two of his kids have taken over his interest in the horses." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Stickney, IL - The best in the state of Illinois will be on the track Saturday as 11 stakes races will be contested for Night of Champions at Hawthorne Race Course. Although temps are expected to be cool, conditions look to be dry on Saturday as many divisional honors are on the line. Last week sports wagering kicked off with the partnership between PointsBet and Hawthorne Race Course. While online sports wagering has begun, the on-site sportsbook is expected to open very soon. To celebrate, PointsBet has sponsored an extra $20,000 in purse money for each of the three finals for older horses. "Horse racing and sports betting really go hand-in-hand," stated Johnny Aitken, CEO of PointsBet USA. "Our sponsorship will add purse money that not only supports Illinois horsemen but showcases our partnership with Hawthorne and engages new fans who already enjoyed wagering on live sports, whether that's a race or a football game." Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association Executive Director Tony Somone added, "I think Hawthorne's choice to partner with PointsBet for sports betting in Illinois demonstrates the track's continued commitment to racing and the hard-working horsemen of Illinois. Horse racing is the original sports betting after all, and this sponsorship adds even more excitement to the competition on the track." Race 2 - $68,000 PointsBet & Club Hawthorne Robert S. Molaro Memorial Championship With the great partnership between PointsBet and Hawthorne, an additional $20,000 in purse money has been added to the Robert S. Molaro Memorial. The Molaro Memorial is for three-year-old and up pacers and drew a full field, led by past Illinois Champion Fox Valley Gemini. Drawing post eight, Fox Valley Gemini has won 38 of 54 lifetime starts for over $450k in earnings for owner Jim Ballinger and trainer Terry Leonard. Driven by the meet's leading driver Casey Leonard, Gemini has won eight times on the year, hitting the board in all 12 of his starts. Fox Valley Gemini is the 6-5 morning line favorite. Second choice in the Molaro Memorial at 9-2 is Salvatore from the barn of Perry Smith. Claimed just two starts back, Salvatore has been very good on the year as well, winning five times from 15 starts and finishing in the top three in 11 of those races. Travis Seekman drives Salvatore who drew post three. Last week's Molaro elimination winner drew the rail as Al's Hammered starts for owner/trainer/driver Robert Smolin. Lightly raced with only seven starts on the year, Al's Hammered posted a year's best mark for himself, winning in 1:52.2 last week. Race 3 - $88,000 Fox Valley Flan Championship Two-year-old filly trotters follow in the Fox Valley Flan as trainer Steve Searle looks to dominate the race. Searle has four horses in the final, drawing post positions two through five. Leading the way at 4-5 for Searle is Loulita for owners Flacco Family Farms LLC and Dr. Patrick Graham. After getting off to a bit of a slow start on the year, Loulita has rattled off five straight wins, taking the final leg of this series last weekend in a new lifetime mark of 2:01. Casey Leonard gets the call as Loulita drew post four. Right next to Loulita, drawing post five, is the Searle entrant poised to upset in Lous Voodoo Woman. Owned by Steven Renard, Lous Voodoo Woman has made more starts by a large margin than any other in the field, starting 19 times on the year. A winner of seven of those starts, Lous Voodoo Woman has speed has driver Kyle Wilfong will look to try to steal the race on the front end with her. Race 4 - $80,000 Incredible Tillie Championship Two-year-old filly pacers contest the Incredible Tillie in one of the night's more wide-open finals. The 8-5 morning line favorite is Scorecard Dandy for owners Green Acres LLC and Mike Klimas for trainer Gregory Kain. Driven by Juan Franco and drawing post four, Scorecard Dandy has won three of seven starts on the year. Her most recent race was her best, as she took the final leg of this series last week, rallying to win in 1:55.3. Right next to Scorecard Dandy in post three is 3-1 second-choice Princess Mooss. Although only posting one win on the year for owner Alan Beals and trainer Gary Rath, Princess Mooss has finished in the top three in eight of nine starts, including each of her last four races. Kyle Wilfong gets the drive for Princess Mooss. Possibly overlooked in the Trackmaster morning line at 8-1, Connie On the Go draws the rail for owners Ronald Phillips and John Carver and trainer Jamaica Patton. Connie On the Go opened the season strong, winning five of her first six starts. A pair of tiring trips leading into the final may be the reason for the inflated line, but a recent qualifier where she finished strongly could put her into the mix for this final. Race 5 - $67,000 PointsBet & Club Hawthorne Plesac Championship Three-year-old and up trotters follow in the Plesac Championship, another stakes final receiving a $20,000 purse boost from PointsBet. The girls will look to crash the boy's party as talented six-year-old mare Annas Lucky Star is the 7-5 favorite for owner Danny Graham and trainer Nelson Willis. The track record holder for aged mare trotter, Annas Lucky Star has won five of 11 starts on the year. She set the track record in a win against open trotters on August 8, winning in 1:53.3 and then equaled that mark two weeks later. Driven by Kyle Wilfong, Annas Lucky Star is looking for her 40th career victory in start number 73. The competition for Annas Lucky Star could come from a pair of Steve Searle trained trotters in Lousraptor and Louzotic. Both owned by Flacco Family Farms LLC, Lousraptor draws post two while Louzotic drew outside post nine in the field. Lousraptor has had a fine year, winning five of 18 races while finishing in the top three 13 times. He upset Annas Lucky Star two weeks ago as Juan Franco gets the call on the 4-1 second choice. Talented mare Louztoic will be driven by Kyle Husted as she has finished first or second in nine of 15 races this year. An 11-time winner in 2019, Louzotic rallied in last week's Plesac prep, nabbing Annas Lucky Star on the wire for the upset win. Louzotic is 10-1 in the morning line. Race 6 - $98,000 Beulah Dygert Memorial Championship Three-year-old filly trotters follow in the Beulah Dygert Memorial as trainer Steve Searle will look to strike once again. This race Searle sends out a pair in Lous Abigail and Bee See. Lous Abigail is the 6-5 morning line choice for owner Flacco Family Farms LLC as she has rattled off five consecutive victories coming into this final. She posted a season best mark of 1:57.3 while winning two starts back and cruised to a nearly ten-length score in her division of the final leg of this series last weekend. Casey Leonard returns in the bike with Lous Abigail. Owned in partnership by Baldes, Searle, Paloma, and Paloma, Bee See draws post two and is 10-1 in the morning line. Driven by Kyle Husted, Bee See was a five time winner from ten starts last season and has found the board in half of her ten races in 2020. She was beaten only a head in a game effort behind Lous Abigail three starts back. Second choice at 5-2 and drawing the inside is Fox Valley Extacy. Owned in partnership by Miller, Hochsprung, Hochsprung, and Falzone, Fox Valley Extacy has won half of her ten starts this year, including a game front-end score last out. Travis Seekman gets the drive once again. Race 7 - $109,000 Erwin F. Dygert Memorial Championship The second richest final on the card goes for three-year-old male trotters as a talented bunch lines up. Drawing post six is the 3-2 favorite Fox Valley Quest for owners Carl Lacy and Benita Simmons. Trained by Tom Simmons Fox Valley Quest has been very good this year, finishing in the top three in all 11 starts, including six victories. He looked strong in his most recent start, taking the final let of the Dygert by four lengths while leading from start to finish. Another having a fantastic year is 5-2 second choice Crooked Creek for owner Ed Teefey and trainer Mike Brink. Drawing the rail and to be driven by Todd Warren, Crooked Creek has won eight of 11 starts on the year, including a six-length win in his division of the Dygert last week. Crooked Creek also got the best of Fox Valley Quest at the end of August, holding him off for a length-and-a-quarter score. Crooked Creek isn't Brink's only shot as he also sends out On Higher Ground whom he owns in partnership with All-Wright Racing LLC. On Higher Ground has hit the board in 10 of 11 this year, including a win over both Fox Valley Quest and Crooked Creek on August 21. Kyle Wilfong gets the drive once again with On Higher Ground. Race 8 - $118,000 Kadabra Championship The evening's richest race goes for two-year-old male trotters in a completely wide-open Kadabra final. With no horse in the full field of ten with over three lifetime victories, any could win this event. The 2-1 morning line favorite drew post four as Lousrolando starts for owners David Brigham and Kyle Husted as Husted trains and drives. Lousrolando is the "now" horse though as he enters this final off a pair of solid victories. Last week he controlled things on the front end, winning the final leg of the Kadabra by six-and-a-quarter lengths. The lightly raced Fistfullofdollars poses a threat for owners Brink, Toumer, Clauson, and Brown and trainer Mike Brink. Making only four lifetime starts, he has found the board in each race, winning his most recent division of the Kadabra in a game victory. Kyle Wilfong drives as Fistfullofdollars will likely have to look to rate and rally from post eight. Race 9 - $71,000 Incredible Finale Championship Two-year-old male pacers line up in the Incredible Finale as the 8-5 favorite Frontier Charley will have to work hard to win from the far outside. Drawing post nine, Frontier Charley is driven by Todd Warren for trainer Jim Eaton. A winner of four of seven starts on the year, he rides a two race streak into this final, including a late closing score last out. Well Basically races for owner Engel Stable Of IL LLC and trainer Erv Miller. He put together a string of three straight wins early in August before being caught on the wire by Frontier Charley in his last. Marcus Miller was behind him for the last of his streak of three wins and drives again on Saturday. Ideal Big Guy gets the rail for owners Dandy Farms Racing, trainer Terry Leonard, Ob Stables and Peter Kouchis as the 7-2 third choice. Although entering this final with only one win lifetime, he has found the board in four of his last five starts. His early speed will benefit him in this final from the inside. Race 10 - $86,000 Robert F. Carey, Jr. Memorial Championship Three-year-old male pacers are featured in the Carey Memorial as He'zzz A Wise Sky is the 3-2 morning line choice. Owned by Triple Zzz Stable and trained by Don Filomeno, He'zzz A Wise Sky won on Night of Champions last year and has continued his winning ways. Finishing first or second in ten of 11 races this year, he has rattled off three straight wins, including a dominating effort in last week's prep. Regular driver Robert Smolin returns in the bike. Western Perch was the last horse to get the best of He'zzz A Wise Sky, pulling off the upset against him on August 14. Owned in partnership by Bowen, Bowen, and Markert, the Nicole Agosti trainee drew post five. A three-time winner on the year, Western Perch is driven in the final by Kyle Wilfong. Race 11 - $108,000 Plum Peachy Championship A good field of three-year-old filly pacers line up with multiple horses in with a chance. Although listed as the 3-1 second choice in the Trackmaster morning line, Fox Valley Exploit will go off the favorite for owners David Brigham and Kyle Husted. Husted trains and drives the winner of seven of eight on the year, including a speedy win in 1:53 in the second leg of this series. She will have to overcome her post nine draw but her tactical speed allows her to show speed or rate and rally. Listed at 2-1 but the likely second choice at off time is Sign Her Up. Getting a favorable inside draw for owners Rb Roper and Fabian Johnson, Sign Her Up has won four times from 14 starts on the year and hit the board in nine of those 14 races. She is the only horse in the field to defeat Fox Valley Exploit this summer, doing so on August 22. Juan Franco drives for trainer Charles Arthur. Harper has also been very good in 2020 as she starts for owner Peter Karras and trainer Rick Schrock. An eight-time winner from 14 starts, Harper went unraced as a two-year-old but has only missed the board twice this year. Kyle Wilfong drives as Harper comes off a second-place performance behind Fox Valley Exploit last time out. Race 12 - $68,000 PointsBet & Club Hawthorne Tony Maurello Memorial Championship The same as last season, aged female pacers round out the championship evening. Last year's reigning champ Skeeter Machine returns to try to defend her title for owners Francis and James Greer and trainer Nicole Agosti. After winning five times last year, Skeeter Machine has posted five wins once again in 2020. She's the 9-2 third choice in the morning line as Kyle Wilfong drives. The deserving favorite at 9-5 is Allbeastnobeauty for driver and trainer Todd Warren. A winner of nine of 21 starts on the year for owners Brookside Stables and Keith Ravis, she enters this final on a four race win streak. She won gamely in last week's elimination as she looks for her 33rd lifetime win. Hawthorne Race Course, Chicago's Hometown Track, returned for live harness racing on Saturday, February 15 and races through Sunday, September 20. Post time nightly is 7:10 PM. Hawthorne races live during the summer harness meet every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Fall thoroughbreds close out the year, running from October 2 through December 26. For more information, visit or contact Hawthorne at 708-780-3700. by Jim Miller, for Hawthorne Race Course

A total of 23 harness racing two-year-olds – 21 pacers and two trotters – including two from New Zealand - have been nominated for the inaugural Nutrien Equine Ready To Run Sale to be held in November. The online sale will be conducted from 10am on Friday, November 20 until 4pm on Sunday, November 22 coinciding with the Breeders Crown Finals weekend at Melton. Horses will be ‘breezed up’ at Menangle on Sunday, November 1, Shepparton on Wednesday, November 4 and in NZ’s South Island at a track and date to be confirmed. Nutrien Equine standardbred manager Mark Barton said: “The sale will offer another opportunity for breeders of young horses to sell their stock besides the yearling sales. “Lochinvar Art is one of the products of the ready-to-run concept.” Many of Australasia’s leading trainers and breeders have thrown their weight behind the sale including Luke McCarthy, Rickie Alchin, Mark Jones (NZ), Benstud Standardbreds, Lauriston Bloodstock, Nick Hooper, Paul Graydon, Reibey Farm and Rhiannon Park. Fifteen sires will be represented at the sale including stock by established sires such as Art Major, American Ideal, Rock N Roll Heaven, Well Said, Sportswriter, Western Terror, Shadow Play, Betterthancheddar, Sir Lincoln, For A Reason and Love You and emerging sires in Betting Line, Heston Blue Chip, Bling It On and Cardigan Boko. A Well Said-Bettor Abs 2YO filly in the Sale The entry includes half-brothers to the Melton Mares Championship winner Sophies Ideal 1:53.5 ($150,979), Islay 1:52.8 ($218,117), Valbonne (1:55.4) and promising trotter Mar Pacifico and half-sisters to the Breeders Crown champion All Eyes On Us 1:51.4 ($307,515), the prolific Albion Park winner Tennyson Bromac 1:53.4 ($139,837) and Spy Major (1:53.9) and close relatives of the Group 1 winners Gotta Go Cullen, Happy Asset, Lombo Skyrider, Awesome Armbro, Philadelphia Man and Tandia’s Courage. A Heston Blue Chip 2YO gelding in the sale Pedigrees and pre-registration details will be available in early October. For further information visit Peter Wharton  

Brad Grant watched Ramona Hill's Hambletonian Stakes win at The Meadowlands in August from his home in Canada because of COVID-19 international travel restrictions. But now Grant, one of Ramona Hill's six owners, is getting to spend some quality time with the harness racing filly in his own backyard at Ontario's Woodbine Mohawk Park. Last week, Ramona Hill won a division of the Simcoe Stakes for 3-year-old filly trotters at Mohawk for her fifth victory in six races this season. It was her first Canadian start since winning a Breeders Crown at Mohawk in October. On Saturday, she returns to the Ontario oval for the C$350,000 Elegantimage Stakes, where her nine rivals include Hambletonian Oaks winner Sorella. Andy McCarthy will drive Ramona Hill for trainer Tony Alagna. "I'm excited," Grant said, adding with a laugh, "I was beginning to think my partners were hoarding her to the south. At least up here I get her all to myself. We're enjoying getting to spend some time with her." Grant shares ownership of Ramona Hill with U.S.-based partners Michelle and Al Crawford, Robert LeBlanc, John Fodera, and Steve Wienick. Grant, who was among the owners of 2018 Hambletonian winner Atlanta, watched this year's race on television with his wife Bonnie while the remainder of the group was at The Meadowlands. "It's not the same, but thankfully I had that experience a couple years earlier, so I know what it's like," Grant said. "I had the second-best seat in the house (this year) and I could rewind the race and watch it as much as I wanted. "Bonnie and I were just tickled to watch it on TV and see everybody. It's a great group. We're all just enjoying it. Tony has done a great job and Andy gets along with this filly amazing. Being up here, Tony's mom (Donna Lee, who runs the stable in Canada) has pampered Ramona to death looking after her. We couldn't have it any better." Ramona Hill, a daughter of Muscle Hill out of Lock Down Lindy, has won 11 of 13 career races and $1.17 million. She became the 15th filly to beat the boys in the Hambletonian, which she accomplished in a stake-record-equaling 1:50.1. In addition to the Hambletonian and Simcoe, her wins this season include the Del Miller Memorial and the filly division of the Harry M. Zweig Memorial. She is the No. 1-ranked horse in the sport's current Top 10 poll. "There are a number of colts and fillies that could be No. 1 this year," Grant said. "I think if you have a bad week, you could move off where you are and get bumped down the line in a hurry. So, to be on the top of that list, in my mind, is quite an accomplishment." Ramona Hill will look to remain on top with a win in the Elegantimage, but Grant knows it won't be easy. Nancy Takter-trained Sorella, the No. 8-ranked horse in harness racing, has won six of eight starts this season and heads to the race off a win over older male rivals, including returning O'Brien Award winner Musical Rhythm. "She is a great filly," Grant said. "I think it's going to be a heck of a race. There are some others in there, but obviously, a quick glance says the one to beat is Sorella. Hopefully, we can come back with another good race and get it done." Grant owns a second horse in the Elegantimage, Warrawee Vicky, who won last week's other Simcoe Stakes division. She has won three of six races this year and eight of 16 lifetime, earning $243,151. She is trained by Scott McEneny. "She raced well last week so we decided to put her in," Grant said. "We're racing for fourth or fifth money, but the filly has raced really well for me this year and we're pleased with her. Scott has worked hard to get her there, so we thought we should put her in and see how she does." Saturday's card at Mohawk also includes the C$560,000 Canadian Trotting Classic for 3-year-old male trotters, headlined by Goodtimes Stakes and Zweig Memorial winner Ready For Moni, as well as eliminations for the Milton (pacing mares), Metro Pace (2-year-old male pacers) and She's A Great Lady (2-year-old filly pacers). Grant is among the owners of Alagna trainees Notorious Pink in the She's A Great Lady's first elimination and Pirate Hanover in the Metro's first elimination. Notorious Pink swept the Whenuwishuponastar at Mohawk earlier this year before competing in the Kentucky Sire Stakes. She has four wins and a second in six starts. Pirate Hanover has a win and a third in three races. "She's a really nice filly," Grant said about Notorious Pink. "I got in on her just as she started racing. She's green but she was pretty good up here before so we thought we would give her a shot. She does seem to like the track up here and (driver) Bobby McClure was her pilot up here before and got along with her really well. "I think Pirate Hanover is a sleeper. He made a break (in a division of the Nassagaweya) but I think he might have clipped the wheel of the horse in front of him. The colt has got a lot of speed and I don't think we've seen the bottom of his tank yet. I'm real excited about that colt. I think he has a ton of upside and I think he's just going to get better as he races." For more about Saturday's card, click here. For complete entries, click here. Racing begins at 7 p.m. (EDT). by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA    

By Bill Finley, for the Thoroughbred Daily News When Philip Antonacci begins his training career later this year, he won’t be just any rookie. The 25-year-old who has worked for a number of top trainers has enlisted legendary Standardbred trainer Jimmy Takter to assist him in what Antonacci describes as a partnership between the two. Antonacci’s family operates Lindy Farms, one of the most prominent breeding and harness racing operations in standardbred racing. Lindy has branched out in recent years and now operates a modest sized thoroughbred operation, which Philip, a University of Pennsylvania graduate, has helped manage. It has long been his desire to go into training thoroughbreds and Takter was looking for new challenges in his life. That’s what brought the two together in what Antonacci calls a “perfect marriage.” Antonacci has secured 15 stalls at Payson Park and plans on running his first horse at the Gulfstream championship meet. The horses will run under his name and he will handle many of the day-to-day chores, including the administrative duties. But Takter will play a major role, to the point where the two could be called co-trainers. “Philip is a very bright young man, he has been all over and his background is in this sport,” Takter said. “But he has never had a stable of his own before. That’s where I can help him. I will be his wing man.” Takter stunned the harness racing world when, toward the end of 2018, he announced his retirement. Just 58 at the time, he said he was having a hard time getting motivated. After spending much of the first year of retirement traveling with his wife Christina, he found that something was missing. To continue reading, click here.

Diamond Creek Farm is excited to announce the addition of champion harness racing pacer Bettor’s Wish to its already stellar stud roster. Bettor’s Wish has had an impressive career, pacing to wins as a 3-year-old in prestigious races such as the $400,000 Carl Milstein Memorial, $300,000 Art Rooney Pace, $270,000 Tattersalls and the $248,350 Matron Stakes. These wins led to Bettor’s Wish being crowned the Dan Patch 3-Year-Old Colt Pacer of the Year in 2019. As a 4-year-old, Bettor’s Wish recently put forth a powerful showing to capture the $229,660 Sam McKee Memorial on Hambletonian Day at The Meadowlands, stopping the timer in a personal best of 1:47.3 and raising his earnings to $2,124,783. "We have been following the career of Bettor’s Wish closely," said Diamond Creek's Adam Bowden. "We knew he would be a perfect addition to our lineup. Along with his pedigree as a son of super-sire Bettor's Delight, he has continually shown great strength and consistency throughout his career. Credit goes to Chris Ryder and his team. “We are excited about the opportunity, not only for Pennsylvania breeders, but breeders as a whole. Thanks again to the ownership group for trusting us to give Bettor’s Wish the best chance to be a success as he begins his next career."  He will be standing at Diamond Creek of Pennsylvania in 2021.  The $229,660 Sam McKee Memorial Details on stud fee and shares will follow shortly. In the meantime, breeders can put their name on the interested list by emailing or calling (908) 451-4135. Caroline Vazquez

Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that two harness racing defendants, Scott Robinson and Sarah Izhaki, each pled guilty Wednesday (Sept. 16) to conspiring to unlawfully distribute adulterated and misbranded drugs for the purpose of doping racehorses in connection with the two cases in which they are charged, United States v. Robinson, 20 Cr. 162 (JPO), and United States v. Izhaki, 20 Cr. 161 (MKV). Robinson pled guilty before U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken, and will be sentenced by Judge Oetken on January 15, 2021. Izhaki pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil, and will be sentenced by Judge Vyskocil on December 2, 2020. Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “Scott Robinson and Sarah Izhaki represent the supply side of a market of greed that continues to endanger racehorses through the sale of performance-enhancing drugs. Each of these defendants provided the raw materials for fraud and animal abuse through the sale of unregulated and dangerous substances: Robinson’s products were manufactured in shoddy facilities with no professional oversight of their composition; Izhaki’s products were smuggled into the country and sold from cars in supermarket parking lots. These convictions show that our Office and our partners at the FBI are committed to the prosecution and investigation of corruption, fraud, and endangerment in the horse racing industry.” According to the Indictments, the Superseding Information to which Robinson pled guilty, the Superseding Information to which Izhaki pled guilty, and other court documents, as well as statements made in public court proceedings: From at least in or about 2011 through at least in or about March 2020, Robinson conspired with others to manufacture, sell, and ship millions of dollars’ worth of adulterated and misbranded equine drugs, including performance-enhancing drugs intended to be administered to racehorses for the purpose of improving those horses’ race performance in order to win races and obtain prize money. Robinson sold these drugs through several direct-to-consumer websites designed to appeal to racehorse trainers and owners, including, among others, “” Robinson contributed to the conspiracy by, among other things, sourcing chemicals used to create custom PEDs that were advertised and sold; falsely labeling, packaging, and shipping those PEDs to customers across the country, including in the Southern District of New York; and collecting, reporting, and responding to employee and customer complaints regarding the misbranded and adulterated products advertised and sold online. Among the drugs advertised and sold during the course of the conspiracy were “blood builders,” which are used by racehorse trainers and others to increase red blood cell counts and/or the oxygenation of muscle tissue of a racehorse in order to stimulate the horse’s endurance, which enhances that horse’s performance in, and recovery from, a race, as well as customized analgesics which are used by racehorse trainers and others to deaden a horse’s nerves and block pain in order to improve a horse’s race performance. The drugs distributed through the defendants’ websites were manufactured in non-FDA registered facilities and carried significant risks to the animals affected through the administration of those illicit PEDs. For example, in 2016, Robinson received a complaint regarding the effect of his unregulated drugs on a customer’s horse: “starting bout 8 hours after I give the injection and for about 36 hours afterwards both my horses act like they are heavily sedated, can barely walk. Could I have a bad bottle of medicine, I’m afraid to give it anymore since this has happened three times.” Commenting on this complaint, Robinson wrote simply, “here is another one.” In a separate conspiracy, from at least in or about February 2018 through at least in or about November 2019, Izhaki conspired with others to transport, sell, and deliver, tens of thousands of dollars of erythropoietin, a “blood builder” drug intended to increase a horse’s racing performance, which had been smuggled into the country from Mexico. This drug was covertly transported into the United States and sold by Izhaki, who believed it would be used by racehorse trainers to illicitly improve their horses’ race performance. Izhaki also offered for sale amphetamines, and a substance that Izhaki referred to as “the Devil,” which Izhaki claimed would mask the presence of potent drugs in a human or animal’s body. The defendants are among 27 individuals charged in a series of Indictments arising from an investigation of a widespread scheme by racehorse trainers, veterinarians, PED distributors, and others to manufacture, distribute, and receive adulterated and misbranded PEDs and to secretly administer those PEDs to racehorses competing at all levels of professional horseracing. By evading PED prohibitions and deceiving regulators and horse racing officials, participants in these schemes sought to improve race performance and obtain prize money from racetracks, all to the detriment and risk of the health and well-being of the racehorses. Robinson, 46, of Tampa, Florida and Izhaki, 45, of Manalapan, New Jersey, each pled guilty to one count of conspiring to unlawfully introduce and receive with the intent to redistribute for pay or otherwise adulterated and misbranded drugs in interstate commerce, and to misbrand drugs in interstate commerce. This offense carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The maximum potential sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge. Acting U.S. Attorney Strauss praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI New York Office’s Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force and its support of the Bureau’s Integrity in Sports and Gaming Initiative. Ms. Strauss also thanked the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, the New York State Police, and the New York City Police Department for their support of this investigation, and the Food and Drug Administration and Drug Enforcement Administration for their assistance and expertise. This case is being handled by the Office’s Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Sarah Mortazavi, Benet J. Kearney, and Andrew C. Adams are in charge of the prosecution.

In his debut run, Jaccka Cooper provided a change of luck for owners Charlie and Alisa Smaill. The Smaills have had a string of placings recently with horses they own and yesterday’s win was welcomed by the couple who were on course to see the win. Jaccka Cooper is out of Art Major mare Comeon Jaccka which won a race for Ascot Park trainer Wayne Adams. “She had a bit of speed but didn’t carry on with it,” Charlie said. Comeon Jaccka is out of Comeon Franco which the Smaills purchased at a Wayne Francis sale in the mid 2000s. Comeon Jaccka was by Holmes Hanover out of Cherubic. Jaccka Cooper has taken a bit of time to organise but appears to be getting the hang of the racing game. “He looked quite nice as a three year old and I sent him down to Brett’s but his head didn’t grow with his body. He got upset with grit so we brought him home and turned him out.” In yesterday’s maiden race Jaccka Copper lead and had to withstand constant pressure throughout the run but he had enough resolve to hang on to win by a neck from Sentry which came up the passing lane. The A Rocknroll Dance gelding has been to the fore at trials and workouts. “He’s had four preparation runs and he’s won the lot.” Smaill who’s held a trainers licence off and on over the years, still like to be hands on at his Riversdale property. “Usually I do about a month with them before they go to Brett’s. I have a lady who’s worked for me for years. We get them up and running and reasonably fit.” Smaill mainly breeds trotters these days and particularly likes Janine Jaccka’s three year old colt Jaccka John. “I quite like him. I also have a Father Patrick that’s a brother to Jasmine Jaccka. He’s a bit headstrong but I quite like him too.” Meanwhile Paul Andrews trained his first winner when Tad Lincoln won his maiden race at Ascot Park. The six year old Sir Lincoln gelding out of Lady Writer was bred by John Earl and Tom Kilkelly. Earl trained him initially, then Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis had him for a number of starts. He also had a short stint for Adrian Wohlers before Andrews took him on in June of this year. He’s had fifteen starts for Andrews and at times has looked as though he could win another race. Andrews has held a license since 1993 and prior to this win has taken horses to the races 147 times. From gate four driver Mark Hurrell pushed Tad Lincoln forward but was left parked for the first lap before Marika gave him cover. At the 300 Hurrell pulled the gelding out and he came down the middle of the track to win by two lengths from Man I’m Good. Tad Lincoln was at odds of 28 to 1.   Bruce Stewart

It’s been a long time between wins but Southland owned Jody Direen chalked up her third win and her first for twenty one months when she won in the slush at Ascot Park yesterday. Originally trained for Eastern Southland dairy farmer Kenny Baynes by Tony Stratford, the Mach Three mare is now in Michael House’s barn. Her last win was at Addington in February 2019. “She’s been up country with Micky and gone okay. She dropped down a grade or two today,” Baynes said. Driver Kirstin Barclay positioned Jody Direen four back on the outside and approaching the 400 got onto the back of stablemate Changearound. When that horse started to battle Barclay hooked her drive out four wide and Jody Direen came down the middle of the track to beat another stablemate Opawa Mach by a length and a half. “That was social distancing,” Baynes quipped to Barclay. Masked man – Kenny Barnes keeping his distance                         --Bruce Stewart photo In the last few seasons Baynes has supported House and says he’s been essential to Southern racing during Covid times. “We need him. He can bring fifteen horses per race meeting. They’re not all stars but it makes a meeting. They’re trained on the track so they walk out of the barn and they’re here. He’s a big part of the industry.” House who’s had a team of fifteen horses at Ascot Park since the end of May wasn’t on course yesterday. “He’ll be watching it on tele. He broke his wrist about a week ago. It was in the float, a horse pulled back when he tied it up.” Baynes says Jody Direen will go to stud in the next few weeks. House won later in the day with Zoned Scarlett. Last season Michael House trained his 500th winner. Beginning his training in 1988, his first winner was Talk About Swift at Forbury Park in January 1992. Last season was his best, training 98 winners. His best winning tracks have been Manawatu 145 followed by Addington 142. Blair Orange has driven 165 winners for House, the first being Andrel’s Fancy at Marlborough in June 1998. Dexter Dunn (71) Colin DeFillipi (52) and Clark Barron (35) have also been successful drivers for House. Michael House’s biggest wins: 1995 Group One 1995 Easter Cup – Matthew Lee 1993 New Zealand Yearling Sales Fillies Final – Vee Mee 2000 New Zealand Sires Stakes Two Year Old Trotting Championship – Castleton’s Mission 1997 Group Two New Zealand Trotting Championship – Holdonmyheart 2008 Listed PPG Wrightson New Zealand Yearling Sales Series Trotting Final – De Gaulle 2005 Listed Firestone FFA – Bella’s Boy 2003 Listed PPG Wrightson New Zealand Yearling Sales Trot – Just Incredible 2002 Group Two New Zealand Trotting Stakes – Just Incredible 2008 Group One Nevele R Stud Caduceus Club Classic – Rona Lorraine 2016 Listed PGG Wrightson New Zealand Yearling Sales All Age Pace – Moonrock 2017 Group Three Popular Alm FFA – Moonrock   Bruce Stewart

Even by his lofty standards harness racing stallion Art Major has had a huge week. It started with Balraj producing an unbelievable sprint to defeat reigning Miracle Mile champion King Of Swing on Saturday night. Coming off King Of Swing's back, Balraj unleashed a 25.3 final quarter to win by a half neck. Mere minutes later Ride High again showed why he is one of the most exciting horses in recent times with another stunning display of horsepower. After working to the front, Ride High simply dominated his rivals, sprinting home untouched in 53.4 to win by over six lengths. While in New York Art Major's offspring won both the $225,000 New York Sires Stakes Finals for two year olds. Test Of Faith took control of the fillies final early and was able to dictate terms to win by two lengths. It was her fifth success from six starts to date. Test Of Faith In the colts and gelding final King James Express used a mid race move to find the front and then ran out a comfortable winner. King James Express He also sired two very impressive two year old winners in Australia headed by Major Moth who lived up to the hype on debut. The Clayton Tonkin trainee sprinted home in 26.3 to win easily. While in Queensland Itz Major Rich won his third straight race with a victory at Albion Park. Art Major simply continues to produce the goods year in and year out.    

Anderson, IN -- Somethingbeautiful solidified her divisional dominance in the Hoosier state's 2-year-old pacing filly ranks as she turned in a dazzling 1:52.2 performance to take the co-featured harness racing event of the evening, a split of Indiana Sires Stakes action for two-year-old pacing fillies on Wednesday, September 16 at Harrah's Hoosier Park Racing & Casino. With driver LeWayne Miller in the bike, Somethingbeautiful recorded her sixth consecutive victory and remains undefeated this season. Leaving from the rail, Somethingbeautiful left just enough to grab a pocket seat behind the pace-setting Something To Me and John DeLong through the opening quarter in :27.4. JK She's Gordjus and Trace Tetrick wanted their turn on the front and got it just before the half in :57.2. JK She's Gordjus continued to call the shots through the three-quarters in 1:25.2 but Somethingbeautiful was winding up to strike. Using a :26.2 final quarter, Somethingbeautiful was able to track down JK She's Gordjus and repel a late sure from Something to Me to get the win by a length. Dylan Davis trains the daughter of Always A Virgin-Summer N Sand for the ownership partnership of H. Taylor, E. Gold, A. Basen, and R. Lomabardo. With the victory, Somethingbeatiful increased her lifetime bankroll to $104,500. Somethingbeatiful In the first division of the stakes action for two-year-old pacing fillies, GD Rockin Kay turned in a sharp front-running effort to score a 1:52.4 victory. With Trace Tetrick in the bike, GD Rockin Kay made her game-winning move down the backside and was a two length winner. With the win, GD Rockin Kay established a new lifetime best and recorded her third win of the season from seven starts. Trained by Erv Miller, the daughter of Rockin Image--Kayla's Dream now has a lifetime record of 7-3-1-1. GD Rockin Kay is owned in partnership by Engel Stable of Ill, L. Willinger, Hen-Shaut Stb, and G. Golemes and has amassed $37,825 in lifetime purse earnings. GD Rockin Kay Two $32,500 divisions of Indiana Sires Stakes for the three-year-old trotting fillies were also featured on the evening's 14-race card. May Baby and James Yoder continued their winning ways and captured the fastest division in 1:52.3. Yoder moved May Baby to the lead down the backside and she trotted strong to the wire to finish five lengths to the good. With the victory, May Baby equaled her lifetime best and recorded her fifth win from eight starts this season. Owned by Cheyenne Yoder and trained by James Yoder, the daughter of Guccio--Free Wheeling now sports a lifetime bankroll of $324,115. Swan Bomb and Ricky Macomber Jr. provided the lone upset of the evening as they pulled the slight 6-1 upset in the final division for three-year-old trotting fillies. With a final time of 1:55.3, Swan Bomb took advantage of a second-over trip to get the win by a length. Trained by Jamie Macomber and owned by Dreamville Stable, the daughter of Swan For All--Tilly Bomb has now won four of 12 seasonal starts. Indiana Sires Stakes action will continue at Harrah's Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Thursday, September 17. The evening's 14-race card will also feature a $10,000 Guaranteed Pick-4 in Races 3-6 and a $10,000 Guaranteed Hoosier High-5 pool in the last race of the program. The 2020 live racing season at Harrah's Hoosier Park will feature 111 racing programs and follow a Tuesday through Saturday schedule throughout the season. With a daily post time of 6:30 p.m., live racing will be conducted through Nov. 21. For more information on the live racing schedule, please visit Emily Ratcliff | Race Marketing Manager and Commentator  

WASHINGTON, PA, Sept. 16, 2020 -- Drama Act overcame post 8 to score easily in 1:50, matching the stake record in Wednesday's $63,550 Keystone Classic for 3-year-old harness racing filly pacers at The Meadows. Drama Act was making only her second start since owner The OK Corral shifted her to the Ron Burke stable, but the trainer likes what he's seen so far of the daughter of Well Said-Lounge Act. "I think she's really a high-end filly," Burke said. "She won in 1:50 with her ear plugs in -- that's a special kind of mile. She has a few races left, and I think she'll get better as the year goes on." Drama Act needed almost the entire opening panel to make the point for Matt Kakaley, but she faced no serious challenges from there, defeating Keystone Eureka by 3-1/2 lengths, with the previously undefeated Seadog Lady third. Her time equaled the mark Lispatty established in 2016.   Burke anticipates that Drama Act, who now has banked $157,982, will continue to race at 4. "She has the potential to do well -- especially on small tracks. She's a pretty nice horse," he said. $67,500 Keystone Classic -- 3-Year-Old Filly Trot Dune Hill figured to be a lock for her eighth straight victory; she was hammered down to 1-9. But she broke stride before the gate, a bit of serendipity that caught the attention of Jim Pantaleano aboard Miss McKee for trainer Jack Baggitt, Jr. but didn't change his approach a jot. "I talked to Jack before the race, and he indicated that she had good gate speed and to try to place her forward," Pantaleano said. "That was my strategy regardless of Dune Hill's condition. I tried to take care of her a little bit in the middle half, and I probably didn't need to be that careful because she was really strong finishing." Miss McKee prevailed in 1:55, 3-3/4 lengths better than Impulse Buy. Allswell Hanover completed the ticket. J.L. Sadowsky LLC campaigns the daughter of Muscle Massive-Dazzling Deb, who vaulted over $100,000 in career earnings. Sans Defaut has performed largely under the raider this year for Burke -- even though her win in the other Keystone Classic split sent her over $200,000 in lifetime earnings. But Wednesday's victory in what likely are her waning days of racing may have raised her profile. "I think she has a bit more to give," Burke said. "We want to finish the year strong with her. She's royally bred -- a full sister to Southwind Frank -- and I think she'll be bred at the end of the year." In the race, the daughter of Muscle Hill-Flawless Lindy idled until the field settled, powered to the lead and scored in 1:54.1. Perth Angel De Vie was second, beaten 2-3/4 lengths, with Electrapedia third. Sans Defaut races for Burke Racing Stable, Crawford Farms Racing, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and J&T Silva-Purnel&Libby. Burke enjoyed a four-bagger on the 13-race card. Live racing at The Meadows resumes Friday when the 13-race program features a $24,658.78 carryover in the final-race Super Hi-5. First post is 12:45 PM. by Evan Pattak, for the MSOA

Talented young Melbourne harness racing driver Rhys Nicholson has decided to make Mildura his home-for at least six months anyway. With a shortage of drivers in North West Victoria during COVID-19 regional racing, Nicholson has wasted no time at all in establishing solid books of drives at the weekly Friday meetings, and couldn't be happier. "In the long term, we'll just see how it works out. I've only been up here for a little while, but I'm loving it. Down the track we will definitely have a look at our options. I may settle in the area and have my own team, or otherwise we could run a satellite stable." That would involve his dad, experienced trainer-driver for many years, John "Bulldog" Nicholson, who prepares a team near Melton. The Mildura experiment is off to a handy start. Nicholson was all smiles last Friday night, landing a winning double at his now home track. He scored with The Defiant ($3.10 fav) and Pur Dan ($1.50 fav). Honors for the meeting went to trainer Scott Garraway and his driver Simon Jardine with a treble. "It was a long night but that's great because the local trainers were giving me a go. I actually had a drive in each of the 10 events and I have nearly a full book again this Friday night," he said. And despite being familiar with the much bigger tracks of southern Victoria, Nicholson said driving on the 810-metre Mildura circuit hadn't proved to be a problem. "I'm learning the pattern of racing as I go. The calibre of horses is very different and I'll change my tactics to suit. It feels like sort of horses for courses," Nicholson said. "But there's nothing wrong with the smaller tracks and I've driven on quite a few. When I was 16 or 17 years old, I'd fly over to Tasmania to drive. There were some small ones over there and it taught me a lot. "I also come across a few up in New South Wales when I was working in Sydney." Nicholson was always going to make harness racing his career with his family involvement. "I left school when I was 13 to go off and do the horses. I've been lucky to have worked with some of the best," he said. "After starting with dad, I worked for Tony Peacock. I then went back home for a bit before landing a job at the Aiken stables. "I learnt a lot at those stables, because everyone seems to have a style of their own and when it works, they stick with it. I spent two years in Sydney and that was a big learning experience." Nicholson said he was stoked to see his father land a recent winner in trotter Atego Titan at Cranbourne. "He doesn't drive all that often, but he goes okay. He's getting a nice little team together, with a couple of youngsters showing heaps of promise." "Bulldog" has prepared 18 winners and 29 placegetters for nearly $200,000 this season and is closing in on 650 career victories. While Rhys said he was enjoying the mild and sunny days in Mildura at the moment, he'd been warned about the area's notorious hot summer days. "It will be a case of early starts to beat the heat. I used to get up early when I was breaking-in gallopers, so I guess I'll be getting back to that." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura             P 0498 490 672   E   W