Day At The Track

Mike Tanev of Toronto, CA has been a longtime harness racing fan, owner and an activist for the Standardbred industry in Canada. He has been calling upon industry officials and government representatives to allow racing to resume during both lockdowns in Ontario. He has a vast understanding of the Covid-19 situation as he has two sons, Branden and Chris Taney, playing in the NHL, who are allowed to play during the lockdown and go through protocols every day for Covid-19. When it comes to expressing his opinion, watch out as Tanev’s bark is worse than his bite. Especially when it comes to the second shutdown of harness racing in Ontario. “It is just ridiculous what is going on,” Tanev said at the start of the interview. I did an interview a reporter from the Toronto Sun Tuesday and I asked him “Tell me what businesses are now closed during this lockdown in Ontario.” He thought about and I then told him, gyms, barbers, hair salons, nail places and the racetracks. Every other business in Ontario is open in one form or another. “And of all these places,” Tanev stated. “the safest place to be is the racetracks because before the lockdown they had proper protocols in place and not one reported case of Covid-19 during the entire time they were racing. “It is an absolute joke that racing is not allowed in Ontario.” Tanev added. Tanev also slammed Woodbine and the Central Ontario Standardbred Association (COSA). “They (COSA) ran their televised podcast Sunday,” Tanev said. “And the first thing out of the mouth of hosts Greg Blanchard and Mark McKelvie, who I had respected very much as top people in our industry until this show. They started off talking about without any racing now they would have plenty of time for golfing. These guys are the voice of harness racing and at such a crucial time they are joking about going golfing while there are thousands of horse people whose livelihood are being taken away from them. It was an absolute joke for them to start off the show that way. “It just threw me overboard,” Tanev said. “I thought we were getting some headway. Jim Lawson of WEG called me Friday and I thought we had a great discussion on going forward full blast to get harness racing back going. He told me he was “taking off the gloves” and instead, he announces that the Thoroughbred meet will be put on hold. “Then he (Lawson) announces that hopefully we will be able to race after the lockdown,” Tanev said. “Well, the way the Canadian government is handling the Covid crisis so poorly, that this lockdown could continue for another month. It’s just brutal the way this has all been handled.” Tanev has also been on the phone with COSA President, Hall of Famer Bill O’Donnell. “I talk with Bill sometimes three times a day,” Tanev said. “I talked with him this morning (Monday) and asked why I’m not on the COSA TV program? I’m one of the few owners in Ontario that gives a s—t. The vast majority of owners are silent. They are not going out and talking with the media, not going out and talking to their government officials. The Toronto Sun reporter asked me for the names of other owners. I told him what’s the use of giving you names, these owners don’t say a word. “Since the first lockdown,” Tanev complained. “I’m the only one that has gone out and spoke with the media, with COSA, with Jim Lawson, with government officials.” There has also been a drove of horses leaving Ontario to race in the United States and that alone could cause big problems even if racing is allowed to start up again. “These owners and trainers know we are in trouble,” Tanev explained. “And I guess they are smart to send their horses to race in the USA. At least they have a chance to earn some money back to pay for all the bill. Horses have to be cared for seven days a week, racing or not. I would be curious to know how many horses have left Ontario to race in the USA. At least 500 or more I would think at this juncture.” Tanev also talked about a recent meeting with all the top sports organizations in Ontario and government officials. “Lawson was telling me last Friday,” Tanev said. “That there was this major meeting with all the major sports teams’ executives about getting the exceptions to continue to play the high-level professional sports. Well, guess what, they did not invite horse racing! The Ontario government did not think that horse racing is not a major sporting event in the province? “Well, we’re a professional sport,” Tanev said about horse racing. “A high-level professional sport. If we had been invited to that meeting, we well could still be racing live today. “Right now,” Tanev explained. “The only team that’s playing in Toronto is the hockey team because we have a separate Canadian division.” “Racing in North America had done so well with little or no Covid cases for months,” Tanev said. “We have developed protocols that have worked so well. But we need to get this across to the government officials and the only way to do that is for everyone in the industry to open their mouths, write or call their government officials and tell them like it is. “A lot of people look at me like I have three heads,” Tanev laughed. “They call me a loud mouth. But they fail to realize I have two kids who play in the NFL. I know what they have to go through daily with covid protocols. “Owners have to get off their duffs,” Tanev ranted. “And become outspoken and demand that we can start racing again. I told Lawson that what needs to be done right away to for everyone to send a legal letter. Not a law suit, just a legal letter from a top law firm in Toronto, explain all the protocols and why racing should be allowed to start up again. The government must respond to a legal letter. We need to get their attention in a big way.” By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink

Captain Video blew away five harness racing stakes foes to win the $35,000 Valedictory Pacing Series final at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Friday, Apr. 2.   Sylvain Filion deployed the four-year-old stallion to the front end, and they led through the opening quarter in :28. One-to-five favourite Beyond Bettor (Trevor Henry) stormed up approaching the half in :56, but Filion parked him out.   Captain Video retained the lead going to three-quarters in 1:23 and blasted away as the field came down the lane, extending his margin to six and a quarter lengths by the time he crossed the finish line victorious in 1:51.2. Beyond Bettor stayed on for place, and Bee Two Bee (Scott Coulter) grabbed third.   CAPTAIN VIDEO REPLAY     Captain Video, a son of Captaintreacherous, has now won 11 races from 22 starts and surpassed the $100,000 earnings mark with the win. Richard Moreau trains for 1876472 Ontario Inc of Guelph, Ecurie CSL of Boynton Beach, Visionary Breeders LLC of Manalapan, and Joseph Di Scala of Somers.   The horse paid $8.20 to win. The Valedictory Series was open to three and four-year-old colts and geldings. Its first two legs were contested in December 2020, but the final was postponed due to a Covid-19-related shutdown of racing.   Rose Run Victory captured the other stakes final on the night, sweeping by opponents late in the $35,000 Niagara Pacing Series conclusion.   She took back and dropped into sixth at the behest of driver Ed Hensley, riding along through a first split of :28. Hensley moved her into the flow going to the half in :57.3. She ended up third-over, and Hensley remained patient past the three-quarters in 1:26.2, only swinging the mare wide for her move as the field entered the stretch.   The four-year-old mare made little headway through the first half of the stretch, but she found another gear in the final eighth and rolled by four foes to win by three quarters of a length in 1:54.2. She outkicked her cover of Man Dontforget Me (Doug McNair), who was second; Filter Hanover (Jody Jamieson) was third.   ROSE RUN VICTORY REPLAY     Rose Run Victory improved her record to 10-for-39 lifetime and her bankroll to $166,491. Ashleigh Hensley trains for Burke Racing Stable LLC of Fredericktown, Weaver Bruscemi LLC of Canonsburg, and Phillip Collura of Mountain Top. The four-year-old by Shadow Play paid $2.70 to win.   Rose Run Victory swept the Niagara Series, the first two legs of which were also held in December 2020.   So Much More, Canada's 2020 Older Pacing Mare of the Year, took the $30,000 Preferred Handicap for aged distaffers.   Driver James MacDonald sent her to the front for the first time this season, and they led through the quarter in :27.3, half in :55.4, and three-quarters in 1:24.3. Ivana Flybye N (Jody Jamieson) pressured from first-over, but So Much More was solid and held off all challengers to win by a length and a half in 1:51.4.   Major Occasion A (Bob McClure) rode the pocket for place, and Ivana Flybye N got third. A correct $2 win ticket returned $5.60.   SO MUCH MORE REPLAY     So Much More has now racked up 33 wins and just shy of $600,000 in her 70-race career. Don Beatson of Granton trains and co-owns the five-year-old Big Jim mare with Kenneth Beatson of Palgrave and Cole England of Exeter.   This will likely be Woodbine Mohawk Park's final card for at least four weeks as Ontario will move into lockdown as of 12:01 a.m. EDT on Saturday, Apr. 3.   For full race results, click here.   by Nicholas Barnsdale, for Harnesslink

Blue Ivy didn't get all of the respect on the toteboard, but the 5-year-old mare had her say in a powerhouse performance, capturing the first of two $35,000 Blue Chip Matchmaker harness racing divisions on Friday night at Yonkers Raceway. Sent off as the surprising 7-5 second choice, Tyler Buter put Blue Ivy into the three-hole entering the first turn as 3-5 favorite Keep Rockin A made the lead easily for Tim Tetrick and marched to the quarter in 27.4. With just five in the field, Tetrick was able to back down the pace with the Jim King Jr.-trained import, who was in search of his first series victory. The slow half didn't shake Buter in the least as he waited to midway down the backstretch to energize Blue Ivy. It didn't take more than 50 yards for Blue Ivy to engulf and dispose of Keep Rockin A, as that mare slowed markedly into the final turn. After three-quarters in 1:25, Blue Ivy kicked home in 28 seconds flat and scored by open lengths in a 1:53 mile. Monica Gallagher (Jason Bartlett) was able to come up the pylons late to secure the place spot, with Caviart Cherie (Matt Kakaley) third in the mile. BLUE IVY REPLAY It was Blue Ivy's second win in the series, to go along with two second-place finishes, for trainer Todd Buter. Owned by Renee Bercury, Blue Ivy, a 5-year-old daughter of Captaintreacherous, paid $4.80 for the victory. The exacta with 32-1 shot Monica Gallagher in the place spot was worth $54, and the triple came in at $158.50. The upsets continued in the second Blue Chip Matchmaker division as Siesta Beach (Matt Kakaley) rallied from last on the final turn and rolled past the betting favorites to score her first series victory in a 1:54.3 clocking. Snobbytown and driver George Brennan out-left two others to gain control nearing the opening quarter, as Bettors Heart N and driver Dexter Dunn yielded the front. Snobbytown had the lead in 27.4, and Brennan was keen to back things down, reaching the half in 57.3 as Bettors Heart N lagged behind her in second. Dbldelitebrigade N and Todd McCarthy pulled on the third turn to challenge, towing the 1-5 favorite Machnope with her, but the cover wasn't worth much as Snobbytown marched off with a snappy 28.1 third quarter. The acceleration forced driver Andrew McCarthy to send two-leg winner Machnhope three-deep passing three-quarters to gain into contention. Siesta Beach and Kakaley used that cover through the final turn and tipped wider into the homestretch to gain a clear chance. It was a thrilling finish, with Snobbytown and Brennan working hard to maintain the lead, but powerless to stall the closers, with Siesta Beach, a 5-year-old daughter of American Ideal, doing the best work late for the win. Machnope had to settle for the place, with Snobbytown third. SIESTA BEACH REPLAY Trained by Nicholas Devita and owned by Eric Prevost, Siesta Beach returned $15 to win. The exacta with the heavy chalk paid $26.60 and the triple was an even $63. It was the third win on the season for Siesta Beach, who entered the fourth round of the series with three straight third-place finishes. Preliminary round action in the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series concludes next Friday (April 9), with the final slated for Monday, April 19. The fourth round of the MGM Borgata Pacing Series will be the feature on Monday (April 5) at Yonkers Raceway, with three $40,000 divisions highlighting the 10-race program. Leonides A is a heavy favorite to win his third straight leg in one of the splits.  Favorites were victorious just twice during Friday night’s (April 2) Pick 6 sequence at Yonkers Raceway, meaning there were no tickets with six out of six. As a result, there will be a carryover of $7,067.60 and a guaranteed pool of $15,000 in the wager on Monday night’s (April 5) program. The guarantee is being offered as part of the United States Trotting Association’s Strategic Wagering Program. Free past performances for the Pick 6, courtesy of TrackMaster, are available here. The Pick 6 at Yonkers Raceway offers a takeout rate of 20 percent, as do the nightly Pick 4’s and Pick 5. Monday’s Pick 6 will include all three $40,000 divisions of the fourth leg of the MGM Borgata Pacing Series, as well as a $27,500 Preferred Pace. Post time is at 7:15 p.m., and the Pick 6 will begin in race three. For full results, click here.   From Yonkers Raceway

At this time last spring, trainer Blake MacIntosh had high hopes for then 2-year-old male pacer Perfectboy Hanover. "I thought he was probably the fastest horse I ever trained down," MacIntosh said, adding with a laugh, "He's the whole reason this year that I won't say anything about any of the 2-year-olds training down. I was so high on him last year and then so disappointed with the year we had with him." Last year, Perfectboy Hanover won one of eight starts in a season when, MacIntosh said, "nothing went right." MacIntosh, though, remains hopeful Perfectboy Hanover can fulfill the potential he saw last year. Perfectboy Hanover makes his seasonal debut in Saturday's opening round of the Bobby Weiss Series at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, where he faces a field of eight in the fifth of five $17,500 divisions for 3-year-old male pacers. "He's been training really good," MacIntosh said. "He'll need a start or two to get tight, but he's got a lot of talent. I've been high on that horse all the way. I've kept the stakes payments up on him because I think he's the real deal. We won't know for sure until push comes to shove, but he's got the right attitude, he's got the right gait, and hopefully everything goes right this year for him." Last year, things began to go wrong for Perfectboy Hanover when a water truck and tractor came on the track in front of him during his first visit to Woodbine Mohawk Park. "From that point on, he just lost his mind and started doing stupid things," MacIntosh said. "He was really immature. We ended up having to geld him at the end of the year just to try to get his head straight." Perfectboy Hanover's victory last year came in the Pennsylvania Stallion Series. He made two Grand Circuit starts, finishing fifth in divisions of the Nassagaweya and Champlain stakes at Woodbine Mohawk Park. He is 6-1 on the morning line in Saturday's Weiss division. "Hopefully, he'll be able to sit in on Saturday for a little bit and then pace home and show his talent," MacIntosh said. MacIntosh trains the son of Somebeachsomewhere - Perfect Cents for Fred Brayford, Mac And Heim Stables, Ridgeway Racing, and Knot Xzachallie Stable. Perfectboy Hanover is among four MacIntosh trainees in Weiss Series action Saturday. He is joined by pacers Major Makover and Victory Move plus Black Tie Bash, who is in the third of three divisions for 3-year-old male trotters. "It will be easier to tell what you have after the first couple starts," MacIntosh said. The Weiss Series is for 3-year-olds that did not win two extended pari-mutuel races or $30,000 lifetime through Feb. 1. The first round for female pacers is Monday and the first round for female trotters is Tuesday. Each series will consist of three preliminary legs followed by consolations and finals. Racing begins at 12:30 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA   

Tymal Tarot's made three moves in the conditioned feature harness racing trot at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Thursday, Apr. 1, the last of which got him to the line first.   His first effort was pushing out to a short-lived early lead as Heaven (Scott Young) drove on to grab front-end control through the first panel in :27.3. Driver Sylvain Filion then sent Tymal Tarot quickly back around as they straightened onto the backstretch, but Tymal Riggs (James MacDonald) pulled out behind him and vaulted to the lead.   Tymal Tarot remained in the pocket through the half in :57.3 and three-quarters in 1:27.2 as Hp Starlette (Louis-Philippe Roy) provided the leader with first-over pressure. Tymal Tarot swung to the outside in the stretch and accelerated by the top two with mild urging from Filion to take the lead -- permanently this time -- and win by three quarters of a length in 1:56.2.   Hp Starlette was a game second, and Tymal Riggs held the show spot. The $2 win payoff was $5.60.   TYMAL TAROT REPLAY     Tymal Tarot is a four-year-old Kadabra gelding. He's now two-for-29 lifetime with more than $40,000 earned for Rod Hughes of Rockwood, who also trains. Filion had a driving triple on the evening.   Woodbine Mohawk Park will return on Friday, Apr. 2. with an 11-race program that includes the finals of the Valedictory Pacing Series and Niagara Pacing Series. That card, which starts at 7:00 p.m. EDT, could be the track's last for four weeks, as the province of Ontario will move into lockdown starting on Apr. 3.   For full race results, click here.   by Nicholas Barnsdale, for Harnesslink  

Breeding authority Peter Wharton presents all the harness racing news on breeding from Australia, New Zealand and North America every Friday brought to you by Garrard’s Horse & Hound. Up and coming youngsters Two of Australia’s star three-year-olds at present, and both recent winners who promise to be a force in the forthcoming classics, are Lochinvar Chief and Seb’s Choice. Both are members of the same family and both are graduates of the Australian Pacing Gold Sale in Melbourne in 2019. Lochinvar Chief, who won the Bathurst Gold Chalice Consolation and has now won five of his 12 starts, is a gelding by Captaintreacherous from the unraced Always A Target, by Always A Virgin from Alta Calypso (1:59.4), a Moonee Valley winner by Village Jasper from the American-bred Ballie Hanover (1:56.6), a mare imported to New Zealand in the late 1990’s. Alta Calypso was the dam of a top ranking pacer in Milly Perez (1:52.7), a winner of 19 races and $343,882 including the Vicbred 4YO Final and Mildura Cup, Changing Code (1:53.9, the winner of 16 races and $129,516), Thomas Burns (1:55.1, who won eight) and the Melton winner Seb’s Choice (1:57.6). Another daughter of Alta Calypso was Charissa Tee (1:58), who ranks as the dam of the exciting three-year-old Patsbeachstorm 1:53.4 ($166,000), the winner of six of his eight starts including the heat and final of the NSW Derby. Others from this fine family included the prolific Cups winners Five Star Anvil 1:51.5 ($779,733) and Let’s Elope 1:55.3 ($552,013, the exported Gold Class (1:51), Ultimate Desire (1:52.6) and Millview Sarah (NZ Northland Cup).   Bathurst Gold Chalice winner Winner of the Breeders Crown Silver as a two-year-old last season, Idyllic downed the top three-year-olds in the $100,000 Gold Chalice at Bathurst, including a top ranking three-year-old in Tasty Delight, who finished third. Idyllic                     --Stuart McCormick Photo   Idyllic was an Australian Pacing Gold purchase in 2019 in Melbourne, and is a colt by the Mach Three horse Somebeachsomewhere out of the American-bred Ideal Priority, by Western Ideal from the imported Artsplace mare Priority Overnite. Ideal Priority, who took a record of 1:54.6 in America, was shipped to Australia by Ballarat breeder Bruce Edward and from five live foals, she has produced four winners – all inside 2:00 – including a champion racemare in Petacular 1:55.6 ($454,083), a full sister to Idyllic. Ideal Priority is a half-sister to Itcan Happen (1:55) and Uncle Peter (1:54.6), both feature race winners on the NSW provincial circuit.   Extradite tops $100,000 mark A bright future is being predicted for the Washington VC six-year-old Extradite, whose success in the Group 3 The Clarke at Gloucester Park was his fourth winning run from six starts this year. Extradite winning at Gloucester Park           --Daryl Hallows, Paceway Photos He has a good deal in his favour on the score of blood. Apart from being by Washington VC, a 1:52 winning son of Presidential Ball, Extradite is out of the Falcon Seelster mare Falcon Del, a half-sister to a top NZ pacer in Harnett’s Creek 1:57.7 ($291,623), being out of Kahu Del, by Armbro Del from Tee Kahu, by Tuft from the Fallacy mare Kahu, who established a fine family of trotters in NZ. It includes the Derby winners King Charlie and Shezoneoftheboyz, the Vicbred two-year-old champion Jaxnme, Le Duc (NZ Hambletonian) and others such as Sunset Tour (1:55.7), Jilliby Babavska (1:57.6) and Prince Eddie.     Wainui Creek, who annexed the $50,000 WA Empress Stakes on the same night as Extradite won, is also a member of this family. She is a five-year-old Bettor’s Delight mare from the Christian Cullen mare Christian Creek, a half-sister to Falcon Del, the dam of Extradite. Wainui Creek winning at Gloucester Park           --Daryl Hallows, Paceway Photos   Mister Rea is some youngster When he won the $100,000 Gold Crown at Bathurst last Saturday, Mister Rea scored his fourth success from as many starts, and he is entitled to be rated this year’s top two-year-old pacer so far. Earlier in the month, Mister Rea won the NSW Sapling Stakes at Menangle. Mister Rea ranks as a half-brother to the capable pacers Jesszz Reflection (1:56.9) and Glenburn Anna, being a colt by the Rocknroll Hanover horse Pet Rock, from Just Glenburn (1:59), by Village Jasper from Glenburn Smoothie (1:59.8), by Smooth Fella, from Directa’s Special, by Hilarious Way from the UK mare Saunders Directa. Just Glenburn, a winner of 17 races, was a sister to Glenburn Addy 1:58.5 (15 wins) and a half-sister to the Harold Park winner Glenburn’s Pan 1:58 ($103,646), the Albion Park victor Glenburn’s Fella (1:56.7) and Glenburn Cheeky (1:59.2). Mister Rea was bred and is part-owned and trained by noted Riverina horseman Raymond Walker.   Blue blooded filly Just Hope, who won the $100,000 Gold Tiara Final at the Bathurst Gold Crown carnival, is two-year-old filly who can claim some worthwhile blood. By Bettor’s Delight, she is the first foal of the Art Major mare Queen Of Pop 1:55.6 ($204,527), an Australian Pacing Gold winner whose dam, Top Tempo NZ 1:56.5 ($225,513) was also a Group winning two-year-old. She became the dam of a string of winners including the Breeders Crown and Vicbred champion Speak No Evil 1:50.9 ($354,300), the APG winner Musical Delight 1:53.1 ($248,910), That’s How Weroll 1:52.9 ($126,991) and Countdown 1:53.1 ($135,410). Top Tempo was a three-quarter sister to the Reefton Cup victor McKay 1:55.7 ($236,445), being by In The Pocket out of a fine racemare in Kliklite 1:56.7 ($156,213), a dual NZ Winter Cup winner. Just Hope was bred by Bill and Anne Anderson, of Lauriston Bloodstock.   Eleventh winner from broodmare When the Art Major three-year-old Mannho won at Newcastle recently, he credited his dam Full Pleasure with her eleventh individual winner. Mannho, bred by the Xerri family, had shown good placed form at the NSW provincials. Others from Full Pleasure to win have been the dual Oaks winner Kept For Pleasure 1:56 ($542,343), Don Boston 1:49.8 ($338,074), the WA Golden Nugget winner Nowitzski 1;54 ($237,967), Egodan 1:51.3 ($353,056), Lebron 1:52.9 ($250,550), It’s My Pleasure 1:55.9 ($142,275), Letsrockletsroll (1:54.1), Tiger Island (1:56.6), Lagoon Beach (1:57.4), Five Star Rocker and now Mannho. Full Pleasure, who is now in her 23rd year, has since produced a two-year-old gelding by Art Major and a yearling colt by Bettor’s Delight. Full Pleasure, a Vicbred champion at two, was an Armbro Operative half-sister to a useful racemare in Intoxicating (1:57.7), being out of Play The Field, by Kentucky from Saunders Sapphire, by Hilarious Way from the UK bred mare Saunders Directa. This is the family which produced such winners as Vincent (1:50.4), the champion filly Self Denial (1:57.6), Our Femme Fatale (1:55.3), Keep Rockin (1:52.8), Mackenzie (1:52.8) and Mister Jay Cee (1:52.8).   Siring feat to Village Jasper The Jate Lobell horse Village Jasper sired the dams of four of the eight pacing winners at Melton last Saturday. They were Flying Jo (by Mach Three), Villacci (by Modern Art), Seb’s Choice (by Bettor’s Delight) and Tangoingwithsierra (by Sportswriter). Seb’s Choice   --Stuart McCormick Photo Village Jasper, who twice headed the national money-winning sires’ list, has left the dams of the winners of more than $20 million in Australia.   Death of leading studmaster One of Victoria’s best known and popular standardbred studmasters, Ken Wills, of Girgarre West, near Shepparton, died last weekend, aged 67 years. He and his wife, Jan, conducted Niota Bloodstock which was established more than 20 years ago. Over the years they stood many stallions including Straphanger, Great Success, Yankee Spider, Centurion ATM and Kvintet Avenger. The dual Vicbred champion Plettonic, the Cups winning trotter Belts, the recent Melton winner Mornings and others in Frankntank, Gems and Straps all came out of Niota Bloodstock. Jan Wills plans to continue to operate the breeding and agistment complex.   Star trotter by Monkey Bones Funky Monkey, who won her fourth race from as many starts in a heat of the NSW Foundation Series at Menangle, is a four-year-old trotter expected to graduate far beyond her present rating. A member of KerryAnn Morris’s Menangle Park team, she has a good deal more in her favour on the score of blood than most. By the Andover Hall horse Monkey Bones, the sire of the Group winner Idle Bones and placegetter Overzealous, Funky Monkey is out of the Sundon mare Yukon Quest, whose dam was a useful trotter in Little Contessa (2:04.9, the winner of four races in NZ), was a Britewell mare who left trotters of the calibre of Irish Whisper 1:58.1 ($206,972), winner of the NZ National Trot and several Victorian country cups, the Albion Park winner Davey Mac (2:01.2), Heard The Whisper (2:00.3, who won seven) and Chinese Whisper (seven wins). Little Contessa ranked as a half-sister to eight winners including the Moonee Valley and Harold Park winner King Whiz 2:04.4 ($128,469) and the Dunedin Trotting Cup winner Prince Whiz (2:02.9), being out of Game Princess, by Game Pride from the Scotch Abbe mare Lady Rolleston. This was the family founded in NZ by the Jay Gould mare Leita (foaled in 1893). From the Lady Rolleston branch of it and to which Funky Monkey belongs, others in Lord Alias 2:03.2 ($115,940), winner of the NZ Trotting Stakes and Menangle Trotters Cup, and the Scotch Notch Memorial winner Rolleston Lad, and other smart NZ trotters in Monseigneur and Lord’s Invasion also belong.   Ballarat winner from good broodmare Narutac Prince, an Art Major three-year-old and a winner of a heat of the Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic at Ballarat, is out of O Narutac Bella, an American-bred mare with a record of 1:51.2, who is proving a successful broodmare in Australia. O Narutac Bella is also the dam of Turn It Up 1:52.1 ($492,312), a NZ Jewels and Easter Cup winner, and the sisters Treasure 1:54.9 ($161,402) and Perfect Sense 1:55.5 ($143,530), both classic winners. O Narutac Bella was a Western Ideal mare from Yankee Venice, by Life Sign from Yankee Velvet, by Direct Scooter from the Nero mare Adored Yankee, a sister to the successful sire Jef’s Emperor and a half-sister to the glamour USA filly Choice Yankee. O Narutac Bella has failed to produce since she foaled Narutac Prince in 2017 but she has a positive test to Bettor’s Delight.     by Peter Wharton

Plans for a Queensland winter campaign with crack square-gaiter Pink Galahs and his talented stablemate pacer Kowalski Analysis are just two of the reasons for Western Victorian harness racing trainer Mattie Craven’s upbeat outlook at the moment. Craven’s team, based on Ecklin South, near Terang, has been ticking along okay, but by the trainer’s own admission, things have been a little quieter than usual. “We put a few out at the start of the year, but it’s all about to start picking up. There’s now 30 in work and we have nearly a dozen unraced two and three-year-olds being put through their paces,” he said. “In addition, there’s probably another 10 youngsters waiting to come in so there’s busy times ahead.” Craven also been on the road visiting a number of top studs in recent weeks, casting an eye over yearlings due to go under the hammer at the coming Nutrien Equine Sales at Oaklands Junction, Melbourne, on April 11 and 12. He’s hoping to attract new owners to the stable by offering small shares in any yearlings purchased at the coming sales. “We’re finding that two and five percent shares in perhaps two or three horses is a great way for new owners to get into the industry,” Craven said. “They normally wouldn’t be able to afford a horse of the quality we’re targeting, but they have a lot of fun and with a bit of luck some of those small owners could one day become a big owner and enjoy the success everyone’s after. “Regardless, though, during the COVID-19 pandemic last year those small shareholders played a big part in getting us through what was an enormously difficult time. They really made it possible for us to keep going, so they’re all an important part of what we do.” On the racing front, for a “quieter than usual” time, things haven’t been too bad. Keeping the flag flying recently have been Itzamajorsurprise (Art Major-Itz Nosurprisesthere) and Helgart (Art Major-Heavenly Bread). Bay mare Helgart won two races in 24 hours when driven by Craven’s partner Sofia Arvidsson. The pair scored at Melton and then repeated the dose at Ballarat. “She is one that’s raced by a big number of our stable clients and she’s now won three races from about a dozen starts,” Craven said. “Itzamajorsurprise also got the money at Ballarat and she is a nice earner with a lot of promise. She raced consistently through the Sires and Breeders Crown and we threw her out for a good spell,” he said. “I think she has the ability to pinch a race at Melton one day. She was bred and is owned by Tony and Pam Coniglio, who love the sport.” Watch the race replay click here! Undoubtedly, though, it’s the update on stable superstar filly Pink Galahs and talented pacer Kowalski Analysis that will warm the hearts of punters. Craven’s major goal with “Pink” last season was the Victoria Trotters Oaks G1 of $60,000, which she won. She also defeated older horses in the G1 Aldebaran Park Bill Collins Trotters Sprint and the Haras Des Trotteurs Victoria Trotters Derby. Kowalski Analysis (Roll With Joe-Dream Away Jo (Dream Away) has been somewhat of a quiet achiever, gaining a berth in the $200,000 G1 Chariots of Fire at Menangle three weeks ago at just his 20th racestart. The gelding, handled by Craven’s partner Arvidsson, ran a PB when third to Expensive Ego, beaten 3.9m in a brilliant 1.48-9. The Craven stable also ended 2020 in sensational style with a blowout win in the VicBred Super Series G1 Final for 2yo Colts and Geldings. Kimble (Western Terror-I’m Wrongly Accused (Bettors Delight) defeated his more fancied rivals at odds of 99/1. “Pink Galahs has just started back jogging, while KA will continue to poke along and have another quiet few weeks,” Craven said. “At this stage the long-term aim for both of them is the Queensland winter campaign.” Pink Galahs (Skyvalley-Sweetasay (Tennotrump) is a winner of 13 of her 25 lifetime starts, along with six placings, for over $227,000.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

All harness racing in Ontario will stop again as Premier Doug Ford announced today (Thursday, Apr. 1) that Ontario will move into a province-wide lockdown effective Saturday, Apr. 3 at 12:01 a.m. EDT.   The provincial government said that it is "pulling the emergency brake" as Covid-19 cases begin to rise again. This will result in the temporary closure of Woodbine Mohawk Park, The Raceway at Western Fair District, and Rideau Carleton Raceway. Flamboro Downs has previously been placed in lockdown and planned to move its cards to Mohawk Park.   The racing industry in Ontario was closed for seven weeks during the last lockdown, which began on Dec. 26, 2020 and ended on Feb. 16.   Ontario's last race programs before shutting down will be the Friday, Apr. 1 cards of Woodbine Mohawk Park and The Raceway at Western Fair.    by Nicholas Barndsale, for Harnesslink

Blair Orange, the winning driver in today’s Macca Lodge Kindergarten Stakes at the Wyndham Harness Racing meeting, was suitably impressed after driving the Hayden Cullen trained Akuta to beat stablemate Bollinger. “He’s got a few gears there and feels like he’s going to be a nice staying type later on,” he said after the Bettor’s Delight gelding took out the Group Three feature. After trailing on the pegs for the first part of the race Orange took Akuta to the top inside the last 900 metres. Bollinger joined Akuta at the 800 metres and the pace sharpened. Akuta was there to be run down, but he stuck his ears back and fought to hang on to the top spot. “He had that will to win which you need in a two year old. He was on a loose rein all the way and when I asked him to quicken there was more there. He’ll be right up there with the better ones.” Akuta is out of the Christian Cullen mare Adore To Our Dreams and was purchased by the All Stars Stable for $170,000 at the 2020 New Zealand National Standardbred Yearling Sale in Christchurch. “He’s just got a few wee chinks. He throws his head round a bit and puts in the odd little step but that’ll be ironed out. He’s only had the two trials and that was his first start so he can only get better.” The Bettor’s Delight gelding is co-owned by Cullen Breeding Limited and former trainer Mark Purdon. Purdon has an outstanding record in this race but this was the first time he’s owned the winner of the time honoured feature. As a trainer he’s won the race eleven times – four in his own right; So Cool (2002), Lennon (2003), Ohoka Arizona (2007) and Messini (2013). His other successes were  with Grant Payne and Sir Clive (2008), with Natalie Rasmussen and Itz Bettor To Win (2014), and with Waikiki Beach (2015), Pacing Major (2016), War Dan Delight (2018), Flying Even Better (2019) and First Class (2020). With the win today Blair Orange is the most successful driver in the race’s history. He’s won the two year old feature five times. Until today’s win he shared the honours with Henry Skinner. Bettor’s Delight also became the most successful sire in the race’s sixty year history, siring five winners. Hal Tryax, Majestic Chance and Christian Cullen have produced four winners each. There was plenty of merit in the runner up Bollinger’s performance. He was only a half a length away in second, after facing the breeze for most of the trip. You’re So Fine was a half a length away in third. Duke of Cornwell trained by Lauren Pearson had an eye catching run, but got into his work late. The winning time of 1-59.5 was the slowest since the race was first run over 1609 metres in 2003. Later in the programme Samhara trained by Hayden Cullen showed he’ll add interest to this year’s Southern Supremacy Stakes. Bruce Stewart Photo The Bettor’s Delight three year old on his first trip to Southland won the Cardrona Distillery Three Year Old Stakes, beating stablemate Stag Party by a length and a half. In the hands of Tim Williams he trailed Stag Party for the majority of the 1609 metres and let down nicely in the straight to win in a time of 1-56.1. Samhara will need to start once more in the province and earn enough stakes money to race in the Supremacy where he’ll face the likes of Ragazzo Mach which is likely to stay on for the feature. View the full results from Wyndham click here!   by Bruce Stewart

Harness Racing This Week: Blue Chip Matchmaker and MGM Borgata Pacing series fourth legs, Yonkers Raceway, Yonkers, N.Y. Schedule of events: The Grand Circuit at Yonkers features two $35,000 divisions on Friday (April 2) in the fourth round of the Blue Chip Matchmaker series for open pacing mares. The Monday (April 5) card at Yonkers will see three $40,000 divisions in the fourth round of the MGM Borgata Pacing series for open pacers. Each series offers five preliminary rounds leading to the finales, both set for Monday (April 19). Complete entries for the races can be found by clicking on this link. Last Time: Hesa Kingslayer N improved to three-for-three in Monday night's (March 29) third leg of the MGM Borgata Pacing Series for free-for-allers at Yonkers Raceway. Hesa Kingslayer N improved to three-for-three in the MGM Borgata Pacing Series. Chris Brokate photo. Driven by Jim Marohn Jr. in his $40,000 section, Hesa Kingslayer N was able to get into the pocket from post four and had a great view of a battle for the lead between Pat Stanley N (Jordan Stratton) and a parked-out None Bettor A (Todd McCarthy). Pat Stanley N gave None Bettor A the cold shoulder through fractions of :27, :56.4, and 1:25 and when None Bettor A began to back up on the final turn, that gave Marohn and Hesa Kingslayer N the escape route to the outside they needed. Once he had clear sailing, Hesa Kingslayer N pounced on Pat Stanley N, going by him in upper stretch on his way to a 2-1/4 length victory in 1:53. This Is The Plan (Yannick Gingras) was also on the outside throughout in the second-over position and checked in as the runner-up after going three-high on the final bend, and Pat Stanley N held third. Trainer Mike Deters also co-owns Hesa Kingslayer N, an 8-year-old gelding by Christian Cullen, with partner Joel Warner. Hesa Kingslayer N is now a 20-time winner in his career and he has earned $189,962. Alexa Skye was expected to face her toughest test of the year in the second of two $35,000 divisions of the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series on Friday night (March 26) at Yonkers Raceway. However, when two mares were scratched prior to the race, reducing the field to just five, the task was made considerably easier for driver Todd McCarthy. Nevertheless, it took two early moves for the 4-year-old daughter of Somebeachsomewhere to secure the front, but the rest was once again quite easy as Alexa Skye made it three straight conquests in the series, scoring by a comfortable margin in 1:53.4. My Ruebe Star N (Jordan Stratton) left alertly, as did Blue Ivy (Tyler Buter). The pair were directly inside Alexa Skye, the race favorite, and McCarthy settled in third as My Ruebe Star N seated Blue Ivy and marched towards the opening quarter. Alexa Skye moved before the quarter had been passed, secured the lead after the :27.4 quarter, and from there was in control. After a :29.4 second quarter, McCarthy and Alexa Skye had all of the rest time they needed and quickly marched off with a :28 third quarter, gaining some separation from My Ruebe Star N as Buter and Blue Ivy moved to the outside to try to track down the leader. McCarthy felt the urgency of the threat that Blue Ivy, a first leg winner, posed and began to urge Alexa Skye on coming off the final turn. He kept active in the bike, and it certainly woke up the sharp mare as she sprinted off with a :28.1 kicker, keeping Blue Ivy at bay, with Siesta Beach (Matt Kakaley) closing strongly late for third. Trained and co-owned by Jeff Cullipher, along with Pollack Racing, Alexa Skye was a winner for the sixth time in 2021 and is just $250 shy of the $100,000 mark in seasonal earnings. This was her 15th victory overall and she now has banked $209,890 lifetime. Complete recaps of all the races are available at the Grand Circuit website. Grand Circuit Standings: In 2021, 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 2021 Grand Circuit awards. Here are the leaders (through the races on 3-29-21): Drivers: 1. Todd McCarthy - 50; 2. Andrew McCarthy - 42; 3. George Brennan - 40; 4. Austin Siegelman - 34; 5. Tim Tetrick - 30. Trainers: 1. Ron Burke - 75; 2t. Jeff Cullipher - 30; 2t. Mike Deters - 30; 4t. Noel Daley - 20; 4t. Todd Buter - 20; 4t. Sheena McElhiney - 20. Owners: 1t. Burke Racing Stable - 21.9; 1t. Weaver Bruscemi - 21.9; 3t. Jesmeral Stable - 20; 3t. Renee Bercury - 20; 5. Brad Grant - 15. Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will continue with the final leg of the Blue Chip Matchmaker and MGM Borgata next week. The finals for both events will be held on April 19. by Paul Ramlow, for the Grand Circuit  

Classy four-year-old Texas Tiger is poised to retain his unbeaten record in Western Australia and notch his eighth win from eight starts in the State when he starts from barrier two in the 2130m Retravision Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday afternoon. Prepared by champion trainer Gary Hall Snr, Texas Tiger has captured the imagination of harness racing fans with his brilliance and sparkling gate speed. Star reinsman Gary Hall Jnr declared that he would make a bold bid to set the pace, saying: “We’ve got to press the button early and try to work our way to the front. That will be the main plan. If that doesn’t eventuate, it will probably bring Antero and Vultan Tin into contention.” Antero, a stablemate of Texas Tiger, has bee a revelation in recent months, with his 13 starts for the Hall stable producing seven wins, four seconds, a fourth and a sixth placing.  “He keeps going to the next level,” said Hall Jnr. Antero, who will start from barrier four, will be handled by Stuart McDonald in his farewell drive for the stable and in WA before leaving for Victoria on Sunday to work for young New Zealand trainer Nathan Purdon. Whozideawasthis (barrier six) will be driven by Callan Suvaljko, who has just started working for the Hall stable as a replacement for McDonald. Suvaljko will also continue preparing his pacers at his Byford property. Vultan Tin, to be driven by Emily Suvaljko from barrier seven in the field of seven, continues to race in wonderful form for Coolup trainer Phil Costello and can never be left out of calculations. The tough and versatile nine-year-old won the Pinjarra Cup and Narrogin Cup last month. Hall Jnr said that Texas Tiger would continue racing until the stable star Chicago Bull was ready to resume in six to seven weeks time. Texas Tiger then would have a spell before being prepared, along with Chicago Bull, for the Fremantle Cup and WA Pacing Cup in the summer. The Hall camp is hopeful of ending Friday’s meeting on a winning note with Will I Rocknroll in the ninth and final event, the 2536m Mondo Doro Smallgoods Pace in which he will start from the outside in a field of six. Will I Rocknroll, a six-year-old who has raced 35 times for 11 wins and six seconds, will be making his second appearance in Western Australia.      He made an inauspicious WA debut at Gloucester Park on November 20 when raced fiercely and broke in running before finishing a long last, 145 metres behind the winner To Fast To Serious. Will I Rocknroll raced in fourth position in a six-horse Indian file trial at Byford on Sunday morning before Hall Jnr eased him off the pegs at the bell and then gained the one-out, one-back position 600m from home. He went three wide 220m from home and ran on strongly to finish a nose second to the pacemaker Bettor My Dreamz, with final quarters of 29.3sec. and 28.5sec. “It was a good trial, and I was happy enough with his performance,” said Hall Jnr. “However, he shut off when he lost sight of the horse on his inside and ran wide. I didn’t pull the earplugs. “At his first run at Gloucester Park I think he galloped out and then bolted on me. And I had to go around to the breeze because he was going to choke down. He was a bit too keen in the trial, so I got him back to last. “I will have to drive him pretty quietly for a few starts. He is very fast, and we will know more about him after he has had a few starts.”   Ken Casellas

Hunting AS was the only favorite to prevail as the John Brennan Trotting Series began with four $20,000 harness racing divisions on Wednesday night (March 31) at a soggy and sloppy Yonkers Raceway. Driven by Todd McCarthy, Hunting AS worked out a pocket trip behind Halo Its Me (Yannick Gingras) in the third flight and watched as that foe clicked off fractions of 30.2, 1:00.1, and 1:28.3. Halo Its Me was still in command as they turned into the stretch, but McCarthy had Hunting AS finishing well two-wide, and Hunting AS surged by the pace-setter on his way to a one and a quarter length decision in 1:57.3. Blue And Bold (Jason Bartlett) finished third after sitting on the inside in fourth. A 4-year-old gelding by Lionhunter, Jenny Melander trains Hunting AS for owners Melander Racing Inc., Clark Stables LLC., and Robert Bernaski. Hunting AS has a record of 6-11-2 from 32 starts, and he has now earned $81,956. Sent off at even-money, Hunting AS paid $4.20 to win and led an $18.40 exacta and a $112.00 trifecta. HUNTING AS REPLAY   While second-best in that split, Gingras had already collected a win in the event after he guided Lady Jeter to a 10-1 upset in the opening section. Lady Jeter went straight to the top from post five, laid down panels of 28.4, 58.2, and 1:27.4, and kicked home in 29.3 to win by a length and a quarter in 1:57.2. Impulse Buy (Bartlett) was the runner-up, followed by Windsong Pioneer (Brent Holland). Heavy favorite Some Chapter (Dexter Dunn) made a break while advancing first-over on the third turn. Lady Jeter, a 4-year-old Muscles Yankee mare, is trained by Ed Gannon Jr. for owner Zippett Racing Stable. Lady Jeter is now a seven-time winner from 37 tries, and she pushed her bankroll to $98,668. Lady Jeter returned $22.00 to win and keyed a $246.00 exacta and $556.00 trifecta. LADY JETER REPLAY   Another surprise came in the second of the four series tilts when 21-1 offering Look In My Eyes (Jordan Stratton) darted to the engine from post eight, put up stations of 29.1, 58.4, and 1:28, and couldn't be caught in a 30 second final panel, as he kept a first-over McMatters (Mark MacDonald) at bay to win by a length and a half in 1:58. Manhattanup No Ice (Bartlett) wound up third from the pocket. The second winner for sire Lionhunter, Look In My Eyes is a 4-year-old gelding bred, owned, and trained by Anette Lorentzon. Look In My Eyes picked up his seventh lifetime victory, and he has now pocketed $98,215. Look In My Eyes paid $44.20 to win and was atop a $136.00 exacta and a $786.00 trifecta. LOOK IN MY EYES REPLAY   Gingras then toppled the apple cart again in the final flight with 11-1 Guilty Desire in a 1:58.2 mile. Guilty Desire yielded to sit in the pocket behind 1-20 favorite Get Legs (Andy Miller) after the 29 second opening quarter, but Get Legs miscued on the second turn, putting Guilty Desire back in command. He didn't relinquish it again, as a 58.3 half and a 1:28.1 three-quarters was followed by a 30.1 final panel to secure the victory. He downed a closing Bazillionaire (Austin Siegelman) by half a length, with Get Legs recovering and finishing full of trot for third. Betty Clegg trains Guilty Desire, a 6-year-old gelded son of Deweycheatumnhowe, for owner Nick Clegg. Guilty Desire collected his 15th career win, and he has now pocketed $109,866. Guilty Desire paid $25.60, the exacta was worth $726.00, and the trifecta kicked back $1,136.00. GUILTY DESIRE REPLAY   The John Brennan Trotting Series has two additional preliminary rounds on Wednesday, April 7 and Wednesday, April 14, and the final is scheduled for Wednesday, April 21. As a result of all the upsets on Wednesday, there will be carryovers in both the Pick 5 and Pick 6 at Yonkers on Thursday (April 1), in addition to a guaranteed pool in the Pick 5. The Pick 5 carryover is $6,863.85, which triggered a guaranteed pool of $20,000, and the Pick 6 carryover stands at $2,928.24. The guaranteed pool in the Pick 5 is being offered as part of the United States Trotting Association's Strategic Wagering Program. Free past performances for the Pick 5, courtesy of TrackMaster, are available here. The Pick 5 and Pick 6 both have a takeout rate of 20 percent, as do the nightly Pick 4's. Stakes action at Yonkers resumes on Friday (April 2) with two $35,000 divisions of the fourth leg of the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series for pacing mares and continues on Monday (April 5) with three $40,000 splits of the fourth round of the MGM Borgata Pacing Series for free-for-allers. For full race results, click here. From Yonkers Raceway

Talented reinsman Jack Laugher is certainly a young man in a hurry in Victorian harness racing circles. Laugher, 22, who lives at Bendigo, is still a (metropolitan) concession driver, but three months into the new season is the State’s leading reinsperson and sitting third on the national table. “I’m having a bit of luck that’s for sure.  Chris Alford has been off the scene with a serious leg infection, while another of our outstanding drivers in Greg Sugars has been a little quieter than usual,” he said. “But I’ll keep working hard at it and if the trainers keep putting me on, you never know what might happen. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.” Laugher gave another brilliant display of horsemanship at Mildura on Tuesday night with a bag of five winners—equalling his previous best haul which he posted back in January at the same track. “When I did it the first time, I thought well that will probably never happen again. So it was pretty exciting to get five for a second time just two months later,” he said. Laugher landed a treble for trainer Julie Douglas with Hayden Bromac, The High Roller and Starvin Marvin. His others were The Tooth Fairy (Rick Holmes) and Graceful Art (Peter O’Brien). “It was probably about two years ago when I started travelling up to Mildura to drive. I was only getting one or two for a start. Then others began to put me on when they realized I was prepared to go up there regularly,” he said. “The track is about 800 metres and doesn’t have a sprint lane. But the racing can be pretty competitive most of the time.” With more and more opportunities over the past few years, Laugher has honed his skills at a rapid rate and the magical 100 wins for a season certainly now looks well within his reach for the first time. “I’ve definitely improved a fair bit over the years. In my first season it took me quite a few goes to land my first winner and then I only ended up with three wins from about 100 drives,” he laughed. “But in fairness, I wasn’t picking up the plum drives. I remember dad (Michael) was going through a rough time and wasn’t training anything real special. “Last season was pretty good, but I had a lot of stopping and starting. I’d just get going and I’d be out on the sidelines through suspension. I reckon I probably missed at least three months, so I was pretty happy to get the wins on the board that I did (89 for the extended season).” Laugher said that while growing up in Tasmania, he wasn’t really interested in horses. “Dad was driving a bit and always trained a small team. I actually hated the horses when I was a kid. I was more into football and cricket,” he said. “When I was about 15 years old, my mum Toni persuaded me to clean out the horse boxes and do the waters during school holidays. I guess it was then that things changed. “I got through Year 12 and did all the certificates to get an apprenticeship as a mechanic, but when I got offered an apprenticeship, I then chose to stick with the horses. “I’m not sure why I had the change of heart—I suppose they say that once you are in the sport, you never get out of it!” Laugher has 52 wins so far to head the Victorian drivers’ premiership table. Next is James Herbertson with 48. Greg Sugars has 47 with Kate Gath, who is enjoying another fine season, next best with 46. Looking at the National table, WA gun reinsman Gary Hall Jnr is leading the way with 61 wins. He has a four-win break on gifted Queenslander Pete McMullen, with Laugher holding down third spot. Laugher, who recently outdrove his junior concessional claim (country), said he hadn’t noticed a drop-off in driving engagements. “Toward the end of it, I was being put on horses and trainers weren’t really using my three point claim. Thankfully I’ve found that most have still stayed pretty loyal,” he said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Trenton, NJ — As an outrider working to keep horses calm and safe on the track, Ashley Holliday has faced numerous perilous situations and found herself dropped from the saddle multiple times. Whenever it happened, she always got up and immediately remounted to continue the work that she loves. Until Aug. 18, 2020. That’s when Holliday met her match in the injury world. Ashley was completing her stint as an outrider during a morning training session at Cincinnati’s Belterra Park Thoroughbred track, jogging her horse along the outer lane, when a horse finishing a workout mile passed at the inside rail. Ashley’s horse reacted to a noise as the other horse went by, setting off a chain of events that led to Ashley ending up with a broken back that kept her sidelined for more than five months. Despite an accident that may have sent less courageous souls into another line of work, Holliday was back riding in February and recently began working fulltime again at Miami Valley Raceway. She will return to both Belterra and Scioto Downs when they open in May. If anyone thought three broken vertebrates and three ruptured discs were going to keep the 32-year-old Holliday down, they need to get to know her better. Fear or pain will never keep her off a horse. “I love it,” the Ohioan said. “If I could be a millionaire doing this, I’d probably be the happiest girl in the world. Nobody loves what they do more than I do. I go home at the end of the day and if I’m on Facebook, I’m looking at outrider horses; I’m looking at stuff to buy for my outrider horses. I’m thinking about what I can do to make them better. I really thoroughly enjoy horse racing.” That love comes from her upbringing. Ashley’s parents owned up to 30 horses at one time. Their vacations revolved around racing. Her mom Sherri Holliday is a former trainer and her dad, Ken Holliday, has 5,562 wins as a driver. Ashley’s interest, though, had nothing to do with sitting behind a horse. “I just always wanted to ride; I’m fascinated by it,” said Holliday, who currently has three riding horses that she alternates for work. “I read all the horse racing books until my parents finally caved and bought me a riding horse. “Outriding just combines all the things I love. I love horse racing, I love riding horses in general. To be able to combine two of those things and make a living doing it, is a childhood dream come true for sure.” With plans on being a veterinarian after high school, Holliday was hired as outrider at Minnesota’s Running Aces by Gregg Keidel. She figured it would be her summer job. “Running Aces is a seasonal spring-summer meet, and I thought I could work my school schedule out to make it a summertime gig,” Holliday said. “I never imagined at that point it would turn into what it did. After a couple years doing it seasonally, I thought I was ready to go into it fulltime. It just was hard finding the right opportunity at the right spot. It took me four or five years before I fell into working for some good tracks and kind of expanded things and it really took off as a viable career.” Keidel, now the race secretary at Miami Valley, hired her once more. “It’s pretty cool,” Ashley said. “The same guy that gave me my first shot hires me again now, 13 years later.” All was well with the world until that fateful August day in the Queen City. It was 10:15 a.m.; the track was closing in 15 minutes. Holliday thought she was through for the morning, but her adventure was just beginning. As a horse breezed at the rail, a noise — perhaps a clump of dirt from the horse’s hooves hitting the rail and echoing — caused her horse to stop suddenly. “It was hot, my horse was sweaty, things were slick, and everything had loosened up throughout the day,” Ashley said. “My saddle kind of slipped back, and he didn’t like that very much. “So, within half a second it went from jogging along nice and easy, to not moving at all, to bam! We were galloping wide open and bucking like a bronc. Even though I was staying upright on his back, I just had no control over him. I was in the middle of his back, way further back than I’d like to be. “At that point, he wanted the saddle off, he was scared. I realized I was fighting a losing battle. I tried to gracefully tuck and roll and get off the horse. It didn’t quite go as I planned. I kind of fell, half-jumped; half got thrown all at the same time.” Ashley’s horse took himself off the track and returned to the barn on his own. But Holliday hit the ground so hard she came out of both boots. The pads inside her safety vest got twisted and the zipper busted open. “I finally quit rolling on the ground, and I was like, man, that’s a first,” she said. “I just popped right up, and I couldn’t quite stand all the way up straight. I couldn’t catch my breath; I had this feeling that I broke my tailbone or something. I thought something wasn’t quite right.” And yet, the ultimate professional wasn’t about to shirk her duties. “I wanted to keep going; I had to work the races at Scioto that night,” she said. “I was like, ‘I don’t have time to be hurt, I’ve got to get home, got to get in the shower, get in the car and get up to Scioto. I can’t take off.’ Only I had ever used the horse up there at Scioto. I thought I can’t call another girl to ride that horse; they’re not familiar with it. I was just so adamant I was fine.” But halfway through her drive home, Holliday could not catch her breath and called her husband, driver Josh Sutton, to talk her through the remainder of the drive. When Sutton saw his wife emerge from the truck, they immediately went to the hospital. Upon arrival, Ashley was still insisting things were fine. “I remember being in the hospital bed and I told my husband he could go to work, go ahead and drive, that I was OK,” she said. “Within five minutes after he left, the doctor came back and said, ‘OK your back is broken.’ I was like, ‘Wait … what? My back is … huh?’” Sutton had the same response. “I called him and said, ‘Hey babe, can you come back, my back is broken,’” Holliday said. “He was like, ‘Wait … it’s what?’” Word spread quickly among friends, family and employers and the reaction was usually the same — can she walk? She could, but work was not an option that night, or for months to come. Holliday was able to function for a normal life, although getting up and down stairs and getting in and out of bed was difficult for a while. “It was awful,” she said. “My entire life is horses; I live, eat, sleep, and breathe them. I was in the saddle at least 10 hours a day and I go from that to where I could barely walk out on my deck and look at them for the first two months. It was hard. It makes you realize exactly how much your life is invested in one thing.” She also had another revelation during that time after hearing a harness driver had a severe accident at a fair and needed immediate surgery. “I thought, wow, I was pretty lucky,” Holliday said. “I credit that to wearing my safety vest. I think that is probably what saved me from getting a lot worse off than I was.” During her recovery, Ashley did a lot of TV binge watching, with her favorite being Heartland, a show about horses, of course. As for how she kept from going nuts, Holliday just turned the tables. “I think I drove my friends crazy,” she said. Anxious to return, Ashley bent the doctor’s orders only slightly when it came to easing back into riding. Having seen her dad be involved in a number of accidents and try to come back too fast was a lesson for Ashley. When she finally returned to outriding last month, Ken had some valuable advice. “He’s been in a lot of wrecks on the racetrack and gone down a lot of times and always came back from them,” Holliday said. “He said, ‘You’ve got to remember what happened, you went through it. At the same time, you’ve got to put it out of your head and move on, because if you don’t do that now, you’re never going to. You’re going to think about it all the time.” She took her dad’s advice and, three weeks into Ashley’s return, she had to catch a loose horse on the track. “I’m glad it happened as quick as it did because I don’t have to think about it anymore,” she said. “It was like, OK, I got it over with, I’m back. It’s all good. I didn’t really think about it that much but everyone else was like ‘You think you’re going to be scared? Will you be nervous?’ I was like, should I be nervous?” She’s not nervous, nor is she out of shape any longer. Admitting that it’s “hard to mimic the rigors of a 14-race card,” while laid up, Holliday feels her body is back to where it was before the injury and she feels 100 percent recovered. When it comes to her broken back, Ashley chalks it up to another lesson learned. “There’s been hairy moments I remember now than more so at the time,” she said. “Having scary situations you’ve been in, with things that went right and didn’t go right, you have to learn from them and remember them. “At the same time, you have to put them out of your head because if you worry too much about everything that could go wrong, you’ll scare yourself to death with the what-ifs, and what-could-bes and what-might-have-happened. You just have to focus on what’s going on right in front of you.” Fortunately for Holliday and the harness racing world, she still has an outriding career in front of her. It will take more than a broken back to keep such a devout horse lover down, let alone out. by Rich Fisher, for the USTA

Pompano Beach, FL...March 31, 2021...Usually, the "hoopla" around harness racing tracks concerns stakes and "Open" events but, on Thursday, April Fool's Day, there will be no joking around as Pompano Park will feature a pair of "Send It In" Invitational events reserved for the "hard luck" horses that have grace the track since its opening last November. Also, the Super Hi-5 will feature a mandatory payout with that pool expected to vault into the $300,000 range based on the carryover going in of $130,623.44. Each Send It In Invitational event will carry an "Open" purse of $10,000, allowing the selected participants to race for a purse more than three times normal. As Director of Racing Gabe Prewitt said, "these 'invitational' horses have been racing here all meet long and have suffered from prolonged bad racing luck, so we decided to give them an opportunity to make a little extra money as the meet winds down." Every starter will earn at least $300 to cover their expenses. Here's a snapshot of the contenders and pretenders in the Super Hi-5 Send It In Invitational: Post 1-Superficial, owned and trained by Harry Joe Haught. Morning Line 7/1. Superficial is a 10 year-old gelded son of Art Official with lifetime earnings of $245,248. His scorecard for 2021 is 11-0-0-0 with earnings of 1,150. His last success was over the Woodstock half mile oval on October 17, 2020 and, since his arrival at Pompano Park, he has started 16 times with his best performance being on January 27 when he finished fifth pacing his mile in 1:53.2. Superficial will be driven by Andy Shetler who said, "he's not very good on the turns these days--he kinda run in on them. He used to be a good horse. He's 10 now but he's kinda racing like he's 20. I'm just hoping he'll like the company he's in with and the rail should help him a little." Post 2-Heavenly Evelyn, owned by trainer Bryce Fenn along with Harry Doyle. Morning Line 12/1. Heavenly Evelyn is a six year-old daughter of Rock N Roll Heaven with career earnings of 47,578. It has been a long dry spell of the mare as her last win was 14 months ago here at Pompano Park--February 3, 2020. Since then she has made 21 starts without a win and, in 2021, her scorecard reads 9-0-0-0 with earnings of $856. Trainer-driver Fenn does see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel saying, "She was much better in her last start. At least she had a pulse with a nice kick home. I am hoping to be forwardly placed throughout the mile." Post 3--Blurred Lines, owned by trainer Dan Harvey along with Ann Robblee. Morning Line 15/1. Blurred Lines is an eight year-old daughter of Sand Shooter and is one of only two starters in this field with a win in 2021. Her career earnings are $145,212. Blurred Lines upset the applecart on January 14 here at Pompano Park by winning in 1:56.1 at odds of 35 to 1. In her last start, she made a rare miscue at the start, composed herself and paced her final quarter in :27.4--her second fastest ever during her 183 race career, her fastest being :27.1 at Hoosier Park in June of 2015 finishing seventh in a Sire Stakes event. She will be driven by Dan Harvey. Post 4-Starcasim, trained by Joe Sanzeri, who co-owns with Russell Guardino. Morning Line 15/1. Starcasim is a Florida bred six year-old daughter of Mysticism with career earnings of $61,539. Trainer-driver Joe Sanzeri believes this mare has had nothing but bad racing luck for an extended period of time. "She's just been a hard luck mare by draw and on the racetrack," he lamented. "She does have good speed off the wings and I am hoping to use that to my advantage from this post in a bulky field." Starcasim's scorecard reads 12-0-0-0 thus far in 2021 and she has not tasted success in the winner's circle since September 13, 2019 at Tioga Downs covering 35 starts. Her last win at Pompano Park was almost two years ago--April 15, 2019--at odds of 1 to 20! Post 5-IRA Chief, trained by Dennis Whittemore for owner Diane Whittemore. Morning Line 7/1. IRA Chief, a 12 year-old gelded son of Chief Silverheels, oozes with back class with $484,000 in career earnings to go along with a 1:50.1 mark at Hoosier Park seven seasons ago. Although he has compiled 40 lifetime wins, IRA Chief is winless in nine starts this year, but does have one second and one third place finish to his credit. His last win was at Batavia Downs on October 3, 2020. Trainer Dennis Whittemore has high hopes for his pacer, noting IRA Chief has had many instances during his career where he has won wire-to-wire. "I've got him as good as I can get him," he said, "and I know he likes the front end and that's why I asked Kevin (Wallis) to drive him. Hope springs eternal, they say. But that's what we all say!" Post 6-Big Bad Baby, owned and trained by Robert Hoffman. Morning Line 7/1. Big Bad Baby is a seven year-old daughter of Big Bad John with career earnings of $106,807. Although she has 14 lifetime wins, Big Bad Baby has been in an "unlucky streak" that has seen her scorecard this season at a Sahara Desert like 11-0-0-0 with $1,844 in bounty. Here last win was at Rosecroft Raceway on September 23, 2020--her only win in her last 50 starts over the past two seasons. She last reached the winner's circle at Pompano on December 12, 2019. Trainer-driver Hoffman related, "She's been drawing poorly almost every start and she always finds herself in traffic. She can come home pretty well so I am hoping we can get some live cover flow and do some damage! This would be the perfect time to do so!" Post 7-J P Silver, owned and trained by Bobbi Jean Carney. Morning Line 7/2. J P Silver is the only grey mare in this field, a six year-old daughter of McArdle with career bounty of $83,029. Although she is winless this year, the mare has been giving hints in recent races, especially in her last start where she finished third, just a length off the winner with her last quarter in :28.3. Her 2021 stats read 10-0-0-1 with her last win at Woodstock in wire-to-wire fashion on October 9, 2020. Since her arrival at Pompano Park, she has made 17 starts without a win. J P Silver will have the driving services of Hall of Famer Wally Hennessey for the Send It In Invitational. About J P Silver's chance, Hennessey said, "Well, she must have a pretty good chance because she was handicapped with one of the outside posts!" Post 8-Elm Grove Nellie, trained by Marc Major for owners Michael and Diane Norcross. Morning Line 15/1. Elm Grove Nellie is a five year-old daughter of Stonebridge Terror who is winless this semester in 12 starts but has been knocking at the door on several occasions. "Yes, she 'oh-for her last 54,'" said trainer Major, "but she's about due for a win as she has been racing well lately," Her last win was up in Prince Edward Island's Charlottetown on September 14, 2019. "I am hoping she can find her best stride when it counts to do well here in this Invitational," Major related. "A few starts back, she was last at the half and just missed by a neck. Hoping for the best!" Elm Grove Nellie will be driven by 21 year-old Braxton Boyd, one of the bright, young rising stars in the sport. Post 9-Queen Me Again, a six year year-old daughter of Dragon Again, is owned and trained by Hall of Fame trainer-driver Bill Popfinger. Morning Line 3/1. Queen Me Again was deemed eligible "at time of entry" before winning her first race of the year just last Sunday night here at Pompano Park. Winless in her prior 12 starts, she used a :29.1 final quarter to score in 1:55.1 to push her lifetime earnings to $90,749. Prior to that win, she had been struggling against some higher classes and relished the company she kept in the lower class she faced last Sunday night. The win was the catalyst for her being assigned the nine post in this field. Post 10-Lusty Delight, trained by Jeff Byron, who co-owns with Elizabeth Kehoe. Morning Line 7/1. Lusty Delight is a seven year-old daughter of Bettor's Delight with career earnings of $114,572. She has the admirable quality of "saving the best for the last" and is reliable for pacing her final quarters as fast as :28. Showing a scorecard of 11-0-0-3 in 2021, the mare has banked only $1,568 but continues to show sharp speed at the end of her miles. In her last three starts, she has paced final quarters of :29, :28.4 and :28.4 with her last start just 2 1/2 lengths off the winner finishing sixth. Her last win was here at Pompano Park on December 8, 2020 in 1:55.3. She will have the driving services of Dave Ingraham, who must find a way to join the fray from the second tier. All in all, the 10 starters in this field have a combined two wins in 109 starts and are averaging $179 per start. Each is guaranteed a paycheck in excess of that while competing in this Send It In Invitational. The companion event for trotters is the highlight of the Pentafecta 4th race at Pompano Park with that identical $10,000 purse featuring a field of 10 with a combined three wins this year in 83 starts and 13 wins in 255 starts over the past two seasons. This "million dollar" field includes the 13 year-old Guiltywithanexcuse, a gelded son of Classic Photo with career earnings approaching a half million dollars! Winless at Pompano Park for owners Amanda Stephens and Janie Hartley, this Marna Shehan trainee will stride to within $140 of $500,000 with a win in the Send It In Special. Tyler Shehan will be in the sulky back of Guiltywithanexcuse. Another 13 year-old, Benns Score Keeper, an altered son of Lockkeeper, recently vaulted over the $200,000 in lifetime earnings with his last pari-mutuel win on August 18, 2018 at Northville Downs. Owned and trained by Marshall Makin, Benns Score Keeper will be driven by Andy Shetler on Thursday night. The Send It In Army will be out in full force on Thursday as the mandatory payout in the track's Super Hi-5 finale has a carryover of $130,623.44 and could have a pool over $300,000. Post time for the Thursday night special program is set for 7:20 p.m. by John Berry, for Pompano Park    

YONKERS, N.Y. – In some respects, Timon As is one of the most accomplished horses entering the first leg of the John Brennan Trotting Series, which begins Wednesday night (March 31) at Yonkers Raceway. His 19 wins, including six so far this year, make him the winningest of the 32 first leg entrants. However, the 5-year-old gelding by Lionhunter has only seen a half-mile track once in his career and it didn’t go well. Timon As started at Northfield Park July 20, 2019 and missed the gate by about 2 lengths. After taking back from post seven, Timon As went offstride around the first turn and was distanced from the field for the rest of the mile. “If he’s good and he gets around the track, he’s going to be a contender,” said trainer Melanie Wrenn. “If he doesn’t like the track, then we’re going to be out of luck.” Timon As has come a long way since that start at Northfield Park. He joined the Wrenn stable in the fall of 2019 and things started to click. Timon As won three straight overnights at Pompano Park by a combined margin of 9 lengths from Nov. 27, 2019 to Dec. 10, 2019. However, as Timon As moved up the class ladder following those wins, he lost confidence and started making breaks again. “Peter (Wrenn) has done a really nice job brining this horse along. He was pretty green when we got him. Racing him the way that he’s raced him, I think he’s helped make that horse who he is,” Melanie Wrenn said. “Mentally the horse was very immature. We were winning all these races and all the sudden, he had to step up in class. He was just like, no thank you. Peter was very patient with him. He does a pretty nice job putting him in the right spots.” The Wrenns campaigned Timon As primarily at Hoosier Park throughout 2020 and a result other than a win or a break in stride was a rarity. Timon As went 7-for-20 last year, but also broke in seven starts. However, after returning to Pompano Park this winter, things started to click again. Timon As has stayed flat and has seven wins in his last 13 starts dating to Dec. 21. The Wrenns raced Timon As in the $30,000 claiming handicaps at Pompano throughout the winter, and Timon As crossed the wire first in three straight tries at the level Feb. 8 thorugh Feb. 22 (although he was placed second in one start). Not wanting to lose him, Timon As stepped up to the $11,500 open trot and won in a lifetime best 1:53.1 March 2. After two off-the-board finishes from outside posts, Timon As will make his way to Yonkers for the series. “Honestly, it seems like he’s been overachieving. He got down (to Pompano) and he really seemed to like it. He’s just been racing really well,” Wrenn said. “His last start before the open, he went pretty big. Peter didn’t want to lose him. In the beginning, we thought if we got $30,000 for him, that’s pretty good. But after he won a couple nice starts, we thought we better not give this horse away,” she continued. “We tried the open and he went that really big start. Then, we drew bad. Peter took him off and he sort of lost interest. He deserves a shot to try a nice series with some nice horses out there and go for some good money.” Previously the SOA of NY Bonus Trotting Series, the John Brennan Trotting Series was renamed to honor the longtime SOA of NY horsemen’s representative who passed away from complications of COVID-19 in March 2020. The series is for 3-year-olds and older who were non-winners of six pari-mutuel races or $100,000 through Feb. 1, 2021, with winners over $150,000 as of that date not eligible. The series features three preliminary legs March 31, April 7, and April 14 with a $50,000 added final and a consolation April 21. Wednesday’s first leg features four divisions, each with four entrants. Timon As is the 3-1 morning line favorite in the second division (race five) with Tyler Buter set to drive for the first time. “We race a couple horses here and there out at Yonkers. Why not give him a chance? Why not give him a shot and see how good of a horse he is. It’s pretty much trial by fire. Even at Sunshine Meadows, the inside track is a five-eighths. We really haven’t had him on a small track,” Wrenn said. “He likes going into the last turn and floating around there and zooming by everyone at the end. He won’t have quite as much room to get that done on a half. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll just bring him back to Hoosier. “I just hope he has some luck because his owner, Mike Guest, is a super nice guy. It would be fun for him to have a nice horse go out there and do some good,” Wrenn continued. “Over the years, we’ve usually had a couple for him. We’ve had quite a bit of luck. We had Perfect Chapter As with him and he won a lot of races. He keeps one or two with us, generally. This is the only one we have right now. Maybe he’s just a lucky guy, we’ll see.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday through Friday with a first post time of 7:15 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY