Day At The Track
Nuncio tonight took the next step toward the 2017 Elitloppet

Nuncio again..in comeback at Solvalla

March 22, 2017 - Harness racing trainer Stefan Melander’s Nuncio (6m Andover Hall-Nicole Isabelle-Lindy Lane), off at 1.09/1 odds,  recorded his second straight 2017 victory tonight at Solvalla for teamster Orjan Kihlstrom clocked in 1.12.2kr. The race was the Kentucky Fibbers with 80,000SEK to the winner over the 1640 meter autostart course. Nuncio led throughout during modest fractions (1.14kr at the first 500 meters; 1.13.7kr at the first 1000) and held off fast closing 9.67/1 Volstead (6m Cantab Hall-Madame Volo-Yankee Glide) by a short length, the latter reined by Erik Adielsson for trainer Melander. Arden Homestead Stable bred Volstead and Russell Williams (new USTA President) bred Nuncio, now with a career slate of 39-12-2 in 53 starts for 27,803,230SEK earned. Nuncio was a perfect 11 for 11 in 2016. 12.9/1 Coldtown (8g Cantab Hall-Brylin Starlet-Balanced Image) landed the third spot. Nuncio tonight took the next step toward the 2017 Elitloppet. Thomas H. Hicks

Brissac

Grand Prix Dynavena Maisagri Duran

March 22, 2017 - The 7/10 favorite Brissac (6m Ni Ho Ped d’Ombree-Jannibelle) scored an easy and impressive harness racing victory in today’s Grand Prix Dynavena Maisagri Duran (purse €45,000, 2625 meters, 17 European starters) at Agen le Passage, timed in 1.12.9kr for owner/trainer/driver Jean Alain Eliphe. 40.6/1 Univers Solaire (9g Lutin Malin-Intertaction) was second for Pierre Houel and third went to 7.1/1 Bon Copain (6m Love You-Haie) for Eric Raffin, trainer Thierry Raffegeau and J-Y Roze. 14/1 Victoria du Viaduc and Matthieu Abrivard and 20/1 Victoria de Marzy with Gabriel Gelormini up finished fourth and fifth in this contest. Thomas H. Hicks

Sanger Ms reined by Mitja Slavic

Sanger Ms wins Janos Brody Memorial

March 20, 2017 - Saturday (March 18) a superb harness racing card was in display at Kincsem Park led by the Brody Janos Memorial (purse 1,500,000Huf, 1960 meters distance handicap). The 1.20.3kr winner over a heavy racecourse was 1.7/1 Sanger Ms (7g Victory Scream-Samba Ms-Armbro Goal), pictured, reined by Mitja Slavic for trainer Balazs Juhasz. Sanger Ms has now won three straight and five of his last six outings. 4.1/1 Breve des Baux (f Querido des Baiux-Milady des Baux-Classic Rodney) was second for Joze Sagaj and trainer Aron Denes. 10.9/1 Bimbo de Chenu (5f Scipion du Goutier-Ouive de Chanu-Casino des Sports) landed third for trainer/driver Tibor Hajnal. On the same program was the Kopparzy DIJ (purse 600,000Huf, 1900 meters autostart) with the 1.21.6kr timed victory earned by 3.1/1 Titan Ville (5g Noir Desir- 0Izaville-Endless Sands) reined by trainer Imre Fazekas for owner Zsalek Zsolt. Trencsen (5m Ata Star L-Eperjes-Witsends Speedy) took second for Zsolt Vereb and trainer Laszlo Toth. Third was Nemzelesur with Robert Varhidi driving. Fazekas was back with a training and driving victory in the Csapodar DIJ (purse 400,000Huf, 1900 meters autostart) with 3.8/1 Timoko RL (4m Doctor Sugar RL-Triestina-Golden Goal). Arizona d.o.o of Szerbia owns this winner, timed in 1.23.7kr over the off-track. 7.9/1 Tiara Boss (5f Wall Street Banker-Peace Force Pro-Kosar) was second for Zoltan Ozvar, trainer/driver. 43.8/1 odds Kelvin AT (4m Even Better Odds-Keystone Bluejay-Sierra Kosmos) was third for trainer/driver Tibor Hajnal and owner Animal Trade Racing of Szerbia. Other interesting winners on the card were Vital RG (3m SJ’s Photo-Vitesse OR) for trainer/driver Tibor Hajnal. This colt won the Ocean DIJ (purse 360,000Huf, 1800 meters). The Detektor Handicap (purse 360,000Huf, 1980 meters) went to 2.2/1 Passion  Grif (8g Varenne-Sex Appeal OK) for trainer/driver Laszlo Kolozsi timed in 1.22.9kr. Fourbtr Kft and Sandor Hora own the winner that bested Rosamundi and Oklahoma Font. Also, on March 18, was trotting action at Momarken SWE led by the V75 Gold (150,000SEK to the winner, 1640 meters autostart). The 1.6/1 odds Mosaique Face (8m Classic Photo-Iona LB) scored in 1.11.7kr for driver Adrian Kolgjini and trainer Lutfi Kolgjini. The Tommy Nilsson Holding AB product, now with 16 wins in 71 career outings for 13,640,178SEK earned, defeated 7.3/1 BBS Sugarlight (8g Super Light-Sugarsweet Sid-Sugarcane Hanover) reined by Vidar Hop for trainer Fredrik Solberg. Third was 5.2/1 Aruno di Quattro (9m Broadway Hall-Ijssel-Speedy Soma) reined by trainer Frode Hamre. On March 19 there was solid action a Wolvega. The Bronze Winter Championship (purse €10,000, 2600 meters autostart, 14 starters) went to the 1/2odds favorite Clovis de Nappes (5g Prince Gede-Oklahoma Jet) for driver Rick Ebbinge and owner K.T.E. Lavigne. The 1.17.7kr timed winner bested 20.5/1 Bad Boy de Chenu with Ruud Pools driving. The Gold Winter Championship (purse €12,500, 2600 meters autostart, nine starters) went to the 1.15.4kr timed and 9/10 odds favorite Too Much Blue (10g Insert Gede-Naama Blue) reined by Cees Kamminga. This Draviet Stabkes owned performer defeated 76/1 Shamfalla driven by Stefan Schoonhoven. On March 20 at Caen was the Prix d’Anguerny (purse €21,000, 2200 meters autostart, 16 starters) and 1.9/1 favorite Boca Ecus (6f Insert Gede-Salsa Jet) scored in 1.12.5kr for trainer/breeder/owner/driver Markku Vartiainen. The winner recorded her ninth victory in 21 starts for €81,690 earned. 22/1 Bogota d’Herfraie (6f Rieussec-Ines d’Herfraie) was second. Wednesday March 22 at Solvalla has Nuncio at the start as his comeback path continues toward the 2017 Elitloppet. This day he competes in the Kentucky Fibbers raced over 1640 meters autostart for a purse of 169,000SEK. Coldtown, Volstead and French Laundry also are in this field. Thomas H. Hicks    

Cover Horse Flesh high res.jpg

3rd Excerpt from Tina Sugarman’s novel Horse Flesh

Tina Sugarman, author of one of the top equine novels of 2016-2017, Horse Flesh, has agreed to share excerpts of her book with Harnesslink. Horse Flesh is a thriller mystery fiction novel based around a Standardbred racetrack in Ontario, Canada. It is the first novel ever penned by horsewoman, Tina Sugarman. Each week, Harnesslink will feature an excerpt from Horse Flesh. If you wish to purchase the book either in paperback or ereader formats, click here. Here is this week’s excerpt from Horse Flesh! Horse Flesh by Tina Sugarman The commotion around the winner’s circle had not escaped the eagle eyes of the judges, perched high above the grandstand. Two floors below them, the new boy, Alastair McTavish, recently appointed as Director of Iroquois Downs Raceway, was gazing down at the scene with an increasing feeling of unease. Al was an imposing 6 feet 3 inches with the kind of presence that demands respect. At 58, he didn’t have a single grey hair, though he was thinning on top. Even though it was his first week on the job, he recognized trouble when he saw it. He reached for the red phone, his direct link to the presiding judge. John Jewells was a no-nonsense type who had trained at the famous judge school in Arizona, known locally as Jewells’ School. “What’s going on down there, John?” Al McTavish boomed. Jewells ducked the question. “What can I do for you, Director McTavish?” he asked. “I’m a little concerned about that last race,” Al persisted. “Already on it. Got the Mutuels Manager looking for any suspicious betting patterns. Probably nothing in it, but you never know.” Thirty seconds later, the presiding judge had an intriguing fact to ponder. Twenty $2 tickets had indeed been punched sequentially for the winning combination. It was a highly unusual sized bet for two long shots. “Instruct the teller to check each winning exacta ticket,” Jewells told the Mutuals Manager. “If anyone tries to cash in all or part of that sequence, hold them on any excuse.” “You betcha, John.” John Jewells, tight lipped, picked up his own red phone, his direct line to the Paddock Judge, a Mr. T. Roberts, who controlled the Race Barn like an army sergeant. On any given night, there were over a hundred horses, almost twice that many horsemen and a few dozen drivers to keep in order. Roberts thrived on it. Despite the torrential downpour, he was on the case, rallying the troops, determined that the fifth race would leave the Race Barn on time. “Automatic hundred-dollar fine for any trainer late for post parade! Let’s get moving!” Mr. Roberts shouted. “We go in thirty seconds with the fifth, men. Get ’em ready! Mr. Hall! Where the hell are you with your horse? Get ’im out there now, and I mean NOW!” The ring of his red phone interrupted the Paddock Judge’s diatribe in mid-stream. “Mr. Roberts. It’s John here.” No one was on first name terms with the Paddock Judge. “Yes sir!” Mr. Roberts replied eagerly. “I want to talk to McCoy, Price and Rankin in that order, right away.” “Mr. Rankin’s in the fifth sir.” “Get me the other two. I’ll talk to Rankin when he comes back in.” “Yes sir!” Mr. Roberts replied slamming down the phone. “Lead ’em out, men! Mr. McCoy, Mr. Price. Judges want to talk to you!” Scotty McCoy’s outraged tone echoed down the phone line when the judges suggested that he’d been stiffing Raiders Moon in her previous races. “I never stiffed a horse in my life,” he declared, puffing himself up in self-righteous indignation. “She was tying up! Ask my vet. He’s been treatin’ her for it.” Andy Price too had an airtight explanation, “I only got the filly ten days ago,” he declared. “She came down from Quebec. It’s her first start for me. You accusing me of doin’ too good with her or what?” Moose Rankin came in after the fifth race soaking wet, splattered with mud and in a foul mood, having finished last. “Lazer told me to give Gypsy Queen a covered-up trip,” Moose said scowling at the phone. “Ned Beazer did the job on me. I’m sick about it!”  The judges reluctantly took him at his word. They all agreed a hot head like Moose Rankin was the last driver any sane person would pick to pull off a betting coup. None of them felt it necessary to question the leading driver, Theo Vettore. He was always trying to win. “Which leaves only Pete Summers,” John Jewells told Al. “But it’s the first time he’s driven Raiders Moon, so we can’t pin it on him.” The judges were still scrutinizing the tape of the fourth when the presiding judge’s phone rang. It was the Mutuels Manager. “Looks like we got your man, John. Listen to this! He’s a trainer just come back from suspension, a Dave Bodinski.” “Hold off payment. Tell him we need more I/D and to come back in the morning. Tell him he’ll have to see the judges first, but it’s just pro forma,” Jewells replied. “Pro what?” the Mutuals Manager asked uncertainly. “Routine,” Jewells replied irritably. “Gotcha,” the manager said, sounding relieved. Everything appeared to hinge on the judges’ interview with Dave Bodinski the following day. But a call back from the Mutuals Manager clouded the issue somewhat. “You’d better hear this for yourself,” he told John Jewells. “I remember the guy!” a flustered teller confessed. “He accused me of punching in the wrong numbers. Made a big stink about it! But it was too late to do anything. The starting bell had gone off.” Pretty soon the judges had a more urgent problem on their hands. The drivers had got together and were refusing to go out for the seventh race, claiming that conditions were too dangerous. It was true enough. The worst storm to hit Ontario in a decade was showing no signs of abating. Visibility was close to zero. Mr. Roberts, the Paddock Judge, was desperately searching through his rule books for guidance on extreme weather conditions. Taking advantage of the lull, Moose Rankin collared Theo Vettore in the drivers’ room. “What the fuck were you playing at in the fourth, cutting the mile like that?” Moose hissed, “I thought your filly didn’t like the front end.” “She doesn’t,” Theo replied sullenly. “I figured you’d cut it, you moron!” “Listen to me,” Moose exclaimed, lighting his cigarette and glancing over at Theo, his eyes half closed. “You’re in big trouble. I heard the guys in dark glasses bet the bank on the exacta tonight and it sure as hell included you. Your horse was fucking even money!” “She lost! It happens!” Theo retorted. Moose didn’t reply. He just drew his finger across his own throat, then pointed to Theo. The sound of rain drumming on the roof was deafening. Theo swallowed hard but said nothing. “Attention horsemen!” the Paddock Judge’s voice rang out. “Under rule 147, section 3, the stewards have decided to abandon the rest of tonight’s program due to dangerous racing conditions. I repeat, racing has been abandoned due to inclement weather.” “Roberts doesn’t get to yell at us any more tonight,” Moose said happily, turning to Theo. There was no one there. “Encore du vin, Monsieur?” a voice murmured at André’s Fontainbleu’s elbow. He motioned the waiter away. He had caught sight of the young Frenchman he had recently hired standing at attention, keeping a discreet distance from the dinner table conversation. When André raised a finger, Henri approached and spoke, sotto voce, in his ear. “Ze young lady, she is waiting for you, Monsieur,” Henri said. André Fontainbleu picked up his fork. The twinkle of silver on glass produced the desired effect. His guests fell silent. “I regret, but always, business calls,” he announced charmingly, rising to his feet and turning away from the Caribbean Sea, the backdrop for dinner. The Australian girl was waiting downstairs, gazing up at the soaring ceiling and glittering candelabra. He ran his eyes over her slim figure, her full breasts. She was young, barely twenty at a guess and suitably virginal. According to his sources, she had been marooned on the island when her boat was caught in a freak storm. June was generally a calm month. Unlike the rest of the crew, she apparently wanted to stay on. As she wasn’t independently wealthy, she needed a work permit, a lengthy bureaucratic process on Sainte Marie unless one knew who to bribe. That is where André Fontainbleu came in, provided, naturellement, that the woman in question was young and attractive. There was a determined set to this girl’s jaw, but he had no doubt that common sense would prevail, after he had laid out his terms. One weekend, that was what he required. Her body was the only thing she had to offer in return. The feeling of power was intoxicating. As he walked down the spiral staircase to greet her, he caught her eye and imagined undressing her. She blushed but she held his gaze without faltering. Her long dark hair revived bitter sweet memories. But that was long ago. This was going to be easy like everything else on this island. Almost too easy. Despite, or perhaps because of, his age, he was still attractive to women. The touch of silver in his crop of dark curls reassured them. It gave him a fatherly air. Also, the power and the money drew them in. It promised to be a pleasant weekend, a very pleasant weekend indeed! Stay tuned in to Harnesslink every week for another excerpt from Horse Flesh!

Today’s Cagnes-sur-Mer action ended their winter meet and featured the Gr. III Grand Prix de Vincennes (purse €90,000, 2925 meters, 16 starters). Victory went to the 3/2 favorite Tony Gio (5m Varenne-Ilaria Jet) reined by Christophe Martens for Scuderia Bivans Srl and trainer Vincent Martens. The €323,447 career winner was timed in 1.14.3kr. The 40.9/1 Bocage d’Ortige (6m Mirage du Goutier-Providence d’Ortige) was second for Regis Levexier and trainer Nicolas Ensch. Third was 9.8/1 Viking Blue (8g Prodigious-Idole Blue) reined by Yvan Lacombe. The Prix de Vichy (purse €56,000, 2925 meters, 10 starters) went to 1.15.7kr timed and 2/5 odds favorite Earl Simon (3m Prodigious-Tindrana). Franck Nivard teamed the Jarma Niskanen trainee that Ecurie Skytten owns. The 89.6/1 Eternella (3f Prodigious-Sirella) took the distant second spot for Stephane Cingland that Romuald Mourice trains. Third was 35.7/1 Evidence Destinee (3f Saxo de Vandel-Linda Somolli), driven and trained by owner Romuald Mourice. by Thomas H. Hicks, for Harnesslink

The 1.7/1 favorite, Ave Avis (7m Kesaco Phedo-Magna Avis), rallied late for Matthieu Abrivard to win today’s Prix de Cauvicourt (purse €40,000, 2200 meters autostart at Caen, 18 European starters) clocked in 1.12.4kr. The now 12-time winner has career earnings of €758,680. The 4.7/1 Billie de Montfort (6f Jasmin de Flore-Quismy de Montfort) held gamely for second driven by David Thomain, trainer Sebastien Guarato and breeder/owner Philippe Dauphin after a pacesetting journey. Her career earnings are now €1,271,516. 6.8/1 Ulk Medoc was third for Tony LeBeller ahead of Tiger Dancer and Tiego d’Etang in this Quinte+ contest. Today’s Prix Canapville (purse €50,000, 2459 meters, 18 European starters) went to the Anthony Dollion teamed Class Thourjan (5f Rolling d’Heripre-Kiss Sissi) at 11.2/1 odds. Dollion owns and trains the winner, timed in a quick 1.11.9kr. 1.8/1 favorite Ceasar Sisu (5g Cantab Hall-Chynatown) was second for Eric Raffin, trainer Guarato and owner Pierre Pilarski (the Bold Eagle connections). Third was 8.9/1 Tentation Ans (5f Muscles Yankee-Coronation Ans) reined by Pietro Gubellini for trainer H.E. Bondo and Scuderia Phenomena Srl. Yesterday at Lyon-Parilly was the Criterium de Trot de Lyon (purse €35,000, 2850 meters, 14 starters) and the 1.14.3kr clocked victory went to 9.1/1 Buffalo de Beylev (6m Memphis du Rib-Rafale du Plessis). Trainer Nicolas Ensch teamed the winner for breeder/owner Haras d’Epinay. The 1/2 odds favorite Bad Boy du Dollar (6m Magnificent Rodney-Nymphe du Dollar) was second for Franck Nivard and trainer Sylvain Roger. Third was 15.2/1 Vespa de Bourgogne (8f Echo-Gym du Bons Morin) for breeder/owner/trainer/driver Pierre Callier. By Thomas H. Hicks, for Harnesslink

Philippe Allaire’s trainee (he is also the owner) Bugsy Malone (6g Ready Cash-Night Captain) took today’s Grand Prix du Conseil Departmental de la Mayenne (purse €60,000. 2850 meters, 18 international starters) timed in 1.13kr for reinsman Yoann Lebourgeois. The 2/5 favorite recorded his 16th win in 26 starts for €480,860 earned. Christian Simon bred Bugsy Malone, that defeated 12.8/1 Violine Mourotaise (8f Le Retour-Mourotaise) and driver David Thomain for the Raulline family (breeder, owner, trainer). Third was 4.2/1 Cedea Josselyn (5f Love You-Dea Josselyn) for trainer/driver J-M Bazire and owner Yvan Bernard. 30,2/1 Un Nuage de Betton and 233/1 Virgious du Maza were fourth and fifth. LES RÉSULTATS DU JOUR mercredi 15 mars   Cl. N° Chevaux Drivers Propriétaires Entraîneurs 1er 12 Bugsy Malone Y. Lebourgeois Ph. Allaire Ph. Allaire 2ème 5 Violine Mourotaise D. Thomain E. Raulline E. Raulline 3ème 3 Cédéa Josselyn J.-M. Bazire Ecurie Yvan Bernard J.-M. Bazire 4ème 2 Un Nuage de Betton W. Bigeon J.-L. Bigeon J.-L. Bigeon 5ème 13 Virgious du Maza S. Ernault Ecurie du Maza S. Ernault     By Thomas H. Hicks, for Harnesslink

Tina Sugarman, author of one of the top equine novels of 2016-2017, Horse Flesh, has agreed to share excerpts of her book with Harnesslink. Horse Flesh is a thriller mystery fiction novel based around a Standardbred racetrack in Ontario, Canada. It is the first novel ever penned by horsewomen Tina Sugarman. Each week, Harnesslink will feature an excerpt from Horse Flesh. If you wish to purchase the book either in paperback or ereader formats, click here. Here is this week’s excerpt from Horse Flesh! Horse Flesh by Tina Sugarman At Iroquois Downs, the fillies for the fourth race were slowly making their way out onto the track, their flanks gleaming with sweat. Theo made a beeline for the 2 horse, Heart of Darkness, who had a startling white star on her forehead and a long full mane. Along with the glamour came a ton of courage. She’d need that courage tonight. She was racing against the top three-year-old fillies in North America. “She’s the best!” her trainer, Jim Mercer, growled as he handed over the lines, increasing the pressure Theo was already feeling. Theo merely nodded. He swung himself effortlessly onto the race bike, the place he felt most at home in all the world. Out on the track, the spotlight played on him and Heart of Darkness for a brief moment. Then the filly took off on him, her neck arched, her feet dancing on the stone dust track. He glanced at the odds board. She was even money. Suddenly he felt high, a natural high that was almost as good as the drugs he did on occasion. The only cloud on his horizon was the $35,000 he owed the mysterious individual known as the Scorpion. Theo had never met him and never wanted to either. The name fit him all too well: deadly with a sting in the tail. He shuddered. $35,000! How had his cocaine habit gotten so totally out of control? He stifled the thought. For now, he needed to focus on the race ahead. He eyed the competition, careful not to speak to any of the other drivers. The judges, who watched their every move, would assume they were plotting to get a long shot home. Moose’s filly, Gypsy Queen, was the one to beat. Except for the two outsiders, Jolie Dame and Raiders Moon, it was a strong field. The sky darkened. Two minutes to post! Floodlights were beaming down onto the racetrack, creating the illusion of a bright sunny day. Seagulls from Lake Ontario swooped over the infield and perched on the grandstand roof, their raucous cries filling the air. Black thunderclouds looked ready to drop their load as crowds of people clutching their tickets rushed down to the rail, anxious not to miss the start of the feature race. Dave Bodinski slunk out with them, checked his tickets and gulped. The teller had messed up! Instead of doubling up Raiders Moon with the favourite to win, he’d doubled her up with the 10 horse, Jolie Dame, a rank outsider. Praying his eyes were deceiving him he checked again. But there it was 10–6, clear as day. Cursing loudly, he fought his way back through the throng. Less than one minute to post! Three people ahead of him in the line. He’d never make it, he thought despairingly. Out on the racetrack, the wings of the starting car opened. “Turn your horses, gentlemen, please,” the suit in the car said. At those words, Theo’s heart started pumping fast. Adrenalin flooded his body and brain. His senses became super clear, his reaction time instantaneous. Ten horses were lined up behind the car, noses on the gate. As the vehicle picked up speed, the sound of the revving engine was drowned out by the rattle of sulkies and the drumming of hoofbeats. A split second before the car sped away, Theo glanced swiftly to his left. The horse on the rail wasn’t keeping up. To his right, he could see Moose getting ready to leave with Gypsy Queen. Theo made a split-second decision. He urged his filly on. All around him he heard whips cracking and drivers screaming. He paid no heed. He made the top before the turn. To his surprise, instead of taking over the lead, Moose slipped into second place, behind him. The crowd roared with delight, drowning out the call. Dave Bodinski couldn’t hear a word. As short as he was, with a wall of people in front of him, he couldn’t see anything either. It looked like he was stuck with the tickets. Right after he’d told his story to the teller, the starting bell had rung, making exchange impossible. Though he could hardly bear to watch the race, he doggedly fought his way down to the rail. Raiders Moon had got away last and was sitting at the back of the bus. He was well and truly fucked, Dave thought despairingly. At the half mile point, the timer flashed 55.2. Time to back it off, Theo decided, giving Heart of Darkness the message. As the pace slowed, drivers behind him began edging their horses out. Glancing back, Theo was surprised to see the 10 horse, Jolie Dame, powering up on the outside. What on earth was Ned Beazer playing at? Jolie Dame was 50-1! “I’m the power here, Bud!” Theo roared, loosening up on the lines. Heart of Darkness lurched forward and Jolie Dame fell back, but not very far. She was sitting outside Gypsy Queen now, trapping Theo’s main rival, Moose Rankin, along the rail. Theo grinned to himself. Anyone who wanted to challenge him now would have to take the long way around and go three wide. As for Gypsy Queen, she was literally breathing down Theo’s neck, banging her head on his helmet. She needed out bad. Theo grinned again. He was enjoying this! They rounded the last turn into the stretch, Theo cracked the wheel disc with his whip. The sound set Heart of Darkness alight but to his astonishment, the long shot Jolie Dame reappeared beside him, matching him stride for stride down the lane. As they fought head to head for the top, Gypsy Queen pushed through on the inside, sandwiching Heart of Darkness between the other two fillies like a piece of pastrami between two slices of bread. They were only 100 feet from the wire now. It felt like 500. Theo’s filly still had her head in front. Just! Then out of the corner of his eye, he saw a horse on the far outside, moving like an express train with Pete Summers at the helm screaming like a banshee. It was the 6 horse, Raiders Moon. The caller’s voice was rising hysterically. “They’re coming down to the wire! Four of them across the track! Heart of Darkness, Gypsy Queen, Jolie Dame and on the far outside Raiders Moon! Too close to call! Photograph! Photograph! Hold all tickets. I repeat, hold all tickets!” From his vantage point down by the rail, Dave Bodinski had seen and heard everything but he had no idea who’d won. He ran around quizzing complete strangers. No one had a clue. All four fillies were still on the racetrack so even the drivers didn’t know for sure. Dave kept his eyes glued to the tote board. He wasn’t religious, but clutching his ticket, he prayed. Thanks to the idiot teller, the only way he’d make any real money was on the 10–6 combo, Raiders Moon to win with Jolie Dame second, the most unlikely of the lot. Ten agonizing minutes later, the results of the fourth race finally appeared on the board. The number 6 appeared first, then the number 10. Dave groaned. Exacta meant exactly that. The horses had to be in the correct order. His tickets were worthless pieces of paper now. There was a sudden murmur from the crowd. The numbers 6 and 10 were flashing on and off. “Attention! The judges have declared a dead heat. There will be a payout on both horses to win. Exacta payout on 6 and 10 in either order!” “I’m a winner!” Dave screamed, punching his fist in the air. “I’m a fuckin’ winner!” All around him, people were ripping up their tickets, cursing. Dave did a rapid calculation in his head. Every one of his $2 tickets were worth $1,200. Unbelievable! His mind reeled at the high numbers. Then it sunk in…He was rich. He was a fuckin’ millionaire! Well, he realized, not quite a millionaire but $24,000 was enough to put him back in the horse business. With a clash of thunder, the storm broke, drenching the spectators. The mood turned ugly. Losers were crowding around the winner’s circle in the rain, booing and shouting obscenities. Jolie Dame and Raiders Moon hadn’t just beaten the favourite, they’d beaten the best three-year-old filly in Canada and the darling of the betting public. They’d felt she simply could not lose and had bet the bank on her. Dave hung back watching a bemused local bigwig clutch the trophy to his chest, unwilling to hand it over to either trainer, as both had won. In the end, the two of them, an ecstatic Scotty McCoy and a smirking Andy Price, worked it out by holding it between them in a rare show of trainer co-operation. Stay tuned in to Harnesslink every week for another excerpt from Horse Flesh!

Timoko (10m Imoko-Kiss Me Coulonces) and harness racing driver Bjorn Goop left alertly and raced forwardly place as he, Oasis Bi (Johnny Takter) and Brillantissime (Pierre Vercruysse) tussled for the front throughout, until Timoko took the lead in the final bend. Timoko led during the long Cagnes-sur-Mer stretch to prevail by a length in this Gr. I UET Masters Series Grand Criterium de Vitesse de la Cote d’Azur (purse €200,000, 1609 meters autostart, 13 starters). Timoko has now won this prestigious event four times and today set the race record 1.09.5kr (1:51.76) at the mile distance, unusual in France. Off as 9/10 favorite the Richard Westerink owned/trained pupil was bred by Paul Van Klaveren and now has career earnings of €4,491,098 from 32 victories in 84 starts. 2.6/1 Un Mec d’Heripre (9m Orlando Vici-I Love You Darling) rallied to be second for J-M Bazire ahead of 90/1 Red Rose America (7f Varenne-Armbro Voice) reined by Pietro Gubellini.. The Lou Guida bred mare held off North American owned and Jerry Riordan trained Treasure Kronos (5f Raja Mirchi-Glide About) driven by Christoffer Eriksson from post 13, and fifth finishing Up And Quick (9m Buvetier d’Aunou-Fichtre) with Mathieu Mottier up. Next to the line were Timone EK, Oasis Bi, Rod Stewart, Anna Mix and Brillantissime. A full-house was on-hand for the classic event and a fine trotting card. Thomas H. Hicks

March 12, 2017 - Cornflower Jac (5g Opium-Lady Mary) scored victorious in the Prix Equidia Live (purse €56,000, 2925 meters, nine starters) in today’s Cagnes-sur-Mer harness racing opener. The 2.8/1 odds winner was timed in 1.15.1lkr. Yannick A. Briand drove and trains this career earner of €140,030. Creature Castelets (5f Pomerol de Laumac-Tragical Song) took second for trainer/driver Nicolas Ensch and third was Colonel Bond (5g Revel d’Anama-Miss Margaretha) for driver Pierre Vercruysse and trainer J.P. Ensch. This one tracked the winning leader but could not gain late. The €34,000 Prix du Club de l’Eco Nice-Matin (2925 meters, 15 European starters) went to 1.14.3kr timed and 33.5/1 odds Pantarei Ans (8m Classic Photo-Demetra Ans) for driver Bjorn Goop. He also trains the winner now of €144,170 for Ecurie CHIKH. Second was Victory Quick (8g Gros Grain-Heureuse Duchesse) for trainer/driver Yannick A. Briand and third was Ultimo Amore (9g Coktail Jet-Paloma du Donjon) reined by J.Ch. Sorel for owner Didier Alexandre. The €50,000 Prix de Rome Tor Di Valle (2925 meters, 13 European starters) went to 11/1 and 1.14.4kr timed Romanesque (7m Love You-Guantanamera) driven by Dominik Locqueneux for Stall Campus RPF. Favored Reckless, at 1.6/1 was a dq. Tell Me No Lies (8g Offshore Dream-B.Glorious) rallied between horses from being blocked, and took second for J-M Bazire and KLV Holding AB. Third was Vic du Pommereux (8m Love You-Kubrune) with Franck Nivard teaming. Sylvain Roger trains this one. The €56,000 purse Prix Monaco-Matin (nine starters, 2925 meters) produced a close verdict for 1.4/1 odds Boss du Meleuc (6g Lucky Blue-Rafale du Meleuc) reined by trainer Y-A Briand, also the owner. The 1.15.3kr timed winner bested Bocage d’Ortige (6m Mirage du Goutier-Providence Dortige) and Bijou des Loups (6g Nahar de Beval-Jodie du Bois). Silverado Lux (6g Amigo Hall-Mabelle As) at 3/2 odds sustained a stretch-long rally on the pegs to inch past Paco Rabanne (8g Love You-Fuchs Farm) for a 1.14.9kr score in the Prix d’Albenga (monte, purse €40,000, 15 starters) for jockey Franck Nivard. Holger K. Ehlert trains the winner, now with career earnings for €122,167, and Scuderia Fast Horse SRL is the owner. Third was Alain d’Occagnes (7g Nice Love-La Lolita) and Quentin Seguin. Thomas H. Hicks  

March 11, 2017 - Sultana Jet (6f Igor Font-Art Deco-Diamond Way) pictured, won again Saturday at Kincsem Park as the 1.3/1 odds favorite. Harness racing co-owner Gyorgy Horvath teamed the 1.18.5kr timed mare that overcame a 20 meter handicap in the Henriett Varga Memorial Handicap (purse 600,000Huf, distance 1960 meters handicap). Pimri Bt. Is the co-owner and Imre Fazekas trains the four time winner in five starts since import, the other time second. 15.8/1 Insa (5f Alesi OM-Iess-Scurry Lobell) was second for trainer/driver Imre Fazekas and 7.9/1 Samuel Becket AT (5m Diablo Va Bene-Simb Lorrikeep-Pearsall Hanover) was home third for trainer/driver Tibor Hajnal. Race time was 1.18.5kr. The 400,000Huf purse Just A Star DIJ (1900 meters autostart) went to 2.4/1 Tucsok (5f Maximus Lindy-Astalavista-Gus Lobell) for trainer/driver Lajos Marton and owner AMMA Loverseny Kft. 4.4/1 Trendy Girl (5f What A Man-Nacre du Vigneau-Dorien)  was second for trainer/driver Csaba Lakatos and Swarovski  (6g Simb Illusion-Igazgyongy-Valley Guardian) was third for Bernadett Balogh and trainer Jozsef Rutkai. Race time was 1.19.8kr. The Evi Amator Kupa Handicap (purse 360,000Huf, 1800 meters autostart) went to 1.22kr clocked, 1.7/1 odds Tunder Szape (5f Noir Desir-Jolly Beauty-Valley Guardian) for Andrea Nagyvary and owner Pimri Bt. Imre Fazekas trains the winner that defeated 8.1/1 Jackson Junior (14g Valley Guardian-Astalavista-Gus Lobell) with Andrea Fazekas aboard (Imre Fazekas, trainer) and 8.1/1 Norman (11g PS Dimo-Varese-Endless Sands) for Gyorgy Pekker and trainer Emil Csordas. Thomas H. Hicks

March 11, 2017 - Weekend trotting action occurs once each month at Hippodrome Madinina Martinque and is PMU networked. Saturday’s harness racing action included the €5,000 purse Prix des Jonquilles (distance 2650 meters, voltstart) and the veteran Usly de Visais (9g Defi d’Aunou-Pristina Jet)  prevailed on the turf timed in 1.22.4kr, Owner/trainer J.L. Langeron teamed the winner, now with 13 career victories for €120,210 earned. The featured trot this day was the Prix de Isis (purse €5,000, 2650 meters voltstart) and veteran Titan Pierji (10g Jardy-Kara Pierji) traveled the entire distance in the death seat before advancing steadily to victory in the late going, timed in 1.20.8kr over a rain softened turf course. Owner/trainer Lora Duplessis-Kergomard reined the winner, now three in a row in 2017 and seven career wins for €55,940 earned. Tyran du Vautour and Aulady Tartifume were next to the line. Thomas H. Hicks

March 11, 2017 - Gallant harness racing trotter, the ten year-old Timoko seeks his fourth Grand Criterium de Vitesse on Sunday afternoon at Cagnes-sur-Mer. The career winner of €4,401,098 will be reined by Bjorn Goop for trainer Richard Westerink. The 1609 meter autostart  Gr. I European Trotting Masters 2017 test drew 13 starters after one scratch. Anna Mix, Oasis Bi and Un Mec d’Heripre are likely threats. Trainer Jerry Riordan sends Treasure Kronos and Rod Stewart to the start from second tier starting positions. Grand Criterium de Vitesse de la Cote d’Azur (purse €200,000, 1609 meters autostart) March 12, Cagner-sur-Mer – race 6 PP/Horse/Driver Anna Mix, Lebourgeois Up And Quick, Mottier Rocky Winner, Gelormini Timoko, Goop Brillantissime, Vercruysse Oasis Bi, Takter Voltigeur de Myst, Donati Un Mec d’Heripre, J-M Bazire Timone EK, J.Ph. Monclin Red Rose America, Gubellini SCRATCHED – Call Me Keeper, Nivard Vicomte Boufarcaux, Ch.A. Mary Treasure Kronos, Eriksson Rod Stewart, Bekaert Thomas H. Hicks

Sunday’s Classic Gr. I International Grand Criterium de Vitesse de la Cote d’Azur is a unique FR trotting event, being contested on 1609 meters (one-mile) autostart. The purse is €200,000 and the field is likely a competitive one for this 2017 European Masters Series race. The engaged list is shown below: Engaged: Name/Trainer/Career Earnings Euro Galactica, M. Bergstrom, 196,283 Diadora BR, V. Martens, 233,806 Red Rose America, H.E. Bondo, 415,507 Treasure Kronos, Riordan, 417,656 Rod Stewart, Riordan, 456,729 Vicomte Boufarcaux, M.J. Ruault, 486,830 Call Me Keeper, Reden, 558,890 Timone EK, Billard, 569,161 Rocky Winner, Westholm, 655,408 Brillantissime, Allaire, 950,725 Anna Mix, Leblanc, 1,062,736 Voltigeur de Myrt, R. Donati, 1,38,867 Oasis Bi, S. Petterson, 1,571,218 Un Mec d’Heripre, Billard, 1,602,930 Up And Quick, Leblanc, 1,933,540 Timoko, Westerink, 4,401,098 The Criterium of Speed began in 1958 (became 1609 meters in 1962) and is now the only Groupe I mile race in France, and the highlight of  the Cagnes-sur-Mer meet. The FR-bred champions have dominated this sprinter event and many champions won this race and the 2700 meters Prix d’Amerique – Rocquepine, Bellino II, Eleazar, High Echelon, Ideal du Gazeau, Hymour, Ourasi, Kesaco Phedo, Meaulnes du Corta and others. Standardbreds Nike Hanover, Moni Maker, Gigant Neo and Varenne captured this double. Ourasi was winner in 1986 and 1989 and race record holder (1.09.1kr) Timoko took the trophy in 2013 and 2015-2016. Despite Bold Eagle’s absence Sunday’s tussle on the sea should be superb. Thomas H. Hicks

When we first started the harness racing newsletter feature "Insider Access" we aimed to release new issues every two weeks, however the workload to produce the Stallion reviews, combined with the day to day management of the Harnesslink website has been making this difficult. So henceforth we will release these issues within a longer, more sporadic timeframe. We appreciate your support and continued readership. Starting in this months Insider Access, author Tina Sugarman, whose debut novel, Horse Flesh, has been a number one top selling equine novel on Amazon.com, is going to share special excerpts from her superb novel only to Harnesslink.com followers! Then every week on Harnesslink, racing fans will get to read part of Horse Flesh. The novel is a page-turning thriller based around harness racing in Ontario, Canada. Harnesslink thanks author Tina Sugarman for sharing her great novel with the harness racing world! Also this month we bring you the most prolific analysis of the equal fastest three-year-old on the Planet, world champion racehorse and stallion, He's Watching. We also review the New Zealand Yearling Sales and salute our own operations director Steve Wolf on his Hall of Fame introduction at the Dan Patch Awards! It's FREE to sign up for Insider Access, just fill out the box below. If you are already a member you got our newsletter already!   Sign up to "Insider Access" Full Name Email Subscribe

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March 22, 2017 - Harness racing trainer Stefan Melander’s Nuncio (6m Andover Hall-Nicole Isabelle-Lindy Lane), off at 1.09/1 odds,  recorded his second straight 2017 victory tonight at Solvalla for teamster Orjan Kihlstrom clocked in 1.12.2kr. The race was the Kentucky Fibbers with 80,000SEK to the winner over the 1640 meter autostart course. Nuncio led throughout during modest fractions (1.14kr at the first 500 meters; 1.13.7kr at the first 1000) and held off fast closing 9.67/1 Volstead (6m Cantab Hall-Madame Volo-Yankee Glide) by a short length, the latter reined by Erik Adielsson for trainer Melander. Arden Homestead Stable bred Volstead and Russell Williams (new USTA President) bred Nuncio, now with a career slate of 39-12-2 in 53 starts for 27,803,230SEK earned. Nuncio was a perfect 11 for 11 in 2016. 12.9/1 Coldtown (8g Cantab Hall-Brylin Starlet-Balanced Image) landed the third spot. Nuncio tonight took the next step toward the 2017 Elitloppet. Thomas H. Hicks
March 22, 2017 - The 7/10 favorite Brissac (6m Ni Ho Ped d’Ombree-Jannibelle) scored an easy and impressive harness racing victory in today’s Grand Prix Dynavena Maisagri Duran (purse €45,000, 2625 meters, 17 European starters) at Agen le Passage, timed in 1.12.9kr for owner/trainer/driver Jean Alain Eliphe. 40.6/1 Univers Solaire (9g Lutin Malin-Intertaction) was second for Pierre Houel and third went to 7.1/1 Bon Copain (6m Love You-Haie) for Eric Raffin, trainer Thierry Raffegeau and J-Y Roze. 14/1 Victoria du Viaduc and Matthieu Abrivard and 20/1 Victoria de Marzy with Gabriel Gelormini up finished fourth and fifth in this contest. Thomas H. Hicks
March 20, 2017 - Saturday (March 18) a superb harness racing card was in display at Kincsem Park led by the Brody Janos Memorial (purse 1,500,000Huf, 1960 meters distance handicap). The 1.20.3kr winner over a heavy racecourse was 1.7/1 Sanger Ms (7g Victory Scream-Samba Ms-Armbro Goal), pictured, reined by Mitja Slavic for trainer Balazs Juhasz. Sanger Ms has now won three straight and five of his last six outings. 4.1/1 Breve des Baux (f Querido des Baiux-Milady des Baux-Classic Rodney) was second for Joze Sagaj and trainer Aron Denes. 10.9/1 Bimbo de Chenu (5f Scipion du Goutier-Ouive de Chanu-Casino des Sports) landed third for trainer/driver Tibor Hajnal. On the same program was the Kopparzy DIJ (purse 600,000Huf, 1900 meters autostart) with the 1.21.6kr timed victory earned by 3.1/1 Titan Ville (5g Noir Desir- 0Izaville-Endless Sands) reined by trainer Imre Fazekas for owner Zsalek Zsolt. Trencsen (5m Ata Star L-Eperjes-Witsends Speedy) took second for Zsolt Vereb and trainer Laszlo Toth. Third was Nemzelesur with Robert Varhidi driving. Fazekas was back with a training and driving victory in the Csapodar DIJ (purse 400,000Huf, 1900 meters autostart) with 3.8/1 Timoko RL (4m Doctor Sugar RL-Triestina-Golden Goal). Arizona d.o.o of Szerbia owns this winner, timed in 1.23.7kr over the off-track. 7.9/1 Tiara Boss (5f Wall Street Banker-Peace Force Pro-Kosar) was second for Zoltan Ozvar, trainer/driver. 43.8/1 odds Kelvin AT (4m Even Better Odds-Keystone Bluejay-Sierra Kosmos) was third for trainer/driver Tibor Hajnal and owner Animal Trade Racing of Szerbia. Other interesting winners on the card were Vital RG (3m SJ’s Photo-Vitesse OR) for trainer/driver Tibor Hajnal. This colt won the Ocean DIJ (purse 360,000Huf, 1800 meters). The Detektor Handicap (purse 360,000Huf, 1980 meters) went to 2.2/1 Passion  Grif (8g Varenne-Sex Appeal OK) for trainer/driver Laszlo Kolozsi timed in 1.22.9kr. Fourbtr Kft and Sandor Hora own the winner that bested Rosamundi and Oklahoma Font. Also, on March 18, was trotting action at Momarken SWE led by the V75 Gold (150,000SEK to the winner, 1640 meters autostart). The 1.6/1 odds Mosaique Face (8m Classic Photo-Iona LB) scored in 1.11.7kr for driver Adrian Kolgjini and trainer Lutfi Kolgjini. The Tommy Nilsson Holding AB product, now with 16 wins in 71 career outings for 13,640,178SEK earned, defeated 7.3/1 BBS Sugarlight (8g Super Light-Sugarsweet Sid-Sugarcane Hanover) reined by Vidar Hop for trainer Fredrik Solberg. Third was 5.2/1 Aruno di Quattro (9m Broadway Hall-Ijssel-Speedy Soma) reined by trainer Frode Hamre. On March 19 there was solid action a Wolvega. The Bronze Winter Championship (purse €10,000, 2600 meters autostart, 14 starters) went to the 1/2odds favorite Clovis de Nappes (5g Prince Gede-Oklahoma Jet) for driver Rick Ebbinge and owner K.T.E. Lavigne. The 1.17.7kr timed winner bested 20.5/1 Bad Boy de Chenu with Ruud Pools driving. The Gold Winter Championship (purse €12,500, 2600 meters autostart, nine starters) went to the 1.15.4kr timed and 9/10 odds favorite Too Much Blue (10g Insert Gede-Naama Blue) reined by Cees Kamminga. This Draviet Stabkes owned performer defeated 76/1 Shamfalla driven by Stefan Schoonhoven. On March 20 at Caen was the Prix d’Anguerny (purse €21,000, 2200 meters autostart, 16 starters) and 1.9/1 favorite Boca Ecus (6f Insert Gede-Salsa Jet) scored in 1.12.5kr for trainer/breeder/owner/driver Markku Vartiainen. The winner recorded her ninth victory in 21 starts for €81,690 earned. 22/1 Bogota d’Herfraie (6f Rieussec-Ines d’Herfraie) was second. Wednesday March 22 at Solvalla has Nuncio at the start as his comeback path continues toward the 2017 Elitloppet. This day he competes in the Kentucky Fibbers raced over 1640 meters autostart for a purse of 169,000SEK. Coldtown, Volstead and French Laundry also are in this field. Thomas H. Hicks    
Tina Sugarman, author of one of the top equine novels of 2016-2017, Horse Flesh, has agreed to share excerpts of her book with Harnesslink. Horse Flesh is a thriller mystery fiction novel based around a Standardbred racetrack in Ontario, Canada. It is the first novel ever penned by horsewoman, Tina Sugarman. Each week, Harnesslink will feature an excerpt from Horse Flesh. If you wish to purchase the book either in paperback or ereader formats, click here. Here is this week’s excerpt from Horse Flesh! Horse Flesh by Tina Sugarman The commotion around the winner’s circle had not escaped the eagle eyes of the judges, perched high above the grandstand. Two floors below them, the new boy, Alastair McTavish, recently appointed as Director of Iroquois Downs Raceway, was gazing down at the scene with an increasing feeling of unease. Al was an imposing 6 feet 3 inches with the kind of presence that demands respect. At 58, he didn’t have a single grey hair, though he was thinning on top. Even though it was his first week on the job, he recognized trouble when he saw it. He reached for the red phone, his direct link to the presiding judge. John Jewells was a no-nonsense type who had trained at the famous judge school in Arizona, known locally as Jewells’ School. “What’s going on down there, John?” Al McTavish boomed. Jewells ducked the question. “What can I do for you, Director McTavish?” he asked. “I’m a little concerned about that last race,” Al persisted. “Already on it. Got the Mutuels Manager looking for any suspicious betting patterns. Probably nothing in it, but you never know.” Thirty seconds later, the presiding judge had an intriguing fact to ponder. Twenty $2 tickets had indeed been punched sequentially for the winning combination. It was a highly unusual sized bet for two long shots. “Instruct the teller to check each winning exacta ticket,” Jewells told the Mutuals Manager. “If anyone tries to cash in all or part of that sequence, hold them on any excuse.” “You betcha, John.” John Jewells, tight lipped, picked up his own red phone, his direct line to the Paddock Judge, a Mr. T. Roberts, who controlled the Race Barn like an army sergeant. On any given night, there were over a hundred horses, almost twice that many horsemen and a few dozen drivers to keep in order. Roberts thrived on it. Despite the torrential downpour, he was on the case, rallying the troops, determined that the fifth race would leave the Race Barn on time. “Automatic hundred-dollar fine for any trainer late for post parade! Let’s get moving!” Mr. Roberts shouted. “We go in thirty seconds with the fifth, men. Get ’em ready! Mr. Hall! Where the hell are you with your horse? Get ’im out there now, and I mean NOW!” The ring of his red phone interrupted the Paddock Judge’s diatribe in mid-stream. “Mr. Roberts. It’s John here.” No one was on first name terms with the Paddock Judge. “Yes sir!” Mr. Roberts replied eagerly. “I want to talk to McCoy, Price and Rankin in that order, right away.” “Mr. Rankin’s in the fifth sir.” “Get me the other two. I’ll talk to Rankin when he comes back in.” “Yes sir!” Mr. Roberts replied slamming down the phone. “Lead ’em out, men! Mr. McCoy, Mr. Price. Judges want to talk to you!” Scotty McCoy’s outraged tone echoed down the phone line when the judges suggested that he’d been stiffing Raiders Moon in her previous races. “I never stiffed a horse in my life,” he declared, puffing himself up in self-righteous indignation. “She was tying up! Ask my vet. He’s been treatin’ her for it.” Andy Price too had an airtight explanation, “I only got the filly ten days ago,” he declared. “She came down from Quebec. It’s her first start for me. You accusing me of doin’ too good with her or what?” Moose Rankin came in after the fifth race soaking wet, splattered with mud and in a foul mood, having finished last. “Lazer told me to give Gypsy Queen a covered-up trip,” Moose said scowling at the phone. “Ned Beazer did the job on me. I’m sick about it!”  The judges reluctantly took him at his word. They all agreed a hot head like Moose Rankin was the last driver any sane person would pick to pull off a betting coup. None of them felt it necessary to question the leading driver, Theo Vettore. He was always trying to win. “Which leaves only Pete Summers,” John Jewells told Al. “But it’s the first time he’s driven Raiders Moon, so we can’t pin it on him.” The judges were still scrutinizing the tape of the fourth when the presiding judge’s phone rang. It was the Mutuels Manager. “Looks like we got your man, John. Listen to this! He’s a trainer just come back from suspension, a Dave Bodinski.” “Hold off payment. Tell him we need more I/D and to come back in the morning. Tell him he’ll have to see the judges first, but it’s just pro forma,” Jewells replied. “Pro what?” the Mutuals Manager asked uncertainly. “Routine,” Jewells replied irritably. “Gotcha,” the manager said, sounding relieved. Everything appeared to hinge on the judges’ interview with Dave Bodinski the following day. But a call back from the Mutuals Manager clouded the issue somewhat. “You’d better hear this for yourself,” he told John Jewells. “I remember the guy!” a flustered teller confessed. “He accused me of punching in the wrong numbers. Made a big stink about it! But it was too late to do anything. The starting bell had gone off.” Pretty soon the judges had a more urgent problem on their hands. The drivers had got together and were refusing to go out for the seventh race, claiming that conditions were too dangerous. It was true enough. The worst storm to hit Ontario in a decade was showing no signs of abating. Visibility was close to zero. Mr. Roberts, the Paddock Judge, was desperately searching through his rule books for guidance on extreme weather conditions. Taking advantage of the lull, Moose Rankin collared Theo Vettore in the drivers’ room. “What the fuck were you playing at in the fourth, cutting the mile like that?” Moose hissed, “I thought your filly didn’t like the front end.” “She doesn’t,” Theo replied sullenly. “I figured you’d cut it, you moron!” “Listen to me,” Moose exclaimed, lighting his cigarette and glancing over at Theo, his eyes half closed. “You’re in big trouble. I heard the guys in dark glasses bet the bank on the exacta tonight and it sure as hell included you. Your horse was fucking even money!” “She lost! It happens!” Theo retorted. Moose didn’t reply. He just drew his finger across his own throat, then pointed to Theo. The sound of rain drumming on the roof was deafening. Theo swallowed hard but said nothing. “Attention horsemen!” the Paddock Judge’s voice rang out. “Under rule 147, section 3, the stewards have decided to abandon the rest of tonight’s program due to dangerous racing conditions. I repeat, racing has been abandoned due to inclement weather.” “Roberts doesn’t get to yell at us any more tonight,” Moose said happily, turning to Theo. There was no one there. “Encore du vin, Monsieur?” a voice murmured at André’s Fontainbleu’s elbow. He motioned the waiter away. He had caught sight of the young Frenchman he had recently hired standing at attention, keeping a discreet distance from the dinner table conversation. When André raised a finger, Henri approached and spoke, sotto voce, in his ear. “Ze young lady, she is waiting for you, Monsieur,” Henri said. André Fontainbleu picked up his fork. The twinkle of silver on glass produced the desired effect. His guests fell silent. “I regret, but always, business calls,” he announced charmingly, rising to his feet and turning away from the Caribbean Sea, the backdrop for dinner. The Australian girl was waiting downstairs, gazing up at the soaring ceiling and glittering candelabra. He ran his eyes over her slim figure, her full breasts. She was young, barely twenty at a guess and suitably virginal. According to his sources, she had been marooned on the island when her boat was caught in a freak storm. June was generally a calm month. Unlike the rest of the crew, she apparently wanted to stay on. As she wasn’t independently wealthy, she needed a work permit, a lengthy bureaucratic process on Sainte Marie unless one knew who to bribe. That is where André Fontainbleu came in, provided, naturellement, that the woman in question was young and attractive. There was a determined set to this girl’s jaw, but he had no doubt that common sense would prevail, after he had laid out his terms. One weekend, that was what he required. Her body was the only thing she had to offer in return. The feeling of power was intoxicating. As he walked down the spiral staircase to greet her, he caught her eye and imagined undressing her. She blushed but she held his gaze without faltering. Her long dark hair revived bitter sweet memories. But that was long ago. This was going to be easy like everything else on this island. Almost too easy. Despite, or perhaps because of, his age, he was still attractive to women. The touch of silver in his crop of dark curls reassured them. It gave him a fatherly air. Also, the power and the money drew them in. It promised to be a pleasant weekend, a very pleasant weekend indeed! Stay tuned in to Harnesslink every week for another excerpt from Horse Flesh!

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