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8th excerpt from 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 8th excerpt from Horse Flesh! Horse Flesh by Tina Sugarman THE BET On a calm evening in late August, Theo Vettore’s cousin, Lara Vachon, was standing down by the rail beside Iroquois Downs’ oval track, waiting and watching as Theo put Southview Sabre through his paces. It was 7 p.m. The plan was to take Southview Sabre a slow warm-up mile, but speed him up for the last eighth. Any hint of trouble and Lara was going to scratch her boy from the race and take him home. On the night, Theo had stumbled into Ferme Victoire afraid for his life, Lara had been on a vigil at Rivers Training centre, soaking Southview Sabre’s red hot right front foot in a tub of ice water. Lara treated all the horses she trained like her children, not that she had any of her own yet. She was only twenty-eight, after all. Unlike most trainers, Lara did not have the luxury of picking out yearlings at the Annual Sale. Instead, she took on whatever her father Bernie Vachon decided to give her: well-bred fillies with broodmare potential or colts who hadn’t found a buyer. Once in Lara’s barn, they were under her protection. She gave them as much time as they needed to get to the races and treated them all with equal affection, regardless of their talent (or the lack of it) on the racetrack. As Southview Sabre flew past the tote board, looking like a ghost in the dusk, Lara anxiously scrutinized him for any sign on lameness, any break in the horse’s rhythm. She found none. A pus pocket trapped deep inside his hoof had plagued Southview Sabre for weeks, unknown to anyone. After Dr. Winterflood had lanced it, the lameness disappeared overnight. The track lights kicked in, flooding the scene with colour: the green number pad flapping at the horse’s ribcage, the red and black of Theo’s racing jacket and the pale blue sulky with its white wheel discs spinning. Though his warm up run was over, Southview Sabre showed no sign of wanting to slow down. He sailed by a horse flashing four white stockings. Hurriedly, Lara consulted her overnight sheet. It was Mountain Boy, the 3 horse in the second. As both drivers swung their charges through a 180° turn and headed back to the Race Barn, a figure huddled in the shadows at the edge of the track sprang into life. A greater contrast between equine athleticism and human imperfection would have been hard to find. Lara recognized him immediately. As the man shuffled forward and reached out for Mountain Boy’s bridle, she shuddered involuntarily. She had made the mistake of hiring Crawfish Brown as a groom a couple of years back, in an act of charity. But she had discovered to her cost that despite his pitiful appearance, Crawfish was no saint. His left leg was crooked. His left eye was offset and half closed. He was missing several teeth and he always had a plug of tobacco in his mouth. The only time he went anywhere near water was when he was bathing the horses. But that wasn’t the real problem. Crawfish had generally showed up for work on time, unless he’d been out on a binge the night before. He was fairly good tempered, especially on pay day. He was conscientious too, unless he wanted to get away early. He was polite to Lara, unless he had a particular grudge to air. He was loyal, until Lara rumbled him, or as Crawfish put it, asked him to do a lot of things which weren’t a groom’s responsibility. . . She came out of her reverie just in time to avoid being knocked flat by Southview Sabre, who was throwing his head around like he’d had the time of his life out there. Hastily, she grabbed the bridle before she was decapitated. “Was he okay?” she asked anxiously. “He went his last eighth in thirteen seconds! That good enough for you?” Theo replied with a smile, handing her the lines. “I gotta go,” he added, a frown furrowing his brow. “Eh bien! Go!” Lara said, glancing at the tote board clock and wondering why Theo was in such a hurry. Post time for the first race was twenty-five minutes away. Inside the Race Barn, even though they were right next to one another, Crawfish ignored Lara. He busied himself, attaching his horse tightly to the cross-tie chains, as if the meek Mountain Boy was going to try and make a break for it. Lara couldn’t help noticing that, unusually, Crawfish appeared to have spruced himself up for the races. He was wearing a T-shirt without a rip in it, baggy black sweat pants which did their best to cover a pair of filthy, torn trainers and a lurid yellow baseball cap at war with his straggly brown hair, which she happened to know he cut with a razor, rather than getting a proper haircut. As for a visit to the dentist to fix his missing teeth, that was about as likely as a trip to the moon. Crawfish prided himself on being self-sufficient. Lara steeled herself not to feel guilty about firing him. She had to put the welfare of the horses first, she reminded herself firmly. Theo reappeared just as Lara was putting Southview Sabre’s bridle on, prior to race two. It was a struggle as the horse kept throwing his head around. His eyes were on fire. “Easy now, boy,” Theo said, holding onto the horse’s nose and steadying him. “Can’t wait to get at it, eh? Listen,” he added as Lara slipped the bit into the horse’s mouth. “I put three grand on him to win.” “You did what?” Lara hissed. “You do not bet!” “Hey! Lighten up!” Theo replied. “I got 12-1 online. After this race, God willing, I’ll be a free man.” “But they will think I ’ave been cheating with him!” Lara said, feeling outraged. “How could you do this to me, Theo?” “You want me to end up dead?” Theo muttered. Lara gulped. “How’s his foot?” Theo added nervously. “I am not telling you,” Lara replied angrily, glancing at Crawfish Brown in the next stall. She was certain he’d overheard their conversation. If so, everyone in the Race Barn would soon know all about it. “Hey! What d’you think you’re doing? You’ve hooked the lines up to the head halter, instead of the bit, you dumb idiot!” trainer Tom Larson growled at Crawfish, as Mountain Boy’s driver appeared. “Can’t get it right all the time,” Crawfish grumbled, hurriedly fixing the mistake. “What are you standing there grinning for? Lead ’im out!” Larson shouted. Crawfish jumped to it. But Lara noticed him hanging back after Mountain Boy had left the Race Barn, his left eyelid blinking rapidly. Her heart sank. Wherever Crawfish was, trouble was sure to follow. Outside the Race Barn, a crowd of horsemen had gathered to watch the running of the second race. Lara joined them, her heart beating faster. What if she’d got it wrong? What if Southview Sabre was no good tonight? There was so much at stake, not just for the horse, but for her cousin as well. She understood Theo needed to get the money from somewhere to clear his debts. But why did her horse have to be involved? As the starting car sped away, Theo grabbed the lead and opened up four lengths. The move did not go unnoticed. “I got the first eighth in thirteen seconds,” trainer Keith Lazer exclaimed, staring at his stopwatch. “Arrogant bastard,” Tony Hall exclaimed. “He’s as good as won!” Crawfish said excitedly. He was clutching a betting ticket, evidently dreaming of cashing it in. “My horse is getting a great trip!” Tom Cowboy Larsen said happily, watching Mountain Boy narrow the gap with the leader. “Jesus!” he added, ripping his Stetson off his head. “What’s that fool Harper think he’s doing?” Mountain Boy’s driver, Harry Harper, had brought his horse up to challenge Theo for the lead. The horse’s white stockings were pumping like pistons. Lara uttered a sigh of relief when Mountain Boy got to the top. A grudge match was the last thing her horse needed. To her consternation, Theo immediately swung Southview Sabre out to retake the lead and the two horses pulled away, fighting it out head to head. Suddenly Mountain Boy fell back. The crowd screamed. Mountain Boy had dropped like a stone, catapulting Harry Harper up and over the horse’s head. The driver landed hard and lay still. Unaware of the mayhem behind him, Theo carried on. Not for long! “Accident! Accident!” the track announcer called out urgently. “Stop your horses!” With a heavy heart, Lara watched as one of the outriders set off at a gallop, urging her pony on to intercept Theo, who was now fifteen or twenty lengths ahead of the pack. The other drivers were finally slowing down. The racetrack was suddenly crowded with horsemen, running to help the injured. Harry Harper and Mountain Boy lay strewn across the track, both of them ominously still. The vet ran over to Mountain Boy, who lay on the stone dust track, looking like he was made out of stone himself. Soon afterwards, Harry Harper got to his feet, looking a little dazed, too much cheering and clapping. Mountain Boy was stirring too. Tom Larson plonked himself down on the horse’s head and immediately began bawling Crawfish out. “Get this sulky off ’im before he comes to, you retard!” he cursed. “This is all your fault! Take a good look at that hopple hanger! No wonder he fell. It’s popped right out of the keeper. What d’you think I gave you that tape for eh?” Crawfish stood motionless, his face working, as if he had a great deal to say but was afraid to voice it. “You’re damn lucky he’s only winded,” Larson continued angrily. “You could’ve fuckin’ killed him!” “That’s it! I quit,” Crawfish declared, throwing down the bath bucket he’d been carrying and shuffling off. “Hey! Come back ’ere,” Larson said. “I ain’t done with you yet!” Crawfish kept right on going. Leaving Larson in the lurch did little to make up for a thoroughly disappointing evening. But it did cheer him up, just a bit. Stay tuned in to Harnesslink every week for another excerpt from Horse Flesh! 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.

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7th excerpt from the 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 7th excerpt from Horse Flesh! Horse Flesh by Tina Sugarman The instant rumours began to circulate about the introduction of a TCO2 test for soda, trainers began to take evasive action. Keith Lazer got on the internet and ordered a supply of Human Growth Hormone. It claimed to cure almost every common ailment suffered by the Standardbred racehorse, including tying up. Lazer decided to give it a try. There was currently no test for HGH. Tom “Cowboy” Larson had never needed baking soda. His secret weapon was stashed away in the cattle barn. Baking soda had never been Jim Mercer’s crutch either. He was contemptuous of trainers who depended on it. Training a horse a double-header a day was a simple, effective way of dealing with the problem. If the animal couldn’t stand up to that, Jim reasoned, it wouldn’t have been much of a success anyhow. He didn’t believe in mollycoddling racehorses. Trainer Andy Price immediately had a council of war with Doc Meecham. To his relief, the doc came up with a long list of legal remedies for tying up. They didn’t come cheap, but they were effective. Andy told jealous trainers that his success was all down to his No. 1 groom, Crawfish Brown. No one believed him but what did Andy care? Keith Lazer was still top trainer, but Andy Price was hard on his heels. In the end, the horsemen approved TCO2 testing by a small margin. The politicians came up into the money, as Phil had promised. To Al’s great joy, a month after the meeting, TCO2 testing began at Iroquois Downs Raceway. CAUGHT Alastair McTavish was in the winner’s circle. Flanked by his wife and daughter, he was struggling to hold aloft a heavy gold cup. The roar of the crowd was deafening. He awoke to the roar of the vacuum cleaner and realized that sadly, it had been a dream. His wife Sofia was cleaning again. Sunlight was streaming in through the bedroom window of 210, Laurel Drive. It was 8 o’clock on a still August morning in Erinsville, Ontario. Al’s first thought was the phone call he’d received from an exuberant Judge Jewells earlier in the week. “Looks like we’ve caught our first fish,” the judge had reported. “Trainer named Scotty McCoy.” The hearing was at 11 a.m. today. Half an hour later, after grabbing a quick cup of coffee, Al was on his way out of the house. Walter, a three-month-old Maine Coon kitten, was waiting in the hall. When Al opened the door, Walter dashed through it and scampered over to the tall maple tree in the front yard. He ran up the trunk then turned around and stared down at Al with his large green eyes. July’s humidity had given way to the clear skies of August. It was Al’s favourite time of year. The Mercedes was waiting for him in the garage, like an athlete begging for exercise. Al drove with the top down, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the scent of newly mown grass wafting over him. The car had been a present to himself when he’d handed over control of his construction company to his daughter. He was not used to such luxuries. He sometimes wondered if he’d lost his mind spending so much money on a car. But he guessed he’d probably never have another excuse to blow fifty thousand dollars on mere transportation. Neither of his two sons had shown any interest in the business. In the breach, Billie had proved to be far more capable than he could ever have imagined. His one fear was that she would get bored and want to take McTavish Construction nationwide. Al had always been content to be a big fish in a small pond. Swimming with the sharks did not appeal to him. But he knew that Billie’s restless mind could not be contained in Erinsville forever. The radio was blasting out ear splitting beat music. Al hit the CD button. As the soaring notes of Italian opera rang out, he settled back and prepared to enjoy the ride to Iroquois Downs Raceway. He took the scenic route down Appleby Lane, which cut through horse farms and meadows. The road was lined with wildflowers. The big open sky was a brilliant blue. Soon, too soon, he was entering the vast treeless expanse of grey asphalt that fronted Iroquois Downs Raceway. He went up to his office and waited for news. Scotty McCoy was shaking as he took to his seat on the so-called prisoner’s chair in the judge’s office. The hearing was about to begin. It had been a truly terrible week for Scotty. On Monday, he’d lost his three best horses to a rival trainer. On Wednesday, his wife had packed her bags and taken off with the groom to God knew where. And today, he was up in front of the serial killer: Judge Jewells. The hearing was short and to the point. “Raider’s Moon and Annabel’s Fancy,” the judge stated. “Can you confirm that you were the trainer of these two horses as of August seventh, Mr. McCoy?” Scotty nodded. “Speak up, man!” Judge Jewells exclaimed. “Yes sir,” Scotty answered gruffly. “Each horse was over the limit on TCO2, by a significant margin,” Jewells said sternly, frowning so deeply that his eyebrows were virtually meeting. “Can you explain that, McCoy?” “No sir!” Scotty exclaimed, “I just added the odd spoonful of baking soda to their feed. I can’t understand it myself.” “So, you admit administering baking soda to the horses in question?” Jewells said exultantly, evidently feeling he’d scored a point. “Not enough to show up in any test!” Scotty protested, feeling flustered. He thought he’d been so careful. The timing of the black box testing had come as a complete surprise to him and everyone else he knew. The Race Barn had erupted in panic after Mr. Roberts had made the announcement. When the vets moved in to draw blood from the horses that were in the first race, trainers began leaving the Race Barn in droves, taking their horses with them. There were six scratches in the second race alone. Scotty had been slow to react. By the time he realized what was happening, it was too late. He had no choice but to sit tight and hope for the best, taking comfort from the fact that Dave had put far less soda in the drenches than normal. “Step outside while we confer,” the judge said. Ten minutes later, Scotty was invited back into the room. “Here’s our ruling,” the judge declared, looking at Scotty like a turkey vulture spotting a piece of road kill. “Automatic suspension of your trainer’s license for twelve months. A fine of two thousand five hundred dollars, for each horse.” Scotty’s heart sank down to his boots. It didn’t have far to go. Scotty wasn’t very tall. Five grand, he thought, panic rising in his chest. Where am I going to find that kind of money? “Can I appeal?” he asked. “You have the right to appeal, yes,” Jewells informed him. “But you’d have to challenge the accuracy of the test used.” Scotty had no spare cash and no lawyer. Who was he fooling? He’d never be able to appeal. It wasn’t fair. He knew of people who used all kinds of illegal stuff on their horses and got away with it, trainers like Keith Lazer. The guy was a fuckin’ chemist! “Do I get time off for good behavior?” he asked. “This isn’t a jail sentence, Mr. McCoy,” the judge said drily. “But your license won’t be renewed until you’ve paid off your fines in full, after the twelve months have passed of course. Until then, you are banned from all racetracks in Ontario. There’s a reciprocal agreement with the rest of Canada and the US by the way, in case you were thinking of going somewhere else.” Was he imagining it or did the judge look disappointed? Probably sorry it wasn’t a hanging matter, Scotty decided. Better not say anything. It’d only make things worse. He trudged down the stairs to the ground floor. A year’s ban! There’d be no sense in going to the yearling sale now. Not that he’d ever bought a yearling, but he’d miss the buzz and the chance to swap stories and sample the food that breeders served up to lure customers. As he walked across the parking lot to his old Ford truck, he couldn’t quite take in the whopping fine they’d stuck him with. He’d have to try to cobble the cash together somehow. Maybe get his old job back at Erinsville General. They were always short of cleaners at the hospital and the nurses liked him. Or he and his wife could move in with his sister to save on rent. Then he remembered he didn’t have a wife anymore. There’d be no winter racing for him this year. No hot suppers in the track kitchen. No horse’s breath hanging like smoke in the freezing air. He’d miss the spring stakes season, too. And the two year olds. He’d miss their first races, when he and his friend Dave Bodinski exchanged bets on which one of them was going to win the Diamond Stakes Championship. “I’ll be back!” Scotty swore to himself as he drove off. “Those sons of bitches ain’t gonna keep me down forever!” Two weeks went by. Al McTavish waited in vain for the next positive TCO2 test. Meanwhile, the trainers known as ‘the big four,’ Lazer, Price, Mercer and Larson, continued to win most of the races, their performances apparently unaffected by the baking soda ban. It was puzzling, but Al was hoping for the best. Stay tuned in to Harnesslink every week for another excerpt from Horse Flesh! 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.

Maven, harness racing

Owner Bill Donovan and the history of Maven

Harnesslink’s Ireland correspondent, Tim Kelleher, has worked with prominent harness racing owner Bill Donovan, in presenting the following “history of Maven” story. Kelleher and the committee for the Red John Memorial Weekend in Cork, Ireland, August 19th and 20th, have worked out a wonderful sponsorship arrangement with Bill Donovan for the big weekend that includes the inaugural Maven Trotters Derby. Both the Red John Memorial Pace and the Maven Trotters Derby will each race in the final for a purse of $21,000, the richest races ever in the history of harness racing in Ireland. “It is so great that Bill Donovan has stepped up and is helping sponsor these races,” Kelleher said. “We look forward to having him with us in West Cork come this August, especially to present the blanket and trophy to the first winner of the Maven Trotters Derby. “Bill was gracious enough, Kelleher explained, “to agree to tell this story on the history of one of the greatest trotting mares ever, Maven.” Bill Donovan purchased her for $37,000 at the 2010 Lexington Sale. Her original name was "Bella Topona", which while it sounds nice, Donovan was horrified to learn it meant "beautiful rat" in Italian. Her dam was M Stewart and as everyone knows Martha Stewart is the Maven of the kitchen, that became her new name. Maven was on the small side and was slightly toed out as a yearling. Her sire, the Triple Crown winning Glidemaster, only had one crop to race and at the time of the sale, they were judged to be a mediocre bunch and generally were not well received. However, Maven had a great producing maternal family and that's what attracted Donovan to her most. In March of her two-year-old year, trainer Jonas Czernyson was challenged by this young filly in a battle of wills. Maven was simply not cooperating and was falling behind her contemporaries. Jonas believed she had the speed but he was at wit's end trying to get her to keep her mind on business and to stop fighting him. He decided to take her out of formal training and for the next month she jogged every day on a one mile straight training strip at the Sunshine Meadows facility in Florida. At the end of a month, he took her back to the regular training track and she jogged off like she was a seasoned performer. Now that she was cooperating, she advanced in her training and it soon became evident that she had a great deal of potential. After two less than spectacular qualifiers, she turned heads when she went out and won her first four starts, two of them in track record performances. Due to her behavior issues in March, she was lightly staked at two but went on to win 8 of her 11 starts that year, taking a record of 2,1:56f. In her three-year-old season's debut, a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes at The Meadows, she had the sport buzzing when she handily defeated the heavily favored, two-year-old trotting filly champion, Check Me Out. That race portended a great season ahead where the two battled each other for honors. A month later, in a thrilling and furious stretch drive, Maven just missed nipping her rival at the wire for a win in the $560,000 Goldsmith Maid. In early August, the Hambletonian Oaks Final was expected to be the showdown between these two fierce competitors. Check Me Out was coming to this classic event off a five-race win streak, including a win in her Oaks elimination the prior week. Maven was coming in off a four-race win streak that included the fastest Oaks elimination. Around the last turn, Check Me Out had the lead with Maven making her trademark first over move when Check Me Out made a break, came to the outside and interfered with Maven sending her too on a break. This was a most disappointing end to what was expected to be a stretch duel for the ages. Maven rebounded off that loss with a record breaking win in the Moni Maker Trot. That win was followed by four second place finishes. Many thought that Maven had lost her luster. Maven went off as third choice in the Breeders Crown for 3YO Filly Trotters. Most were expecting a win by Check Me Out to be her crowning achievement for the year. What they didn't expect was for Maven to hit another gear and blow right by Check Me Out to trot to an easy win over her highly-regarded rival. Maven ended the year with an easy win in the American National Stake, in Chicago. She was given the winter off to prepare for a much anticipated four-year-old season. Maven debuted in the first leg of the Miss Versatility series in late May. She won easy and followed that up with wins in the elimination and final of the Armbro Flight stake, then two more wins in legs of the Miss Versatility. She looked invincible, but as fate would have it, she experienced a bout of illness and bad luck, winning only one of her next four starts. The most stinging defeat came in the Muscle Hill Trot at Vernon, where she finished fifth to her stablemate, Dorsay. In her next start, the Miss Versatility Final over the half mile Delaware, Ohio track, Maven for the first time all year, Maven was not sent off as the favorite. Perhaps, as bettors had known her defeat in the Muscle Hill was due to a flat tire on her sulky, they may not have lost confidence in her. Driver Yannick Gingras was on a mission that day in Delaware. The prior year, he drove Maven in the Buckette 3 YP Filly Trot and was a heavy favorite. Her connections were expecting a world record performance. Well, there was a world record performance in that race, but it wasn't Maven's, as the Ron Burke trained speed demon Bluff was able to be rated by her first-time driver, Tim Tetrick, and after a moderate half, this speedy filly stole off while Gingras was overconfident and unhurried sitting in fourth. By the time Gingras got Maven rolling, it was too late and the stretch was too short. Bluff had three-quarters of a length on Maven at the wire and the teletimer showed 1:54 flat, a new world record for three-year-old filly trotters over a half-mile track. Remembering that race of a year ago, Gingras wasted no time and sent Maven right to the top, winging past the quarter in 26.4, a breather to the half in 55:4, Gingras stepped on the gas up the backside, flying past the three-quarter pole in 1:23.4 and then opening up and overpowering her competition to trot home in 28 seconds flat for an all age, all sex world race mile of 1:51.4h! This was truly one of the most remarkable trotting races ever. Maven's next start was a win in the Allerage Mares Trot at Lexington, followed by an easy win in her elimination for the Breeders Crown. In the Final, Maven swept to an easy win over a sloppy track. Maven's next race, was meant to be a major test. She was going to race against the boys for the first time. The question her Swedish born trainer was asking, could Maven handle the boys and would she be competitive in one of the world's greatest race, the Elitloppet, raced in Jonas Czernyson's native Sweden. Facing a field that included the 2012 Hambletonian winner, Market Share, as well as such outstanding performers as Uncle Peter, Mister Herbie, Guccio and My MVP; Maven took the lead past the half but could not withstand Market Share's stretch drive and finished a very credible second. After the race, Czernyson and Gingras conferred and it was decided Maven was indeed capable of taking on the world's best in Sweden the following May. It was decided Maven would make her five-year-old debut in the Miami Valley Distaff. After three qualifying races designed to tighten her for the challenges ahead, Maven faced a field of lady trotters and proceeded to leave them in her dust, as she went wire to wire in track record time, winning as she pleased. Driver, Yannick Gingras, wanted to give her another race before she shipped to Sweden, fearing three weeks between races and only one start might prove to be a disadvantage. Trainer Jonas Czernyson ruled otherwise. Maven made the journey to Solvalla. Sweden proud to represent the USA against a field of the world's finest trotters. Most fans do not realize what an arduous trip it is for a horse to make a transatlantic journey. A long flight, followed by a long ship via truck to a country where everything is seemingly different, not just the language. Water, feed, track surfaces and training methods are often different than what one finds at home. While it takes a human a day or two to shake off jet lag, it can take a horse up to a week or longer. Maven arrived in Sweden a week before the race and seemed to acclimate well to her new surroundings. Everything looked good for the race, until the draw. Maven drew the six hole in an eleven-horse field that included three trailers. The style of racing in Europe is much more aggressive than in the U.S. Gingras spent hours watching replays of prior Elitloppet races, as well as other races over the Solvalla track. The six-post position basically dictated a race on the outside for the whole mile and that's how it shook out. Maven was third over and around the last turn made a big three wide move that looked like it might carry her to victory but she tired a bit in the stretch and finished a very good third. She clearly was not at her peak going into the second heat and fought hard to finish sixth. Although her connections were disappointed, they were all very proud of the filly who certainly made an account of herself and proved she belonged with the world's finest. Upon her return to the United States, Maven was clearly not herself. The trip had definitely taken its toll and it was a month before Maven made an appearance. She was not herself and only won one race, an overnight, in her next seven appearances. Meanwhile, her owner Bill Donovan had decided to get out of the breeding business and announced he would be dispersing his Stirling Brook Farms broodmare band at the fall Harrisburg Sale. Donovan gave much thought to Maven and decided it would be a wise business move to offer her for sale as well. He thought her best races might be behind her and the fact he was getting out of the breeding business meant she should have a new home. Maven was entered in the Harrisburg Sale on the first of September. After two more lackluster performances, Donovan made a very controversial decision. He asked Ron Burke to take over training Maven. Burke had trained horses for Donovan for several years and had had good success. It was not unusual for him to change trainers when a horse was not racing well. Donovan had three dozen horses with nine different trainers. He reasoned Burke's different and tougher training regimen might "wake up" Maven. As it was, she would mainly be viewed as a broodmare prospect at Harrisburg. If Burke could win a race or two with Maven, then perhaps prospective buyers would recognize her future racing potential, as well. If that happened her value would increase. Jonas Czernyson was crushed by the move. Donovan gave him full credit for developing Maven and freely stated that Maven would never have been Maven, without Jonas's tremendous patience and training skills. There was a firestorm of criticism on the web about the trainer change. Donovan stood firm and issued a statement proclaiming that his operation was a business and this was totally a business decision, that was his right to make. The criticism continued but was soon silenced when Burke sent Maven to the Muscle Hill Trot at Vernon Downs. The stellar field included the 2013 Horse of the Year, Bee A Magician. Maven and Gingras wasted no time in moving around her major foe and never stopping to win the race in track record time. The sport's media declared that Maven was back, but in five days she would enter the sales ring at Harrisburg. A few days before the Muscle Hill, Donovan got a call from a Swedish sales agent. Would he sell Maven prior to the sale? Donovan replied he would for $400,000.00. The buyers wanted an assurance that the sale would be honored were Maven to win the Muscle Hill. Donovan agreed, but he wanted assurances the buyers would go through with the sale, even if she lost the race. It was determined that the money would be wired from Sweden on Friday, to arrive at Donovan's bank on Monday. The Muscle Hill was being raced Saturday. Maven won. The money was not wired and Donovan withdrew his sale price as the buyers did not live up to their agreement. Monday was the first day of the Harrisburg Sale during which the premier yearlings were offered. While the excitement surrounded these royally bred, it seemed everybody was talking about Maven. Indeed, one of the sport's top media outlets created the "Maven Derby" and offered odds on who the prospective buyers might be. Their headline blared, "Who will win the Maven Derby?" People were opining not only about who would buy Maven, but how much she would fetch. Donovan consigned Maven through Dave Reid's Preferred Equine Marketing agency. On the night before Maven sold, Donovan and Reid discussed what everybody else seemed to be talking about, how much and who. Reid bet Donovan a dinner that Maven would bring at least $600,000.00. They both agreed the most likely purchaser would be a patron of trainer Jimmy Takter. Saturday, early in the afternoon, Maven stepped into the sales ring. The best description of what happened next can be found in most every racing article, "Maven Sells for $750,000". Jimmy Takter took over training Maven for her new owner. Her first start was two weeks after the sale. Takter boldly chose to enter Maven in the Open Breeders Crown, instead of the Mares division which she had won the prior two years. Yannick Gingras drove Maven in 49 of her 52 starts in North America. No surprise, Gingras got the call on Maven from Takter. She won her elimination with flair and entered the $500,000 Final as the prohibitive favorite against nine male competitors. In the Final, Gingras moved her first over past the half and fought valiantly to the wire, finishing a game second behind the winner, Commander Crowe. Maven made one final start in the U.S., finishing a respectable fifth in the TVG Trot Final. Four weeks later, she was shipped to Europe for a winter/spring campaign on the continent. The immediate goal was to win the Prix D'Amerique, raced at Vincennes, France. Unfortunately, the post position gods were unkind and Maven drew the 14th post position. Shortly into the race, she made a break and finished back. Returning to Sweden, she redeemed herself in winning a stake race at Solvalla. Maven made a return to the Elitloppet in May and finished a strong second in the first heat. In the second heat, she tired and was seventh. Maven made her 16th start of her European campaign on July 28, 2015. After finishing sixth, she suffered some soundness issues. Jimmy Takter brought her back to the U.S. with the intention of resting her and then bringing her back to race. Maven did not train back sound and she was retired in March of 2016. Shortly after, she was bred to the superstar trotting stallion, Muscle Hill. There will certainly be a tremendous interest when the foal she's expecting in 2017 sells at the fall 2018 yearling sales. In 70 lifetime starts, Maven earned $2,005,369. With 31 wins, 14 second place finishes and 4 thirds. Her lifetime record is her world record performance over the Delaware track when she scorched that surface in 1:51.4h. In 2013, she was honored to receive the USTA's Dan Patch Award and Canada's Joe O'Brien Award as the sport's top older trotting mare. By Bill Donovan with Tim Kelleher

Cover Horse Flesh high res.jpg

6th excerpt from the 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 6th excerpt from Horse Flesh! Horse Flesh by Tina Sugarman A LUNCH APPOINTMENT The Old Mill was the priciest restaurant in the Erinsville area. Phil had expensive tastes. But Al considered that lunch was a small price to pay for Phil’s expert advice. In over two decades, Phil hadn’t steered him wrong yet. Al was profoundly grateful. He was keenly aware that things could have turned out very differently, had it not been for Phil’s guiding hand. Phil had first approached him at a time when Al’s company was struggling to survive. Al was a hard worker but he was no politician. McTavish Construction’s bids for government contracts were missing by a mile. Phil was a wheeler dealer who knew all the right people at City Hall. Phil’s ace bids and McTavish Construction’s quality workmanship had proved to be a winning combination, making a small fortune for both of them. “How’s things?” Phil asked, joining him at the table, looking suntanned and relaxed. “What have you been up to?” Al countered. “Let’s get a couple of beers,” Phil suggested, loosening his tie. The years had been kind to Phil. Perhaps, Al thought, it was because his friend had never married. His eyes were still the same shade of brilliant blue as the day they’d met. Unlike Phil, Al hadn’t found the time for too many vacations over the years. Phil was always off to some exotic place or other. He had it made! The drinks arrived. “Shoot!” Phil said taking a swig of beer. Al laid out his plan for introducing TCO2 testing at Iroquois Downs. “Okay,” Phil said, running a hand through his hair, which was long and floppy and gave him a youthful air, despite a few grey hairs. Al was a short back and sides man, himself. “You got two problems. First, there’s no money for testing. Second, the horsemen will hate the idea.” “That’s it in a nutshell,” Al agreed, feeling things were pretty hopeless. The steak arrived, the most expensive dish on the menu. “You deliver the horsemen and I’ll get you the money somehow,” Phil said confidently, his knife poised over the meat. “How?” Al asked. “Usual channels…leave it to me,” Phil replied cheerfully, waving his fork at Al. “You going to the Maple Leaf game on Sunday?” he added. “I haven’t decided,” Al confessed. “Meaning that wife of yours doesn’t want to go,” Phil diagnosed astutely. Unfortunately, it was all too true. “If she changes her mind, it’s not too late to get tickets. Just give me a call, I’ve got the best seats in the park!” “Sounds good,” Al smiled. Phil was a useful man to know, he’d discovered over the years. Where would he be without him? However, this latest caper, Iroquois Downs, wasn’t working out too well so far. It looked like Al had landed in the middle of a hornet’s nest. He said as much to Phil. “Listen,” his friend said, dropping his voice and leaning across the table. “The racetrack’s up for grabs, you have to know that! It’s right next to the highway.” “Prime building land,” Al agreed soberly, picturing the backstretch sprouting high rises. “Look what they’re doing in the US,” Phil said. “You mean casinos?” “You could have Slots at Iroquois Downs too. The place could be a mini Las Vegas,” Phil declared, taking out a wad of cash, peeling off a couple of bills and tossing them onto the table. “That’ll take care of the tip,” he smiled, rising to his feet. So that was why Phil had encouraged him to get involved with Iroquois Downs, Al realized belatedly. His friend was always one step ahead of him. “Hey! I do believe you’re getting attached to the old place!” Phil exclaimed. “I’d dearly like to turn things around, yes,” Al replied earnestly. “Then you know what you have to do,” Phil said “And I’m right behind you, pal.” Al wondered where Phil really stood on the issue of Iroquois Downs Raceway. Only time would tell. THE MEETING Ten days later as Al McTavish rode the elevator to the sixth floor of Iroquois Downs grandstand, he mentally prepared himself. A tricky and unpredictable morning lay ahead. When he entered the boardroom, he counted heads. Everyone was present, except for Judge Jewells, the man chairing the meeting. The people on Al’s team, from Finance, Publicity and Admin, gave him a friendly wave. He spotted the horsemen’s representatives, Jim Mercer and Bob Summers, sitting at the table looking a little disheveled, with glum faces. They were the only men in the room who weren’t wearing ties. Over by the window, a pair of pasty faced guys in dark suits were avidly sipping coffee from paper cups. They’d be from the Provincial Racing Commission, Al surmised, the body responsible for policing the harness racing industry. He walked over and introduced himself. Then the door opened and the presiding judge, John Jewells, strode into the room. Jewells immediately called the meeting to order, banging his fist on the table and giving those still on their feet a withering glance. “We have a new Director at Iroquois Downs,” he fired off, pointing at Al. “Director McTavish has called this meeting to put a stop to cheating.” Only the horsemen’s reps looked startled. Everyone else was in the know. “You all saw the shambles at the fillies’ Diamond Stakes final a couple of weeks back,” Jewells continued. “Two long shots winning in a dead heat! But there’s gonna be no more cheating at Iroquois Downs from now on. That means no more baking soda, for anyone not keeping up! There’s a simple solution. Test for it. They’ve been doing that in Quebec for months now. If the French can do it, we can damn well do it here, too!” With that, Jewells shut his mouth like a trap and glared defiantly around the room. Everyone started talking at once. “One at a time and address the Chair please,” Jewells roared, bringing his fist down onto the table with such force that it shook. Immediately, order was restored. Al kept a low profile, watching and listening to reactions from the various quarters. Predictably there was outrage from the horsemen, enthusiasm from the Provincial Racing Command, caution from Finance and excitement from Publicity, who could hardly wait to break the good news to the media. “Over to you, Mr. Director,” Judge Jewells trumpeted after everyone else had had their say.  “I’d like to thank you all for coming here today,” Al began graciously, receiving a scowl from Jim Mercer. “Before we go any further, I’d like to share something with you.” He gave a nod to Admin, who began distributing sets of stapled sheets. “It’s a research paper,” Al explained. “By a prominent veterinarian at Erinsville Equine Clinic. I suggest you read it over carefully before we discuss this any further.” Silence descended, broken only by the ripple of pages being turned. Mercer picked his up, took one look and threw it down on the table. Al took a cigar out of his pocket. “Anyone got a light?” Al asked. No one did. Eventually everyone was done reading, or in Mercer’s case, done staring at the table. “Judge Jewells, I’d value your opinion on this,” Al said, knowing precisely what his opinion would be. They had already discussed it at length. “Well,” a beetle-browed Jewells said, looking across at Al, “I think I can summarize this pretty simply. According to Dr. Winterflood, there’s no harm in using baking soda in moderation. But at higher levels, it can cause gastrointestinal distress and in rare cases, death.” “It can cause cardiac arrest,” one of the PRC men exclaimed. “It says it right here on page four!” Dr. Winterflood’s paper had evidently touched a raw nerve. “Time for a prayer?” Judge Jewells responded with a twisted smile. “I’d suggest, ‘Please God, if I come back in another life, don’t let it be as a Standardbred racehorse’, not that I’m a religious man.” A horrified silence followed. “Our members aren’t criminals,” Bob Summers protested. The other PRC man spoke up. “Certainly, we need to decide what levels of baking soda are safe,” he said soberly. “We don’t want to be responsible for horses dying at Iroquois Downs.” “What do we need another test for?” Mercer challenged. “We got enough of them already!” He looked over at Bob Summers, who stared up at the ceiling. Al could tell that Jim Mercer was getting pumped up. Before he could detonate, he jumped in with a rhetorical question. “What do we have to lose?” he asked. “The goodwill of the horsemen who put on the show,” Mercer shouted, red faced. “Where would you be without us? I’m up at 6 a.m. every day, so are the rest of the guys. Don’t get to bed before midnight on race nights. I hardly see my family! I’m out there in the cold freezing my ass off all winter. I don’t ever get a holiday, not that I’m asking for one…” You could have cut the air with a knife. “Look . . . er, Jim,” Al said. “We all value the contribution the horsemen make. But the handle is falling. Aside from major stakes events, the public is staying away.” He paused to let that fact sink in. “It won’t help the horsemen if we have to cut purse money back again. If things get any worse, we could even be forced to close the place down.” “They’ll never do that!” Bob Summers exclaimed. “Iroquois Downs is the top harness racing track in Canada!” “It’s a major racetrack, yes,” Al conceded. “But it’s costing our government a small fortune. We can’t justify this kind of expense indefinitely. We have to get the handle up somehow!” Bob looked beat, but Mercer wasn’t giving up so easily. “This paper doesn’t change a thing!” he retorted angrily. “You can’t do this without proper negotiation. We’re going to have to call a strike.” Mercer’s threat was hardly a surprise. “Go right ahead,” Al said coolly. “But if the press gets a hold of this…” he picked up Winterflood’s paper, “the public won’t have a shred of sympathy for the horsemen. They’ll just feel sorry for the horses. The animal rights groups will be crawling all over us. We’ve got enough controversy already with the betting ring scandal. So, go ahead and strike. You’ll be digging your own graves!” Mercer glowered and said nothing. Not so, Bob Summers. “If you think you can push us around, you’re dead wrong! We ain’t just gonna roll over an’ play dead,” he declared, looking at Mercer for support. “That’s right!” Mercer agreed. “Okay, what are you saying, Bob?” Al asked wearily. Were they going to be here all day? he wondered. He had already played his trump card. “You gotta give us a package. Something we can take back to our members,” Bob said, not unreasonably. It dawned on Al that Bob might actually be on his side. “What’s your idea here?” Al asked. “Give us a bigger percentage,” Bob suggested. “The percentages are set by the politicians. It’s not in my control,” Al explained. Bob hung his head. Judge Jewells jumped in. “You’re just going to have to convince the horsemen that this is in their best interests, aren’t you?” he said, his tone leaving no room for discussion. “Pie in the sky!” Mercer shouted. “You gotta give us more than vague promises,” Bob said, “or…,” he paused. Right on cue, Mercer jumped up off his chair. “We’re ready to walk out right now!” he threatened. The two PRC men exchanged nervous glances. Al waded in. “Fellows, let’s not get too excited here. There are no guarantees but…you all know what’s going on south of the border.” “You mean Slots?” Bob asked incredulously. “Here? At Iroquois Downs?” “There could be a great deal at stake here,” Al replied, noncommittally. “If this is a come-on . . .” Mercer growled. “No promises,” Al said. “But if we can get things cleaned up around here, then anything’s possible.” “I dunno,” Bob replied uncertainly. “What d’you think, Jim?” “Not good enough!” Mercer snapped. “It’s the best I can do,” Al said. “Take it or leave it.” Mercer leaned over towards Bob Summers. A muttered discussion followed, inaudible to Al. “We’re going to have to consult our members,” Bob said at last, “but I reckon we gotta try to get the job done.” Mercer threw his cap on the table. “The hell we will,” he cursed roundly. There was an awkward silence. “Anyone have a better idea?” Judge Jewells asked. No one spoke. “Then I’ll take a vote. Let’s have a show of hands: those for the motion to introduce TCO2 testing?” Not surprisingly Mercer was the lone dissenter. “The ayes have it. Motion carried,” Jewells declared. Al stuck his cigar in his mouth. “Here,” Jewells said, tossing him a lighter. “Can’t bear to see you sucking on that thing a moment longer. Meeting is closed,” the judge added hastily. Everyone but Al and the judge filed out. Mercer was the last to leave, his face like thunder. “We’ve been lynched today!” he muttered. The judge waited until the door slammed shut behind him. “A good morning’s work,” he declared approvingly. “It’ll all come to nothing, of course,” he added. Al stared at him, astonished. “The guys with deep pockets will challenge the test in the courts, get the judgments against them overturned on some technicality and make fools of us all. Besides, there’s no money for it,” Jewells said. “Don’t worry about the money,” Al reassured him, puffing on his cigar. “As for the courts. . . we’ll just have to hope for the best.” “Better put that thing out,” Jewells warned, with a hint of a smile, “before the smoke alarms go off!” It occurred to Al that he’d found an ally in the irascible Judge Jewells and maybe in Bob Summers, too. Right now, he needed all the friends he could get. Stay tuned in to Harnesslink every week for another excerpt from Horse Flesh! 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. 

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 5th excerpt from Horse Flesh! Horse Flesh by Tina Sugarman TCO2 The next day Director Al McTavish was driving into Iroquois Downs listening to the local radio, when he heard some worrying news. “This is your local station with today’s news and weather at the top of the hour. A single car accident occurred on the Indian Trail last night. From the skid marks on the tarmac, police believe the driver lost control of his car and left the road. The car ended up in a cornfield. The vehicle is registered in the name of Theo Vettore, leading driver at Iroquois Downs Raceway. We understand Mr. Vettore was unhurt, though suffering from a few scrapes and bruises…”  Al McTavish switched off the radio. He’d heard enough. Another piece of bad publicity for the racetrack. That’s all I need, he thought, as he pulled into Iroquois Downs’ empty parking lot. The sky had cleared overnight and the only evidence of the storm was the pools of water lying on the asphalt, steaming in the morning sun. It was going to be another hot day. After shuffling papers for a couple of hours, Al rode the elevator to the judge’s office on the seventh floor. “Got any news for me yet, John?” he asked, peering through the doorway. From the look on Judge Jewells’ face, Al surmised the news wasn’t good. He went and perched himself awkwardly on the only other chair in the room, the so-called prisoner’s chair. That was where horsemen accused of wrong doing sat, facing Judge Jewells on his leather throne. “No evidence, had to let ’im go,” Jewells revealed, his mouth set in a virtual straight line. So, Dave Bodinski had got away with daylight robbery, Al thought. It was disappointing to say the least. His gaze strayed to the racetrack far below where a few lone horsemen were still exercising their horses. There was so much that needed changing, Al reflected, on so many fronts: the low handle, resulting in slashed purses, the lack of funds to fix the decaying buildings. There wasn’t a shred of commercialism in the entire enterprise. “What do we do now?” Al asked. “If you’re serious,” Jewells replied looking him in the eye, as if to gauge his fortitude, “then you gotta get rid of the baking soda boys!” “Baking soda!” Al laughed. “Is that all they’re using? It doesn’t sound so bad.” “Take it from me,” Jewells replied emphatically, “If you want to clean up racing around here, you have to put a stop to soda. It’s far too easy for the horsemen to cheat.” “So, you think those two mares last night…” Al said, catching on. “Must’ve had a huge dose of it, yes,” the judge nodded. “Take a look at their previous efforts,” he added with a grim smile, tossing over the previous night’s race program. “I never would have picked either of them to win if I was a betting man,” Al acknowledged, feeling a little bewildered. “Take a look at Jolie Dame,” the judge directed. “Proof positive.” Al frowned. “She’s from Quebec,” Jewells said, fixing Al with a penetrating stare. Wilting under Jewells’ stern gaze, Al wracked his brains. But he still had no idea what the judge meant. “They’ve got black box testing in Quebec,” Jewells said in an irritated tone, as if explaining that two and two equaled four. “Had it for a while, TCO2 scores are closely monitored. Stops the baking soda boys in their tracks.” “Ah,” Al said finally getting it. “So, you think Price gave Jolie Dame baking soda? You think that’s why she improved so much down here?” “Don’t think it, know it! Can’t do anything about it of course,” Jewells said with genuine regret. “Well, it seems to me, we’ll have to find a way to test for baking soda at Iroquois Downs,” Al replied, relieved that there was such a simple solution. “Not so fast! It’s not cheap. Where are you going to get the money? Besides there’ll be a lot of resistance from the horsemen.” “And?” Al prompted. “Good chance they’ll go on strike.” Al frowned. “Refuse to race,” Jewells clarified, assuming Al wasn’t keeping up. “A strike. That’s all I need,” Al groaned. What have I got myself into here? he wondered. But he didn’t intend to give up at the first hurdle. His good friend and longtime business associate Phil Harman had convinced him to take on this job knowing it would appeal to Al’s sense of justice and fair play. Phil was counting on him to clean up racing at Iroquois Downs and Al was determined not to let him down. “Leaving the money aside for now,” he began, ignoring Judge Jewells’ pursed lips, “I need your input on getting the trainers on board.”  “Trainers!” the judge said contemptuously. “The winners are crooks and the losers haven’t figured out how to beat the system yet.” “Nevertheless,” Al argued, “we need to neutralize them if we’re going to be able to accomplish anything here. We can’t afford a strike. There’s little enough money as it is.” “Got any ideas?” the judge asked. “Not yet,” Al admitted. “How about you?” “None!” the judge replied sourly. And on that note Al departed. As he rode the elevator down to his office, he couldn’t help feeling a sneaking admiration for this Dave Bodinski character. Just sitting on that stool was enough to make a guy feel guilty and want to confess all. But Bodinski had faced Judge Jewells and come out of it smelling like a rose. In Al’s limited experience, horsemen were a pretty clever bunch. Anyone who didn’t take that into account would get nowhere with reforming a lost cause like Iroquois Downs. When he got back to his office, Al grabbed a cup of coffee and dialed McTavish Construction. Since his appointment as Director of Racing at Iroquois Downs, he had handed over the day to day running of his building company to his daughter, Billie.  It still felt odd not to be there himself every morning. “Good morning, sir. I’ll put you through to Miss McTavish right away,” the operator said. “Dad!” Billie McTavish exclaimed. “I’m glad you called. I wanted to get your take on that housing development, the one on Appleby Line.” “There’s something I want you to do first,” Al said. “Okay,” she replied, a little unwillingly, he thought. “I need you to find out everything you can about baking soda.” “Baking soda?” Billie asked. “You baking a cake or something? You don’t ever cook!” When Al didn’t reply, her tone changed to one of concern, “Is your stomach bothering you, Dad?” “No! Nothing like that!” Al replied hastily. “Believe it or not they use it on horses. It stops them tying up.” “I’m not even going to try to go there,” Billie laughed. “Just tell me what you want to know, okay?” Al pictured her: the look of exasperation mingled with amusement on her face, the mane of brown wavy hair. “I want you to find out if there have been any studies about the effects of high levels of baking soda, adverse or otherwise, on racehorses,” he said. “Okay!” Billie replied immediately. She sounded like she couldn’t wait to get started now.  “Plus,” he put in quickly before she could get off the line, “I need to know how you test for it and how much testing will cost.” “Fill me in here, Dad.” “They’re testing for soda in Quebec,” he explained. “Start from there. How soon can you get back to me on all this?” “If I google it,” Billie replied, “about an hour.” Al didn’t have any real understanding of how googling worked. Like the majority of his generation, he’d been reluctant to use the internet. However, he’d learned that in Billie’s hands at least, it produced excellent results. While he was waiting for his daughter to get back to him, he put in a call to Jim Mercer, one of the horsemen’s representatives, intending to feel him out on the baking soda issue. But all Mercer wanted to talk about was Theo Vettore’s accident the night before. “They made it sound like Vettore was out on a drunk,” Mercer retorted angrily, when Al introduced himself. “That’s a damn lie! Everyone knows what’s going on at the track! And what are you guys doing about it? Nothing!” When Al asked him to elaborate, Mercer got even hotter under the collar. “Don’t give me that!” he shouted. “Give you what?” Al replied feeling a little outraged himself. The guy wasn’t giving him a chance. “I haven’t got time for this!” Mercer muttered. He must have put the phone down, because all Al heard after that was a loud dial tone. ’Well, that went well,’ Al thought, gazing out of the window. It was so hot; the air was shimmering. The other rep, Bob Summers, was supposed to be the nice guy. But he wasn’t answering his phone. It looked like this job wasn’t going to be so easy. Then Billie called. “You’re not going to believe this!” she said exuberantly. “There’s a veterinarian doing a study, wait…here it is…a Doctor Jay Winterflood – that’s such a great name! – anyhow, he’s written a paper on the effects of sodium bicarbonate on the equine athlete…” “That’s…,” Al interrupted. “Baking soda, yes,” Billy confirmed. “Also, known as cooking soda, bicarbonate of soda, sodium hydrogen carbonate…or, if you want to get really technical, the chemical compound is NaH…” “Stop!” Al begged, his head spinning. “CO3,” Billie continued. “And listen to this. Doctor Winterflood is based right here in Erinsville…at the equine clinic!” That’s my girl, Al thought happily. “Perfect,” he said. “What’s wrong? You don’t sound very pleased,” she replied, her disappointment obvious. “Oh, I just got my head chewed off by someone,” he explained hastily. “Nothing to do with you, Billie. You did a great job. How about the cost?” “Of testing, you mean? I already asked Jeff. He’s got a lot of contacts in the States. He’ll be able to get us a good price,” she said, recovering somewhat. “Your friend Jeff Lamare,” Al smiled into the phone. “He’s got his fingers in so many pies!” “He’s a dotcom millionaire!” Billie corrected a little huffily. “And he’d be doing this as a favour to me, actually. It’s got nothing to do with his internet business.” Billie acted a bit like a porcupine at times – all prickles and humped back, Al reflected. But she was fiercely loyal to those she cared about and she’d never let him down yet. Did all fathers appreciate their daughters as much as he did? he wondered. His only disappointment was that neither of his sons had expressed any interest in taking over the family firm. However, Billie made up for both of them. “Thank him,” Al said humbly. “And Billie…” “Yes?” “The next meeting is in two weeks’ time.” “Okay,” she said doubtfully. She had the capacity to put a score of different meanings into that word. “I’d like to have everything ready to go by then.” “Okay!” she replied, suddenly business like. “Leave it with me, Dad. I’ll see what I can do.” The magic phrase, which nearly always brought results, had been uttered. Al leaned back in his chair and relaxed for the first time since Heart of Darkness’ humiliating defeat by two long shots the night before. After the weekend Al put in a call to Phil Harman to get a read on the political side of things. He had to leave a message on Phil’s answering machine. The next day, Phil called him back. “What’s up?” Phil asked. “How about I tell you over lunch at your favourite restaurant tomorrow?” Al suggested brightly. “No good. I got a lot on this week,” Phil replied. “How about next week then?” Al asked.  “Sounds like a plan. Long as you’re paying, pal!” Phil laughed. The Australian girl was lying on the terrace of André Fontainbleu’s hilltop fortress, soaking up the sunshine. Other than a large pair of sunglasses, she was wearing only the briefest of bikinis. André Fontainbleu, whose dark brown eyes had never needed protection, even from the harsh Caribbean sun, was resting his hand on her bare belly, palm down, fingers outstretched, in a habitual gesture of possession, pleased to observe the bruising on her breasts, testimony to the violence of their love making, just hours before. The clinking of silverware and glass and the discreet scraping of chairs informed him that lunch was ready to be served. “Get dressed,” he said roughly, tossing a towel at the girl. “After we eat, we shall go to Bailey’s Boatyard!” She opened her eyes and stared up at him. The flicker of resentment was still there. It meant nothing. He was holding all the cards. That afternoon he showed her the boat he was offering her: a wreck that had cost him nothing, washed up on the shore like the girl herself, another consequence of the storm. Afterwards, he drove slowly back up the mountain to the Hermitage, which was his personal, private sanctuary, bought dearly with blood and tears (not his own, of course). “You can leave now if you wish,” he told her, the sun in his eyes reducing her to a dark silhouette. “Leave?” she asked, with no attempt to hide her surprise. “Why, yes,” he replied, sure of himself now, reading her easily. The combination of arousal and confusion, with just a soupçon of surrender, interested him. “What if…,” she asked, her voice breaking. “What if I was to stay?” She was so young, he thought without a trace of empathy. The weekend was already a week. But it was not convenient for him to take on any surplus baggage at present. Stay tuned in to Harnesslink every week for another excerpt from Horse Flesh!

WEST CORK, Ireland – The conditions and rules are posted for the Red John Memorial and the new Maven Trotters Derby that will be held August 19 and 20 in picturesque Cork. This special tribute to the late “Red” John O’Donovan in 2017 will see all records be broken with prize money in excess of €90,000. Horses competing in both events will be required to race in elimination heats Saturday, August 19 and then return Sunday, August 20 for the final. First nominations are due Monday, April 20. This year the Red John Memorial and the Maven Trotters Derby are being sponsored by USA’s Bill Donovan, the owner of the world champion mare Marven. For more information go to http://www.irishharnessracing.com/ . By Tim Kelleher, for Harnesslink The conditions and rules for both races are below: RED JOHN MEMORIAL CONDITIONS 1. OPEN TO PACERS BORN ON OR BEFORE 2013 2.  NOMINATION FEE €100 DUE BEFORE APRIL 20th       FIRST SUSTAINING PAYMENT €100 DUE BEFORE MAY 20th       FINAL SUSTAINING PAYMENT €100 DUE BEFORE JUNE  20th  SUPPLEMENT FOR LATE ENTRIES €2000 3. TO BE RAN UNDER IHRA RULES  4. HEATS AND FINAL TO BE RAN OVER 1 1/4 MILES  5. A MAXIMUM OF 8 ELIMINATION HEATS WITH A MAXIMUM OF 8 RUNNERS IN EACH HEAT WILL BE HELD AND RAN AS PREFERRED HANDICAPS 6. FINAL TO HAVE EIGHT QUALIFIERS AND RAN AS A HANDICAP   7. HEATS TO START AT IHRA HANDICAP MARK GRADE F. ENTRIES WHO FALL OUTSIDE THE HANDICAP WILL BE FACILITATED IN OTHER RACES AND THEIR NOMINATION & SUSTAINING FEES RETURNED. 8. UK HORSES WILL HAVE THEIR BHRC MARK TRANSFERRED TO IHRA MARK  9. IN THE EVENT OF LESS THAN 8 HEATS ONE HORSE TO QUALIFY FROM EACH HEAT WITH THE REMAINING QUALIFIERS GOING TO THE FASTEST   2nd PLACED HORSES. 10. IN THE EVENT OF ANY HORSE WHO HAS QUALIFIED AND DOES NOT RUN IN FINAL NO REPLACEMENT HORSE ALLOWED  11. PURSE MONEY FOR FINAL €20,000 ELIMINATION HEATS €1600 (ESTIMATED) 12. DISTRIBUTION OF FINAL PURSE    1st €10,000 2nd €5,000 3rd €2,000 4th TO 8th €600 EACH  DISTRIBUTION OF HEAT PURSES WILL DEPEND ON FINAL DECLARATIONS  13. CONSOLATION FINAL PURSE €5,000 SAME PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION AS FINAL 14. CONSOLATION FINAL FOR THE 8  SECOND PLACED HORSES FROM EACH HEAT  .IF LESS THAN EIGHT HEATS THE FASTEST THIRD PLACED HORSES TO QUALIFY . 15. A MAXIMUM OF TWO QUALIFIERS FROM ANY ONE TRAINER AND OR OWNER WILL RACE IN THE FINAL  16. IN THE EVENT OF INTEGRITY TESTING PURSE MONEY HELD UNTIL TEST RESULTS ARE PUBLISHED  17. HORSES NOMINATED MUST COMPETE IN THREE "BETTING RACES" IN 2017 IHRA/BHRC SEASON  18. THE RED JOHN MEMORIAL COMMITTEE DECISION WILL BE FINAL IN ALL MATTERS  THE MAVEN TROTTING DERBY CONDITIONS 1. OPEN TO FRENCH TROTTERS BORN ON OR BEFORE 2014 AND PART OF THE LE TROT SCHEME  2.  NOMINATION FEE €100 DUE BEFORE APRIL 20th      FIRST SUSTAINING PAYMENT €100 DUE BEFORE MAY  20th       FINAL SUSTAINING PAYMENT €100 DUE BEFORE JUNE  20th SUPPLEMENT FOR LATE ENTRIES €2000 3. TO BE RAN UNDER IHRA RULES  4. HEATS AND FINAL TO BE RAN OVER 1 1/2 MILES  5. A MAXIMUM OF 8 ELIMINATION HEATS WITH A MAXIMUM OF 8 RUNNERS IN EACH HEAT WILL BE HELD AND RAN AS PREFERRED HANDICAPS 6. FINAL TO HAVE EIGHT QUALIFIERS AND RAN AS A HANDICAP   7. HEATS TO START AT IHRA HANDICAP MARK GRADE F. ENTRIES WHO FALL OUTSIDE THE HANDICAP WILL BE FACILITATED IN OTHER RACES AND THEIR NOMINATION & SUSTAINING FEES RETURNED. 8. UK HORSES WILL HAVE THEIR BHRC MARK TRANSFERRED TO IHRA MARK  9. IN THE EVENT OF LESS THAN 8 HEATS ONE HORSE TO QUALIFY FROM EACH HEAT WITH THE REMAINING QUALIFIERS  GOING TO THE FASTEST   2nd PLACED HORSES. 10. IN THE EVENT OF ANY HORSE WHO HAS QUALIFIED AND DOES NOT RUN IN FINAL NO REPLACEMENT HORSE ALLOWED SEAON  11. PURSE MONEY FOR FINAL €20,000 ELIMINATION HEATS €2800 (ESTIMATED) 12. DISTRIBUTION OF FINAL PURSE    1st €10,000 2nd €5,000 3rd €2,000 4th TO 8th €600 EACH  HEAT PRIZE MONEY TO BE DISTRIBUTED AS PER IHRA/LE TROT PERCENTAGE  13. CONSOLATION FINAL PURSE €8,000 SAME PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION AS FINAL 14. CONSOLATION FINAL FOR THE 8 SECOND PLACED HORSES FROM EACH HEAT. IF LESS THAN EIGHT HEATS THE FASTEST THIRD PLACED HORSES TO QUALIFY. 15. A MAXIMUM OF TWO QUALIFIERS FROM ANY ONE TRAINER AND OR OWNER WILL RACE IN THE FINAL  16. IN THE EVENT OF INTEGRITY TESTING PURSE MONEY HELD UNTIL TEST RESULTS ARE PUBLISHED 17. HORSES NOMINATED MUST COMPETE IN THREE "BETTING RACES" IN THE 2017 IHRA /BHRC SEASON  18. THE RED JOHN MEMORIAL COMMITTEE DECISION WILL BE FINAL IN ALL MATTERS 

WEST CORK, Ireland - The Red John Memorial was set up in 2015 following the tragic death of "Red" John O Donovan in January 2015. John was only 27 when he passed away but was a life long supporter of Harness racing in his native Cork and far beyond. The 2015 Memorial was a one day event but in 2016 the Red John Memorial became a two day event with the main race of the weekend The Red John Memorial Handicap carried a total purse of  €5000. In 2017 all records will be broken with prize money in excess of  €90,000. The Red John Memorial weekend takes place on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th August. This year Lyre, approx 2 miles from the bustling town of Clonakilty, will be the venue for what promises to be the biggest ever harness meeting staged in the West Cork region. The venue is owned by Ger Hegarty who has long being involved in the sport and boasts a natural grand stand which gives race goers a panoramic view of this half mile all grass oval. Clonakilty is around an hours drive from Cork International Airport and is on the gateway to the Wild Atlantic Way in West Cork. The Red John Memorial Handicap is for pacers born in 2013 or before, is of course, the feature of the weekend. The final which will be made up of eight qualifiers from elimination heats and will have a total purse of  €20,000 with a winners prize of €10,000 making it the richest handicap race in all of Ireland and the UK. The committee are indebted to Bill Donovan from Florida who has generously agreed to sponsor the event for the next three years .Donovan is president of a large trucking business based in Boston and has links to several more transport companies. His passion for standardbreds both trotters and pacers has put him in a position of one of the leading owners on the USA harness racing circuit. Bill has ancestoral links in Skibbereen and has forged strong links with the Murphy family from Baltimore through IB Coyote a mare jointly owned by Bill and the Murphy brothers Tadhg and Donal who won the prestigious Vincent Delaney Memorial two year old championship in 2016 and this was the catalyst for him getting involved in sponsoring the weekend. Bill has also sent a few of his own horses over from the USA to be trained and raced here in Ireland. Bill has also stepped in to sponsor "The Maven Derby" another handicap event this time for trotters born in 2014 or before. Maven was one of the greatest trotting mares ever to race in the USA and actually raced for a time in Etilop in Sweden. In 70 lifetime starts, Maven earned $2,005,369. With 31 wins, 14 second place finishes and 4 thirds. Her lifetime record is her world record performance over the Delaware track when she scorched that surface in 1:51.4h. In 2013, she was honoured to receive the USTA's Dan Patch Award and Canada's Joe O'Brien Award as the sport's top older trotting mare. This will be ran on the same lines as The Red John Handicap with eliminations and the grand final also for a total purse of €20,000. The Le Trot organisation from France are joint sponsors with Mr Donovan for this race which honours Maven, a horse owned by Bill Donovan. Bill says himself "Maven was a dream come true for me a mare of a lifetime but I have been blessed to have owned some great horses besides Maven including Ashleys Husband p,1.49.1 $250,736, Band Of Angels p,3 1.50 $487,150 , Bettor B Lucky p,3 1.50 $750,936 , Holier Than Thou p,3 1.50.1 $152,778 (World Champion) , Im On Cloud Nine p,3 1.54.2 $214,374 , Jolene Jolene p,2 1.52 $239,637 (World Champion) Lauderdale p,1.53.2 $386,189 , Medusa p,1.49 $432,012 Mistery Woman p,4 1.51 (World Champion) and Shared Past p,3 1.53 $416,606. "They have all given me so much success in harness racing and coming here to Cork to support the Red John Weekend gives me a chance to give something back to racing here where my fore fathers emigrated from many years ago " With the success of The Vincent Delaney Memorial in Portmarnock,The Red John Memorial weekend takes place on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th August which is the week after The Delaney weekend and it gives harness racing followers a week long of top class racing both in Dublin and here In Cork and The overseas visitors will be guaranteed a great time . Both The Red John and Maven Derby will see owners paying three sustaining fees of €100 per horse. The organisation of such a big event could not happen without the help of so many people and the harness racoing community here in West Cork are really pulling out all the stops to ensure this weekend will grow from humble beginings and become "The One" all owners and trainers want to win. "No matter what we ask of people putting up the track, sourcing stables for the visiting horses and garning sponsorship, there is always a positive outcome and without all this help such a weekend would not happen "said Micheal O'Donovan (brother of the late Red John) "What can we say, only Bill Donovan has put us in a great position with his generous sponsorship and I'm sure Red John will be looking down on us smiling on how big the weekend has become," added Caroline Collins of the Red John Committee. Following on from last year, Oakwood Stud will again sponsor the Three Year Old Grass Pacing Championship, which was a huge success in its first year. "Derek Delaney rang me last year and said why not try a three year old series which he and his brother James would sponsor, so we did and hopefully that grows just the way the VDM has." said Tim Kelleher of the committee "This year Derek rang and said they were again coming on board and to be honest we must mention all the rest of our sponsors from near and far who have been so generous " added Kelleher " We are always looking for new sponsors and The Clonakilty Chamber Of Commerce have been most helpful " The programme of events reads as follows THE RED JOHN MEMORIAL HANDICAP 1 ¼ MILES Heats €1600 (Estimated) Final €20,000 Consolation Final €5000 THE MAVEN TROT DERBY 1 ½ MILES Heats €2800 Final €20,000 Consolation Final €8000 THE OAKWOOD STUD IRISH 3YO GRASS PACING CHAMPIONSHIP Estimated prize fund €5000 THE PJI ENGINEERING FREE FOR ALL Estimated prize fund €3000 There will be a full supporting programme on both days with bumper prize money for all races. The on-line entry system will be available shortly as will details of Stabling and hotels. by Tim Kelleher, 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 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 4th excerpt from Horse Flesh! Horse Flesh by Tina Sugarman CORNERED Theo sprinted to his car through the pouring rain. He fumbled with the key, shaking like a leaf. He knew all about those guys in dark glasses. If they thought he hadn’t done his best to win, however untrue that was, he’d be in big trouble. He’d been feeling pretty low about losing with Heart of Darkness. That now seemed insignificant. Somehow, he got out of the horsemen’s parking lot without running into anything. Then he hit the road. The rain was cascading down like Niagara Falls. It had grounded every sane driver, so he was alone out there. The windshield wipers simply couldn’t cope with the torrent, but he desperately needed to put some distance between him and the racetrack. Moose had scared the shit out of him! Things were getting way too complicated at Iroquois Downs. There was plenty to worry about driving in a horse race without all that. He took the Indian Trail. It was slow going, as the road meandered through the bush. But Theo struggled on, using the blurred, watery house lights that appeared from time to time to guide him. At length, he reached open country and a straight road. The rain was easing up. He breathed a sigh of relief. He was almost home. Ferme Victoire, his Uncle Bernie’s place, was just around the corner. His relief was short lived. A pair of headlights materialized out of thin air. He had a fleeting glimpse of a vast combine harvester coming straight at him, as he slammed on the brakes. He put his hand down on the horn and held it there, but the headlights kept on coming. Was the maniac at the wheel deaf as well as blind? And what the hell was it doing out at this time of night, in this weather? Suddenly he knew. A split second later, another set of lights shone in his rear-view mirror, half blinding him. He was trapped! He had to get off the road! He swung left and instantly regretted his decision. An ugly looking barbed wire fence lay on top of a steep bank. He swerved to the right. His tires squealed in protest, but he put his foot down hard on the accelerator and prayed. There was a deafening crash. The air around him exploded. Theo watched, fascinated, as tiny air bubbles floated slowly across his line of vision. The car rocked violently, then landed right side up. Everything stopped. His headlights were shining on a sea of green corn. It was eerily quiet. The passenger door was pressing right up against his right arm. But by some miracle, he was still in one piece. He forced his way out and glanced up at the road. What he saw there made his heart stop. Two massive guys were silhouetted in the headlights streaming from a long black limousine that looked like a hearse. But the men looked nothing like undertakers. They were wielding powerful flashlights which, in their hands, looked like lethal weapons. But it was the sight of the long knives hanging from their belts which really scared him. He didn’t wait to find out more. He pushed his way through corn stalks, floundering on the heavy ground, ankle deep in mud. He’d heard stories about these guys, terrifying stories. He struggled on, his progress maddeningly slow, his imagination running riot. But despite his urgent need to put in as much distance as possible between him and them, he could feel that he was running out of steam. He and his cousin Lara had been in plenty of scrapes as kids, but this was no game! He hunkered down, listening intently. Smash! Bang! They were trashing his car, breaking the windows, slashing the tires. The headlights dimmed, then died. A piece of Theo died with it. Apart from his race bike, the car was the only thing he owned. Bastards, he cursed silently, afraid to make a sound. Suddenly everything went quiet again, a silence filled with menace. Now they were through with the car, they’d come after him, he guessed. He froze, peering through the rows of corn, hearing nothing, seeing even less. After what felt like an eternity, a powerful engine no hearse would ever possess roared into life, its dark outline menacing, even from a safe distance. This was no ordinary vehicle, Theo realized. Its front end was built like a battering ram. He shuddered as it rolled away down the road, its red tail lights glowing in the dark. Theo rose cautiously to his feet and looked about him, wondering what to do next. There was no sense going back to his car. It was a total write off. As he squelched through the mud to higher ground at the edge of the field, he realized the rain had stopped. He sat down and emptied the water out of his shoes. What now? he asked himself. Dave Bodinski waited for a break between cloudbursts before setting off for home, a one-bedroom walk-up on Erinsville’s east side. It didn’t bother him so much that he had to go see the judges in the morning. He and Scotty McCoy had to sing from the same hymn book, is all. But the rumour running around the Race Barn about some guys losing a big bet in the fourth, that had bothered him. Big time! He knew in his gut that Raiders Moon’s win had a lot to do with it and, thanks to the judges practically arresting him in the grandstand, there was a big fat finger pointing directly at him. Every couple of minutes he took a peek in his rear view mirror, looking out for a guy on his tail, even though he had no idea what he’d do if he was being followed. To his relief, he reached his building without incident. On his way up the stairs, the phone started ringing. He unlocked his front door in record time and ran inside, but the phone cut out, right after he picked up. Normally he’d have cared less, but he had to wonder. Who’d be calling at this time of night? And why? When no one called back, he assumed the worst. He locked all the windows and double bolted the front door. He was thankful that his apartment was on the second floor. It gave him a sporting chance. He decided to take Scotty McCoy with him to cash in the tickets. Scotty wasn’t big, but he was stronger than he looked. He was bull headed too. If anyone tried to jump them, Scotty wouldn’t take it lying down. Hoping for the best, Dave switched off his phone and barricaded himself in the bedroom. He fell into a fitful doze, listening to the sound of the rain on the window panes. The road was far too dangerous, Theo realized. He went in the opposite direction, walking along the narrow ridge of grass on the edge of the field, listening intently to every sound, trying to ignore the sinister rustling in the corn stalks. He was doing okay till an owl hooted in his ear. Eventually the corn field gave way to bush. He hesitated for a moment. Then he began fighting his way through the undergrowth, feeling very much alone. The moon, his only source of light, had disappeared behind the clouds. If he’d got it right, his uncle’s farm wasn’t far off. If not…he’d just have to hole up in the woods and wait till dawn. He’d reckoned without the coyotes. The first howl, too close for comfort, sent shivers down his spine. It was quickly joined by others. A deer came bounding towards him, nearly running him down. The pack was on the hunt. The clouds rolled back and he made out the shadowy forms of the coyotes snaking in and out of the trees, their eyes glinting. They were after something. He just hoped it wasn’t him! For the fifth time that night, Scotty McCoy left the pay phone and made his way back to his barn. He was cold, wet and worried sick. Where was Dave when he needed him? Raiders Moon wasn’t acting right. If she got any worse, he’d be forced to call the vet and that was the last thing he wanted to do right now. It was like calling the police after you’d committed a crime. Nevertheless, after looking over the mare one more time, Scotty knew he had to bite the bullet. Things had gone too far. Even Dave couldn’t help him now. Coyotes didn’t generally attack people, but they’d take a puppy or a pet cat in a heartbeat. Better safe than sorry, Theo reasoned, getting down on his hands and knees and groping around for something to throw at them. Eventually, his fingers closed on a dead branch. Pretty soon he spotted the coyotes’ intended quarry: a clutch of round eyed baby raccoons, trying to shimmy up a tree trunk, the picture of innocence. As the pack edged forward, he brandished his tree branch, yelling at the top of his lungs. To his relief, the coyotes turned tail and ran. Ousting them gave him a much-needed boost, but when he looked around for the raccoons they had disappeared. There’s gratitude for you, he thought. A hundred metres further on, the outline of his uncle’s hay barn loomed up, it’s reassuring light shining like a beacon through the mist. He was almost home! Then the barn light cut out, plunging him into darkness. Minutes ticked by. Theo was afraid to make a move. Was this an ordinary power cut, or were the Undertakers out there somewhere, waiting for him? Rain hit veterinarian Jay Winterflood smack in the face the moment he left the comfort of his truck. Getting to Scotty McCoy’s barn was like fording a swollen river, something he’d had plenty of practice at on the Cree Reserve in Quebec, where he had spent the first fifteen years of his life. Inside the barn, a man was sprawled on a rickety chair, half asleep. He jumped up when he saw Jay. “Doc!” he exclaimed. “Scotty McCoy?” Jay asked. Scotty nodded. “She’s bad, Doc, real bad,” he said hurrying over to one of the stalls and opening the door. The horse inside was obviously in distress. She’d backed herself into a corner. Her head was almost touching the floor and her flanks were heaving. There was a chill in the air which had nothing to do with the temperature. It clung to the hay bales stacked in the aisle way and lingered on the upturned jog carts and the harness bags hanging from the rafters. Involuntarily Jay shivered.  “I don’t understand it!” Scotty said, scratching his head. “She raced great tonight. She won!” “How long has she been like this?” Jay asked, gesturing at the cowpat-like manure strewn around her stall. Scotty hung his head. “Two, three hours,” he confessed. “I figured she’d come out of it, see.” “I need to know exactly what she was given today,” Jay said gravely. “Nothing!” Scotty replied indignantly. “If you want me to save your mare, you’d better tell me the truth!” “Three boxes of baking soda,” Scotty mumbled. “An’ a box o’ cake sugar.” “You know,” Jay said, “you guys think that baking soda is harmless.” “I never used it before!” Scotty cut in. “And in small doses, it is harmless,” Jay continued “But you can see now, used in excess, it can have a devastating effect.” “You take cash?” Scotty asked, evidently anxious to put a stop to the lecture. “You need to bring her into the clinic right away,” Jay said firmly. “My preliminary diagnosis is intestinal distress and extreme dehydration. I can’t treat her here.” “The clinic!” Scotty exclaimed, looking horrified. “They killed the last one I sent in there. Stuck me with a bill for three grand anyway.” “Not on my watch,” Jay replied. “I’ll meet you there in twenty minutes.” He picked up his bag. “I’m hoping we won’t have to operate,” he added, walking towards the door. “Operate!” Scotty repeated. Time was slipping away, Jay could feel it. He was blessed and cursed by an uncanny ability, a sixth sense. The gift had come to him from his mother’s people. It made most Canadians uneasy, so he’d learned to keep it to himself. “I don’t want no trouble, Doc!” Scotty said. “Load her up,” Jay replied, losing patience. “The sooner I start treatment the better her chances.” “You mean she might not make it?” Scotty asked, looking terrified. “I’m not making any promises,” Jay replied grimly, heading out into the downpour. The house was pitch black. Even the porch light was out. Clawing his way through the dark, Theo clambered up the porch steps, trying to avoid the one that creaked, a legacy from his teenage days. Uncle Bernie used to leave an emergency key in a flowerpot. He groped his way towards it and felt around. To his surprise, it was still there, buried in the earth. Gingerly, he opened the heavy front door only to be bombarded by the thud of boots and blinded by a flashlight. This time there was nowhere to run. He was cornered! “Theo?” he heard Uncle Bernie’s voice ask uncertainly. “What’s going on? It’s two o’clock in the morning! Look at you!” he exclaimed. “Marta!” he called out. “It’s alright! It’s only Theo.” A few minutes later Theo was sitting at the kitchen table wrapped in a horse blanket, drinking hot milk with a slug of brandy. Shadows cast by the candlelight were dancing on the walls. The electricity was still out. “You look very bad,” Marta pronounced. “Tell him Bernie. It is true, yes?” “You got yourself in some kind of trouble?” Bernie asked, looking worried to death. “I’ll tell you,” Theo replied shakily, finishing off the brandy. “I’ll tell you the whole sorry story. You’re not going to believe this!” André Fontainbleu was sitting in his private study watching the video he had secretly made of him and Anya making love earlier that night. He was pleased with his performance. Two females had given him pleasure tonight: Anya and the filly, Jolie Dame. Stay tuned in to Harnesslink every week for another excerpt from Horse Flesh!

On Friday, March 24, the British Harness Racing Club (BHRC) posted their official policy concerning Social Media Conduct for their participants. The new guidelines were developed by the BHRC to protect the interest of the code of harness racing, its licensed person, its employees and officials of the BHRC. Any person found guilty of a breach of the new policy will be subject to a suspension and/or fine and/or warning off. The policy mirrors what was done by Harness Racing Victoria in Australia one year ago. The new policy is listed below. BRITISH HARNESS RACING CLUB SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY FOR PARTICIPANTS Function Communication via online social media such as facebook, twitter, blogs and forums etc. is an ever-increasing way for society to communicate by creating and sharing content of a common interest. This policy provides some guidelines and expectations when using social media either as part of their job, or for personal use where reference is made to the British Harness Racing Club, the harness racing industry, its participants and any other harness racing related individuals, clubs or organisations. This policy aims to protect the interest of the code of Harness Racing, licensed persons, its employees and officials of the British Harness Racing Club. This policy is not designed to discourage people from accessing social media but rather to ensure that they are clear of their respective rights and responsibilities. This policy does not apply where licensed participants engage in the personal use of social media where no reference to the British Harness Racing Club or anything related to the harness racing industry is made. Range This policy applies to all participants in the UK Harness Racing industry, including all licensed Owners, Trainers, Trainers Assistants, Drivers and Officials. What is Social Media? Social Media avenues include, but are not limited, to: · Social network websites such as Facebook, Bebo, Friendster · Photo and Video sharing websites such as Flickr, YouTube, Snapchat · Blogging applications such as Twitter · Discussion boards, blogs and chat forums · Online newspapers allowing for comments to be made · Instant or SMS type messaging · Other websites that allow persons to use publishing tools Use of Social Media Social Media should not be used for any of the following: · To publish or make comments that are detrimental to the harness racing industry and any of its members, · To direct abuse or inappropriate comments about other individuals or organisations that participate in the harness racing industry, · To breach any of the British Harness Racing Club Rules, · To assume or use the identity of another licensed person or official · To publish any information that is related to the harness racing industry that is confidential in nature or is part of any ongoing inquiry or investigation · To make any comment or post that is, or could be considered, to be malicious, offensive, abusive, racist, threatening, discriminatory, bullying, defamatory or disrespectful to another person or body in the harness racing industry or BHRC, its employees, officials and participants that comprise of the UK Harness Racing Industry. Associated Rules  S40: Any person shall not: [b] say, publish, write, or cause to be said, published or written, anything malicious, intimidatory or otherwise improper about a Governing Body, its members, employees or its officials or anyone else associated with the harness racing industry. [c] whether alone or in association with others, say, publish or write, or cause to be said, published or written, anything intended improperly to influence a decision of the BHRC, its members, employees or its officials or anyone else associated with the harness racing industry, on any matter. [d] whilst acting as administrator to social media pages, allow comments to be published which are malicious, intimidatory or otherwise improper about a Governing Body, its members, employees or its officials or anyone else associated with the harness racing industry. Said administrator shall be deemed to take full responsibility for such comments and investigated for a breach of Section S40. Any person found guilty of a breach of section S40 shall be subject to a suspension and/or fine and/or warning off. Breach of Policy Non-compliance of this policy may result in that person being called before the British Harness Racing Club Stewards. The BHRC reserves the right to require the immediate removal or modification of medial comments that result in a breach of this policy. By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink

The Four Shires harness racing club three year old conditioned pace returns for a second year. This time in a different venue over the top half mile turf circuit at Allensmore. Once again the leading equine product manufacturer NAF have returned with their generous sponsorship. A huge thanks must be given to NAF and it is fabulous to see a high profile company getting behind the event again. This conditions race was set up to give three year olds with winnings of £100 or less on the 28th of February the opportunity to race for a substantial pot. With prize money in excess of £2,000, the record amount of nominations show that this event is here to stay. Twenty four colts and geldings have nominated along with nine fillies. The majority of the nominations are unknown quantities and are yet to grace the racetrack, which makes it more of a challenge for the ante-post odds compilers but also adds extra excitement to the event. An interesting entrant in the colts division is the John Howard owned, Sam Howard trained Sper Buggy. This father son pairing have had great success in two and three year old events in recent years with the likes of Rhyds Rainbow and Tyrion Hanover. This son of Dragon Again raced as a two year old which could be an advantage in a race of this nature. Dynamic and Cash Hall are two others who catch the eye. These Scottish based entrants must have shown something to connections for them to consider making the long journey to the Hereford track. Marc Jones will be hoping lightening can strike twice and repeat last year's victory of Rockin Mambo with Father Ted who is a full brother to last year's 3 year old filly of the year Jessie's Conquest. Marc also has a nice prospect in the fillies division with his unraced filly Strictly Mambo who is a half-sister to Rockin Mambo A number of the nominees are related to proven performers here in the UK and will be hoping they can follow in the footsteps of their siblings. The sustaining fee is due by 28th March and the event takes place on Sunday 9th July Full List of nominees Colts/Geldings 1. American Hustle (The One Night Pan/American Beauty) G. Thomas 2. Arthur Camden (Arts Conquest/Rosie Croix) R. Richards 3. Brywins Magic Beach (Star on the Beach/Saunders Magician) E. Frieze 4. Cash Hall (Kikikolt/Yoko Hall) H. Muirhead 5. Dynamic (Wingsong Dynamite/Call My Bluff) H. Muirhead 6. Father Ted (Arts Conquest/Apopka Denise) M. Jones 7. Frisco Stringer (Rogue Hall/Lifeisjustadream) P. Davidson 8. Greenhill Gus (Preacher Pan/Serefina) M. Thomas 9. Hasty Heights (Hasty Hall/Alpine Heights) I. Davies 10. Ithon Orbit (Yankee Lariat/Dai's Dream) C. Lewis 11. Ithon Osprey (Yankee Lariat/Ithon Indigo) H. Evans 12. Lanehouse Yankee (Yankee Lariat/Apache Silk) C. Morgans 13. Mahogany Charmer (The Preacher Pan/Mahogany Dream) J. Dyer 14. Mahogany Mario (Mahogany Import/Mahogany Shark) D. Wakefield 15. Mahogany Oleg (Preacher Pan/Mahogany Breeze) D. Isaac 16. Morning Breeze (Star on the Beach/Brywins All American) E. Frieze 17. No Respect (Pro Bono Best/Decode) N. Wilson 18. No Trouble (Hasty Hall/Art n Soul) P. Preston 19. Ozzy (Yankee Lariat/Donisthorpe Lucky) P. Dyer 20. Red Art (Arts Conquest/Real Deal) H. Evans 21. Taylor Made (Pro Bono Best/Classy Princess) K. Wakefield 22. The Lion King (Doonbeg/Carousel) H. Evans 23. Sper Buggy (Dragon Again/Dune Buggy Hanover) J. Howard 24. Wye Joels Best (Pro Bono Best/JV's Jiffy) R. Richards Fillies 1. Artess (Arts Conquest/Rhyds Rhythm) R. Cooper 2. Ayr Voyage (His Alibi/Unforgotten) R. Walker 3. Brywins Beachlight (Star on the Beach/Brywins Starlight) J. Wright 4. Ceirion Vickey (Kikikolt/Ceirion Velvet) C. Davies 5. Finley Wells (Well Said/Emily Car) C. Cooke 6. Hurry Up Abi (Kikikolt/Maddi) J. Manning 7. Kiwi (Kikikolt/Mahogany Jet) B. Richards 8. Olivia Camden (Pro Bono Best/Yankee Jiffy) L. New 9. Strictly Mambo (Ponder/Mambo Western) M. Jones by Kayleigh Evans  

A cheque for £725 was handed over to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance by organisers of Nidderdale Harness Racing. The event in July, 2016, was held at Bewerley Park in Pateley Bridge. Over £1,050 was raised at the event which was split between the YAA and the Princes Countryside Fund,. A further £200 raised by the car park stewards, Ilkley Motor Club, through a bucket collection was also donated to the ambulance service. Don Leeming, President of Nidderdale Agricultural Society, presented a cheque to Mike Bevington of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance at the Show Committee’s Schedule Meeting. Mr Bevington thanked everyone for their support which he said had been tremendous over the years. He said the YAA needed £12,000 a day to keep their helicopters flying with two new helicopters, kitted out with the latest equipment, carrying patients to major trauma centres, the James Cook university hospital in Middlesbrough or Leeds general infirmary. He said crews are currently going through training to use night vision goggles so they can apply for permission for longer flying times. The 2017 Nidderdale Harness Racing event will be held at Bewerley Park, Pateley Bridge on Sunday, June 25 with the first race starting at 2pm, for information go to www.nidderdaleharnessracing.co.uk By Mark Foster, Chief Reporter (North Yorkshire)  Reprinted with permission of the Darlington and Stockton Times

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!

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!

WEST CORK, Ireland - Poster girl Deirdre Goggin rode a double at her local track when road trotting made a welcome return to Goleen on the tip of the Mizen peninsula after a hiatus of six years on Sunday. The road, which stretches along the Dauch Causeway, is a setting of real beauty with the tide from the nearby Atlantic Ocean, nestling in under the Causeway Bridge at the Northern side of the course . The meeting of the"Big Two" of road trotting Rhyds Ponder and Maitha Buachaill reads 4 to 0 to the latter before today and he had to take a 20 yard handicap for those wins. Goggin set Rhtds Ponder alight from the start and led through the opening two turns. Heading to the third turn the advantage was five lengths to Meadow Branch Kiki with Maitha Buachaill back in fourth. Approaching the final turn, Goggin on Rhyds Ponder, began to turn the screws on her rivals and flew off the last turn and was not for catching with trotter Tactician Du Lys snatching second from Maitha Buachaill.  After dismounting her horse Goggin was carried shoulder high into the presentation area by the partisan local crowd. Earlier the huge local crowd roared Deirdre home on Saunders Paris in the Grade C.  This looked a tough one to call with Rhyds Artist also well touted in the betting ring, but Saunders Paris made light work of her rivals careering away to win her fifth of the season by six lengths. "Home is always the place to win and Paris is owned by my father Micheal and I am so proud to win here," said the modest Goggin after the race. Jamie Hurley still the leads the jockeys championship after recording a double Sunday. IB Tweedy in the grade E was sent to post at prohibitive odds and was never in danger giving owners "The One For The Road Syndicate" their fourth win of the year. John Woodland made the four hour journey from Limerick with Coalford Hardy a winning one. Jamie Hurley was on board to lead from the start and despite the late intentions of Big Jim held on by three lengths. This was the first winner for owner trainer Woodland, who is based in Limerick City. Jamie hurley now stands on ten winners one ahead of Deirdre Goggin on nine . Racing opened with an a win for Rock On Jo Jo on his tarmac debut. Matthew O Reilly allowed Van Helsing and Shanes Income battle it out early and sent Jo Jo to the front after the final turn to win by four lengths. Old Chapel in Bandon is the next meeting on Sunday 26th March with the All Ireland Championships which were cancelled last week re scheduled for Sunday April 2nd. by Tim Kelleher, for Harnesslink RESULTS NOVICE The Lobster Pot Bar Cup 1. M O'Reilly ROCK ON JO JO Owner 2. McCarthy/ Daly SHANES INCOME A McCarthy 3. M O'Brien VAN HELSING P O Brien GRADE E The Fastnet Bar Cup 1. One For The Road Syn IB TWEEDY J Hurley 2. P Kane RETURN OF THE MAC M O'Reilly 3. G O Callaghan TROOPERS HARMONY M Goggin Jnr GRADE D The O Mearas Bar Cup 1. J Woodland COALFORD HARDY J Hurley 2. G Kane BIG JIM T O'Leary 3. G Cooke WESTERN BEACH D Goggin GRADE C The Twins Memorial Cup 1. M Goggin SAUNDERS PARIS Deirdre Goggin 2. P Manning SPRINGHILL JAZZ D Brickley 3. R Joyce BEAUTYS HARMONY M O'Reilly THE CAUSEWAY CLASSIC GRADE A & B The Frank & Anna Goggin Memorial Cup 1. N Forbes RHYDS PONDER Deirdre Goggin 2. G Kane TACTICIAN DU LYS T O'Leary 3. Hegarty/ Hurley MAITHA BUACHAILL J Hurley  

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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