Day At The Track
Jim Lackey

Silverhill Volo puts Cal Expo streak on line

A $7,400 Open Trot that finds Silverhill Volo aiming for his fifth straight harness racing victory and a $7,200 Filly and Mare Open Pace with Bertha Vanation eyeing the hat trick are the marquee events on Sunday's Cal Expo card. There will be 12 races under the Watch and Wager LLC banner and things get underway at 4:55 p.m.The Open Trot is scheduled as the third race, while the Distaff Open will occupy the sixth-race slot on the evening. Silverhill Volo, perfect in his four outings at this meet, looks to keep the streak going in the Open Trot while leaving from the assigned outside post in the field of nine. A 10-year-old son of Muscle Hill, Silverhill Volo is owned, trained and driven by Chip Lackey. He is eyeing his 29th victory from 140 trips to the post, has $168,000 in his bank account and sports a 1:55 1/5 mark. Silverhill Volo has raced up close and personal in all his wins here, including a coast-to-coast decision in the Joe Lighthill two back. He was hard used while first over in his most recent tally three weeks ago, pulling away by two and a half lengths while making 3-5 look like a gift. Mandeville could prove to be the main rival for owner/driver/trainer Gerry Longo. The 9-year-old sidewheeler had a second, a third and a fifth-place finish behind Silverhill Volo before returning to his winning ways two weeks ago in a conditioned affair. Leaving from the outside post in the field of seven, he left into a pocket journey, then had the needed response when asked in the lane and drew off by a length and a quarter. It was the 31st snapshot in 142 trips to the post for Mandeville, who pushed his earnings close to the $270,000 mark. He lands two slots inside his main rival in the No.7 post for this go-around. In the co-featured Distaff Open, Bertha Vanation has posted back-to-back surprise scores at the top rung for owners Bill and Cathy Dessert and driver/trainer Nick Roland, working out sweet trips on both occasions. This time around she will be asked to depart from the assigned outside slot in the field of seven. Bertha Vanation longshot players delight Those who have backed Bertha Vanation in her last two starts at the head of the distaff pacing ranks have been nicely rewarded, as the mare clicked at 25-1 weeks ago and came back to get the job done at 7-1 last Saturday evening. The 6-year-old daughter of Voracious Hanover is owned by Cathy and Bill Dessert and is trained and driven by Nick Roland, who has been able to work out perfect two-hole trips with Bertha Vanation for those two upsets. "I've been with Cathy and Bill for five or six years now and we bought this horse from her breeder John Hendricks three years ago," Nick related. "She got sick on us this summer and kind of went off form, but the minute she got here she perked right up and showed how much she likes this track." Bertha Vanation won her first start at the meet, had to settle for minor awards in her next two tries, then missed a couple of weeks before suiting up for the January 2 Filly and Mare Open where she dismissed at 25-1 from the No. 2 slot. "Because she'd missed some time, she needed every bit of that two-hole trip and the moderate fractions to get there by a nose," Roland noted. Nick admits he didn't see another pocket journey in Bertha Vanation's future when she left from the No. 4 post in a compact cast last week, but the racing gods were once again in her favor and she prevailed once more at the head of the class. "I didn't see it happening on paper, but for whatever reason Brighten Your Life didn't go and I left hard for the top. I didn't mind it at all when Delightfully Wild retook the lead and we were able to work out another good trip." Upsets are often made of such things. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

New York Sire Stakes, Harness Racing

New York Sire Stakes eligible Stallions for 2021

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. - The Agriculture & New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund has published its list of eligible stallions for the 2021 breeding season. The list includes 34 registered standardbred stallions. The full Stallion Directory, featuring pedigrees, career statistics and earnings of the eligible stallions, is currently available online. Hard copies of the Stallion Directory will be available through the Fund upon request. Eligible stallions are those stallions that have met the ownership or leasing requirements of the Fund and were registered by the Jan. 1 deadline. Copies of the 2021 New York Stallion Directory can be requested by calling 518-388-0178 or emailing info@nysirestakes.com. Keep up to date with news by visiting www.nysirestakes.com. About the Agriculture & NYS Horse Breeding Development Fund:  The Agriculture & NYS Horse Breeding Development Fund is a public benefit corporation established in 1965 by the Laverne Law (Laws of New York, Chapter 567 of the Laws of 1965). The mission of the fund is to promote agriculture through the breeding of Standardbred horses and the conduct of equine research within the state. To carry out its legislative mission, the Fund administers the New York Sire Stakes races, Excelsior/State Fair Series races, and County Fair Races.  

Illinois Racing Board

$12.2m in recapture fees to tracks

The Illinois Racing Board unanimously certified the dispersal of $12.2 million in recapture fees to the state's three horse racing tracks on Thursday ahead of the 2021 harness racing season.   Though still a point of consternation for the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (ITHA), the process went far smoother than last year's certification, when ITHA Executive Director David McCaffrey pointed out a potential flaw in the recapture accounting methods and found himself in a spirited back-and-forth with then-IRB Chairman Jeffrey Brincat.   On Thursday, McCaffrey noted the biggest problem remains the state's General Assembly not reimbursing the Illinois Department of Agriculture -- which oversees horse racing in Illinois -- to make the overnight purse whole after the recapture money is distributed to the tracks. McCaffrey said this part of the law "has not been followed since 1999" and claimed that nearly $300 million in recapture fees have been distributed to the tracks, a total that includes since-closed tracks at Maywood and Balmoral, since it took effect in 1995. (Ed. note - $98 Million to Arlington Park and $298 Million to all other tracks in 25 years (since 1995.))   Hawthorne Race Course, which is in the process of constructing a racino that has a target opening of December, received nearly $5.2 million in recapture fees for both thoroughbred and harness racing. Hawthorne, though, is deferring its collection of recapture fees until the racino is operational and had previously deferred $3.4 million in recapture fees from the 2020 fiscal year.   Arlington International, whose parent company Churchill Downs has not committed to racing at the facility beyond this season, was awarded $4.95 million, while Fairmount Park Race Track -- which also has plans to expand into a racino -- received nearly $2 million.   The return of the St. Louis Derby at Fairmount Park Race Track near the end of Thursday's meeting, Fairmount Park Race Track General Manager Melissa Helton announced the track has requested Aug. 26 as the date for the running of the St. Louis Derby, which would mark the first time the stakes race will be held in Collinsville (Illinois) since 2006. As part of FanDuel 's rebranding of the track to FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing, the sports betting titan is funding the $250,000 event.   Helton added FanDuel would be in demo at the track starting Monday, though COVID-19 mitigations where the track is located in the SouthWestern part of Illinois do not currently allow patrons at the grounds.   FanDuel announced in November it would transfer its sports betting license from Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino to Fairmount Park Race Track, which was granted a Master Sports Wagering organizational license by the Illinois Gaming Board in late October.   Chris Altruda @altruda83 has been a sportswriter with ESPN, the Associated Press , and STAYS over more than two decades. He recently expanded into covering sports betting and gambling around the Midwest. The Horseman's Voice

Tango Dancer N scores in the 10th race at The Meadowlands Friday night, one of four victories on the card for leading driver Dexter Dunn, Harness racing

Dunn stays hot, wins 4

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - The wins just keep on coming for harness racing driver Dexter Dunn. The 31-year-old New Zealand native, who was named the United States Harness Writers Association's Driver of the Year for a second straight time last week, registered four winners on the Friday night card at The Meadowlands. Before the start of the program, Dunn was awarded The Big M's Driver of the Week after winning seven times last weekend (Jan. 15-16), and now sits atop the standings at the mile oval with 19 victories in the early stages of the Winter-Spring-Championship Meeting. Dunn's backers got to cash in some nice prices, as after winning with 1-5 public choice Billion Dollar Day ($2.60 to win in race one), the track's leading driver (with 131 wins) during 2020 scored with Smooth Aceleration ($11.40 in the fifth) and Tango Dancer N ($12.40 in the featured 10th) before completing his grand slam with Alexander Hanover ($14.40 in the 13th). Tango Dancer N Another Down Under standout, Australia native Andy McCarthy, had a big night as well, scoring three times during the night. His fans were smiling after those races as McCarthy's winners (Rockin Panda, Always Mindy, Sheikh Yabooty N) were sent to the gate at odds of 7-2, 7-1 and 10-1. Sheikh Yabooty N PICK-6 CARRYOVER: With a sequence that began with a 10-1 chance and a 27-1 long shot, no one hit the 20-cent Pick-6, creating a carryover for Saturday night's program of $7,293. Those who had five winners cashed in for $347.34. Free past performances for the entire Saturday card are available by going to playmeadowlands.com. HIGHS AND LOWS: With three odds-on choices scoring during the sequence, the 20-cent Pick-5 returned $75.90. In sharp contrast, the Early 50-cent Pick-4 saw no winning favorites and a healthy payout of $8,987.35. A LITTLE MORE: Simon Allard drove two winners on the program while Kelvin Harrison registered a training double. ... Play in the two Pick-4s was predictably vigorous, as the two pools combined to see over $160,000 in action. ... All-source wagering totaled $2,806,228, the third consecutive Friday where at least $2.8 million was pushed through the windows. ... Racing resumes Saturday at 6 p.m.   By Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations

LEBANON, OH. - The Bethinator, the youngest harness racing mare (at age 4) with the least earnings in the field, won the Miami Valley $22,500 Mares Open Pace on Friday (Jan. 22). It was the daughter of Somebeachsomewheres fourth win at the top level in her last six tries on the Miami Valley-Hollywood Dayton circuit. Driver Tyler Smith set sail early and was determined to dictate all the fractions with the razor sharp odds-on favorite. The outcome was never really in doubt as The Bethinator coasted through the mile in fractions of :27.3, :55.4, 1:23.3 and 1:51.4. Although all nine of her challengers had career earnings over $200,000, she has just reached $147,309 for her owner-breeder Megan Rogers Racing Stable. The Bethinator is trained by Nelson Willis. Sharing the Friday spotlight were a pair of lucrative Claim To Fame series finals. The finalists in the $20,000 claiming split for mares chased a purse of $30,000, while the male $12,500 claimers went for $25,000. Malnificent (Trace Tetrick) proved her many faithful were correct when she fronted the distaff field in 1:52.4 and returned a $3.00 win mutual. Owned by Ira and Brian Wallach Racing and trained by Tyler George, the winner bested Duck Duck Dragon (Chris Page) and M E Radar Girl (Tyler Smith) to claim the championship. J M Jet Set (Dan Noble) got the best of a very evenly matched field of championship hopefuls in the male division. Franzo (Sam Widger) and Armabluechipboy N (Kayne Kauffman) were next across the finish line, reached in 1:53. All nine finalists had won a heat of the series in the past two weeks. Noble's wife Christi conditions and owns the 11-year-old winner who now sports 40 career wins and over $400,000 in lifetime bounty.   Gregg Keidel

WASHINGTON, PA, Jan. 22, 2020 — Dorothy’s Legacy needed every bit of stretch to do it, but she finally put Morning Shadow away to capture Friday’s harness racing feature at The Meadows, a $9,100 Filly & Mare Conditioned Pace. Morning Shadow set up the stretch duel when she pocketed Dorothy’s Legacy past the quarter. But when Tony Hall moved the 5-year-old daughter of Art Major-Put On A Display wide in the lane, she had enough to down Morning Shadow by 3/4 lengths in1:54.2. Marvalous Song finished third. John Sullivan trains Dorothy’s Legacy for Greg Usner. Hall collected four wins and Dave Palone three on the 13-race card. Live racing at The Meadows resumes Wednesday when the program features a $563.01 carryover in the final-race Super Hi-5.   By Evan Pattak for The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association

Freehold, NJ --- Freehold Raceway concluded the Vinny Fusco Jr Memorial Pacing Series this Friday (January 22), with a pair of harness racing finals. One saw a logical result, the other an upset.   Tall Poppy N completed a sweep of the second division, for fillies and mares with a TrackMaster Horse Rating between 71.50 and 75.00 at the start of the series. Just like in the first two legs, George Brennan put her on the lead just after the quarter, and set comfortable fractions. In the stretch, she received a stiff challenge from Thaneeya, but Tall Poppy N held her at bay for a half-length win, in 1:56.3. The winner is owned by Curtin Anz Stable and trained by Kelvin Harrison, and paid $4.20 to win.   The first division final, for horses with a TrackMaster Horse Rating between 68.00 and 71.50, was won by 8/1 If Ur Richimsingle. Leaving from post position two, Daniel Dube put her in the pocket early on. Not long after the quarter, Dube activated his charge, and put her on the lead before the half. She drew off and opened up nearing three-quarters, and never looked back, crossing the wire 2 1/2 lengths in front.   The winning filly is owned by John Cancelliere and trained by Tom Cancelliere. She paced the mile in 1:58.2, for her first career win.   In between those two finals, Lean Hanover defeated Melady's Monet to win the Preferred Handicap trot. Jim Marohn Jr kept him in the pocket most of the way, then activated him in the stretch and rolled by for a 1 1/4 length win. He trotted the mile in 1:57.1, for owners PC Wellwood Enterprises and Karen Carroll, and trainer Linda Toscano.   Live racing continues at Freehold on Saturday (January 23), with a 13-race card starting at about 12:30 PM. The card includes two finals of the Harold Kelly Memorial Pacing Series.     Publicity Freehold Raceway

Northfield, OH - MGM Northfield Park has announced a continuation of their temporary change in post time to 4:20 PM for their live harness racing programs, until further notice. Northfield Park programs are currently conducted every Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. Simulcasting continues daily from 12 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. The continuation is needed because of the extension of the state of Ohio's Department of Health's recent order of a curfew that businesses must close between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.   Michael Carter MGM Northfield Park

"No one has yet to offer a home or foster home to the last four harness racing Standardbreds left behind " says Standardbred Retirement Foundation, (SRF).   Each one has been paid for and has quarantine funds, thanks to wonderful people. They must get out by tomorrow. Their time is up.   They are Begging for Sponsorship or Donations:   Not My Man, Jessido, Goldie's Tune, Rhapwiththestars (who has one month of sponsorship so far).   The expense for each horse is $350 per month.   Please donate to help on the button below or fill out a sponsor form is here; https://www.adoptahorse.org/lifelong-residents.   We will know the moment you fill this out, or please email to tell us so we can move quickly to help each horse.   We anticipate six months to a year of sponsorship is needed.   SRF has 400 horses in need of homes, it will take time to find homes.   Thank you for helping them.   DONATE HERE TO HELP THESE HORSES   About Standardbred Retirement Foundation   Standardbred Retirement Foundation provides human care and services for horse in need of lifetime homes, and in crisis, through rehabilitation, training, adoption, life-long follow--up or life time sanctuary and offering therapeutic equine opportunities for children and adults.   Tammy Cailliau Phone: 609-738-3255 Email address: SRFHorsesandkids@gmail.com      

Rockinscience, fresh from a sparkling harness racing victory for driver/trainer Luke Plano, takes on a solid cast in Saturday night’s featured $9,700 Robert Gordon Pace. Watch and Wager LLC will present 13 races with first post set for 4:55 p.m. and the main event will go as the eighth contest on the evening. There are several major contenders in the Gordon line-up, with Rockinscience likely to have his share of backers as he goes for the hat trick this weekend. The 4-year-old son of Rockin Image carries the banner of Nikki Hudson and Dave Haness. After taking the measure of a softer group here on January 10, the bay performer came back last week and streaked home in :27 1/5 to make it two in a row while stopping the timer in 1:52 2/5, shaving two full seconds off his lifetime mark. Bobs Time will be gunning for his third snapshot from his last five trips to the post and is another major player. Rick Bertrand owns and trains the 4-year-old with Jake Cutting in his usual spot in the sulky. Bobs Time proved a punctual even-money favorite last week as he sat the pocket early, brushed to command on the final bend and went on to a length and a quarter score over Cut A Rug, who will again be among his rivals in the Gordon with Doug Chappell at the controls. Rounding out the field are Paddy Murphy, to be handled by Cordarius Stewart; Its Pointless, Tony Kerwood; Villa For Rent with Mooney Svendsen; and Artspire, who will leave from the outside slot with Nick Roland guiding. Low takeout wagers offer true value There are three wagers offered here each night that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate – the 20-cent early and late Pick 5 and the 20-cent Pick 4, the latter featuring a $25,000-guaranteed gross pool. To give you some idea of the value that comes as a result of the lower takeout, take a look at last Sunday night’s 20-cent Pick 5 that covered the first five races on the card. There was an even-money winner, three horses clicking at 3-1 and one scoring at 5-1, with the 20-cent investment coming back a nifty $353.68, which equates to a much higher return than the parlay and a nice increase on what the regular takeout payoff.                                           *** This weekend’s Robert Gordon Pace is named for the noted driver/trainer and track executive who passed away at age 65 in 2006. Bob Gordon started his 40-year-career in Ohio and learned his lessons under the outstanding horseman Bob Farrington. He eventually settled in California and was a mainstay at the top of the standings from the late 70s through the early 90s, conditioning such starts as Stand By N, Theora Hanover and Pack Leader. Gordon was a past president of the Western Harness Standardbred Association and the California Harness Horse Breeders Association, while in the early 90s he served as a director of the United States Trotting Association. He was president of Premier Harness Racing, which raced at Los Alamitos, and was instrumental in keeping the sport alive in the mid 90s at a time when harness racing was definitely on the ropes. Bob Gordon was also director of backstretch operations for the Sacramento Harness Association and helped in starting the not-for-profit corporation, which was operating at Cal Expo at the time of his death.   By Mark Ratzky, publicity – Cal Expo Harness

Tiger Thompson N roars home and wins the Open pace at Dover Downs on Thursday night. Tiger Thompson N and Goldberg left quickest off the gate.  Goldberg led the field through an opening quarter in 26 seconds flat. Dexter Dunn sensed the pace was pedestrian,  pulled the pocket with Tiger Thompson N in front of the stands. The half was reached in 55 seconds flat. The quarter was a routine 28.4. The action picked up as Itsrockandroll A paced first over past the five eighths. Corey Callahan was able to entice Tyga Hanover  and Yannick Gingras, off the rail and found cover, second over on the rim.. Tiger Thompson N  maintained a length lead and reached the three quarters in 1:22.2.  That quarter was paced up in 27.2. At the top of the stretch, Yannick Gingris ducked to the rail with Tyga Hanover saving his mount for a late surge. In the lane, a thrilling stretch duel between both horses ensued. At the finish line, Tiger Thompson N ruled supreme, and won by a neck in 1:50 flat. Tiger Thompson N ( Big Jim) is owned by Nanticoke Racing, Josh Parker  S. Messick and Prestige Stable.  Josh Parker trained and Dexter Dunn was the driver. Tiger Thompson N,  the race favorite, was sent off at odds of 2/1. Tyga Hanover finished second for trainer Andrew Harris and driver Yannick Gingras. Itsrockandroll A was trained by Dylan Davis.  Corey Callahan was the driver Racing resumes on Monday at Dover Downs.  Post Time is 4:30 pm      Alex Kraszewski Dover Downs

Yonkers, NY—The Billings is back. After being sidelined all last year because of the Corona virus the granddaddy of all amateur harness racing series made its seasonal debut at Yonkers Raceway tonight (Jan. 21) with two $6000 non-wagering divisions that were contested prior to the betting card getting underway with familiar names and newcomers participating. The first division was won by newcomer “Steady Jake” Stillwell with Dark Pool in a 2:01.3 clocking while the second split saw veteran amateur reinsman Bob “the Headhunter” Hechkoff guide Pound Sterling to an easy victory in a 1:59.4 clocking. In his division Stillwell got away in third position and then moved to the front before the half mile timer tripped 1:01.3. Once in command Stillwell played catch me if you can and not surprisingly no one could as Dark Pool rambled on to an oh-so-easy four-length triumph in a time of 2:01.3.. Noble Warrawee and Mike Polansky chased the winner home for second money while “Yankee Joe “Lee garnered the show dough with Can Do. It must have been a thrill for Stillwell since this was his first lifetime driving victory. The winning horse was the 8-year-old altered son of Cantab Hall who is owned by Barry Franklin and trained by Paul Fusco. In the other split Hechkoff' sent Pound Sterling to the front when the wings of the mobile gate folded and the veteran 8-year old Muscle Hill gelding put it on cruise control and made every pole a winning one en route to a 2-length victory in a time of 1:59.4. If I Must, driven by "Coach Paul” Minore, started in second place early but couldn't make up any ground and finished second. Third place went to Chas Hanover who was driven “Mighty Marianna” Monaco. With the season just getting started and lots of room to add events the next Billings trot will once again be at Yonkers Raceway on February 4. Anyone interested in joining the Billings Series can do so by contacting the series president Tony “the Capo” Verruso by calling 917-697-8985.   John Manzi

ASHINGTON, PA, Jan. 21, 2021 — Maewegonow, the only mare in the field, opened a daylight lead at the three-quarters and romped off to an easy victory in Thursday’s harness racing feature at The Meadows, an $11,000 Conditioned Trot. The 1-5 favorite gave her backers some anxious early moments as she was looped from the gate and needed the entire opening quarter to cross over. But the 7-year-old daughter of Deweycheatmnhowe-Maurismo still was much the best for Dan Rawlings, scoring in 1:55.2. Mystical Peter found late room to be second, 5 lengths back, with Oh So Pine third. Richard Perfido trains Maewegonow, who now boasts a lifetime bankroll of $416,509, for Win Rhythm Stables. Aaron Merriman collected four wins and Rawlings three — including a pair for Perfido and Win Rhythm — on the 13-race card. Live racing at The Meadows continues Friday when the 13-race program features a $1,143.20 carryover in the Pick 5 (race 8). First post is 12:45 PM. "Horsemen Helping Horsemen"   By Evan Pattak for The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association

Tall Dark Stranger will go down in history as the winner of the 2020 Horse of the Year Award handed out by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. For the members of his ownership group, he might be remembered as the horse of a lifetime. Michelle and Al Crawford's Crawford Farms Racing, Marvin Katz, Judy and Buck Chaffee's Caviart Farms, and Howard Taylor shared ownership of Tall Dark Stranger throughout his harness racing career, which concluded last fall with 19 wins and two second-place finishes among 22 starts. He earned $2.02 million lifetime. As a 3-year-old, Tall Dark Stranger won 11 of 13 races and $1.30 million. He was harness racing's only millionaire in the COVID-19 impacted season and his triumphs included the Meadowlands Pace, North America Cup, Cane Pace, and Kentucky Sire Stakes final. He is the only horse to ever win the Metro Pace and a Breeders Crown as a 2-year-old and the Meadowlands Pace and North America Cup as a 3-year-old. Tall Dark Stranger established his career-best win time of 1:47.1 in a stakes-record Cane Pace performance at The Meadowlands last August. Only six 3-year-old pacers in history have gone faster. He also won twice in 1:47.2 last season, making him the only 3-year-old pacer in history with more than two victories in 1:47.2 or faster. One of the 1:47.2 triumphs came in the Meadowlands Pace, which he won in dramatic fashion, giving up the lead to Papi Rob Hanover in the stretch before fighting back to win by a neck. He became well known for fighting his rivals in the stretch and winning tight finishes -- six of his 11 victories at 3 came by a half-length or less. One of Tall Dark Stranger‘s 1:47.2 triumphs came in the Meadowlands Pace, which he won in dramatic fashion, giving up the lead to Papi Rob Hanover in the stretch before fighting back to win by a neck.     --Lisa photo. Even in defeat, Tall Dark Stranger gained admiration. His second-place finish in last year's Breeders Crown colt-and-gelding pace came after he set a stakes record with a :52.3 half and battled nearly the entire field as he came down the stretch. He held them all off except Sandbetweenmytoes, who rallied on the far outside to win in the final strides. "Many people think that may have been his greatest race, and I wouldn't argue with that," co-owner Katz said. "But there are a lot of memories. Winning the Metro as a 2-year-old, winning the North America Cup. His victory in the Meadowlands Pace was so dramatic and his performance in the Cane was beyond spectacular. "How do you pick one highlight? He had half-a-dozen races of a lifetime." Tall Dark Stranger is the seventh male pacer in history to receive a Dan Patch Award at age 2 and be named Horse of the Year at 3. The others were Somebeachsomewhere, Nihilator, Niatross, Albatross, Bret Hanover, and Torpid. A son of Bettor's Delight out of Dan Patch Award winner Precocious Beauty, Tall Dark Stranger was bred by Jim Avritt Sr. and sold for $330,000 as a yearling at the Lexington Selected Sale. He was trained by Nancy Takter and driven by Yannick Gingras. Tall Dark Stranger concluded his career last fall with 19 wins and two second-place finishes among 22 starts. He earned $2.02 million lifetime.     --New Image Media photo. Following is a compilation of comments by Tall Dark Stranger's owners, reflecting on the horse's career. Judy Chaffee: When he was a yearling, he looked the part. He was very impressive. I said to Buck at the sale, is there any such thing as being too perfect? He already looked like he owned the world, and he hadn't even sold yet. He came to know it himself. Al Crawford: Going into his first qualifier, Nancy said that he was a special colt. Then he was lights out in his qualifier, especially with his last quarter (:26.1). That's when we started to think, wow, maybe he is special. By the time he made his second or third start, you could see he had tremendous ability. Buck Chaffee: When you get into horseracing, you dream of, not even a Horse of the Year, but just a top horse. For that horse to go on and be so fantastic and end up being Horse of the Year is beyond our wildest dreams. It's like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. Howard Taylor: I'm hoping I do, but I'm expecting to never have another one like him. I've had a lot of good ones, but I've never had one like him. I've never seen a horse that just says, "I'm not losing." He's just an unbelievable horse. Michelle Crawford: I don't know if there is a horse that brought more excitement to every single race. That excitement of watching him in the stretch, almost every race, there's no other horse like him. I don't know if my heart could take another year of him racing on the track. (Laughs.) But he never gave up. It was unbelievable to watch. Buck Chaffee: His races were always tense; he just never let you relax. He wouldn't get out there and blow the field away, he was wanting to duke it out with them all the time. He made your heart skip a few beats, that's for sure. Howard Taylor: My cardiologist is very happy that he's retired. He didn't want to lose, but he sure as heck didn't want to win by much. I really think that he was toying with them. In the Meadowlands Pace, I was sure he was beaten. I was counting how many others were coming to see if we could still get a check. But then he just did what he always does. It was an unbelievable race. Al Crawford: That is probably one of my favorite races of all time. The other race that stands out is the North America Cup. He just destroyed them. They just weren't able to pace with him. Marvin Katz: You lose sight of the fact he had incredible high speed and could carry it for a very long distance, which is a trait of great champions. Of course, his courage and determination, that is the unique quality everyone looks for that separates the great ones from the rest of them. But he had everything. He was the whole package. Al Crawford: He did what he needed to do to win. He's a very smart horse. Yannick didn't just send him every week, he drove him intelligently, and the colt always got home. I think he was brilliantly fast, but he also had more heart and determination than any horse I've ever seen. Buck Chaffee: Just unbelievable character. Now we're hoping he passes that along to his offspring because we're breeding a lot of mares to him, as you could imagine. We're hoping for them to carry that on. Michelle Crawford: I think he will have every chance to produce any kind of champion. Marvin Katz: I think the market considers him one of the great horses we've seen in a long time. I certainly do. It's been a magical ride. I've been fortunate to enjoy great horses and you really appreciate their brilliance after you have a chance to reflect on it. When you look at what he accomplished, he's in the most elite company possible. I think he's a horse for the ages.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - What a difference a year makes. The first three Saturdays of 2020 were solid from a business perspective at The Meadowlands, as total harness racing wagering of $7.7 million averaged out to $2.569 million per card, resulting in an average per race of $183,523. Turn the page to 2021, and despite the COVID-19 pandemic's continued miserable grip on the globe, business at the industry's handle leader has been booming. Good as the numbers were during the first three Saturdays of a year ago, thus far this year has seen tremendous gains over the corresponding race cards. Betting reached $4,562,477 on Jan. 2, which represented the third-highest single-card handle - beaten only by Meadowlands Pace Night and Hambletonian Day - over the last 13 months. A total of $3,646,603 was put in play Jan. 9 while $3,458,896 was wagered on Jan. 16. Over the three-Saturday span, a total of $11,667,976 was pushed through the windows, an average per card of $3,889,325 for an average per race of $259,388. "That's an increase of almost $4 million when compared to our first three Saturdays of the year before," said Big M Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. "The average handle per race has increased over $65,000 and the pools are the largest we have seen on overnight racing in over a decade." Five of the Meadowlands' most popular wagers have seen average pools over the three Saturdays that are deep to say the least. The 20-cent Pick-5 has led the way by averaging $205,437. Rounding out the top five were the 50-cent Pick-4 ($99,858), Exacta ($74,125), Win-Place-Show ($63,370) and Trifecta ($53,730) bets. As usual, the track's Exacta wager continues to take the most total action. Over the last 45 races conducted on Saturdays, total Exacta play has exceeded $3.3 million. "The Meadowlands wagering menu offers horseplayers plenty of action all night long," said Settlemoir. "What an encouraging start for New Jersey racing when you see the size of our pools increase this much going up against the NFL Playoffs on Saturday nights. "We are certainly getting some new eyes on our product with our low take outs and low minimum wagers, especially now that we are offering free programs every night on our website. Low take outs equal greater payoffs, and that creates longer play. We try to create an exciting wagering format for the horseplayers and offering value for the customer is very important to us at The Meadowlands. It has been a major part of the equation to our early success in 2021." DAN PATCH AWARDS: Thanks to a cooperative effort that included The Meadowlands' TV team - both in front of and behind the camera - and The United States Harness Writers Association, the 2020 Dan Patch Awards were held before the racing card last Saturday via a virtual ceremony that was televised to every outlet that takes harness racing all over the world. The Big M's leading driver from 2020, Dexter Dunn, walked away with his second consecutive Driver of the Year trophy before going out and winning four races on the live card. As a result, Dunn will be named the track's Driver of the Week on Friday night during the nightly pre-game show. For those who would like to view the Dan Patch Awards Show, all you need to do is go to YouTube and search for "2020 Dan Patch Award Show." SOCIAL MEDIA STALWARTS: You can always check in with the team at The Meadowlands on Twitter. For early changes, racing information and staff selections, go to @themeadowlands or #playbigm. On race nights, stay in touch on Twitter with the Big M's Dave Brower (@eedoogie), Dave Little (@DaveLittleBigM), Ken Warkentin (@kenvoiceover), Shades Demsky (@shadesonracing) and Jessica Otten (@JessicaOtten1). THE SCHEDULE: Live racing at The Meadowlands takes place every Friday and Saturday evening. Post time is 6 p.m. The track's live "Racing from the Meadowlands" pre-game show begins at 5:27 p.m. This week, Otten will join Brower on set Friday night, while the team of Brower and Little will bring you the action on Saturday. CAN'T MAKE IT TO THE TRACK? There are several options for those who would rather catch the action from The Big M at home. Racing fans can watch all the races live on the Roberts Television Network (rtn.tv). In addition, they can watch and wager by going to the Television Games Network (tvg.com) or their favorite Advance-deposit Wagering site (ADW). CHECK OUT THE PICKS: For those who need to get a leg up on the action, go to playmeadowlands.com to see track oddsmaker and analyst Brower's selections and commentary. Click on the "handicapping" tab and go to "race reviews". Additionally, track announcer Warkentin's blog is available on the site and offers his picks and analysis. FREE FOR ALL: Thanks to an agreement between The Meadowlands and TrackMaster, past performances for every race of every Big M program are now available at no cost. To access the free PPs, go to playmeadowlands.com. GUARANTEES SURE TO PLEASE: As any seasoned horse player knows, there are no guarantees at the racetrack. But at The Meadowlands, there are. Each 50-cent Pick-4 (one gets underway in race six, the other in race 10) sports a $50,000 guaranteed pool, which leads to pools normally in the $75,000-$100,000 range when all the action is counted. AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR: The NFL Playoffs are down to the conference championship round, and for those who want to get action on the games, all they need to do is head for The Meadowlands' FanDuel Sportsbook. On Sunday (Jan. 24), the first game is the NFC title game, which is slated for 3:05 p.m. Six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to Green Bay to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (-3). The AFC Championship is the late game at 6:40 p.m. Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills will be in Kansas City to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs (-3). The big question: Will Patrick Mahomes be able to play? Hours for the track's FanDuel Sportsbook are from 10 a.m. - midnight Sunday through Friday and from 10 a.m. - 2 a.m. on Saturday. Meadowlands Media Relations  

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A $7,400 Open Trot that finds Silverhill Volo aiming for his fifth straight harness racing victory and a $7,200 Filly and Mare Open Pace with Bertha Vanation eyeing the hat trick are the marquee events on Sunday's Cal Expo card. There will be 12 races under the Watch and Wager LLC banner and things get underway at 4:55 p.m.The Open Trot is scheduled as the third race, while the Distaff Open will occupy the sixth-race slot on the evening. Silverhill Volo, perfect in his four outings at this meet, looks to keep the streak going in the Open Trot while leaving from the assigned outside post in the field of nine. A 10-year-old son of Muscle Hill, Silverhill Volo is owned, trained and driven by Chip Lackey. He is eyeing his 29th victory from 140 trips to the post, has $168,000 in his bank account and sports a 1:55 1/5 mark. Silverhill Volo has raced up close and personal in all his wins here, including a coast-to-coast decision in the Joe Lighthill two back. He was hard used while first over in his most recent tally three weeks ago, pulling away by two and a half lengths while making 3-5 look like a gift. Mandeville could prove to be the main rival for owner/driver/trainer Gerry Longo. The 9-year-old sidewheeler had a second, a third and a fifth-place finish behind Silverhill Volo before returning to his winning ways two weeks ago in a conditioned affair. Leaving from the outside post in the field of seven, he left into a pocket journey, then had the needed response when asked in the lane and drew off by a length and a quarter. It was the 31st snapshot in 142 trips to the post for Mandeville, who pushed his earnings close to the $270,000 mark. He lands two slots inside his main rival in the No.7 post for this go-around. In the co-featured Distaff Open, Bertha Vanation has posted back-to-back surprise scores at the top rung for owners Bill and Cathy Dessert and driver/trainer Nick Roland, working out sweet trips on both occasions. This time around she will be asked to depart from the assigned outside slot in the field of seven. Bertha Vanation longshot players delight Those who have backed Bertha Vanation in her last two starts at the head of the distaff pacing ranks have been nicely rewarded, as the mare clicked at 25-1 weeks ago and came back to get the job done at 7-1 last Saturday evening. The 6-year-old daughter of Voracious Hanover is owned by Cathy and Bill Dessert and is trained and driven by Nick Roland, who has been able to work out perfect two-hole trips with Bertha Vanation for those two upsets. "I've been with Cathy and Bill for five or six years now and we bought this horse from her breeder John Hendricks three years ago," Nick related. "She got sick on us this summer and kind of went off form, but the minute she got here she perked right up and showed how much she likes this track." Bertha Vanation won her first start at the meet, had to settle for minor awards in her next two tries, then missed a couple of weeks before suiting up for the January 2 Filly and Mare Open where she dismissed at 25-1 from the No. 2 slot. "Because she'd missed some time, she needed every bit of that two-hole trip and the moderate fractions to get there by a nose," Roland noted. Nick admits he didn't see another pocket journey in Bertha Vanation's future when she left from the No. 4 post in a compact cast last week, but the racing gods were once again in her favor and she prevailed once more at the head of the class. "I didn't see it happening on paper, but for whatever reason Brighten Your Life didn't go and I left hard for the top. I didn't mind it at all when Delightfully Wild retook the lead and we were able to work out another good trip." Upsets are often made of such things. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness
SCHENECTADY, N.Y. - The Agriculture & New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund has published its list of eligible stallions for the 2021 breeding season. The list includes 34 registered standardbred stallions. The full Stallion Directory, featuring pedigrees, career statistics and earnings of the eligible stallions, is currently available online. Hard copies of the Stallion Directory will be available through the Fund upon request. Eligible stallions are those stallions that have met the ownership or leasing requirements of the Fund and were registered by the Jan. 1 deadline. Copies of the 2021 New York Stallion Directory can be requested by calling 518-388-0178 or emailing info@nysirestakes.com. Keep up to date with news by visiting www.nysirestakes.com. About the Agriculture & NYS Horse Breeding Development Fund:  The Agriculture & NYS Horse Breeding Development Fund is a public benefit corporation established in 1965 by the Laverne Law (Laws of New York, Chapter 567 of the Laws of 1965). The mission of the fund is to promote agriculture through the breeding of Standardbred horses and the conduct of equine research within the state. To carry out its legislative mission, the Fund administers the New York Sire Stakes races, Excelsior/State Fair Series races, and County Fair Races.  
The Illinois Racing Board unanimously certified the dispersal of $12.2 million in recapture fees to the state's three horse racing tracks on Thursday ahead of the 2021 harness racing season.   Though still a point of consternation for the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (ITHA), the process went far smoother than last year's certification, when ITHA Executive Director David McCaffrey pointed out a potential flaw in the recapture accounting methods and found himself in a spirited back-and-forth with then-IRB Chairman Jeffrey Brincat.   On Thursday, McCaffrey noted the biggest problem remains the state's General Assembly not reimbursing the Illinois Department of Agriculture -- which oversees horse racing in Illinois -- to make the overnight purse whole after the recapture money is distributed to the tracks. McCaffrey said this part of the law "has not been followed since 1999" and claimed that nearly $300 million in recapture fees have been distributed to the tracks, a total that includes since-closed tracks at Maywood and Balmoral, since it took effect in 1995. (Ed. note - $98 Million to Arlington Park and $298 Million to all other tracks in 25 years (since 1995.))   Hawthorne Race Course, which is in the process of constructing a racino that has a target opening of December, received nearly $5.2 million in recapture fees for both thoroughbred and harness racing. Hawthorne, though, is deferring its collection of recapture fees until the racino is operational and had previously deferred $3.4 million in recapture fees from the 2020 fiscal year.   Arlington International, whose parent company Churchill Downs has not committed to racing at the facility beyond this season, was awarded $4.95 million, while Fairmount Park Race Track -- which also has plans to expand into a racino -- received nearly $2 million.   The return of the St. Louis Derby at Fairmount Park Race Track near the end of Thursday's meeting, Fairmount Park Race Track General Manager Melissa Helton announced the track has requested Aug. 26 as the date for the running of the St. Louis Derby, which would mark the first time the stakes race will be held in Collinsville (Illinois) since 2006. As part of FanDuel 's rebranding of the track to FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing, the sports betting titan is funding the $250,000 event.   Helton added FanDuel would be in demo at the track starting Monday, though COVID-19 mitigations where the track is located in the SouthWestern part of Illinois do not currently allow patrons at the grounds.   FanDuel announced in November it would transfer its sports betting license from Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino to Fairmount Park Race Track, which was granted a Master Sports Wagering organizational license by the Illinois Gaming Board in late October.   Chris Altruda @altruda83 has been a sportswriter with ESPN, the Associated Press , and STAYS over more than two decades. He recently expanded into covering sports betting and gambling around the Midwest. The Horseman's Voice
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - The wins just keep on coming for harness racing driver Dexter Dunn. The 31-year-old New Zealand native, who was named the United States Harness Writers Association's Driver of the Year for a second straight time last week, registered four winners on the Friday night card at The Meadowlands. Before the start of the program, Dunn was awarded The Big M's Driver of the Week after winning seven times last weekend (Jan. 15-16), and now sits atop the standings at the mile oval with 19 victories in the early stages of the Winter-Spring-Championship Meeting. Dunn's backers got to cash in some nice prices, as after winning with 1-5 public choice Billion Dollar Day ($2.60 to win in race one), the track's leading driver (with 131 wins) during 2020 scored with Smooth Aceleration ($11.40 in the fifth) and Tango Dancer N ($12.40 in the featured 10th) before completing his grand slam with Alexander Hanover ($14.40 in the 13th). Tango Dancer N Another Down Under standout, Australia native Andy McCarthy, had a big night as well, scoring three times during the night. His fans were smiling after those races as McCarthy's winners (Rockin Panda, Always Mindy, Sheikh Yabooty N) were sent to the gate at odds of 7-2, 7-1 and 10-1. Sheikh Yabooty N PICK-6 CARRYOVER: With a sequence that began with a 10-1 chance and a 27-1 long shot, no one hit the 20-cent Pick-6, creating a carryover for Saturday night's program of $7,293. Those who had five winners cashed in for $347.34. Free past performances for the entire Saturday card are available by going to playmeadowlands.com. HIGHS AND LOWS: With three odds-on choices scoring during the sequence, the 20-cent Pick-5 returned $75.90. In sharp contrast, the Early 50-cent Pick-4 saw no winning favorites and a healthy payout of $8,987.35. A LITTLE MORE: Simon Allard drove two winners on the program while Kelvin Harrison registered a training double. ... Play in the two Pick-4s was predictably vigorous, as the two pools combined to see over $160,000 in action. ... All-source wagering totaled $2,806,228, the third consecutive Friday where at least $2.8 million was pushed through the windows. ... Racing resumes Saturday at 6 p.m.   By Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations
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