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Anne Stepien and Russ Adams surged from mid-pack to move into second and third place respectively in week nine of the 2016 harness racing Hambletonian Society Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge sponsored by DRF Harness, Green Acquisition Corporation, The Hambletonian Society, Hoosier Park Racing and Casino, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, The Raceway at Western Fair District, Red Shores Charlottetown Driving Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs. Stepien was the top handicapper for the week, earning 101.55 (339.15 total) points while Adams was just off the pace, finishing second with 94.25 (320.85) points. Jay Hochstetler remains the overall leader with 339.15 points, his lead shrinking slightly to 92.6 points. This makes it nine weeks straight with Hochstetler in the lead. Stepien managed to win three of the four races for the evening, winning the first division of the Graduate Trot with Crazshana ($17.20), the Graduate Pace with Artistic Major ($20.40), and Wiggle It Jiggleit ($3.00) in the Battle of Lake Erie; her only miss was in the second division of the Graduate Trot when Pinkman finished third. Adams also had Crazshana and Artistic Major but his selection of Crescent Fashion finished second in the second division of the Graduate Trot while Foiled Again ran out of the money in the Battle of Lake Erie. It was far back to Dennis O'Hara who finished third for the week with 50.08 points. Following Saturday night’s action, the standings are as follows: May 21, 2016 - Leg #15 Pos Handicapper Total Points Prior Week Points Earned This Week Overall Total Points Position Last Week Points Back 1st Jay Hochstetler 420.05 11.70 431.75 1st             -   2nd Anne Stepien 237.60 101.55 339.15 10th        92.60 3rd Russ Adams 226.60 94.25 320.85 11th       110.90 4th Matt Rose 302.13 17.90 320.03 3rd       111.73 5th Dennis O'Hara 269.28 50.08 319.35 6th       112.40 6th Mark Deutsch 311.75 4.20 315.95 2nd       115.80 7th Adam Friedland 242.03 42.10 284.13 9th       147.63 8th Ray Cotolo 284.08 0.00 284.08 4th       147.68 9th Gordon Waterstone 249.13 14.10 263.23 7th       168.53 10th Rusty Nash 251.43 11.70 263.13 5th       168.63 11th Ray Garnett 242.83 6.30 249.13 8th       182.63 12th Michael Carter 195.10 25.20 220.30 14th       211.45 13th Joe Bengston 188.10 29.40 217.50 15th       214.25 14th Sally Hinckley 197.08 14.10 211.18 13th       220.58 15th Bryan Owen 199.75 8.70 208.45 12th       223.30 This week is a busy week for the handicapping team.  The week begins Monday, with two divisions of the Miss Versatility Trot at Mohawk Raceway.  The the Memorial Day weekend is busy with the Molson Pace on Friday, May 27 at The Raceway at Western Fair District followed by Saturday, May 28’s Art Rooney and Lismore stakes at Yonkers Raceway.   The contest weekend concludes on Sunday, May 28 with a trio of races, the Betsy Ross Mares Invitational, Dorothy Mullen Invitational, and Maxie Lee Memorial at Harrah’s Philadelphia.  As a reminder, visit http://hanaharnesscontest.blogspot.com, where you can find the handicappers’ selections and results, updated standings, as well as see what upcoming stakes are coming up. Allan Schott HANA Harness Racing Coordinator

Rusty Nash scored a hat trick Sunday evening to be the top harness racing handicapper in week eight of the 2016 Hambletonian Society Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge sponsored by DRF Harness, Green Acquisition Corporation, The Hambletonian Society, Hoosier Park Racing and Casino, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, The Raceway at Western Fair District, Red Shores Charlottetown Driving Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs by tabbing the winner of the Confederation Cup and two Preferreds on the Flamboro Downs Sunday night program. Jay Hochstetler remains comfortably perched on the top of the overall standings leading the pack by 108.3 points. The two Preferred races were added to the contest as the rules allow for up to two higher class non-Grand Circuit races to be added when only one Grand Circuit race is on the card. With the selection of Big Rich ($4.10), Woggy Rocks ($5.10), and Confederation Cup winning Rockin Ron ($3.60), Nash earned 38.25 points for the week. Dennis O'Hara, who stuck with Wiggle It Jiggleit, was second-best earning 26.85 points. Following close behind were Michael Carter (19.1) and Gordon Waterstone (18.63). Following Sunday’s action, the standings are as follows: May 15, 2016 - Leg #14 Pos Handicapper Total Points Prior Week Points Earned This Week Overall Total Points Position Last Week Points Back 1st Jay Hochstetler 408.75 11.30 420.05 1st             -   2nd Mark Deutsch 295.05 16.70 311.75 3rd       108.30 3rd Matt Rose 296.43 5.70 302.13 2nd       117.93 4th Ray Cotolo 270.18 13.90 284.08 4th       135.98 5th Dennis O'Hara 242.43 26.85 269.28 5th       150.78 6th Rusty Nash 213.18 38.25 251.43 11th       168.63 7th Gordon Waterstone 230.50 18.63 249.13 9th       170.93 8th Ray Garnett 230.73 12.10 242.83 8th       177.23 9th Adam Friedland 232.33 9.70 242.03 7th       178.03 10th Anne Stepien 232.60 5.00 237.60 6th       182.45 11th Russ Adams 215.60 11.00 226.60 10th       193.45 12th Bryan Owen 194.05 5.70 199.75 13th       220.30 13th Sally Hinckley 194.98 2.10 197.08 12th       222.98 14th Michael Carter 176.00 19.10 195.10 15th       224.95 15th Joe Bengston 188.10 0.00 188.10 14th       231.95   This coming Saturday, contest races are the first leg of the Graduate Series for trotters and pacers at Meadowlands Racing and Gaming as well as The Battle of Lake Erie at Northfield Park.  Following Saturday’s races, upcoming events are the Miss Versatility trot (5/23) at Mohawk Raceway, the Molson Pace (5/27) at Western Fair, and the Art Rooney and Lismore (5/28) at Yonkers Raceway.  For further information regarding the HANA Harness-administered contest, you may visit http://hanaharnesscontest.blogspot.com.  Allan Schott

(May 10, 2016) - Following a bye week, Ray Cotolo had a big weeked earning 71.4 points and moving from 8th to 4th place in week seven of the 2016 harness racing Hambletonian Society Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge sponsored by DRF Harness, Green Acquisition Corporation, The Hambletonian Society, Hoosier Park Racing and Casino, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, The Raceway at Western Fair District, Red Shores Charlottetown Driving Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs. While Cotolo made a big move, Jay Hochstetler remains in front, lengthening his lead slightly. Saturday was an Afternoon Delight for Cotolo as he reined in Dazzling Dollars ($22.60) in the Lady Suffolk at Freehold Raceway, earning 41.6 points for the afternoon. A duo of handicappers, Russ Adams and Mark Deutsch, tabbed 78-1 Curikee who finished third in the distaff stake earning 18 points a piece. Joe Bengston scored 16.2 points with his second place finisher Southwind Hope. While not the top handicapper on Sunday, Cotolo managed to earn 29.8 points on Sunday, nailing Solar Sister ($12.40) in the Chip Noble Memorial along with second place finisher Charmed Life in the Miami Valley Distaff. The top handicapper on Sunday was Rusty Nash who scored a Place-3 with second place finishes in the two Miami Valley stakes and the Elitlopp Playoff at the Meadowlands earning 30 points. Other handicappers who had good Sundays were Michael Carter (26.9 points), Adam Friedland (29.8), and Ray Garnett (23.6). Following the weekend’s action, the standings are as follows: May 8, 2016 - Leg #13 Pos Handicapper Total Points Prior Week Points Earned This Week Overall Total Points Position Last Week Points Back 1st Jay Hochstetler 389.75 19.00 408.75 1st             -   2nd Matt Rose 289.63 6.80 296.43 2nd       112.33 3rd Mark Deutsch 267.45 27.60 295.05 3rd       113.70 4th Ray Cotolo 198.78 71.40 270.18 8th       138.58 5th Dennis O'Hara 227.13 15.30 242.43 4th       166.33 6th Anne Stepien 210.50 22.10 232.60 6th       176.15 7th Adam Friedland 202.53 29.80 232.33 7th       176.43 8th Ray Garnett 198.33 32.40 230.73 9th       178.03 9th Gordon Waterstone 215.20 15.30 230.50 5th       178.25 10th Russ Adams 192.60 23.00 215.60 10th       193.15 11th Rusty Nash 183.18 30.00 213.18 13th       195.58 12th Sally Hinckley 186.18 8.80 194.98 11th       213.78 13th Bryan Owen 185.25 8.80 194.05 12th       214.70 14th Joe Bengston 171.90 16.20 188.10 14th       220.65 15th Michael Carter 149.10 26.90 176.00 15th       232.75 This week, the Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge heads north of the border to Flamboro Downs where the primary race contest will be the Confederation Cup on Sunday, May 15.  Since there is only one Grand Circuit race on the card, the handicappers will have the opportunity to wager on additional one or two high-level overnight races on the card. For further information regarding the contest, you may visit http://hanaharnesscontest.blogspot.com.  Allan Schott

If you have been following the Meadowlands over the past few years, you have seen amateur races that were titled as GSY Amateur events. Ever wonder what GSY stands for, who they are, and why they race? VFTRG had the opportunity to talk to two officers of the GSY Amateur Driving Club, David Glasser and David Yarock, to get some answers. The GSY Amateur Series is named after Jeff Gural, Jason Settlemoir, and David Yarock who are the club founders. The series was established four years ago in an effort to add additional races to the C.K.G Billings Amateur Driving Series. Originally, the series was centered around Tioga Downs but included several other tracks. Today though, the series is focused on the Meadowlands even though on occasion they will compete at other area tracks; tracks such as Tioga Downs, Pocono Downs, Monticello Raceway, Harrah's Philadelphia, and Freehold here they are the featured amateur race on Open Space Day.. At this point, GSY's goal is to support the Meadowlands and provide competitive races for amateurs at the most recognized track in the United States. Members of GSY belong to other clubs as they look forward to racing as much as possible. In addition to GSY, many are members of the Freehold Amateur Driving Club as well as NAADA (which races primarily at Monticello, Yonkers, and Freehold) in addition to being members of the CKG Billings series which races nationwide. The beauty of amateur club racing is it give horse owners and others the opportunity to leave their desk job on a Friday afternoon and head to a track's locker room full of professional drivers, including members of the Hall of Fame and they compete on the same racetrack. As to the question of the ability of amateur drivers, there is a misconception as to their ability since 90% of amateurs hold a full license and are able to compete against professionals in regular races. Glasser pointed out he learned to drive in the 1980's when there were no amateur races, others have followed the same path. Bob Krivlen to name one continues to race against professional drivers with some success, while drivers like Glasser, such as Dein Spriggs, Roy Marohn, Bob Davis, and others who cut their teeth before amateur races were regularly contested raced with regular drivers successfully. One may think professional drivers resent the fact these amateur races are on the race card but you would be wrong as many of the pros are supportive of the amateurs. Just recently GSY and the amateur club at Pompano Park held a Pro-Am at Pompano Park which Dave Miller and Tim Tetrick participated in. A Pro-Am may be held at the Meadowlands in the fall and some pros have already indicated an interest in participating if one is added to the schedule. With amateurs racing weekly, how do they get the horses to race? Some drivers provide their own horses but other horses are provided by trainers. To help pay the expenses for these horses, the purse structure has been modified so every horse earns at least 3% of the purse if they finish out of the money. The club works with the racing secretary in determining the class of horses which should compete in this series and this year they are racing horses which would fill non-winners of $3,500 in their last five starts with $10,000 claimers also eligible to race in the 'B' series while those who are non-winners of $6,000 in their last five starts with $15,000 claimers racing in the 'A' races which is the same class which will compete on the Billings circuit. They primary key is to have competitive races so all the horses have a chance to earn money as this is an expensive 'hobby'. As you know, amateurs don't accept compensation for driving in these races. So where does the GSY driver commissions go to? Back in 2009, David Yarock started a scholarship fund in memory of his father and step-father to give scholarships to students seeking to pursue equine and harness racing studies as well as providing scholarships to those in the harness racing industry and their families seeking to pursue higher education. Since inception, over $150,000 has been distributed in scholarships. In addition to the driver commissions, annual club dues are also contributed to the fund. The club seeks racing opportunities to raise funds; the previously mentioned potential Meadowlands Pro-Am will raise additional funds for scholarships. Further information on the scholarship fund is available here. The club makes no secret of the fact they work in partnership with the Meadowlands. They supply races when the Meadowlands needs them. While the drivers enjoy racing for the sake of racing, they also aim to help the Meadowlands survive. With the slots-infused tracks drawing horses away from the Meadowlands, GSY helps fill races to complete the racing card. When GSY races at other tracks, it is either because they wish to support amateur racing and/or have races they need filled. From the amount of money being wagered, it appears the punters are pleased with the amateur races being carded on the wagering program. Glasser feels in some ways having races with amateur drivers is a plus because "anything can happen". He further feels some of today's gamblers want more random possibilities than the predictable outcomes one sees at many racetracks, citing the popularity of slot machines. The GSY races have growing pools and less predictable outcomes. Make no mistake, while fans don't want amateurs to take over an entire card (something done at Monticello Raceway sometime around 2013), they do like the fact amateur racing adds something to a few races on the wagering card. Of course, racing every week, handicappers have the opportunity to get used to the drivers and their abilities. When asked if GSY races could be added to Saturday night programs, it was made clear they are satisfied with the ability to race on Fridays. Dave Yarock always felt amateur racing could have a significant positive effect for the sport and is thoroughly delighted the betting public has embraced GSY races. With all the negative publicity the sport gets, the industry can be proud of the positive feedback coming out of the amateur driver movement; it is truly a growth area in an otherwise stagnant industry Of course, the appreciation goes two ways. The members of GSY appreciate the gamblers support because their wagering is what allows them to continue to race at the Meadowlands. Asked a hypothetical question if they would consider expanding to racing under saddle should pari-mutuels be approved for the sport, Glasser said it would be interesting to consider but they would have to gauge the interest of track officials and their members to see if there would be any interest in pursuing it. Of course, there are a lot of things which would have to happen before it would be an issue they would need to visit. by Allan Schott, for View From The Grandstand  Check out View From the Racetrack Grandstand.    

In week six of the 2016 Hambletonian Society Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge sponsored by DRF Harness, Green Acquisition Corporation, The Hambletonian Society, Hoosier Park Racing and Casino, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, The Raceway at Western Fair District, Red Shores Charlottetown Driving Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs, Gordon Waterstone edged out several handicappers to be the top harness racing handicapper for the week. With regards to the overall lead, the story remains the same as Jay Hochstetler continues his mastery, extending his lead to 100.13 points over the second place Matt Rose with 389.75 points for the season thus far. Levy Memorial night left handicappers with five races to display their handicapping chops and by the end of the night, five of the handicappers managed to score hat tricks which made it a horse race for weekly honors. With 41.10 points, Waterstone edges out the others (with a second and third place finish to go along with his hat trick), moving into fifth place from last week's tenth place. Finishing second for the week was overall leader Hochstetler who earned 37.05 points, followed by a dead-heat for third with Dennis O'Hara and Matt Rose both earning 32 points for the week. Ray Garnett and Dennis O'Hara also had three winners on the card. Though shut out from selecting any winners, fourteenth place Joe Bengston managed to have a good week thanks to his selection of Bettor Rock On N in the Levy eligible tilt which earned him 20.2 of his 28.2 weekly points by finishing second. With only Grand Circuit elimination races this week, the handicappers get a week off before the contest kicks into high gear. The contest resumes with races on Saturday, May 7 as the road to the Hambletonian kicks off with the finals of the Dexter Cup and Lady Suffolk at Freehold Raceway, followed by the first Sunday (May 8) races of the contest headlined by the Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff at the Meadowlands and a duo of Miami Valley Distaffs for females on both gaits. As we enter the bye week, the current standings are as follows:   Standings as of April 16, 2016 - Leg #11 Pos Handicapper Total Points Prior Week Points Earned This Week Overall Total Points Position Last Week Points Back 1st Jay Hochstetler 352.70 37.05 389.75 1st             -   2nd Matt Rose 257.63 32.00 289.63 3rd       100.13 3rd Mark Deutsch 264.65 2.80 267.45 2nd       122.30 4th Dennis O'Hara 195.13 32.00 227.13 4th       162.63 5th Gordon Waterstone 174.10 41.10 215.20 10th       174.55 6th Anne Stepien 185.60 24.90 210.50 7th       179.25 7th Adam Friedland 185.63 16.90 202.53 6th       187.23 8th Ray C1otolo 187.98 10.80 198.78 5th       190.98 9th Ray Garnett 168.93 29.40 198.33 12th       191.43 10th Russ Adams 182.10 10.50 192.60 8th       197.15 11th Sally Hinckley 178.48 7.70 186.18 9th       203.58 12th Bryan Owen 152.20 33.05 185.25 13th       204.50 13th Rusty Nash 171.68 11.50 183.18 11th       206.58 14th Joe Bengston 143.70 28.20 171.90 14th       217.85 15th Michael Carter 129.80 19.30 149.10 15th       240.65   For further information regarding the contest, you may visit http://hanaharnesscontest.blogspot.com.  Allan Schott HANA Harness Racing Coordinator allan@hanaweb.org Check out the HANA Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge

(April 17, 2016) - After five weeks of the 2016 Hambletonian Society Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge sponsored by DRF Harness, Green Acquisition Corporation, The Hambletonian Society, Hoosier Park Racing and Casino, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, The Raceway at Western Fair District, Red Shores Charlottetown Driving Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs, Jay Hochstetler remains in front; the position he has held since day one. Hochstetler has an 88.05-point lead over the second place handicapper Mark Deutsch with a score of 352.7 points. Sitting in the third position is Matt Rose, 95.08 points behind the leader. At this early stage, this trio has gapped the balance of the field as 62.5 points separates the third and fourth positions. With favorites dominating this weekend's action, there was little movement in the standings with Dennis O'Hara leading the pack earning 29.08 points, enough to move from seventh to fourth as well as claiming the title of 'Weekly Leader'. O'Hara was one of seven handicappers who managed to score 20 points or more this weekend, with the balance of Club 20 being Hochstetler (25.98 points), Ray Garnett (24.5), Gordon Waterstone (24.2), Anne Stepien (23.7), Michael Carter (22.4), and Rusty Nash (20.3). The same group of horses meet up next week for Finals and Consolations of the Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy Memorial Series, so it's unlikely there will be any breakouts this coming week. Once the Grand Circuit schedule heads into the field, one can expect some big moves. The current standings are as follows: Standings as of April 16, 2016 - Leg #10 Pos Handicapper Total Points Prior Week Points Earned This Week Overall Total Points Position Last Week Points Back 1st Jay Hochstetler 326.73 25.98 352.70 1st             -   2nd Mark Deutsch 245.93 18.73 264.65 2nd        88.05 3rd Matt Rose 240.33 17.30 257.63 3rd        95.08 4th Dennis O'Hara 166.05 29.08 195.13 7th       157.58 5th Ray Cotolo 178.18 9.80 187.98 4th       164.73 6th Adam Friedland 169.63 16.00 185.63 6th       167.08 7th Anne Stepien 161.90 23.70 185.60 9th       167.10 8th Russ Adams 177.10 5.00 182.10 5th       170.60 9th Sally Hinckley 162.40 16.08 178.48 8th       174.23 10th Gordon Waterstone 149.90 24.20 174.10 11th       178.60 11th Rusty Nash 151.38 20.30 171.68 10th       181.03 12th Ray Garnett 144.43 24.50 168.93 13th       183.78 13th Bryan Owen 144.70 7.50 152.20 12th       200.50 14th Joe Bengston 143.70 0.00 143.70 14th       209.00 15th Michael Carter 107.40 22.40 129.80 15th       222.90 The 2016 Hambletonian Society Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge continues with the finals and consolations of the Matchmaker and Levy Memorial series at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday, March 23. After a week off, the competition heads to Freehold Raceway, Miami Valley Raceway, and the Meadowlands for more early season stakes action the following weekend. For further information regarding the contest, you may visit http://hanaharnesscontest.blogspot.com. by Allan Schott, for HAHA

(April 10, 2016) - Week four of the 2016 Hambletonian Society Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge sponsored by DRF Harness, Green Acquisition Corporation, The Hambletonian Society, Hoosier Park Racing and Casino, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, The Raceway at Western Fair District, Red Shores Charlottetown Driving Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs in the books saw Ray Cotolo take advantage of longshots in the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series Friday night to leapfrog into fourth place from fifteenth place. With his 118.68 points for the week, Cotolo was the top handicapper for the week while Jay Hochstetler continues to be the overall leader with 326.73 points, 80.8 points in front of his closest competitors Mark Deutsch (245.93), closely followed by Matt Rose (240.33) who was just behind the duo in third. Honorable mention goes to Russ Adams whose 65.1 points for the past weekend moved him from twelfth to fifth place. While running off the board in the last of the Matchmaker series, Cotolo took advantage of the first two races by selecting CarolsIdeal ($19.80) in the fifth race and Yagonnakissmeornot ($37.80) in the sixth to earn 110.88 points of his 118.68 of his weekend total. Russ Adams had only one winner on Friday but made the most of it by earning 58.8 of his weekend total of 65.1 by connecting with Yagonnakissmeornot. With Saturday night having favorites winning three of the four contest divisions it was hard to make any real movement based solely on Saturday's performance and it was evident by the performances of Sally Hinckley and Matt Rose as both earned 29.85 of their weekly total, having three out of four winners on Saturday, missing only in the fifth race where Take It Back Terry finished a neck back denying both of them the evening grand slam. Eight other handicappers had two out of four winners Saturday evening. The current standings are as follows: Standings as of April 9, 2016 - Leg #8 Pos Handicapper Total Points Prior Week Points Earned This Week Overall Total Points Position Last Week Points Back 1st Jay Hochstetler 286.10 40.63 326.73 1st             -   2nd Mark Deutsch 213.15 32.78 245.93 2nd        80.80 3rd Matt Rose 197.98 42.35 240.33 3rd        86.40 4th Ray Cotolo 59.50 118.68 178.18 15th       148.55 5th Russ Adams 112.00 65.10 177.10 12th       149.63 6th Adam Friedland 136.88 32.75 169.63 6th       157.10 7th Dennis O'Hara 141.20 24.85 166.05 4th       160.68 8th Sally Hinckley 125.45 36.95 162.40 9th       164.33 9th Anne Stepien 133.93 27.98 161.90 8th       164.83 10th Rusty Nash 137.48 13.90 151.38 5th       175.35 11th Gordon Waterstone 125.15 24.75 149.90 10th       176.83 12th Bryan Owen 133.70 11.00 144.70 7th       182.03 13th Ray Garnett 91.00 53.43 144.43 13th       182.30 14th Joe Bengston 119.50 24.20 143.70 11th       183.03 15th Michael Carter 78.48 28.93 107.40 14th       219.33 The 2016 Hambletonian Society Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge continues with the fifth and final preliminary round of the Matchmaker and Levy Memorial series at Yonkers Raceway on Friday (4/15) and Saturday (4/16).  For further information regarding the contest, you may visit http://hanaharnesscontest.blogspot.com. by Allan Schott, for HANA

(April 3, 2016) - Thanks to his selection of For The Ladies N ($40.40) in the first division of the Blue Chip Matchmaker series on Friday night, Mark Deutsch was the top dog in week three of the harness racing 2016 Hambletonian Society Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge sponsored by DRF Harness, Green Acquisition Corporation, The Hambletonian Society, Hoosier Park Racing and Casino, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, The Raceway at Western Fair District, Red Shores Charlottetown Driving Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs with a weekly total of 112 points for an overall total of 210.15. While Deutsch was the top handicapper for the week, Jay Hochstetler remains comfortably on the lead with 283.1 points. With Deutsch's effort, he leapfrogs from ninth to second place this week thanks to a pair of longshots; the previously mentioned For The Ladies N for 71.6 points (win, place, and show prices combined) and upset winner Santa Fe Beachboy ($15.20) for 29.4 points in the first division of the George Morton Levy Memorial series on Saturday night. Second best for the weekend was Joe Bengston, far back with 58.1 points. The show spot for the week and overall goes to DRF Harness' Matt Rose with 52.28 points (197.98), 59.78 points ahead of the next closest rival. The current standings are as follows: Standings as of April 2, 2016 - Leg #6 Pos Handicapper Total Points Prior Week Points Earned This Week Overall Total Points Position Last Week Points Back 1st Jay Hochstetler 240.20 42.90 283.10 1st             -   2nd Mark Deutsch 98.15 112.00 210.15 9th        72.95 3rd Matt Rose 145.70 52.28 197.98 2nd        85.13 4th Dennis O'Hara 113.30 24.90 138.20 5th       144.90 5th Rusty Nash 98.48 39.00 137.48 7th       145.63 6th Anne Stepien 104.83 29.10 133.93 6th       149.18 7th Adam Friedland 120.28 13.60 133.88 4th       149.23 8th Bryan Owen 123.90 6.80 130.70 3rd       152.40 9th Sally Hinckley 75.20 50.\25 125.45 12th       157.65 10th Gordon Waterstone 94.25 30.90 125.15 10th       157.95 11th Joe Bengston 61.40 58.10 119.50 13th       163.60 12th Russ Adams 98.30 13.70 112.00 8th       171.10 13th Ray Garnett 79.80 11.20 91.00 11th       192.10 14th Michael Carter 49.58 28.90 78.48 14th       204.63 15th Ray Cotolo 43.30 16.20 59.50 15th       223.60   Fans following the Grand Circuit this year now have another handicapping tool in their arsenal as this past week saw the introduction of Harness Trip Notes (HTN) for the Grand Circuit.  For those unfamiliar with HTN, it may be considered a supplement to the race program; not a replacement.  HTN are free and may be found at http://www.harnesstripnotes.com. The 2016 Hambletonian Society Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge continues with the fourth round of the Matchmaker and Levy Memorial series at Yonkers Raceway on Friday (4/8) and Saturday (4/9).  For further information regarding the contest, you may visit http://hanaharnesscontest.blogspot.com. Allan Schott HANA Harness Racing Coordinator

Week two is in the books of the 2016 harness racing Hambletonian Society Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge sponsored by DRF Harness, Green Acquisition Corporation, The Hambletonian Society, Hoosier Park Racing and Casino, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, The Raceway at Western Fair District, Red Shores Charlottetown Driving Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs and Jay Hochstetler continues to be in front, expanding his lead slightly. While Hochstetler remains ahead of the field, the top handicapper for week two was Russ Adams, whose 76.7 points for the weekend narrowly beat out the overall leader by 1.4 points, allowing him to move from 13th to 8th position. Another big mover, Dennis O'Hara moved from 10th to 5th thanks to his 59.1 point performance. With a trio of races on Friday night, three handicappers managed to get two thirds of the puzzle solved. Of the three handicappers, Anne Stepien came out on top with 33.5 points followed by Matt Rose (31.3) and Joe Bengston (28.5). While no one ran the table on Saturday's quintet of races, Hochstetler managed to pull down four winners earning 61.6 points, missing only the seventh race longshot Melmerby Beach. Despite Hochstetler's handicapping acumen, the winner for the evening was Russ Adams, who despite having only one winner (the aforementioned Melmerby Beach; $27) earned 65.8 points as he had three second place finishes. Other handicappers of note were Bryan Owen (44.9) and Dennis O'Hara (39.6) as both managed hat tricks for the evening. The current standings are as follows: Standings as of March 26, 2016 - Leg #4 Pos Handicapper Total Points Prior Week Points Earned This Week Overall Total Points Position Last Week Points Back 1st Jay Hochstetler 164.90 75.30 240.20 1st             -   2nd Matt Rose 78.70 67.00 145.70 2nd        94.50 3rd Bryan Owen 71.60 52.30 123.90 4th       116.30 4th Adam Friedland 75.40 44.88 120.28 3rd       119.93 5th Dennis O'Hara 54.20 59.10 113.30 10th       126.90 6th Anne Stepien 54.23 50.60 104.83 9th       135.38 7th Rusty Nash 56.65 41.83 98.48 7th       141.73 8th Russ Adams 21.60 76.70 98.30 13th       141.90 9th Mark Deutsch 54.53 43.63 98.15 8th       142.05 10th Gordon Waterstone 58.55 35.70 94.25 5th       145.95 11th Ray Garnett 57.20 22.60 79.80 6th       160.40 12th Sally Hinckley 44.80 30.40 75.20 11th       165.00 13th Joe Bengston 17.70 43.70 61.40 14th       178.80 14th Michael Carter 15.30 34.28 49.58 15th       190.63 15th Ray Cotolo 26.80 16.50 43.30 12th       196.90 The 2016 Hambletonian Society Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge continues with the third round of the Matchmaker and Levy Memorial series at Yonkers Raceway on Friday (4/1) and Saturday (4/2).  For further information regarding the contest, you may visit http://hanaharnesscontest.blogspot.com. Allan Schott  

Jay Hochstetler kicked off the start of the 2016 Hambletonian Society Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge sponsored by DRF Harness, Green Acquisition Corporation, The Hambletonian Society, Hoosier Park Racing and Casino, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, The Raceway at Western Fair District, Red Shores Charlottetown Driving Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs aided by his selection of Mach It Par ($81.00) in Friday night’s harness racing Blue Chip Matchmaker Series opener.  After the first two evenings, Hochstetler has a total of 164.90 points, 86.20 points over his nearest rival. With the addition of another Silver Sponsor, Dr. Adam Friedland, the total prize fund for the HANA Harness-sponsored event to be donated to the lucky standardbred rescues stands at an all-time record of $6,000. A couple of handicappers are late additions to the contest, Joe Bengston and Adam Friedland will be representing Therapeutic Riding and Off-Track Rehabilitation (TROTR) and Helping Hearts Equine Rescue respectively.  A full list of the rescues and their handicappers may be found here. On Friday evening, while Sally Hinckley and Dennis O’Hara earned points in all three divisions of the Matchmaker earning 26.60 points, their results were overshadowed by Hochstetler who 111.40 points, of which 107.80 points came from Mach It Par.  Saturday evening there was a quintet of handicappers (Friedland – 48.80 points; Hochstetler – 53.50; Bryan Owen – 54.20; Matt Rose – 58.30; Gordon Waterstone – 46.95) who scored three winners in the George Morton Memorial Series opener.  While trailing in the number of winners, Mark Deutsch with 2 winners, earned points in all six divisions of the Levy totaling 50.93 points allowing him to keep pace with the top scorers for the evening. After the first two nights, here are the complete standings. Position Handicapper Total Points Prior Week Points Earned This Week Overall Total Points Points Back 1st Jay Hochstetler  0.00 164.90 164.90             -   2nd Matt Rose 0.00 78.70 78.70        86.20 3rd Adam Friedland 0.00 75.40 75.40        89.50 4th Bryan Owen 0.00 71.60 71.60        93.30 5th Gordon Waterstone 0.00 58.55 58.55       106.35 6th Ray Garnett 0.00 57.20 57.20       107.70 7th Rusty Nash 0.00 56.65 56.65       108.25 8th Mark Deutsch 0.00 54.53 54.53       110.38 9th Anne Stepien 0.00 54.23 54.23       110.68 10th Dennis O'Hara  0.00 54.20 54.20       110.70 11th Sally Hinckley 0.00 44.80 44.80       120.10 12th Ray Cotolo 0.00 26.80 26.80       138.10 13th Russ Adams 0.00 21.60 21.60       143.30 14th Joe Bengston 0.00 17.70 17.70       147.20 15th Michael Carter  0.00 15.30 15.30       149.60   The 2016 Hambletonian Society Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge continues with the second round of the Matchmaker and Levy Memorial series at Yonkers Raceway on Friday (3/25) and Saturday (3/26).  For further information regarding the contest, you may visit http://hanaharnesscontest.blogspot.com. Allan Schott HANA Harness Racing Coordinator Check out the HANA Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge

HANA Harness is pleased to announce the addition of Hoosier Park Racing and Casino as a Gold Sponsor, raising the prize fund for the 2016 Hambletonian Society Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge sponsored by; DRF Harness, Green Acquisition Corporation, The Hambletonian Society, Hoosier Park Racing and Casino, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, The Raceway at Western Fair District, Red Shores Charlottetown Driving Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs to a record $5,750. With the sponsorship deadline being March 12, additional sponsorships may yet be named. With the new year, race fan/handicapper Russ Adams and DRF Harness' Matt Rose join the roster of handicappers to make a baker's dozen with the possibility of one last handicapper joining the fray. As is the tradition of this contest, each handicapper chooses a rescue of their choosing and this year's cast of handicappers have made the following selections: Russ Adams, Heart of Phoenix; Michael Carter, New Vocations; Ray Cotolo, Changing Fates Equine Rescue; Mark Deutsch, Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals; Ray Garnett, Rockin T Equine Rescue; Sally Hinckley, Rainhill Sanctuary; Jay Hochstetler, Central Virginia Horse Rescue; Rusty Nash, Racer Placers; Dennis O'Hara, Sunshine Horse Rescue; Bryan Owen, Standardbred Retirement Foundation; Matt Rose, Starting Gaits Standardbred Transition Program; Anne Stepien, Heading For Home; Gordon Waterstone, Horse Lovers United. The Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge begins next weekend, March 18-19 with the first legs of the Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy Memorial Series at Yonkers Raceway. You may follow this year's contest at http://hanaharnesscontest.blogspot.com. Allan Schott HANA Harness Racing Coordinator Check out the HANA Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge      

The 2016 Hambletonian Society Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge, presented by HANA Harness is pleased to announce its prize fund this year currently stands at a record $5,250.  The prize fund, which comprises of donations by harness racing-related entities, is used for donations to standardbred rescues designated by the top three handicappers at the end of the competition or in the case of Canadian Sponsors, donated to a rescue in the name of the contest winner.  New this year is a $250 donation to the handicappers who have the best record in the first and second halves of the contest. The Handicapping Challenge begins with the first leg of the Blue Chip Matchmaker at Yonkers Raceway on March 18 and concludes with the Progress Pace at Dover Downs on November 28.  The complete contest schedule may be found here. HANA Harness would like to thank the following organizations for being prize fund sponsors for this year’s challenge; our Gold Sponsors DRF Harness, Green Acquisition Corporation, The Hambletonian Society, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, The Raceway at Western Fair District, Red Shores Charlottetown Driving Park, Tioga Downs, Vernon Downs, and our Silver Sponsor Eldorado Gaming-Scioto Downs. There is still time to become a sponsor for this year’s contest.  Tracks, horsemen associations, and companies connected to harness racing are welcome to become sponsors.  If interested in becoming a sponsor, contact allan@hanaweb.org for additional information. Allan Schott HANA Harness Racing Coordinator allan@hanaweb.org Check out the HANA Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge

Plans are underway for the 2016 Hambletonian Society Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge being run by HANA Harness. As such, HANA Harness is seeking financial sponsorship from various facets of the harness racing industry to build up the prize fund which goes to standardbred rescues. Whether a racetrack, horseman association, breeder, racing stable, or a supplier to the industry, HANA Harness welcomes your participation. The Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge's goal is to promote the Grand Circuit as well as support standardbred rescues. All funds pledged to the competition are donated to the standardbred rescues chosen by the handicappers. Canadian sponsors will be given the right to donate 2016 funds to the standardbred rescues of their choice in honor of the winning handicapper. Since the contest began, over $12,000 has been donated to standardbred rescues. Sponsorship levels are available from $500 to as low as $100 with various benefits. If interested in additional information, contact allan@hanaweb.org. Allan Schott

As an annual tradition, The View From The Grandstand makes a "wish list" for the coming season. Let's hope that at least a few of these items come true in 2016. An easy transition to the timing of races in hundredths.  This change begins on January 1.  Say good bye to 1:49.3 (where '.3' is 3/5ths instead of your math class 3/10ths) and say hello to 1:49.25 which will be mathematically correct.  What will make things more interesting is while American races will be timed in hundredths, Canadian races will continue to be timed in fifths. A great FFA season.  The seeds have been planted for a great campaign with some of the best horses we have seen in quite awhile.  Hopefully, the upcoming year will live up to the hype. Another great Yonkers International.  It may be a throwback to our glory days but let's not kid ourselves, it shows what racing should be; an international affair. No disrespect intended to John Campbell, but the formal coronation of Tim Tetrick as our 'driver laureate', our new globe trotting ambassador for harness racing and all around class guy. The continued truce between Jeff Gural and Joe Faraldo.  If you haven't noticed it, things have been quiet of late between the two men.  We like it this way.  Both have their own views on how racing should be saved, and at times they are diametrically opposite of each other, but public bickering doesn't help anyone. A 'relatively' quiet Meadowlands meet, one without controversy, no talk about exclusions and counting to one hundred before announcing any new policies. While on the subject of the Meadowlands, full fields, dare I say overflow fields once Yonkers and other tracks reopen?  It has been nice these past two weeks having full fields.  I realize the odds are the overflow entries will be disappearing, but hey, you can hope. With the deadline to get a casino gambling amendment to the legislative floor this year having passed, we wish for super majorities in 2016 so a North Jersey gaming referendum can reach the ballot box.  Face it, every year a referendum doesn't get voted on, the Meadowlands programs gets shaved a little bit more. In Florida, the failure of the de-coupling movement for if the state manages to de-couple racing from their card rooms and casino floors, it will only be a matter of time until de-coupling spreads like a virus. A successful Suburban Downs meet at Hawthorne.  Success at Suburban Downs may make Hawthorne value their harness meet besides the fact they control the revenue from OTW. 2017 racing dates for Balmoral and Maywood Park.  Hey, we can dream can't we? If Thunder Ridge Raceway races in 2016, customers.  Betting customers.  Heck, when I would be considered a whale, a track is in big trouble. If not the return of Harness Racing Update, a new publication to discuss the serious issues involving racing.  One can't expect publications operated by racing organizations to deal with the serious issues. If the long discussed USTA racing channel on the Internet comes to fruition, the creation of an app which can be watched on devices such as Roku, Fire TV, and other devices.  Some of us dinosaurs still like watching racing on their televisions, even if the signals come from the Internet. Donald Trump.  Face it, as long as we have Donald in the Presidential election, even the stupidest thing done in the standardbred industry will look like sheer genius. Back to New Jersey, a successful debut of exchange wagering which will be profitable not only for racetracks but convince those doubters in states such as California they should adopt exchange wagering. The return of Walter Case.  We can dream can't we? Billy Parker in the Hall of Fame (this will be on my list until it happens) More racing opportunities in Michigan. Co-mingling of foreign pools into American pools and vice-versa. Introducing a mile rate for races shorter or longer than a standard mile.  A mile rate will make it easier to handicap races; especially when horses race at different distances. Another successful year for RUS Ontario.  Perhaps hosting a race or two in the Martimes, maybe during Old Home Week? Pari-mutuel wagering for American racing under saddle events.  I know there are doubters out there but until it is given a fair chance, we don't know do we? Cal Expo exercise their option early and begin negotiating an extension of the lease to Watch and Wager early as the lease to operate a harness meet at Cal Expo ends in 2017. With the cancellation of PA Harnessweek, a new gig for Heather Vitale and Steve Ross. A return to the day when post time meant post time (we can pray for miracles can't we?) A winning year at the windows.  Now that would be a Christmas miracle. Allan Shott has been an avid harness racing fan and historian for the last half-century. He runs the website/blog http://viewfromthegrandstand.blogspot.com/.  Allan’s commentary reflects his own views and not that of Harnesslink.

Well, if nothing else, the opening of the Meadowlands meet has brought attention to horses getting ready for finals.  Few think Bee A Magician or for that fact JK Endofanera will be raced the same way this week when the TVG finals take place.  Like it or not, saving a horse for a final or an upcoming race has been around likely since the days of Greyhound. Just to be clear, 'saving a horse' doesn't necessarily mean not trying to win; it may be trying for an easier race, hoping to catch a trip instead of gunning to the front and racing bravely. Let's first clarify something many are incorrect about.  The TVG races this past weekend were not elimination races; they were legs of a series similar to the Levy Memorial at Yonkers.  Horses who get into the final are the highest point earners in the overall series, not just horses coming out of the last race (yes, three year old Breeders Crown winners can be invited).  Horses who may have raced Saturday may have already qualified for the final so winning may be secondary to keeping tight. As for true elimination races, some horses are racing to qualify, winning is secondary (a perfect example is a horse starting from post eight).  The industry often dangles a preferred post position in the final to coax a better effort which is unfair to the rest of the horses in the race.  For example, a horse in an elimination may be starting from post position 10 and going all out to land second or third; why shouldn't they get rewarded for their effort when someone who draws an inside post needs to expend only half the effort to win the race? Let's face it, trainer report or no trainer report, the wagering public is always going to need to guess if a horse is going full or half throttle or merely a drive around the oval.  As much as I hate it, this is something one needs to consider in your handicapping.  The focus should be on giving handicappers the most information available to factor into their handicapping. So where do we go from here? In series events, it should be required to post current series standings in the racing program with horses listed in order of points earned.  In addition, if any horse has already clinched a position in the final, it should be designated.. As for eliminations, such as stakes races or early and late closing events, there should be no reward for winning an elimination.  However, eliminations should have meatier purses to make it worthwhile to win. I've mentioned it before, rather than selecting the top position finishers in late closers to make up the race final, serious consideration should rely on the fastest finishers in eliminations.  This way, instead of just going around the track and making a last minute move to finish second or third, races would be contested all out. Perhaps the best way in determining fields in stake races is to eliminate eliminations all together.  Some tracks have begun  determining race fields by money earned.  Some will have consolation races for those who don't qualify for the main event, some don't.  Lastly, if you insist on having elimination races the way they are currently being conducted, do the handicappers a favor, card them as non-wagering events.  For those without slots, it may be harder to do, but for racinos where handle means so little, there is no excuse not to take the races off the regular card. One final word.  The Internet has been full of speculation as to why Brian Sears was a recipient of a 15 day suspension whereas other drivers with seemingly questionable drives appear to not have gotten similar penalties.  It is not my place to criticize or defend anyone on why or why not something happened.  The only ones who know the true stories are those directly involved.  We all know Jeff Gural is a controversial figure; controversial enough that some people have their own agenda when it comes to the Meadowlands operator and are more than happy to share their opinions as 'fact'.  Just remember this as you read these opinions.    by Allan Schott Allan Schott has been an avid harness racing fan and runs the HANA Handicaping Tournament in North America. He writes a weekly blog for  http://viewfromthegrandstand.blogspot.com/. Allan’s commentary reflects his own views and not that of Harnesslink.

November 3, 2015 - The 2015 HANA Harness Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge presented by the Bellino Stables, DRF Harness, Green Acquisition Corporation, Hambletonian Society, Isle of Capri Pompano Park, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs had a relatively quiet week after all the excitement on Breeders Crown night. There were eight races on Friday evening at Hoosier Park and two on Saturday at Vernon Downs. Just as one of our contest sponsors, Vernon Downs, turned back the clock on Saturday evening, we will take a look at Saturday's results before moving back to Friday. With only two races you would think there might not be a lot of points to be made but it could have been a huge night. Could have when the favored Takter entry failed to hit the board in one of the Kindergarten divisions it was won by Wildflower and Ake Svenstedt at $185! Unfortunately none of our handicappers were able to land the biggest win price of the HANA contest this season. Two of our handicappers did not pick a winner but topped the night chart. Both had Sweet Ashley T and received 52 points for the show price! Those two very smart souls were Garnet Barnsdale and Jay Hochstetler. Garnet won the evening's tie breaker with Mavens Way to show. In the other Kindergarten event six handicappers finished tied for third winning with Dog Gone Lucky for 10 HANA contest points. They were Ray Cotolo, Mark Dezii, Sally Hinckley, Rusty Nash, Earl Paulson and Anne Stepien. Friday evening saw quite a bit more action and one clear winner. Accepting the accolades of all involved was Derick Giwner who selected six of eight winners. That was two more winners than his closest competitor. For his excellence Derick earned 374 HANA contest points. Three other players were able to select a different set of four winners each. Jonijosi Verlingieri (203) out pointed both Bryan Owen (166) and Jay Hochstetler (161). Ms. Verlingieri's key was Foiled Again who had the best return win price among the quad winners. There were no major moves in the standings given the difficult and short prices on Friday evening at Hoosier Park. The top five remain the same as last week, Sally Hinckley, Mark McKelvie, Anne Stepien, Dennis O'Hara and Gordon Waterstone. Sally was able to pad her lead over Mark to 308 points. However the field continued to tighten up behind Mark. There are now ten handicappers separated by less than 1,000 points. Standings as of October 31, 2015 - Leg 56 Pos Handicapper Total Points Prior Week Points Earned This Week Overall Total Points Position Last Week Points Back 1st Sally Hinckley 4,374.60 42.60 4,417.20 1st             -   2nd Mark McKelvie 4,108.50 0.00 4,108.50 2nd       308.70 3rd Anne Stepien 4,008.60 62.70 4,071.30 3rd       345.90 4th Dennis O'Hara  3,967.80 61.80 4,029.60 7th       387.60 5th Gordon Waterstone 3,873.40 30.00 3,903.40 4th       513.80 6th Rusty Nash 3,518.70 46.60 3,565.30 5th       851.90 7th Bob Zanakis 3,466.60 38.90 3,505.50 6th       911.70 8th Josi Verlingieri 3,271.40 203.20 3,474.60 9th       942.60 9th Derick Giwner 3,079.80 374.30 3,454.10 11th       963.10 10th Bryan Owen 3,279.30 166.30 3,445.60 8th       971.60 11th Earl Paulson 3,245.10 54.70 3,299.80 10th    1,117.40 12th Ray Garnett 2,909.20 107.30 3,016.50 12th    1,400.70 13th Jay Hochstetler  2,763.50 213.60 2,977.10 13th    1,440.10 14th Garnet Barnsdale 2,557.90 129.40 2,687.30 15th    1,729.90 15th Michael Carter  2,676.90 0.00 2,676.90 14th    1,740.30 16th Mark Dezii 2,462.50 75.60 2,538.10 16th    1,879.10 17th Ray Cotolo 1,977.80 55.90 2,033.70 17th    2,383.50 18th Brandon Valvo 1,783.80 50.60 1,834.40 18th    2,582.80 19th Mark Deutsch 1,174.40 22.70 1,197.10 19th    3,220.10 We have a very busy two days on tap this week.  We kick things off with six races Thursday evening at Dover with the Matron for 2 year olds.  Saturday we shift north and west to Balmoral Park for the American National where we will have at least eight more puzzles to try and solve.   by Rusty Nash for HANA Harness

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