Heavy pressure from Mel Mara could not faze 2015 Breeders Crown champion Always B Miki ($2.40), as he fought back from being headed in mid-stretch to take Saturday (May 14) evening's $25,000 Open Handicap Pace at The Meadowlands for a second consecutive harness racing win. The 5-year-old Always a Virgin entire made his push to the lead just after fellow Jimmy Takter trainee JK Endofanera (Yannick Gingras) worked clear of McWicked (Scott Zeron) in a :27.2 initial quarter. Upon taking command on the backstretch, Hall of Fame driver David Miller managed to slow the pace down enough to give Always B Miki a brief breather on the far turn before Mel Mara (Corey Callahan) mounted a first-over bid out of fifth. Despite Mel Mara's sustained press into the lead at the eighth pole, Always B Miki would not be denied, using a :26 last quarter to repel Mel Mara for a neck victory in 1:48.4. Mel Mara was a game second, while JK Endofanera labored from the pocket yet still held third. Always B Miki, now a 20-time winner, is owned by the Bluewood Stable, the Roll the Dice Stable, and Christina Takter. Tim Tetrick led all drivers with three wins on the 12-race card, prevailing with Mindtrip ($2.80, 1:52), Missile J ($3.60, 1:51), and Union Man Hanover ($8.20, 1:50.4). Scott Zeron and Corey Callahan won two races apiece. Total betting turnover for the 12-race card was $2,559,464. The final race 20Â¢ Jackpot High 5 carryover continues to climb, mounting to $222,459.18 for Friday (May 20) evening's program. Live racing returns to The Meadowlands on Friday (May 20), with post time slated for 7:15 p.m. EDT. by James Witherite, Meadowlands Media
Mother's Day at the Meadowlands wasn't all about the Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff as Always B Miki and Gallie Bythe Beach were winners in the co-features on the Sunday matinee program's harness racing undercard. Making his second start of the year, Always B Miki scored decisively in the $25,000 open handicap pace for trainer Jimmy Takter. After making the top in a leisurely opening quarter that was timed in :27.4, the field raced in a straight line past the half in :55. The 5-year-old son of Always A Virgin, who was 4-for-4 a year ago, reached three-quarters in 1:22.1 before sprinting home in :27 to record a 2¾-length, never-an-anxious-moment victory in 1:49.1 with David Miller at the lines. McArdles Lightning was second with Doctor Butch third. As the 1-9 post-time choice, Always B Miki returned $2.10 to win for owners Bluewood Stable, Roll the Dice Stable and Christina Takter and now has 19 wins in 37 career starts. Gallie Bythe Beach sat fourth to the three-eighths and was brushed to the top before the half by driver Tim Tetrick and maintained the lead from there to win the $25,000 open pace for fillies and mares by a hard-fought neck over Aniston Seelster. Empress Deo was third. Sent postward as the 7-1 fourth choice, Gallie Bythe Beach returned $16.80 to her backers and covered the mile in 1:50.2 for owners Fashion Farms of New Hope, PA. The Jim Campbell trainee now has 16 wins in 57 career starts. Sheeza Shark N, the 3-5 favorite who entered the race perfect in three starts at the Big M since shipping in from New Zealand, went an ideal second-over trip but did not fire in the stretch TWO INVITATIONS: After crossing the wire first but then being disqualified and placed ninth in the Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff earlier on the program, Resolve was extended an invitation to the May 29 Elitlopp in Sweden nonetheless, as was Bee A Magician, who was the official winner of the race at the conclusion of the judges' inquiry. STILL GROWING: The 5th race 20 cent Jackpot Super High Five might have been hit earlier on the Mother's Day card for better than $20,000, but the 12th race version of the wager continues to not get hit and now sports a carryover of $212,593.38 heading into the Big M's next live program, which is Friday night. Post time is 7:15 p.m. MEADOWLANDS JACKPOT SUPER HIGH FIVE HIT FOR $22,612 20-cent wager had gone unclaimed since April 1, 2016 Mother's Day proved to be extra sweet for one lucky horseplayer who took down the $22,612 jackpot in the Meadowlands Super High Five wager. The 20-cent wager requires a horseplayer to correctly pick the first five finishers of the race in order. The jackpot amount only pays out in its entirety if there is one single winning ticket. Otherwise, 75-percent of the net pool is paid out to the multiple winners while the remaining 25-percent is added to the jackpot amount. The Race Five winning combination of 4-10-2-4-5 was led by 2/1 second choice Can Do. 24/1 Sheer Flex helped juice up the sequence in second place while 18/1 I C Caviar was third. Fellow long shots Blue Muse and Never Ever Clever rounded out the top five. Favorite Forever As made a break in stride while third choice Mesmerized faded down the stretch to finish sixth. The winning ticket was purchased through the AmTote Oregon Hub. The wager featured a carryover of more than $17,250 coming into Sunday afternoon. Nobody had hit the Jackpot Super High Five at the Meadowlands since April 1 when the wager was hit for $20,354. Another Jackpot Super High Five wager on the final race of the program has proven difficult to take down. Its carryover is more than $204,233 entering this afternoon. For more information, visit www.playmeadowlands.com. by Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations
As Bob Boni gets older, he appreciates more and more the value of each day. That being said, Boni perhaps envies Rip Van Winkle a bit, wishing he could have slumbered through the winter to only awaken for the day that star male pacer Always B Miki made his 2016 racing debut. Boni, of course, did not sleep the months away. But the day for which he waited finally arrives Saturday. Always B Miki, undefeated in four races last year after overcoming two bouts with injuries that had sidelined him for 11 months, makes his seasonal bow in the $25,000 Open Handicap at the Meadowlands. Always B Miki, starting from post seven in a seven-horse field, is the 7-5 favorite with regular driver David Miller at the lines for trainer Jimmy Takter. "I think everyone involved with the horse is anxious to see him get back," said Boni, who is a member of the Bluewood Stable group that owns Always B Miki with Joe Hurley's Roll The Dice Stable, and Christina Takter. "I've said (to fellow owner Mitchel Skolnick) that one of the negatives of this business is you want time to pass too quickly. It's almost like you'd like to fall asleep and wake up and we're ready to race. There was that anticipation." Last year, Always B Miki was 4-for-4 with his wins including the Breeders Crown Open Pace in late October and the American-National Stakes in early November. He won his four starts by an average of nearly four lengths, never seeing a foe nearer than 1-3/4 lengths of him at the finish line. "It was frustrating to have to close up shop when it seemed like he was fresh and fit and really starting to get stronger, but there were no other races for him at that time of year," Boni said. "He's shown us, throughout his career, what he's capable of. Hopefully, knock on wood, he gets the opportunity this year." Always B Miki, a son of Always A Virgin-Artstopper bred by Roll The Dice Stable, has won 18 of 35 career races and earned $1.22 million in purses. As a 2-year-old, he raced predominantly at Hoosier Park in Indiana, where he won a preliminary division of the Indiana Sire Stakes and finished third in both of the $200,000 finals. At 3, he spent the season in the stable of trainer Joe Holloway and won the Indiana Sire Stakes championship and Monument Circle plus a division of the Tattersalls Pace and finished second in the Meadowlands Pace. He also won an elimination for the Breeders Crown, but was scratched moments before the final because of the first of his two leg injuries. "He's had a great career for us," Boni said. "Joe did a terrific job racing him at 3. He wasn't always the straightest horse on the racetrack, he'd get himself crooked in the turns, but still showed that ability. "I think that something that gets lost in the shuffle is (trainer) Roger Welch did a wonderful job with him at 2. It doesn't get enough attention, but he really taught him how to be a racehorse. He had his issues at 2 as well, then coming back at 3 Joe did a great job with him to do what he did. Hopefully it just continues on now." Always B Miki, who has finished no worse than second in his last 16 races dating back to July 2014, has developed into a "really impressive looking horse," Boni said. Some of his maturation might be the result of sitting out much of last year. "He's a big, strong guy," Boni said. "It shows you the difference that we always get to see with our older horses. Due to circumstances that we wish did not happen, he had the opportunity maybe to develop physically a little more than he might have. Especially through his hind end, he's a bigger, stronger horse right now. Hopefully we see it this year. "Jimmy has done great work with him; he does everything Jimmy asks him to do. David also does a superb job. When you watch him train, or watch him race, you really don't get an idea of how fast he's going. The horse just gets over the ground so nice and easy." Always B Miki's competition Saturday includes Rockeyed Optimist, who has won five of seven races this year and finished no worse than second in any start, stablemate JK Endofanera, and Atta Boy Dan, who arrives from Dover Downs where he won two of his last three races in the Open Preferred Handicap. His setback was a second-place finish to Rockeyed Optimist, who is the 8-5 second choice on the morning line. by Ken Weingartner/Harness Racing Communications/USTA
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - Always At My Place found the drop in class from the open handicap ranks very much to his liking Saturday night as he overwhelmed seven overmatched foes in the featured $17,000 conditioned pace at the Meadowlands. The 5-year-old gelded son of Always A Virgin was urged to the lead by driver David Miller just after the quarter - which went in :27 - and maintained the top at the half in :54.4 and three-quarters in 1:22.3. Pansformative and driver Joe Bongiorno could only provide token pressure while racing first-over heading for the top of the stretch, at which time Always At My Place powered clear of the field with Miller sitting still in the sulky. Always At My Place was a 1Â¾-length winner gearing down at the wire and paid $3.80 to win as the 4-5 public choice. After pacing a final quarter in :26.4, the Ron Burke trainee hit the finish in 1:49.2, winning for the first time in four 2016 starts. All Week split rivals in deep stretch to get second, while Ashley's Husband was third. Miller had the hottest hands of the night, visiting the winner's circle four times. In addition to Always At My Place, "The Buckeye" also scored with Well Bred ($6.20 to win) in the first race, Good Day Mate ($14.20) in the ninth and Lyons Snyder ($5.20) in the 10th. All-source wagering on the 12-race card was $2,756,830, which was $104,839 more than the corresponding program from the year prior, which had 13 races. Once again, the 12th race Jackpot Super High Five was not hit, upping the carryover for the next card to $184,704.87. Live racing resumes at the Meadowlands on Friday, first race post time is 7:15 p.m. by Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations
Every year it appears that the aged pacing ranks will be energized by an infusion of talent from the newly minted four-year-old class, but it rarely happens. This year may be an exception. Wiggle It Jiggleit will make his fourth start of the year in the fifth leg of the Levy Series on Saturday. He kicked off the season with an effortless 1:51.4 win in a $60,000 invitational at Dover Downs on March 28, a race that probably cost him a spot in the upcoming Levy final, as he missed the first two legs. His second place finish in the third leg of the Levy, from ten off at the half, was very impressive, and he wired the field in the fourth leg. Meanwhile, another Indiana bred, Breeders Crown champ Freaky Feet Pete, who beat Wiggle twice last year, has already qualified at Hoosier Park. And the chronically under- valued Dragon Again gelding, Wakizashi Hanover, who bested Wiggle in the NA Cup and Pete in the Jenna's Beach Boy, is reported to be prepping for the Graduate Series. The cherry on the sundae is the Always A Virgin five-year-old, Always B Miki, who only started four times last year, including a dominant thumping of his division rivals in the B C. Since he was so lightly campaigned, I think we can safely lump him in with those expected to introduce new life to the division. Miki missed most of 2015 to injury, but came back with a vengeance when he qualified in 1:48.2 at The Red Mile at the end of September. That equaled Shark Gesture's 2010 world record for the fastest qualifier ever. After a tune-up in an ISS elimination at Hoosier Park, he crushed his peers by three in his BC elimination and by five lengths in the final. A handy win in the Am-Nat closed out his abbreviated season. There are others, but these are the highest profile newbies, so we'll concentrate on them. Gaming dollars have given the breeding business in the Hoosier State a boost, but it still isn't Pennsylvania. That's why it's a pleasant surprise that three of the four horses we're looking at were bred in Indiana. During his first four years at stud Wiggles' sire, Mr Wiggles, bred only 46 mares and that was in three states--Indiana, Ohio and Delaware. Only eight of his offspring raced last year. He is now back in Ohio. The nomadic stallion had only produced a couple of dozen foals all told coming into this year. He covered 42 mares last year, on the heels of his son's success, so things should improve over time. Miki's daddy, the Western Ideal stallion Always A Virgin, is standing his eighth year in Indiana for $4,000. Aside from Miki, he's also tasted success with Jugette and BC winner Color's A Virgin as well as the ISS standout Always About Katey. Last year proved to be an aberration for AAV as he had only 26 2YO starters that earned $309,000. Contrast that with Pete's sire, Rockin Image, who had 62 freshmen start and earn $1.2 million. The latter stands his sixth year in Indiana, also for $4,000. He and AAV are the two highest priced pacing stallions in the state. Wiggle It Jiggleit is by far the most accomplished of the new additions to the aged pacing ranks. He has demonstrated oodles of speed and class. When he won his second start of 2015--third lifetime--in 1:49.4, while nuking the opposition in a split of the Sonsam at The Meadowlands in February, heads were turning. Later on, in early May, he became the fastest three-year-old pacer ever on a half when he won a condition pace in 1:49 at Harrington. There was no doubt that he had the hops, but would he have the class to carry that speed against the cream of his class on the Grand Circuit? Oh yeah. Wins in the Pace and the Jug--the latter a boffo performance--made his reputation as one of the top pacers of this era, and he augmented those triumphs with successful forays in the Hempt, Milstein, Matron and Progress. He joined Captaintreacherous and A Rocknroll Dance as the only three to win the Hempt and Pace. And Wiggle and Beach Towel are the only two to win the Hempt, Pace and Jug (The Hempt was called the Miller Memorial when Beach Towel won it.) He set a 1:49.3 track record for sophomore pacers when he won the Milstein at Northfield in mid-August. In an age when it's like pulling teeth to get connections to agree to race their star pupil on a half, Wiggle is poised to make his sixth on Saturday. His overland journey to pluck the Jug from the arms of defeat was reminiscent of Life Sign's implausible Delaware win. Of course, he did have a problem holding his lead against the pocketed Wakizashi Hanover in the NA Cup, as he suffered his first lifetime loss. It came at 2-5, a week after pacing away from his elimination field to win by six in 1:49.2. The final went more than a second faster. And Pete picked him up in the $220,000 ISS Super Final in October at Hoosier Park, and again in the Monument Circle at the end of October. Back in May Wiggle had won the day in an ISS leg. So, with a 2-1 edge on Wiggle, can we privilege Pete? No. For openers, 24 of Pete's 27 lifetime starts have been at Hoosier Park, and all but a couple of those have been ISS races. And just as Waki had burst Wiggle's balloon in the NA Cup, he took down Pete in the Jenna's Beach Boy at Hoosier Park. A terrific win in the BC from downtown over a sloppy track is Pete's gem. But that win, combined with one over a soft field in the Am-Nat at Balmoral, and the other in the Monument Circle, can't compete with what Wiggle has accomplished in the open realm. He'll race in the Graduate series and is apparently staked to a few of the aged events, but his connections are not of the George Teague take on all challenges mind set. The sons of Dragon Again are type cast as geldings that last a long time at a high level and earn lots of money; winning the Grade 1 colt stakes at the apex of our sport is not their forte. Foiled Again and Atochia are a couple of examples. Gryffindor won the Messenger a decade ago and Hugadragon took a split of the Tattersalls Pace, but no son of Dragon Again has won the Meadowlands Pace, Cane, Adios, or, up until 2015, the North America Cup. Wakizashi Hanover, the highest earning Dragon Again colt as a sophomore with $1.2 million, checked that one off when he upset 2-5 Wiggle It Jiggleit off a pocket trip in 1:48 in the final. While Waki won 11 races and earned $300,000 more than Pete did in 2015, he didn't take the division by storm--that was Wiggle's role. But, aside from the cup, Waki also beat Freaky Feet Pete on his home court in the Jenna's Beach Boy. Between August 28 and October 6 he won five in a row: a split of the PASS at The Meadows, the PASS final at Pocono, a split of the Liberty Bell at Philadelphia, the Jenna's Beach Boy at Hoosier Park and a split of the Keystone Classic at The Meadows. He finished third in the Pace and the Milstein; second in the Battle and fourth in the Hempt. Waki always had his hoof out for a check. Wiggle, who was held out of the first two legs of the Levy, is a lottery-grade longshot to make the final in Saturday's fifth leg. He has a much better chance to make the consolation, which went for $429,000 less than the final last year. Regardless, he'll then move on to the elimination round for the Confederation Cup at Flamboro Downs on May 8 and probably the Graduate Series after that. Always B Miki qualifies at The Meadowlands on Saturday. It will probably be tough for him to find races until the Roll With Joe at Tioga on June 19. The Molson is at the end of May, but the five-year-old has never started on a half so it's unlikely he wants anything to do with that little track. Pete's connections apparently want to get him a couple of races at Hoosier Park? It's on to the Graduate after that, I guess. Waki is also being pointed to the Graduate. Joe FitzGerald has been an avid harness racing fan and historian for the last half-century. He writes a weekly blog for http://viewfromthegrandstand.blogspot.com/. Joe's commentary reflects his own views and not that of Harnesslink.
LEBANON, OH. - Alwayssmoothraign pulled a startling upset in the $15,000 championship of the "Red" Owens Memorial Series Monday afternoon (April 11) at Miami Valley Raceway and paid $76.00 to win. With trainer Randy Crisler in the sulky, the 4-year-old daughter of Always A Virgin was dispatched at 37-1 odds despite finishing second in the final preliminary leg a week earlier. The winner dropped in fourth off the gate as odds-on favorite Asadvertised (Jeremy Smith) made the front prior to the :28.4 quarter-mile marker over the sloppy track. Crisler was not content to race for a check, though, and set sail to on the outside shortly thereafter. Alwayssmoothraigin moved up to second on the outside by the :59.1 rated half, remained parked in second at the 1:27.2 third interval, then pressed onward through the :29.2 final panel to pass Asadvertised midway down the stretch and then hold off fast-closing ER Lila (Peter Wrenn) in the final strides. John Lewis of Alabama owns the winner who now has five career wins and $17,000 in earnings just this young season. The George "Red" Owens Memorial Series, for female non-winners of two races or $15,000 at the outset of the series, is one of nine Lebanon Legends late-closers currently underway that honor some of the prominent horsemen who helped to put Lebanon Raceway "on the map" in earlier days. Driver Chris Page solidified his second place standing in the local dash derby with five wins on the matinee card. From the Miami Valley Media Department
In the words of Hall of Fame racecaller Sam McKee on Friday (March 18) night at The Meadowlands, "you can only hope to contain him." McKee was speaking of driver Scott Zeron, who captured four races on the 12-race harness racing card. Total betting turnover on the program exceeded $3 million for the fourth consecutive live racing night, and for the 13th time in the last 14 cards. Despite two fewer races in comparison to many of the February cards, total handle for the night's program was $3,059,381, averaging out to be just over a quarter million dollars per race. On- and off-track handle alike showed significant increases over those of a snow-laden card on the corresponding Friday of March 2015. The 26-year-old Zeron wasted no time in registering his grand slam, teaming up with the yet-undefeated Ava N Ella ($2.10) in the evening's second race for a 1:53.2 going-away win, the fourth in the Tony O'Sullivan trainee's career. The Montreal native continued with a 1:54 triumph aboard Jonas Czernyson trainee Lauderdale ($6.00) in the sixth event before wins with Not Before Eight ($4.80) and Exquisite Glide ($7.60) in the eighth and tenth races, respectively. The featured $12,500 fourth-level trot saw World Cup ($3.80) take full advantage of a third-over trip, rallying off cover to just prevail while odds-on. Joe Bongiorno pointed the 7-year-old Yankee Glide entire into the outer flow as Magenta Man (Andy Miller) engaged Its Payday Friday (John Campbell) in a middle-half duel. The two battled through a three-quarter split of 1:25.3, and after cornering 29-1 longshot Watkins (Jim Marohn, Jr.) tipped off cover to take the lead from a breaking Magenta Man in mid-stretch. Despite Watkins's best efforts, World Cup was just a bit quicker one path wider, prevailing in 1:54.3 by a scant head in the last yards. Its Payday Friday, worn down by heavy mid-race pressure, held third. Richard Johnson trains World Cup for Carly Roman. The evening's top distaff pace, a $12,000 fourth-level event, went to Purity ($4.40), a pillar-to-post winner in rein to Vinny Ginsburg. The 5-year-old Always a Virgin mare controlled the terms throughout her 1:52.2 mile, sprinting off in upper stretch to evade Do Your Job (Marcus Miller) and Mystical Treasure (Zeron) for her 16th career win. Joint favorite Mandy's Mattjesty (Bongiorno) failed to finish the race, having been eased on the backstretch with a broken hopple. Vinny Fusco, Jr. trains Purity for Michael Casalino, Jr. A pair of GSY Amateur Series races took place early on the card, with Tropical Storm Bi ($14.00, Tony Ciuffetelli) and Keystone Thomas ($3.80, Bob Hechkoff) both proving victorious. Tomorrow evening's 12-race card has a 7:15 p.m. EDT first post, and the usual $105,000 in guaranteed Pick 4 and Pick 5 pools. The closing-race 20¢ Jackpot High 5 pool will be buoyed by a $143,778 carryover should one punter capture the entire pool. by James Witherite, Meadowlands Media Relations
TORONTO --Harness racing stars Jimmy Takter and David Miller completed an incredible Breeders Crown night capturing the final event, the open pace with Always B Miki in a sensational 1:49.3 mile over a rain-soaked surface. The victory, a year removed from when the son of Always A Virgin had to be scratched from the Crown final at The Meadowlands came at the expense of stablemate J K Endofanera and Mach It So. State Treasurer and driver Chris Christoforou blasted to the early lead in a :26.3 opening quarter, but the driver was looking in the rear view mirror and when Miller came with Always B Miki on the backstretch he was anxious to yield. The half was a solid :55.2 and Always B Miki pushed it into another gear on the turn as Foiled Again attempted to come up without cover but couldn't make a dent in the leader's margin. Always B Miki hit three quarters in 1:23 and then was high-lined to the wire with a :26.3 final quarter, an awesome closing quarter given the conditions. It was the third win in as many starts this year for Always B Miki capturing the $400,000 U.S. ($518,960 Cdn) Breeders Crown and pushing his lifetime bank account over $1 million. Owned by Bluewood Stables, Roll The Dice Stable and Christina Takter, the victory was the sixth of the 12 Breeders Crown races for trainer Takter and the fifth by winning driver David Miller. Takter now has 27 Breeders Crown victories lifetime, while Miller has 19. "He's pretty special," said Miller about Always B Miki. "It's a thrill to sit behind him and to feel his power." The 2-5 favorite in the field Always B Miki impressed the trainer as well. "He's a very unique horse. I put him in the top horses to ever compete in this sport," said Takter. Takter finished 1-2 with J K Endofanera's finish as All Bets Off earned fourth money. Foiled Again was placed fifth after being lapped on a breaking State Treasurer at the finish. As for Takter wrapping up his record night. "It was almost like 100 per cent," Takter said. By Jay Bergman
There were 13 Breeders Crown eliminations on Friday and Saturday at Woodbine. That’s the same number that were needed last year at The Meadowlands. The last time Woodbine hosted the Crown in 2012 there were only 11 elimination races; the following year at Pocono Downs 18 were required. Yannick Gingras won four this year, followed by Brett and David Miller with two each. Palone, Waples, Trace Tetrick, McNair and Scott Zeron each took one. Four starters from the Takter Barn won; he went on to win three finals last year. Three winners for Burke, two for Alagna and one each for Rheinheimer, McNair and Holloway. Jimmy Takter will have 13 entered in the finals, while Ron Burke will have 10. Indiana stole the show as Always B Miki and Freaky Feet Pete, sons of that state’s premier stallions, Always A Virgin and Rockin Image, wowed the crowd with a pair of 49.4 miles. Miki had only one 2015 start in him, an Indiana Sire Stakes crush job, but that didn’t stop the bettors from sending him out as the 2/5 favorite. And he didn’t disappoint. Pete, on the other hand, has been pounding the ISS set throughout the season. He did lose to the only two GC quality horses he faced, Wiggle It Jiggleit and Wakizashi Hanover. Pete, the 4/5 choice, came first up and rolled OSS champ Reverend Hanover, who was the 6/5 second option for his hometown fans. Miki supplemented to this race last year and won his elimination, but he scratched out of the final. His paternal sister, division winner Color’s A Virgin, was also poised to give her young sire his first BC win, but she was too far back and never factored in the final. The latter has had a disappointing year, but she did beat a short field in the Allerage Mare last time out and she has drawn the rail for the BC open mare. Limelight Beach, the other 2014 elimination winner, also scratched out of last year’s final. McWicked won the race and subsequently the division. This year’s edition should prove to be a better race. Atrspeak showed the sort of closing kick that should give the connections of every rival pause, when he swooped home in 26 to nip Waki at the wire in the second elimination. Wiggle, Waki and Artspeak are all staked to the Matron on November 12 and the Progress Pace on November 29, both at Dover Downs. Freaky Feet Pete can supplement to those races for $25,000 each. That would certainly make Marv Bachrad a happy man. Casie Coleman sewed up McWicked’s 2014 division win when she supplemented him to the Progress, which he won for David Miller. The freshman colt pacers are a quiet group. There is no Captain T or Artspeak in that division. The latter had been shut down prior to last year’s BC, which was held a month later, leaving the race to outsider Traceur Hanover and his controversial trainer Corey Johnson. This edition is without the tension that existed between Jeff Gural and Johnson, who was allowed to race despite having received an indefinite suspension for a positive in Ontario. PJ Fraley, the trainer of Shelliscape, was also an issue. Freshman pacer Control The Moment (Well Said) is undefeated but has been kept under wraps in Canada and rarely been tested. He was lucky to escape his elimination with a win. Star attraction Travel Playlist followed up a poor showing in Lexington with another in his elimination and has been scratched from the final. On the filly side, LA Delight wasn’t nominated to the BC, so there will be no face-off with Takter’s undefeated SBSW filly, Pure Country. The latter was a handy winner of her elimination Friday night. Burke’s Yankee Moonshine, a full sister to Yankee Bounty, won the other elimination. Southwind Frank dispatched the opposition with the same measure of surgical precision he’s employed all season in his Friday elimination. The world champion son of Muscle Hill dominates his division to a much greater degree than any other horse in North America. He’s staked to the Valley Victory and the Matron, but as great as he’s been, there’s little chance of him being the second consecutive two-year-old Horse of the Year. Jimmy Takter won both eliminations for freshman trotting fillies. Particularly impressive was the Muscle Hill homebred All The Time, who drew off from Canadian champ Caprice Hill (Kadabra), who had been bet down to 1/5. Haughty, a Donato sister to Aldebaran Eagle coming off an ISS win, took the other split. The sophomore pacing fillies have been a soft and confusing group all year, but Divine Caroline, who came on late to easily win her elimination at 3/5 for David Miller and Joe Holloway, seems to have taken over. Last year Holloway had world Champion Shebestingin and 2012 BC winner Somwherovrarainbow, but Stingin only made three starts during the three months prior to the BC and Rainbow finished tenth. This on top of having Miki scratch out of his final. Perhaps the Rock N Roll Heaven filly will make everything right on Saturday when she starts from the rail. There was no elimination needed to sort out the three-year-old trotting Fillies. Wild Honey, who carried 1/9 Mission Brief to the quarter before picking her up at the end of the Filly Futurity, will start from the three Saturday, while the Muscle Hill world champion has drawn the seven. With wins in the Oaks, KY Filly Futurity, Bluegrass and PA Championship, Wild Honey actually has a better record than her more celebrated rival. A win in the BC would serve as icing on the cake. Does she have a shot at the Dan Patch? Probably about as much as Artspeak, Waki and Pete have of unseating Wiggle. The myth of superiority on the part of Mission Brief has been set in stone. D’One, who beat BAM in the Fresh Yankee and Muscle Hill, won’t get another chance this week as the Kadabra mare has opted for the open. There was no elimination for these divisions. Last year it was Maven who raced in the open while BAM won the mares open. Maven was second to Commander Crowe in the final, but she beat nine boys in her elimination from the ten in a world record 1:52.2. She was exiled to Europe early in the year, where she has had a disappointing campaign. The forecast calls for a dry day in Toronto on Saturday with temps in the 50s—balmy for this time of year—and not much wind. Joe FitzGerald has been an avid harness racing fan and historian for the last half-century. He writes a weekly blog for http://viewfromthegrandstand.blogspot.com/. Joe’s commentary reflects his own views and not that of Harnesslink.
Always B Miki made the first start of his 2015 campaign a winning one as he cruised to a dominant victory in the $20,000 Indiana Sires Stakes elimination for aged pacing stallion and geldings at the harness racing meeting at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Saturday, October 3. With trainer Jimmy Takter in the bike, Always B Miki stopped the timer in 1:49 under wraps, finishing five lengths in front of his next closest competitor over a track rated good on a cold, windy night in Indiana. Leaving from the outside post nine, Takter took no chances and sent Always B Miki away from the gate firing. Always B Miki quickly crossed over and grabbed the early lead through the opening quarter in :26.1 while the rest of the field sorted out early positions. Always B Miki dictated fractions of :54.2 and 1:22.2 before he began to put his talent on display. As the field turned for home, Takter asked his mount for more and Always B Miki found another gear and began to pace away from the rest of the field. Always At My Place and Ricky Macomber Jr., the second betting choice, staged a big rally late in the lane but had too much ground to make up at the end of the mile and had to settle for second place honors. Always The Sun and Travis Seekman rounded out the trifecta. As the heavy betting favorite, Always B Miki returned $3.20 at the betting window. "Scary good," Jimmy Takter said with a smile in the winner's circle. "No, really, he was scary good tonight. He raced as good as I could have hoped for." It was the first victory of the season for the son of Always A Virgin-Artstopper who had his three-year-old season cut short due to an injury. Owned by Bluewood Stable, Roll The Dice Stable, and Christina Takter, Always B Miki has amassed $936,866 lifetime. With the win, Always B Miki secured a spot in the $50,000 Indiana Sires Stakes Final for the aged pacing stallions and geldings slated for Saturday, October 10 at Hoosier Park. Mykindachip and Peter Wrenn were victorious in the other elimination for aged pacing stallion and geldings, scoring in 1:51.3. Trained by Jim Dailey, Mykindachip scored the 10th win of the season and sent his seasonal earnings to $129,165 for owner Carl Atley. Color's A Virgin delivered as the heavy betting favorite in the $20,000 Indiana Sires Stakes elimination for aged pacing mares. Overcoming a tough, first-over trip, the Brian Brown trainee was home a winner by three lengths, scoring in 1:52.1. Owned by the Emerald Highlands Farm, Color's A Virgin scored the sixth win from 16 seasonal outings and pushed her bankroll over the $100,000 mark for 2015 with the win. Live racing returns to Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Tuesday, October 6 with a new, fall post time of 5:45 p.m. Following a Tuesday through Saturday schedule, the 2015 harness racing season will be conducted through November 14. For more information on the upcoming entertainment and live racing schedule, please visit www.hoosierpark.com. Emily Gaskin
It was no secret that Always B Miki would be qualifying today (Friday, September 25) at the Red Mile in Lexington, Kentucky. Now everyone will know exactly what the Always A Virgin horse did over the famed clay course. Here’s a three-word hint: world record speed. A compact seven-dash card comprised the qualifying session. When it comes to Always B Miki’s mile, if you blinked you may have missed it. Trainer Jimmy Takter was in the race bike for Always B Miki's mile. The duo started in Post 5 and made every pole a winning one. The margin of victory was 10 and a half lengths. The win time was a scintillating 1:48.2. To read the full article click on this link
The $60,000 Southern Cross Finals for harness racing three year olds were held at Port Pirie last night and both the Colts/geldings and fillies divisions fell to warm favourites. Three year old colts/geldings Final Hez The One was a dominant favourite here even though he was poorly drawn at one on the second line. The well supported Blurred Lines with Mark Billinger in the bike grabbed the early lead from barrier five from another well supported runner in Officianado who settled into the trail. Danni Hill had Hez The One off the inside not long after the start but the son of Jeremes Jet settled a fair way back in the running line. Billinger was able to get away with a couple of cheap quarters in front which forced Danni to bring Hez The One forward three wide with just over a lap to go. The speed really went on from the 800 metres with the quarter down the back in 27.2 and Blurred Lines was the first to surrender passing the 500 metres mark. Danni shot Hez The One clear and he comfortably held them off for an impressive win. Officianado just as comfortably held second with Hit Maka battling on well for third. Hez The One paced the 2050 metres in 2:35.2, a mile rate of 2:01.9 with closing sectionals of 57.6 and 30.4. It was the 14th win from just 23 starts for the Rebecca East trained colt and took his earnings over the $120,000 mark Three year old fillies final On paper this looked a bit like an Emma Stewart benefit and that is exactly how it turned out. Even though she drew one second line, Lovelist was a pronounced favourite while Starburst Girl the stablemate was the second favourite. The one filly that could have possibly upset the Emma Stewart pair in Whats Emma Got, blew any winning chance she had when she galloped early when being rushed off the gate. Mark Billinger worked Lovelist off the inside early in the race and grabbed the lead after 500 metres. Starburst Girl in the hands of Anthony Butt worked hard for the first 600 metres from her wide second line draw before finding the death seat outside Lovelist. Mark Billinger was in no real hurry in front, before upping the tempo passing the 800 metres mark. At that point Danni Hill sent Whats Emma Got forward but she was posted three wide when the speed went on and was having trouble hanging on to the Stewart pair passing the 400 metres. Lovelist opened up a handy break turning in and although Starburst Girl kept coming she never looked a serious winning threat. Whats Emma Got showed real tenacity to keep going and hold third after such a hard run. Lovelist paced the 2050 metres in 2:33.1, a mile rate of 2:00.2 with smart closing sectionals of 56.5 and 28. It was the 13th win from just 24 starts for the daughter of Always A Virgin and took her earnings over the $130,000 mark. It was a night to remember for Mark Billinger who drove the winners of three of the four $60,000 finals on offer. Harnesslink Media
Three year old harness racing gelding Rich Virgin is no stranger to feature races. The son of Always a Virgin won the 2014 Leeton Breeders Plate when trained by part owner Ben Matthews and connections are hoping he can win this Saturday night’s Pepper Tree Farm NSW Breeders Challenge Blue final at Tabcorp Park Menangle. The five time winner was transferred to Pheasants Nest trainer Peter Rixon after the Bathurst Gold Chalice consolation with a Breeders Challenge campaign in mind. “Peter (Rixon) is one of the better trainers around Sydney and it was always going to be difficult for me to travel up from Leeton to Sydney for the Breeders Challenge series so the other owners and I decided to send the horse to him on a full time basis,” Ben Matthews said. “I work full time for Water NSW so it gets hard for me to get away and unfortunately I don’t think any of Rich Virgin’s owners will be able to get to Menangle this Saturday night either so after having all of us there on Breeders Challenge final day he will go around without a support team this weekend.” Matthews continues to enjoy training horses on a part time basis and is working with two horses that were purchased earlier this year. “We bought two more out of the sales, they’re into their second preparation and they run along alright, one of them is owned in the same interest as Rich Virgin.” “I had a few mates and we bought a claimer called Streetem, he was trained by my brother Todd and raced around in Victoria but he got claimed so we went to the Bathurst sales and purchased Rich Virgin. “I broke him in and it didn’t take him long to put it altogether, he always had ability so that’s why I targeted the Breeders Plate last year.” It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Matthews after he was affected by the 2012 fire that ripped through the stables at the Leeton showground killing five horses. “I was very fortunate that I didn’t lose any horses in the fire unlike a couple of the other trainers but I did lose some gear and it knocked me around a bit. “This horse probably came along at the right time after that and it has been a good ride with him.” The name Rich Virgin was selected for the gelding after prospective names were put into a hat. “His breeding is Always a Virgin out of Lignum Twister but we each got to put a few suggestions in a hat and then we drew out six names and they were the ones we put down on his papers when we registered him.” With $30,000 to the winner on Saturday night, the gelding could be well named. “We only paid $6,700 for him and he has already won more than $50,000 so if he does win on Saturday night it would be a big celebration.” Harness Racing New South Wales
It has been a long harness racing season for the Bernie Hewitt trained Allnight Story. The two-year old will line up for his tenth start in Saturday night's Pepper Tree Farm NSW Breeders Challenge Blue 2yo colts and geldings final at Tabcorp Park Menangle. Hewitt's stable has runners in the four Gr. 2 Blue finals but believes the son of Always a Virgin is his best chance of success. "Allnight Story is a pretty nice horse, he is a big overgrown horse that looks more like a five-year old and has done a really good job as a result," Hewitt said. "Because of his size he is going to grow into his frame and therefore I think he will be a better three and four year old down the track but he qualified for the Bathurst Gold Crown and didn't have much luck so maybe he can pick-up a big race on Saturday night." Allnight Story is raced by Garry and Margaret Meredith and the couple have only had horses with Hewitt for a short time. "Garry was involved with the horses years ago but had been out of the sport for a few years before arriving at the Bathurst Gold Crown yearling sale in 2013. "Garry and Margaret bought two yearlings and asked vendor Denis Howe who he would recommend giving the horses to and my name came up so Garry approached me and that's how it started." Those two yearlings would become Allnight Kiss and Allnight Raid. Both won Bathurst Sale Graduate races and went on to qualify for the 2014 Gold Tiara and Gold Crown respectively. Off the back of that success Meredith purchased the Always a Virgin - Ocean Spur yearling at the 2014 Bathurst sale and he would later be named Allnight Story. Stablemates Wabi Sabi, Pass The Major, Not My Sister and Brighteyed will also compete in the NSW Breeders Challenge Blue finals. "I've only had Wabi Sabi for half a dozen runs, he is going pretty good but is a slow maturing type and I think he'll be a better four- year old. "Cath (wife) and I bred Pass The Major, she's won a couple this season but from the wide draw is only a minor player while Not My Sister is more tractable than Brighteyed and both will have to be at their best from the poor draws." Hewitt is hoping to continue his recent good form at Menangle after winning a Country Series final last weekend. "Stormfortheboys did a good job for the stable last weekend and we weren't far away with Kenny Dee Dee either so hopefully we can have a similar result this Saturday." The first at Menangle on Saturday night is scheduled for 5:14pm with the first of the four Pepper Tree Farm NSW Breeders Challenge Blue finals to be run at 7:23pm. Greg Hayes
Keene Olivia scored a convincing victory in Friday night's $13,000 harness racing feature at Saratoga Casino and Raceway. The Heidi Rohr-trained mare had been a beaten favorite in three consecutive tries though she hit the board in all three starts leading up to her try in the Spa Fillies and Mares I Handicap on Friday. Billy Dobson sat patiently off the pace with Keene Olivia (Always A Virgin) as the tempo was fast before the four year old mare came charging hard late. She circled the field to prevail by close to five lengths in 1:53 for her sixth win of the season. Keene Olivia returned $7.00 to win as the race's second choice in the wagering while besting Godiva Seelster (Wally Hennessey) who was the runner up and Check My Pulse (Jim Devaux) who earned the show spot. Live racing continues at Saratoga on Saturday night with a first post time set for 6:45pm. Mike Sardella
Emma Stewart keeps putting Smythes Creek on the map. Victoria’s leading harness racing trainer scored a winning quartet on Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series semi-final night last night at Tabcorp Park Melton and set herself up for a big grand final night next Saturday. On the strength of the semi-final results Stewart looks set to walk away with at least some grand final silverware, four-year-old mare Berisari expected to lead the charge after her dominant display last night. The night's success for Team Stewart began early with Always A Virgin/Lifeline filly Lovelist taking the first race on the 12-event program, the three-year-old fillies’ first semi-final. Driven by master reinsman Gavin Lang, Lovelist powered home by 2.5 metres over reigning Vicbred champion Niki No No (Greg Sugars) with Vapar Grin (Matthew Craven) third in a mile rate for the 2240-metre trip of 1:58.6. Stewart then teamed with Sugars to win Race 4, the two-year-old fillies’ first semi-final, with Courage Under Fire/Mayhappen youngster Whirily School, who won by 2.1m win over Drumborg’s Just Wantano (Craven), with Lang piloting Heirloom Angel into third place 10.6m behind the winner. Whirily School, already a Group 2 winner via the Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic Final last month, worked her way to the lead 1800m out before rating 1:59.9 in victory last night. Stewart’s next winner was another two-year-old filly, this time impressive Rock N Roll Heaven/All The Magic bay Rocknroll Magic, who led from the pole and held off a late challenge by Soho Madeleine (Luke McCarthy) to score by a head in 2:02.4. Rounding out the night for Stewart was $1.10 favourite Berisari – by local sire Safari, who Stewart trained, out of Beris Holmes – winning the last race, the second of the four-year-old mares’ semis, by almost eight metres in 1:56.8. Stewart’s other qualifiers for Super Series finals were Apache Shark (fourth in the first semi-final of the two-year-old colts and geldings), Ideal For Real, who ran second to Follow The Stars in their three-year-old colts and geldings’ semi and Shadow Sax, whose superb second to Christmas Jolt in the two-year-old colts and geldings semi has him well-placed for Group 1 success next week. Click here to view the full Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series semi-final results Cody Winnell