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WILKES-BARRE  PA - The recent Australian import Stormont Czar A unleashed a furious rally in the last 100 yards to hit the wire first in the $21,500 pacing feature on Saturday at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, winning a three-horse photo in a lifetime best of 1:50.4. The field got away in post position order, with rail horse Lawrencetown Beach setting fractions of 27, 55.4, and 1:23, with Maxdaddy Blue Chip sitting the pocket. Stormont Czar A, from post three and sitting third, did not go first-over, then was able to back out to third-over position late on the final turn. It took half of the stretch for driver Tyler Buter to angle the winner widest into a clear path, but after that the gelded son of Bettor's Delight was just a blur, rallying from fifth when clear to be up just on the money over Pocono Pike utilizer Maxdaddy Blue Chip, with Lawrencetown Beach lasting until the final couple of steps and also just a nose off the winner. Stormont Czar N now has two wins in four U.S. starts for trainer Amber Buter and has already bankrolled 29,300 American dollars for the ownership of Tyler Buter and Oldford Racing LLC. The $20,000 claiming handicap pace went over a second faster than the headliner, as the American Ideal gelding Ideal Kiss was awesome in a six-length victory while taking a new mark of 1:49.3. The winner of four of his last five and trained by Hunter Oakes for Northfork Racing Stable, Ideal Kiss shot out to the lead in 26.2, got a breather to the half in 55.1, increased the tempo to reach the ¾ in 1:22.4, then had his earplugs popped and bid goodbye to the field, streaking home in 26.4. The driver for Ideal Kiss was George Napolitano Jr., who is on as hot a driving streak as can be imagined. This victory was his sixth of the night, giving him 13 at Pocono the last two Saturdays, and 23 over the last five cards at The Downs. In his last four appearances at Harrah's Philly, George has visited Victory Lane 15 times, for 38 successes since a week ago Friday. One of the best cards of the year will take place at The Downs on Sunday night, with the mountain track hosting a $1.5 extravaganza hosting four $252,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championships for three-year-olds, their attendant consolations, and three $100,000 Great Northeast Open Series Championships, to be conducted at 1¼ miles, one each for open pacers, open trotters, and pacing mares. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

So Nice (Ponder) recorded her third consecutive victory on Wednesday night as the star distaffer prevailed in the harness racing Fillies and Mares Open at Saratoga Casino Hotel. So Nice won the local Open in mid July, the last time the Amber Buter trainee came to town. Following a victory at Yonkers in her last start, it was back to the Spa for the seven year old mare who last year was the Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year at Saratoga. In Wednesday's $14,000 feature, So Nice sat the pocket to the race's odds-on favorite Godiva Seelster and blasted by in the final furlong before scoring in 1:53.3. Godiva Seelster was the runner-up while last week's Open winner Stylish Beachwhere came on for third. So Nice, who moved over the half million dollar mark in career earnings with last week's win, paid $8.20 in her most recent victory. The exacta with the favorite second paid $18.40 while the triple in the six-horse feature returned $42.60. Jimmy Devaux, who drove Twisted Pretzel to a win in Tuesday night's Open Trot, piloted So Nice to the score in the Wednesday feature. Live racing resumes on Friday night at Saratoga with a 7:05pm first post. Mike Sardella  

The harness racing track's defending Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year So Nice (Ponder) has been at it again of late at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Amber Buter-trained distaffer got off to a bit of a slow start in 2017 but in recent months has straightened things right back out. So Nice scored her first victory of the year while competing in Pennsylvania in late May and since returning to the Spa in June has reestablished herself as a top flight mare. The seven year old was the 3-5 betting favorite in the $14,000 Fillies and Mares Open on Friday night and moved out to the early lead after putting up a first quarter in a speedy 26.4. After getting a brief breather, So Nice was tested throughout the majority of the second half but proved to be up to the task. The veteran mare, who was driven to victory by Jimmy Devaux, stopped the timer in 1:52.1 to set a new seasonal mark in her fourth victory of the campaign. Tataria (Mark Beckwith) finished second in the feature while Godiva Seelster (Wally Hennessey) came on for third. With the earnings from the Friday score, So Nice is now just a couple thousand shy of reaching the half million dollar mark lifetime. Devaux piloted three winners on Friday night after securing five victories on the Thursday card at the Spa. Live racing continues on Saturday night with a first post time of 6:45pm. Mike Sardella

The track's defending Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year So Nice (Ponder) won the Open at Saratoga Casino Hotel for the first time this season on Friday night. The Amber Buter-trained distaffer recorded eleven victories in 2016, several of which came in the local Fillies and Mares Open. After her award-winning '16 campaign, So Nice got off to a bit of a slow start this year before turning things around in late April. On Friday, Stephane Bouchard put the seven year old mare on the front end and after enduring a first quarter in 27 seconds flat, fought gamely while tested in the final quarter. A two-pronged challenge came for So Nice in the stretch as pocket-sitter Her Own Land (Mark Beckwith) closed up the inside while the race's 1-5 favorite Godiva Seelster (Wally Hennessey) came charging hard from the back of the pack. So Nice won the three-horse photo while Godiva Seelster had to settle for second. Her Own Land earned the show spot in the $13,000 Open that went in 1:52.2 over a track labeled 'good.' So Nice paid $11.60 to win and started an exacta with Godiva Seelster second that returned $19.80. Live racing continues on Saturday night at Saratoga with a 6:45pm first post. Mike Sardella

East Rutherford, N.J. -- In the words of racecaller Ken Warkentin as City Hall ($5.00) entered the harness racing winner's enclosure on New Year's Eve, "You can't stop him; you can only hope to contain him." Any way you look at it, there was no fighting City Hall in Saturday's (Dec. 31) featured $35,000 Auld Lang Syne Invitational at The Meadowlands, as he stalked a hot pace from second-over before vaulting clear to a 2-1/4 length victory in 1:49.3. Brett Miller floated the 6-year-old Metropolitan gelding into mid-division in the initial stages as Doctor Butch (Jim Marohn, Jr.) sprinted clear to control early splits of :26 and :54.3 over fast going. Approaching race's midpoint, City Hall angled second-over behind the live cover of 33-time winner Clear Vision (Joe Bongiorno) and worked closer through the far turn before pointing three-wide off the far turn. City Hall vaulted to the fore at the eighth pole and drew off smartly as Doctor Butch and Clear Vision dueled into defeat. Lucan Hanover (Vinny Ginsburg) rallied into second at 20-1 from third-over spotting, while 2014 Little Brown Jug winner Limelight Beach (Drew Monti) sustained a strong stand-side rally to narrowly claim third over his stablemate. The win was City Hall's fifth in a row after he used a :26 last quarter to evade top-level conditioned pacers in his last appearance on December 16. Amber Buter trains the now 33-time winner for Gene Oldford Farms and Tyler Buter. New Year's Eve Pick 5 pays $41k Despite a 17-1 shot in So Take That being the longest-price winner in the sequence and a pair of favorites living up to their billing, the evening's 50¢ Pick 5 returned $41,671.75 on the 3-6-10-8-4 combination, over 53 times the corresponding win parlay. Thisguysarockstar (5-1, Greg Merton), So Take That (17-1, Corey Callahan), Pickwick (4-5, Brett Miller), Dash of Danger (2-1, Merton), and Alberto Contador N (6-5, Marohn) proved victorious in the sequence. Players combined to wager $2,473,933 on the 13-race card. The 2017 season at the Big M kicks off Friday, January 6; post time is 7:15 p.m. Eastern. by James Witherite, Meadowlands

City Hall ($5.80) used another powerful stretch kick to crush his eight foes in Friday (December 16) evening's co-featured $18,000 top-level pacing event at The Meadowlands, winning his fourth consecutive race and giving driver Brett Miller one of eight wins on the 13-race harness racing card. Miller floated into midfield with the 6-year-old Metropolitan gelding, settling well behind Matrix of Luck (Joe Bongiorno) and Bullet Bob (Corey Callahan), who alternated on the lead through early fractions of :27.2 and :56. With just over half the mile remaining, City Hall latched onto live second-over cover from Screaman Seaman A (Marcus Miller) and worked into contention on the far turn before pushing three-wide off the corner and vaulting clear at once. Ultimately City Hall would use a :26 final kick to put 4-3/4 lengths on the field for a 1:50.1 score. Bullet Bob held second despite heavy pressure through the far turn, while El Bloombito (John Campbell) saved third out of traffic. Amber Buter trains City Hall for Gene Oldford Farms, LLC and Tyler Buter. Miller's eight driving wins on the card gives him a share of the all-time record for wins on a single card at The Meadowlands, equaling Hall of Fame driver Michel Lachance's eight-win performance in 1995. Rubber Duck the one in trotting feature In the co-featured $18,000 top-level conditioned trot, Toronto invader Rubber Duck ($4.80) made his Big M debut a winning one, continuing his ascent after losing cover on the far turn before drawing clear to a 3-1/2 length win over I C Caviar (Brett Miller) and Buddy Hally (Corey Callahan) in a rapid 1:52.3 effort. Joe Bongiorno drove the 4-year-old Muscle Mass entire for owners Blair and Erna Corbeil and new trainer Richard Johnson. Total handle for the 13-race program was $2,466,612. Live racing returns to The Meadowlands on Thursday (December 22) evening, with a $25,874.24 carryover buoying the Pick 5 sequence which spans the first five races of the program. First post is 7:15 p.m. Eastern. by James Witherite, Meadowlands  

So Nice (Ponder) continued her late season dominance of the harness racing distaffers at Saratoga Casino Hotel on Friday night. The Amber Buter-trained mare was the race's 2-5 favorite in the $16,000 Fillies and Mares Open and despite being assigned the outside post in the five horse feature made the lead in a matter of strides. After having things her own way in lap one, So Nice powered away from her rivals in the final half to win in 1:52.1 by three and a half lengths. Bazooka Terror (Billy Dobson) added another to her tally of second place finishes in the feature this year as she rounded out a $12 exacta in the five-horse Open. The win for So Nice, who was driven to victory by Mark Beckwith, was her fifth in the local feature this year, second only to Velocity Vespa who has recorded six victories in the Friday feature for distaffers in 2016. So Nice is owned by Tyler Buter of Middletown, NY and Stephen Oldford and the Gene Oldford Farms of Michigan. Live racing continues on Saturday night at Saratoga with a first post time of 6:45pm. Mike Sardella

So Nice (Ponder) continued to bolster her credentials for Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year at Saratoga Casino Hotel on Friday night as the Amber Buter-trained distaffer prevailed in the harness racing feature. So Nice was the 1-5 betting favorite in the five horse Fillies and Mares Open and moved out to the early lead in a sizzling 26.4 opening quarter. Driver Mark Beckwith gave So Nice a bit of a breather in the middle half but around the final turn, pocket sitter Milky Way Rae (Billy Dobson) powered out of the two hole. The race's longshot at 15-1, Milky Way Rae actually poked a nose in front midway through the stretch but the gutsy veteran So Nice rallied back just before the wire and emerged with a victory by the slimmest of margins. So Nice paced in 1:52.4 to record her tenth win of the year to go with eight second place finishes in what has been a sensational 2016 season for the six year old mare. Milky Way Rae had to settle for second in her debut in the Open while Dilly Dali (Bruce Aldrich Jr) earned the show spot. So Nice has certainly emerged as the favorite for Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year while in the midst of what has been an extremely consistent campaign for the Buter trainee. Live racing continues on Saturday night at Saratoga with a first post time set for 6:45pm. Mike Sardella

So Nice (Ponder) shook her bridesmaid status on Friday night at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Though the six year old harness racing mare had recorded eight wins this season as she headed into the $16,000 Fillies and Mares Open, her last local victory came in the mid-July. The Amber Buter trainee has still been a force in the local feature for distaffers, though, despite not having earned a win in the previous three months. So Nice was the runner up in five consecutive tries in the Open before a third place finish last week. In Friday's installment of the Open, So Nice blasted out to the early lead and never looked back. Mark Beckwith piloted the mare who cruised through first half fractions of 27 and 56 before sprinting a back half in 55.4 on a chilly Friday night in the Spa City. So Nice stopped the timer in 1:51.4 as the race's second choice in the betting, flipping the script on Velocity Vespa (Jim Devaux) who had to settle for second place. Velocity Vespa had defeated So Nice in their last three meetings but rounded out an $11.80 exacta on Friday night in the five horse feature for lady pacers. So Nice moved her seasonal earnings to over the $100,000 mark for the '16 campaign with the win. The Buter-Beckwith combo also teamed up for a victory on Friday with pacing mare Cracker Coffee (Six Of Diamonds) who scored in 1:54 to prevail in her local debut. Live racing continues on Saturday night at Saratoga with a 6:45pm first post. Mike Sardella

Nichols, N.Y. -- LRL Racing, LLC's Cracker Coffee ($5.60) proved a gritty winner in Friday (September 2) evening's featured $13,000 Mares Open 1 Pace at Tioga Downs, giving harness racing driver Mike Merton one of his five wins on the 11-race card.   Merton sent the 7-year-old Six of Diamonds mare to the front from the outset, using the entirety of the first turn to clear K J's Caroline (Jim Taggart, Jr.) through a :26.3 first quarter before pulling back the pace. With three-eighths of the mile to go, Cracker Coffee faced stern first-over pressure from Shutthefrontdoor (Scott Coulter), and the two went on to duel through the far turn. Cracker Coffee not only outlasted her first-over foe, but also managed to stave off a late bid up the pegs from K J's Caroline to prevail by a neck in 1:53. Shutthefrontdoor leveled off from her uncovered bid and finished third.   Amber Buter trains Cracker Coffee, now an 18-time winner.   Merton also teamed up with Patti Harmon trainees Braveheartedmillie ($10.80, 1:53.1) and Jailhouse Jessica ($3.10, 1:55.2), as well as Courtney Wright trainee Gliding Boy ($76.50, 1:57) and Edgar "Sparky" Clarke trainee Zoraze ($10.00, 1:57).   Live racing returns to Tioga Downs on Saturday (September 3) evening; first post is slated for 6:30 p.m. Eastern.   by James Witherite, Tioga Downs

Nichols, N.Y. -- So Nice ($3.50) made easy work of her five rivals in Friday (August 26) evening's $13,000 Mares Open 1 Pace at Tioga Downs, posting a 1:50.2 victory to follow up her successful local harness racing debut last week.   The 6-year-old Ponder mare had no trouble forcing My Spring Fling (Corey Braden) into the pocket early on, finding a clear path to establish the lead as both K J's Caroline (Jim Taggart, Jr.) and Truth and Liberty (Aaron Byron) broke in the initial stages of the one-mile race. So Nice controlled the pace through sectionals of :27 and :55.3 before using a :27 third quarter to accelerate clear up the far side. So Nice ultimately prevailed by seven lengths over Shutthefrontdoor (Scott Coulter), who rallied belatedly for runner-up honors. Heart Major (Jim Meittinis) gained mildly off the far turn to take third over the fading My Spring Fling.   Amber Buter trains So Nice for the Gene Oldford Farms, LLC, Stephen Oldford, and Tyler Buter. For winning driver Mike Merton, the featured score was the first leg of a hat trick on the nine-race card. Merton would later team up with Windsong Illusion ($40.40, 1:55.3) and Futuristic Bride ($18.20, 1:57.2).   As no one hit the 50¢ Pick 5, a carryover of $479.48 will head to Saturday (August 27) evening's card. The first of nine races is slated for 6:30 p.m. Eastern.   by James Witherite, Tioga Downs

Nichols, N.Y. -- Saratoga invader So Nice ($7.30) led a driving hat trick for Mike Merton on Friday (August 19) evening's 11-race harness racing card at Tioga Downs, holding off all comers in the co-featured $13,000 Mares Open 1 Pace.   The 6-year-old Ponder mare sprinted clear authoritatively from post 6 before reaching the first turn before controlling terms through early splits of :28 and :56.3. Up the far side, So Nice was forced to accelerate by 1-2 favorite Stacia Hanover (Mike Simons), whose first-over pressure prompted a :26.4 third quarter. So Nice withstood the challenge in kind, edging away at head-stretch and holding off a late bid from Heart Major (Jim Meittinis), who lunged from the pocket to just miss. So Nice prevailed by a neck over Heart Major in 1:51.3, while Shutthefrontdoor (Scott Coulter) rallied off stalling cover to save third.   Amber Buter trains 22-time winner So Nice for the Gene Oldford Farms, LLC, Steve Oldford, and Tyler Buter.   Merton also prevailed with Brandos Muscle Man ($4.30, 1:56.2) and Lisa On Top ($17.80, 2:00.1).   The $13,000 Open 1 Trot saw Prairie Fortune ($6.60) rally off cover to capture his fifth win in seven tries, drafting behind Its Payday Friday before vaulting three-wide at head-stretch and lifting to collar Swishnflick in 1:55. Jim Meittinis drove the 4-year-old Arapa Victory gelding for Mike Deters--who trains the 22-time winner--and Laurie Poulin.   A pair of Italian American Friendship Series events for amateur drivers were contested early on the card, and Otello Zorzetto swept them both. Zorzetto posted a gate-to-wire win with Gary Messenger trainee Superiorcourt ($5.30) in 1:58.2, and used more patient tactics to prevail with Surge Seelster ($5.60) in 1:55.3 for trainer Stacey McLenaghan.   Live racing returns to Tioga Downs on Saturday (August 20) evening, with post time slated for 6:30 p.m. Eastern.   by James Witherite, Tioga Downs

YONKERS, NY, Friday, July 29, 2016 - Jonsie Jones and harness racing driver Tyler Buter was up at the wire Friday night, winning Yonkers Raceway's $45,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace. From the outset, the distaffers threw it down in a hotly-contested affair. Triple millionairess Anndrovette (Jordan Stratton), as the 13-10 favorite, was caught three-wide leaving. She eventually worked around Know it All (Eric Abbatiello), making the lead after a :27.3 opening quarter-mile. It was a :56.4 intermission before Sheeza Shark N (Brent Holland), who closed an early hole, tried it first-up from fourth. That one pestered the leader in and out of a 1:25 three-quarters, with Secrets Out N (George Brennan) second-up and Jonsie Jones-from post position No. 6-operating from third-over. Anndrovette owned the slimmest of leads into the lane, but then an impromptu convention broke out. The ladies all came together before 'Jonsie' found the wire first in 1:53.1. She whipped Secrets Out N by a head, with a wide-side Mach it a Par (Brian Sears) charging from last to grab third. Anndrovette was fourth-beaten a neck for the big check-with Sheeza Shark N getting the final pay envelope. The five cashers were separated by a half-length, while the entire octet was two lengths front-to-back at the finish. For fourth choice Jonsie Jones, a 9-year-old daughter of Tulane owned by Lrl Racing and trained by Amber Buter, it was her eighth win in 23 seasonal starts. The exacta paid $112, the triple returned $734 and the superfecta paid $1,739. Frank Drucker

Nichols, N.Y. -- Yonkers invader Analyze ($7.10) made a three-wide push on the far turn en route to a going-away victory in Friday (July 22) evening's harness racing featured $11,000 Mares Open 1 Pace at Tioga Downs, capping a driving grand slam for Mike Merton.   The 4-year-old Neutralize mare sat well off the pace through the developing stages of the race, moving second-over on approach to the far turn to track cover from 6-5 favorite The Summer Wind (Jim Meittinis). As The Summer Wind failed to make any impression on pacesetter All Charged Up (Tom Jackson), Mike Merton swung Analyze three-wide to progress off the corner. Analyze lifted to the lead in mid-stretch under left-handed encouragement, stretching clear by 1-1/4 lengths and prevailing in 1:53.2. K J's Caroline (Jim Taggart, Jr.) saved second from a pocket trip with a late move up the pegs, and All Charged Up checked in an engulfed third.   Amber Buter trains 15-time winner Analyze for LRL Racing, LLC.   The featured win capped a grand slam for Merton, who commenced the 10-race card with a natural hat trick. Favorites Lady Windsor ($4.20, 1:55.3), Stitch in Time ($4.70, 1:57), and Rusty's Flying ($4.90, 1:53.2) accounted for Merton's three earlier wins on the program.   Racing returns to Tioga Downs with a 10-race card on Saturday (July 23) evening. First post is set for 6:30 p.m. Eastern.   by James Witherite, Tioga Downs

So Nice (Ponder) pulled off the mild upset in Friday's harness racing feature at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Amber Buter-trained mare recorded her fifth win on the season and it came in the $15,000 Fillies and Mares Open as she parlayed her pocket ride to victory. Super Soph (Frank Coppola Jr) charged out to the early lead and parked out the race's favorite Godiva Seelster (Wally Hennessey) in sizzling first half fractions of 26.3 and 54.2 over a track labeled 'good.' Super Soph still led turning for home but was faced with a two-pronged challenge as rivals So Nice and Bazooka Terror (Billy Dobson) closed in. So Nice, the track's current record holder for aged pacing mares behind a 1:52 score late last season, rallied up the rail to prevail in 1:52.1 with Mark Beckwith in the sulky. Longshot Bazooka Terror was the runner up in the Friday feature while Super Soph held on for third. It was victory number twenty in the career of the six year old distaffer So Nice who returned $14.00 to win and led an exacta and triple that paid $118 and $449.50, respectively. Live racing continues on Saturday night with a first post time set for 6:45pm. Mike Sardella

WILKES-BARRE PA -- Cracker Coffee did not look to be in the best of positions as the harness racing field wheeled around the final turn of the $15,500 pacing mares feature Tuesday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, but she found good kick in the Pocono Pike and caught horses involved in fast early fractions to take the decision in a new lifetime mark of 1:51.2.   The daughter of Six Of Diamonds had been let go at 6-1 despite winning her last two against top company at Tioga Downs, and late on the final bend the crowd looked like they were on the right path, as the 4-5 chalk Lucy's Pearl was leading, with the 8-5 Jaded Dream ready to launch out of the pocket after her and Cracker Coffee gapping behind them a bit while third-inside.   But the two favorites had traded the lead through fast fractions of 26.4, 54.3, and 1:22.4, and when driver Eric Carlson asked Cracker Coffee for more as the Pocono Pike came clear, she found more quickly en route to a neck decision over Lucy's Pearl, with Deuces For Charity, who was behind the winner on the far turn, rallying deep in the Pike to photo out Jaded Dream for third, with those two only a half-length behind the winner on the money.   The win was the fifth of the year for Cracker Coffee, who boosted her lifetime bankroll over $185,000 with the win for trainer Amber Buter and owners LCL Racing.   PHHA / Pocono      

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