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YONKERS, N.Y. – It’s not every day the phone rings and the person on the other end wants to send a stakes-caliber mare to your stable. But that’s exactly what happened a few weeks before the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series first leg when Todd Buter answered Bill Bercury’s call. Then the trainer of Blue Ivy, who he was pointing to the Matchmaker Series at Yonkers Raceway, the western Pennsylvania-based Bercury asked New York-based Buter to take the mare on the recommendation of Todd’s son, Tyler. “Mr. Bercury contacted Tyler and said he wanted him to drive Blue Ivy in the Matchmaker. He asked if Tyler had any suggestions of who he should send her to. Tyler said, ‘well, I’m sure my dad would take her,’ so he gave me a call and that’s how it ended up. He brought her out about a week before her first start.” Todd Buter didn’t know Bercury before that call and Tyler Buter hadn’t driven Blue Ivy since Bercury took over the training in Nov. 2019. However, Tyler Buter had success with the mare in the past; in nine starts together from July 2018 through Oct. 2019, Buter and Blue Ivy paired for four wins, two seconds, and a fourth in the $122,224 Lady Maud Pace at Yonkers. Bercury’s instructions were concise. “She’s easy to get along with and likes being outside as much as possible; being a mare, that’s kind of routine anyway. He left the rest up to me,” Todd Buter said. Buter found that Blue Ivy was easy to get along with, as advertised, and had no bad traits.  “When you put her on the racetrack to head to the starting gate, she’s all business,” he said. “Very easy on herself on the racetrack, very good attitude on the track, and since she’s been here, she’s had all good days.” Blue Ivy debuted for the Buters in the Matchmaker first leg March 12. After a fifth-place finish in a Meadows open handicap against males the week prior, the public dismissed her at 6-1, the second longest shot in the field of a half-dozen distaffers. Blue Ivy got away fifth as 4-5 favorite Soho Burning Love set the tempo. In the second lap, Blue Ivy grabbed the cover of Lady Dela Renta and advanced within 2 3/4-lengths of the lead passing the three-quarters.  At the midway point of the final turn, Buter – motionless in the sulky to that point – made his first move, popping the ear plugs and putting the whip on Blue Ivy’s tail before guiding her three-wide into the stretch. Buter tucked the whip in the final yards as Blue Ivy glided past Soho Burning Love to record a length win in 1:53.3. “She went some good miles before and you never know what to expect coming over to Yonkers and putting them on the half-mile track, but she adapted well and she’s been very good,” Todd Buter said. “I thought after the first week that we probably could go up against most of the ones that were in there. She did that very easily. That built our confidence up, that’s for sure.” In the Matchmaker second leg, Blue Ivy charged home with a :27.1 final quarter to finish second behind Seaswift Joy, who had set a dawdling pace. The third leg saw Alexa Skye catch a soft half of :57.3 and Blue Ivy unable to track her down in the stretch, again finishing second. Legs four and five each resulted in a win for Blue Ivy, including a 4-length, 1:53 romp April 2 and a 1 1/4-legnth, 1:52.3 effort while setting the pace April 9. In her career, Blue Ivy is 25-for-56 with $374,040 earned. “She’s won on the front, she won first-over, and she won second-over. She’s done it all ways, she doesn’t just have to go one way all the time,” Todd Buter remarked. With 325 points accumulated throughout the preliminaries, Blue Ivy leads the standings heading into the $232,800 series final Monday night (April 19). She secured a coveted inside position in the open draw in post three while Jeff Cullipher’s series favorite Alexa Skye will start from post six. The field also includes Machnhope, winner of two preliminary legs for Noel Daley and Andrew McCarthy, Nick Devita’s duo of Siesta Beach and Caviart Cherie, Monica Gallagher, Snobbytown, and My Ruebe Star.  For Todd Buter, drawing inside Alexa Skye, who won all four Matchmaker preliminary legs she entered, is already a win. The Matchmaker final will be Blue Ivy’s second crack at Alexa Skye after the pair avoided each other in all but one of the preliminary legs.  “I was glad to see that. I surely didn’t want to have the six, seven, or eight,” Buter said. “It’s probably going to depend on the trip. They’ve both shown that they’re very nice mares. We’ll just have to see how it shakes out. The ideal trip would be sitting the two-hole behind Alexa Skye, but I think there’s probably six other ones in there that would like to do the same thing. “We’ll hope she’s happy and healthy on Monday and see how it shakes out,” Buter continued. “She’s been feeling good, we didn’t change anything. It seems like she’s having a very good week leading up to it. She doesn’t take a lot of work.” Monday night’s 10-race card also features the $514,000 MGM Borgata Pacing Series Final, the $100,000 MGM Borgata Pacing Series Consolation, the $60,000 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series Consolation, a $40,000 race for MGM Borgata Series eligibles, and a $35,000 open handicap pace. First post time is 7:15 p.m. Free past performances for the races are available here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

Whether it's her performance on the racetrack, or her demeanor around the barn, Bill Bercury can find an abundance of reasons to be happy with female harness racing pacer Blue Ivy, who on Thursday will take on five male rivals in the $14,600 Open Handicap at The Meadows. "She's ready, willing, and able," said Bercury, who trains the 5-year-old mare for his wife Renee. "She's put together perfectly, and she's got a great attitude. I throw my arms around her and give her a big hug and she doesn't pin her ears or anything. She's very pleasant, very accommodating. She's never at the back of her stall, she's always at the door, ready for you to get her. "She's a wonderful mare. I just love her." Bercury bought Blue Ivy, a daughter of Captaintreacherous out of Grand Circuit stakes-winner Ali Blue, near the end of her 3-year-old season. She has won 16 of 24 races for Bercury, earning $134,825 in purses. For her career, she has captured 22 of 50 starts and banked $301,560. "I loved watching her race," Bercury said about his initial attraction to Blue Ivy. "When (drivers) pulled her, she went. I was very impressed with the way she raced. Obviously, she's royally bred. I just liked her a lot." Blue Ivy has won three of four races this year. Following Thursday's start in the Open at The Meadows, where she is the 2-1 morning-line favorite, Blue Ivy will head to New York for the six-week Blue Chip Matchmaker Series at Yonkers Raceway. "I have to race her against the boys because I just can't find a race for her," Bercury said. "That will be challenging. I hate to do it, but I hate to send her into the Matchmaker without her being reasonably tight. "In my opinion, I have her just right. I've not pushed her this year, knowing that's where I was going. I think she is going to be very comfortable with that six weeks in (the Matchmaker)." Bercury will send Blue Ivy to trainer Todd Buter and driver Tyler Buter for the Matchmaker. Tyler Buter has won four times with Blue Ivy during her career. "He's a very good driver," Bercury said. "He drove her some before I bought her and did very well with her. I think I made a good choice. "When I bring her up there, it will be (Todd's) horse. I'll stay out of it. Two guys can't train a horse." The Matchmaker will be Blue Ivy's first appearance on the Grand Circuit since joining Bercury's stable. Bercury hoped to race the mare in the Breeders Crown last year but decided against it because he thought Blue Ivy was getting tired at that point in the year. He has the Breeders Crown on his radar again this season. "I think she's that kind of horse," Bercury said. "I'm looking to find another one just like her." Racing begins at 12:45 p.m. (EST) Thursday at The Meadows. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA 

WASHINGTON, PA, June 22, 2020 -- Hung on the rim for more than one-half mile, Major Nemesis nevertheless put away the formidable Windsong Leo late to spring a 14-1 harness racing  upset in Monday's $17,900 Open Handicap Pace at The Meadows. Major Nemesis was seventh when Aaron Merriman tipped him off the cones, perhaps looking for cover. When none emerged, the 6-year-old Big Bad John-Nassau Loop gelding was forced to tackle the front-ending Windsong Leo without help. He advanced steadily, passed Windsong Leo near the wire and triumphed in 1:51.1. Dancin Dragon followed the cover of Major Nemesis for second, beaten a neck, while Windsong Leo saved show. Bill Bercury trains Major Nemesis, who extended his career bankroll to $220,119, for Renee Bercury. Major Nemesis Dave Palone collected five wins on the 13-race card, including a pair for trainer Brian Brown. Live racing at The Meadows continues Tuesday, first post 12:45 PM. By Evan Pattak for The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association

WASHINGTON, PA, Jan. 17, 2020 -- Carolina Beach worked hard for the early lead, then held off the Lightning Lane charge of K Ryan Bluechip to capture his second straight harness racing victory in Friday's $20,000 Open Handicap Pace at The Meadows. K Ryan Bluechip stretched out Carolina Beach to a 27 opening panel before settling into the pocket. In the stretch, however, Carolina Beach had just enough of his diminishing lead to down K Ryan Bluechip by a neck in 1:51.2 for driver Aaron Merriman. Do Work Son, who was out without cover before the half, was a well-meant third.   Bill Bercury trains Carolina Beach, a 6-year-old Somebeachsomewhere-Laughandbehappy gelding who lifted his career bankroll to $331,093, for Renee Bercury. Dave Palone piloted six winners on the 13-race card while trainer Ron Burke fashioned a triple. Live racing at The Meadows resumes Monday when the program features a $3,626.95 carryover in the final-race Super Hi 5. First post is 1:05 PM. By Evan Pattak, for The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association    

WASHINGTON, PA, Jan. 6, 2020 -- New Year's morning in Slippery Rock, southwestern Pennsylvania. The weak early light barely picks up the two figures approaching a barn. Horsenappers? Holiday revelers hung over and lost? The barn door bursts open, and Bill Bercury and his wife Renee shower their harness racing horses with treats, then serenade them with a chorus of "Happy Birthday." Most in the Standardbred game know that all horses are assigned a birthday of Jan. 1, but how many horsemen and horsewomen go out of their way to celebrate that day with their horses? The Bercurys do, and that affection and concern may be one of the reasons for their enduring success. Their success never was more evident than in 2019, when Bill Bercury topped all trainers (in the Less Than 300 Starts category) with an eye-popping .580 Universal Trainer Rating (UTR). Andrew Adamczyk was second at .524; no one else topped .500. In 123 starts, the Bercury stable rolled up 51 wins and earned $617,870, an average of more than $5,023 per start. The Bercurys' program is to purchase proven equine commodities -- "We buy damn nice horses," Bill says -- pay fair market value for them and train them to even greater heights. They're limited by stall space to six horses, but each was outstanding in 2019 performing at The Meadows and sometimes Northfield Park. The Bercurys' six-pack includes: Touchamatic, Older Pacing Mare of the Year at The Meadows and winner of 18 of 36 starts last year. "A big part of our success was having her lead the pack," Bercury says. Barn Girl, an 8-year-old trotting mare who's won exactly half her 132 lifetime starts and $860,478. Carolina Beach, a consistent Preferred pacer who banked nearly $150,000 in 2019. Major Nemesis, a terror at Northfield before being shelved with an injury. Blue Ivy, at 4, the youngest of the contingent and perhaps the one with the most upward potential. The filly pacer closed the year with a five-race winning streak and $131,537 in seasonal earnings. Wind Of The North, a 10-year-old trotting millionaire who missed 10 months with an injury. He's set to qualify Thursday. Bercury credits his assistant, Mike McDowell, with getting the most from that talented bunch. "He's very good with the horses, and he's very good about noticing the things that are bothering them. He never says, 'Don't worry about it, it's nothing.' He takes care of it." Bercury also cites the impact of Aaron Merriman, who was aboard for most of the Bercury stable's starts en route to his third consecutive thousand-win season -- a harness racing first. "We have the best driver in the sport driving our horses -- how many points is that worth?" But perhaps the most important factor in the Bercurys' success is that, while they're savvy business owners, they treat their horses with compassion. "As long as you operate in a dignified manner, your horses learn to trust other horses, and they learn to trust you," Bercury says. "As long as you don't violate that trust, they become comfortable with you. That's so important to the horse's attitude." Other western Pennsylvania horsemen fared well in the UTR Fewer Than 300 Starts category, as Robert Rougeaux III ranked 8 at .432 while Mike Palone checked in at 21 with a .397 UTR. As for the year just begun, Bercury is realistic about his chances of successfully defending his title. "Let's face it, .580 is nosebleed territory, and you can't expect to be there every year," he says. "But I expect to have an outstanding year." The 2020 season at The Meadows kicks off Monday with a 13-race card that begins at 1:05 PM. By Evan Pattak, for The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association

Blue Ivy overcame windy conditions and a brisk 39 degrees to become the fastest three-year-old harness racing filly pacer to win in the history of Northfield Park. Blue Ivy (Captaintreacherous - Ali Blue - American Ideal) fired from post two to lead her competition through quarter times of :26.3, :54.1, 1:22 and 1:51.1, winning by 7 ¾-lengths. The previous 1:51.2 record was held by sophomore filly pacer Giggles In Dreams and Shawn Barker II set earlier this year. Blue Ivy now has eight wins in 20 starts this season for owner Renee Bercury and trainer William Bercury. Aaron Merriman was aboard for the winning drive. The victory increased Blue Ivy's earnings to $185,285. Blue Ivy was heavily favored and returned $2.40 to win. by Ayers Ratlliff, for Northfield Park

WASHINGTON, PA, Oct. 1, 2019 -- Touchamatic held off challengers inside and out to capture Tuesday's $18,000 Filly & Mare Open Handicap Pace at The Meadows. It was the 15th victory this season for Touchamatic, who was driven by Aaron Merriman for trainer Bill Bercury and owner Renee Bercury. The 5-year-old daughter of American Ideal-Perfect Touch took the field through a swift 1:21.4 three-quarters but still had enough in the tank to turn back the outside brush of Camera Lady and the Lightning Lane charge of Suddenly Royal. She prevailed in 1:50.2, 1/2 length better than Camera Lady, while McDazzle rallied for show ahead of Suddenly Royal. Touchamatic now boasts career earnings of $388,572. Dave Palone and trainer Scott Betts each enjoyed a triple on the 13-race card. Live racing at The Meadows continues Wednesday when the program features a $3,698.94 carryover in the final-race Super Hi-5. First post is 1:05 PM. By Evan Pattak, for The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association

WASHINGTON, PA, Aug. 2, 2019 -- The ancient Greeks considered Nemesis the goddess of retribution, and for trainer Bill Bercury, his horse Major Nemesis often seemed just that, racing himself into repeated trouble when it appeared his speed lay over the field. In recent weeks, however, the 5-year-old Big Bad John-Nassau Loop gelding ripped off an impressive winning streak at Northfield Park and is back at The Meadows to show off his new, mannerly look. Live racing at The Meadows resumes Saturday following a week's post-Adios break, and Major Nemesis and Aaron Merriman have drawn post 4 in the $18,000 Open Handicap Pace, which goes as race 7. First post is 1:05 PM. Bercury purchased Major Nemesis for owner Renee Bercury toward the end of his sophomore campaign on the advice of one of the horse's drivers. Recalls Bill Bercury: "He said to me, 'This is the fastest horse I ever sat behind. If you get him, you'll figure him out.' I didn't think it would take me a year to figure him out, although he's more than paid for himself. He's a wonderful horse to work with. He doesn't have a mean bone in his body." Early on for the Bercurys, Major Nemesis proved fast but furious. Bercury implemented a makeover by treating the horse's feet and throwing away his equipment card. "We took off his shadow roll, his head pole, his Murphy blinds," Bercury reports. "We rigged him with expandable hopples that stretch three inches and give him much more support. Give Aaron credit for that -- it was his idea." The results have been palpable. His four straight victories at Northfield included a pair of sub-1:50 miles in which he was parked most of the way. In his return to The Meadows on Adios Day, he finished fourth off a similar demanding trip. A win Saturday would vault Major Nemesis over $200,000 in career earnings. One of the major impediments will be his stablemate, Carolina Beach, who'll leave from post 5 in the same race. Bercury is pointing Major Nemesis to a pair of stakes for Ohio eligibles later this year, and he's confident that the horse no longer is bent on retribution. ""I qualified him myself and found him to be not that difficult anymore," Bercury says. "I think he's growing up." On the wagering front, Saturday's card features a $6,563.80 carryover in the final-race Super Hi-5. By Evan Pattak, for The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association  

WASHINGTON, PA, Dec. 8, 2018 -- Anythingforlove A opened up a 4-length lead at the three-quarters and cruised home to capture Saturday's $20,000 Preferred Handicap Pace at The Meadows. After four consecutive pocket trips had produced seconds and thirds, Anythingforlove A took matters into his own hands by blasting to the front for Aaron Merriman and settling matters early. He scored in 1:53.1, 3/4 lengths better than the first-over Hawk's Red Chief, with Dapper Dude third. Bill Bercury trains the winner, a 6-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven-The Perfect Mona gelding who vaulted over $200,000 in career earnings, for Renee Bercury. Jim Pantaleano piloted four winners and Mike Wilder three on the 13-race card. Live racing at The Meadows resumes Monday, when the program features a $1,875.60 carryover in the final-race Super Hi-5. by Evan Pattak, for The Meadows        

Wind Of The North trotted home for his 50th career victory, winning the third race at Northfield Park on Monday (December 3). The eight year-old harness racing veteran, with 164 career starts, also has 36 seconds and 21 third-place finishes. Wind Of The North (Cantab Hall-Talk To The Wind-Pine Chip) has career earnings of $1,035,258 with a lifetime mark of 1:51 at Pocono Downs at age four. The trotter's richest win was for a purse of $100,000 in the Chip Noble Trot at Scioto Downs in 2015. Wind Of The North is a well-traveled campaigner -- his 50 wins have been spread across 13 different racing surfaces. Wind Of The North was assigned post-8 in the evening's $19,000 Open Handicap Trot. He fired off the gate despite starting from the far outside and led at every call through fractions of :27.2, :57.4, 1:26.2 and 1:55 over a sloppy surface, besting his competition by a 2¼-lengths. He was the race favorite and returned $3.40 to win. William Bercury of Slippery Rock, PA owns and trains Wind Of The North. Aaron Merriman was aboard for the winning drive. Merriman had a big night on Monday winning a total of eight times on the 15-race program. Ayres Ratliff

WASHINGTON, PA, Nov. 19, 2018 -- Wind Of The North survived a 27.3 opening quarter in the slop and collected his 14th win this year in Monday's $20,000 Preferred Handicap Trot at The Meadows. After Aaron Merriman gave Wind Of The North a 30.3 second-panel breather, the 8-year-old Cantab Hall-Talk To The Wind gelding had enough in the tank to hold off the rallying Classic Banker by a head in 1:56.1. The pocket-sitting PL Jerico finished third. Bill Bercury trains and owns Wind Of The North, who now boasts 49 victories and $1,026,058 in earnings for his career. Elsewhere on the card, It's A Dew Thing lit up the tote board when he scored at 96-1 for Chris Shaw, trainer Norm Parker and owner Tom Klosky, Jr. The 5-year-old Western Ideal-Artbitration gelding returned $228 for a $2 win-place-show ticket and set up a double-carryover of $5,888.89 for Tuesday's Pick 5 and a $1,629.04 for Tuesday's first superfecta, currently scheduled for race 2. Mike Micallef, Jim Pantaleano and Merriman each piloted a pair of winners on the 13-race program. Big-score wagering opportunities will abound Tuesday at The Meadows, as the card features four carryovers. They include: Pick 5 (races 9-13), two-day carryover of $5,888.89. Pick 4 (races 4-7), $3,905.52. The Meadows, in association with the United States Trotting Association Strategic Wagering Initiative, will guarantee this pool at $5,000 as it does for each Monday and Tuesday Pick 4. Superfecta (race 2), $1,639.04. Should a scratch or scratches leave the second race with fewer than eight wagering interests, the carryover will be applied to the first superfecta with at least eight wagering interests. Super Hi-5 (race 13), $670.20. First post Tuesday is 1:05 PM by Evan Pattak, for the Meadows

WASHINGTON, PA, Nov. 12, 2018 -- Wind Of The North won a four-ply battle for the early lead, then held off the challengers late to prevail in Monday's $18,000 Preferred Handicap Trot at The Meadows, one of five victories for Aaron Merriman on the 13-race card. Merriman gave Wind Of The North a 29.1 breather after that spirited opening panel, enabling him to withstand the determined first-over bid of Classic Banker and down him by 1/2 length in 1:55. PL Jerico rallied for show. Bill Bercury owns and trains Wind Of The North, an 8-year-old Cantab Hall-Talk To The Wind gelding who lifted his lifetime bankroll to $1,016,258. Merriman, who added a pair of seconds and a fifth in his eight drives, also scored for trainers Sarah Andrews, Robert Barnard, Spencer Kahrig and Gerald Lee, Jr. Jim Pantaleano also enjoyed a big Monday with three wins. Live racing at The Meadows continues Tuesday, when the program features a pair of carryovers -- $1,952,89 for the Pick 5 and $871.60 for the Super Hi-5. by Evan Pattak, for the Meadowlands

WASHINGTON, PA, Oct. 16, 2018 -- Wind Of The North, a speedy, rugged and durable trotter throughout his career, vaulted over $1 million in lifetime earnings with an in-hand victory in Tuesday's $18,000 Preferred Handicap Trot at The Meadows. The 8-year-old Cantab Hall-Talk To The Wind gelding has won 47 of his 160 lifetime starts and banked $1,005,098. Wind Of The North retook the lead with a quarter-pole move for Aaron Merriman and owner/trainer Bill Bercury and had little trouble turning aside the first-over bid of Call For Justice. He scored in 1:55.4, 2-1/2 lengths better than early leader PL Jerico, with Cantab Lindy third. Wind Of The North took his 1:51 mark at Pocono at 4 and enjoyed his most productive years in 2015-2016, when he collected $489,352. In 2015, he won the Chip Noble at Scioto Downs and was second in the Cutler Memorial at the Meadowlands. Tony Hall piloted three winners on the 13-race card. by Evan Pattak, for the Meadows

WASHINGTON, PA, Oct. 2, 2018 -- Wind Of The North turned back the determined uncovered bid of Call For Justice and collected his third straight victory in Tuesday's $20,000 Preferred Handicap Trot at The Meadows. Wind Of The North had to step lively to reach the leaf from post 7 in 27.3, but when Aaron Merriman gave the 8-year-old Cantab Hall-Talk To The Wind gelding a 30.2 second-quarter breather, he was refreshed and ready for Call For Justice's challenge. Wind Of The North downed him by a length in 1:54.3, with the pocket-sitting Classicality third in the Lightning Lane. Bill Bercury trains and owns Wind Of The North, who now boasts $991,598 in career earnings. Dave Palone piloted four winners on the 13-race card. by Evan Pattak, for the Meadows

WASHINGTON, PA, Sept. 12, 2018 -- Rebounding from an uncharacteristic break, Barn Girl rolled to an easy front-end victory -- her 28th over the last two seasons -- in Wednesday's $18,000 Filly & Mare Preferred Handicap Trot at The Meadows. When Barn Girl jumped it off at Scioto Downs as the 1-2 favorite and finished seventh, it marked the first time in 18 starts that she wasn't first or second. Aaron Merriman remained aggressive with the 6-year-old daughter of Cash Hall-Turquoise Sweetie, gunning her to the point in 27.2. She shrugged off the first-up challenge of Dreamsteeler and defeated her by 1-3/4 lengths in 1:53.2, with Glidinthruparadise third. Barn Girl is now 55-106 in her career for a gaudy win percentage of 52.4. She's earned $734,668 for trainer Bill Bercury and owner Renee Bercury. Brady Brown and Merriman each piloted three winners on the 13-race card. by Evan Pattak, for the The Meadows

WASHINGTON, PA, Aug. 28, 2018 -- Delcrest Magicstar, who had been competitive but winless in recent starts against The Meadows distaff elite, took advantage of a drop into a $12,700 condition trot Tuesday with a 5-length romp. Delcrest Magicstar got away second for Brian Zendt but quarter-poled to the point. The 4-year-old daughter of Majestic Son-Star's Balance thwarted the first-over bid of Fireball's Prayers and downed Rose Run Reanna in 1:55.3 while the pocket-sitting Saint Beth finished third. Bill Bercury trains Delcrest Magicstar, who lifted her career bankroll to $172,459, for Renee Bercury. Mike Wilder collected four wins, including a pair for trainer Spencer Kahrig, while Dave Palone enjoyed a triple on the 13-race card. by Evan Pattak, for The Meadows

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