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YONKERS, N.Y. – Australian import Let It Ride will make his Yonkers Raceway debut in the featured $30,000 open handicap pace on Opening Night (Jan. 11). The move to the Hilltop comes after the Rock N Roll Heaven gelding took a Meadowlands preferred/open handicap in such style as to garner praise like, “he really amazed me,” from harness racing trainer Nifty Norman. In that start Jan. 2, driver Dexter Dunn slotted Let It Ride into seventh after starting from post nine as Harambe Deo ripped an opening quarter in :26.1. Let It Ride followed the second-over cover of Rock Diamonds and drew within 4 lengths of the lead as Harambe Deo blitzed a :53.2 half-mile. Dunn tipped Let It Ride three-deep at the midway point of the final turn and the pacer rocketed into contention.  Under a tight hold, Let It Ride angled into the stretch on even-terms with Harambe Deo. Dunn took a glimpse over his right shoulder and saw rival Hesa Kingslayer, who followed Let It Ride third-over, still 2 lengths behind and under urging. Dunn gave a few whip taps and pulled the plugs at the furlong marker. Let It Ride didn’t let up, extending through the finish line to cap the mile with a :26.1 final quarter and stopping the clock in 1:48.1, just one-fifth of a second of Golden Receiver’s record January mile at the Meadowlands in 2012. “You just don’t see an 8-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven come from Down Under and do this sort of thing,” Norman said. “I was hoping he was a winners over type of horse. He’d been a classy old horse, but he hadn’t been very good for a couple years. He trained down good, he qualified good, every start has been good. But his last race was unbelievable. He just seems like he’s getting better all the time, too.” Bred in New Zealand, Let It Ride won his first four starts at the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club for trainer Tim Butt with Dunn in the sulky from Feb. 10, 2017 to March 31, 2017. Over the next year, Let It Ride went unplaced in four Group 1 races in his home country, but found better luck in Australia.  Let It Ride won six straight races at Tabcorp Park Menangle and Albion Park between May 26, 2018 and July 21, 2018, including a pair of Group 1 stakes in the AU$100,000 New South Wales Breeders Challenge Four-Year-Old Entires and Geldings Final, in which he paced the mile in 1:49.4, and the AU$200,540 Blacks A Fake Queensland Championship over 2,680 meters with Dunn driving.  After that Blacks A Fake win, which saw Let It Ride explode out of the pocket to win by 5 lengths, the brilliance seemed to fade. Let It Ride won just three of his next 27 starts through Sept. 26, 2020. Tim and Anthony Butt, longtime friends of Norman, thought the horse would benefit from Lasix and a deal was made to export the horse to the U.S. “Basically, I think putting him on Lasix turned him around,” Norman said. “We didn’t do a lot with him. His feet were a little sore, we changed his shoeing, put him on Lasix, and that was that. He’s such a good-winded horse. He must have a big set of lungs because he never seems to get tired. Nothing bothers him.” Let It Ride was cleared to the U.S. Oct. 5, 2020 and made an impression as soon as he arrived in Norman’s stable. Norman says Let It Ride is easy to be around, is a simple horse to train, and describes him as a gentleman. “He’s a grand looking horse. He’s a big, strong fellow. He’s got a great, big hind end on him and he’s in great shape,” Norman said. “He looks after himself really well. He’s got a good coat and always carries lots of weight. He’s a good-looking horse and good-natured, good to be around. He doesn’t do anything wrong. He’s a real nice horse.” Let It Ride was ready to qualify in short order and did so at Harrah’s Philadelphia Nov. 11, 2020 with assistant trainer Scott Petherick in the bike. Off a pocket trip, Let It Ride came home in :27.2 to post a 2-length win in 1:55.1. From there, Let It Ride ran up a five-race win streak culminating with that “amazing” Meadowlands win Jan. 2. Dunn drove in each pari-mutuel start. “Scotty qualified him and he said, ‘jeeze, this is the real deal. He’s strong as hell.’ Once we raced him a couple times – and we just raced him off the pace to see how he would be – Dexter came back and said, ‘this thing is a bull,’ ” Norman recalled. “I said, ‘it would be great if I could get him back to where he used to be.’ He said, ‘I think he’s there already. He feels better than he ever did when I drove him.’ I felt pretty good after he said that.” Let It Ride will start from an assigned post eight in his first start at Yonkers, which will also be his first race on a half-mile, or 800-meter, track. Let It Ride spent most of his time in Australia on the 1,400-meter oval at Tabcorp Park Menangle and got several starts over various tracks measuring approximately 1,000 meters.  Let It Ride got one start each over the 946-meter track at Cranbourne and the 931-meter track at Newcastle, which approximate the U.S. half-mile oval. In addition, Norman trains Let It Ride on the half. Norman opted to come to Yonkers before nominating Let It Ride to the Borgata Pacing Series, which closes Feb. 16, 2021. “We’ll see how he handles a half-mile track. I don’t think that will be a big challenge; I think he’ll get around it fine. We’ll just have to see how it goes,” Norman said. “I really wasn’t worried about what he drew, I just wanted to see how he’ll get around Yonkers. I don’t think he’ll be as well-suited to it, I think he’ll be better-suited to the big track, but I just wanted to see how he got around it before I pay him into the stakes races. “He’s a big horse, big hopple,” Norman continued. “He drives pretty good, but some horses just can’t find their speed on a half-mile track. But he seems to pace the turns really good wherever he goes. I don’t think he’ll have an issue.” With Dunn set to drive again, Let It Ride is the 8-5 morning line favorite. The competition includes Hesa Kingslayer, the Mike Deters trainee who finished second in this open handicap Dec. 12, 2020 and won a preferred handicap from post eight at Freehold Dec. 26, 2020 before finishing second to Let It Ride last out. Hesa Kingslayer and Jim Marohn, Jr. will start from post five and are 3-1 on the morning line. Ron Burke will send out Bettor Memories, who will start from the inside after scoring a 1:50.4 pocket-riding victory in the Meadows $16,200 open handicap Dec. 29, 2020. George Brennan will drive the 3-1 shot.  San Domino overcame post seven to score a 1:52.3, 4 1/2-length victory in this open handicap for trainer Deborah Daguet in his last start Dec. 12, 2020. He will start from post seven again tonight with Jason Bartlett set to drive.  Western Fame won two in a row in the local conditions in late November before getting parked the mile as the 7-5 favorite in his open debut for Shane Tritton. Jordan Stratton will look for a cleaner trip with the 8-year-old tonight. Tookadiveoffdipper and Raukapuka Ruler, third and fourth, respectively, in the invitational pace for Borgata Series eligibles Nov. 28, and Speed Man, 35-1 winner of this open Nov. 21, complete the lineup. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday through Friday with a first post time of 7:15 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.   By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – When New Zealand-bred harness racing pacers Mighty Santana and Hesa Kingslayer arrived in Mike Deters’ stable this summer, the former fit the mold of a typical Deters trainee: a great big, strapping, good-looking horse. Then there was the latter. Take a walk through Deters stable and he might stand out to you. “Hesa Kingslayer is quite well-built, but not very big,” Deters said. “I was actually kind of nervous about it. I said, ‘oh boy, we could be in trouble here.’ ”  By Christian Cullen out of the Bettor’s Delight mare Millwood Manhattan, Hesa Kingslayer raced for the first time as a 4-year-old, finishing third in a NZ$10,700 maiden for Greg and Nina Hope at the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club May 4, 2018. Hesa Kingslayer then won two straight races Timaru and Invcargill. He won his first Metro race Aug. 17, 2018, but never rose to the free for all ranks in New Zealand. Hesa Kingslayer went to Australia in mid-2019 and continued to improve. He won nine of 14 starts on the continent, including three wins at Gloucester Park. His final Down Under start came May 22, 2020. “We bought him from an agent named Frank Rinaldi. He said this horse could be a diamond in the rough. He said he would need work, but he thought he could be helped and he might be a very good horse,” Deters said. “My partner, Joel Warner, and I took a shot on him. I watched a bunch of his races and he had a big motor. That’s what intrigued us about him.”  Mighty Santana after winning the Gore Cup in New Zealand (Bruce Stewart Photo) Both Mighty Santana and Hesa Kingslayer were cleared to the United States Aug. 3, 2020. Deters gave the horses all the time they needed. “We got him the first week of August and I turned him out for a few weeks and we started a slow grind to get him ready,” Deters said. “These are actually the first horses I’ve imported myself, and the agent recommended that if you give them some time, you’re far better off. And that’s what we did.” Before starting serious work with Hesa Kingslayer, a few kinks needed to be worked out. The gelding had bad feet that needed correcting. He had also lost significant weight on his long journey.  “He is a really nice horse to be around, nice horse to work around,” Deters said. “We were able to do some corrective shoeing on him and take care of his stomach and turn him into a really nice horse.” Hesa Kingslayer qualified at Hoosier Park Oct. 7. With Trace Tetrick in the bike, Hesa Kingslayer gunned straight to the lead and peeled away by 3 3/4-lengths to win in 1:54.1 with a :27.2 final quarter. He hasn’t seen the front end since, and probably won’t for some time. “We knew he was very, very fast, but could be a little hot. We had a game plan that leaving with this horse is probably not a good idea,” Deters said. “Trace Tetrick qualified him and said he was pretty warm. I train him by himself. He’s fine by himself, but when he saw the starting gate, he activated.” Hesa Kingslayer finished eighth in his first Stateside pari-mutuel start Oct. 17 with Peter Wrenn in the bike. Then, he finished second at 41-1 in his next start Oct. 23, pacing home with a :25.4 final quarter under Tim Tetrick’s encouragement. “My brother-in-law dove him his first start and he was hot, hot, hot, hot and he was able to duck him,” Deters said. “Then Tim Tetrick drove him the next week and he said, ‘I wouldn’t leave with this horse for a year.’ We’ve been ducking him and he always thunders home. No matter where he’s at, he’s charging at the wire. That will be the game plan for a while.” Hesa Kingslayer won his next two races, a $16,500 second division of the open pace at Hoosier Park Nov. 6 and the $18,000 open Nov. 13, in which he took a lifetime mark of 1:50.1. In his final Hoosier Park start in the open pace Nov. 20, Hesa Kingslayer utilized a :25.1 final quarter to come from 15 1/4 lengths behind to nab second. While the rest of Deters’ stable shipped to Florida for the winter following the Hoosier Park meet, Hesa Kingslayer and Mighty Santana went to Chris Freck at White Birch Farm for a Yonkers campaign.  “The purse money is one thing. A lot of those Australian and New Zealand horses are better in cooler weather. And I have a couple other open pacers at Pompano and you can only have so many of them at one location or it doesn’t work out. I think it was potentially a good move. At least the little horse is adapting to Yonkers quite well,” Deters said. Hesa Kingslayer made his Yonkers debut in the $30,000 open handicap pace Dec. 5. In that start, driver Jim Marohn, Jr. took Hesa Kingslayer back into fifth early and watched as Tookadiveoffdipper, Hot Deuce, Rock Diamonds, and Western Fame all vied for the lead. With those four still charging three-wide to the quarter and covered only 2 lengths through a :26.3 opening panel, Hesa Kingslayer bided his time. Tookadiveoffdipper parked Western Fame through a half-mile in :54.1. While San Domino slid out of sixth to join the flow third-over, Marohn stuck to the pylons with Hesa Kingslayer. Up the backstretch, San Domino tipped three-wide and confronted the pacesetters, who had dueled each other into defeat. While San Domino struck the lead with a quarter-mile to race, Hesa Kingslayer was mired in traffic and shuffled to last. Hesa Kingslayer finally had open road at the midway point of the final turn with just over a furlong left to race. He circled everyone but San Domino, who had scampered away by 4 1/2 lengths.  “I thought he raced tremendous,” Deters said. “I would have liked to see him out third-over, I think he would have had an opportunity to win, but that’s a two-second call by the driver and he sat in and did what he had to do. When he finally shook free, he was pacing at the wire. I know he didn’t really come a better last quarter than anybody else in the race, but he went from zero in mid-turn and he shifted three-high and was really pacing at the wire. I was very, very happy with his performance.” Hesa Kingslayer drew post position four in the Saturday night (Dec. 19) open handicap pace in what will be just the 37th start in the 7-year-old’s career. Marohn will drive again and the pair are 6-1 on the morning line.  Their rivals include San Domino, last week’s winner who will start from the outside post again, and Ostro Hanover, who will start from post seven after winning this open Dec. 5 and finishing second in the $125,000 Invitational Pace for Borgata Series Eligibles Nov. 28.  The field also includes Hudson Phil, who was second to Ostro Hanover in this open Dec. 5, and Speed Man, who upset this open at 35-1 Nov. 21. Rock Diamonds, Bronx Seelster, and Raukapuka Ruler complete the lineup for the final pacing feature of the year at Yonkers. “I hope there’s action on the front. I don’t think there will be action like there was last week because that had to surprise everybody to see them going that kind of half,” Deters said. “I would like to see a fast tempo and see my horse coming second- or third-over and hopefully he’s charging at the wire.” First post time Saturday night is 7:12 p.m. Racing continues at Yonkers Monday (Dec. 21) and Tuesday (Dec. 22), closing night. The proposed racing schedule for January 2021 would see live harness racing return Jan. 11 and continue on a Monday – Wednesday schedule with first post time at 7:15 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Yonkers Raceway cancelled the remainder of the Friday night (Dec. 18) harness racing program after the first pari-mutuel race due to unsafe track conditions.  The cancellation followed a snowstorm that dumped more than a foot of snow on the half-mile oval late Wednesday night (Dec. 16) into Thursday morning (Dec. 17). The storm also forced the cancellation of the entire Thursday night card. However, the track called off the Thursday card at 9:10 a.m., well before the scheduled 7:12 p.m. first post. Friday’s game-time cancellation followed dozens of horses, caretakers, trainers, and drivers shipping in at considerable expense. Jordan Stratton, the chairperson of the SOA of NY’s driver’s committee and one of the track’s leading reinsman, commented that the surface was inconsistent.  “Some spots were frozen solid. Others were deep and slushy,” Stratton said after driving even-money favorite Gunpowder in the first race.  SOA of NY field representative Jimmy Marohn, Sr., who is responsible for communicating with the judges on behalf of the horsepeople, noted everyone was in agreement about cancelling as the track condition was deemed unraceable. The loss of Friday’s card is significant as it was one of only four programs left on the 2020 season, which had already been drastically reduced due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The SOA of NY has recently called into question the competency of the track superintendent employed by Yonkers Raceway and the adequacy of the manpower being allocated and materials being used to maintain the racing surface. “The situation is a mess and not conducive to a consistent, let alone safe, track surface,” SOA of NY President Joe Faraldo wrote in an opinion piece titled The Trackman Carousel in the organization’s Sept. 30, 2020 newsletter. Live racing is scheduled to resume Saturday night (Dec. 19) with a 7:12 p.m. first post.    By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Delaware-based harness racing trainer Dylan Davis’ name doesn’t appear in the Yonkers program regularly. Out of Davis’ 542 starters to date in 2020, only 17 of them have come at the Hilltop. When faced with a long ship each way and stiff competition, Davis wants to ensure that when he does make the trek, he is coming to win. “Personally, I love racing there, it’s just a matter of having the right class of horse,” Davis said. “It’s kind of hard for us to just take one horse all the way to Yonkers. If traffic is good, we can make it in four hours, but if we hit the George Washington Bridge at the wrong time, it can be a job. That’s why when I do come, I enter two, three, sometimes four at a time.” On Monday (Dec. 14), Davis will send just one horse to Yonkers Raceway: Dina Bolt, a New Zealand-bred 4-year-old gelding who made his U.S. debut a winning one in a $14,000 overnight here Nov. 30. Handled by Jordan Stratton, Dina Bolt raced in third under a strong hold in the first quarter as Scrappin Gold set the pace. Approaching the half, Stratton tugged on the right line and by the third turn, Dina Bolt ranged up to confront the leader. Scrappin Gold and Dina Bolt raced nose-to-nose up the backstretch and around the final turn. As they straightened away, Stratton simply struck the wheel disc once and Dina Bolt’s response was instantaneous. Dina Bolt’s stride quickened, and he put up 2 1/4 lengths on the field. He stopped the timer in 1:53.3 with a :28.3 final quarter over the sloppy racetrack. As far as Davis was concerned, it was a textbook first start. “Jordan did a great job with him. When I get them shipped over from Australia, I want them taken off the gate the first couple times just so they don’t get hot and they learn our style of racing,” Davis said. “Jordan did great, he sat him in until past the three-eighths and when he moved, it wasn’t like he brushed him or anything, he worked his way there. Jordan told me at the top of the stretch, he asked him to go and that was it.” Bred by Feek, Candy, and Nolan, Dina Bolt is by Bettor’s Delight out of Pullover Brown, an Armbro Operative mare who won three Group 1 stakes and two Group 2 stakes and earned NZ$332,265 between 2002 and 2004. Pullover Brown’s progeny include Dina Bolt’s full sister, Dina Brown, who has placed in multiple Grouped stakes and earned NZ$102,877 to date. Dina Bolt raced in the barn of top trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, finishing third on debut in the Group 2 Two-Year-Old Classic at Invercargill April 27, 2019. Dina Bolt’s next five starts included unplaced efforts in the Group 1 Two-Year-Old Emerald and the Group 1 Sire Stakes Final, both at the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club. Dina Bolt scored his first win in an Auckland Trotting Club maiden Dec. 3, 2019 and doubled up in his next start there 11 days later. After another overnight win Feb. 28, 2020 and two more unplaced stakes efforts in March, Dina Bolt shipped to Australia. He won three overnight races and placed in another three between Aug. 11 and Sept. 22 before Mike Casalino, Jr., who co-owns Dina Bolt with Davis, identified the prospect. “My partner Mike Casalino, he does most of the searching for the Down Under horses,” Davis said. “I do look at their lines and their replays. Watching the replays, I know what I want to look for in a horse. I watched quite a few of his videos. He looked over there like a very handy horse. “Something that sticks out in my memory, I watched three or four races of his and he was racing from the back or from the outer tier,” Davis recalled. “Then, all the sudden, he had an outside post and the driver sent him out of there and he crossed right over to the lead. I was like, ‘woah, I like that,’ a lot of versatility being able to do it both ways.” Once Dina Bolt arrived in Delaware, Davis saw all the usual attributes of a Bettor’s Delight son. “He’s awesome. He’s a lot of fun, he’s got a great personality, he plays. Even though he’s a foreign Bettor’s Delight, he acts a lot like one,” Davis said. “When he’s in the stall, he will jump around. He has a ball he plays with. When he’s out jogging, he’ll have his head down between his legs kind of cantering and jumping around. He’s just a really good-feeling horse. That’s what I like about him. He doesn’t seem to stress out about anything; he’s nice and relaxed all the time, just having a good time.” Davis spent around six weeks getting Dina Bolt acclimated and training down. The first 10 days to two weeks, Dina Bolt spent in the field. Then once he began training, Davis kept him settled in the middle of the set. Similar tactics were employed in Dina Bolt’s qualifier at Harrah’s Philadelphia Nov. 24, when he raced along in fifth throughout before pacing home in :28.2 to finish third. “Training down, I always train in groups. I’ll train anywhere from two at a time to six at a time. Something I’ve done with every New Zealand or Australian horse we’ve brought over here, when we train them in sets like that, they just sit in the middle. I never pull them and make them brush by anybody, I never put them on the lead,” Davis explained. “My main thing is I want them to sit in and he was perfect that way. We’ll even do it going fast; we’ll train miles in 1:58 and he’ll sit in behind somebody and never move. He’s been a real pleasure to get adjusted.” Dina Bolt was on the also eligible list last Monday (Dec. 7), but got back in tonight (Dec. 14) and drew post six in a $16,000 overnight as he steps up from the non-winners of four to the non-winners of six condition. Jordan Stratton will drive again. His rivals include Caliber, the 5-2 morning line favorite who enters off two straight wins for Williams Hernandez, including a 3/4-length wire-to-wire score here in 1:54.3 last out Dec. 7. The field also includes Mac’s Big Boy, Patriot Nation, Genius Man, Sports Obsession, Western Vacation, and So Many Roads. “I’m not disappointed with the draw because I want him to race from the back again,” Davis said. “With the right trip and everything working out, I think he’ll be tough to beat again. I don’t know those horses like I know all the horses at Dover Downs, but with the way he raced the first time, they’re going to know he’s there.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Since arriving in the United States this March, the harness racing training duo of Lauren and Shane Tritton have quickly made a name for themselves in their new home. Their stable has swelled from the 12 horses the Trittons flew over from their native Australia as American owners have flocked to their barn. Since their pari-mutuel debut June 12, the Trittons have amassed 55 wins from 194 starts with another 52 seconds and thirds.  Forty of those victories have come at Yonkers Raceway, placing the Trittons seventh in the trainer’s standings. Saturday night (Nov. 28) at the Hilltop, the Trittons will make their American stakes debut as they send out Lady Dela Renta in the $100,000 distaff invitational pace for Blue Chip Matchmaker Series eligibles and San Domino in the $125,000 invitational pace for Borgata Pacing Series eligibles. “We’re excited that we’ve been able to get a couple horses in for our owners. We were hoping to be successful coming to America, but you just never know how it’s going to go,” Shane Tritton said. “We’re very relieved that things have worked out OK, we’ve made the right moves. Having these two horses in these races is a big culmination of these six months and hopefully they can do well. They’re both very tough races and we understand they are the best horses going around in this area right now. We hope that we can do well.” Australia-bred Lady Dela Renta appeared to be an open-type pacer last fall when she captured a $42,000 filly and mare open handicap pace at Yonkers Oct. 4, 2019 in just her sixth Stateside start in the barn of Jose Godinez. However, she went winless in her first five races this spring at Yonkers and Scioto between March 6 and July 10. When racing resumed on the East Coast, owner Bukers Stable shipped Lady Dela Renta to the Trittons’ stable in Pine Bush, N.Y. Since the move, Lady Dela Renta has been a standout in the pacing mare ranks at Yonkers. She qualified a winner in 1:52.2 with Lauren Tritton in the bike July 31. Lady Dela Renta won her pari-mutuel debut for the Trittons with Jordan Stratton driving by 3 3/4 lengths in a $15,500 overnight Aug. 13. Since then, Lady Dela Renta has won another five races from seven starts, including three at the preferred or open level. “She was a horse that my wife actually chased after a little bit. The owners seemed interested in sending her to us and my wife definitely wanted her. She had faith that we could turn her around,” Tritton said. “We knew a little bit about her in Australia and she was a pretty high-class mare there. After she came to us, Lauren has done most of the work. She just really got along good with her. She’s certainly a mare we had a lot of respect for before we started training her and I think having that belief in them is enough to try to get them back the way they should be.” Tritton counts Lady Dela Renta’s most recent victory in the $25,000 filly and mare preferred on Nov. 12 as her most impressive performance to date. After starting from the outside post in a field of five, Lady Dela Renta dropped back to race in fourth early as Snobbytown and Lispatty dueled for the lead through a :27.1 quarter over the sloppy going. Sensing the pace slowing, Jordan Stratton angled Lady Dela Renta to the outside first-over with five-eights of a mile to pace. Lady Dela Renta pressured Snobbytown through a :57.2 half mile. Racing up the backstretch, Lady Dela Renta fought to put a neck in front of Snobbytown as the pace accelerated through three-quarters in 1:24.4. Lady Dela Renta held the lead over Snobbytown around the final turn. With Stratton motionless in the stretch, Lady Dela Renta extended the margin to 3/4 lengths to stop the clock in 1:53.3. The victory came two weeks after Lady Dela Renta made a break in stride as the 8-5 favorite and finished last Oct. 29. “I think her last win was very good. She got muddled up in a wet track, she broke the start before and we were really just trying to screw her back down and make sure we had her right for this race,” Tritton said. “She was parked out virtually the whole race and you could see she had the race won from a long way out. It gave us a lot of faith that she can do a lot of work in her races and still be there at the end. We needed to get a good win on the board to make sure we were right for this race, so her last win was definitely the most satisfying.” Lady Dela Renta drew post position eight and is 8-1 on the morning line with Jordan Stratton named to drive in the $100,000 distaff invitational, which will go as race six on Saturday night’s 10-race program.  “We expect that she’s going to keep getting better. We’re still scratching the surface. I think next year, she’ll progress a bit more and we really couldn’t be disappointed in her,” Tritton said. “The only couple of times she’s been beaten, it hasn’t been her fault. We expect her to race really well. We’re obviously disappointed with the barrier draw, but someone has to come from there. That’s how the cookie crumbles and maybe next time in one of these big races we might get the luck, so you just have to take it as you get it.” Lady Dela Renta’s rivals include Shartin, the $2.5 million earner who was voted 2019 Horse of the Year. Shartin is 8-for-11 at Yonkers Raceway and is a two-time Blue Chip Matchmaker Series Final winner, having taken the 2018 and 2019 editions. Saturday night will mark Shartin’s first start at Yonkers since the 7-year-old Jim King, Jr. trainee overcame post eight in a $33,000 filly and mare open handicap June 30.  Shartin enters this distaff invitational on the longest winless streak of her career since she began racing in the U.S., having lost five straight races from Oct. 3 through Nov. 21, including four losses to Kissin In The Sand in the $175,000 Dayton Distaff Derby, the elimination and final of the Breeders Crown, and the $150,000 TVG Mares Final.  Shartin drew post seven in the distaff invitational and is the 2-1 morning line favorite with co-owner Tim Tetrick set to drive. The field also includes Caviart Ally, who drew the rail for Andy McCarthy and Brett Pelling and enters off a fourth-place finish in the TVG Mares Final at the Meadowlands Nov. 21. Caviart Ally is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line. Major Occasion also exits the TVG Mares Final, having finished sixth for trainer Nifty Norman. Major Occasion drew post four in the distaff invitational and is 4-1 on the morning line with Pat Lachance set to drive. Local threats in this race include the Ron Burke-trained mare Snobbytown, who has finished first, second, or third in each of her last 10 starts, all of which came in either the local filly and mare open or preferred ranks. Snobbytown will start from post two with George Brennan in the sulky. The pair are 6-1 on the morning line.  Robyn Camden, Imprincessgemma, and Seaswift Joy complete the lineup. The Trittons will start San Domino in the $125,000 invitational pace two races after Lady Dela Renta. Another pacer bred in Australia, San Domino had been racing in the U.S. for Andrew Harris since August 2019, earning 9 wins and $179,067 from 29 starts, primarily in the open and conditioned ranks at East Coast tracks. However, owners Joe P Racing and Oldford Racing sent San Domino to the Trittons this fall, hoping to reach success at the stakes level. “It’s funny, the owners approached us. They had a pretty good horse called None Bettor and San Domino is kind of like him. I probably had more respect for San Domino than None Bettor from what they had done in Australia,” Tritton said. “I thought San Domino was probably underachieving a little bit, so we concentrated on trying to get him back to the way we thought he should be.” San Domino debuted for the Trittons in a $15,000 Yonkers overnight Oct. 2, scoring a wire-to-wire win by 2 1/2 lengths with Brent Holland in the bike. San Domino doubled up Oct. 10, taking a $17,500 overnight by 4 lengths in 1:51.2 with Jordan Stratton driving. San Domino then moved to the open ranks, finishing third behind Mac’s Jackpot and Ostro Hanover off a pocket trip Oct. 17 with Jason Bartlett in the sulky and second behind The Real One on Halloween with Austin Siegelman at the lines.  In his latest start in the $25,000 pacing feature Nov. 7, Jordan Stratton sent the 7-year-old straight to the lead and never looked back, holding off Leonidas and Micky Gee by 3/4 lengths to score a blistering 1:50.3 win. “San Domino has been stepping out of his stablemate’s shadow and showing what he can do, too. He’s probably gotten better with every run we’ve given him,” Tritton said. “We’re pretty excited with him. He’s a pretty tough horse, he’s always been a good horse in Australia. We just hope that the race can go his way. He can be a real tough bugger and I think he showed that in his last win. He’s had a good couple of weeks to get ready for this race. We think he’s as good as he can be.” The Trittons elected not to race San Domino after his last start and instead trained him up to Saturday night’s invitational. San Domino and Lady Dela Renta shipped to Yonkers last Friday (Nov. 20) to go a training trip. With Shane Tritton driving San Domino and Stratton driving Lady Dela Renta, the pair trained in company in 1:53.1. “We had the choice of running him back to back after that big win last time. Both of them went to Yonkers last Friday and ran a mile in 1:53.1. They’re both basically coming off a pretty good run last week even though they didn’t race,” Tritton said. “We’re confident that their fitness is where it needs to be. Obviously, these are tough races and they need to be 100 percent. We’re pretty confident that they are both there. It’s whether they can get the luck in the running.” San Domino will start from post position four, the same post he left from in his recent down-the-road open win. He and Stratton are 5-2 on the morning line and could be poised to set the tempo again. “I think San Domino showed last time that he likes to be on the front end, he likes to run a really hard race,” Tritton said. “If he can get on the front end and make every post a winner, I think that’s his best chance. I think his last mile showed that and I’m sure that will be the game plan. It’s a nice draw for him, we’re happy with it, and I’m sure Jordan is going out there with the idea that he has a good chance.” Ron Burke will send out the race’s 2-1 morning line favorite in This Is The Plan, who’s three wins this year include the $140,000 Hoosier Park Pacing Derby Sept. 25. This Is The Plan also finished second in the $150,000 Allerage Open Pace at the Red Mile Oct. 11 and third in the $340,000 TVG FFA Pace last out Nov. 21. George Brennan will drive the 5-year-old gelding from post eight. The field also includes Raukapuka Ruler, who enters off back-to-back wins in local overnights in 1:51.4 and 1:52.4 Nov. 14 and 21, respectively. The Pete Tritton-trained 7-year-old is 4-1 on the morning line with Tim Tetrick programmed to drive.  Ostro Hanover won two local $17,500 overnights in his last four starts and most recently came from 12 3/4 lengths behind to finish third beaten 1 1/4 lengths in the $30,000 open pace Nov. 21. The Daniel Renaud trainee will employ the services of Tyler Buter and is 5-1 on the morning line after drawing the inside post. Micky Gee ran up the score this summer at Yonkers, scoring five local wins in the conditioned and open ranks, most of which came with sweeping three- or four-wide moves in last-to-first style. However, the Lance Hudson trainee is winless in his last five starts dating to Oct. 17 and is 12-1 on the morning line with Jason Bartlett set to drive. Bechers Brook, Mac’s Jackpot, and Tookadiveoffdipper complete the field. If one or both of Lady Dela Renta and San Domino were to win their respective stakes races Saturday night? “It would obviously be great,” Tritton answered. “We’ve had a lot of experience with these big races in Australia. We know that you can have big nights and you can have terrible nights. I’m sure there are seven other horses in these races that are thinking that they deserve to be there and have a chance of winning, too. We don’t get too disappointed if we don’t win. We just like to go in there and do our best and if we can show that we’re competitive at this level, I’m sure one of these races will go our way. Hopefully this weekend. If not, it will be next chance we get. “We’re very humbled to be invited to these races. Hopefully we can put on a good show.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – After taking Thursday (Nov. 26) off for the Thanksgiving holiday, live harness racing resumes at Yonkers Raceway Friday night (Nov. 27) with a 7:12 p.m. first post time. The 10-race card features the $30,000 open trot and leads a big weekend at the Hilltop that culminates with a pair of six-figure invitational paces on Saturday night. Carded as race seven on the Friday program, the trotting feature is lead by Stormy Kromer, the all-age trotting track record holder who won last week’s open handicap by 2 lengths. Stormy Kromer went on a tear this summer, going 6-for-7 between July 16 and Sept. 9, including a 4-length romp in 1:52.3 to reset the track record and three preferred handicap wins.  Stormy Kromer scored his first victory in the Yonkers open trot Oct. 2, beating Melady’s Monet by a nose. Stormy Kromer then went through a five-race winless streak between Oct. 9 and Nov. 13 as he dealt with assigned outside posts and difficult trips. However, after drawing post two last out Nov. 20, Stormy Kromer controlled the pace and drew away late to win in 1:53.2. Stormy Kromer is now 8-for-19 this season with $109,390 earned and 30-for-112 lifetime with $444,484 in the bank. Stormy Kromer drew post three Friday night. He and regular reinsman Dan Dube are the 3-1 favorites on the morning line. Paul Stafford trains Stormy Kromer for Tom Ceraso, Jr.  In addition to last week’s winner in Stormy Kromer, last week’s runner up Nows The Moment also returns in Friday’s open trot. A 5-yer-old credit winner gelding owned by Sonya MacDonald and trained by Alex MacDonald, Nows The Moment is 6-for-22 this season with $94,200 earned. His victories include a 4-1 mild upset in the local $22,000 preferred handicap Sept. 25.  Nows The Moment has also factored in this open due to his early speed. He set the tempo after leaving from post seven and finished second to Melady’s Monet Oct. 9 despite 64-1 odds. Nows The Moment left for the lead last out Nov. 20 before Stormy Kromer made the front. Nows The Moment rode the pocket to a second-place finish at 12-1. Jason Bartlett, who drove Nows The Moment last week, will get the call again tonight. The pair are 4-1 on the morning line. Broadway Athena pulled off a 12-1 upset in the local open handicap Oct. 23, but has drawn in difficult spots since; the 6-year-old mare finished third from post six Oct. 30, and got away 12 lengths behind from post eight Nov. 6, but still rallied to finish fourth at 112-1. Broadway Athena was scratched sick from post eight Nov. 13 and makes her return Friday night. The Gilbert Garcia-Herrera trainee will start from post five with Austin Siegelman in the sulky. They are 12-1 on the morning line. Although 11 years old, Melady’s Money has continued to be a force in the Yonkers open ranks this season. The Hermann Heitmann trainee finished second in a pair of local open handicaps before the COVID-19 shutdown. Since then, the $1.7-million earner captured the open handicap Oct. 9 and took the open Nov. 6. He also finished second in the trotting feature Oct. 2 and 30. On the season, Melady’s Monet is 6-for-18 with $128,780 earned. Although this week’s open is not a handicap, Melady’s Monet drew post eight, the same position he was handicapped by Nov. 20. Melady’s Monet got away 12 1/2 lengths behind Stormy Kromer last out and finishes seventh beaten 8 3/4 lengths. He and driver Jordan Stratton are 12-1 on the morning line in a similar spot Friday night. The field also includes Rich And Miserable, who finally draws inside after getting away seventh from post six in each of his last two outings, Lean Hanover, who enters off a win in a local $17,500 overnight Nov. 20, Lord Cromwell, who finished fifth in each of his last two outings in this feature Nov. 13 and Nov. 20, and Mission Accepted, who finished fifth in the $320,000 TVG Open Trot at the Meadowlands last out Nov. 21. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY  

YONKERS, N.Y. – The ninth race Monday night (Nov. 16) at Yonkers Raceway showcases a deep field of younger pacers comprised of Grand Circuit performers and local standouts. The $18,000 featured pace is for 3- , 4- and 5-year-old colts, horses, and geldings who are non-winners of eight pari-mutuel races or $100,000. The race will close out the evening’s Pick 5 wager, which begins in race five and features a $7,500 guaranteed pool and free past performances. Although not a handicap, the draw shook out that way as the 5-2 morning line favorite Save Me A Dance landed post position eight. A 3-year-old colt by Heston Blue Chip, Save Me A Dance is a homebred for Robert Key out of the Real Artist mare Dance Hall Girl. The most accomplished in the field, Save Me A Dance sports earnings of $246,191 from four victories and another 10 placings in 22 starts.  Save Me A Dance won an elimination of the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace here at 2 before finishing second in the $120,250 final July 13, 2019. He also made the New York Sire Stakes Final for 2-year-old pacing colts and geldings and won a $49,700 division of the Simpson at Harrah’s Philadelphia last October.  This year, Save Me A Dance competed on the NYSS circuit, finishing second in four legs and third in another to make the final for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings. He also competed in the Empire Breeders Classic Final in August, finished third in a division of the Bluegrass at 71-1 at the Red Mile Oct. 4, and finished fourth in each of the Tattersalls, a Breeders Crown Elimination, and the $500,000 Breeders Crown Final. In his last four starts, Save Me A Dance has paced sub-1:49, with none faster than a 1:48 clocking in the Bluegrass. Save Me A Dance will be driven by Jason Bartlett as the colt looks for his first victory since taking a $13,500 overnight at the Meadowlands June 13, 2020. Save Me A Dance is trained by Andrew Harris. Tito Rocks streaks into this race off four consecutive victories: he won an $11,200 overnight at Harrah’s Philadelphia Oct. 13, repeated at Harrah’s Oct. 14 in the $31,300 Liberty Bell Pace, took the $33,067 Simpson at Harrah’s Philadelphia Oct. 28, and captured a $10,000 overnight in the conditioned pacing ranks last out at Pocono Nov. 7.  A 3-year-old gelding by Sweet Lout of the Rocknroll Hanover mare Ticket To Rock, Tito Rocks went 0-for-5 last year, but improved to 6-for-16 with another five placings this season. He won a leg of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes in July and placed in another two legs to earn a spot in the $252,000 PASS Championship this September.  Tyler Buter, who drove Tito Rocks in his last win at Pocono, will drive again Monday night. The pair will start from post seven and are 7-2 on the morning line for trainer Robert Cleary and owner Royal Wire Products, Inc. Ohio-bred 3-year-old gelding Epic Ace will make his second local appearance after going offstride from post seven here Nov. 9. Before that mishap, the Western Vintage son earned six wins and another nine placings to the tune of $80,506 in the Midwest, racing primarily on the Ohio fair circuit for trainer Mike Polhamus. Now owned by Jesmeral Stable and in the barn of Donald Sider, Epic Ace will start from post one Monday night with Jim Marohn, Jr. in the sulky. He is 7-1 on the morning line. The field also includes three local winners in Caviart Rockland, Globaldomination, and Ehrmantraut. Caviart Rockland is a rare Yonkers starter for trainer Nancy Takter and is bred and owned by Caviart Farms. The 4-year-old Sportswriter gelding sports a local record of 8-3-3-0 after scoring two wins here last fall and another in a 23-1 wire-to-wire upset Oct. 5, 2020. Last time out here Nov. 2, Caviart Rockland finished second after leaving to set the pace from post seven. He drew favorably in post two Monday night and will be driven by Joe Bongiorno.  Globaldomination is a 5-time Yonkers winner for Pete Tritton, Vonknobloauch Stable, and Jordan Stratton, but is winless in eight starts since Aug. 24, in which the 5-year-old Bettor’s Delight gelding took a 1:52 lifetime mark. He drew post three Monday night. Ehrmantraut has won three races for new trainer Deborah Daguet: the 4-year-old Somebeachsomewhere son overcame post eight Sept. 21, repeated while up in class Sept. 28, and dead-heated with Mark Witha K Oct. 12. Most recently, Ehrmantraut with third in this class Nov. 9. George Brennan will drive the Lawrence Keethe and John Darrah homebred from post four Monday night. It’s A Marcs World, who dominated in the Minnesota-bred stakes this summer for Jessica Johnson and the Rolands before shipping east to Rob Harmon mid-October, and Motive Hanover, a 15-time winner for Mark Ford, complete the lineup. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – The first time Justin Huckabone drove Winning Legends at Monticello Raceway Jan. 8, the trotter went wire-to-wire in a $5,500 overnight, drawing away by 6 1/2 lengths in 2:00.4. After another two straight harness racing victories at the Mighty M from posts seven and eight Jan. 15 and 22, respectively the 25-year-old driver was impressed. “He won three in a row and I called owner (Jonathan Appelbaum) after he won his first start and said, ‘wow, this horse is talented. This horse is real talented,” Huckabone recalled. “I was shoeing him and driving him for Austin Gilbert and I said, ‘man, this is a really nice horse, you guys got lucky here.’ ” After the COVID-19 shutdown hit, Winning Legends went on the shelf. By spring, Appelbaum was calling Huckabone asking him to train the trotter. Huckabone declined, ‘sour about training’ after serving a lengthy suspension for possession of hypodermic equipment in 2015. Finally, Appelbaum convinced Huckabone to take Winning Legends. Huckabone began working with Winning Legends June 4. With the 4-year-old Winning Mister gelding unraced and out of training since Feb. 12, Huckabone gave a 12-week timeline to qualify. “He hadn’t done much, he was really out of shape. This horse didn’t have a bad day for 12 weeks. Every single day, he was good and he just kept getting better,” Huckabone said. “He’s a great horse to be around. He’s really enjoyable. He’s always real friendly, always real personable,” Huckabone continued. “This horse has a personality, he knows when you’re talking to him, he’ll be really interactive to be around, really nice that way. “He’s kind of a high-strung horse and that’s probably his biggest limiting factor. If he ever learned to relax, he’d be even better than what he shows now,” Huckabone continued. “That’s his biggest limiting factor by far now is he gets excited. There’s nothing he really can’t do. He can out-leave the car if necessary. He’s got two really good moves. He’s got a wicked eighth off the car and if you sit him in and never use him, he’s got another wicked eighth right at the end. Very athletic, classy sort of horse.” Winning Legends qualified ahead of schedule at Pocono Downs Aug. 12, going wire-to-wire to win by 3 lengths in 1:57.2.  “I knew training down he was a killer, but I qualified him and said, ‘this thing is a real freak,’ ” Huckabone said. “I don’t know how anybody got him to go slow, but this horse is fast. He won his qualifier really handy. He won in 1:57.2, probably had 1:55 in the tank.” Winning Legends made his first pari-mutuel start back in a $10,000 overnight at Harrah’s Philadelphia Aug. 20. After riding in the three-hole, he won by a half-length, trotting a mile in 1:54.3. After a setback in his next start Aug. 27, in which Winning Legends went off stride, Huckabone made a rigging change and it has been smooth sailing ever since. “I took him to Chester, he got a great trip up the inside, he won in 1:54.3. It was a really good tightener and he rose to the occasion. If he had gotten a check, I would have been happy. He’s overachieved,” Huckabone said. “The next start, he made a break and I re-rigged him,” Huckabone explained. “He had a big laceration on his tongue from being hot. He wears a dog chain. So, I put a lip cord on him and ever since then, he’s been really good, really drivable.” Winning Legends has finished first or second in each of his last five starts, including a 1:53.2 lifetime mark at Pocono two back Oct. 10, in which he got a pocket trip before beating Broadway Athena by a neck. Winning Legends also jogged by 2 1/2 lengths at Harrah’s Philadelphia Sept. 17.  “The start that impressed me the most was when he won in 1:53.3 and I never breathed on him. I had the whip tucked the whole way and cut it at Chester and he won handy. Nobody even got near him,” Huckabone said. “He beat Broadway Athena at Pocono.  “I didn’t think he would get here. I thought training him down, he would get to this point, but I thought he would be a 5- or 6-year-old before he matured like that. He’s advanced rapidly. Every week he’s better. I don’t really expect anything from him. Whatever he does, he does. He’s done so well so quickly, he’s taken the pressure right off himself.” Winning Legends went to the Saratoga open handicap pace in his last start Oct. 19. Huckabone timed the gate and advanced from post seven, but looking to his left, saw four horses leaving to his inside. Trotting around the first turn, Huckabone went with plan “B” and took back to land a seat in fifth. Winning Legends didn’t stick to the pylons long, angling first-over from 5 lengths behind hitting the stretch the first time. By the third turn, Winning Legends applied pressure to leader Gruden, who was softened by a :27.3 first quarter. Around the final turn, Winning Legends turned the screws on Gruden, drawing even under a hand drive while the longtime leader was all-out. At the same time, Brett Crawford tipped Ronnie Goldstein three-wide off cover.  Winning Legends put a nose in front at the top of the stretch. Huckabone cracked the whip three times, but approaching the wire, looked to his right at the approaching Ronnie Goldstein and tucked the stick. Winning Legends held on by a nose in 1:56.2. “I knew I had (Gruden) put away going into the last turn. Brett Crawford was the one that I was really worried about and he was third-over, moved wide, got pulled right into the race, never had to use his horse,” Huckabone said. “I wasn’t going to abuse ‘Legends’ to hang on. I quit driving on him and let him finish up what he wanted to and he held on. He was really large that start. He was probably out for three turns out of four.” With Saratoga not carding an open trot Oct. 26, Huckabone entered Winning Legends in the $25,000 trotting feature at Yonkers Raceway Oct. 30. The 14-time winner and earner of $92,602 is 20-1 on the morning line as he steps up to face the likes of Melady’s Monet, Stormy Kromer, Muscle M Up, Cash Me Out, Nows The Moment, Mississippi Storm, and a familiar face in Broadway Athena, who upset this feature Oct. 23 at 12-1. “I saw Broadway Athena was in at Yonkers and the trip worked out for her and she won. There’s really no reason (Winning Legends) couldn’t have done the same thing. I figured I would give him a test and see what he’s made of,” Huckabone said. “The purses are going up and if he acts like he can go with them now, I’ll probably try bringing him regularly. If it seems like it’s too much for him to handle, I’ll probably wait on him until next year. I didn’t want to put him in against the real horses just yet, but it wouldn’t hurt to get a read on him. “Coming in here, these are way better horses than what he’s faced,” Huckabone continued. “He’s kind of in a compromised spot having the four hole. It looks like there are three leavers underneath him, probably somebody is going to press from the outside. They aren’t going to trot away from him at any point, that’s for sure, so it’s all going to depend on how the trip works out.” Although Winning Legends has been close to the pace in most of his starts for Huckabone, the trainer-driver isn’t looking to be as aggressive early in a spot like this. “What’s going to matter is whether the flow keeps going,” Huckabone said. “If the flow doesn’t keep going and you get away fourth, fifth on the rail, it’s going to be hard to make a big move for more than a half-mile on those horses. He’s not going to be able to handle that sort of trip, and there’s no passing lane. I’m just going to drive smart. If I drive him smart, I’m quite sure he can get a piece of it if it goes his way.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. - Jamie Durnberger-Smith still remembers the day the harness racing pacer Pat Stanley caught his eye. The agent and co-founder of Summit Bloodstock was watching the races from Menangle, Australia at his Brisbane home Nov. 2, 2019 as Pat Stanley secured a pocket trip in the opener, a $20,400 overnight.  After racing in the two-hole through the first three quarters, Pat Stanley was stuck in behind leader Brocks Territory turning for home as Team Tritton’s Foo Fighter kicked off cover three deep. With 200 meters to pace, Pat Stanley saw daylight along the pylons and although Foo Fighter had the jump on the field, Pat Stanley rallied for a second-place finish.  “I saw him, I saw his point-to-point speed, and that was it,” Durnberger-Smith said. “I clocked his sectionals, his furlong splits. He had a :12.4 split, which is crazy. He’d run the second or third fastest split I had ever clocked at Menangle. His sectional was just unbelievable. When I found out the horse was sound and the camp that I was going to buy him from looks after their horses, I knew he’d be in great health and be ready, so we bought him.” Durnberger-Smith and Summit co-founder Jake Webster enlisted South Carolina-based owner Ron Buker and made a deal for a hefty sum while retaining a minority interest in the horse themselves, much to the bewilderment of the racing community. Pat Stanley had 12 wins to his name at the time, but had never won more than $5,720 in any one victory. He had also never won a metropolitan class race. Undeterred, Summit and Buker sent Pat Stanley to Kerryn Manning and pointed their new purchase to a prestigious Group 2 stakes. “A lot of people said we were crazy, but because he hadn’t won a metropolitan race, we knew that if he went to the South Australian Pacing Cup, he would get post one or two because of the way it’s preferential,” Durnberger-Smith said.  Pat Stanley debuted for his new connections at Melton Jan. 17, finishing third in a $20,000 overnight. Pat Stanley finished third again in a Group 3 stakes at Melton Feb. 1. One week later, Pat Stanley was entered in the Group 2 South Australian Pacing Cup at Globe Derby Park, drawing post two as expected. Manning put the whip on the pacer’s tail leaving the gate and looked to her right, seeing four horses leaving to her outside.  With the inside advantage, Pat Stanley made the lead and faced immediate pressure from Joes A Character. The tempo threatened to slow up the backstretch the first time, and entering the second turn, Little Peanut advanced to make it a three-wide battle for the lead. Joes A Character was first to waive the white flag, taking back into the pocket. Greg Sugars pressed on with Little Peanut, but soon retreated. Taking his place outside the leader, Rackemup Tigerpie charged three-wide to ensure Pat Stanley never got a breather. Entering the final lap, Pat Stanley maintained the lead, challenged by Rackemup Tigerpie. The pair sprinted away from the competition, opening up daylight on the field as the pace quickened up the backstretch. Around the final turn, Manning went to the right-handed whip and yanked down the ear hood with her left. Despite bearing out and showing signs of fatigue from the onslaught he faced to hold the lead, Pat Stanley dug in and beat Rackemup Tigerpie to the wire in a 1:57.1 mile rate over the 2,645-meter trip. “They just attacked him the whole race and he still won. It was just unbelievable,” Durnberger-Smith said. “Everyone thought we were going to lose our money. When we sent him to a really good trainer and placed him perfectly, everyone started to realize, wow this is a pretty damn good horse. He couldn’t win one metro race and all the sudden, he wins the time-honored South Australian Pacing Cup. You don’t see many horses do that. It really set Twitter and the harness racing world down here on fire when he did that. “It was more of a relief than anything, only because I said to Ron that he will win it if we buy him and he doesn’t go to America straight away,” Durnberger-Smith continued. “It was more of a relief to us because we were so adamant that he would be able to win that race drawing barrier one or barrier two.” Pat Stanley won a listed $24,000 free for all at Melton March 7 and placed in three other races before exporting to the United States July 6. After training down with Shane and Lauren Tritton over the summer, Pat Stanley qualified at Yonkers Sept. 18, winning in 1:54.2 with Lauren in the bike. After a second-place finish in his pari-mutuel debut Oct. 2, Pat Stanley captured a $17,500 overnight in 1:52.2 Oct. 10, improving his record to 50-15-11-5 with $118,521 earned and fulfilling Durnberger-Smith’s dream of winning a race in America. “Dreamt of this moment for a long, long time!!!” Summit Bloodstock posted on their Twitter page. “When he won the other day, Jake and I, we’ve been dreaming of that moment since we were kids,” Durnberger-Smith added. Bitten early by the racing bug, Durnberger-Smith worked with trainers Christopher Robinson and Gary Hall. About 10 months ago, Durnberger-Smith and Webster, each 32 years old, joined forces to create Summit Bloodstock, with the mission of introducing new owners to the sport. With the success of their first two horses, Westar Sam and My Bettor Lady, interest in the venture rapidly grew. The stable now boasts a roster of 42 horses. “We said, ‘let’s start buying as many horses as we can and see what happens. We’ve been in the game for so long, we know who the good horses are, we know how to find them. Let’s have a go.’ ” Durnberger-Smith recalled. “We’ve got 152 owners with Summit Bloodstock now, so we’re not going to stop.” In addition to their goals of continuing to grow their stable and selling more horses to America (such as recent exports Demeter, Deltasun and Need Luck), Durnberger-Smith and Webster have lofty aspirations for Pat Stanley’s Stateside career. If the 6-year-old Western Ideal son continues to pan out as expected, he could become a regular in the open ranks at Yonkers Raceway, compete in the Borgata Pacing Series in 2021, and more. “When Pat Stanley is rock-hard fit in two or three starts time, he’ll go 1:47 at the Meadowlands if he has to, I’m certain. If he’s not a 1:47 horse, I’m a poor judge. He’s way better when he’s sitting behind a leader and he’s rock-hard fit. He’s just so blindingly quick,” Durnberger-Smith said. “Shane is taking his time with him, which is the best thing because he’ll be running good races for a long time.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY  

YONKERS, N.Y. – After posting three straight victories at Yonkers Raceway, Ponder The Odds will get her toughest test yet Thursday night (Oct. 15) as she steps up into the $25,000 filly and mare open handicap pace for the first time. Whatever the outcome, she’s already exceeding the expectations of her trainers, owners, and breeders, Kathleen and Donald La Montagne. “To tell you the truth, it’s been shocking,” Donald La Montagne said. “Jimmy (Marohn, Jr.) has been getting along with her better than anyone who has ever driven her. She’s a nice filly, but she’s doing a lot more than I ever thought she could.” Despite going 10-for-27 last year, including a win in the $70,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes Standardbred Development Fund Final for 3-year-old pacing fillies, Ponder The Odds’ 2020 season started slowly. She qualified back after the coronavirus shutdown July 17 and went winless in her first six starts, including a three-race rift in which she didn’t earn a check between Aug. 20 and Sept. 9. Ponder The Odds dropped into a $12,500 overnight at Yonkers Sept. 17 and had a change of drivers to Jim Marohn, Jr. Something clicked. Ponder The Odds raced in fourth until moving first-over with three-eighths to pace. She advanced steadily and passing the three-quarter mile marker, Ponder The Odds took the lead and took off. Her stride quickened and she put up 5 lengths on the field turning for home. Kept to task by Marohn through the stretch, Ponder The Odds extended her margin to 7 lengths, stopping the clock in 1:52.4. Ponder The Odds stepped up to the $15,000 level in her latest two starts Sept. 24 and Oct. 1. In both races, she beat the Ron Burke trained standout Feelin Red Hot, first with a pocket trip and then with a pacesetting effort after leaving from post seven and assuming the lead through fast early fractions. She stayed the course for a 1:52.3 seasonal mark, improving her resume to 13-for-40 with $141,843 earned. “She had a good year last year and she didn’t really come back that good,” La Montagne said. “She wasn’t even getting checks. And then Jimmy just got along with her. We were stunned. She beat a really nice, classy old mare (Feelin Red Hot). She’s not at her best either, that one, but she’s got a lot of class. I was shocked that she won that one when she came first-over. She had some luck in those races, but last week, she did all the work and she got it done. We’re really happy with her. We’re kind of stunned about the whole thing.” Ponder The Odds’ legacy goes back three generations with the La Montagnes. A self-described ‘mom-and-pop’ outfit, the La Montagnes have been breeding, raising, breaking, training, and racing their own horses on their farm for 45 years as a passion, not as a career. Their stable has had two key broodmares over the years, the pacer Motivation, and the trotter Motivational.  The La Montages purchased Motivation for $7,200 in the 1990s. She went 12-for-52, became a multiple stakes winner, took a mark of 1:52.3 at the Meadowlands, and earned $300,847 before retiring to the La Montagne’s farm to breed in 1996. “She was the fastest Direct Scooter mare of all time and she was the New Jersey 3-year-old pacer of the year in 1995. She was a top stakes mare,” La Montagne commented. Motivation produced seven foals to race between 1999 and 2010. Four of them earned six figures, including her 2000 foal Figure The Odds, who went 17-for-74 and banked $247,641 racing from 2002 to 2005. A multiple stakes winner herself, Figure The Odds’ biggest win came in the $70,756 Rose of Tralee Stakes at Yonkers July 12, 2003, when she stopped the clock in 1:55. “Figure The Odds won there and took Bunny Lake’s record (of 1:56.1) in the Rose of Tralee. She was a really top mare herself, a really good stakes filly,” La Montagne said. “From her time as a 2-year-old, she was a top filly.” Figure The Odds produced five foals to race between 2007 and 2016. Three of them have earned six figures. Now 20 years old, Figure The Odds is retired on La Montagne’s farm. Her last foal was Ponder The Odds. While Ponder The Odds hasn’t lived up to her family legacy yet, she inherited some of the most coveted intangible traits among mares and La Montagne hopes she will continue to improve. “This filly comes from a good filly family. I do like her a lot, but there’s plenty in her family that are better than her,” La Montagne said. “Her sire, Ponder, he got much better when he was older. He did his best work for McIntosh when he was 5, so we’re hoping she will come around. That horse gets better with age. “Her mother (Figure The Odds) was much bigger-gaited and faster than (Ponder The Odds), but they’re all similar. All easy to get along with, just good racehorses, no tying up,” La Montagne continued. “There’s an old saying among horsemen, ‘good fillies come from filly families and good colts can come from anywhere.’ The credit goes to this family, all the fillies in this family have been very good. She comes through that family and to get a good filly that tries is hard to do. She tries very hard, that’s how that family is. They have a lot of ability and they try. Those are hard things to put together for a mare.” After her three-race win streak, the La Montagnes gave Ponder The Odds last week off before entering back in the filly and mare open handicap. “That was a very tough race (Oct. 1), they parked her in 27-flat and she didn’t weaken at the end, she hung on” La Montagne said. “There were three tough starts in a row, so she didn’t race last week, that was by design. She got her week off, I trained her in 2 minutes, and that’s it. Hopefully, it’s going to sharpen her, I want to keep her fresh.” Ponder The Odds drew post position three in Thursday’s distaff feature, the seventh race on the program. With Marohn opting for the Rob Harmon trained Robyn Camden, Jason Bartlett picked up the drive and the pair are 9-2 on the morning line. The field includes Lady Dela Renta, who’s won four of her last five starts, including a win in this class last out Oct. 1. She drew post eight and is 7-2 with Jordan Stratton set to drive for Team Tritton. Ron Burke trained Snobbytown enters off four consecutive runner up finishes at this level and is the 3-1 morning line favorite with regular reinsman George Brennan. Robyn Camden upset this bunch with an off-the-pace win at 7-1 Sept. 17. She is 7-1 on the morning line from post five. Alexa’s Power, Wishy Washy Girl, Neverforgetwhour, and Bye Bye Michelle complete the lineup. “I looked at the program and everyone in the race could win, they’re all good horses,” La Montagne said. “It’s our first time moving up in that class, so we have a lot to prove. She went fast a couple times her last three starts, but that’s not the same as going against ones that can stay with you. This will be her true test.  “She’s got a top driver, hopefully she gets along with him like she did with Jimmy. Speed is one thing, class is another. She’ll have her test of class, we’ll see if she can go with these; for a 4-year-old to go against these seasoned mares, that’s the true test. I’m not disappointed if she doesn’t win, she earned her way up in there. “She has really surprised me her last three starts. She seems to be a horse for the course. We’ll see. She has overachieved my expectations.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Harness racing trainer Paul Stafford feels fortunate to have worked in large stables and train many horses throughout his career. He’s trained good ones and inevitably, slow ones, too. Even among the good ones, there are those who need to be made to do their work or who don’t train well. However, when it comes to star trotter Stormy Kromer, Stafford says, “he trains me.” “The more horses you train, the more good horses you train, they’ll train you,” Stafford said. “You turn the right way to go and the further you go in a mile, the more interested they get. When you come out of the turn and for the last quarter, you just hang on for dear life because they know it’s time to go fast and they do it themselves. “He’s a very easy horse to maintain, he doesn’t take a lot of work. He makes my job easy because he’s very low maintenance.” Stormy Kromer joined Stafford’s stable in spring 2019 and since then, has exceeded expectations of being a high-level conditioned trotter. Stormy Kromer rose to the open ranks near the end of last year and won a $35,000 preferred trot at Yonkers Raceway Nov. 23. This year, he’s been even better. Since returning to racing June 25 after the coronavirus shut down tracks across America, Stormy Kromer is 6-for-9 with his last three victories coming at the preferred level at Yonkers and Freehold. In his career, Stormy Kromer is 28-for-104 with $397,224 earned. Stormy Kromer’s streak started with a 5 1/4-length, win at Harrah’s Philadelphia July 16 in which the 6-year-old gelding set a 1:51.4 lifetime mark. Stormy Kromer then came to Yonkers July 24. With Dan Dube in the sulky, he trotted to a 5-length victory in 1:53.3, establishing a North American record for an aged gelding on a half-mile track. Stormy Kromer lowered his own record next out July 31, posting a 4-length victory in 1:52.3, the fastest trotting mile in the history of Yonkers Raceway (besting the previous 1:53.1 mark jointly held by Six Pack and Plunge Blue Chip). Despite all those victories coming on the front end, Stormy Kromer got away with another pace-setting win in the $22,000 preferred handicap trot at Yonkers Aug. 7 before the competition caught on. Next out Aug. 21, Stormy Kromer had a target on his back and was parked the mile after leaving from post five. Succumbing to the trip delivered by the wisening competition, Stormy Kromer finished last beaten by 15 lengths. He rebounded next out at Freehold Aug. 28, taking the $12,000 preferred handicap by 6 1/2 lengths. “Most horses, trotters especially, can’t leave as well as he can and be up 5 lengths the whole mile. Horses like that, you think are basically out of control and that’s the way they have to go. But he’s such a gentleman on the track. He’s two fingers, he’s doing that all on his own, which is awesome,” Stafford said of the open-length victories and blazing miles. Arguably Stormy Kromer’s biggest victory came in his most recent start in the preferred handicap at Yonkers Sept. 9. Starting from post seven and not desiring another ride on the rim, Dube and Stormy Kromer took back to sixth as Obrigado set the tempo. Stormy Kromer angled to the outside passing the half, but faced a 7 1/4-length deficit as Obrigado got soft fractions. Following the cover of Muscle M Up, Stormy Kromer advanced to within 3 lengths of the lead at the three-quarters, but began to gap the cover entering the final turn. Straightening away, Obrigado and Muscle M Up battled for the lead while Stormy Kromer was still 3 lengths behind. Dube tugged on the right line and Stormy Kromer saw open road ahead. Under a right-handed whip Stormy Kromer kicked into gear, trotting home in :28.1 to collar Muscle M Up for a neck victory. “He’s been racing well for us to say the least. He’s beat some good horses. His last start, that was a nice group of horses that he beat in there,” Stafford said. “He did it from off the pace; he came from behind for the first time in a while. It was a testament to him that he’s learned to race both ways. “He was gapped and Obrigado was on the front. Normally, Obrigado would put him away with that kind of a trip. That was impressive,” Stafford continued. “Going into it with the outside and all the speed on the inside, I thought if we sorted out a second- or third-over trip, we could be second or third in there. Stormy Kromer decided that wasn’t going to be good enough.” Stafford attributes Stormy Kromer’s standout summer campaign in part to the trotter’s continued physical development. Stormy Kromer got a break over the winter, making his last start Dec. 14, 2019 before requalifying Feb. 28.  Stormy Kromer got one race in at Yonkers March 7 before the coronavirus shutdown sent him back to the sidelines until June. “He raced the one time and he was third in an open. He was a good third, then we shut down. During the shutdown, he put on some weight. For me, there’s weight and there’s good weight. He put on good weight, he put on a lot of muscle,” Stafford said. “He filled out a lot over those three months because we didn’t do a lot of work. They all jogged every day, but you weren’t doing a lot of speed work. It got him to put on some good weight and it made him stronger, definitely.” Stormy Kromer seeks his seventh win this year and his third straight in the $22,000 preferred handicap trot at Yonkers Raceway Friday night (Sept. 25). After the early scratch of Warrior One, Stormy Kromer will start from post six in a condensed field, which is comprised of New Heaven, Nows The Moment, Lindsey’s Pride, The Last Chapter, and Obrigado. “I think it’s a good spot. The scratch helps, starting one position closer,” Stafford said. “I don’t know what the game plan will be. I think there’s still enough speed in there, we’re not looking to get torched again. We pretty much leave it up to Dube.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – When Hudson Phil started his 2020 harness racing campaign with three straight losses in the open handicap pace at Saratoga from June 21 to July 5, longtime owner Wayne Kellogg of Kellogg Racing Stable was afraid the talented pacer had tailed off or that a long 2019 campaign had taken its toll. However, the 5-year-old gelding has since won four of his last six starts, including two Saratoga opens and two Yonkers overnights. Friday night (Sept. 18), Hudson Phil will make his first start in the open handicap pace at Yonkers Raceway. “He’s getting into a groove,” Kellogg said. “It takes a few starts to get in a groove when you’re racing at that higher echelon. He seems to be there now.” Kellogg Racing acquired Hudson Phil out of the 2018 Harrisburg Mixed Sale. The Shanghai Phil son caught the eye of Janie Kellogg, Wayne’s wife. Hudson Phil had won a leg of the Ontario Sire Stakes and placed in the Battle of Waterloo, the Nassagaweya, and the Champlain at 2 in the barn of Mark Steacy. At 3, Hudson Phil won the Quebec Series Final at Hippodrome 3R and took three legs of the Ontario Grass Roots Series. In his last three starts before the sale, however, Hudson Phil finished no better than sixth. “The last 10 years, we’ve been buying most of our horses out of Canada. My wife does the research on them. She’s really diligent; she watches the replays, she looks at the equipment, she does a lot of that work and makes the suggestion,” Kellogg said. “She went to Harrisburg. I said, ‘come home with a horse.’ Hudson Phil was her number one pick as far as a pacer.” Janie kept bidding on Hudson Phil even after trainer Jackie Greene had bowed out. With a final hit at $58,000, Kellogg brought Hudson Phil home. Hudson Phil began racing at Saratoga for Kellogg and Greene in late November 2018. While he accumulated wins in the overnights and even the open pace, Hudson Phil initially lived in the shadow of Kellogg’s three-time Saratoga Pacer of the Year Artful Way. However, when Hudson Phil recorded a 1:50.2 victory in the Saratoga feature May 25, 2019, Kellogg was impressed. “It was a pretty big challenge for Hudson Phil to do as well as he did last year,” Kellogg said. “The race secretary said to me one night, ‘who do you think is better, Artful Way or Hudson Phil?’ and I said, ‘Artful Way. There’s no quit in him. He just grinds it out.’ Then Hudson Phil put up a couple pretty big miles. Driver Frank Coppola said, ‘I didn’t think there would ever be another Artful Way, but maybe Hudson Phil is as good.’ ” Hudson Phil took seven Saratoga opens from March 16 to Aug. 24, 2019, but went just 1-for-13 in his subsequent starts last year for a seasonal tally of 36-11-8-1 with a bankroll of $134,362. “He had such a good year last year and toward the end of the year, he tailed off,” Kellogg said. “We try to not race them more than 25 or 30 starts. Last year for some reason, we raced him more than normal. Maybe because the stable is smaller than it was. Maybe we’re pushing a little too hard. I always try to do what’s right by the horse. I try to err on the side of the horse all the time.” After a three-month winter break, Hudson Phil qualified back at Saratoga March 14, just before racing shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. He also returned to the races a gelding, which helped settle him down. Previously as a stallion, Hudson Phil was a handful in the paddock and on the racetrack. Hudson Phil resumed racing at Saratoga beginning June 21, finishing second in three straight open handicap paces. Hudson Phil earned his first win of the year with a head win on the lead in the Saratoga open July 12. He doubled-up at Yonkers July 24, scoring in a $17,250 overnight off a pocket trip in 1:52.1.  Hudson Phil earned his third win of the season in the Saratoga open Aug. 25, grinding out a first-over victory by a nose, beating rival Crockets Cullen. Last out at Yonkers Sept. 4, Hudson Phil worked out a pocket trip behind Caviart Luca and sprinting through the final quarter in :27.2, rocketed past the pacesetter to post a 1 1/4-length win in 1:52.4. Like the betting public who dismissed him at 13-1, Kellogg was surprised. “I was hoping to finish second or third. Last week, he really surprised me closing that well. It was very, very, very good. Extremely exciting,” Kellogg said. His record standing at 4-for-9 this year with another three seconds, Hudson Phil will try the $25,000 open handicap pace for the first time Friday night. He drew post four in the weekly pacing feature and will have Pat Lachance in the sulky. The pair are 7-1 on the morning line. None Bettor is the 9-5 favorite on the morning line despite post seven. The Andrew Harris trainee finished second in this open Aug. 21 and was fourth in a division of the ‘#SendItIn’ Invitational at Scioto Downs Sept. 6.  Micky Gee beat None Bettor here Aug. 21 with a 1:50.4 score and was also fourth in another division of the ‘#SendItIn’ at Scioto last out. He will start from post eight tonight. Ideal Jimmy returns to the open after finishing first or second in four straight $15,500 overnights locally. He will start from post two.  Mac’s Jackpot will make his third start of the season and his second start off a February layoff after qualifying at Pocono Sept. 2 and finishing sixth here from post eight last out Sept. 12. The Jeffrey Smith trainee will start from post three tonight. Heaven’s Gait and Shnitzledosomethin complete the lineup. “I don’t know what to expect Friday night. It’s a pretty big jump up from last week,” Kellogg said. “I’m just going to keep my fingers crossed and hope he gets a good trip. Based on the way he finished last week, I’m hoping he’ll be right there.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – For Ron Buker, part of the fun of owning Standardbred racehorses is sharing the experience with the whole family. That’s why on race nights, Ron, his wife Briana, and their three children all gather in front of the TV to root the harness racing horses on and share quality time together. “What really got me into buying more horses was I have three kids. When we turn the TV on to watch the horses race, they would say, ‘daddy, there’s your horse.’ I would say, ‘no, this horse is all of ours.’ That’s priceless, a bond like that,” Buker said. “The kids absolutely love horses. When the horses do race on TV, we all sit together and watch, get excited. Win or lose, it’s a priceless moment with everybody together having a good time.” Buker was a longtime patron of Dover Downs before he relocated to South Carolina for work. He always dreamed of being more than just a fan and took the plunge in January 2019, becoming an owner on the Delaware circuit. In the short time since, Buker or his Bukers Stable expanded to racing across the U.S., starting horses in 289 races. Horses owned wholly or in part by the Bukers have won 56 races, placed in another 86 and earned $634,009. The stable has also raced horses in Australia.  “I owned one and it wins, then you get the itch; you buy another one and then the next thing you know, you have a bunch of them,” Buker said. One of the stars in Buker’s current lineup of 12 horses is Lady Dela Renta, an Australian-bred Well Said daughter who’s won three straight races at Yonkers and will try to make it four in a row in the $25,000 filly and mare open handicap pace Thursday night (Sept. 17). Imported to the U.S. last summer, Lady Dela Renta made an immediate impact, earning a 1:49.2 lifetime mark at Pocono in just her third Stateside start Sept. 3, 2019 for Blindswitch Racing and Dolne Farm. Bukers Stable joined the partnership this February and as of Aug. 27, assumed sole ownership of the standout mare. Lady Dela Renta looked to be a rising star last fall and winter, scoring a neck win in the local filly and mare open handicap Oct. 4, 2019 and three open wins at Saratoga from October to December. She entered the first leg of the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series at Yonkers March 13, but when the series was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, she headed to the Midwest. Lady Dela Renta was winless in four starts in the distaff open at Scioto Downs before her connections made a change. “When she was out there in Ohio, she wasn’t racing to her full potential. Since she is an Australian horse, I knew the one trainer who would be the best for her was (Shane and Lauren Tritton’s) Team Tritton. I called (Shane) up and said, ‘I want to send her to you, you’re going to be the best for her.’ He said he liked her in Australia and they would gladly take her,” Buker said. “They take really, really good care of her. I think she’s Lauren’s pet,” Buker said. “They key behind it all is taking care of the horse. They’re not out there racing her every single week and hard racing her. It’s not all about drying all the money out of her right away, it’s taking care of a good horse.” After making her last Scioto start July 10, Lady Dela Renta qualified with Lauren Tritton in the sulky at Yonkers July 31. She scorched the track with a 1:52.2 victory, pacing a final quarter of :27.2. Lady Dela Renta then posted three straight pari-mutuel wins at Yonkers with Jordan Stratton driving: a 3 3/4-length win in a $15,500 overnight Aug. 13 and back-to-back wins at the $18,000 level by 1 length and 3 1/4 lengths, respectively Aug. 20 and Sept. 3. “With her, it’s the right trainer for the right horse,” Buker said. “It just goes to show that if you take care of the horse - because they aren’t machines - they’ll take care of you and then they show their full potential. “When they qualified her, that was a wow factor. She came back and won the first race, second race, and then the last race. This is for real here, she’s on a roll,” Buker said. “I think the first race stood out because I was anxious to see her in the first start with Shane and Lauren. After the first race, there was a lot of excitement. I think the last race stood out because she was in with a good group of horses and it looked like she won with ease.” Lady Dela Renta drew post three in Thursday night’s feature and will have Stratton in the bike again. The pair are the 3-1 second choice on the morning line. Favored at 5-2 is Snobbytown, a Ron Burke trainee who twice won and twice finished second in this local feature in four starts between June 23 and July 30 (her last pari-mutuel outing). She will return tonight off a runner up finish to Caviart Ally in a Meadowlands qualifier Sept. 5.  The field also includes Neverforgetwhour, who like Lady Dela Renta, streaks into this filly and mare open handicap with three straight wins; she won local $15,500 overnights by a head, nose, and 1 length Aug. 13, Aug, 27, and Sept. 3, respectively. With regular driver Stratton opting for Lady Dela Renta, Scott Zeron gets the call on the 9-2 shot on the morning line. Coral Bella, who steps up off a win in the non-winners of eight condition last out, Robyn Camden, Apple Bottom Jeans, and Imprincessgemma complete the lineup. “I know we’re in with good company, but if any horse is ready to go 4-for-4, it’s her. She’s got the perfect draw, perfect spot. Jordan is the key man. He knows the horse, loves the horse, and when you can get a driver that loves and knows the horse like he does, you can’t lose,” Buker said. “We haven’t seen her best yet,” he continued. “She hasn’t been unleashed yet; Her best definitely is yet to come. She hasn’t let it all out and I think we’re going to see a little glimpse of it (tonight).” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. - “She’s pretty. She’s worth taking a photo of,” trainer Brett Pelling said, describing standout 2-year-old harness racing pacing filly Test Of Faith ahead of her bid in the New York Sire Stakes Final Saturday at Yonkers Raceway. “She’s not a chestnut, but she’s close. She’s very graceful, beautiful balance. She’s a very attractive horse.” Not just a pretty face, Test Of Faith has shown talent to back up her physical. She’s 4-for-5 in the New York bred series and finished second in her only loss. Her earnings stand at $145,250 for owners Melvin Segal, Kentuckiana Racing Stable, and Eddie Gran. And Test Of Faith is the 9-5 favorite on the morning line in $225,000 championship Saturday night (Sept. 12). Bred by Frederick Hertrich, III, Test Of Faith is by Art Major out of the Cam’s Card Shark mare Cannae Cammie, who placed in multiple stakes and earned $538,140 on the racetrack. Test Of Faith is a half to Alexis Faith, 2017 NYSS Champion 2-year-old filly and multiple Grand Circuit stakes winner, and to Cant Beach That, who Pelling trained to a runner up finish in the Kentucky Sire Stakes Final for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings last year.  The pedigree put Test Of Faith on Pelling’s short list at last year’s Harrisburg Yearling Sale and Pelling went to $92,000 to bring the filly home.  “It’s a very good family. She has really good strength, she’s a very strong filly. She’s not really like her brother; her brother goes to a knee a little bit, but she paces very clean,” Pelling said. “One’s a girl, one’s a boy. He’s a big, strong, rugged horse. She’s quite tall, but she’s very graceful.” Test Of Faith trained down without a hitch. As the time to qualify grew closer, Test Of Faith stood out from her peers for her reliability and professionalism.  “She’s been bullet proof. Right from the very beginning, she showed good ability. She’s always trained well. The biggest thing with her is, there’s never been any problem of any kind, which for a 2-year-old is a rarity. She’s been push button right from day one,” Pelling said. “The first time we asked her to go quick, she was perfect. She trains great in front, she trains great behind. Probably her number one quality is she’s very relaxed, she’s very sensible. A lot of these fillies, you race them on the front end and they might get a little aggressive. She could not be more opposite to that. She’s as loose-lined as a horse can be and that’s a good horse.” Test Of Faith qualified at Magical Acres Training Center June 16. She drew in with Farady Hanover, a $275,000 Harrisburg purchase and full sister to Filibuster Hanover trained by Noel Daley, prompting Pelling to be conservative. With Brett’s son Jack in the bike, Test Of Faith stayed inside as Farady Hanover wired the field. Test Of Faith finished last of four, pacing her mile in 2:00 with a :27.3 final quarter. Pelling liked what he saw. “We knew she was good in her qualifier. We locked her in and I knew some of the other fillies that she baby raced with were high-priced fillies with good trainers and I knew they had to be pretty decent,” Pelling said. “I could see she was just sitting there watching them and I felt she could move by them at any time. I think right from the beginning, I knew she was pretty good” Test Of Faith qualified again at Magical Acres June 23. This time, she rode the pocket and with a :27.4 final quarter, sprinted past rival Heart Of Mine to score a 1 3/4-length win in 1:58.1.  Test Of Faith made her pari-mutuel debut in NYSS at Vernon Downs on Independence Day. Floating out from post five, driver Jim Marohn, Jr. had had few options but to forge to the front as two rivals left to his inside. Test Of Faith worked to the top in a :26 opening panel, clearing midway around the first turn. Despite the swift fractions, Test Of Faith turned away the first-over challenge of Major Houlihan before pacing clear of the field in the stretch. She won by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:52.2. “The first time we raced her up at Vernon, that was never the intention to go down the road in 52. But the horse inside of her really pushed forward, (Marohn) didn’t have a spot to put her, and he just ended up going on to the front. I think the first race was the only race that stung her a little bit. She got through that OK and ever since then, she’s been fine.” Test Of Faith’s second start didn’t go as planned either. Racing around the first turn at Tioga in the next NYSS leg July 19, Marohn tried to place her in the pocket, but as the pace slowed, Test Of Faith collided with the leader’s wheel and made a break. She caught back pacing and raced in fourth before recovering for a second-place finish. “We were trying not to bust her out of there. She left in 26 seconds in the first start of her life. The obvious thing is not to do that again,” Pelling said. “It was a shame she got ran into because she would have won. That’s racing. You try to be cute and sometimes being cute doesn’t work.” Since then, Test Of Faith has taken no chances. She’s led at every call in the last three preliminary legs of the NYSS Aug. 4 at Yonkers, and Aug. 12 and 24 at Saratoga, winning by 3 1/2, 4, and 4 lengths, respectively. Pelling pointed out the Aug. 12 start, in which Test Of Faith made a three-wide move to the lead in a :27.3 opening quarter. “She’s been on high-idle, just absolutely cruising. One of the races was very impressive, the one before last,” Pelling said. “They took a shot to leave her out there a little bit. The horse in front had one parked, but Jimmy just pulled her three-wide and he just went to the front. She did that in three or four steps. She’s got a very, very quick step, she’s very reliable.” Test Of Faith drew post six in the NYSS Final, the first of nine races on the $1.8 million program Saturday night at Yonkers. She will face seven rivals, six of which she has beaten at least once in the preliminaries: DC Batgirl, Party Queen, Heart Of Mine, Think Of Galaxies (who beat Test Of Faith at Tioga July 19), Spicy Covina, Rightfully Mine, and Albergita Hanover. “She’s absolutely perfect. She’s looks fabulous. She hasn’t had any issues, that’s the bottom line,” Pelling said. “I imagine she’ll just roll out of there and how much they want to hurt their horses to be the one following her, I don’t know, but she’ll be in front.” Pelling hopes Test Of Faith can make amends after his Allywag Hanover finished fourth as the 3-5 favorite in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Final for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings at Harrah’s Philadelphia Sept. 6. This is also the biggest race of Test Of Faith’s season as she is not eligible to the major fall stakes. “I had one on Sunday over at Chester who was the favorite in his Sire Stakes final and he came up sick, so that was really, really disappointing. There’s only so many races for them,” Pelling said. “This filly is not staked through the end of the year. The owner is quite conservative. “This is the big one for her. She has four starts left and this is the biggest purse she’s going to go for all year,” Pelling continued. “I wish her the best. She deserves to win it, I think she’s been the best filly right through. That’s what it’s all about, when they get there if the best horse can come through and get it, that’s the way it should be.” First post time for the $1.8 million Night of Champions card is 7:12 p.m. Free full card past performances are available here. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY – When trainer John Butenschoen purchased Destined To Dance at the 2019 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale, he thought the filly would be perfect for the New York Sire Stakes program. Nearly a year later, Destined To Dance enters the $225,000 NYSS Final for 2-year-old trotting fillies with a 5-for-5 harness racing record in the statebred stakes program and has a chance to sweep the series with a win on the Night of Champions card Sept. 12. By Chapter Seven out of the multiple stakes winning mare Go Go Dancer, Destined To Dance was bred by Crawford Farms. Butenschoen bid $100,000 to take the filly home for owners Heritage Standardbreds and Richard Preziotti. The group also offered a piece back to Crawford Farms, who obliged. “She’s not very big, but she’s put together very correctly. Conformation wise, she had the right type of physical appearance that I like to see,” Butenschoen said. “I was up there at the farm and saw her turned out. Then her video showed exactly what I saw when she was turned out, just very light on her feet, quick, just acted very athletic. I thought she would be a really good fit for the New York Sire Stakes program. She’s not too big and with the athleticism she showed me, I thought she would handle things and do real well.” Destined To Dance trained down well throughout the winter and spring and showed professionalism on the racetrack. Although Butenschoen does not like to get too high on babies before they qualify, Destined To Dance looked the part. “She’s not a mean filly or anything. She’s a little standoffish, but she’s been a pleasure to work around. She’s pretty good on the racetrack, she’s pretty simply rigged, we don’t have to do much to her,” Butenschoen said. “She just goes out and she’s very professional about her work, even training down. Any time you ask her to go, she’ll go. If you want to go slow with her, she’ll go slow. She’s been a real treat that way.” Destined To Dance qualified at Windgate Farm June 15, winning by a neck in 2:02 with Corey Callahan in the bike. She then made her first start in a $10,400 overnight at Harrah’s Philadelphia June 26, finishing third beaten a neck while trotting the mile in 1:57.3. Then her NYSS streak began. Destined To Dance went straight to the lead in the series first leg at Saratoga July 8. She cruised through the first three-quarters and when driver Tyler Buter asked her at the top of the stretch, Destined To Dance put up 2 lengths on the field in an instant. With whip tucked away. Destined To Dance powered away with a :29.1 final quarter to post a 1:59.4 win.  “I’ve been more pleased than surprised,” Butenschoen said. “More often than not you’re fooled by the ones you think are good. You never know until you race them. You always hope they have that amount of ability. It was fun to see her race well her first start at Chester. Then we went to Saratoga and she won. We were thinking we had a filly who’s competitive.” Destined To Dance came to Yonkers Raceway for the series second leg July 21. Floating out from the inside post, she rode the cones in third until Buter pulled on the right line hitting the backstretch the final time. Trotting past the three-quarter pole, Destined To Dance took flight. She zipped past leader Me Three and barreled around the final turn 3 lengths clear of the field. Destined To Dance was strong through the stretch, scoring a 4 1/4-length victory in 1:58.3. “Tyler said when he pulled her, she was great. The only nervous moment he had at Yonkers was when he pulled her up the backstretch, she was trotting into that last turn too fast. He said when he pulled her, she just took off,” Butenschoen recalled. Destined To Dance overcame post eight in her next start at Batavia Aug. 2 before putting up back-to-back 1:54.4 miles in wins at Vernon Aug. 15 and Tioga Aug. 23. Destined To Dance has earned $103,456 in her six starts to date. “She’s just getting a little better each time,” Butenschoen said. “We don’t know where the bottom is or what’s going to happen, but we’ll keep marching forward with her. Every time we’ve raced her or any time we’ve asked her to do something, she’s stepped up to the plate and done it.” Destined To Dance and Buter drew post three and are the 6-5 morning line favorites in their NYSS Final, the third race on the Saturday night card at Yonkers. The field also includes Aela Jamieson, who drew post one and enters the final with two straight wins for Julie and Andy Miller. Broad Strokes, Iteration, Insured AM, and Splash Blue Chip each won a single division of NYSS this season and made the final. NY Excelsior division winner Credit Income and maiden Ifnomewho complete the lineup. While Ifnotmewho and Credit Income made pari-mutuel starts between the last NYSS leg Aug. 23 and the Sept. 12 Final, Destined To Dance trained at the farm Aug. 28 before shipping to Pocono Downs for another training mile last week. She trained at the farm again Tuesday (Sept. 8) to prepare for her championship bid. “She seems good, she’s had a good week, she trained good. Now we just hope for the racing gods to look out for us so we can get a decent trip out of there,” Butenschoen said. “You hope nothing happens. That’s all you can hope for everybody, a big night of racing to showcase your New York Sire Stakes horses, you want to see everybody get a fair shot, nobody make a break. You like to see everybody get a shot and let the horses figure out what’s going on, on the racetrack. Hopefully things will work out.” First post time for the $1.8 million Night of Champions card is 7:12 p.m. Free full card past performances are available here. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – When Leonidas makes his Yonkers Raceway debut Friday night (Sept. 4) in the $18,000 pacing feature, it will end a long wait for owner Steve Finklestein of Jesmeral Stable and trainer Sheena McElhiney. An Australia-bred 5-year-old by Mach Three, Leonidas was purchased by Finklestein this spring as a Yonkers prospect, but owing to interruptions in travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic, was marooned in his home county until this summer. Leonidas moved to the David Aiken stable in Australia and continued to race Down Under. He finished first or second in nine straight races at Tabcorp Park Menangle, Shepparton, and Bendigo between March 14 and June 26. Leonidas’ streak included a 1:51.7 victory at Bendigo June 6, which established a track record for the 1,650-meter distance at the Victoria oval and two second-place finishes to Australian pacing star and three-time Group 1 winner Lochinvar Art. “With all the restrictions and the tracks being closed down, we couldn’t get him over right away,” McElhiney said. “One of (Steve’s) lifelong friends, David Aiken, took over training. He broke some track records there and we were excited to get him over here because we knew the caliber of horse he is.” Leonidas was finally exported to the United States July 6. He received some downtime after arriving in McElhiney’s stable, but acclimatized quickly and was back to work in short order. Leonidas proved himself to be a professional on the track once his training resumed. “Obviously, we couldn’t wait to get him over here. The time we had to wait for him just seemed like forever. Just watching him race over there, he’s a really good-caliber horse,” McElhiney said. “When he came here, he looked great, he was in great shape, he adjusted pretty well. He had a winter coat already when he came over. We gave him a little time and let him hang out in the paddock and just be a horse before we started really training him down again. “He had been racing pretty consistently over there,” she continued. “It wasn’t too tough to get him back into shape. He’s a nice horse to train. He went right out on the track like he’d been here forever.” Leonidas qualified Aug. 7 at Yonkers Raceway with Jason Bartlett in the sulky. Leonidas raced in third for the first 6 furlongs before moving to the lead and powering away from the final with a :27.4 final quarter to win the trial by 12 1/4 lengths in 1:55. McElhiney then entered Leonidas to race at Pocono Downs Aug. 20. “He qualified well, Jason was happy with him. The plan was to race him at Yonkers, but we could get him in (at Pocono) right away. We decided to put him in there.” Leonidas drew post seven and faced a Grand Circuit-quality field that included Filibuster Hanover, Western Joe, Dancin Lou, San Domino, and Southwind Ozzi in his first American start. Although he was dismissed at odds of 39-1 and got away seventh, Leonidas angled to the outside on the backstretch and latched onto third-over cover. Bartlett angled Leonidas four-wide into the stretch and he paced past San Domino and Dancin Lou to finish third individually clocked in 1:48.4 with a :27 final panel. “The plan was to just race him easy his first start and then bring him to Yonkers. I think he had to go a little bit more than we expected, but he definitely didn’t disappoint,” McElhiney said. “Just watching, I knew he was the horse that we thought he was. He came out of it great, no issues with that. He just did it easy. Jason said he wasn’t pushing him, he was kind of doing his thing out there. It was nice to have him go out there in the first start and be impressed with him. It makes you excited for the rest of the year, for sure.” Leonidas drew post two in the Friday pacing feature at Yonkers, for horses who are non-winners of $25,000 in their last five starts. Jason Bartlett will drive again and the pair are 2-1 on the morning line.  The field includes Hudson Phil, who won the Saratoga open pace in his last start Aug. 25, Heaven’s Gait, who won two straight at this level July 17 and 31 before finishing fifth in the local open Aug. 21, and Caviart Luca, who won the local open handicap pace two back Aug. 7. Speed Man, Rodeo Rock, Capozzo, and One Off Delight complete the lineup. “We trained (Leonidas) Tuesday and went a slow trip with him because we put the miles on him jogging,” McElhiney said. “When we train him, he’s just two fingers and really easy. He’s a little bit lazy, but you chirp to him a little bit and he’s ready to go. “Steve has some quality horses, but this one is pretty special.” Yonkers Raceway’s revised schedule features live harness racing Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (Sept. 8 – 10) and New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions on Saturday, Sept. 12. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

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