Day At The Track
Search Results
1 to 16 of 102
1 2 3 4 5 Next »

YONKERS, N.Y. – Late last summer, harness racing trainer Amanda Kelley skimmed through a sales listing in the hopes of finding a reasonably priced horse who could race in the claiming ranks at Saratoga Raceway. Such a horse would fit longtime owner Fred Scheigert’s stable, which is predominantly comprised of claimers and New York breds who fit at the Spa. Among the listings was Mar Nien, who came with a $12,500 price tag. Kelley began researching the horse and after looking at his lines, realized the listed price had to be a mistake. The Australian-bred pacer by Rock N Roll Heaven out of the Armbro Operative mare Champagnesheffield began his stateside career in August and showed promise. He won his debut at Harrah’s Philadelphia in 1:50.2 for Chris Scicluna before posting two runner-up efforts timed in 1:50.4 and 1:49.2. Kelley followed up on the listing and sure enough, the correct price was much higher. She was sure Scheigert wouldn’t want to make such a sizeable outlay on one horse, but she decided to present the opportunity anyway. “I asked the owners if they would be interested,” Kelley remembered. “I told them it could be a really good investment for the stable and shockingly they said, ‘OK, go look at him.’ So, we did, and it went from there. He checked out with a clean bill of health and came on the team.” Kelley grew up training American Saddlebreds before delving into the Standardbred world working on breeding farms. She spent time helping trainers at Saratoga and fell in love with racing. Pushed by her mentors, Kelley worked to earn her training license. She made her first start in 2015 and soon connected with Scheigert. Less than a year after getting her license, Kelley was training all his horses. “They knew me, they were comfortable with me, and asked if I would take all their horses. It was everything. It was terrifying,” she said. “They like to do things a certain way. They like mostly claiming. Mar Nien is actually one of the first purchases I’ve ever done for them, aside from claiming.”' Mar Nien made his presence known from the moment he entered Kelley’s stable. The gelding came with a personality that set him apart. “He has a little goofball attitude. I feel he’s talented, I really like him, and he’s fast, but his personality is playful,” Kelley explained. “He loves the other horses, he talks to everybody. He’s definitely a neat personality in the barn.  “His head is constantly going, it’s on a swivel. He has to look at everything,” she continued. “You could be jogging him along and his head is completely to the left or right. He’s very observant; he catches everything. He likes his mid-morning naps, don’t bother him then. But he loves attention, you can give him hugs, he’ll put his head on you. He’s cool to be around.” Mar Nien also proved to be a handful on the racetrack and keeping him calm in the morning became a priority.  “He can get a bit aggressive. He likes to work, he likes his job,” Kelley said. “We try to keep him quiet when he jogs because he likes to be a little more enthusiastic than you want. If someone else is training out there, hang on, because he thinks he should be doing it, too. He just has a really good work ethic. He covers the ground nice, he’s smooth, there’s just no wasted movement with him. He’s a little guy but has a big heart and big motor.” Mar Nien debuted for Kelley and Scheigert in a $10,170 overnight at Saratoga September 15. With Bruce Aldrich, Jr. in the sulky, the gelding capitalized on a pocket trip and posted a 1:51.1 victory with a :27.1 final quarter. The following week, Mar Nien circled the field to win the $15,000 Open Handicap in 1:52. “His first start, I said, ‘OK, now we’re going to see what kind of horse he is.’ It’s always nerve-wracking the first start,” Kelley said. “He still had the plugs in. We were like, ‘wow.’ Bruce shook Mr. Scheigert’s hand and he said, ‘you have a nice animal.’ That was really exciting to hear. The next week, it was just a repeat. It was very exciting.” Mar Nien earned three victories and two placings from five more starts to close his 2018 season before Kelley gave him a break for the winter. Although any plans were contingent on how Mar Nien trained back, Kelley kept the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series in the back of her mind. Mar Nien qualified back February 19 at Pompano Park, winning in 1:55.3 from post nine. A week later, the 7-year-old won another trial at the south-Florida oval, skipping over a sloppy track in 1:51. “We qualified him once and he went easy, took him back and just came the second half. I trained him a mile-and-a-half that week, then requalified him. This time, we asked him a little bit,” Kelley said. “When the time came up, we were like, ‘woah.’ I don’t know if we were quite expecting to go that much, but he just does it on his own. He came out of that really good and then we shipped up.” Mar Nien will make his seasonal debut in the ninth race Saturday (March 16) at Yonkers Raceway, the sixth and final division of the Levy Series first leg. It will be Kelley’s first time harnessing a horse in a Grand Circuit race. “It’s terrifying, it’s exciting,” she said. “A lot of people don’t even get this opportunity and I’m so thankful for it. I haven’t done racehorses my whole life, but people give you this opportunity and say, ‘we trust you with this.’ To give you a nice animal, it’s pretty awesome. “I’m really thankful for the people around me, the people in the barn and the people who helped make this happen,” Kelley continued. “The owners and everybody that’s been there for me. I’ve needed help along the way and these are great people.” Mar Nien drew post one and will start as the race’s 5-2 morning line favorite with Greg Merton in the sulky. He will face the likes of More The Better, who drew post three and is 3-1 off a runner-up finish from post eight in a local $23,000 overnight March 9. Gokudo Hanover will start from post two, an improvement from the outside posts that hampered his last two outings; the 7-year-old gelding is 7-2 for Brennan and DiDomenico.  Bellow’s Binge won a $29,000 overnight in his last start March 9 and is a 7-2 morning line for Bartlett and Banca. Mach Doro will make his second start for Cushing and Gibbs after winning on debut March 4, but will have to overcome post seven. Cruise Patrol, Lockton Luck, and Ballerat Boomerang complete the field.  “To me, every horse in there is a threat,” Kelley said. “It’s all the way the race works out. I would love to get away first or second. I’d like to see him get away like that and handle anything that comes at him. I just hope he finishes strong and he races strong. My job is just to make sure he shows up and races and finishes strong.” Saturday night’s card features six divisions of the Levy Series First Leg. Live harness racing is featured at Yonkers Raceway every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – When harness racing trainer Jim King, Jr. thinks about returning to the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series at Yonkers Raceway, the trainer admits he’s, “going in with a better chance than most.” King will start a trio of mares in the series first leg Friday night (March 15), and the onslaught is led by Shartin, who will try to become the first mare to repeat in the Matchmaker Series. Shartin’s victory in the $373,000 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series Final last April was the first of nine major Grand Circuit wins last year which propelled her to become the first mare to win over $1 million in a single season and earned her the Dan Patch Award for Older Pacing Mare. The experience is still fresh on the minds of King and his wife, Joann.  “Between my wife and I we’ve got well over one hundred years in this business and to be in a position here where we get this kind of stuff, it’s still very exciting to us,” King said. “This time last year (Shartin) was a real handful,” King remembered. “By now, we’ve kind of got a handle on her, but she started off real big because she won races in January for 11 months straight. That’s pretty good in that class to be doing that. She’s exceeded all our expectations time after time. As far as I’m concerned, she never got beat without a really good reason, not necessarily an excuse, but there was always an answer for why it didn’t work out and a couple were that she just plain old made a break. It’s probably a once in a lifetime go.” While the answers were there each time Shartin tasted defeat, she rarely needed them. Shartin went 19-for-24 last year and took a mark of 1:48.2 in Lexington. She wrapped up her season with a win in the $175,000 TVG Mares Series Final November 24 at the Meadowlands. Shartin made her first qualifying start this year February 13 at Dover Downs, winning in 1:56. She returned eight days later to qualify again in 1:52. “I don’t see where she’s any worse for the wear,” King said. “She qualified back really good. Easy enough the first time, just a good trainer. Then we went back and qualified her like you would expect for a horse like her do to, so that was good.” While Shartin came into the series last year with five races under her belt, Friday night’s start as the 7-5 morning line favorite in the ninth race, the $40,000 fifth and final division of the Matchmaker first leg, will be her seasonal debut. King couldn’t get a race into Shartin without shipping her north, so he opted to stay home in Delaware and wait. King thinks going into the series with a fresh horse is an advantage. “We really couldn’t get her started without sending her to New York and that’s a pretty good trip. I’d be satisfied if we get six starts up there, or even five,” he said. “She’s ready. She always gets back ready when I had time in between. I didn’t go into a race three weeks out that I felt, ‘man I wish I had a race in her.’ She’s always been OK, but not off this long a break, but I feel pretty good about it. “I do think you’re better off going in fresh because it’s such a long, grueling series,” King continued. “We leave home nine hours before a race. That’s a big deal to do that week after week after week. She’s always held up to that kind of stuff. (Bettor Joy) I feel is really competitive also, I just don’t know if she’s that stout, I don’t know if she can stand it week after week, but we’re here to find out. Where they come from, they don’t race regularly like that, but they do ship around.” Like Shartin, Bettor Joy is a New Zealand-bred mare imported to the United States by owner and managing partner Rich Poillucci. A new face in the series this year, Bettor Joy was a two-time Group 2 winner back home and won another two listed stakes.  “Rich Poillucci, he does all the legwork, he does the homework, he finds these horses, he watches the horses that they race with,” King said. “We’ve got some pretty good connections over there now to go over them and give us their opinions on them. It’s a big team effort and we’ve got a pretty good team.”  Bettor Joy, a 5-year-old mare by Bettor’s Delight out of the Road Machine mare Joyfulbelle, completed her final start in New Zealand November 16 and made her first stateside qualifying appearance January 23 at Dover Downs. She finished fourth in her first pari-mutuel start January 30, but returned a winner from post seven in the $27,500 Filly and Mare Open February 27. “She was good enough we made all the payments on her. She’s quick, she’s handy,” King said. “She did what we expected. Dexter Dunn raced her (in New Zealand) and he said that she was all that, she was a really good horse. Her first start was just OK. They went pretty good and we just weren’t up to that kind of mile. Then we got her back in and she was ready to go.” Although they are both New Zealand-bred and are both talented, Shartin and Bettor Joy have distinct personalities on the racetrack. “Entirely different horse than Shartin; she’s just a bull and (Bettor Joy), she’s a lady. She’s a good girl,” King said. “She’s very drivable. You can leave with her, you can take her off, she can step around horses. Shartin, when you get her cranked up she’s ready to roll. You don’t want to be changing course in the middle of a straight, that’s for sure. Bettor Joy’s a lot more professional in that aspect. She lets the driver be a lot more part of the game there.” Bettor Joy will make her Yonkers debut in the sixth race, the $40,000 second division of the Matchmaker first leg, as a 9-5 morning line choice. Her start will come one race after Newborn Sassy kicks off King’s chances in the series at 9-2 in the first division. Perhaps overshadowed by her New Zealand-bred counterparts, Newborn Sassy placed in two preliminary legs of the Matchmaker Series last year before winning a $40,000 consolation shortly before Shartin captured the final. The 6-year-old Western Ideal daughter went 9-for-36 last year and made $289,290, boosting her career tally to $1,036,455. Newborn Sassy “She’s a good girl. She can’t do what the other two can do, but she’s a half-mile track specialist,” King said. “Last year we came up with just one (win in the series), the other starts went wrong. They had just taken out the passing lane, we got locked in a couple times in the two hole and just didn’t work out for her, but still ended up OK. She came back real good, she can do her job good enough.” Tim Tetrick will drive all of King’s starters in the series Friday night. The driver purchased an ownership interest in all three mares, a move that gave King confidence. “Timmy thought enough of them that he decided he’d like to own part of them. I think that’s saying something because that puts him in a position where he doesn’t have any choice, he has to go with them,” King joked. “All those girls, I think they’ll all go out and do their job even if they don’t all come home a winner. If they do their job and we come back and do it again next week, I’m really going to be happy with them,” King said. “We’ve got a good team and that’s what it takes.” Friday night’s card features five divisions of the Matchmaker Series First Leg while the George Morton Levy Series kicks off with six splits Saturday, March 16.  Live harness racing is featured at Yonkers Raceway every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY  

YONKERS, N.Y. – When Nocturnal Bluechip came to Jeff Gillis’ stable in Canada late last summer, the harness racing trainer admittingly didn’t know what to expect. Then a 5-year-old gelding, Nocturnal Bluechip was a stakes winner at 2 and 3 and established himself as a consistent type in the conditioned and non-winners ranks at Yonkers and Pocono Downs in his 4- and 5-year old seasons. Immediately before heading north, the Bettor’s Delight son even made a start in the Great Northeast Open Series at Pocono, finish fifth in a 1:49.2 mile. “The owner called me and asked me to try him up in Canada, and so I did not really knowing what to expect,” Gillis said. “He’s not a horse that I had followed. I haven’t had a ton of success with Bettor’s Delight, although many others have. Being that he’s an older sire, I expected Nocturnal Bluechip to be a little lazy, which he can be at times. I watched a bunch of replays on him and just kind of played it by ear.” Nocturnal Bluechip made his first start for Gillis at the non-winners of $30,000 last five level August 25 and won his first race for his new trainer in his fourth start after dropping to the non-winners of $11,000 last five level September 15. Then, the gelding got on a roll. Nocturnal Bluechip made it four straight victories over the following month, including two at the Preferred level, and took a mark of 1:48.2 in the process. He’s raced almost exclusively at the Preferred level since, racking up another two victories and six placings. The streak boosted the gelding’s earnings to $398,493 for owner NLG Racing Stable. “I just went into it with an open mind, clean slate, let him dictate and tell us what he is. Not really many expectations good or bad,” Gillis said. “He’s certainly has surprised me. Initially, I wasn’t quite sure about him, but he found his form toward the late summer-early fall and he’s been pretty consistent since. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” the trainer continued. “He’s a horse that’s got good tactical speed, he’s been pretty consistent, he’s got a turn of foot, so there’s a lot to like about him.” Nocturnal Bluechip’s impressive run over the winter gave Gillis the confidence to nominate to the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series. It’s the first time Gillis will compete in the six-week event, which begins March 16. The trainer will also bring Obvious Bluechip to the Matchmaker Series. “I’m excited to have a couple that I think can be factors in the series,” Gillis said. “It’s kind of a quiet time of year for stakes and this gets the ball rolling for the year, so I’m very much looking forward to it.” Nocturnal Bluechip will prepare for the series with a start in Saturday night’s (March 9) $44,000 Open Handicap Pace. Unlike many of his Levy Series rivals, Nocturnal Bluechip raced through the winter. However, with only two starts this year, Gillis thinks the gelding will still be fresh heading into the grueling series. “I guess it’s the old adage, rest versus rust,” he said. “Early in the series, it would favor a horse that’s been racing and then as the series gets on, maybe it favors a fresher horse being that it is six straight weeks if you make the final. But I’m going to say that Nocturnal Bluechip fits somewhere in between because he’s raced through the winter, but he’s raced fairly infrequently. It will be four weeks off heading into this week and he’d only raced twice in the previous seven, so he’s fresh at the same time I feel.” Although Gillis is unsure how much of a role the seven-eighths mile track at Mohawk has played in Nocturnal Bluechip’s recent success, the trainer doesn’t think the switch back to the half-mile oval at Yonkers will be an issue. The gelding is 1-for-16 on the half with another five placings. “I haven’t ever raced him on a half, but I don’t expect it to be an issue at all,” Gillis said. “I guess we’ll wait and see. I’ve reviewed his lines and seen that he’s raced there before. We’ll wait and see.” Nocturnal Bluechip drew post two for his first local Open try and will employ the driving services of Dan Dube; the pair are 15-1 on the morning line. Bit Of A Legend drew post six off his first win of the year in the Open February 23 while the runner up from that race and a winner of the Open February 16, Don Domingo, drew post seven.  Preferred runner up last out Killer Martini drew favorably in post four while three-time Preferred winner this season Imarocknrollegend will start from post eight. Australian import Sams A Champ debuted a winner at Freehold last out for Tahnee Camilleri and was assigned post one. Bettor Memories and Shneonucrzydiamnd complete the lineup. “I don’t know the field very well. I just know that this horse is quick off the wings, so I feel like he’ll get himself spotted most of the time. I find that those horses tend to get you pieces a lot on a small track, even if they don’t win,” Gillis said. “This is really a dress rehearsal for the series, so I’m not going in with any expectations. I’m just going to experiment and see how it goes.” The first leg of the Bluechip Matchmaker Series is Friday, March 15 while the George Morton Levy Series kicks off Saturday, March 16.  Live harness racing is featured at Yonkers Raceway every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – When harness racing trainer Scott DiDomenico thinks back on the journey Angel’s Pride has taken so far, he feels a sense of pride. DiDomenico purchased the Roll With Joe daughter as a yearling and she’s been a fixture in the barn sense. Friday night, the 5-year-old mare will seek her first win in the $44,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap at Yonkers ahead of a bid in the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series. “It’s truly been gratifying. We broke her and trained her and raced her every start, watched her mature and get better,” DiDomenico said. “There’s a lot of gratification to see that. “She’s a sweetheart. She’s a big strong mare, you’ve got to feed her first because she gets pretty anxious when it’s lunchtime and time to eat,” he continued. “As far as her personality on the track, you can’t say enough good things about her. She’s really a very, very nice horse.” Angel’s Pride had a difficult beginning to her racing career. Before she started as a 2-year-old, she suffered a fractured sesamoid. Although she showed potential, the injury left her future in doubt.  “Training her down as a 2-year-old, we really, really liked her and she broke a bone and she missed the majority of her 2-year-old year,” DiDomenico remembered. “Gave her a lot of time and she healed up and came back strong. You don’t want to see broken bones and you definitely don’t want to see broken sesamoids. It’s a difficult injury to bounce back from, but she has, and she’s done it gracefully.” Angel’s Pride finally made her first start November 25, 2016 and she debuted a winner, taking a $12,000 maiden at Harrah’s Philadelphia. She finished second in her only other start at 2 before coming back at 3 to win a division of the Weiss Series at Pocono Downs and two legs of the New York Sire Stakes, adding a runner-up finish in the Lady Maud Pace at Yonkers along the way.  Angel’s Pride continued to improve last year at 4, winning six races and finishing second in another six from 28 starts, including two runner-up placings in the Filly and Mare Open Handicap at Yonkers to end her 2018 season. She earned $136,420 last year, boosting her career earnings to $326,588 for Triple D Stables and JFE Enterprise. “She was good all year. She was iron-tough all year,” DiDomenico said. “To see her not have to be awarded the one or two hole and get an easy trip or get lucky was good. She was drawing middle to the outside and still able to do a good job. The racing at Yonkers is tough and to see her do that was good.” DiDomenico attributes Angel’s Pride’s steady improvement to her physical and mental progression. Angel’s Pride has learned to be versatile on the track, a trait her trainer admires. “She’s gotten bigger and stronger. She’s learned how to race both ways, being leaving the gate going forward and spots where she’s come off the gate and still raced good and come home good,” DiDomenico said. “She’s picked that element up, to be a professional racehorse and being handy and her versatility to go either way.”  Angel’s Pride ended her 4-year-old season with a second-place finish in the $44,000 distaff feature December 7 and got a well-deserved break from training. She qualified back February 23 at the Meadowlands before making her return March 1 at Yonkers, where she drew post eight in the Filly and Mare Open. She will start in the same class tonight (March 8) with DiDomenico eyeing the first leg of the Matchmaker series March 16. “We put her in the Matchmaker. There’s a lot of good mares,” DiDomenico said. “If she can show that she can go with them, I think that would really be special. I don’t know that I’m sold on that or not, but we’re going to give it a try and see how it goes.” Angel’s Pride drew post four in tonight’s $44,000 feature and will have regular reinsman Brent Holland in the sulky. She will face a strong lineup of mares, including February 15 winner Delightfulmemphis, last week’s winner Lispatty, and February 22 winner Itty Bitty, who drew posts six, seven and eight, respectively. Twinkle, Write Me A Song, and Lakeisha Hall all return from layoffs of qualifying efforts and will start from posts one, three, and five, respectively. Slick Artist is the only mare in the field not nominated to the Matchmaker; the longshot will start from post two. “We’re going to race a little more aggressively and see what the future holds. We’ll let her dictate what we do and how we do it. Hopefully she can show that 5-year-old season, she can go with the better horses at Yonkers and just try to work with it,” DiDomenico said. “I hope we go out of there, she can win, and that would be a good building block to the Matchmaker Series. But it’s a tough race, there’s good horses. Racing at that level is difficult, it’s a tough task.” Live harness racing is featured at Yonkers Raceway every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. - Trainer Lance Hudson imported five harness racing horses from New Zealand and Australia in late 2018 with the hopes of having a fresh band of competitors for Yonkers Raceway's 2019 season. The new pacers included Betterb Chevron, who won her first three races including the distaff feature in her latest start Feb. 1 and Letschasethedream, who ran his streak to three wins before coming up short January 26. The surprise of the bunch, though, has been Don Domingo. The 7-year-old gelding has won four straight races to begin his Stateside career and will try to extend his streak to five in Saturday night's $35,000 Preferred Handicap Pace at Yonkers Raceway. "I knew he had some ability, I knew he was fast, but he just seems like a horse that gets it done," Hudson said. "I've got a horse that he's training with that I like better, but he hasn't been quite as good. He's been OK, but he hasn't had four wins in a row like Don Domingo. Don Domingo just seems to be an over achiever right now. I've got some talented horses in my barn. I didn't think he was a slouch by any means, but I didn't think at this point that he'd be 4-for-4." Hudson considered buying Don Domingo after being approached by agent Peter Larkin. Despite Don Domingo's form in New Zealand tailing off in late 2018 with two straight eleventh-place finishes at the free for all level, Hudson saw potential for Don Domingo to have a successful career in the United States. Hudson noticed Don Domingo had been racing at distances of 2,600 to 3,000 meters and felt the American Ideal son would benefit from a turnback. In addition, Don Domingo had been keeping company with the likes of Dream About Me and The Fixer, two of the top pacers in the Southern Hemisphere. "An agent called me one day and told me about the horse. Basically, he went and worked him and he thought the horse had good manners and he thought he would be OK at Yonkers, so we purchased him for $63,000 landed and that's how it all began," Hudson said. "He was going distance. He was going basically 2 miles and he was racing the best over there," Hudson continued. "He's a horse that I don't think is super durable. He's a horse that's more fit for a mile race than 2 miles. When you look back in his form, when he wasn't going that distance, he was very competitive when he was going shorter distances." Don Domingo finished final race in New Zealand October 5 and arrived in Hudson's stable later that month. He arrived healthy and without suffering from any ailments from the long trek north, was ready to qualify in mid-December. However, with Yonkers closing for the holidays, Hudson took a conservative approach for Don Domingo's first United States trial. "I knew he had some ability, but there was no other place to qualify at the time. The last week of Yonkers, he was ready, but we started him at Monticello, just a qualifier, and then raced him once just to get him a start and get him acclimated to racing in the States," Hudson explained. Don Domingo finished second to Texas Terror in his qualifier and won his debut in 1:54.4 in the winner's over at Monticello January 2. Hudson then brought Don Domingo to Yonkers where the gelding won three straight; he took two $23,000 overnights in off-the-pace fashion before posting a pocket-sitting victory over I'm Some Graduate for $29,000 in his latest outing February 2. "He's basically done it about any way," Hudson admired. "We haven't really put him on the front even though we've left the car with him a little bit. He's been first-over, he's been third-over, and he's sat the two-hole. He's very versatile, that's for sure. Whatever situation he's in, he always seems to find a way. He just seemed like an average horse, but he always seems to get the job done no matter what he's got to do." Don Domingo will face his toughest test so far in Saturday night's pacing feature. The competition includes last week's Open winner Rockathon, last week's Preferred winner Imarocknrollegend, and Anythingforlove, who will seek his third straight win from post seven off scores in 1:52.4 and 1:51.4. Mighty Mr Sharkey, Stormount Czar, Techtor Hanover, and Bellow's Binge complete the field. "He's definitely in with better horses, but the horse that he beat sitting on his back, I'm Some Graduate, is a pretty decent Open horse," Hudson said. "A lot of times at Yonkers, it's just how the trip goes and how everything goes down, but they'll know he's in there." Although he' unsure how good Don Domingo is, Hudson expects to find out in the coming weeks. Saturday's race will help determine whether Don Domingo is nominated to the George Morton Levy Series, which closes next Friday (February 15). "We have some options whether to put him in the Levy and that type of thing," Hudson said. "I'm not exactly sure. We're OK where we are with him for now. We'll see what happens Saturday and we'll have to make some decisions about what we're going to do with him." Live harness racing is featured at Yonkers Raceway every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Last year, Rich Banca and Barbara and James Boese watched as New Zealand-bred mare Kaitlyn went on a tear. The American Ideal daughter won her first four harness racing starts in the United States at Harrington for trainer Josh Parker and went on to win across the East Coast at Harrah’s Philadelphia, the Meadowlands, and Yonkers.  Although she began her campaign in the non-winners classes, Kaitlyn worked her way up to Harrington’s Open ranks. She beat the top mares at Harrington four starts in a row last fall and earned $110,875 in the season. Boese, the track’s Chief Operating Office and General Manager, took notice and bought her, bringing Banca in on the partnership and giving him the horse to train. “I had seen her at Yonkers. (The Boeses) watched her down there and they liked her. They picked her out and they bought her,” Banca said.  Kaitlyn is the latest horse the Boeses have teamed with Banca on after their successful partnership began with the Adagio de la Tour last summer. The French-bred came to the United States as part of the French American Trotting Club, finished second in the $120,000 final, and went on to earn $122,640 last year. “I have quite a few horses with them, they’re really good people,” Banca said. “It started with the French trotters. They wanted to buy one of the horses coming from France and they called me up and asked if I would take the horse. I said yes. That’s where it started and I’ve gotten a bunch more sense.” Kaitlyn made her last start for Parker November 21, finishing second in the Filly and Mare Open Handicap at Dover Downs. Banca turned her out with the intention of getting her ready for a 2019 campaign. She qualified back in 1:56.2 with Matt Kakaley in the sulky while finishing second to Havefaithinme at Yonkers February 2. “We bought her, she got turned out for a while, and we brought her back and qualified her last week,” Banca said. “We turned her out for a while after we bought her, gave her a break and got her fresh and well. It was probably about a month and then we trained her back and qualified her. “I didn’t see it, I wasn’t there, but Kakaley likes her a lot. He said she was very good, so that was enough for me,” Banca continued.” Although it is difficult to gauge her talent without seeing her race, Banca is pleased with Kaitlyn so far.  “I haven’t had her very long, we haven’t raced her yet. We’ll see how it goes. We’ll see what happens, but so far, I can’t say a bad thing about her,” he said. “She’s nice. She’s a good-looking horse, she doesn’t do a thing wrong. I like her. I’m really happy with her. She’s perfect.” Kaitlyn will start from post six in the $44,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace at Yonkers Friday night (Feb. 8). She is a 7-1 morning line with Kakaley back in the bike. Her rivals include 5-2 early favorite Delishka, who won three straight Opens in Delaware in January before finishing fourth and third in her first two tries at the Hilltop, respectively.  Invader Nerida Franco is 4-1 off two victories in the Filly and Mare Select at Dover, but drew a difficult assignment in post seven. Amateur Hour is also 4-1 and benefits from an assigned inside post after Paul Blumenfeld claimed her for $30,000 two back. Ella Michelle won the Yonkers Distaff feature two starts ago and will start from post three with Joe Bongiorno in the sulky. Shez Sugarsweet, Shezza GNP, and Itty Bitty complete the lineup. “She’s only got one qualifier, she’s been off for quite a while. I’m not expecting to see her best. I think she’ll need a start or two,” Banca said of Kaitlyn’s prospects first time out. “We’ll try and get her right for the Matchmaker. “I hope she’ll be a contender in the series,” he continued. “It’s hard to say, we haven’t raced her yet, but I hope she is. She’s done everything right and part of the reason for buying her was for that race and we’re going to stake her to some other things. Hopefully she’s up to it.” Live harness racing is featured at Yonkers Raceway every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOANY

YONKERS, N.Y. – When Aldine Hanover joined the ranks of Michael Hall’s harness racing stable late last year, the filly immediately made her presence known. Aldine Hanover quickly asserted herself as the alpha in the Hall’s group of mares and she commanded respect in the barn. It was apparent to Hall that Aldine Hanover possessed something special that could not be taught.  “We turn the horses out. The mares especially, they go out in groups. Since she’s been here, she took over the boss spot in the field with four other mares. Before that, one of them thought she was in charge,” Hall said.  “She’s a little bit mean, but in a good way on the racetrack. She doesn’t like another horse to pass her and she’ll dig in,” Hall continued. “If you train her with another horse, she’s perfect when you sit behind them, but as soon as you tip her out to go, she wants to go by them instantly. Just does everything that you want her to do. “She’s just all racehorse. You can make an athlete, or you can be born with it. Just something in her genes, she was just meant to be a good horse.” Aldine Hanover proved her merit to Hall in winning last week’s $44,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap at Yonkers Raceway. The wire-to-wire effort was the biggest win of her career to date, elevating her earnings to $289,711 and improving her record to 10 victories from 43 starts. The 4-year-old mare will try to double up in this Friday’s (Feb. 1) distaff feature. Hall had his eye on Aldine Hanover while she raced out of Erv Miller’s barn at 2 and 3. By A Rocknroll Dance out of the Artsplace millionaire Armbro Amoretto, Hall was initially attracted to Aldine Hanover’s pedigree. He also liked Aldine Hanover’s consistent performances on the track. “A lot of my owners are breeders and I try to have the client in mind for when they’re done racing because that way, they give you a little bit of a safety net because they don’t always pan out. Fortunately, she did, but they don’t always pan out,” Hall said. “We always try to have a backup plan in place when you get into it. “She basically never misses the board. That was the biggest thing. She was ideally going to be a money maker. I was hoping she’d be able to win out of the non-winners of eight at Dover and maybe go in the winners over there. I didn’t really have the aspirations that she’d be as good as she’s been the last few weeks.” Hall knew Miller would be likely to part with Aldine Hanover at the end of her sophomore season. After Aldine Hanover romped in a local $20,000 overnight November 19, the sale was completed and Hall took Aldine Hanover to Dover Downs. She won two straight races to close her 2018 campaign and began her 4-year-old season with a narrow loss January 2. She won a $16,000 overnight January 9 before testing the waters in Dover’s $25,000 Filly and Mare Open January 16. She finished a close third to Delishka and Apple Bottom Jeans. “She got away third on the rail, which is like the death spot. It’s the toughest spot in the world to make money from,” Hall said. “Dexter Dunn got off of her and said, ‘man, if I could have gotten out three or four feet earlier, I would have won.’ She was flying at the wire. “I don’t know if she could have beaten those two mares or not,” Hall continued. “I would have said (Dexter) was being a little overly optimistic, but he’s driven a lot of good horses, so if he says something like that, he knows what he’s talking about.” Aldine Hanover proved she can handle open company last time out when she took Yonkers’ top class for distaffers in 1:53.4 with Jason Bartlett in the sulky, beating her Delaware rival Delishka in the process. Hall made the move to the Hilltop to gauge Aldine Hanover’s talents as he floats the idea of nominating her to the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series. “We raced her in the Open at Dover and they didn’t fill it the following week. I figured we might as well try it. The last start before I bought her, she raced there and everything worked out perfect. Jason Bartlett drove her, got the front really easy, and never pulled the plugs,” Hall said. “I was shocked at how good she handled it. A lot of horses who are a decent size struggle on the turns, but she just got right around them like it was nothing. With the purses up there, it would be foolish not to take a chance.” Aldine Hanover drew post four in her repeat bid, and with Jason Bartlett back in to drive, she is a tepid 5-2 morning line choice. Unlike last week when she was handicapped by post seven, Delishka benefited from this week’s open draw and will start from post two in front of Brent Holland. Between the Delaware invaders will start Lance Hudson’s recent New Zealand-bred import Betterb Chevron. Amateur Hour, Shez Sugarsweet, Monica Gallagher, Ella Michelle, and Itty Bitty comprise the lineup. “Last week she beat that Delishka mare. That mare is awful tough. It was nice to draw inside of her, but this week she drew inside of us,” Hall said. “We couldn’t beat her on the five-eighths. It will be interesting to see if the track size evens it out. The other foreign mare of Lance Hudson’s, that mare was airborne finishing the last few weeks.” Although Aldine Hanover won on the front last week, Hall is skeptical about his mare trying for the lead this week. He is confident in his mare’s off-the-pace tactics. “I know Jason likes to be aggressive off the gate, but Delishka, that mare can leave fast. think it would be a little harder for us to make the lead if we wanted to,” Hall said. “I like the fact that my horse doesn’t have to be on the front. She can do what she has to do. To me, it sets up a whole lot different than last week because the horses we had to out leave were all outside of us and everybody sort of floated into the turn and grabbed up. This week, it looks like it should be interesting for the first quarter-mile. “I think it will be a good test,” Hall continued. “I’m sort of on the fence about whether she’s good enough to think about putting her in the Matchmaker or not. This will be as tough a group of mares that she’s raced so far in her career, so we’ll see how it goes.” Live harness racing is featured at Yonkers Raceway every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Although Troy Beyer grew up around Standardbreds, it was a singular moment in his adolescent years that ultimately pushed him down the path of becoming a harness racing horseman. At just 23 years old, Beyer has already worked among some great horses in the stables of Nancy Johansson and Noel Daley. The Illinois native now plies his trade in the barn of Brett Pelling with the goal of becoming a catch driver.  Beyer made his first pari-mutuel start in 2013 and spent the next three years driving in Illinois with some success. 2018 proved to be the young reinsman’s breakout year however, as he teamed up with Ricky Bucci to compete for the rich purses at Yonkers Raceway. Beyer drove 16 winners last year and another 50 in the money to purses of $305,308.  Although he is still searching for his first win in the new year, Beyer already has six top three finishes at the Hilltop and has his sights set on a big year. Beyer has first call on all of Bucci’s starters, including distaffer Made Of Jewels As and open trotter Mostinterestingman, who regularly compete in the track’s $44,000 features.  Beyer took the time to chat with the SOA of NY’s Brandon Valvo about his career so far and his aspirations in the sport. BV: How did you first get involved in harness racing? TB: My dad used to train horses several years ago; that’s how I got into it. I really didn’t get into it until I was probably around 13 or so. I really started to get into it and it just kind of took off from there. It got into my blood and ever since I’ve been right into it. I was out jogging, I just never knew what it was for when I was really young. It just wasn’t something I wanted to go do or anything. I just didn’t realize what it was for.  BV: What was the moment when it clicked that made you realize this was for you? TB: Probably when I was 13 my dad wanted me to go train one for him at the little farm we were at in Illinois and I think ever since that day, I did it once and I was hooked. It was just that easy. The horse was Casino Comp. At the time, she was just very young. I don’t even think she had raced yet. It might have even been her first time training. She turned out to be an alright condition horse at Balmoral and just raced through the conditions, basically. She was an alright horse, made a little money for us.  BV: And when did you first start driving in races? TB: At 16 I started driving qualifiers. I schooled one first for a friend of ours at Balmoral. I schooled a trotter and I just loved that. As soon as I did it, I wanted to just do it all the time. Just the adrenaline rush was awesome.   BV: You mention you’ve worked with some big stables already. Who are some of the nicer horses you’ve gotten to work with so far? TB: When I came to the east coast, I worked with Nancy Johansson. When I came in, JK She’salady was there, but it was at the end of her career. But getting to be around a horse like that, she was a cool horse to see and it was exciting to have a horse like that in the barn. I looked after a horse called Wicked Little Minx. She was a nice little mare, she made a little bit of money for Nancy. Another good little horse we had at the time was Cruzado Dela Noche, who won the International last year. Really cool little horse. Really awesome personality.  BV: Were you there at Yonkers when he won the International Trot? TB: Yes, I was. That was exciting. I’m not a gambling kind of person, but a buddy of mine that was down watching the race, I told him, ‘you know what, I bet this horse will win because he’s a cool little horse, he’s a nice horse, and I know they’ve been prepping him for this race for a long time.’ And sure enough he went out and won.  BV: It looks like this past year, you really started to ramp up the number of starts you were making. TB: Yeah it picked up really well for me, especially the last three months of the year, it picked up really strong at Yonkers. The last couple years, I’ve been working for Noel Daley and just had one or two of my own in the winter time. Noel helped me a ton. He got me a lot of drives for him and for people who saw me drive for him. He gave me a shot in stakes races, too and people saw that and they gave me a shot, too. I would go and drive one or two a week at Yonkers and really just always show up and it’s worked out well for me. A snowball effect happened where it just picked up stronger and stronger and then I picked up Ricky Bucci as a big account and there’s a couple other little guys and it’s just really worked out well. We had a lot of luck and made a lot of good money at the end of the year there. BV: How did you team up with Ricky and get first call on all his horses here at Yonkers? TB: I’m driving all of them now and that’s awesome. I drove one for him and won straight away. He gave me a shot, put me up on a few and we did really well right away and it’s just taken off from there. I listen to what he has to say about them and how he wants to race them. He gives me a lot of freedom to let me do what I want with them. It’s just worked out really well. BV: Do you tend to be on the aggressive side? Do you try to be a little more patient? What’s your style like? TB: It just really depends on the horse and it depends a lot on the draw at Yonkers. If they have the inside, I’m more inclined to be aggressive with them and if they’re mid-pack, it just depends on the horse and what class it is.  BV: Yonkers is not an easy place to break into when you consider the driving colony here. Were you surprised to get such a big account relatively quickly? TB: Honestly, yeah, I was really surprised. It was almost like night and day. Ettore (Annunziata) told him to give me a shot. He came and asked me one night and said, ‘I have a friend of mine who needs a driver, he wants to put you down on a couple.’ I thought I was going to drive maybe one or two for the guy, I didn’t even know who it was. The sheet came out and I was down on three. It was just like a light switch. From that moment, I was driving a bunch really quick after. BV: And even getting drives in the Open Handicaps. Talk a little about Made Of Jewels As and what she’s like to drive and to work with. TB: I really, really love driving that mare. She’s classy and she likes to race from off the pace, which I like to, too a lot of times in the upper conditions. They kind of beat themselves up early and then usually you can sit back and come at the end of it. They pop up and win every once in a while for good money. She’s just a lovely horse to drive, she runs in a little bit, but you just help her through the turns and wait on her and she’ll give you everything. She’ll just fly home. She can fly. You can do whatever you want with her. BV: And what about Mostinterestingman? TB: He is awesome. I really love driving that horse, too. The pair of those two horses are really nice to drive. Mostinterestingman, he’s really nice to drive. He doesn’t really get on a line or anything like that. You can do whatever you want with him. If you want to leave out of there with him, you can and he has no problem with it. If you want to duck and race him off a helmet, he does that just as good. He doesn’t get grabby in a hole or grabby up front. Just two fingers, a really good horse to drive at any time, no matter where you are. BV: You’re a young guy, just getting started. What are your goals for your career? Do you aspire to be a catch driver? A trainer? What path do you see yourself pursuing? TB: I like doing both. I like training and driving. I would like to eventually just catch drive. That’s what I really love to do. But I don’t mind training either. I really enjoy training babies down. I might keep doing that, just have a couple of my own in the winter time and just work with babies. But my main goal is catch driving for sure. That’s what I really love to do and want to do. If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. Live harness racing is featured at Yonkers Raceway every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Harness racing owner Evan Katz makes a habit of perusing the listings on online auction sites. In fact, he checks them almost daily in the hopes of finding another horse to add to his stable. When Katz came across a listing for Itty Bitty in fall 2016, he found a diamond in the rough. Then a freshman, the pacing filly by Always A Virgin out of the Warrior For Peace mare Bananih had 15 starts on the Indiana fair circuit for owner, trainer, and driver Charles Conrad. Itty Bitty earned two wins and another eight seconds and thirds, but it was her finishing ability that caught Katz’s eye. In her final start for Conrad, Itty Bitty came home in :27.4 at the Fayette County Free Fair in Connersville, Indiana. “She showed some really good fair lines in Indiana with some really good final quarters. If you know the tracks there, anything semi-decent is a real fast last quarter,” Katz said. “She was always closing. From the top of the stretch to the wire, she was always passing horses. That’s what you have to look for, horses that finish.” Despite her low opening bid, as a regular user Katz knew that the online auctions are generally quiet until the timer reaches the final few minutes. He waited and waited, but there was little activity. When the auction ended, Katz bought the filly for $8,000. “It’s pretty much sight unseen. You go by the lines and hope the people are being upfront with you,” Katz said. “There’s an offer or a starting bid and in the last 10 minutes, usually people really start to bid. There really wasn’t a whole lot of action on her. “I’m not sure why other people really didn’t go after her,” he continued. “I don’t think the guy who had her realized the potential. She’s really a natural. She’s loves to race.” Katz gave Itty Bitty to Billy Parker and sent her to Monticello for her first start subsequent to the auction. They spotted her in a $3,300 overnight for non-winners of a pari-mutuel race October 5, 2016. Itty Bitty’s rivals proved vastly overmatch as she circled the field and stormed away to an 18-length win. She stopped the clock in 2:00.1 with a :27.3 final quarter. “She just exploded halfway up the backstretch. She was real impressive, she just drew off. Then I realized that she was a little better than I had thought,” Katz said. Shortly after that start, Katz gave Itty Bitty to trainer Andrew Harris, who along with Bob Darrow, bought an ownership interest in the filly. In 70 starts, Itty Bitty has amassed 17 wins, 11 seconds, and 10 thirds good for $220,377. Her biggest victory to date came last Friday (January 11) when she took the $44,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap at Yonkers Raceway. Starting from post three with Jason Bartlett in the sulky, Itty Bitty watched as Wishy Washy Girl took command from post five around the opening turn. Bartlett wanted the lead, however and pulled Itty Bitty entering the backstretch. The pair made the lead in a :27.4 opening quarter and the even-money favorite never looked back.  With Bartlett comfortable in the bike and with a good hold of her, Itty Bitty increased her margin to 2½ lengths past three-quarters. By the time she reached the top of the lane, she increased her advantage to 4 ½. Itty Bitty cruised past the finish 5 ¼ lengths clear of the field in 1:55.  Katz was quick to praise his team for Itty Bitty’s unlikely rise to the top. “Andrew does a great job with her, as with all the horses I have with him,” Katz said. “He deserves a lot of the credit. To keep her sharp, keep her happy. He’s always on top of things. He’s probably the only trainer that talks to me every day and tells me what’s going on. Very honest guy. “The feedback is always good about her,” Katz continued. “She always tries. Every race she tries. She reflects the name; she’s not very big. She just has a big heart.” Itty Bitty will try to double up in Yonkers’ distaff feature as she will start from post seven in this week’s $44,000 handicap. With Bartlett back in the bike, the pair are tepid 5-2 morning line favorites despite the wide assignment.  Itty Bitty’s competition includes last week’s runner up Clear Idea, who makes her second start off a winter freshening and may be better poised to utilize her characteristic early speed. She’s 3-1 on the morning line for Matt Kakaley. Brazuca ships in from the Meadowlands off a third in the Swamp’s top class for distaffers December 28 and drew post three. Ella Michelle, Culinary Delight, Amateur Hour, and Made Of Jewels As complete the field. “I’ve always had a positive outlook on her. I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, but last week she won and he never even popped the plugs and she won in hand,” Katz said. “I think she’ll be alright. She’ll probably be the favorite, so I’m sure she’ll be in play and we’ll hope for a decent trip. If you take off the gate, you’re seventh and where do you go from there?” First post time Friday is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.  By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – When harness racing trainer Wayne Givens entered his star pacer Sicily in the Sam McKee Memorial on the Hambletonian Day undercard, he felt the horse had earned a chance to perform on the big stage. The Art Major son out of the Western Ideal mare Capri Hanover ran up a score of Open wins in Delaware in the year leading up to the $260,000 stakes on August 4 and he even posted a mark of 1:48.2 at Dover Downs December 21, 2017.  However, Sicily was unable to showcase his prowess when he lined up behind the gate at the Meadowlands. Sicily raced at the back of the pack throughout the 1 ¼-mile route and finished last of 12 beaten 49 lengths. Although Sicily was a 72-1 outsider, Givens knew the lack of effort was uncharacteristic of his hard-trying horse. The trainer quickly discovered the horse was suffering from a heart condition. “He had AFib, his heart got out of rhythm,” Givens said. “I’ve only had that ever happen to me two or three times. When their heart gets out of rhythm, they just can’t perform. Oh yes, it is (scary) because you don’t know whether they’re going to recover or not.” After the initial fright, Sicily made a full recovery and Givens hopes he’ll soon be able to take on Grand Circuit competition again. This time, Givens has his sights set on the George Morton Levy Series at Yonkers Raceway.  Givens purchased Sicily out of the 2015 Harrisburg Mixed Sale for $39,000 for owners Legacy Racing and Reginald Hazzard II. The gelding showed promise, having competed in the Breeders Crown at 2 and Empire Breeders Classic at 3, but had not yet become a winner at the Open level. “Most of the time when I go to a sale and buy a horse, I pay a good healthy price and I just hope they stay that good and competitive,” Givens said. “But yeah, (Sicily) turned out to be a lot better. So far, anyway. The classes he was in, he looked competitive and I was just trying to buy a racehorse.” Now 7 years old, Sicily has amassed 23 wins from 109 starts and earned $482,554. However, Givens has never raced Sicily at Yonkers and the gelding went 0-for-5 locally for his prior connections, Ron Burke and Nik Drennan. Before Givens nominates his standout to the track’s signature event for older pacers, he will test the waters in the weekly pacing feature, the $44,000 Open Pace. “I want to see how he goes. I kind of want to put him in that series, the Levy. If he gets around that track, then we’ll plan on racing in that series,” Givens said. Sicily drew post seven Saturday night (January 12) in his first start at Yonkers since November 2015. He is the only horse with recency, as he finished second in the Open at Dover Downs January 3 while each of his seven rivals have been off at least four weeks. Jim Marohn, Jr. will take the place of regular Delaware driver Victor Kirby. “I’m just going to make sure he can get around. He’s a good horse and I just want to make sure he can get around those turns at Yonkers,” Givens said. “He’s a nice horse to drive. He doesn’t have anything about him, you want to stick with the same driver all the time, but (Marohn) will do a good job with him I’m sure.” Sicily’s rivals include 3-1 early favorite Christen Me, who finished second or third in three straight Open Handicaps before Yonkers closed for the holidays. Matt Kakaley will drive the 11-year-old from post two. Air Strike graduated from the 3- and 4-Year-Old Open with the changing of the calendar and drew post five for his first try in the pacing feature. Run Oneover is 9-2 from the pylons off a front-stepping score in a $30,000 overnight Closing Day. Aston Hill Dave, Bellow’s Binge, Quick Asa Trick, and Bettor’s Fire complete the lineup. Although Sicily tends to show speed off the gate – he blasted to the front from post eight in :26.3 last time out – Givens will leave that decision to Marohn.  “He gets behind the gate, he can look across and see how much speed looks like is going to leave inside,” Givens said. “It’s something you can’t really plan on before the race. I probably don’t have to tell him because he can look at the program and see that he leaves good.” Saturday night’s card also features a $44,000 Open Handicap Trot. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.  By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – When Larry Stalbaum was in the process of vetting the purchase of Gina Grace in late 2017, the harness racing trainer watched a replay of the Group 3 Sue Kelly Ladyship Stakes at Menangle, where then 8-year-old mare Culinary Delight got up to defeat his prospect by a half-length in 1:51.4. Stalbaum bought Gina Grace and shipped her to his stable in the U.S. and he thought so highly of her, that he also brought home Culinary Delight. “The only reason I bought her was because she beat Gina Grace,” Stalbaum said. “I gave a lot more (money) for Gina Grace and I had high hopes for her. I watched her beat Gina Grace one time and I took a shot on her and bought her and I like her.” Stalbaum’s pair of New Zealand-bred mares proved productive in 2018. Gina Grace raced in the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series early in the year and finished second in a $40,000 series consolation and earned $106,270 in 40 starts. Culinary Delight did even better, winning eight of her 34 starts, setting a lifetime mark of 1:51.2 at Pocono Downs, and taking home $109,141. “She never faltered. I had a little sickness go through my barn, so all of my foreign horses got a little sick, including her, so we had to take a little break and get them all over that, but she bounced right back and she did fine,” Stalbaum said of Culinary Delight. “I had high hopes for her and if everything holds together, even though she is getting kind of old, she can do a lot of good in these last few years of her career.” Culinary Delight will start her 9-year-old season Friday night (January 11) at Yonkers. The Lis Mara daughter out of the Christian Cullen mare Culinary Affair will look to add her first local $44,000 distaff feature to her resume.  Culinary Delight completed her final race in Australian last March and she qualified for Stalbaum April 10. The trainer quickly realized his latest acquisition had a preferred style of racing and training. “She’s a little over aggressive, so I try to keep her calm,” he said. “I try not to leave with her because she gets a little over aggressive real easy. I think she’s a lot better from behind than she is leaving. She’s very, very big, she’s kind of large. She doesn’t like a lot of work, but she shows up when I race her.” Culinary Delight began her stateside campaign with two straight wins in local overnights and a runner-up finish in the Filly and Mare Open May 4. Stalbaum took her upstate over the summer and fall, where she became a regular face in the distaff opens at Tioga and Saratoga.  In her most recent outing at the Spa December 14, Culinary Delight tracked the leaders from third, pulled first-over at the half, and wore down the competition to post a 1:54.2 win with Stalbaum in the driver’s seat. The race demonstrated one of Culinary Delight’s best qualities, as her trainer explains. “She can take a lot of air. It doesn’t matter to her,” he said. “Every time I’ve raced her and left hard, she hasn’t been quite as good, so she’s a lot better if I don’t use her early. I can pull her whenever I want to.  “I just float off the car and as soon as they line up and slow down, I just pull her,” he continued. “It didn’t matter, she just kept coming. The stretch is so short there, you have to be close. She never gives up. She has a lot of fight in her. I really, really like her. She’s a nice horse.” Culinary Delight will start from post position four in Friday’s feature and is a 7-1 chance on the morning line with Stalbaum in the sulky. Her competition includes Clear Idea in post two, who will surely leave the gate and at 9-2 early odds and Amateur Hour, who drew the inside and is 7-2 after an off-the-pace victory here December 14. Itty Bitty, Wishy Washy Girl, Dudesalady, Best Of Jenna, and Made Of Jewels AS complete the lineup.  Culinary Delight’s midpack starting position is ideal, according to her trainer. “Slide her over and see how the race works out,” Stalbaum said. “She’s ready, she’ll do whatever I ask her to do. We’ll see how the race unfolds.” Stalbaum hopes Culinary Delight will be competitive at the Hilltop. Although he never sets plans for his horses in stone, he anticipates keeping her at Yonkers for the foreseeable future. He is optimistic she can make an impact in the lucrative local feature. “I’ll probably keep her there a while and see how it goes. I bounce my horses around, take them a little bit of everywhere. I don’t have a set schedule. Wherever they fit, that’s where I take them,” Stalbaum said. “I do have high hopes for her, I think maybe we can stay there for a while, do some good, and make some big money. That’s what I’m hoping for.” First post time Friday is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.  By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – When harness racing trainer Erv Miller went to the Tattersalls July Sale with owner John Koliopoulos, they didn’t intend to come home with Air Strike. The 4-year-old Always A Virgin son impressed at 2, winning a $75,000 Indiana bred stakes at Hoosier Park and dead-heating in the $147,200 Kindergarten Classic at the Meadowlands. But with unimpressive resumes at 3 and 4, Air Strike didn’t even make Miller’s short list. However, as Miller stood around the sales ring watching horse after horse sell for more than he could stomach, he noticed Air Strike in the ring. Bidding maxed out at $26,000, a price the trainer couldn’t refuse.  “All the ones I looked at were bringing too much money,” Miller said. “I knew the horse a little bit from racing in Indiana, so I knew he was a high-ability kind of horse. I knew he must have some kind of problem because he hadn’t shown much at that time, but for $26,000, I thought I could put him in a claimer at Yonkers, so I just took a shot. “Most of the horses I was trying to buy that day I was trying to look at ahead of time and get a feel for what I was buying, but I didn’t look at that horse,” he continued. “We were very fortunate to find him the way we did, to come across him like that because he wasn’t the horse I went there to buy, but if the price is right, you do that sometimes.” Despite their unlikely pairing, Miller was immediately impressed with Air Strike. He won his debut for his new connections in an $11,000 overnight at Pocono July 24 and followed it up with a victory at Yonkers for $17,500 the next week. Air Strike went wire-to-wire in the $35,000 4-year-old open handicap pace August 18, but was unable to duplicate his success at that level in his next four tries. Miller regrouped and sent Air Strike to Hoosier Park. “When we bought him, at first he seemed like he was OK because he was down in class and then he got to where he didn’t race as good because he was up in class,” Miller said. “I sent him out to Indiana and the last start in Indiana he just started coming back around. We brought him back and he fit the low class again, and that’s how started back there.” Air Strike finished off-the-board in his three Indiana starts, but won two straight races at Pocono in October while down in class. Then the light-bulb went off. “He’s a really nice, big, strong horse. A good sound horse, too. He had a splint bothering him, so we worked on that some and got him a little sounder. Ever since we did that, he just keeps getting better every time we race him.” Air Strike returned to the 4-year-old open November 3 and after setting a :26.3 opening panel, went on to record a 7 ¾-length romp in 1:52.1.  “That’s about when he turned around,” Miller commented. “We’d worked on that splint a little before that and he just got a little sounder and everything went good for him. He’s always good on the front.”  Air Strike finished second to Mac’s Jackpot in his next start when handicapped by post seven, but recorded a 7-length score when he started from post five November 24. He was fifth from the outside December 1, but last time out racked up another win in the class from post five. He’s won 12 races this year and earned $139,825, pushing his career tally to $285,815. His success on the small track surprised his trainer. “I think he likes the smaller track now, now that he’s grown up,” Miller said. “It did (surprise) me a little bit because I watched his replays after I bought him that day and thought, ‘man, he doesn’t get around Yonkers very good. He struggles a little.’ I was a little surprised. I think it was just a maturity thing.” With the impending changing of the calendar, Yonkers’ 2018 racing season is coming to a close. This Saturday (December 15), Air Strike will get his final chance to compete in the $35,000 4-year-old open. He will start from post seven as the 5-2 morning line favorite, but unlike his prior outside efforts, rival Mac’s Jackpot isn’t drawn inside of him. Instead, Air Strike will contend with Rock N Blue, Treasure Mach, Aston Hill Dave, Machiavelli, Odds On Delray, and McSpidey. “It’s a good class to be in. It’s too bad it’s about to go away from him because he really does fit that class well,” Miller said. “It’s a little tougher when he’s got the outside like he does this week, but hopefully he’ll be OK. He’s better than he was and I think he’ll just keep getting better. A lot of people say it takes a certain kind of horse to compete at Yonkers and right now it looks like he might be that certain kind of horse. “Hopefully next year he can go to the Levy and just get better and better,” he continued. “We’re going to give him a little break here and point him toward that race. I think it just depends on how he comes out of it, but he’s made a lot of progress so far, so if he keeps making a lot of progress, I know there’s some good horses in there, but the way he’s gone so far, he really likes Yonkers and hopefully that’s what he’ll step up to.” Saturday night’s card also features a $44,000 Open Handicap Pace. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.  By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – A few hours before the start of the Matron Stakes for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings, trainer Jeff Gillis found himself stuck in traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike. Sleet, snow, and freezing rain made the typical 3 ½-hour drive to Dover Downs a 5 ½-hour ordeal and Gillis was in a race against the clock to get The Downtown Bus to the track in time to avoid scratching out of the $193,750 stakes. “The turnpike was a disaster,” Gillis said. “I wasn’t even sure I was going to make Lasix. Anything after that was a bonus.” Gillis and The Downtown Bus arrived at the track with just 30 minutes remaining in his window to receive the race day medication. Three hours later, Gillis stared up at a television screen in the paddock as his 19-1 longshot charged into a blistering pace and ended up on the far outside in a three-way photo finish with This Is The Plan along the pylons and Jimmy Freight between horses.  “The announcer called the two on the inside, (This Is The Plan) and Jimmy Freight, so I said to someone under the TV, ‘is there an inside bias here,’ because to the naked eye, I thought he might have gotten up,” Gillis said. “And then, when the announcer called it that way, I thought we were third.” The Downtown Bus did get up in time, but so did This Is The Plan. The pair tied for a dead heat victory in 1:49.1 over the sloppy track, a lifetime mark for both horses. The victory improved The Downtown Bus’s record to 11-for-25 with $287,837 earned. Gillis bred The Downtown Bus with longtime owner Ellen Ott and was overjoyed to see the Mach Three gelding win his first start outside Canada. “I was ecstatic,” he said. “We go back a couple generations with this horse and it was a big thrill.” The Downtown Bus is out of Slimsplace, a mare who has special meaning to Gillis. She is named after his father, Raymond “Slim” Gillis, who was killed in a car accident in June 2007. The mare by Artsplace out of the Jennas Beach Boy mare She’s Beachy earned $139,019 on the track for Gillis and became a part of the family. “I don’t desire to be in the breeding industry, but there’s some sentimental value. She was born six weeks before my dad was tragically killed in a car accident,” Gillis explained. “I always liked her, I liked the family, she’s quality, so it made it easier as well.” The Downtown Bus is Slimsplace’s second foal to race and the first to win a stakes race. The gelding is similar to his dam in temperament and complexion. “She was kind of relaxed. He’s got kind of a hair-trigger almost. To jog him, you have to take a whip or pack a lunch, one or the other because he mopes along as slow as can possibly be,’ Gillis explained. “He wears earplugs in a race because once you stir him up, he’s gone. He’s a little bit funny like that. Build-wise, they’re a little bit similar. They’re not very tall, but they have a lot of substance to them, they’re thick and muscular.” Gillis kept The Downtown Bus in Canada at 2 and 3, racing in Ontario Sire Stakes. He was winless in seven starts last year after suffering a series of minor setbacks, but put everything together this season. After finishing third in the Ontario Sire Stakes Final in October, Gillis tried his luck abroad. “I would have to be absolutely, supremely over-the-moon, in love with a horse that’s Ontario bred to pay him into stakes in the United States prior to the Super Final in Canada,” the trainer said. “You almost have to bypass a goal and I don’t particularly see the value in it, so I didn’t stake him that way.” After his successful stateside debut in the Matron, The Downtown Bus will test the waters on the half-mile track at Yonkers Raceway Saturday night (November 24) in the $35,000 3- and 4-Year-Old Open Handicap Pace. He drew post seven and with Tyler Buter in the sulky, is the 3-1 morning line favorite. The start worked out as Gillis is in the area to start Yonkers International Trot participant Will Take Charge in the TVG FFA Trot at the Meadowlands. “He’s not an overly big horse, he should get over a half pretty good and I do plan on racing him there in the future. This is intended to be his final start of the year,” Gillis said. “I thought it was worthwhile to see how he liked the track and whether there was something there for him in the future, just to see how he gets over it and have a bit more info before I put him away for the year.” The Downtown Bus’s rivals include Mac’s Jackpot, a winner of two straight including a wire-to-wire score in this class last time out. He is the 7-2 second choice from post eight. Air Strike finished second to Mac’s Jackpot two weeks ago and is 5-1 from post five for Brent Holland and Erv Miller. Machiavelli, The Wall, Pretty Boy Swag, Maroma Beach, and Avatar J complete the field. “I don’t really know a lot of those horses very well. The seven-hole on a half is never ideal, but he is the morning line favorite,” Gillis reasoned. “He looks like he should be competitive in there, we’ll see how it turns out. He’s pretty versatile. Tyler can leave with him or take back. If we take back, obviously we’re at the mercy of the pace, so we’ll see. “I am curious to see how he gets over the track,” Gillis continued. “It’s maybe something that we’ll look to down the road, maybe he’ll be a Levy-type horse. Who knows?” Saturday’s 12-race card also features a $44,000 Open Handicap Pace and a $44,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.  By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Gokudo Hanover joined the ranks of harness racing trainer Scott Di Domenico’s stable last fall and quickly became one of the top horses in his barn. He won the local Open Handicap Pace at Yonkers Raceway twice and placed another two times over the winter. Di Domenico thought enough of the gelding to enter him in the first leg of the George Morton Levy Series March 17. However, the day before the race, Di Domenico found Gokudo Hanover in a state of shock. “He jogged that morning and he was OK,” Di Domenico recalled. “Around lunchtime, he got violent. He was really uncharacteristically in pain and uncomfortable. That’s certainly not part of his temperament, so we shipped him immediately to the Mid-Atlantic Clinic. “It was terrible, especially a horse of his personality. He’s very friendly, quiet, nice, real pleasurable horse. To see him up and down and in a lot of pain was certainly alarming.” Gokudo Hanover suffered from an episode of colic and required emergency surgery. A portion of his intestine was removed, and surgeons also discovered and took out a non-cancerous tumor. Gokudo Hanover pulled through, but the budding pacing star went to the sidelines. “He missed quite a bit of time. He was probably out two to three months just not doing much of anything. Just healing up and making sure everything was OK,” Di Domenico said. “It was a little bit questionable of how he was going to come back. It seems like most horses who have that don’t come back quite as well as they did before they had it. “When he started back to work and back on the track, he had no issues of any sort that would lead you to believe anything was out of the ordinary. He jogged back, trained back, did everything right,” the trainer said. With a significant amount of money still on his card from his early-season success, Di Domenico had no choice but to bring Gokudo Hanover back in Open company, finishing off-the-board in two starts in the Great Northeast Open Series this August.  The 6-year-old posted two victories at Freehold in September before returning to Yonkers. The Cam’s Card Shark son worked his way back up the class-ladder, his comeback culminating with a pair of wins in the $35,000 Preferred and $44,000 Open Handicap Pace November 10 and 17, respectively. “We took him to Freehold and he kind of woke up down there and it’s been smooth sailing since,” Di Domenico said. “It’s really gratifying to see where he was, to see how much fun we had early with him, then to the nightmarish day where he was in so much pain, shut him down, bring him back. It’s fulfilling and most of all, to see the horse overcome such struggle is most gratifying.” Gokudo Hanover left from post five in his latest win, but Techtor Hanover and Mach It So were faster into the first turn, leaving Gokudo Hanover parked outside in third. Dan Dube put the whip on Gokudo Hanover’s tail and forged to the lead in :26.2.  Gokudo Hanover sped through a half-mile in :55.1 and soon felt pressure from the looming first-over favorite Mach It So. Dube kicked out the plugs entering the backstretch and raised the lines high in his left hand as he urged the gelding on with the whip in his right. Mach It So reached Gokudo Hanover’s wheel past three-quarters in 1:23, but wouldn’t get any closer. Under a sustained drive, Gokudo Hanover turned back his rival and kicked away to a length win in 1:52. “It was a big mile. The front end didn’t hold up great Saturday night. He went some big fractions. He’s been really, really good,” Di Domenico said. “The other thing about that horse, he’s one of the horses that just loves Yonkers. He really, really enjoys that track, he gets around it so handily and that’s where he does his best work.” Gokudo Hanover will try to double-up in the Open this week. He will start from post six as a 7-1 shot in the $44,000 feature. Bettor Memories was second in this race two weeks ago and is the 3-1 favorite from post four while last week’s Preferred winner Always At My Place is 7-2 from post five. Techtor Hanover, last week’s runner-up, drew post three and is 9-2. Theartofconfusion, Soho Lennon, Great Vintage, and Mach It So complete the lineup. “I think he’s up against it,” Di Domenico admitted. “There’s some speed inside of him, probably in a spot where he has to race from off the pace, but that’s pretty common when you win the Open and you have to move to the outside. When you’re racing for the kind of money they race for and have a horse of that caliber, you take everything in stride and just try to handle every week differently.” Saturday’s 12-race card also features a $44,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace and a $35,000 3- and 4-Year Old Open Handicap Pace. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.  YONKERS SETS SUNDAY POST TIME, ‘DOUBLE’ INFO Yonkers Raceway’s Sunday matinee this weekend (Nov. 25th) shall offer a first post of 11:10 AM. Races 1 through 7 go as those added-distance ‘French’ trots, with post times as such… 1st  – 11:10 AM 2nd  – 11:40 AM 3rd  – 12:10 PM 4th  – 12:40 PM 5th – 1:10 PM 6th – 1:40 PM 7th – 2:10 PM Post time for the 12th-race finale is 3:50 PM.    Sunday’s ‘New York, New York Double’ is comprised of the first race from Aqueduct (post time 12:20  PM) and the fifth race from Yonkers (post time 1:10 PM). Program pages accompany this release.   After this weekend, the next Sunday matinee is Dec. 2nd (post time TBA).    By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – When Casie Coleman drew up the plans for McWicked’s 2018 campaign, Yonkers Raceway wasn’t among the potential targets for the star pacer. In fact, no half-mile tracks were, in part because Coleman believes McWick d is better on a big track and in part because owner Ed James of S S G Stable doesn’t like to race his horses on half-mile ovals. Coleman was surprised then, when James expressed interest in racing in the $250,000 Dan Rooney Invitational Pace on the Yonkers International Trot undercard, especially since the timing of the race could upset McWicked’s path to the Breeders Crown. Despite the risk, Coleman changed course with McWicked to make the race, carded as the 11th of 12 on today’s program (October 13). “It wasn’t on the schedule at all. I wasn’t planning to get invited to it. It’s nice we did, obviously,” Coleman said. “My plan was to ship him home to Canada Sunday morning and have a week off to get ready for the Breeders Crown; that was the original plan that I thought was going to be perfect.  “When we got invited, you can’t turn it down. I didn’t think the owner would want to go. If the Breeders Crown goes eliminations, he’s going to be at six races in a row going into that Crown final, so it’s not something I would recommend,” she continued. “I’m really praying the Open Pace will go right to the final and then we’re perfect if that happens, but if they go elims, we’re going to be scared to have a tired horse going into the Crown final. The owner, I told him about it and he wanted to go. He said, ‘we’ll take a chance,’ so we’re going and we’ll hope for the best.” McWicked is the top earning Standardbred in North America this year with $1,053,864 in the bank. Wins in the Ben Franklin Final, Haughton Memorial, Canadian Pacing Derby, and a 1:46.2 lifetime best score in the Allerage Farms Open Pace last time out at the Red Mile October 6 earned him an invitation to the Rooney. It’s the best season the 7-year-old McArdle stallion has enjoyed since his sophomore year and has bolstered his record to 30-for-89 with $3,375,376 in career earnings.  “He was really good last year. He wasn’t this good, but he didn’t get into a lot of those big races because they went by money earned on the year and he didn’t have any money earned on the year,” Coleman said. “Now that he’s got money on his card, he’s been in all the big dances and he’s as strong now as he’s ever been, no doubt. He thinks he’s 3 again.” In his most recent start, McWicked raced off frantic fractions of :26.1 and :52.1 set by Western Fame and Heaven Rocks. He followed Filibuster Hanover around the final turn and tipped wide past three-quarters in 1:19.1. McWicked struck the front with a furlong to pace and held off parked-out rival Lazarus in the final sixteenth to win by ¾ lengths. “I couldn’t have been any happier with the way it set up. ‘Wicked’ seems to get a lot of tough trips, he’s first-over a lot. He seems to respond to it, he always races really well obviously,” Coleman said. “When I saw the fast fractions up front and he was second-over, Lazarus ended up being parked the mile, so that was to our advantage. I was really happy for the way it was setting up. “He’s been pacing some pretty big miles and that track was the fastest track I’ve seen of any track,” she continued. “That track was lightning. I was definitely expecting a big, big mile and with the fractions, it set up to go a big mile.” Despite McWicked’s torrid winning and beaten times – he’s been sub-1:50 in all but one of his 2018 starts at a mile and sub-1:49 in five – McWicked is a lazy horse in training and until recently, was a muted personality in the barn. “He’s always been a cool horse. As a 3-year-old, he was a really quiet horse. He made no noise and you would never even know he was in the barn. Now, he’s doing double duty, he’s breeding and racing, so he’s squealing and roaring and he knows he’s the boss, basically,” said Coleman, who’s trained McWicked for the bulk of his career. “There’s not many horses I’ve had as long as him except for back when I had claimers because the other ones either go to be broodmares or stallions,” she said. “He’s been around a long time. It’s pretty cool. We always call him the mascot. There’s not many mascots that are in the barn that have made $3.3 million. We call him the mascot because he’s been there forever. “To drive he’s an absolute sweetheart. If you want to go a mile in 2:25, he’ll go in 2:40. He’s very, very lazy. When you watch him race, he doesn’t want much part of the race until they’re past the half. He’s always gapped out and that’s just him,” she continued. “As a 3-year-old, he used to leave more, but this year, he’s very lazy. He wouldn’t hurt a fly, he’s a nice horse, he just squeals and roars a lot, makes a lot of noise, makes sure everybody knows he’s there.” Only $180,990 of McWicked’s career earnings have come on the half-mile track. He finished fifth in the Little Brown Jug and third in the Messenger at 3. At 5, McWicked finished third in the Molson Pace before finally winning on the half at age 6; he took a $30,000 overnight at Yonkers in his 2017 debut March 11 and won a leg of the Levy Series a month later. He finished last in the Levy Final April 22 for trainer Steve Elliot and hasn’t raced on the half since. “He gets around the half fine, he’s good-gaited. I haven’t been to the half that much with him,” Coleman said. “When I went to the Jug, I was extremely excited about McWicked. I thought he would fly over the half and he was no good there, I wasn’t happy with him, he was flat. I never really did find out what it was.  “I’m hoping he’s fine,” she continued. “I don’t see why he’ll have an issue with the half because he’s very good-gaited and he’ll get around anything, but he’s definitely not at his best on the half like he is on a big track.” McWicked drew post 2 in the Dan Rooney Pace and is the 2-1 morning line favorite with regular reinsman Brian Sears in the sulky. Nuclear Dragon is 5-2 from the inside off a front-stepping 1:50.2 score at Dayton while Endeavor to McWicked’s immediate outside enters off a similar score at Hoosier.  Bit Of A Legend, who finished second to Wiggle It Jiggleit in this race in 2015, will start from post 4 off a win in the local $44,000 Open Handicap Pace last out. Evenin Of Pleasure, Mach It So, and Always At My Place complete the lineup after the late sick scratch of Lazarus Friday morning.  “I have no idea what Brian will do on the half,” Coleman admitted. “The rail horse has a ton of speed and the three horse has a ton of speed. I don’t know what Brian will do, but as long as we get away midpack somewhere, I’m happy. I just hope that we can get our picture taken again.” Today’s card also features the $1,000,000 Yonkers International Trot and the $250,000 Harry Harvey Invitational Trot. First post time is 1 p.m. For entries to the card, click here. For more information on the International Trot and its participants, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Sunday morning (October 7), there was no time for celebration in Chris Oakes’ barn on the backstretch at the Red Mile. Homicide Hunter, who set a world record for the fastest trotting mile ever the afternoon before, stood in his stall after going out to jog several laps with caretaker Therese Pierce.  Despite his remarkable achievement on the track, in the barn, Homicide Hunter was barely noticeable, standing silently in a dark corner of his stall without so much as a fuss as Pierce tended to him with the stall door wide open. “Not crazy. We went out for dinner afterwards, shared a few laughs, and we’re back to work today,” Oakes said as he looked admiringly into the trotter’s stall. “You can’t dwell on it too long, we have to work now, we have to keep going.” Homicide Hunter shipped back to Oakes’ Pennsylvania farm this week and will ship to Yonkers Friday to arrive in time for the 24-hour detention barn ahead of Saturday’s Harry Harvey Trot, a $250,000 invitational on the Yonkers International Trot undercard. The stakes will mark Homicide Hunter’s first local start since August 12 and his first start after setting the record. “He has a 10-hour ship back to Pennsylvania, then gets hauled Friday up to Yonkers, race, then be back to Pocono for the Breeders Crown. It’s a lot to ask of these horses,” Oakes said. “He’ll be getting a nice, easy week in the field. I’ve got a pool at the farm right inside the barn, they’ll get swimming a lot and get turned out. That’s what he really enjoys.” Homicide Hunter’s easy week comes off a grueling schedule. After winning the $100,000 Great Northeast Open Series Final over 10 furlongs at Pocono September 2, Homicide Hunter had a tune up at Pocono September 12 before shipping to the Midwest. He finished third in the Caesars Trotting Classic at Hoosier Park September 21 and fourth in the Dayton Trotting Derby September 28 before heading to the Red Mile for the Allerage Farms Open Trot. The Allerage set up perfectly for Homicide Hunter, who has come from off the pace in all of his recent stakes tries. Lindy The Great put up a quarter in :26.2 and after taking the lead heading up the backstretch, Will Take Charge passed the half in :53.2.  Homicide Hunter followed Lindy The Great and Pinkman in the flow third over to three-quarters in 1:22. Brian Sears tipped Homicide Hunter four-wide into the stretch and with a :26 final quarter under with minimal urging from the Hall of Fame driver, Homicide Hunter swept past the field to win by 3 lengths in 1:48.4.  Oakes thought Homicide Hunter could trot sub-1:50, but never expected a world record. He was thrilled to share the moment with owners Al and Michelle Crawford. The win improved Homicide Hunter’s record to 38 wins from 75 starts and boosted his earnings to $1,463,927. “I knew instantly that was a world record. I’m just very happy for the horse and for the owners, too,” Oakes said. “They bring so much to the game and you like to see good people like that do good. When they spend the money they do on horses like this, it’s nice to see things go right. “Luckily, they were on time in front of him, they were getting down there. That helped,” he continued. “The horses that were in front of him were racing hard and of course, he hadn’t been used yet. So, when he did get free, he was loaded.” Homicide Hunter raced barefoot in his record-setting mile, a decision Oakes grappled with before the race. It was his second time racing barefoot for Oakes; the only other instance came in the same race one year earlier when Homicide Hunter was second to Hannelore Hanover in a 1:49.2 mile. The shoes were back on Sunday morning, as they will be for his start in the Harry Harvey Trot. “The track was extremely fast; the conditions were perfect,” Oakes said. “I was contemplating whether I was going to take his shoes off or not, but if you don’t do it on a day like that, you’ll never do it. I thought it was the right conditions and he was OK with it. “This year, the only I thing I did differently was I put no boots on him at all. He wears trotting boots behind, like most of them do, the only thing I put on his hind legs were two wraps, keep it as light as possible, and it worked,” he said. The Harry Harvey Trot will be a completely different style of racing for Homicide Hunter than what he encountered at the Red Mile. He will shift from the mile track to the half, will face a big field of nine rivals, and will stretch back out to 10 furlongs. Although Homicide Hunter won a local Open Handicap Trot at 1 ¼-miles from off the pace earlier this year, Oakes doesn’t want to be too far back against a tough field Saturday. “He’s OK with Yonkers. Big change and maybe even a change in strategies too,” Oakes said. “I don’t know if we can be that far back at Yonkers, it’s a different style of racing there, a little bit more speed involved.” Homicide Hunter drew post 10 and with Sears back in the bike, is the 3-1 morning line favorite in the Harry Harvey Trot. He’ll face Guardian Angel As, the runner up in the Allerage for Annette Lorentzon, who drew post 3 and is 4-1 early. Warrawee Roo, who finished second in the Dayton Trotting Derby last out, is 6-1 from the inside post. The field also includes a host of recent local winners, including Top Flight Angel, In Secret, Yes Mickey, Gruden, NF Happenstance, Sortie and DW’s NY Yank. After his world record score, a win in the Harry Harvey Trot heading into the Breeders Crown would make an impressive campaign for the 6-year-old gelding. Oakes is just happy to be along for the ride. “This horse was a good horse long before I ever laid hands on him. His 3-year-old year in a very tough program in Indiana, this horse won 16 out of 18 (for Curt Grummel) and that tells you right there what kind of horse you’re dealing with. He’s a winner. He’s won half of his lifetime starts. It’s really all about him. I’m glad to be part of him." Saturday’s card also features the $1,000,000 Yonkers International Trot and the $250,000 Dan Rooney Invitational Pace. First post time is 1 p.m. For entries to the card, click here. For more information on the International Trot and its participants, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

1 to 16 of 102
1 2 3 4 5 Next »