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WASHINGTON, PA, Aug. 25, 2018 — Michelle “The Belle” Ruvola (Better Call Saul) and Stephen “You’re Never Too” Oldford (Kaffir Kemp) dueled for more than 1/2 mile Friday at The Meadows before Ruvola drew away in the stretch to capture a $10,000 leg of the C.K. G. Billings Amateur Trot. With Ruvola parked out and Oldford refusing to release any challengers, the stage for the battle was set. Despite the demanding trip, Ruvola surged late to defeat Oldford by 4 lengths in 1:57.4 for trainer Christ Hershberger and owner Wolf Creek Farm. The 6-year-old Muscle Massive-Kelsies Song gelding pushed his career bankroll to $131,338. Tom “Mayhem” Svrcek (Fair Glider) and “Chicago” George Bonomo (Time Outa Jail) completed the ticket. With his tough journey, it wasn’t clear that Better Call Saul would have anything left for the drive. “I wasn’t too sure, but he felt strong all the way,” Ruvola said. “So I was hoping, and he just wouldn’t give it up. I asked him a bit, but when I asked, he gave.” It was the third straight Billings leg in which Ruvola has out-finished Bonomo, her father. Despite retaining family bragging rights, she indicated she wouldn’t lord it over her dad. “I feel bad about that, kind of,” she said. “It’s a horse race — we’re not father and daughter out there; we’re fellow racers. But I won’t (needle him). I’m nice.” SHAWN JOHNSTON WINS PONY HOP CHARITY CHALLENGE   With a late lunge, Shawn Johnston surged across the finish line and captured Friday's Pony Hop Charity Challenge at The Meadows, earning $500 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Western Pennsylvania. The event, staged by The Meadows and the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association, matched eight of the track's regular drivers bouncing for their favorite charities. Dan Rawlings finished second, winning $250 for Asperger and Autism Network, while Jeremy Indof's show finish netted $150 for American Cancer Society. Also participating were Dave Palone (Standardbred Retirement Foundation), Mike Wilder (Pacing for the Cure), Jim Pantaleano (Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center), Brady Brown (St. Jude Hospital) and Wilbur Yoder (New Vocations). by Evan Pattak, for The Meadows

Harness racing's greatest traveling roadshow, the CKG Billings Amateur Driving Series, moved to the swift double oval at Saratoga Raceway in Saratoga Springs, NY for a what looked like very competitive 8-horse trot in the Eastern region and when the judges hung the official sign "Touch Tony" Ciuffetelli emerged victorious with Someway Same Hall in 1:59.2. But as it turned out it the final result was never in doubt as Ciuffetelli and his trotter sped the lead and bottomed-out the field and coasted to a 1-1/2 length triumph after leading by 10 lengths at the three quarters. When the starter said go Little Big Rigs and driver "Buffalo Bob" Davis went for the lead from the four-hole only to be seriously challenged on the outside by Ciuffetelli and Someway Same Hall. Davis finally grabbed leather and allowed Ciuffetelli to take command in the :28.1 first quarter. Someway Same Hall was so wound-up that he opened eight lengths on the field as he trotted by the halfway point in a swift :56.4. But "Tough Tony" just allowed his horse to continue forward and at the three quarters they had a 10-length lead. That margin shrank to five lengths at he top of the stretch and despite a :32.3 final panel they were home free as Little Big Rigs closed the gap but he was relegated to second place. EJ's Last Dance and Billings president "Tony "the Capo" Verruso, who were 17-lengths off the lead at the half, rallied to finish third just 3-1/2 lengths behind the winner. The attending crowd knew the best horse in the race was Someway Same Hall and they sent him away as the odds-on favorite and he returned a $3.60 mutuel. The winner, a 7-year old altered son of Cash Hall, is owned by the Tic Racing Stable and trained by Ciuffetelli. It was "Tough Tony's fifth seasonal driving victory and the 56th of his amateur driving career. by John Manzi, for the Billings Series

Greenville, Ohio-On the pleasant evening of August 22nd ,with temperatures hovering in the mid-70's, seven venerable trotters lined-up behind the mobile starting gate each with the task of trying to win the $2800 Billings Trot over the finely manicured racing facility at the Darke County Fair. After an extremely competitive stretch duel Mike "the Mortgage Man" Mitchell and his BL Class Act emerged victorious, albeit by a head, over the 1-2 betting favorite, Body Of Work, driven by Billings newcomer, Alesha "the Hoosier Hotshot" Binkley in a 2:01.1 clocking Mitchell sent BL Class Act to the lead from the two-hole and they got away with a soft :31 second quarter with Body Of Work tight on his back. "We left fast and my old guy took the turn easily and we had command at the quarter in a soft 30 seconds ," Mitchell recalled. "When we were heading to the half Dean Beachy challenged with Celebrity Lambo and we raced head-to- head past the three quarters and all the way through the final turn. In the stretch I kept driving my horse and although we were momentarily headed he was still strong enough to rebuff the late challenge from Body Of Work (Alesha Binkley). And after the race my horse wasn't even breathing hard. Actually I was breathing harder than him!" Dean "What Am I Bid" Beachy, back in the Billings Series after hiatus, faded and finished third with Celebrity Lambo. BL Class Act, an 11-year-old altered son of Classic Photo, is owned and trained by Mitchell. Since purchasing him as a 4-year-old the classy veteran has won almost $300,000 for the longtime amateur reinsman. Sent off at odds of over 6-1, BL Class Act paid $13.40. And for Mike Mitchell it was his 39th career driving victory. by John Manzi, for the Billings Series

Nichols, NY--The ever-traveling CKG Billings Amateur Driving Series moved on to Tioga Downs for a trotting contest and it turned out to be ladies night when Annie "Get Your Gun" Stoebe used the front-end route with Uriel to hold off "Lady Jennifer" Lappe and Celebrity Blue Chip for a 1:56.4 victory which marked the first time this season--maybe ever-- that women finished one-two in a Billings event. When the wings of the mobile gate folded Stoebe wasted no time sending Uriel to the front and they had a two-length lead on Celebrity Blue Chip at the first quarter which was trotted in :281. When Stoebe began to slow the pace "Buffalo Bob" Davis , who was sitting third, was out and going with Connie Keeper and they ranged alongside Uriel but as they did Miss Annie stepped on the gas and Uriel trotted the third quarter in :28.0 which not only put away Connie Keeper but opened daylight on Lappe's charge as the timer flashed 1:27.3. When the field headed down the lane Uriel had two lengths on Celebrity Blue Chip as Connie Keeper faded. At the wire Uriel was one-length winner. Celebrity Blue Chip held second and Connie Keeper finished third, seven lengths behind the winner. It was the fourth victory of the season for Uriel, a 7-year-old Explosive Matter gelding who returned a $13.40 mutuel. He's owned and trained by Stoebe who scored her fourth seasonal driving victory. by John Manzi, for the Billings Series      

Columbus, Ohio-- Harness racing's greatest traveling roadshow, the CKG Billings Amateur Driving Series, made a stop at Scioto Downs on Friday (Aug. 17) for a $7500 trotting contest in the Billings mid-west region and when the judges hung the official sign Steve "You're Never Too" Oldford and Kaffir Kemp emerged victorious in a hard-fought stretch duel when they turned back Better Call Saul and driver Michelle "The Belle" Ruvola in a time of 1:57.2. Sent off as the 3-2 betting favorite Oldford sent his charge to the lead from the five -hole and they led seven others by the first stanza in :28.1. When Oldford tapped the breaks as the field headed to the halfway point Michelle Ruvola angled Better Call Saul off the pylons and they traveled alongside Kaffir Kemp as the duo passed the halfway point in :58.1. The two trotters were eyeball to eyeball past the three quarters in 1:26.4 and were still side by side through the lane. In the deep stretch Oldford's trotter hung amazingly tough and wouldn't allow Ruvola's charge to get the lead and at the wire Kaffir Kemp was the winner, just a head better than Better Call Saul Stemilt Touch finished third for Kelly "Sky" Walker. Ten days ago at Northfield Park Better Call Saul powered to the lead in the homestretch but this week his overland trip caused him to be a bit short at the wire. Or maybe Kaffir Kemp was just too mjch for him. The race winner is a 9-year old altered son of Angus Hall owned by Oldford Racing LLC and trained by Terry Deters. It was the veteran trotter's 6th seasonal triumph and 26th of his illustrious career. For Oldford, it marked his 136th career driving victory. by John Manzi, for the Billings Series  

There's no doubt that the addition of slots at the pari-mutuel racetracks in Ohio has been a boon to the industry there. Not only are horsemen racing for bigger purses it has also fueled a resurgence of sorts in the amateur movement there, as well as in Pennsylvania, where slots have been the lay of the land for a few years now. On Wednesday, August 8 at Northfield Park in Ohio, a solid 10-horse field of amateur drivers each took a seat behind spirited steeds and raced for an $,8000 purse and when the dust had cleared "Michelle the Belle" Ruvola stuck it to the boys-her dad included- when she guided Better Call Saul to an easy 3-1/2 triumph in a very creditable 1:59.1 clocking. After starting from the 4-hole Michelle settled her trotter in along the pylons in third position as "Marvelous Marvin" Raber and Mikey Hanover showed the way by the quarter in :29.3. Heading to the half-way point she moved Better Call Saul first-up and they slowly kept moving forward. Third at the half, second at the three quarters, and still second -by two lengths- at the top of the stretch Mrs. Ruvola finally gave her trotter his head and "Saul" put it in high fear and rambled on to an easy victory over Mikey Hanover. Sneaky Sam finished third for Gregg "Fast Greggy" Keidel and Michelle's dad, George Bonomo, was fourth with Time Outa Jail. Contacted via email Michelle was understandably jubilant after her victory and she responded: "Still feeling the excitement of finishing first under the wire. It never gets old! Saul was really on the bit in warm-up and came through for the race! Got a hole, race went in nice fractions, and when we popped out to take on Mikey, Saul was ready and willing! Thanks "Team Saul" for the win! (By the way, I'm still smiling! )" Better Be Saul is owned by Wolf Creek Farm and trained by Crist Hershberger. He paid $8.20 for win. For Michelle, a businesswoman from Naperville, Ill who only has time to drive sparingly, it marked her first seasonal victory and 40th of her amateur career. by John Manzi, for the Billings Series    

Yonkers, NY--"Smokin' Joe" Faraldo is a happy man. And why shouldn't he be? After all, the Queens, NY attorney just won the $15,000 CKG Billings Eastern Region Mid-Season Final tonight (July 28)at Yonkers Raceway when he guided Tough Get Going to a gate-to-wire triumph in a 1:58.4 clocking. "A win tonight and a catch drive on Thursday at Monticello (Raceway) where I finished second, heck, things are really looking up," chuckled the Queens, NY attorney who has been a premier supporter of amateur racing since its resurgence in the early 1980's. Faraldo, a Billings member from its inception and founder of the North American Amateur Drivers Association, is getting to show that he really knows his way around the racetrack. It's true, he was the National Amateur Driver of the Year in 2000 and a winner of 144 pari-mutuel races (2 this year in Europe, also), but the move he put on Wygant Prince's and "Coach Paul" Minore tonight which kept them locked-in until mid-stretch was almost professional and saved the victory for Tough Get Going. "We were on the engine all the way and Paul had Wygant Prnce on my back from the start," Faraldo said. "When we rounded the final turn Annie ("Get Your Gun"Stoebe--with Uriel) was on the outside and I kept backing into her trying to keep Paul's horse from seeing daylight. But finally, in mid-stretch, Wygant Prince shook loose and came charging but my horse hung tough and we won it by neck." Winwood Scout garnered the show dough for David "Poppa" Glasser in the non-wagering contest Faraldo co-owns the Tough Get Going with the horse's trainer, Richie Banca. Meanwhile, later in the evening at Northfield Park in Ohio, a 9-horse field in the mid-west region of the Billings Series went to post and when the judges hung the official sign the odds-on favorite Utopia and driver Steve Oldford rallied late to overtake the pacesetter, Winback Charles M ("Lawbook Larry" Farley) and go on to a 1-1/2 length victory in a 1:57 clocking. In that contest Farley sent Winback Chales M to the lead from the pole position and they rumbled by the first quarter in 28 seconds flat and were still two lengths to the good as they passed the halfway point in :57.2. At that point Oldford got Utopia in high gear and with a three-deep move up the backside they were two lengths off Winback Charles M as the field passed the third stanza in 1:27.2. As they rounded the final turn Farley's trotter braced for Oldford's charge but Utopia was too much to contend with and he went on to victory. Winback Charkes M held on for second money while Michelle"the Belle" Ruvola finished third with Better Call Saul. Unlike the Yonkers Billings the Northfield Park Billings was a wagering affair and Utopia paid $2.60 for win. The 7-year-old Mutineer gelding is owned by Oldford Racing LLC and trained by Terry Deters. For Oldford it was his 5th seasonal driving victory and 135th of his amateur career. by John Manzi, for the CKG Billings Series    

Kelly "Sky" Walker lulled his competitors to sleep when he went to the lead and then cruised wire to wire with My Country Boy to score a victory in the Billings Trot at the Fowlerville, MI Fair on Monday, July 23. Although it might have been a short field in the but nonetheless it was a competitive event with five avid Michiganders at the lines. However, in all fairness, the eventual winner seemed to have unimpressive stats (5-0-1-1) going into the event but the horse's previous races were undoubtedly discounted by Walker when he sent the 5 year old altered son of Southwind Elian to the lead from the three-hole and made every pole a winning one en route to a 2:05.4 victory over Little Point Sable, and driver Jerry "The Jet" Mihelich who had rallied after making a break before the start. Third place went to Mulligan Bi, driven by Billings vice president, Steve "You're Never Too" Oldford. Although he hasn't been racing as much this season as he has in the past, Walker had an ear- to-ear grin after the mile when he said, perhaps with tongue in cheek; "I'm making my comeback and it sure feels good to be in the winners circle again." But for Walker he's had that feeling 126 other times prior to his victory at Fowlerville. The winning horse is owned and trained by June Du Russel who continues to be a great supporter of amateur racing. Later Walker added that he'll be among four American drivers who'll be winging their way to Northern Italy on July 29 for a Friendship Competition with Italian amateurs at three different racetracks in the greater Trieste area. Set to Join "Sky"Walker for this international amateur contest, will be Dr. Scott Woogen, "Joltin' Joe" Pennacchio and Steve Oldford. And while they are in Italy an contingent of Italian amateurs will be in the States for competition against their NAADA counterparts in early August. by John Manzi, for the Billings Series  

Saratoga Springs, NY - The granddaddy of all amateur driving organizations, the ever-traveling CKG Billings Harness Driving Series, made a stop at Saratoga Raceway on Friday night, (July 20) and when it was all over Tony "the Capo" Verruso emerged victorious when he guided Mandeville to a 2:00.2 triumph over seven others. Sometimes realty can rival fiction; case in point; tonight's Billings Trot. The winning driver is the president of the Billings Series but more unusual, the winning trainer was Saratoga regular, Donald Billings. When the wings of the mobile starting gate folded in that contest "Smokin' Joe" Faraldo had Tough Get Going in high gear from post six and they led the field by the first stanza in :29.3 with "Tough Tony" Ciuffetelli and Better To Be Lucky challenging on the limb. But Ciuffetelli settled in along the pylons behind Faraldo. With little pressure, Faraldo got his charge by the half in 1:01.4 which precipitated moves by the trailing horses. First to move was Simeon "Hot Rod" Hunsdon with Lisa Jane but they got alongside the leader but couldn't get around him. Meanwhile Verruso used Hunsdon's cover as the field trotted by the third stanza in 1:31.1 and at that point Tough Get Going braced for Verruso and Mandeville who kept charging on the outside. The two were heads apart around the final turn but Mandeville was the strong horse in the lane and went on to a two length triumph. Tough Get Going held on for second while Better To Be Lucky garnered the show dough. Mandeville, a 6-year-old Majestic Son gelding owned by Jessica Anderson, was sent off as the odds-on favorite and paid $3.60 for win. Because Verruso has been busy with his professional career it was only his 13th start this season and his first winner in 2018. However he has won 69 races since he began amateur driving in 1999.  by John Manzi, for the Billings Series

Meadowlands, Pa-The ever traveling CKG Billings Amateur Driving Series was on the move again on Saturday afternoon (July 14) for a $10,000 mid-west region harness racing trot at The Meadows in western Pennsylvania and when the results were deemed official Tom "Mayhem" Svrcek notched his first seasonal driving victory when he rallied Upfront Charlieboy to a stunning come-from-behind victory over eight others in a 2:00.2 clocking. Svrcek, an insurance man by profession, made his first start in this years Billings Series a winning one after finishing off the board in most of his 20 previous non-amateur events. "Fifteen years ago I raced in the Billings but my work schedule made it hard over the ensuing years to drive regularly," noted Svrcek. "Its been a while since I won a race and this victory today was extra-special considering the fact that my horse was eighth at the half and finished like gangbusters." When the wings of the mobile gate folded the betting favorite, Rufus DeVie, driven by Steve "You're Never Too" Oldford, went off-stride before the start as Mutinyonthebounty and Ned "the Insurance Agent" Hodkinson scooted to the front as the first quarter timer flashed :29.2 They were followed closely by BL Class Act and driver, Mike "the Mortgage Man" Mitchell and at this point Upfront Charlieboy was eight lengths off the lead in seventh place. Meanwhile, Hodkinson and his charge showed the way past the half in 1:00.2 followed closely by Mitchell's trotter. As they headed for the three quarters Mutinyonthebounty seemed well in hand as he led the field (the eventual winner still some seven lengths behind) all the way to the top of the stretch. But at that point the leader's lights seemed to dim as he faded and Svrcek had Upfront Charlieboy in high gear. When the field headed for home Upfront Charlieboy still had a lot ground to make up but the 10-year-old Cantab Hall gelding fired on all fours and surged to the lead before the wire and kept Better Call Saul ("Michelle the Belle" Ruvola) at bay for a head triumph in 2:00.2. BL Class Act finished third. Mutinyonthebounty faded to fifth. "My horse has no gate speed that's why we got away so badly," Svrcek explained. "But he loves to stalk and when I finally got a chance to show him daylight the old fella knew just what to do." Trained by Bill Fahy and owned by his wife Moira, Upfront Charlieboy paid $10.60. by John Manzi, for the Billings Series

Jackson, MI--The results of the CKG Billings Series trot at Jackson Raceway in Michigan probably won't go down in the annuals of harness racing history for it was a non-wagering affair and just another stop along the road in the sports inaugural and enduring national amateur driving program. But, then again on second thought, it may be long remembered for it was the final race contested over the double-oval at Jackson Raceway which will soon be leveled. However, it certainly will be remembered by that races' winning driver, Patricia "the Write Stuff" Miller. She has been a longtime member of the Midwest region of the Billings Series and her victory with her own veteran trotter, Keep The Cash left her completely ecstatic. "It was a most exciting day and win for me. Huge crowd; a full grandstand bidding Jackson farewell. Much joy and some sadness as well. Another track is history," she offered via email. "I had the one-hole so got away well. Kept the lead until passed by Steve (Oldford with Mulligan Bi). We were well out in front of the others. I stayed on Steve's helmet until just before the last turn. Remembering what John Campbell says about when to pull on a 1/2 mile track (how is that for a memory?) I pulled out and Cash just cruised around Steve and on to victory. The packed grandstand was roaring and it was a huge thrill for me. Cash raced perfectly, so well trained by veteran Michigan trainer and driver, Keith Crawford. Oldford was second best and the show money from the $2000 purse went to My Country Boy, driven by "Jerry The Jet" Mihelich. "Jackson is and was so special for me,"Michigan native, Pat added. "After driving endless Q's (qualifying races) at different tracks, I drove in the rain, fog, and mud of a Jackson spring day and was soaked muddy and dripping. I stomped into the race office and told them it was time, I wanted my license THEN, and they gave it to me. So that is a special spot in my heart for sure." Pat, a professional writer by trade, and her husband "Buckboard Bob" Miller have been longtime owners and drivers and have competed in many amateur series of which the Billings is the granddaddy of them all. by John Manzi, for the Billings Amateur Driving Series

Nichols,NY--The beauty of the CKG Billings Amateur Driving Series is that its a traveling harness racing program where the competitors get a chance to exhibit their abilities on different size racetracks throughout the nine month season. Today ( July 7) the race was over Tioga Downs' 5/8ths mile oval in New York's southern tier and after a hard fought battle "Coach Paul" Minore and his veteran trotter, Wygant Prince, withheld a late charge by Aventure and driver "Tough Tony" Ciuffetelli and to score a 1:57.3 victory. Overlooked by the attending public Wygant Prince paid $25.40 for win. When the six-horse field was approaching the starting line the rail horse and even-money favorite, Fleet Honeybee ("Yankee Joe" Lee), went off-stride and was never in contention thereafter. When the mobile gate sprung Wygant Prince, racing from the two-hole, allowed (#6) Uriel and "Annie Get Your Gun" Stoebe, to gain command in the 28-second first quarter. When all the trotters lined up in single file Wygant Prince got to enjoy a two hole journey until the field headed to the third stanza. As the leaders rounded the final turn Minore kept his charge along the pylons and rallied past Uriel and braced for the hard charging Aventure. In the deep stretch Wygant Prince and Aventure matched stride for stride but at the finish Minore's trotter got the last call for a head victory. Uriel finished two lengths behind the top two for third money. The winner, an 11-year-old altered son of SJ's Photo, notched his sixth seasonal triumph and 37th of his illustrious career while raising his career earnings to over $411,000. Wygant Price is owned by his driver and trained by Taylor Gower. by John Manzi for the Billings Series  

One of the more enticing features of the CKG Billings Series- the granddaddy of all amateur organizations-is that its members are, and have been, offered competitions on all size racetracks. Tonight eight gentlemen drivers lined-up behind the mobile starting gate on the Meadowlands mile-oval with each having visions of reaching the winners circle. But when the race was declared official it was "Joltin Joe" Pennacchio and his trusty steed Super Manning who led his rivals to the finish line while stopping the timer at a very creditable 1:55.2. Sent off as the betting favorite from post six it didn't make much difference if Super Manning ever saw the pylons, the veteran 10-year old Diamond Goal gelding raced with cover on the limb until Pennacchio moved him as they approached the three quarters. Second on the outside when the field passed that marker once they squared for home they began to put daylight between themselves and the rest of the field. At the wire Super Manning was two lengths better than runner-up Toss Cartwright, driven by Peter "Enough Talk" Kleinhans who shadowed the winner from the three quarters but came up short. "Tough Tony" Ciuffetelli took home the show dough with Aventure. The winner is owned by Pennaccio's, J P Racing LLC, and trained by Allen Sisco. For Pennacchio, a retired executive, it was the 172nd career victory for the talented amateur reinsman. To say that "Joltin' Joe" currently has a hot hand would be an understatement. With the Billings season not yet half completed Pennacchio already has a start on his best year ever. He has victories in three of his last four starts and thus far this year he has 10 wins, 7 seconds and 2 thirds and a UDRS of .401 from 39 seasonal trips behind the mobile gate. by John Manzi, for the Billings Harness Driving Series    

In late February the initial Pro-Am Competition was staged at Pompano Park and today (Tuesday, June 19) at Scioto Downs, the second edition of the challenge where the amateur drivers competed in races with and against some of the industry's top reinsmen was showcased. The competitions are the brainchild of Stacy Cahill, the director of racing at both Pompano and Scioto Downs. And from the participants at each venue monies were raised for the Harness Horse Youth Foundation and for New Vocations. Participating professionals included Tim and Trace Tetrick, Dan Noble and Aaron Merriman while the remainder of drivers in each event were all amateurs. And to the surprise of no one, every one of the four contest races was won by a professional. The first contest race was won by Dan Noble with amateur driver, Steve Oldford second and Tim Tetrick third. Noble came back to win the second Pro-Am event as amateur driver Joey Putnam finished second. And Tim Tetrick was again third. Then in the third Pro-Am event Trace Tetrick turned back Aaron Merriman for the victory. Amateur driver Michelle Ruvola took home the show dough. And in the final Pro-Am event Trace Tetrick again emerged victorious with Aaron Merriman second and Michelle Ruvola third. But the amateur drivers had their day in the sun with a race strictly for Billings members late on the card. NED HODKINSON WINS THE BILLINGS TROT  Ned "the Insurance Man" Hodkinson and his trusty steed, Mutinyonthebounty, remain a perfect two-for-two this year after they out-footed nine others to score an impressive victory in a 1:58.1 clocking. After racing on the front-end relatively unchallenged the wire came just in time as a host of trotters were closing in on Mutinyonthebounty. But the veteran Mutineer gelding refused to lose and kept Winbak Charles M and driver "Lawbook Larry" Farley at bay for a head victory.. Better Call Saul was a neck farther back in third for "Michelle The Belle" Ruvola. Sent off the favorite in the race Mutinyonthebounty paid $5.90 for win. Hodkinson, who owns and trains the winner, notched his 61st lifetime driving victory. by John Manzi, for the Billing Series     

MONTICELLO, NY- The CKG Billings Amateur Driving Series is truly an international competition aided by the fact that on Monday, June 18 some of the Canadian members convened in Ontario, Canada at Grand River Raceway to compete in a trotting contest on the betting card and despite finishing with broken equipment Majestic Mystic was hustled home a five-length winner for "Fabulous Freddie" Bourgault. For the Quebec native it was his first winning drive in Ontario. Sent off as second choice in the eight-horse field Bourgault was content to find a spot in fourth position along the pylons when the wings of the gate folded. But when the pace of the race slowed as the field headed to the halfway point Bougault was out and going and when they passed the third stanza Majestic Mystic had command, albeit by just a head, over the pacesetter Happy Holidays, driven by "Gentle Ben" Hollingsworth). When the field straightened for paydirt Majestic Mystic began to ease away from his competition and finish some five lengths in front of Overcomebyvictory,("Sir Issac" Waxman) in a time of 2:00.4. Third under the wire was Extrapolate in rein to Shane "The Freelton Flash" Arsenault. The winner, a 9-year-old Majestic Son gelding, is owned by Mary Ketros and trained by George Ketros. Sent off at odds of over 3-1 Majestic Mystic paid $9.10 for win. by John Manzi, for the Billings Amateur Driving Series  

SARATOGA, NY - He doesn't drive often but "Jungle Jim" Hathaway visited the winner circle in his first seasonal drive when the Ballston Spa resident bided his time with EJ's Last Dance with his sites set on catching Tough Get Going before the race was completed. And they did. At the wire they were a two lengths to the good in a 1:58.4 clocking at Saratoga Harness on Friday, (June 15) in the $6000 CKG Billings trot. For Hathaway it was his first driving victory since 2015. Eight trotters lined-up behind the mobile gate and when the wings folded four horses went for the lead but it was Tough Get Going ("Smokin' Joe" Faraldo) who was the strong horse and had command in the stiff :28 first quarter. "Smokin' Joe kept the pedal to the metal and they were three lengths in front at the half as the timer flashed :57.2.At this point the eventual winner, who started from the pole position, was third along the pylons and looking to move up. As Tough Get Going passed the third stanza the lead had opened to five lengths. But as he rounded the final turn his strides shortened and "Jungle Jim" hurried EJ's Last Dance alongside the leader and when they headed down the short stretch Jim Hathaway had victory in site as his trotter gained command and went on to a two length triumph. 18-1 longshot,Tough Get Going, held on for second while Justice Jet, second choice in the wagering, rallied from far back to finish a close third for "Bullet Bob" Davis. Aventure ("Tough Tony" Ciuffetelli) went off as the favorite but he flattened-out and finished fourth. EJ's Last Dance, a 6-year-old Conway Hall mare,is owned by Scheigert Racing Stable and trained by Amanda Kelley. Sent away at odds of over 8-1 the trotter paid $18.40. Next Billings action will be at Scioto Downs on Tuesday, June 19. by John Manzi, for the Billings Series

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