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Both McWicked and Atlanta showed different harness racing tactics that worked Saturday night at Scioto Downs as McWicked won the $440,000 Jim Ewart Memorial Pace and Atlanta won the $220,000 Charlie Hill Memorial Trot. And both races took the photo finish camera to declare the winner. The feature event was the Ewart Memorial and it was Filibuster Hanover (Chris Page) trading the early lead with This Is The Plan (Yannick Gingras) to the opening quarter mile in :25.3 with This Is The Plan on the lead. Western Fame and driver Dan Noble attacking first-over with Jimmy Freight (Scott Zeron) grabbing the second-over spot past the half mile in :52.4. They raced four-in, five-out down the backstretch to the three-quarters in 1:20 as horses began to fan out for the stretch drive to the finish. In the stretch, Western Fame starts to surge to the lead as a wall of horses came at him and it was driver Brian Sears and McWicked weaving their way through the field and getting up at the wire by a long nose in 1:49. Dontellmeagain (Tim Tetrick) and Western Fame finished in a dead-heat for second with Courtly Choice (James MacDonald) a neck back in fourth place. It was the first time that any horse has won the Jim Ewart Memorial twice. It was McWicked’s fourth win this year for the eight-year-old stallion by McArdle and 38th career win for trainer Casie Coleman and owner SSG Stable of North Boston, NY. He paid $6.20 to win. “I was still asking him for pace just keeping up,” winning driver Brian Sears said after the race. “He’s an amazing horse." Atlanta, with Yannick Gingras in the sulky, returned to her winning ways with a close call in the $220,000 Charlie Hill Memorial Trot. After taking the lead away from Mission Accepted (Chris Page) by the opening quarter mile in :27.1, Atlanta settled in on the lead as Guardian Angel AS (Tim Tetrick) started up first-over by the half in a mild :56. Marion Marauder (Scott Zeron) had grabbed the second-over trip. Down the backstretch, Atlanta held firmly to the lead as the pace picked up and Guardian Angel AS could not gain ground on the race leader past the three-quarters in 1:24. Then as they came down the stretch, Plunge Blue Chip (Ake Svandsted) found room and came charging up the passing lane but Atlanta was a step ahead, winning by a long nose in 1:51.4. The lone two mares in the race finishing one-two. Mission Accepted was third. It was a track record mile for four-year-old trotting mares and made Atlanta only the second mare ever to win the Charlies Hill. The daughter of Chapter Seven posted her seventh win on the year in eleven starts for trainer Ron Burke. She is owned by Crawford Farms, Bradley Grant and Howard Taylor and paid $5.80 to win. Atlanta was a $10,000 supplement to the Charlie Hill Memorial. "Honestly I was kind of measuring a little bit late," Gingras said after the race. "Ake [Svanstedt and Plunge Blue Chip] was coming kind of fast. By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink

Courtly Choice and Guardian Angel AS head to Scioto Downs off big wins this past weekend in Canada and both will see familiar faces when they line up behind the starting gate for their respective stakes events Saturday at the central Ohio racetrack. Courtly Choice won the Canadian Pacing Derby on Aug. 31 at Woodbine Mohawk Park and will meet six rivals from that race in Saturday's $440,000 Jim Ewart Memorial for older pacers. The group includes the horses that finished in positions two through six in the CPD - Lather Up, Western Fame, This Is The Plan, Jimmy Freight, and McWicked - as well as eighth-place Filibuster Hanover. Guardian Angel AS won the Maple Leaf Trot at Mohawk and will see two foes from that event in Saturday's $220,000 Charlie Hill Memorial for older trotters, runner-up Atlanta and third-place finisher Marion Marauder. The Charlie Hill Memorial is the 13th race on Scioto's 16-race card, with an approximate post time of 10:30 p.m., and will be followed by the Ewart. Post time is 6:30 p.m. for the evening's first race. Courtly Choice is making his second trip to the Buckeye State and will look to make it as successful as the first. Last year, he won the Little Brown Jug at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, one of 10 victories he posted in 2018. Among his other triumphs was the Meadowlands Pace. This year, the 4-year-old son of Art Major-Lady Ashlee Ann has won four of 12 starts and earned $321,100, pushing his career total to $1.28 million. In addition to the Canadian Pacing Derby, he won the Commodore Barry Invitational on May 26 and a preliminary round of the Graduate Series on May 4. Following the Commodore Barry, Courtly Choice was winless in six races but has rebounded and won two of his last three starts. "During the summer, he was sort of fading coming for home and bearing out and not finishing his miles off as much as we would have liked," trainer Blake MacIntosh said. "Even (in the Commodore Barry) he wasn't as strong as I would have liked. He wasn't himself. I know he's had an OK year, but he just hasn't had the year we expected him to have." MacIntosh hopes two factors could help Courtly Choice enjoy success the remainder of the season. First, the horse battled a low white blood cell count earlier this summer, but it has returned to normal. Second, an equipment adjustment seems to have made the horse more comfortable on the racetrack and improved his ability to better finish races. His final quarter mile in the CPD was :25.3, which was the best in the race. "Hopefully he's peaking at the right time and we can get back in the running for aged horse of the year and go from there," MacIntosh said. "Lather Up has been massive all year. You've got McWicked, Jimmy (Freight), This Is The Plan; it's a tough year. It's a stellar bunch. I bet this is one of the toughest aged groups in a long time." Lather Up, who is the 9-5 morning-line favorite in the Ewart Memorial, saw a four-race win streak ended by Courtly Choice's upset at odds of 34-1 in the Canadian Pacing Derby. The streak began with a victory in the Graduate Series championship in 1:46 to equal the fastest mile in history and continued with the William R. Haughton Memorial, Sam McKee Memorial, and Dan Patch Stakes. McWicked, the 2018 Horse of the Year, and 2017 Ewart winner, has two stakes victories this season and is the 9-2 second choice followed by Courtly Choice at 5-1. "You look at those horses (in the Ewart) and there's not one horse in that race that couldn't win it," MacIntosh said. "There are 10 horses and 10 could win it. It comes down to whoever gets the right trip and has the most horse on the end of it." In the Charlie Hill Memorial, Guardian Angel AS is the 8-5 morning-line favorite despite drawing post eight in the nine-horse field. Atlanta, who will start from post seven, is the 5-2 second choice. "It's a tough spot, but I've got a good horse," said Tim Tetrick, who drives Guardian Angel AS. "If I can get him close turning for home, I think I've got a good shot to win. He's so versatile. He can get off the (starting gate) really fast and he likes his work. "His gait is amazing. He's got so much athletic ability and covers so much ground. He feels as good as any trotter you'll ever sit behind. He's very pretty on the racetrack. When you watch from the side, he's definitely going to catch your eye. He's gorgeous." Guardian Angel AS, a 5-year-old son of Archangel-Provide AS, has won seven of 10 races this season and earned $619,434. In addition to the Maple Leaf Trot, the stallion has captured the Spirit of Massachusetts, Cleveland Trotting Classic, and Maxie Lee Memorial Invitational. For his career, Guardian Angel AS has won 23 of 50 races and earned $1.13 million for trainer Anette Lorentzon. "He's done everything we've asked him to do and he's having a great 5-year-old season, that's for sure," Tetrick said. "Anette and (her sister) Anna have done a great job with him. They haven't over-raced him and raced him where they needed to. They've given him every opportunity to come back at (ages) 5, 6, and 7 to be a great horse." Tetrick has driven Guardian Angel AS in nine of his 10 races this season and 19 times overall, sitting behind the horse at least once every year. "He's grown so much, it's amazing," Tetrick said. "At 2 and 3, he wouldn't always fight a horse. He had tons of ability, but if they got to his number he'd let them beat him. Now, if they get to him, he just takes off more. He's really grown that way. "He's gotten a lot tougher and more mentally stable. It's pretty cool to see a horse grow that much." The Charlie Hill Memorial includes three horses to have been named Trotter of the Year: Atlanta, who received the honor in 2018; Marion Marauder, in 2016; and Pinkman, in 2015. Following is the field for the Charlie Hill Memorial. PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-M/L 1-Bridge To Jesse's-Trace Tetrick-Roger Welch-20/1 2-I Know My Chip-Ronnie Wrenn Jr.-Walter Haynes Jr.-25/1 3-Marion Marauder-Scott Zeron-Paula Wellwood-9/2 4-Plunge Blue Chip-Ake Svanstedt-Ake Svanstedt-6/1 5-Mission Accepted-Chris Page-Ron Burke-8/1 6-Pinkman-Brett Miller-Per Engblom-10/1 7-Atlanta-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-5/2 8-Guardian Angel AS-Tim Tetrick-Anette Lorentzon-8/5 9-Top Flight Angel-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-20/1 Following is the field for the Jim Ewart Memorial. PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-M/L 1-Jimmy Freight-Scott Zeron-Andrew Harris-6/1 2-McWicked-Brian Sears-Casie Coleman-9/2 3-Donttellmeagain-Tim Tetrick-Jim King Jr.-15/1 4-Western Fame-Dan Noble-Dan Noble-8/1 5-This Is The Plan-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-6/1 6-Filibuster Hanover-Chris Page-Ron Burke-15/1 7-Courtly Choice-James MacDonald-Blake MacIntosh-5/1 8-Lather Up-Montrell Teague-Clyde Francis-9/5 9-Always A Prince-David Miller-Tyler George-20/1 10-Hitman Hill-Aaron Merriman-Chris Oakes-20/1 Note: Hitman Hill starts from the second tier. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA 

This Week: Jim Ewart Memorial and Charlie Hill, Scioto Downs, Columbus, Ohio; Simcoe Stakes, Champlain Stakes, Peaceful Way eliminations and William Wellwood Memorial eliminations, Woodbine Mohawk Park, Milton, Ontario; and Miss Versatility leg, Tioga Downs, Nichols, N.Y. Schedule of events: Grand Circuit harness racing action kicks off on Thursday (Sept. 5) at Mohawk Park with a pair of C$30,000 eliminations in the Peaceful Way for 2-year-old filly trotters. The Friday (Sept. 6) program offers two C$30,000 eliminations in the William Wellwood Memorial for 2-year-old colt trotters, the C$174,503 Simcoe Stakes for 3-year-old colt trotters and two divisions in the C$171,057 Simcoe Stakes for 3-year-old filly trotters. On Saturday (Sept. 7), there will be two divisions in the C$189,597 Champlain Stakes for 2-year-old filly pacers, two divisions in the C$180,876 Champlain Stakes for 2-year-old colt pacers and a single division in the C$168,557 Simcoe Stakes for 3-year-old filly pacers. Grand Circuit racing at Tioga Downs will be held on Friday (Sept. 6) with a $40,000 leg of the Miss Versatility for trotting mares. On Saturday (Sept. 7) Scioto Downs will host the $440,000 Jim Ewart Memorial for older pacers and the $220,000 Charlie Hill for older trotters. Complete entries for the races at the U.S. tracks are available at this link. Entries for the Mohawk races are available at this link. Last time: Yonkers Raceway hosted a pair of Triple Crown races on Saturday night (Aug. 31) in the $500,000 Yonkers Trot and the $500,000 Messenger Stake. Gimpanzee (Brian Sears) rolled home to capture the Yonkers Trot in a North American and track record 1:53.3 and American Mercury went up the inside to best Bettor's Wish in the Messenger Stake in 1:51.3. Gimpanzee (Brian Sears) rolled home to capture the Yonkers Trot in a North American and track record 1:53.3. Mike Lizzi photo. Trained by Marcus Melander, Gimpanzee ($2.60) made his bid for the lead in the Yonkers Trot first-over prior to the :28 quarter-mile pole. The son of Chapter Seven-Steamy Windows grabbed the bit and ran off with this event, posting subsequent fractions of :56.4 and 1:25 before cruising home in 1:53.3. Hambletonian victor Forbidden Trade (Bob McClure) closed strongly for second after an overland journey, with Soul Strong (Dexter Dunn) hitting the wire in third. "Since day one when I brought him here he lays down and turns over like a motorcycle," said Melander. "This is an amazing race to win and I don't think there is a better 3-year-old on a half-mile track." An undefeated Dan Patch Award winner and New York Sire Stakes champion in 2018, Gimpanzee first tasted defeat when he finished fourth and third, respectively, in the Hambletonian eliminations and final. Gimpanzee is owned by Courant Inc. and S R F Stable. He is now 16-14-0-1 and has earned more than $1.1 million. After taking control and leading through fractions of :27, :55.3, and 1:23.3, Bettor's Wish (Dexter Dunn) was outlasted by an inside push to the wire by American Mercury (Tyler Buter) in a time of 1:51.3 in the Messenger. U S Captain was a very game third after a first-over trip. "He was super sharp coming into the race," said Buter. "I came off Dexter's helmet there and he kicked off the gas. I think that was the winning move." Owned by Crawford Farms Racing, Northfork Racing Stable, Chuck Pompey and Scott Bice, American Mercury is a son of American Ideal-Tessa Hanover. The 3-year-old gelding is trained by Chris Oakes. He sports a lifetime record of 17-9-3-3 and a bankroll of $508,463. American Mercury paid $16.20 to win. Complete recaps of all the races are available at the Grand Circuit website. Grand Circuit Standings: In 2019, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2019 Grand Circuit awards. Here are the leaders following this past weekend: Drivers: 1. Tim Tetrick - 806; 2. Yannick Gingras - 611; 3. David Miller - 521; 4. Dexter Dunn - 479; 5. Brian Sears - 394. Trainers: 1. Ron Burke - 723; 2. Tony Alagna - 371; 3. Marcus Melander - 319; 4. Jim King Jr. - 299; 5. Ake Svanstedt - 293. Owners: 1. Fashion Farms - 192; 2. Brad Grant - 142.1; 3. Burke Racing Stable - 134.6; 4. Courant Inc. - 132.5; 5. Weaver Bruscemi - 122.1. Looking ahead: Grand Circuit racing will be taking place next week at Mohawk and Tioga Downs. Mohawk will host the finals of the Peaceful Way and William Wellwood Memorial, as well as the Canadian Trotting Classic, the Elegantimage and eliminations in the Milton, Metro Pace, and She's A Great Lady. Tioga Downs will card another leg of the Kindergarten Series for freshman trotters and pacers. by Paul Ramlow, for the Grand Circuit  

Columbus, OH — Scioto Downs is closing in on the conclusion of its 90-day race meet on Saturday (Sept. 7) and is going out with a bang. Closing night harness racing features the Charlie Hill and Jim Ewart memorial races alongside the Ohio Sire Stakes consolation races. This season Scioto Downs has raced for $15 million in purses, set track records and gained memories for all involved. Part of the main event on Saturday is the $220,000 Charlie Hill Memorial race. The Charlie Hill will showcase some of the best trotters in the sport, with a field of nine very talented trotters taking the spotlight behind the gate. Scioto had two horses supplement into the race at $10,000 apiece. Wonder girl Atlanta supplemented into the Hill where she drew post seven with familiar hands at the lines, Yannick Gingras. Atlanta is coming off a huge second in the Maple Leaf Trot at Woodbine Mohawk Park last week, getting beat by Guardian Angel As. These two will have another chance to battle it out down the stretch as Guardian Angel As takes post eight. Ake Svanstedt also supplemented Plunge Blue Chip, who drew post four. $220,000 Charlie Hill Post-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Line 1. Bridge To Jesse’s-Trace Tetrick-Roger Welch-20/1 2. I Know My Chip-Ronnie Wrenn Jr.-Walter Haynes Jr.-25/1 3. Marion Marauder-Scott Zeron-Paula Wellwood-9/2 4. Plunge Blue Chip-Ake Svanstedt-Ake Svanstedt-6/1 5. Mission Accepted-Chris Page-Ron Burke-8/1 6. Pinkman-Brett Miller-Per Engblom-10/1 7. Atlanta-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-5/2 8. Guardian Angel As-Tim Tetrick-Anette Lorentzon-8/5 9. Top Flight Angel-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-20/1 The second main event of the evening is the 14th race, the Jim Ewart Memorial. The Ewart showcases the sport’s top pacers as we bring 10 of them together to battle it out for $440,000. With tons of talent between this group there will be plenty to keep your eye on. An Ohio-bred favorite, Lather Up, makes his way back to the Buckeye state. Lather Up supplemented for $20,000 to be a part of history. Last year, he was the 3-year-old Ohio Sire Stakes pacing champion, and has gone on to have a phenomenal 4-year-old season, equaling the all-age world record mile of 1:46 set by Always B Miki. Jimmy Freight for trainer Andrew Harris drew post position one. Jimmy Freight has put up some good miles this season and is hanging in there with the best. This post draw is definitely going to play into his favor as he has the gate speed to leave and stay on the front end where he likes to be. Courtly Choice is coming off a huge upset win in the Canadian Pacing Derby over Lather up and Western Fame and will have a rematch on the five-eighth-mile track. $440,000 Jim Ewart Post-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Line 1. Jimmy Freight-Scott Zeron-Andrew Harris-6/1 2. McWicked-Brian Sears-Casie Coleman-9/2 3. Donttellmeagain-Tim Tetrick-Jim King Jr.-15/1 4. Western Fame-Dan Noble-Dan Noble-8/1 5. This Is The Plan-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-6/1 6. Filibuster Hanover-Chris Page-Ron Burke-15/1 7. Courtly Choice-James MacDonald-Blake MacIntosh-5/1 8. Lather Up-Montrell Teague-Clyde Francis-9/5 9. Always A Prince-David Miller-Tyler George-20/1 10. Hitman Hill-Aaron Merriman-Chris Oakes-20/1 Each division of the OSS consolations will go for $75,000 which will showcase 2-year-old colt and filly trotters and pacers, as well as 3-year-old colt and filly trotters and pacers. The older Ohio sired mare and horse/gelding pacers will also get in on the action. Post time for closing night at Scioto Downs will be at 6:30 p.m. by Taylor Johnston, for Scioto Downs

Columbus, OH --- Homicide Hunter and driver Aaron Merriman moved to the lead following the halfway point of Saturday’s (June 9) Charlie Hill Memorial and never looked back, winning the $200,000 event for older trotters by 4-1/2 lengths over In Secret in 1:50.3 on a track labeled good at Eldorado Scioto Downs. Charmed Life finished third. Defending champion Crazy Wow and two-time Dan Patch Award-winner Marion Marauder were scratched sick, reducing the field to seven horses. Race favorite Will Take Charge went off stride at the start and finished sixth.The winning time equaled the world record for an older gelding trotter on a five-eighths-mile track and was a stakes and track record. I Know My Chip took the early lead in a :26.3 opening quarter-mile before seeing Smalltownthrowdown get the top spot prior to the half-mile point. Driver Sam Widger moved I Know My Chip back to the lead at the half, reached in :54.2, but faced pressure from Homicide Hunter, who was in front by the time he reached three-quarters in 1:22. Homicide Hunter is a 6-year-old gelding by Mr Cantab out of Evening Prayer. He is owned by Crawford Farms Racing of New York and trained by Chris Oakes. The horse was bred by Patrick Graham. For the year, Homicide Hunter has won two of three races and earned $116,500. For his career, he has won 32 of 65 starts and banked $1.22 million. The Charlie Hill Memorial honors Hall of Famer Charles Hill, who was the founder and former president and chairman of the board of Scioto Downs. Homicide Hunter went off at odds of 3-1 and paid $8.60 to win. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

Columbus, OH --- On an absolutely picturesque evening at Eldorado Scioto Downs, Crazy Wow and harness racing driver Chris Page assumed command upon their departure from the gate and did not experience a truly tense moment en route to a powerful 1:52 track record score in the $200,000 Charlie Hill Memorial in front of a standing-room only crowd on Saturday (June 10). Defending older trotting champion Obrigado (Mark MacDonald) was second, with Canadian invader Musical Rhythm (Peter Wrenn) third. In fact, Page was still rather incredulous at how the race unfolded for his horse after he addressed his legions of young fans in the winner’s circle that were shouting his name and pleading for his whip or his sunglasses as a souvenir of his victory. “I can’t believe how it all worked out,” he said. “I intended to get him involved in the race early-on, but I wasn’t planning on going to the lead. When the wings were still unfolding off the gate I looked to my left and wondered where everybody else was. He just took me out there all on his own and from there on it was all him. I could not have asked for a better trip.” Commencing his journey from post position eight did not seem to hamper Crazy Wow’s need to display his speed. Conditioned by Ron Burke and owned by Our Horse Cents Stables, Stable 45, J&T Silva Stables and Deo Volente Farms, the 5-year-old stallion, fresh off his first victory in nearly a year in the $150,000 Maxie Lee Invitational on May 28 at Harrah’s Philadelphia, laid down a very swift first split of :26.2 with Obrigado in hot pursuit in the field of nine with the scratch of Homicide Hunter. In essence it was reduced to eight competitors after 2015 Dan Patch Award winner and world champion JL Cruze broke strode going into the first turn. As Crazy Wow and Page went past the half-mile marker in :55.1, Obrigado was hemmed in and slightly shuffled back to third as Hemi Seelster (Brett Holland) moved aggressively, intent on not allowing his top two rivals to stray too far. After Crazy Wow passed the three-quarter marker in 1:23.1, the rest of the field began their bids to overtake him in their quest for the wire. Both Centurion ATM (Aaron Merriman) and Musical Rhythm made their moves from sixth and fifth, respectively, as Hemi Seelster tired from his earlier efforts to drop back to fourth entering the top of the stretch. This transition of positions provided Obrigado, who was making his 2017 debut, with a desperately needed seam and he and MacDonald pulled to the outside in an attempt to chase down Crazy Wow. Their efforts, however, were in vain, as Crazy Wow appeared to lengthen his stride with each hoof he placed upon the Columbus oval and he maintained a comfortable 1-3/4 length advantage right to the wire. Musical Rhythm spurted up the rail after Obrigado vacated that area to finish third. “I had driven him once before,” Page said. “It was a long time ago and I don’t remember anything specific about him from that race, other than I already knew he was a very good horse, but tonight he was something; he was much more than just very good. I know his connections have worked with him and it certainly has paid off.” Collecting his second consecutive triumph and propelling his 2017 record to 5-2-3-0, with his career resume now at 47-17-10-3, Crazy Wow has now earned more than $1.7 million. Sent off the as the second selection at 3-1, the stallion paid a generous $8.20 for his victory. Obrigado at 3-1 provided $5.00 to his supporters to place, with Musical Rhythm (14-1) offering $7.80 to show. by Kim French, USTA Internet News Editor 

Freehold, NJ --- Obrigado might have a little Alfred E. Neuman in him. One gets the feeling after talking with the 7-year-old trotter’s regular driver, Mark MacDonald, that an appropriate caption under the horse’s photo would be “What -- me worry?” just the same as the cartooned Neuman on the cover of MAD magazine. Going back to July 2014, Obrigado has won 18 races. Excluding one victory in which he was second-placed-first, the gelding has won 11 of the remaining 17 by a half-length or less. And the vast majority of those triumphs, nine to be exact, were by a neck or less. Those 17 wins, by the way, were worth nearly $1 million. “He never overdoes it,” MacDonald said with a laugh. “He takes care of himself. He makes you kind of sweat it out a little bit. Me, not so much now, because I know him and I’m confident he’s always going to give you that last little lunge at the end. But I’m sure for Paul and the other owners watching it probably makes them a little nervous.” Paul is trainer Paul Kelley, who owns Obrigado with Lennart Agren’s SRF Stable, Linwood Higgins, and the multi-partner Stable 45. The group is preparing for more edge-of-your-seat excitement as Obrigado makes his seasonal debut in Saturday’s $200,000 Charlie Hill Memorial Trot at Eldorado Scioto Downs in central Ohio. Hill was the founder of Scioto Downs and president of the track from 1959-1989. Obrigado, who received the 2016 Dan Patch Award for best older male trotter, is the 5-2 morning line favorite and will start from post one with MacDonald in the sulky. Maxie Lee Memorial Invitational winner Crazy Wow, starting from post eight with Chris Page at the lines for trainer Ron Burke, is the 4-1 second choice while 2015 Dan Patch Award honoree JL Cruze is 9-2 from post five with Ronnie Wrenn Jr. driving for Eric Ell. “That’s a pretty good group,” MacDonald said. “It should be a good race.” Last year, Obrigado won eight of 17 races and earned $873,300. He hit the board a total of 13 times and his victories included the Hill Memorial, TVG Free For All Series championship, Dayton Trotting Derby, Crawford Farms Trot, John Cashman Memorial, Cleveland Trotting Classic, and Maxie Lee Memorial. For MacDonald, the win in the Crawford Farms Trot exemplified Obrigado’s toughness and determination. Obrigado was in the outer flow in an opening quarter-mile of :26, cleared to the lead at the halfway point and then battled stride-for-stride with Resolve for nearly the final three-eighths of a mile before winning by a quarter-length in 1:51.2. “I think that was the best race last year, maybe the best race of his life since I’ve been driving him,” said MacDonald, who took over the driving duties behind Obrigado at the beginning of the horse’s 5-year-old season. “Man, that was a great race. They fought all the way down the stretch. Getting down by the wire Obi came back on and won. That was just a crazy mile. “He brings his lunch pail every night and goes to work. He’s tough. He’s got no quit in him. It’s kind of hard to give him a bad trip; I’ve been parked with him, I’ve been in bad spots with him, but he always gives 120 percent. He’s just a good horse. You look forward to his races. He’s always made a good account of himself.” MacDonald was happy to see Obrigado honored with a Dan Patch Award last year. Obrigado, who has won 42 of 79 career races and earned $1.62 million, was a star in Maine at ages 2 and 3 before being sold to the New York-based Kelley and partners in November 2013. “That was cool,” MacDonald said. “I was really happy for Paul and the owners. He was so good all year. I think maybe winning the TVG at the end of the year put him over the top, but to me he had such a great year. He won so many big races and he showed up to work every night. “You have to give Paul credit. I think he protected (Obrigado) a lot as a 4-year-old. He kept him out of the spotlight, away from the Grand Circuit horses. He kind of aimed for him to peak as an older horse and the patience paid off. He let him mature and grow into his own and he turned into a great aged racehorse.” Racing begins at 6:30 p.m. at Scioto Downs and the Hill Memorial is race eight, with an 8:50 p.m. estimated post time. Following is the field for the Hill Memorial. Post-Horse-Sire-Driver-Trainer-Line 1 - Obrigado - Boy Band - Mark MacDonald-Paul Kelley-5/2  2 - Natural Herbie - Here Comes Herbie - Verlin Yoder-Verlin Yoder-8/1 3 - Musical Rhythm - Cantab Hall - Peter Wrenn-Benoit Baillargeon-15/1   4 - Hemi Seelster - Holiday Road - Brent Holland-Richard Banca-10/1   5 - JL Cruze - Crazed - Ronnie Wrenn Jr.-Eric Ell-9/2   6 - Centurion ATM - SJ's Caviar - Aaron Merriman-Ake Svanstedt-10/1   7 - Muscle Diamond - Muscle Hill - John Campbell-Brett Bittle-15/1   8 - Crazy Wow - Crazed - Chris Page-Ron Burke-4/1   9 - Homicide Hunter - Mr Cantab - Tyler Smith-Chris Oakes-12/1   10 - Major Athens - Andover Hall - Jody Jamieson-Jeffrey Gillis-6/1  Major Athens starts in the second tier. by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications

On a steamy Saturday (June 11) evening at Scioto Downs, Obrigado fended off the late charge of track record holder and harness racing world champion Natural Herbie to claim the trophy for the $210,000 Charlie Hill Memorial Trot. The 6-year-old gelding, piloted by regular reinsman Mark MacDonald, was the beneficiary of a perfect pocket trip, which the duo parlayed into a powerful 1:53.3 score. “He is just such a great horse,” said MacDonald. “You can do anything you want with him and all he wants to do is win. For some reason, I’m not sure why, we just get along. Tonight you could not have asked for a better position and then he did all the rest.” Leaving from post six, the gelded son of Boy Band and the Malabar Man mare Malimony, settled into second behind the leader and recent world champion Muscle Up The Goal. Content to allow the hometown favorite and the public’s selection at 4-5 to set the pace, Obrigado simply followed that rival around the Columbus oval behind fractions of :27.1, 57.3 and 1:25.3 before he was pulled out of the pocket at the top of the stretch to commence his drive to the wire with a :27.4 final panel. Obrigado glided by Muscle Up The Goal and completed his victorious journey to the wire seemingly well in hand. Natural Herbie placed pressure on the property of conditioner Paul Kelley, SRF Stable, Linwood Higgins, and Stable 45, however, his first over bid rendered him unable to match strides with the victor. Flanagan Memory, the 2013 O’Brien Award winner, closed from eighth to nab the show spot. Sent off at odds of 3-1, Obrigado paid his supporters $8.20. Natural Herbie, dismissed at 22-1, provided $14.40 to place and Flanagan Memory at 9-1 offered $7.40 to show. The exacta was $68 and the trifecta a generous $475.80. “I could not have asked for a trip around this track that was any better,” MacDonald said. “It was like a dream and honestly, I was shocked it worked out that well for us. I knew Natural Herbie was coming down on us and I respect him because he is such a nice horse, but my horse had the advantage off how this race set up. This was a very strong group of horses and it is a great win for us.” A Maine champion as a freshman and sophomore, Obrigado is the pride of Kelley’s stable and rightfully so, as the horse has now banked enough from his career record of 67-37-14-6, including this evening’s purse, to be roughly $4,000 shy of millionaire status. Purchased by Kelley, who was drawn to what an exemplary physical specimen he is, for $53,000 at the 2013 Standardbred Mixed Sale, Obrigado has been a winning machine before and after leaving the confines of his home state. Although Kelley shied away from top competition at age four, he placed the horse with the elite of his division last year as a 5-year-old and he has excelled. In 2015 he earned $405,535 with a record of 4-6-3 from 18 trips to the gate and knocked heads with all the best trotters currently competing in the sport. This year Obrigado has trotted five miles with three victories, one second and one third. Despite it being only June, the gelding has already collected just under $250,000 in purse money. The win in this Grand Circuit event is the second consecutive triumph for Obrigado in 2016 and comes immediately subsequent to his huge victory in the $200,000 Maxie Lee Memorial at Harrah’s Philadelphia on May 29. “I think he is even better than last year,” MacDonald said. “It is like he is in a zone and in peak form. It was not like he was bad by any means last year. He is a very smart horse that does nothing wrong and I think this season is going to be very fun with him and might be his best yet. “Paul (Kelley) wanted me to drive him as a 4-year-old, but circumstances did not work out to enable me to. Paul protected him and kept him up at Saratoga that year so he did not have to face many of the best trotters. I think that strategy is working out now, as he is so sharp and I know I can count on him for many more appearances in big races this season. Paul has really done a tremendous job with this horse and the horse himself just has all the tools. There is no denying he is right there with the best racing right now and he continues to make me very happy.” by Kimberly French, USTA Internet News Editor

A multiple-stakes winner in 2014, the harness racing 4-year-old Il Sogno Dream is among 10 horses entered in Saturday's $200,000 Charlie Hill Memorial for older trotters at Scioto Downs Racino. The field also includes Bee A Magician, the 2013 Horse of the Year, and stakes-winner Natural Herbie. Il Sogno Dream will start from post No. 2 with driver Aaron Merriman. Bee A Magician, with Brian Sears listed to drive, drew post four and Natural Herbie, with owner-trainer-driver Verlin Yoder at the lines, got post eight. Modern Family won last year's inaugural Charlie Hill Memorial in a then-track-record-equaling 1:52.2. Interestingly, Il Sogno Dream won his seasonal debut on May 22 at Scioto Downs in a career-best 1:52.2. "I can't say I expected him to go (1):52 in his first start, but he was ready I guess," Beaver said with a laugh. "He's come back better than he was. Last year, he would kind of lay into the turns a bit. He's straighter this year; I could probably race him without hobbles, but I don't like to change in case they ever need them on. "He's filled out a bit. I wouldn't say he's any taller, but there's more weight on him. And it seems like he's gotten a little faster over the winter. I think (the improvement in the turns) is a part of it, but I think his stamina is better than it was last year." Il Sogno Dream won five of 18 races last year and earned $323,952 for owners Bill Manes, Dan Manes, Leonard Christopher and Randy Christopher. He captured divisions of the Currier & Ives and Circle City Trot and finished second in the Goodtimes Stakes. He also had third-place finishes in the Kentucky Futurity and Carl Erskine Trot and was fourth in the Hambletonian Stakes. For his career, the son of Cantab Hall-Le Reve has won nine of 31 starts and earned $451,601. Il Sogno Dream has raced twice this year and heads to the Charlie Hill Memorial off a second-place finish to Final Breath in the May 29 Open at Scioto Downs. Il Sogno Dream lost by a head despite starting from post eight and racing on the outside for the entire mile. "I'm really happy with the condition of the horse going into this race," said the 43-year-old Beaver, who established a career high with $1.27 million in purse earnings last season. "I think he's got a good chance to get a top-three finish in (the Charlie Hill Memorial). "I'm not sure he's not up to being able to race against the top horses, I think he can race with them; I don't think they're going to overshadow him. Is he ready to beat that kind? I don't know. He hasn't faced anything like them so far this year. But I feel pretty good about him in there." Il Sogno Dream has a limited stakes schedule this year. Among the races to which he is eligible are the Hambletonian Maturity, Maple Leaf Trot, Chip Noble Memorial Trot, Centaur Trotting Classic, and Dayton Trotting Derby. "I didn't over-stake him this year," said Beaver, who is based in central Ohio and also has 10 horses with a second trainer in Ontario. "I figured he'd be racing a few more years at least. I'm hoping he can be really good around here and compete on the Grand Circuit locally. I hope he develops into a horse that could race everywhere. I think he's well on his way." Bee A Magician has won three of four races this year and is coming off a second-place finish to Father Patrick in the Maxie Lee Memorial Invitational on May 24 at Harrah's Philadelphia. The 5-year-old mare, who has raced exclusively against the boys so far this year, has won 34 of 51 career races and earned $2.90 million. Natural Herbie is winless in five starts this season, but last year won the International Trot Preview, Chip Noble Memorial and Vincennes Invitational. He has won 24 of 51 lifetime starts and $763,491. Following is the field in post order for the Charlie Hill Memorial with listed drivers and trainers: 1  Final Breath, Dan Noble, Hugh Beatty 2. Il Sogno Dream, Aaron Merriman, Chris Beaver 3. Fusion Man, Ronnie Wrenn Jr., Jeff Smith 4. Bee A Magician, Brian Sears, R. Nifty Norman 5. DW's NY Yank, Chris Page, Ron Burke 6. Obrigado, Mark MacDonald, Paul Kelley 7. Southwind Pepino, Hugh Beatty, Hugh Beatty 8. Natural Herbie, Verlin Yoder, Verlin Yoder 9. Lindy's Tru Grit, Andy Miller, Julie Miller 10. Count Me In, Mike Wilder, Ron Burke Note: DW's NY Yank and Count Me In will race as an entry. Note: Count Me In starts from the trailing position. by Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications USTA  

Columbus, OH --- On Saturday (June 6), Scioto Downs Racino will play host to plenty of harness racing stakes action featuring the $200,000 Charlie Hill Memorial Trot. Ten of the country’s top trotters will go to the gate, including 2013 Horse of the Year Bee A Magician. Bee A Magician will ship to Scioto Downs off a second place finish in the Maxie Lee to Father Patrick. With regular pilot Brian Sears listed to drive, Bee A Magician will try to gain a victory and push her lifetime earnings to more than $3 million. The race will also see DW’s NY Yank, Lindy’s Tru Grit and Obrigado ship in from the east to stake their claim to the $200,000 purse. Verlin Yoder will be bringing Indiana bred Natural Herbie to the High Street oval to tackle the country’s best once again after earning more than $300,000 in 2014. The stellar field will also consist of Count Me In, Final Breath, Fusion Man, Il Sogno Dream and Southwind Pepino, who have been battling week in and week out in some of Scioto Downs' finest trot races. Ohio’s top 3-year-old colt and gelding pacers and trotters will also slug it out in the second leg of the Ohio Sires Stakes with two divisions for each gait. The pacers will include Gray Camo and Chief Talkalot, who were winners in the first round at Miami Valley Raceway. Neely’s Messenger, last year’s 2-year-old trot Sires Stakes champion, will continue his quest to be Ohio’s best trotter for trainer Al Manke III. I Know My Chip will try to push his winning streak to four for trainer Ron Burke. Be sure to make it to the racetrack early as American Pharoah attempts to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed accomplished the task in 1978. American Pharoah will go postward at approximately 6:35 p.m. in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes, with jockey Victor Espinoza aboard. Racing continues at Scioto Downs through Sept. 12, Super Night. Post time is 2 p.m. for Tuesdays and holiday race days and 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays-Saturdays. by Myles Linderman, for Scioto Downs 

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