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WILKES-BARRE, PA - The perennial leading harness racing driver at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, George Napolitano Jr., won his third of the early-season Game Of Claims' five Championships, and owner William Emmons Jr. his second, when they combined behind the Explosive Matter gelding Explosive Magic for a 1:56.2 victory in Monday $30,000 Game Of Claims Trotting Series Championship for $15,000-base-price horses. Emmons and trainer Eric Ell claimed the winner of three out of his last four out of the series' second preliminary, and then had him sit out the final prelim, hoping his first and second in the initial two legs would get him into the final without risking him being claimed. The 1-2 finishes did advance him sufficiently - he was eighth in points of the top nine entrants - and Monday Explosive Magic showed no ill effects from the week off, sitting behind favored Golden Son through fractions of :27.4, :57.1, and 1:27, then charging home in the lane for a 1½ length victory over the chalk. He paid $11.80 to win. EXPLOSIVE MAGIC REPLAY   Emmons is also the owner of Glengarry Knight N, winner of his $50,000 Game Of Claims Championship, and currently third among all North American pacers in 2021 earnings. Two horses eligible to April's $700,000 Bobby Weiss Series, which features developing sophomores in four divisions divided by sex and gait, scored impressive wins on the undercard. The Always B Miki pacing colt Stellar Yankee won in his first start for trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera and owner Gilbert Garcia-Owen, taking a new mark of 1:55.2 with "George Nap" driving. Stellar Yankee was entered right back to be in his group's first preliminary this Saturday; the Art Major pacing colt Major Bean, coming off a 25-day layoff while debuting for trainer Scott Di Domenico, did not enter Saturday, but his 1:54.2 win here for driver Matt Kakaley and the ownership of Triple D Stables Inc. and Richard and Farrell Carey hints he may be a factor later in the series. For full race results, click here. From the PHHA/The Downs

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – It’s been five years since JL Cruze became the first harness racing trotter to break the 1:50 barrier at The Meadowlands, and while the 9-year-old Eric Ell trainee may have lost a step or two over the years, he once again found his way to the mile-oval’s winner’s circle Friday night in the featured $20,000 high-end conditioned trot. After getting gunned down a week ago when encountering bitter pressure while on the lead, driver Dexter Dunn opted to race in the pocket behind confirmed speedball Warrior One, who four starts ago was positively electric in a wire-to-wire 1:51.4 lifetime score. Sent to the gate as the 3-1 second choice, Warrior One put JL Cruze in the pocket out of the first turn and cut out fractions of :27, :55.4 and 1:24.4 on the point. JL Cruze gradually made his way off the rail on the far turn and steadily wore down Warrior One through the lane on the way to a 1¾-length score in 1:51.4. The consistent gelded son of Crazed -Topcat Hall won for the fifth time in 2020 from 21 starts while hitting the board 17 times. “He’s unbelievable,” said Ell. “He still loves what he’s doing. I didn’t think he left as well last week, so we injected his hocks, which is like putting some grease in his joints. It allows him to move a bit better.” Owned by William Kenneth Wood, William J. Dittmar Jr. and Stephen J. Iaquinta, JL Cruze paid $4.20 as the even-money favorite in recording his 40th win from 122 lifetime starts to up his bulging bank account to $1,534,267. “Honestly, I think he’s a better horse from behind but he’s got great gate speed and it seems he ends up on the point a lot,” said Ell. “Tonight, out of the two-hole he was raging, but can do it either way. I’d like to keep racing him at The Meadowlands if there’s a race for him. We’re going to keep trying.” JL Cruze A LITTLE MORE: Dunn upped his driver-colony leading win total at the Fall Meeting to 41 after scoring three times on the card. … Todd McCarthy, Andy McCarthy and Scott Zeron all had driving doubles. … All it took for two sharp players was six out of seven to cash in for $5,568 in the 20-cent Survivor Pick-7. … Chalk players ruled the night as eight post-time choices hit victory lane. … All-source handle on the 13-race card totaled $2,446,627. … Racing resumes Saturday at 7:15 p.m. By Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations

Dover, DE -   Sheez On A Cruise, trained by Brenda Teague will race against her big brother ,JL Cruze, who is trained by Eric Ell. The race is scheduled for the 12th race, the $27,500 Open Trot at Dover Downs on Tuesday February 18 The event is said to be the 1st time that full sibblings will have ever competed against one another in the same race at Dover Downs. The field is as follows:  Post Time is 4:30 pm   Jammin Jack            Sheez On A Cruise     Home’N Dry Muscle Diamond Joey Bats Tight lines Jack Vernon JL Cruze    by Alex Kraszewski, for Dover Downs    

Wherever he goes, JL Cruze is still the man. "Everybody knows him, everybody loves him," trainer Eric Ell said about the 9-year-old harness racing trotter, who was a Dan Patch Award winner in 2015. "He's a household name around here. Everybody asks about him when he's not racing to make sure he's all right. They keep track of him. When people see him, they come up hugging on him. He's been unbelievable." JL Cruze might not be the Grand Circuit warrior of old, but he remains a fighter. And with two wins in three races this season, including a 1:51.2 score that is as fast as any win time he's posted since he was 6, he could be looking to turn back the clock. In addition to his 1:51.2 victory at The Meadowlands on Jan. 11, JL Cruze won in 1:53.4 over a track rated good because of inclement weather on Jan. 18. "He was incredible his last two starts," Ell said. "Two starts ago, he did it the old-fashioned way, like his old self. He was parked to the half in :54.3 and he won by a length and a half, last quarter :27.3 on the end of it. The next week, that was a great mile that night and he did it easily. "He's probably as sound as he's been since I've had him, and he loves doing what he does. He's better this year, even with the turns. You used to almost have to grab into him a little bit because he could get rough going. (Driver) Dexter Dunn said he's just whistling right around the turns now." JL Cruze's next start is Saturday at The Meadowlands in the preferred trot. JL Cruze will start from post 10 in a field that includes Pappy Go Go, who brings a three-race win streak to the event. "If he's as good as he was the last three starts up there, they'll know he's in there for sure," Ell said about JL Cruze. For his career, JL Cruze has won 37 of 104 races and $1.46 million. His most memorable victory came at The Meadowlands in 2015 when he captured the Graduate Series championship in 1:49.4 to become the first trotter to go faster than 1:50 in Big M history. He was limited to six races in 2018 because of surgery for a twisted intestine but returned last year to win six times and earn $100,720. He made all but one of his 26 starts at either The Meadowlands or Hoosier Park and Ell plans to keep JL Cruze on the big tracks again this season. The gelding is owned by Ken Wood, Bill Dittmar Jr., and Steve Iaquinta. "We didn't stake him last year because we didn't even know how he would be," Ell said. "We just did the overnights and he ended up making a hundred (thousand dollars) that way. He's getting pretty long in the tooth now. He's still competing well, but I don't know how well he would take all the shipping (on the Grand Circuit). But the time off might have helped him. He's been really good." As for what JL Cruze has meant to Ell, well, he's still the man. "Words can't say," Ell said. "I've had a lot of open horses that I've trained in my life, but never a world champion like him. He's just a tough rascal." Racing begins at 7:15 p.m. (EST) Saturday at The Meadowlands. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

CHESTER, PA - New York invader Lyons Steel got a rest in the second quarter and then sprinted home in 54.3, reaching the wire in 1:51.2 - usually good enough to win a $16,000 conditioned pace at Harrah's Philadelphia. But on Wednesday afternoon, the Sombeachsomewhere gelding Penzance Hanover, stalking him in the pocket, had just a bit more on the end, pirating the victory away from the frontstepper by a nose under the guidance of David Miller. Penzance Hanover had made a break early upon coming to Philly last time out, but he impressed the crowd enough in his recovery, from 14½ lengths out at the quarter to only 1¾ lengths behind at the wire (though seventh), that they made him the 4-5 favorite. And Penzance Hanover rewarded the confidence, though it took longer than desired for the public and trainer Eric Ell, also co-owner with Ken Wood, Bill Dittmar Jr., Steve Iaquinta, and Toby Rekoon. George Napolitano Jr. guided five winners home first on the Wednesday card, for five different trainers. Napolitano is second to Tim Tetrick in the local standings, and they rank next to each other (Tetrick fourth, Napolitano fifth) in the national yearly totals. George is also the leading sulkysitter 100 miles up the Pennsylvania Turnpike Northeast Extension, at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. The "glamour division" of the sport, the three-year-old pacing colts, come to Philly Town for weekend Pennsylvania-sired action. Friday's card features three divisions of a PA Stallion Series contest, while on Sunday such well-known horses as Well Done, Wes Delight, Hayden Hanover, and Babes Dig Me will be doing battle in three sections of Sire Stakes competition. From the PHHA/Harrah's Philadelphia

YONKERS, N.Y. – Cajon Lightning looked well-spotted when he drew the inside post position for his Yonkers harness racing debut January 20. Trainer Eric Ell entered the gelding in a $30,000 overnight off a win the Open Handicap at Dover Downs the previous week and hoped Cajon Lightning would show speed and control the race. But while Cajon Lightning was shipping up from Delaware, Ell received a disappointing phone call: the truck had broken down on the highway, putting Cajon Lightning in jeopardy of missing the race. “When he called me and told me he broke down, I got another truck real quick and started up that way, but then I started making phone calls and I tried to find somebody closer that could grab him and get him up there, but I couldn’t get it done as hard as I tried,” Ell said. “It took me an hour-and-a-half to get to him and switch trucks. Then I sat with the broken-down truck and waited for a tow truck and sent him on his way.” Despite Ell’s best efforts, Cajon Lightning arrived at Yonkers 25 minutes late, resulting in a transportation scratch. Although he missed a coveted opportunity to race from the rail on the half-mile track, Cajon Lightning will get another chance to compete at the Hilltop Oval this week when he starts as the 5/2 morning line favorite in the $40,000 Open Handicap Pace Saturday January 27. Cajon Lightning established himself as a force in the winter series at Woodbine in 2015 and 2016 when he swept the Autumn Series and finished second in the Valedictory Final, the Ontario Boys Final, and the WEGZ Final for Richard Moreau. Cajon Lightning came to Ell’s stable that spring, but found it difficult to adjust to the warmer climate. “He’s just not a real good horse in the summer time, he likes cold weather,” Ell said. “When I brought him down from Canada, it was starting to get hot here. He was ok, but wasn’t what we thought he would be. When it started cooling off at Dover, he got really good as a 4-year-old and a 5-year-old and this year, even better. He’s just a killer this year. He’s got some allergy trouble and stuff that bothers him in the summer, but he’s a much better horse in the winter months.” Now 6 years old, Cajon Lightning is sharper than ever. He’s posted four wins at the Open level at Dover since November 16, including a lifetime best 1:49.4 victory in a dead heat with Sicily December 7. In addition to his speed, Cajon Lightning has also shown versatility in his recent wins, scoring on the lead and from well off the pace. The son of Mach Three is 20-for-80 in his career with $265,570 in earnings. “He’s rounded into a real, real nice racehorse now and you can do anything with him,” Ell said. “He’s a pleasure. There’s not one thing he does bad. Perfect gentlemen, working around him in the barn, he ships good. He’s lazy warming up, he’s not a grabby horse. You put him behind the gate and you can sprint of the gate a quarter in 26 or you can take off the gate with two fingers. He’s just an all-around perfect racehorse. Nice horse to have around.” Although Ell says Cajon Lightning may be better on a big track, he decided to take his chances at Yonkers when the top classes at Dover struggled to fill consistently. He already ships barn standout Soto to Yonkers to race, so adding Cajon Lightning to the trailer was a no-brainer. “He’s a great big horse, better on a big track, but I raced him at Harrington some and he was good there and that’s a tight half-mile too, so I think he’ll be ok at Yonkers. We’re going to hope anyway,” he explained. Although a winter storm altered Cajon Lightning’s training schedule ahead of his first race at Yonkers, Ell thinks he will be ready for his test against rivals Orillia Joe, who rides a two-race win streak into this week’s Open Handicap, but starts from post seven, and Gokudo Hanover, who won three straight at Yonkers before finishing second as the favorite in last week’s pacing feature. “I train on a half-mile farm track and the day I really wanted to train him, I got him out and jogged, but that’s about all I could do,” Ell explained. “I got him trained the following day and I couldn’t go a real big mile, but he trained good and he was very eager, wanted to do it, and felt good. I just couldn’t give him as much as I wanted to. It doesn’t take him a lot. I think he’ll be ok.” If Cajon Lightning handles the competition and takes to the racetrack, he could prove to be peaking at the right time as the George Morton Levy Series is quickly approaching. “I’m curious to see how he’s going to fair up there. We’re going to put Soto back in the Levy if he gets a little sharper. He’s not at the top of his game right now. I’d like to see how this horse gets around the half. He’s sharper than Soto right now, but we’ve got to see how he handles the half. He’s an all-around nice horse and I can’t wait to get him up there and see what happens.” First post time Saturday is 6:50 p.m. Click here to view entries for the card. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY  

Plainville, MA---After watching an epic front-end battle between Crazy Wow and Resolve, driver Andrew McCarthy found room up the pylons late for 60-1 JL Cruze, who was in fourth place most of the mile, and pulled a major upset by winning the inaugural running of the $250,000 Spirit Of Massachusetts Trot that was held at Plainridge Park on Friday (July 28). Crazy Wow (Matt Kakaley) and Resolve (Ake Svanstedt) both wanted the lead but Crazy Wow got it, seating Resolve before they hit the quarter in :26.1. At that station Hannelore Hanover (Yannick Gingras) pulled momentarily from third but that prompted Resolve to pop the deuce and the mare went back to the pylons. Resolve pulled alongside Crazy Wow for a few strides but Kakaley asked for more and put Resolve back in the hole once again. Just before the five-eighths, Resolve came for the third time and Hannelore Hanover followed. That opened the rail for JL Cruze to move up the inside and right onto the back of front-running Crazy Wow as they hit three-quarters in 1:22 flat. Around the last turn, Crazy Wow and Resolve continued to slug it out side by side but at the top of the lane they both drifted a bit and opened a lane for the fresh-legged JL Cruze to get underway. As they drove for the wire, JL Cruze invoked his will and trotted away from group to win the race in 1:51.2 which set a new all-time track trotting record. Hannelore Hanover got up for second and Crazy Wow hung on to be third. "It really worked out, that was a lot of pressure up there; they were really rocking along. I had my chance just getting through the first turn which was my biggest concern, then after that I had to get lucky to get out" said winning driver Andrew McCarthy. "Going into the last turn, I knew I had enough trot to get there, it was just a matter of getting up the inside. So when they were dueling up front, I could kind of cut my own mile back there and just figure it out from there." McCarthy was asked about filling the seat of Hall of Famer John Campbell, who was JL Cruze's regular driver before his retirement in June and he said that Campbell actually had a part of the day's success. "JL Cruze has been a great horse for three years now and to just sit behind a horse like that is a great privilege. It worked out before the race that I ran into John (Campbell) and asked him what he thought I should do with this horse on the gate and he gave me a couple pointers and it really worked out." It was only the second win of the year for JL Cruze but one that a record live crowd will never forget. Let go at 60-1 by the betting faithful, JL Cruze returned $123.60 to win and a $732.60 trifecta and $4,588.80 superfecta with the three post-time favorites in order behind him. The winner's share of the purse made JL Cruze a millionaire as it pushed his lifetime earnings to $1.08 million for owners William Wood, William Dittmar Jr. and Stephen Iaquinta. Eric Ell is the winning trainer. The track record that JL Cruze broke was set just one race before by Gural Hanover in the $25,000 Old North Church Open Handicap Trot. Gural Hanover (Matt Kakaley) left sharply from post eight and opened up a two-length advantage. He maintained the gapped lead the entire race including easy first-half fractions of :27.1 and :56.1. And that is where the race was won. As they started up the backside, Kakaley tapped the gas pedal and got to three-quarters in 1:24 flat and then with the field strung-out behind him, Gural Hanover trotted home in total command tripping the timer in 1:52.1 under Kakaley's wraps. The 1:52.1 track record stood for one race. It was the sixth win in 13 starts this year for Gural Hanover ($3.60) who is owned by the Burke Racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Little E LLC and the Panhellenic Stable Corp. and is trained by Ron Burke. By Tim Bojarski, for Plainridge Park  

HARRINGTON, Del. - Ken Wood, Bill Dittmar and Steve Iaquinta's Celebrity Pegasus ($5.00, Art Stafford Jr.) set a new harness racing track record for trotting stallions Wednesday at Harrington Raceway with a 1:54.1 score in the $15,000 Open Trot. Gillie The Kid set fractions of 28.1, 56.3 and 1:25 while Celebrity Pegasus gathered first-over momentum and cleared the field on the final turn and opened up a comfortable lead. Wind Of The North closed ground for second and Five Towns finished third. Trained by Eric Ell, "Pegasus" recorded his 19th career win. Six Gun Hall (1:54.4) held the prior track record. Matthew Sparacino    

Ken Wood has seen Soto grow up. And now Wood is watching the harness racing 5-year-old pacer tangle with the big boys. Last week, Soto won his first-round division of the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series at Yonkers Raceway. Soto defeated a field that included defending Levy champion Bit Of A Legend N, 2014 Levy winner P H Supercam, open-stakes-winners Wakizashi Hanover and Somewhere In L A, plus world champion Always At My Place. "It was a privilege to be in the same race with those horses," said Wood, who owns Soto with Bill Dittmar Jr. and Stephen Iaquinta. "There are a lot of horses better than him, but it's fun to have him be able to race with them. He's not the best horse in the world, but he's decent when he gets it his way a little bit." Wood and his partners bought Soto for $40,000 at the Standardbred Horse Sale Mixed Sale in 2015. Since the purchase, Soto has won 17 of 50 races and earned $234,045 in purses. For his career, the stallion has won 21 of 75 starts and banked $345,575. Soto won only one of his first six races for his new owners, but eventually worked himself up to the Preferred/Open level of competition at Dover Downs and Yonkers prior to heading to the Levy. "He didn't start off with a boom, but he's gotten a little better all the time," Wood said about Soto, whose family includes Dan Patch Award-winners Sportswriter and Precocious Beauty. "He was a nice purchase for the money we gave for him. "When you're at the sale, you look at all of them. He showed some 26-second last quarters early as a 3-year-old, and if they're doing that well early on, there's speed in there. He had a few little problems, but nothing serious. You know they're supposed to get better as a 4- and 5-year-old. That's what I go by, anyway. "I think somebody else helps me raise my hand once in a while," he added. "We're not geniuses, just lucky." Wood, who also co-owns 2015 Dan Patch Award-winning older male trotter JL Cruze with Dittmar and Iaquinta, uses the profits from his horses to fund his mission to dig wells for safe drinking water in Africa. Since starting his Lifetime Wells project in 2006, his group has put in a total of 1,700 wells in Ghana and Tanzania. "It's going good," Wood said. "We've got one rig drilling every day with the locals. When I go four times a year I drill in Tanzania myself. I spend three months every year over there." It was upon returning from one of his trips that Wood realized Soto had done a lot of growing up following his season as a 3-year-old. "I've never seen a horse grow from (age) 3 to 4, but he's grown six inches taller," Wood said. "He was a little bitty fella. I'd been in Africa for a while and when I came back he grew a lot. He's grown much taller than he was. I've never had that experience before when they grow at that age, but he sure did." Soto returns to the Levy Series this Saturday, where he will compete in the second of four second-round divisions. Soto, trained by Eric Ell and driven by Matt Kakaley, will start from post two. The field also includes Bit Of A Legend N, Rockin Ron, Mach It So, McWicked, Guantanamo Bay, and Blood Brother. The third division features two first-round winners --- Provocativeprincen and Missile J --- while the fourth division includes opening-round winner Long Live Rock. The series has five $50,000 preliminary rounds followed by a $200,000-added final, which is scheduled for April 22. "Post position helps quite a bit at Yonkers, naturally," Wood said, referring to high win percentages for horses with inside starting spots on the half-mile oval. "Luck went our way the first race anyway. We're just hoping he gets checks because we know those other horses are better than he is." If Soto keeps enjoying success, though, Wood might no longer be able to say that. "I hope I have that problem," Wood said, laughing. For Saturday's complete Yonkers card, click here. Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager Harness Racing Communications A division of the U.S. Trotting Association

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, February 25, 2017 - Saturday night offered any number of harness racing entrants for Yonkers Raceway's upcoming George Morton Levy Memorial Series (nominations close this Wednesday, March 1-hint, hint), including favored Soto (Matt Kakaley, $4.50), winner of the featured $50,000 Open Handicap Pace. In play from post position No. 4, Soto then gave up the baton to Somewhere in L A (Mark MacDonald) just before a moist :26.4 opening quarter-mile. After a 56-second intermission and moving down the backside, First Class Horse (Tyler Buter) took out of fourth, That one towed Guantanamo Bay (Jason Bartlett) while moving into a :27.4 third quarter (1:23.4). Somewhere in L A owned a length-and-a-half lead into the lane, was good, though not quite good enough. Soto dipped inside, edging past by a neck in 1:52.1. Third was a best-of-the-rest Guantanamo Bay, with Roland N Rock (Jordan Stratton) and Caviart Luca (George Brennan) rounding out the payees. For Delaware-based Soto, a 5-year-old son of Rock N Roll Heaven trained by Eric Ell for co-owners Kenneth Wood, William Dittmar Jr. and Stephen Iaquinta, it was his fourth win in seven seasonal starts. The exacta paid $27.40, with the triple returning $147. Frank Drucker

DOVER, DE---- Soto won the $30,000 Preferred Handicap, Rockinonby took the $21,000 Open while Mustang Art won his second in-a-row in the top three races on the Thursday, Jan.26 at Dover Downs. For the second straight day, Art Stafford Jr. drove the winner of the feature race on the card. This time, Soto, who drew the rail, took command at the start and never looked back in a decisive victory. For the second time, Sweet Rock and Allan Davis, were runner-up with veteran Clear Vision driven by Yannick Gingras third. The Soto win for the brown son of Rock N Roll Heaven-Incredible Beauty, was his second in three races for trainer Eric Ell and Ken Wood, Bill Dittmar and Steve Iaquinta, who also owned Wednesday feature winner Celebrity Pegasus. Tony Morgan used the passing lane driving Rockinonby to a 1:51.2 triumph in the $21,000 Open pace. Niss Allen Inc. owns the Rockin Image-Stan's Ann gelding. Cajon Lightning (Jonathan Roberts) was second with Screaman Seaman (Kirby) third. Mustang Art made it two in-a-row posting a 1:52 victory in one of two $15,500 Male paces. Vic Kirby guided the 10-year-old Artiscape-Paula Seelster gelding to his 46th lifetime win while earning $08,872. The sport's richest Standardbred Foiled Again (Gingras) finished second in front of Star Messenger (Morgan). Gingras came right back to pick up his third win guiding Bad Gamer, four-year-old son of Badlands Hanover-Kattimon whom he owns with trainer Ed Gannon and Frank Canzone and Bob Sabatini, to a 1:52 triumph in another $15,500 Male pace for 4&5-Year-Olds. Caviart Skyler (Montrell Teague) and All The Cookies (Tyler Davis) were second and third respectively. In a third $15,500 event for Young male pacers, 13-1 shot JW Renegade got up at the wire to catch Fashionbythebeach in the last step in 1: 52.4. John MacKinnon drove the win for his father Russ MacKinnon. JW Renegade is a four-year-old by Pacific Renegade-Honey winning for the first time in 2017. Suchasensenceofhumor (Jim Morand) was the show horse. Sharon Wyatt, and breeders Robin West and Ron Benton's Remember Me VK made it two straight trips to the winner's circle for drover Montrell Teague. The Art Director-All Memory gelding was never challenged en route to a 1:51.3 clocking in a $12,500 Male pace. The former Delaware-sired champion ow has won $260,576 lifetime. Smart Rocker (Gingras) was second in front of Quick Shot (Roberts). Yannick Gingras won three races, Corey Callahan, Art Stafford Jr., trainer Eric Ell and owner-trainer Dylan Davis had two wins. Monday through Thursday post time is 4:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are dark days. Parking and admission at Dover Downs is free. Reservations are suggested for the popular Winner's Circle Restaurant and its acclaimed Buffet. . For reservations, call 302-674-4600. Simulcasting of top harness and thoroughbred racing is available in the Dover Downs Racing and Sports Book, from 12 Noon to 12 Midnight daily. by Marv Bachrad, for Dover Downs

AT DOVER, Del---- Art Stafford Jr. took Celebrity Pegasus to the front and then took no prisoners along the way to a lifetime best equaling 1:53.3 harness racing conquest in the Wednesday, Jan. 25 $15,000 Mares 4&5-Year-Old Winners-Over trot at Dover Downs on Jan. 25. A five-year-old by Andover Hall-Celebrity Athena, Celebrity Pegasus had been racing well since her last win in late November three consecutive seconds, a third and a fifth last week, but a change in post positions, from the outside to post 2 did the trick for trainer Eric Ell and owners Ken Wood, Bill Dittmar, Steve Iaquinta and Minisink Farms. A 15-1 shot Machuca (Tony Morgan) finished second in front of fast closing Royal Becca J (Jack Parker Jr.). The brown trotter won for the13th time and now has won $154,010 lifetime. Tony Morgan won his third of four wins during the day guiding Richard Gutnick and TLP Stable's Moonlight Cocktail, trained by Linda Toscano, to a career fastest 1:54.4 triumph from post 8 in the $13,500 semi feature. A Canadian stakes seasoned daughter of Kadabra-Angustura, it marked the four-year-old's third straight victory. Streamsong (Jonathan Roberts) led for most of the mile holding on for second-place. Myclaimtovictory (Kim Vincent) was third. Morgan, who is the second-leading dash winning driver in North America, finished the program with four trips to the winner's circle. Ross Wolfenden, Yannick Gingras and Art Stafford Jr. had two wins each. BUSHWACKER, ARQUE HANOVER STREAKS ON LINE IN $30,000 PACE Bushwacker and Arque Hanover, winners of the last two $30,000 Preferred paces drew outside posts this week while Jet Airway seeks a third straight win in  the $21,000 Open on another outstand out Thursday program, Jan. 26 at Dover Downs. Post time is 4:30 p.m. Post 8 could not deny Corey Callahan from driving Henderson Farms’ Bushwacker from scoring a 1:49.3 victory in the Preferred. It was the first sub 1:50 clocking of 2017, and the Chris Ryder-trainee’s second consecutive victory. The week before, the six-year-old won the $20,000 Open in 1:51 wire-to-wire. To his inside, Abe Basen, Tom Lazzaro and Robert Cooper Stable’s Arque Hanover has been equally as sharp winning three of his last four outings. Yannick Gingras is his pilot in this one. After a week off, Rich Lombard and L&J Racing’s $1.5-million winner Dancin Yankee with Tony Morgan has a second and a win in his last two races. The power-packed feature field also has another all-time rich campaigner $2.5-million winner, Clear Vision, racing for Weaver Bruscemi, Jay Koran, Panhellenic and Burke Racing stables. George&Tina Dennis’ stalwart Seventh Secret is in rare form. Sweet Rock and Allan Davis finished a game second last time for G.P. Calloway, Reg Hazzard and Legacy Racing. Not to be overlooked, Janet Hudson and JoAnn Looney King’s Little Ben has been one of the meet’s top horses. Though Soto ay be overlooked, the five-year-old owned by Ken Wood, Bill Dittmar and Steve Iaquinta has drawn outside in his last two but gets the rail this week and will be a tough one to catch while on the lead.  There’s plenty of speed and talent in the $21,000 Open Handicap. Jet Airway Callahan) has won his last two races, and starts from post 8 in the nine-horse lineup. Al Carter and trainer Doug Lewis’ Captive Audience (Gingras), J.L. Sadowsky’s Te Kawau N (Daryl Bier), Bill Sartin and Mark Salerno’s Special T Rocks (Jim Morand), drew post 4 this time after post 8 last start.   Reg Hazzard and Legacy Racing’s Sicily (Allan Davis) and Cliff Grundy’s Screaman Seaman A (Kirby) leaving from post 9 in the second tier, plus two newcomers to the Open ranks, Niss Allen inc.’s Rockinonby (Tony Morgan) from the rail and Angela Coombs’ recent claim Skyful Of Lighters (Jason Thompson). When at the track enjoy racing and tasty food in the Winners Circle Restaurant acclaimed buffet. Call for reservations at 302-674-4600. Harness and Thoroughbred Simulcasting daily 12 Noon until 12 Midnight at Dover Downs Race and Sports Book in the Colonnade. There is no charge for parking or admission at Dover Downs. Friday, Saturday and Sunday are dark days for live racing at Dover Downs. Weekdays - Monday through Thursday – racing begins at 4:30 p.m. Marv Bachrad

WILKES-BARRE PA - JL Cruze, 2015's champion Older Male Trotter in North America, got his 2016 harness racing campaign again headed in the right direction with a 1:53 victory in the $25,000 winners-over feature Sunday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.   John Campbell had his usual seat behind the altered five-year-old son of Crazed, and he guided him to the lead past the 27.2 opening quarter, then backed off the half to 57.1. From there, "JL" cruzed home in 55.4, winning by two lengths over the out-at-every-call Crazshana, completing the Crazed-sired Exacta, with Il Sogno Dream another half-length back in third after going first-over.   This season JL Cruze opened his campaign with three straight victories, but he had gone "only" 1 for 5 since then before this race - if you count a second to Rose Run Parker, still 2016's fastest North American trotter (1:50.4), and a fourth in the Cutler and a fifth in the Lee, in the "only" category. But perhaps his win at Pocono will mark a turnaround back towards his championship form for the Eric Ell-trained trotter, owned by Wm. Kenneth Wood, William Dittmar Jr., and Stephen Iaquinta, and now the winner of $101,430 this year and $761,483 lifetime.   If you like two-year-old trotting stakes fillies, Pocono is the place to be for you the next two nights - eight divisions of Pennsylvania Stallion Series action top the bill on Monday, while the next night will feature five divisions of Pennsylvania Sire Stakes racing.   PHHA / Pocono      

When harness racing  owner Bill Dittmar Jr. visited the winner's circle with Anders Bluestone following the 2011 Maxie Lee Memorial Invitational, it seemed like the moment of a lifetime. On Sunday afternoon, he returns to the same event at Harrah's Philadelphia with what seems like the horse of a lifetime. Dittmar is among the owners of JL Cruze, who last year won 16 of 21 races, set numerous world records, and received a Dan Patch Award as harness racing's best older male trotter. JL Cruze is part of a star-packed 2016 edition of the $200,000 Maxie Lee Memorial Invitational for older trotters. The field includes 2013 Horse of the Year Bee A Magician and 2014 Trotter of the Year Shake It Cerry. Bee A Magician, unbeaten in three races this year, is the 5-2 morning line favorite. JL Cruze, with four wins in five starts this season, is the 7-2 second choice. "When we won with Anders Bluestone a few years ago that was really a highlight with our horses at that time," Dittmar said. "That was fun. "It would be nice to be competitive again. We've always been a group with (non-stakes) horses. When you get a stakes horse, it's exciting. It really is. We're a small stable and you find the diamond in the rough once in a while and try to have some fun with it." Sunday's Philly card also includes the $200,000 Betsy Ross Invitational for older female pacers and the $200,000 Dorothy Mullin Invitational for older male pacers. Delaware-based Wiggle It Jiggleit, the 2015 Horse of the Year, is the 2-1 morning line favorite in the Mullin Invitational. He has won five of eight races this year, finishing no worse than second in any start, and heads to Sunday's festivities off a track-record performance in winning the Battle of Lake Erie last weekend at Northfield Park. Rockin Ron, who established a Canadian record in defeating Wiggle It Jiggleit in the Confederation Cup earlier this month, and New Zealand-bred Levy Memorial Pacing Series champion Bit Of A Legend are also among the Mullin's eight starters. Multiple-stakes-winner Devil Child is the 5-2 morning line choice in the Betsy Ross, which also includes 2015 Breeders Crown champion Color's A Virgin and this year's Blue Chip Matchmaker Series winner Yagonnakissmeornot. First race post time is 12:40 p.m. Sunday. The Betsy Ross, scheduled for approximately 3:40 p.m., is the first of the three invitationals, which will be raced consecutively. JL Cruze is owned by Dittmar, Stephen Iaquinta and Ken Wood. Some of JL Cruze's $627,456 in earnings last year went to help dig wells in Ghana and Tanzania and bring clean drinking water to 50,000 people as part of a longtime humanitarian effort spearheaded by Wood. A 5-year-old gelding, JL Cruze was purchased by his current owners for $37,000 in November 2014. They hoped he would be a nice fit at Dover Downs, where the group races frequently, but the horse blossomed with trainer Eric Ell last winter and then stormed to three consecutive stakes-level world-record wins during the summer before being sidelined by a virus. JL Cruze returned this season with three consecutive victories in open handicaps, but then finished off the board in the $150,000 Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff on May 8 at the Meadowlands. He bounced back with a non-stakes win at Harrah's Philadelphia on May 19 in his first-ever race at the track. "We were disappointed with his performance in the Elitlopp Playoff," Dittmar said. "He just wasn't feeling right. I hate making excuses for horses, but things happen. We all thought he was sitting on a good race going into it. It just wasn't his day. "Coming off his performance there and then racing for the first time at Philly, it was good to see him get around the turns there and come out of it in good shape. It should be fun Sunday." $200,000 Betsy Ross Invitational PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line 1-Yagonnakissmeornot-Daniel Dube-Rene Allard-7-1 2-Sassa Hanover-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-10-1 3-Venus Delight-Tim Tetrick-Jeffrey Bamond Jr.-7-2 4-Devil Child-Brian Sears-Chris Oakes-5-2 5-Katie Said-Brett Miller-Jimmy Takter-6-1 6-Waasmula-Trevor Henry-Bruce Goit-20-1 7-Sell A Bit N-Jordan Stratton-Peter Tritton-15-1 8-Color's A Virgin-David Miller-Brian Brown-4-1 $200,000 Maxie Lee Memorial Invitational PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line 1-Obrigado-Mark MacDonald-Paul Kelley-5-1 2-Wind Of The North-George Napolitano Jr.-Daryl Bier-12-1 3-Gural Hanover-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-20-1 4-JL Cruze-Corey Callahan-Eric Ell-7-2 5-Il Sogno Dream-Scott Zeron-Chris Beaver-7-1 6-Shake It Cerry-David Miller-Jimmy Takter-5-1 7-Bee A Magician-Brian Sears-R. Nifty Norman-5-2 8-Maestro Blue Chip-Tim Tetrick-JoAnn Looney-King-8-1 $200,000 Dorothy Mullin Invitational PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line 1-JK Endofanera-David Miller-Jimmy Takter-20-1 2-Wiggle It Jiggleit-Montrell Teague-Clyde Francis-2-1 3-Rockin Ron-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-6-1 4-Rockeyed Optimist-Brett Miller-Steve Elliott-12-1 5-Mach It So-Tim Tetrick-Jeffrey Bamond Jr.-9-2 6-Mel Mara-Corey Callahan-Dylan Davis-10-1 7-Luck Be Withyou-George Napolitano Jr.-Chris Oakes-9-2 8-Bit Of A Legend N-Jordan Stratton-Peter Tritton-6-1 Ken Weingartner

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ (April 21, 2016) - Winning 16 of 21 races, trotting the fastest mile in the history of the Meadowlands, and earning a Dan Patch Award as the sport's top aged trotter would seem like the perfect season for any horse. And yet trainer Eric Ell says JL Cruze probably could have been better. "Honestly, I cannot recall a start last year where he did not have gait issues, was not on a line, or was not fighting through some sort of lameness issue," explained the Mid-Atlantic based conditioner who has earned a reputation for his miracle work with troubled trotters. "He has never really been all that smooth, but he is just incredible and as game a racehorse as you will find." According to Ell, JL Cruze has come back a lot better so far in three undefeated starts as a five-year-old. Ell credits a change in the horse's feed that has allowed the son of Crazed - Topcat Hall, by Conway Hall to thrive. "Last year, he was a really picky eater and frequently would go a few days without eating much after his races," said Ell. "We raced him very hard through all of those series that he was winning and he was fighting lameness issues. This year we are really looking forward to being able to manage his season better and giving him really only two races per month." The next main goal for JL Cruze will be the inaugural Elitlopp Playoff on May 8 at the Meadowlands. The $150,000 Free For All Trot is shaping up as a must-see early-season showdown that will award the winner an invitation to The Elitlopp at Solvalla Racecourse in Sweden on May 29. Ell is giving JL Cruze this week off following a stretch of three wins over a 15-day period at the beginning of April. "My plan is to race him at the Meadowlands next week, assuming the race fills," said Ell. "That would then give him nine days to the Playoff, which would be the perfect amount of spacing. And my God, what a great field of horses he will face. There would be no shame in losing to any of those horses." Fans that wish to follow along the road to the Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff may visit a special website that will provide the latest news and profiles of all nominated horses at and follow along on social media using #ElitloppPlayoff. by Justin Horowitz, for the Meadowlands

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JL Cruze stayed perfect in three seasonal starts Friday night, taking the featured $25,000 open handicap trot at the Meadowlands by 1½ lengths over Shake It Cerry. Opulent Yankee was third. A 5-year-old gelded son of Crazed, JL Cruze used a change in tactic from his first two victories of the season and was hustled to the top by driver John Campbell before hitting the quarter in :27.1. Campbell was allowed to rate the Eric Ell trainee through a half in :56.4 and three-quarters in 1:25.3, leaving plenty of gas in the tank. At the top of the stretch, Rose Run Parker was a non-threatening presence alongside the eventual winner, but did provide live cover for Shake It Cerry, the lifetime earner of $2.4 million who was making her 2016 debut. Shake It Cerry closed well in a solid try for the Jimmy Takter barn. JL Cruse, who is pointing toward the May 8 Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff at the Big M, hit the wire in 1:52.2 after trotting a final quarter in :26.4 and paid $3 to win as the 1-2 favorite. Campbell, the all-time leader in wins and earnings at the Big M, scored four times on the card. In addition to JL Cruze in the sixth race, Campbell won with Massive Clout ($6.80 to win) in the first, Kiss Me Onthebeach ($8.60) in the third and longshot I C Caviar ($33.00) in the eighth. All-source wagering on the 12-race card was $2,650,557 while the 12th race Jackpot Super High Five carryover swelled to $179,502.82 for the next racing program after the wager was again not hit. Racing resumes at the Meadowlands Saturday at 7:15 p.m. by Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations  

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