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MANALAPAN, NJ - August 21, 2014 - When Freehold Raceway re-opens for its 2014 Summer/Fall Meet on Thursday, August 28, there will be a return to condition racing and the introduction of automated morning lines. "In a mutual agreement with the SBOA [Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey], we are returning to conditioned races when we re-open August 28," said Freehold's General Manager Howard Bruno. "We had some success with the ABC classified system, however, the seasonal fluctuations in horse supply made it difficult to maximize its potential." The 48-day meet [August 28 through December 13] will occupy Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays each week along with a special Labor Day card on Monday, September 1. Post time is 12:30 p.m. Overnight purses will average $40,000 daily, according to Bruno. Automated morning lines, generated by TrackMaster, will debut this meet. "Several other tracks have begun using the system and the feedback has been positive," said Director of Racing and Racing Secretary Karen Fagliarone. "We feel the automation will lead to increased accuracy and be more timely than our current system." Opening weekend includes stakes action, an opening day t-shirt giveaway, and, on Labor Day, discounted food items, autograph session and a cap giveaway. The free t-shirt will be distributed with a paid Freehold live racing program [while supplies last] on Thursday, August 28. The opening day feature is the first round of New Jersey Sire Stakes Green Acres for two-year-old trotting colts. Friday, August 29 spotlights eliminations, if needed, for the Helen Smith Trot for three-year-old fillies which has a $55,000 estimated final on September 5. Saturday, August 30 will showcase three-year-old pacing colts in Green Acres action. Two-year-old pacers, both colts and fillies, face off in opening round Green Acres on Labor Day, September 1. Labor Day is also Back to the Track, a cooperative effort by the United States Trotting Association, its member racetracks, and horsemen from coast-to-coast that combines exciting harness racing and fan-friendly promotions. Freehold's Labor Day festivities include a free Back to the Track cap with paid Freehold live program [while supplies last], 50-cent hot dogs, 50-cent sodas, drawings for a season's parking pass and Back to the Track t-shirts. Additionally, there will be a drivers' autograph session. Saturday, September 20 marks the Third Annual Open Space Pace, which starts with a morning parade of horses on Main Street in Freehold Borough, ending at Freehold Raceway where additional events will be staged, including celebrity amateur races, demonstrations, educational exhibits, great food, live harness racing, family fun activities, petting zoo, a concert and fireworks. In addition to the Green Acres stakes for New Jersey-sired two and three-year-olds, the fall schedule includes the Lou Babic Paces [September 27] and the SBOANJ-sponsored Marion Dancer Trot [September 4], Helen Smith Trot [September 5], Charles Smith Trot [September 12], Harold Dancer Trot [September 25] and New Jersey Futurities [September 6, October 10, October 16 and October 25]. Qualifiers are on Thursdays at 9:30 a.m. with declarations due the prior day at 10 a.m. Fourteen baby races and qualifiers are carded for Thursday, August 21. The opening week draw schedule: Thursday, August 28 - Draw on Monday, August 25 [Declare in by 9 a.m.] Friday, August 29 - Draw on Tuesday, August 26 [Declare in by 9 a.m.] Saturday, August 30 - Draw on Wednesday, August 27 [Declare in by 9 a.m.] Monday, September 1 [Labor Day] - Draw on Thursday, August 28 [Declare in by 9 a.m.] The remainder of meet will follow Freehold's traditional draw schedule of Saturday for Thursday, Tuesday for Friday and Wednesday for Saturday. by Carol Hodes, for the SBOANJ

The New Jersey Sire Stakes will open its 2014 Green Acres racing season at Freehold Raceway on Thursday, August 28 with the opening round of competition for two-year-old colt trotters. The draw for the race will be held on Monday, August 25 with the entry box closing at 9am on that date. Green Acres racing will once again offer purses of $7,000 for each leg with the top eight point earners among the three qualifying legs in each division qualifying for the $25,000 finals. Entry fees remain $150 for each leg and $500 for horses that wish to race in the finals. The Green Acres Division will look to build off of the successful year of Premier Division racing at The Meadowlands in which three new records were established and yet another record equaled. More than $1.5 million was distributed in purse money during the Premier Division races while the average purse for each leg increased by 18% over 2013 levels. The Green Acres Division will be placed on hiatus effective for the foal crop of 2014. Its place will be taken by the newly legislated New Jersey Standardbred Development Fund. The Standardbred Development Fund will be open to all of the traditional New Jersey-sired horses as well as horses whose dams spend a minimum of 150 days in-state, inclusive of foaling, regardless of where the stallion may stand. This year, 221 "resident mares" were nominated to the program and they were in foal to many of the top sires in the country. Standardbred Development Fund races will begin for two-year-olds in 2016 and will be run that year in conjunction with the Green Acres program for three-year-olds. A full slate of Standardbred Development Fund races for all ages will be contested starting in 2017 Also on the horizon, the Meadowlands, together with the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey, will be implementing a bonus program for several of its overnight races for New Jersey-sired horses beginning with racing on December 5, 2014. Effective on that date, races meeting the condition of non-winners of one, two, three or four pari-mutuel races will carry a 60 percent bonus to the purse for New Jersey-sired horses. The bonus program encompasses both sexes and gaits. by Christopher Castens, for the NJSS      

(Wyomissing, PA - August 19, 2014) Penn National Gaming, Inc., (PNGI) the largest operator of Standardbred racetracks in North America, will institute the new Trackmaster automated morning line system at all of its harness racing facilities effective immediately. PNGI owns and operates Hollywood Casino, Hotel and Raceway (Bangor, ME), the new Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway, Plainridge Racecourse and Rosecroft Raceway. PNGI is also joint venture partner with Greenwood Racing, Inc. at Freehold Raceway. "This new morning line feature from Trackmaster should help bring consistency to our morning line process and also provide a reliable starting point for our wagering guests," said Christopher McErlean, Vice President of Racing for PNGI. "With the implementation of the USTA's on-line entry system at all of our harness tracks and the use of its automated post position draw system, the Penn Gaming harness tracks are using all the technology tools available to streamline our racing office processes and offer user friendly services to our horsemen and the wagering public," added McErlean. In addition, Rosecroft Raceway will institute a new simulcast graphics system with enhanced racing information and statistics generated by Trackmaster when its summer-fall meet begins September 13. "We think these informative graphic enhancements will help handicappers on-track and at all our simulcast locations," said McErlean. The upcoming Penn National Gaming harness meets include: Plainridge Racecourse: In progress Freehold Raceway: August 28 Rosecroft Raceway: September 13 Dayton Raceway: October 3 Bangor Raceway: October 6 Penn National Gaming, Inc. (PNGI) is the largest operator of pari-mutuel facilities in North America with 12 racetracks in 10 different jurisdictions featuring Standardbred, Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse and Greyhound racing. PNGI conducts over 1,100 live racing performances a year with over $1 billion in pari-mutuel wagers processed annually. PNGI also operates five off-track wagering facilities and a regional Internet/Telephone account wagering system. PNGI is also one of the largest regional gaming operators in North America with 27 facilities in 18 different jurisdictions with over 31,000 gaming machines, 800 table games and 2,900 hotel rooms. From Penn National Gaming, Inc.  

(August 18, 2014 - Wyomissing, PA) Three racetracks operated by Penn National Gaming, Inc. (PNGI), the largest operator of harness racetracks in North America, will be active participants in the United States Trotting Association's (USTA) "Back to the Track" program over the next month. The "Back to the Track" program is an initiative to encourage on-track attendance at harness racetracks across the country through promotions and interactive events. More information on the program can be found at "Back to the Track is a great way to bring new guests to our tracks and also say 'thank you' to our loyal customers as well," said PNGI Vice President of Racing Christopher McErlean. "Plainridge, Freehold and Rosecroft each have come up with some unique events and activities for their guests to enjoy," he added. Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville, MA, the newest member of the PNGI racing family, will be hosting a full weekend of events and live racing on August 23 and 24. On both days the Hambletonian Trophy, Harness Racing's most prestigious prize, will be on display. The trophy was won by the locally owned and trained Royalty for Life in 2013. On Saturday, barn tours will be conducted from 12 noon to 2 p.m. with all participants to be entered in drawings to announce a post parade on either day, ride in the starting gate car and participate in an exhibition race on Sunday with top Plainridge drivers. Plainridge drivers will participate in a meet and greet on both days and serving customers in a special cook out area during both afternoons. Drivers will also give out commemorative "Back to the Track" t-shirts following each race. A free scratch off ticket will be given to all guests Sunday with a $50,000 grand prize. The "$50,000 Match and Win" promotion is sponsored by Mom's Motorcycles of Foxboro, MA. Post time Saturday, August 23 is 4 p.m. Post time on Sunday, August 24 is 1 p.m. Admission and parking is free at Plainridge every live racing day. For more information go to Freehold Raceway in Freehold, NJ will be hosting "Back to the Track" events on Labor Day, September 1 during its afternoon live racing program. All guests will receive a free "Back to the Track" baseball cap with the purchase of a Freehold live racing program (while supplies last.) Drawings throughout the day will be conducted for "Back to the Track" t-shirts and Season Parking passes. Fifty-cent ($.50) hot dog and soda specials will be offered as well as a driver autograph session. Post time Labor Day is 12:30 p.m. and admission is free. For more information go to Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington, MD will celebrate "Back to the Track" as part of its summer-fall meet opening night on Saturday, September 13. The first 400 guests after 6 p.m. will receive a free "Back to the Track" t-shirt and guests will have a chance to enter losing tickets all evening for "Second Chance" drawings after races 5, 7 and 9 for $50 betting vouchers. In addition, a popular Asian Festival will be held all day Saturday, September 13 in the Rosecroft parking lots. Post time on September 13 is 6:4 0 p.m. with free admission and parking. For more information go to Christopher McErlean

MANALAPAN, NJ – August 13, 2014 – Dr. Karyn Malinowski, director of the Rutgers Equine Science Center, will be the grand marshal of the Open Space Pace & Festival Parade on September 20, 2014. The parade for the 3rd Annual Open Space Day will begin at 10 a.m. from the Hall of Records in Freehold Borough, take the marchers down Main Street and conclude at Freehold Raceway. The parade also features the Freehold High School Marching Band, the Wells Fargo Stage Coach and more than 70 New Jersey horses and riders from various equine organizations. The Open Space Pace & Festival, which debuted in 2012, was conceived as a way to raise awareness about the relationship between the racing and breeding industry with the preservation of open space in the state of New Jersey. In addition to the parade, the festivities include a petting zoo, educational exhibits, live harness racing, a concert and fireworks – all at Freehold Raceway. There will be equine and agricultural displays, a mare and foal exhibit, food trucks, a blacksmiths contest and a Medieval Times demonstration. The post-racing concert features The Nerds and, as the opening act, the Eddie Testa Band. Opportunities for corporate parties, family reunions or other social gatherings, as well as sponsorships on Open Space Pace & Festival Day are still available. Thus far, more than $28,000 has been donated to equine and agricultural non-profits. The event raises funds from sponsorships, ad journal sales, tailgate space sales and vendor booth sales. For more information contact Brett Taft at 732-577-4059. by Carol Hodes, for SBOANJ

In case you have not already signed up for Harnesslink’s great new newsletter called Insider Access, then here is your chance.  Just click here and within seconds you will be on track for the latest news in harness racing that you will not see or read about anywhere else, even on our own website. This week’s newsletter contains the following feature stories: Do we need to have safety checks for Starting Gates? – With the accidents this season at Freehold Raceway and now Summerside Racetrack with starting gates is it time for mandatory safety checks? Well Said Pedigree/Review – Continuing on with our stallion review series today we have produced an in depth review for the very good racehorse and stallion Well Said p,3,1:47.4m ($2,690,693). Bitter-Sweet Meadowlands Closing Weekend - It is a bitter-sweet week for harness racing fans world-wide this coming weekend as the Meadowlands features its final weekend of harness racing action for their summer meet. The need for change in NZ Harness Racing Clubs -  With a structure and government that is a relic of a different time and clubs that can only make a change in format once a year at their annual meetings it is time for a change. Don’t miss out on the next edition of Insider Access. The newsletter currently comes out every other Tuesday morning (North America), Tuesday afternoon (Europe) and Wednesday morning (Australasia).

MANALAPAN, NJ - July 18, 2014 - A late afternoon summer storm failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the 110 golfers who competed at the 19th Annual SBOANJ Golf Outing & Fundraiser on July 14, 2014 at Gambler Ridge Golf Course in Cream Ridge, NJ. A total of 125 golfers and banquet attendees feasted on a prime rib dinner. Numerous door prizes were distributed along with presentations for golfing prowess. Best foursome honors went to Kunz Equine Team of Simon Spicer, Mike Seddon, Shannon Murphy and Johnny Pregman. The "most honest" foursome award went to Jim Hogan, Jesse Johnson, John Hynes and Frank VanWie. Longest drive-prizes went to Hannah Miller, who won Kindle Fire tablet, and Jeff Bamond Jr., who received a Boze Bluetooth speaker Closest to the Pin was Simon Spicer from of the Kunz Equine Team, who won a 32-inch HD TV. Putting contest honors - and $145 - went to Kelly Breen. Frank Lomangino won the drawing for a Track Trainer jog cart, which was donated by Allen Eggert of Pennsbury Enterprises. The 50-50 winner was Garrett Federico, whose share was $895. Sponsorships, key to the fund raising effort which benefits New Jersey's standardbred horsemen in need, were provided at several levels. The overall tournament sponsors were Shay Cowan of Katz/Pierz, and Thomas Cordovano and John Macri of the La Ferla Group. At the Gold Level, the donors were the Meadowlands Racetrack; Drucker, Math & Whitman CPAs; Berman, Gara & Rutsky Group/UBS Financial Services; Joie de Vie Farms and Rollermagic Roller Rinks. At the Silver Level, the donors were Showplace Farms, Gaitway Farms, Federico's Landscape Design, Santoro & Santoro [Dennis Dowd], Valley High Stables, Freehold Raceway, Eposimato Stable, Mark Ford Training Stable, Nick Salenetri, Aetna/Meritain Health, Hambletonian Society and Val D'Or Farms. At the Bronze Level, the donors are Advocacy Management Group, Network Security Group, New Jersey Community Bank, Chris Ryder and Nick Surick. Additional fundraising was accomplished through the donation of goods and services by Bluestone Farms, Deo Volente Farm, Gambler Ridge Golf Club, Ellen Harvey, Meadowbrook Industries, Makefield Highlands Golf Club, Northwood Bloodstock, Pennsbury Enterprises, Reynolds Hay & Straw/Tribute Equine Nutrition, Rick's Saddle Shop/Purina, Baker Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram and Newport Graphics. Dinner, lunch and competition awards were underwritten by Martin Scharf, Deo Volente Farm, Berman, Gara & Rutsky, Electric Battery Company, Network Security Group, Nick Surick, Marc and Marcia Goldberg and Green Acquisition Corp. Hole sponsors were Berman Gara & Rutsky, John and Paula Campbell, Drucker, Math & Whitman, Thomas J. Durkin/ Joseph Spadaro, Green Acquisition Corp, Joie de Vie Farms, Katz/Pierz, La Ferla Group, Meadowlands Racetrack, Andy Miller, Ervin Miller Stable, Network Security Group, Rollermagic Roller Rinks and Suydam Insurance Agency. The SBOANJ golf outing is co-chaired by SBOANJ directors Ed Razzetti and Bob Baggitt Sr. by Carol Hodes, for SBOANJ

MANALAPAN, NJ - July 2, 2014 - Rob Pennington, an award-winning caretaker and activist for Standardbred causes, has been named assistant racing secretary and program director for Freehold Raceway, effective August 2014. The Freehold meet begins on Thursday, August 28, 2014. Pennington, a 34-year-old Ohio-native who currently lives in Allentown, NJ, was honored as the Harness Tracks of America Caretaker of the Year in 2013 and has been a groom for the Noel Daley Stable since 2009. "I am very excited [about this new challenge]," said Pennington. "I wanted to stay in the standardbred business yet put myself out there in a position where I could better myself and the business. I am extremely passionate about the standardbred industry as well as the breed." Pennington is on the board of directors of the Standardbred Pleasure Horse Organization [SPHO] and has volunteered his services to the Open Space Pace Committee, the Riding Under Saddle program and the Standardbred Retirement Foundation. "I've worked with Rob on several committees, and I know how passionate he is about the industry," said Karen Fagliarone, Freehold's director of racing and racing secretary. "Although he has never had any race office experience, he is a quick learner. Aside from assisting in the race office in the mornings, he will be the attendant in the winner's circle and will expand our social media sites in the afternoons." Peter J. Iovino, the former assistant racing secretary at Freehold, accepted a position as racing secretary for Saratoga Harness. by Carol Hodes, for SBOANJ


Gloucester Township, NJ - June 26, 2014 - New Jersey's fifth off-track wagering facility, Favorites at Gloucester Township, will open to the public on Wednesday, July 2, 2014. Favorites at Gloucester Township Sports Bar and Off-Track Wagering, opened under a license granted to Freehold Raceway Off-Track, LLC, will be managed by Penn National Gaming, Inc., co-owner of Freehold Raceway and the largest operator of pari-mutuel facilities in North America. "It has been over a dozen years since Garden State Park left a void in the Southern New Jersey horse racing landscape. We are excited to finally bring off-track wagering to this area for the loyal racing fans in Camden County and the surrounding areas," said Christopher McErlean, Vice President of Racing for Penn National Gaming, Inc. Located just 15 minutes from Philadelphia and right off Route 42 on Blackwood Clementon Road, Favorites at Gloucester Township will have a total capacity for over 700 guests. Amenities include a fifty (50) seat bar surrounded by two rings of flat screen TVs; sixteen (16) self-service wagering terminals and five (5) manned teller stations; an upscale wagering area with over forty (40) individual handicapping stations; a 90 seat dining area and an outdoor patio with a bar and seating for over 50 people. In total the facility has over 130 flat screen television monitors. The menu will range from sports bar staples to nightly dining specials including many homemade items. "We think there will be plenty of options for the regular racing fan as well as the casual customer looking for an entertaining night out," said McErlean. "I think Favorites will continue the revitalization of the Blackwood Clementon Road corridor and is bringing much needed jobs and economic development to our township," said Gloucester Township Mayor David Mayer. "I've been supportive of the project since Penn National approached us on their plans nearly two years ago," Mayer added. Favorites will open seven days a week at 11:30 a.m. Admission is free and all guests must be 18 or older to enter. The facility is anticipated to generate close to $1 million annually for purses at the state's four racetracks. "We think it will be a winner for our guests, the region and the racing industry in the state," said McErlean From Penn National Gaming, Inc.  

The rarest of all horses, a pure white Standardbred colt, will be the guest of honor at an open house to celebrate New Jersey's "Month of the Horse" at Fair Winds Farm in Cream Ridge, N.J. on Sunday, June 29. The colt, whose birth is a 1-in-200,000 occurrence, is named White Bliss and was born at Fair Winds in May of 2012. He was sold at public auction in November of 2013 for $240,000 and is now in training to be a pacing racehorse. Both his parents are bay and the colt was pure white at birth; he is not albino. White Bliss will be turned out in a paddock for some grazing time and relaxation and will be easily seen and photographed by visitors. The open house at Fair Winds, which is at 74 Red Valley Road in Cream Ridge, is from 1 to 4. The colt will be outside for the duration of the open house. Visitors will also get see some of the dozens of foals, baby horses, born each year at Fair Winds and learn how they're raised and eventually trained to be harness racehorses. Fair Winds is also home to Hogan Equine, a special clinic just for horses, run by Dr. Patricia Hogan. Dr. Hogan will show visitors the workings of the clinic, where hundreds of horses, mostly Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds, are treated each year. Her client list reads like a "Who's Who" of horse racing, and includes 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Smarty Jones. Blacksmith Tom Mulryne will do demonstrations of how horses' feet are kept healthy by regular trimming and shoeing when needed. There will also be a few friendly horses for visitors to pet and groom. There will be kids' activities and information from the United States Trotting Association, NJ Farm Bureau, FFA , Harness Horse Youth Foundation, Pony Club, Rutgers Equine Science Center and the Monmouth County 4H. Fair Winds is one of New Jersey's largest and most successful farms, producing champion Standardbreds that compete at Freehold Raceway, The Meadowlands and all over the world. This is a rain or shine event. Visitors are asked to leave dogs at home and to be aware that there are very few paved surfaces on the farm, so it may be rough going for wheelchairs and strollers. by Ellen Harvey, for Harness Racing Communications

MANALAPAN, NJ - June 11, 2014 - The famous blue and gold colors of Hall of Fame driver-trainer Stanley Dancer will be back on the track Friday night, June 13, 2014 at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Dancer's son, Ronald, a former driver-trainer, will don his late father's colors in an exhibition race, the 2014 Legislators Pace, facing off against three other legislators. Assemblyman Ron Dancer [R-12th District] will take on Senator Richard Codey [D-27th District], Assemblyman Ralph Caputo [D-28th District] and Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande [R-11th District] in a race for charity. The winner's charity will receive $1,000 while the charities for the other three competitors will receive $500 each. The one-mile competition will take place between the first and second races. The legislators will compete in two-seater jog carts with Codey, Caputo and Casagrande each teamed with one of the Meadowlands' top drivers. Dancer will race solo. "I am coming out of retirement for this race and will be wearing my dad's silks, which I am borrowing from the New Egypt Historical Museum, where there is a wing in honor of my dad," Dancer said. "When I was racing, I always wore dad's silks, and I am really looking forward to placing Stanley Dancer's blue and gold silks back on the racetrack." Ron Dancer posted more than 400 career driving victories in the 1970s and 1980s before switching careers. He has been a member of the New Jersey legislature since 2002 and was mayor of Plumsted Township from 1990 to 2011. Dancer noted that there were a lot of similarities to his current life as a legislator compared to his life as a horseman, especially in terms of long hours. "As a state legislator in New Jersey, you represent about 220,000 constituents residing in your district that want to meet and speak with you during the day, and you have to be at the State House Capitol for voting sessions," he explained. "In the evenings, legislators have events and speaking engagements to attend. Also, just as in horse racing, both professions are seven days and nights a week. The weekends are prime time days and evenings to be at your job. "Political races are so expensive and, like it is in horse racing, it costs thousands to prepare and compete in the race with no guarantees on the results," he added. The Dancer family farm, Egyptian Acres, was located in the Plumsted community of New Egypt. Stanley Dancer campaigned many of the top horses of the 1960s through 1990s. As a driver, he posted 3,781 career victories for more than $28 million in purses. Stanley Dancer, voted into the harness racing Hall of Fame in 1969, passed away on September 8, 2005 and was buried in his racing silks in a cemetery that overlooks Freehold Raceway. "Dad will be looking down with such a smile to see his still familiar blue and gold colors back on the racetrack and on his son," Dancer mused. Dancer is racing for the Hornerstown Baptist Church in Upper Freehold Township, NJ. by Carol Hodes, for SBOANJ

Muscle Hill, Muscles Yankee's greatest son and the 2009 USA Horse of the Year, has made a spectacular start to his siring career. In his first season he left 81 foals, and of these he had 56 to the races half-way through their three-year-old season, and 40 were winners with 33 in 2:00 and 10 in 1:55. Last year's leading first-season sire, Muscle Hill's progeny has earned $2.24-million in stakes so far. Muscle Hill's first crop includes the richest and fastest three-year-old trotting colt in North America this year in Trixton (1:51.4) and the fastest three-year-old trotting filly, Heaven's Door (1:52). Trixton, who has won four of his five starts, and Heaven's Door, won their respective $100,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes Finals at The Meadowlands last month, with the former equalling the race record in a 6-1/2 lengths romp and the latter setting a new race mark. In fact, Muscle Hill sired the trifecta in the New Jersey SS colts and geldings' Final. Another of Muscles Hill's first crop, Fastdownthehill, captured a division of the time-honoured Lady Suffolk at Freehold Raceway at its first start in 2014, while Odds On Amethyst, one of Muscle Hill's six $100,000 winners, won at The Meadowlands recently in 1:53.4, handing Trixton his sole defeat this year. Saturday Mornings, a two-year-old Muscle Hill filly, won at The Meadowlands qualifiers recently in 2:00.2 including a 28.4 seconds closing quarter. Muscle Hill's frozen semen in Australia and New Zealand is available from Stallions Australasia representatives Peter O'Rourke, David Shammall, Greg Ryan and Daren and Gayle Garrard. For further information log onto the website From Stallions Australasia

SARATOGA SPRINGS, New York (May 28, 2014) – Saratoga Casino and Raceway is pleased to welcome Peter James (PJ) Iovino as their new Race Secretary. Iovino will be replacing Don Hoover, who is retiring at the end of this month after serving as Race Secretary for Saratoga Harness for 12 years.   Hailing from Brooklyn, Iovino’s lifelong passion for harness racing developed at an early age through trips to Monticello Raceway to watch family-owned horses. His involvement in the industry commenced in 1997 when he began as a program editor and chart-caller at Sports Eye, a Long Island based publishing company that produced multiple harness racing publications. After exploring other opportunities, Iovino returned to his roots as a chart-caller and Race Office Assistant at Freehold Raceway in 2006. He quickly moved up the ranks and was promoted to Assistant Race Secretary in 2008. Iovino also served as a freelance correspondent for the Daily Racing Form.   “PJ’s unique skill set and experience are a perfect fit for us at Saratoga Harness,” said John Mattarazzo, Director of Racing Operations at Saratoga Casino and Raceway. “We’re confident he’ll do a great job here.”   In his new role, Iovino will be responsible for creating the racing programs at Saratoga Casino and Raceway.   “This opportunity with Saratoga is truly a dream job for me,” said Iovino. “I couldn’t be more excited and I look forward to beginning a long and successful tenure with Saratoga Harness.” From Saratoga Casino and Raceway

Nick Surick, the leading harness racing trainer at Freehold Raceway, did not have a racing background when he became a horseman. All Nick knew was he wanted to be a part of harness racing industry any way possible. As of the 22nd of May, Nick leads as the top trainer at Freehold Raceway with 26 wins out of 118 starts resulting in $86,000 in total purse winnings for 2014. "I have no horse racing background whatsoever" says Nick. "I actually grew up in Freehold, NJ and I lived about five minutes away from Freehold Raceway which was a ten minute bike ride. I used ride my bike to the track to watch the races as a kid." Nick credits his mom, Debbie, for always supporting him. "Through the bad times she helped me, good or bad she always stood behind me. She always wanted me to be happy" says Nick. His parents divorced right around the time Nick was getting into the harness racing industry and it must have been difficult for him, for anyone in that position. What originally drew Nick to the track was the gambling component. Nick's father, Kevin, helped introduce Nick to this unhealthy lifestyle due to the fact that Nick's father had substance abuse issues and was a known gambler. "I was a gambler; I was actually thrown out of a lot of tracks for underage gambling. My father was an alcoholic and a degenerate gambler." Nick admits. "I was more hooked that way more than anything. Aside from the gambling back then, I think the horse itself intrigued me and I liked the animal so much that it was good for me. " "I really wasn't the best student when it came to school." Nick explains, "I really couldn't care less about school. I dropped out of my second year in college so I could train full time when I got the opportunity from one of my big owners, Howard Schneidler. It all came together at the right time. "Once I learned the backside to horse racing, that's when I lost the itch for gambling. It was about growing up, maturing and getting smarter." Nick says. "Now that I was physically with the horse, gambling was not an issue anymore." The fact Nick was able to break away and cut the cord, so to speak, speaks volumes. Once Nick established himself as a horseman, it came to the point where Nick's father was constantly causing Nick problems at the Raceway and in life as a whole. "He caused me a lot of headaches at the track" Nick says about his father. "With me training horses, it wasn't good for him. He started making things up, telling people to bet horses (based) on what I said which are things I never said. If I talk to him a couple times a year, that's a lot. He was hurting my livelihood. "I had to take a step back, even though he's my dad I had to cut him out." Nick admits. "I had to think about my future and hopefully I have a lot of years ahead of me. "Drug and alcohol abuse made him a person he wasn't." Nick continues, "He was nasty to people... when you're under the influence you become a different person." The best piece of advice Nick ever received was from Richard Annunziata and it was about Nick ensuring he surrounds himself with good people. "He told me this when I was 16 and I am 26 now but I still remember it" says Nick. "Surround yourself with successful people; surround yourself with people that are better than you.... If you surround yourself with bad apples, that's who you're going to be. "That's what I did" says Nick. "I cut out all of the bad people from my life. The people who were bringing me down." Once Nick graduated from high school, he admits he changed lives. Nick did a 180 degree turn to better his life and to develop into a better person. Was it easy? That's tough to say as everyone deals with changes in their own manner but knowing that change is needed and working towards that is a task in itself. What Nick did is commendable, not many people can switch 'tracks' in life and to do so at a young and impressionable age is astounding. When Nick got started, he first worked for fellow trainer Eric Abbatiello. "I never had anyone behind me to push me, I did it all on my own." After working with Eric Abbatiello, Nick and his (now former) partner Anna Glide joined forces. "We worked together for four or five years and the business grew together between us" Nick explains. "We went from two horses to thirty five horses almost overnight. "When it comes to owners, I am happy with who I have," Nick says. Once Nick finds people he is comfortable with and who he believes has a good heart, Nick is content and doesn't go looking for more. It's about quality, not quantity for Nick. "I've learned a lot from Erv Miller... like who to accept in your barn." Nick states. "My girlfriend Hannah is his daughter." Working with Erv, Nick says "I've learned to individualize each horse. Treating each horse as their own... treat each horse as a separate entity." "Anytime I need any advice, I can pick up the phone and call Erv," says Nick. "He has one of the best managed barns I've ever seen. His memory is unbelievable!" Nick is open when he admits he doesn't like change, right now he's very happy residing near Freehold Raceway and all the major tracks are within driving distance. "Right now I take it one day at a time" says Nick when asked about what the future may hold for him. "I'm comfortable with my 30 to 40 horse barn." When it comes to Pacers or Trotters, hands down Nick prefers the Pacers. "I just haven't had any luck with the Trotters" laughs Nick. Nick pulls double duty at Freehold Raceway where he drives as well. Nick only plans on driving at Freehold Raceway and admits it's a lot of fun. Nick considers driving more of a hobby compared to training which is his passion. Nick believes the harness racing industry is headed in the proper direction by pushing to have the major races showcased on National TV. "We need a lot more one on one interaction with the drivers, trainers and the public." Nick says. Nick credits the success of his barn to his employees, the second trainers, the grooms and most importantly his owners. "I'm nothing without them and their financial backing" Nick states. "I've got great people behind me; I've got to give them credit. Nick Surick can't take care of 35- 40 horses, it takes a team. There's no magic, its teamwork." Roderick Balgobin's column will appear weekly on Harnesslink. You can contact him at rod.balgobin or Twitter: ScSupernova        

Often overlooked when it comes to amateur racing is that, besides driving, a good many of the sportsmen are also owners and many race their own stock in the amateur events, especially in the granddaddy of all amateur driving events, the C.K.G. Billings Harness Driving Series. And furthermore, these gentlemen drivers employ professional trainers. Take for instance the Billings Trot at Freehold Raceway on Saturday afternoon (May17). In that race the first three horses under the wire were, Mr. Jim Dandy, Get Packin and Gimme The Loot, and each was driven by its owner; Dave "Yes Its True" Offenberg, Bob "the Headhunter" Hechkoff and Bob "Rapid Rail" Krivelin, respectively. Add that to the fact that each of the aforementioned horses is under the care of a professional trainer and you get a glimpse of what amateur drivers bring to the table. In what was the fifth event in the year-long series, and third in the eastern region, Offenberg's victory, his second in the east at Freehold , has vaulted him to the top of the leaderboards, both in the east region as well as in the overall points standings board. Now with 29 points his total is two points better than that of runner-up Bob Hechkoff's. Now in his 17th season of amateur driving, Offenberg is coming off a personal best having won six races last year and now with two wins already this year he could be heading for a personal milestone. A longtime owner of quality racehorses Offenberg, a successful businessman, whose won 45 races thus far in his amateur driving career, earned his nickname after having been the owner of the great pacing mare, Yes Its True. In the Freehold Raceway contest last Saturday Offenberg and his trotter Mr Jim Dandy got away in fifth position from the six-hole and they used a second-over trip to wear down Get Packin and then go on to a 1-1/4-length triumph in a time of 2:01.3. Hechkoff's Get Packin held on for second while Gimme The Loot and Krivekin took home the show dough,. As aforementioned Mr. Jim Dandy a 6-year-old Classic Photo gelding, is owned by Offenberg and trained by the "Little Redman", Eric Abbatiello. He paid $11.90 for win. Next Billing's action will be in the eastern region at Yonkers Raceway on Thursday, May 22 by John Manzi, for the Billing Amateur Driving Series

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