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The fastest mile of the harness rcing meet belongs to Mysharona Bluechip, who made his Cal Expo debut a memorable one two weeks ago when he covered the journey here in a sparkling 1:51 4/5 with Tony Succarotte in the sulky. The 4-year-old pacing son of Rock N Roll Heaven is owned by A Piece Of The Action LLC and trained by Gene Vallandingham, and was coming in from the East where he had a 1:49 3/5 tour at Pocono Downs earlier in the season. "He had trained giant and I expected that kind of mile from him," Vallandingham related after the score. "Before the race, I told Tony that he just might be the best horse he'd ever sat behind, and he didn't disappoint us. "I can tell you one other thing, there's a lot more where that came from and it's going to be a lot of fun." Gene, who celebrated his 76th birthday in September, is currently training 30 performers and while he has over 3,500 victories in his career as a driver, he hasn't seen evening action in the sulky for over a year and a half. "I broke my hand and had it operated on, and it really hasn't come back 100 percent," Vallandingham explained. "To be honest, the training has become a full-time job so I don't know if I'll get back to driving as long as I have this many horses." Gene was asked if he gets more nervous watching a race from the sidelines, as opposed to be being in the bike. "I don't get nervous," he said without missing a beat. "If something happens and the horse ends up in trouble, it could have just as easily happened if I was driving." Mr. Pearl eyes encore in featured pace Mr. Pearl, who overcame the No. 10 post to win at this level last week, heads the cast for Friday night's $4,200 pacing feature. There will be 13 races conducted under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post set for 6:10. p.m. The headliner goes as the 10th race on the evening with a full field set to face the starter. Mr. Pearl is a 4-year-old son of Always A Virgin who races for A Piece Of The Action LLC with Gene Vallandingham training and James Kennedy once again handling the lines. He closed from last to win by a head with this group last weekend and leaves from the No. 7 slot for this assignment. Prodigal checked in third that night and has to be respected for owner Mark Anderson, trainer Gordie Graham and pilot Mooney Svendsen. He was a 1:53 4/5 winner at Running Aces this summer. **** Both the 20-cent Pick 4 and 50-cent Pick 5 here at Cal Expo feature a reduced 16 percent takeout rate, and looking at last Saturday night's Pick 5 payout shows just how much value that equals. The winners of the Pick 5 that kicked off the program were 6-5, 5-1, 9-5, 17-1 and 5-1, respectively, with each winning ticket returning a hefty $10,336 for the 50-cent investment. Using the regular takeout rate, the payoff would have been $9,229, a difference of a cool $1,007 for each ticket holder. Now that's value. The 50-cent Pick 5 will once again get the card started here Friday evening, while the 20-cent Pick 4 is decided on the penultimate four contests on the 13-race program. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

My Little Susie, who accounted for the first two harness racing stakes dances for the division; and Kissed The Boys, who upset her in the most recent big-money clash two weeks ago, get another chance to settle the score in Saturday night's $15,000 California Sire Stakes for 3-year-old trotters. An 11-race card will be presented under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with the action starting at 6:15 p.m.. The Sire Stakes will go as second event on the evening. My Little Susie is by Claudius Augustus out of the S J's Photo mare Sue's Photo and she goes about her business for A Piece Of the Action LLC with Gene Vallandingham training and Chip Lackey in the sulky. The bay miss left little doubt in the first two stakes for this group in February, on both occasions sitting a tracking trip to the lane and then igniting when it counted to win going away. The most recent Sire Stakes was decided over a sloppy track two weeks ago and this time it was Kissed The Boys prevailing for Team Desomer, while My Little Susie had to settle for the place money as the 3-5 favorite. Kissed The Boys is a homebred who is also by Claudius Augustus who has won three of her seven starts, with each of those decisions coming over an off track with veteran Steve Desomer at the controls. Rounding out the field are Lodi Bank Robber, Delta Breezeoflodi, Sixtringsandapick and CW Raisinette. ******* There will be no live racing Easter Sunday, with next week returning to the regular Saturday and Sunday night schedule. By Mark Ratzky  

Two veteran harness racing horsemen and a talented 3-year-old trotting filly joined forces last weekend at Cal Expo, as the Gene Vallandingham-trained, Chip Lackey-driven My Little Susie captured the first Sire Stakes of the season for the division. A daughter of Claudius Augustus, My Little Susie carries the banner of A Piece Of The Action LLC and was winning for the fifth time in 14 lifetime appearances. Last year saw the bay miss scoring in 1:59 at Lexington, and she lowered her mark to 1:58 1/5 with last week's stakes score. In that latter decision, Lackey sat a stalking trip to the stretch, unleashed the filly once straightened for home and she came a sharp :27 3/5 final quarter to seal the deal by two lengths over Kissed The Boys and favored Lodi Bank Robber. "She's a small filly, but has a big motor and quick speed," praised trainer Vallandingham following the win. "I'm only going to race her in stakes races here at Cal Expo." My Little Susie actually used front-end tactics to capture the Alan Kirshenbaum finale in her previous start, but her versatility on display with the come-from-behind score in the Sire Stakes at most recent asking. "I told Lackey before the race that if she was within three of four lengths of the leader at the top of the stretch, she would smoke them down the lane," Vallandingham said. "She has a big turn of foot and Lackey did a good job." Both Gene and Chip have been mainstays in California for the last five decades, with Vallandingham electing to concentrate on the training things these days, while Lackey continues to guide home his share of winners, including My Little Susie for his longtime friend. Open Trot brings out Northern Stormont A $6,600 Open Trot that finds Northern Stormont seeking his fourth straight victory is the highlight on Sunday evening's program at Cal Expo. An 11-race card is on tap and first post for the Sunday action is 5:05 p.m. The headliner is the fourth event on the program and Northern Stormont will be asked to do his work from the demanding No. 10 post position for the second straight time. Northern Stormont is a 5-year-old son of Earl Of Stormont who carries the banner of George McCrystal, Mark Kremen and Scott Ehrlich with Steve Wiseman doing the driving and training. He set his 1:54 4/5 mark last year at Hoosier Park. The long-fused sidewheeler is perfect in 2016, starting the streak with an Open III score on January 3 in which he was adding Lasix. He was unhurried early that night as is his custom, ignited when the question was asked and prevailed by a length with Luke Plano at the controls. Off as the even-money favorite in his next try three weeks later, he came with cover to the stretch and flew by the leaders to get the job done by two lengths with Wiseman handling the lines. Leaving from the assigned No. 10 post at most recent asking two weeks ago with his trainer in the sulky, Northern Stormont once again used his powerful late kick to reward the chalkplayers at 1-5 with a two and three-quarter lengths tally. Taking him on this weekend are Bankers For All with Mark Kennedy; Big Baller, David Siegel; Franks Best, Mooney Svendsen; Commandergalleon for James Kennedy; Winsom Kelly, Luke Plano; and It's Not Over with Chip Lackey at the helm. By Mark Ratzky

Mark Kennedy admits that when he was not in a good place at the end of 2013, but a 2014 New Years resolution got him back on track and it all came together when he drove his first harness racing winner at Cal Expo last Saturday night. Mark is a 31-year-old Colorado native who has a harness pedigree his father is longtime horseman Earl Kennedy and his brother James is one of the top driver/trainers on the grounds. Were a very close family and Ive been around the sport all my life, he said. While Mark had done a lot of grooming and eventually assistant training, events had kept him from his dream of being a harness driver until 2014 rolled around and he made his mind up to change his life. I really did it for my daughter Kinsey and my son Colten, to show them that you can accomplish what you dream, Kennedy explained. The first part of the plan found Mark going back to Pennsylvania and working with Lou Pena, which gave him the chance to be around some very nice horses while getting some excellent first-hand experience. I got my qualifying license last fall, just before I came back to California, and it was thanks to my dad, my brother, Mark Eaton and Gene Vallandingham that I got the chance to get in those qualifying drives. Mark received his P driving license on March 1 and three weeks later was posing for pictures with Fox Valley Largo in his sixth lifetime trip to the post. It was a family affair, with Earl owning the 11-year-old and James doing the training. It was the resolution I made coming true, Kennedy noted. I felt great and it was like a great stress had been lifted from me. It was everything I thought it would be. Sire Stakes, Open Pace command the spotlight A $10,000 California Sire Stakes for 3-year-old pacing colts featuring Uringoodhands and Hi Hos Little Rev and an Open Pace headed by St Lads Lotto top Saturday nights Watch and Wager LLC program at Cal Expo. A 12-race card is on tap with first post set at 6:10 p.m. There will be Saturday and Sunday racing this week, with the trotters and pacers in action on Friday and Saturday night next week, April 3 and 4, with no racing on Easter Sunday. Uringoodhands is a homebred son of Kents On Nuke out of the Surmo Hanover mare Sparks Will Fly who is owned by Mark Anderson, hails from the Gordie Graham barn and will once again have the services of James Kennedy. The dark-hued performer has captured four of the five stakes races decided for the division, with his lone setback being a neck loss to Hi Hos Little Rev in their January 31 meeting. Uringoodhands has made every pole a winning in the three subsequent Sire Stakes, with Hi Hos Little Rev checking in second in each of those races. The latter is a son of Hi Ho Silverheels who carries the banner of Vanessa Gilliam with Bob Johnson training and Mooney Svendsen at the controls. He was runner-up to Uringoodhands in the first stakes gathering on January 17, hung that neck decision on him in the next match-up, and has finished second in the last three big-money match-ups. Laissezmoipicoler, Devils Rein, Loci Machette Man, Sounion and Musician complete the field. There are four wagers on the program that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. They are the Jackpot 6 and Hi-5, which are 10-cent minimum bets; the 50-cent Pick 5; and the 20-cent Pick 4, which has a $25,000-guaranteed pool as part of the USTA Strategic Wagering Program. Last Saturday night there was one perfect Jackpot 6 ticket returning $65,456, not a bad return for a dime investment. By Mark Ratzky, publicity Cal Expo Harness        

Lloyd Arnold and Stan Bergstein, two legendary figures in harness racing, have races named in their honor this weekend at Cal Expo. The Lloyd Arnold Pace is set for Saturday night and the Stan Bergstein Trot is the feature on Sunday. Lloyd Arnold was an owner and track operator of the highest caliber. He passed away in 2012 at the age of 83. Originally the owner of Arnold Cattle Co. in Iowa, Mr. Arnold raced hundreds of horses in Illinois and across the Midwest throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. During that era, Mr. Arnold raced horses like Warm Breeze, who earned more than $250,000 in two seasons of racing in the mid-1970s, and Dancing David, who earned more than $200,000 in the 1960s. Warm Breeze took Mr. Arnold to racings pinnacle for the first time when he set the all-age world record at over this track, then known as Golden Bear Raceway. His top horses in later years included the pacing mare Sanabelle Island, who earned $1.6 million lifetime and won 57 of 110 starts. Also of note was Bagel Beach Boy, who won the 2001 Messenger and Matron stakes. In August 2003, Mr. Arnold bought Chevie Duramax, who then went on to set world records for 2-year-old pacing geldings on both mile and half-mile tracks. The fastest 3-year-old pacer in North America in 2004 belonged to Mr. Arnold as Quik Pulse Mindale won in 1:48 at Balmoral. In addition to being a prominent standardbred owner, Mr. Arnold operated this track during those Golden Bear Raceway years and also bought Los Alamitos in the late 1980s, eventually selling the track to his partner, Ed Allred. Mr. Arnold was inducted into the California Harness Hall of Fame in April of 2008. He also enjoyed personal honors in 2001 when he was feted by the Delaware Sportswriters and Broadcasters at their annual awards dinner and received the Owner of the Year Award from the U.S. Harness Writers' Association. Chris Bardis said, Harness Racing was one of Lloyd's great passions. He accomplished so much for the sport not only in California, but nationwide. He was Mr. Harness Racing. He conducted race meetings at Cal Expo, Bay Meadows, Golden Gate Fields, Del Mar, Pomona, Hollywood Park and Los Alamitos. I know of no one else who has had a greater impact on the harness world. Sundays Stan Bergstein Trot is named for the legendary figure in harness racing who passed away in 2011 at the age of 87. Mr. Bergstein was a harness-racing titan who advocated for cooperation between the Standardbred and Thoroughbred industries to solve the sports' common problems. He stepped down in 2011 after 50 years as the executive vice president of Harness Tracks of America, the Standardbred industry's trade association. He was immediately appointed as the organization's first executive emeritus, and continued to advise the association and write guest columns for the Daily Racing Form until the weeks before his death. The only person to ever be inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame and its Communicators Hall of Fame, Mr. Bergstein worked in a wide variety of roles at racetracks, auction houses, announcer's booths, and racing publications, and he maintained extensive collections of harness-racing books and artwork. He was widely respected not only in the harness industry, but also in the Thoroughbred industry, and he served as a mentor to generations of young racing professionals through a close association with the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program, located in Tucson, for the past 40 years. Mr. Bergstein was a forceful proponent of forging closer ties between the Standardbred and Thoroughbred industries, most notably in tackling medication abuse and problems with drug-testing. In dozens of commentaries, Bergstein maintained that the Standardbred industry's problems were, or would be those of the Thoroughbred industry, and that neglect of a problem in one sport would damage the other. Bergstein borrowed from the Thoroughbred industry early in his career, incorporating claiming races as a racing secretary while working at the Chicago tracks in the 1950's. At the time, the harness racing industry did not run claiming races, and they are now as commonplace in Standardbred racing as they are in Thoroughbred racing Bergstein also spearheaded the creation of Standardbred Investigative Services, a security agency modeled on the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau. A native of Illinois, Bergstein attended harness races as a young man and received a journalism degree from Northwestern University. He was the former executive editor of Hoof Beats magazine, and the former vice president of publicity and public relations for the United States Trotting Association. Cal Expo trackman/program director Marty Bridges credits Stan Bergstein with bringing him into harness racing as a profession. After college and two years in the Army, I was employed by the small business association. At night, after work, I was a regular patron at Sportsmans Park and Maywood in Chicago. My supervisor, a former sportswriter for the Chicago Daily News, knew of my interest and called Stan to set up a meeting. Surprisingly, I was to meet him at Du Quoin on Hambletonian Day. Watching Stan call the races from a slightly elevated booth on the infield adjacent to the finish line was thrilling and between races we talked about racing, horses, drivers and trainers. His knowledge of the sport was amazing and I had never met anyone like him, and still havent. He introduced me to John Tinsley, the program director for all the Chicago tracks and John hired me on the spot. Its been a great ride, doing something I love. Gene Vallandingham first met Stan Bergstein in 1959 when he was working for the legendary Joe OBrien. Stan came to Joes farm every spring for the annual Camptown racing weekend, when all of Shafter would be there for a day of racing. Stan was the true voice of harness racing, he was liked by all and I miss him. Chris Schick said, "Stan was foremost a kind and compassionate person. He was a true visionary in the harness racing industry. In 1979 well before simulcasting, he so rightly stated the future of the industry was in how well we brought the product to the public. He was also very vocal of the industry for being reluctant to embrace change. Our industry lost a giant when he passed. Arnold Pace, Sire Stakes, Jackpot 6 spotlighted The $10,000 Lloyd Arnold Free-for-all Pace, a pair of $10,000 California Sire Stakes and a $48,130 carryover in the Jackpot 6 are among the main attractions Saturday night at Cal Expo. A 14-race card is on tap under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post set for 6:10 p.m. The Jackpot 6 is one of four wagers on the program that feature a reduced 16% takeout rate. The others are the Hi-5, which like the Jackpot 6 is a 10-cent minimum bet; the 50-cent Pick 5; and the 20-cent Pick 4, which comes with a $25,000-guaranteed pool. Looking at the Arnold Pace, China King is fresh from a 22-1 upset in last weeks Open when he hung a narrow decision on heavily-favored Pancetta in a 1:52 1/5 mile He drew the outside post in the field of seven. A 7-year-old American Ideal gelding who carries the banner of Gary and Jen Sabot with Gene Vallandingham training and Steve Wiseman in the sulky, he went-to-coast to capture the January 17 Open at 19-1, then came back last time to score from a tracking position at another nice price. Taking him are Pointsman, who gives the Vallandingham barn two looks at the outcome; Rusty Skipp and J C Onthebeach for conditioner Ray Burt; Alligator Falls from the Sal Wenceslao shedrow; the Junior Wilkinson-trained A Real Miracle; and Love Live Laugh for trainer Denise Maier. Uringoodhands and Hi Hos Little Rev have dominated the sophomore pacing colts Sire Stakes to this point and get another chance to settle the score on Saturday, while Placer gets top billing in the stakes gathering for the 4-year-old trotters. By Mark Ratzky, publicity Cal Expo Harness                            

Out of 31 races last week, a grand total of three were won in coast-to-coast fashion, and one of those was turned in by China King and harness racing pilot Chip Lackey while capturing the Open Pace at juicy 19-1 odds. The East Coast invader, who races for Gary and Jennifer Sabot and trainer Gene Vallandingham, had suffered brutal beats at the hands of the streaking St Lads Lotto in his previous two efforts, but was able to turn the tables last weekend with his 1:52 1/5 tour. To be honest, I didnt go into that race with the same confidence I had the previous two starts when he was just nipped, Lackey explained. Hed missed a couple of starts, it looked like there was plenty of other speed in there and after a night and a half of racing to that point, there hadnt been a horse win on the front end. On top of that, Id been having some pretty bad luck with my drives. That said, I always try to be optimistic when I go out there and I will say that Jen (Sabot) and Gene were pretty confident about China Kings chances and did a terrific job to have him ready. Lackey was able to buzz the pacer right to the front and cut out fractions of :27 2/5, :54 4/5 and 1:22 3/5 en route to the three-quarters of a length upset over the 1-2 St Lads Lotto, who had his seven-race win streak snapped in the process. This is a very nice one, Chip noted. There are a lot of horses who like to roll away from there and then you have to wrestle with them, but hell pretty much do anything you want and is very ratable. Everything considered, I thought they might want me to take back with him last week, but they said to let him fire out and thats what we did. It was a tremendous effort when you remember he hadnt raced in three weeks, and it also did a lot to raise my spirits after some tough luck. High Bet Hanover eyes another snapshot Sundays distaff pacing feature goes in two divisions, with High Bet Hanover and Js Littlerockstar heading their respective races. A 10-race card is set with first post at 4:50 p.m. High Bet Hanover comes into her contest having posed for pictures following four of her last five starts, with her only setback coming two weeks ago when she took on some very tough male rivals. The Bettors Delight mare, who races for Kc C Carvalho, is conditioned by Tim Brown and will have Luke Plano guiding, rattled off three straight victories here between December 22 and January 2, then had her work cut out versus the likes of A Real Miracle at next asking. Returning to face fillies and mares last week, High Bet Hanover was hammered down to 1-2 and did not disappoint her many supporters. Plano left into a tracking trip with his charge, took aim on the leaders in the stretch and swept by when it counted for a length and a half score. Js Littlerockstar has been a gem of consistency and will be well backed in the co-feature. James Kennedy owns, trains, drives and bred the Little Steven mare, who has multiple Sire Stakes trophies on her mantle. The bay miss has accounted for the last two stakes engagements for her division, getting the January 4 score after the disqualification of arch-rival Brewski, then hung a head decision on that foe in last weeks Sire Stakes clash in another big mile. Next week will find the trotters and pacers in action under the Watch and Wager LLC banner on Friday and Saturday nights, with no racing on Super Bowl Sunday, February 1. By Mark Ratzky, publicty Cal Expo Harness                                          

The winter/spring Watch and Wager LLC harness meeting at Cal Expo concluded Saturday night with Luke Plano capturing the driving title, while Tim Maier ended up the leading trainer. Plano reached the winners circle with 160 times, with James Kennedy finishing second in the standings with 121 winning tours. Tim Maier rounded out the top three with 90 victories in the sulky. In the trainer standings, Maier edged out Bob Johnson by four wins as 79 of his stable representatives got the job done, while 75 Johnson trainees were victorious. Gene Vallandingham was third with 70 visits to the charmed enclosure. The trotters and pacers are set to return to action here in October. General Manager Chris Schick is looking to add some new twists, including the addition of the popular Jackpot Pick Six to the wagering menu. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness

A $5,600 Open 2 Pace is the featured attraction Saturday night, as the curtain falls on the winter/spring Watch and Wager LLC meeting at Cal Expo. We want to thank the horsemen and the fans for their support, said General Manager Chris Schick. "We look forward to returning in October for our third year of racing and are planning to implement some exciting new things, including a Jackpot Pick Six. Im An Athlete gets top billing in the main event. The 4-year-old son of Art Major is owned by Ronald Retting-Zucchi with Gretchen Smith the conditioner and Tim Maier handling the lines. The hard-hitting gelding has posed for pictures following four of his 18 appearances on the season. His most recent victory came in an Open 3 event on April 11, where he prevailed by two and a quarter lengths with Patrick Galbraith at the controls and lowered his lifetime mark to 1:53 2/5 in the process. Since that outing, Im An Athlete has had to settle for a second and a pair of thirds, including a show finish behind Shax in last weeks Open Handicap Pace. He should be very much at home in this line-up. Taking him on are Ladys Art with Chip Lackey Lifetime Louie, David Siegel; Gold Duece for Gene Vallandingham; Scarboro Hanover; Silver Spir, Sean Smithpeters; Split Ticket, Mooney Svendsen; Oompa Loompa; Laissez Moi Passer, Williams Hernandez; and Ideal Smile, Steve Wiseman. A 13-race card is on tap with first post set for 5::45 p.m. with the feature going as the seventh event on the evening. Axle taking his show on the road Axle finished up this meet strongly for trainer George Reider, handling a conditioned field two weeks ago and then just missing to Sharpshootennorris in the Open Trot at most recent asking. Hes going to Running Aces in Minnesota along with 11 of his barnmates, Reider said. Thats where we claimed him last year and he won his first start for us back there. He really seems to like that track, because its five-eighths with a different surface. While assistant trainer Kim Hines was on site last year at Running Aces, George explained that he will be joining her for this summers assault. Ive decided to come along this year and hopefully well have a good meet. In the meantime, Reider reports that he will have plenty of performers remaining in California and they will be eyeing the return of racing here in October. Ive leaving a half-dozen 2-year-olds and some race horses at the farm here, and Ill be back in August to resume their training schedule. Im really looking to forward to coming back and getting them ready for the next meet. As this is closing night, which means there will be a mandatory payout in all wagers. A remember there is a reduced 16 percent takeout rate on the 50-cent Pick 5; the 20-cent Pick 4 and the 10-cent Hi=-Five on the nightcap! by Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness

Saturdays finale of the Jim Grundy Trotting Series is named for the driver/trainer who was a California mainstay for four decades. He passed away in 2009 at the age of 74. Jim Grundy made 2,617 trips to the charmed enclosure as a driver, with more than $10.3 million in earnings and was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2007. Originally a hockey player in his native Canada, a knee injury forced Grundy to hang up his skates and stick in 1958. Going into the family business of harness racing, he found his second niche in life as a driver/trainer. Grundy apprenticed under famed horsemen Eddie Cobb, Clint Hodgins and Frank Popfinger before going out on his own in the early 1960s. He was the leading driver at Monticello for three straight years beginning in 1971 before heading west with his wife Deborah, a former schoolteacher and bookkeeper for the stable. It was here that Grundy blossomed into one of the states top harness horsemen. Teaming with owners like Chris Bardis, Lloyd Arnold and Ron Zumbrun, he won countless stakes races with the likes of Googie, Hugabear, Steam and Easel. He was especially noted as an outstanding trainer of young trotters. Steve Desomer, Gene Vallandingham and Rick Kuebler competed against Grundy for many years and have high praise for his skills. Jim was not only our friend, but partners with us on many memorable horses, Desomer said. He was an exceptional horseman and that resulted in a long and successful career. Vallandingham related, I knew Jim from the time he came to California. He was a nice guy and a great horseman and I always enjoyed his company. Kuebler also did battle with Jim on many occasions at Cal Expo, Hollywood Park and Los Alamitos. Id have to say he was the most accomplished trainer of young trotters weve ever had in the state. Even after his retirement, horsemen would seek him out to get advice in shoeing and balancing a trotter. It was all about his expertise and passion and he is missed. Jim Grundy Series final, Open Pace, Sire Stakes set A $10,000 California Sire Stakes headed by Rikybrnthegaragdwn and King Of The Crop; the $12,300 finale of the Jim Grundy Trotting Series and an Open Pace featuring One And Only are the highlights on Saturday evenings 14-race card at Cal Expo. Rickybrnthegaragdwn and King Of The Crop have divided up the first four stakes races at the meeting for the 3-year-old pacing colts. Rikybrnthegaragdwn races for Maryann Plano with Luke Plano driving and training, while King Of The Crop carries the banner of his breeder Frank Nevarez and is trained and driven by James Kennedy. A son of Living It Up out of the Sportsmaster mare Sports Bra, Rikybrnthegaragdwn captured the first stakes race of the season for this group on January 18, then was second and third in the next two big-money events while King Of The Crop was posing for pictures. In the most recent stakes two weeks ago, he made every pole a winning one, holding safe by nose over King Of The Crop in a 1:55 2/5 clocking, two ticks off the mark he established in his previous decision in a conditioned affair. The latter is by Little Steven accounted for back-to-back stakes on February 1 and 15 in game fashion, including a 1:55 1/5 tally. Sent off the 4-5 choice in that last added-money clash, he sat the pocket behind his arch-rival and just missed while coming a :26 3/5 final quarter. In the Open Pace, One And Only is a 6-year-old son of Bettors Delight who carries the banner of Richard Morita and David Yamada, takes his lessons from Lino Pacheco and will once again have Luke Plano giving directions. He comes into this assignment having posed for pictures following five of his seven starts on the year and is closing in on the $100,000 mark in career earnings with a 1:52 2/5 standard. The field for the Jim Grundy finale will line up this way from the rail out: Axle, with David Siegel at the controls; Donna Letsgo, Luke Plano; Try This with Williams Hernandez; High Dollar for Tim Maier; Giles L S Hanover, Mooney Svendsen; and Silverlode, to be guided by Steve Desomer. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness  

All four drivers involved in a spill in the 11th race at Cal Expo Saturday evening were treated at the hospital and released the same night without any serious injuries. Gene Vallandingham suffered some cuts and bruises; Paul Welence had a dislocated shoulder; Patrick Galbraith came away with some minor lacerations on his leg and Mooney Svendsen checked out without any problems. The four horses involved in the incident all returned to the barn without any apparent issues, according to their trainers. by Mark Ratzkey, for Cal Expo Harness    

Chip Lackey gave the Gene Vallandingham-trained Giant Sculpture a perfect drive in last weeks Open Handicap Pace, working out a two-hole trip with the son of Village Jolt and posting a four-length decision in a lifetime-best 1:52 clocking. "I dont have many winners circle pictures on my wall, but this is one Ill be proud to put up there," said the veteran Lackey. "Winning an Open Pace and having the picture taken with Gene and Lou Pena was very special." Vallandingham and Lackey go back to 1973, when Gene first came to California. I went to work for Gene when he first got out here, and then I went back with him to Maywood Park the next year and he was the leading trainer. The victory with Giant Sculpture was the second in five starts with Lackey in the sulky. The first time I drove him back in January he was 11-1 and put in a real game, first-over effort and got there by a nose. He had also put in some solid races coming into last week, giving me a good finish every time. According to Chip, post position played a big role in his strategy last week. We had been drawing outside Docs Zippy every week and I didnt want to battle with him early, but this time we were inside and I sent my horse and was able to work out a pocket trip. They may have been going :55 to the half that night, but I knew I had a ton of horse. I made sure to ease out a little early so we didnt get trapped in, and he gave me a super kick. It was very gratifying to go out there and win a race like this for such great people. Sire Stakes, Open Pace, Jim Grundy Series on tap A $10,000 California Sire Stakes for 3-year-olds that finds King Of The Crop and Rikybrnthegaragdown renewing their rivalry; the opening leg of the Jim Grundy Trotting Series featuring Donna Letsgo and an Open Pace are the main attractions at Cal Expo Saturday night. King Of The Crop had to settle for second in the first stakes clash for the sophomore pacing colts on January 18, but has posed for pictures following the last two big-money events. The Little Steven homebred carries the banner of Frank Nevarez with James Kennedy doing the driving and training. The bay performer left little doubt in the February 1 clash, drawing off by five and a half-lengths that evening in a snappy 1:55 1/5 mile. Backed down to 1-5 for the most recent gathering of this group two weeks ago, he had to work much harder as he opened up on the lead at the head of the lane and held by a head over Rikybrnthegaragdown. The latter is by Living It Up out of the Sportsmaster mare Sports Bra and races for Maryann Plano with son Luke reining and training. He made every pole a winning in the first Sire Stakes of the season on January 18, was a distant third in the next one and then fell just short of catching his arch-rival in that last added-money affair two weeks ago. He returned last week to post a convincing score in a conditioned event. Last weeks Open Pace saw Giant Sculpture pulling off the upset. He is a 6-year-old son of Village Jolt who carries the banner of A Piece Of The Action LLC, is conditioned by Gene Vallandingham and will once again be handled by Chip Lackey. He was able to work out a perfect trip in the most recent clash at the head of the class, sitting the pocket and then exploding in the stretch for a four-length score in a lifetime-best 1:52 performance. One And Only had to settle for the exacta completion that evening while leaving from the outside post as the 1-2 favorite for owners Richard Morita and David Yamada, conditioner Lino Pacheco and pilot Luke Plano. He rattled off five straight victories at this top rung between December 21 and January 21, including a score from the demanding No. 10 post. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness    

De Valeria is cut out to be a nice filly, being a full sister to the accomplished Pacinello, and shes beginning to realize that potential with back-to-back Sire Stakes victories for owner Eugene Afentoulis and driver/trainer Luke Plano. Pacinello was a real terror here at Cal Expo, dominating his peers before heading on to points East while making an occasional return visit. He has $347,000 in the bank and a 1:50 2/5 mark. His sis De Valeria rode a second-over journey to capture the first big-money event at this meeting for the sophomore pacing fillies on January 17, then did the track-and-pounce to perfection last week for Luke to prove a punctual favorite in the most recent stakes dance. Pacinello was a champion, but since that the mare has had all fillies and while they trained nicely, theyve had issues between the ears that kept them for doing their best, Plano related. Lukes dad Rick broke this filly in Florida and then trained her down in New York last season, getting a good foundation under the daughter of Little Steven before shipping her out to get ready for these stakes engagements. When she got her she still had a few issues, including being a little aggressive away from the gate, but shes matured, Luke explained. Shes real nice to be around and a very smart filly, and thats half the battle right there. Ive been racing her from off the pace, because thats the way the races have been coming up for her, but Im sure I could use her early if I had to and she would be just as good. Last time it just worked out for me to sit in with her and then she gave me a real nice finish. Open Pace, Marvin Shapiro Series in spotlight An Open Pace that finds One And Only gunning for his sixth straight victory and two divisions of the opening leg of the Marvin Shapiro Series get the marquee treatment Saturday night at the Watch and Wager LLC meet at Cal Expo. For the second straight week, One And Only has been assigned the demanding No. 10 post position in the Open Pace. He will be challenged by A Stitch In Time, who is having an outstanding meet; Giant Sculpture, Somethinginthewind, Docs Zippy and Emery Vern. One And Only is a 6-year-old son of Bettors Delight who carries the banner of Richard Morita and David Yamada, is conditioned by Lino Pacheco will once again have Luke Plano giving directions. He sports a 1:52 2/5 standard that was established here last season and was equaled in his most recent tour. The bay performer started his streak on December 21 and has been untouchable in the interim, putting his class and versatility on display. He went coast-to-coast to get the job done in his three starts between January 4 and 25, leaving little doubt on any of those occasions. In an effort to help level the playing field last week, racing secretary Fred Kuebler assigned One And Only the 10 slot. Unhurried early in that affair, Plano made a big move off the final turn with the pacer and overpowered his rivals in the lane by two and a quarter lengths while recorded the second 1:52 2/5 score of his career. A Stitch In Time is a 4-year-old son of Kents On Nuke homebred who is trained by Gene Vallandingham and will be guided by Mooney Svendsen. He has made a sweep of the four Sire Stakes events at this meeting for his group, but saw his win streak snapped two weeks ago when he was second to One And Only in his most recent outing. Thats as good a race as hes ever gone for me, Svendsen related after the runner-up finish. He came that final quarter in :26 2/5 and he would have definitely won if we would have come first over and not had a roadblock ahead of us. It certainly helps the cause that his main rival has the 10 post this time around, while he leaves from the No. 5 slot. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness          

An $8,400 Pick 5 Carryover with a $25,000-guaranteed gross pool and a reduced 16 percent takeout rate; and the first leg of the Alan Kirschenbaum and Richard Staley Pacing Series are the highlights at Cal Expo Friday night. A 14-race card is on tap with first post set at 5:20 p.m. The Pick 5 is a 50-cent wager and there is also a reduced 16 percent takeout on the 20-cent Pick 4 with a $25,000 guaranteed pool on Friday and a $25,000 guaranteed on Saturday; and the 10-cent Hi-Five on the finale. The first leg of the Kirschenbaum goes as the third race on the evening, while the opening of the Staley Series occupies the fifth-race slot on the program. The co-featured Trot is a conditioned affair that finds Axle dropping out of the Open Handicap and getting away from the likes of the streaking El Azteca and stablemates Inside Broadway and Franks Best, which he should very much appreciate. A 5-year-old son of Hard Rock N Roll, Axle is trained by George Reider and driven by David Siegel, and they are co-owners along with Robert Thronson and Greg Robinson. He was a six-time winner last season, including a lifetime-best 1:57 4/5 performance over the five-eighths Running Aces oval. Axle made his most recent appearance in last weeks clash at the head of the class, crossing the wire fourth but placed third through disqualification. He has recorded a second and a third in his two starts outside of the Open ranks this season and will be very much at home with this group. The co-featured Pace is for distaffers and brings out the likes of Strings, who has been having some tough battles with arch-rival Show Runner; and the classy and hard-hitting Haggin Oaks from the James Kennedy shedrow. Desomers add another trophy to mantel When Steve Desomer guided the 3-year-old homebred Placer to victory in last weekends Sire Stakes, it was first win for the trotter and tally No. 2,610 for the 77-year-old Desomer. As far as stakes trophies go, Steve and wife Vickie stopped counting those many years ago. Placer is one in a long line of top performers bred, owned and raced by Team Desomer, and this gelding is obviously starting to get the hang of things. Hes by Panama Hanover and hes out of a divisional champing in Charlottes Web, Vickie related. That makes him a half-brother to Silverlode, who is by British Sterling. Silverlode is a 5-year-old mare who captured several Sire Stakes in her younger days, has put over $80,000 into her bank account and sports a 1:58 standard that was established here last season. Placer showed good early interest but was no match for Snuff N Beer in the first stakes clash for this group on January 17, then made a miscue at next asking in a conditioned affair. He put it all together last week in the second stakes gathering and got the job done nicely. Lets just say that the effort was certainly a pleasant surprise for both Steve and myself, Vickie explained after adding yet another Sire Stakes victory to the Desomer scrapbook. Desomer, along with the rejuvenated Gene Vallandingham and the recently-returned Gerry Longo, continue to show their young racing rivals a thing or two about driving and training winners. Those may be modern sulkies out there, but these guys help add a cool, old-school vibe to these Cal Expo nights. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness  

After quite a bit of nibbling, I'm Confident got his picture taken last week for trainer Bob Johnson and pilot Tyler Smith. He'll attempt a curtain call in Saturdays Cal Expo headliner while facing a slightly tougher group. The 8-year-old son of The Panderosa comes into the assignment with $272,000 in his bank account and a 1:53 mark that was established last season at Hoosier Park. The fact that he gamely re-rallied to get the job done last week will not be lost on the bettors. "He was one of three horses I bought last summer in Indiana from Gilbert Herrera.", said Johnson, who co-owns the performer with Marty Garey and Hank Wieseneck. "All three had over $200,000 on their card, but hes the only one who really worked out. "He has that back class working for him and I was actually shocked he was on the lead last week and then re-rallied to beat the favorite. As far as Tyler Smith is concerned, Ive never seen a driver with so much talent at such an early age." Last summer at age 20, Smith became the youngest driver in harness racing history to reach 1,000 victories. He has been dividing his time between Northfield Park in Ohio and Cal Expo of late, although the nasty weather back East shut down Northfield earlier this week. "I was driving for Bob this summer and he suggested I look into coming to Cal Expo," said Smith, who will turn 21 later this month. "After talking with (General Manager) Chris Schick, I was very excited about the opportunity." Smith, who captured the Hoosier Park driving crown, noted that he actually prefers to race on a mile track. On a half-mile track, post position can be a big handicap and you almost always have to be moving. I like the chance to be patient and think a little more out there. It's Getting Hairy gets the marquee treatment It's Getting Hairy, who has been doing all his recent work at the Invitational level against the likes of Pancetta and One And Only, gets some class relief and earns the top billing in Saturdays pacing feature at the Watch and Wager LLC meet at Cal Expo. Among the major rivals in the main event are the hard-knocking Split Ticket, who will go postward for trainer Lino Pacheco and Chip Lackey; Phantom Dan and recent victor Giant Sculpture. A 14-race card is on tap with first post set for 5:20 p.m. A 5-year-old son of Relentless Yankee from the Troublemaker mare Camden Flora, It's Getting Hairy is owned by Denise Maier with Tim Maier driving and training. Last year saw him capturing nine of his 24 appearances, including a lifetime-best 1:52 3/5 clocking at Running Aces. The dark-hued performer was razor sharp earlier in the meeting, including back-to-back wins at the Open 2 level in November where he used a wicked stretch kick to prove a punctual favorite on both occasions. It's Getting Hairy has had to settle for minor awards in the interim, however, while facing some pretty tough customers in Pancetta, One And Only and Stuebuen Jumpinjack. He figures to be much more at home with this weekends rival and could easily return to his winning ways under these conditions. Like Its Getting Hairy, Phantom Dan was an Open 2 victor earlier in this session and is a nice fit at this level. James Kennedy drives, trains and co-owns the son of Little Steven with Jennifer Burns and he was beaten a head last weekend in a solid effort. Giant Sculpture is moving up in class after posting a convincing score from well off the pace at most recent asking. The 6-year-old Village Jolt gelding goes about his business for A Piece Of The Action LLC with Gene Vallandingham the conditioner and Steve Wiseman making a return engagement in the sulky. By Mark Ratzky for Cal Expo Harness                                  

Steve Desomer will be guiding his mare Silverlode in Friday nights finale of the Dr. Gary Budhan Trotting Series, hoping to pick up another nice check with the 5-year-old homebred daughter of the late British Sterling. Silverlode, who has some Sires Stakes trophies on her mantle, is attempting to win her second series finale at this meet having captured the Joe Lighthill final in late November. She was second and third in the first two legs of the Budahn behind Donna Letsgo and Hooray Katie. For the 77-year-old Desomer, he will be making sulky appearance No. 12,701 in a career that has seen him land in the winners circle on 2,609 occasions while banking nearly $11 million in the process. The veteran, who runs the barn along with his wife Vickie, was asked how things have changed since the days of Western Harness Racing at the soon to be demolished Hollywood Park. The racing has changed dramatically since the days of Hollywood Park, Steve related. Back in the 70s, most of the drivers were also trainers. The horsemen were more complete in that they had knowledge of shoeing, soundness, driving, rigging and training and entering. Today many of the drivers specialize in just driving. Driving against the likes of Tyler Smith and other young drivers puts the older drivers at a distinct disadvantage in that they do not react as quickly as needed. Most know the drivers and horses they race against, but making that split second decision becomes more difficult with the passing of time. GUARANTEES INCREASED PICK 5- $10,000 BOTH NIGHTS PICK 4 - $20,000 FRIDAY PICK 4 - $25,000 SATURDAY Dr. Gary Budahn Trotting Series finale in spotlight The $13,750 final of the Dr. Gary Budahn Trotting Series, with first and second leg winners and stablemates Hooray Katie and Donna Letsgo figuring to get the majority of the attention, is the main event on Friday nights Cal Expo program. A 14-race card is on tap Friday evening, with the Budahn final set as the seventh event on the program. First post is 5:20 p.m. The Dr. Gary Budahn Series honors the memory of a mainstay of California harness racing for over 30 years who passed away in 2009. Dr. Budahn served on the board of directors of the California Harness Horsemens Association (CHHA) for over 12 years, including President of the organization for three years. He was a strong voice for harness racing in the state and was always there for the horsemen, helping them in any way he could. Looking at the field, Hooray Katie is a 5-year-old daughter of Chip Chip Hooray who is owned by William Neumeister, takes her lessons from Bob Johnson and will once again be guided by Tyler Smith. She proved best in her divisions of the first two legs of this event, last week showing the way home by a half-length over Silverlode. Donna Letsgo gives the Johnson barn two solid looks at the outcome in the headliner. The Keystone Blitz mare is owned by the trainer, Marty Garey and Henry Wiesenstock with Luke Plano doing the honors. In last weeks penultimate leg, the bay miss made every pole a winning one and came home with two and a quarter lengths to spare. Completing the field are High Dollar for Tim Maier; Bar Back, who has the services of Steve Wiseman; Lodi Dorian Blues, Chip Lackey; Silverlode with Steve Desomer; Sky Keeper for James Kennedy; Ali De Vie, to be handled by Gene Vallandingham; and Southwind Kean, who leaves from the outside with Marc Mosher at the controls. By Mark Ratzky for Cal Expo Harness            

They say age is just a number, but sometimes those numbers can really add up. As the field passed the opening quarter in last Friday nights ninth race, Tour Guide showed the way with Rather Be Playing In The Pocket and Early Boy looming in third. Nothing really unusual there as the field straightened for the backstretch in the conditioned trot. However, trackman Marty Bridges pointed out something interesting about the three drivers who were guiding these leaders Steve Desomer, Pierre Girard and Gene Vallandingham. If you add their ages together, thats 219 years and that might be some kind of a record. We checked Marty's math and he was right on. Steve Desomer is 77, Gene Vallandingham turned 73 in September and Pierre Girard had 69 candles on his last birthday cake. By the way, Gene ended up winning the race while relative youngster Luke Plano completed the exacta and 20-year-old driving sensation Tyler Smith finished in the show spot. Vallandingham comes into this weeks action needing just 22 victories to reach the 3,000 plateau while sporting over $13 million in earnings. He was asked what its like to come down the stretch with a 20-year-old who could easily be his grandson whipping and shouting in the sulky next to him. It doesnt make any difference, Gene related. Heck, I only feel about 29 when Im out there, so I dont mind driving against somebody whos only nine years younger. By the way, the kid (Smith) is doing a very good job. A Stitch In Time headlines Sire Stakes A Stitch In Time, a romping winner of the last two big-money gatherings for the division, looks to add to his reputation in Saturday nights $10,000 California Sire Stakes for the newly-turned 4-year-old pacing males. A 15-race card is on tap with first post set for 5:20 p.m. The headliner will go as the second race on the evening, with the co-feature being a $5,000 Invitational Pace that occupies the third-race slot on the program. A Stitch In Time is a son of Kents On Nuke who is owned and was bred by Mark Anderson, takes his lessons from Gordie Graham and has Mooney Svendsen handling the lines. He comes into this contest having posed for pictures in 11 of his 16 starts, including a 1:53 3/5 lifetime-best performance at Fraser Downs in October. The dark-hued pacer was a prohibitive favorite in the two stakes decided so far as this meeting and did not disappoint on either occasion. He waltzed home with 10 lengths to spare in the November 16 affair, then came back two weeks later as the 1-9 choice and had six and a quarter lengths on his nearest rival when all was said and done. Lining up against him this weekend are Hi Ho Disguise, who will have Dave Siegel at the controls; Kablooie with Luke Plano; Orlandos Express, who has the services of Chip Lackey; Bit Player, Steve Wiseman; and Me Tarzan with James Kennedy giving directions. Looking at the Invitational Pace, One And Only has been assigned the outside slot after posing a convincing victory at this level two weeks ago. The 5-year-old son of Bettors Delight carries the banner of Richard Morita and David Yamada with Lino Pacheco training and Luke Plano in the bike. One And Only was able to work out a pocket journey behind pace-setting Steuben Jumpinjack in that last Invite clash, engaged that rival at the top of the stretch and drew off to a five-length score in a sharp 1:52 2/5 tour. Stueben Jumpinjack will again be among his rivals along with Docs Zippy, Its Getting Hairy and Party Cove.  By Mark Ratzky for Cal Expo Harness  

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