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It was as simple as going to the lead and not looked back as Royalty For Life was in hand as he captured the $79,050 first elimination heat of the Kentucky Futurity over a sloppy track in 1:53.2 Saturday at the Red Mile in Lexington, KY. Driven by Brian Sears, Royalty For Life left from the gate, was parked slightly by Creatine (Michel Lachance) but settled on the lead by the opening quarter mile in :28. With Master Of Law and Deadliest Catch both breaking stride early, it became just a five horse race and no one was going first over against Royalty For Life as he led the field past the half mile in :56.2 and then to the three-quarters in 1:25.2. Then a little action heated up as E L Rocket and driver Yannick Gingras come first-over and went after the leaders, but once they started down the stretch it was all Royalty For Life as he held the field at bay and won by one and one-quarter lengths in 1:53.3. Creatine was second with E L Rocket third. For the three-year-old colt by R C’s Royalty, it was the seventh win this year for Royalty For Life. He paid $3.60 to win for trainer George Ducharme and breeder-co-owner Alfred Ross, R W Campbell and Paul Fontaine, all of New England. In the second division, Your So Vain and driver Tim Tetrick was able to catch Ron Pierce driving Spider Blue Chip napping after a slow :59 half and was able to brush by and take command en route to capturing the $79,050 second elimination heat in 1:54.4. Lindy’s True Grit (Scott Zeron) was the first on the lead until Pierce had Spider Blue Chip in front at the opening quarter mile in 29.4 over the sloppy track. But after the :59 slow half, Tetrick sent Your So Vain with a rush and they cleared before the three-quarters in 1:26.2 and from there no one was going to catch Your So Vain. Spider Blue Chip held for second place with All Laid Out (Corey Callahan) third after racing first-over the last quarter mile. Your So Vain, sired by Donato Hanover, posted his fifth win in ten starts this year. He is trained by Bradley Maxwell for the P G Van Camp Stables of Port Perry, Ontario. Your So Vain paid $3.60 to win. By Steve Wolf for

Veteran open class trotter Master Pine (10g Master Lavec-Pine Career-Pine Chip) with Helene Gregory aboard won today’s $16,000 Monte/RUS special over a rain-dulled Red Mile surface in 1:58.4. The winner is trained by Julie Miller for owners Mark Moger and Albert Delia Jr. and was bred in Ohio by Double Springs Farm. Gregory used a backstretch brush to pass early contenders Chinese Cuisine (5g Revenue-Missymandarine-Malabar Man) with Tina Duer up, for owner Peninsula Farm Inc., and the Balanced Image son Harlequin handled by Riina Rekila. Master Pine opened a five length advantage around the final turn and maintained a steady stretch pace closing in :30.3 for a head advantage on the line to win over fast finishing A Penny Earned (4h Conway Hall-Penny Dream-Dream Vacation ), with Heather Reese aboard. Chinese Cuisine was third. A Penny Earned was 17 lengths back at the half and closed impressively for trainer George Ducharme and owners Ross, Fontaine, Ducharme and Oliva that includes Royalty For Life’s Hambletonian winning connections. by Thomas H. Hicks for  

The field has been drawn for the $12, 500 Kentucky Futurity Day monte/RUS special event set for 12:35 pm post time. Thanks to the sponsors, Red Mile management and equine participants and their connections for making this race happen. The field is shown below and includes several past monte america winners plus the leading Canadian invader Harlequin with Riina Rekila aboard. Red Mile 10/6/13, $12,500, one mile, monte/RUS (horse, rider, trainer) Custom Tag            Karen Isbell, also trainer Master Pine            Jim Panteleano, Julie Miller Muscolo                   Michelle Crawford, Paul Kelley Rock With It             Tina Sundqvist, Donna Gilson-Eferstein NF Soaring              Rachel Matthews, Brooke Nickells Harlequin                 Riina Rekila, also trainer A Penny Earned      Heather Reese, George Ducharme Chinese Cuisine    Tina Duer, John Duer Be there in person or online for this outstanding monte event. Thomas H. Hicks  

With only about a month until the Breeders Crown on Saturday, October 19 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, it’s as good a time as any to start looking ahead to how some of the top competitors shape up. Because of the increase in the number of stakes races at Pocono, many more of the North America’s best horses have already traveled over the oval this season than at the same point three years ago when the Breeders Crown was last held at MSPD. With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at the Top 10 horses in the most recent Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown and see just how well they’ve done this year at Pocono. We’ll count them down in descending order, just like this really good Bob Dylan book I heard about lately. 10. SEVRUGA: This 5-year-old trotting gelding from the Julie Miller barn has won nine of 19 starts this year with earnings of close to $500,000. His first start at Pocono this season was a memorable one, as he ripped off a victory in an Invitational trot in 1:50:3, a new-world record for aged geldings on a 5/8-mile oval. He was upset, however, by Wishing Stone in his last Pocono appearance on Super Stakes Saturday. 9. MAVEN: This 4-year-old trotting gelding is one of the few in the Top 10 who has yet to make an appearance at Pocono in 2013, although fans with longer memories may remember him as a solid performer in Pennsylvania Sire Stakes action at the track as a two and three-year-old. Maven’s biggest success this season has been in Canada, where he in unbeaten in four races for trainer Jonas Czernyson. 8. PET ROCK: A four-year-old pacing stallion from the Virgil Morgan Jr. barn, Pet Rock has had an outstanding season once again in 2013 with earnings north of $600,000. But his story at Pocono has been one of near misses. He finished 3rd and 2nd in the Ben Franklin pace elimination and final in June, then came up just short behind A Rocknroll Dance on Super Stakes Saturday. 7. VEGAS VACATION: Most people have conceded the 3-year-old pacing division to Captaintreacherous, but this gelding trained by Casie Coleman pushed the super-horse to the limit in their last meeting on the Pocono oval, finishing just a nose behind him in the slop in the Max Hempt. He’s been building confidence since then, scoring big-money victories at Tioga and Mohawk. 6. A ROCKNROLL DANCE: Trainer Jim Mulinix hopes the old phrase “horses for courses” applies come Breeders Crown time, because the last two starts this 4-year-old pacer had at Pocono were memorable. In 2012, he turned around a floundering season with a win in the Max Hempt Memorial. His lone start here this season was a win on Super Stakes Saturday in 1:47:4, matching the fastest ever at the track. 5. ROYALTY FOR LIFE: As the Hambletonian winner as well as a victor in several other big stakes races, 2013 has been a great year for Royalty For Life, trained by George Ducharme. Except at Pocono. Back in June, the 3-year-old trotter broke stride in both the elimination and the final for the Earl Beal Jr. In August, he got caught up in a speed duel and faded to 7th as the favorite in the Colonial. 4. FATHER PATRICK: The most celebrated 2-year-old in the country, Father Patrick made his trotting debut at Pocono in July in Pennsylvania All Stars action with a seven-length victory. He returned a few weeks later for another easy score in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. With seven wins in eight races so far for trainer Jimmy Takter, you get the feeling he’ll be tough no matter what track hosts him. 3. I LUV THE NITELIFE: With just one loss in 11 races this season, the pride of the Chris Ryder barn has been without a doubt the class of the 3-year-old pacing fillies division. She has been especially fine at Pocono, winning all three of her races here this year. Included among those were big stakes wins in the James Lynch and the Valley Forge, the latter coming in a world record for her age group of 1:48:4. 2. CAPTAINTREACHEROUS: It took a world-record performance from Sunshine Beach to spoil his unbeaten season at Pocono in the Battle of the Brandywine, and even then it was only in a photo finish. Before that, the Captain overcame a treacherous trip, if you will, to win the Hempt in June. Will the 3-year-old  pacing colt from the Tony Alagna barn step up on Breeders Crown day? Time will tell. 1. BEE A MAGICIAN: The number-one horse in the poll is a relative unknown to Pocono fans, since she’s the only one on this list to have never raced at MSPD. The 3-year-old trotting filly from the Nifty Norman barn has done most of her damage in Canada, but she did stop at The Meadowlands this year to win the Hambletonian Oaks as part of her record of twelve wins in twelve races in 2013. Those are just some of the horses to watch come October at Pocono. With all of that firepower on display, it should be an amazing night. That will do it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at by Jim Beviglia for Pocono Downs  

It was like a walk in the park for Royalty For Life and driver Brian Sears as they strolled their way to victory in the $686,000 Canadian Trotting Classic at Mohawk Raceway Saturday with an easy two length triumph in 1:52.2, tying the stakes record. Leaving from post eight it was Corkey and driver Dave Miller who started out with the early lead but that was not for long as Sears had Royalty For Life on the move and they cleared to the front by the opening quarter mile in :27.1. Sears was able to get a minor breather for his colt as they raced to the half mile in :56.1 and then Royalty For Life kicked into a higher gear and was leading the field by three lengths at the three-quarters in 1:23.4. Punxsutawney and driver Corey Callahan came first-over but it was too late as once Royalty For Life straighten out in the stretch he was leading by five lengths. Your So Vain and driver Randy Waples was in eighth place on the final turn and they were able to fan out and close well in the stretch to be second to Royalty For Life. All Laid Out (Yannick Gingras) was third. “I think the track was a little deeper last week,” Sears said after the victory, “And George said he wasn’t 100% and had had a rough week, but he overcame it and was really on his game tonight. It looked like there may be some early speed in the race, but then I figured we would march to the front. He is a beautiful horse and he can cover the ground and he lets you know  and when you call on him he is there.” It was the sixth win in eleven starts for Royalty For Life. The son of RC Royalty is trained by George Ducharme and is co-owned by breeder Alfred Ross with R C Campbell and Paul Fontaine, all of New England. “He was a touch sick last week,” Ducharme said, “I just wanted to make sure we got in the final and did not abuse him. He had a good week and overcame everything. We checked him out after the race and everything was fine. I was confident he would put on a good showing tonight. I knew when he drew post six that it was a good spot for him and he could get to the lead. “I knew he would get pressed a bit,” Ducharme explained, “but I knew it would work out because he got a soft half mile and then the rest he did all on his own. He has such a good attitude. He wants to be a good horse. He wants to win all the time. He is very playful, always feeling good. He has that desire that a good horse is born with. Having a horse like this is something you dream about as a kid getting into the sport.  It’s a dream come true for me.” With the winner’s share of the purse at $343,000, Royalty For Life has now surpassed the million dollar mark in earnings in 2013 with $1,227,000 bankrolled. Lifetime he has earnings of $1,560,000. Sent off as the even money favorite, Royalty For Life paid $4.30 to win. Video attached. By Steve Wolf for

CAMPBELLVILLE, September 3 – Fourteen of the finest three-year-old colt and gelding trotters in North America will line up behind the gate for this year’s Canadian Trotting Classic eliminations, Saturday at Mohawk. With two eliminations taking place, the top five finishers from each race will advance to the $700,000 final on Saturday, September 14 at the Campbellville oval. Flanagan Memory, who captured the Goodtimes Trot earlier this year at Mohawk, will leave post two in the first elimination. The Rene Dion-trainee has banked $256,298 this season, but will face a tough test as he’ll square off against Hambletonian winner, Royalty For Life. “There are two small fields for the eliminations, which always helps,” Dion said. “My horse is coming into the race in very good shape, but he’ll have his work cut out for him. It’s never an easy task racing at this level and he’ll have to put his best foot forward.” The son of Kadabra made an uncharacteristic break last start, but made a great recovery to to find the wire first in 1:56. “I’m not exactly sure why he did that,” Dion said. “The only thing I can think of is because he had the rail and was maybe looking around. Usually he draws outside and has horses on both sides of him. I’m happy with the two-hole.” Flanagan Memory has raced eight times this season and eight times last year, but the results have been quite different. “He just had to grow up and mature, that was his biggest thing,” Dion explained, about last season. “Last year he would make breaks and such and this year, he’s grown into a man. He went from a boy last year to a man this year.” Flanagan Memory has crafted an impressive 7-2-1 record in his career along with $295,498 in earnings for Dion, who shares ownership with Liette Flanagan. Chris Christoforou is listed to steer once again. Hambletonian champion, Royalty For Life will headline the first elimination for trainer George Ducharme. The son of RC Royalty has banked $874,850 this season along with a 5-1-0 record from nine starts. Owned by Alfred Ross, Raymond Campbell and Paul Fontaine, Royalty For Life has won five of his last six starts. He'll leave from post five in the first elimination with Brian Sears aboard. Corky, trained by Jimmy Takter, will headline the other elimination. A winner of $660,191 this season, the son of Muscles Yankee has crafted a 4-5-3 record from 13 starts this season along with $887,488 in his career. Corky will begin from post one with regular pilot David Miller. With two eliminations set for Saturday evening, the top five finishers will advance to the lucrative final. Race 2 The field will line up as follows: 1) Your So Vain 2) Flanagan Memory 3) Smilin Eli 4) All Laid Out 5) Royalty For Life 6) Pine Credit 7) Murmur Hanover Race 3 1) Corky 2) Gotta Secret 3) Toocool Forschool 4) Fico 5) Master Of Law 6) Punxsutawney 7) Wheeling N Dealin by Greg Gangle

VERNON, NY— A Penny Earned posted a career-fastest 1:53.1 Open trot victory; Hot Cowboy became the winningest pacer at the 59-program meeting, and Jimmy Whittemore chalked up four driving tallies during Monday’s special 10-race matinee program at Vernon Downs. With multiple Downs race-winning champ Whittemore handling the lines in Monday’s $10,000 eighth event, A Penny Earned idled in fifth place to the half, timed in :56 seconds, then scooted three-wide around the final bend and flashed home in a :28.1 final quarter to secure an impressive seven-length triumph. Improving his win-mark by one tick of the timer, the 4-year-old bay son of Conway Hal-Penny Dream collected his fourth current victory and 12th lifetime tally, while hiking his career purse earnings to more than $242,000 for trainer George Ducharme, an owner along with New Englanders Nicola Oliva, Alfred Ross and Paul Fontaine. Whittemore also finished first with the first-time race-winning trotter Don’t Miss A Tweet (1:58.2), the diagonally-gaited Leah’s Ex (1:55) and pacer Katelyn’s Scott (1:52) to register his third four-win outing of the track’s 60th anniversary season. Hot Cowboy, a consistent 6-year-old campaigner owned and trained by Truman Gale, roared home in a :27.4 last quarter to win Monday’s fifth event in 152.3. The solid score was his seventh at the meeting and made him the winningest pacer of 2013 here to date. It also tied him with the trotter Ulay Boko for most equine triumphs through Sept. 2. Second-leading reinsman and conditioner Roman Lopez logged a pair of first-place driving finishes during the bright, sunny afternoon, while Truman Gale gained a pair of training tallies. DOWNS DOINGS A Penny Earned is a stablemate of the standout trotter Royalty For Life in the Downs-based Ducharme stable… The 2-year-old filly trotter Don’t Miss A Tweet is trained by veteran Homer Hochstetler and owned by Connie J. Hochstetler and Robert Buddig… The Downs will offer live racing at 6:45 p.m. Thursday-Saturday this weekend… On Friday, Sept. 6, Vernon will present its premier events for older representatives of the diagonal gait, the $200,000 Credit Winner Open Trot and the $200,000 Muscle Hill Mare Trot… Friday’s slate will also include a rich New York Sires Stakes contest for 2-year-old filly pacers.… A revised 2013 racing and stakes calendar, as well as additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at Jim Moran  

VERNON, NY – Sunday night’s race card at Vernon Downs, headlined by the opening round of the All-Star Drivers’ Championship and Zweig Memorial Trot, produced the track’s highest single-card wagering handle since 2009. The total handle, including on-track and off-track simulcast locations, totaled $313,690, the track’s highest figure since hosting the New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions in September of 2009. It also represents a nearly 20% increase over last year’s Drivers’ Championship and Zweig Memorial Trot card. “We worked extremely hard to promote one of our signature nights of the season and we’re pleased to see how well-received it was by horseplayers nationwide,” said Scott Warren, Director of Racing. “By racing the card in the evening, we were able to get our simulcast signal distributed in California and a loaded on-track promotional schedule delivered the type of family-friendly event we strive to produce.” Hambletonian champion Royalty For Life cruised to victory in the $360,000 Zweig Memorial over a star-studded field of trotters and continued his magical season for Vernon Downs based trainer George Ducharme. Vernon Downs resumes racing with a four-day holiday schedule. Live racing takes place Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 6:45 p.m. and a special Labor Day matinee on Monday starting at 1:15 p.m. by Justin Horowitz  

One of The Meadows top drivers, Mike Wilder, is nearing his 6,000th career win and has purse earnings of more than $42 million with the horses he has driven.   Wilder came to the Meadows in 2001 after having driven primarily in Ohio, at Northfield Park, Lebanon Raceway, and Scioto Downs. He had immediate success at the Meadows after having driven for most of his career on half-mile racetracks. Wilder currently battles nightly with Dave Palone at the Meadows. He resides in Washington, PA. with his wife, Heather, who works for the Meadows horsemen's association and they have two daughters.   HORSES BY EARNINGS Horse Name Age Sex Gait Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Earnings CAPTAINTREACHEROUS 3 H P 7 6 1 0 1,251,168 ROYALTY FOR LIFE 3 H T 9 5 1 0 874,850 BEE A MAGICIAN 3 M T 10 10 0 0 845,956 I LUV THE NITELIFE 3 M P 10 9 0 1 749,547 CORKY 3 H T 13 4 5 3 660,191 FOILED AGAIN 9 G P 19 5 3 6 594,020 SMILIN ELI 3 H T 10 4 3 1 534,500 SPIDER BLUE CHIP 3 G T 11 6 1 1 512,113 PET ROCK 4 H P 10 2 3 1 509,032 BOLT THE DUER 4 H P 11 4 4 1 490,862   DRIVERS BY WINS First Name Last Name Starts 1st 2nd 3rd Earnings Corey Callahan 2509 442 312 343 6,010,348 David Palone 1634 432 241 166 4,216,998 Ronnie Wrenn Jr. 1957 426 304 267 1,651,203 Tim Tetrick 2153 417 309 290 9,529,799 Ronald Pierce 2504 396 333 345 6,765,359 Bruce Aldrich Jr. 2114 378 322 287 1,758,050 Brian Sears 1540 374 274 227 9,155,318 Aaron Merriman 2182 374 363 300 2,818,718 Michael Oosting 1565 356 256 212 2,257,705 Tyler Smith 1904 343 272 243 1,995,483   DRIVERS BY EARNINGS First Name Last Name Starts 1st 2nd 3rd Earnings Tim Tetrick 2153 417 309 290 9,529,799 Brian Sears 1540 374 274 227 9,155,318 Yannick Gingras 1569 335 259 215 7,877,042 David Miller 1949 279 299 269 7,321,167 Ronald Pierce 2504 396 333 345 6,765,359 Corey Callahan 2509 442 312 343 6,010,348 George Brennan 1658 277 288 194 5,999,059 Matthew Kakaley 1989 308 307 290 5,242,578 Andy Miller 1870 270 265 242 4,940,918 James Morrill Jr. 1175 279 236 140 4,643,322   TRAINERS BY EARNINGS First Name Last Name Starts 1st 2nd 3rd Earnings Ronald Burke 2986 702 483 345 12,773,472 Jimmy Takter 361 89 50 54 4,109,365 Rene Allard 1314 303 198 150 3,200,260 Tony Alagna 481 89 59 49 3,072,294 Ervin Miller 887 180 141 115 2,736,647 P J Fraley 629 119 101 86 2,715,547 Virgil Morgan Jr. 946 236 142 117 2,484,288 Tony O’Sullivan 554 101 96 60 2,432,041 Linda Toscano 373 76 48 70 2,381,697 Richard Moreau 928 187 151 137 2,294,761   DRIVERS AND TRAINERS APPROACHING MILESTONES Driver Wins               First Middle Last Name Suffix LTD Wins LTD Earnings Last Track Last Start W Mike Wilder   5996 $42,125,790 Mea 8/16/2013 Eric S Ledford   4993 $56,786,775 Mea 8/16/2013 Howard G Parker   4985 $45,431,237 PcD 8/24/2013 Norman Chris Boring   3979 $19,828,659 RP 7/6/2013 Howard E Davis Jr 3974 $30,446,080 Har 8/22/2013 Timothy W Curtin   2985 $20,936,317 May 6/6/2013 Patrick D Berry   2980 $27,285,309 Stga 8/24/2013 David Floyd Carey   2972 $2,432,670 Chrtn 8/17/2013 Ron Paul Wrenn   1995 $6,069,816 Nfld 7/18/2013 Steven C Wiseman   1994 $7,526,415 Aces 8/25/2013 Rodney J Bolon   1992 $9,376,910 Mea 8/16/2013 Ronald L Cushing   1992 $7,427,831 Wind 8/25/2013 Robert H Shepherd   1988 $14,637,634 KD 8/24/2013 Jerry G E Landess   1980 $2,037,837 Green 8/23/2013 Simon   Allard   1977 $15,172,469 VD 8/25/2013 Kelly R Sheppard   1970 $9,401,960 Moh 8/22/2013 James R Mc Donald   997 $2,949,812 PPk 7/27/2013 Vaughan A Doyle   997 $780,366 Chrtn 8/24/2013 DANIEL R                             OBRIAN        992 $2,122,046 GeoD 8/20/2013 Charles M Conrad   991 $5,749,242 HoP 8/24/2013 Robert                        L                             Sparling                                Jr 986 $5,202,613 Dres 8/25/2013 Stephen K O'Toole   986 $2,423,974 PRc 9/3/2012 Clayton   Faurot Jr 981 $2,456,655 Mea 6/12/2013 Joseph   Ricco Jr 978 $3,727,584 MR 8/20/2013 GORDEN A MCKNIGHT   976 $2,883,044 Sar 8/24/2013 Wilbur L Yoder   975 $6,348,219 Meadv 8/21/2013 John D Finn   975 $3,612,590 DuQ 8/25/2013 Darren R Crowe   973 $1,447,472 Summ 8/25/2013 RONALD I MATHESON   970 $1,032,555 Chrtn 8/24/2013 Steven B Norris   970 $2,548,111 RidC 8/22/2013                 Driver earnings in U.S. dollars             First Middle Last Name Suffix LTD Wins LTD Earnings Last Track Last Start Luc R Ouellette   8535 $129,516,058 Moh 8/23/2013 Stephane L Bouchard   7860 $69,948,371 Stga 8/24/2013 Peter M Wrenn   9097 $59,616,977 Lex 8/24/2013 Paul G                             MacKenzie        7759 $39,879,168 KD 8/24/2013 James R Pantaleano   6118 $39,702,941 YR 8/24/2013 Raymond W Schnittker   2633 $39,677,143 VD 8/25/2013 Jordan D Stratton   2317 $29,818,593 YR 8/24/2013 Aaron Edward Merriman   5932 $29,602,140 ScD 8/24/2013 Michael A Forte   3263 $19,923,592 MR 6/3/2013 Norman Chris Boring   3979 $19,828,659 RP 7/6/2013 Jimmy W Takter   711 $19,760,260 TgDn 8/25/2013 Thomas D Strauss   2552 $19,686,925 RidC 8/15/2013 Darrell L Coville   6561 $19,535,040 RidC 8/22/2013 Richard Lee Farrington   1250 $9,962,177 HoP 8/24/2013   Below that are trainers who may be approaching win milestones. USTA started tracking trainer statistics in 1991, so the trainers listed in green may have had training starts and wins prior to 1991, so the Life Wins column for those trainers may not be accurate.   Trainer Approaching Wins Milestones First Middle Last Name suffix Life Wins Life Earnings Last Track Last Start birth_date age in days age Virgil V Morgan Jr 4981 $41,466,047.00 ScD 8/24/2013 11/23/1965 17441 47.8 John G Kina   1985 $5,996,192.00 Nfld 8/21/2013 3/1/1969 16244 44.5 Roger S Welch   989 $13,010,688.00 BmlP 8/25/2013 9/22/1963 18235 50.0 Matias S Ruiz   988 $3,676,765.00 PcD 8/24/2013 2/24/1958 20270 55.5 Jeffery Lynn Cox   986 $6,283,493.00 ScD 8/23/2013 2/18/1955 21371 58.6 Jeffrey R Gillis   985 $19,511,230.00 Moh 8/24/2013 10/1/1977 13111 35.9 Edgar R Clarke   978 $5,279,124.00 VD 8/25/2013 12/6/1955 21082 57.8 Guy   Gagnon   976 $4,991,318.00 RidC 8/22/2013 12/20/1968 16316 44.7 James R Mc Donald   974 $4,558,300.00 PPk 7/27/2013 10/12/1955 21108 57.8   by Ken Weingartner  

Aperfectyankee's season so far has been less than flawless, but that has not dampened trainer Jim Oscarsson's opinion of his stakes-winning trotter as he heads into Saturday's $500,000 Colonial for 3-year-olds at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. The Colonial is part of Super Stakes Saturday at Pocono Downs, which also includes the $500,000 Battle of the Brandywine for 3-year-old pacers and the $350,000 Valley Forge for 3-year-old filly pacers. Aperfectyankee has won three of seven races this year and earned $179,451 for Oscarsson, who also owns and drives the colt. All of his victories this season have come on the Pennsylvania circuit, with two triumphs in divisions of the sire stakes and another in a division of the Pennsylvania All Stars. He is coming off a fourth-place finish in the $1 million Hambletonian on Aug. 3 at the Meadowlands. The nine-horse Colonial field features seven horses from the Hambletonian final, including winner Royalty For Life, runner-up Smilin Eli and third-place finisher Corky. "I'm not disappointed with him, but I know he's better than he's showed," Oscarsson said about Aperfectyankee, who won last year's $387,250 Peter Haughton Memorial by a neck over Corky. "I think with better race luck he can be right there with them at the finish. "I think he's going to win some races this year. It would be nice (to win the Colonial). I think he deserves that." Aperfectyankee entered the Hambletonian off back-to-back wins and finished third in his elimination before ending up fourth in the same-day final. He started the final from post seven and was as many as 11 lengths behind leader and eventual winner Royalty For Life in the early goings. He finished 3-3/4 lengths back on a track that favored trotters on the lead; all three Hambletonian elims and the final were won in wire-to-wire fashion. "(The Colonial) is going to be tough; it's pretty much the same as the Hambletonian," Oscarsson said. "Except this time we've got a better post. I think he can go with them. It's going to be a fun race." Last year, Aperfectyankee won three of seven starts and earned $310,035. In addition to winning the Haughton, he won a division of the Tompkins-Geers and was second to 2-year-old champion Wheeling N Dealin in a division of the Champlain Stakes. He saw his season come to an end after a sixth-place finish in his elimination for the William Wellwood Memorial in September. Oscarsson decided to turn out the colt because of allergies. "When we brought him back to train during the winter he was good and he's been healthy," Oscarsson said. "He's a nice horse. He's perfect to handle, perfect to drive. You can do whatever you want with him." Following is the field for the Colonial with listed drivers and trainers (and morning line odds): 1. Picture This, Charlie Norris, Norris (20-1); 2. Aperfectyankee, Jim Oscarsson, Oscarsson (12-1); 3. Fico, George Napolitano Jr., Staffan Lind (15-1); 4. Smilin Eli, Tim Tetrick, David Smith (3-1); 5. Spider Blue Chip, Ron Pierce, Chuck Sylvester (4-1); 6. Corky, David Miller, Jimmy Takter (5-1); 7. High Bridge, Yannick Gingras, Takter (6-1); 8. Royalty For Life, Brian Sears, George Ducharme (5-2); 9. Dontyouforgetit, Takter, Takter (10-1). by Ken Weingartner  

With the $1,000,000 Hambletonian Trot, harness racing’s most prestigious race, snuggled safely away with an ultra impressive two-heat victory, Royalty For Life has stamped himself as the top three-year-old trotting colt in the world. But the race season is just half way through and there are more challenges that await Royalty For Life and one of them will be the $400,000 Zweig Memorial Trot at Vernon Downs on Sunday, August 25. “We are hoping if all goes well to race him in the Colonial Trot next,” said co-owner Paul Fontaine, “And then we plan on sending him to the Zweig.” This week Royalty For Life will get a much earned rest and then his schedule gets tough again with the $500,000 Colonial Trot on August 17 at Pocono Downs followed the very next week with the $400,000 Zweig Memorial. Sired in New York by RC Royalty, who stands at Morrisville State College in upstate, NY, Royalty For Life is his top offspring. This year he has won four of his seven starts with earnings of $694,000 and lifetime has 11 wins in 20 starts and earnings of $1,029,000. He is trained by George Ducharme and is co-owned by Alfred Ross (who bred the horse), RW “Chip” Campbell (who raised him) and Paul Fontaine, all of whom are from New England. But it won’t be a walk in the park for Royalty For Life, as the best trotting colts in the nation are eligible to this year’s classic event and they will not allow Royalty For Life to just walk away with the top purse money. Also eligible is Smilin Eli, who was second to Royalty For Life both in the first heat and the final of the Hambletonian. And joining him may be Corky, winner of the $500,000 Beal Memorial and was third in the Hambletonian. In fact, of the 23 horses that raced in the $1,200,000 Hambletonian heats, 12 are eligible to compete in the Zweig. Some of those standouts include Spider Blue Chip, who captured an elimination division of the Hambletonian in 1:53.4 for his fifth win in nine starts this year; the 2012 Two-Year-Old Trotting Colt of the Year, Wheeling N Dealin, Aperfectyankee, Dontyouforgetit and High Bridge. Conditions for the Zweig state that the top nine money winners in 2013 will be entered in the $400,000 final and the next nine top money earners will race in the $80,000 consolation race. On the same day at Vernon Downs, the fillies will also be in action in the Zweig Memorial Trot Filly division and the purse for the main event is $170,000 and a $40,000 consolation race. The top contender so far this season is NY bred, To Dream On by Credit Winner and she was the 2012 Two-Year-Old Trotting Filly of the Year. This season To Dream On has gotten off to a rough start with just one win in seven races for the Jimmy Takter Stable, but in her last start, despite making a costly break, she was able to rebound and come back to finish third in the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks. To Dream On is owned by Marvin Katz, Al Libfield and Sam Goldband of Ontario and is a career winner of $820,000 and has nine wins in 15 lifetime starts for trainer Jimmy Takter. Frau Blucher is another top filly eligible to the Zweig. Earlier this season she won at Pocono Downs in 1:52.3 and has four wins in seven starts this year for trainer Chris Oakes. Also a standout is Mistery Woman for trainer Jonas Czernyson. She has three wins in eight starts and a record of 1:53. Other contenders include Fashion Athena, Handover Belle and Time To Kill. By Steve Wolf

CAMPBELLVILLE, ON — Muscle Matters picked the perfect time to figure out how to be a racehorse, battling to a half-length victory in the $150,000 Ontario Sires Stakes Mid-Summer Challenge at Mohawk Racetrack on Monday evening. Heading into the contest trainer Benoit Baillargeon was not sure if the long-legged son of Muscle Mass had truly grasped the ins and outs of the racing game, but the two-year-old trotting colt delivered a gritty effort on Monday to earn his second lifetime win. Starting from Post 4 with Milton resident Mario Baillargeon in the race bike Muscle Matters landed fourth in the early going and then swung to the outside heading for the halfway marker. Parked on the outside all the way around the final turn, Muscle Matters dug in through the stretch to hang on for the 1:57.3 victory over hard closing favourite See The Wind and Jitterbug. “He doesn’t mind being on the outside,” said driver Mario Baillargeon from the winner’s circle. “He’s just a really nice colt.” Rockwood resident Benoit Baillargeon shares ownership of Muscle Matters with Nunzio Vena of Bolton, Santo Vena of Brampton and Richard Thompson of London. Through three starts the colt, a $17,000 purchase from the 2012 Canadian Yearling Sale, has posted two wins and one fourth for earnings of $98,800. Driver Paul MacDonell of Guelph piloted the winners of both the two-year-old trotting filly Challenge and Consolation, with Challenge winner Riveting Rosie clocking the fastest mile of the four Ontario Sires Stakes events. Starting from Post 5 Riveting Rosie sat third on the rail through the opening stages of the race behind Marcella Hall and Danica Hall. When division point leader Marcella Hall seemed to run out of gas heading into the backstretch, first Danica Hall then Riveting Rosie circled around her, but MacDonell did not send his charge after the lead until the fillies swung off the final turn. As she gained a clear view of the finishing wire Riveting Rosie shifted into another gear and powered away from the field to a two and three-quarter length win in 1:57.2. Miss Aultsville came on to be second and Danica Hall trotted into third. “She acts like a filly that just gets better with every start,” said MacDonell. “She’s developing smarts, which is good, and she just seems to trot smoother at a higher speed.” MacDonell engineered the win for trainer John Bax of Peterborough and his partners Don Allensen of Wyoming, J and T Stable of Newmarket and John Hayes of Sharon. Through three starts the Muscle Mass daughter — also a $17,000 purchase, but from the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale — has two wins and one second for earnings of $106,500. In the trotting filly Consolation, MacDonell guided Margie to her first lifetime victory for trainer Michael Keeling of Cambridge and owners Paul Fontaine of Woonsocket, RI, Jim Winske of Marlborough, MA, Michael Winters of Saratoga Springs, NY and George Ducharme of Norfolk, MA. The fan favourites led for much of the race before cruising under the wire one and one-quarter lengths ahead of Mayberry and Toughs Legacy in 1:57.4. Angus Hall daughter Margie now boasts one win, one second and one third in her first three starts. Like the Challenge winners the filly was a $17,000 investment at last fall’s Harrisburg Yearling Sale. The other consolation trophy went home with trainer Tom Durand of Puslinch and his partner Allan Smith of Oakville after Dontcheatonmenow rocketed from seventh to first through the final quarter to capture the $50,000 trotting colt event. A $30,000 purchase from the Harrisburg sale, Dontcheatonmenow reeled in Valorscross and SAS Warkentin to post the 1:57.4 win. Milton resident Randy Waples piloted the Deweycheatumnhowe colt to his first lifetime victory. The two-year-old trotting fillies make their fourth Gold Series start at Rideau Carleton Raceway on Aug. 15, while the two-year-old trotting colts head to Georgian Downs on Aug. 17. Next up at Mohawk Racetrack are the two-year-old trotting colt Grassroots competitors, battling in their fourth event on Thursday, Aug. 8. For complete results please click here.  

East Rutherford, NJ – Racing with the hopes of all of New England harness racing resting on their shoulders, Royalty For Live and driver Brian Sears captured both their $70,000 elimination division and then the $1 million final of the Hambletonian Trot for three-year-olds Saturday at the Meadowlands racetrack. And for driver Brian Sears it was an extra special day at work as he also drove the undefeated Bee A Magician to victory in the filly counterpart, the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks. The 12th race Hambletonian final featured the return of heat racing after a 17 year abscenses. Horses must compete in an elimination division and then come back to race in the final. Royalty For Life showed early that he was ready for today’s big effort as he led from start to finish in his elimination division in 1:52. Drawing the rail in the final, Sears sent Royalty For Life to the lead but it was not an easy task as Tim Tetrick also left for the lead with Smilin Eli and two locked horns for a brief moment at the first quarter in :26.2 but then Tetrick was able to get Smilin Eli into the two hole spot.  As the field came to the half mile in :55, Spider Blue Chip and driver Ron Pierce started up first over but by the three-quarters in 1:23.3, it was too late as Sears had Royalty For Life in full stride and no one was going to catch them. Coming down the stretch, Royalty For Life held the field at bay and opened up to win with ease by three and one-quarter lengths. Smilin Eli was second and Corky third. “This colt raced great,” Sears said. “He is so talented and today he showed all his class. I used him hard and he did it all himself.” Trained by George Ducharme and co-owned by Alfred Ross of South Dartmouth, MA, RW Campbell of Belchertown, MA and Paul Fontaine of Woonsocket, RI, Royalty For Life was sired by New York stallion, RC Royalty, but was foaled in New England and has a huge supporting crew from New England every time he races. “I am just stunned,” said trainer Ducharme. “What a great day this has been. What a great horse.” When presented in the winner’s circle with the Hambletonian Trophy by Brian Cashman, general manager of the New York Yankees, co-owner and breeder of Royalty For Life, Alfred Ross, has the classic comeback. “On behalf of New England and the Boston Red Sox’s we gladly accept this trophy.” Ross said with a smile. Posting his fifth straight win and sixth of the year, Royalty For Life was sent off as the race favorite and paid 43.60 to win. Brian Sears is now the only driver in history to have won both the Hambletonian and the Hambletonian Oaks twice on the same day. He also accomplished that feat back in 2010. By Steve Wolf

East Rutherford, NJ – As the sun came out and smiled over the Meadowlands Racetrack, so did the smiles for the connections of Royalty For Life as he led from start to finish in capturing the $70,000 seventh race first heat of the Hambletonian Trot. Driven by Brian Sears, Royalty For Life took away the early lead from High Bridge (Yannick Gingras) by the opening quarter mile in :26.4 and then was never really challenged the rest of the mile race as he cut fractions of :54.3 to the half and 1:23.1 to the three-quarters. Then at the top of the stretch, Royalty For Life just trotted on his own and drew off to win by one and three-quarter lengths in 1:52. Smilin Eli (Tim Tetrick) was second with High Bridge third to make it to the final. E L rocket (Jim Morrill, Jr.) was fourth as the highest money winner of the three fourth place finishers also makes it to the Hambletonian final. “He was a little rough at the start,” Sears said, “I’ve seen him worse and once we got by the half mile he was comfortable, two-fingers calm. I am looking for him to be even better in the second heat. I think there is a little more in the tank.” It was the fourth straight win for Royalty For Life. The son of RC Royalty is trained by George Ducharme and is owned by Alfred Ross, R W Campbell and Paul Fontaine, all from New England. Royalty For Life paid 43.40 to win. By Steve Wolf  

Royalty For Life is among the favorites for this weekend’s Hambletonian Stakes, harness racing’s most prominent race, and the entire Massachusetts standardbred industry should be cheering for him. Not simply because Royalty For Life is a locally bred, locally raised, locally owned and locally trained horse, with connections throughout the state. Not just because the colt’s principal owner Al Ross has helped to keep the Massachusetts harness racing industry alive for more than a decade through his role as a principal investor at Plainridge Racecourse, the states’ only harness track. The reason is actually much more basic than that; for Royalty For Life can be seen as a metaphor, a single horse whose story ultimately represents a much larger narrative which symbolizes the current state of harness racing in Massachusetts. So many of the elements of the Royalty For Life narrative – commitment and perseverance, hard work and overcoming adversity, the hope for national prominence - are common to both the colt’s experience and Plainridge Racecourse’s seemingly interminable attempt to achieve the expanded gaming which is a necessity to keep harness racing alive in the 21st century. Consider traits such as commitment and perseverance. Al Ross has been part of the Massachusetts racing industry since 1956. To put that in its proper historical perspective, one should realize that Al Ross entered the sport a few months after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on that bus, and a few months before the Boston Celtics won the first of their seventeen NBA championships. He has invested in Plainridge Racecourse for fifteen years, and purchased Royalty For Life’s dam nearly a decade ago even as the harness racing industry in Massachusetts was cratering. Ross, along with partners Chip Campbell and Paul Fontaine, hung in there during the bleak times, continuing to participate in a sire stake program whose purses are paltry compared to other states. Their commitment and perseverance mirrors that of the overnight horsemen at Plainridge who hang in there on annual basis, racing for fewer purse dollars year after year. George Ducharme, Royalty For Life’s hard working trainer, is a local kid who has finally made good, after years of virtual obscurity on a small training center in Plainville, Massachusetts. A 35 year veteran of the industry, Ducharme represents the dreams and aspirations of all those Bay State horsemen and horsewomen who toil 365 days a year at a vocation they love, hoping against hope to some day have that one, special horse. Just as Al Ross put his trust in a trainer to prep his horse who would ultimately end up in the sport’s most high profile race, he has also put his faith in a management team at his racetrack in the hope that it too would achieve the ultimate prize. Then, when it appeared that Royalty For Life and his connections were finally on the cusp of something big they were dealt a bad hand. After Ducharme moved his stable to Vernon Downs for a summer campaign which was supposed to be full of promise, an outbreak of a extremely contagious disease quarantined the barn area. The trainer and his star pupil were essentially prisoners, their barn surrounded by yellow caution tape, prevented from doing their respective jobs. After Royalty For Life was finally freed from his shackles, shipped to the Meadowlands, and won the Dancer Memorial, Ducharme told the media “all the colt wanted to do was race.” That is how most of the Massachusetts horsemen feel today, as they tread water waiting for the license process to unfold, as the days pass since gaming was authorized there is an emotional battle every day for the Massachusetts harness horsemen who see the December deadline, when the slot parlor license is issued, as the beginning of a much brighter future or the end of their industry, their dreams, their livelihood. Like Royalty For Life, those associated with Plainridge merely want to be freed from their shackles and do their respective jobs, whether on the pari-mutuel line or on the backside. Win or lose in the Hambletonian, Royalty For Life has already achieved national prominence. That is a distinction that still eludes Plainridge Racecourse, though it remains a stated goal. A visit to the track’s website, where the company lays out a path for the future Plainridge Park, says as much.  The three week wait between the Dancer Memorial and the Hambletonian has probably seemed like forever for Al Ross and Georege Ducharme, for Paul Fontaine and Chip Campbell. But just imagine what the wait until December 15th is like for all those associated with Plainridge Racecourse. The entire Massachusetts standardbred industry should embrace Royalty For Life, for his story is our story. by Robert Lieberman        

VERNON, NY—Bells Are Ringing rallied late to earn a hard-fought 1:53.4 triumph in Thursday night’s $10,000 feature for female pacers at Vernon Downs. Leaving from the outside seven slot against six slick proponents of the lateral gait in race eight, Bells Are Ringing worked her way up in the outside rally route from fourth at the quarter until she was a challenging second in the final furlong. With Jimmy Whittemore urging on the veteran bay mare, she dug down in the final strides to not only get the lead, but thwart the on-rushing favorite Artic Byrd by a head. The pace-setting Table Games finished third. It marked the fifth local victory this season for the gritty daughter of Cams Card Shark-Heavenly Sign, tying her with fellow pacers Canaco Star, Ideally Magic, and the trotters Hold On Tightly, Don Dinero, Ulay Boko and Glorious Winner for most equine victories after 43 programs of the track’s 60th-anniversary season. It was the 12th lifetime victory for the career-winner of $69,358, who is conditioned by Neal Russo, and owned by Cassie Russo and Andrew J. Gannon. The win was one of three during Thursday’s 11-race card for multiple Downs piloting champion Whittemore, who has been coming on strong of late after a slow season’s start. Leading driver (84 wins) and trainer (31 tallies) Rick Plano, Vernon’s defending champ in both categories, earned a double, as did his chief racetrack rival Roman Lopez. DOWNS DOINGS Plano actually secured a training triple during Thursday’s program as his son, Luke, teamed the stable’s 3-year-old trotting filly Zorianna to a 1:58.4 maiden-breaking score for D & E Racing, Inc. in race three… His wife, Maryann Plano, is a registered owner on the pacers Stand Up Comic (1:54.1) and Hector’s Passion (with Paul Bulinski), who was also a first-time career winner after a 1:56 performance… Another initial pari-mutuel winner during Thursday’s card was the homebred 2-year-old pacing colt Big Bad Max, who chalked up a 1:57.2 tally with Brian Connor steering for trainer George Ducharme, and the Michelle C. and Albert C Crawford, James Crawford, IV and Tom Glenn Harmer ownership contingent in race nine… A $131,774 New York Sires Stake for 3-year-old filly trotters is slated for tomorrow night’s 13-race card, which begins at 6:45, while the track will offer simulcast wagering on the Aug. 3 Hambletonian program from The Meadowlands, which begins at 11:50 a.m… Saturday night’s live 12-race Vernon program will also start at 6:45… A revised 2013 racing and stakes calendar, as well as additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at  

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