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YONKERS, NY, Saturday, March 31, 2018 - Yonkers Raceway used the last day of March to feature the fourth round of the harness racing George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series. Four, $50,000 events comprised the Free-for-All foray. First Division - After a pair of less-than-stellar series trips, Missile J (Tim Tetrick, $7.30) came to play. From post position No. 3, he threw down the gauntlet (:27.3, :56 1:24.1, 1:52) en route to the fastest local mile of the season. Missile J rebuffed an attempted early hostile takeover from 1-2 favorite Mach it So (Dave Miller), the defeated a good, first-up Bettor Memories (Kyle Husted) by a length. Caviart Luca was third, while Mach it So went the wrong way late, fading to sixth. For second choice Missile J, a 5-year-old American Ideal gelding co-owned by Brian Carsey & John McGill and trained by Scott DiDomenico, it was his fourth win in seven seasonal starts (1-for-3 in series). The exacta paid $40.60, with the triple returning $123. Second Division - Odds-on from post No. 4, Dr. J Hanover (Brett Miller, $3.90) did what he did in the first two legs. He made an immediate-and 'cheap'-lead, then again made his rivals pay (:28.3, :58, 1:26.0; 1:53.3). Bit of a Legend N (Jordan Stratton) fought the good fight with a two-move second, but missed a half-length. Another Daily Copy (Jason Bartlett) was a pylon pocket third. For Dr. J Hanover, a 5-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding co-owned by Brad Grant, Robert Leblanc, Steven Wienick & Irwin Samelman and trained by Tony Alagna, it was his third win in four seasonal starts (3-for-3 in series). The exacta (two wagering choices) paid $8.30, the triple returned $29 and the superfecta (Mister Daytona N [Scott Zeron]) paid $134. Third Division --- Pole-sitting Western Fame (Mark MacDonald) snapped 4-5 fave Rockin' Ron (Yannick Gingras) at the (1:52.4) wire. The latter led through intervals of :27.3, :56.4 and 1:25, taking a couple of lengths into the lane. However, he could not join Dr. J Hanover as a three-peater, faltering in a photo. Third went to Killer Martini (Bartlett), beaten four lengths. Meanwhile, last season's series winner, Keystone Velocity (Dan Dube) did not distinguished himself this night. The second choice was away a loose third, then backpedaled first-up as a never-factoring sixth. For third choice Western Fame, a 5-year-old homebred son of Western Ideal owned by Brittany Farms and trained by Jimmy Takter, he's 2-for-4 this season (2-for-3 in series) . The exacta paid $23.20, the triple returned $124 and the superfecta (89-1 outsider Rodeo Rock [Eric Goodell]) paid $806. Fourth Division - Somewhere in L A (Stratton, $6.30) needed two moves to prevail. Away fourth from post No. 6, he saw Franco Rayner N (Joe Bongiorno) give his backers an early (:27.3, :56.1) thrill. Somewhere in L A went past that one before the 1:23.4 three-quarters, opening 2½ lengths in in and out of the final turn. He whipped a troubled-trip Long Live Rock (Dube) by a length in 1:53, with Luciano N (Brent Holland) third. Long Live Rock's angst was caused in large part by 3-2 choice All Bets Off (Yannick Gingras). After getting away from the pole, he was in disarray second-over, forcing pursuer Long Live Rock wide very early. All Bets Off wound up seventh, beaten 10 lengths. For second choice Somewhere in L A, a 7-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding co-owned by D'Elegance Stable IX, Carmen Iannacone and T L P & Gandolfo Stables and trained by Richard Banca, it was his third win in five seasonal starts (1-for-3 in series). The exacta paid $28, with triple returning $137. Saturday night's $40,000 Open Handicap Trot was won by a first-up Rubber Duck (Bongiorno, $12.40) in 1:56.1. A reminder that there is no horse race wagering permitted in New York State Easter Sunday (Apr. 1st), including the Raceway and Empire City Bets. Frank Drucker

YONKERS, N.Y. – As the leading driver at Yonkers Raceway in each of the past four seasons, including last year when horses he drove earned $10.4 million, harness racing driver Jason Bartlett finds himself in an unusual position three months into the 2018 season: in second place. Although his 104 victories at the meet are 36 more than George Brennan’s 68 wins, Bartlett trails Jordan Stratton by nine wins with a quarter of the season in the books. Although he calls it a slow start by his standards, Bartlett’s competitive mindset looks forward, not back. “I had a real slow winter meet, but everything is picking up now,” Bartlett said. “My main barns weren’t racing a lot of horses. It happens, I guess. There’s some things you can’t control and that’s one of them. I guess it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” One of the main trainers Bartlett drives for, Rich Banca, went 6-for-61 in January, the stable heated up as the Matchmaker and Levy series approached, going 25 for its next 135 through March 28. Bartlett will drive in all eight of this weekend’s Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy series divisions and he drives for Banca in six of them. As the Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy Series continues into their third legs this weekend, Bartlett continues to be impressed by the competitiveness of each series. Six different horses have won the first seven division of the Matchmaker while seven unique horses captured the first nine Levy splits. “The great thing about it this year is you have your top-level horses in there, but some of the horses who are maybe not as talented can beat the better horses because of the post positions, the bad draws, bad spots,” he explained. “I think both the Matchmaker and the Levy are great this year because right now it’s been post position draws that have won the races. It’s going to be interesting. Now more so than most years, because there’s so many different horses winning, the wins really matter. Coming down to the wire, it’s going to be very interesting.” Bartlett gave his thoughts on each horse he will drive in the series. Friday March 30, 2018: Blue Chip Matchmaker Series Third Leg Race 6 – Division One #5 Mach It A Par 7-2 (Tr. Rich Banca) A 39-time winner and earner of $783,847, Mach It A Par is a two-time finalist of the Matchmaker Series. She was unplaced in her first three starts of the year, but strung together consecutive wins in a $25,000 overnight and a $30,000 Filly and Mare Preferred entering the series. After finishing fourth from post seven in leg one, Mach It A Par finished second to L A Delight in leg two. She will get a rematch with that rival tonight. “She’s been good. All year she’s been pretty consistent. In the right spots, she’s done her job. She’s the best she’s been in a long time. I was very happy the way she finished up last week. We’re in kind of a tough spot on the outside of the gate, so if we can work out a trip with her, second- or third-over, she could be pretty good. Last week was very good seeing her like that again.” Race 7 – Division Two #1 Lady Shadow 5-2 (Tr. Rich Banca) Champion mare Lady Shadow joined the Banca ranks last fall and made her seasonal debut a winning one when she captured leg one of the Matchmaker wire-to-wire in 1:53.4. Although $1.9 million earner finished fourth as the odds-on favorite last week, Bartlett believes the trip got the better of her after he brushed her to the lead in a :55.4 half. Lady Shadow will face Shartin N this week, who is 2-for-2 in the Matchmaker. “Last week I used her a little bit too hard. We were going a pretty quick clip and then it slowed down real fast and I heard a little commotion behind me, so I had to move there or come first-over a little bit later. I decided just to move her to the front and she got a little tired there. If they would have gone a little bit faster to the half, I would have never moved her. They forced my hand. They went :26.1 and we were going really slow into the paddock turn and I didn’t want to shut her off, so I had to move her. We got the rail this week and it doesn’t look like we’re going to have to go :26.0, that’s for sure.” Race 8 – Division Three #6 Wishy Washy Girl 3-1 (Tr. Rich Banca) Five-year-old daughter of Roll With Joe returned with a lackluster sixth March 9, just a week before the series began. She skipped leg one of the series in favor of a $20,000 overnight March 16 and won by 6 ¾ lengths in 1:54.2. Last week, Bartlett drove her to a wire-to-wire score in the Matchmaker second leg, where she beat first leg winner Twinkle. “If you’re going into that series, you’re going to want to be kind of sharp. It was a step up for her anyways. For her to jump right in there not off a great race the week before, that would be asking a lot of her. We threw her in an overnight to see if she was going to be able to go with them and she proved that she could. Last week, she drew the rail and the good thing about her is she can leave the car really fast and then she’s really handy afterwards. Last week, we had the horse to beat on our back and was able to not let them out. That’s what she can do; she’s able to put better horses in bad spots because she’s so handy. Do I think I would I have been able to beat that hose if I hadn’t been in front of her? Probably not. She’s just handy on the half-mile track, she can do anything you want her to do. It looks like a tough spot this week. We have some horses inside that can leave. I’m just going to read the gate and go from there.” Race 9 – Division Four #2 All About Madi 9-2 (Tr. Brittany Robertson) Daughter of Brandon’s Cowboy was unplaced in the first two legs of the series after putting together a string of on the board finishes in open company earlier this season. Bartlett will drive her for the first time since January 19 when she faded to finish fourth as the even-money favorite in a $25,000 overnight. “I think she’s been pretty good. I haven’t driven her since the beginning of the year, went off favored, put her on the front, she was no good. That’s really not her gig, racing her on the front probably wasn’t the best idea. She’s got a good spot. I’ve seen her a couple times, she’s been coming up the rail near the wire, she’s had a lot of pace. She’s one of those horses that you need a helmet and she’ll give you a good kick home, so that’s probably what I’ll try to do is get her on the right helmet and go from there.” Saturday March 31, 2018: George Morton Levy Series Third Leg Race 7 – Division One #5 Blood Brother 6-1 (Tr. Rich Banca) The 6-year-old son of Somebeachsomewhere is a 23-time winner, a $739,380-earner, and made the final of the series last year. Bartlett drove him to consecutive wins at the $20,000 level in the weeks leading up to the series, one in wire-to-wire fashion in 1:53.1 and one from off the pace in 1:54.2. Blood Brother finished a disappointing seventh beaten 11 lengths in the first leg of the series and skipped last week. Series standouts Mach It So and Missile J drew to his inside. “He’s just been ok this year so far. He was sick last week, so we gave him the week off. I really don’t know what to expect from him. He’s a nice little horse, he’s handy. I’ll just have to trip him out. It’s a pretty tough field of horses, it’s a pretty tough group.” Race 8 – Division Two #1 Another Daily Copy 4-1 (Tr. Rich Banca) Dismissed at odds of 25-1 last week, the 5-year-old son of Somebeachsomewhere rallied up the inside to finish third to Evenin Of Pleasure by 2 ¼ lengths in 1:53.3. He draws favorably this week and Bartlett looks to get an ideal trip behind Dr J Hanover, who won the first two legs of the series after setting slow half-mile fractions of :58.1 and :57.3, respectively. “Finished really well last week. I never left the rail with him, he kind of battled on. He came up the inside and actually had a lot of pace at the wire. Looks like hopefully we’ll get a decent trip again this week and he can be right there. He’s another horse that can beat some nice horses with a decent trip. I’ll probably push the rail and try and sit behind ‘Dr J.’ Dr J Hanover is a great horse obviously, but he hasn’t had to work for anything yet. We’ll see what happens when he has to work a little bit. The horse can leave with the car, sometimes the car can’t get out of the way fast enough, so that’s part of his game, leaving fast, shutting it down, and sprinting home. Looks like a good horse to follow.” Race 10 – Division Three #5 Killer Martini 6-1 (Tr. Ricky Bucci) Teamed with Bartlett to score two upset victories in the Open Handicap Pace in February before posting a string of four straight losses, including in leg one of the series March 17. The 6-year-old son of Camluck was scratched sick in leg two. He draws outside Western Fame, a winner in the series last week, Keystone Velocity, the series’ defending champion, and Rockin Ron, who is 2-for-2 to start the series. “We got a couple good races there in the Open two weeks in a row. We got fast halves, great trips, so that was good. He’s a nice little Yonkers horse, makes a lot of money. No gate speed, so we’re just going to be dependent on how the race develops and take it from there.” Race 11 – Division Four #5 Somewhere In L A 3-1 (Tr. Rich Banca) Finished second beaten a head by Keystone Velocity in the $529,000 final of the Levy Series last year, Somewhere In L A is a $1.4 million earning son of Somebeachsomewhere. Although his form tailed off at the end of 2017, Somewhere In L A returned a wire-to-wire winner in a $20,000 overnight March 3 and posted another pace-setting win the following week in a sharp 1:52.4. He finished second to Dr J Hanover in week one of the series and second to Western Fame last week. Bartlett was happy with the former effort, but blames himself for the most recent loss. “He qualified great, he raced great. The first race with ‘Dr J,’ I just didn’t want to get into a speed duel with that horse, so I elected to come first-over. I knew it was going to be a slow half, but he still grinded out a second, which is great. Last week, I think I lost the race. I shouldn’t have raced the horse on the backside as much as I did. I felt I had him beat. I think it was my fault, but he raced really well. He is a tough horse and he just doesn’t quit. He might not be the most talented, but he has a big heart and he’s pretty versatile. He’s just a nice horse all around. I think he might have caught one of the cheaper groups this week. All Bets Off had the outside the first week and we beat him. I’m not sure, he can go both ways, but he likes to be placed forward, so we’ll see.” By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

Brad Grant was focused on the future when he and his harness racing partners purchased Dr J Hanover for a sales-topping $280,000 at the 2017 Tattersalls January Select Mixed Sale. After two preliminary rounds of this year's George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series, the now is looking pretty good too. The Levy is a six-week series for older male pacers at Yonkers Raceway. Five-year-old Dr J Hanover is 2-for-2 in the event, including a 1:52.4 victory last week that was the fastest of four divisions. On Saturday, the Tony Alagna-trained gelding is the 9-5 morning-line favorite in the second of four splits, leaving from post four with driver Brett Miller. "Tony had him pointed to this series and drawing the rail the first two legs is always nice," Grant said, referring to Dr J Hanover starting from post No. 1 in each of the previous rounds. "If you look at his 3-year-old year, he did pretty well at Yonkers. Tony always said he could get around this track pretty good. It seems to fit him, which is great. "We're going to keep our fingers crossed that he can continue, but there are a lot of tough horses in there. There is a group of them that can win on a given night depending on how the race goes and the draw. But it looks like (Dr J Hanover) matured and filled out a little over the winter. He looks great and seems a little stronger." As a 3-year-old, Dr J Hanover raced at Yonkers eight times, winning six. For his career, he has won 10 of 22 starts at the Hilltop and hit the board a total of 15 times. Last season -- his first year with Grant and partners Robert Leblanc, Steven Wienick, and Irwin Samelman -- Dr J Hanover won five of 23 races and earned $169,807. His top moment came in a division of the Graduate Series at Mohawk Racetrack, where he won in 1:46.4 to set the record for the fastest pacing mile in Canadian history. The previous year, at 3, Dr J Hanover was third in the Little Brown Jug and Messenger Stakes as well as a division of the Tattersalls Pace. The son of Somebeachsomewhere-So Perfect has won 15 of 45 career races and $551,580. "When I bought him, I bought him for the long haul," Grant said. "I think last year was a good year, but I thought he left some money on the table in some of his races. "Again, in the long run, I think he's got longevity and can be a great aged pacer. I think as a 5- and 6-year-old he could really prove his worth. Tony thinks he can go with the big boys. He's staked up pretty good. I think he can compete with the best of them. But there's a tough bunch of aged pacers. They're hard sluggers." Dr J Hanover is not the only horse with a 2-for-2 record in the Levy. Six-year-old Rockin Ron, who is the 9-5 favorite in Saturday's third Levy division, also is perfect thus far for trainer Ron Burke and driver Yannick Gingras. Other Levy winners last week were Evenin Of Pleasure and Western Fame. Other winners in the first round, which consisted of five divisions, were New Zealand-bred Bit Of A Legend, Mach It So, and Always At My Place. The Levy and companion Blue Chip Matchmaker Series, which is for older female pacers and continues with its third round Friday night, both feature five preliminary rounds followed by added-money finals April 21. A horse receives 25 points each time he or she races in the preliminary rounds. Points are also awarded based on finish, with 50 points for a win, 25 for second, 12 for third, eight for fourth, and five for fifth. "I don't think any trainer wants to race five or six weeks in a row because it's tough," Grant said. "It's a tough call for a trainer to decide whether to take a week off. The points are valuable this year, and they're going to be right down to the end, I think." For Saturday's complete entries at Yonkers, click here. For the Levy standings, click here. For the Matchmaker standings, click here. Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager

Harness racing this Week: Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy series third legs, Yonkers Raceway, Yonkers, N.Y. Schedule of events: The Grand Circuit at Yonkers this week features four $40,000 divisions on Friday (March 30) in the third round of the Blue Chip Matchmaker series for open pacing mares. The Saturday (March 31) card at Yonkers will see four $50,000 divisions in the third round of the George Morton Levy series for open pacers. Complete entries for the races can be found by clicking on this link. Last time: Yonkers Raceway this past Saturday night (March 24) offered the second round of the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series. A quartet of $50,000 events again brought together many of the marquee Free-For-Allers. The result was three, down-the-road winners, including two series repeaters. The encore performers were faves Dr J Hanover (Brett Miller, $4.10) and Rockin Ron (Yannick Gingras, $2.30) in the bookend divisions. Dr J Hanover won the draw for the second consecutive start and put his rivals to sleep for the second consecutive start. A cheapy (:27.4, :57.3) half served him well after another first-leg winner, Always At My Place (George Brennan), offered a hard, first-up challenge. That one was disposed after a :27 third quarter (1:24.3), while Dr J Hanover swelled up to two lengths entering the lane. The final margin was 2-1/2 lengths in 1:52.4. Chumlee A (Larry Stalbaum) lost touch in the pocket, crossed the line second but was set down to fourth for cutting some cones. That placed Keystone Velocity (Dan Dube) second and Bit Of A Legend N (Jordan Stratton) third. For Dr J Hanover, a 5-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding co-owned by Brad Grant, Robert Leblanc, Steven Wienick and Irwin Samelman and trained by Tony Alagna, it was his second win in three seasonal starts. Rockin Ron, from post position two, wanted no part of an early pocket. He took over from pole-sitting Luciano N (Brent Holland), then -- with another pedestrian early portion -- held that rival at bay (:26.3, :57, 1:24.4, 1:53.2). The margin was three-quarters of a length. Mach It So (Tim Tetrick), after last week's win, turned in a solid, two-move effort for third from behind the eight-ball. For Rockin Ron, a 6-year-old Real Desire gelding co-owned as Burke Racing by trainer Ron Burke, Weaver Bruscemi, RTC Stables and J&T Silva Stables, it was his second win in four seasonal starts. Complete recaps of the weekend races are available at the Grand Circuit website. Grand Circuit Standings: In 2018, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2018 Grand Circuit awards. Here are the leaders following this past weekend at Yonkers: Drivers: 1. Tim Tetrick - 48; 2. Jason Bartlett - 44; 3. Jordan Stratton - 42; 4. Yannick Gingras - 37; 5. Brent Holland - 26. Trainers: 1. Richard Banca - 39; 2. Ron Burke - 37; 3. Peter Tritton - 32; 4t. Paul Blumenfeld - 22; 4t. Jim King Jr. - 22. Owners: 1. Vonknoblauch Stable - 27; 2t. Friendship Stables - 15; 2t. Gestion J Y Blais Inc. - 15; 4t. Bamond Racing - 12; 4t. Richard Poillucci - 12. Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will continue with legs of the Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy over the next two weekends. The finals and consolations for both events will be held on April 21. Paul Ramlow Grand Circuit Publicity Director

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, March 24, 2018 -- Yonkers Raceway Saturday night (March 24th) offered the second round of the harness racing George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series. A quartet of $50,000 events again brought together many of the marquee Free-For-Allers. The result was three, down-the-road winners, including two series repeaters. The encore performers were faves Dr. J Hanover (Brett Miller. $4.10) and Rockin' Ron (Yannick Gingras, $2.30) in the bookend divisions. Dr. J Hanover won the draw for the second consecutive start and put his rivals to sleep for the second consecutive start. A cheapy (:27.4, :57.3) half served him well after another first-leg winner, Always at My Place (George Brennan), offered a hard, first-up challenge. That one was disposed after a 27-secomd third quarter (1:24.3), while Dr. J Hanover swelled up to two lengths entering the lane. The final margin was 2½ lengths a season's-best (purse start) 1:52.4. Chumlee A (Larry Stalbaum) lost touch in the pocket, crossed the line second but was set down to fourth for cutting some cones. That placed Keystone Velocity (Dan Dube) second and Bit of a Legend N (Jordan Stratton) third. "He surprised me," Miller said. "After that third quarter, he just opened up." For Dr. J Hanover, a 5-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding co-owned by Brad Grant, Robert Leblanc, Steven Wienick & Irwin Samelman and trained by Tony Alagna, it was his second win in three seasonal starts. The exacta paid $21, with the triple returning $91.50. Rockin' Ron, from post position No. 2, wanted no part of an early pocket. He took over from pole-sitting Luciano N (Brent Holland), then--with another pedestrian early portion--held that rival at bay (:26.3, :57, 1:24.4, 1:53.2). The margin was three-quarters of a length. Mach it So (Tim Tetrick), after last week's win, turned in a solid, two-move effort for third from behind the eight-ball. For Rockin' Ron, a 6-year-old Real Desire co-owned (as Burke Racing) by (trainer) Burke, Weaver Bruscemi, RTC and J&T Silva Stables, it was his second win in four seasonal starts. The exacta paid $4.60, with the triple returning $19.20. Saturday night's third down-the-pike series winner was another wagering choice in Evenin' of Pleasure (Joe Bongiorno, $3.20). From post No. 3, he took no prisoners (:26.2, :56.1, 1:24, 1:53.1). A wide-closing Bettor Memories (Kyle Husted) was second, with Another Daily Copy (Jason Bartlett) third and an out-the-mile Orillia Joe (Stratton) fourth. For Evenin' of Pleasure, a 8-year-old son of Dragon Again owned by Gestion J Y Blais and trained by Jennifer Bongiorno, it was her first win in a pair of seasonal starts. The exacta paid $31.40, triple returned $173 and the superfecta paid $558. The night's only off-the-pace series winner, a second-over Western Fame (Mark MacDonald, $11), was also the only non-winning second-round favorite. From post No. 5, he parlayed a perfect tow behind Somewhere in L A (Bartlett), to whip that one by a length in 1:53.1. Missile J (Tetrick), the 9-10 choice, did not retake from polester Caviart Luca (Brennan) after that one led through intervals of :27, 57.1 and 1:24.3. For this race, the soft fractions caved, effectively burying Missile J. He did end up a non-threatening third, beaten two lengths. For third choice Western Fame, a 5-year-old homebred son of Western Ideal owned by Brittany Farms and trained by Jimmy Takter, he's now 1-for-3 this season. The exacta paid $40.20, the triple returned $85.50 and the superfecta (Franco Rayner [Bongiorno]) paid $275.50. Saturday's $40,000 Open Handicap Trot was won by Mostinterestingman (Bartlett, $6) in 1:56.2 The 12-race handle was $1,007,866, the Raceway's first 'non-French' seven-figure wagering card of the season. Monday night (March 26th) offers the $62,000 final of the Petticoat Pacing Series for 3- and 4-year-old fillies and mares. Frank Drucker

YONKERS, N.Y. – After finishing second to Rockin Ron in leg one of the George Morton Levy Pacing Series at Yonkers Raceway in his seasonal debut March 17, hasrness racing trainer Jenn Bongiorno is expecting Evenin of Pleasure to be even sharper in week two of the series. The 8-year-old will start from post three in the eighth race tonight (March 24), the second of four divisions of the Levy series on the 12-race Yonker's program. “Last week, I was so pleased. I thought it was a great start. Rockin Ron is probably one of the best horses in the series, we were not going to go by him that night, but I was really happy. I felt Evenin of Pleasure finished up well to stay that close to Rockin Ron,” Bongiorno said. “Rockin Ron already had a start, that was our first start. Second start this week, I think he’s in such a good spot. I’d like to see him control the race for sure.” Evenin of Pleasure came to Bongiorno’s barn in late February with his connections, owner Gestion Blais and trainer Travis Cullen, targeting the Levy Series. They initially intended to send Evenin of Pleasure to Ron Burke, who conditioned the horse during a stint of racing in the Yonkers Open Pace last summer. However, with Burke’s series entries maxed out, Bongiorno got the call. “Ron Burke couldn’t take the horse for the series because he has horses he owns himself, so he can’t put a horse he doesn’t own ahead of one that he does, so luckily the owner was pointed in our direction,” Bongiorno said. “You have that kind of a classy horse, the day he got to the barn, I just ran to his stall and gave him a hug. It’s such an honor to even be able to sit behind a horse like that and have the opportunity to race him in such a great series.” A 27-time winner from 126 starts, Evenin of Pleasure is a multiple stakes winner with $811,524 in earnings. Bongiorno says his class shows in the morning. “One thing I’ve definitely learned is better horses are better on the track. They aren’t the ones that grab on so much. They’re so smart and just perfect gentlemen basically,” she explained. “I can’t really say enough good things about him. Perfect in the barn, great attitude, turn him out every day. He seems to be really adjusting well to our program.” Although Evenin of Pleasure arrived with his own rigging, Bongiorno made some adjustments that she feels will help the son of Dragon Again stay sharp as the series goes on, such as a shoeing change that will help to combat Evenin of Pleasure’s habit of running down, or hitting his heels on the surface of the track when he races. “Right now, we have him completely off his rundown, so I think that could definitely be something in the series that will help him because that can definitely hurt a horse,” she said. “When horses run down, the back of their heels hit the ground. With his shoeing and changes we made with that, we were able to get him off that, so that’s a plus.” Evenin of Pleasure arrived at Bongiorno’s stable in New Jersey nearly ready to qualify. She trained him the week he arrived and planned to qualify him at Freehold the following week, with the aim of qualifying him a second time before starting him in the series. However, a winter storm threatened to derail Evenin of Pleasure’s schedule. “That first qualifier was actually supposed to be at Freehold and it was the day of the snowstorm. I was like, ‘oh my gosh, we have to get this horse qualified,’ because he needed two qualifiers and that first start was going to be the Levy. I was in pure panic mode, I really was,” Bongiorno said. Bongiorno reached out to the Meadowlands race office and got Evenin of Pleasure in to qualify there after Freehold canceled. He won that March 3 trial in 1:53.1, beating Sunfire Blue Chip and Always at My Place. Six days later, Evenin of Pleasure posted a 6-length score in a qualifier at Freehold. “I thought that was a really nice qualifier over some nice horses: Sunfire Blue Chip, Always at My Place, who won a leg of the series, so I knew that we were in the right direction,” Bongiorno commented. “Freehold that day, the track was so dead, it was just a dead track. He paced in 1:54.2. We were happy, but we thought he might need another start before he was in tip-top shape. I think second start he’ll definitely be tighter and better.” Evenin of Pleasure’s leg two rivals include Christen Me and All Bets Off, who each finished third in leg one of the series. Bongiorno is confident given her horse’s favorable draw as Christen Me and All Bets Off will start from posts six and seven, respectively. “When I saw the draw this week, I couldn’t have been happier,” Bongiorno said. “Christen Me is a nice horse, but I thought he had time last week to shake free and win, and he didn’t. All Bets Off is probably one of the top two in the series, but he didn’t look that good last week either and drawing post seven isn’t the easiest way of doing things. I think having the inside is definitely going to be to our advantage.” In addition to Evenin of Pleasure, Bongiorno will start longshot Franco Rayner in race 10, the third division of the Levy Series. After finishing fourth in leg one, the Australian import drew post seven tonight and is a 20-1 morning line. Although she believes he has talent, Bongiorno has yet to unlock his full potential. “I’ve been saying since we first bought him, I think he’s the real deal,” Bongiorno said. “Foreign horses, it takes time to get them to adapt to life here. It’s been a little bit of a battle with him. Last week, he did race well, he left great. He doesn’t have the respect yet because he’s not proven. Foreign horses have their little issues, we’ll work on it, like keeping him better hydrated. He’s going to need a little more attention because it seems like he can have issues.” First post time tonight is 6:50 p.m. For entries for the card, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, March 17, 2018—Saturday night (March 17th) offered a quintet of $50,000 divisions of harness racing Free-for-Allers in the opening round of Yonkers Raceway’s George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series. First Division—From post position No. 2, season-debuting Mach it So (Tim Tetrick, $4) threw down an early series gauntlet, retaking from Chumlee A (Larry Stalbaum) en route to a handy (:28.2, :57.3, 1:25.3, 1:53.3) win. Chumlee A chased, beaten a length-and-three-quarters, with pole-sitting Bettor Memories (Kyle Husted) a three-hole third. For Mach it So, an 8-year-old Mach Tree gelding owned by Bamond Racing trained by Jeffrey Bamond Jr., it was a 41st career victory as he nears $2.5 million in career earnings. The exacta (two wagering favorites) paid $11, with triple returning $52.50. Second Division—It was first-up from and first home for Always at My Place (George Brennan, $12.60). From post  No. 2, he engaged last season’s series winner, Keystone Velocity (Dan Dube) after that one’s intervals of :27.2; :56.4 and 1:24.3. Always at My Place forged by late, beating a pylon-skimming Mister Daytona N (Jordan Stratton) by a head in 1:54. Christen Me N (Tetrick), angling from the pocket as Keystone Velocity tired, was third, beaten a neck. As for 3-2 choice Waikiki Beach A (Scott Zeron), his local debut was dreadful. Never involved, he finished seventh (last), beaten nearly 14 lengths. For third choice Always at My Place, a 7-year-ol Always a Virgin gelding co-owned (as Burke Racing) by (trainer) Ron Burke, Weaver Bruscemi, Larry Karr and Phil Collura, he, too, made a successful ’18 bow. The exacta paid $73.50, with the triple returning $185.50. Third Division—Polester Dr. J Hanover (Brett Miller, $6.30) took one step forward and the of the field deferred. The result (:28.2, :58.1, 1:26.4, 1:55) was a nary more than a public workout. Dr. J  Hanover won by a length-and-a-quarter, with Somewhere in L A (Jason Bartlett) a first-up second and 19-10 fave All Bets Off (catch-driver Yannick Gingras) a loose-pocket third. For second choice Dr. J Hanover, a 5-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding co-owned by Brad Grant, Robert Leblanc, Steven Wienick & Irwin Samelman and trained by Tony Alagna, it was his first win in a pair of seasonal starts. The exacta paid $24.20, with the triple returning $50.50. Fourth Division—Odds-on Rockin’ Ron (Gingras, $2.90)—from post No. 4—rebounded from a poor effort in his final pre-series overnight event and went the distance (:27.1 :56.4, 1:24.3, 1:53). Evenin’ of Pleasure  (Joe Bongiorno) chased the winner in a good try, beaten three-quarters of a length. Western Dynasty (Bartlett) sat a three-hole and pocked off the rest. For Rockin’ Ron, a 6-year-old Real Desire co-owned (as Burke Racing) by (trainer) Burke, Weaver Bruscemi, RTC and J&T Silva Stables, it was his first win in three seasonal starts. The exacta paid $18.80, with the triple returning $56.50. Fifth Division—Bit of a Legend N (Stratton, $21.60) seemed to be minding his own affairs in his ’18 purse debut, when things worked out quite well for him. From post No. 3, the 2016 Levy champ worked out a second-over trip behind 1-2 fave Missile  J (Tetrick). He then rolled over his tow, winning by a neck in 1:53.3. Long Live Rock (Dube) rallied for third. Great Vintage (Gingras), after fractions of 26.3; 56.4; 1:25, led to the lane before fading to fifth. For fourth choice Bit of a Legend N, a 9-year-old Down Under son of Bettor’s Delight owned by Von Knoblauch Stable and trained by Peter Tritton, it was his 42nd career win (earnings $1.93 million). The exacta paid $52, with the triple returning $279.50. Sunday racing is back tomorrow (March 18th), with first post at 11:45 AM. Frank Drucker

YONKERS, N.Y. – After visiting his New Jersey stable Wednesday to train his pacers bound for the Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy Series at Yonkers Raceway, Ross Croghan is excited to see what the next six weeks will hold. Croghan will start four horses in the first leg of harness racing series action at Yonkers Raceway this weekend: Call Me Queen Be and Twinkle in the Matchmaker and Waikiki Beach and Hug The Wind in the Levy. Although he’d like to be with his stars full time, a barn of 44 horses in Florida keeps him away. “I’d like to be up there with them, but I just can’t be in two places at once,” Croghan lamented. “I trained all those Levy and Matchmaker horses (Wednesday) morning. I just wanted to make sure they’re all good. They all felt fantastic. I’ve got two mares in the Matchmaker, they’re both as sharp as racehorses can be.” Although $1.2 million earner Call Me Queen Be will make her seasonal debut from post three in the third Matchmaker division Friday night (March 16), Croghan’s focus will be on up-and-coming mare Twinkle. A $77,000 yearling buy out of the 2014 Lexington Select Sale, Twinkle went largely unnoticed last year after making her career debut as a 4-year-old. In the eyes of her trainer however, Twinkle has already shown hints of being something special. “She broke beautiful and she was just so smooth and even. You could put a glass of water on her back and you wouldn’t spill a drop. When you sit behind them and you feel that, you say to yourself, ‘that’s beautiful balance,’ ” Croghan recalled. “But then, by the time she had been training for three months, it was obvious she had growing pains. Usually by 3, they’re better, but she was just one of those horses that wasn’t.” Croghan talked owners Let It Ride Stables and Dana Parham into letting the young filly develop. Even as the opportunity for a 3-year-old season came and went, Croghan never forgot the promise Twinkle showed early in her training and never gave up on the daughter of Bettor’s Delight. “It took her a long time to become a sound horse that you could push on with. I just kept putting her aside thinking she will eventually grow up and her growing pains will go away and last year she did,” Croghan said. “In this day and age, you get pressured because you pay for stakes and there was a point where I thought the owners were going to say to me enough’s enough. I told them I really like this filly and they just said ok and just put up with it. I think they’re going to get paid.” When she finally began racing, Twinkle showed she could carry her morning talent to the races. She went 11-for-12 last year with another second-place finish, good for $101,250 in earnings. In just her third start, Twinkle posted a lifetime best 1:51.3 victory from post 10 at the Meadowlands with John Campbell in the sulky. Croghan remembers the Hall of Fame driver gushing over the filly post-race. “He came in and said, ‘I think you have something special here. Green horses are not supposed to do what she just did.’ ” Now 5 years old, Twinkle will make her stakes debut in the first leg of the Matchmaker Friday night. Eric Goodell will drive the 4-1 shot from post two. Series veteran Regil Elektra will start to Twinkle’s immediate outside while defending Matchmaker champion Makenzie drew post seven. Although the competition is more seasoned, Croghan is confident heading into the series after watching Twinkle out-train Call Me Queen Be this winter. “I’m not a guy that steps on the gas too much training,” he explained. “You just ask them to step that last eighth and you’re looking across and you see that one horse is almost coming out of their hobbles they’re pacing so fast and you look across at the other one and she still has the bit between her teeth. I’ve trained her plenty now and she’s impressive. If you speak to her and then look at your watch, you go, ‘oh my god!’ I’ve had a lot of good mares and this might be one of the best I’ve had.” In addition to his Matchmaker duo, Croghan will start a pair of horses in the Levy Saturday night (March 17). Although Hug The Wind is an outsider in the third division, Waikiki Beach figures to be a major contender in the evening’s second split. A five-time Group 1 winner in Australia and earner of $708,019 for Mark Purdon, Waikiki Beach started his career with 17 consecutive victories from April 2015 to May 2016. Although he was winless in five starts as a 4-year-old last year, Waikiki Beach still finished second in the Group 1 Chariots of Fire at Menangle February 11 and fourth in the Group 1 Miracle Mile February 25. However, after a string of off-the-board finishes in New Zealand in October and November, Croghan learned Waikiki Beach could be for sale. “I went down there to buy some horses and he was just on my radar,” Croghan said. “Sensational 2- and 3-year-old. He hit 4 years old against some of the best horses in the world. As a 4-year-old, it’s not that he raced bad, he just didn’t beat the top-flight ones. He was just on my radar to check out to see if he could possibly be on the market. Through a lot of negotiating and a lot of time, I got a deal done.” Waikiki Beach shipped to the United States December 4, 2017 and after a stopover in New Jersey, the son of Somebeachsomewhere out of the Bettor’s Delight mare Cyclone Beach joined Croghan’s main string in Florida. The kind-mannered horse has proven a pleasure to work with thus far. “He’s just fantastic. His manners are impeccable. He’s just a lovely horse,” Croghan remarked. “He’s a typical ‘Beach;’ he’s just got that fire in his blood. He’s a very, very smart horse, that’s what he is. He’s got a little bit of fire in his blood, but he’s very smart. “ ‘Waikiki’ is just turn-key. You could send a child out to train him, he knows what he’s doing,” Croghan continued. “Most foreign horses, it’s a big change for them to leave their comfort zone, especially coming over in the middle of winter. From day one, he just went out on the track, never looked sideways, never took a hold of you. He doesn’t wear an overcheck, he holds himself in perfect balance at all times. He’s just a pleasure to get ready. He’s just got those beautiful racehorse manners.” Croghan had Waikiki Beach ready to qualify at Pompano January 21 and a week later, he made his fist start on U.S. soil in the Open Handicap at the South Florida racetrack. Waikiki Beach won his debut in 1:51.4 and returned the following week to score in 1:50.2. After a brief freshening before the grueling Levy Series begins, Croghan tuned Waikiki Beach up with a 1:55.4 qualifier at Pompano March 4. While he considered the trial a success, he was surprised at how lazy Waikiki Beach was on the lead. “His qualifier, I would have liked to have gone a little bit quicker, but it was his first time on the engine and he was just a little bit lazy,” Croghan said. “He just didn’t quite get into it, but when Scott Zeron came off the track with him, I said, ‘is he ok?’ He said, ‘he’s lazy on the front end, but as soon as he saw that horse coming to him, there was plenty in the tank.’ ” Croghan thinks the ear plugs used in the morning contributed to Waikiki Beach’s modest qualifier. The gelding doesn’t wear them on race day. “He has won on the front end plenty,” Croghan said. “I got him ready and made sure he stayed nice and quiet. It’s just in that last qualifier, he was a little too quiet. But he had his ear plugs in and he doesn’t have them in the race. When I race him, I take the ear plugs off him. I just keep them in for training and qualifying.” Waikiki Beach will start from post five in his Levy division Saturday night. He’ll face 2017 series winner Keystone Velocity, who drew post seven. Although Croghan is confident, he admits there is no standout in this year’s series. “The draw is in my favor, it’s not in his, but it’s six weeks of racing. I can’t say that he’s not going to be razor sharp because I actually think he will be,” Croghan said. “Between the qualifier and when he’ll race it’s going to be 13 days, but I trained him two trips (Wednesday) morning. He just felt fantastic. I do expect him to step out pretty close to 100 percent ready. “He’s a nice horse and I think he fits that series,” Croghan continued. “I’m not going to call him a standout or anything like that. It’s a very even bunch of horses and when the final comes around, the draw plays a massive part of it. You’ve got to be lucky.” First post time at Yonkers Friday and Saturday night is 6:50 p.m. For Friday’s entries, click here. For Saturday’s entries, click here. Yonkers Sunday Post Time Yonkers Raceway’s first post for this Sunday’s (March 18th) matinee has been set at 11:45 AM. Races 5 (post time 1:30 PM) through 11 (post time 4:25 PM) go as the ‘French’  trots, with the 12th-race finale scheduled for 4:40 PM. Sunday’s ‘New York, New York Double’ consists of Aqueduct’s 3rd race (post time 2:21 PM) and Yonkers’ 7th race (post time 2:30 PM). Program pages accompany this release. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

Jordan Stratton is no stranger to success in the Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy Memorial pacing series at Yonkers Raceway and the 30-year-old harness racing driver will have two past champions among his hopefuls when those events get underway this week at Yonkers Raceway. First up is the Matchmaker, which begins Friday (March 16). Stratton's drives in the series for older female pacers will include Australian-bred defending champion Mackenzie. On Saturday (March 17) in the Levy, for older male pacers, Stratton's drives include New Zealand-bred 2016 winner Bit Of A Legend. The Matchmaker and Levy both feature five preliminary rounds followed by added-money finals April 21. A horse receives 25 points each time he or she races in the preliminary rounds. Points are also awarded based on finish, with 50 points for a win, 25 for second, 12 for third, eight for fourth, and five for fifth. "I love the series," said Stratton, who also won the Matchmaker in 2009 with Pancleefandarpels. "You have to race every week almost because of the 25 points, and they're good horses, so it's a hard series. At the same time, you want to have something left for the final, too. "It's tough, but at the end of it you get to see who the iron horse is." The opening round of the Matchmaker features four $40,000 divisions. Stratton will drive New Zealand-bred Elliesjet in the first division, New Zealand-bred Sell A Bit in the second, and Mackenzie in the fourth. Mackenzie and Sell A Bit are trained by Peter Tritton, who also conditions Bit Of A Legend on the Levy side. Sell A Bit was the runner-up in the 2016 Matchmaker championship, but failed to advance to last year's final. Sell A Bit heads to this season's event with three wins in her past four starts, all in the open handicap for fillies and mares. Mackenzie, who won four of her last five races of 2017, is making her seasonal debut. The Matchmaker fields also include multiple-award-winners L A Delight and Lady Shadow, 2017 championship runner-up Medusa, millionaires Call Me Queen Be and Regil Elektra, and near-millionaire Safe From Terror, whose brother Foiled Again won two Levy titles. Saturday's Levy action will be spread over five $50,000 divisions. Bit Of A Legend, who is making his seasonal debut in the fifth division, made history by going unbeaten in the 2016 Levy. He finished fourth in last year's championship, but counted the Molson, Gerrity, and Quillen among his victories. "The run Bit Of A Legend went on (in 2016) was unbelievable," Stratton said. "I don't know whatever stars aligned, but it seemed like he never got used and he was always pacing forward at the wire. Hopefully he can do it again. He qualified last week and he seems to be really good. I was a hundred percent happy with him." There is no shortage of big names or familiar faces in the Levy, with defending champion and Dan Patch Award-winner Keystone Velocity leading the group. Others ready for the opening round include stakes-winners such as All Bets Off, Dr J Hanover, Evenin Of Pleasure, Great Vintage, Mach It So, Missile J, Rockin Ron, Somewhere In L A (a half-brother to L A Delight), and Western Fame. Stratton is the leading driver at Yonkers this year and tops North America with $1.36 million in purses. He finished second to Jason Bartlett in last year's Yonkers standings. "I think toward the end of last year I was doing really well," said Stratton, who has won 3,505 races in his career. "Now the numbers kind of reflect it a little more. I'm getting excited (for stakes season). Mackenzie is staked and I'll go on the road with her. Hopefully she stays healthy and has some luck on the bigger tracks and that will launch me to the next step." Ken Weingartner  

YONKERS, NY, Monday, March 12, 2018—Yonkers Raceway’s harness racing office found itself quite popular this (Monday) afternoon, as among the usual Friday/Saturday double draw there were plenty of big girls and big boys. Friday night’s (March 16th) opening round of the Blue Chip Matchmaker saw four consecutively-carded (races 7 through 10) divisions, each worth $40,000. Conveniently, 32 high-end lasses were parsed into the quarter of eight-horse fields. Defending series champion Mackenzie A, who resurfaced her last Friday (March 9th) in a qualifier, makes her seasonal purse debut from post position No. 7 in the final division. Jordan Stratton again does the honors for the now-6-year-old Down Under daughter of Rock N Roll Heaven. Peter Tritton trains for Von Knoblauch Stables and Ellen Kinser. Saturday evening’s (March 17th) beginning of the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series goes with five, $50,000 Free-For-All divisions (races 4 through 7 and 11). Each race was neatly filled with a seven-horse field. Last season’s series winner, Keystone Velocity, makes his ’18 debut from outside his six rivals in the second event. Dan Dube again takes a seat for co-owner/trainer Rene Allard. Now a spry 10-year-old, Keystone Velocity comes off a career-best $783,000 season in 2017.      Each series offers five preliminary legs—ladies first Fridays, guys Saturday—with both finals set for Saturday night (Apr. 21st)   Unrelated to this conversation Sunday matinees resume this weekend (March 18th), with first post at 11:45 AM. Races 5 (post time 1:30 PM) through 11 (post time 4:25 PM) go as the ‘French’  trots, with the 12th-race finale scheduled for 4:40 PM. Information about Sunday’s ‘New York, New York Double’ shall be sent when available. Frank Drucker

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, April 22, 2017 - Keystone Velocity (Dan Dube, $24.80) was hard-used early and hard-headed late Saturday night (Apr. 22nd), winning Yonkers Raceway's $529,000 final of the harness racing George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series. The sport's richest race of the season to date again honored the memory of the Hall of Fame founder of Roosevelt Raceway. At the outset of the 30th Levy, pole-sitting McWicked (Matt Kakaley) was-not surprisingly-put into play. He was joined by Keystone Velocity, who from post position No. 4, forged to the lead just after a spiffy :26.1, opening quarter-mile. Somewhere in L A (Jason Bartlett), leaving right outside of Keystone Velocity, was caught three-wide and forced to wrangle back to fourth. McWicked, who had retaken the lead in the second turn, found a :54.4 intermission before longshot Blood Brother (Brian Sears) moved from third. He uncoupled stablemate Somewhere in L A latched from second-over, with even-money choice Missile J (Tim Tetrick) and last season's champion, Bit of a Legend N (Jordan Stratton), at the back of that train. McWicked maintained his advantage through a 1:22.3 intermission three-quarters (:27.4 third station), taking a tenuous lead into the lane. However, his night was about to come to a unsatisfying conclusion. McWicked was done early off final turn, but not before taking Keystone Velocity to the promised land of the passing lane. It was Keystone Velocity fighting off the race's other tough mile, beating Somewhere in L A by a head in 1:51.2. Missile J settled for third, beaten a length, with a very-wide Bit of a Legend N fourth and 107-1 proposition Soto (Brett Miller) grabbing the final pay envelope. Blood Brother, Pcovocativeprincen (Yannick Gingras) and McWicked completed the order. For Keystone Velocity, a 9-year-old son of Western Hanover co-owned (as Allard Racing) by trainer Rene Allard, Kapildeo Singh, Earl Hill Jr and VIP Internet Stable, it was his third win (as the fifth choice) in seven seasonal starts. The exacta paid $135.50, the triple returned $593 and the superfecta paid $2,406. "Rene (Allard) and I talked before the race and we decided we had to leave the gate," Dube said. "I was just hoping Matt (Kakaley, with McWicked) could get me to the lane. My horse felt very strong, but I did see the other one (Somewhere in L A) coming." The driver/trainer combination won this race two seasons ago with Domethatagain, also with a two-hole trip. Keystone Velocity A $100,000 series consolation was won by Clear Vision (Miller, $8.40) in 1:51.3. Clear Vision Frank Drucker

YONKERS, N.Y. - The final of the 2016 George Morton Levy Series was special for harness racing trainer Peter Tritton. He watched as Bit Of A Legend, the race’s 1/5 favorite, swept to the lead after the opening quarter of the rich Grand Circuit stakes before holding off all challengers in the stretch, powering to a length victory in 1:51.0. One year removed from that win, Tritton thinks his star is primed for a series repeat. “He is as good as he’s ever been,” he said. “We were hoping for a better draw this year, that’s all. But he’s as good as he was last year. He’s ready for a big race, I’d say.” While Bit Of A Legend enjoyed post position two one year ago, he and driver Jordan Stratton will start from post six in this year’s $529,000 Levy Final. “He had a good draw last year, I think he was the best horse in the race, but he had a good draw,” Tritton said. “To win it twice, and this time with a bad draw, it would make a statement that he’s the best horse because that’s not easy to do.” Bit Of A Legend enters Saturday’s race off his most impressive victory of the season. After earning second place checks in the first two legs of the series and winning in week three in off the pace fashion, Stratton sent Bit Of A Legend to the front in the final preliminary and led at every call. With a :26.3 final quarter, Bit Of A Legend stopped the clock in 1:51.3. Tritton thinks those aggressive tactics could be put to good use again this week. “Jordan said if something came along side of him, he was going to fight. He’s ready,” Tritton said. “He’s very, very strong. It’s up to Jordan, but he may try to use his strengths on Saturday night. We can’t drive him like that much because we want to maintain him, but for this sort of money, it might be what’s required.” An 8-year-old New Zealand-bred son of Bettor’s Delight, Bit Of A Legend sports earnings of $1,473,036. Racing at this level comes almost naturally to him, making Tritton’s job as trainer easier. “We don’t do much with him, we just keep him happy,” he explained. “He just canters and plays about, really. No pressure on him whatsoever. That’s why when he races, he comes into his own. He’s easy to train, really; just don’t be too hard on him.”  Although Bit Of A Legend faces a tougher assignment in this year’s Levy Final, Tritton is hopeful for a series repeat. To do so would follow in the hoofprints of Foiled Again, the only horse to win the Levy Final twice, in 2009 and 2010. “It would be great to. I love the little horse. He’s probably eventually going to go to stud, maybe at the end of the year, but it would be an accomplishment for him. He’s just a great little horse, especially on the half-mile,” Tritton admired. One of Tritton’s other standouts, Provocativeprincen, will start directly to Bit Of A Legend’s outside Saturday night. After earning 210 points throughout the series, Provocativeprincen was ranked eighth in the standings and made the final with two points to spare. “I’ve been very impressed with the horse. I didn’t think he’d be this good,” Tritton admitted. “He was only a middle of the road horse; we didn’t pay a lot of money for him, but he’s been very impressive.” Provocativeprincen won his first-week Levy division and finished second in week three. His fifth place effort last Saturday, however, left Tritton puzzled. Although he paced home in :27.0, Provocativeprincen lost ground late and finished fifth beaten 3 1/2 lengths. “Even though he came home in :27.0, I thought he was a little bit lackluster last week,” Tritton said. “I think he’ll be alright, it’s just I’d rather see him come off a better run last week. But he’s in it, and if he goes as good as he can, he will be running home.” In addition to his two-pronged Levy bid, Tritton will send out Mackenzie in the $310,600 Final of the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series. Although the 5-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven mare is a 20-1 morning line, her trainer is undaunted. “I think she has a great chance in the final. I wouldn’t swap her for any other mare in the race,” he said. Sixth in the Matchmaker standings after racing in all five legs, Mackenzie earned a spot in the final by winning her division in week two and finishing third and second in legs three and four, respectively. Last week, Mackenzie looked ready to charge off cover in the stretch when she suddenly rolled off stride. Her break came just as the whip of the driver in front of her waved past her nose. “She shied away from the whip of the horse in front of her and she galloped into the straight,” Tritton explained. “If she had won that race last week, she would have been one of the favorites. I think she’s got a great chance. She’ll be as good as she can be.” First post time at Yonkers is 7:10 p.m. Click here for entries for Saturday’s card. Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. - When harness racing trainer Rich Banca purchased Somewhere In L A at the 2016 Harrisburg Sale, he thought he was getting a solid older gelding with potential to race in the upper-level conditions at Yonkers Raceway. Instead, heading into Saturday (April 22) night’s $529,000 George Morton Levy Series Final, Somewhere In L A tops the leader board with 287 points earned in the series’ five preliminary legs and leads all standardbreds in North America by earnings in the young racing season with $180,750 on his card. “If you told me that in November when I bought him, I would have told you, you were crazy,” Banca joked. “Even if he was just a winners over kind of horse at Yonkers, it would have been good to have him. He ended up better than I thought.” While Somewhere In L A competed on the Grand Circuit at 2 and 3 and earned more than $800,000 before selling last fall, the 6-year-old is in career form at the Hilltop Oval. After finishing third in the first leg of the series, Somewhere In L A posted consecutive second place efforts in weeks two and three before getting his first series victory in leg four. Last week, Somewhere In L A doubled up, winning the final preliminary in wire-to-wire fashion in 1:51.3. The victory pushed his earnings over the million dollar mark. “He’s been good the whole time,” Banca said. “That’s a tough series because it’s hard to make the final. He pretty much had to race every leg, but he has been good. He’s just a nice horse, he’s just consistent.” While Somewhere in L A is a star on the track, he’s unassuming in the barn. In contrast to his flashy gate speed on race day, his laid-back training style makes his easy to work with. Five consecutive weeks of tough racing in the series means the son of Somebeachsomewhere had a relaxed week ahead of the biggest race of his career. “He’s just a quiet horse. He really doesn’t do anything wrong,” Banca explained. “We definitely didn’t work him that hard. He just had a normal week because he’s been racing hard every week. Hopefully he’s got one more week in him before he gets a little break.” While Somewhere In L A and regular driver Jason Bartlett are the 2-1 morning line favorites from post position five in the Levy Final, he isn’t Banca’s only chance. Yonkers’ leading trainer in 2017 will also send out Blood Brother, a 12-1 shot who drew comfortably in post two and picks up the services of Brian Sears. Despite finishing second to rival Missile J in week one and winning his division in week four, Blood Brother’s ability to make the Levy Final remained in doubt until last Saturday due to the 5-year-old gelding’s bad luck in legs two and three. Back-to-back bouts with post seven resulted in off the board finishes. In his final chance to earn points last Saturday, Blood Brother again faced Missile J and the series’ defending champion Bit Of A Legend. “I really wasn’t sure if he would make the final,” Banca admitted. “I thought he was in by far the toughest division and I didn’t know how it was going to work out. I was hoping he would, but I thought there was a good chance he wouldn’t.” While Bit Of A Legend wired the field, Blood Brother worked first-over and charged his final quarter in :26.3. At odds of 30-1, he finished third beaten just 1 1/4 lengths and secured his spot in the final with 217 points. “I thought he raced as good as any horse last week. He’s a very fast horse, but he’s not as tough as Somewhere In L A,” Banca explained. “If you race him hard early, he’s not going to have as much late; he’s got to get his trip.” While Banca is confident in the ability of his finalists, the depth of this year’s Levy Final means no result would surprise him. “I don’t know if there’s a horse in there that if he won, I’d be surprised,” he said. “Somewhere In L A, I’m sure he’s going to leave. I don’t know if he’s going to end up on the front or not. These finals end up being crazy races and you never know what’s going to happen. “Blood Brother, I think Sears will give him the best trip he can. He’ll finish with any of them if he’s anywhere close. I think he’s very fast, but he’s got to get things his way.” Two races before Somewhere In L A and Blood Brother race in the Levy, Banca’s star mare, Mach It A Par, will go postward as the 2-1 morning line choice in the $310,600 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series Final. For the 7-year-old daughter of Mach Three, it’s a chance at redemption after she finished eighth in last year’s Matchmaker Final. “Last year, she wasn’t good. It was one of a few weeks last year that she wasn’t really any good, for whatever reason, but she wasn’t really good in the final last year,” Banca said. Like her stablemates in the Levy, Mach It A Par raced in all five preliminary legs of the Matchmaker Series. She defeated Bedroomconfessions by a nose in leg one and hit the board in weeks three and four. Her most impressive performance, however, came last week when she willingly tracked the cover of rival Hidden Land before tipping wide in the stretch and powering home with a :27.0 final panel to a 2 1/2-length victory in 1:53.2. While some horses require a week off in the middle of the grueling series, Mach It A Par thrives on racing. Last week’s effort shows just that, Banca explained. “I think she was a lot more of her old self last week. She really hadn’t been as good and last week she looked like her old self, so I was really happy to see that,” he said. “She’s not that hard on herself. I probably could have given her a week off if I wanted to, but I just think she’s better when she’s racing every week. It just seems like she’s better when she has the same routine every week.” While Banca thinks the results of the Matchmaker will largely depend on trips, he is optimistic that Mach It A Par will prove best. While raising the trophy would be nice, Banca mainly wants to see Mach It A Par’s toughness and heart rewarded with a Grand Circuit win. “I’d love to win it, more because she deserves it than anything else. She races so hard and you really appreciate it because she’s just a tiny little thing and she just tries as hard as she can,” he admired. “There’s a lot of horses who are fast, but a lot of times, they don’t give you all they’ve got. She does. She’s got a big heart, that’s for sure.” First post time at Yonkers is 7:10 p.m. Click here for entries for Saturday’s card. Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - It's one thing to stand out against many of the finest older harness racing pacers in training. It's quite another to do it as a young'un. Missile J, a relative toddler at the age of four, finds himself worthy of a seat at Saturday night's (Apr. 22nd) adult table for Yonkers Raceway's $529,000 final of the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series. This race, and its companion, the $310,600 Blue Chip Matchmaker, are the sport's two richest of the season to date. The Levy, of course, honors the memory of the Hall of Fame founder of Roosevelt Raceway. Back to Missile J we go. The son of American Ideal, already with last season's Art Rooney Pace (for then-owner Ken Jacobs and then-trainer Linda Toscano) here highlighting the resume, was the leader in the Levy clubhouse after winning his first three series starts. With his place in the final thus secured, he took the fourth week off before a 'just don't get hurt' fifth-place effort in last Saturday's (Apr,. 15th) final prelim leg, winding up third in the standings. According to the U-S Trotting Association's Anne Chunko, just four of the previous 29 winners of this race have been 4-year-olds. Though Missile J won the Rooney flashing eight-hole speed, his success in the Levy has been the result of some eye-popping closes. "He's a bit of a hothead," trainer Scott DiDomenico said. "Once you start him up, it's hard to throttle him back down." DiDomenico took over training after the horse changed hands for $115,000 at the Meadowlands sale this past January. This season's early results (in seven wins in nine starts) came on the hooves of a very poor end to 2016, when Missile J finished seventh in the final of the Empire Breeders (Tioga) and eighth (last) in the final of the New York Sire Stakes (here). "We (along with co-owners John McGill and Brian Carsey) just wanted a good Yonkers Saturday night horse," DiDomenico said. "There was no thinking he'd be in the Levy. "I knew he was a high-speed horse who could sprint and was raced hard. He seemed a bit tired at the end of last season, but the first few times we raced him this season (Meadowlands), he was so good that we decided to take a shot and nominate him." In winning his first three series legs, Missile J rallied from sixth, fourth and sixth, snatching victories from venues not usually associated with Westchester win photos. "He wants to chase horses, but even he surprised me a couple of times," DiDomenico-who added an open bridle to the horse's wardrobe--said. "What that allowed us to do was given him a week (round 4) off, and that was big. This is a grueling series, and not having to race every Saturday was a big plus. "Also, having (Timmy) Tetrick each week has been great. The pair leave from post position No. 3 in the Levy. "I have one of the best drivers in the sport and I love the draw," DiDomenico said. "There's speed inside and outside and he (Tetrick) can just watch things unfold. Now, Missile J just has to execute." For all of Tetrick's accomplishments, he has never won this race. The 34-year-old DiDomenico, an Illinois expatriate who earlier this season earned his 1,000th career training victory, has enjoyed his greatest success with the $1.4 million pacing lass, Handsoffmycookie. "Personally, it would be special to win this race, especially here (Yonkers). It's where I've mainly raced the past number of years, and it's where I always prefer to race." Apparently, his charge feels the same way. The field for the 2017 Levy, which goes as the 10th of 12 races (first post 7:10 PM, race is approximately 10:15 PM)... 1-McWicked (Matt Kakaley, 3-1), 2-Blood Brother (Brian Sears, 12-1), 3-Missile J (Tim Tetrick, 4-1), 4-Keystone Velocity (Dan Dube, 9-1), 5-Somewhere in L A (Jason Bartlett, 2-1), 6-Bit of a Legend N (Jordan Stratton, 5-1), 7-Provocativeprincen (Yannick Gingras, 20-1), 8-Soto (Brett Miller, 12-1). Frank Drucker

Matt Kakaley saw many of McWicked's victories during the horse's Dan Patch Award-winning campaign in 2014, but not from a favorable vantage point. Kakaley drove horses that lost nine times to McWicked that season, which culminated with McWicked being named harness racing's best 3-year-old male pacer. Last weekend McWicked won again, but this time Kakaley was much happier with the view. Kakaley began driving McWicked three weeks ago in the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series and the two teamed to advance to Saturday's $529,000 championship at Yonkers Raceway by getting last week's crucial triumph following two second-place finishes. "It's cool how it's worked out where I finally get to drive him," Kakaley said. "I raced against him many, many times and he usually beat me every time I raced him. I think I got the better of him once or twice. "This has worked out good. He's getting sharp at the right time. He was super the other night."McWicked will start Saturday's Levy final from post No. 1 and is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line behind favorite Somewhere In L A, who enters the race off back-to-back victories. Missile J, the only three-time winner in the event's five preliminary rounds, is 4-1 while defending champion Bit Of A Legend N is 5-1. "It's going to be a good race," Kakaley said. "It's a good group of horses. Missile J is the one to beat, but Somewhere In L A has been racing good, Bit Of A Legend has been racing good. I don't think any one horse lays over (the field). There are probably four or five that have a really big shot." McWicked, owned by Ed James and trained since last year by Steve Elliott, was stymied at ages 4 and 5 by throat issues that resulted in two surgeries. This year, the 6-year-old son of McArdle-Western Sahara has won three of seven races and earned $71,000 to push his career purses to $1.83 million. Kakaley and McWicked needed last Saturday's win to secure a place in the Levy final. A week after losing by a nose to Clear Vision in a gate-to-wire attempt, McWicked rallied from four-lengths back at the half to win by three-quarters of a length over Caviart Luca. "He's been getting better and better each start," Kakaley said. "The (previous) start, when I had him on the front, he was just kind of waiting on a horse and Clear Vision got him. I asked Steve to make a little bridle change and he was sharp. He was super. "He's getting right at the right time for this series and the rail always helps at Yonkers. He's just a pleasure to drive. He'll do anything you want. He's all professional. Steve has got him really good right now. Hopefully I can work out a good trip and give him a big chance to get the job done." Two races prior to the Levy championship, Kakaley will drive Medusa in the $310,600 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series final. Medusa, who had one win in the five preliminary rounds for trainer Andrew Federico Jr. and owners Randy Bendis and Tom Pollack, is 20-1 on the morning line from post six. Mach It A Par, who shared the points lead in the prelims with Shesjustadelight N, is the 2-1 choice from post three. Regil Elektra, a three-time winner in the series, is 5-2 from post five and Shesjustadelight N is 4-1 from post two. "I wasn't too thrilled about the draw," Kakaley said. "She drew outside a couple of the main contenders. But she's been really good. She was really sharp when she won and she was really good last week, I just didn't really have much room up the passing lane. But she finished with a good amount of steam. "I was really looking forward to her being a live shot in there. Hopefully things will work out because she's been good. I think she still has a shot; she just needs the race to set up for her." Complete entries for the Saturday races at Yonkers can be found by clicking on this link. Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager

Harness Racing This Week: Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy series finals and consolations, Yonkers Raceway, Yonkers, N.Y. Schedule of events: The Grand Circuit at Yonkers this week features the $529,000 final and the $100,000 consolation of the George Morton Levy series for open pacers, as well as the $310,600 final and $75,000 consolation in the Blue Chip Matchmaker series for open pacing mares. All four races will take place on Saturday (April 22). Complete entries for the races can be found by clicking on this link. Last time: The time to impress the judges concluded Saturday night (April 15), with preliminary-round competition ending for Yonkers Raceway's George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series. Round Five saw three $50,000 divisions go at it. Favored Somewhere In L A (Jason Bartlett, $4.10) became the sport's newest millionaire, easily winning the third event in front-end fashion. From post position five, he never had any angst, especially after a cheap half with the splits of :28, :56.4, 1:24.3, and 1:51.3. The final margin was 1-3/4 lengths over a second-up Clear Vision (Brett Miller), with Guantanamo Bay (Scott Zeron) lasting for an uncovered third. All Bets Off (Matt Kakaley) and tiring-pocket Wakizashi Hanover (Tim Tetrick) settled for the remainder. For Somewhere In L A, a 6-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding trained by Richard Banca for co-owners D'Elegance Stable IX, Carmen Iannacone, T L P Stable and The Gandolfo Stables, it was his sixth win in 13 seasonal starts and he is two-for-five in this series. Defending series champ Bit Of A Legend N (Jordan Stratton, $4.40) threw down the gauntlet for the finale, going down the road from the pole with fractions of :27.1, :56.1, 1:25, and 1:51.3 as the people's choice in the night's second event. After stuffing Rockin Ron (Yannick Gingras) in behind, he whipped that rival by three-quarters of a length, note the :26.3 kicker in the final panel, while Blood Brother (Bartlett) was a first-up third. Great Vintage (Mark MacDonald) and Missile J (Tetrick) earned the minors. For Bit Of A Legend N, an 8-year-old Down Under son of Bettor's Delight owned by Harry von Knoblauch Stable and trained by Peter Tritton, it was his second win in seven seasonal starts and he is two-for-five in the series. Saturday night's first Levy grouping had a first-over favorite in McWicked (Kakaley, $4.30), from post position two, edge past pace-setting Caviart Luca (George Brennan) after that one's intervals of :27.2, :56.4 and 1:24.4. McWicked vacated the three-hole, engaged Caviart Luca in and out of the final turn and prevailed by three-quarters of a length in 1:51.4 and again, note the :26.3 last quarter. First leader Mach It So (Tetrick) held for third, with Santa Fe Beachboy (Barlett) and Provocativeprincen (Stratton) getting the smaller change. McWicked, a 6-year-old son of McArdle trained by Steve Elliott for owner S S G Stables, is now three-for-seven this season and is one-for-five in this series. Complete recaps of the weekend races are available at the Grand Circuit website. Grand Circuit Standings: In 2017, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2017 Grand Circuit awards. Here are the leaders following the past weekend at Yonkers: Drivers: 1. Jason Bartlett - 128; 2. Matt Kakaley - 81; 3. Jordan Stratton - 71; 4. Tim Tetrick - 49; 5. Daniel Dube - 39. Trainers: 1. Richard Banca - 76; 2. Peter Tritton - 67; 3. Rene Allard - 39; 4. Ron Burke - 34; 5. Scott DiDomenico - 32. Owners: 1. Harry von Knoblauch Stable - 58.5; 2. Fred Monteleone Stable - 32; 3. S S G Stables - 20; 4t. Carmen Iannacone - 19.2; 4t. D'Elegance Stable IX - 19.2; 4t. T L P Stable - 19.2. Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will take place next weekend at Freehold Raceway, with $48,000 (est.) Dexter Cup eliminations (if necessary) for 3-year-old open trotters on Saturday (April 29). Paul Ramlow Grand Circuit Publicity Director

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