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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The three-year-old harness racing pacing colt Hickfromfrenchlick has been named the Unites States Trotting Association District 8 Horse of the Year. The award was presented to trainer Ray Schnittker at the New York Sire Stakes & USTA District 8 Annual Awards Banquet on Nov. 10. The So Surreal-My Girl's A Star colt has earned $500,136 this year and won 11 of his 15 starts. His sophomore season featured wins on the New York Night of Champions and in the Empire Breeders Classic. Bred by Steve Jones, he has banked $638,677 lifetime for owners Ray Schnittker, Nolamaura Racing and Thomas Spatorico. Tyler Buter was also honored at the banquet as USTA District 8 Pari-Mutuel Driver of the Year. Buter is about to cross the career milestone of $40 million in earnings and has solidified himself as a leading driver on the New York circuit as well as the Grand Circuit. As the regular driver of American Mercury this season, Buter won the $500,000 Messenger Stakes and five legs of the NYSS. The pair was also third in the Little Brown Jug. So far in 2019 the driver has recorded $5.27 million in earnings and 313 trips to the winner's circle. George Ducharme took home the USTA District 8 Trainer of the Year award. He had a career-best season with $1.9 million in earnings and 94 training victories. He also had the leading money-winning stable at his home track of Vernon Downs. In addition to earning more than $700,000 in the NYSS and starting three finalists on the Night of Champions, he won four Massachusetts Sire Stakes finals this year. Other honorees at the event were Claude Huckabone Jr., who was named both County Fair Driver and Trainer of the Year; Jason Bartlett as NYSS Driver of the Year for leading the series in earnings; Trond Smedshammer as NYSS Trainer of the Year; and Winbak Farm as NYSS Breeder of the Year. From the New York Sire Stakes

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - U.S. Trotting Association (USTA) District 8 has announced the winners of its 2019 year-end awards. George Ducharme has been named Trainer of the Year; Pari-Mutuel Driver of the Year is Tyler Buter; and Claude Huckabone Jr. is the County Fair Driver of the Year. Ducharme earned $705,226 in the New York Sire Stakes program this year with 113 starts. His stable was led by 3-year-old trotting filly Sensibility, who earned more than $250,000, and 2-year-old trotting colt Berkery J, who took home nearly $150,000. Ducharme was also the leading money earner at his home track, Vernon Downs, with $213,968 in purses. Overall, Ducharme's horses have banked $1,940,793 this season and he sports a .415 UTRS. Buter has $1.5 million in combined NY Sire Stakes and Excelsior earnings this season and 63 wins on the circuit. He drove New York County Fair Champions Certify (Credit Winner-Good Intentions) and Roll with Mimi (Roll With Joe-Dream of Mimi) into the winner's circle. He also steered American Mercury to a win in the $500,000 Messenger Stakes and a third-place finish in the Little Brown Jug. For the year, Buter has guided 306 winners to $5.2 million in earnings. Huckabone Jr. finished atop the New York County Fair earnings chart with $51,514 in 58 starts. He drove 2-year-old colt pacer Flow With Joe (Roll With Joe-Hidden Play) to a County Fair championship, and trained Champion 3-year-old filly pacer Roll With Mimi, whom he drove most of the season. Awards will be given at the joint NYSS and USTA District 8 Banquet at Saratoga Casino Hotel on Sunday, Nov. 10. Horse of the Year will be announced at the event. Also honored that evening will be these USTA Divisional Champions: Mr. Vicktor - 3-Year-Old Trotting Colt Owner: Robert Santagata, Jennifer Lappe, Diamond Pride and Joseph Lee Trainer: Jennifer Lappe Winndevie - 3-Year-Old Trotting Filly Owner: Purple Haze Stables Trainer: Trond Smedshammer Hickfromfrenchlick - 3-Year-Old Pacing Colt Owners: Raymond Schnittker, Nolamaura Racing and Thomas Spatorico Trainer: Ray Schnittker Brooklyn Lilacs - 3-Year-Old Pacing Filly Owner: Crawford Farms Racing Trainer: Jennifer Bongiorno Chaptiama - 2-Year-Old Trotting Colt Owners: Purple Haze Stables Trainer: Trond Smedshammer C And T's Credit - 2-Year-Old Trotting Filly Owner: Peter Barbato and Samuel Bova Trainer: John Stark Jr. Cigars And Port - 2-Year-Old Pacing Colt Owner: Raymond Schnittker, Nolamaura Racing, Theodore Gewertz and Steven Arnold Trainer: Ray Schnittker Racine Bell - 2-Year-Old Pacing Filly Owner: Chris Lawton and Dale Lawton Trainer: David Dewhurst "On behalf of our board of directors, I'd like to congratulate this year's winners," said USTA District 8 Chairman Michael Kane. "These horses and horsemen are shining examples of the level of quality coming out of this area and each has represented this district well, both at home and on the Grand Circuit. We are proud to have this opportunity each year to honor their contributions to our sport." The award winners were selected in balloting of the New York State race secretaries. Horses were selected from those with ownership in District 8. Tickets to the awards banquet are $35.00 and include reception and dinner. Special room rates are available in which banquet guests can receive 15% off a reservation at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Click here for booking information. A USTA District 8 meeting will precede the banquet and is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the hotel. Guests are asked to please RSVP no later than Monday, Nov. 4. RSVPs can be given to Sarah Quinn at squinn@caphill.com or 518-694-5002. Payment should be made out and sent to: Agriculture & NYS Horse Breeding Fund c/o CHMS 230 Washington Avenue Extension, Suite 101 Albany, NY 12203 From the New York Sire Stakes

Plainville, MA --- The finals of the $1.8 million Massachusetts Sire Stakes (MASS) will be held at Plainridge Park on Monday (Oct. 28) where 2 and 3-year-old harness racing trotters and pacers of both genders will compete in eight $100,000 divisions to claim state champion status. Trainer George Ducharme, who hails from Walpole, Massachusetts located just a few miles from Plainridge, holds the distinction of having eight starters in the 2019 edition of the MASS which is the most of any other conditioner taking part. But that isn't surprising as Ducharme has been participating in this series for a long time and has much success to show for it. Here is a look at the roster of starters Ducharme will be bringing to The Ridge, followed with his comments on each. 2-year-old filly trotters: Without A Warning (RC Royalty-Concentration) 1:57.3 ($136,160) is the current co-holder (with Bag O Chips) of the MASS stake and Plainridge track record for her age, sex and gait. She is three for three in the stake this year and looks to make it four in a row in the final. Her biggest effort during her freshman season was a third place finish behind Hypnotic AM in the $225,000 New York Sire Stake final at Batavia Downs in September. "She is a real good filly. She was good enough to make the New York final and now that she's come here she's won a few races and has gotten brave. She is definitely one of my better 2-year-olds. She will be back racing in New York next year and also has some Grand Circuit dates on her schedule as well." Greyscale (Credit Winner-Global Beauty) 2:02.1 ($18,340) has yet to hit the board in the MASS but has improved her finish position each week. "She's struggling a little. She's an immature filly that just needs a little time and hopefully she'll be a little stronger next year." 2-year-old gelding trotters: Life Is A Feast (Royalty For Life-Luau Hanover) 1:55.4 ($63,475) is the current holder of the MASS stake and Plainridge track record for his class. He has two wins and a second in the series and is the leading point-getter in his division. "I had a little trouble with him early because he's a big, growthy colt. But he's got lots of speed and lots of potential going forward. He's been very good at Plainridge and hopefully he can continue being good for one more week." Double Dealing (RC Royalty- Heather Spur) 2:02.2 ($26,280) is a brother to the 2017 MASS 2-year-old trotting filly champion Bag O Chips (Sierra Kosmos-Heather Spur) 1:55.1 ($212,820) and has hit the board in all three preliminary legs of the MASS this year. "Joe Di Stefano trained him down and they sent him up to me and I finished him and he has improved every week since I've had him. And I think he's going to be a useful race horse as time goes on a little more." 3-year-old filly trotter: Crystalline (Chapter Seven-Royalty Free) 1:55.4 ($121,186) is a full sister to the 2017 MASS 3-year-old trotting colt champion Hashtagmadeyalook (1:55.4, $231,402) and is the current MASS stake record holder for her division. She has two wins and a second leading up to the final and will be on top of her game this weekend. "She's just a nice, honest filly. She gives you everything she's got every week and you can't ask for any more than that. That's a pretty even bunch she's in with and all three of those fillies have been knocking heads each week, so it's whoever gets the best trip and is good that day." 3-year-old gelding trotters: Simple Kaos (RC Royalty-Ksenia) 1:54.3 ($199,820) was the 2018 2-year-old male trotting champion in the MASS last year and had come back at three just as good. He has been racing aged trotters for most of the season and that's paid dividends as he is undefeated in three tries in the MASS and makes him the top point earners in his division as a result. "Kaos has been good all year. We just raced him in overnights until the MASS started he seems to be peaking at the right time. He's been very good the last three weeks." Jake G's Champion (RC Royalty-Super Starlet) 1:57.1 ($94,899) is a full brother to the 2018 MASS 3-year-old trotting filly champion Ithinkthatsmine (1:56, $215,135) and he has hit the board in all three of his MASS starts this year. "He's a solid trotter and goes where he can go each week. He's not a Grand Circuit horse but a good New York horse and he obviously fits well in these MASS stakes." The Fixer (Trixton-Give You My Word) 1:54.1 ($90,323) has also been on the board in all three of his MASS starts as were both of his stablemates in this division. "I got him in the middle of the summer, made a couple little changes on him and he win in 1:54 at Vernon and he's turned out to be a nice little horse. He's not a superstar, but he's a good race horse." Five of the eight horses from the Ducharme stable (Without A Warning, Greyscale, Double Dealing, Crystalline and Jake G's Champion) were bred and are owned by Ray Campbell Jr. as Campbell and Ducharme have been a racing team for over 35 years. Campbell started his breeding operation with his father back in the 1980's and has kept a small but effective band of between six to ten broodmares over that time, producing crop after crop of successful Massachusetts Standardbreds. Campbell raises the yearlings and then turns them over to Ducharme to break, train and race. It's a formula that has worked well for them for decades, producing both state and Grand Circuit champions. The pinnacle of both their careers was winning the 2013 Hambletonian with Royalty for Life (RC Royalty-Bourbon N Grits) 1:51.3 ($1,620,166). He was bred by fellow Massachusetts resident Al Ross, who co-owned Royalty For Life with Campbell and Paul Fontaine. Ducharme trained him from day-one and made him the champion he became. Royalty For Life is the sire of 2019 MASS starter Life Is A Feast. Ducharme predicts great things for the Massachusetts Sire Stakes moving forward and says it gets more competitive each year. "Everywhere I race people are asking me about the MASS program and this year there are 12 MASS eligible yearlings in the Harrisburg Sale. Some big names have been involved now with Andy Miller having been here for a few years and Tony Alagna and Blake Macintosh are here this year; the program is really starting to take hold. People have taken notice and now the breeders are taking notice so that will help keep the program strong in the future," said Ducharme. Seven of the eight MASS finals are on the regular betting program Monday, carded as race one through seven with post time for the first race at 2 p.m. The eighth event goes as a non-betting race to be held before the main card with a post time of 1:30 p.m. Notice for starters in MA SIRE STAKES The connections of starters in the Massachusetts Sire Stake finals that will be held at Plainridge Park on Monday (Oct. 28) should be advised that all stake horses MUST be checked in and physically on the grounds no later than 8 a.m. Monday (Oct. 28) morning.  By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts  

After giving Hanna Dreamgirl the opportunity to boost her confidence, owner Ken Jacobs and trainer George Ducharme will give the filly the chance to reestablish herself on the Grand Circuit. Hanna Dreamgirl will bring a three-race win streak to Saturday's (Aug. 17) $135,000 Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial for 3-year-old female trotters at Vernon Downs. All three of the filly's recent victories came in the New York Excelsior "A" Series, which is the tier beneath the state's top sire stakes level. In the start prior to her win streak, Hanna Dreamgirl finished 10th in a division of the Reynolds Memorial. She had not won a New York Sire Stakes division since her 2019 debut in early May. Last year, while in the stable of trainer Linda Toscano, she had a win in each the NYSS and Kindergarten Classic Series and finished third in the James Doherty Memorial. She also picked up checks in the Bluegrass and International Stallion stakes. "Ken wanted to drop her down (to the Excelsior Series) and I fully agreed," Ducharme said. "She was just chasing along in the sire stakes and was losing interest. She needed that (change). It seems to have really pumped her attitude up. "This is going to be a pretty good jump for her, but Ken was willing to take the chance and see how she does back in the company we thought she would be able to go with." The Zweig's main event for fillies includes Evident Beauty, whose four wins this year include a division of the Delvin Miller Memorial and the New Jersey Sire Stakes championship, as well as Reynolds Memorial division winner Starita and Continentalvictory division winner The Ice Dutchess. Jacobs purchased Hanna Dreamgirl, then named Empress Crown, for $125,000 at the 2017 Lexington Selected Sale. The filly is by Chapter Seven is out of Shipps Empress. For her career, Hanna Dreamgirl has won seven of 24 races, hit the board a total of 15 times, and earned $176,972. "We should get a better read on whether she can go forward the rest of the year after Saturday," Ducharme said. "Against the competition she's been in, it's hard to tell where she is, but right now she seems mentally more prepared than she was even a month ago. "I really believe a lot of it with these horses is mental. They get chasing every week and they get discouraged. She seems better around the barn and on the track. She seems happier." Hanna Dreamgirl is eligible to several stakes in the coming months, including the Hudson Filly Trot, Bluegrass, Kentucky Filly Futurity, and Breeders Crown. "She is a good solid gaited filly and you can leave with her or you can race her from behind," said Ducharme, who trained Hanna Dreamgirl in Florida during the winter. "The biggest thing is can she make this next step up to go with the top fillies. If we can get her turned around, there is plenty of money left in the fall for her. That was our goal." Racing begins at 6:10 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at Vernon Downs. The card also includes the $330,000 Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial for 3-year-old male trotters, featuring Hambletonian runner-up Greenshoe and his stablemate Green Manalishi S. Beal Memorial winner Marseille also is part of the nine-horse field. For complete Saturday entries for Vernon Downs, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

Trainer George Ducharme usually thrives when he brings horses to race at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The veteran conditioner often sends some of his young trainees to town usually in the spring months to compete in races that serve as preps for Sire Stakes harness racing action or in between their stakes tries. On Wednesday afternoon, Ducharme sent two trainees to town and both found their way to the winner's circle. Hanna Dreamgirl (Chapter Seven) recorded a win in her lone NY Sire Stakes try this season and the sophomore proved up to the task in Wednesday's $9,630 co-feature for New York sired trotters. Frank Coppola Jr. piloted the three year old filly and moved her out to the early lead. Hanna Dreamgirl dealt with a parked-out rival but had plenty left to record the win in 1:58. Ducharme and Coppola also teamed up for a victory later in the day with young filly Crystalline (Chapter Seven) who scored for the second consecutive week at the Spa. Coppola drove the winner in the afternoon's other co-feature as Andy Sardella's The Royal Poze (RC Royalty) pulled off the upset at odds of 9-1. The Royal Poze came from off the pace to record a career-best victory in 1:58 in his $9,000 event for New York sired trotters. The Saratoga Hall of Famer Frank Coppola Jr. piloted four winners in total on the matinee card. Live racing continues on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga with a first post set for Noon.   Mike Sardella

YONKERS, N.Y. - The New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) and Excelsior Series begin the harness racing season Tuesday, May 7, at Yonkers Raceway featuring the 3-Year-Old Filly Trotters. Post Time is 6:50 p.m., with an early non-betting race at 5:30 p.m. Entries are posted at Yonkers Raceway's website. The return of 2018 NYSS champion Winndevie headlines the seventh race, the last of three Sire Stakes divisions. The Credit Winner filly won six of her seven races last season and boasted yearly earnings of $227,878. Her only defeat last year came in a second-place finish to Dan Patch Award winner Woodside Charm, in a world record-setting performance at Saratoga in September. Winndevie is trained and driven by Trond Smedshammer and owned by Purple Haze Stables. Stella Jane, trained by John Butenschoen for Crawford Farms Racing, heads up the second race division and is another filly to keep an eye on. She earned $180,841 last year, in part by closing out her sophomore campaign with a second-place finish in her Breeder Crown elimination and an upset victory in the Kindergarten Classic Final last fall. She is now seeking to post her first career Sire Stakes tally despite being a strong competitor in the series at two. Now as a sophomore, the Crazed filly's connections say she's bigger, stronger and more certain of herself on the track, especially half-mile ovals. "I think she's grown up a decent amount and filled out a bit more," said owner Al Crawford. "John has been working with her on the half-mile and he feels she'll navigate them with no problem. "She's been a real surprise to us and being that she's a homebred, it makes it that much better. We're looking toward the national stakes this season, including the Hambletonian Oaks, and plan to keep her in New York otherwise," said Crawford. Stella Jane will see stiff competition in her division from Hanna Dreamgirl, another trotter whose connections say she filled out over the winter. "She was a big horse at two and has grown into her body as a three-year-old," said owner Ken Jacobs. "She has a very good gait and just had a great winter training in Florida, but the Sire Stakes will be very competitive so she's going to have to show what she can do on the track." Hanna Dreamgirl, named for the fiance of Jacobs' grandson, raced last year for 2018 leading New York Sire Stakes trainer Linda Toscano. She is now under the tutelage of top Sire Stakes trainer George Ducharme, who stables at Vernon Downs, less than an hour away from Jacobs' hometown. The owner explained he made the shift so that the horse could be closer to his family. This season follows a banner year for New York-bred horses, which swept the Dan Patch Awards for 2- and 3-Year-Old trotters. Earlier in the year, state-bred Atlanta became just the 14th filly to win the Hambletonian and New York trotters scored in all three Trotting Triple Crown races. "The New York Sire Stakes featured more than its share of extraordinary talent in 2018 as we saw historic performances and new records set," said M. Kelly Young, executive director, Agriculture & NYS Horse Breeding Development Fund. "We can't wait to see what this year holds. It promises to be another exciting season as champions return and our breeders get to see the fruit of their labors as the offspring of past champions hit the track for the first time." Race replays, point totals, and news updates will be available throughout the season at www.nysirestakes.com and the official NYSS Facebook and Twitter accounts. About the Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund: The Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund is a public benefit corporation established in 1965 by the Laverne Law (Laws of New York, Chapter 567 of the Laws of 1965). The mission of the fund is to promote agriculture through the breeding of Standardbred horses and the conduct of equine research within the state. To carry out its legislative mission, the Fund administers the New York Sire Stakes Program. Additionally, the Fund provides assistance to county agriculture societies and contributes to the statewide 4-H program and to the Harry M. Zweig Fund for Equine Research.   Jason Politi Baker Public Relations

Plainville, MA --- It was deja vu all over again for Wings Of Royalty who followed the same script he did three weeks ago; going wire to wire to win the $15,000 Open Handicap trot at Plainridge Park and doing it in track record time. It was all Wings Of Royalty (Shawn Gray) from start to finish. Gray rushed him out to the lead and then set fast fractions of :26.4, :55.4 and 1:24.3 by almost two lengths before rounding the far turn and trotting home alone in :28.4 to win in 1:53.2. The winning time ties the track record for aged trotting horses that he set on August 23. The Massachusetts-bred Wings Of Royalty ($3.00) has now won his fifth straight race in a row (three of which were at Plainridge) and sixth of the year for owner Ray Campbell Jr. George Ducharme is the trainer. Driver Shawn Gray had the hot hand on Monday winning four races on the card. Besides Wings Of Royalty, he got across with Stingy (1:59, $4.40), Storyofmylife (1:55.4, $2.80) and Secret Delight (1:55.2, $6.80). The Wicked Hi-5 Pentafecta pool continues to grow with no winner again on Monday. So Tuesday (Sept. 11) there will be a carryover of $10,380 available in the Wicked Hi-5 wager in the sixth race. Post time for the first race in 2 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts    

Plainville, MA --- Every time Walpole, Massachusetts native George Ducharme brings Wings Of Royalty to Plainridge Park it seems these native sons get the job done. However on Thursday (Aug. 23) the 6-year-old son of RC Royalty entered the track's record book for the second time in his career when he won the $16,000 Winners-Over Handicap in a handy fashion. Wings Of Royalty (Shawn Gray) left three-deep from post seven and took command before the quarter. With the field seated behind him, he led the group to the half in :56.3 with Gray sitting comfy in the bike. Only Passing Thru (Greg Merton) had been tracking from second the whole way and appeared to be the only horse with a legitimate shot to challenge the sharp-trotting leader. Up the backstretch and around the final bend positions remained unchanged and Gray looked to have two-hands full of leather. By the top of the stretch Wings Of Royalty and Only Passing Thru had separated themselves from the pack by five when Merton tipped out to take his best shot off the solid trip. But Wings Of Royalty was not to be denied today as he trotted away from the challenge and to the wire under no urging whatsoever from Gray to win in 1:53.2. The time was a new track record for aged trotting horses, lowering the mark of Kodak Lindy who went the trip in 1:53.4 in 2016. Wings Of Royalty is also the track record holder for 4-year-old trotting horses at Plainridge Park with the time of 1:53.2, also registered in 2016. Wings Of Royalty ($3.20), who was the 3-year-old Massachusetts Sire Stake Champion in an undefeated 2015 series, was bred and is owned by Ray Campbell Jr. of Belchertown, Massachusetts. Several horsemen had multiple win days at The Ridge including driver Mitchell Cushing who topped them all making three consecutive trips to the winner's enclosure. Aaron Hall and Nick Graffam also had a good day, each notching two wins on the card. Mike Eaton and Michael Girouard led all trainers with two wins as well. There was no Wicked Hi-5 Pentafecta winner again on Thursday so the carry over pool has grown to $4,671 and will be available in the sixth race on Monday (Aug. 27) when the next live card of racing at Plainridge Park is held starting at 4 p.m. by Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts

Out of town conditioner George Ducharme often brings some of his young horses to Saratoga Casino Hotel to compete, most times early in the year before the start of Sire Stakes season. On Thursday afternoon, Ducharme brought his The Veteran (Muscle Mass) to town to compete in the $9,000 feature for New York sired trotters. The Veteran finished third in last year's New York Sire Stakes Final on the Night on Champions in October and prevailed in his most recent start heading into Thursday's tilt as he set a lifetime mark winning in 1:51.2 at Vernon Downs in the Empire Breeders Classic Consolation. Frank Coppola Jr. catch-drove the three year old trotter on Thursday and sat back patiently with the public's 1-9 betting favorite before making a late move around the final turn. The Veteran made it look easy and cruised to victory in 1:57.2 to move his trainer's record to four wins and a second in just six local starts at the Spa in 2018. The Veteran is poised to make another run at the New York Sire Stakes and will begin that campaign in the coming weeks. Live racing continues at Saratoga on Friday evening with a 6:45pm first post. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

The last time Wings Of Royalty (RC Royalty) raced at Saratoga Casino Hotel, the George Ducharme trainee got away last in a mile that would be trotted in 1:54 by Ron Burke's Gural Hanover. In that start, Wings Of Royalty made a brief break approaching the half but still ended up finishing fourth after a late surge. Following that start, the five year old trotter finished second in a track record performance by Gural Hanover at Plainridge before competing in and making a break in the $303,050 Cashman Memorial Trot at the Meadowlands. On Tuesday night, it was back to the Spa for Wings Of Royalty who would be the 6-5 betting favorite in the $18,000 Open Trot. Chris Lems was in to drive the talented trotter who was moved out to the early lead. Behind matching halves of 57 seconds, Wings Of Royalty stopped the timer in 1:54 matching Gural Hanover's effort as the fastest of the year for any trotter at Saratoga. The time also serves as a new track record for an aged trotting horse at the Spa. Up The Alley (Mark Beckwith) sat the pocket and finished second in the Open while last week's Open winner Twisted Pretzel (Jim Devaux) earned the show spot. Wings Of Royalty has now earned over $628,000 in 53 lifetime starts by way of 17 career victories. Live racing continues on Wednesday night at Saratoga with NY Sire Stakes action featured. First post time is set for 7:05pm. Mike Sardella

As harness racing trainer Frank Antonacci says, the best way to make plans for horses is to plan to make new plans on a regular basis. George Ducharme would agree. Both trainers had plans in place for Hambletonian hopefuls in their stables only to see those plans require unexpected alterations. Antonacci's stakes-winning International Moni suffered a bout of colic and was scratched from a July 8 prep for last weekend's Stanley Dancer Memorial, which he also missed as a result of the health scare. Ducharme, on the other hand, got his hopeful --- Muscles Jared --- to the Dancer only to watch the gelding go off stride prior to the start and never get back to proper form. Ducharme had hoped to use the Dancer as a gauge whether to enter the horse in the Hambletonian. International Moni and Muscles Jared will be back in action Saturday at the Meadowlands Racetrack, competing in a $15,000 trot for 3-year-olds. Seven of the eight horses in the race are eligible to the Hambletonian: International Moni, Muscles Jared, Thisguyisonfire, Giveitgasandgo, Sir John F, Di Oggi, and Enterprise. The $1 million Hambletonian, the sport's premier event for 3-year-old trotters, is Aug. 5 at the Meadowlands. International Moni, who is 2-for-2 this year and won the Goodtimes Stakes at Mohawk on June 17, qualified last weekend in 1:53.3 at the Meadowlands. The colt is a son of French sire Love You out of two-time Horse of the Year Moni Maker. He was bred by the Moni Maker Stable, which retains ownership. "Knock on wood, crossed fingers, whatever you want to say, he's doing very well," Antonacci said. "He was going into that qualifier with no work of any real substance since the Goodtimes. I was very happy with how he performed that day. It seems like he recovered fully." International Moni's bout of colic passed without the need for surgery. "Fortunately we didn't have to intervene and everything rectified itself," Antonacci said. "It was one of those oddball, unexplainable kinds of incidents. For him to recover the way he did and a week later go out there and qualify the way he did I think is indicative of what a good horse he really is." So is the way International Moni raced in his Goodtimes elimination and the final. In the elim, the colt came from eight-lengths back at three-quarters to win by a neck in 1:54. In the final, he rallied from fifth at the half to win in 1:52.4. "Horses don't come from last and swoop the field to win anywhere, let alone at Mohawk," Antonacci said, referring to the elimination. "He's just a really, really good horse." The "plan" for International Moni is to race Saturday and then get a week off before the Hambletonian. "That would be the most logical plan at this point, but like I've said, plans change every day," Antonacci said. "There's no such thing as plans with live animals. You make plans and then you adjust every day." Muscles Jared won multiple state-restricted stakes last year including the Massachusetts Sire Stakes championship. This year he suffered a setback because of sickness after returning north from winter training in Florida. He was edged out for a spot in the final of the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial and finished second by a nose in the consolation on July 1. Ducharme was at loss to explain Muscle Jared's performance in the Dancer. "I wish I had an explanation, but I don't," Ducharme said. "He's never done that before. I guess we'll just say he had one of those nights. That's why we put him right back in (to race)." Muscles Jared is owned by Al Ross, who bred 2013 Hambletonian winner Royalty For Life and was among the horse's owners. Ducharme trained Royalty For Life. Ducharme said Muscles Jared's Hambletonian future rested in his performance Saturday. The son of Muscle Massive-Tetiana has won six of 17 races, finished second on five occasions, and earned $191,765 in his career. "He's going to have to trot and show us something," Ducharme said. Saturday's card at the Meadowlands also includes the Tompkins-Geers Stakes for 3-year-old male trotters, which also features a number of Hambletonian-eligible horses. They are Wutan, Perfect Spirit, Dover Dan, Southwind Cobra, Southwind Woody, Earl Variera, Fly On, Southwind Hydro, and Catch The Game. ROAD TO THE HAMBLETONIAN A look at open stakes for 3-year-old male trotters and state-restricted stakes featuring Hambletonian eligibles Date - Track - Event - First - Second - Third May 6 - Freehold - Dexter Cup - Lord Cromwell - Gustavo Fring - Southwind Cobra May 19 - Meadowlands - NJSS - Long Tom - Yes Mickey - Deacon Tony May 19 - Meadowlands - NJSS - What The Hill - Southwind Cobra - New Jersey Viking May 20 - Meadows - PASS - Sortie - Giveitgasandgo - High Glider May 20 - Meadows - PASS - Andy M - Gustavo Fring - Stealth Hanover May 20 - Meadows - PASS - Common Parlance - Brown Bear - Brand New Key May 29 - Vernon - NYSS - Stick With Me Kid - Bill's Man - Top Flight Angel May 29 - Vernon - NYSS - Devious Man - Lord Cromwell - Aces And Eights May 29 - Vernon - NYSS - Enterprise - Swell Chap - Meetmeinthemiddle June 2 - Meadowlands - NJSS Final - Long Tom - King On The Hill - What The Hill June 3 - Meadows - Currier & Ives - Fraser Ridge - Meme Hanover - Muay Hanover June 3 - Meadows - Currier & Ives - Moonshiner Hanover - Giveitgasandgo - Lars Perry June 3 - Meadows - Currier & Ives - Sortie - Dover Dan - Always A Good Time June 9 - Mohawk - Goodtimes Elim - International Moni - Guardian Angel As - Jake June 9 - Mohawk - Goodtimes Elim - Enterprise - AWOL Hanover - Shake It Off Lindy June 9 - Vernon - EBC Elim - Bill's Man - Such An Angel - Stick With Me Kid June 9 - Vernon - EBC Elim - Devious Man - Swell Chap - Lord Cromwell June 10 - Pocono - PASS - Rubio - Muscles Jared - Di Oggi June 10 - Pocono - PASS - Dover Dan - Moonshiner Hanover - Sir John F June 10 - Pocono - PASS - Giveitgasandgo - President Lindy - Andy M June 17 - Mohawk - Goodtimes - International Moni - Mass Production - Seven And Seven June 18 - Vernon - Empire Breeders Classic - Devious Man - Bill's Man - Stick With Me Kid June 24 - Pocono - Beal Elimination - Long Tom - Sortie - Lucky Matter June 24 - Pocono - Beal Elimination - Perfect Spirit - Devious Man - Dover Dan June 24 - Pocono - Beal Elimination - Ariana G* - Bill's Man - Moonshiner Hanover July 1 - Pocono - Earl Beal Jr. Memorial - Devious Man - Long Tom - Ariana G* July 9 - Pocono - PA All Stars - Two AM - Moonshiner Hanover - Di Oggi July 9 - Pocono - PA All Stars - Dover Dan - Andy M - Shake It Off Lindy July 9 - Pocono - PA All Stars - Giveitgasandgo - Explosive Ridge - Common Parlance July 9 - Pocono - PA All Stars - Thisguyisonfire - Sir John F - Ataboy Hanover July 15 - Meadowlands - Stanley Dancer Memorial - Walner - Devious Man - Bill's Man July 15 - Meadowlands - Stanley Dancer Memorial - Long Tom - What The Hill - Meteoric July 22 - Meadowlands - Tompkins-Geers - July 29 - Meadowlands - Reynolds - Aug. 5 - Meadowlands - Hambletonian - Hambletonian eligible in bold *Filly; also eligible to Hambletonian Oaks Ken Weingartner

Wings of Royalty (Chris Lems) wins the Trot feature ($9,500) at Vernon Downs on Friday night. Owned by Raymond Campbell and trained by George Ducharme, WIngs Of Royalty (Rc Royalty) would fly out of the gate and control all the fractions, :28.1, :57.1, 1:24.3, 1:52.4. The 7 year-old horse would pay $2.70 for the win. Winning for the 17th time in his career. Winding Hill (Jimmy Wittemore was second with Lucid Thoughts (John MacDonald) getting third. John MacDonald and Chris Lems continue to slug it out for driver title. MacDonald was shutout tonight but leads with 54 wins for the season. Chris Lems added three wins to his total tonight. He also won with Mittnage A Trois ($4.00) and Gimme The Cash ($3.70) . That gives him 52 for the seasom. Jimmy Wittemore is a distant 3rd with 28. Vernon Downs returns to live racing on Saturday with a nine race card starting at 6:45 p.m. For more information please go to www.vernondowns.com. John Horne

Plainville, MA---There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the $250,000 Spirit of Massachusetts Trot since Plainridge Park officials announced the inaugural contest would be held on Friday, July 28. But just like the Red Sox, Patriots and Bruins, the hometown harness racing fans will have their own rooting interest in the race with native son George Ducharme and his trainee Wings Of Royalty. Ducharme grew up in Walpole, Massachusetts and now lives in Norfolk. He began his career in harness racing not too far from his home at nearby Foxboro Park in 1979, eventually starting his own stable in 1985. After Plainridge Park opened in 1999, he raced there for years before moving to the Grand Circuit as his stock continued to improve. The highlight of Ducharme's career was winning the $1.2 million Hambletonian with Massachusetts bred Royalty For Life in 2013, but he has also had many successful stake and overnight horses in his barn including a current eligible for his home state's most lucrative standardbred race ever. Wings Of Royalty (R C Royalty-Sparkling Cider 1:51.4, $603,784) was bred in Belchertown, Massachusetts by Ray Campbell Jr. and raced in the Massachusetts Sire Stakes program. In fact at three, he was the undefeated divisional champion and set a track record at Plainridge for his age, gender and gait. But Wings Of Royalty also met the best sophomore male trotters in North America that year having competed in the Hambletonian, the Empire Breeders Classic and the Zweig. Last year he moved into the Open trotting ranks and earned a living the hard way; in overnights at the best tracks on the east coast against the toughest trotters in the game. As an eligible in the Spirit of Massachusetts Trot, Wings Of Royalty would be renewing some old friendships with horses he has faced for the last three years, but would also be looking to do it with the home field advantage. "The aged trotter division is extremely tough this year because not only are they the best in North America, but one has also competed in Europe so this will be quite the event for this track" said Ducharme. "Winning this race would be a tough grind for Wings Of Royalty and he'd really have to work hard against those kinds of horses. But he's competed with them before and never puts in a poor performance. But to beat them, he'd have to be on the top of his game that day." Wings Of Royalty started out 2017 with a bang winning his first start at Tioga Downs in 1:53.2, setting a new track record for aged trotting horses. He followed that up by finishing fifth at the Meadowlands in 1:51, only three-lengths behind JL Cruze and Crazy Wow who are both also eligible to the Spirit Trot. After making a break in his next start it was discovered that Wings Of Royalty had developed an abscess in his foot and needed some time off for it to heal. Right now he has been away from competition for a month but Ducharme is confident that they will have enough time to get everything cleaned up and have him ready to roll. Wings Of Royalty will start in overnight events at either the Meadowlands or Yonkers in order to get ready to go home and race at Plainridge Park the last week of July. "I think the Spirit of Massachusetts Trot is a great thing Plainridge has put together so we can showcase the best horses in the sport and help the track promote the business a little more in the area. And I think it's great for a horse that was born and raised in Massachusetts to have a chance to go home and race for big money in front of his local connections and fans" said Ducharme. "Wings of Royalty would definitely have a large rooting section in this area." The $250,000 Spirit of Massachusetts Trot is by far the richest Standardbred stake ever held in the state of Massachusetts and offers the highest one-race purse in the history of New England harness racing. For more information and updates on the Spirit of Massachusetts Trot, log onto http://www.plainridgeparkcasino.com/racing and click on the Spirit Of Massachusetts Trot link. By Tim Bojarski, for Plainridge Park  

Hotel Royale (Rc Royalty) handled her step up in class with relative ease on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The George Ducharme-trained three year old filly prevailed in the $9,950 co-feature for New York sired trotters as reinsman Frank Coppola Jr. marched the talented distaffer out to the early lead. Hotel Royale, who had a fourth place finish in her May start in the New York Sire Stakes, went coast to coast on Thursday before stopping the timer in 1:58, a time that matched her victory from last week in which she set a lifetime mark. Since the addition of lasix, the three year old trotting filly has gone three-for-three at Saratoga, recording all of her wins in front-running fashion with Coppola in the sulky. The other co-feature on Thursday was won by Prince Of Fame (Crazed) who cruised to a front-running score in 1:57 with Wally Hennessey in the bike. Live racing continues on Friday night with a 6:45pm first post. Mike Sardella

Wings Of Royalty (Mike Simons) sets track record for harness racing aged horse in 1:53.2 as Simons wins four. The 5 year-old horse by RC Royalty would be forth at the halfway point going first over. Wings of Royalty ($4.90) would swoop by pace-setter Dragin The Wagin (Aaron Byron) and have the lead before the three-quarter mark. Owned by Raymond Campbell and trained by George Ducharme, Wings of Roylaty would win the Open 1 trot by four lengths. Finishing second was Upfront Billy (Tom Jackson) with Sweet Thing Fern Paquet Jr.) getting third. Simons also won race two with Law Of Attraction ($42.60), race four with Sarcastic Man ($5.30), and race eight with Warhorse ($3.30). Racing resumes Sunday (May 14) at Tioga Downs with a 13 race card starting at 1pm. All mothers will get a free rose while supplies last. For more information please go to our website www.tiogadowns.com   John Horne for Tioga Downs.

Columbus, OH --- While most harness racing participants in the sport are focusing on what is transpiring in The Garden State prior to the Breeders Crown, George Ducharme and Chris Lems were hard at work in The Bay State. The fruits of their labors were rewarded, as the duo collected all four $75,000 Massachusetts Sire Stakes trotting contests on Monday (Oct. 24) at Plainridge Park. “We have had some good days before back here at home, but never a day quite like that,” Ducharme said. “With the infusion of the slots money into purses it has really helped us. The sire stakes races were only worth about half that last year. Even the overnights have gone up from $6,000 to $12,000 and it really helps out. There are a lot of people here that were just hanging on, waiting for this. Of course you will have some other people bringing horses in, but it’s good to see the people that stuck with it getting a little bit of money in their pocket.” Ducharme and Lems joined forces to meet in the winner’s circle with Onangelwings (Archangel-Anotherpennyplease) in the 2-year-old filly trot, Muscles Jared (Muscle Massive-Tetiana) in the 2-year-old colt and gelding trot, Do What You Dream (Conway Hall-Ksenia) in the 3-year-old colt and gelding trot and Royal Right (RC Royalty-Contrarian) in the 3-year-old filly trot. “A lot of my owners like to breed and race their own horses in their home state,” Ducharme said. “Our horses fit very well in these events and we always support racing here.” While the names, speed records and other stakes accomplishments may not jump off the pages of these state champions, there is one in the bunch that nearly punched Ducharme’s ticket to this weekend’s Breeders Crown events in Muscles Jared. Bred by Al Libfeld, the gelding is owned by Alfred Ross. In addition to his newly acquired crown, Muscles Jared has the distinction of coming first-over during Walner’s world record performance (1:51.3) in a $56,000 division of the International Stallion Stakes on Oct. 6 in Lexington. Steered by John Campbell on that day, the gelding came home fifth directly behind Breeders Crown elimination victor Sortie after an adventurous trip over the Red Mile oval. “He was second in his first race down in Lexington,” Ducharme said. “And I was happy how the horse performed in that race against Walner. He was first-over and then was used about three times. We thought about taking him to the Breeders Crown, but brought him here (Plainridge) instead to give him a little bit easier race and have a good chance to win rather than hoping to finish fourth or fifth. It was easier on him, but it was not easy as Andy Miller brought one (Big Man Ev, second) and (Frank) Antonacci brought one (French Moni, fourth). “He’s done for the year now. He’s the kind of horse we think needs to be turned out to give him some time to grow into his frame. When we bring him back next year though, he will be staked to everything, because we think once he grows he will be able to keep up and compete with those horses. We’ll wait on the Breeders Crown this year and point towards next year.” Muscles Jared embarks on his vacation with $150,856 in the bank and a resume of 11-5-2-0. He was also fourth in the $252,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship behind Breeders Crown participants Giveitgasango and Moonshiner Hanover. Ducharme also holds out optimism the Massachusetts program will be on the upswing yet again in 2017. “I don’t have my finger on the pulse quite as much as I used to now that I stable most of the time in New York,” he said. “But it is my understanding the state is looking to revisit the amount of revenue Standardbred horsemen receive at the end of the year. Horsemen in Massachusetts receive nine percent, but up until this year Standardbred horsemen received 25 percent of that while Thoroughbreds received 75 percent. Suffolk closed two years ago and there has been no Thoroughbred racing, so this year their percentage was changed to 55 percent. “The state plans on reviewing how the extra money for the Standardbreds is used to improve the communities rather than seeing other people come in just for increased purses. Hopefully, they will approve more money coming to Standardbreds and our stakes will be worth even more next year.” For complete results of the Massachusetts Sires Stakes finals, click here. by Kim French, USTA Internet News Editor 

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