COLUMBUS, MN. - Smarter Yet won for the third time in five tries in the weekly Running Aces' Open pace on Sunday night. Kim Pluta guided the seven-year-old gelding for trainer Ron Merritt and owner Kevin St. Charles. It was the 37th lifetime win and raised Smarter Yet's career bankroll to $236,925. The noted closer used his usual strong stretch drive to catch Headsup Yankee (Nick Roland) and Silver Spir (Jason Ryan) in the final strides of the 1:53 mile. Pluta also won a $7000 conditioned pace on the undercard with Restless Yankee, one of the best Minnesota-bred horses ever. Following the 1:53.4 victory, the Bob and Ryan Lems-owned son of Relentless Yankee now has 46 triumphs and $278,531 in earnings. He bested Dont Tell Rusty (Jason Ryan) and Mister Virgin (Nick Roland). A $7000 trot mixing top condition horses with $10,000 claimers was captured by Axle (Kody Massey) with a narrow decision over Forceful Gale (Brian Detgen) and Flameon (Lemoyne Svendsen). The winner was claimed from owner-trainer George Reider by Daniel Maier. For the third consecutive racing night, veteran Gerry Longo scored a driving triple on Sunday. Handle for the 11-race program was $201,791. Gregg Keidel
COLUMBUS, MN. - Both Gerry Longo and Tim Maier scored driving triples on the Saturday night program at Running Aces plus a pair of full sisters won back-to-back races, including the $11,000 Fillies and Mares Open pace. Longo made three consecutive trips to the winner's circle in the second through fourth races. His success started with his own Kiss On The Lips who scored a 1:53.4 tally in a $6000 conditioned race with optional $7500 claimers. She bested Free Girl (Rick Magee) and Save My Dragon (Kody Massey). He also triumphed with Jenni King's Caseofthesillies and John Rogers' Razzle Be Dazzled. Caseofthesillies defeated distaff maidens Maidamess (Clark Whitney) and Whata Smoothie (Tim Maier) in 1:56.3; and Razzle Be Dazzled topped $4000 claiming mares Lil Miss Nyalation (Rick Magee) and Blazin With Pride (Rob Dinning) in 1:56.2. Maier won the final three races of the card with full sisters Love Live Laugh and Diva Las Vegas, both owned by his wife Denise, and Pamela Buergi's Fancy Too. Love Live Laugh managed a nose decision over Country Jewel (Nick Roland) and That's Mara (Kim Pluta) in 1:53.1 in the night's featured Open event. The top six finishers were all within two lengths at the finish in the hotly-contested event. Sister Diva Las Vegas, also a daughter of Hi Ho Silverheels out of the Little Steven mare Prettylittlerebel, beat Keystone Christa (Nick Roland) and Ha Jung (Jason Ryan) in a $4500 race combining $5000 claimers and condition mares. Fancy Too captured the nightcap, a $3000 race for bottom conditioned mares, topping Britash Redcoat (Rob Dinning) and Five Stars Queen (Jason Ryan) in 1:56.4. Sandwiched between the two driving triples was a second straight impressive victory by the two-year-old gelding URCutoff, who beat a full field of older horses in a non-winners of two races for a $4500 purse. Owned and trained by Mark Anderson and driven by Lemoyne Svendsen, the colt stopped the timer in 1:55.4 to follow up on his 1:54.3 maiden voyage last week. From the Running Aces Press Box
COLUMBUS, MN. - 69-year-old Gerry Longo, the senior reinsman in the Running Aces driver's colony, scored a couple of upsets on Tuesday night's program. Not only was Longo the only multiple winning driver on the night, but he owned and trained both horses as well. Kiss On The Lips survived a long first-over journey on the outside to sweep from last to first in a $4500 conditioned and claiming race for mares. With an impressive :28.1 final panel the four-year-old daughter of Dontgetinmyway bested Surprisingly Sweet (Steve Wiseman) and RD IOU (Tim Maier). Dispatched at odds of over 7-1, Kiss On The Lips paid $17.80 to win and headed a $61.80 exacta and $216 trifecta. Three races later it was Dragons Wail lighting up the toteboard for Longo. Despite moving up a class and starting from the seven hole in a nine-horse field, the four-year-old Dragon Again lass outlasted Chilly Breez (Nick Roland) and Ksmewithurizclosed (Wiseman) for a one-length 1:57.1 tall. Longo's second longshot winner returned $29.20 to win and topped a $65.60 exacta and $242.20 trifecta. Longo is occasionally permitted to announce a qualifying race at Running Aces and his fellow drivers mused that his mares raced alot like Gerry's favorite phrase he uses in his calls: "They raced like hares who just backed up to a porcupine--they were gone!" From the Running Aces Press Box
COLUMBUS, MN. - It has been ten straight programs since the 50-cent Pick-6 wager has been solved at Running Aces Harness Park resulting in one of the largest Pick-6 pools in recent harness racing memory. The Wednesday night (July 16) pool, in conjunction with the USTA Strategic Wagering platform, is guaranteed to reach $50,000 with some experts predicting that the final payout figure might even exceed $60,000. A pair of longshots, 20-1 Western Willow (Tabatha Canarr) and 24-1 Petite Courageuse (Kody Massey), dashed the hopes of most of the bettors who had pumped the potential Tuesday night payoff to over $35,000 if a single 50-cent winning ticket had been sold. The other four winners were Skeet Thunder (Nick Roland), who returned $3.60 to win, Dragons Wail (Gerry Longo) $7.40, Go See Lo Go (Roland) $10.00, and Everyone's Desire (Jason Ryan) $12.80. The Wednesday program begins at 7:00 p.m. (central time) and the Pick-6 comprises races three through eight. It includes everything from a maiden pace for a $3000 purse to an Open Trot chasing a $12,000 pot. There are five full nine-horse fields (four paces) slated and one seven-horse conditioned trot. Free past performance pages for the 50-cent Running Aces Pick-6 will be available via a link for all the USTA Strategic Wagers that can be found at: ustrotting.com. From the Press Box at Running Aces
COLUMBUS, MN. - The Pick 6 went unsolved for the eighth straight program at Running Aces on Saturday night, despite an $8000 guaranteed pool. In conjunction with the USTA's Strategic Wagering platform, the track is guaranteeing a minimum $15,000 Pick 6 pool on Sunday night, July 13. Post time for the 11-race card is 6:00 p.m. (CST) with the Pick 6 comprising the final six races of the card. Program pages will be available for free at: ustrotting.com, compliments of Trackmaster. A $10,000 Fillies and Mares Open pace highlighted the Saturday card with Blazing Fury (Rick Magee) rallying from next-to-last in the seven-horse field to an upset half-length victory over favored Country Jewel (Nick Roland) and New Manhattan (Jason Ryan). It was the 42nd win in the Minnesota-bred mare's amazing career for the Van Otterloo Stable and lowered her lifetime best mark by two-fifths of a second despite being age eight. Positioned as the fifth race in the Pick 6, Blazing Fury's $23.80 win mutuel ended all hope for the few remaining bettors still alive in the exotic wager. The second leg of the Pick 6 produced an even bigger upset when Everyone's Desire (Jason Ryan) stunned a non-winners of two races field at odds of 19-1. Owned by David Hauser and trained by Alexia Kehl, the four-year-old gelding topped Flukie Flight (Gerry Longo) and Boddabingboddaboom (Tim Maier) in 1:56.1. Earlier on the card stablemates Waltzacrossthewire (Tim Maier) and Delco Voracious (Jason Ryan) finished one-two in a $13,000 race for Minnesota-sired sophomore pacers. Both horses are owned and trained by Jesse DeLong, with assistance from Tabitha Canaar in Minnesota. Bunkerhill Bill (Rob Dinning) finished a fast-closing third in the 1:53.1 mile. From the press box at Running Aces
There was one winning ticket in last Saturday nights Pick 5, returning $9.968 for what proved to be an excellent 50-cent investment. The Pick 5 is one of three wagers offered here nightly with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. The others are the 20-cent Pick 4 with a $20,000-guaranteed pool on Friday and a $25,000 guaranteed pool on Saturday; and the Hi-Five on the finale. Had last Saturdays winning ticket been paid out under the regular takeout rate, it would have returned just over $9,000, a difference of some $920 to the winner. "We have had these low takeout bets in place since we took over the meeting in the fall of 2012," said General Manager Chris Schick. "We are very pleased with the response to these wagers." Last Saturdays Pick 5 sequence got off to a pretty formful start as 2-1 second choice Orlandos Express got the job done for James Kennedy, followed by co-favorite Diva Las Vegas clicking at $6.60 with Tim Maier and 2-1 second choice Alpine Hawk posing for pictures with Rich Wojcio. It got a bit tougher when Hi Ho Disguise prevailed at $11.20 in the penultimate leg with Dave Siegel at the controls, then kicked into overdrive after Majestic Lass upset the second leg of the Marvin Shapiro Series at 22-1 with Mooney Svendsen giving directions. There is another chance to pick up a nice piece of change for a minor investment here Friday night with the reduced takeouts of the 50-cent Pick 5; the 20-cent Pick 4 with a $20,000-guaranteed pool; and the 10-cent Hi-Five on the final contest. Kirschenbaum, Staley Series Finales headline program The $7,200 finale of the Alan Kirschenbaum Series headed by Nutmegs Davey and Larry Horse; the $6,600 Richard Staley Series finale featuring Melboy and Big Guy To Win; an Open Trot and and Open Distaff Pace are on tapFriday night program at Cal Expo. Nutmegs Davey has captured the opening two legs of the Kirschenbaum in convincing style and looms the favorite in Fridays finale for owner Osman Carrera, trainer Dario Solares and pilot Luke Plano. The 5-year-old son of Jennas Beach Boy went coast-to-coast in his division of the first leg with Dave Siegel in the sulky while competing over a sloppy track, then held safe by a neck in last weeks penultimate leg over Larry Horse as the even-money favorite with Plano at the controls. Larry Horse is a popular 12-year-old who goes about his business for Jessie Pacheco and Kristin Swab with Lino Pacheco the conditioner and Gerry Longo handling the lines. The son of Sportsmaster comes into this assignment with $230,000 in his account and a 1:52 2/5 mark. With Plano in the bike in his division of the first leg, Larry Horse proved a punctual 6-5 choice in the slop, then was handicapped by the No. 9 post last weekend with Longo at the helm and fell just short of catching Larry Horse that evening. Melboy and Big Guy To Win accounted for their respective divisions of the first leg of the Staley Series, then finished one-two in last weeks clash. Melboy is an 8-year-old son of Western Hanover who is owned by Lili Tremblay, trained by Nathalie Tremblay and driven by Tim Maier; while Big Guy To Win is a 9-year-old from the George Reider barn who carries the Kimberley Hines banner and has Mooney Svendsen giving directions. The Open Trot finds El Azteca looking for another win at the head of the class for owner/trainer/breeder Marco Rios and driver Luke Plano while leaving from the assigned No.10 post position. Haggin Oaks heads the Open Distaff Pace with trainer James Kennedy in the sulky. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness
An $8,400 Pick 5 Carryover with a $25,000-guaranteed gross pool and a reduced 16 percent takeout rate; and the first leg of the Alan Kirschenbaum and Richard Staley Pacing Series are the highlights at Cal Expo Friday night. A 14-race card is on tap with first post set at 5:20 p.m. The Pick 5 is a 50-cent wager and there is also a reduced 16 percent takeout on the 20-cent Pick 4 with a $25,000 guaranteed pool on Friday and a $25,000 guaranteed on Saturday; and the 10-cent Hi-Five on the finale. The first leg of the Kirschenbaum goes as the third race on the evening, while the opening of the Staley Series occupies the fifth-race slot on the program. The co-featured Trot is a conditioned affair that finds Axle dropping out of the Open Handicap and getting away from the likes of the streaking El Azteca and stablemates Inside Broadway and Franks Best, which he should very much appreciate. A 5-year-old son of Hard Rock N Roll, Axle is trained by George Reider and driven by David Siegel, and they are co-owners along with Robert Thronson and Greg Robinson. He was a six-time winner last season, including a lifetime-best 1:57 4/5 performance over the five-eighths Running Aces oval. Axle made his most recent appearance in last weeks clash at the head of the class, crossing the wire fourth but placed third through disqualification. He has recorded a second and a third in his two starts outside of the Open ranks this season and will be very much at home with this group. The co-featured Pace is for distaffers and brings out the likes of Strings, who has been having some tough battles with arch-rival Show Runner; and the classy and hard-hitting Haggin Oaks from the James Kennedy shedrow. Desomers add another trophy to mantel When Steve Desomer guided the 3-year-old homebred Placer to victory in last weekends Sire Stakes, it was first win for the trotter and tally No. 2,610 for the 77-year-old Desomer. As far as stakes trophies go, Steve and wife Vickie stopped counting those many years ago. Placer is one in a long line of top performers bred, owned and raced by Team Desomer, and this gelding is obviously starting to get the hang of things. Hes by Panama Hanover and hes out of a divisional champing in Charlottes Web, Vickie related. That makes him a half-brother to Silverlode, who is by British Sterling. Silverlode is a 5-year-old mare who captured several Sire Stakes in her younger days, has put over $80,000 into her bank account and sports a 1:58 standard that was established here last season. Placer showed good early interest but was no match for Snuff N Beer in the first stakes clash for this group on January 17, then made a miscue at next asking in a conditioned affair. He put it all together last week in the second stakes gathering and got the job done nicely. Lets just say that the effort was certainly a pleasant surprise for both Steve and myself, Vickie explained after adding yet another Sire Stakes victory to the Desomer scrapbook. Desomer, along with the rejuvenated Gene Vallandingham and the recently-returned Gerry Longo, continue to show their young racing rivals a thing or two about driving and training winners. Those may be modern sulkies out there, but these guys help add a cool, old-school vibe to these Cal Expo nights. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness
Your eyes are not deceiving you, Gerry Longo is back in California and competing here at Cal Expo. Once a fixture at or near the top of the driver standings at this track, Hollywood Park and Los Alamitos, the 68-year-old driver/trainer has returned to the West Coast for at least the foreseeable future. Its been over 30 years since I raced out here, said Longo, who recently passed the 2,600-win plateau with over $11 million in earnings. Ive come to California quite a bit to visit my mother, who lives in Garden Grove, and my daughter in Riverside, but this is the first time Ive raced here in a long time. I can tell you that the weather is nice, the people are great and Im impressed with the way theyve upgraded the facility since I was here the last time. Longo explained that he made the move to Chicago at a time when it looked like harness racing was about to go down for the count in California. I did some racing back there in 78, 79 and 80, then I bought a place and started racing in Chicago full time, he said. I like to travel, so Ive also been racing at tracks in Virginia and Minnesota. Gerry has brought out six performers and is almost treating the visit like a vacation. Right now the plan is stay at least under March, but well see how it goes. Open Pace, Sire Stakes, Joe OBrien set An Open Pace spotlighting One And Only; a trio of $10,000 California Sire Stakes and the first leg of the Joe OBrien Pacing Series are the main events on Saturday nights 15-race program at Cal Expo. The Open Pace is the third race on the evening with One And Only looming large. He is a 6-year-old son of Bettors Delight out of the Western Hanover mare Gallie Too who carries the banner of Richard Morita and David Yamada with Line Pacheco the conditioner and Luke Plano handling the lines. He is looking for his Third Straight win at the top level. The bay performer got a perfect pocket trip with Plano on December 21 and drew off by five lengths when push came to shove in a lifetime-best 1:52 2/5 mile. Sent off at 40 cents on the dollar in the most recent top dance two weeks ago, One And Only took matters into his own hands and went coast-to-coast by a two and a half lengths to the delight of his many backers. Set to challenge One And Only are Its Getting Hairy for Tim Maier; Phantom Dan with trainer James Kennedy in the sulky; Docs Zippy, Tyler Smith; and Winsmith Syd, who leaves from the rail with Steve Wiseman. A Stitch In Time and Show Runner are strictly the ones to beat, respectively, in the Sire Stakes for the 4-year-old pacers, while the 3-year-old colts get their first chance to race for added-money at the meeting. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness
COLUMBUS, MN. - Owner Jesse De Long's She's A Foxie Lady (driver John De Long) chopped a full second off the Running Aces track record for two-year-old trotting fillies on Tuesday night to capture a $13,500 race restricted to state-bred freshmen trotters. The daughter of Sos Lunar Eclipse, trained when in Minnesota by Justin Anfinson, stormed home in 2:00.2 to lower the record that was set earlier this summer by Babygetyershineon. Chewy Dunkerton (Steve Wiseman) and Al-Mar Passion (Rick Magee) were both within a length at the wire in the record-setting mile. A pair of $9000 Open Paces were also contested on the program with familiar names coming up winners. In the horses and geldings split it was Restless Yankee (Nick Roland) resuming his winning ways after a pair of near misses in the weekly feature race. It was the 39th career win for Ron Emerson and Mark Holtan's prize possession who is trained by Bob Lems. He will be the likely favorite in his division when all the best Minnesota-sired horses line up for eleven $20,000 state championship races on August 31. Ya U Betcha (Gerry Longo), another Minnesota-sired gelding, finished second with Six Gun (Wiseman) rounding out the trifecta. In the distaff feature, the outstanding three-year-old filly Show Runner beat the best older mares racing in Minnesota for the fifth time since moving up to the open ranks eight starts ago. The daughter of Little Steven now boasts 11 seasonal triumphs and over $60,000 in 2013 earnings. She is trained and driven by Tim Maier and owned by his wife Denise in partnership with Eileen Brodbar. The winner overcame the assigned outside post to beat Still Electric (De Long) by a head with Cheese Plumper (Rick Magee) third. Racing resumes Wednesday night with just ten programs remaining in the Running Aces season. Gregg Keidel
COLUMBUS, MN. - Driver Steve Wiseman captured four races on the Sunday night program at Running Aces, moving him into fifth place in the local dash standings and leaving him just 13 wins short of the coveted 2,000 triumphs plateau. Two of Wiseman's victories came behind horses from his own barn. Silver Spir used the passing lane to nip Somecam (Gerry Longo) and Headsup Yankee (Nick Roland) in a conditioned-claiming event for a $6000 purse. It was the fifth seasonal win for owner Maureen Pittaro's four-year-old who now has $21,000 in 2013 earnings. Hiho Legacy swept from eighth to first in the final quarter-mile to best a field of $3500 claimers. It was the second straight win for owner Paul Welence's gelding who bested Funny Guy (Don Sherman) and Big Guy Two Win (Lemoyne Svendsen). Wiseman also won for vacationing fellow California trainer Tim Maier, guiding Dani California in a bottom trot, clocked in 1:58.3 to top Viking Mia (Svendsen) and Jessie Ann (James Yoder). Son Jason Maier owns the mare who has notched three wins in her last four starts. Eternal Overdrive gave Wiseman his other win in a $3000 claimer timed in 1:54.4. Tim Brown trains the winner for lessee Brandon Bragg. Western So (Evan Coblentz) was a fast-closing second with Kennan's Jerry (Rocky Stidham) getting the show dough. There are eleven nights remaining in the 2013 season at Running Aces, so Wiseman needs to average just over one win a night to reach the milestone in his career while at his summer home in Minnesota. Gregg Keidel
On the final Saturday night (September 1) of the 2012 harness racing season, in front of another huge throng of racing fans, veteran horsemen Gerry Longo and Tim Maier celebrated big nights for different reasons.
Veteran harness racing driver Dean Magee won five of the nine races at Running Aces on Saturday night, padding his already comfortable lead in the Minnesota oval's driver dash standings.
Drivers Dean Magee and Joey Mapes each scored hat tricks on the opening night harness racing program at Running Aces on Tuesday (May 31). The duo shared the winner's circle limelight over the final six races after reinsmen John DeLong, Gerry Longo and Will Roland had captured the first three races of the season over the well-groomed five-eighths-mile oval.