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Rockinscience, fresh from a sparkling harness racing victory for driver/trainer Luke Plano, takes on a solid cast in Saturday night’s featured $9,700 Robert Gordon Pace. Watch and Wager LLC will present 13 races with first post set for 4:55 p.m. and the main event will go as the eighth contest on the evening. There are several major contenders in the Gordon line-up, with Rockinscience likely to have his share of backers as he goes for the hat trick this weekend. The 4-year-old son of Rockin Image carries the banner of Nikki Hudson and Dave Haness. After taking the measure of a softer group here on January 10, the bay performer came back last week and streaked home in :27 1/5 to make it two in a row while stopping the timer in 1:52 2/5, shaving two full seconds off his lifetime mark. Bobs Time will be gunning for his third snapshot from his last five trips to the post and is another major player. Rick Bertrand owns and trains the 4-year-old with Jake Cutting in his usual spot in the sulky. Bobs Time proved a punctual even-money favorite last week as he sat the pocket early, brushed to command on the final bend and went on to a length and a quarter score over Cut A Rug, who will again be among his rivals in the Gordon with Doug Chappell at the controls. Rounding out the field are Paddy Murphy, to be handled by Cordarius Stewart; Its Pointless, Tony Kerwood; Villa For Rent with Mooney Svendsen; and Artspire, who will leave from the outside slot with Nick Roland guiding. Low takeout wagers offer true value There are three wagers offered here each night that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate – the 20-cent early and late Pick 5 and the 20-cent Pick 4, the latter featuring a $25,000-guaranteed gross pool. To give you some idea of the value that comes as a result of the lower takeout, take a look at last Sunday night’s 20-cent Pick 5 that covered the first five races on the card. There was an even-money winner, three horses clicking at 3-1 and one scoring at 5-1, with the 20-cent investment coming back a nifty $353.68, which equates to a much higher return than the parlay and a nice increase on what the regular takeout payoff.                                           *** This weekend’s Robert Gordon Pace is named for the noted driver/trainer and track executive who passed away at age 65 in 2006. Bob Gordon started his 40-year-career in Ohio and learned his lessons under the outstanding horseman Bob Farrington. He eventually settled in California and was a mainstay at the top of the standings from the late 70s through the early 90s, conditioning such starts as Stand By N, Theora Hanover and Pack Leader. Gordon was a past president of the Western Harness Standardbred Association and the California Harness Horse Breeders Association, while in the early 90s he served as a director of the United States Trotting Association. He was president of Premier Harness Racing, which raced at Los Alamitos, and was instrumental in keeping the sport alive in the mid 90s at a time when harness racing was definitely on the ropes. Bob Gordon was also director of backstretch operations for the Sacramento Harness Association and helped in starting the not-for-profit corporation, which was operating at Cal Expo at the time of his death.   By Mark Ratzky, publicity – Cal Expo Harness

CHARLOTTETOWN, PE – It has been over half-a-year since Bugsy Maguire’s biggest harness racing career moment but he returns to the fray in the preferred pace Saturday afternoon at Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at the Charlottetown Driving Park.  The 13-dash Saturday presentation starts off at 12:30 P.M. with the preferred pace going to the gate in race 12 for a $2,850 pot.  Bugsy Maguire put together a story book moment in winning the 2020 Governor’s Plate Final in July at Red Shores Summerside with Brodie MacPhee in the bike but suffered an injury shortly after and was absent for the remainder of the season. The seven-year-old son of Bettors Delight has qualified the past two weeks with qualifying driver Jaycob Sweet in the bike for trainer Wade Sorrie. But for Saturday’s pari-mutuel event, Sorrie will call upon leading driver Marc Campbell to steer for owner Walter Simmons of Summerside.  Chocolate Swirl knocked off the top group last week and has post 4 on Saturday with Jason Hughes at the controls of the Jennifer Doyle trainee. Hunger Pangs controls the rail from the Jeff Holmes stable with Mark Bradley supplying the drive. The ultra-competitive field also includes Winter Blast (Ken Murphy) and Rockin Indy (Corey MacPherson).  Peter MacPhee with the Post Time Picks places his trust in post 5 starter Bugsy Maguire. “Bugsy Maguire had the most memorable victory on PEI in 2020 winning the Governor’s Plate back in July,” MacPhee said. “He hasn’t raced since then but does have a couple of qualifiers under his belt and adds Campbell so we think they get to the wire first.”  The Fillies and Mares Open pace lines up in race 9 for a $2,800 purse. Woodmere Skyroller is assigned post 6 in the field after winning this class the last two weeks for driver Gilles Barrieau, trainer Kevin MacLean and owner Reg MacPherson of Stratford. The champion daughter of Rollwithitharry is undefeated so far in 2021 and will look for career win number 18 on Saturday.  The race 13 finale will again host the Super Hi-5 wager where the winning ticket must have the first five finishers in the correct order. Mantario is the morning line favourite from the Doyle barn. Kenny Arsenault will be in the bike of the post 4 starter.  Catch all the action on the worldwide broadcast at Redshores.ca and wager online at HPIBet.com.    By Nicholas Oakes For Red Shores 

HAVING just experienced his best season to date, driver Tom Ison is back in full force at Newcastle tonight.  Ison had a stellar term last season piloting 152 winners and finishing second-placed in the Concession Drivers’ Premiership and fourth in the New South Wales Drivers’ Premiership behind the likes of Luke McCarthy, Robert Morris and Cameron Hart.  Tonight Ison has three drives, two of those for trainer Roy Roots Junior who he will also combine with at Tamworth’s Carnival of Cups meeting on Sunday.  Ison and Roots will be represented in the two features on the program including the Golden Guitar Final with Shadow Pass who has drawn barrier one in the Group 3.  They will also combine in the Tamworth City Cup with Pitch Perfect who has drawn barrier eight on the second row.  At just the age of 22, Ison has driven 273 winners. iForm Newcastle best bet Race 4: Brooklyns Best (10) Was too strong for them last start and should be hard to beat again. Newcastle next best Race 8: Stuart (10) Valiant chase facing an impossible task in tough company last start and rates highly for this. Around the tracks Albury bets bet Race 1: Stravinsky (8) Resuming from a break and had strong enough form prior to be a serious contender here. Albury next best Race 8: Well Said Jess (8) Debutant worth keeping an eye on. Play the exotics The Newcastle Quaddie Race 5: 4-3-8 Race 6: 10-6-4 Race 7: 7-4-9 Race 8: 10-2-9 $81 for 100%   HRNSW MEDIA

Tiger Thompson N roars home and wins the Open pace at Dover Downs on Thursday night. Tiger Thompson N and Goldberg left quickest off the gate.  Goldberg led the field through an opening quarter in 26 seconds flat. Dexter Dunn sensed the pace was pedestrian,  pulled the pocket with Tiger Thompson N in front of the stands. The half was reached in 55 seconds flat. The quarter was a routine 28.4. The action picked up as Itsrockandroll A paced first over past the five eighths. Corey Callahan was able to entice Tyga Hanover  and Yannick Gingras, off the rail and found cover, second over on the rim.. Tiger Thompson N  maintained a length lead and reached the three quarters in 1:22.2.  That quarter was paced up in 27.2. At the top of the stretch, Yannick Gingris ducked to the rail with Tyga Hanover saving his mount for a late surge. In the lane, a thrilling stretch duel between both horses ensued. At the finish line, Tiger Thompson N ruled supreme, and won by a neck in 1:50 flat. Tiger Thompson N ( Big Jim) is owned by Nanticoke Racing, Josh Parker  S. Messick and Prestige Stable.  Josh Parker trained and Dexter Dunn was the driver. Tiger Thompson N,  the race favorite, was sent off at odds of 2/1. Tyga Hanover finished second for trainer Andrew Harris and driver Yannick Gingras. Itsrockandroll A was trained by Dylan Davis.  Corey Callahan was the driver Racing resumes on Monday at Dover Downs.  Post Time is 4:30 pm      Alex Kraszewski Dover Downs

IT is the time of the year that Hunter Valley trainers divide their time between racing their horses at Newcastle and Tamworth with many chasing the riches that the Golden Guitar Series offers. Abermain horseman, Cameron Davies admits that he and fellow trainers in his region are spoilt with the abundance of racing that they have at their doorstep in Newcastle and when it suits, can travel up to Tamworth, particularly when the bigger races are on. Davies trains a small team of five pacers at his idyllic property nestled in between Kurri Kurri and Cessnock. “I do like to set horses for the Golden Guitar each year, it is a race that most trainers up this way aspire to win ” said Davies. “This year I have qualified two for the final and for the past three years I have had a finalist in the prestigious race. “Battle Chimes ran an unlucky third beaten by less than three metres in last year’s final behind Wet My Whistle and he ran second in his heat on Sunday behind Balducci. “Ticktockpocketwatch came to me from New Zealand midway through last year and we could not be happier with her. “She has won two and been placed three times since we got her. “She also finished second in her heat last Sunday and deserves her place in the final. “It nice to have two runners in such a prestigious race and it would be a huge thrill if I happened to win it. “I have just the one runner going around at Newcastle tonight in Race 7, namely Dothedealdylan. “He has been a bit disappointing in recent runs since dead-heating for first here at Newcastle five starts back, on November 9.” On that occasion, the gelding rated 1.56.1 after racing just off the pace but he has been well beaten in four runs since and would need to improve vastly, although Davies believes that he can. “He has a good draw tonight (barrier two) and I do think he can win if he decides to produce his best,” he said.   HRNSW MEDIA

Yonkers, NY—The Billings is back. After being sidelined all last year because of the Corona virus the granddaddy of all amateur harness racing series made its seasonal debut at Yonkers Raceway tonight (Jan. 21) with two $6000 non-wagering divisions that were contested prior to the betting card getting underway with familiar names and newcomers participating. The first division was won by newcomer “Steady Jake” Stillwell with Dark Pool in a 2:01.3 clocking while the second split saw veteran amateur reinsman Bob “the Headhunter” Hechkoff guide Pound Sterling to an easy victory in a 1:59.4 clocking. In his division Stillwell got away in third position and then moved to the front before the half mile timer tripped 1:01.3. Once in command Stillwell played catch me if you can and not surprisingly no one could as Dark Pool rambled on to an oh-so-easy four-length triumph in a time of 2:01.3.. Noble Warrawee and Mike Polansky chased the winner home for second money while “Yankee Joe “Lee garnered the show dough with Can Do. It must have been a thrill for Stillwell since this was his first lifetime driving victory. The winning horse was the 8-year-old altered son of Cantab Hall who is owned by Barry Franklin and trained by Paul Fusco. In the other split Hechkoff' sent Pound Sterling to the front when the wings of the mobile gate folded and the veteran 8-year old Muscle Hill gelding put it on cruise control and made every pole a winning one en route to a 2-length victory in a time of 1:59.4. If I Must, driven by "Coach Paul” Minore, started in second place early but couldn't make up any ground and finished second. Third place went to Chas Hanover who was driven “Mighty Marianna” Monaco. With the season just getting started and lots of room to add events the next Billings trot will once again be at Yonkers Raceway on February 4. Anyone interested in joining the Billings Series can do so by contacting the series president Tony “the Capo” Verruso by calling 917-697-8985.   John Manzi

Dunnstown trainer/driver David Murphy knows a handy horse when he sees one and he's got a bit of time for a lightly-raced four-year-old who he rates a big chance at tonight's Tabcorp Park Melton meeting. Triple Zed is knocking on the door for his second career victory after back-to-back runner-up placings at Maryborough and Charlton. Both those runs have been tough performances up outside the leader, which are similar to his one and only win back in mid-October when he outstayed his rivals to score at in excess of $50. Murphy said there appeared to be plenty of upside with the son of Four Starzzz Shark, who was never tried as a two-year-old. "He's always had a bit of a hitch in his gate so he's taken a while to stregnthen up and handle himself at top speed," Murphy said. "He's still not there yet, but there's a hell of a lot of improvement in him. He has just turned four so he's 12 months off being a real mature horse. "He just gives the impression that he's the sort of horse that's a chance to go through his grades this year." Murphy said Triple Zed possessed a lot of gate speed but was susceptible to putting in a rough stride early, and planned to let him balance up from barrier four and then press forward to utilise his staying prowess. "I'll go on what he's telling me," Murphy said. "I have to kind of go 100m before I can push him a little bit - it's just straight off the arm he can put in a wobbly stride. "Once he's balanced, I'll be definitely going forward. I'll either be in front or outside the leader and that's the way he seems to go best. His last run was really, really good so he's probably my best for the night." Murphy will take the reins on Triple Zed in The Big Screen Company Pace (1720m), which is race six on tonight's card. MURPHY ON HIS OTHER RUNNERS THIS EVENING DNR Logistics Vicbred Pace: (R1 N7) IMAGE OF COURAGE (driven by Brent Murphy) "He's actually not going too bad. He's drawing wide all the time and once again he has drawn wide. He's taken a few runs to come up and from that draw it's going to be difficult. Place best." Benstud Standardbreds Pace: (R5 N3) ATEGO SHADES (driven by Brent Murphy) "He drops back in grade with his claim. The horse has had a terrific year. From a low rated horse, he won five races last season and is holding his form really good. It was a good second last start. He's drawn to probably try and get across to the rail first and then has the option to hold the front or hand up to something else. At this stage I'd be keen to lead on him and he's hard to get around. He's in good order." IRT Australia Trot (R7 N1): MEET MICHAELANGELO (driven by David Murphy) "He's really struck form of late. He was in a lull for a long time, but he's going terrific at the moment. His win at Terang was quite outstanding and he probably didn't feel as sharp the week after - it was only a six-day turnaround - but still ran a good race to a horse in form. He's up in grade, but he's definitely a good place chance from the barrier draw."   HRV - Tim O'Connor

Prevented from making a living, horse racing people in Ontario feel as though they’ve been kicked in the groin by the Ontario government, and then kneed in the face after the province allowed NHL hockey to start up this month. The horse racing crowd believes that what’s good for the goose should be good for the gander, the argument being that if NHL hockey is allowed to resume, horse racing should be as well — particularly given the remarkable record Woodbine Entertainment achieved in keeping the COVID-19 virus at bay at both Woodbine Racetrack during the 2020 thoroughbred season and at Woodbine Mohawk Park during the standardbred meet. However, despite the horse racing industry rising to the occasion in terms of protecting people from COVID-19, the Ontario government shut down thoroughbred racing three weeks early in December and cancelled the Mohawk winter standardbred schedule last month — throwing thousands of horse racing people out of work and creating major financial hardships for owners and trainers. Meanwhile, the NHL started the 2021 season just last week and already a number of games have been postponed after some players were put on the COVID-19 protocol list. Mike Tanev has a foot in both worlds. Two of his sons — Brandon and Chris — play in the NHL. He’s also a harness racing owner. The Scarborough resident totally supports the idea that if NHL hockey is allowed in Ontario, so should horse racing. Both professional sports bring in millions in revenue to the province and employ thousands of workers. But Tanev believes that it’s counter-productive for horse racing people to just sit back and whine that the NHL is getting preferential treatment. Instead of crying and pointing fingers, Tanev said horse racing should follow the example of the NHL and approach the province and ask exactly what is needed to get the green light to resume racing. Each Canadian NHL team negotiated with its respective provincial health ministry in order to get a deal to resume playing — including an offer to pay for COVID-19 testing. During the 2021 season, NHL players will undergo daily temperature checks, and they will self-administer them not more than two hours before entering their club’s facilities. Players and other club personnel were tested daily during training camp and will be for the first four weeks of the regular season. After that, the league will reevaluate to see whether clubs should test every other day. “We don’t have to whack the Ontario government over the head with the NHL,” Tanev said. “The province has allowed the NHL to play because the NHL has strict protocols in place, like player testing on a daily basis, which the teams are paying for. If horse racing followed the exact same protocols that the NHL is doing then there should be no reason that horse racing should be allowed. “I just don’t want to hear, ‘They’re playing, so we should be able to race,’ ” added Tanev, who is in the automobile sales business. “If we’re going to pay (for testing) out of our own money, the government has absolutely no reason to say no. And Woodbine Entertainment has absolutely no reason to say no to conducting testing because it would not be coming out of their bottom line.” Tanev said a fellow harness racing owner came up with a plan that would see the owners of the top five horses in each race pay out a percentage of the purse money to go towards testing. “(The NHL) opened the door for us. We need to step inside the door and run with the ball,” said Tanev, adding that he believes WE has to work harder — or at least amp on its lobbying efforts — to get racing back. WE CEO Jim Lawson has said that he has been in constant contact with government officials at both the provincial and federal levels, via social media. Lawson did conduct a media blitz recently demanding answers as to why the Ontario government has allowed one professional sport (NHL) to resume while shutting down another (horse racing). He is also encouraging everyone involved in horse racing to contact their local MPP’s. “My goal here is not to in any way damage the NHL; my goal is not to suggest that the lockdown in any way is not the right thing or important to do,” Lawson told Trot Insider. “My goal is really to say, ‘If you’re going to do this, let’s be fair and let’s consider the horse racing industry, where we have done things right.’ When you think of it, our track record is — first of all, it’s remarkable that we operated seven months at Mohawk without COVID, and that’s generally five nights a week. But secondly, when you think of hockey, they don’t have that track record at all. They operated in a bubble for the playoffs, and by its very nature — of the sport and by the travel that’s required the way it’s structured — it’s definitely more risky than what we’re proposing. “The National Hockey League has 30, 40 people per team flying across provinces, flying into hotels, travelling, going to restaurants and hotels. It’s pretty high-risk stuff,” Lawson continued. “As it relates to the actual play, the players are getting negative tests regularly, they’re testing all essential personnel, to which I say, ‘We’re prepared to do that. We’re prepared to get our drivers tested three or four times a week, or get our essential personnel tested. So, what’s the difference? Why are you giving preference to one sport?’ ” Lawson and Tanev both made the point that while the Ontario government has rightfully ruled that the caring for races horses is essential during the a lockdown, it makes no sense that racing is not. The people caring for the horses are the same people who are at the track when racing is happening. By Steve Buffery Reprinted with permission of The Toronto Sun

ASHINGTON, PA, Jan. 21, 2021 — Maewegonow, the only mare in the field, opened a daylight lead at the three-quarters and romped off to an easy victory in Thursday’s harness racing feature at The Meadows, an $11,000 Conditioned Trot. The 1-5 favorite gave her backers some anxious early moments as she was looped from the gate and needed the entire opening quarter to cross over. But the 7-year-old daughter of Deweycheatmnhowe-Maurismo still was much the best for Dan Rawlings, scoring in 1:55.2. Mystical Peter found late room to be second, 5 lengths back, with Oh So Pine third. Richard Perfido trains Maewegonow, who now boasts a lifetime bankroll of $416,509, for Win Rhythm Stables. Aaron Merriman collected four wins and Rawlings three — including a pair for Perfido and Win Rhythm — on the 13-race card. Live racing at The Meadows continues Friday when the 13-race program features a $1,143.20 carryover in the Pick 5 (race 8). First post is 12:45 PM. "Horsemen Helping Horsemen"   By Evan Pattak for The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association

After adding a "bag of five" to his expanding harness racing CV at this week's Mildura meeting, you'd think talented young Victorian reinsman Jack Laugher would be content to just enjoy the moment. But after an 800-kilometre round-trip from Bendigo and a 4.30 am finish to his Mildura mission, the single-minded Laugher was back feeding up and doing jog work early the next morning...and setting his sights on the next challenge, tomorrow night's Group One Ballarat Pacing Cup. "Yes, it was a pretty good night on Wednesday (at Mildura). You have your good runs and your bad runs in this game, and at the moment I'm having a good run, so I'm definitely enjoying that," Laugher said. "I knew I had a reasonable book of drives and three of my winners opened up at two dollars or less, I think, so I was just glad to be able to get the job done for them," he said. Laugher opened up his winning account at Mildura on White Star Village (Village Jolt - Priscilla Presley (Village Jasper) for young Mildura trainer Reece Moore. He then scored with Pembrook Charlie (Sportswriter - Pembrook Belle (Art Major) for Julie Douglas. He followed up with Maestro Bellini (Bettors Delight - Santuzza (Safely Kept) for the Kate Hargreaves stable, then continued his fine touch with Laser Major (Art Major - Virgin Goddess (Albert Albert) for Mildura trainer Rick Holmes in race 10. Laugher rounded off the "fab five" in the final race on the big 12-race fixture with Harry McKinnis (Shadyshark Hanover - Haryda Hanover (Armbro Operative) for another local trainer in Peter O'Brien. Jack Laugher back in the winner’s circle again (Photograph: Charli Masotti photography) It was a fitting high-point for Laugher who's launched impressively into the new season. Prior to his Mildura success, Laugher recorded seven wins (including three metropolitan victories), and 9 placings from 44 starters. He got 2021 off to a flier on January 2 winning with Better Be The Bomb at Melton (for Basil Dooley) then followed up the next day with a Group three win in the Central Victoria Championship with Krafty Bart (Emma Stewart). On January 4 he won at Maryborough (Fighting Fury for Emma Stewart); January 6 (Ferocious Son for Basil Dooley); January 8 (Rockasaki at Melton, Emma Stewart); January 9 (Torrid Saint at Bendigo for Julie Douglas; and January 15 (Execution Oro at Maryborough for Emma Stewart). In another career highlight, Laugher makes no secret he is thrilled to be partnering Better Be The Bomb in the Ballarat Cup. He's had four drives on the pacer for two wins and a second. "He's the best I've driven no doubt. He's a lovely horse and to get an opportunity to drive in a Group One race while I'm still a junior is a pretty special thing to me," he said. "It'll be a great just to be there and I think the horse will do his best. The race has changed complexion a little bit, with Hurricane Harley scratched. We will definitely need some luck somewhere, but we'll be doing our best." Laugher has already moved away from family in Tasmania to pursue his career, after following his dad Michael and his grandparents into the sport. "I wasn't really that interested until I was about 16. I was always going to be a mechanic, but about the same time I got offered an apprenticeship I'd already started with the horses and getting my trials licence so I was always going to go this way," he said. "Mum and Dad actually moved to Victoria when I was only little, then moved back home to look after my grandma, but dad still used to bring a team over to Victoria to campaign for a couple of months each year. "The last trip he did I came over with him and I just decided Victoria had more opportunities for me. Tassie is great, but you can usually only race twice a week there - here you can race twice a day sometimes. So I just thought if I wanted to make a living out of it, I had to move." Laugher demonstrates on a weekly basis he's willing to go almost anywhere for a drive in an effort to make the successful transition from concession to senior driving ranks. "I'm not really sure how long I have left on my claim, but it's not long, so I need to be getting those regular drives, and driving without a lift, otherwise when my claim runs out, it's going to be hard," he said. "It's nice that a lot of the ones I'm driving don't need a claim, so hopefully now that I've got a bit of a run going, I can keep it rolling." In the past COVID-extended season the youngster had 89 wins.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Tall Dark Stranger will go down in history as the winner of the 2020 Horse of the Year Award handed out by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. For the members of his ownership group, he might be remembered as the horse of a lifetime. Michelle and Al Crawford's Crawford Farms Racing, Marvin Katz, Judy and Buck Chaffee's Caviart Farms, and Howard Taylor shared ownership of Tall Dark Stranger throughout his harness racing career, which concluded last fall with 19 wins and two second-place finishes among 22 starts. He earned $2.02 million lifetime. As a 3-year-old, Tall Dark Stranger won 11 of 13 races and $1.30 million. He was harness racing's only millionaire in the COVID-19 impacted season and his triumphs included the Meadowlands Pace, North America Cup, Cane Pace, and Kentucky Sire Stakes final. He is the only horse to ever win the Metro Pace and a Breeders Crown as a 2-year-old and the Meadowlands Pace and North America Cup as a 3-year-old. Tall Dark Stranger established his career-best win time of 1:47.1 in a stakes-record Cane Pace performance at The Meadowlands last August. Only six 3-year-old pacers in history have gone faster. He also won twice in 1:47.2 last season, making him the only 3-year-old pacer in history with more than two victories in 1:47.2 or faster. One of the 1:47.2 triumphs came in the Meadowlands Pace, which he won in dramatic fashion, giving up the lead to Papi Rob Hanover in the stretch before fighting back to win by a neck. He became well known for fighting his rivals in the stretch and winning tight finishes -- six of his 11 victories at 3 came by a half-length or less. One of Tall Dark Stranger‘s 1:47.2 triumphs came in the Meadowlands Pace, which he won in dramatic fashion, giving up the lead to Papi Rob Hanover in the stretch before fighting back to win by a neck.     --Lisa photo. Even in defeat, Tall Dark Stranger gained admiration. His second-place finish in last year's Breeders Crown colt-and-gelding pace came after he set a stakes record with a :52.3 half and battled nearly the entire field as he came down the stretch. He held them all off except Sandbetweenmytoes, who rallied on the far outside to win in the final strides. "Many people think that may have been his greatest race, and I wouldn't argue with that," co-owner Katz said. "But there are a lot of memories. Winning the Metro as a 2-year-old, winning the North America Cup. His victory in the Meadowlands Pace was so dramatic and his performance in the Cane was beyond spectacular. "How do you pick one highlight? He had half-a-dozen races of a lifetime." Tall Dark Stranger is the seventh male pacer in history to receive a Dan Patch Award at age 2 and be named Horse of the Year at 3. The others were Somebeachsomewhere, Nihilator, Niatross, Albatross, Bret Hanover, and Torpid. A son of Bettor's Delight out of Dan Patch Award winner Precocious Beauty, Tall Dark Stranger was bred by Jim Avritt Sr. and sold for $330,000 as a yearling at the Lexington Selected Sale. He was trained by Nancy Takter and driven by Yannick Gingras. Tall Dark Stranger concluded his career last fall with 19 wins and two second-place finishes among 22 starts. He earned $2.02 million lifetime.     --New Image Media photo. Following is a compilation of comments by Tall Dark Stranger's owners, reflecting on the horse's career. Judy Chaffee: When he was a yearling, he looked the part. He was very impressive. I said to Buck at the sale, is there any such thing as being too perfect? He already looked like he owned the world, and he hadn't even sold yet. He came to know it himself. Al Crawford: Going into his first qualifier, Nancy said that he was a special colt. Then he was lights out in his qualifier, especially with his last quarter (:26.1). That's when we started to think, wow, maybe he is special. By the time he made his second or third start, you could see he had tremendous ability. Buck Chaffee: When you get into horseracing, you dream of, not even a Horse of the Year, but just a top horse. For that horse to go on and be so fantastic and end up being Horse of the Year is beyond our wildest dreams. It's like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. Howard Taylor: I'm hoping I do, but I'm expecting to never have another one like him. I've had a lot of good ones, but I've never had one like him. I've never seen a horse that just says, "I'm not losing." He's just an unbelievable horse. Michelle Crawford: I don't know if there is a horse that brought more excitement to every single race. That excitement of watching him in the stretch, almost every race, there's no other horse like him. I don't know if my heart could take another year of him racing on the track. (Laughs.) But he never gave up. It was unbelievable to watch. Buck Chaffee: His races were always tense; he just never let you relax. He wouldn't get out there and blow the field away, he was wanting to duke it out with them all the time. He made your heart skip a few beats, that's for sure. Howard Taylor: My cardiologist is very happy that he's retired. He didn't want to lose, but he sure as heck didn't want to win by much. I really think that he was toying with them. In the Meadowlands Pace, I was sure he was beaten. I was counting how many others were coming to see if we could still get a check. But then he just did what he always does. It was an unbelievable race. Al Crawford: That is probably one of my favorite races of all time. The other race that stands out is the North America Cup. He just destroyed them. They just weren't able to pace with him. Marvin Katz: You lose sight of the fact he had incredible high speed and could carry it for a very long distance, which is a trait of great champions. Of course, his courage and determination, that is the unique quality everyone looks for that separates the great ones from the rest of them. But he had everything. He was the whole package. Al Crawford: He did what he needed to do to win. He's a very smart horse. Yannick didn't just send him every week, he drove him intelligently, and the colt always got home. I think he was brilliantly fast, but he also had more heart and determination than any horse I've ever seen. Buck Chaffee: Just unbelievable character. Now we're hoping he passes that along to his offspring because we're breeding a lot of mares to him, as you could imagine. We're hoping for them to carry that on. Michelle Crawford: I think he will have every chance to produce any kind of champion. Marvin Katz: I think the market considers him one of the great horses we've seen in a long time. I certainly do. It's been a magical ride. I've been fortunate to enjoy great horses and you really appreciate their brilliance after you have a chance to reflect on it. When you look at what he accomplished, he's in the most elite company possible. I think he's a horse for the ages.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com

By Jonny Turner    Few would deny Spellbounds victory at Addington on Friday night following her brilliant run in defeat behind Laver in his sizzling 1.51.9 mile win at Nelson recently. The Robert Dunn trained four-year-old set the race’s hot speed before being caught in the shadows of the post to run second. Spellbound gets a chance to go one better when she and stablemate Need You Now step out in mares’ company over 1980m in race 8. Clearly fit and firing following her excellent last start effort, Spellbound shapes as the Dunn stable’s leading hope. “It was a great run from Spellbound at Nelson,” Robert Dunn said. “She is more forward than Need You Now, she has had to come down from Auckland.” “She might need the run, she hasn’t raced since last month.” “So, Spellbound on her run last week would be hard to roll, you would think.” Korbyn Newman takes the reins behind Spellbound from barrier 6 with John Dunn to drive Need You Now from gate 8. Classy at her best, Pres The Belle goes into race 7 well down on her best form. But Dunn and son John have been working hard to get the mare back to her best. She will race with anti-choke-device and it is hoped it can help her bounce back to form. “We have had quite a few problems with her,” Dunn said. “Johnny was happy with her work [on Thursday] so he is happy going into the race.” “So all going well she will take a step forward now.” “We have had a few problems with her and breathing is one of them and we have got it rectified.” “And since we have done that she is a much better mare. “ Ned Kelly comes into race 3 needing a change of fortunes after being desperately unlucky in his last start at Nelson. Luck was against the pacer again when he drew the outside of the second row of the mobile. However, that is far from the end of his chances. “He should have won at Nelson, he was travelling like a winner but he couldn’t get a run at all,” Dunn said. “But he has got a second line draw so that will be a little bit harder.” “He is still learning his craft, he will probably get back from the draw and get into it a bit later in the race.” “But he is improving all the time.” Korbyn Newman sticks with Ned Kelly after driving him to victory at Nelson two starts ago. The Player comes into race 9 for driver John Dunn after capping his ever-consistent form with a late closing win at Rangiora. Though he starts from the 20m backmark in his 2600m assignment the five-year-old is likely to produce yet another honest performance. “He is off a tougher mark off 20m,” Dunn said. “He is such an honest horse, his record is so good.” “He has only really been out of the money when he has copped interference or something has gone wrong.” Got You Covered also brings brilliantly consistent form into race 4. The three-year-old was just denied by Longview Lady in his last start at Ashburton after he dead-heated with Gilligan’s Island in the Motukarara Christmas Cup. “He is going great,” Dunn said. “He is not a leader, he never has been a leader and it was a sprint up the stretch at Ashburton.” “But his run over 2810m on the grass was really tough for a three-year-old.” “He dug in deep.” John Dunn takes the reins behind Got You Covered, who starts from barrier 4.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - What a difference a year makes. The first three Saturdays of 2020 were solid from a business perspective at The Meadowlands, as total harness racing wagering of $7.7 million averaged out to $2.569 million per card, resulting in an average per race of $183,523. Turn the page to 2021, and despite the COVID-19 pandemic's continued miserable grip on the globe, business at the industry's handle leader has been booming. Good as the numbers were during the first three Saturdays of a year ago, thus far this year has seen tremendous gains over the corresponding race cards. Betting reached $4,562,477 on Jan. 2, which represented the third-highest single-card handle - beaten only by Meadowlands Pace Night and Hambletonian Day - over the last 13 months. A total of $3,646,603 was put in play Jan. 9 while $3,458,896 was wagered on Jan. 16. Over the three-Saturday span, a total of $11,667,976 was pushed through the windows, an average per card of $3,889,325 for an average per race of $259,388. "That's an increase of almost $4 million when compared to our first three Saturdays of the year before," said Big M Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. "The average handle per race has increased over $65,000 and the pools are the largest we have seen on overnight racing in over a decade." Five of the Meadowlands' most popular wagers have seen average pools over the three Saturdays that are deep to say the least. The 20-cent Pick-5 has led the way by averaging $205,437. Rounding out the top five were the 50-cent Pick-4 ($99,858), Exacta ($74,125), Win-Place-Show ($63,370) and Trifecta ($53,730) bets. As usual, the track's Exacta wager continues to take the most total action. Over the last 45 races conducted on Saturdays, total Exacta play has exceeded $3.3 million. "The Meadowlands wagering menu offers horseplayers plenty of action all night long," said Settlemoir. "What an encouraging start for New Jersey racing when you see the size of our pools increase this much going up against the NFL Playoffs on Saturday nights. "We are certainly getting some new eyes on our product with our low take outs and low minimum wagers, especially now that we are offering free programs every night on our website. Low take outs equal greater payoffs, and that creates longer play. We try to create an exciting wagering format for the horseplayers and offering value for the customer is very important to us at The Meadowlands. It has been a major part of the equation to our early success in 2021." DAN PATCH AWARDS: Thanks to a cooperative effort that included The Meadowlands' TV team - both in front of and behind the camera - and The United States Harness Writers Association, the 2020 Dan Patch Awards were held before the racing card last Saturday via a virtual ceremony that was televised to every outlet that takes harness racing all over the world. The Big M's leading driver from 2020, Dexter Dunn, walked away with his second consecutive Driver of the Year trophy before going out and winning four races on the live card. As a result, Dunn will be named the track's Driver of the Week on Friday night during the nightly pre-game show. For those who would like to view the Dan Patch Awards Show, all you need to do is go to YouTube and search for "2020 Dan Patch Award Show." SOCIAL MEDIA STALWARTS: You can always check in with the team at The Meadowlands on Twitter. For early changes, racing information and staff selections, go to @themeadowlands or #playbigm. On race nights, stay in touch on Twitter with the Big M's Dave Brower (@eedoogie), Dave Little (@DaveLittleBigM), Ken Warkentin (@kenvoiceover), Shades Demsky (@shadesonracing) and Jessica Otten (@JessicaOtten1). THE SCHEDULE: Live racing at The Meadowlands takes place every Friday and Saturday evening. Post time is 6 p.m. The track's live "Racing from the Meadowlands" pre-game show begins at 5:27 p.m. This week, Otten will join Brower on set Friday night, while the team of Brower and Little will bring you the action on Saturday. CAN'T MAKE IT TO THE TRACK? There are several options for those who would rather catch the action from The Big M at home. Racing fans can watch all the races live on the Roberts Television Network (rtn.tv). In addition, they can watch and wager by going to the Television Games Network (tvg.com) or their favorite Advance-deposit Wagering site (ADW). CHECK OUT THE PICKS: For those who need to get a leg up on the action, go to playmeadowlands.com to see track oddsmaker and analyst Brower's selections and commentary. Click on the "handicapping" tab and go to "race reviews". Additionally, track announcer Warkentin's blog is available on the site and offers his picks and analysis. FREE FOR ALL: Thanks to an agreement between The Meadowlands and TrackMaster, past performances for every race of every Big M program are now available at no cost. To access the free PPs, go to playmeadowlands.com. GUARANTEES SURE TO PLEASE: As any seasoned horse player knows, there are no guarantees at the racetrack. But at The Meadowlands, there are. Each 50-cent Pick-4 (one gets underway in race six, the other in race 10) sports a $50,000 guaranteed pool, which leads to pools normally in the $75,000-$100,000 range when all the action is counted. AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR: The NFL Playoffs are down to the conference championship round, and for those who want to get action on the games, all they need to do is head for The Meadowlands' FanDuel Sportsbook. On Sunday (Jan. 24), the first game is the NFC title game, which is slated for 3:05 p.m. Six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to Green Bay to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (-3). The AFC Championship is the late game at 6:40 p.m. Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills will be in Kansas City to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs (-3). The big question: Will Patrick Mahomes be able to play? Hours for the track's FanDuel Sportsbook are from 10 a.m. - midnight Sunday through Friday and from 10 a.m. - 2 a.m. on Saturday. Meadowlands Media Relations  

MILTON, January 21, 2021 - Woodbine Entertainment today unveiled the tentative schedule for the 2021 harness racing stakes season at Woodbine Mohawk Park. More than $20 million in stakes races, including over $12 million in Woodbine administrated events, will be contested at Woodbine Mohawk Park in 2021. "While we continue to advocate for the safe return of live Standardbred Racing at Woodbine Mohawk Park, we are preparing for an exciting 2021 Standardbred meet," said Jim Lawson, CEO, Woodbine Entertainment. "With a proven track record and industry-leading health and safety protocols already in place, we are confident that when it is safe and permitted to resume horse racing at Woodbine Mohawk Park, we will be well positioned to restart the industry and the thousands of jobs it supports." Currently, horse racing (without spectators) is not permitted until at least February 10 in Ontario due to the COVID-19 pandemic and government restrictions. However, Woodbine Entertainment has published this 2021 stakes schedule (subject to the latest government restrictions) to provide horse people with the information required to prepare for the season. Typically kicking off in May, the 2021 Woodbine Mohawk Park stakes season is headlined by the million-dollar Pepsi North America Cup and Mohawk Million races. The 38th Pepsi North America Cup for three-year-old pacers will take place on Saturday, June 19 and is the headline event on a stacked Grand Circuit card of racing. The eliminations for the $1 million contest take place a week prior on Saturday, June 12. The Pepsi North America Cup card will also include the $450,000 Fan Hanover (three-year-old pacing fillies), $330,000 Roses Are Red (pacing mares), $250,000 Armbro Flight (trotting mares), $250,000 Goodtimes (three-year-old trotters) and $100,000 Mohawk Gold Cup (invitational pace). The second edition of the Mohawk Million is scheduled for Saturday, September 25. The $1 million race for two-year-old trotters continues to follow a "buy-in" format with nine slots available for purchase. Each slot available for purchase in the Mohawk Million is priced at $100,000 (CAD). The tenth and final slot will be awarded to the winner of the $610,000 William Wellwood Memorial on Saturday, September 11. The deadline to purchase a slot is February 15, 2021. The Mohawk Million card on September 25 is scheduled to be the richest card of the season. The lineup for the night also includes the prestigious $850,000 Metro Pace (two-year-old pacers), $540,000 Shes A Great Lady (two-year-old pacing fillies) and $250,000 Milton (pacing mares). The month of September is loaded with rich stakes events each Saturday, starting with the $600,000 Canadian Pacing Derby and $600,000 Maple Leaf Trot on September 4 and closing with Mohawk Million night on September 25. The $610,000 Wellwood Memorial (two-year-old trotters) and $400,000 Peaceful Way (two-year-old trotting fillies) take place on September 11, while the $600,000 Canadian Trotting Classic (three-year-old trotters) and $375,000 Elegantimage (three-year-old trotting fillies) are scheduled for September 18. The traditional Champlain and Simcoe Stakes are sprinkled throughout the end of August and early September. Other notable Grand Circuit races include the Somebeachsomewhere (three-year-old pacers) on Saturday, June 5, Nassagaweya (two-year-old pacers) and Eternal Camnation (two-year-old pacing fillies) on Saturday, August 28, and Casual Breeze (three-year-old trotting fillies) on Friday, September 3. Woodbine Mohawk Park will also host a leg of the Miss Versatility (trotting mares) on Friday, May 28, and Graduate Series (four-year-olds) on Saturday, June 5. Both events are administrated by The Meadowlands. The Ontario Sires Stakes Super Finals and Grassroots Championships will again be held at Woodbine Mohawk Park in 2021. Final dates for the Ontario Sires Stakes season will be released at a later date. Nominations for all Woodbine Standardbred Stakes close on Monday, February 15. Conditions and payment details can be found in the 2021 Woodbine Stakes Booklet. Woodbine continues to administrate stakes for Ontario Racetracks in 2021, including Grand River Raceway, Flamboro Downs, Clinton Raceway and Hanover Raceway. Stakes payments for all Woodbine administrated events can be made payable to Woodbine Entertainment. Payments can be made through the Race Office, by mail or online. The entire 2021 stakes schedule for Woodbine Mohawk Park is available here. Mark McKelvie

Champion trainer Barry Purdon is preferring to look forward rather than backwards with Mach Shard. Which is partially because he has no idea what to make of the former Inter Dominion Final runner-up’s dreadful failure at Cambridge last start. Mach Shard heads to the main pace at Alexandra Park tonight off the back of a career worst run when he sat in the trail behind Copy That in the Flying Mile but still dropped out to run last. “It was a shocker,” admits Purdon. “To sit where he did and finish that far behind them was poor from him and to be honest we have no idea why. “I was happy with him three starts ago when he ran second and then again in the Auckland Cup when he ran on well for sixth after being checked at the 400m. “But last start was a total mystery. His work has been really good since so it is just one of those runs you are better off turning the page on.” If punters can do that then they must give Mach Shard a chance in the main pace tonight because at his best he is up to winning this, with the obvious dangers on Triple Eight and Matt Damon. As is so often the case in small field sprint races at Alexandra Park the start and early tactics will be crucial because if one of the favourites gets the lead horses like Mach Shard and Triple Eight are not known as attackers so it may be a case of who dares wins. Matt Damon’s draw may give him the best hope of heading forward and controlling the race and he has been excellent in both his northern starts so may be the horse to beat. Purdon and training partner Scott Phelan have a strong hand throughout tonight’s programme including a representative in both juvenile races as the two-year-olds make a later than usual start to the season. They have expensive sales purchase Major Perry (R7, No.6) in the boy’s juvenile and homebred filly Artisan (R9, No.3) in the girls race and both look chances on recent trials form. “We like them both and while it is hard to tell with early season juveniles because you don’t know the opposition that well they should both be close up.” Purdon suggests Raven Banner (R4, No.7) will be one of the stable’s hardest to beat tonight after some brave performances in better fields at the Cup carnival that ended 2020 at Alexandra Park while Bettor Listen (R2, No.11) will win a maiden one day but faces a second line draw in a decent field tonight. Tonight’s meeting presents some interesting puzzles for punters, with many of the true Alexandra Park horses having not raced for three weeks, the unknown elements of the debutante juveniles and a couple of 2200m standing start handicap trots.   By Michael Guerin

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk   South Auckland horseman Zachary Butcher is excited to have his favourite owner trackside at Alexandra Park on Friday night, his Nana. Colleen Butcher will be making the trek north to watch Zarias, who she races with her late husband John’s estate, make his debut in the SBSR Diamond Creek 2YO Prelude 10 Apr Mobile Pace (2200m). The three-year-old son of Changeover has been faultless in this three trials to date and Butcher is hoping he can transfer that winning form to raceday. “It’s pretty exciting, Nan own’s him and he’s in Pop’s estate,” Butcher said. “It would be nice to get a win for Nana. I am pretty sure she is coming up to the races to watch him go around. “It will be good for her to get to the track and even better when she has got one going around in her name. It will be a big thrill if we can get him home over the line first.” Zarias hails from the breed established by John Butcher, which Zachary Butcher said adds even more sentimentality to the horse. “He’s out of Pops breed so he is a bit of the golden child of the horses,” he said. “It’s been a while since Pop’s breed produced a nice one, so it’s always exciting when the old breed comes back and they can get one going around.” Butcher has been pleased with what Zarias has shown in his trials and he is confident of a solid debut despite drawing barrier seven. “He is trialling up well, has a bit of speed and ability,” Butcher said. “He gives me the impression that he should be right there in the maiden field. “The draw doesn’t help a lot, but in saying that I don’t see a lot of gate speed inside of him and the way he has been getting off at the trials he should be able to land handy enough early.” Butcher will also line-up the only other member of his team, Call Me Trouble, in the SBSR Follow Us On Facebook & Harnesslink Handicap Trot (2200m). The son of Superfast Stuart will be vying to make it three wins on-end and Butcher said if he does everything right he is a chance of doing so. “It is a bit of a step up. There are some nice enough trotters in there that have been going some nice races,” Butcher said. “He has got the ability, but in the same breath he is going to have to do everything right. He will be there at the finish if he does.” Last start at Cambridge, Call Me Trouble broke at the start from the mobile and Butcher believes a return to a standing start will assist his charge. “The start before he stepped away from the stand no problem, so starting off the mobile may have lit him up a wee bit and Andrew (Drake, driver) said he was probably a bit too keen. Back to a stand he will be a lot more relaxed.” Butcher also has a handful of other drives but has highlighted Raven Banner in the SBSR Diamond Creek 2YO GRP 2 Classic Sun May 2 Mobile Pace (2200m) as his best chance. “Raven Banner has been racing well,” he said. “He did a few things wrong last time up the home straight, but to me he felt like when I lined up at the 200m mark he was going to go straight on by them and win it for fun. “He is in a small field and if he sits near enough to them he has got enough speed to go past those horses.”

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