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With the declining number of horses being bred, better utilising the available pool of racing stock will be crucial to maintaining the code’s racing numbers. While funding and stakes will be important factors in this, handicapping and programming will be equally crucial. Racing “like with like” and creating equal opportunities across the horse population are two underlying principles that the Handicapping Sub-Committee consider in reviewing the current system. Over the last six weeks, there have been two Handicapping Sub-Committee meetings where it has been clearly apparent that there is no such thing as a perfect Handicapping system. The system is developed and continually monitored by the Handicapping Sub-Committee, who make recommendations thereon to the Board. Current Handicapping Sub-Committee members are: Rob Lawson (Chair), Allan Brown, Ken Barron, John Green, Brian Rabbitt, Kevin Smith, Jason Broad and Andrew Morris. This is a group of experienced racing people with a broad knowledge of the industry. As an industry we can have confidence that good strategic and analytical thought (with plenty of robust discussion) is applied to consider solutions that are best for the overall industry. From its recent meetings, the Sub-Committee has come to the conclusion that with the changing nature of our industry dynamics, the current system was not catering to the horse population as well as possible, particularly in creating opprtunities for horses at the the lower end of the system. The Sub-Committee believes there is an appetite for change in the industry and that there is merit in trialling a points system in the North Island, prior to a possible national application at a later date. Accordingly from 1 August 2016, a points-based handicpping system will be trialled for at least three months in the North Island. While the finer details for this are currently being finalised, the draft details of this as developed by the Sub-Committee on 3 June are as follows: Proposed Guidelines and Principles: • All horses start with a rating of 50 points • Lowest possible rating is 35 points • Maximum possible rating is 130 points • Winners of races < $9K will receive 8 points • Winners of races >= $9K will receive 10 points  • Winners of premier races ($20K minimum) will receive between 10 - 12 points  • Winners of Group/Listed races will receive between 10-15 points  • Handicapper discretion to vary any winner’s points allocation • Placed (2nd, 3rd, 4th) horses receive 0 points - though discretion for Handicapper to vary rating up or down if warranted  • Unplaced horses (5th to last) will lose at least 1 point  • Handicapper discretion to decrease losing horses up to 3 points if warranted • Winners of junior or invited drivers races receive half points - minimum of 4 points • A horse can win one such drivers’ race in its career at half points • 2YO’s racing their own age group in races up to $15K receive half points - minimum of 4 points • 2YO’s will still be eligible for this concession if nominated for a 2YO race and transferred to another race • 3YO’s will receive half points for every second win in races for stakes under $15K - minimum of 4 points • Fillies and Mares racing their own sex in races up to $15K receive half points - minimum of 4 points • Claimers racing in Claimers only races receive no points - up or down • Claimers can start in any race within their own rating band if in the conditions of the said race • Special drivers’ series races (World Drivers Championship) can be exempt for points at HRNZ Board discretion • Any owner/trainer unhappy with the Handicapper’s points allocation following a race can appeal in writing to HRNZ’s Chief Executive who will co-ordinate a review by the Northern Handicapping Review Group (Rob Lawson, John Green, Darrin Williams) Reassessment of the Current Horse Population: • All non-exported horses that have raced in the North Island in the 2015/16 season will be reassessed by the end of June 2016 • To be undertaken by Andrew Morris and Kevin Smith - peer reviewed by the Northern Handicapping Review Group as per above • Horses given a points rating from their last win or reassessment - equating C0 with 50 points, C1 with 58 points, C2 with 66 points, C3 with 74 points, C4 with 82 points and so on • Any South Island horse looking to travel to North Island can contact HRNZ at any time to get their assessed points rating • List of all horses’ points to be maintained on HRNZ website - pending full development (automation) within HRNZ Infohorse system • During North Island trial, HRNZ Infohorse will effectively maintain concurrently horses’ assessments per the current Handicapping system HRNZ System Changes HRNZ staff are working through how it will service this from an administration perspective. Any changes to the Handicapping system require significant computer coding and testing that will take time. HRNZ will however implement the best “band aid” solutions it can cobble together in a very short timeframe to service the system changes for the trial. While these will not be perfect, the advantages and desire to trial this as soon as possible in the North Island were compelling. Non-integrated spreadsheets and other less automated processes will be utilised during this time. With the lesser pool of horses in the North Island HRNZ will be able to do this, whereas for a wider national application full integration into the Infohorse systems will be required. While the trial is being conducted, HRNZ will need to maintain details for the current system concurrently within its database. The patience, support and help of industry participants as HRNZ goes through this process would be appreciated. It won’t be perfect however HRNZ is confident that with the best IT staff and systems in the industry, it will get there and workable solutions will be implemented. The Sub-Committee felt the merits of undertaking the trial despite these shortcomings were worthwhile and from preliminary consultation with horsemen in the region to date, they have fully supported this change. More information will be released to the industry as the detail around this trial is developed, including further consultation with industry participants. HRNZ

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ (June 1, 2016) - In its continuing effort to attract younger harness racing fans to the racetrack and engage them in playing the races, the Meadowlands Racetrack is offering a free handicapping contest exclusively for fans age 30 and under. The contest will take place Friday, June 3 and offers a $5,000 total prize pool, sponsored by Jeff and Paula Gural's Allerage Farms. Last year's inaugural 30-and-under contest featured a field of 52 competitors. "It is essential that we reach out to a younger audience in the harness racing industry," said Meadowlands Chairman Jeff Gural. "The average age of our customers as a whole continues to grow older. That is a big problem. At The Meadowlands we are in the unique position of attracting a younger audience with many of the amenities we offer including our rooftop terrace, Victory Sports Bar, and our full schedule of special events." Fans may register up until 7:00 p.m. on the night of the contest. There is no entry fee. The contest format requires players to make a mythical $2 "across the board" wager on one horse in races 2 - 11 at the Meadowlands. The winner is determined by the player that amasses the largest mythical bankroll from their selections. All contest participants will also be treated to free hot dogs, hamburgers and other grill items plus soft drinks and water on Victory Terrace, the popular rooftop area at the Meadowlands. Complete contest rules and information can be found by visiting www.playmeadowlands.com. Justin Horowitz

New Zealand harness racing’s handicapping system looks set to be in for an overhaul. Following on a from a meeting of the Harness Racing New Zealand Handicapping Sub-Committee last month, the wheels have been set in motion for a new look system to be further developed and potentially introduced in the near future. The committee found it was in full support of the development, and further review of a points based handicapping system, a decision which is certain to be welcomed across the industry. The committee was also supportive that change is required and that there was a strong appetite for such a change within the wider harness racing industry. With a declining horse population across the board, the committee felt that a points based system may be the best way to counteract the issue and to make better use of the current pool of horses available. After calling for submissions from clubs and kindred bodies around the country, the Sub-Committee met on April 28 to decide its next move and after strong discussions it was decided that the preferred points based model should be further developed and then considered at the next meeting in June. That will be analysed with a view to a possible trial in the northern region in the new season, if supported. This may result in national implementation at a later date, following dull industry consultation and amendment of Harness Racing New Zealand computer systems to accommodate the agreed chances. HRNZ

Post Time with Mike and Mike presented by Bet America will be giving away one free entry into the Bet America Harness Racing Handicapping Contest on it's show coming up Thursday Night at 7:00 PM.   The Handicapping contest has a guaranteed pool of $10,000, and is limited to 100 entrants.   It will take place on Saturday Night, May 7th, 2016.   To be eligible for the free entry, visit posttimewithmikeandmike,com, and click on contest information.   You have until Thursday, May 5th, at 6:00 PM Eastern to register for the free entry.   For more information on the Handicapping contest itself, visit https://www.betamerica.com/extra/handicapping-contests/10000-harness-game/      

Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment is pleased to announce the hiring of veteran racing journalist Dave Little as the harness racing track's new morning-line oddsmaker and track handicapper. Little comes to the Meadowlands with four decades of experience as a racing writer, announcer, and handicapper, most recently working as the racing editor at The New York Daily News. Little's main responsibility will be to create the track's morning-line odds and write the handicapping comments that appear in the racing program and on the Meadowlands website. Little will also appear on the Meadowlands television broadcast and fill in as the on-site host on TVG Network in addition to writing news releases and features for the media relations staff. "I enjoyed my many years in the newspaper industry, but was looking for a change," said Little. "To get the chance to work at the Meadowlands, and take on the challenge that comes with morning-line odds making, is something I am looking forward to." "Adding a talent at the Meadowlands the likes of Dave Little is a huge benefit," said Meadowlands CEO/GM Jason M. Settlemoir. "Dave has been around harness racing forever and adding his level of expertise will only enhance our already strong racing product. Little will begin making the morning line and writing the handicapping comments for this weekend's racing programs. Live racing takes place Friday and Saturday nights with a 7:15 p.m. post time. For more information, visit www.playmeadowlands.com. Justin Horowitz

December 1, 2015 - The marathon we lovingly call the 2015 HANA Harness Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge has concluded with Sally Hinckley running away with the title, finishing 570 points ahead of her nearest competitor. We graciously thank the Bellino Stables, DRF Harness, Green Acquisition Corporation, Hambletonian Society, Isle of Capri Pompano Park, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs for being Gold Sponsors of this event. This year's Grand Circuit journey started on April 24th at The Meadows and concluded Monday November 30th at Dover Downs. It was fitting that Wiggle It Jiggleit won the finale in the same dominating way that Sally Hinckley dominated the HANA tour! Once they were out of the gate and settled down they both moved to the front and were never headed again. The HANA Harness Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge was no pushover of a race. The field consisted of many of the top handicappers and movers and shakers in the harness racing world. Sally's credentials are very strong as she is a well-known horsewoman from Maine. She is a member and the Secretary of the Maine Harness Racing Promotional Board. Many of you have seen her work without realizing it. Sally out started as Lady Lewiston in the Lewiston Sun Journal. Sally has also been the regular line maker at Scarborough Downs for quite some time. More importantly, for our cause, areArmbro Brando and Stelerbraration. Both of these retired gladiators make their forever home with Sally and her family. Thank you Sally! When contacted about her win Sally was very gracious and first wanted to thank contest coordinator Allan Schott and the whole group of top North American Handicappers who made the whole event so much fun. When asked about her strategy in the new format she talked about trying get a high win rate for the multiplier while also looking for a good longshot or two each week. Sally explained how it clicked for her. "While stuck in the middle of pack, my choice of Annedrovette at 36-1 propelled me to a top position. Then began a strategy of defense. Trying to minimize other players gain by having many of the same picks, but mostly I lived by the old adage that 'the race isn't always to the swiftest but that's the way to bet it.' I also got on some great bandwagons, for instance Divine Caroline. I was very glad to find the wire because any of the other players could have a huge night at any time!" Regarding our cause, Sally went on to say, "All the rescue groups are worthy and it is a special pleasure to bring the win home to the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals, Their efforts help the abused and neglected horses who have been seized by the state to find safety and comfort at their facility. Many thanks to the generous sponsors, Allan Schott for his work and expertise in running this contest the past seven months and my fellow handicappers who are now my friends." For winning the handicapping challenge, Hinckley's selected rescue, the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals, an organization dedicated to equine welfare, will receive $2,950 for use towards their Standardbred program thanks to all our sponsors the Bellino Stables, DRF Harness, Green Acquisition Corporation, Hambletonian Society, Harness Racing Update, Isle of Capri at Pompano Park, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, Scioto Downs, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs. In addition to this donation, $500 will be donated to Canadian rescues by our Canadian partners, Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at Charlottetown Driving Park and Western Fair Raceway. A $200 donation was made by an anonymous sponsor. Second place finisher, Dennis O’Hara, will see his rescue, Standardbred Retirement Foundation receive a donation of $1,575.  Third place finisher Anne Stepien will see her rescue, Heading for Home  earn approximately $675 for her efforts. Standings as of November 30, 2015 - Leg 65 Final Standings Pos Handicapper Total Points Prior Week Points Earned This Week Overall Total Points Position Last Week Points Back 1st Sally Hinckley 5,048.60 12.70 5,061.30 1st             -   2nd Dennis O'Hara 4,481.00 10.10 4,491.10 2nd       570.20 3rd Anne Stepien 4,343.30 4.30 4,347.60 3rd       713.70 4th Gordon Waterstone 4,238.70 10.10 4,248.80 4th       812.50 5th Mark McKelvie 4,228.80 0.00 4,228.80 5th       832.50 6th Josi Verlingieri 4,107.50 4.30 4,111.80 6th       949.50 7th Rusty Nash 3,874.50 5.80 3,880.30 7th    1,181.00 8th Derick Giwner 3,770.00 10.10 3,780.10 9th    1,281.20 9th Bob Zanakis 3,753.10 0.00 3,753.10 8th    1,308.20 10th Earl Paulson 3,658.20 8.40 3,666.60 10th    1,394.70 11th Bryan Owen 3,553.20 0.00 3,553.20 11th    1,508.10 12th Mark Dezii 3,408.90 3.00 3,411.90 12th    1,649.40 13th Jay Hochstetler 3,390.40 0.00 3,390.40 13th    1,670.90 14th Ray Garnett 3,214.90 5.80 3,220.70 14th    1,840.60 15th Garnet Barnsdale 2,690.50 0.00 2,690.50 15th    2,370.80 16th Michael Carter 2,676.90 3.00 2,679.90 16th    2,381.40 17th Ray Cotolo 2,128.70 4.30 2,133.00 17th    2,928.30 18th Brandon Valvo 1,936.00 4.30 1,940.30 18th    3,121.00 19th Mark Deutsch 1,197.10 0.00 1,197.10 19th    3,864.20 HANA Harness thanks all of our generous sponsors who allow this handicapping contest to be an annual event since 2012.  Plans are already underway for next year’s competition.  Anyone connected with the Standardbred industry who may be interested in sponsorship of next year’s event may contactallan@hanaweb.org for information. by Rusty Nash for HANA Harness

November 10, 2015 - The first week of the Matron from Dover and the American National at Balmoral are in the books for the 2015 HANA Harness Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge presented by the Bellino Stables, DRF Harness, Green Acquisition Corporation, Hambletonian Society, Isle of Capri Pompano Park, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs. The HANA handicappers had two opportunities to catch contest leader Sally Hinckley with plenty of action on both nights. On Thursday evening the results were not kind to those trailing the top tier. The results were all chalk or missed longshot plays. Mark Dezii and Gordon Waterstone had the best chalk boards with three winners each for 83 and 68 points respectively. Bob Zanakis, JoniJose Verlingieri, and Dennis O'Hara completed the nightly pentafecta with scores in the forties. Everyone else was licking their wounds. Saturday evening at Balmoral Sally Hinckley, Dennis O'Hara and Jay Hochstetler each picked six of seven winning favorites. The tie breaker went to our cast's "leading lady" Sally Hinckley (237) when her seventh horse, Bright Baby Blues, finished second (237) and Dennis and Jay's horse, Muscle Baby Doll, finished third. Mark Dezii and yours truly finish fourth and fifth when the prices we took shot a with missed. Dennis O'Hara had the best two day total of 275 points. He won the photo over Sally Hinckley's 259.5 and Jay Hochstetler at 259.30. Mark Dezii was a close fourth with 237 and yours truly was a well beaten fifth at 168. Sally Hinckley not only retains her lead but let it out a notch or two and extended her advantage to almost 400 points. Dennis O'Hara and Mark McKelvie swapped positions with Dennis taking second and Mark slipping to fourth. Anne Stepien retained her third place spot and Gordon Waterstone kept a solid fifth position as Rusty Nash was again not able to apply any pressure.   Standings as of November 7, 2015 - Leg 58 Pos Handicapper Total Points Prior Week Points Earned This Week Overall Total Points Position Last Week Points Back 1st Sally Hinckley 4,417.20 259.50 4,676.70 1st             -   2nd Dennis O'Hara  4,029.60 275.80 4,305.40 4th       371.30 3rd Anne Stepien 4,071.30 110.50 4,181.80 3rd       494.90 4th Mark McKelvie 4,108.50 28.70 4,137.20 2nd       539.50 5th Gordon Waterstone 3,903.40 166.00 4,069.40 5th       607.30 6th Rusty Nash 3,565.30 168.00 3,733.30 6th       943.40 7th Josi Verlingieri 3,474.60 150.60 3,625.20 8th    1,051.50 8th Bob Zanakis 3,505.50 108.90 3,614.40 7th    1,062.30 9th Derick Giwner 3,454.10 91.70 3,545.80 9th    1,130.90 10th Bryan Owen 3,445.60 44.50 3,490.10 10th    1,186.60 11th Earl Paulson 3,299.80 138.60 3,438.40 11th    1,238.30 12th Jay Hochstetler  2,977.10 259.30 3,236.40 13th    1,440.30 13th Ray Garnett 3,016.50 69.30 3,085.80 12th    1,590.90 14th Mark Dezii 2,538.10 237.50 2,775.60 16th    1,901.10 15th Garnet Barnsdale 2,687.30 3.20 2,690.50 14th    1,986.20 16th Michael Carter  2,676.90 0.00 2,676.90 15th    1,999.80 17th Ray Cotolo 2,033.70 95.00 2,128.70 17th    2,548.00 18th Brandon Valvo 1,834.40 21.10 1,855.50 18th    2,821.20 19th Mark Deutsch 1,197.10 0.00 1,197.10 19th    3,479.60 The HANA handicappers will be back in action with three exciting days of competition this coming week.  We are back at Dover for the Matron on Thursday.  A total of six HANA legs to be raced.  That is followed with both Friday and Saturday evening action at The New Meadowlands.  There are two eliminations of the TVG Open Mares on Friday and TVG FFA on Saturday. by Rusty Nash for HANA Harness

September 28, 2015 – The Little Brown Jug Week results are now in for the 2015 HANA Harness Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge presented by the Bellino Stables, DRF Harness, Green Acquisition Corporation, Hambletonian Society, Isle of Capri Pompano Park, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs. The week kicked off with two days of great fair racing from Delaware Ohio.  Day one featured the Jugette and day two was the Little Brown Jug. Ray Cotolo jumped out to the early lead selecting two winners on Wednesday.  He scored with Bettor N Better and Classical Anne for 87 HANA points.  Ray was the only handicapper to select two winners on a day where the front end was collapsing for most of the day.  Ray Garnett was a solid second when he landed Speak To Me for 43 HANA points.  The $29 win price was the best of the day.  Mark McKelvie earned third without a winner.  That is certainly a rarity but the 19 HANA points earned when Bedroomconfessions and Smexi both finished second stood up to be third best on the day. On Little Brown Jug day we had four handicappers successfully select three winners.  Gordon Waterstone and Earl “Super Computer” Paulson each won with French Laundry, Lost For Words and Wiggle It Jiggleit.  They also ran second with Classic Martine to earn a top score of 76 HANA points.  Dennis O’Hara clicked with the same three winners.  Dennis had Rocking With Dewey in the fourth race to collect show money and earn 73 HANA points.  Coming off a strong performance last week, the voice of Buffalo Raceway Michael Carter was a very close fourth with the same three winners but missed in the final tie breaker race.  With eight races down and seven to go after a day off, Ray Cotolo had elbowed his way to the front in our weekly friendly competition. After a needed day off all the handicappers reassembled to battle it out in six races from Hoosier plus the Milton from Mohawk.  Anne Stepien earned the win and the honors as the only one to select 4 winners.  There were two races on the evening where only two handicappers came up with the winner.  In both cases Anne was one of those two.  First was Anne’s selecting Sunset Glider to win the Kentucky Stallion Management 2 year old filly trot with Sunset Glider.  Anne followed that up with American Passport in The Elevation 2yoCG pace.  Anne’s four winners earned her 219 HANA points on the evening and propelled her to the nightly win by more than 100 points! The top five handicappers were all able to hold onto their positions this week.  Sally Hinckley still has her two hundred plus point lead over Mark McKelvie.  Anne Stepien remains third but she is much closer now to both Mark and Sally.  Bob Zanakis and Earl Paulson were not put under any pressure this week and retained their fourth and fifth place positions. Standings as of September 26, 2015 - Leg 43     Total Points Points Earned Overall Position   Pos Handicapper Prior Week This Week Total Points Last Week Points Back 1st Sally Hinckley 3,019.10 139.30 3,158.40 1st   2nd Mark McKelvie 2,796.20 131.40 2,927.60 2nd 230.8 3rd Anne Stepien 2,529.10 256.10 2,785.20 3rd 373.2 4th Bob Zanakis 2,418.10 50.80 2,468.90 4th 689.5 5th Earl Paulson 2,293.70 119.80 2,413.50 5th 744.9 6th Gordon Waterstone 2,285.20 107.80 2,393.00 6th 765.4 7th Dennis O'Hara  2,130.00 134.20 2,264.20 7th 894.2 8th Josi Verlingieri 1,975.50 114.60 2,090.10 10th 1,068.3 9th Bryan Owen 2,018.50 64.90 2,083.40 8th 1,075.0 10th Rusty Nash 1,997.40 67.70 2,065.10 9th 1,093.3 11th Michael Carter  1,818.10 78.50 1,896.60 11th 1,261.8 12th Derick Giwner 1,671.00 152.10 1,823.10 13th 1,335.3 13th Ray Garnett 1,678.30 100.20 1,778.50 12th 1,379.9 14th Mark Dezii 1,665.40 109.40 1,774.80 14th 1,383.6 15th Garnet Barnsdale 1,657.30 51.80 1,709.10 15th 1,449.3 16th Jay Hochstetler  1,542.40 62.30 1,604.70 16th 1,553.7 17th Ray Cotolo 1,207.50 134.70 1,342.20 18th 1,816.2 18th Brandon Valvo 1,261.20 38.00 1,299.20 17th 1,859.2 19th Mark Deutsch 819.20 91.50 910.70 19th 2,247.7     With Jug week over we turn to the anticipated final two weeks of action from The Red Mile.  Wednesday through Saturday will hold eight different sets of Bluegrass divisions.  In addition we will also be making a rare but enjoyable visit to Dayton Raceway for the Dayton Pacing Derby and the Dayton Trotting Derby.  by Rusty Nash for HANA Harness

September 22, 2015 - Mark McKelvie picked up some ground on Sally Hinckley this week in the 2015 HANA Harness Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge presented by the Bellino Stables, DRF Harness, Green Acquisition Corporation, Hambletonian Society, Isle of Capri Pompano Park, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs. The week opened at The Meadows where the Nadia Lobell was won by Safe From Terror. Mark Deutsch was able to select the winner and he took the daily honors with 22.8 points. We needed the decimal point because Bryan Owen just missed with longshot The Show Returns. The place and show prices returned 22.6 points. One fifth of a point separated the early weekly leaders. Divine Caroline finished third and that caused a four way dead heat for the show spot between Sally Hinckley, Anne Stepien, Derick Giwner and Ray Cotolo. Saturday evening the HANA Grand Circuit Handicapping team visited Mohawk for another big night of racing. On this evening we witnessed perfection! There is a good reason that Mark McKelvie has been positioned near the top of the standing for so long. He correctly selected all five winners! Mark scored with Southwind Frank, Caprice Hill, Bee A Magician, Mission Brief and Pinkman. The 5X multiplier earned Mark all 196 points that were available. Three other handicappers had four winners each. They each had a different combination of winners and earned different scores. The place honors went to Buffalo's own Michael "Horsy Boy" Carter with 122 points. Bee A Magician was the key to his second place finish. Josi Verlingieri took the show spot with 114 points and Earl Paulson was fourth with 109 points. The final accent on this racing week was the Bobby Quillen Memorial at Harrington Raceway where Foiled Again was the featured headliner. Mach It So edged by him at the top of the lane and while the old boy fought back with everything he had Mach It So held on for the short neck win. Mach It So, off at 8-1, returned 25 HANA contest points for a quartet of very sharp handicappers. Successfully beating the chalk were Ray Garnett, Jay Hochstetler, Earl Paulson and Anne Stepien. The rest of the HANA handicappers were grateful that there was no bonus multiplier available with the $18 winner! Mark McKelvie easily took the weekly honors with a total of 198 points. Earl Paulson was second best with 135 and Michael Carter was third with 124. Rounding out the super and the penta were Josi Verlingieri and Bryan Owen. There was one change to the overall contest pentafecta.  With Mach It So winning the Quillen, Earl Paulson just edged out Gordon Waterstone for the fifth spot by a mere 8.5 points.  Sally Hinckley continues to lead with Mark McKelvie slowly closing the gap.  Ann Stepien remains in third and Bob Zanakis maintained his fourth place position.  Things are sure to change next week with more than a dozen races lined up. Standings as of September 21, 2015 - Leg 41     Total Points Points Earned Overall Position   Pos Handicapper Prior Week This Week Total Points Last Week Points Back 1st Sally Hinckley 2,982.80 36.30 3,019.10 1st   2nd Mark McKelvie 2,598.10 198.10 2,796.20 2nd 222.9 3rd Anne Stepien 2,440.90 88.20 2,529.10 3rd 490.0 4th Bob Zanakis 2,354.30 63.80 2,418.10 4th 601.0 5th Earl Paulson 2,158.70 135.00 2,293.70 6th 725.4 6th Gordon Waterstone 2,218.40 66.80 2,285.20 5th 733.9 7th Dennis O'Hara 2,068.30 61.70 2,130.00 7th 889.1 8th Bryan Owen 1,929.40 89.10 2,018.50 9th 1,000.6 9th Rusty Nash 1,938.60 58.80 1,997.40 8th 1,021.7 10th Josi Verlingieri 1,860.90 114.60 1,975.50 10th 1,043.6 11th Michael Carter 1,693.20 124.90 1,818.10 11th 1,201.0 12th Ray Garnett 1,644.90 33.40 1,678.30 13th 1,340.8 13th Derick Giwner 1,604.00 67.00 1,671.00 14th 1,348.1 14th Mark Dezii 1,597.60 67.80 1,665.40 15th 1,353.7 15th Garnet Barnsdale 1,651.60 5.70 1,657.30 12th 1,361.8 16th Jay Hochstetler 1,517.00 25.40 1,542.40 16th 1,476.7 17th Brandon Valvo 1,234.80 26.40 1,261.20 17th 1,757.9 18th Ray Cotolo 1,124.00 83.50 1,207.50 18th 1,811.6 19th Mark Deutsch 751.80 67.40 819.20 19th 2,199.9 Jug week is upon us and we will have plenty of HANA Grand Circuit Handicapping action starting on Wednesday from Delaware Ohio.  The week kicks off with the Jugette, Buckette, Little Brown Jug, Old Oaken Bucket and the Miss Versatility.  Saturday features the Milton from Mohawk and a nice set of stakes from Hoosier Park. For contest selections and further information, visit the contest website at http://hanaharnesscontest.blogspot.com. Allan Schott HANA Harness Racing Coordinator Follow the HANA Harness Handicapping Contest      

August 24, 2015 - It was a busy triple header for the field of the 2015 HANA Harness Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge presented by the Bellino Stables, DRF Harness, Hambletonian Society, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs. Friday night kicked off with four races. One from The Meadows and three from Vernon Downs (one of our contest sponsors). Four handicappers were able to select three of the four winners. Michael Carter took the early weekend lead with the better priced trio at 144 points. Anne Stepien, Sally Hinckley and Bryan Owen were close behind with 125 points. At the end of night one Sally easily remained the leader of the pack. Saturday was a marathon event with five from Mohawk and most of the Pocono Downs card on the playlist. It was close to a "no contest" as Anne Stepien simply crushed the field with an amazing performance of 892 points. With eight winners she scored almost double the next best handicapper. If Anne was Wiggle It Jiggleit she would have won by the length of the stretch in 1:46 with Montrell enjoying a soft drink and a good read. With seven winners each tour leader Sally Hinckley and Gordon Waterstone were both a very respectable "best of the rest" on what proved to be a very difficult Saturday evening for many of the players. Sally added 497 points to her contest leading total and Gordon added 473. The Saturday night rain out of the Cup and Saucer at Charlottetown's Red Shores Racetrack and Casino (one of our contest sponsors) saw that event added to the Sunday line up of the Prix D'Ete and the Roll With Joe. Dennis O'Hara and Gordon Waterstone both went a perfect three for three and earned the maximum possible 87 points. Big movers on the weekend, in addition to Anne, were Gordon Waterstone and Bryan Owen. Gordon moved up to fourth and Bryan brushed from fifteenth to eighth. The continued excellence of Sally Hinckley earned her runner up spot on the weekend to Anne Stepien. With a cushion of more than three hundred points Sally is still wearing the colors of our tour leader. Standings as of August 23, 2015 - Leg 30   Total Points Points Earned Overall Position Pos Handicapper Prior Week This Week Total Points Last Week 1st Sally Hinckley 1,970.90 629.90 2,600.80 1st 2nd Anne Stepien 1,217.50 1,046.50 2,264.00 9th 3rd Mark McKelvie 1,929.70 268.30 2,198.00 2nd 4th Gordon Waterstone 1,378.90 568.90 1,947.80 6th 5th Bob Zanakis 1,595.80 295.30 1,891.10 3rd 6th Dennis O'Hara 1,462.00 358.50 1,820.50 5th 7th Earl Paulson 1,536.50 263.70 1,800.20 4th 8th Bryan Owen 1,054.40 547.80 1,602.20 15th 9th Michael Carter 1,248.50 324.40 1,572.90 8th 10th Josi Verlingieri 1,262.50 219.30 1,481.80 7th 11th Mark Dezii 1,135.60 283.40 1,419.00 13th 12th Ray Garnett 969.20 447.90 1,417.10 17th 13th Rusty Nash 1,171.40 185.10 1,356.50 12th 14th Garnet Barnsdale 1,043.80 282.60 1,326.40 16th 15th Jay Hochstetler 1,173.10 137.40 1,310.50 11th 16th Derick Giwner 1,079.00 144.60 1,223.60 14th 17th Brandon Valvo 1,176.20 15.10 1,191.30 10th 18th Ray Cotolo 757.30 93.50 850.80 18th 19th Mark Deutsch 531.40 0.00 531.40 19th   Next week there are only two Grand Circuit events on tap and both are at Yonkers.  In all likelihood the ladies will again be leading the pack at the conclusion of next week’s contests.  Quite fittingly the two races are the Lady Maud and the Hudson Filly. By Rusty Nash for HANA Harness Follow the HANA Harness Handicapping Contest

As the Grand Circuit roars into The Big M, The Meadows and Balmoral on Saturday, the new month begins an extraordinary effort by the USTA and Strategic Wagering to entice new  players into the game and veteran  players back in the game. You could say there are a million reasons to wager on harness racing but the reality is that in the month of August, there will be two million reasons. Strategic Wagering began four years ago during a month long break at The Meadowlands. The idea was to provide players with solid wagering opportunities during the brief absence of the flagship track. Guaranteed pools of $400,000 were offered in April 2011 at Yonkers Raceway, Northfield Park and Balmoral Park kicking off the Strategic Wagering initiative. Fast forward four years to this coming Saturday August 1st.  The USTA, Strategic Wagering will offer at least one guaranteed trifecta pool, Pick Four pool and High Five pool every night for 31 straight days. This is completely unprecedented in all of horse racing. With the addition of the trifecta pools, the month of August will see the USTA and Strategic Wagering offer guaranteed pools in excess of $2,000,000. We certainly hope that the guaranteed trifecta pools will have the same effect as the guaranteed High Five pools that began in July. The low ten or twenty cent Guaranteed High Five has proven to be more popular than the fifty cent or one dollar denomination wager that the major thoroughbred tracks now employ. The low minimum allows the small player to be a part of the game.  It is incredible to note that Del Mar, with an opening day handle of $15,000,000, is the only thoroughbred track whose High Five pools average more than the Strategic Wagering guaranteed pools.  With that lone exception, our guaranteed High Five pools dwarf the thoroughbred High Five pools that are currently offered The pilot program will kick off with three tracks, Balmoral Park, Northfield Park and Maywood Park. During the month of August, Balmoral will offer $70,000 in nightly guarantees comprised of a guaranteed Pick Four pool, a High Five pool and a Trifecta pool every Saturday and Sunday. Northfield Park will offer the same three guaranteed pools every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  Maywood Park will follow with three guaranteed pools each Thursday and Friday. There is an enormous audience of potential players out there looking for pools that support  $50 and $100 trifectas. The industry must create larger pools so that these valuable players are willing to invest hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars on a number of wagers that now offer value.  The current model at many tracks offers an excessive amount of wagers each race, thus resulting in diluted pools, diminished returns and minimal participation. A good racing product cannot overcome a bad wagering product.  In creating a better wagering product, the potential for former harness players that have since moved on to the larger thoroughbred pools, to come back home is possible.  You will continue to see thoroughbred players cross over into our High Five pools as their popularity increases. Poker players, sports bettors and fantasy junkies will start playing because they like the fast paced action of three guaranteed pools in a little more than an hour. In conclusion, the Meadowlands will present their sensational Hambletonian program next week, featuring the greatest stars in our sport.  Hambletonian day closes out the Meadowlands meet with six digit pools and the biggest harness handle of the year.  One of the main objectives of  the USTA and Strategic Wagering is to keep the serious Meadowlands players in the game. Free deluxe twelve line program pages for all guaranteed pools are available courtesy of Track Master at www.ustrotting.com. The entire August calendar will be available on the same USTA website Saturday. Michael Antoniades USTA Strategic Wagering Committee          

Before he was a teenager Anthony Essex was considering a career in harness racing. He fondly recalls going to Albion Park trots as a ‘little tacker’, with his father Rob, now a greyhound trainer, sparking his interest further when he started racing standardbreds. When those horses had success Anthony confesses he was hooked on the sport of racing. Anthony is Racing Queensland’s newest operations employee, winning selection for the harness racing handicappers job after a national search for the position. Anthony started in his new role on Monday, replacing handicapper Darren Clayton who left RQ to travel overseas. The handicapping role is a new challenge for Anthony after working in casual roles at RQ in greyhound racing administration and integrity as well as formerly managing the Capalaba Greyhound Racing Club.  The 42-year-old is well versed in procedures at the Deagon racing office and with the rules of racing. “My previous roles at RQ have been a great step towards my future within the racing industry and I’m now keen to expand my knowledge and skills within the harness racing industry,” Anthony said. “I’m sure the handicapping role will be a steep learning curve but I am certain I will enjoy the challenge and I’m eager to learn the craft from (chief handicapper) Brett Rail. I’m really looking forward to being a member of the team” Anthony believes that he has had a good foundation for the handicapper job and says his family history in the sport has given him a good insight. “Going to the trots was a normal thing for me to do when I was younger, I loved to watch the races and I reckon harness racing is the most exciting racing to watch,” Anthony said. “Rob (Dad) raced successful pacers Badge Of Honour; Dinnygone; Group 1 winner Maywyn Jasper and Maywyn Tonz, a dual Group 2 race winner so there is plenty of fond memories there as well,”. Multi-skilled, entrepreneurial, with an artistic flair Anthony had other options for his career path but he firmly believes that he has made the right choice and that there has never been a better time to be involved in harness racing. “Harness racing in Queensland has increased prizemoney and new industry initiatives, it’s pretty positive at the moment,” Anthony said “I am really looking forward to seeing and handicapping the quality races with our top locals taking on the might of the southern states and New Zealand during Queensland Winter Racing Carnival. Let’s hope there is fantastic racing with close finishes that can excite everyone on and off the track.” by David Aldred

(April 20, 2015) - The sponsors have stepped up and the handicappers selected for the 2015 HANA Harness Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge presented by the Bellino Stables, DRF Harness, Hambletonian Society, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs. With the handicappers chomping on the bit, the contest finally gets underway with The Meadows Maturity on Friday afternoon, April 24, 2015, followed the next evening with racing action at Yonkers Raceway where the Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy Memorial series finals will be contested. This year the sponsors have allowed the handicapping challenge to secure a record $5,250 in prize funds to be divided between the standardbred rescues of the top three handicappers at the conclusion of the contest. In addition to the presenting sponsors, additional sponsors are Green Acquisition Corporation, Harness Racing Update, Isle of Capri Pompano Park, The Raceway at Western Fair District, and Scioto Downs Racino. HANA thanks all the sponsors for stepping up to support the contest and standardbred rescue. Handicapper selections will be available on the contest website the morning of each day's events. Race fans and horseplayers may find those selections and additional contest information at the contest website http://hanaharnesscontest.blogspot.com . In addition, fans may follow the contest on social media by searching for the hash tag #hanagc2015. Allan Schott

(April 12, 2015) - HANA Harness welcomes the Bellino Stable as a Gold Sponsor and The Raceway at Western Fair District as a Silver sponsor in the 2015 HANA Harness Grand Circuit Handicapping Contest sponsored by the Hambletonian Society, Bellino Stable, DRF Harness, Meadowlands Harness Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs. With less than two weeks prior to the commencement of the contest on April 24, it is Last Call for becoming a sponsor. While naming rights for the handicapping contest have been sold out, affordable sponsorship opportunities remain, starting with our Bronze Level ($100), Silver Level ($250) and topping out at $500 for the Gold Level. If you are a racetrack, horsemen association, racing stable, or a vendor who does business in the harness racing industry, sponsorship is a perfect way to get your name out within the industry as supporters of standardbred rescue. The deadline for becoming a sponsor is Friday, April 17. To become a sponsor or for further information, you may contact allan@hanaweb.org. For further information on the 2015 HANA Harness Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge, visit the contest website here.       Allan Schott HANA Harness Coordinator Check out our contest site for the 2015 Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge. Check out HANA Harness' Blog.      

(March 13, 2015) - The field has been set, the races picked, and the rescues selected for the 2015 HANA Harness Racing Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge sponsored by the Hambletonian Society, DRF Harness, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs, all sponsors who have renewed their support for standardbred rescue with their sponsorship (additional sponsors are anticipated). As for handicappers, one old friend and two new faces join the returning roster of handicappers. Richard Scott returns to the contest after a one year hiatus. Scott was the winner of the 2013 handicapping contest and looks to attempt to reclaim his title. Scott is a former trainer who worked for the Bessinger, Silverman, and David Elliot stables in his career. Making their debut to the contest this year are Michael Carter, the current track announcer at Buffalo Raceway, and Mark Dezii, a racing fan who is a musician who hails from Philadelphia, PA. The complete roster, last year's placing, and selected rescues for the 2015 Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge is: Garnet Barnsdale - Harness Racing Writer, WEG Handicapper for DRF Harness; (1st); TROTR; Therapeutic Riding and Off-Track Rehabilitation) Michael Carter - Track Announcer at Buffalo Raceway; (Did Not Compete); Central Virginia Horse Rescue Ray Cotolo - Internet Harness Racing Analyst and Writer; (15th); Sunshine Horse Rescue. Mark Dezii - Race Fan and Musician; (DNC); Horse Lovers United Ray Garnett -Handicapper; (14th); Rockin T Equine Rescue Derick Giwner - Editor, DRF Harness; (8th); New Vocations Sally Hinckley - On-air Handicapping Personality; (12th); Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals Brian McEvoy - Works for Harnesslink, (3rd); Helping Hearts Equine Rescue Mark McKelvie - Communications Coordinator for WEG; (2nd); Horse Rescue United Rusty Nash - Trackmaster Handicapper; (9th); Rainhill Sanctuary. Bryan Owen - Former Owner and Handicapper;(DNC); Standardbred Retirement Foundation Dennis O'Hara - Handicapper, Former Asst Race Secretary; (11th); Standardbred Retirement Foundation Earl Paulson - Handicapper, Yahoo Harness Racing Forum Director; (5th); Racer Placers Richard Scott - Handicapper/Former Trainer, (DNC; 1st in 2013); Rainhill Sanctuary. Anne Stepien - Handicapper, Former Trainer; (13th); Heading for Home Brandon Valvo - Handicapper, Writer for Harness Racing America; (6th); Horse Lovers United Josi Verlingieri - Handicapper; (7th); Heart of Phoenix Gordon Waterstone - Associate Editor, Horseman and Fair World; (10th); Changing Fates Equine Rescue A new scoring system has been implemented for this year's contest with handicappers focusing on the horse who will win the race, bringing a mix of quantity and value to the handicappers' plans this year. For those who wish details on how the scoring will be done, the rules page explains. The competition begins on April 24 with the inaugural Meadows Futurity Trot and concludes on November 29 with the Progress Stake at Dover Downs. Handicappers and fans may follow the contest by visiting the contest website at http://hanaharnesscontest.blogspot.com. HANA Harness is the Harness Racing division of Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA), a group which since 2008 represents over 3,000 horseplayers in dealings with the racing industry. Since HANA Harness began sponsoring handicapping contests, over $10,000 has been donated to standardbred recues. All horseplayers, regardless of breed are invited to join HANA for free. For further information regarding HANA, please visit the HANA website at http://horseplayersassociation.org/. For further information on joining the current sponsors by becoming a sponsor at the Gold, Silver, or Bronze level, click here.. Allan Schott HANA Harness Coordinator allan@hanaweb.org Check out our contest site for the 2015 Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge. Check out HANA Harness' Blog.

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