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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      

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 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 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 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 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 . 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 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 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 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 Check out our contest site for the 2015 Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge. Check out HANA Harness' Blog.

When selecting an online wagering platform, you should ask yourself this important question: Does the platform help me maximize my winning potential? For customers, the answer is a resounding “yes.” AmWager takes pride in providing its players with the industry’s most lucrative rewards program and highest referral commissions. That is why AmWager is raising the stakes, and their players ROI, with the introduction of a Daily 10% Winner’s Bonus on gross winning tickets. Additionally, AmWager’s wager pad was designed by professional horseplayers and offers multiple sophisticated, yet user-friendly, money management and wagering tools that will benefit veteran players and newcomers alike. It’s a terrific combination that elevates above the crowd, and the player feedback has been tremendous. "Masterful, brilliant job accomplished by,” says D.Moore, a long-time member. “It’s the first on-line pari-mutuel platform that actually delivers a common sense approach that produces an enjoyable wagering experience. Wager pad construction is efficient and simple whether you are making one wager or multiple wagers.” “Congratulations to Amwager, they listened to their wagering clients and produced the greatest wagering site I have ever used. Thank you for raising the bar as well as my R.O.I.!!! " And now AmWager has upped the ante by providing their new Winner’s Bonus. Forget about signup bonuses. They can be hard to understand and are always short-term. With AmWager’s Winner’s Bonus, it’s simple. On a winning exotic wager, AmWager will deposit the earned additional Winner’s Bonus into a member’s account the very next day. The Winner’s Bonus details: ● Get 10% back on gross winning tickets ● Only exotics wagers are eligible (WPS bets are not eligible) ● All tracks and all breeds ● Bonuses are posted daily to your account ● A maximum daily bonus of $10 The Winner’s Bonus helps further demonstrate that AmWager puts the player first. AmWager, which is owned by AmWest Entertainment, believes that giving players daily incentives is vital to supporting the overall health of this sport we all love. “We extend the most generous rewards while striving to deliver the best economics for all players,” said AmWest CEO Nelson Clemmens, an experienced Thoroughbred owner and breeder. “We also will ensure that AmWager returns the highest possible revenues to support the sport of racing.” Lucrative rewards and referral programs put money back into a player’s pocket. And the Daily Winner’s Bonus is a powerful finishing kick. While these features are terrific, AmWager’s Wager Pad is like Secretariat in the Belmont – the competition is a long way back. AmWager’s impressive array of tools help players make smarter bets and capitalize on the new Win Bonus. Among these tools is the Dutching feature, which enables you to maximize your return on investment (ROI) by removing the inefficiencies from the traditional boxed wager. When you use a traditional box you are essentially spending the same dollar amount on each of your selections, even though they likely have different odds. Thus, you stand to make more money if a selection with the longer odds wins over a selection with shorter odds. But, what if you could improve this wager to maximize your ROI regardless of which of your selections crossed the wire first? That’s exactly what the mathematics behind the Dutching tool can do! With a few simple clicks the Dutching tool, which is unique to AmWager, takes your total wager amount and divides it between your selections based on their current odds to make the best use of your total wager. Selections with shorter odds will get a larger percentage of the total wager while those with longer odds will get a smaller percentage, so that the potential payout in the end is maximized. You might call it a “Smart Box” in that it helps you to exploit the full potential of your dollar. And that’s the very essence of AmWager – maximizing your ROI and ability to win.

The ever decreasing numbers of harness racing  mares being bred makes it essential that we get the best use of those horses we do have racing and there can be little doubt that the drop back system is helping in that regard. Available to all horses 4 years + older who have not won in their last ten starts, the drop back provision has meant a new lease of life for a lot of horses and kept a lot of horses racing when otherwise they would have been retired or sold. One of the latest examples to take advantage of the system is Friday nights winner at Addington Raceway in Dixie Commando.  A six win mare, Dixie Commando last raced before Friday night in May against the likes of Kincaslough, Jaccka Justy and Dr Hook and she finished a tidy fourth on that occasion. With the drop back to a nine rating Dixie Commando sneaked into the C2-C4 trot over 1950 metres and co - trainer and driver James Geddes thought she would be hard to beat. " It was a big drop back in class to what she had been racing and even though she drew barrier nine I thought she would be very hard to beat." " She has always gone good fresh in the past so she had a lot in her favour on Friday night," James told Harnesslink yesterday. James has always had a lot of time for the daughter of CR Commando. " She is such a beautifully gaited mare and lovely to do anything with." "High speed is her other biggest attribute so the mobile sprints suit her," James said. Badly injured as a 5 year old, Dixie Commando had a pastern screwed together but the injury has had no long term affects on the mare. " She doesn't do much at home at all to be honest" "She is quite an athletic type and we just keep her ticking over," James said. On Friday night James and Dixie Commando made a flyer from barrier 9 and were able to slip into the trail behind the tearaway early leader The Bog. With The Bog setting a quick tempo in front, James never had to leave the trail until 150 metres from the finish and quickly claimed The Bog for a comfortable victory with the best of the rest being Astrapi who was 2 3/4 lengths away in third. Dixie Commando trotted the 1950 metres in 2:25.7, a mile rate of 2:00.2 It was Dixie Commando's 7th career victory and along with 22 placings she has now earned $76,139. James said serious consideration was given to sending Dixie Commando to the breeding barn earlier in the season. " We did give it serious consideration but with the drop back system in play we thought their might be a win or two in her yet," James said. When Dixie Commando does retire to the breeding barn, she has plenty to recommend her for that role. Dixie Commando is a daughter of the Sundon mare Galleons Tribute who is a half sister to the outstanding broodmare Rob The Nest who has left such standouts as Galleons Assassin 1:55.4 ($327,286) and King Of Strathfield 1:56.8 ($253,950) amongst a plethora of talented trotters. The way Dixie Commando won on Friday night however means that may not happen any time soon. Harnesslink Media  

123gaming, Inc. and Sportech Racing and Digital, a division of Sportech PLC, (LSE: SPO), announced recently that the handicapping contest-style 123racing wager, previously available only through racetracks and off-track-betting operators in the U.S., is now available for online distribution. On-trend with the growth in fantasy sports and horse racing handicapping contests, the 123racing wager is based on a Pick 6 format, but introduces additional elements of excitement and interactivity over traditional Pick 6 wagering. Payoffs on the 123racing wager are won by scoring points across the 6 races, with the wager that scores the highest total points claiming the pool.  In 123racing, top scorers don't necessarily have to pick the winners or 'hit the board' in every race. Rob Earle, founder and CEO of the company that created 123racing, 123gaming, Inc., noted, "We have been operating a very successful version of 123racing as a free play handicapping contest for several racetracks for many years, and we eventually transitioned that to a live money wager available only on track.  After several successful trials, and with 82% of survey respondents saying that they were likely or very likely to play the wager again, we knew it was time to expand online. 123racing is the first interactive social wager of its kind to be integrated across an entire tote racetrack, OTB and online network, pitting handicappers across the U.S. against one another on national leaderboards." Twenty five North American racetracks are already signed up to provide content for the 123racing wagering pools, including Parx Racing, Emerald Downs and Keeneland. will be the first online home to showcase the wager, and numerous major racetrack and OTB operators are also in the process of making the wager available online, recognizing the potential for 123racing to appeal to younger fans, and fantasy sports fans. Andrew Gaughan, President of Sportech Racing and Digital, commented, "The 123racing wager offers a great complimentary product to the classic Pick 6 and we expect it to help attract some of the 40 million Americans who are playing fantasy sports, but not wagering on horse racing. Because the 123racing wager is available on our Quantum System, which is deployed throughout North America as well as in Latin America and Europe, ultimately we see an opportunity for global commingled 123racing pools." From 123gaming, Inc.  

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