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East Rutherford, NJ - A quartet of $100,000 Finals bring the harness racing sophomore division of the New Jersey Sires Stakes (NJSS) to a conclusion on Saturday night (May 30) at The Meadowlands.   The trotting fillies come up first in the fourth race with the defending champion Mission Brief starting from the far outside in post ten. The fastest freshman in trotting history by virtue of her 1:50.3 tour of The Red Mile last fall and Breeders Crown champ, the daughter of Muscle Hill won the first leg in a measured 1:53.4, then stayed home last week while Rules Of The Road took the second leg.   Yannick Gingras takes his regular position behind Mission Brief for trainer Ron Burke, who owns her in partnership with Our Horse Cents Stable, J&T Silva and Weaver Bruscemi.   Race six is the glamour boy division, the pacing colts. Artspeak (Western Ideal) was the winner of last season's NJSS Final for this group on his way to year end honors while his main for here, Hurrikane Ali (Rocknroll Hanover) has an abbreviated five start freshman campaign in which he was winless.   What a difference a year can make, for as they come into the Final Hurrikane Ali has won all three of his 2015 starts including two NJSS legs in 1:50 and 1:50.1 with relative ease for young trainer John McDermott, Jr. Gingras has the drive here as well for the ownership group of Kuhen Racing, Jonathan Klee Racing, Dr Ken Rucker and Robert Pucila.   Artspeak spoke toward his potential for a big season via his effortless 1:49 romp in leg one. Trainer Tony Alagna then held him out of last week's with an eye toward the long campaign, setting up this interesting match-up on Saturday. Artspeak won eight of ten last season, among those the Metro and Governor's Cup trophies. Scott Zeron has been his constant companion in all races for the owners, Brittany Farms, Marvin Katz, Joe Sbrocco and In The Gym Partners (John Fodera and Steve Wienick).   The pacing fillies (race 8) shapes up to be the most contentious of the four Finals.   Lindy's Old Lady (Rocknroll Hanover) didn't race at two, but is quickly gaining notice by virtue of a pair of wins in as many starts. She was a leg one NJSS winner in 1:51, then stayed home at Lindy Farm last week as trainer Frank Antonacci carefully manages the frequency of his trips to the well with the talented filly.   Happiness (Rocknroll Hanover) also skipped leg two after a comfortable 1:50.4 win in leg one for Gingras and Burke. She has a Grand Circuit win on her résumé via the Simpson Memorial stake in 1:50.3 earlier this season for Burke Racing & Weaver Bruscemi.   Wicked Little Minx (Rocknroll Hanover) took the lone division of leg two, holding off the furious late charge of Stacia Hanover in 1:51.1. Nancy Johansson conditions Wicked Little Minx for Courant AB and Brett Miller is back in the driver's seat for the Final.   Stacia Hanover (Western Ideal) won this division last year and has the as the look of a filly on the verge of a big mile for her trainer driver combo of Steve Elliott and Zeron and owners David Van Dusen and Michael Cimaglio of Ohio.   Bringing the NJSS curtain down on the 2015 season in the eleventh race will be the sophomore trotting colts and a powerful group they are.   Guess Whos Back (winner of this division's final in 2014) has won both preliminary legs including a hard-fought 1:52.4 decision over Canepa Hanover last week. Driver Brian Sears used the entire stretch to eke out the half-length tally with Canepa Hanover never giving in. Nik Drennan trains Guess Whos Back for owners Joe Davino, Brad Shackman, TLP Stable and J&T Silva.   The potent duo of Canepa Hanover (Muscle Hill) and French Laundry (Muscles Yankee) represent the Jimmy Takter barn and both are top colts.   Canepa has been third and second in the two legs and last week's effort was a gritty one after being used hard to get to the front then facing a strong wind in the homestretch. With Takter off to Sweden for the Elitlopp, Yannick Gingras will drive for the interests of Brittany Farms, Marvin Katz, Sam Goldband, Al Libfeld, Brixton Medical and Christina Takter.   French Laundry was a winner in the first leg, his only 2015 start to this point. He has been rock solid throughout his career for owners Christina Takter, John & Jim Fielding, Katz and Libfeld. Brett Miller is his regular driver and will be aboard on Saturday night.   Both Hi-5 Jackpots remain intact going into Friday night's live card with the totals now at $131,037 (race 5) and $105,195 (race 12). Saturday night promotions include the chance to win a first class trip to the June 6 Belmont Stakes and JerseyFest which features the NJ vs Philly Food Truck Mash-Up. The thirteen race program starts at 7:15.   From Meadowlands Media Relations Dept  

May 28, 2015 - Harness racing action aplenty this day in France. and Sweden as the Pick 5 Prix SES Racing Team (€28,000 purse, 2800 meters, 18 starters) went to 1.2/1 favorite A Nous Trois (5m Orlando Vici-Quallas) with Eric Raffin up. Sebastian Guarato trains this 1.14.8kr winner. 8/1 Always Perfect (5m Prodigious-Oh Butterfly) was second for owner/trainer/driver Julien Dubois ahead of 2.3/1 Atout du Lerre (5g Oakwood du Closet-Haquikmie) with driver/trainer Franck Anne piloting. At Nancy-Brabois FR the trotting contests were also interesting. Their Prix Ecole de Nancy (€30,000 purse, 3175 meters distance handicap, eight European contestants) went to 1.18.5kr clocked Kazire du Bob (7g Kazire de Guez-Blow Out Kemp) at 2.2/1 for teamster Franck Ouvrie. Bjorn Goop is his trainer for Stall Torpedo HB of Sweden. 2.3/1 Oronte di Cesato (7m Allison Hollow-Enzaran) reported home second for Christophe Martens, trainer Vincent Martens and owner Onsorio Perfetti of Italy. 13/1 Ungador (7g Gobernador-Oceanic Melody) was third. Also at Nancy-Brabois the Prix des Freres Muller (€25,000 purse, 2600 meters, nine European starters) went to 1.16.7kr winner Vasco d’Orsinval (6g Malicieux Gede-Nuit de Pontignies) at 6/1 for trainer/driver A. Garandeau. 5/1 Shark Attack (7g April Perfect-Step by Step) was next for Philippe Masschaele, trainer J-F Van Dooyeweerd of Holland with 1.3/1 favorite Unogaren (7g Land du Coglais-Neige de la Garen) third for Julien Raffestin, trainer Robert Bergh and owner Ecurie Etoile. At Bergsaker SWE a 2014 Elitloppet starter Shaq Is Back (8m Credit Winner-Vivica Hall-Victory Dream) and trainer/driver Daniel Reden won the Travakademiens Sponsorers Trot (30,000SEK first prize, 2140 meters autostart, 10 starters) clocked in 1.11.3kr for a comfortable win over Rocky Race (10m Super Arnie-Etoile Race-Lindy’s Crown) and Leif Witasp. Stall Zet owns the winner that was US bred by Steve Jones and Fair Winds Farm. This was win number 21 for Shaq in 71 starts good for 4,554,037SEK won. Another last year Elitloppet contestant Sanity (9g Love You-Flash Light-Mack Lobell) was third today for Ulf Eriksson. Sanity has 30 wins in 78 starts for earnings of 10,246,942SEK. It was reported that now retired superstar Maharajah will be presented to the audience on Sunday. He started in four Prix d’Amerique’s winning his last try. He never started in an Elitloppet. The Stefan Hultman trainee won the Olympic Trot, the Prix de Paris, the Swedish Derby, and European Derby and E3. Orjan Kihlstrom drove Maharajah in all but two of his 59 career starts that produced 31 victories for over 23SEK million earned. The “King” will be shown at Solvalla shortly after noon local time. Thomas H. Hicks

Menangle harness racing reinsman Jarrod Alchin is set to record a milestone in coming days with the 29-year old sitting on 496 wins as a driver. Alchin has already won three races this week after a double at Goulburn on Monday and a winner at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Tuesday. Alchin drove his first winner Silent Ella on January 11th 2002 at Leeton for Riverina trainer Ray Walker. "Silent Ella was my first winner and I ended up driving a double after Scootin Ella won on that day as well, when Rickie (Alchin - brother) won his first race he ended up driving a double at the same meeting too," Alchin said. "I started out in the sport by helping my Pop, (Russ Harpley) he only had two or three in work and I wanted more experience so I contacted Ray Walker and asked him if I could help him after school and on weekends." After helping Walker for more than five years Alchin decided it was time to leave his hometown of Temora. "I was going out with Ray's daughter Steph and she moved to Bathurst for university so I thought I'd make a move too and went to Newcastle to work for Tony Halpin but I only lasted three months because I felt it was a bit too far away from Sydney. "I moved to Sydney and started working for Peter Morris, he gave me a great start giving me a number of driving opportunities because Robbie (Morris) didn't have a licence at that time and Peter Jnr wasn't driving anymore." Alchin's biggest win came in the 2014 Gr. 1 NSW Oaks when he drove Shes A Runa for David Kennedy. "That was my first Gr. 1 winner and it was very special, David Kennedy is one of the best trainers I know when it comes to getting a horse fit and ready to peak on a particular day. "I had run a lot of placings in Gr. 1 races so it was nice to finally break through for my first big win." Alchin drove the Kennedy trained Deadsetlucky when third in the 2010 Chariots Of Fire. "The Chariots was probably the biggest race I have driven in and Deadsetlucky ran really well. "I've had great support from a number of trainers including Dave (Kennedy), John Tapp, Michael Hawke from Canberra has given me a lot of drives recently and Harry Martin and Peter Gadsby have been good supporters of mine as well." On Saturday night Alchin will drive Supper Waltz Wilson at Menangle in the Gr. 3 Bulli Trotters Cup. "The big field and the handicap will make it tough for him, he keeps on trying which is a plus but there are a couple in the race that are a bit more brilliant than him. "I've got some good drives on Tuesday at Menangle so hopefully I can get closer to the 500 winners next week." Greg Hayes

The All Stars barn via Dave McCarthy preview their runners at the harness racing meetings every week.   This week of course is the Harness Jewels meeting at Ashburton on Saturday (May 30th) and with their kind permission we reproduce here the comments for the 23 runners the All Stars barn have in on Saturday      HARNESS JEWELS- Rated out of 10 as a winning chance with the comment by the driver of the horse on Staurday     Race 1 - Two Year Old Diamond   Northern Velocity (7)   Form: Won Sales Final at Addington.   Comment:   7- "I would rate her a 7 and a good one. Equal second best of ours on form. " (Mark)   Dream About Me (9)   Form: Just keeps winning and bold in trials last week.   Comment: 9 " The draw seems a problem though she has never really had good draws. Doing everything right and I am hoping she will just be too good for them" (Tim)   Arden's Choice (11)   Form: Good in 1.54 MR after getting back early at Auckland. G1 winner previous.   Comment: 6 "She might be better than that but as a win chance it is going to be very hard from that draw. I think it is the worst draw of the lot in some respects because it is harder to get on the three line line" (Natalie)   Race 2 - Two Year Old Ruby   Missandei (2)   Form: Looked the winner last time until stablemate came on the scene. This her best draw yet.   Comment: 7 "Gets better with each run and this is the best draw she has had if she can hold up early" (Mark)   High Gait (12)   Form: Huge run last time to come from impossible possie to win.   Comment: 9 "I don't like the draw but she can follow Missandei out which is a help. She is working terrific and only the draw stops her from being my best for the day" (Natalie)   Race 3 - Four Year Old Diamond   Willow (12)   Form: Three on end is hard to beat even if some easier than this.   Comment: 8 "Again a draw I am not thrilled about but she is following some useful early speed. She is good enough to make her own luck and she tries so hard she could offer some value" (Natalie)   Race 4 -  Three Year Old Ruby   Prince Fearless (3)   Form: Raced solidly in the north and at Addington without being quite as impressive as formerly.   Comment: 8 "I am very pleased with him and his work has been excellent. He likes Ashburton and is at his best in sprint type races.  He is a danger" (Natalie)   Petite One (10)   Form:  Returned to near her best at Addington winning well.   Comment; 6 "She seems well but that draw is going to make things hard for her against the boys and they will probably be too strong." (Mark)   Race 5 - Three Year Old Diamond   Supersonic Miss (9)   Form: Faded after hard run in the Oaks. Nearly landed third in G1 start before.   Comment: 5 "It looks tough for her from out there especially with the pace inside. You can only hope you get on to a train when she would be competitive but it won't be easy" (Mark)   Linda Lovegrace (10)   Form: Been running on strongly from bad draws. Has a moderate one again.   Comment: 7 "She can run home strongly over a mile as she has shown here before. Blair will drive his own race but if she got the run she can be at least in the finish" (Natalie)   Fight for Glory (11)   Form: Outstanding in the NZ Oaks and tested  The Orange Agent in the Nevele R Final after being parked.   Comment: 7  "I really don't like that draw. I reckon even 12 would have been better. We are in behind some speed certainly but she has to have luck to get a crack at them which is why I have her down a bit as a win chance. She is doing everything right at home" (Natalie)   Classical Art (14)   Form: Ran on in Oaks after enjoying nice trail. Likes this trip   Comment: 5 "It is going to be hard to win from there. But she is very well and she could surprise a few. Mark said after he worked her Wednesday if she had drawn the front line she could be right in it. The mile will really suit her where she can go hard all the way. Might be a place bet at odds" (Tim)   Race 6 - Two Year Old Emerald   Motu Premier (2)   Form: Consistently placed at highest level including the Sapling Stakes here earlier.   Comment: 6 "A couple of our others might have it on him for brilliance but he has a bit going for him even though a place looks more likely. I think he has the gate speed to get a nice trip from a good draw and he is a genuine horse. He will try all day. " (Tim)     Chase the Dream (4)   Form: Winner of the Sires Stakes Final at his last start and other juvenile features earlier.   Comment: 9 "He is my best drive of the day I think. He can speed out of the gate and he is as tough as. The draw is going to be a big help for those abilities (Natalie)   Lazarus (7)   Form: Brilliant late run for second in Sires Stakes Final after easy win in Sales Pace.   Comment: 8 "A brilliant horse so you use him out of the gate if you need to or use him during the race. Has an ideal draw. He is probably a bit quicker than Chase The Stars but not quite as  tough at this stage. He can win but Chase The Dream will be tough to beat" (Mark)   Cash n Flow (11)   Form:  Finished on in Sires Stakes Final and a late arriving two year old with ability (Jim Curtin to drive)   Comment: 6 "A really lovely horse but he is going to find it hard to beat the top one from where he is" (Natalie)   Race 7 - Four Year Old Ruby   King Denny (1)   Form: Beat all but Master Lavros at Addington in lead up race.   Comment: 9 "I would say my best chance on the day. He has trained on well has a nice draw which gives him options and no Master Lavros or Stents in this time" (Mark)   Race 8 - Four Year Old Emerald   Isaiah (13)   Form: Faded after tough run last time and has trained well this week   Comment: 4 "I suppose that sounds harsh but it is just that for this race he is in a bad place from the draw and personally I don't think a mile is his best trip " (Natalie)   Messini (14)   Form: Outstanding win at Addington back to left handed track last start.   Comment: 8 "He is just back to the best form he showed in Australia really. The mile will not bother him. He's a tough customer and he has a shot at them" (Mark)   Race 9 - Three Year Old Emerald   Hug The Wind (1)   Form: Outstanding win in class racing at Addington showed his real class.   Comment: 6 "I just don't think he is quite with the other two at this stage. He has the draw and has the gate speed to hold up. If I landed in front I would probably stay there as long as I could because that is his best chance of upsetting them. He was terrific last start but this is a way stronger field " (Natalie)   Have Faith In Me (4)   Form:  First race since late March when he won the NZ Derby. Trials since.   Comment: 9 "I don't think the lack of racing will be a problem for him. He has had two good hitouts at trials and has done it easily. The thing about him is that he loves to be out there and really enjoys his racing. From the draw there are options and while I was reluctant to put a number on him he should be the one to beat" (Tim)   Follow the Stars (5)   Form: Runner up in three Derby's this season and three wins in easier company in Australia to fit him for this. Worked well this week.   Comment: 8 "I don't think that he can beat Have Faith In Me all things being equal. The pecking order is fairly well established now. For all that he seems very well and he has been enjoying his work. He is a class horse even if there seems to be one better at the moment " (Mark)   Lightfingered (13)   Form: Battled into fifth at Addington last start. Has made strong progress this year however.   Comment: 3 "I don't like to put a number on him. I am just grateful I have been given an opportunity to drive on the day and behind a horse I know won't let anybody down. Sure there are stars in there but I like to think he will go a pretty good race" (Matt)     Courtesy Of Dave McCarthy - All Stars Racing Stables - Check site here  

London, May 28, 2015 -- As Molson Pace night fast approaches in London, some horses themselves were out promoting the harness racing event on Thursday afternoon at downtown Victoria Park. The Raceway marketing department held a Miss Molson Pace (equine version) during the noon hour while several park goers and nearby office workers got to meet the participants and vote for their favourite. It was Raceway regular Big Diva who was crowned the winner with another local favourite, Mother Hen, finishing in the runner up spot. Honourable mention went to Catch A Lucky Star, who will be the guest horse outside the main entrance on Molson night, and Ping (the pony) and Tucker (the mini). “It was a lot of fun and I think people were really surprised and excited to see live horses in the park while they were there eating lunch, or strolling through,” said the Raceway’s Marketing Co-ordinator Sarah Imrie. “It was a perfect afternoon and a great way to get the message out about Molson Pace night. A huge thanks to all our horse people who helped out.” The $150,000 Molson Pace will go as the final race on Friday night’s 12-race program, considered one of the strongest in the track’s history. There will be a lot happening on track and for complete details visit www.molsonpace.com. Greg Blanchard WFD Media Relations  

Rudy is not a small man. At 48 years old, his grin comes easier than a reach to the floor to retrieve the Balmoral Park Harness Racing Program that fell when his attention was turned, momentarily, to an interloper. Introductions were made by a track employee. Rudy, a regular, agreed to a chat, saying, "I'll tell you everything you need to know." Except his last name. The Beecher resident makes "three or four hundred (dollars) a day" betting harness racing, so a degree of discretion is his preference. "This is definitely one of the most comfortable facilities in the country to bet horses," Rudy said, sweeping a hand first toward the bar and rows of tables overlooking Balmoral's mile oval, then the other over a booth outfitted with a sofa, club chairs, five TVs each featuring a track elsewhere in the country and a betting machine. "They don't charge for the booths during the week. You can't beat that." Judging by the afternoon crowd on Preakness Saturday, Rudy's love for the 89-year-old Crete facility has not seemed to migrate to younger, or fairer, gamblers. "Yeah," he said with a shrug, "this ain't the place to come watch women." Tom Kelley, a Tinley Park resident who has worked at Balmoral for 29 years and is the director of publicity at Balmoral and Maywood Park, couldn't argue. "Unfortunately," he said, "it is an older, male crowd. "The key to getting the live racing product to survive is going to be generating a younger crowd." Whirlaway started here Balmoral Park, then called Lincoln Fields, opened in 1926, with the backing of the manager of Churchill Downs and several partners from the Kentucky Jockey Club. In 1936, Lincoln Fields would bring the first photo-finish camera to Illinois, and in 1940, Whirlaway, who went on to win the 1941 Triple Crown, won the first race of his career there. Lincoln Fields hosted thoroughbred racing until 1942, when World War II restrictions moved its schedule (or "meet") to Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero. A move to Washington Park in Homewood, and a grandstand fire at Lincoln Fields, delayed the return of racing to Crete until 1954. The next year, it was sold and rechristened Balmoral Park. Three ownership groups have since come and gone. Harness racing — horses pulling a sulky and driver, rather than carrying a jockey — arrived in 1973. Thoroughbred racing left for good in 1991. But business was good, at least until casino gambling started drawing away customers in the 1990s. "We'd draw 8,000-10,000 at Sportsman's on Saturday nights in the '80s," Kelley said of the now-shuttered Cicero track. "Now, we do 2,000, 2,500." Balmoral Racing Club Inc., which operates Balmoral and Maywood, filed for bankruptcy in December, the result of a reported $82 million lawsuit brought by four Illinois casinos seeking restitution for fees levied against the casinos by then-Governor Rod Blagojevich. The fees were extended through 2008 only after a Blagojevich associate sought a $100,000 campaign contribution from Balmoral's majority owner. The ownership group is now reportedly looking for buyers for its properties. Beyond that, Kelley and other Balmoral employees are anxiously watching the status of two gambling bills under consideration in the Illinois House, one of which would bring slot machines to race tracks. The legislative session ends Sunday. "If we get slot machines here, we generate more revenue," Kelley said. "Part of that goes to the purses. Bigger purses means we get better drivers, horses and trainers." Even if slots never come, the pursuit of revenue — and customers — goes on. Something for everyone To that end, on Memorial Day weekend, Balmoral launched its Miller Lite Saturday Nites, promotion, which will run through August. The evenings will feature live music — heavy on country acts — a $2 food menu and $2.50 bottles of Lite, MGD and Coors Light. The track, open seven days per week for simulcast wagering and Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 31 for live harness racing, has more than a dozen promotions lined up through October. Among the highlights are: • June 13: Runnin' with the Horses 5K (run the grounds, finish on the track while horses warm up for the night's racing). • June 13: Brewhaha Beer Festival (featuring craft beer from local brewers). • June 21: Father's Day Prime Rib Buffet • July 11: Bark at the Park (bring your dogs to Balmoral). • July 25: Pepe's Taco Eating Contest. • Aug. 15: Elvis Night (featuring Curt Lechner). • Sept. 12: Super Night (all Illinois-bred horses, racing for estimated purses totaling more than $1.3 million). • Oct. 17: Wine Tasting with Cooper's Hawk. An evening at the track can be inexpensive. Grandstand admission is free, as is parking, unless you choose the valet ($5). Bets can be as little as 10 cents. Of course, there are higher-end options. Luxury suites, with food and drink options ranging from pizza and soda to fine dining and a full bar, can be had from $14 to $70 per person. There are buffet and casual dining options. Corporate outings can accommodate as many as 1,000 guests. Fun? You bet! And then there's the main entertainment. "It's all about trying to make money," Rudy said. "The problem is, it's a thinking man's game. People like to sports bet, and they just pick a side. Here, you've got eight, 10 or 12 sides." Mike Antoniades, a Worth resident and the racing analyst at Balmoral and Maywood, tries to simplify things for the track newbie and the smart money alike. "Here's the difference between a night at the races and a night at the casino," he said. "There's a 20-minute space between races. It's more a social event than a gambling event. "At a casino, they're not going to let you sit 20 minutes before your next bet. There, it's a slot every six seconds. Your exposure is enormous." But, if mindless action is your game, you could merely bet the recommendations Antoniades makes for each race, noted in the program. "It's documented over 20 years, if you play the things I say, you'll stay about even," he said. Or you could take a flier on Antoniades' pick for the easiest "fun" bet to make. "Without question, it's the 10-cent superfecta," he said. A superfecta requires the bettor to correctly pick the first four horses and their order of finish in a given race. With a quick pick, a bettor could avoid studying the race program altogether, and could win more than $100 on an average race at Balmoral if his or her numbers come in. But, if you want to do the picking yourself, Antoniades said, "Look at the UDRS (Universal Drivers Rating System) numbers." Listed beside each driver's name, those numbers, he said, "Equate with a batting average in baseball. Bet the .300 hitters." That squares with the suggestion of Casey Leonard, who eclipsed the 1,000-win mark in 2013, just four years after becoming a full-time driver. "Betting the top drivers, that's a huge angle," Leonard said. "In thoroughbred racing, the horse's talent plays the biggest part. With us, track position is much more important. A lot of races are won or lost in the first quarter-mile." But gambling just one of the deals But, hear lifelong horsemen tell it, concentrating only on gambling is missing the point of a night at the track. "These horses, the good ones, have a distinct determination," Leonard said. "They have a competitive nature that you really don't see in other domesticated animals." Dave McCaffrey, the president of the Illinois Harness Horseman's Association, is equally passionate about the people behind the horses. "It's very family-oriented among horsemen," McCaffrey, a trainer with more than 30 years experience, said. "We've got third- and fourth-generation trainers and drivers." McCaffrey ticked off the reasons he loves harness racing: it's less expensive to get into than thoroughbred racing; the horses, standardbreds, are sturdier and less prone to injury; an owner can be a driver, while a thoroughbred owner, "unless you're 100 pounds and have an incredible amount of experience," could never be. But, on this warm spring day, McCaffrey settled his gaze on the picnic tables in front of the grandstand and pondered the months ahead. "In the summer, this becomes a great outdoor sport," he said. "You can stand on the apron of the track, eat a cheeseburger and hear the hoofbeats go by, hear the screams of the crowd. "It's very much a spectator sport, with a tremendous amount of excitement and nuance." By Phil Arvia Reprinted with permission of the Daily Southtown newspaper

Freehold, NJ --- Harness racing trainer Jimmy Takter knows the thrill of winning the Elitlopp. To this day the trainer still gets goosebumps when retelling the story of Moni Maker’s victory in the 1998 edition of Sweden’s elite invitational for older trotters. He hopes to experience the excitement again with Maven on Sunday. Maven is one of the 16 trotters invited to the Elitlopp, which is held at Solvalla Raceway near Stockholm. The field was divided into two eight-horse eliminations, with Maven drawing post four in the second division. The 6-year-old mare will be driven by Takter’s brother, Johnny, and is the morning line second choice in her race. B B S Sugarlight is the morning line favorite in Maven’s elimination and will start from post one. Mosaique Face is the choice in the first elim, which also includes another U.S. representative, Daryl Bier’s Wind Of The North, as well as former North American star Nuncio, who is owned and trained by Sweden’s Stefan Melander. The top four finishers from each elimination return later in the day for the final. “If you don’t get emotional, you’re not human,” Takter said when recounting Moni Maker’s triumph. “This is what we work for. It’s always exciting when you get in there. You put your game face on and feel the excitement all around you.” It is one of the reasons Takter is looking forward to this year’s race. Takter is starting a horse in the Elitlopp for only the second time since Moni Maker’s victory; he also started Uncle Peter last year. But it is not the only reason Takter is making the trip to Solvalla. He will spend four days in Sweden despite a busy schedule at home and hopes in the future races like the Elitlopp will be made the focal point of the racing calendar, thereby eliminating conflicts for trainers and drivers who want to participate in the event or simply travel to watch. “There are three events in this sport -- the Hambletonian, Elitlopp, and Prix d’Amerique -- and I feel we are obligated to be there,” Takter said. “There aren’t that many fans left in this sport and the Elitlopp is by far the biggest one when it comes to fans and what they’re doing. People that haven’t been there can’t even imagine. “The world is so small now. We have to start thinking about going together instead of going against each other. I spoke to (Meadowlands Racetrack Chairman) Jeff Gural and asked that next year there are no big conflicts, like the (New Jersey) sire stakes finals, the same weekend as the Elitlopp. “If we don’t take care of those three events, they’re going to die out too. You see a lot of Europeans coming over here for the Hambletonian as a spectator, even trainers and people like that. The Elitlopp has unbelievable fan support. I have to be there.” Moni Maker was the last U.S.-owned horse to win the Elitlopp. She also was the last female trotter to win the race. Maven -- who is owned by John Fielding, Herb Liverman, and Joyce McClelland -- will try to end both droughts. She heads to the Elitlopp off a second-place finish in the Copenhagen Cup, which was contested at 1-1/4 miles. Last year, Maven finished third in her Elitlopp elimination and sixth in the final while in the stable of Jonas Czernyson. This year, she prepped for the Elitlopp by racing exclusively in Europe, where despite poor race luck and draws she has a win and three second-place finishes from nine starts. Maven, who was the 2013 Dan Patch Award winner for best older female trotter, has won 29 of 52 North American races in her career, good for $1.74 million in purses. “I think she’s ready,” Takter said. “I really think so. I think we have a heck of a shot. She’s probably much better prepared now than she was last year. She got adapted to the European system a little bit. Now she even handles a mile and a quarter better. I don’t think I could have her better than I have her right now. “She can win it if the race goes her way. But it’s a wide open race. I would say out of 16 horses, 10 or 12 of them could be the winner.” If Maven is unable to win, Takter would enjoy seeing Nuncio take the honor. Takter trained Nuncio last season and saw the horse win the Kentucky Futurity and Yonkers Trot and finish second in the Hambletonian. Nuncio is 2-for-2 this year, but will have to overcome post seven in his elimination. “I’m sure Stefan wishes he had another start in him, but you can never rule that horse out,” Takter said. “The race is going to be high pace and if he’s sitting third over I could see him coming very good in the last quarter (of a mile). He never gives up. I really hope that he’s going to race good. He deserves that, to show he’s a top horse, which he is. “He’s a winner. If I don’t win the race, I would be very happy for him to win. They’re great people that own the horse and I’d have a little part of that Elitlopp too because I developed him as a 3-year-old.” World champion Wind Of The North drew post eight in his elimination. Dave Palone -- the winningest driver in harness racing history -- will drive the 5-year-old gelding for Bier, who owns the horse with Joann Dombeck. Wind Of The North is coming off a second-place finish to Bee A Magician in the Cutler Memorial on May 16 at the Meadowlands. He has won three of 10 races this year and 16 of 61 in his career, earning $322,848. Five horses have odds in single digits to be the overall Elitlopp champion: B B S Sugarlight, Mosaique Face, Nuncio, Timoko, and Maven. Timoko, who drew post seven in the second elimination, is the defending champion. Here are the fields: 1st elimination: 1. Univers de Pan 2. Support Justice 3. Vincennes  4. Mosaique Face 5. Ustinof du Vivier 6. Royal Fighter 7. Nuncio 8. Wind Of The North 2nd elimination: 1. B B S Sugarlight 2. Nahar 3. Brett Boko  4. Maven 5. Magic Tonight 6. On Track Piraten 7. Timoko 8. Voltigeur de Myrt by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications 

WILKES-BARRE PA - What's the surest sign that harness racing is about to enter its "prime time" of the year?   Is it the shipping of stables from warmer climes to the North?   Is it the start of the many classy stakes scattered throughout the season?   Is it the return of the weekly "Top Ten" poll?   No, no, and no.   The surest sign of harness racing's ready to enter the seasonal "fast track" is, ironically, a group of colts or fillies going slowly an extra lap of a racetrack before the beginning of a morning race. Their drivers are talking back and forth, to each other, to the starter, and to their horses, getting them ready for when the starter springs the gate in front of them - and they start out in their first "baby race."   The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono offered three races exclusively for two-year-olds during its Thursday morning program of qualifiers.   The first winner was the Shadow Play filly Miss Read, who rallied from the pocket with a 28.2 last quarter (2:01) to defeat another late charger, Nip's Beach Girl, for driver Howard Parker. Trainer Leigh Raymer may have a bargain on her hands here, as the filly cost her and Tyler Raymer only $5500 despite the fact that the mare had produced three $100,000 winners - and now has a promising baby to her credit.   Team Raymer came right back with a Donato Hanover colt, Mr Right, whom Tyler sent to the top after the quarter, then flashed home in 58.3 - 29 to complete a 2:01.3 victory for Leigh, who co-owns with Stephen Moss, Harold Solomon, and Helene Solomon. Mr Right, aptly-named to date, was a $25,000 yearling purchase, and he is out of a dam who is a sister to the $600G winner Somebody To Love.   In the third baby race, driver Brewer Adams stole a 1:05.2 half with the American Ideal colt Gaius Crastinus, then zipped him home in a pair of 29s to hold off first-over Kiss Baby Kiss, wrapping up the package in 2:03.2. Jennifer Sabot conditions the colt, out of a dam whose sister is well-known $1M winner Feeling You, for owner/breeder Marilee Keene. (The winner, by the way, is named after one of Caesar's most trusted lieutenants in the Gallic Wars - yes, I had to look it up.)   PHHA / Pocono              

The celebratory drinks could be shared over a fence if smart colt A Good Chance lands the prize in the Gr.1 $100,000 QBRED Triad for harness racing 3yo Colts & Geldings Final at Albion Park this Saturday night. Redcliffe trainer Donny Smith is set to call his stable driver Chris Petroff his next door neighbor come Sunday. Petroff replaces Josh Moore as the private trainer for Alf La Spina this weekend and will move into the Knight Street property which is owned by La Spina. Spearheading the team will be the ultra-talented Caesar Augustus who has resumed work following a lengthy break away from the racetrack. But the focus is clearly with Saturday night’s race where A Good Chance is heavily favoured and Petroff believes his colt is ready to step up and claim his biggest prize. “It looks like it’s going to be a very busy weekend with the packing and unpacking and everything else in between but it’s an exciting new challenge and I’m looking forward to it, I’ve enjoyed so many great victories with Alf and Rosario (Alf’s son). This colt has the draw and his recent form is very good so it will take a good effort to beat us.” Petroff said. A Good Chance was crowned the two-year-old pacer of the year at the Racing Queensland Harness Awards ceremony last year following his excellent season which resulted in four wins and six minor placing’s from his ten starts. His biggest success came via the Gr.3 $35,000 QBRED Breeders Classic Final at Albion Park. The Mr Feelgood – Chance The Walk colt raced with distinction during the recent Seymour Nursery Pace 3yo series finishing a game runner-up in the prelude behind Birdy Mach before running third in the final won by Corporal Luna. On both occasions, A Good Chance was forced to work outside the leader. “On the score of consistency he deserves a big Group One victory because he tries so hard and always performs at the highest level. I think it would be great for Donny to train his first major with his favourite horse, he idolizes this colt. “Although beaten at his past two starts, I think they were his best efforts so far this campaign and Donny was thrilled with the way he came through that series. I think he’s now spot on and his condition is perfect. “I’ll be pressing forward and looking for the lead soon after the start, he’ll be very hard to beat in front. Horses like Admiral Bronski, Jack Malone and Allnight Raid look the toughest to beat but I wouldn’t swap drives.” A Good Chance will back-up in next week’s Gr.3 $30,000 Redcliffe Derby before aiming at other features during the Brisbane winter carnival including the Gr.1 $150,000 Queensland Derby at Albion Park on July 18. by Chris Barsby Related Links Fields for Albion Park, Saturday 30 May 2015 Form guide for Albion Park, Saturday 30 May 2015

Caen’s harness racing feature today was the Prix de Saint-Martin (monte, €38,000 purse, 2450 meters, 13 starters) and jockey Eric Raffin rode Tamerlan(8g Capriccio-Hematite) to a 1.14kr victory, his seventh in 66 career starts. The 6/1 winner is owned by Ecurie Danover and trained by St. Provoost. Salieri (9g Hermes des Pericard-Lysanxia) was second for David Thomain at 4/1 with third to 12/1 Ulpia des Jipes (7f Mon Bellouet-Obiga des Jipes) for trainer/jockey Franck Nivard. At Solvalla, their Elitloppet weekend began with a series of ASVT Trottex Auktionsloop events each with a winner’s reward of 110,000SEK. The three year-old females battled over 2140 meters autostart and Bjorn Goop teamed Tunika (3f Zola Boko-Verona du Ling-Super Arnie) to an easy 1.14.3kr victory. Tomas Malmqvist trains for owner Stall Tumble Boys-Easy and Tunika was bred by Menhammer Stuteri AB. The winner is 5-2-1 in nine career starts. Magnesia (3f Magnetic Power-Mertensia-Super Arnie) with Oskar J. Andersson up was second for trainer Jorgen Westholm. Second dam is by Speedy Spin. Orjan Kihlstrom teamed Teeter Totter (3f Jaded-Marelle-VikingKronos) home third. This one was also a Menhammer Stuteri AB bred. The three-year old males also fought over 2140 meters autostart for 110,000SEK first money with Poet Broline (3m Quite Easy-Candelia-Armbro Goal) victorious for trainer/driver Peter Untersteiner clocked in 1.14.1kr by open lengths. Broline International AB bred the winner that is owned by Sven-Goran Sjostrom. Another colt division (same distance and purse) went to Bjorn Goop reined Pacific Broline clocked in 1.14.3kr. Goop is also trainer of the Franck Leblanc owned, Broline International AB bred winner, now 4-1-0 in six starts lifetime, all in 2015. Another filly division (same distance, purse) went to Facile Boko (3f Virgill Boko-Zacile Boko-Muscles Yankee) with Erik Adielsson up timed in 1.14.1kr. She was an easy winner for owner Easy KB and trainer Svante Bath. Boko Stables Holland BV bred this one, now 5-5-1 in 13 career appearances. Also on the Solvalla card was the Gotlandssnus for mares (2140 meters autostart, 50,000SEK first money) and Ulf Ohlsson teamed Faith Hill (4f Muscle Hill-A Girl Named Sugar-Pine Chip) to a close there horse finish timed in 1.14.8kr. Stefan Melander trains the winner for his Stall TZ. Lebanon, Kentucky’s Jim Avritt bred Faith Hill. The mares also contested the E-trafik (1640 meters autostart, 60,000SEK first money) and Orjan Kihlstrom piloted Denmark’s Speed Hill (6f Goetmals Wood-Funny Hall-Mr. Vic) to a 1.11.6kr win. Roger Walmann trains the winner for Stuteri Sun Hill, also breeder. Speed Hill is 10-3-4 in 28 career starts. Thomas H. Hicks

CAMPBELLVILLE, May 28 - Harness racing trainer John Bax is no stranger to success, having collected nearly $20 million in lifetime earnings. On Saturday evening, the veteran conditioner will be looking to add another win to his collection with Stubborn Belle in the $129,661 WEG-S.B.O.A Final for three-year-old filly trotters at Mohawk Racetrack. Her first start of the season came in the eliminations a week prior, with an impressive win in 1:55.2. "I was real happy with her," said Bax. "I think it was a good tightener for her, we've got the inside (in the S.B.O.A. final) so I'm hoping she'll be just one race better. Touch wood, hopefully she stays healthy." The daughter of Taurus Dream spent her winter across the border before returning to the track, fresh and ready for her sophomore campaign. "She enjoyed Florida as much as I did! She's come back pretty good, a few hiccups here and there. She can be a bit hard on herself so we've got the odd bump and bruise. Despite that, I think she's getting back to where she needs to be." According to Bax, his trainee can certainly put the "stubborn" in "Stubborn Belle" and though somewhat calmer as a three-year-old, she still considers herself to be the boss. Heading into the final, she'll be looking to prove it to a strong field. "I think she's got as good a chance as any. Obviously I'm hoping for a win but I think she looks good in there. There's a couple new horses coming out of the woodwork and I'm sure they're going to be heard from." Bill Budd's Meadow Seelster certainly made herself known last week, finishing a strong second to Stubborn Belle after making a break at the start. Since returning to the track in 2015, she's continued to trot faster with each start. Another one to watch will be Second Sister as she looks to build upon her gate-to-wire 1:55 win in the second WEG-S.B.O.A elimination for Team McNair. "The three-year-old year, you always have to step up," said Bax. "It's a long year so I won't read too much into one race, but I'm looking forward to a good three-year-old season with her." In 2014, Stubborn Belle picked up another win off the track, capturing the O'Brien Award for Two-Year-Old Trotting Filly to cap off a season with earnings in excess of $500,000. She edged out fellow nominee Danielle Hall, who broke stride early in her elimination, rallying for sixth and the also eligible position in Saturday's event. "I felt disappointed for Carl (Jamieson)," said Bax. "It would have been nice if he could have gotten a good start in her somewhere. That's the problem with making all that money as a two-year-old, it's hard to put a horse in for their first start back and get a race where they don't get beat up by older horses. "I'm sure it's just a blip, (Danielle Hall) is a nice mare. She always liked to beat the good ones." Stubborn Belle will be headed next to Ontario Sires Stakes action and Bax has Grand Circuit events such as the Casual Breeze and Elegantimage stakes also on her radar. "I'm hopeful she'll be good enough for the Hambletonian Oaks in August. There's lots of racing for her, it's a long season so you don't want to stretch them out too much too early. It's going to be a good year." Saturday night's card at Mohawk will be highlighted by the WEG-S.B.O.A finals for both three-year-old filly trotters and pacers. The $129,661 final for trotting fillies is carded as Race 3, while the $127,661 final for sophomore pacing fillies will take place as Race 6. Post time is 7:25 p.m. Hannah Beckett for WEG Communications  

YONKERS, NY, Thursday, May 28, 2015—Yonkers Raceway’s $300,000 Art Rooney Pace ‎highlights the  season's debut of "Saturday Night at the Races" harness racing series heard on Sirius XM Channel 92. The program, airing from 9:30-11 PM, features major harness stakes from across North America and is co-hosted by Mike Curci and ‎Peter Kleinhans. (Approximate post time for the Rooney is at 8:15 PM, with the race airing on tape delay). . The 25th Rooney, for 3-year old colts and geldings, is led by elimination winners In The Arsenal and Sonofa Sizzle.. The $117,724 Lismore, the companion feature for sophomore fillies, is also included in the broadcast. The Rooney remembers the family patriarch and late Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney, Sr. The family has owned Yonkers Raceway since 1972.  Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway is a sponsor of “Saturday Night at the Races,” with other Yonkers’ stakes races to be featured on the program during throughout the season. (FFI…Bill Finley/Sirius XM Radio, wnfinley@aol.com, Cirillo World/John Cirillo, 914-260-7436, johnnycigarpr@aol.com;) Frank Drucker

Hundreds of years ago, the Romans and Greeks gathered in stadiums to watch thrilling chariot races. As the crowds cheered, brave charioteers risked their lives in precarious carriages at breakneck speeds. The rewards for winning were plentiful, but the dangerous sport was not for the faint of heart. Chariot racing continues to this day, and it is still a potentially treacherous endeavor for both horse and driver. Today, the horses pull carts called “sulkys.” Crashes and rollovers are common. New York entrepreneur and horseman Sam Stathis saw an opportunity to improve upon the ancient sport by making the chariots safer and faster. He modeled his new carts after sports cars. Stathis showed off his modern interpretation of the ancient chariots at the 111th U.S. Open Polo Championship April 19 in Wellington. “The chariots look like Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Maseratis,” Stathis said. “They’re modeled after exotic cars. There is space to put advertising. They are much safer. Many accidents are caused when the wheels lock up on the jock cart. I’ve been in an accident and I wanted to prevent that from happening again. We’ve built the chariots to be safer, more aerodynamic, lighter and sexier.” Inspired by Formula 1 and Nascar, Stathis hopes to rebrand and reenergize the sport of harness racing to the same level as any professional spectator sport. He started the World Chariot Racing Federation (www.worldchariot.org) as a way to promote the resurgence of the sport and foster worldwide competition. He wants to market harness racing as more eco-friendly than racing cars, but just as exciting. “I came up with the idea of combining Formula 1 with harness racing,” he said. “It’s about thrill seeking and entertainment, rather than gambling. The existing model is too focused on gambling. It’s not set up to be watched. It’s not televised. There are very few sponsors. I saw a big opportunity.” Stathis also is an inventor, business owner and engineer. Another project he’s working on is the creation of energy while the horses race, and using the excitement of racing to get kids interested in science, engineering and alternative energy. “The latest versions (of the sulkys) have generators,” Stathis said. “When you exercise your horse or race, they create electricity. I don’t believe the amount of energy we’re creating is going to save the planet, but it’s a tremendous teaching tool for students to learn about inverters and charging and battery systems, which is a first step into electric cars and alternative energy. I started competitions at the high school level. The first one is a design competition. The second one is a build competition. The third one is to see who can produce the most electricity. At the end, we race them.” Like many people in the equestrian world, Stathis loves speed. He plans to keep promoting chariot racing until it is as popular as auto racing. “I’m a thrill seeker,” he said. “I fly planes and race cars, boats and motorcycles. There is nothing like racing a horse. You need your own human athletic skills, the mechanical component of the cart, and the equine component. It’s very thrilling.” By Amy Bower Doucette  Reprinted with permission of The PalmBeachPost.com site

The terminal decline of harness racing in New Zealand continues unabated and the future of this industry is looking shakier by the day. The recent announcement by the New Zealand Racing Board that Harness Racing New Zealand has given up another 59 races for next season is yet another nail in the coffin of the industry in New Zealand. The rationale given by Harness Racing New Zealand is that with less races they hope to improve overall field size and improve the quality of the racing. That is about as realistic as me wanting to sleep with Demi Moore. It ain't going to happen. Both the Thoroughbred and Greyhound national bodies have maintained the same number of races as last year and logic would suggest that they will continue to take market share off harness racing as a result. Harness Racing has lost 4% of its races in just two years and that is before the big reductions in foal numbers start to kick in which will really affect the number of races we can conduct each season. So what is our governing body proposing to do to arrest the slide and turn the industry around. Apart from a bit of tinkering around the edges, in my view they are sitting on their hands while this industry goes down the gurgler. The question I would pose is how is the industry travelling in New Zealand at the grass roots level. I talk to scores of industry people each week throughout New Zealand and the feedback is overwhelmingly negative. There are a great many trainers who are looking to cross the Tasman or get out of the industry completely. These include some household names in the industry in New Zealand which leads me to conclude that we are reaching a tipping point in the industry in this country. Auckland is by far the worst area but is not alone in the disillusionment engulfing this industry throughout the country. If the current trends continue and then accelerate when the lower foal numbers kick in shortly, then I don't think harness racing in New Zealand in its present form will exist in ten years time. We need to act now and turn this industry around or prepare ourselves for its demise I know I have been beating this drum for a while but I thought that Harness Racing New Zealand would take up the challenge and they would turn things around. However they have done next to zero and this industry is now living on borrowed time. Several times over the last twelve months I have put forward proposals to change the way we do things in the harness racing industry in New Zealand to help it survive. I don't want to go back over these in detail but I will touch briefly on them here so we are all on the same page.   There are a multitude of structures that need urgent change but I will focus here on the four that I think are critical to any chance of saving this industry. 1) Management Structures The management structure of harness racing in New Zealand is more akin to that of a 1960s sports club than that of an industry that turns over hundreds of millions of dollars a year. The clubs in New Zealand were set up to run race meetings and they do an outstanding job of performing their primary function. No one can tell me that clubs that meet once a year were ever envisaged to be running the multi faceted and complex business that harness racing in 2015 has become. We need a small  business savvy board with representatives elected by the rank and file participants in the industry in conjunction with some appointed members who are there for their business acumen. 2) Breeding Incentives The breeding side of harness racing is in a death spiral at the moment and unless we do something urgently then the breeding numbers will continue to fall. We have just lost 59 races for the coming year due to lack of runners per race and with the significantly smaller crops now starting to come on stream, that reduction in races per year will accelerate in the coming years. There are several models in use worldwide where other countries heavily support their breeders and we need to follow suit and soon. There is no time to argue about the merits of each of the systems, just adopt one and use it before it is too late. 3) Handicapping system The present system for the majority of horses is not working. The system has been tinkered with for many years and it still has major flaws. A lot of trainers I speak to think the handicapping system is worst now than it has ever been. We have had some minor improvements over the last few years but at this rate we will get it fully sorted about 2050 Why have we not tried something like a points system as Richard Brosnan has been promoting for some time? It is simple, easy to follow and would extend the life of a lot of our poorer performed horses. The Australian market for our cheaper horses has virtually disappeared overnight with the tax imposed on our horses by the Australians.  Harness Racing New Zealand is trying to solve the problem by making better usage of the horses that are presently racing. A recent HRNZ quote is " We have started less horses more times".   If you take that solution to its logicial conclusion we are going to have less and less horses racing more often over time. It is the exact opposite to what they should be trying to do. The ideal would be to have more horses racing if the system was working, not less. Less horses means less owners, less trainers, less drivers and so on and so on. At some point we will be down to  just Alexandra Park and Addington if we don't change our present course. 4) New Zealand Racing Board If you want to know where the money is going in the three codes in New Zealand then look no further than the New Zealand Racing Board. The pigs have got there noses that deep in the trough that it is no wonder that the three codes are struggling to survive. I could pinpoint several examples but I think it is just as easy to set out below some of the costs associated with the New Zealand Racing Board. Operational costs of the New Zealand Racing Board - August 2014 - just after the last HRNZ annual conference. - NZRB's running costs have increased by $24.4 million in four years, a rise of 6.2%. - For the same period turnover increased by just 1.5% and income 2.3%. - Since August 2012, staff costs had risen by $2 million or 4%, an April KPMG audit report said. - The NZRB's annual report of 2013 listed staff expenses of $54.98 million. - In the NZRB's more recent half-yearly report its staff expenses for the six months ending January 31,2014, amounted to $30.71 million, up $2.5 million on 2013. - Its total expenses for the same six months were $64 million, up $3.1 million. - The 2013 annual report listed 72 staff that was paid more than $100,000. - Twenty four of those earned more than $150,000, and eight earned more than $250,000. I have been involved with this industry for nearly forty five years and not much has changed to be honest in that time, except the cost of running the Industry. We need to change the structures that run this industry and bring them into the 21st century. Its like Harness Racing New Zealand is aware that the Titanic is going down but instead of taking any action they would rather sit and listen to the band. JC

In his own words, harness racing owner Duncan McPherson OAM is “living the dream” with his three-year-old colt Aldebaran Eagle, who will race in the New Jersey Sires Stakes Final at the Meadowlands on Sunday morning Australian time. The son of Muscle Hill / Letsjusttalkaboutme ran third in his heat in 1:52.4 and will come out the five gate in the $US100,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes Final for three-year-old colts and geldings over a mile. “It’s an incredible experience,” a beaming McPherson said. Aldebaran Eagle will be driven by Corey Callahan and is trained by Jonas Czernyson. McPherson, the Principal at Aldebaran Park, has a passion for harness racing that has no bounds and will also get a huge thrill out of having Excellent Boku competing at Sweden’s Solvalla racetrack on the Elitlopp program on Sunday. Raced in conjunction with Michael Taranto, who also has a big week ahead with Australian and international runners – including Livin The Life in the New South Wales Trotters Derby – Excellent Boku was purchased to ultimately be exported to Australia. And as if the weekend wasn’t going to be jam-packed enough for McPherson, he will also line up Aldebaran Ay in the 2YO Ruby at the rich Harness Jewels program at Ashburton. The Colin De Filippi trained and driven filly has drawn outside the front line in the $100,000 race. By Cody Winnell

London, May 27, 2015 -- Michigan-based harness racing trainer Dale Decker has never been to The Raceway at The Western Fair District, but he’ll have a not-so-secret weapon on his side when his star five-year-old Night Pro goes to the gate Friday night from post four in the $150,000 Molson Pace. Ronnie Wrenn, Jr. will be in Night Pro’s sulky. “He’s the leading dash driver in the country the last two years,” said Decker. Make that the leading dash-winning driver in North America. Wrenn, Jr., 28, won the 2014 continental title with 847 wins and the 2013 crown with 714 victories. This year, Wrenn, Jr. currently sits a close second behind Aaron Merriman in North America with 330 wins. In just eight years in the bike, Wrenn, Jr. has already surpassed 2,500 career victories, most of that over the last four seasons. The Ohio-based driver has made just one career start at The Raceway at The Western Fair District — a fourth-place finish driving Rock Bottom in an overnight in January of 2011. Decker said he had to do a little convincing to get Wrenn, Jr. to give up his full slate of drives Friday at Scioto Downs in Columbus, OH to come to London, but thinks racing in the Molson Pace could be a good stepping stone to bigger races for the driver. “He’s kind of got to make a decision if he wants to try to venture into the Grand Circuit ranks or just stay local,” Decker said. Night Pro has proven to be a horse worth following on the stakes trail. In three years of racing, the son of former Ontario-based star Pro Bono Best out of Midnight Jewel has amassed over $500,000 in earnings and sports a startling record of consistency with 29 wins in 49 starts. The pacer has finished no worse than third in 84 per cent of his starts. “He’s a true racehorse,” Decker said. “He’s the best one I’ve had, by far.” Decker also owns and raised Night Pro, the 5-1 fourth choice in the Molson Pace, behind Confederation Cup winner All Bets Off (post 1, 8-5), two-time defending Molson Pace champ State Treasurer (post 8, 2-1) and Duc Dorleans (post 6, 9-2). The Molson Pace is race 12 in a promotion-packed night of racing at Western Fair. The first race post time is 7:15 p.m. Last year, Night Pro regularly held his own racing against such star older pacers as Foiled Again, Sweet Lou, Clear Vision and Bettors Edge. He posted a record of 12-3-3 in 24 starts and earned over $230,000 racing in stakes in the Midwestern United States, close to Decker’s base close to Toledo, OH. “I try to stay more local to where I’m at, within about a four-hour ship. Horse racing, even though I wish it was my full-time occupation, it’s not. So, time is limited,” said Decker, a residential home builder by trade. “Besides, (Night Pro’s) not the best shipper in the world, either. He’ll be sweating when I get (to Western Fair).” Decker was the one that was sweating when he took Night Pro to the Hoosier Classic Yearling Sale in 2010 to be sold on behalf of breeder Linda Marckel. Night Pro is the second foal out of Midnight Jewel. Her first foal, Starzzz Of Jewel, sold for $40,000. When it came time for Night Pro to sell, there was little interest. “I was in a state of shock at the sale,” Decker said. “I had no idea what I was doing. I’m not kidding you. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it. The bidding stalled at $4,500. That’s when I jumped in… I did have the money to buy him. So, it wasn’t an issue. But I had plenty of horses and I was just trying to make (his breeder) some money. I ended up with him.” The cost was $14,000. “I had no idea I was going to end up with him because I didn’t want another horse. I already had a barn full. I didn’t want to spend $14,000 either, because I’d have to go home and explain that to my wife,” Decker said. “She wouldn’t let me sell him now.” Though Night Pro is a bigger horse, Decker said The Raceway’s tight half-mile oval doesn’t concern him because his farm track is smaller than a half and Night Pro, “gets around here just fine… He’s pretty universal. That’s what’s nice about him. He can race any way and he can race on any size track.” Fans will be able to enjoy all 12 races on the Friday card on a large infield video tote board that will feature an enhanced broadcasting coverage all night. The Molson Pace card will offer betting patrons a cornucopia of wagering options. There’s a $7,500 guarantee on the early Pick 4 and the Super Hi-5, a $10,000 guarantee on the late Pick 4 and Super Hi-5 and a $2,500 guarantee on the Pick 3 offered in races one through three. Other promotions include scratch and win programs giving patrons a one-in-six chance to win a prize, a guest horse outside the main entrance to greet fans, a raft of prizes and giveaways courtesy of Molson and the OLG and, throughout the night, fans can even take a spin around the track in a double-seated jog cart with the Wanna Ride team. For more information, please visit: www.molsonpace.com. Greg Blanchard

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