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Those who remembered that Vari Forgetful was once a very good trotting mare have been rewarded to the tune of 58-1 and 14-1, respectively, in her last two trips to the post for harness racing driver/trainer Bruce Clarke. The 6-year-old homebred daughter of Armbro Variable carries the banner of Jack Coffey and has over $105,000 in her bank account with a 1:56 4/5 mark that was established at Pompano Park two years ago. That said, she did come into her January 11 assignment off a series of less-than-stellar efforts and had the 9 post to boot that night. No problem, as Vari Forgetful left into a stalking position and motored by everyone for the $119 shocker. Last week from the cozy rail, she did a curtain call at nearly 15-1 under Clarkes direction, again winning easily. Shes always been a very nice mare, but just like last year, it took her awhile to come around at this meet, her mentor noted. It was actually my fault the first couple of starts here because I should have changed her shoeing, then the race before her first win she had the second tier and got run into and lost any chance. Even though she had the 9 hole for that race two back, she had been training very well and were able to leave into a good spot. She finished strongly, and no question it helped that was in pretty cheap. While the 58-1 odds that evening didnt seem out of line, Bruce did say he was surprised she was such a big number in last weeks outing, especially considering she was moving from the 9 slot to the rail. I told the owner I thought she couldnt get beat in there because she was definitely back to her old self, Clarke said. With the inside, the plan was to float out of there and sit in the two or the three hole, and thats exactly how it worked out. El Azteca, Its Not Over head marquee El Azteca and Its Not Over, who have divided up the eight clashes at the head of their class at this meeting, are spotlighted in Fridays Open Trot. A 10-race card is on tap with first post at 6:40 p.m. and racing will be conducted this week under the Watch and Wager LLC banner on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. A reminder that through the month of January, the guarantee on the low-takeout Pick 4 has been raised to $30,000. The Pick 4 is one of four wagers offered each night with the reduced 16% takeout rate, the others being the Pick 5, the Jackpot 6 and the Hi 5. El Azteca has prevailed in the last two Open Trots for his owner/trainer/breeder Marco Rios and pilot James Kennedy. He comes into this assignment with $134,000 with a 1:54 3/5 career standard that was established last year at Hoosier Park in Indiana. In the most recent clash, El Azteca left into a stalking position for Kennedy, brushed to the lead turning for home and proved clearly best by two and a half lengths that evening. He has been assigned the outside slot in the field of five. Its Not Over is 5-year-old son of Panama Hanover who carries the banner of Richard Dryden and Debra Budahn with Bob Johnson the conditioner and Chip Lackey in his usual position in the sulky. Its Not Over made his most recent trip to the winners circle following the December 27 Open Trot, lost his best chance with an early break in the next appearance and then checked in second behind his arch-rival at most recent asking. Winsom Kelly, A Crown For Lindy and Franks Best complete the field. By Mark Ratzky, publicity Cal Expo Harness                

One of the best races of the meet could be for the driving crown, with Luke Plano, Steve Wiseman and James Kennedy staking a claim for the title through the first six weeks of this stand. Plano came into this week atop the standings with 20 trips to the charmed enclosure, bringing his lifetime total to 2,644 with $9.5 million in earnings. Luke is following in the footsteps of his father Rick, who was a leading driver and trainer in California for many years. There are some new horsemen here and that adds to the competitiveness of the racing, Plano said. Ill have a few horses in my barn, but I prefer to concentrate on the driving. Steve Wiseman is currently second with 18 victories to his credit at the meet, while leading the trainer stands with 15 of his representatives returning to have their picture taken. His total driving wins now stands at 2,136 with $8.2 million in earnings. Being the leading driver and trainer was the goal coming into the meet, Steve explained. Ive never won a training title before, so that would be nice, and Ive got a great crew to help me. James Kennedy is also off to a good start here with 13 snapshots and figures to be right in the hunt through the close of business in early May. Kennedy, who recorded a number of driving and training victories with the popular mare Haggin Oaks, currently sits with 866 sulky scores on his resume. (use as a reverse box) A reminder there are four wagers offered here every night with a reduced 16% takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5; the Jackpot 6; the Pick 4 and the Hi-5 on the nitecap. Featured Pace brings out A Real Miracle A Real Miracle, victorious in three of his five appearances at the meet, looks to keep the momentum going when he heads the cast for Saturday nights $6,000 Open Pace at Cal Expo. A 12-race card is on tap with first post set for 6:10 p.m. There is now Saturday and Sunday racing under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post on Sunday at 4:40 p.m. Beginning December 26, Friday action will be added to the mix. A Real Miracle is a 4-year-old son of Real Desire who is owned by Junior Wilkinson, Billie Schwartz and Ivan Axelrod, is conditioned by Wilkinson and is guided by Luke Plano. He established his 1:52 1/5 career standard this summer over the seven-eighths Hoosier Park oval. The Wilkinson trainee has clicked three times from five stats at this meet, including a dominating victory in the main event on opening week. After tiring in his next two tries, he returned to his winning ways last week as he made what proved to be the winning move for Plano on the backside and went on to a length score. In the most recent clash at the top of the class, A Real Miracle was dispatched as the 3-5 favorite and did not disappoint the chalkplayers. Plano buzzed the bay performer right to the front, moderated the pace and then held safe by a neck over the pocket-sitting longshot Mar Dream. The latter put a score into the favorite last week, as he sat the pocket journey and missed by only a neck while two and a half-lengths clear of the rest of the field A 6-year-old son of Cambest, Mar Dream is owned by David Neumeister, is trained by Bob John and will again have Mooney Svendsen at the controls. He has a 1:50 2/5 mark and over $171,000 in his account. Rounding out the field from the rail out are Cenalta Power for Ryan Grundy; Lifetime Louie with Dave Siegel; Ideal Smile, Steve Wiseman; and Pointsman, who will have the services of Chip Lackey. The headliner goes as the fourth race on the program. A reminder that there are four wagers offered here every night with a reduced 16% takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5; the Jackpot 6; the Pick 4 and the Hi-5 on the nitecap By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness    

El Azteca made a successful return to the harness races last weekend, capturing the Open Trot for his owner/breeder/trainer Marco Rios with James Kennedy at the helm, but there's more to the story. The 5-year-old trotting son of Panama Hanover hadn't seen evening action since June 5, when he won a conditioned affair at Hoosier Park as the 4-5 choice while lowering his lifetime mark to 1:54 3/5 in the process. "He came out of the race with an injury and the vet told me there was only about a 20 percent chance he would make it back to the races," Rios related. "Three months later, when he checked him out again, he was very surprised and told me it was about 95 percent that everything would be fine." El Azteca is the pride and joy of the Rios barn, with several Sire Stakes trophies on his mantle and earnings approaching the $120,000 mark. From his last 24 starts, 14 have ended up with smiles all around in the winner's circle. "I gave him a qualifier at Hoosier (September 24) before we left," Rios explained. "Then I trained him pretty hard when we got here, which is why I didn't put him in another qualifier. One thing about this horse, he always gives you 100 percent." Kennedy was guiding El Azteca for the first time from the outside slot in last week's gathering for the top trotters on the grounds and ignited when it counted in the stretch to hang a head decision on another local favorite in Franks Best. "James told me he drives just like a Cadillac," Rios said. His mentor added that plans call for El Azteca to stay here through the meet, meaning fans and his Open Trot foes alike figure to see quite a bit of this determined performer. El Azteca gets top billing in headliner El Azteca, who has posed for pictures following 14 of his last 24 trips to the post for his owner/breeder/trainer Marco Rios, heads the cast for Saturday night's featured $5,000 Open II Trot at Cal Expo. A 15-race card is on tap with a first post of 5:40 p.m. Racing will be conducted Saturday this week, expanding to Saturday and Sunday programs beginning next week. Plans then call for a three-night-a-week schedule starting on December 26 with Friday racing added to the mix. El Azteca is a 5-year-old son of Panama Hanover out of the Jonathan Lobell mare Jonathan's Girl who comes into this weekend's assignment with $118,000 in his bank account and a 1:54 3/5 mark that was established on May 29 at Hoosier Park. Making his first start since that victory in last week's Open over this layout with James Kennedy at the controls, El Azteca did the track-and-attack to perfection and was up by a head over Frank's Best in a game performance. Like El Azteca, Frank's Best is also owned and was bred by his trainer Bob Johnson and will once again have Mooney Svendsen in the sulky. The 7-year-old son of Armbro Scribe is just shy of the $200,000 earnings plateau and set his 1:56 2/5 career standard here two years ago. Sharpshootennorris has to be given a long look after checking in second and third in the last two top dances for the trotting set at this meeting. Steve Wiseman reins and trains the $472,000 earner for Bette Jean Calice and the 11-year-old sports a 1:54 lifetime mark on his resume. Rounding out the field, from the rail out, are Silverlode with Steve Desomer guiding; Its Not Over and Chip Lackey; Sharpshotennorris, to be handled by Steve Wiseman; and Silence Son, who has the services of David Siegel. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness

Harness racing returns to Cal Expo Saturday night under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with a 14-race program on tap and a first post of 6:15 p.m. Racing will be conducted on Saturday nights in October, expanding to Saturday and Sunday programs in November. Plans then call for a three-night a week schedule beginning on December 26 with Friday racing added to the mix. Heading the opening-night card are two divisions each of the opening legs of the Bill Conlin and Annette Funicello Pacing series; an Open II event for the pacers and an Open II contest for the trotters. Robin Schadt is the new Director of Racing. My goal is to produce a racing program where every horseman gets their horses raced on a regular basis for decent money and to provide the betting public with competitive fields on which to wager, she said. Saturdays program features four wagers at a reduced 16 percent takeout, including the new 10-cent Cal Expo Jackpot Pick 6 that starts on the third race. The wager requires a single winning Pick 6 ticket, or there is a carryover. The other low-takeout wagers are the 50-cent Pick 5 that begins on the first race; the 20-cent Pick 4 that covers races 10 through 13 and comes with a $20,000-guaranteed pool; and the 10-cent Super Hi-Five on the nitecap. Taking a closer look at the Open II Trot, multiple stakes-winning I Love New York returns to California for Bruce Clarke, while the Open II Pace finds A Real Miracle heading an interesting cast as he makes his way back from Indiana for Junior Wilkinson. Luke Plano back to defend driving title Luke Plano, fresh from capturing the driving title at the winter/spring Watch and Wager LLC meeting here at Cal Expo, is back to defend the crown. At that last meet, Luke made 160 trips to the winners circle, with his nearest competitor being James Kennedy, who had 121 winning tours at that session. Both will be in action on Saturdays 14-race program. Its exciting to be back, said Plano, who has been plying his trade in Indiana this summer. I know there are going to be some new horsemen here, and that should certainly add to the competitiveness of the racing. As far as switching from the seven-eighths track at Hoosier Park to the one mile here, there are a lot of similarities. The one difference would be that even though you can win from the back at Hooiser, there is more of a speed bias and you want to be close if you can. Here are Cal Expo, its a much fairer track in that regard and you have more options. As has been the case in the past, Plano will have a very small stable of his own while normally driving in just about every race on the card. Ill have anywhere from three to six horses in my barn, but I prefer to concentrate on the driving, he explained. Its worked out real well that way. Luke will be looking to get off to a quick start on opening night with several very live performers set to go to the post under his direction. Its a good bet hell be posing for more his share of pictures. By Mark Ratzky                      

With a total of 14 filly and mare pacers dropped into the box Friday's Violet Stake for Illinois conceived and foaled distaffers, three-year-olds and up, was split into a pair of $21,390 divisions. Both splits provided eye-catching payouts as Fox Valley Touche, a 25-1 outsider came flying through the lane to score by a neck in 1:53.2 for driver Dale Hiteman to open the action. Just four races later The Bruzilian Blur employed similar tactics as James Kennedy steered the mare to a 1 ½ length come from behind score in 1:54.2 at odds of 12-1. Always a threat in this division Fox Valley Touche was reserved through the early stages of her division as Poco Granny (Todd Warren) zipped through splits of 27.1 57.0 & 1:24.4.   That's when Hiteman began his bid with the Joel Smith trained six-year-old, circling up three deep from sixth as the ladies moved around the final turn. Swinging to the outside as the field straightened for the money the daughter of Sportsmaster uncorked a big 27.4 to overtake the pace setter in the final strides. Poco Granny held on for second while the heavily favored No Respect (John De Long) faded to third after a tough first over journey.   A career winner of more than $497,000 for the partnership of James Runyan and Paula Smith Fox Valley Touche returned $52.20, $10.80 & $3.80 while winning for the 27th time in her illustrious career.   In the nightcap Julius Millman's The Bruzilian Blur overcame a tough first over journey after getting away fifth, eventually grinding her way into contention at the top of the stretch to engage Dune In Red (Todd Warren) after that mare had put up splits of 27.0, 56.0 & 1:25.3.   Shrugging off the difficult journey the Kathy Millman trained daughter of Ft. Apache Hanover zipped right by Dune In Red and then kept the pocket sitting Feel Like Dancing (Kyle Wilfong) at bay through the lane for her third win in 13 tries this season. Feel Like Dancing was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role while Dune In Red was third.   With the win The Bruzilian Blur now boasts eight wins, nine seconds and five thirds in 51 lifetime starts with earnings of more than $70,000. Overlooked at the windows The Bruzilian Blur returned $27.80, $7.00 & $3.40.   With no elimination's needed for next Friday's (June 13) $100,000 Filly Maywood Pace some of the state-bred sophomores expected to compete in that affair used "conditioned" events on Friday's card as tune-ups for next week's big showdown.   Among those in action who looked very good in their tighteners were Sawgrass Farms Molly Go Lightly who cruised to an easy win in 1:56.2, Ervin Miller Stables & Omer Miller's M A Refling, who overcame a spot in the second tier to win by four lengths in 1:56.4 and the Joel Smith trained Fox Valley Amanda who also overcame a second tier starting spot to rally for a sharp win in 1:57.1. by Tom Kelley, for Maywood Park  

The winter/spring Watch and Wager LLC harness meeting at Cal Expo concluded Saturday night with Luke Plano capturing the driving title, while Tim Maier ended up the leading trainer. Plano reached the winners circle with 160 times, with James Kennedy finishing second in the standings with 121 winning tours. Tim Maier rounded out the top three with 90 victories in the sulky. In the trainer standings, Maier edged out Bob Johnson by four wins as 79 of his stable representatives got the job done, while 75 Johnson trainees were victorious. Gene Vallandingham was third with 70 visits to the charmed enclosure. The trotters and pacers are set to return to action here in October. General Manager Chris Schick is looking to add some new twists, including the addition of the popular Jackpot Pick Six to the wagering menu. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness

The multiple stakes-winning harness racing mare Haggin Oaks, who posed for pictures following 35 of her 116 starts while banking over $165,000, has been retired and will get to work on being a mother next season. The 8-year-old is by Hi Ho Silverheels out of the Incredible Finale mare Ladyladybemylady and set her mark of 1:52 3/5 last year in New York over the five-eighths Tioga Downs oval. Haggin Oaks was campaigned by Shari Burns, Ferris Funk and Jerry Cimini and was trained early in her career by Lester Smith before James Kennedy took over the duties, as well as being her regular pilot. We call her Liza, because her original name was Cherry Tree Liza, Shari related. She was bred by the late Alan Kirschenbaum and he decided to re-name all the yearlings that year after golf courses, which is how Haggin Oaks came about. Burns pointed out that in their 20-plus year friendship, Jerry Cimini and her husband Ferris had always wanted to campaign a horse together and couldnt have found a better performer for the partnership. Liza was the last yearling left that year. She was a difficult 2 and 3-year-old and it took a lot of love and patience to make her a racehorse. I want to thank Jason Landers for keeping her feet in such great shape and that was not easy. Lester Smith also did a great job and has always been a big supporter of our farm. Of course, when James took out his trainers license, she was his first winner. For me, seeing the joy in my husbands face and hearing the joy in Jerrys conversations about this mare made it all worthwhile. Its not too often someone gets the chance to own such a nice Cal-bred making well over $100,000 in California and we will now give her the life she deserves on the farm where she was born and raised. Hopefully she will produce a few more winners for Ferris and Jerry. Shari also noted the strong bond between Haggin Oaks and her driver/trainer Kennedy. After the race, the first thing James does when he gets out of the sulky is to walk up to her head and give her a big hug. On just about every occasion, she earned it. Sharpshootennorris headlines Open Trot Sharpshootennorris, an impressive winner of two of his last three appearances at the top rung, looks to keep the momentum going in Friday nights featured $5,000 Open Trot. He will do his work from the assigned No.10 post position. An 11-year-old Canandian-bred son of Earl, Sharpshoootennorris carries the banner of Bette Jean Calice with Steve Wiseman doing the driving and training. He is looking to add to a $436,000 bank account with a 1:54 career standard that was established five years ago. The hard-hitting veteran sat a pocket trip for Wiseman when he got the job done in the March 29 Open, was runner-up when coming from last in his next mile and then returned to his winning ways at most recent asking as he took the field coast-to-coast by two and a quarter lengths. Franky Provolone was his nearest rival in that affair and has gone some big miles over this layout for owner Robin Clements and trainer Vickie Desomer and Mooney Svendsen has the call. Axle took the measure of a softer group last week over a sloppy track and has to be respected as he goes for owner/trainer George Reider and driver David Siegel. Mark Ratzky

Laissez Moi Passer has developed into a solid 3-year-old pacer for Sal Wenceslao and driver Williams Hernandez and will attempt to earn his second straight Sire Stakes trophy in Saturday nights main event." "I won a Sire Stakes with Exquisite Gem as an owner five years ago, but this is my first as an owner and trainer," noted Sal, who took out his conditioning license a little over a year ago and races his stable with his wife Georgette. "It was quite a thrill nd it would be nice to do it again." Laissez Moi Passer is by Disco Devil out of the stakes-winning Nirvana mae My Passing Fancy and Wenceslao has had both the pacer and his dam since the day he was born. "He was something special right from the start and I didnt want to rush him," Wencesiao said. "I remember driving Williams out of the farm one day when Laissez was just six months old and I told him this was going to be his first stakes winner." After making menacing noises behind divisional leaders King Of The Crop and Rikybrnthegaragdwn, the most recent stakes together found the Wenceslao performer doing the track-and-attack to perfection for Hernandez, prevailing by three-quarters of a length in a lifetime-best 1:55 clocking. "Turning for home that night," Wencesiao recalled, "I knew those other horses were in trouble because my horse has a real nice closing kick. He finished very strong." Sal also related that he is currently putting a full brother through his paces, with Laissezmoipicoler expected to make his debut near the end of the year. Its the stuff dreams are made of, and so far so good according to his mentor. Sire Stakes entices top pacing colts A $10,000 California Sire Stakes for sophomore pacing colts is on tap Saturday night at Cal Expo, with Laissez Moi Passer, King Of The Crop and Rikybrnthegaragdwn looming the major players. Laissez Moi Passer picked up his first stakes victory when he did the stalk-and-pounce to perfection two weeks ago and prevailed by three-quarters of a length. The 1:55 clocking shaved a full second off his previous mark. The Disco Devil offspring is owned by Salvador and Georgette Wenceslao with Salvador the conditoner and Williams Hernandez in his usual place in the sulky. King Of The Crop and Rikybrnthegaragdown have three stakes trophies each and were second third, respectively, behind Laissez Moi Passer in that last big-money gathering. King Of The Crop is by Little Steven and is owned, trained and driven by James Kennedy, while Rikybrnthegaragdown carries the banner of Maryann Plano with Tim Brown training and Rich Wojcio at the controls. King Of The Crop picked up his most recent stakes tally on March 15, sitting a pocket trip and then exploding in the stretch to win going away for Kennedy. He made a break in the slop in the next added-money affair and set all the fractions in that last stakes before getting overhauled and having to settle for second. King Of The Crop returned in a conditioned affair last week and was a dominating winner six and a half-length winner, lowering his lifetime standard to 1:54 3/5 in the process. Rikybrnthegaragdwn is a son of Livin It Up out of the Sportsmaster mare Sports Bra he last posed for pictures following a stakes race on Marcy 29. He had no trouble with the off going that evening and made every pole a winning one, coming home with five and a half-lengths to spare. Holme Base and Tony Cheesecake complete the field. There will be an 11-race card with first post at 6:15 p.m. and the headliner goes as the second event on the evening. by Mark Ratsky, for Cal Expo Harness

With Gary Seibel taking a week off for a family obligation, Cal Expo is pleased to have Frank Mirahmadi handling the announcing duties on Friday and Saturday. Mirahmadi, who began his career at Hollywood Park in 1992, just wrapped up another season as the voice of the prestigious Oaklawn Park meeting in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and will once again be calling the action on the Northern California fair circuit this summer. Frank is also well known as a TVG racing analyst, for his appearances in several racing movies and his spot-on impressions of personalities both in and out of racing. "I started going to harness races at Hollywood Park and Los Alamitos in the 80's when I was in high school." he noted. "We had a blast and I still remember many of the horses. "My favorite was Courageous Red. He was so talented and very consistent. I always bet on him and was frequently rewarded." It may surprise some people that Mirahmadi will actually be calling his first harness race Friday evening. "I attempted to call one harness race, at a fair in Michigan," Mirahmadi said, "from the infield in the voice of Marv Albert back in 1999. This will be my debut as I can't really even consider that an official call. "It's definitely going to be a challenge. My top priority is to never use the words run or running in my calls. Im really looking forward to it and was very happy to get the call from management." Sophomore Sire Stakes get marquee treatment A pair of $10,000 California Sire Stakes featuring Brewski in the pacing event and Placer in the trotting affair headline the Friday night Cal Expo program that gets under way at 6:15 p.m. Brewski is a homebred daughter of Little Steven and the Tulane mare Wooski who races for Billie Schwartz and trainer Junior Wilkinson with Chip Lackey at the controls. She picked up her first stakes trophy two weeks ago when she made every pole a winning one while equalling her mark with the 1:57 3/5 clocking. De Valeria was runner-up in that affair is another offspring of Little Steven and is a multiple stakes victress for owner Eugene Afentoulis and driver/trainer Steve Wiseman. Her most recent added-money decision came on February 28 over a sloppy track with former trainer Luke Plano in the sulky. Js Littlerockstar rattled off back-to-back Sire Stakes tallies in March, but made a break as the 3-5 choice in that last gathering on April 11. James Kennedy owns, trains, drives and bred the bay filly. She will be looking to return to her best form while back with her peers. Placer is a homebred son of Panama Hanover who carries the banner of Desomer Racing Stables Inc. with Steve Desomer in his usual place in the bike. He has accounted for four of the last six Sire Stakes for the division, including two weeks ago when he hung a neck decision on Snuff N Bear as the even-money favorite. The latter is a New Age Hanover colt who is owned and was bred by Mary Harris, takes his lessons from Kennedy Lindsey and will be guided by James Kennedy. He was a dominating winner of the February 28 get-together for this group and has just missed in the last two stakes clashes behind Ahh Panama and Placer. The racing continues Saturday evening with a Sire Stakes contest for the 3-year-old pacing colts that rematches the most recent trophy earner Laissez Moi Passer with previous stakes victors King Of The Crop and Rikybrnthegaragdwn. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness

Sharpshootennorris, fresh from a pair of big efforts at the top level; and Franks Best, who has gone several huge miles over this layout during his career, head the cast for Friday evenings featured Open Trot at Cal Expo. A 13-race Watch and Wager LLC card is on tap with first post set for 6:15 p.m. The Open Trot will go as the second event on the evening with a field of five facing starter Bill Vallandingham. Hellogottagobuhbye has dominated the Open Trotters the last two weeks, but with that one out of the line-up, Sharpshootennorris figures to have more than his share of backers in the main event. Sharpshootennorris completed the exacta last week and a was a solid 12-1 upsetter in his previous outing in the March 29 Open. The 11-year-old son of Earl is owned by Bette Jean Calice with Steve Wiseman reining and training and is looking to add to a $434,000 bankroll in Fridays headliner. Franks Best comes into this assignment on the verge of going over the $200,000 earnings mark for his owner/trainer/breeder Bob Johnson and regular pilot Mooney Svendsen. While he is looking for his first victory of the season after 11 outings, he does have six runner-up finishes and finished right with Sharpshootennorris last weekend. Rounding out the field are Franky Provolone with James Kennedy at the controls; Axle, to be guided by David Siegel; and Rich Dessert from the rail with Tim Maier at the helm. Looking ahead to Saturdays program, One And Only will be seeking for his third straight victory at the head of the class in the Open Pace for owners Richard Morita and David Yamada, trainer Lino Pacheco and driver Chip Lackey. by Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness

One of the recent additions to the Cal Expo drivers room is Sean Smithpeters, a 31-year-old native of Illinois who drove two winners last weekend for his mother, owner/trainer Gretchen Smith. "I first got involved with harness racing at the same time my mom did", Sean explained. "She took over a boarding facility at the Champaign County fair grounds back home in Illinois when I was in high school. "At the time, we only had riding horses, but on the grounds was a half mile limestone track and several Standardbreds were training there. We decided to try our hand and I began driving on the fair circuit the few horses we had. In 2008 we had enough horses that I was able to get the qualifying drives to obtain my "P" license. I actually made my first starts here in 2009 while out on vacation." As can happen, Smithpeters explained that soon after events in his life conspired to keep him from perusing this driving ambition, but now things have come full circle and he is back in California and the sulky. "Recently my family and I decided it was time for a change of scenery and made the move out here from Illinois," Smithpeters said. " A few weeks back, after a couple weeks here jogging and qualifying a few, I made my first starts since 2009. "Everyone here has been very helpful and kind while I'm trying to shake off the rust and hit my stride driving," Smithpeters said. "Hopefully everything keeps moving forward well and I'll be driving here for quite some time." And so far for Gretchen, shes happy to be joining forces on the racetrack once again with her son. "Its exciting for me to see him back in the bike and watch him develop his skills," Gretchen Smith said. "Being able to see him everyday again is great. I'm very happy he and his family have come to California." Sire Stakes, Open Trot, Open Pace on tap A $10,000 California Sire Stakes for pacing males headed by Rikybrnthegaragdwn and King Of The Crop; an Open Trot featuring Hellogottagobuhbye and Sharpshootennorris and an Open Pace share the spotlight at Cal Expo Saturday night. A 12-race card is on tap with first post set for 6:15 p.m. The Sire Stakes will go as the second event, with the Open Pace the third race and the Open Trot the fourth on the evening. Rikybrnthegaragdwn is a 3-year-old son of Livin It Up out of the Sportsmaster mare Sports Bra who has accounted for three of the stakes events decided for the division with King Of The Crop capturing the other three. He is owned by Maryann Plano and is now conditioned by Tim Brown with Rich Wojcio handling the lines. In the most recent big-money clash two weeks ago, Rikybrnthegaragdwn took advantage of a mid-race break by his arch-rival over a sloppy track and made every pole a winning one. With former driver/trainer Luke Plano at the controls, he waltzed home by five and a half lengths that evening. His 1:55 standard was established in a February 22 conditioned affair. King Of The Crop is son of Little Steven who is owned, trained and driven by James Kennedy. He comes into this assignment having posed for pictures following five of his 10 trips to the post. He has been alternating stakes scores with his main rival, picking up his most recent trophy on March 15 and then losing his chance in that last get-together two weeks ago with the break over the off going. He established his lifetime mark of 1:55 1/5 with his February 1 score. Completing the field are Laissez Moi Passer, who leaves from the rail with Williams Hernandez; Holme Base with Steve Desomer at the controls; and Tony Cheesecake, who will have the services of Chip Lackey. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness        

Duet will be looking for the second trophy of her career when she suits up in Friday nights featured Sire Stakes for owner/trainer Rick Cisco and pilot Tim Maier. The daughter of Disco Devil posed for pictures following the February 14 added-money gathering for this division, which features a very contentious group of 3-year-old pacing distaffers. I got this filly last summer and broke her, Cisco related when asked about the bay miss. She needed some time, so I was patient and waited with her. Luke Plano qualified her and told me she was ready for stakes company, so thats where we went. He had a filly of his own in there, and when I asked who I should drive, he suggested I get Tim. Hes done a great job with her and hes also been very helpful as far as giving me suggestions after the races. Since her February stakes tally, Duet was fourth and fifth with her peers and then turned in a solid effort in the most recent gathering for this group two weeks ago. She finished well that evening to complete the exacta behind Js Littlerockstar and should be sitting on a good outing Friday. After the race following her stake win where they went to the three-quarters in 1:25 and change, I had her scoped and she had a sinus infection, Rick noted. It took her awhile to truly recover from that and it hurt her in the next two stakes races.. As far as this week goes, James Kennedys filly has won the last two stakes, but I still think this is a pretty wide-open field as all of these have the ability to win on an given night. My filly is still green and learning and after this meet is finished Im going to give her all the time she needs. Sophomore Sire Stakes feature contentious casts Two $10,000 California Sire Stakes are the focus of attention at Cal Expo Friday night, with Js Littlerockstar eyeing her Third Straight big money score in the distaff pacing event while Placer and Ahh Panama are among the major players in the Trotting contest. Js Littlerockstar is a daughter of Little Steven and the Pacific Fella mare Sweet Sakra Sue who has moved to the head of the sophomore pacing filly division over the last month. James Kennedy owns, trains, drives and bred the distaffer. In the March 14 stakes clash, the Kennedy performer was unhurried early, came first over at the half and ignited when it counted to be up by a length. In the most recent gathering for this division two weeks ago, Js Littlerockstar raced up close and personal and got the job done by a length and a quarter as the 8-5 favorite. Duet was the runner-up in that affair for owner/trainer Rick Cisco and pilot Tim Maier. The Disco Devil offspring was an impressive winner of the February 14 stakes in a 1:57 2/5 performance and turned in a solid effort in that last get-together for this group two weeks ago. De Valeria was the leader of the division earlier in the meet and helps make things very interesting with her top effort with Steve Wiseman, while Brewski rounds out the compact field with Chip Lackey at the controls. The last three Sire Stakes for the trotting set have gone to three different performers. Ahh Panama was the most recent to be taking pictures two weeks ago, as she made every pole a winning one at 8-1 that evening for owners Henry Wieseneck, Marty Garey and Bob Johnson, who also conditions the daughter of Panama Hanover. Placer has three stakes trophies on the mantle for Team Desomer, but lost his chance in the most recent get-together when he made a break before the half. Snuff N Beer got the job done in the February 28 stakes for owner/breeder Mary Harris and trainer Kennedy Lindsey and must be respected.  by Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness            

After taking a few weeks off, Phantom Dan returns to the wars in Saturdays Open Pace while taking on the classy Pancetta and the streaking Docs Zippy in the main event. The 6-year-old son of Little Steven is owned, trained and driven by James Kennedy and was last seen capturing the March 22 Open Handicap Pace by a nose over heavily-favored One And Only while lowering his career standard to 1:52 1/5 in the process. There was nothing wrong with him, Kennedy explained. Its just that hed been racing his you-know-what off and I wanted to give him a bit of a break and do a little work on him. While Phantom Dan came from last to account for that most recent outing, in his previous victory in a conditioned affair he used front-end tactics to get the job done, putting his versatility on full display. Ive learned that he there are two ways to race him, his mentor noted. You either leave with him and let him roll, or you duck and let him do his pacing at the end. As far as the Phantom Dan you would find around the barn, James describes him as A Pig, while wearing a smile on his face. His happiest times are when hes in a pen and he can just roll around in the mud. He absolutely loves it. He also eats anything you put in front of him, from donuts to hamburgers. Apparently this playful nature and unusual diet agree quite well with the performer, who looks to keep the momentum going this weekend after getting a little R and R at Camp Kennedy. Open Pace entices hard-knocking cast Pancetta, who had to settle for second in his seasonal debut while leaving from the testing No. 10 post over a sloppy track last weekend; Docs Zippy, who got the job done in that affair for his second straight score, and the always-dangerous Phantom Dan headline Saturday nights Open Pace at Cal Expo. A 13-race card is on tap with first set at 5:45 p.m. The Open Pace goes as the third event on the evening with One And Only and Mobil Big John completing the cast. Pancetta is a 5-year-old son of No Pan Intended out of the Life Sign mare Gingerbread Square who is owned by Richard Morita and David Yamada, takes his lessons from Lino Pacheco and will have Steve Wiseman at the controls. Pancetta comes into this assignment just shy of the $200,000 earnings plateau with a 1:51 1/5 mark that was established last year at Pocono Downs. He was making his first start since December last week while doing his work from that demanding No. 10 post over the sloppy going and put in a solid effort for the place spot. Docs Zippy will be looking for his third straight trip to the charmed enclosure for the team of Toman Enterprises Ltd, trainer George Anthrop and pilot Patrick Galbraith. The son of Cams Eclipse was a 1:51 victor last season over the Colonial Downs strip. Two starts back, Docs Zippy took the measure of a conditioned field while coming from last, then did the stalk-and-pounce to perfection last week while seemingly appreciating the off going . Galbraith came first over with his charge at the half, gained command straightening for home and prevailed by a length and a half over the 1-5 favorite. Phantom Dan is making his first start since capturing the March 15 Open for his owner/driver/trainer James Kennedy. The 6-year-old Little Steven gelding has a versatile style that gives Kennedy options when the gate rolls. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness

Natives Revenge made quite an impression in his California debut last weekend, dominating his rivals in that conditioned affair for the team of owner Harold Actkinson, trainer Bob Johnson and pilot Mooney Svendsen. Sent off at 20 cents on the dollar off a 16-length qualifying romp in 1:54 1/5, the 4-year-old son of Allamerican Native waltzed home by six lengths in last Saturdays ninth race. He went his first half in a leisurely :59 flat, then turning on the afterburners to cover the second part of the race in :55 3/5 without breaking a sweat. Wins as easy as that one are few and far between, Svendsen related after the impressive once-around. He looks like a nice prospect, and I think Bob found a real diamond in the rough at the Meadowlands sale. Mooney had hopped behind Natives Revenge only once before his March 15 qualifier and was already pretty sure the dark-hued pacer had a lot of class. He trained super that morning, and then in his qualifier I was tearing his face off to keep him from going faster than 1:54 and a piece. Mooney informed that Johnson had hoped Natives Revenge would only have to truly pace a half-mile in his evening debut, and Svendsen obliged with that modest :59 clip before turning him loose. It worked out perfectly and he just had way too much for those horses. You have to realize he was meeting some awfully tough ones at the Meadowlands. Natives Revenge looks to keep the momentum going in Saturday nights 10th race and it will be interesting to see if he adds another sizzling local mile to his increasingly impressive resume. A REMINDER THERE ARE THREE WAGERS EACH NIGHT THAT OFFER A REDUCED 16 PERCENT TAKEOUT RATE. THEY ARE THE 50-CENT PICK 5; THE 20-CENT PICK 4 WITH A $20,000-GUARANTEED POOL ON FRIDAY AND A $25,000 GUARANTEE ON SATURDAY; AND THE 10-CENT HI-FIVE ON THE NITECAP. Pacing colts Sire Stakes, Opens in the spotlight A $10,000 California Sire Stakes for the 3-year-old pacing males; an Open Pace that spotlights Pancetta and an Open Trot featuring Hellogottagobuhbye and Fort Valley AS share the marquee Saturday night at Cal Expo. King Of The Crop and Rikybrnthegaragdown have developed quite a rivalry among the sophomore pacing colts and get another chance to settle the score. The former is a homebred son of Little Steven out of the Real Artist mare Romance Me who carries the banner of Frank Nevarez with James Kennedy doing the driving and training. King Of The Crop has captured three of the five big-money events decided for the division, finishing second behind Rikybrnthegaragdown in the other two. King Of The Crop proved best in the February 1 and 15 clashes, then came up a head short to his arch-rival in the March 1 get-together. In the most recent Sire Stakes two weeks ago, Kennedy was able to work out a perfect two-hole trip behind Rikybrnthegaragdwn. He came home in a snappy :26 2/5 to overhaul the leader and prevailed by two lengths that night. Rikybrnthegaragdown is a son of Living It Up out of the mare Sports Bra who is looking to even the Sire Stakes score this weekend. Maryann Plano owns with son Luke reining and training the pacer. He registered his stakes decisions on January 18 and March 1, going coast-to-coast on both occasions. In that last one on March 15, he carved out all the fractions but was unable to hold off the pocket sitter while having little trouble holding the place spot. Taking on the pair are Laissez Moi Passer who has the cozy rail slot with Williams Hernandez at the helm; Tony Cheesecake, to be handled by Chip Lackey; and Holme Base with Steve Desomer handling the lines. by Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness

She may be small, but Incredible Gambler packs a big kick in the stretch and has now posed for pictures following four of her last five trips to the post here at Cal Expo. The 8-year-old New Jersey-bred daughter of Allamerican Ingot who currently goes about her business for owner Clint Lugar and trainer Salvador Wenceslao, with Dave Siegel having guided her in three of those aforementioned four scores. Siegel has a long history with Incredible Gambler, having previously owned the mare, and theyve developed a great rapport over the years. Shes one of my favorite horses to drive, Siegel noted. I get along with her really well, and know her strengths and weaknesses as well as any other horse I drive. She comes ready to race every week and seems to really enjoy racing, though frankly she does not really like racing in the slop. Since she is a strong closer, she really likes the big track and the dirt surface suits her very well. She is small in stature, which makes for great visibility, really handy and two fingers to drive. The Lugar colorbearer, who sports a 1:54 career standard, recently went over the $100,000 earnings plateau. I was very happy that she returned to Cal Expo after her eastern journey and that Clint continues to give me the opportunity to drive her, Siegel added. Incredible Gambler is slated to suit up in Friday evenings ninth race with main man Siegel giving directions from the No. 4 post. She figures to make her presence felt once again when push comes to shove in the stretch. Sire Stakes, Distaff Open Pace on tap A pair of $10,000 California Sire Stakes for 3-year-olds and a Distaff Open Pace are on tap Friday night at Cal Expo, with Js Littlerockstar and Placer heading their respective stakes while Show Runner and Ladys Art square off in the co-feature. . A 14-race card is scheduled with first post set for 5:45 p.m. The Sire Stakes for the pacing fillies goes as the fourth on the program, while the race for the trotters is the sixth and the filly-mare Pace occupies the second spot on the program. Js Littlerockstar is a 3-year-old daughter of Little Steven out of the Pacific Fella mare Sweet Sakra Sue who is owned, trained, driven and bred by James Kennedy. After finishing second in her first two added-money outings this season, she earned a trophy in the most recent clash two weeks ago. Sent off as the 5-2 second choice in that affair, the bay miss rallied with second-over cover and ignited at crunch time to prevail by a length. She came her final quarter in :28 flat while stopping the timer in 1:58 that evening. De Valeria will attempt to make amends after finishing fourth that night after being shuffled as the odds-on choice. The Eugene Afentoulis colorbearer accounted for two of the previous three Sire Stakes for the division with trainer Luke Plano at the controls. Placer is eyeing his four stakes score in the race for the sophomore trotters. The homebred son of Panama Hanover races for the Desomer Stables Inc. with Steve Desomer handling the lines. In the last stakes gathering on March 14, Placer was parked to the lead at the half, took complete control of things from that point and came to the wire with two and three-quarter lengths to spare in a lifetime-best 2:00 1/5 clocking. by Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness

Fridays main event is an Open 2 Trot that finds Hellogottagobuhbye and Franks Best escaping the top ranks and getting away from the streaking El Azteca, who has rattled off six straight victories. Hellogottagobuhbye is a 6-year-old son of Dream Vacation who is owned and driven by Daniel Maier with Tim Maier the conditoner. He has won three of his nine trips to the post this season, including a victory in the opening leg of the Jim Grundy Series on March 1, and has been second and third behind El Azteca in his last two appearances in the Open Handicap. Franks Best comes into this assignment with some impressive credentials, as the multiple stakes-winning Armbro Scribe gelding has banked over $190,000 for his owner/breeder/trainer Bob Johnson with a 1:56 2/5 lifetime standard. Mooney Svendsen will once again be in the sulky. While Franks Best is still looking for his first snapshot on the year, he has four runner-up finishes from his seven attempts and like Hellogottagobuhbye will appreciate getting away from El Azteca. He figures to play the role of stalker behind his main rival in Fridays headliner. $25,000 guaranteed Pick 5 Friday There is a Pick 5 carryover of $9,145 going into Friday nights program with the wager sporting a $25,000-guaranteed gross pool and a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. The Pick 5 is a 50-cent wager and begins on the third race. There are three wagers on the card that offer the 16 percent takeout. In addition to the Pick 5, there is the 20-cent Pick 4 that has a $20,000-guaranteed pool on Fridays and a $25,000 guarantee on Saturdays and the 10-cent Hi-Five on the nightcap. Friday nights carryover is the result of favorites blanking in last Saturday evenings Pick 5. While the opening event in that sequence was a two-horse race between the winner King Of The Crop and arch-rival Rikybrunthegaragdwn, 14-1 upsets by Scooter Babe and Fox Valley Wyatt and victories by 7-2 Try This and 3-1 Me Tarzan sealed the deal. Dream Weaver, George Reider join forces with winner Wanna Win did the track-and-attack to perfection last weekend, getting the cheese for the combination of owner Dave (Dream) Weaver of TVG fame, trainer George Reider and pilot James Kennedy. Wanna Win posed for pictures nine times last season, including a lifetime-best 1:52 4/5 clocking over the mile and a quarter Colonial Downs oval in Virginia. Her win last week was her second in her last four trips to the post here for Team Weaver and Reider. I met the Dave through our mutual friend Wade Miller, Reider explained. He told me that Dave was looking to relocate a few horses from Northfield Park to Cal Expo and asked me if I was interested. After a few phone calls the partnership was made. I have two mares for him right now, and when they got off the truck from Ohio they both had their problems. Racing on a half-mile track with sub freezing temperatures will do that, but both horses have adapted to California quite well. Wanna Win, a 6-year-old daughter of No Pan Intented, sat a pocket trip when she clicked on February 22 with Luke Plano in the bike, then came from next-to-last with a :27 3/5 quarter to romp home at most recent asking with Kennedy handling the lines. This is a mare who hits her knees like a lot of standardbreds, some doing it more than others, George continued. Shes in the latter category, and.with the bigger track, the shoeing change and the different equipment with some slight adjustments, she's responded quite well. Weaver, who is known for his ice cold exactas on TVG, has always been a big booster of the trotters and pacers. Dave is not your typical horse owner, Reider said. Hes very knowledgeable about situations that arise on the track..I just wish that we could race down in Los Angeles, so he could actually see his horses race live. by Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness                                                                                                                                      

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