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The Hambletonian Monte Series Final at the new Meadowlands and two Ontario pari-mutuel races at Grand River Raceway showcased North American monte activities this weekend. On Friday evening the $27,500 Hambletonian Monte Final took place (non-wagering) at the new Meadowlands. Sponsors were Jeff Gural, Valley High Stable, Back On Track, Ron Burke Stable, Arden Homestead Stable, Crawford Farm, Aldrich Properties, George Ducharme and Winners Circle Blueberries. The final followed two $10,000 legs the previous two weekends. This week, A Penny Earned (5g Conway Hall-Penny Dream-Dream Vacation) scored for Michelle Crawford and trainer George Ducharme in 1:57.2 (last quarter :28.2), just short of the north American speed race record set by Master Pine two years ago in 1:57.1. The winner was second in a July 18 leg behind Take My Picture that was second in the final for Therese Lindgren and trainer Nikolas Drennan. O U Gus (the July 25 winner) ended third for Stephanie Werder and trainer Whitney Richards. Master Pine finished fourth for Helene Gregory and trainer Julie Miller in the competitive (seven starters timed in 2:00.1 or better) ten horse field. In Ontario, Grand River Raceway hosted two pari-mutuel events on August 1st and 4th. The August 4th International Monte was part of the raceway's Industry Day and attracted riders from Canada, Belgium and Finland. The US rider-entrant Jennifer Connor was a scratch due to travel problems. Previous monte winner Radical Dreamer (Marit Valstad) made the fast pace, tracked and battled by eventual winner Tragically Shipp (Saara Jalasti aboard), that pulled away late for an comfortable win over Angies Lucky Star (Philippe Massachaele) in 2:02.4h over a rain soaked surface. Tragically Shipp (8g Shipps Speed-CH On Tour-Armbro Laser) is trained by Lee Watson for owners Lynne and David Magee. Jalasti and Massachaele regularly ride in monte races in Europe, where monte is very popular and part of most pari-mutuel racing cards at French and Scandinavian tracks. Race replay follows: The August 1 race at Grand River was billed as the Canada vs. Norway Challenge and it went to Callie Magoo (5g Magoo-Callie Alyssa-Wesgate Crown) with Norway's G. Berg up for trainer John Braid. This pair scored in 2:04.3h over King Tut (Sarah Town up for Canada) and Charlie Tuna. Both Grand River races were well received in the pari-mutuel wagering, as had been the case in previous Ontario pari-mutuel monte races. Standardbred Canada and Meadowlands files Thomas H. Hicks  

YONKERS, NY, Tuesday, July 29, 2014-New York Sire Stakes continued downstate Tuesday night, with Yonkers Raceway hosting the $201,600 Mike Cohen Trot for 2-year-old fillies. The quintet of races honored the memory of the former Yonkers and NBC Sports publicity director, with his family and friends making winner's circle presentations. The opening ($39,900) event saw a down-the-road Pig Hunt (George Brennan, $9.80), from post position No. 5, break the tape in a spiffy 1:59.4 (:30.2, 1:01.2 and 1:30.1). The effort matched her previous season's-best. Frou Frou (Brett Miller), as the 7-10 favorite, lost her tow when Icy Sprite (Jason Bartlett) broke, then could not get near the winner. The final margin was a length, with Praying Gear (Jeff Gregory) third. For third choice Pig Hunt, a daughter of Conway Hall co-owned by (trainer) Janice and Jennifer Connor, it was her second win in four first-season starts. The exacta paid $20.20, with the triple returning $53.50. "She shows trotting every start, so I wasn't worried about her," Brennan said. "I was able to back down the half and control the race." Tuesday night's second ($40,900) sire stakes event was a successful debut for Shaqline (Jimmy Takter, $6.20). In play early from post No. 2, she found a :30.1 opening quarter-mil. Then, Concentration (Chris Lems) grabbed the baton (1:01.2, 1:30.2), 17-10 choice Barn Girl (Gregory) trotting in place first-up. Concentration owned a length-and-a-half lead into the lane, but Shaqline took to the passing lane like a veteran. She ducked in and went by, the final margin a length-and-a-quarter in 2:00.1. Cherry Crown Jewel (Dan Daley) was third, with Barn Girl winding up fourth. For second choice Shaqline, a Credit Winner trained by Takter for Brixton Medical Ab, her sire stakes debut came after just one baby race. The exacta paid $39, the triple returned $104 and the superfecta paid $439. "She's bred to be very good," Takter said of the full-sister to $400,000-plus winner Shaq is Back. "She had breathing issues and three surgeries. Fortunately, she had some good doctors." The third ($39,900) Cohen division saw Summer Scent (Daley, $17.40)-from post No. 4--sit behind 2-1 choice Kaliska (Ray Schnittker) through fractions of :28.3, :59 and 1:29.2. Summer Scent then made her way past, winning by a half-length in a maiden-breaking 2:00.3. Third went to Duolectra (Corey Callahan). For fourth choice Summer Scent, a Malabar Man miss trained by Daley for co-owners Ann-Mari Daley and Jlrl LLC, it was that first win in five '14 tries,. The exacta paid $16.20, with the triple returning $556. "She keeps at it," Dan Daley said. "She doesn't always want to pass another horse, but she drew better tonight and that helped." The fourth ($40,600) sire stakes event was won by an in-form, 9-10 fave Barn Doll (Gregory, $3.80). Unhurried from post No. 2, she watched as Summers Windsong (Schnittker) and Nunkeri (Callahan) took turns through fractions of :29, :59.4 and 1:30.1. Barn Doll methodically made her move, first-up from fourth before collaring the leader early in the lane. She then edged away to beat Nunkeri by a length-and-a-half in 1:59.1...night's fastest and matching her previous life-best. Summers Windsong was third. For Barn Doll, a Conway Hall lass co-owned by (trainer) Steve & Nancy Pratt and Purple Haze Stables, it was her fourth (consecutive) win in five seasonal starts. The exacta (two wagering choices) paid $14, with the triple returning $47.80. "She's a smart filly," Gregory said. "She's able to relax and that's going to help her as she moves along. Tonight, when we moved, there was no one in front of her, but can just as easily chase another." The evening's statebred schedule ended in the fifth ($40,600) grouping, where slight choice Stirling Debutant (Ron Pierce, $6.80) showed good speed on both ends of a first-win 2:01.2 effort. Leaving from post No. 5, "Debutant" wound up sitting behind Northern Obsession (Schnittker) and that one's weight stations of :30, 1:01.3 and 1:31.2. When Zanna Blu (Gates Brunet) attacked the leader with a bold second move, Stirling Debutant extricated herself from the cones and angled out. She then whipped a stubborn Zanna Blu by three-quarters of length. Third went to Meshugana Miss (Jordan Stratton), with Stories to Tell (Lems) fifth-placed-fourth. For Stirling Debutant, a daughter of Credit Winner co-owner by (trainer) Rick Zeron, Cool Cat Racing and James Walker, she's now 1-for-4 this season. The exacta paid $51.50, the triple returned $529 and the superfecta paid $9,871. "I spoke to Rick (Zeron) a couple of days ago, and he said if I just gave her a chance, she'd be alright," Pierce said. "I made the (final turn) decision to take her outside, because with some of these 2-year-olds get a bit skittish when you duck them inside. " New York Sire Stakes continue Thursday night, with $200,900 New York Sire Stakes Jim Meagher Pace (2-year-old colts/geldings). by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway  

The popular Hambletonian Monte (racing under saddle) a late-closing series for trotters will feature a $25,000 final on Hambletonian Eve, Fri., Aug. 1 at the Meadowlands Racetrack, East Rutherford, NJ.   The inaugural Hambletonian Monte final was won by 2008 Hambletonian winning driver Ray Schnittker, who rode Flex The Muscle to victory in the $32,800 final. (attached)   Monte racing, a hybrid of harness and thoroughbred racing is a popular pari-mutuel sport in Europe, especially in France where many top trotters and drivers compete in both top-tier sulky and saddle races. It's also a rising trend in North America, as last year saw nine tracks host events worth more than $90,000 in purse money put up by industry sponsors. A celebrity appearance by star thoroughbred jockey Chantal Sutherland aboard DW NY's Yank resulted in a new under saddle world record at The Meadows in Pennsylvania.   The Hambletonian under saddle event has shown rapid growth under the direction of Helene Gregory, who won a U.S. Harness Writers Presidents Award for her efforts to bring the discipline to prominence. The organization Monte America put together the series for trotters comprising two legs worth $10,000 on July 18 and July 25 respectively and a $25,000 final showcased on the eve of harness racing's richest and most prestigious day - a night dedicated to females, fun and fashion at the New Meadowlands Racetrack.   There will be RUS qualifiers and practical tests for RUS licenses held at Gaitway Farms in Manalapan, NJ on three consecutive Mondays - June 9, 16 and 23.   "The Racing Under Saddle program has proved to be an interesting twist for harness racing," said Gregory. "The support from trainers, owners and most of all racetracks has been incredible. The Meadowlands has taken the lead with Jeff Gural personally having a big impact with his support and sponsorship. The RUS riders bring a whole new stream of fans, as families, friends and barn mates come along to cheer on these new races."   Hambletonian Monte sponsors for 2014 include Allerage Farms, Valley High Stable, Back On Track, Arden Homestead Stable, Ron Burke Stable, Paul Kelley Stable, White Birch Farm, Winners Circle Blueberries and 2013 Hambletonian winning trainer George Ducharme. Sponsorships are still available by contacting Gregory at kickan@comcast.net for more information.   There are currently more than 60 licensed RUS riders in North America. Jennifer Connor who competed on the circuit last year sees the event as a real positive for harness racing.   "I like that Monte has opened a door for more women to participate competitively in harness racing and I think that it has the ability to attract fans from other equestrian disciplines. I also believe it helps these horses have a life after racing, as they are going to be trained to also race under saddle," said Connor.   A $200 nomination fee is due June 15 for those wishing to compete. Conditions, nomination blanks and more information can be found on the Monte America website http://www.monteamerica.com/ or on the Hambletonian Society website http://www.hambletonian.org/resources/RUSSeries20143.pdf. by Moira Fanning, for Monte America

2013 leading Monte America (RUS) performers in the United States (horses, riders and trainers based on earnings) are shown below.  Congratulations to all for making the monte season memorable and for setting the stage for future years. The equine leaders were Flex The Muscle and Vassar Hall with three wins each. Ray Schnittker posted three riding wins versus two each for Michelle Crawford and Helene Gregory. Schnittker and Brett Crawford earned three training victories. Horses: Flex The Muscle led the US equine monte competitors with three wins in five starts earning $19,750. Vassar Hall recorded three wins but did not hit the top five money earnings that also included single dash winners Chinese Cuisine ($14,420), Master Pine ($9.250), A Penney Earned ($6,500) and the consistent non-winner Muscolo ($7,004). Other monte winners during the season included Andover America, Admirable Hanover, John-Michael, Motown Dream Girl, First Tail U See, Pointe Of Honour, Fort Valley As, and Sundance Bayama. Riders: Ray Schnittker earned three wins with his trainee Flex The Muscle for earnings of $19,750. Helene Gregory recorded two wins for $14,250 with the other top five money winners being Tina Duer (one win for $14,420), Jenny Melander (one win for $8,520) and Karen Isbell ($7,250 earned with one victory). Other winners included two-time dash winner Michelle Crawford and single dash winners Heather Reese, Tara Hynes, Jennifer Lowery, Ashley Eldred, Jennifer Connor, Therese Lindgren, Melinda Giroso and Mary Dolce-Conti. Trainers: Schnittker also led the trainer category in 2013 with three wins and $19,750. Brett Bittle’s charges earned $11,300 with one win followed by Julie Miller ($9,250, one win), Paul Kelley ($7.004 without a win) and George Ducharme ($6,500, one victory). Other dash winning monte trainers not in the top five money winners were Brett Crawford (3 wins) and single dash winners Henrik Lundell, Jennifer Sabot, Frank Scamporino Jr., Robert Bresnahan, Robert Lounsbury, Daryl Bier, Janice Connor, Ashley Eldred and James Doherty Jr. Our Canadian monte colleagues are listed below based on wins and all events were exhibitions without purses. Horses: Harlequin led the 2013 equine monte performers with three wins and a second in four starts. Other single dash winners were I’ll Be There, Katla, Lady Is A Pirate, Sixth Man and Speedy Desperado. Riders: Riina Rekila posted a category leading four victories in six starts steering Harlequin and Katla to wins. Evelyn Harms, Maggie Jones, Sharleen MacDonald and Emma Jayne Wilson scored one win each. Trainers: Geoff Maltby led the way with three wins in eight starts for a UTRS of .444. Maggie Jones, Doug McIntosh, Anthony Montini, Riina Rekila and Julie Walker recorded one training win each. Thanks to all participants, owners, sponsors and track operators for making 2013 a successful monte campaign and in heightening interest in racing under saddle in North America. Special thanks to USTA’s David Carr for being the diligent scorekeeper and to racetrack photographers for recording the racing action. www.monteamerica.com by Thomas H. Hicks for Harnesslink.com  

The $32,800 Hambletonian Monte Series Final will go postward at the Meadowlands on Hambletonian Day between the second and third races. A fine field on 12 qualifying point leaders will face the starter led by six 2013 monte winners, Chinese Cuisine, Motown Dreamgirl, Point of Honour, A Penny Earned, Flex The Muscle and Sundance Bayama. The full field of equine stars, riders and trainers are listed below in post position order: 1. Chinese Cuisine, Tina Duer, Brett Bittle 2. Waldorf Hall, Jenny Melander, Jim Raymer 3. Flowing James, Emma Pettersson, Mark Harder 4. Motown Dreamgirl, Jennifer Lowery, Robert Lounsbury 5. Muscolo, Michelle Crawford, Paul Kelley 6. Armbro Doyle, Ashley Eldred, Dawn Anderson 7. Admirable Hanover, Jennifer Connor, Janice Connor 8. Point Of Honour, Tara Hynes, Frank Scamporino Jr. 9. Amoreena, Marielle Enberg, Pat Lachance 10. A Penny Earned, Heather Reese, George Ducharme 11. Flex The Muscle, Ray Schnittker (also trainer) 12. Sundance Bayama, Stephanie Werder, Henrik Lundell Separately, yesterday the New York Fair at Morris, NY conducted a monte race with the win going to Vassar Hall (9f Striking Sahbra-Vera Hall-Conway Hall). Michelle Crawford rode the winner for trainer Brett Crawford, covering the mile in 2:13.4h over an off track. Veteran Lemon Pepper was placed second ridden by Jennifer Lowery with First Tail U See second placed third for Ashley Eldred. by Thomas H. Hicks  

Hambletonian monte action was in full display tonight at the Big M. The first division went to Chinese Cuisine (5g Revenue S-Missysmandarine-Malabar Man) with Tina Duer up for Peninsula Farm and trainer Brett Bittle in a sharp 1:58.1, final quarter :29.3. The winning connection scored decisively over Amoreena with Marielle Enberg in the irons. Muscolo finished third for Michelle Crawford. Ambro Doyle (Ashley Eldred) and Admirable Hanover (Jennifer Connor) earned the other checks. Division two went to pacesetter Pointe Of Honour (7g Striking Sahbra-Garland Bonita-Garland Lobell)) ridden by Tara Hynes for trainer Frank Scamporino Jr. and owner James Datri. This pair scored in 1:59.1 over Flowing James and Emma Pettersson with Flex The Muscle third for Ray Schnittker. Waldorf Hall (Jenny Melander) and Celebrity Playboy (Maria Andersson) also earned checks.   Top point winners from the legs will be back on the Meadowlands oval during Hambletonian Day seeking the $25,000 purse in this Hambletonian Society managed monte event. Be there to applaud the participants and thank the sponsors and Meadowlands management for their direction and drive to make monte (under saddle) racing part of the American standardbred sport. by Thomas H. Hicks

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