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 WILKES-BARRE PA – In the first race at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Tuesday night, Checknyouout got home first and paid $80.80, the highest win price of the meet at the northeast Pennsylvania track.  Exactly 24 hours later, Sneakin Caviar got home first in the first race at Pocono Wednesday night and paid $87.80, the highest win price of the meet.  Exactly 18 minutes later, Zip It Lock It got home first in the second race at Pocono Wednesday night and paid $158.00, the highest win price of the meet.  Bombs away!  Sneakin Caviar had exactly $100 of the $5448 first race win pool bet on him; Zip It Lock It drew exactly half that support, with $50 wagered on his nose of the $4,949 win pool.  And the second race Superfecta paid out at odds of 27,888 to 1! (The Trifecta’s odds were 9,472 to 1.)  Zip It Lock It got a beautiful second-over trip in his victory, tipping wide and sailing by in hand late at 78-1 over first-over Notorius Terror at 14-1. Third-over Dysnomia Blue Chip was up for third at 37-1; 2-1 Cypress Hill Suds salvaged some dignity for the favorites in finishing fourth, ahead of 97-1 proposition Alwaysafirsttime, who was blocked for his lungs past midstretch.  There was only one of the 50-cent minimum Trifecta tickets sold on the successful 1-6-5 combination, paying $4,735.85 for the half-buck. Only one of the 10-cent minimum tickets hooked together a 1-6-5-3 Superfecta combo, paying back $2,788.76. Thus the odds to $1 could be calculated by projection.  Things settled down a bit after that at Pocono Wednesday, with half the remaining 14 races won by favorites – but it was a wild opening, producing some memorable impromptu lines by the microphone men:  Track announcer Jim Beviglia: “There’s shrapnel everywhere from the tote board!”  TV analyst “King” George Anthony: “Stick your head out your window, Jimmy B  (Beviglia)– there must be a full moon tonight! You couldn’t have hit these horses unless you had a dartboard or an Ouija board.” FINISHING LINES -- The big win payoffs in Pennsylvania yesterday weren't limited to Pocono on Wednesday. At Harrah's Philadelphia, consecutive divisions of a Stallion Series event yielded Baby Cat ($77.00) and Carobbean Pacetry ($116.60) ... while at The Meadows, Vielosabio paid "only" $50.80 as the longest shot of their day. by Jerry Connors, for Harnesslink.com

WILKES-BARRE PA – Driver George Napolitano Jr. did not race at all this past week on Monday or Friday – neither of his two centers of operation, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs and Harrah’s Philadelphia, were in action those days. (Both places raced Saturday afternoon; George chose Pocono because he would also be there at night for the “Belmont doubleheader of racing.”) He had to leave two cards early. He opened the week with a fifth, eighth, eighth, and sixth on Tuesday at Pocono. And he only had 29 winners during the week. Napolitano capped a wonderful week of winning in Pennsylvania with eight victories on Sunday, five at Harrah’s (where he raced the whole card) and three at Pocono (where he arrived in time for race five). Only, um … Eight victories was his worst doubleheader day of the week – on Wednesday and Saturday, in action afternoon and evening, he had nine winners each. For the week, “Georgie Nap” had 91 drives, 29 victories (which would extend out to about 1,500 triumphs a year), 14 seconds, and seven thirds. That makes for a UDR of .430. Card-by-card: Tuesday               evening                Pocono                12-1-3-1 (so if you exclude Tuesday, he was 79-28-11-6-.462) Wednesday         afternoon            Philly                       9-3-1-0 Wednesday         evening                Pocono                13-6-1-0                                                         For the day          22-9-2-0 (left Philly early – good choice – won the “Early Pick Four,” the first four contests, at Pocono) Thursday              afternoon            Philly                     10-2-1-1 (so if you only count the doubleheaders, he was 69-26-10-5-.481) Saturday              afternoon            Pocono                10-4-2-1 (actually, he had two wins before it was afternoon – post time was 11am, and he won 2 of the first 3) Saturday              evening                Pocono                15-5-3-2 (including a dead-heat to win)                                                         For the day          25-9-5-3 Sunday                 afternoon            Philly                     13-5-2-2 Sunday                 evening               Pocono                  9-3-1-0                                                          For the day          22-8-3-2 Not a bad week’s work at all, by anyone’s standards. By Jerry Connors for Harnesslink.com

One of the best free-for-all pacing fields of the year is assembled in southwestern Ontario Friday night for the annual highlight of the Western Fair (London) racing season, the $150,000 Molson Pace. Making the race doubly intriguing is the London oval itself: a half-mile track, with seven starters across (if they tried eight across, the outside horse would be starting from the front yard of the homeowner across the street), and the eight-hole as a trailer. This fact has traditionally been a major factor in the outcome of the race -- and betting on it. #1, STATE TREASURER, 3-1 (the author's morning line), driver Chris Christoforou on the WFR proof: Defending champion in the Molson, State Treasurer has been a bit "under the radar" in the States, but he has won three straight Preferreds at Woodbine, all under 1:50, the last in 1:48.3. The veteran Christoforou is behind a horse that has the ability to control the front, and thus the outcome of the race, with a quick enough start -- which will be the key to the contest. #2, BETTORS EDGE, 8-1, Doug McNair: Stuck with post nine in his last two standards, TVG legs at The Meadowlands, but coming home sub-26 in both. Showed early speed at Yonkers, but if the one horse leaves and the eight stays on his back, might have to take back. On paper, doesn't figure to get a great trip. #3, BANDOLITO, 6-1, Mark MacDonald: The "little horse that can" has had only one start in the last 27 days, where he was shuffled to last at The Meadowlands. His best bet may be to try to join the outer flow and, with his lightning acceleration, try to sweep the field down the backside, but that may be a tall order here. #4, APPRENTICE HANOVER, 4-1, Jody Jamieson: Since that impossible but magnificent second in the Levy Final, he has raced only once, on May 17 at Woodbine, where he sat second and came up a length shy to State Treasurer. If the pace gets overheated and he's in a good position entering the final turn -- look out! #5, DANCIN YANKEE, 9-2, Brett Miller: Very good in the Levy, and brilliant in his last two starts at Pocono Downs, in the latter equaling the all-time record for 5/8-mile tracks of 1:47.2 after reaching the half in 52.2. In terrific form, but at a positional disadvantage here, with lots of speed inside, and a closer as fearsome as Apprentice Hanover in front of him if the flow develops as expected. #6, P H SUPERCAM, 10-1, Jason Bartlett: Won the Levy Final when the inside opened up, and on the board in 13 of 14 starts. I'm not sure how Bartlett can work out any kind of favorable trip for the talented gelding from here. #7, FOILED AGAIN, 8-1, Yannick Gingras: Yes, that says "8-1" next to the Six Million Dollar Man. Again, it's all positioning -- even the great Gingras will have to be a magician to work out the winning trip (tuck fifth early then second-over, or something like that). But he knows the terrain-- this is his sixth Molson start. #8, CAPTIVE AUDIENCE, 9-2, Sylvain Filion: Meadowlands fans will remember him sweeping the Whata Baron Series. The main thing he has going for him here is the trailing post eight, with the speedy State Treasurer in front of him. If not locked in by parked horses, he could be well-placed throughout, and he has been in good form at Woodbine. By Jerry Connors, for Harnesslink.com    

Although Arthur Pegg, Vice President of Simulcast Sales for WatchandWager.com LLC (the company now owning Cal-Expo) and its parent company WatchandWager.com LTD, has a great deal of experience with horses and horse racing (his father, Peter Pegg, was a bloodstock agent), he hadn’t had much contact with harness racing until Cal Expo joined the WaW “team” 18 months ago. But you can tell that Arthur “thinks” like a harness racing executive. He has a copy of Guerilla Marketing “right in front of my desk.” Guerilla Marketing, written by Jay Conrad Levinson in 1984, is a seminal book on modern advertising: it identifies the major players in a given field, the second-tier providers, and the smaller “others” trying to make their mark, and emphasizes that the “others” cannot employ the same marketing tactics as their larger competitors, that they must find innovative, “unconventional” methods of attracting and keeping customers, and that then “it must provide a product that delivers the promised benefits.” (The latter is the corollary of the adage “There’s no better way to kill a bad product than with good advertising.”) Harness racing certainly can be defined as “outside the mainstream” in terms of modern wagering and entertainment, and Cal-Expo, 900 miles from Vancouver’s Fraser Downs and just over double that from the nearest U.S. track, Running Aces near Minneapolis-St. Paul, is an outsider within an outsider. Yet in the first year under the stewardship of Pegg and WatchandWager, “simulcasting sales for Cal-Expo were up 27%,” he reports. “People like the larger track with movement in the racing, larger fields when we can provide them, and competitive racing, and we are delivering that regularly.” (Not to mention the Pacific Standard Time product, putting out content late in the East Coast day, when there is little competition.) WatchandWager.com is a subsidiary of WatchandWager.com LTD (the ultimate “parent company” is Webis Holdings PLC, traded on the London exchange), which offers an advanced deposit wagering platform for all forms of gaming. “In looking to expand to the U.S. marketplace,” Pegg continued, “the models showed that it was best to be associated with a racetrack as a ‘hub,’ and Cal-Expo was available and fit in our plans. So we began to operate the meet there in October 2012, and the company is U.S.-based in San Francisco.”And WaW has followed classic guerilla marketing tactics through its central website for gaming: “We offer more tracks than any other platform, and we offer more free programs than any site.” You can get a program for Solvalla on WatchandWager.com, but not Woodbine or Meadowlands – “We are working on trying to find a pricing model that is acceptable to all parties involved.” “The customer is king for WatchandWager,” Pegg notes. “We go the extra mile for our patrons, and deliver value-added tools to them, such as the separate basic instructions on wagering that we have developed for five different breeds of horses on which we offer opportunity.” Pegg himself has seen a lot of the U.S. en route to his present high position, achieved at age 33. A native of Virginia, Pegg graduated from Penn State University (100 miles from the nearest racetrack, Penn National), where “interestingly, I majored in meteorology.” But one can see a definite connection between the weather and the ponies: racetrack conditions play such an important part of racing, and what is “a 40% chance of rain tonight” but another way of saying “Rain this evening is 3 to 2”? Pegg is also a graduate of the renowned University of Arizona Racetrack Management Program, steered that way by Lenny Hale, of NYRA and Maryland Jockey Club fame. He joined WatchandWager, where in short order he developed a job profile entailing ADW operations and business/product development, which includes overseeing simulcasting, licensing requirements and compliance, the company website, performance analytics, and … …marketing. And he’s working with California harness veterans Chris Schick and Ben Kenney, subcontracting as operations overseers to WatchandWager as Golden Bear Racing, to help revive the fortunes of Cal-Expo, while the parent company tries to expand its “footprint” in the United States. by Jerry Connors, for Harnesslink.com

Meet Theresa Schultz. She is originally from south-central Ontario, but now she lives in Arvilla, North Dakota – about six hours from the nearest U.S. harness track, Running Aces in Minnesota. The first horse she cared for was a Standardbred at Flamboro Downs, but today she races Arabians, at places like Arapahoe Park – just outside Denver, 14 hours away from her home. And she is the head of a company, Smokey Toes, that is named after specially-prepared dog treats that are parts of chickens – well, you can guess what parts from the name of the company. So what is she doing front and center in a story on harness racing? Ms. Schultz’s company is grounded in her twenty years of experience in the field of natural health. “I was the manager of a health food store, and I was always studying, observing, trying to learn more about how natural products improved all phases of health,” Schultz said. Her company offers a product called Equine Joint Care Supplement (EJCS), which does exactly as its name suggests, but with natural ingredients, nothing harmful to the horse or viewed askance by regulators. (The product has been used in Colorado and Ontario with no flags waved.) “This supplement is not a stimulant of any kind,” Schultz says firmly. “It helps reduce inflammation in joints, muscles, and tendons, and in a natural way. Our company’s motto is ‘Race faster, race safer, race natural.’ “We also point out that EJCS can work synergistically with the affected tissues, not only removing the inflammations – a horse in less distress is a happier horse and runs better – but that it actually can assist in the rehabilitation, restoration of the tissue. It not only treats the problem shown by the symptom, but it also can help to make the horse more sound overall. We’ve also found that it can help some horses who suffer from ulcers. “I’d love to see horses race a couple of extra times a year, and for a season or two longer than usual – the economics of the business make that obvious. That’s the goal of our business and our product.” The EJCS product has already been used successfully with Arabian racehorses, as is documented on Smokey Toes’s website, www.smokeytoes.com. “And a business is always looking to expand into logical areas,” adds Schultz. “I do have the Standardbred background, so we will gauge the interest of people with trotters and pacers. Already we have had a couple of inquiries from Europeans. “Our website is currently being rebuilt,” Schultz concluded, “and it should be finished shortly after you read this article. We are going to reflect our broader experience, and how EJCS may improve the performance of your racehorse,” which certainly sounds like something foremost in every trainer’s mind. (And you might even find some tasty, if unfamiliar, treats for your dog, too – “and who knows, we may even develop natural horse treats!” By Jerry Connors, for Harnesslink.com

OK, you’re driver Daryl Bier, known from Cal Expo to Dover and Pocono, from Pompano to The Meadowlands. You’ve had experience with really good horses before, as you currently guide the top FFA trotter Modern Family, and have had former world champion Special T Rocks, $900,000+ winner Higher And Higher, and others. You’re sitting behind a four-year-old who only has six months of actual racing experience and you are in the $36,000 Open Handicap feature race at Dover on closing day, April 10, but you know he’s a very fast horse who’s getting better. Your even-money main opposition broke early, so you decided to go to the point with the 6-5 second choice, and you rate the half in 56.1. Then it gets fun. You open him a notch to get away from your remaining rivals, and he responds instantly – he’s not a big horse, but he’s quick as can be. You whiz past the ¾ (“I didn’t think to look at the time; I was thinking about my $18,000 winners share); then, early on the final turn, you kick the earplugs out on your horse, test him a little more. He visibly downshifts on the TV monitors, and Daryl feels it in the bike – we’re going FAST! Through the lane, Bier takes him in hand, but he still destroys his field that has collective earnings of $1.9 million lifetime, by six (or more) lengths. Daryl gets to look at the timer past the finish – it says 1:48.2. Quick math tells him that’s a last half, on a five-eighth-mile track, in 56-degree temperatures, with nobody around him, for a horse in his 16th career start, in 52.1. He gets a chance to look at the ¾ time – it was 1:22.3, which means he paced in 26.2 down the back, and then when he downshifted, his horse came the last quarter (on a 5/8-mile track) in 25.4! Daryl returns to the Dover winners circle with a big smile. His brother Sean, a veteran of the racetrack game, is jumping and hollering – “DID YOU SEE THAT?” (probably not intended at Daryl, who of course did see that). The Dover paddock is abuzz after the race. Oh, did we mention that in his previous start, coming from behind wicked fractions, he had tied the all-time Dover record of 1:48, first set by his year’s 3YO champion, Heston Blue Chip? Meet Bandolito. Unraced at two in  2012, the son of Ponder-Sody’s Home Brew was brought to the races by veteran Florida horseman Warren Harp, and Daryl got a call from an agent he had worked with, Gary Brown. The horse fit a pattern Daryl has used with much success – buy promising horses who didn’t race or didn't race much at two: Modern Family didn’t start as a freshman, and Special T Rocks only raced twice at 2 – and the price was right. So he was brought into the Bier stable, with Daryl’s brother David making the initial purchase while agreeing that if the horse was good enough to make the Kentucky Sire Stakes in the summer, Daryl and longtime stable patron Charles Dombeck would join the ownership. Bandolito came north, where he came under the care of Team Bier, which includes caretaker Brad Sawyer (“He has Modern Family, too, so he’s a top man”) and horseshoer Chuck Crissman Jr., the father-in-law of Daryl’s brother Sean (Crissman comes more into the story later, and then again right at the very end). Third in his first northern start, the unheralded sophomore then rips off six straight between Harrah’s and Pocono, including a 1:51.3f-27 triumph (in his fourth lifetime start). Off to Kentucky under the new Bandolito partnership. The Ponder colt wins his two prelims with ease at the famous Red Mile, both with sub-27 last quarters, and Bandolito is 1-10* in the final. “I decided to use Tim Tetrick that night,” Daryl said, “because Tim obviously knows good horses, and I wanted to see what he thought of the horse, whether he was for real.” 1:49.4 later (26.2 on the end), Tetrick turns to Bier and says, “I like him. He’s a real good horse.” And thus basically ended Bandolito’s first campaign. Oh, the calendar will say he started back in December 2013, but this was really round two for Bandolito. And he didn’t come out of his corner strongly. A hard-closing fifth in a 1:51 mile at Dover just six days before Christmas was a good start, but then Bandolito caused some concern – while winning a race. “He was second-over, but won by only a head in 1:52.3, and I was worried,” Bier recalled – his people were considering nominating him for the Levy Series around then, but that kind of mile wouldn’t do. “And then he quarter-moved in his next race, for $18,000, and was caught and beaten almost two lengths.” The answer came quickly. Bandolito was dead lame the next day, one foot obviously distressing him. “But Chuck (Crissman) saved us right then and there. He figured out the foot problem, got him straightened away. He didn’t walk for three weeks after the lameness,” but things progressed well for Bier/Crissman/Sawyer and the other owners, so well that with their careful nurturing Bandolito qualified on March 19. Two weeks later he equaled the all-time Dover record of 1:48 on April 3 – his 15th lifetime start. Came home in 52.1-25.4 a week later – start #16. “We were more excited about that race, because nobody was pushing us and because of the sheer speed.” What’s next for Bandolito? Good question. Perhaps the $50,000 Van Rose Memorial on Kentucky Derby Day (a race in which Bier and Special T Rocks equaled a 1:48.2 world record two years ago) at Pocono, where Bier recently re-established his base, maybe after an overnight start this weekend if Daryl can get one for him. Afterwards? … But they are fun question marks to have! Daryl: “We got a copy of the race, and I watched it with Chuck on his big screen TV. And you can see things pretty good on it, and the eighth, just into the turn, from when I kicked the earplugs, we timed him in 12 seconds. We both timed that, and did it a couple of times. A 12-second eighth … that’s a 24-second quarter…” How good IS Bandolito? By Jerry Connors, for Harnesslink.com    

When Aaron Merriman is spending part of the 80,000 miles a year behind the wheel of one of his vehicles, generally commuting between The Meadows and Northfield (he primarily uses a Cadillac, but "I have a Jeep Grand Cherokee that has 4-wheel drive and is better in the winter"), he is often listening to the radio. Sometimes he listens to sports talk radio on Sirius/XM. Other times the 36-year-old listens to electronic and remix/DJ music, heavy on the drums. Does he ever wear earphones under his driving helmet, so that the driving beat of the music can help give him energy to drive his horse home first? "No," he answers with a chuckle. "It's more important to hear if any of my fellow drivers is saying something or shouting a warning." "My fellow drivers" is an "old-fashioned" phrase, but in the very best way, denoting a young man with manners and some thoughtfulness. If you know Aaron's father, Lanny, you have an idea of where some of that decorum comes from, but Aaron also seems to have added his own sound perspective to the way he thinks. Aaron is currently second in North America in 2014 driver victories, but he says "these days I don't think in terms of a title. 2010 maybe was going to be my year, but that didn't work out." The phrase "didn't work out" is a huge understatement: on June 10, Merriman, the #1 driver in North America at that time, was guiding a horse first-over at The Meadows when he broke and fell, with half the field going over the fallen duo. Aaron was away from the sulky for four months and four days after the big accident - and still wound up 13th on the continent with 490 wins that season. "I've thought about 'going East,' too," he added, "and I do get around a little. But my family is here in Ohio, and family comes first. I like living in this area, too. So I'll be staying on the Meadows-Northfield circuit, enjoy what I have, and accept what comes." What has come so far is 6246 career driving victories and the respect of horsemen wherever he has competed. What is to come for Aaron Merriman figures to be just as good. Driver                                             Total Wins          Tracks                          Track Wins Aaron Merriman 568 Meadows 328     Northfield 234     Scioto 5     Burton 1 By Jerry Connors for Harnesslink.com

The hottest horse in all of North American harness racing is the undefeated three-year-old National Debt - and his sire, Allamerican Native, is standing his first season in Ohio at Hagemeyer Farms, in the southwest quadrant of the Buckeye State. Allamerican Native, after starting his stud career in Pennsylvania and then standing the last three years in Ontario, was brought to the well-known Hagemeyer Farms as the racing fortunes are improving in Ohio and the four-generation family-owned operation looked to expand their "footprint" in the state. Having the sire of such an exciting prospect standing at your farm for $2500 is as about a good first step for the Hagemeyer expansion as can be imagined. (To see and learn more about all five of the Hagemeyer stallions - the "Native," World Of Rocknroll, Canyon Wind, Home Stretch, and Rompaway Wally -- go to the farm website at, logically, www.hagemeyerfarms.com.) People looking to breed their mares to Hagemeyer stallions, especially if leaving the mares in care of the farm for gestation and foaling, "will get a personalized degree of service that we think is our strongest selling point," notes Scott Hagemeyer, the farm manager. (Scott, by the way, is part of the "third generation of Hagemeyers": his grandparents Maynard and Stella are living legends in that part of the world; father Mel started selling programs at Lebanon Raceway in 1968, and, 45 years later, retired as the track's general manager as Lebanon now gives way to two new tracks in the area; and daughter Lyndsay is a key worker around the farm.) "If someone calls out of the blue and says, 'What can you offer to my horse?', I answer them honestly and say, 'I'm not sure; I'll have to learn more about your horse'," Scott Hagemeyer states. "Every horse is treated as an individual first; we figure out exactly just what care brings out the most potential in them. Most of our stock during breeding season is broodmares, mostly bred to our farm stallions, and with that combination we have a conception rate of 90% to 95%." Scott expects some 150 mares to be bred to his farm's stallions (well, that estimate was before National Debt's victory on Saturday), and last year the peak equine population was 188. That's a far cry from a few years ago, one of the lower points in Ohio racing, where the farm had about 90 horses at most, including an influx of horses from other breeds, and the farm's two stallions serviced a total of 12 mares. "All thanks to the reconfiguring and revitalizing of Ohio racing," Hagemeyer notes, perhaps playing down a little the excellent care provided by the farm and him personally - "I treat all of our horses as if I owned them myself." Offspring of mares bred to farm stallions are of course eligible to be in the much-enrichened Ohio Sire Stakes, and if the in-process breeders awards program requires mare residency, Hagemeyer Farms is again in good position. While for the most part a breeding operation, there is a half-mile training track on the farm, and the population does include a few racehorses. "We've had some inquiries from some horsemen who both breed and race, since currently there is a bit of a shortage of stalls with the new tracks. That's a situation we'll have to be looking at." Besides his own illustrious family, there is another name indelibly linked to southwest Ohio and harness racing, and Scott noted that "I think Corwin Nixon would be ecstatic beyond words at the new situation here - Lebanon going over to the Miami Valley people, and the entire resurgence of the sport." Inquiries to Scott Hagemeyer can be directed through the farm website, or to 513 304 9263 - but be prepared for a possible busy signal if phoning, because National Debt may be making Allamerican Native's spring a little busier - and thus happier, of course. By Jerry Connors, for Harnesslink.com

And now, the answers to the trivia questions that have appeared in this space recently. We'll deal first with Bob "Hollywood" Heyden's question, paraphrasing from the previous article: "Jerryconnors, this year Shebestingin and Beeamagician both went faster than any of their three-year-old colt counterparts. What was thelastyear that thathappened?" (Bob's brain is always in hyperwarpdrive, and sometimes the words come out of his mouth as if frantically trying to keep up with the gray matter that had just produced them.) When I originally told of this encounter, I did not include my first, smart-ass answer: Since Bob was asking me the question in 2014 (the February of the Dover USHWA/banquet), I said, "2013," which was the previous and, thus by definition, "last" year. That of course was a correct answer. (Watch, and it'll turn more correct the further you read.) Heyden wasn't impressed, giving a "Geez" and a shake of the head as if wondering why he wastes his time trying to educate the unwashed. "Before that, I mean." As I did recount earlier, my next response was, "I don't know." Which was the second correct answer - because 2013 was the FIRST AND ONLY time that Bob's phenomenon had ever occurred! And of course you can't know something that doesn't exist. So BOTH of my answers were correct! I owe thanks for verification to David Carr, veteran computer guru and statistical researcher for the USTA (along with being a Tottenham Hotspurs fan, as is Roy Davis). David said that when he saw the article, he set up the computer parameters, and could trace the data back to 1951 - and that 2013 was the first year that the phenomenon occurred. (Though, according to David, it had happened three times previously among two-year-olds - but that's for a future column.) After Hollywood's stumper, I mentioned, I happened upon an amazing piece of trivia in the Dover paddock: Not 10 feet apart from each other were two gentlemen who are both members of a very, very exclusive club - they were both the leading dashwinning drivers at tracks that hosted just ONE season of harness racing! They accomplished their feats 15 years apart. And they both have the same initials! I did plant one clue in yesterday's story - if you read Ron Pierce's career travels carefully, you may have noted "Minnesota" thrown in there. In 1986, Pierce was the leading driver during the only year they had harness racing at Canterbury (which, for different trivia fans, was where Governor Jesse Ventura's post-election celebration was held). Forrest Skipper won there that year,too - in the Dan Patch Pace, of course. So now we know that the other driver's initials are also "RP" - and from there it's a short jump to Roger Plante Jr., now a solid regular on the Delaware circuit, but for three weekends in 2001 plying his trade at Oakridge Racecourse in Virginia - where he won their only dash title with 14 triumphs. Oak Ridge Estate in southwest VA is an historic plantation/horse farm/events site that was purchased by the Holland Family in 1989, with John Sr. later thinking to try to secure a couple of off-track wagering permits in the Old Dominion - but that required him to hold a pari-mutuel license. So he carved a mile track on the grounds, brought in tents for a paddock and temporary fixtures for fans (no simulcasting in or out, the latter disappointing Plainridge, and I know because they called me, who had written a story, and asked me), and conducted Friday-Saturday-Sunday racing from September 21 to October 7 of 2001. (Alas, for overall naught for Mr. Holland's oval, as he did not get the off-track permits.) There was only that one season of harness at Oakridge (how the USTA records spell it) - nine days, 101 purse races. Plante won 14, one more than Clifton Green, to secure its only dash title, and join that super-exclusive club that both he and Pierce have membership in. And now to end - FOR POSSIBLY THE ONLY TIME EVER IN PRINT - the list of the drivers who won the 101 races at Oakridge! 14: Roger Plante Jr. 13: Clifton Green 11: Brian Allen 7: Dan O'Mara, Fern Paquet Jr. 5: Mark Gray, Donnie Russell 4: Gary Messenger 3: Ken Billman, Joe Offutt, Del Richards 2: Kyle DiBenedetto, Gerry Bookmyer, R. Scott Gregoire*, Jukka Paljarvi, Tim Roach, Tom D. (father of ...) Tetrick, Bryce Truitt, Don Wilson II 1: Mark Clark, Rusty Cox, George Filion, Grover Freck, Warren McIlmurray, Jim Morand, Barry Probber, Basil Sapienza, James Smallwood, Kelly Staten * - Mr. Gregoire gets a special mention because he swept the Daily Double on the inaugural card. By Jerry Connors for Harnesslink.com

Sixth in a Harnesslink.com series of articles about the Top Ten drivers of 2013, the vehicles they use in commuting from track to track, and other topics of relevant current interest. Ron Pierce may think that his racetrack career is "starting to wind down a little," but seeing as he may be the most widely-traveled horseman of modern times, his definition of "winding down" may not be quite the same as most people's. Among the top drivers in Macau (Asia), California, and Minnesota before competing with success at many stops along the East Coast over the last (quite a few) years, to Pierce "winding down" is being the only one of the Top Ten drivers of last year to have won 100 races at three different tracks and 50 races at four different tracks. "Winding down" means putting "about 90,000 miles" on his Lexus 460 last year."Well, I drove only about 85% of the time," Pierce noted. "My wife (Therese) sometimes comes with me, and she probably drove the rest of the time." Ron Pierce is not a person to "stay in a groove" for years at a time - he adapts his racing strategy to the individual contest and what is required to win, and he adapts the racetracks at which he campaigns to those that prove the most lucrative to him. You may have heard about his recent switching of weekend base across the Hudson River, "and I might be there earlier in the week, too," Pierce added. "I will race at Dover Downs on Thursdays, because it is the day they concentrate their features. After that, I haven't totally formed my strategy - we'll look at what developments there are at the Chester track, which races during the day. And I did very well at Pocono last year (152 wins, only behind his total at Harrah's Philadelphia)." There is one day on his schedule, though, about which Pierce has no question. "I take Tuesdays off," he says flatly. "You have to get away from the track once in a while, take care of your family and be with them. On Tuesdays I work around the horse, fix things or do whatever projects need to be done, and then every Tuesday night I take my wife out to dinner, and then maybe to a movie." If --- IF -- Ron Pierce is considering moderating his schedule (and many racetracks rivals would not mind seeing that at all), it sounds like he's making Tuesdays serve as his "transitional days." Keeps the missus happy, too - now that's a good long-term strategy. Driver                                            Total Wins          Tracks                          Track Wins Ron Pierce 537 Philadelphia 186     Pocono* 152     Dover* 101     Meadowlands* 73     Meadows* 8     Lexington 7     Hoosier* 3     Vernon* 3     Harrington 2     Delaware 1     Mohawk 1 * - won $100,000 or richer race at this track By Jerry Connors, for Harnesslink.com  

Fifth in a Harnesslink series of occasional stories on 2013's Top Ten drivers, the vehicles they use to commute from track to track, and other recent and pertinent information. Even "bionic men" take a little time to get back into top shape after a layoff. Tim Tetrick just received the 2013 U.S. Harness Writers Association's Dan Patch Driver of the Year award this past Sunday at Dover Downs, primarily on the quality of his driving and the quality of the horses he drove, both of which have put him on the top of the North American moneywinning list each of the last seven years. Tim knows it'll be somewhat more difficult to repeat this year. He put himself behind that personal "8-ball," so to speak - but it had to be done. "I had to go and have the surgery on my hip," noted the 32-year-old, who has had a degenerative hip condition since his teens. "I already had surgery on the one hip," he added (thus originally earning himself the "Bionic Man" nickname), "and in recent months the other had been bothering me significantly, so I had it taken care of before the biggest part of the season began." Tetrick came back in early February, "and it was a harder adjustment than many people may think, because there are certain muscles you use, in the hip/upper leg area, that you just can't keep in top shape by using weights or other conditioning - only driving regularly gets those areas in the top condition you need." Tim, however, did come roaring back to the races, winning at Dover Downs the first day he came back, and then winning his first drive of the night on each of the first two cards when he resumed campaigning at The Meadowlands. The "earnings opportunity" season is about to become a bit more prime, as Pocono opens its doors for the 2014 season in a couple of weeks, and Harrah's Philadelphia is now scheduled to reopen in March as well, after some reconditioning work on the surface. Of Tetrick's 582 wins last year, 318 came at the Chester oval, where he's been "top dog" often in the last few years. Winning races at 18 different tracks last year, many within driving distance of his New Jersey base, Tetrick is yet another driver who racks up the mileage on his vehicle, communicating from track to track. "I have a Lexus hybrid in the 300 series, a car I got just last year, and already I'm approaching 45,000 miles on it. I usually am somewhere logging between 50,000 and 60,000 miles a year on my vehicles - and yes, I drive myself from track to track." No doubt the car will get a tuneup. Tetrick is getting back to top sulky form - among the top ten drivers at The Meadowlands currently, Tetrick's .292 UDR is second, only behind the percentage of Yannick Gingras, who's been driving in absolute "tip-top form" so far this year. It looks like the Tetrick horsepower is just reaching maximum velocity - just in time for "prime time." Driver                       Total Wins     Tracks                      Track Wins Tim Tetrick 582 Philadelphia* 318     Meadowlands* 94     Dover* 45     Lexington* 22     Pocono* 22     Yonkers 21     Mohawk* 16     Tioga* 16     Meadows* 6     Monticello 5     Balmoral* 3     Harrington 3     Saratoga 3     Vernon 3     Delaware* 2     Freehold 1     Hoosier 1     Ocean 1         * -- won $100,000 stake at this track   By Jerry Connors for Harnesslink.com

DOVER DE - The United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), harness racing's principal organization for media workers, held its annual meetings this past Saturday and Sunday at the Dover Downs complex, with the weekend culminating in the Dan Patch Awards Banquet held Sunday (Feb. 23) night, attended by almost 400 people and streamed worldwide for live viewing. During the Saturday meeting, the Directors of the Association voted for Bob Marks and Kathy Parker to be on the Communicators Hall of Fame voting ballot this summer. Marks has been a leading force in many harness dimensions over his 50 years in the sport, most recently as Marketing Director for Perretti Farms, while Parker, from a prominent harness family, worked her way through the ranks at the Horseman and Fair World weekly magazine until becoming editor in 1995 and later general manager of the Horseman Publishing Company, positions she maintains to this day. At the conclusion of the meetings, the membership voted in their slate of association Officials for 2014-15. Chris Tully, an MBA marketing specialist and writer whose digital literacy and social media acumen has helped bring USHWA to the cutting edge of communications technology, was elected President of the association, succeeding Steve Wolf of Harnesslink.com; Tully's "first official act" was to present Wolf, who now becomes the Chairman of the Board, with a gold Lifetime Membership pin. Tim Bojarski, writer/blogger for the USTA, moved up a chair to 1st Vice President, with the 2VP position going to Shawn Wiles, Monticello Raceway chief racing officer and a longtime USTA and USHWA director. Judy Davis-Wilson, who is based in Dover and worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the weekend, especially the banquet, was returned as Treasurer; Alan Prince, who attended his 48th consecutive USHWA meetings weekend, remains as Executive Treasurer. Also elected was Jerry Connors as USHWA secretary. Much of the discussion during the two days of meetings focused on the sport's Halls of Fame in Goshen NY, where plans for renovation and modernization are starting to advance rapidly, and where USHWA makes a significant contribution. In addition to the physical reconfiguration of the Halls of Fame area, the directors and membership discussed several by-law and rules change relating to the Halls, especially the re-establishment of a Seniors category for both. Debate was plentiful, lively, and well-reasoned on all sides, and some of these matters were tabled until a Committee, soon to be appointed, can focus on the merits - and the eventual wording -- of the varied proposed changes. The attendees heard reports from the many committees that keep USHWA functioning throughout the year, and were glad to hear from Davis-Wilson, voted the organization's member of the year, that the treasury was in a very good shape, pointing to future success in USHWA's upcoming progressive efforts. The Dan Patch Awards Dinner was as always the highlight of the gathering, with superstar sophomore trotting filly Bee A Magician "finishing her unbeaten season" by being elected Trotter of the Year and then Harness Horse of the Year; her contemporary, the pacing colt Captaintreacherous, took down overall honors for that gait after a brilliant campaign showing speed and courage in equal amounts. Also honored were the quartet to be inducted into the Halls of Fame Sunday, July 6 in Goshen: Harness Racing Hall of Famers David Miller and William Weaver, and Communicators Hall inductees Carol Cramer and John Pawlak. by Jerry Connors for USHWA

DOVER DE—Bob Marks, the longtime marketing guru of Perretti Farms and a noted writer and handicapper, and Kathy Parker, the editor and general manager of the Horseman and Fair World publishing company, have been selected by the Directors of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) during their annual meetings here this weekend to be the ballot candidates for election into the Communicators Hall of Fame this summer. Chapters of USHWA nominate men and women of exceptional communicating abilities to their Board of Directors, and the Directors draw upon information in provided biographies and their own experiences with the nominees to select two outstanding individuals that will go before the general membership of USHWA this summer. Candidates garnering 75% of the yes-no votes submitted are inducted into the Communicators Hall of Fame. Marks has been a vital and active part of the racing game for over 50 years, first establishing himself as a handicapper of renown during the Golden Years of the Roosevelt-Yonkers circuit, then contributing a steady stream of informed and reasoned articles to the top trade publications. In 1988 Marks took the job as pedigree analyst and marketing director at the noted Perretti Farms in New Jersey. During a quarter century of work at Perretti’s farm, Marks developed pioneering techniques in presenting stallions on video and assembled eye-catching print and electronic ads that drove home the main assets of the Perretti stock. Bob also named more than 2,000 horses, most of the monikers featuring some offshoot of their sire’s name to not only make the yearlings distinctive, but also to keep the stallions and their achievements in the public eye. Parker spent her formative years in Ohio and then western Pennsylvania as part of an extensive and talented racing family, which today includes her husband Dan Coon, son of Hall of Fame trackman Charlie Coon and himself a noted track worker. Parker started her employment at the Horseman and Fair World, a Lexington KY-based weekly trade magazine, while still attending the University of Kentucky, and her talent saw her rise through the ranks until arriving at the top by being named editor and general manager in 1995. As communications changed and evolved in harness racing, Parker had the Horsemen at the forefront of emerging innovative news dissemination techniques. The Horseman’s website, www.harnessracing.com, started in 1998, and in 2009 the acclaimed weekly originated a “Harness Racing Weekend Preview,” giving an insightful oversight on the upcoming big races. Parker has traveled extensively worldwide covering the races, and in 1992 she won a John Hervey award for harness writing excellence from USHWA. The ballot for the candidacy of Marks and Parker will be distributed during the summer, after this year’s candidates for the Living Hall of Fame are determined during the Fourth of July Weekend in Goshen, the home of harness racing’s Halls of Fame. by Jerry Connors, USHWA National Secretary

In scanning the list of the leading North American drivers in terms of winning races so far in 2014, quite a few familiar names are at the top. The first four at press time read Corey Callahan, Aaron Merriman, Ron Pierce, and Dave Palone, all of whom were among the top ten in this category in 2013 ... ...and then you get to the fifth name. "Alfred Carroll." Hmmm ... never heard of him ... wonder what his story is? And when a writer has a thought like that, it's like waving a red cape in front of a bull. (Well, not really - bulls are colorblind, and it's the motion of the cape that sets them a-runnin' - but that's for another day.) So we went in search of the story behind this "Alfred Carroll." To begin with, to find out what's it all about, "Alfie" is the name you better call the 28-year-old from Iona, Ontario, about 20 miles west of London. "My father (the well-known horseman Richard Carroll) was given the middle name 'Alfred,' but I don't like that much at all. I probably could have done better than 'Alfie,' too, but that's what everybody has called me since I was in school, so I'm used to it." Where the youngster is being called to most these days is Ontario winners circles, as his total of 60 visits to Victory Lane already this year - 46 times at London, 14 at Flamboro - puts him fifth in North America, as noted, and #1 among all Canadian-based sulkysmiths. (If you think you might have heard a story something like this before, you have, but wait a couple paragraphs - let's give Alfie his well-deserved due.) Sporting green-and-white colors as did his father, a longtime success on the Detroit-Windsor circuit, Alfie has done about everything right on the track so far this year - on and off the pace, with cheaper horses and top-class animals, with trotters and pacers, and at both the tighter confines of seven-wide Western Fair (London) and eight-wide-with-passing-lane Flamboro. His success with the best horses racing in Ontario outside the WEG is especially intriguing. Carroll has taken eight Preferred events already this year between the two tracks - the first seven with different horses, finally repeating on Tuesday at London with trotter Here's The Magic. This horse was stepping up from Open-3 to Open-2, but he'd drawn post two (from which he showed three wins on his lines) and has the ability to race as the unfolding dictates. The London crowd didn't miss the horse guided by the hot hands, did they? Well, um ... Carroll may not be as well-known as the area veterans (the over/under on when he'll get win #1000 is March 15), but the in-form horse survived going first-over into a 1:28 3/4s to win handily ... and pay $23.40! "The groom and I were shaking our heads over him paying so much," Alfie noted with a chuckle. Here's The Magic comes from the hot barn of trainer Vic Puddy, who has been a big springboard to success for Carroll - he trains three of the seven different Preferred horses with which Alfie has won. Another good source of quality horseflesh is his dad, who turned 78 just this past Monday, but teamed with his son to win a London Preferred with Slots Of Fun (sorry for the irony, Ontarians) earlier this year. There's no doubt that Alfie Carroll is a worker - as we've seen in other recent stories, there's a lot of kilometerage (Canadian equivalent of mileage) on both Alfie's '03 Ford 350 truck (which he uses when he hauls horses or his race bike, and "it has about 500,000km on it," or over 300,000 miles) and his '04 Jetta (at 300,000km, or approaching 200,000 miles). When it was noted that those figures signify tremendous machines, and ones that had to be well-maintained, Carroll admitted, "Well, I did give some thought to being a mechanic, but then I went with the horses." It's evident he can rev up either kind of horsepower for maximum performance. Carroll was second in the London driver standings last year - and that brown-and-gold shadow we mentioned a few paragraphs back? That belongs to Trevor "Howie" Henry, the leading Canadian-based driver last year with 529 triumphs, who has been on vacation the last few weeks but by reports is ready to return to regular action - at his home base of London. "I may lose a few drives to Trevor when he's back," Alfie notes realistically, "but I hope that I've been doing a good enough job for the trainers I've been driving for that they will keep using me." With a .365 UDR, and behind only the most select of company in 2014 North America driving wins, here's betting (and at less than 10-1) that we haven't seen the best of Alfie Carroll yet, and that he'll hold his own against most anything he'll have to face. By Jerry Connors for Harnesslink.com  

Fourth in a series of stories about 2013’s leading drivers, the vehicles they drive in pursuit of victory, and other current relevant facts. 2013 North American dashwinning champion Ronnie Wrenn Jr. owes a good deal of thanks for his learning the skills that helped win him that title to his father, Michigan Hall of Famer Ron Wrenn Sr. – and he also is appreciative of his dad for providing another kind of “horsepower.” “I did most of the driving in my truck, a 2011 Ford F-150, between racetracks during last summer,” said the 27-year-old recently, “but when I decided to race at Northfield during the week and take advantage of the fact that Colonial Downs (near Richmond VA, 450 miles away) raced on weekends last fall, my dad, along with a Northfield regular named “Road Dog,’ got behind the wheel of the truck most of the time so I could get some sleep between the Friday night Northfield card and the Saturday afternoon racing at Colonial.” The truck had 160,000 miles on it by year’s end – “probably 60,000 or 70,000 miles just last year,” Ron Jr., also known as "Ronnie," adds – but also at year’s end Ron had 714 wins, clear by 69 victories for the North American crown. Among the top ten drivers, only he and another Ron (Pierce) had 50 or more wins at four different tracks, and no one but Wrenn had 20+ wins at seven different ovals. One of those tracks, Raceway Park in Toledo, isn’t back in 2014, which Ron Jr. laments (you would too if you had a .532 UDR at a track that was closing). But he’s trying his hand at the new Miami Valley oval presently, and he’s only four wins behind leader Tony Hall while driving a limited schedule as he continues to make Northfield, the track where he won 388 races last year, his base. In fact, it’s remarkable that Wrenn has climbed back to third in the Northfield 2014 standings already – considering he underwent surgery at the start of the season and didn’t race at the Cleveland oval until January 29. “I had to get my right wrist, which I broke playing football when I was younger, operated on. I had been dealing with the situation for a while – I had been going to therapy for three years for it – but it was just time to get the situation fixed properly. I’ve recovered well, and I’m feeling awesome right now.” Which is bad news for those trying to keep Wrenn from defending his dash title. Despite driving on only 17 cards this year, Ronnie has 40 victories at press time, good for 21st in North America in “half the season” the others have had available to them. (One win higher in the standings – his uncle Peter, at 9,200+ career wins.) Ron Wrenn Jr. says he tries to keep up with sports news when he is driving his truck – “My favorite is ESPN Sports, and I can usually find a station with it wherever I drive.” If he keeps up his winning rate since coming back from his injury, Ronnie may hear his name over the airwaves in ten months or so -- the national media will have to sit up and take note if a 28-year-old already has two national win titles to his career credit. Driver                      Total Wins        Tracks                           Wins Ron Wrenn Jr. 714 Northfield 388     Northville 96     Scioto 88     Raceway Park 52     Buffalo 29     Colonial 27     Batavia 21     Hazel Park 7     Monticello 4     Wooster 2 By Jerry Connors for Harnesslink.com

Most people have heard of the expression “horses for courses,” but in the case of sire Diamond Goal, standing at Leatherstocking Equine Center in New Berlin NY, the phrase might have to be revised to “horses for states” – for this son of champion Armbro Goal seems to have a wealth of dominant factors and traits that would have his offspring in a prime position to campaign in the Empire State: --He stands 15 hands 2, not a tall horse – but a good size for a sire in a jurisdiction which has five out of seven tracks which are half-milers. “His body is a little longer than his height,” Leatherstocking breeding overseer Nancy Herrick notes (Soren Nordin and his measuring stick are smiling somewhere), “so he is not a small horse, more of a ‘solid’ horse. He’s a nice-looking horse, and for a stud he’s a nice horse to be around.” --Although his trainer during his racing career, Dan Daley, has been racing primarily at bigger ovals the last few years, Diamond Goal won two New Jersey Sire Stakes at Freehold at three, showing his ability to adapt to a four-turn mile. And even while racing on a big track, taking his mark of 1:53.1 in the first heat of the 2001 World Trotting Derby, he picked his way through a 13-horse field while winning, showing drivability and maneuverability – key talents to pass on to his NY-based offspring. --He certainly has the class necessary to be a “player” among the talented New York sires crop: we noted Diamond Goal’s WTD elim win (the only race the vaunted $800,000 winner Chasing Tail lost among his last seven), and he just missed in the final, sitting behind a creaking pace set by Cobol in the raceoff, then closing individually in 26.3 to miss overhauling the pacesetter by a neck in the final; then he won a heat of the Kentucky Futurity before chasing home Mr. ‘Tail’ in that event’s last heat. In all, he earned over $300,000 at three, and then added another $200,000+ in his older form, including a win in the Frank Ryan Memorial at Rideau Carleton. “And he came off the racetrack sound,” added Herrick. --His mother, the stakes-placed Another Tiffany, also produced two other $100,000 winners, including the filly Royal Jewel, a five-time NYSS winner at three. A Carlisle sister to the Arnie Almahurst-sired Another Tiffany, Lauxmont Super Car, produced Natural Image, who trotted to a 1:56.1 mark in 1987, when that was a good time for a pacer, and “Super Car” was the granddam of the millionaire Stiletto – so there is plenty of maternal-side power to back the racetrack prowess and the talent sire Armbro Goal brings to Diamond Goal. --And finally, maybe even most importantly, he already has to his credit, from his initial crop, a $350,000+ winner in the still-racing Super Manning – who himself was a New York Sire Stakes winner, and hit the board in six other state-restricted events at three. Just last year, he won five times in Opens at the track with the highest purses in North America – Yonkers Raceway. Nancy Herrick refers to Diamond Goal “as a horse who is all business in the breeding shed – he knows why he is there, and he gets the job done.” She reserves the term “non-studdish” to speak only about his inherent placidness, his not being a behavioral problem near or away from the breeding shed. Leatherstocking is located in approximately the middle of a triangle described by the cities of Syracuse, Albany, and Binghamton – closest to Monticello, and not far from Tioga or the Metro New York area. Leatherstocking also has boarding facilities for mares – while there is no residency requirement to be eligible for the NYSS (although the mare must physically be in the state when bred by whatever method), the emerging breeders program does require the broodmare to be in-state for 180 days for offspring to generate them breeders awards based on racetrack performance. If Diamond Goal casts a sparkle in your eye, with all of the above-mentioned qualities going for him, contact Nancy Herrick at 607 847 9990. “Or come on up and see him,” she adds. “You should like what you see.” By Jerry Connors for Harnesslink.com

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