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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, “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

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

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, 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

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

Sixth in a 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  

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

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; 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,, 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  

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

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

An unexpected plus from the revitalization of harness racing in the state of Ohio: sharp Buckeye-based trainers, realizing that there is now money to be made, start advertising, looking for new owners – thereby giving the coffers of the trade press a little extra jingle! Dee Hotton, who is based at the Wooster OH fairgrounds, recently advertised that she is looking for new owners for whom to train their horses for campaigning in the state – but she has always been a bit “ahead of the curve,” though. (How many trainers do you know who have had their own website for years, and who use the word “behooves” – and before noon, no less?) Hotton was born on Long Island (or “Lon Gisland,” as the natives pronounce it) to a father who was a rabid fan of the trotters and pacers at Roosevelt and Yonkers. When her father was transferred by his business to Ohio when Dee was two, the family went along, and in the newly-adopted state the father undoubtedly found plenty of choices to scratch his harness racing itch – while his daughter “had decided by junior high that she was going to work with horses for her livelihood.” Graduating early from high school and from the Wooster branch campus of Ohio State University’s program for learning all ends of standardbred care, Hotton went into the care of the sulky set at a young age.  Dee was a harness “natural” across the board, too, driving in matinees at 15 and fair purse races at 16, and she carries a lifetime .292 UDR despite fewer than 500 career trips behind the gate! And August 9 of this year will mark the TENTH ANNIVERSARY of Dee last losing a purse race while in the sulky – OK, be a spoilsport and point out that she’s only driven once since 8-9-04. “And I wasn’t even supposed to drive that one,” Hotton recalled with a chuckle. “Don McKirgan had been driving my horse for me, but he decided he had a chance to make more money with the horses he was listed on at another fair, and mine didn’t look like much, so I decided I’d just drive him myself.” 6-1 in a 3-horse field, Hotton sent her charge right to the top and held on by ¾ of a length in her first drive in eight years. (Note: Any good story about Ohio fair racing is 50-50 to have McKirgan somewhere in it.) Despite this sulky success, Hotton is now devoting herself strictly to the training side, though she says, “I’m glad I did do some driving, because now I know exactly the sort of things to tell my drivers, and I might also have a little more credibility to them, having been a driver myself.” There is no doubting Hotton’s credibility on the training side, with a career UTR of .322 (she’s been over .300 in 14 of the last 17 years), and many talented horses benefitting from her tutelage. One star, however, might have taught Hotton, now the master conditioner, more about training than anyone else. Magnificent Mel, a 1976 son of Little Brown Jug winner Melvin’s Woe, raced when he was two, and was still on the track when he was 14, accumulating 81 wins and over $200,000 in earnings. If you know of Melvin’s Woe, you know how hard the Joe O’Brien stable had to work to keep the big-hearted racehorse something close to racehorse sound, and he passed on this last-named trait – plus his speed and huge heart -- to his son. “With Magnificent Mel, we had to do a little of almost everything over the course of his career – I worked him back from bowed tendons, had him stand in ice boots, used all kinds of therapy, and even used interval training back what it was an innovation,” Hotton remembers. “Working with that horse was the best education I could have, and he was a great horse – he went a 2:00 mile at Northfield in 1988, when he was 12, the first time a horse that old had broken 2:00 there.” Focusing on the Ohio Sire Stakes program in recent years, Hotton’s best horses have been a duo who were nice horses that unfortunately raced in a two-year period where there was a dominant OhSS performer in their class: “Glory Bound always had to go up against Dunkster, and Buckeye Man was in the same year as Sing Jesse Sing.”  Seeing as Dunkster and Sing Jesse Sing won about $1.400,000 between them, Hotton did some good schoolin’ to have horses who were second to the others’ caliber. “I’m looking for owners who want to race in Ohio, because I think with the slots money it’s a very good time to maximize the possible upside of horse ownership,” Dee continue. “I’ve been partners with owners on horses, and if I had a new owner who would have a little more confidence if the trainer owned a part of the horse, I’d certainly consider that option depending on the situation. “I’ve raced overnight horses, but right now I’m focusing on stakes horses, two- and three-year-olds, with the improvement in money that is coming to the Ohio Sire Stakes,” she added, and indeed Hotton was contacted for this piece in her winter training headquarters of Pinehurst NC, preparing, she hopes, some of 2014’s Ohio stakes stars. If Dee Hotton’s abilities and focus sound right for you and your horses, visit her website at by Jerry Connors for

In the earlier article on Canadian horseman Trevor Henry, we mentioned his vehicle used for racing and the mileage on it, showing that travel was an important – and difficult – part of the top horseman’s life that many people don’t think about. This article is the second of an occasional series to be run in the next few weeks, talking to other top 2013 dashwinners, how they get between tracks and the mileage they are accumulating, along with topics of current interest. Today we profile Yannick Gingras.   Yannick does not use a truck traveling between tracks because he is a catch-driver, as opposed to Henry, whose family also trains horses and thus making him a horsehauler as well, needing the bigger vehicle. Gingras currently drives an Audi, himself, in his dashes to the various raceways fairly close to home, and he estimates he puts “about 45,000 miles” on his vehicle. “Then, of course, we fly out-of-town for the other stakes races.” Yannick, who went past the $100 million mark in career earnings at the tail end of 2013, has of course come out smokin’ hot at The Meadowlands this year, before the "traveling season" has begun, and we asked him if, since Tim Tetrick had a late start to 2013 because of hip surgery, whether he thinks he can break Tetrick’s streak of seven consecutive moneywinning titles. “So much of that sort of thing depends on what horses you get to drive, whether you have luck on key nights like the Breeders Crown,” he replied. “Also, I am not going to push myself hard just to win a title – what good is it to say at 50, ‘Well, I won the money title in such-and-such a year, but I had to spend a lot of time away from my family in order to do so.’ The quality of my life is the most important thing to me.” For a man who spends much time thinking of grounding principles, as expressed above, Gingras was excited about the revival of the Prix D’Ete at the Hippodrome 3R track in Quebec, a track (then known as Trois Rivieres) that was one of his racing “homes” in his formative years. “I was a pretty regular driver there when I started out, about 2000 or so, and last year I went back for a day of racing and was lucky enough to win six races on that card. “You know, just before I left Quebec and came to Yonkers, two of my best friends were Mario Charron, who’s a top driver up there, and Serge Turenne. I left just about a month before Serge had his accident,” a fatal one when horses stacked up just before the half at Trois Rivieres in 2001. “Serge was a good guy, and a good horseman, well-respected.” (In the overall scope of harness racing and safety improvement, it is noted that there has been only one racing fatality since Turenne’s death in 2001 – that of Hal Belote at Harrington in 2006.) Gingras concluded, “I look forward to going back this year if one of my trainers and owners can come up with a good, competitive horse. I also like the fact that it is a race just for 4-year-olds, so they don’t have to battle the top free-for all, older horses.” Driver                                Total Wins              Tracks                              Wins Yannick Gingras 537 Philadelphia* 257     Meadowlands* 141     Pocono* 28     Yonkers* 28     Mohawk* 14     Lexington* 13     Tioga 10     Hoosier* 6     Meadows* 6     Trois Rivieres 6     Balmoral* 5     Delaware* 5     Vernon* 5     Monticello 4     Saratoga 3     Freehold 2     Dover 1     Harrington 1     London 1     Woodbine 1         * -  won $100,000 race at this track     by Jerry Connors for

If you didn't know Mike Jeannot, I'm sorry you missed the opportunity. Mike served in various leadership capacities at The Meadows for over two decades until ovetaken by the one foe no one in racing, or in life, can withstand in the stretch -- death -- when he succumbed to cancer last week at age 61, a very young, vibrant, and humorous 61. The horseshoe of trainers and drivers in their colors, often with a led horse ahead of an empty sulky parading in front, along with family and other friends, forming in front of the grandstand in tribute to a departed member of the extended racing family, is, for me after 35 years working in the business, still one of the most moving sights in all of racing -- and believe me, I've seen far too many of them. But The Meadows, headed by the matchless Roger Huston, video wizard Jeff Zidek and coworkers, and track chaplain Pastor Joe DiDonato, may have put together one of the most moving of such ceremonies -- and certainly a world-class video -- when they honored Mike, his memory, and his legacy before their card on Friday. I'm supposed to be a writer, and I have many memories -- every one of them positive -- of Mike, but for once I will agree that "a picture is worth a thousand words." The entire 10-minute ceremony is attached with this story, and nothing I could say could capture the man and the moment as this video of the ceremony does. Mike, I'm glad I can do one last thing for you -- to "introduce" you, through the link to this video, to many people who otherwise may not have known what a very good racetrack manager, and even better human being, you were, and always will be to those you touched. Pastor Joe got it right: "Mike modeled behavior he wanted to see in others." When I cash in, if I could have something 1/10 as complimentary said about me, I'd considered my life well worthwhile. Mike Jeannot's life was extraordinary.   by Jerry Connors for  

A “brute” usually brings to mind a bully, a scuffler, a fighter – and one who is quite boisterous, outspoken, while going about what he or she perceives as his or her business. Never, then, was a harness racing horse less-aptly-named than the Credit Winner trotter Calchips Brute. He is a harness racing millionaire, but his steady march to seven-figure status has been among the quietest-such ascendancies in recent times. And both trainer Trond Smedshammer and Jerry Giuliani, handling the stud arrangements for the horse as he now tries a stallion/racehorse double career for the 2014 racing season, say that while he is all business on the racetrack, he is a very nice horse to be around, well-mannered. Credit Winner’s success story need not be retold; however, it can also be noted that his second dam, Grassbred, also produced Me Maggie, a $700,000+ winner. Where Calchips Brute gets his versatility, tractability, and tenacity, though, may find its key in his second dam – Petite Evander. Petite Evander’s story is a lot like Cardigan Bay’s – a star in her native New Zealand, brought over to the United States, and able to go with the best of her peers, male or female, for several years. Where “Petite” goes “Cardy” one better, though, was that she was also invited to race in Europe, where she won the Elitlopp Consolation in 1978, a year where she also was second in Cold Comfort’s Roosevelt International win – at the age of eight. She raced until she was 11, and earned $800,000+ worldwide. The quietest million-dollar winner may have been the quietest half-million dollar season winner too, when in 2009 Calchips Brute finished 3-3 in the Empire Breeders Classic (despite post 9 in the elim and 6 in the final), 3-3 in the Hambletonian (5 of 7 in the elim and 6 in the final), and 2-3 in the Yonkers Trot (7 in the elim and 6 in the final over the half-mile track; and the writer must defer credit to Mr. Giuliani for remembering/reliving-with-a-sigh that post rundown). With his $182,438 check for his third in the Hambo (the two in front of him that day you may have heard of: Muscle Hill and Explosive Matter) and other high stakes finishes (including a second in the Matron Final), plus six on the board (2w-2p-2s) finishes in NYSS competition, his sophomore bankroll was $552,573. Calchips Brute has not been fazed by anything thrown at him: bouncing back from time off; outside posts over the half-mile track, which were often his starting vantage in Open handicaps at Yonkers; or track size: he took his seasonal mark at The Meadowlands twice, Yonkers twice, and Tioga once. “He’s a good-looking, athletic horse,” states Smedshammer. “He is good-gaited, 100% safe, and has never made a break in his life. His trotting technique is very good. “Giuliani also noted that the horse has never lapsed from gait, then added, “He gives his best race 100% of the time. “We’re going to try racing him every other week and also do some stud duty this year,” Giuliani said, “I think he’ll be an outstanding sire. I have broodmares with other partners, and some of them have commitments to other stallions this year, but every trotting broodmare I own outright I’m breeding to Calchips Brute.” If you want to follow Jerry Giuliani’s lead and “get back in on the new ground floor of the New Jersey Sire Stakes,” Calchips Brute is standing for $3,500 ($3,000 for multiple mares) at Walnridge Farm, and Giuliani can be reached at 215-837-4629. Aside from his abilities at the post pill shake, it seems like Calchips Brute has a good chance as a stallion (a Brute as a lover – interesting), while also adding further to that $1,000,000+ bankroll. By Jerry Connors for

Two harness racing trainers and two drivers accounted for EVERY SINGLE VICTORY in EVERY SINGLE RACE held EVERYWHERE in the United States yesterday! (And no, nobody named Burke was involved.) East Rutherford NJ is normally a focus of harness fans' attention, but yesterday it was indirectly for another reason -- the American gridiron football classic the Super Bowl was played there. (Two notes: 1) the horse was named after the trophy, not the other way around, and 2) actually, one team played the Super Bowl yesterday; I wouldn't have wanted to be on the flight to Denver carrying the other side back home.) No United States racetrack was scheduled to hold any pari-mutuel racing on Super Bowl Sunday -- except that the new Miami Valley Raceway qualified for the first time on Saturday morning, and they drew enough entries to hold 18 qualifiers. Since their paddock holds only (only?) 14 races, and they have no barn area, four qualifiers were carried over to Sunday -- at noon, so everybody was home and put away before the 6:30pm EST kickoff. The all-conquering trainers and drivers were trainers Travion Jones and Jeff Brewer and sulkysmiths Jeremy Smith and Jason Brewer; the Brewers combined to take the even-numbered qualifiers, while Jones/Smith (not aliases -- we checked) clicked in the odd-numbered events. And the Brewers were second in the two races they did not win -- a handicapping angle of  "sharp stable" when racing begins at the new 5/8-miler on Friday night. by Jerry Connors for

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