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WILKES-BARRE PA - The favorites used different methodologies in their two $15,000 divisions of the first round of the Bobby Weiss Series for trotting females Wednesday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, but both ended up in the desired positions - home first, and then in the harness racing winners circle.   Classic Belisima headed right to the front in her division and was never headed, winning by almost 7 lengths in a career best 1:55.2 despite the track being rated only "good." David Miller was sulkysitting behind the daughter of Crazed, who now has six wins in eight seasonal starts, for trainer John Cabot and owner William Cantrell.   In the other Weiss section, Dress For Success had to travel the difficult two-wide route without cover, but she proved to have enough late to turn back Linda Marie by a half-length in 1:57.1. Matt Kakaley, handling the daughter of Infinitif for the first time, obviously got along well with her by getting the job done for trainer Christopher Freck and owners Stacey Ruddick and Denise Dennis.   Four-time defending Downs dashwinning driver champion George Napolitano Jr. visited Victory Lane six times on Wednesday's 13-race card. "Georgie Nap" will next get a chance to add to his local totals when the Downs resumes racing on Saturday, with the first race scheduled for 6:30 p.m.   Jerry Conners  

WILKES-BARRE PA - Trotting males and pacing females were featured in first leg harness racing action of their divisions of the Bobby Weiss Series Tuesday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with two $15,000 sections for each group contested. In the first trotting cut Two Hip Dip set the pace, then blasted home in 1:55.4 - 56.2 - 27.1 for driver David Miller and trainer/owner Nick Salenetri. The son of Glidemaster was the slight favorite in a race where two horses were sent off at 4-5 - his co-"odds-on" rival Bourbon Bay was outfooted late for second by Raise The Curtain. The other diamondgaited division also went to driver David Miller, again on the engine, this time with Walk The Walk. Walk The Walk trotted the trot about five lengths better than anyone else in the field until the shadow of the wire, where he ran the run, but was not in violation of the breaking rules. The son of Muscle Hill, owned by trainer Chris Ryder in partnership with Sidney Korn, Robert Mondillo, and Max Wernick, posted a new personal speed badge of 1:55.1 despite the bobble, with back timings of 56.3 - 28. Miller and Ryder again teamed in a division of the female Weiss action, using "pocket rocket" tactics into a 28 kicker with the Rocknroll Hanover filly Crescent City to get a nose up in a new mark of 1:54 for Diamond Creek Racing. This event also featured an unusual betting pattern, with three horses at less than 2-1 - the winner was 7-5, place horse Hollyrocker was 9-5, and first-over Caviart Shelly (fourth) was 3-2. The other distaff division also saw a nose separate the top two, as a daughter of Somebeachsomewhere, Life Is A Beach, maintained an early brush to command to the wire over The Beach Nextdoor in a personal best 1:53.1, with twin 28.1s the last half. Matt Kakaley had sulky duty for trainer Ron Burke and the omnipresent Burke Racing / Weaver Bruscemi partnership. David Miller and Kakaley had three wins on the card; doubles were recorded by George Napolitano Jr. and, on his birthday, Mike Simons, with the latter win for "The Trot Man" the appropriately-gaited Magnum Kosmos. As opposed to opening night this past Saturday, where the average win mutuel was over $21, 7 of 13 chalks clicked this evening. Jerry Connors for PHHA/Pocono             Spam Not spam Forget previous vote

WILKES-BARRE PA - The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, the newly-announced official name of the northeast Pennsylvania oval known in the industry as Pocono Downs, kicked off its 50th anniversary year of harness racing on Saturday night, with three $15,000 divisions of the Bobby Weiss Series for developing male pacers all going against the form as far as the race winners.   The biggest upset was produced in the first division, with Shadow Margeaux (Larry Stalbaum), who had three third-place finishes in this series last year, benefitting from an overcooked pace over the "good" surface to rally from last at the stretch call and tally in 1:52.4. The Shadow Play gelding, trained by many-time Downs champion Steve Salerno for himself, Bruce Potter, and Edward Bardowski, paid $77.00 to win as the longest shot on the board - with second-longest shot Kolt Power second and third-longest shot Red Pine third.   The second Weiss cut saw the second choice win, but it was a $15.60 second choice, as the Well Said gelding Mojito Hanover (Marcus Miller) was a pocket rocket in a 1:53.1 tally, with the 2-5 Burke Stable entry settling for a 3-5 finish. Jim Campbell harnesses "Mojito" for Fred and Shirley Schwartz, Onda Racing Stable LLC, and Shore Thing Stables LLC.   A two-ply Burke force got some measure of revenge in the third division, but Victory At Last (Matt Kakaley), who held off the first-over YS Lotus in 1:52.4, was in an entry that was not the favorite - he paid $4.00 to win, while YS Lotus was 3-5. Victory At Last, an altered son of Quik Pulse Mindale, is owned by the leading combine in the sport, Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC.   The Weiss Series will feature pacing females and trotting males in first division action on Tuesday, while trotting fillies will be in the spotlight Wednesday, as Pocono opens on a three-night-a-week schedule. The top competitors after four preliminary legs come back for a $30,000 divisional Championship.   The feature for overnight horses, a $22,000 pace, rang true to form as the Cambest gelding Blatantly Best (Jim Morrill Jr., $3.80) rallied from second-over to be clear late in 1:51.3. Larry Remmen trains the winner for owner Bradley Grant.   However, Shadow Margeaux was the first of many longshots to report home first on Saturday - races 11-13 consecutively saw One More Miracle ($41.40), Salevster Stallion ($34.40) and Feels Like Magic N ($48.40) handsomely reward their scattered backers.   George Napolitano Jr., going for his fourth straight dash driving title and record ninth local crown, guided home four winners on the opener, with Matt Kakaley, the last horseman other than "George Nap" to be on top here (2011), had three. Two-time defending North American dash champion Ron Wrenn Jr., in his first-ever night of racing at Pocono, had a respectable 10-1-3-1-.300 sulky tally, despite being named on only one horse at the time of the draw.   Jerry Connors

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono is getting ready to kick off their 50th harness racing season on Saturday, March 21, and the commemorative book looking back at the past 50 years has been released. "The Golden Era of Pocono Downs" features photos, statistics, and feature articles, including the role of Pocono in Hurricane Agnes in 1972, and is available at the Pocono Programs desk for $3. Long-time harness writer Jerry Connors researched and compiled the statistics, along with several of the features within the book. Also featured is an article on the impeccable track surface written by Jay Bergman, longtime editor of harness racing's Harness Eye and columnist for DRF.com. Dale Rapson, Vice President of Racing Operations, at the track for 36 years, announced at the press conference on Wednesday that he was truly proud of how far Pocono has come in 50 years, from a track headed for bankruptcy, to the superior racing surface it is today, attracting the best drivers, trainers, and horses in the country. The book also features a four page photo collage dedicated to employees over the years. According to Mr. Rapson, his employees are one of the reasons that Pocono is so successful. "It's the way they treat the customers, that's the big thing," Rapson said. "The customers love our employees. Plus, their dependability - you can always count on them, and I think, their knowledge. I learn from them as well as they learn from me." "The Golden Era of Pocono Downs" will be on sale throughout the season. The official anniversary weekend will be August 21-22, with the $2.3 million Super Stakes Saturday set for August 22. A special early Post Time of 5:30pm is set for both nights. From this day forward, the track will be known as 'THE DOWNS AT MOHEGAN SUN POCONO'. The casino is Mohegan Sun Pocono. In any articles, captions, etc., please refer to us as 'THE DOWNS AT MOHEGAN SUN POCONO' or Pocono, as we are usually called. Jennifer Starr Racing Marketing Manager Racing Operations

WILKES-BARRE PA -- Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs begins its 50th anniversary season of harness racing this Saturday night, with the first of 14 races at the northeast Pennsylvania oval set to go to post at 6:30 p.m.   Highlighting the getaway card are three divisions of the Bob Weiss Series for male pacers just coming into their prime, with $15,000 divisions slotted for races 3, 4, and 5. The top horses in four preliminary rounds will earn their way into the Weiss Championships the week of racing starting with April 18. As noted, the male pacers will race on Saturday; as Pocono opens with a three-day a week schedule, events for female pacers and male trotters will be held on Tuesday, with trotting misses set for Wednesday action.   Four of Saturday's Weiss entrants already have posted speed marks of less than 1:52 in their young careers, and should be among the horses to watch on Saturday: Shadow Margeaux in race 3, What I Believe and Mojito Hanover in race 4, and YS Lotus (with the fastest mark of 1:51.1) in race 5.   The vast majority of Pocono's "heavy hitters" in the horsemen's colony are slated for action Saturday. George Napolitano Jr., the track's winningest driver over the past few seasons, should be "fast out of the gate," having won 31% of his starts in limited campaigning this winter at Pompano Park; the 2-3-4 drivers behind "George Nap," Simon Allard, Matt Kakaley, and George's brother Anthony Napolitano, will all be in the sulky here Saturday, and horses harnessed by last year's 1-2 trainers, Rene Allard and Ron Burke, seem ready to get those barns off to a quick start.   One intriguing newcomer to the drivers' colony is two-time defending North American dashwinning champion Ron Wrenn Jr., who has indicated a desire to try the high-flying circuits of the Mid-Atlantic, including Pocono, this year as he continues to build his name and reputation. A winner of over 1500 races in 2013-14 combined en route to his titles, Wrenn will get a quick "baptism under fire" at Pocono on the initial card, as word of his availability got around, and he was put down to drive on ten horses.   As noted, Pocono will open on a Tuesday-Wednesday-Saturday schedule, with Fridays and Sundays to be added on in the warmer climes of the prime of the season. The track's two $2 million showcase cards, Sun Stakes Saturday and Super Stakes Saturday, will be held on July 5 and August 22, respectively, bringing the finest horses in North America to the local scene. Pocono will also host a special 50th Anniversary Night in conjunction with the top stakes racing on August 22.   Jerry Connors  

HARRISBURG PA - In conjunction with its hosting the annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, which honored the top harness stars of 2014, both equine and human, this past Sunday night, the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) also held its annual meeting this past weekend at the same location, the Doubletree/Hilton Sea World/Orlando (FL) complex.   Since the annual dinner (well-documented in the press Monday), with its souvenir Journal, sponsorships, and collateral raffles, is USHWA's chief means of income throughout the year, reports were given recapping the success of the 2014 event at Dover Downs, and projecting income for this year's event.   Figures for 2015 were projected to be good but slightly down from the previous year, as during racing year 2014 much of the top stakes racing was dominated by two stables - let's call them "The B Brigade" and "Team T" - to the point that the duo accounted, mostly directly, for 21 of the 46 awards given at Sunday's dinner (46%). Both concerns, always good friends of USHWA, were again active banquet participants, but the lack of a wider range of involved award winners did limit the potential for a broader scope of connections buying ads and tickets may have cut into the margins slightly. Still, the dinner was a very successful one, and probably contained the best collection of award acceptance speeches in recent memory, particularly from a driver involved with both the "B" and "T" connections.   The bylaws and rules/regulation of the Association received their annual scrutiny and proposals for alterations, with perhaps the most significant proposal passed being a limited restoring of the "Veterans" designation for Hall of Fame candidates in their prime years before the current day. The methodology for determining Communicators Hall ballot finalists was also restructured, and methods to improve both dissemination of voting information and ballot return were also implemented.   Some 15 committees appointed by USHWA to address specific focuses reported on their findings; one committee was responsible for coming up with both the Hall of Fame procedural amendments described above. Such forward-looking projects as the Hirt Workshop for budding journalists, the Railbird Fan Awards, and the organization's Integrity Committee also gave detailed presentations.   The same slate of officers was returned for another year, in accordance with USHWA's usual two-year "rotation" system: Chris Tully, President; Tim Bojarski, 1VP; Shawn Wiles, 2VP; Steve Wolf, Chairman of the Board; Judy Davis-Wilson, Treasurer; Alan Prince, Executive Treasurer; and Jerry Connors, Secretary.   In probably the closest contest in recent memory, David Carr, Director of Research/Statistics for the USTA, won a place on the ballot for the Communicators Hall of Fame, getting the most votes in the first round of Director voting. Gordon Waterstone and Jerry Connors, both veteran writer/publicists, were tied for the second spot - and still were after a "tiebreaking" round of voting - so a third "heat" was contested, with Connors then becoming the second person on the ballot.   USHWA's Screening Committee will select ballot candidates for the Hall of Fame at Goshen in July; these names will join the Communicators nominees in the Hall voting conducted in mid-summer and annually announced nearing Little Brown Jug time.   Jerry Connors

BEDFORD PA - The United States Trotting Association's annual meeting for District 7, which covers Pennsylvania, was held here Saturday afternoon (January 17) at the Bedford Springs Omni Hotel Resort, in the hometown of District 7 Chairman Sam Beegle, followed as traditional by the Pennsylvania Fairs Awards Banquet. Beegle presided over the District meeting, which included presentations by USTA's executive VP Mike Tanner, reviewing 2014 activities and highlighting 2015's major projections for the organization, and Ron Battoni of the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen's Association, who discussed several major economic factors that Pennsylvania racing would need to address in this year of a new state governor, Tom Wolf. The annual review of the proposed USTA bylaw changes was handled by USTA Director, lawyer, and Bergstein Proximity award winner Russell Williams. Among important decisions made by the membership for their Directors to take to the USTA annual meeting were rejection of a rule changing pylon size and placement, along with rejection of a change detailing a progressively-severe punishment schedule for drivers found guilty of kicking; among items accepted were the "uncoupled owner/driver" rule, amended to include only pari-mutuel races, and the end of forcing a horse to requalify with the removal or addition of hopples. Tabled were the proposals dealing with Racing Under Saddle (RUS) as pari-mutuel events, as Pennsylvania law does not allowing wagering on saddled harness racing contests. The annual Fair Banquet must rank among the "best values" in all of harness racing, as for the $35 price banquet attendees enjoy outstanding food as well as drawings for over $10,000 in harness equipment, generously donated, including a Spyder race bike. Equine fair prizes fall in two categories: a set for those who earn the most points during the regular fair season, and an award for the horses who capture their Fair Championship in the fall at The Meadows. Winners in the point category were: 2TC - Police Navidad; 2TF - Peoplesayimnogood; 2PC - Nippy (the season's leading pointwinner over all divisions); 2PF - Tropical Terror; 3TC - Fly Past Hanover; 3TF - Cantabs Lightning; 3PC - Mister Chaos; 3PF - La Fiesta. The championship winners were headed by 3TC Fly Past Hanover, who not only was the only horse to win both his points title and Championship, but who also was the only sophomore who repeated a freshman Championship victory. Others in this category were 2TC - Wimborne Hanover; 2TF -- Isabella Carina; 2PC - Marshmallow Fluff; 2PF - Keystone I Wish; 3TF - Sheema Star; 3PC - Wellsaidandone; and 3PF - Wiggle It Hanover. Singled out for special praise were trainer Bill Daugherty Jr., for his campaigning of both Fly Past Hanover and Wimborne Hanover - the fourth 2TC Champion for the Daugherty barn in the last six years; and Team Shaw - owner Mason (now all of three years old), trainer/father Jason, and driver/uncle Chris, primarily for their prowess with freshmen Tropical Terror, Marshmallow Pulse, and Nippy - who among them won 43 races in 56 starts, and amassed $136,325 in fair campaigning. And to round out the Pennsylvania Night of Youth, six-year-old Owen McMullen won the Spyder race bike. Local racing hopes these two, from royal racing pedigrees in PA, stay around the business for a long time to come. by Jerry Connors

HARRISBURG PA – William F. (Bill) Brown Jr., 91, a member of the Communicators Hall of Fame and a Director of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) for over a half-century, passed away Saturday night at Rochester (NY) General Hospital, near his hometown of Batavia NY. Brown first became a member of the USHWA Board in 1963, representing the Western New York Chapter, and three years later he was elected National Secretary of harness racing’s major media organization – a position which he would hold until 2002, after which he was Executive Secretary of the Association for 11 years. Bill even retained his Secretary duties while he served as National President of USHWA in 1978-79, as his replacement was ill – double duty which Brown handled with typical skill, aplomb, and dry wit. Brown was elected to the Communicators Hall in 1990. He was quite familiar with the sport’s Hall of Fame and Museum, serving as an USHWAn on the Hall of Fame Screening Committee for a quarter-century, the last seven years as Chairman of the Committee. Brown was owner and president of WBTA Radio in Batavia, a family-operated station with a strong focus on community affairs, for many years, and was until his death a regular contributor to the Buffalo News and the Batavia Daily News. Brown was also an expert on his native Genesee County in western New York, and was the author of books and articles on the notable people and events of the area. Visitation is being held on Wed., Dec. 3 from 3 pm through 7 pm at the H.E. Turner & Co. Funeral Home, 403 East Main St., Batavia.  His Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Thursday (Dec. 4) at 9:30 am at Resurrection Parish, St. Joseph Church, 303 East Main St., Batavia.  Interment will follow at the St. Joseph’s Cemetery.   The Knights of Columbus will hold a prayer service on Wednesday at 6:30 pm. at the funeral home.  Memorials may be made to Notre Dame High School, 73 Union St. or the Jerome Foundation, 16 Bank St., both Batavia, NY 14020.   A full obituary and additional information is available at: http://www.bataviafuneralhomes.com/book-of-memories/1995297/Brown-William/obituary.php by Jerry Connors, for USHWA

HARRISBURG PA— In harness racing, and often within its media organization the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), it’s usually impossible to get a unanimous verdict on anything, even whether the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. But in 2014, harness racing and USHWA are unanimously embracing one fact: Yannick Gingras is the Driver of the Year, based on his handling of the winners of over $16.5 million and a record-tying four triumphs in the recent Breeders Crown series. For the annual Dan Patch awards given to humans, the chapters of USHWA send in their variousnominees, and balloting is conducted among eligible voters of its 220 members, plus a select group of racing secretaries. This year, every chapter sending in a Driver nomination selected Gingras, and so no further balloting is needed. For the 35-year-old Gingras, a native of Quebec, 2014 saw him handle many of the sport’s stars, and perhaps most tellingly, he was the “first call” driver for the two barns who have dominated much of the stakes scene this year, those of Ron Burke and of Jimmy Takter. Of his four Breeders Crown wins, two were from Burke (Mission Brief and Sayitall BB), and two were for Takter (Pinkman and Father Patrick). 2014 also saw Gingras help the 10-year-old Foiled Again further his world record career earnings mark, which currently stands at $6,769,531. Yannick was the leading driver for the 2014 season at The Meadowlands, a track which features what many consider the best driving colony in the world. Another highlight for Gingras was returning to his native Quebec and winning the $200,000 Prix d’Ete at his “home track,” Hippodrome 3R (Trois-Rivieres), where his victory with the Takter-trained Sunfire Blue Chip in 1:50.3 – over two seconds faster than the previous mark – was cheered by many members of his family, a group which plays as important a part of Gingras’s life as harness racing does, according to him. Gingras will receive his Driver of the Year award at USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, to be held Sunday, February 22, 2015 at the Doubletree Hilton Orlando (FL) at Sea World. Information on hotel reservations, tickets, and ads in the souvenir Journal will be distributed shortly. by Jerry Connors, for USHWA

WASHINGTON PA - The rain went away from this southwestern PA town close to The Meadows for Tuesday fair harness racing at the Washington County Fair and the famed Arden Downs oval, allowing for a full day of racing two-year-olds, as opposed to the previous day, when only two heats for sophomores got in. The attention Wednesday focused on two-year-old pacing colts, and especially three babies trained by "The King of the PA Fairs," Roger Hammer, even though Hammer drove only one of them. That one would be R N Nate, a Nuclear Breeze gelding who was won his last six starts at the fairs (plus throwing in a Stallion Series victory for good measure, in 1:55.4) for breeder-owner-trainer-driver Hammer. The circuit's top dashwinner, Chris Shaw, deputized for Hammer on the two other horses, including the day's (and meet's) fastest, Given Up Terror, an altered son of Western Terror who won here in 2:01.2 for trainer Hammer, with Mississippian Chad Parker on the paperwork as the owner. This precocious youngster has been twice second in the Stallion Series and won an overnight in 1:55.4. Those two races came among the four divisions of the PA Fair Sire Stake 2PC event; driver Brady Brown and trainer Mike Gillock clicked to take the other two, with Firm It Up (2:09.1- 30.2) and Moonshine Road (2:06.3). We talked about three Hammer 2PCs - the third is racing in the Quaker State Stakes, and Rustlercafe is now 7-6-1-0 in that series after a 2:02.2 score. Hammer is the owner/trainer/breeder of the altered son of Rustler Hanover, with Chris Shaw again in the bike. Other highlights included Ohioan Marty Wollam capturing three races on the day, from three different trainers, including two of the three Fair Sire Stakes 2TC winners: the Andover Hall colt Andover Express and the SJ's Caviar colt Itza Rube; and the recent local addition of Crist Hershberger, who had two sulky scores Wednesday and has already posted his best overall moneywinning season - and it's only mid-August. Mid-August means plenty of PA fair racing, and indeed the trotters and pacers will be back in action today and Thursday at Dayton PA, where first post is noon; a recap will be posted at the end of the meet. ................................................ Your correspondent had the privilege of filling in at the microphone for the peerless Roger Huston, returning from Ireland, during the first two days of the four-day meet at the State Fair of West Virginia (NOT the West Virginia State Fair, as you will be told), track #187 in his personal collection. On Tuesday, day two, it looked like a boxing slugfest out there: driver Chuck Perry won the first race, J D Wengerd the second, then Perry, then Wengerd, then Perry - so that the scorecard after the first two days reads 4-4, with three of Wengerd's winners coming from the barn of top trainer Shane Heasley. The SFOWV track crew again did an excellent job with the surface after more lashing with rain, and the meet's fastest pace, 2:02.1, was put up by the veteran campaigner Spudcam, a gelded son of Camluck trained and driven by Wengerd for J M F Racing. Publicity Office, PA Fair Harness Horsemen's Association

Some might think that it can’t be that easy promotional wise, but it is. Watchandwager.com is not your “run of the mill” ADW (advance deposit wagering) company. It is a online gaming website that 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. “We offer more tracks than any other platform, and we offer more free programs than any site.” said Arthur Pegg, Vice President of Simulcast Sales for Watchandwager.com,” “You can get a program for Solvalla in Sweden 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 at 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.” And their new promotional bonus for first time signups in the USA, is certainly attracting attention. If you don’t want to jump in feet first for $300, you don’t have to. It’s a four-tier bonus option. First you can deposit $50, then wager $50 and then you get $50. It’s tiered to do the same for a $100, $200 and $300 deposits. Check out the full details on their website at https://www.watchandwager.com/news/23 for the bonus structure.  Pegg himself has seen a lot of the USA. en route to his present 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 …of course….marketing. And he’s working with California harness veterans Chris Schick and Ben Kenney at Cal Expo, 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. So as promotions go, it seems that Watchandwager has one that is pretty tough to beat, especially in these economic times. It’s almost like a free wager. Deposit some money, then bet it, then you get it back. No “catch-22’s” attached! By Steve Wolf and Jerry Connors, for Harnesslink.com 

 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

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