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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

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

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

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

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

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

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