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Doesn’t it seem like a disproportionate number of last year’s better horses are either missing in action or performing at a level far below that of 2014? I took a look at the top 25 on last year’s All-Horse earnings list, and wasn’t surprised at what I found: Just about every one of them is either not racing at all, for one reason or another, or they’re failing to meet expectations. Father Patrick topped the list in 2014 with more than $1.6 million on his card. He won 12 of his 17 starts, including the Breeders Crown and the CTC, and set a 1:50.2 world record for a sophomore trotter on a 5/8 track at Pocono Downs. This year he’s one and two, having dropped his last two starts to J L Cruze in legs of the Graduate Series. Division winner McWicked, who set a world record of 1:47.3 at Pocono and won the BC, Hempt and Adios, was second on the list, and he hasn’t started yet. Nuncio, who won the Kentucky Futurity and Yonkers Trot, is racing in Europe. Sweet Lou, the only pacer ever to win his division at two and five, has been retired to stud in Pennsylvania. Trotting mare Shake It Cerry, a division winner at two and three, who took the KY Filly Futurity and the Elegantimage last year, has lost four times in 7 tries. The Armbro Flight, Meadows Maturity and Miami Valley Distaff are a few of her high profile losses. Bee A Magician, who didn’t have the sort of four-year-old season many expected, is dominating that division in a big way. That’s the top five from last year; it’s not a pretty picture. North America Cup winner JK Endofanera has had a problem handling late bloomers Doo Wop Hanover and Rockeyed Optimist in the Graduate Series. He’s one and two on the season. Ron Burke’s All Bets Off, who took the Messenger, Milstein and Rooney in 2014, won the Confederation Cup and his elimination for that one, but he lost his other five starts, including the Van Rose and the Molson. Hambletonian winner Trixton has been retired to stud. The 2014 Horse of the Year, JK She’salady, has fallen off the earth. She kicked her season off with a win in the NYSS at Tioga, but subsequently lost her Fan Hanover elimination, and the final, as well as her Lynch elimination. She finished a washed out fifth in the latter and won’t be a part of Saturday’s final. And number ten from last year’s money list is the venerable aged pacer, Foiled Again. In 2014 He earned $863,000 on six wins and lots of board finishes. This year Foiled has one win—the Battle of Lake Erie—in seven starts. He was shut out in the Levy, which he owned for a few years. Obviously numbers six through ten are no better in 2015 than numbers one through five. He’s Watching occupies slot number eleven. The diminutive son of American Ideal achieved a share of the all-age record for the fastest race mile ever on a mile track—1:46.4—in the Pace. He hasn’t started yet. Oaks winner Lifetime Pursuit is also a no show. The speedy Always A Virgin pacer, Always B Miki, who won the Tattersalls Pace, Bluegrass and Monument Circle, in addition to cleaning up in the ISS, had a setback and is expected back by fall. Two-year-old division winner Artspeak won his elimination and final for the NJSS, as well as last week’s Hempt elimination. However, he finished second in his Cup elimination and fifth in the final. Burke’s FFA mainstay Bettor’s Edge, who banked $674,000 last year, winning the Hoosier Park Pacing Derby, has one win in nine starts. He was eighth in his Franklin elimination. Number 16 Sebastian K, who set his 1:49 world record this time last year at Pocono, opens his season there on Saturday against new kid, J L Cruze. Harper Blue Chip? Intimidate looks awful. Last year’s MLT and TVG final winner is 0 for 3 in the Mohawk preferred. Little Brown Jug winner Limelight Beach has been no factor in the Confederation Cup and the Graduate series. P H Supercam, the only millionaire by Million Dollar Cam, didn’t win the Levy like he did last year, but he took four preliminary legs, and is in sync with last year’s numbers. So numbers 11 through 20 give us P H Supercam in line with what he did in 2014, while the rest either haven’t started or are disappointments. Mission Brief, number 21, took her elimination and final in the NJSS, but has been a project in qualifiers ever since. Market Share is 0 for 3—no factor in the Cutler or the Maxie Lee. Clear Vision is 0 for 12, while Commander Crowe, who won the Yonkers International preview, and took the BC in his last start, has been retired. No wonder the racing seems soft this year; one would expect that there would be a mix of horses that improve their performance, and some that stay the same and others that show a decline. Eight haven’t started at all while Nuncio is in Europe. Trixton and Sweet Lou have been retired; Miki and He’s Watching are dealing with physical issues; McWicked, Lifetime Pursuit and Harper Blue Chip are mysteries to me; Sebastian will get it on this week. The faltering superstars from 2014, Father Patrick, JK She’salady, Mission Brief and Shake It Cerry, create the most apprehension. We need them back on track. And the old reliable types like Foiled, Bettor’s Edge and Clear Vision are making way for new blood, but where is it. Joe FitzGerald has been an avid harness racing fan and historian for the last half-century. He writes a weekly blog for  http://viewfromthegrandstand.blogspot.com/. Joe’s commentary reflects his own views and not that of Harnesslink.

Nobody told Mother Nature that The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono was having one of its biggest harness racing cards of the season last Saturday night. Heavy rain pummeled Northeastern Pennsylvania starting in the wee hours of Saturday morning, and it was still going strong by the time the elimination races for Sun Stakes Saturday had come to a completion. As a result, the track was plenty sloppy as some of the world's best horses stopped by in the hopes of making it through to the big-money Sun Stakes finals on the Fourth of July. Elimination races are always a tricky bit of business because, while everybody wants to win, the most important thing is securing that spot in the lineup when those purses go rocketing skyward. So, considering the slop and the strategizing, the results we saw Saturday might not have all that much bearing on what occurs in the Finals. But it still made for a memorable night of racing, one featuring some unexpected outcomes and many stellar performances. Here is a division-by-division look at what went down. JAMES M. LYNCH MEMORIAL PACE (3-YEAR-OLD FILLIES) This felt like the most wide-open field going into the eliminations, and Saturday's races didn't provide a ton of clarity. We do know that JK She'salady, who dominated the division a year ago, won't be around for the finals, as her recent struggles continued with a 5th-place finish in her elimination. Instead. The Show Returns wheeled out 3-wide with John Campbell in the bike to come up for a mild upset win in the division containing JK She'salady. Speaking of mid-priced upsetters, Momas Got A Gun wore down favored Divine Caroline for a win in her split at 6-1. The only favorite to hold form was Stacia Hanover, who controlled matters on the front end to win with Scott Zeron in the bike. As further proof of just how tight these fillies are heading into the finals, all three winners came home in the slop in identical times of 1:51:3.   MAX C. HEMPT MEMORIAL PACE (3-YEAR-OLDS) Most of the top competitors in the eliminations came right from the North American Cup finals held on June 20 at Mohawk. Wakizashi Hanover, who sprung a mild upset to win that race in Canada, used a pocket seat to win his elimination in 1:50:4 with Tim Tetrick in the bike. The horse he surprised at Mohawk, Wiggle It Jiggleit, righted his ship after the first loss of his career, handling his split with ease for driver Montrell Teague in 1:50:1. And Artspeak outdueled In The Arsenal in the final division by a head in 1:50; those two horses finished fifth and fourth in the North American Cup. Certainly everyone will be watching for a rematch between Wakizashi Hanover and Wiggle It Jiggleit in the final, and the draw for post position will be all-important, since those two appear to be evenly matched.   EARL BEAL JR. MEMORIAL TROT (3-YEAR-OLDS) The night's biggest upset occurred when Pinkman, who was the 2-year-old divisional champ and had won three straight Pennsylvania Sire Stakes races to start 2015, was upended at the line by the late charge of Wicker Hanover, a 16-1 shot with Andrew McCarthy in the bike. In the first Beal split, heavy favorite Habitat made an early break, opening the door for Cruzado Dela Noche to come up first-over and surprise for the win in 1:53:3. Uncle Lasse won a showdown with Crazy Wow in the final division in a battle of odds-on horses. Trainer Jimmy Takter will have Uncle Lasse and an angry Pinkman in the final, so he'll most likely have a big say in the matter. But the preliminaries show that you can't take anything for granted, especially when horses as talented as Wicker Hanover can get away at such long odds.   BEN FRANKLIN FREE-FOR-ALL PACE (OPEN) The two eliminations provided a fascinating study on how races can be won in a variety of ways. In the first elimination, Luck Be Withyou, who had suffered a disappointing break of stride while leading his previous stakes race at Northfield, decided to give it another go on the engine on Saturday night. With George Napolitano on the bike, the 4-year-old stallion busted to the lead from the #8-hole and never looked back, hustling home to win in 1:50. In the second split, State Treasurer, a 6-year-old stallion who campaigns in Canada, had to deal with the dreaded outside #9 post. Driver David Miller stayed patient, even with his horse sitting last fifth-over at the three-quarter pole. Around the final turn he wheeled State Treasurer to the outside and the stallion blew by everybody for a last-to-first victory in 1:50:3. Most of the top aged pacers are headed to the final, including Foiled Again, the sport's all-time top earner who snuck in based on having the faster fifth-place finishing time of the two divisions. Saturday's final should be a donnybrook for the ages. With the eliminations in our rear-view, all that's left to do is look forward to the Fourth of July finals. Trust me, the on-track action on Sun Stakes Saturday will provide all the fireworks you'll need. That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com. Jim Beviglia

WILKES-BARRE PA - Harness racing driver Brett Miller won with two daughters of Somebeachsomewhere, as five divisions of a $150,000 Pennsylvania All-Stars event for state-sired two-year-old pacing fillies were held over a sloppy track Tuesday at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.   Brett Miller rallied Heels On The Beach out of the pocket and into a 28.2 final quarter to take the fastest division in 1:53.2 by 1½ lengths for trainer Larry Remmen and owner Bradley Grant. Brett then handled the homebred Pure Country in winning in 1:54.1, with back panels of 55.2 - 26.3 after a quarter-move making people sit up and take notice. Jimmy Takter conditions the promising miss for Diamond Creek Racing.   The clocking of 1:54.1, and the winning tactic of quarter-moving, were matched by the Well Said filly Eloquent Grace and Yannick Gingras, in triumphing for trainer Ron Burke and the ownership combine of the Burke Racing Stable, Ed Gold, Howard Taylor (who has not driven a losing horse in two days short of two years), and the J&T Silva Stables. Well Said then completed a siring double while David Miller completed a driving double behind I Said Diamonds, wire-to-wire in 1:54.2 - 56 - 27.3 for trainer Chris Oakes and owners Omar Beiler, Dennis Coons, and Susan Oakes.   David Miller's earlier success came with the only non-favored winner of the quintet, Tipton Teeez (though as the $5.40 second choice she paid less than favored Heels On The Beach's $6.00). Quarter-moving was again a winning path to Victory Lane, as the Western Terror miss stepped home in 28 to complete a 1:56.4 package for trainer Brian Brown and owner Jennifer Brown.   ******* Wednesday finds the All-Stars action continuing with seven divisions of two-year-old trotting fillies going after $210,000.   Incredibly for July 1, fully thirteen of the baby trotting misses already show marks in 2:00 or better, most of them in qualifiers, the fastest being the 1:58 of the Donato Hanover filly Womans Will (race 12, post two, driver Andy Miller). Two other horses to note are Broadway Donna (race 11, post three, driver David Miller), who won a p/m event in 1:58.2 at Philly, and who is out of a mare who is a full sister to Cooler Schooner, who set her amazing 1:51.3 world record here at Pocono; and the "hunch play," Kathy Parker (race 10, post one, driver Jimmy Takter), named after the journalist to be installed into the Communicators Hall of Fame this weekend at Goshen.   All-Stars action closes out on the first Friday card of the season at The Downs, with six divisions of freshman colt pacers racing for a bounty of $180,000.   Trainer Ron Burke has 14 entrants among the sextet of events - including, would you believe, SIX horses who show at least two winning lines and have never tasted defeat? Such a wealth of Burke talent will lure the world's winningest driver, Dave Palone, over to Pocono Friday, where he already has calls in five of the six events.   But the fastest of the 24 entered babies who have already won in 2:00 or better (four in 1:55 or better) is not a Burke member, but Brooklynite (race 3, post two, driver Corey Callahan), a son of Somebeachsomewhere from the Joe Holloway barn who took an overnight at Philly in 1:54.2, matching a mark he first reached in a Meadowlands 2YO qualifier.   Jerry Connors

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, June 27, 2015--If your favorite harness racing driver is Dan Dube and your favorite number is four, congratulations and go collect. Dube went "four-th" Saturday night, winning both halves of Yonkers Raceway's soggy $42,000 co-featured Open Handicaps. Great Vintage ($6.20) had nary an anxious moment in the weekly pacing feature, working around a returning P H Supercam (Jason Bartlett) and strolling through fractions of :27.4, :57.1, 1:25.2 and 1:53.2. Great Vintage whipped 19-10 choice P H Supercam--out four weeks prior to this start--by a couple of lengths. Texican N (Eric Carlson) was a three-hole third, with Rock on Moe (Jordan Stratton) and a tough-trip All Bets Off (George Brennan) settling for the remainder. For second choice Great Vintage, a 7-year-old son of American Ideal trained by Jimmy Takter for co-owners his wife, Christina, John Fielding and a pair of Gorans (Anderberg and Falk) it was his third win in five seasonal starts. The exacta paid $19, with the triple returning $62.50. The week's marquee trot saw 11-10 choice Daylon Miracle--in one notch after an inside scratch--duplicate the down-the-road (:28.3, :58.2, 1:27, 1:56.4) MO of Great Vintage. Daylon Miracle held off a second move of outside assignee Luminosity (Brennan) by a length-and-a-half, with Backstreet Hanover (Tyler Buter), Rock of Cashel (Eric Goodell) and Lorenzo Dream (Carlson) rounding out the payees. For Daylon Miracle, a 6-year-old daughter of Pegasus Spur owned (as Allard Racing) and trained by Rene Allard, it was her eighth win in 14 '15 tries. The exacta (two wagering favorites) paid $11.20, the triple returned $47.80 and the superfecta paid $165.50. The Raceway's live season continues Monday night (7:10 PM), Tuesday matinee (1 PM), then Thursday through Saturday (all at 7:10 PM). Note Sunday matinees are done until November. Evening simulcasting accompanies all night programs, with afternoon simulcasting available daily. Frank Drucker

Jimmy Takter trainee Katie Said (Brett Miller) took the harness racing featured pace on Friday afternoon from Harrah's Philadelphia. It was an open affair for fillies and mares going for a purse of $30,000. Starting from post two, Katie Said was taken off the early pace, settling down into sixth as Gallie Bythe Beach (Tim Tetrick) and race favorite Inittowinafortune (Scott Zeron) battled through a :26.3 opening quarter. As the pace settled down up top at the half (:54.4), long shot Rockaround Sue (Dave Miller) emerged first-over, with Katie Said establishing second-over position. After three-quarters (122.4), Katie Said circled around cover to challenge for the lead. She went on to win by a head, holding off the late surge of Ooh Bad Shark (Allan Davis) who settled for second. Request For Parole (Yannick Gingras) finished third. It was the second win for the daughter of Well Said ($12.20) for her new connections, as she completed the mile in 1:51.2. It was her twelfth career win in twenty-eight starts. Michael Bozich

The biggest day on the harness racing calendar every year in North America is Hambletonian Day at The Meadowlands. With just eight weeks to go until the big day, the contenders are all stepping out and as has become the norm, Jimmy Takter trainees are at the forefront of many of the discussions concerning potential winners. Jimmy Takter needs no introduction to harness racing fans with a record of success with the straight out trotter that is second to none. A Hall Of Fame inductee in 2012 and a four time trainer of the year, Jimmy has already won three Hambletonians and last year was very special when he drove the winner of the Hambletonian and trained the winner of the Hambletonian Oaks. With over $13,000,000 in seasonal earnings in 2014, Jimmy shows no sign of slowing up and has several leading candidates for this years edition of the Hambletonian. They are headed by last seasons two year old Breeders Crown winner in Pinkman 1:52.2 ($696,925) who is three from three this season. Uncle Lasse 1:51.4 ($467,359) is another Takter trainee to start the season in the right fashion with a three from three record as well. Throw in the rapidly improving Canepa Hanover 1:51.1 ($112,150) and Jimmy will once again hold a strong hand in this years race. Recently Jimmy sat down on In The Sulky to give his thoughts on his runners this year. View here Harnesslink Media  

During the winter, harness racing trainer Jimmy Takter said 3-year-old trotter Canepa Hanover could be "a Trixton kind of horse." As summer approaches, Canepa Hanover is doing his best to prove Takter correct. Canepa Hanover is the 2-5 morning line favorite in Saturday's C$233,000 Goodtimes Stakes for 3-year-old trotters at Mohawk Racetrack. Last week, the colt won his Goodtimes elimination by 11-1/2 lengths over Iron in 1:51.3. The time equaled Trixton's track record set in last year's Goodtimes final. But the similarities don't end there. Both Trixton and Canepa Hanover are sons of stallion Muscle Hill, the 2009 Horse of the Year, and hail from highly regarded families. Trixton is out of the mare Emilie Cas El, who was Canada's Horse of the Year in 1994 and sister to stars Conway Hall, Angus Hall and Andover Hall. Canepa Hanover is out of the mare Cressida Hanover, who also produced 2006 Horse of the Year Glidemaster. Trixton sold as a yearling for $360,000; Canepa Hanover for $300,000. Both trotters were limited by growing pains at age 2 and were overshadowed by some of their stablemates heading into their 3-year-old seasons. Trixton emerged early in his 3-year-old campaign and went on to capture the Hambletonian Stakes; now it is up to Canepa Hanover to write the rest of his story. "He's going the same path," Takter said about Canepa Hanover, who has won two of five races this year and hit the board in every start. "A lot of these Muscle Hills, they have tons of ability, but it just takes time sometimes. "Both Trixton and Canepa were among the better horses early (at age 2) but both are very big horses and they couldn't hold the speed together. They just weren't ready for it. You have to have a little patience with them." Canepa Hanover won one of six races last year. His victory came in a Peter Haughton Memorial Stakes prep race in 1:58.1 at the Meadowlands and he finished second in the New Jersey Sire Stakes championship. He went off stride in three races, including the Haughton final. This year, the colt posted two second-place finishes and a third in his first three starts, then captured the New Jersey Sire Stakes championship in 1:51.1 at the Meadowlands and his Goodtimes elim in 1:51.3. Those are the two fastest win times of any 3-year-old trotter this season. "He's definitely a fantastic horse," said Takter, who trains Canepa Hanover for owners Brittany Farms, Brixton Medical Inc., Christina Takter, and the partnership of Sam Goldband, Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld. "His ability is unbelievable, as good as I ever saw. "You always worry when you have horses climbing this kind of speed staying sound. He already has two (1):51 miles and a couple (1):52 miles. It's tough racing. But he's a beautiful horse." Canepa Hanover and driver Yannick Gingras will start the Goodtimes final from post four. He's not Takter's only hope in the Goodtimes, either. French Laundry won the other Goodtimes elimination, beating stablemate The Bank by 3-1/2 lengths in 1:53.3. He will start from post three in the final with driver Brett Miller and is 2-1 on the morning line. French Laundry, a son of Muscles Yankee-Creamy Mimi, has won nine of 15 career races and earned $360,269 for owners Christina Takter, John and Jim Fielding, Katz, and Libfeld. "He's not the best gaited horse, but he never gives up," Takter said. "He's a warrior. I like him." Following is the Goodtimes field in post order with sires, drivers, trainers, and morning line odds: 1. Hemi Seelster by Holiday Road, Stephen Byron, John Bax, 30-1 2. Caulfield by Kadabra, Trevor Henry, Chris Beaver, 30-1 3. French Laundry by Muscles Yankee, Brett Miller, Jimmy Takter, 2-1 4. Canepa Hanover by Muscle Hill, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter, 2-5 5. Covert Operative by Deweycheatumhowe, Randy Waples, Per Henriksen, 30-1 6. Rubber Duck by Muscle Mass, Sylvain Filion, Julie Walker, 20-1 7. The Bank by Donato Hanover, Jimmy Takter, Jimmy Takter, 10-1 8. Win The Day by Deweycheatumhowe, Chris Christoforou, Paul Reid, 20-1 9. Olympic Son by Majestic Son, John Campbell, Paul Reid, 30-1 10. Iron by Cantab Hall, Tim Tetrick, Frank Antonacci, 12-1 11. AE - Infiniti AS by Infiniti, Richard Zeron, Anette K Lorentzon by Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications USTA

Some trainers, like Jimmy Takter and Casie Coleman, fill their piggy banks during the second half of the year, when stakes racing opportunities are plentiful, while others grind out the wins and money from January to December. As a result, in checking how various trainers are faring this year, I’ll compare them to themselves; I’ll look at where they were on this date last year and see how far ahead, or behind, their mid-June of 2014 numbers they are. It’s no surprise that Ron Burke currently—and always--leads both the trainer’s money and dash lists, however, he is chasing last year’s pace. His veterans Foiled Again, Clear Vision, Bettor’s Edge and Rocklamation, are off to slow starts, for one thing. Burke has made more than 200 fewer starts than he made by mid-June a year ago, leading to more than 85 fewer wins and a shortfall of $1.2 million on the money line. He’ll have to hustle to surpass last year’s world record performance. PJ Fraley, who was handling the Bamond Racing stock, was second a year ago, and finished 2014 in the five slot. This year he disappeared from the planet, leaving the stable to Jeff Bamond Jr, and he hasn’t missed a beat. He’s currently number three on the list. Bamond has Matchmaker winner Venus Delight, as well as Anndrovette, Krispy Apple and Bettorever. Rene Allard, who was third at this juncture a year ago, and finished 2014 in eighth, has married success with aged money makers like Domethatagain and Yagonnakissmeornot, and good fortune with fresh stock like import Crombie A. Allard isn’t welcome at The Meadowlands, Tioga or Vernon Downs, but seems to be none the worse for it. Allard is almost $400,000 ahead of last year’s pace. The Grand Circuit isn’t his strength, so he will probably fall behind stakes trainers like Takter, Alagna and Coleman once again. Gilberto Garcia-Hererra, who was in the six slot in June of last year, has stepped up to number four. His stable has made 240 more starts, but he has only three more wins. However, he’s $300,000 ahead of his 2014 pace. Better stock accounts for this uptick. Julie Miller’s stable was hot during the winter and spring of 2014, with trotter Perfect Alliance winning eleven races. This led to her ascension to the five slot one year ago today. She drops to number nine, with 25 fewer wins and more than $370,000 less in earnings. Her top shelf Donato fillies, Livininthefastlane and Sky Hanover, may help turn that around. Carmen Auciello, who practices his trade on both sides of the border, is consistent; he was number seven in mid-June of last year, and is currently in the number eight spot. The same can be said of Ontario based trainer Richard Moreau, who was at eighth a year ago and is now at seventh. Mark Ford, who was ninth this time last year and is now tenth, also fits this template. Auciello, Moreau and Ford finished last year at the twelve, thirteen and fourteen spots. Irv Miller has taken a major nosedive, from the tenth spot a year ago to number 46 today. Miller, who finished 2014 third behind Burke and Takter, has made 92 fewer starts, has 21 fewer wins and is more than $490,000 short of what his stable had bankrolled this time last year. Josh Green experienced a similar drop-off, but the lengthy suspension he served helps explain that. He went from eleventh to forty-third. Green is off more than 200 starts and $457,000. The fact that Dancin Yankee, who was a beast out of the gate last year, started out like a lamb in 2015, hasn’t helped. Thirty-two-year-old Jose Godinez has rocketed up the charts. He went from the number 44 slot this time last year to number twelve right now. As recently as 2011 he only had 11 starters; he has 329 thus far in 2014. Godinez is up more than 30 wins and $415,000. He’s the number eight trainer at Yonkers Raceway. Virgil Morgan, who was tenth overall on the money list at the close of 2014, has benefitted greatly from the infusion of casino dollars into the Ohio purse account. He was twelfth at this time last year, but is now sixth. Veteran trainer Steve Elliott, who conditioned Donato Hanover and Well Said, wasn’t in the top 50 last June, but a star studded cast that includes Art History, Rockeyed Optimist and Doo Wop Hanover, have him at number 16, and that’s off of fewer starts than any of the trainers in front of him except for Jimmy Takter. Jim King Jr wasn’t in the top 50 a year ago, but he’s at number 27 today, with 55 wins and $611,952 in the bank. Cup contender Wakizashi Hanover, Lismore winner Purrfect Bags and Star Keeper are three of the reasons. Tony O’Sullivan, who finished 2014 at number 18, went from 23 in June of 2014 to number 13 today. His Art Major filly, Moonlit Dance, just won a Fan Hanover elimination. Scott Di Dominico jumped three spots to number 11, while Daran Casar, Heidi Rohr, Mark Harder, Joe Holloway, Amber Buter, Lou Pena and Kevin Carr all fell back. As was stated earlier, some of these trainers will automatically pick up steam when the Grand Circuit gets into full swing, while others will continue to mine the overnight sector, and in most cases drop to one degree or another. Joe FitzGerald has been an avid harness racing fan and historian for the last half-century.  He writes a weekly blog for  http://viewfromthegrandstand.blogspot.com/.  Joe’s commentary reflects his own views and not that of Harnesslink.

Smokinmombo - especially her nose - foiled a Team Takter "sweep" of the three divisions of the $222,867 second leg Pennsylvania Sire Stakes event held Wednesday at the harness racing meeting at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.   When the early smoke cleared, Smokinmombo found herself sitting second behind Wild Honey, the 1-10* Takterite who had won a division of the Sires first leg.   Wild Honey maintained the lead to approaching deep stretch, but the Explosive Matter filly Smokinmombo had an explosive last 50 yards to hang the smallest margin of victory on the chalk in 1:53.4, completing one sweep in this, the night's third division -- all Wednesday's winners took lifetime marks.   Aaron Merriman handled Smokinmombo, now a winner of three straight, for trainer Chris Beaver, who is also co-owner with Synerco Ventures Inc and James Gallagher.   Sire Explosive Matter had a double Sires credit Wednesday, as his daughter Smexi overcame the outside post nine to post the biggest Sires victory margin, 1¼ lengths, while stopping the clock in 1:53.3.   Corey Callahan handled the filly, who won her second consecutive race, for Jimmy Takter and her ownership of Christina Takter, John Fielding, Herb Liverman, and Jim Fielding.   The Donato Hanover filly Sarcy emerged as the only repeat Sires winner as she warded off the late charge of Day Lily to win by a neck in 1:53.1.   Yannick Gingras had sulky duties for Takter, with wife Christina and the Fieldings in the ownership combine of Sarcy, now with a winning string of three, along with Oakwood Farms.   Jerry Connors

This was a particularly fun week of harness racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono because each of the four nights hosted either the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes or the Stallion Series. Since we had that unique phenomenon occur, I thought I'd give the Weekly Awards a break and simply focus on the races that went down in those two unique series. For those who are unaware, the Sire Stakes pit the best 2 and 3-year-olds in the state of Pennsylvania against each other through the spring and summer months with big stakes on the line, eventually wrapping up in finals which carry purses in the six figures. The Stallion Series also feature the freshmen and sophomores of the racing world, and although the horses that compete here are usually a notch below the Sire Stakes competitors and the purses are a bit lower, the winnings a horse can accumulate through the preliminary legs and the finals can be quite substantial. This week we got a look at the cream of the crop of three-year-old trotters of both the male and female gender. Here are some of the highlights: 3-YEAR-OLD COLTS AND GELDINGS SIRE STAKES TROT (Saturday night) The sport of harness racing's most prestigious race is the Hambletonian, and the way it appears now, we at Pocono witnessed the favorite for that race on Saturday night. Pinkman, from the barn of Jimmy Takter, won the 2-year-old Breeders Crown championship to end 2014 and started his 3-year-old campaign off with back-to-back dominant Sire Stakes wins. He didn't disappoint at Pocono on Saturday night, handling a tough field on the front end in a rapid 1:53 with Brett Miller in the bike. Oddly enough, the horse that could challenge Pinkman for 3-year-old honors is his stablemate Uncle Lasse, who cruised to his third straight Sire Stakes win in 1:52:2, the fastest time of the three divisions held on Saturday night. Brett Miller once again drove for Takter. The lone close Sire Stakes battle came when Wicker Hanover, with Andrew McCarthy in the bike for Noel Daley, won a wild stretch battle by a nose over Walter White in 1:53 for his second straight Sire Stakes win. 3-YEAR-OLD COLTS AND GELDINGS STALLION SERIES TROT (Sunday night) Just as the Sire Stakes held form, the Stallion Series races the following night blew that form up. Not one of the favorites in the five divisions came home a winner, as several broke stride early to end their chances. Give credit to those horses who came up big while the favorites faltered, such as Pierre and Colbert, who each picked up their maiden victories, and Paging Doctorlindy, who was racing for just the third time in his career. Mesmerized posted the night's fastest time in the Stallion Series with a seven-length romp in 1:53:4. Joe Pavia Jr. did the driving for trainer Frank Antonacci, who later scored a second win with Paging Doctorlindy. Meanwhile it was an up-and-down night for trainer/driver Ake Svanstedt. He had two heavy favorites come up empty, but got a boost when Colbert knocked off odds-on favorite Hurrikane Jonny K in his split. 3-YEAR-OLD FILLIES STALLION SERIES TROT (Tuesday night) Once again it was a Jimmy Takter trainee who stole the spotlight. Lilu Hanover, a filly who's had problems staying flat in the past, shook all that off in her division. With Takter doing the driving as well, she rolled to a four-length win and posted Tuesday night's fastest Stallion Series time of 1:54:1 in the process. Favorites Seduce A Stranger and Manhattan Miss also delivered on their odds-on promise to win splits. There were some mild surprises though. Wouldn't Itbesweet, with McCarthy aboard for trainer Jenny Melander, knocked off favorite Fashion Voyager in a fierce stretch duel. And Sistas, a 9-2 shot just joining the Chris Oakes barn, uncorked a late move from the pocket with George Napolitano driving to upend 3-5 Takter trainee Speak To Me in the night's biggest upset. 3-YEAR-OLD FILLIES SIRE STAKES TROT (Wednesday night) It looked for all the world like we were headed to a Jimmy Takter sweep of the three Sire Stakes divisions on Wednesday night. First Smexi, with Corey Callahan in the bike, overcame a #9 post to win her split as a 3-5 shot in 1:53:3. Then Sarcy, benefitting from the late scratch of likely favorite Livininthefastlane, controlled matters on the front end with Yannick Gingras driving to win her division in 1:53:1. In the night's final division, Wild Honey, another Takter horse and winner of 11 of 13 lifetime starts, was a 1-9 favorite and appeared to be on her way to victory on the front end. But Smokinmombo, trained by Chris Beaver, pounced from the pocket late and outfinished the heavy favorite to win by a nose in 1:53:4, providing a thrilling exclamation point for this exciting collection of stakes races. That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com. Jim Beviglia, 

WILKES-BARRE PA - Daughters of Andover Hall took the two fastest of five harness racing divisions of the $100,000 second leg of the Pennsylvania Stallion Series Tuesday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, and two of the three first leg winners entered here repeated.   The intersection of those two statements is Kirsi Hanover, who won her Stallion start at The Meadows despite broken equipment; here she made an early move to command and went on to take a new mark in 1:54.1. Jimmy Takter trains and drove the winner for owners Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld.   Sistas rallied in the Pocono Pike to overhaul another first round winner, Speak To Me, posting the second-fastest clocking and also getting a new mark by tripping the timer in 1:54.2. The powerful local pairing of driver George Napolitano Jr. and trainer Chris Oakes backed the winner for owners Albert and Michelle Crawford.   The other repeat Stallion Series winner was Manhattan Miss, who rallied from second-over for driver Simon Allard in a 1:55.3 triumph. Trainer Marty Wollam also owns the winning daughter of Broadway Hall with Acadia Farms Inc.   The other two winners Tuesday earned new speed badges with their triumphs. The Muscle Massive filly Seduce A Stranger overcame a first-over trip while stopping the clock in 1:56 for driver Jim Morrill Jr., trainer Dane Snyder, and owners Thomas King III and Danielle Snyder; also victorious was the Cantab Hall miss Wouldn't Itbesweet, who made the most of a sweet pocket trip to win in 1:55.2 for driver Andrew McCarthy, trainer Jenny Melander, and the Harbor Racing Stable LLC.   Wednesday night Pocono features the Sire Stakes 3TFs in three divisions of a $222,687 second round leg, with the first of 14 races Wednesday marked for 6:30 p.m.   PHHA / Pocono

WILKES-BARRE PA - 2014 trotting colt champion Pinkman and Jimmy Takter stablemate Uncle Lasse are now perfect in three Pennsylvania Sire Stakes starts this year after capturing their divisions of the $223,617 three-year-old trotting colt third prelim Saturday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. In the third section, Wicker Hanover, the only non-Takterite to win in 10 cuts of this harness racing event in 2015, made it two straight wins with a hard-earned nose victory that prevented a Team Takter sweep.   Uncle Lasse was the fastest divisional Sire Stakes winner for the second straight round of prelims, following up on his 1:51.4 win at The Meadows with a 1:52.2 tally Saturday at Pocono. Driver Brett Miller tucked the son of Donato Hanover in fourth, then quarter-moved him to the top, and a 55.4 last half left the rest of the field far in arrears. The brother to 2014 Trotter of the Year Shake It Cerry is owned by Solveig's Racing Partners.   Pinkman continued to exhibit championship form, as the Explosive Matter gelding went wire-to-wire for Miller/Takter in 1:53. He won by 1¾ lengths over last year's 2YO Sire Stakes champion Billy Flynn, making his seasonal debut, with Jim Morrill Jr. picking up the drive behind Billy Flynn, whom Miller drove regularly last year. Christina Takter, John & Jim Fielding, Herb Liverman, and Joyce McClelland share ownership of the horse many feel to be the Hambletonian favorite (or is that the male Hambletonian favorite?).   Wicker Hanover took a Sire Stakes cut at The Meadows, and he made a return visit to Victory Lane at Pocono, making a sweeping move off cover to the midstretch lead. But anybody who's seen the TV show Breaking Bad knows there's drama afoot whenever Walter White's around, and indeed that Takter-trained colt, on Wicker's back most of the way, came flying late to be just nosed out. Wicker Hanover, who gave Explosive Matter two of the three Sires siring credits, equaled his lifetime best of 1:53 with the tight triumph for driver Andrew McCarthy, trainer Noel Daley, and the Christer Haggstrom Racing Stable Inc.   On Sunday at Pocono, there will be five divisions of the $100,000 counterpart event for Stallion Series horses, with the first race listed for 6:30 p.m.   PHHA / Pocono

CAMPBELLVILLE, June 12 - Canepa Hanover put the entire three-year-old trotting colt division on notice with another dominant harness racing performance Friday night at Mohawk Racetrack. A group of 13 sophomore trotting colts and geldings were split into two $30,000 eliminations for the Goodtimes Stakes. The first elimination featured New Jersey Sires Stakes champion Canepa Hanover and the Jimmy Takter trainee more than lived up to the hype. Sent off as the 1/9 choice, Canepa Hanover and driver Yannick Gingras trotted out to the lead and posted an opening-quarter of :27.1. The middle-half saw the son of Muscle Hill hang up panels of :55.3 and 1:23.2 before trotting home under cruise control to win by an incredible 11½ lengths in 1:51.3. The impressive clocking equaled the track record of set by Trixton, also a Takter trainee, in last year's Goodtimes final. "He's got crazy power," said Gingras following the race. "He was even better tonight than he was in the sires stakes. Tonight he got over this track very good. At the quarter in :27.1 I felt like I was going :30." The Frank Antonacci trainee Iron finished second, while Rubber Duck finished third. Hemi Seelster and Olympic Son finished fourth and fifth to secure spots in next week's final. Canepa Hanover is owned by Brittany Farms, Brixton Medical Inc., Christina Takter and the partnership of Marvin Katz, Al Libfeld and Sam Goldband. He now has two wins this season and has not missed the board in five starts. Canepa Hanover, who was a $300,000 yearling purchase, pushed his career earnings to $112,150 with the victory. He paid $2.10 to win. Canepa Hanover The combination of Gingras and Takter teamed up to also take the second elimination with French Laundry. A son of Muscles Yankee, French Laundry followed stablemate The Bank in the second-quarter to the front. After reaching the three-quarter pole in 1:25.1, French Laundry said goodnight to his rivals and trotted away for an easy 3 ½ length victory in 1:53.3. The Bank finished second to make it a Takter exactor. Win The Day, Covert Operative and Caulfield rounded out the top-five to advance to the final. French Laundry is owned by Christina Takter, John and Jim Fielding, Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld. The sophomore trotting colt now has two wins from three starts this season. Last season, French Laundry had seven wins from 12 starts. The Takter trainee's career earnings now sit at over $368,000. French Laundry paid $2.30 to win. French Laundry The $233,000 Goodtimes final will take place next Saturday (June 20) as part of the Pepsi North America Cup card. The post positions for the final were drawn following the eliminations. Here is how they will lineup. 1. Hemi Seelster 2. Caulfield 3. French Laundry 4. Canepa Hanover 5. Covert Operative 6. Rubber Duck 7. The Bank 8. Win The Day 9. Olympic Son 10. Iron AE: Infiniti As Mark McKelvie

CAMPBELLVILLE, June 12 - Bee A Magician set a Canadian record in her harness racing return to Mohawk Racetrack Friday night for the Armbro Flight eliminations. A fantastic group of 17 older trotting mares were split into two $35,000 eliminations to qualify for the $272,000 Armbro Flight final. Bee A Magician, the 2013 Horse of the Year, headlined the first elimination and continued her impressive five-year-old season with a Canadian and track record performance of 1:51.1. Driven by Brian Sears, Bee A Magician got away in fourth and sat in that spot through the opening-half. Around the final turn, Sears sent the Richard 'Nifty' Norman trainee first up to challenge the leader Handover Belle and edged ahead to the lead at the three-quarter pole in 1:23.4. In the stretch, Bee A Magician trotted home effortlessly in :27.2 to win by four-lengths and establish a new Canadian and track record. Classic Martine finished second, while Allie Labrook was third. "I was really happy with the way things worked out," said Sears following the race. "She was really good tonight scoring down and I think the cool weather might have helped her a little bit too." Bee A Magician has now won five of six starts this year. All six of her starts have been made over the course of the last 41 days, but Sears said that didn't show Friday night. "She was razor-sharp tonight, I was really happy with her." A daughter of Kadabra, Bee A Magician now has 36 career victories and added to her bankroll of over $3 million. The clocking of 1:51.1 erased the former track record of 1:51.4 set by Perfect Alliance in last year's Armbro Flight final. Perfect Alliance also set the former Canadian record of 1:51.2 in May last year at Woodbine. A graduate of the Ontario Sires Stakes program, Bee A Magician has now won 15 of 17 career starts at Mohawk. She returned $2.80 to win. Bee A Magician The second elimination saw another heavy favourite visit the winner's circle. Shake It Cerry extended her win streak to three in a row with a 1:52.4 victory. Driven by Yannick Gingras, Shake It Cerry made a second-quarter move from fourth to take the lead at the half in :56.1. After reaching the three-quarter pole in 1:24.4, Shake It Cerry pulled away from her rivals in the lane and trotted home under no urging from Gingras in :28 for a 2 ¾ length victory. Rockin With Dewey finished second, while Bax Of Life got up for third. Charmed Life and Frau Blucher rounded out the top-five to advance to the final. Following the race, Gingras talked about a pending matchup with Bee A Magician. "Bee A Magician is tough and she's a great mare," said Gingras. "She won just as easy as myself, so it's going to be a great matchup." A four-year-old daughter of Donato Hanover, Shake It Cerry is trained by Jimmy Takter for the Solveigs Racing Partners. She now has three wins from six starts this season and 26 in her career. Shake It Cerry's career earnings sit at over $2.1 million. She paid $2.60 to win. Shake It Cerry The Armbro Flight final will take place next Saturday (June 20) as part of the Pepsi North America Cup card. The post positions for the final were drawn following the eliminations. Here is how they will lineup in the $272,000 final. 1. Bax Of Life 2. Classic Martine 3. Shake It Cerry 4. Rockin With Dewey 5. Bee A Magician 6. Charmed Life 7. Frau Blucher 8. Harley Momma 9. Handover Belle 10. Allie Labrook AE: White Becomes Her Mark McKelvie

WILKES-BARRE PA - The third preliminary round of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes for harness racing three-year-old colt and gelding trotters will be the headliner at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on Saturday night, with three fields of nine entered in the $223,617 event.   So far this year, "3YO trotting colts in PaSS events" has been almost the same as writing "success for Team Takter," as the barn of the Hall of Fame won six of the seven sections offered at Harrah's Philadelphia and The Meadows. The only winner from the "outside world," Wicker Hanover, has drawn post three in the fourth race first division for driver Andrew McCarthy and trainer Noel Daley. The son of Explosive Matter followed up a second in the first Sires leg with a 1:53 "pocket rocket" triumph, and he may be a major threat to total Takter dominance.   Walter White will carry the hopes of the Takter barn in this division, although he was off the board in the first two legs. But the son of Cantab Hall refamiliarized himself with trotting hopples in a 1:54.3 Meadowlands qualifying win, and could get going here despite post eight. Brett Miller is listed to drive all four of Takter's entrants throughout the three cuts.   The sixth race second division finds 2014 divisional champion Pinkman looking to run his seasonal tally to 3 for 3, with the altered son of Explosive Matter drawing the midpoint of the starting gate after open-length wins in Sires starts. He will be coupled in the wagering with Whom Shall I Fear, the full brother to Father Patrick, who has drawn post seven.   Making his 2015 seasonal debut in this division is the Cantab Hall colt Billy Flynn, who won all four of his preliminaries and then the Championship in the PA program last year for trainer Staffan Lind. One note of drama - Brett Miller was the regular driver of Billy Flynn last year, and is down on the early sheet to handle him Saturday night. He'll have to get off somebody ...   Miller was behind the Donato Hanover colt Uncle Lasse when that colt exploded to a 1:51.4 win last time out at The Meadows, also making him 2 for 2 in the Sires. The full brother to 2014 Trotter of the Year Shake It Cerry has drawn post seven; starting one notch inside him is the horse who came within a half-length of beating him at The Meadows, Cruzado Dela Noche (Andrew McCarthy), who is trained by ... Jimmy Takter's daughter, Nancy Johannson!   Any number of scenarios could play out in these interesting Sire Stakes matchups Saturday at Pocono, where the first of 14 races is scheduled to go to the track at 6:30 p.m. The night after, Pocono will host the Stallion Series events for this group.   PHHA / Pocono  

For harness racing trainer Jimmy Takter, one of his favorite days of the year is the first day he brings his 2-year-olds to their first qualifiers. After his stable captured seven of Saturday morning's 11 events for the newcomers at the Meadowlands, it is easy to understand his enthusiasm. Takter won with 2-year-old female trotters Sunset Glider and Twice Is Right, 2-year-old male trotters Earn And Burn and Bar Hopping, 2-year-old female pacers Pure Country and Sonoma Valley, and 2-year-old male pacer Youth. "I love this," Takter said. "When you're sitting all winter and you develop these horses, it's a little bit like a report card when you go out there. I know it doesn't mean anything to win, but I like the horses to go out there and perform. Some horses you have to teach to race from behind, but I want them to go out there and stay on top of their game." Winning qualifiers among the 3-year-olds and older horses were star pacers Foiled Again and JK She'salady. Bar Hopping (Muscle Hill-Cocktail Hour) posted the fastest time among the 2-year-old trotters, winning by a half-length over stablemate Jimmy William (Cantab Hall-Solveig) in 1:58.2 with a :28.3 last quarter. The colt was purchased for $190,000 at the Standardbred Horse Sale. He is a full brother to 2014 New Jersey Sire Stakes runner-up Martiniwithmuscle and his family includes Dan Patch Award winner Jef's Spice and stakes-winner Cumin. Jimmy William is a homebred half-brother to Trotter of the Year Shake It Cerry as well as Uncle Lasse, and full brother to stakes-winner Dontyouforgetit. Sunset Glider (Cantab Hall-Highland Glider) won by a neck over Charlie Norris-trainee Stage Presence (Muscle Massive-Stage Fright) in 2:00.1. Twice Is Right (Donato Hanover-Think Twice) was a neck better than stablemate All The Time (Muscle Hill-Cantab It All), also stopping the timer in 2:00.1. Earn And Burn (Donato Hanover-Borrow And Spend) won by five lengths over stablemate Dominus Hanover (Muscle Massive-Dornello) in 2:01.4. Marcus Melander won two qualifiers for the 2-year-old trotters. Filly Lucky Kristen (Lucky Chucky-Ms Kristin) benefitted when Takter's Kathy Parker went off stride in the stretch. Lucky Kristen won by a half-length over Sharon's Luck (Lucky Chucky-Southwind Flanders) in 2:02. Melander's colt Brownie Hanover (Donato Hanover-Born To Love) needed no help, winning by seven lengths over Takter's Ducci (Cantab Hall-Nothing But Moni) in 1:59. "They both qualified great; I was happy with them," Melander said. "I've got seven babies and the three that I had in here today have been training very good all winter. I think they're pretty good horses. I think they'll make some money this year. "They're staked to a lot of races. I think they'll be there in some big final. The Lucky Chucky filly will be a great New York horse. She can go around half-mile tracks with no problem. The Donato colt just does everything so easy. Of course, there are many good horses, but he's a good horse too." Also winning among the 2-year-old female trotters was Synonymous Hanover (Andover Hall-Sweetr By The Bone) in 1:59.3 for trainer Norris. Takter's female pacer Pure Country posted the fastest time of the day for the pacers, winning in 1:55.4. Pure Country (Somebeachsomewhere-Western Montana) won by two lengths over stablemate My Lady Love (Well Said-Trim Hanover). Sonoma Valley (Rocknroll Hanover-Art's Vintage), who was purchased for $325,000 at the Lexington Selected Sale, won by a nose over stablemate Ivy League (Somebeachsomewhere-See You At Peelers) in 1:56.3. Sonoma Valley is a three-quarter sister to $2 million-earner Vintage Master. Youth (Western Ideal-Society's Child) captured his qualifier by 1-1/4 lengths over Nancy Johansson's Mac's Star (Somebeachsomewhere-Knock Three Times) in 1:58.3. "I was happy with most of them," Takter said of his 2-year-olds. "All the trotting colts were very, very good; and the pacing fillies. Pure Country is scary. She's a scary horse." Jeff Gregory's colt Fast N Victorious (Art Major-Yankee Luck) wrapped up the day for the 2-year-olds by winning by 1-1/2 lengths over Joe Holloway's Brooklynite (Somebeachsomewhere-Sunone) in 1:56.4. Eleven-year-old male pacer Foiled Again prepped for his return to action by winning his qualifier by 14-1/2 lengths in 1:51. He will go to the Battle of Lake Erie on June 12 at Northfield Park. "I was happy," trainer Ron Burke said. "That's a good mile out there today. Nobody is really pacing home good because of the wind. I think people will see all these qualifiers were better than they originally thought when the horses come back and race. Overall, I was very pleased with Foiled. "On to Northfield." Three-year-old female pacer JK She'salady, the 2014 Horse of the Year, also prepped for a road trip. She won her qualifier by 1-3/4 lengths over Better Said in 1:51.3 and will head to Ontario's Mohawk Racetrack for the Fan Hanover Stakes eliminations on June 13. "Get your passports out," trainer Nancy Johansson said with a laugh. "She's coming into it good. She's not very tired (from the qualifier). She's only raced once, so she needed the work. She was good." In another anticipated qualifier, this one for older trotters, Swedish invader Mr Picolit finished third behind Handover Belle and Aggressive, timed in 1:55, in his first North American appearance. Mr Picolit, an 8-year-old trained and driven by Ake Svanstedt, was a stakes-winner overseas, earning $533,949. He will join Sebastian K in Svanstedt's stable. "He's good," Svanstedt said. "The only thing is he's pulling too much. Maybe he was a little nervous; it's his first race in a long time. That was the only thing that was bad; he just never relaxed today. But he feels good and he raced good. I don't want to race fast today." For Saturday's complete qualifier charts from the Meadowlands, click here. Synonymous Hanover Lucky Kristen   Sunset Glider Twice Is Right Earn And Burn Bar Hopping  Brownie Hanover  Pure Country  Sonoma Valley Youth Fast N Victorious  by Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications USTA

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