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Harness racing driver Joe Bongiorno plans on working nearer to home this year, but hopes to be no less busy. The 23-year-old New Jersey resident, who in 2016 set career highs with 2,754 starts, 399 wins, and $3.79 million in purses, drove frequently at Ohio's Northfield Park last season, but plans to cut down on long commutes this season. So far this year, Bongiorno has focused on racing at the Meadowlands, Freehold, and Yonkers. He will add Harrah's Philadelphia to the mix when that oval opens April 2. Bongiorno entered Wednesday with 45 wins this season, with 18 coming at the Meadowlands (where he is tied for fourth in the standings), 16 at Freehold (tied for fifth) and 11 at Yonkers (10th). On Thursday night, Bongiorno has eight drives at the Meadowlands. The final three races, seven through nine, will air on "Meadowlands Harness Live" from 9:30-10:30 p.m. on SNY. Last season, Bongiorno had 121 wins at Freehold, 77 at the Meadowlands, 49 at Philly, and 40 at Yonkers. He picked up the bulk of his remaining 112 victories at Northfield, where he visited the winner's circle 101 times. Bongiorno was the 2010 Amateur Driver of the Year, awarded by the U.S. Harness Writers Association, and was the USHWA Monticello-Goshen chapter's 2011 Rising Star Award winner. In 2015, he won (in a dead heat) the $489,400 Valley Victory Stakes with Make Or Miss in his first drive in a race worth more than $150,000. Last year, he competed in 14 races with purses greater than $150,000. Among those were three Breeders Crown finals, the Meadowlands Pace, the Messenger Stakes, William Haughton Memorial, and Cane Pace. He also drove in an elimination division of the Hambletonian. Other highlights for Bongiorno in 2016 included notching his 1,000th career win and driving 3-year-old female pacer Divas Image to victory on the Ontario Sire Stakes Gold circuit. Bongiorno recently took time to talk with Ken Weingartner from the U.S. Trotting Association's Harness Racing Communications division about his career and plans for 2017. KW: We talked during the early part of last year about how you were poised for a breakout year and it certainly lived up to that. JB: Yeah, it turned out to be a great year. I ended the year one (win) shy of 400 and had my best year for purses. For the horses that I own, it was a good year for them too. So it was an excellent year. Hopefully I'm going to build on that again this year. KW: Do you wish you had gotten to 400 wins? JB: It definitely would have been nice, but in the grand scheme of things, it's not really a big deal. I'm just going to move on and hopefully put up some similar numbers this year. It's going to be tough to get as many wins without going to Northfield, but so far it's been a good start to the year. I've been driving a lot at Freehold and the Meadowlands and Yonkers and I'm really looking forward to (Harrah's Philadelphia) opening. KW: Last year you pretty much doubled the number of drives you had in any previous year. How much did that benefit you? People say the more you drive, the better you get. JB: That's true. And you learn different driving styles, like Northfield the racing style is a lot different. And I got to meet a lot of new people and build new friendships. It was definitely a good thing. It was just the driving back and forth became too tough. I was very appreciative of Northfield. It was a good run. This year I'm doing pretty well at Yonkers and it's hard to turn down the money that they're going for there. KW: So what's your schedule going to look like this year? JB: It's all going to depend. I'm going to go where I get the most work. I think when (Harrah's Philadelphia) opens I'm really going to make a big push at driving over there fulltime. I want to try to pick up as many drives as I can and do it along with the Meadowlands and Yonkers, and when I can go to Freehold, I will. But I'm going to take a different approach at (Harrah's Philadelphia) this year and try to pick up as much work as I can get there. No matter what, I'm going to be traveling and trying to work as many days as I possibly can and drive as many horses as I can possibly drive. KW: Looking back at last year, what stood out? What are you most proud of? JB: Divas Image was a big help last year. I got to go to Canada and drive her in the Ontario Gold Sire Stakes and drive her in the Super Final there. She really turned out to be a nice filly. Hopefully this year as a 4-year-old she can make a little impact in the (Blue Chip) Matchmaker (Series) coming up at Yonkers. KW: You had a win, a second, and a third with her in the Golds. JB: She really turned out to be a nice mare. I'm really appreciative of the connections that used me. I would say she was probably the highlight of the year. And I hit my 1,000th win. So that was a milestone. That was definitely cool. KW: You got to drive in a lot of races that you'd never been in before, like the Meadowlands Pace and Breeders Crown and Hambletonian. JB: Exactly. Even though the Hambo didn't turn out as planned (finishing seventh with Make Or Miss) it's just really an honor to be, at the time, 22 years old and drive in a lot of those big races. I'm super appreciative of all the trainers and owners that have been supporting me. Hopefully this year I can build on it and drive some more stakes horses and maybe get a few nice stakes wins. KW: You won the Valley Victory at the end of (2015). JB: Yes, with Make Or Miss, and that really gave me a big boost toward last year. It helped get drives for sure. Another thing that stood out (last year) was the fourth-place finish in the Meadowlands Pace (with Manhattan Beach). It was a shame that horse had the outside and got away so far back. If he was inside for that race, he probably would have been a big factor. He was charging in the lane and just fell short of being third. KW: Is it nice to get starts in those types of races and get that experience under your belt? JB: Yeah, but I don't really get nervous. That's not my personality. I take every race the same; I try not to change my outlook on the race. Obviously, it's going for more money, but the key is safety and trying to put horses in the right spot. I try to look at those races the same as a regular overnight race. I don't really get worked up for them. I look forward to races like that, but you just try to drive the race smart and make as much money for the owners as possible. KW: This is your eighth year of driving. Can you believe it's been that long? JB: Wow. It is crazy. Time definitely does fly. It doesn't feel like it's been that long. This is what I love to do; I love working with horses and learning about each horse. Every horse that you sit behind is different and has their own personality. As a catch driver the key is being able to learn what they like and what they don't like. That's what makes it so fun. KW: Growing up did you play other sports? JB: I played baseball and basketball but when I started jogging horses for (trainer) Buzzy Sholty, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I kind of put everything else on the backburner and I worried about getting better at working with horses. KW: How old were you then? JB: Like around 13 or 14. I always liked horses but I never really worked with them much. We owned a horse with Buzzy Sholty and we would go over there. I jogged one and I just felt super comfortable. I just wanted to keep going back and doing it more. I really started to get the hang of it and I wanted to start going training trips with the horses. I really enjoyed it. I just got hooked. KW: What would you like to accomplish this year? JB: I just like to build on each year. It's going to be hard to surpass the 400-win mark this year because Northfield, I was winning a good share of races there. Not going there is going to slow things down a little bit. But I could win fewer races at Yonkers and make more money. I'm getting my fair share of rides over there and doing the best I can do. Hopefully I can keep picking up more work and keep winning races. As far as certain races, I don't look at it that way. I just look forward to driving horses like Divas Image in the Matchmaker and stuff like that. Hopefully some horses come along for (trainer) Ronnie Burke that I'll be able to drive. I own a piece of one baby, a Chapter Seven filly, and she's going well so far. I'm hoping that works out and I can travel to the (New York) Sire Stakes with her. KW: What's her name? JB: Chapter Of Love. KW: You went to 17 different tracks last year. That's quite a few. JB: That's a lot of tracks. It was a busy schedule last year, but this is what I signed up for, this is what I enjoy doing. I really love working with the horses and I want to drive as many as I can. Ken Weingartner

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ (February 10, 2017) - B Yoyo produced an "A-Plus" performance to pull off a minor harness racing upset in the $18,000 featured trot on Friday at the Meadowlands. Crosbys Clam Bake left for the lead while odds-on favorite Muscle Diamond was content to take back to last through an opening quarter mile in 27.2 and a half mile in 56.3. Past the half mile, B Yoyo and Joe Bongiorno pulled first over, giving Muscle Diamond and John Campbell a lively tow in the outer flow. As the field passed three-quarters in 1:25.3, B Yoyo powered to the lead as Crosbys Clam Bake backed up. Muscle Diamond came three-wide and began his charge after B Yoyo, but was unable to make up enough ground as B Yoyo scored in 1:53 at nearly 6-1 odds in the compact field of six. "The strategy was to get away close and sit close, but in the first turn I could see he felt way better than he has in prior starts and that's why I moved him first over," explained Bongiorno, who entered the week third in the Meadowlands driver standings. "He wasn't bumpy in the turns tonight and when he's like that he can trot with any horse." Opulent Yankee finished third with Classical Annie, Crosbys Clam Bake and War Cry Hall rounding out the order of finish. B Yoyo won for the 26th time in 122 career starts with earnings of $309,995 for owners Bill Lambos and Dionisios Liberatos. He is trained by Richie Johnson. Brett Miller scored a driving hat trick while Vinnie Ginsburg and trainer Jackie Greene combined for a pair of wins. Miller leads the driver standings with 76 wins. Total handle on the 11-race card was $2,171,919. Live racing resumes Saturday with a 12-race card. Post time is 7:15 p.m. For more information, visit www.playmeadowlands.com. Justin Horowitz

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ (January 26, 2017) - The under-30 Meadowlands drivers stole the show on the first Thursday program of 2017. 20-somethings Drew Monti, Joe Bongiorno, and Marcus Miller combined to win five of the night's nine races with Monti and Bongiorno each winning two. The trio teamed up to sweep the final three races that were part of the debut episode of "Meadowlands Harness Live" that aired on SNY, the regional sports network home of the New York Mets and New York Jets. The show will air for the next six Thursdays on SNY at 9:30 p.m. Thursday's action was headlined by three divisions each in "Dash For G-Notes" series for conditioned trotters and $7,500 claiming pacers. The trotting winners were Bad Day Black Rock, Montalbano Bi, and Stonebridge Idol. The pacing winners were Whatagamble, Mr. Big Load, and May Day. Both series continue next Thursday with the top finishers from the two preliminary rounds advancing to the finals on February 9. Total handle on the nine-race card was $1,325,434. Live racing continues Friday night with a 7:15 p.m. post time. For more information, visit www.playmeadowlands.com. by Justin Horowitz, for the Meadowlands

YONKERS, NY, Sunday, January 15, 2017- Harness racing favored Rubber Duck (Joe Bongiorno, $3.50) did not disappoint Sunday afternoon, handily winning Yonkers Raceway's $56,000 Open Handicap Trot. Forwardly-placed from post position No. 6, in his featured trot debut (three of the 11 starters broke early), Rubber Duck was actually beaten to the early punch. Red Hot Herbie, starting directly outside of 'Duck,' had the first lead before yielding to the subject of this story. Rubber Duck made his lead just at a :29.4 opening quarter-mile, then rated a :59.3 half and 1:29.2 three-quarters. There was a minimal challenge from Luck O The Irish (Matt Kakaley) going toward the 1:58.2 milepost, but Rubber Duck disposed that and opened a length-and-a-half lead into the lane. He widened in the lane, defeating 'Herbie' by 2¼ lengths in 2:27.3 for the mile-and-a-quarter. Lily's Swan Pond (George Brennan), Tweet Me (Pat Lachance) and Springbank Sam N (Jordan Stratton) rounded out the payees. For Rubber Duck, a now-5-year-old son of Muscle Mass co-owned by Albertans Blair and Erna Corbeil and trained by Richard Johnson, he's won both of his season starts. The exacta paid $17.80, the triple returned $65.50 and the superfecta paid $405. Sunday's Pick 5 wager, beginning with a double-carryover of $6,426.84, attracted $11,029 of fresh investments. The winning quintet (1/2/2/7/3) returned $14,698.75 for the single winning half-a-buck selector. Sunday also offered the first 'New York, New York Double' of the season, with the winning combination of 5-Lockdown (Aqueduct's 3rd race) and 1-Lo Rail Crossing (Yonkers' 6th race) returning $14.70 for every correct $1 wager (total pool $6,553) Frank Drucker

East Rutherford, N.J. - Driver Joe Bongiorno captured both featured events on Friday (December 2) evening's 12-race harness racing card at The Meadowlands, teaming up with Windsun Glory ($4.00) in the $15,000 top distaff pace and B Yoyo ($4.00) in the $17,500 trotting feature. In the distaff feature, carded as the night's seventh race, Bongiorno put Windsun Glory into play from the outset, pushing clear of early pacesetter Bullville Maggie (Brett Miller) upon reaching the backstretch. The 3-year-old Mach Three filly kept up a strong pace throughout, controlling a :56 first half mile before repelling a stiff first-over challenge from Better Said (David Miller) and kicking on to put four lengths on the field at the end of a 1:51.1 mile. Bullville Maggie held second from her pocket trip, while Shutthefrontdoor (Andy Miller) rallied off third-over cover to take third from the flattening Better Said. Ron Burke trains Windsun Glory for the Burke Racing Stable, the Weaver Bruscemi partnership, J&T Silva Stables, and Larry Karr. Bongiorno employed different tactics in the top trotting event, carded as race 11, sweeping from last with B Yoyo to pass every other horse in the race in the final five-sixteenths of the mile. The 6-year-old Striking Sahbra gelding dropped to last immediately as Classical Annie (Tim Tetrick) sought control of the terms and rated uncontested fractions of :28.3, :57.2, and 1:25.3. With three-eighths to go, B Yoyo angled second-over behind Rock of Cashel (Corey Callahan), advancing with live cover off the far turn before accelerating down the grandstand side in the final eighth and striking the front in the last 40 yards to prevail by the better part of a length. Classical Annie maintained second, while the outkicked Rock of Cashel stayed on for third place. Richard Johnson trains B Yoyo for Bill Lambos and Dionisios Liberatos. The night's Pick 5 returned a healthy $4,697.40, and the early Pick 4 paid $3,902.80, buoyed by wins from Rockers Alley (18-1) in race 3, Clear View Hanover (11-1) in race 5, and Fox Valley Steffen (21-1) in race 6. In all, players combined to wager $2,399,971 on the 12-race card. Live racing returns to the Big M on Saturday (December 3), with the first of 13 races due off at 7:15 p.m. Eastern time, and the last-race 20¢ Jackpot Super High Five carryover now standing at $49,833.70. by James Witherite, Meadowlands

Freehold, NJ --- Harness racing driver Joe Bongiorno scored his 1000th victory Friday (Oct. 21) at Freehold Raceway guiding Fathers Amiga for trainer Chris Marino in 1:59. The 23-year-old native of Colts Neck, N.J. had his first pari-mutuel drive just five short years ago at this very facility with Mr. Bennett, which landed him in the winner’s circle. Bongiorno comes from a family of Hall of Fame horsemen. He is the grandson of the late Harold (Sonny) Dancer and the son of Robert and Barbara Bongiorno. A graduate of Colts Neck High School, he began jogging horses at 14 years of age at Showplace Farms. He knew after his first time out on the track this is what he wanted to do with his life. “Although every time I get to the winners circle, it is an amazing accomplishment, it is extra special to win with a family owned horse," Bongiorno said. This weekend he is programmed to drive two horses in his first Breeders Crown appearance in eliminations at the Meadowlands. The horses he will be steering are Regil Elektra for trainer Keith Armer and Southwind Woody for trainer Ron Burke. Freehold Raceway resumes live racing on Saturday (Oct. 22). Post time is 12:30 p.m. Freehold Raceway 

Two NJSS Green Acres finals for harness racing three-year-old trotters took center stage at Freehold Raceway on Friday afternoon. Both the filly and colt divisions competed for a purse of $25,000 each. The fillies took to the track for the first division. This was a non-betting race held before the regular scheduled race card. Southwind Venus with driver Lucas Wallin overcame her break at the half to edge out HS Baby Grace at the wire, Coco Truffles finished third. The Muscle Hill filly bred by Southwind Farms picks up her second lifetime win. Going wire to wire, Southwind Flash finished in front of Luv At First Site and Inukchuck Chuck trotting the colt division in 1:58.4. The Muscle Hill out of the Friendly Amigo mare won his fourth race of the season, pushing his lifetime earnings $99,824. Trained by Ron Burke and Driven by Joe Bongiorno, he paid $2.10 to win. Courtney Stafford

Joe Bongiorno is in position to become the youngest driver to ever win the Hambletonian, harness racing's most prestigious event. That can lead to some pretty anxious moments in the days leading up to the race. But the 22-year-old from Colts Neck, N.J., has a great way of not thinking about it. He just doesn't give himself the chance. With the 91st edition of the Hambletonian, presented by Mullinax Ford, set to take place at the Meadowlands on Saturday (Aug. 6), Bongiorno will be driving 20-1 longshot Make Or Miss out of post three in the first elimination. Rather than dwell on the magnitude of what he is doing, Bongiorno just stays busy. He has not had a day off in three weeks. This week, he raced at Yonkers on Monday and Tuesday and Harrah's Philadelphia on Wednesday, and will compete at Yonkers on Thursday, Philadelphia Friday afternoon and the Meadowlands Friday night. After the Hambo, trainer Tony Alagna is flying him to Vernon to drive some Sire Stakes on Saturday night. "I think the more horses you drive, the sharper you stay," he said. "As long as you're not getting run down it's OK. I'm still young. I can do this without getting too exhausted and too tired." Named 2011 National Amateur Driver of the Year by the U.S. Harness Writers' Association and 2011 Rising Star Award winner from the Monticello-Goshen chapter of USHWA, Bongiorno is enjoying his finest season to date. He has already amassed career highs in purse starts (1,565), firsts (254), seconds (227) and thirds (192). He has $1,959.235 in earnings, just $14,453 shy of last year's all-time high; and credits trainers such as Richie Johnson, Alagna and Burke for giving him quality horses to drive. Growing up within an hour of the Meadowlands, Bongiorno and his harness racing family have attended Hambletonians since he was a child. Despite his youth, he understands as much as any veteran what the race means. "I was on my way back from Canada the other day, so I was sitting at the airport watching the post position draws," he said. "You just watch that press conference video and see all the fans in the videos of the Hambletonians back in the day. It just gives you chills to watch a video like that. When I was just starting out, I never thought I'd be driving here this young. "You're racing in the most prestigious race in harness racing. I'm doing it in my favorite track. There's nothing like it. It's an awesome place to race, Jeff Gural has done an unbelievable job keeping the place going. Just to race in this race is awesome and if I get lucky enough that things click and the horse happens to do some good, there's no words to explain how it would feel." Joe got his break last November when he drove Burke's Make Or Miss to a dead heat win in the $489,400 Valley Victory Stakes for 2-year-old trotters. It was his first drive in a race worth more than $150,000. "When I got lucky enough to pick up Make Or Miss and we got to the dead heat in that Valley Victory final, I knew he was my horse to drive this year," Bongiorno said. That has not been the greatest of rewards for the driver, as the horse is winless in four 2016 starts, making breaks in three of them. Coming off a 2-year-old season in which he had two wins and one second for $214,445, he has earned just $1,532 during his sophomore season. There is, however, another side to the story. "So far this year, things haven't really clicked with this horse," Bongiorno said. "But on the other hand, Ronnie did make some shoeing changes that he and I both agreed on, that we thought would help the horse stop interfering. I watched the horse train (Wednesday) morning, Ronnie trained him himself, and the horse looked the best he's ever looked. He looked absolutely phenomenal." The handlers are hoping the alterations will stop Make Or Miss from getting in his own way. "He hits his hind shin pretty hard and I think that's what's been going on; he hits himself and he just can't get through it," Bongiorno said. "We made a pretty drastic change to him, because the way we looked at it is, what we've been doing hasn't been working and for something to change you had to make a change. So that's what he did." Bongiorno calls racing in the Hambo at his age an "unbelievable opportunity" and while he isn't making any grand predictions, he feels Make Or Miss has the potential to surprise some people. "I know he's a longshot going into the race, but I don't look at this horse that way," he said. "I look at this horse as if things do click, miracles can happen with him; because he is fast enough. To me he's about as fast as any of them, if not faster. He's a very, very fast horse, it's just a matter of getting his gait down. "From what I saw (Wednesday), I've watched this horse train all year this year and he's not looked anything like he looked today. He looked absolutely unbelievable. Ronnie made a few equipment adjustments as well as the shoeing, and he just looked like a different horse on the racetrack. So I'm hoping that things click just like they did last year in the Valley Victory." Whether they do or not, it will be an afternoon to remember for Bongiorno. He is not intimidated by a big race at the Big M -- at which he is fourth in the driving standings this year -- after driving longshot Manhattan Beach to a fourth-place finish in the Meadowlands Pace. "It was cool," Bongiorno said. "You're thinking 'Wow at 22 years old I'm driving in the Meadowlands Pace.' I drove the race like I would drive any other race and that's what I intend on doing at the Hambletonian also. "It's another race, it's another big race, and you do gain experience as you drive in these bigger races. A lot of money's on the line; some people drive different. I just have to do my thing, drive it like another race. Win, lose or draw, it's just a great experience to be a part of this race." And with the schedule he keeps, Bongiorno won't really be thinking about it until the day it arrives. The Hambletonian as well as the U.S. Pacing Championship and Hambletonian Oaks will be presented during a 90-minute broadcast from 4-5:30 p.m. (EDT) Saturday on CBS Sports Network. Hambletonian Day first race post time is noon. Below are the fields for the two Hambletonian eliminations: $70,000 Hambletonian Elimination 1 Race 8 - Post time 2:58 p.m. PP-Horse-Sire--Driver-Trainer-Morning Line 1. Bar Hopping - Muscle Hill - Tim Tetrick-Jimmy Takter-9/5 2. Lagerfeld - Yankee Glide - Yannick Gingras-Jimmy Takter-12/1 3. Make Or Miss - Donato Hanover - Joe Bongiorno-Ron Burke-20/1 4. Milligan's School - Yankee Glide - Andy Miller-Julie Miller-10/1 5. Brooklyn Hill - Muscle Hill - David Miller-Jonas Czernyson-3/1 6. Mavens Way - Muscle Hill - John Campbell-Ake Svanstedt-6/1 7. Tight Lines - Yankee Glide - Jeff Gregory-Jeff Gregory-25/1 8. Iron Mine Bucky - Explosive Matter - George Dennis-Greg Haverstick-15/1 9. Reigning Moni - Donato Hanover - David Miller-Jimmy Takter-4/1   $70,000 Hambletonian Elimination 2 Race 9 - Post time 3:25 p.m. PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line 1. Jimmy William - Cantab Hall - Tim Tetrick-Jimmy Takter-20/1 2. The Royal Harry - RC Royalty - Ake Svanstedt-Ake Svanstedt-20/1 3. Sutton - Donato Hanover - Andy Miller-Julie Miller-6/1 4. Marion Marauder - Muscle Hill - Scott Zeron-Paula Wellwood-3/1 5. Southwind Frank - Muscle Hill - Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-4/5 6. Hollywood Highway - Muscle Massive - John Campbell-Staffan Lind-30/1 7. Dominion Beach - Muscle Hill - Bjorn Goop-Nancy Johansson-30/1 8. Love Matters - Explosive Matters - Brett Miller-Jimmy Takter-12/1 9. Waitlifter K - Muscles Yankee - David Miller-Andrew Harris-10/1 by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

AUG. 1, 2016 - Grand River Raceway's enthusiastic Industry Day crowd lent their full support to the harness racing three-year-old pacing fillies competing in a pair of Gold Series divisions on Monday afternoon, propelling first Divas Image and then L A Delight to Canadian season's records. Warming up the large crowd for the track's signature races, the Battle of the Belles and Battle of Waterloo, the sophomore pacing fillies got the stakes action rolling in Race 2. Six fillies lined up behind the starting gate for the first $105,000 Gold division, and fan favourite Divas Image was quickest away from Post 1. Driver Joe Bongiorno allowed Maniana and Jody Jamieson to take up temporary residence on the front end heading by the :27.4 quarter, but Bongiorno quickly sent Divas Image back to the front and the filly led the field to a :57 half and 1:25.1 three-quarters. Party In Rome and driver Trevor Henry mounted a late challenge from the outer lane, but Divas Image prevailed by three-quarters of a length in a personal best 1:53.3. Party In Rome settled for second with Killean Finale three lengths back in third. The mile established a national season's mark for three-year-old pacing fillies on a half-mile oval. "She gets around it (half-mile track) perfect, like a hoop around a barrel, and she just does it so easily," said Bongiorno. "And believe it or not, she's better out of a hole." Monday's victory was the third straight for Bongiorno and the daughter of Bettor's Delight and Rocknroll Diva. After being purchased out of the Mark Steacy barn at the end of June by Our Horse Cents Stables of Melville, NY, and JT45 LLC and J And T Silva Stables LLC of Long Beach, NY, the filly raced twice over the half-mile surface at Yonkers Raceway, winning both starts. The new ownership group and trainer Richard Johnson of Toms River, NJ asked Bongiorno to make the trip to Grand River for the Gold Series, an offer the young reinsman could not refuse. "These owners purchased a nice filly, and I've driven her two starts at Yonkers, and they wanted me to drive her today, and as good as she's been it was definitely a hard thing to turn down, they go for such good money, and I knew a smaller track suits her," explained the Colts Neck, NJ resident. "She is a smaller filly, but she raced excellent and I think she'll go wherever she has to go right now." Bongiorno added that Divas Image will compete in the fourth Gold Leg over Rideau Carleton Raceway's five-eighths mile oval on August 21. Four races later fans sent reigning division champion L A Delight off as the heavy favourite and the filly took two-fifths of a second off the newly minted Canadian season's mark and equalled the Grand River Raceway track record with an effort that barely saw her break a sweat. Goodwill Hanover and driver Chris Christoforou left smartly from Post 1, but L A Delight had taken command before the :27.4 quarter and proceeded to lead the field of six through a :55.4 half and 1:24 three-quarters before coasting to an eight length win in 1:53.1. Mayhem Seelster finished second and Free Show was third. "It was real easy for me, I haven't asked her yet," joked driver Randy Waples in the winner's circle. "For me, where I was sitting and everything, it was just a nice cool breeze and everything worked good." Waples steers the daughter of Bettor's Delight and West Of L A for owner-breeders Bob McIntosh of Windsor, who also trains the winner of $945,829, Al McIntosh Holdings Inc. of Leamington, ON and C S X Stables of Liberty Center, OH and the reinsman says not much changed with the filly between her 11-win freshman season and her sophomore campaign. "She got a little thicker and maybe grew a little bit taller, not much though. The big thing with her last year was that she was a small horse with a big gait, now she's a medium-sized horse with a bigger gait, but she's still got the heart and the brains that she had last year," said the Milton, ON resident. "So nothing's really changed, and thank God the driver didn't change either. "Every time I see her name listed there and mine beside it, I'm very grateful," he added. The filly came into Monday's test off a rare break in stride in the July 16 Mistletoe Shalee at The Meadowlands in New Jersey, an event that Waples was at a loss to explain. "No one seems to know, it was just so out of the blue. This is a filly that's been racing two years and never made a break even training, and she certainly hasn't made one on me racing, but they're all capable of doing it if something's against them," said Waples, who handed the reins over to John Campbell for the July 16 start. "She was allowed to go one bad race in her career, and I guess that was it." Like Divas Image, L A Delight will make her next Gold Series start at Rideau Carleton Raceway on August 21, looking for the fourth Gold trophy of her sophomore campaign and the ninth of her career. Once the three-year-old pacing fillies had done their part to rev up the Industry Day crowd, they handed things over to the 2016 freshman pacing class. First up was the $107,800 Battle of the Belles and pacing filly Bid Writer took a page from her elder's book and fired out to the front from Post 2. Bid Writer and driver James MacDonald of Guelph, ON rolled through fractions of :28, :57.2 and 1:26.4 before battling down the stretch to a head victory over fan favourite Aint Three OK. The duelling fillies hit the wire in 1:57, leaving Shanghai Sugar four and three-quarter lengths back in third. Jeff Gillis of Everett trains and co-owns Bid Writer with Mac Nichol of Burlington, ON and Gerald Stay of Buffalo, ON. The Sportswriter daughter captured her July 25 Battle of the Belles Elimination and also has a Grassroots win and a third-place result in Gold Series action to her credit through four starts. Not wanting to go against the trend, Chris Christoforou, Jr. put Sports Column on the lead from Post 1 in the Battle of Waterloo one race later, and the heavy favourite never faced a serious challenge as he posted fractions of :28.2, :57.3 and 1:26.4 on his way to a 1:55.4 victory. Happy Trio finished two lengths back in second and Aston Hill Dave was another length and three-quarters back in third. Campbellville resident Christoforou engineered the win for trainer Blake MacIntosh of Cambridge, ON and his partners Hutt Racing Stable of Paoli, PA and Daniel Plouffe of Bromont, QC. Like Bid Writer, Sports Column captured his Battle of Waterloo elimination and was a Gold Series winner on July 4. In both of the Sportswriter son's other starts he finished second by a neck, giving him a record of three wins and two seconds in five outings. The two-year-old pacing fillies will be back in Ontario Sires Stakes Gold Series action on August 12 at Mohawk Racetrack, while the pacing colts make their third Gold Series start at Mohawk on August 11. Ontario Sires Stakes excitement returns to Grand River Raceway on Wednesday, Aug. 10 with the fourth Gold Series contest for the two-year-old trotting fillies. Ontario Racing

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - Hawk's Red Chief continued his winning ways Saturday night at the Meadowlands, taking the $17,500 featured conditioned pace in determined fashion for his seventh win of the year in only 10 starts. The 5-year-old gelded son of I Scoot Hanover was away well from post five and had the lead in a leisurely :28 at the quarter. Another rated fraction followed as the half was reached in :56.3 before the cadence quickened considerably. Medoland Jate, a 17-1 longshot, came first-over and raced alongside the leader as three-quarters went in 1:23.3, but Hawk's Red Chief shrugged off that challenger through the stretch before having to hold off another longshot, 30-1 chance Rockin Wizard, who rallied well along the rail, only to come up a neck short. Americanprimetime finished third with Medoland Jate fourth. Dealt A Winner, the 2015 Cane Pace winner and 3-5 favorite, was far back most of the way and paced evenly in deep stretch after going a third-over trip to finish fifth. Hawk's Red Chief, who paced his back half in a sizzling :53.3, completed the mile in 1:50.1 and paid $7.40 as the 5-2 second choice for driver Joe Bongiorno, trainer Ron Burke and owners Burke Racing, Weaver Bruscemi and M L Yanek. STILL GROWING: The 5th race 20 cent Jackpot Super High Five once again did not have a single-ticket winner, upping the carryover for the next program to $30,444.15. ... Pat Berry led the driver colony with three winners on the card. ... The Meadowlands returns with live racing Friday at 7:15 p.m. by Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations

East Rutherford, N.J. -- The Rock and Roll Stable's Americanprimetime ($7.40) was resolute amid early pressure, turning aside two early harness racing challengers and setting fast fractions en route to a 1:49 triumph in the featured $17,500 top-level pace at the Meadowlands on Saturday (June 25) evening.   Joe Bongiorno had the accelerator down early with the 4-year-old American Ideal entire, battling with Vapour N (Pat Berry) and Art History (Victor Kirby) through a :26.2 first quarter and refusing to yield. While Vapour N eased off the pace, Americanprimetime would not shake off the challenge of Art History until well after a :53.4 half, subsequently gaining separation on the field through the far turn. Americanprimetime amassed a 3-1/2 length lead in upper stretch, but was fully extended in the last eighth to stave off a massive rally from Jacksrluckytoo (Jim Marohn, Jr.), who circled three-wide off the far turn and closed boldly to miss Americanprimetime's 1:49 mile by a scant head. Ashley's Husband (Vinny Ginsburg) circled from the rear of the field to take third, a farther 3-1/2 lengths back.   Rick Dane, Jr. trains Americanprimetime, now a 7-time winner.   For Bongiorno, the featured win was one of five on the 12-race card. Vinny Ginsburg also accounted for five driving wins on the evening, including the $15,000 Dash for the "G" Notes mini-series final for first-level conditioned pacers with Vague Traces ($2.20, 1:50).   Kate Repetto was crowned the 2016 Ms. Hot to Trot at the Meadowlands and Alicia Blanks the runner-up, taking a $5,000 grand prize and $2,500 second prize, respectively.   Both 20¢ Jackpot High 5 wagers carry over to next Friday's (July 1) program, with $21,976.73 going to the fifth-race High 5, and $267,769.47 added to the closing-race High 5 should one bettor take down the entire pool.   Despite one fewer race on the card in comparison to the corresponding Saturday program in 2015, total all-sources handle increased by $178,363.   Friday evening's program is due to commence at 7:15 p.m. Eastern. Fans and horsemen alike are advised that the Saturday (July 2) card carries a special first post of 6:30 p.m. For full information on racing, dining, and events at the Meadowlands, visit www.playmeadowlands.com.   by James Witherite, Meadowlands Media Relations

East Rutherford, NJ - The Meadowlands live harness racing weekend begins with the Friday evening feature, a $25,000 Mare Open Pace. An evenly matched field of eight will face the gate with the odds maker finding favor with last week's winner Lovineveryminute.   This five-year-old distaffer has found the best form of her career since owners Brian and Ira Wallach brought her to Richie Johnson's barn. Plucked from a $15,000 Yonkers claimer in late February, Lovineveryminute has rewarded the Wallachs with a return of more than $70,000 in less than four months time.   Facing the best overnight mares week in and week out, Lovineveryminute has won three of her last four outings including last week's 1:50.3 career best with regular driver Joe Bongiorno at the controls. The pair will leave from post position two in the sixth race on Friday.   Saturday night offers the $22,400 final of the short Caramore series which 2012 Little Brown Jug winner Michael's Power has used as a stage to flaunt a return to top form. A sub 1:50 winner in both preliminary legs for owner Jeffrey and Michael Snyder, Michael's Power will be driven by Andy Miller for trainer Mark Silva as the public choice from post six in Saturday's eleventh race.   Friday is "Text To Win" night offering cash and prizes to participants. Returning on Saturday night will be the crowd favorite camel and ostrich races. Time is running out to declare for next weekend's Ms Hot To Trot pageant where a bevy of beauties will vie for the tiara and the $5,000 prize top prize.   For the horseplayers, the Super Hi-5 Jackpot has crept over the quarter million dollar mark heading into the weekend.   Post time is 7:15 p.m.   Meadowlands Media Relations

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - Lovineveryminute worked out a perfect cover trip and got up on the wire in a furious three-way battle to the finish to win the harness racing featured $25,000 Mares Open at Meadowlands Friday night. The Richard Johnson trainee picked up cover from Gweneeee J at the five-eighths, swung to the outside as soon as she straightened up in the stretch, and got up in a driving finish, nosing out Sheeza Shark N, who was behind the deep-stretch fading 8-5 favorite Totally Rusty before finding a small seem and closing with a rush to miss a nose for a second straight start. Inittowinafortune almost did just that for her backers, closing well along the rail at odds of 32-1, to finish another nose back in third. Totally Rusty was fourth. Lovineveryminute, driven by Joe Bongiorno, returned $10.40 as the fourth choice in the wagering for owners Brian & Ira Ross Wallach. She paced the mile in a lifetime-best 1:50.3. CARRYOVERS CARRY ON: The carryovers for the two 20 cent Jackpot Super High Five wagers continued to climb. In the fifth race, the finish of 7-2-4-1-3 failed to yield a single-ticket winner, upping the carryover to $14,017.39. The 11th race combination of 5-10-3-6-1 also failed to yield a single-ticket winner, increasing that carryover to a whopping $250,288.64 Both jackpots will be up for grabs on the next Big M card. ... Driver Tim Tetrick had the hot hand on the evening with four winners. ... Racing resumes at the Big M Saturday at 7:15 p.m. by Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations

East Rutherford, NJ - The Meadowlands racetrack was abuzz this morning as some of the top older horses and three-year-olds were prepping for upcoming stakes. A dozen qualifiers began at 9:30 on a dry track under clear skies with little wind and the temperature in the 50's.   A number of Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff eligibles used today's qualifiers to prep for next Sunday's stake and JL Cruze made a strong case for his chances, sprinting clear of a good field by several lengths off the last turn then coasting late in 1:53/:27.   Crazy Wow left for the lead, released JL Cruze approaching the half and was second best while Pinkman made late gains to be third. Eric Ell conditions the winner for owners Ken Wood, Bill Dittmar, Jr and Steve Iaquinta.   DW's NY Yank is another eligible that impressed with an easy 1:53.2/:27.3 win for Yannick Gingras and trainer Ron Burke. Canepa Hanover got another good work in on his return to the races and was a comfortable second while Jewels In Hock and Crazshana also went well and were together at the wire. Burke Racing owns the winner in partnership with Howard Taylor and Weaver Bruscemi.   Be advised that there will be no live racing at The Meadowlands on Friday, May 6. There will be a live card on Sunday, May 8 a Mother's Day matinee card with post time at 12:40 p.m. The first race on that Mother's Day card will be the $150,000e Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff.   Radiant Beam won the day's opener for Andy and Julie Miller in 1:56/:28.2 after a pocket ride behind Dizzy Broad. Hollywood Hill split horses to gain the place while Dizzy Broad tired a bit though held third. Jason and Ronald Allen own the winner.   Several of 2015's finest two-year-old trotting fillies gathered for the second race and Caprice Hill was the winner in 1:53/:28 for Tim Tetrick. She sat a pocket behind the anxious Black Broadway who rattled off fast fractions, went by quickly and finished willingly in the fast mile. Last season's Dan Patch award winner, All The Time, made good gains late to be just a neck back in second, a useful first seasonal effort and Womans Will was a good third in her first go. Tony Alagna trains Caprice Hill for owner Tom Hill.   Southwind Flash (Y. Gingras/R. Burke) and Free Willy Hanover (T. Smedshammer) went under the wire together after a stretch-long duel finishing the 1:56.3 mile with a 27.4 final quarter in race four.   Lagerfeld won his second qualifier in 1:56/:28.1 with a strong rally from a stalking position for Gingras. He rode along in third as The Perfect Lindy set the fractions, fanned out and went by with no encouragement needed from the driver. Bar Hopping impressed in his first outing, closing strongly to be second for John Campbell and The Perfect Lindy held for third. Jimmy Takter trains Lagerfeld for his wife Christina, Herb Liverman and the Fieldings, John & Jim.   After the break sophomore colt trotters resumed the program with Make Or Miss looking very strong in his first outing of the season. Held in third by driver Joe Bongiorno early as Brooklyn Hill set a faster clip than David Miller would have liked, Make Or Miss was fanned wide in the stretch and went by under his own power in 1:54.2/:28. Brooklyn Hill held up well for second with Milligan's School and Love Matters both making a good appearance in their seasonal bow. Division leader Southwind Frank was programmed for this qualifier but did not race due to what's being reported as a quarter crack issue.   Pacers came up in race nine and a good group of sophomore colts and geldings finished across the track in a line with Voracity and Ideal Rocky together in advance of the six-pack. The mile was 1:52.3 with a 26.4 final quarter. Voracity is on his way to Ontario for trainer Alagna who owns the colt in partnership with Brad Grant and John Fodera while Ideal Rocky is prepping for the New Jersey Sires Stakes for trainer John Butenschoen and owners William Wiswell, Jean Goehlen and Eugene Schick.   Mindtrip went a good mile this morning, taking over near the half then winning as driver Yannick Gingras pleased in 1:52.4/:27.1. Tap Into Power closed nicely for second and Highlandbeachycove was an even third, while racing a bit greenly when shown racetrack. Mindtrip hails from the Alagna barn and is owned by the trainer in partnership with Crawford Racing, Sbrocco, Fodera and Massey.   American Ivy was a winner this morning in 1:52.4/:27.1 for Andy and Julie Miller. She sat second as Blue Moon Stride cut the mile then edged by that one late while staving off the rail rally by Three Dreams. Joe P Racing is the owner.   Mcwicked closed out the day with a 1:50.4/:26.2 win for Scott Zeron. Mcwicked zipped to the lead early, yielded to In The Arsenal for the middle half then took the rail route back by that rival for the win. In The Arsenal went well in his first qualifier, a solid second. Steve Elliott now trains Mcwicked for the SSG Stables.   The final of the World Harness Handicapping Challenge is tonight, call Rachel Ryan if you want in. Post time for the live card tonight is 7:15 p.m.   From the Meadowlands Media Department

Ron Burke trainees Sayitall BB and Its Huw You Know swept Friday (March 25) evening's co-featured harness racing $15,000 events at The Meadowlands, and the 50¢ Pick 5 went without a five-of-five winner, prompting a carryover in excess of $31,000 to Saturday's card. The featured top-level distaff pace, carded as the sixth event, saw Sayitall BB ($3.80) make good at odds-on, dueling clear and edging away late for a 1:52.4 score. The 5-year-old Tell All mare scored her 20th career win in front-end fashion, turning in a virtual carbon copy to her victory two weeks prior. Joe Bongiorno put Sayitall BB in play from the outset, dueling clear of Clear View Hanover (David Miller) through a :27.2 initial quarter. While Sayitall BB saw no pressure through a :57 middle half, Do Your Job (Jim Marohn, Jr.) sustained a first-over push on the far turn to claim second from a laboring Clear View Hanover. Meanwhile, Sayitall BB was driven clear to a three-length advantage off the corner, kept to task the length of the stretch to hold sway by 1-3/4 lengths. Purity (Vinny Ginsburg), sent off at 16-1, emerged from traffic to just nab the staying Do Your Job for second. Just 20 minutes later, Its Huw You Know ($6.40) emerged late to capture the $15,000 seventh-race trot. David Miller sent the 4-year-old Holiday Road gelding to a clear lead, but yielded to Saratoga invader Newcastle (Brett Miller) after a :28 first quarter. Its Huw You Know would enjoy a cozy pocket ride behind Newcastle, who faced pressure from the first-over B Yoyo (Bongiorno) through middle splits of :56.3 and 1:24.4. Its Huw You Know found a clear lane up the pegs at the eighth pole when Newcastle broke, accelerating to the fore the instant room availed. The 9-time winner held sway by a long half length, staving off a resurgent Scorcher Hall (Marcus Miller)--who gapped the third-quarter duel before finding more--and a late-rallying You're Majestic (Scott Zeron) in 1:54. The Burke Racing Stable, Mark Weaver, and Mike Bruscemi share ownership of Sayitall BB and Its Huw You Know. Brett Miller and Andy McCarthy led all drivers on the night with two wins each. Total handle for the 12-race card was $2,871,616, marking an increase of $262,507 over the corresponding Friday in March of 2015. Saturday (March 26) evening's first of 12 races is due off at 7:15 p.m. EDT. The 50¢ Pick 5 spanning the first five races boasts a $31,206 carryover and a guaranteed pool elevated to $75,000. Both 20¢ Jackpot High 5 wagers carry over as well, with the fifth race bolstered by $11,033 in added money and the finale by $154,428 should either pool be captured by a lone winning ticket. PICK 5 CARRYOVER INTO SATURDAY’S CARD AT THE MEADOWLANDS                                                                                   After a series of longshots to kick off the Friday night card, there were no winning tickets in the Pick Five, creating a carryover of $31,206 heading into Saturday night’s card. The Pick Five pool will be guaranteed at $75,000 providing horse players with even more incentive to take a swing at the wager. The Pick Five begins on Race 1 with a post time of 7:15 p.m. The wager offers a 50-cent base wager. Free program pages will be available on the Meadowlands website courtesy of TrackMaster. The last time the Meadowlands had a Pick Five carryover was on Friday, February 5. A carryover of $18,653 was the catalyst for more than $140,000 in new money wagered. One lucky horse player cashed that night for $109,966. The Meadowlands routinely offers the largest wagering pools in harness racing and will offer a total of $150,000 in guaranteed pools on Saturday. In addition to the $75,000 in the Pick Five, the Early Pick Four (Races 3-6) is guaranteed at $25,000 and the Late Pick Four (Races 7-10) pool is guaranteed at $50,000. For more information, visit www.playmeadowlands.com. by James Witherite, Meadowlands Media Relations  

Put your mind to it, and it’s not hard to imagine that you could become one of America’s most successful stockbrokers or luxury car salesmen. But at three different brokerage firms or dealerships . . . at the same time? He’s not touting pork belly futures or a showroom of $750,000 Italian sports car whose name you can’t even pronounce, but Joe Bongiorno, the latest darling of the Northfield Park harness racing drivers’ lounge, is a genuine triple threat. Through Sunday, Mar. 20, Bongiorno, at the very tender age of 22, is currently listed among the top four drivers at not only Northfield, but also at Freehold and The Meadowlands, two tracks in New Jersey. At Northfield, his 57 winners rank him 4th. At Freehold, his 45 winners have him in second place. At the Meadowlands, his 23 winners ranks him fourth against an all star roster of reinsmen.            Bongiorno’s hectic sulky schedule adds up to a lofty spot on the list of North America’s winingest drivers for 2016. His 125 victories place him fifth. There are two familiar names that he’s chasing – Northfield’s Aaron Merriman (1st) and Ronnie Wrenn Jr. (fourth).              Hectic might be understating Bongiorno’s weekly work schedule. A resident of Colts Neck, N.J,, Bongiorno starts with a seven-hour drive on Monday morning from home to Northfield where he drives in all or certainly the majority of the 15 scheduled races.            Bongiorno drives in another 12 to 15 races on Tuesday at Northfield, then after two nights in an area hotel, heads back to New Jersey on Wednesday morning for one of his two days of rest and relaxation.            Thursday through Saturday find him performing double-duty, driving at Freehold in the afternoon, which is 15 minutes from his home, then speeding off for an evening of driving at The Meadowlands, which is less than an hour from home.   Bongiorno didn’t start driving at Northfield until January 11, but quickly made a major splash when he steered seven horses to the winner’s circle on Mar. 7, a career high for victories.            “I love it here,” said Bongiorno. “The people are great and winning certainly makes it fun. The track surface is very unique. You can win on the front end or come from behind. Horses here, because of the banking, can live (be competitive) on the outside”.   Bongiorno has the pedigree to be as good as he is. His grandfather was Harold “Sonny” Dancer (who died earlier this month), a trainer-driver who developed world Champion Ricci Reenie Time. Stanley and Vernon Dancer, two of his great-uncles, are Members of harness racing’s Hall of Fame.            Stanley Dancer is considered by many to be the Babe Ruth of standardbred racing. Like his great grandson, Dancer began his career at Freehold. He drove the winner of three Triple Crowns and seven times developed and drove the Horse of the Year.            “I know I’m lucky to be where I am at my age,” said Bongiorno. “Maybe there is something to racing being in my blood. I know I’m very comfortable in the sulky. I really felt that way from the first time I jogged a horse. I was 14.” Bongiorno was at Freehold on Mar. 10 when the track paid tribute to his grandfather. The body of Sonny Dancer took one last lap around the track in a funeral carriage before he was buried in a nearby cemetery. “It was very moving,” said Bongiorno. “It made me think about who I was and where my family roots are.” Bongiorno is the son of Robert Bongiorno, a former trainer who remains in the game as an owner. His mother is the former Barbara Dancer. He began driving professionally in 2011 at age 18. It was during senior year of high school and he scored his first winner at Freehold on longshot Mr. Bennett on Oct. 1. “I love baseball and played as a freshman, but when I got serious about harness racing, that was it. I would go to classes in the morning and then drive at Freehold in the afternoon. The track was only 10 minutes from my school.” His fondness for baseball led to an opportunity he couldn’t refuse. “I was around 14 and got to fill in three of four times as New York Yankee batboy,” said Bongiorno. “Got to have lunch and dinner in the clubhouse with Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher and Mariano Rivera. I got lots of autographs.”  At the rate he’s visiting the winner’s circle, Bongiorno will be signing his name for a growing club of fans. By Northfield Park Publicity Department

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