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Last year around this time trainer Danny Gill plunked down $4000 and saved a trotter by the name of Rose Run Nash from a life of pulling an Amish buggy. Yesterday,( August 20) at Monticello Raceway Rose Run Nash defeated a field of $15,000 claimers in a time of 1:57.3 and scored his 16th victory of the season which makes him the trotter with the most wins in North America in 2014. As he usually does after one of his horses win a race, Gill- and his wife Brenna- come from the paddock to the winner's circle via a golf cart to take picture with his victorious pupil. Even before he got there (to the winners circle) he was waving and shouting, "That was his 16th win and now we are four in front" referring to having four more wins than the three runners-up. He and Brenna ran to congratulate driver Jimmy Marohn, Jr. and posed for the photograph. After he calmed down Gill was asked about Rose Run Nash, a 5-year-old altered son of Trainforthefuture. "I was racing a horse at Pocono (Downs) one night last year and someone there told me about a trotter that has some class but was heading to the Amish country," Gill related. "So I went to the farm where the horse was awaiting a trip to the Lancaster-area and I liked what I saw so we gave the 4-large they were asking for him. I'd like to buy 10 more just like him" Rose Run Nash breezed to a new lifetime mark of 1:57.3 when driver Jimmy Marohn, Jr. set sails from the pole position and the pair raced unchallenged the entire mile trotting through fractions of :28.2, :58.1, and 1:28 with his tail out straight and flying in the wind before finishing some three lengths ahead of Pacific Margaux and driver Johnny Plutino. "Being on the front-end made it easy for me because he's a big horse and with his tail in my face all the way I could hardly see where I was going half the time," Marohn said smiling with his inimitable tongue in cheek expression.. "Not really, Danny's got him (Rose Run Nash) in top form and he's real sharp right now" and then he walked back his previous statement when he added, "I had no problem seeing where I was going." It was Rose Run Nash's second consecutive victory and fourth in his last five starts.. Now the property of Gill's main patron, Edward Hall, Rose Run Nash paid $3.50 for win. by John Manzi, for Monticello Raceway

As the New York Sire Stakes draw closer to the eight $225,000 finales, presented on September 13 at Yonkers Raceway, the fields in each preliminary division leading to those rich finals understandably get smaller as only the most competitive move on. However as the fields get smaller the purses in the supporting divisions get larger. On Thursday afternoon (August 21) two $60,200 divisions of NYSS sophomore filly trots attracted only 14 entrants which leads one to believe that most are, in fact, this year's cream of the crop while those who aren't among them are looking to join their ranks. Or maybe their connections believe they have a good chance to get a huge part of the substantial purse. Still, as the two seven-horse fields race for the respectable purses offered, final results of these two trots could change the points- earned landscape especially since the stop at the Mighty M on Thursday will be the final preliminary leg before their $225,000 finale. The top eight trotters who will have earned the most points in the NYSS preliminary legs will get an opportunity to vastly increase their seasonal bankrolls in the rich finale. However, should any of the top eight fail to enter, the door will be open for those next in line in point totals. Joining the two NYSS trots will be three Excelsior Series trotting events also for 3 year old fillies arguably of lesser caliber than their NYSS cohorts. Each of the two Excelsior "A" Series trots will race for purses of $12,600 while eight others will go for a $6,800 purse in the Excelsior Series "B" event. The first $60,200 NYSS trot will go as race six on the 12-race card. That event features the top four in points. They are (with points and drivers), Market Rally (275-Jimmy Morrill, Jr.), Glowngold (130-Chris Lems), Driving Miss Crazy (130-Gates Brunet); and Beauty of Gray (125-Jim Meittinis). All almost assuredly will eligible to the Final. Others in that seven horse field (with points and drivers) include Annies List (117-Tyler Buter), Cutup Hanover (75-Jeff Gregory) and Gammy's Girl (26-Mark MacDonald). If total points determine the abilities of the entrants then the second $60,200 division arguably contains a softer field, although Avalicious (125-Jimmy Morrill, Jr.) is tied for fourth in total points. She'll be joined by L Dees Scripture (111-Chris Lems),Maud Blue Chip(61-Tyler Buter), Lindys Crazy Dolly (25-Larry Stalbaum), Crediama (21-Jeff Greory), Flyhawk Falina (17-Bruce Aldrich, Jr.) and Do You Believe (8-Mark MacDonald). However, It should be noted that many of the fillies with lesser point totals isn't a decree of their abilities, it's just that they only started a few times in the NYSS this year. The Sire Stakes trots will be presented as races six and eight on the 12-race card on Thursday. They'll be joined by three quality sophomore filly trotting races in the Excelsior Series which will bolster the undercard. They will go as races one, two and five. Post time for the afternoon card is slated for 12:50pm. by John Manzi, for Monticello Raceway

In what was supposed to be the confrontation between two pacers with the most victories in North America this season unfortunately didn't materialize. The often claimed duo of Diamond Tiara and Shortest Distance were in to go against one another in the fifth race on the Monticello Raceway card of Monday, August 18 and that confrontation was looked forward to by the local rail birds. However, Philip Schultz', Diamond Tiara, who ships in from a training farm in Wind Gap , Pa, some 90 miles from the Mighty M, couldn't answer the call when the van she was riding in broke down en route to Monticello. The seven-year-old pacing daughter of McArdle, a 17- time winner this year and one who has been claimed four times since mid-June and currently back in the Mike Watson barn, became a late scratch. Awaiting her arrival for the clash was another 17-time seasonal winner, Shortest Distance, a 9 year-old Park Place mare again the property of Marissa Godinez after being claimed four times in her last five starts. Although many race goers were disappointed when the six-horse field of $7500 claimers was reduced to just five starters, none were more thwarted than the mares' drivers Jimmy Taggart, Jr. (Diamond Tiara) and Bruce Aldrich, Jr. (Shortest Distance). Both were on the muscle expecting an exciting event, each believing their pacer would become the sole horse with the most wins this year. However, as an old adage states; the best laid plans of men and mice sometimes go awry,still the show had to go on. And on it went for Shortest Distance and driver Bruce Aldrich, Jr. who didn't have to contend with Diamond Tiara who had drawn the pole position. No sooner had the wings of the mobile starting gate folded, Aldrich sent the 1-9 favorite to the lead from the three-hole and after the first stanza was paced in a soft :29 it was Katie bar the door as Shortest Distance rambled to win number 18 , this time in a 1:57.3 clocking. Austin Siegelman mounted a late charge with Theron Seelster but second best was all they could muster. "We certainly had an easy time of it when Diamond Tiara was scratched but I believe it wouldn't have been ifwas in the race," Aldrich said after his victory. "I've driven Diamond Tiara a couple of times this year and I know she's gritty and no pushover. But don't get me wrong I enjoyed the victory just the same." Shortest Distance who paid just $2.30 for win, evaded another claim and remains, at least for now, in the barn of Al Annunziata who claimed her last week for Marissa Godinez. Maybe that victory lit a fire in Aldrich because after that race he won four others on the card and now with 358 seasonal driving victories he currently is sixth in North America races won. Last year his 645 winners tied him with Dave Palone for second place in North America behind Ronnie Wrenn, Jr.s 714. No photo of Shortest Distance's victory on Monday, or for that matter any pictures of the remaining winners on the card is available because strangely the Mighty M's award winning photographer, Geri Schwarz was stung by a bee before the Shortest Distance race transpired and because of an allergic reaction she was immediately rushed to the local hospital where she thankfully recovered. by John Manzi, for Monticello Raceway

Since Tony "the Capo" Verruso assumed the presidency of the CKG Billings Harness Racing Driving Series he has made a few changes in the format, and all seem positive. One major change is instead of one lengthy series in both the midwest and eastern regions there are now two individual series in each region along with one in the travel division. That way it will to allow participants a better chance at being among the region leaders and hopefully keeping stronger interest, especially for those who may have started slowly as the season began. But make no mistake, the CKG Billings Harness Driving Series will, as always, culminate in the Delvin Miller Gold and Silver Cup Championship Finals, this year in late November. The east region series #1 final went to "Coach Paul" Minore and Wygant Prince when they defeated Bob "the Headhunter" Hechkoff and Get Packin by a nose. Marvelous Marvin: Raber won the Midwest region Series #1 Final at the Meadows with Catching Katie in 1:57.2 by five over Good Friend driven by "Lawbook Larry" Farley. With the third leg of the east region series #2 presented at Mohegan Sun Pocono on Sunday, August 17 Hechkoff made amends of sort when he won his $6,000 split with Tagmaster in a very credible time of 1:57.4 and defeated "Joltin' Joe" Pennacchio and Quantum Lightning by four lengths. Third place in the mile went to Rebel Strike with "Mighty Matt" Zuccarello aboard. "Joe had the favorite in the race from the four hole and I had post seven with my horse so I left strongly and made the front before the quarter (in :28.4) and the farther we went the stronger my horse was and we won it by four lengths," Hechkoff related. "I got Tagmaster in April and he's raced good for me since then." The victory currently finds Hechkoff atop the standings in east region series #2. Virgil Morgan Jr. trains Tagmaster who retuned a $14.20 mutuel payoff. The other division went to Billing's newcomer James Marshall IV whose family is no stranger to harness racing. His dad Jim III currently has driven 3276 winners and his granddad dates back to the golden years of the Standardbred sport. And is mom Donna Marshall is the daughter of long-time horseman, Bill Aiken. After doing diligence in a series of qualifying races Jimmy IV jumped up behind his 3-yearold Chocolatier filly, Coin Collector- trained by his mom-- and made those who wagered on him happy after they gained command at the quarter pole and then traveled unchallenged on the fron- end to score as two-length victory over "The Capo" with Sam's Honeybee in a time of 1:58. Third place went to Keystone Sadie, driven by Peter "Sycamore Ventures" Gerry. Jimmy Marshall IV he made his first pari-mutuel drive a winning one and his filly Coin Collector paid $3.80 for win. John Manzi

Although Crazshana's 2:00 victory was topped by two others on the afternoon card, still that clocking established a new Monticello Raceway track record for freshmen trotting geldings at Monticello Raceway when Trond Smedshammer drove him to a 2:00 victory in a division of the Excelsior "B" Series of the New York Sire Stakes on Monday, August 11. The altered son of Crazed-Keystone Shana, owned by the Purple Haze Stable, finished three lengths ahead of Mythology Blue Chip (Mark MacDonald) and was one tick faster than the former standard of 2:00.1 set by Donttellmywife in 2006. In all, nine divisions of 2 year old trotting colts and geldings, in both the New York Sire Stakes and Excelsior Series, were featured that afternoon and the colts who won their NYSS splits were most impressive, each winning rather handily. Gabe The Bear Dean's 1:58.4 victory was the fastest of the three while Mambo Blue Chip scored in 1:59.3, and in his first lifetime start Sugarmakesmecrazy was victorious in 2:00.2. Ray Schnittkker guided Gabe The Bear Dean, a son of Lucky Chucky-Madam Hooch, to a four-length triumph in 1:58.4 in the first $35,867 NYSS split. They finished just two ticks slower than Fashion Blizzard's 1:58.2 track record two years ago. Although Gabe the Bear Dean was abetted by breaking colts early in the mile still the powerful youngster needed no ulterior assistance as he trotted unchallenged through fractions of :29.2,:59.3,1:29.2 before finishing four lengths ahead of the Brent Holland -driven Andy Ray. A $105,000 yearling purchase at Harrisburg, it was the fourth victory in six seasonal starts for Gabe The Bear Dean who now has nearly $75,000 for co-owner Ray Schnittker and the Minix Stable. "He's a nice colt and does everything right," Schnittker said about Gabe The Bear Dean, and then added: "He's got a big motor, too. Sent off at odds of 2-1 Gabe The Bear Dean paid $6.20 for win Mal and Janet Burroughs were on hand to watch Jeff Gregory drive their Mambo Blue Chip to a 1:59.3 triumph over Insomniac and Mark MacDonald in another $35,876 NYSS spilt and that had Burroughs smiling...and chirping. "I've missed the Hambletonian the last few years but this guy (Mambo Blue Chip) is gonna get us back there next year," said Burroughs, only the second amateur driver to win the famed Hambletonian. (He won the 2006 edition with Malabar Man while Harrison Hoyt was the other when he won with Demon Hanover in 1948). Trainer Linda Toscano had Jeff Gregory again drive Mambo Blue Chip and he responded with their third victory together. Understandably, Gregory was all smiles when he spoke of the colt's attributes. "He a smart colt and handles like an aged horse. Yeah, we got a good trip but he knew just what to do when he saw daylight in the stretch." After traveling along in third position from the start and still in third place at the top of the lane, when Gregory had room in the stretch he aimed Mambo Blue Chip toward freedom and the colt responded with a one length triumph. Mambo Blue Chip, a $40,000 yearling purchase was second choice in the betting and returned a $4.40 win mutuel. As impressive as any of the other colts was Sugarmakesmecrazy. Racing for the first time for money off just one qualifying start at the Meadowlands where he was beaten a nose in 1:58.1, he breezed to a wire to wire two-length victory in a time of 2:00.2 and kept favored Buen Camino (Trond Smedshammer) at bay. Asked why the colt hadn't started earlier Svanstedt said; "He's so big that he had problems" as he pointed to the colt's right hind ankle and foot. "He's a good trotter now but he will be a very good 3-year-old." An $80,000 yearling purchase, the son of Crazed-Maple Frosting, paid $4.80 for win. He is owned by Mellby Gard, Inc. The supporting undercard featured three freshman trots in the Excelsior "A" Series and three in the Excelsior "B" Series. Besides Crazshana's 2:00 victory other Excelsior winners included; Deadhead Royalty, 2:04.1 (Howard Okusko), Abir Hanover, 2:04.2 (Jason Bartlett), Lucic, 2:04.2 (Steve Smith), Lucky Bud, 2:01.1 (Homer Hockstetler) and Titanium, 2:01.2 (Jason Bartlett) In all, a total of 11 of the 13 races were for trotters on that Monday and Shortest Distance, driven by Jimmy Taggart, Jr. won in 1:57 and scored her 17th victory of the season. She now has drawn even with Diamond Tiara as the harness horses with the most wins in North America this season. -John Manzi

Monticello Raceway will offer over $165,000 to 2 year old trotting colts and geldings in the harness racing New York Sire Stakes and Excelsior Series on Monday afternoon, August 11. There will be three splits each in the NYSS and the Excelsior A and B Series. In years past there was hardly a 2-year old trotter who could even approach 2:00 on a double-oval much less win in that time or faster. But those days are long gone. At the Mighty M on Monday in NYSS action there are already three freshman colt trotters that own records of 2:00 or faster and none of those racing in the events have had more than four or five lifetime starts at this time. The second $35,867 division, race 5 on the card, appears to be the most competitive and features Royal Deceptor who won a NYSS trot at Yonkers Raceway on July 25 in 1:58.2. Mickey McGivern will handle the RC Royalty-Art Of Deception colt when they leave from the six hole. However, they'll have to contend with Ray Schnittker's Gabe The Bear Dean who also won an NYSS event at Yonkers but just a tick slower in 1:58.3. They'll start inside Royal Deceptor in the four-hole. And with the Chris Lems-driven, Wings of Royalty , a 1:56 winner in his last start over Tioga Downs 5/8th mile oval in post three, this heat figures to be a barn burner. Mambo Blue Chip, an even 2:00 winner at Yonkers on July 25, is the early line favorite in third $35,867 NYSS division, race 8. Jeff Gregory will handle the son of Lucky Chucky-Flirty Two when they leave from post three. The afternoon card will kick-off with the first $35,867 NYSS split. Pier Ho Exotic, from the pylon position, figures to be the favorite at post time. John Cummings, Jr. owns and will drive the Conway Hall-Rose Run Exotic gelding from the pole position. Pier Ho Exotic sports a 2:01.2 record in an NYSS division over Buffalo Raceway's double oval on July 9. The undercard will feature three trots in the Excelsior Series Division "A" and three in the Excelsior Series Division "B" Series. Purists will be in their glory on the 13-race card of August 11. With four overnight races joining the nine NYSS trots, the betting card that day will feature 11 races for trotters and only two for pacers. First race post time set at 12:50pm. John Manzi

Glasser and Yarock may sound like a law firm but both are enthusiastic amateur drivers and each won a division in the C.K.G. Billings Series at Yonkers Raceway on Thursday night, August 8. Glasser won the first $12,000 split with Celebrity Stimulus in 2:04 while Yarock copped the second $12,000 trot with Mr. Invincible in a time of 2:04.4. Both trot were non-wagering affairs. In the first heat David "the Litigator" Glasser started from the pylon position and stayed along the poles throughout the mile. After trotting along I third position while there were multiple moves toward the front end Glasser stayed put and when the field headed for home he used the passing lane to rally Celebrity Stimulus to a one length victory over Tony "the Capo" Verruso and Sam's Honeybee. The pace-setter in that contest, Get Packin, with Bob "the Headhunter" Hechkoff aboard, finished third. The winner, a 4-year-old son of Cantab Hall-Slow Dance Hanover is owned by Joel Golub and Stuart Oppenheimer. Glasser, a president of a litigator support company, was always involved with the Standardbred sport. When he was a youngster his parents, Arthur and Evelyn, were enthralled in harness racing and not only owned many horses but they purchased a training farm in Orange County (NY) and raced much of their stock in the Metropolitan New York area and at Monticello Raceway. Young David also became enthralled with racing and earned a driver's license while a college student. He had driven some winners (21) in the 1980's but there was a hiatus to his driving beginning in 1993 and it was restarted until 2011 when he joined various local amateur driving clubs. But even then he only drove a few races a season and it wasn't until this year that he again visited the winners circle. Although he won a race at Yonkers Raceway earlier this year as a member of NAADA this was his first Billings victory and third in 14 seasonal starts. Yarock, on the other hand, marked his 7th seasonal victory and 50th of his career with his triumph behind Mr. invincible. In that contest Yarock, an account manager by profession, went down the road after taking command on the first turn and he never relinquished the lead although his trotter was headed momentarily in the lane but surged back to score a neck victory over Rodeo Red and driver "Smokin' Joe" Faraldo. Peter "Sycamore Ventures" Gerry took home the show dough with Keystone Sadie. Mr invincible is an 8-year-old gelding by Angus Hall from Ms Vic and owned by Yarock. Both Billings winner are trained by Jimmy Doherty, Jr. John Manzi

Last week in his first start here, Johnny Grippa won in 1:53.4 which was the fastest race mile on the Monticello Raceway double-oval this season. However, that harness racing mark didn't last long because yesterday (Tuesday, August 5th ) Johnny Grippa won again this time in a season's best 1:53.1. The 6 year old altered son of Cams Card Shark and Sky Yankee is owned and trained by Jack Sheehan and was driven to victory both times by Jimmy Devaux. Devaux sent 1-2 shot, Johnny Grippa, to the lead from the two hole while the other five each took a seat along the pylons behind him. They had two lengths at the quarter in :27.4 and were a full length in front as they passed the second stanza in :57. A 29 second third quarter saw Jimmy Taggart, Jr.the first to move with Bettorsluckystreak but they were a still a length off the leader at the three quarters in 1:27. At that point Devaux asked Johnny Grippa for more and the veteran pacer responded and drew away from his competition and paced the final quarter in :27.1 and finished in 1:53.1 to score the pacer's 10th win in 19 starts. "He was more relaxed today and he raced even better than he did last Tuesday," Devaux said referring to Johnny Grippa. "He's got legs like J-Lo but Jack (Sheehan, the trainer) works real hard on him to keep him sound and in top form." The second place finisher, two lengths behind the winner, was Giddyallyougot in rein to Zeke Parker which made a Grippa exacta, but not your usual one. This one combined a horse and owner each named Grippa. The winner, of course, was Jack Sheehan's Johnny Grippa and the second place finisher, Giddyallyougot, trained by Anthony Regina and is owned, oddly enough, by a gentleman by the name of Vincent Grippa. Hence the unique Grippa exacta paid $6.50. On hand in the winners circle was the Johnny Grippa's breeder, Erich Boehm who has owned and bred some nice harness horses for over the past 50 years. He was there with some friends and they were en route to the Saratoga Flats. "I saw Johnny (Grippa) was in (to race) today so I thought we'd stop by Monticello to see him race," Boehm related. "I own his dam (Sky Yankee) and she's been a heck of a good broodmare." Vinnie Grippa, who also happened to be here to watch his horse race, overheard the Boehm group's conversation and walked down the tracks apron from where he was watching the race to introduce himself to Boehm. "I'm Vinnie Grippa," he said to Boehm with a smile as he shook his hand. "I was wondering where the horse's name came from." "Johnny Grippa is my son-in law," Boehm told Vinnie Grippa. "I like to name all my horses after family members, if I can." "You could probably understand that I've been wanting to claim Johnny Grippa for a long time now but my trainer says, no," Vinnie told Boehm. "Johnny Grippa owned by Vinnie Grippa would a gas but Anthony ( Regina) warns against it. "So I just watch Johnny Grippa winning." John Manzi

When the young harness racing driver Austin Siegelman hustled Able Yankee to a come- from- behind 1:57.3 victory at Monticello Raceway on Monday afternoon, August 4 he lit up the tote board after the 9 year old McArdle mare paid a whopping $221.00 for win. However, as huge as the payoff was, and it's big for an eight-horse field, it still was dwarfed by the Mighty M's all-time biggest return of $377.00 on a two dollar win ticket produced by Cam Dan Kadandy and driver Greg Annoloro on September 26, 2012. In their victory Siegelman and his pacing mare used a second-over trip and came from behind to collar the pace-setter, 1-9 favorite Slickety Split (Jimmy Marohn), and score a head victory; just the second in 22 seasonal starts for Able Yankee. Last fall at the Monticello-Goshen Chapter USHWA Awards Banquet Siegelman was cited with the scribes 'Rising Star Award'. "Winning the Rising Star Award definitely gives me a lot of confidence going forward," Siegelman, from Kingston, Pa., told a reporter of his hometown newspaper, the Citizen's Voice. During the 2013 season Siegelman was beginning to be noticed as a talented catch-driver and local trainers were starting to avail themselves of his abilities. That year Siegelman got his name in the Monticello Raceway record books after he drove Mymomsablizzard to a 1:57 triumph which equaled the track standard set by Aren't I Hanover who toured the double oval here in the identical time for Zeke Parker on August21, 2013. In only his second year in the sulky he finished the 2013 season with 90 winners. This year he has already reined 130 winners. Siegelman, who turned 22 years of age this past February 22, has recently been doing double -duty, also racing regularly at Saratoga Raceway and he added three winners to his seasonal resume on the Saturday night card of August 3 at Saratoga Raceway. A quiet young man whose star is certainly on the rise, Siegelman isn't one to celebrate openly. He lets his prowess speak for him. However he recently said; " I plan on being in this business for a long time and hopefully these things are just the beginning of great things to come." John Manzi

The sports most prestigious race, the Hambletonian, has been accompanied by events for amateur drivers, which are known are known as the Hambletonian Amateur Trots. The Hambo Amateur Trots usually mark the half-way point in each year's Billings Series which will culminate this year in late November at Harrah's Philadelphia with the Delvin Miller Memorial Gold and Silver Championship Finals. Although the Hambo Amateur trots are open to almost any amateur driver, members of the C. K.G. Billings Harness Drivers Series are always among the starters in the events and many have won their divisions. This year was no exception. On August 1 three divisions were presented; one on the nightly card and two others as non-wagering events prior to the betting card getting underway. Billings member "Tough Tony" Cuiffetelli and Rob "Rapid Rail" Krivelin each won their non-betting division. Cuiffetelli scored a neck victory with Nearly Uncle when they held off Whata Hustler and amateur driver, Jody Riedel in a 1:56.4 clocking. Billings member "Peter "Sycamore Ventures" Gerry was only one -and- a- half lengths back in third with Keystone Sadie. The other non-betting trot saw Krivelin take command after the first quarter with Upfront Billy and then race on the engine the rest of the mile and turn back a late charge by Kelly "Sky" Walker with Rush N Supreme to win in a time of 1:56. Third place in that contest, some six lengths behind the winner, was Magglio driven by Steve "You're Never Too" Oldford which saw Billings members finish 1-2-3 However, in the betting Hambo Amateur Trot, Joe Lee, a non-Billings member, up behind Upfrontstrikesgold prevailed in a tight photo with Vida De Vie, driven by Roy Marohn, another non Billings member. Third place, just a long neck behind the winner, was Andie Sophia who was driven by Billings member and two-time National Amateur Driver of the Year, Dein "the Jupiter Gem" Spriggs The final time of 1:55.4 was the fastest of the Hambo Amateur Trots. Next up in the Billings action will be two east region trots at Yonkers Raceway on Thursday August 7. by John Manzi, for the Billing Amateur Driver Series  

An astute horse player once said "time only counts in jail" when referring to handicapping a harness race. "Class wins out" he added. Final times were usually a good barometer when trying to pick a winner in a horse race, but today that idea might not 'hold water'. With all the new equipment, and there is plenty of it, and improving breed of horseflesh, the horsemen of yesteryear wouldn't believe the final race times that trotters and pacers produce today. There were always fast times on the big mile tracks of long ago but final times on the double ovals have improved to where even cheaper claiming pacers today shade the two-minute mile--the former standard of excellence--and many obliterate it. Monticello Raceway opened in June of 1958 and prior to 1974 there were just 12 recorded miles in 2:00 or faster. Now, a two-minute, or faster, mile hardly raises an eyebrow. It seems like the new time-standard is 1:55 which was a world record clocking in 1955 when a pacer by the name of Adios Harry was driven to victory by Luther Lyons one warm summer evening over Vernon Downs three-quarter mile oval. Perhaps a time of 1:55 is a non-entity on the mile and 5/8th mile tracks, and that clocking is even becoming passé on half mile tracks. However, a 1:55 clocking here at the Mighty M doesn't happen often and is a special local accomplishment. But yesterday, (July 29) there were two miles clocked faster than 1:55 and one that stopped the timer in 1:55.1 which excited- to an extent- the local rail birds True, at some other half mile tracks if a horse can't pace in 1:55 or better he won't get much purse money. But here in the fresh Catskill Mountain air miles faster than 1:55 are far from commonplace. The fastest mile on the Tuesday (July 29) card was turned in by a pacer named Johnny Grippa and driver Jimmy Devaux when they toured the Mighty M oval in 1:53:3. A time like that may not be special downstate but here it was the fastest mile of the year, thus far. Johnny Grippa, a 6 year old Cam Cardshark gelding, owned and trained by Jack Sheehan, cut all fractions (27.2; 57.2; 1:25; 1:53.4) carrying a $12,500 claiming tag and finished one and half lengths ahead of Bettorsluckystreak (Jimmy Taggart, Jr.) and Memory Game (Mike Merton) who ended-up in a dead-heat for second. Sent off at odds of over 5-1 Johnny Grippa paid $12.60 for win. The other swift mile was recorded by Muscleshooter when driver Austin Seigelman yielded command at the quarter pole and retook before the paddock turn and went on to score a 1:54.1 triumph, three lengths ahead of Tyler's Great (Jimmy Marohn, Jr.) Owned by David Hamm and trained by Chris Marino, Muscleshooter returned a $3.00 win mutuel. By the way, the pacer who won in A:55.1 was Ideal Carver, driven by Bruce Aldrich, Jr. And every one of the 10 races on the card went in 1:59.3 or faster. by John Manzi, for Monticello Raceway

When race horses do well it creates interes and when they do really well the interest magnifies. Case in point: Diamond Tiara and Shortest Distance, two of the winningest harness horses in North America today. Diamond Tiara has won 17 times this year while Shortest Distance has 16 wins. And both pacing mares compete at Monticello Raceway. Diamond Tiara, a 7-year-old daughter of McArdle-Diamond In The Rough, and Shortest Distance, a 9-year-old Park Place mare out of Camrissa, were quality mares in their youth and now against lesser talent they are stick-outs in their classes here at the Mighty M. True, each mare's number of wins is of interest and that they are one-two in races won this season on the continent adds to their appeal, but delving closer one will find that each mare has been claimed three times in the past six weeks. Now, that in itself, is not revolutionary but the fact that those doing the claiming are the same people each time. Yesterday (Mon. July 28) at Monticello Raceway Shortest Distance carried a $6,000 claiming tag in her race and went wire to wire winning in 1:56.2 with Bruce Aldrich, Jr. at the controls. When she got back to the paddock her previous owner Philip Schultz claimed her back from trainer Al Annunziata for owner, Marissa Godinez who claimed her from Schultz the previous week. That same afternoon, Diamond Tiara, who used to be Schultz's possession but currently owned by Al Annunziata, was beaten a nose in her attempt to win her 18th race when Mike Merton, with Get Your Own, stalked her and driver Bruce Aldrich, Jr. the entire mile and then beat Diamond Tiara in the final strides in a mile timed in 1:57. On June 10 Annunziata claimed Diamond Tiara from Schultz for $9,000 and the following week Schultz claimed her back for the identical price. But wait, on June 30 Annunziata took her home again for $9,000. Yesterday (July 28), Schultz reclaimed Diamond Tiara for $9,000 from Annunziata. But hold on, Schultz wasn't done plunking down his denero. After her 16th victory, Schultz reclaimed Shortest Distance from Marissa Godinez --whose trainer, is the aforementioned, Al Annunziata- who claimed her from Schultz last week. Mike Watson was Diamond Tiara's trainer when she won the overwhelming majority of her races this year, and now she, and Shortest Distance, will race from the Mike Watson barn, at least for next week! So, for now, Philip Shultz owns the top two horses with the most wins this year. But it's a good bet that this saga is not over yet. Stay tuned. by John Manzi, for Monticello Raceway

"Marvelous Marvin" Raber emerged victorious at Northfield Park with John Schlabach's good trotting mare, Catching Katie winning a Midwest Region Billings Trot there on Saturday evening, July 26 in a time of 2:00.3. Sent off as the even money favorite from the six-hole in the eight- horse field Raber left softly and ducked in the three hole as the field headed to the quarter which was trotted :29.3 . Second at the half in 1:00.3 when the field headed up the backside Raber moved his mare out to challenge Nordic Venture, and Gary "Soups" Campbell who was cutting the fractions, and by the third stanza Catching Katie had command and she trotted home an easy two-length winner for Raber. Larry "Overhand Serve" Steenbergen, who shadowed Raber's backside move, ended up overtaking Nordic Venture to finish second and "Trader Bud" Hatfield picked up the show dough with Really Really Sweet. Nordic Venture finished fourth. With her victory Catching Katie notched her fifth seasonal triumph and increased her yearly bankroll to over $23,000. She paid an even $4.00 for win. "Marvelous Marvin" hasn't competed earnestly in amateur races until 2008 but in recent years he's become a force to be reckoned with in the Billings Midwest Region. For Raber it was his third seasonal triumph and 25th of his amateur driving career The Billings trot at Northfield Park was the last prior to the Midwest Region #1 Series Final which will be contested at The Meadows on Friday, August 8. Despite finishing back in the Northfield Park Billings trot on Saturday, Steve "You're Never Too" Oldford still copped the points championship during the recently completed series and with that he earned berth in the Gold Cup Final on November 23rd at Harrah's Chester. However, set to join Oldford in the Midwest Region #1 Series Final on August 8 are the top point earners in the Midwest region. Included are Raber, Steenbergen, Dave "Linemaster" Ehrenberg II, "Soups" Campbell, Kelly "Sky" Walker, Ned "Nationwide" Hodkinson, "Lawbook Larry" Farley, and Victor "Blue White and " Gray. Nevertheless, should any of the aforementioned drivers fail to enter the finale those next highest in points can, and should, do so. by John Manzi, for the Billings Series

"Coach Paul" Minore is a retired Phys. Ed. Teacher and track coach whose most famous pupil was the great track and field star and Olympic Gold Medalist, Carl Lewis. He is also an owner of Standardbreds and an amateur driver and last night (July 24) at Yonkers Raceway he won the $12,000 C.K.G. Billings Harness Driving Series Final #1 with his Wygant Prince in a time of 1:59.2. Minore has been driving more frequently of late and Wygant Price's triumph was his fifth this season and the 78th of his amateur driving career which began in 1994. Minore, who handles a horse as good as any amateur driver, sat a two-hole trip behind the pace-setter Bob "the Headhunter" Hechkoff with Get Packin and Minore rallied his trotter in the final strides to eek-out a nose victory. "My horse likes a trip and we got one tonight," Minore said after his victory. "Bob and I finished right together and it was so close at the wire that the starter had to tell us who won." Third place in that mile went to Nearly Uncle driven by "Tough Tony" Ciuffetelli. Minore occasionally drives against professionals and has been racing his trotter at the Meadowlands on Friday nights. "It's a lot tougher there especially against the pros," Minore said and then added, "My horse loves amateur racing. It's a better class for him and he fits it well." With his victory in the Billings Final #1 Minore has earned a berth in the Gold Cup Championship which will be contested at Harrah's Chester on Sunday, November 23. by John Manzi, for the Billings Series

When Diamond Tiara scored her 17th victory at Monticello Raceway on Tuesday afternoon, July 22nd that total continues to lead all others in races won this year in North America. And quietly, without much fanfare, Shortest Distance's 15th seasonal victory,,also on the Tuesday card, positions her a clear second on the North America leaderboard in races won in 2014. "One of our highlights last year was keeping track of Tracys Song as she kept piling up wins and now this year we have two pacers who are one-two in races won on the continent," noted Eric Warner the tracks senior director of racing. "And again this year it's the girls (mares) making all the news." Warner's comments are quite accurate where Diamond Tiara is concerned. The 7 year old daughter of McArdle-A Diamond In June has headlined many a story coming from the Mighty M this year. She was claimed from Philip Schultz for $9,000 by on June 16 by Al Annunziata and the following week Schultz claimed her back for the same price. But Schultz didn't have her long because Annunziata claimed her back again for $9,000 on June 30. During that three week stretch Diamond Tiara won twice and finished second when claimed on June 16. After throwing a clunker in her race on July 8 where she was beaten 24 lengths and finished last, Annunziata's Diamond Tiara bounced back on Tuesday (July 22) and wired the field in a season's equaling 1:55.2. Asked what happened to Diamond Tiara when she was beaten so badly on July 8, Annunziata explained: "Even though we stepped her up in class I knew there was something wrong with her.We had her scoped and found out she was full of mucus which tremendously hampered her breathing. I had the vet(veterinarian) work on her and today she was her old self and wired the field like she also did." Bruce Aldrich Jr. was at the lines for Annunziata and he sent Diamond Tiara to the front and she paced through fractions of :28.1, 58.1; 1:27.2 being shadowed closely by Mike Merton with Get Your Own. They were on Aldrich's back as the field headed for home but when Aldrich asked for more, Diamond Tiara kicked in and opened up daylight and paced a :28 final stanza en route to a three length triumph in 1:55.2. "She's (Diamond Tiara) got her issues," Aldrich admitted, "but when she gets to the top of the stretch on the lead she fights hard to win. And, as you have seen this year, she usually does (win)." In 24 seasonal starts Diamond Tiara has won 17 times and has three second and three thirds and has bankrolled $29, 311. Before Diamond Tiara was claimed from Annuniziata by Philip Schultz, Mike Watson had been her trainer. On July 7, with Watson's guidance, Schultz took Shortest Distance from Annunziata for $6,000 in a claiming race.. While racing for Annunziata, Shortest Distance had 14 wins in 23 starts and her first start for Watson and Schultz she finished fourth in a 1:56.4 mile with a $9,000 claiming tag. But yesterday (July22) Shortest Distance took home all the money racing with a $6,000 claiming price. Watson's driver of choice, Jimmy Taggart, Jr. was at the lines and they wired the field and with a gritty :28 last quarter held off hold Midnight Mass and Zeke Parker by a head in a time of 1:56.3. By the way, Taggart drove Diamond Tiara to 15 of her victories when she was in Watson's barn. On Tuesday both Diamond Tiara ($5.40) and Shortest Distance ($3.40) were betting favorites in their races. by John Manzi, for Monticello Raceway

After making one of the best showings ever by an American a few weeks ago in the World Cup of Amateur Racing in Finland where he won two of the nine events in the competition, Steve "You're Never Too" Oldford returned to the good ole USA and emerged victorious in a Billings trot at the Fowlerville, Michigan Fair on Monday, July 21 On that beautiful summer afternoon at the Wolverine State's award winning Fowlerville Fair Oldford catch-drove trainer June Du Russel's Rub A Dud to a neck victory over What Do You Want and driver Larry "Overhand Serve" Steenbergen in a time of 2:05.1. The show money went to "Lawbook Larry" Farley with his own Rewrite The Rules. "I had the three-hole and sent my trotter to the lead and we opened up daylight," Oldford said. " We had six or seven lengths all the way until the stretch where Larry (Steenbergen) came charging but we held him off to win it," Oldford said. Oldford couldn't say enough good things about trainer June Du Russel. "I'd really like to thank trainer June Du Russel for her continued her support of amateur racing. She sent out two contenders today in the only leg of Billings action to be raced in Michigan this year. Her second entry, in his first start under June's watch, was the forth place finisher, Bold Strike, with new Billings member Jerry Mihelich aboard. "June has supplied Billings Gold Cup winner Rush N Supreme, Silver Cup winner Starry Night, along with series winners Howmuchubench, Howmacs Amigo, and Ace Hanover . June continues to train and race from her Millington, Michigan farm despite the adverse racing conditions in Michigan." On Thursday the east region of the CKG Billings harness Driving Series will have a semi-final at Yonkers Raceway while on Saturday there will be Billings action in the Midwest region at Northfield Park. And on August 1 at the Meadowlands the annual Hambletonian Amateur Trot is slated. byJohn Manzi, for the CKG Billings Series

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