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Harness racing's greatest traveling road show, the CKG Billings Amateur Driving Series, moved back to Freehold Raceway for two trots in the eastern division of the series and when the judges hung the official signs Tony "the Capo" Verruso and Bob "the Headhunter" Hechkoff each emerged victorious in their respective splits. Verruso scored with Sam's Honeybee in 1:59.4 while Hechkoff won with The Franchise in 2:01. No trotter has recently been more prolific in the Billings than Sam's Honeybee, a 10-year old daughter of Victory Sam. Beside her victory on Saturday night, her fifth of the season, Sam's Honeybee has had two wins and a second in her last three starts and has vaulted Verruso near the top of the Billings leaderboard thus far this year. After getting away softly from post five Verruso decided to go first-up with Sam's Honeybee as the field approached the halfway point which proved to be a winning move when favored Shanghai Jack made a break while traveling along the pylons which caused some confusion and allowed Verruso and his charge to gain command as the field headed for the three quarters. Once clear on the lead Sam's Honeybee opened daylight on the field and she cruised home an easy six-length winner over 24-1 shot High Flying, driven by James "Jimmy Boy" Marshall IV. Blazin Delores, in rein to "Mighty Matt" Zuccarello, took home the show dough. "She's been real good and the light rain made the track very much to her liking," Veruso said after his driving victory. "I knew there was a lot of speed so I just sat back and came first up and she was so up in the riggin' I just gave her a tap and she went by and took off." After being sent off as a longshot in her last three starts today Sam's Honeybee wore the favorites crown and returned a $3.60 win mutuel. She's owned by her driver and is trained by Carl Gillespie. Sent off as second choice in his split Hechkoff gave The Franchise a perfect journey. When "Bullet Bob" Davis gunned Wygant Prince to the lead from the three-hole Hechkoff left the gate swiftly with his trotter and fell into the two- hole behind Davis.Wygant Prince then cut the fractions and when the field approached the halfway point they rebuffed a challenge by Maurel N Hardy who was driven by "Hurricane Hannah" Miller. Davis then proceeded to keep Miller on the limb as the field approached the three quarters. Meanwhile Hechkoff, cruising along in the two-hole, bided his time and followed the leaders and when the field rounded the final turn Miller's trotter showed signs of tiring which allowed Hechkoff to rally The Franchise in the lane and collar Wygant Prince and go on to a length triumph. Maurel N Hardy finished third. Owned by his driver and trained by Kyle Spagnola The Franchise paid $7.00 for win.. Billings action continues with a western region trot on Wednesday, May 25, at Northfield Park followed by two non-wagering eastern region contests on Thursday, May 26 at Yonkers Raceway. John Manzi

During the 2015 harness racing season in an effort to raise needed funds, the not-for profit Goshen Historic Track embarked on a fundraiser centered around the running of the Kentucky Derby. Even as a late entity the National Historic Landmark attracted 70 patrons, who not only enjoyed the racing card at Louisville, Ky., but were treated to food and cocktails throughout the afternoon. This year, again, the world's oldest harness track scheduled another Derby Day festivity fund-raiser. "The Derby Day party works out real well for us since those who attend can also wager on the races in Kentucky at an off-track location at Delancey's Restaurant, which is adjacent to Historic Track," noted Tim Masters, the tracks supervisor who was the impetus behind the project. But Masters wasn't alone in producing the Derby Day projects. Joining him were Linda Meyer, secretary to the Board; Georgia Baker, who assists Meyer in the track office and Roger Dowd, who runs the track website and supplied invaluable news releases to help make the day a success. And this season, with a few changes in venue, more than 165 supporters of Historic Track turned out on May 7th which was more than a one hundred percent increase over last year's offering. And it's safe to say that everyone had a good time. "With an entertaining live band and plenty of food and drinks we think we have a winning combination," added Board Member Tony Statuto who attended the afternoon fun along with his wife and two daughters. "Hopefully the numbers will grow in following years and we can continue to raise needed money for Historic Track." This year's festivities also marked the second annual Derby Day Hat Contest which attracted 25 contestants, almost double the number of participants from last year. All the action took place under a big tent which was set-up on the racetrack with four huge television sets tethered to the poles underneath the tent. Tables were set up and the TVs could be viewed from any seat. "If this year is any indication, hopefully we can look forward to even bigger attendances as the word gets out about the fun-filled afternoon program we offer on Kentucky Derby Day," noted George Casale, the track's Board of Directors vice president, who along with his family and friends added 12 people to the afternoon crowd. "It's no secret that Historic Track needs all the funds we can get to continue in this ever changing world." "We had all the seats filled this year and we got a lot of compliments from those who attended," Masters added. "Next year we'll probably need two tents." by John Manzi for Historic Track  

Although the New York Yankees are struggling for victories their locker room manager, "Yankee Joe" Lee scored an eye-opening driving victory in his division of the CKG Billings Series at the Meadowlands on Friday the 13th. His 1:54.2 triumph with Dreams Of Thunder was one of the fastest harness racing miles ever driven by a Billings amateur. Showing that he also knows where the winners circle is, James "Jimmy Boy" Marshall IV with Doc Simon's Dream, wore down the pacesetter to score a 1:56.2 triumph in the other division. But the buzz is about Joe Lee, who gets to drive in the Billings, and other amateur races, when the Yankees are out of town. In his split Lee left softly from the pole position while Bob "the Headhunter" Hechkoff gunned his trotter and even-money favorite, Keystone Thomas, to the lead but was roughed-up by Celebrity Stimulus when his driver Dave "Steady As" Yarock made Heckhoff work for command in a :27.2 first quarter, As Keystone Thomas approached the half he was challenged when "Hurricane Hannah" Miller tipped Jacks To Open to the outside and Lee slid Dreams Of Thunder out behind Miller's charge and Jacks To Open carried Lee's trotter all the way until the top of the lane. In the stretch, feeling the sting of the quick early fractions, Keystone Thomas began to tire a bit and Dreams Of Thunder rallied late to collar Hechkoff's trotter and score a head victory in a swift 1:54.2. Jacks To Open finished third. The winner, owned by Green Acquisition Corp and trained by 28 year old Russian born Valeriya Medik, returned a $34.40 win mutuel. In the other division, Doc Simon's Dream (there must be a story there) was second choice in the betting and received a cool heads-up drive when "Jimmy Boy" Marshall used a covered journey until the top of the lane and then charged on to a 1-1/4-length victory in a 1:56.1 clocking. Second place went to 11-1 shot Sam's Honeybee, driven by Billings Series president, Tony "the Capo" Verruso. Seems like the betting public can't get a true read on Verruso and his trotting mare. Last Saturday Sam's Honeybee won a Billings trot at Freehold Raceway and returned a $96.40 win payoff. Third place went to another outsider 12-1 shot Inside Access who was driven by Steve "You're Never Too" Oldford. The winner is owned by her driver and Michael O'Sullivan and trained by "Jimmy Boy's" mom, Donna Marshall. Doc Simon's Dream paid $8.80 for win. On Monday, May 16 the Billings Series goes north of the Border with two trots carded at Mohawk Racetrack. John Manzi

Two weeks ago Bob "the Lumberman" Troyer and Heza Rube coupled-up to score Billings victory at Miami Valley Raceway and Saturday night (May 11) they returned to the winners circle, this time at Northfield Park, with another harness racing victory under their belts. But it took a gutsy trip by the 6-year-old Master Lavec gelding to get the job done in the 1:59.3 trotted mile.. When the gate sprung three trotters went for the lead but Patient ID and "Lawbook Larry" Farley, starting from the pylon position, parked all comers. Unlimited Winner with "Northfield Nadine" Habke were three-deep on the first turn but they gained command as the field passed the first stanza in :29.4. Troyer and Heza Rube were looking for a hole along the inside but it didn't materialize and they were stuck on the limb. Still first-over as the field trotted by the half in :59.4 "the Lumberman" had little choice other than pursue the front and his charge responded as Heza Rube took command when the field neared the three quarters. In the lane Heza Rube was dead-game and still full of trot and went on to a length triumph over Patient ID even though the latter had enjoyed a two-hole trip after relinquishing the lead early on. Third place went to Fort Commander who had the services of "Slick Rick" Braun. Not particularly proud of their journey still Bob Troyer was pleased with the results of the race. "I certainly was in a position I didn't want to be in after the start," Troyer related. "He (Heza Rube) normally doesn't leave well and I usually can find a hole and come late but that didn't work out. "Now Rube normally doesn't handle a lot of air but tonight he didn't care and he just wanted to trot so I guess tonight was his night. It was ugly, but a win is a win, and I was proud of him." Owned by Deborah Kvernmo and trained by Marty Wollam, Heza Rube paid $3.20 for win. Next Billing action will be in the east region on Friday night May 13, at The Meadowlands. by John Manzi for the CKG Billings Series

Known as "Hurricane Hannah" for having taken amateur harness racing by storm, Hannah Miller has been named the 2016 Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame Amateur Driving Champion. Amateur drivers from driving clubs throughout the U.S. and Canada compete for the Museum's Amateur Driving Championship. It is won each year by the amateur driver donating the most driver's commissions to the Museum. Previous winners are Edward B. Rudner (1995), Bud Hatfield (1996, 1999 & 2000), Joe Pennacchio (1997), Lella McIlmurray (1998), Alan Schwartz (2001), Robert Krivelin (2002 & 2004), Gene Miller (2003), Scott Woogen (2005), Dein Spriggs (2006), Tony Verruso (2008), Todd Whitney (2010), Bob Hechkoff (2013), Steve Oldford (2009, 2011, 2012, 2014 & 2015). In 2015 Hannah Miller drove at 21 different racetracks in the United States and Canada and represented the U.S. in an international amateur driving competition in Majorca, Spain. She is a member of multiple amateur driving clubs and dominated in the 2015 C.K.G. Billings Series, finishing as the combined points champion and winning the east region final at Pocono Downs. Her 32 driving victories are the most ever in a single season in recorded amateur racing. In September 2016, Miller will represent the U.S. in the international amateur World Cup in Budapest, Hungary. The Harness Racing Museum will recognize Miller with a perpetual trophy naming her 2016 Museum Amateur Champion and a portrait that will be presented to her at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony July 3, 2016. The Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame is located at 240 Main Street in Goshen, New York and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last tour 4:00 p.m.) Thanks to US Trotting Association support the Museum is currently offering free admission for walk-in visitors and $4.00/person for group docent-guided tours. For information on the Museum, special events, gift shop services and educational programs the Museum offers, please call 845.294.6330 or visit John Manzi  

Amateur harness racing continues to help fill overnight racecards at many tracks; case in point...the two divisions of the CKG Billings Series, the granddaddy of all amateur organizations, raced yesterday(May 7) at Freehold Raceway and the outcome of both events were interesting. In her split, "Hurricane Hannah" Miller, fresh off an international driving competition against the top amateurs in Naples, Italy, returned to the familiar turf of the Freehold winners circle when she guided Jacks To Open to a stunning 18-length triumph in a 1:59.4 clocking. But what may have been more pleasing to those who enjoy wagering on amateur races was the payoff produced by Tony "the Capo" Verruso when he reined Sam's Honeybee to a 2:01.4 victory in the second Billings division which produced an eye-popping $96.40 win mutuel. Now some may say that "Hurricane Hannah's" win may was a Mother's Day gift but that line of reasoning is preposterous The talented miss finished an overall third in the recent Naples, Italy Friendship Challenge and last season earned the National Amateur Driver of the Year Award. And this year, again, she is a stalwart on the amateur circuit. "Jacks To Open was very good today and was well in hand the whole time and I was very happy with him," Miller said of her driving victory at Freehold Raceway via email. But how could she not be happy with her trotters victory? Once the gated sprung Miller sent Jacks To Open to the lead from the three-hole and they were a length and a half in front of the field as they passed the quarter in :29. A three- length lead at the halfway point was opened to eight at the third stanza and Jacks To Open finished 18 -yes 18--lengths ahead of runner-up Trading Places, driven by "Smokin' Joe" Faraldo. Third place went to King's Cavalier with Dave "the Rave" Offenberg at the lines.. Co-owned by his driver and the Nick Surick Stable and trained by Surick, Jacks To Open paid $2.60 for win. The other split turned out to be a horse race with five horses all having a legitimate shot at victory as the field headed for home. But it was 47-1 shot Sam's Honeybee rallying late to score a neck triumph over Nautilus De Vie and driver Dave "Steady As" Yarock. For You Almostfree garnered the show dough for driver "Smokin' Joe" Faraldo. "There were three good horses inside of me and she (Sam's Honeybee) is not the swiftest leaver but we were able to get away from the gate and secure a three- hole trip. I thought about pulling third- over at the half but they picked up the pace at that moment, so I ducked back down to the rail and was lucky to split horses through the lane to get up by a neck,". Billings president Tony Verruso related." Sam's Honeybee's win payoff of $96.40 was among the biggest ever in the 24-year Billings Series. The winner is owned by Verruso and trained by Carl Gillespie. Next up in Billings action will be a nine-horse field in midwest region action at Northfield Park on Wednesday, May 11. John Manzi

NAPLES, Italy - The second day of the competition in the USA vs Italy Friendship Challenge proved nearly fruitless for the visitors but with Hannah Miller's third place finish in the race saved face somewhat for the visitors. With incredibly sunny Italian sky's overhead, the USA-Italy Amateur Friendship Challenge concluded on Sunday (May 1) and though uneventfully on the racetrack, at least for the visitors, every moment was cherished and will forever be remembered by all the participants.. With all the events contested in the four race competition the Italians prevailed with three wins to the American's one, which came from a heads-up drive by Dein Spriggs, USA Team Captain Joe Pennacchio said of the Friendship Competition, "We couldn't be happier with the races and hospitality shown to us and we expressed special thanks to track, (Ippodromo di Agnano) owner Pier Luigi D'Angelo, who went overboard making us welcome." Hannah Miller led the Americans with a third place finish with 31.5 points and received a trophy to mark that occasion. The competition point leader was Italy's Ciro Ciccarelli who finished with 60.5 points. "You really have to drive the horse. They need lots of help at the start and in the turns and if your horse breaks (stride) you are disqualified. So I was careful," Ms. Miller explained. "The Italians drove like a team and did a lot of blocking to clear their better horses," added USA team member Steve Oldford. "Ciro had the best showing by winning two races. "We had a great lunch after the competition with all the drivers and our new friends and enjoyed the 67th edition of the Gran Premio Lotteria Di Agnano which was won by Oasis Bi, who was driven to victory by Johnny Takter, Jimmy's brother." by John Manzi for Team USA Amateur Drivers

If there's one thing that Bob "the Headhunter" Hechkoff learned since he became an amateur harness racing driver is that when you have the best horse in a race go the front, control the race, and make the others try to catch you. And that's precisely what the Executive Recruiter did with The Franchise in the Billings trot today (Sat. Apr. 30) at Freehold Raceway. After they gained control nobody could catch them and they got first-call on every pole to go on and score a 2:00.2 victory in the six-horse race. "We had to work a little to make the front from the five-hole but once we were on top we controlled the race," Hechkoff offered after his victory."And my horse was strong all the way to the wire." Hechkoff and The Franchise had to hustle to get the lead from the five-hole but they cleared the other five horses coming off the first turn and they had command by the first quarter which was trotted in a swift :28.4. Once on the lead they made every pole a winning one en route to a neck triumph over Hit The Hill and driver "Yankee Joe" Lee. Third place went to Sam's Honeybee who was driven by his owner and Billings president, Tony "the Capo" Verruso. It was the second seasonal victory for the Muscles Yankee 6-year-old gelding who is co-owned by his driver and his trainer, Kyle Spagnola. Sent off at odds of 3-10 The Franchise paid $2.60 for win. Coming off his best season as an amateur driver where he won 23 races durin 2015 it was "the Headhunter's" third seasonal triumph and 80th win since he joined the amateur ranks in 2000. A second Billing trot was also on the Saturday card at Freehold Raceway. That contest saw Scott “the driving doctor” Woogen, with Peoplesayimnogood, rally from third at the top of the stretch to collar “Coach Paul” Minore and Wygant Prince at the wire for a  neck triumph in 2:01. Third place went to King’s Cavalier, driven by “King David” Offenberg. It was the first seasonal victory for the 4-year old Lear Jetta  gelding owned by his driver  and trained by Gary Messenger.  Peoplesayimnogood returned a $14.20 win mutuel.  For Doc Woogen, a gastroenterologist, it was his 145th lifetime driving victory  Next up for the Billings amateurs will be a contest(s) on Saaturday May 7 again at Freehold Raceway. By John Manzi for the Billings Series

After getting grounded in Germany because of a strike at the airport Hannah Miller, along with her boyfriend Nick Surick, found another way to get to Naples for the harness racing International Friendship Challenge which began today (Friday) at Agnano race track. With the visiting Americans now at full strength--Hannah missed the opening ceremonies on Thursday due to the airport strike--the 10 drivers were ready to do battle in the first of the Challenge races. Despite being on unfamiliar turf the visiting Americans made a strong showing on the first day of competition in the Friendship Challenge, especially Dein Spriggs, who won the second Challenge trot and Hannah Miller, who had a second place finish in the first Friendship Challenge race. In the second event Pennacchio hustled his charge to the lead while Spriggs settled in fifth position on inside and Hannah got away stuck on the limb. Oldford's trotter made a break early and Mitchell's horse was never got in contention. Spriggs sat chilly with a very live horse while pinned in as Pennacchio cut the mile. When Hannah's trotter tired it allowed Spriggs to see daylight and he angled his horse to the outside and took the lead and then charged home an easy winner. In the earlier race Hannah went to the lead and then let Joe Pernnacchio take command, which he did but then he allowed an Italian to cut the fractions. When the field headed down back side both Pennacchio and Hannah got shuffled farther back as another Italian cleared to the front. When the field rounded the final turn and headed for paydirt , Hannah pushed her way out and began a charge but her trotter fell just a neck short and they finished a very creditable second.. Pennacchio finished fifth, Steve Oldford was sixth and Dein Spriggs and Mike Mitchell's horses both made breaks and they were disqualified. The afternoon action on day- one of the Friendship Competition. was related by both Nick Surick and Steve Oldford and it was a delighted Oldford who spoke for Team USA when he said; "Our Italian friends are treating us to mucho wine and fine food," and then he added ,"Viva Italia!!" Racing continues Saturday with one race slated for the Friendship Challenge. The Gran Premio Lotteria will be raced on Sunday and prior to that event there will be a final race in the USA vs Italy Friendship Challenge. John Manzi

The Italian Amateur Friendship Challenge officially kicked off with a gala dinner hosted by the mayor of Naples Italy, Luigi de Magistris on Thursday. Pier Luigi De Angelo principle owner of Agnano race track in Naples, guided the invited American amateur drivers to this event held at the elegant Belvedere Carafa Museum in downtown Naples, Italy. "The people and the food are over the top and the majesty and history of this area goes back thousands of years," team correspondent Steve Oldford said. Festivities will continue when team America will dine with their Italian counterparts prior to the racing action which begins Friday afternoon and continues through Sunday when track hosts the world class $500,000 trot, the Grand Premio Lotteria. "There's no doubt that amateur racing is moving to a new level and we hope the events here in Naples will continue to promote amateur racing at a world-wide level, " noted team USA team captain Joe Pennacchio. When the races get underway Friday at Agnano, Pennacchio and Oldford will be joined by Mike Mitchell, Dein Spriggs and Hannah Miller. The five outstanding American amateur drivers will compete against the best that the Naples area has to offer. Two events are slated for Friday with a race on Saturday and one on Sunday, the day of the Gran Premio Lotteria where the attending crowds will be in the tens of thousands. by John Manzi and Steve Oldford

Look out Italy, the Americans are coming. A contingent of American amateur drivers, that is. Amateur racing is coming out of the shadows and now is an integral part of the harness racing scene, not only in the United States but in Europe, Australia and New Zealand too. International driving competitions among the sportsmen are growing exponentially. Recently the Florida Amateur Club hosted an international driving competition and as a result of those races earlier this year at Pompano Park an invitation was extended to a group of American amateurs to compete against their Italian counterparts in Naples, Italy on April 29, 30 and May 1. "Pierre Luigi D'Angelo, the owner of Angano, the racetrack in Naples, extended the invitation during the Isle of Capri International (amateur) Championship at Pompano," noted "Joltin' Joe Pennacchio, who has known D'Angelo for many years and has previously driven at Angano. "He (D'Angelo) said we should get a team of five drivers to compete against our (Italian) amateurs in a Friendship Competition on the weekend of April 29, 30 and May 1. D'Angelo told me that those dates hinge around Italy's greatest race, the $600,000 Gran Premio Lotteria, which will be contested on May 1. He promised us (the U. S. amateurs) that we will have one race on the card that day when the attending crowds will be monstrous." In all, the Friendship Competition will include four races with two contests on Friday, April 29 and one on Saturday, April 30. Even with a short advance notice, Pennacchio, a longtime sportsman and avid amateur reinsman, searched for available drivers and has come up with a very respectful team. Joining "Joltin' Joe" will be Steve "You're Never Too" Oldford, Dein "the Dream" Spriggs, Mike "the Mortgage Man" Mitchell and "Hurricane Hannah" Miller; all members of the C.K.G. Billings Series as well as members of other amateur driving clubs. For the record, Oldford (2013), and Ms. Miller (2015), are previous U.S. National Amateur Driver of the Year Award winners while Spriggs is a two-time recipient (2004 & 2005) .The members of the American team will wing their way to Italy early this week and prior to the competition they will be hosted and shown the wonder and the history of Naples and the surrounding area. "We're very excited about the upcoming Friendship Competition and a chance to enjoy greater Naples," said Steve Oldford, who has driven winners in previous European amateur competitions. "And maybe, just maybe, we, our team, will be able to win a race or two." Oldford promises to relay the happenings and the daily race results during the Friendship Competition. by John Manzi for the USA Amateur Drivers

In her first start in this season's CKG Billings Series, last year's Amateur Driver of the Year, "Hurricane Hannah" Miller earned a trip to the winners circle after she guided Shanghai Jack to a come-from behind 1:59.2 trotting victory at Monticello Raceway on Wednesday, April 20. Sent off as second choice in the seven- horse field the talented miss worked out a picture-perfect two- hole journey to defeat the pace-setter, Sing Out and driver Bob "The Headhunter" Hechkoff. When the gate sprung, Hechkoff gunned his trotter to the lead and Miller settled in behind him as Sing Out led the field by the first panel in a swift :28.3 seconds. From there Miller played follow the leader as they passed the half in :59 and the leaders were still one-two as they trotted by the three quarters in 1:29. Miller was content to follow Hechkoff around the final turn but when they straightened for home she eased Shanghai Jack out to challenge and a stretch duel ensued. Under mild urging Shanghai Jack got up in the final strides to collar Sing Out for a neck victory. Third place went to For You Almostfree, driven by "Smokin' Joe" Faraldo. "We recently purchased him (Shanghai Jack) and this was the first time that I have driven him," Hannah said as she handed the lines to the caretaker upon returning to the paddock after her victory. "He stays at his work and he's such a nice horse to drive." A recent purchase by Hannah's dad, Ervin Miller, Shanghai Jack paid $7.40 for win. For Hannah it was her sixth driving victory thus far in 2016. Last year she won 32 races and now has 47 career wins in just 164 lifetime drives. Today's race was the second leg of the Billings Series this year. The first was at Pompano Park on April 16 and both races there were won by Steve "You're Never Too" Oldford. Later this month Hannah will join Oldford and "Joltin Joe" Pennacchio, Dein "the Dream" Spriggs, and "Iron Mike" Mitchell when the five-some travel to Naples, Italy to drive against a contingent of Italian amateurs in a Friendship Competition slated for April 29, 30 and May 1. by John Manzi for the CKG Billings Series

The C.K.G. Billings Harness Driving Series kicks off its 35th season at Pompano Park on Sat., April 17 followed by a contest at Monticello Raceway on Wednesday. April 20. Then, almost weekly, there will be races for amateur drivers at various racetracks in the United States and Canada through late November. Again the Billings will be run under the auspices of the Delvin Miller Harness Drivers Association. The series which began in the early 1980's is considered the Grand Circuit of Amateur Racing. Known for its constant traveling sideshow over the years some of the best amateur drivers in North America compete, or have competed, in it. And because of the success of the Billings Series it has spawned various local amateur driving organizations. "With amateur harness racing at a near frenzy pace, the Granddaddy of them all, the CKG Billings Harness Driving Association Series is getting ready for yet season of racing action," noted Steve Oldford, the vice president of the Billings Series. The Billings starts with the first travel series races at the Isle of Capri at Pompano Park, in sunny Florida on Sunday, April 17 and then moves north to Monticello Raceway on the following Wednesday (April 20) for the first leg in the series eastern region. The mid-west region opener is slated on Sunday, April 24th in Ohio at Miami Valley Raceway." Due mainly to the success of the Billings Series amateur racing has now become integral part of the sport. "This year amateur racing action has been complimented with weekly record braking handles in races at the Meadowlands and at Pompano Park. Wagering was also strong in the recently completed races in the NAADA Trotting Series at Yonkers, Freehold, and Monticello," Oldford added. "Amateur racing has never been more popular than it is now" interjected Tony Verruso, the CKG Billings Series president. "Just look at the handle at the amateur races and you can see we are a good bet. "Various amateur clubs are now organized to help maximize the number of races we can get; add benefits to the tracks that host us; create an incredible comradery among the amateur drivers and benefit all of the charities each club represents. "Tens of thousands of dollars are raised each year through amateur driving for the benefit of each clubs charity. The CKG Billings is proud to contribute its driver's earnings to the Harness Racing Hall of Fame and Museum. "We are again this year going with the five separate series format," Verruso added."We believe it was well received by members new and old last year so we thought it a good idea to give it another whirl". Verruso is referring to having five divisions of short series instead of having a seven-month year-long event. The Eastern Regional and the Midwest Regional will each have two short series and there will also be a Travel Series. And each will have series ending finales. Obviously, the eastern division will encompass racetracks in the east while the western division will feature races at tracks in the Midwest. There will be a travel division with events in both East and Midwest and a few racetracks in Canada will host Billings events thus making the Billings a true international amateur series. "The beauty of this format will allow everyone to race in any division. However, the points earned in each division will be calculated in that division only," Verruso explained. "And the European Point System will again be used to tally each participant's points. "On the whole, participation was definitely up last racing season and we did also get some new quality members. Our goal this year is to continue that trend and we hope the new slot money being infused into Ohio will go a long way to rebuilding that driving base for us in the mid-west region." Again there will be Billings Gold and Silver Cup Finals at the end of the season and they will take place at Harrah's Philadelphia on Sunday, November 20. As usual, only drivers can be nominated to the Billings Series; horses have to meet the certain series criteria. A complete listing of conditions and nominating costs can be had by contacting Verruso at or Billings Series VP, Steve Oldford at One can also get pertinent information on the Delvin Miller Harness Driving Series on the USTA website under amateur racing. But remember, nominations by mail close on April 18. However, late nominations can always be made but at an additional cost. by John Manzi for the Billings Series  

Goshen, NY - Plans are quickly moving forward for another gala affair to be celebrated at Goshen Historic Track on Saturday May 7 around the running of this year's Kentucky Derby. To be used as a fundraiser for the world's oldest harness race track and National Historic Landmark, a Kentucky Derby-style party will be offered from 4:30pm-7:30 on that first Saturday in May "This is a fundraising project of Goshen Historic Track in its continuing efforts to carry on its long legacy and the many contributions to the harness racing industry it has made over the course of the track's inception (back in the late 1830's)," says Historic Track Board president Steve Jones. Plenty of entertainment, good food, music, dancing and even a Ladies Hat Contest will be in the offering, as well as the ability to wager on the Kentucky Derby and other races presented on that number one race card in North America. The entire afternoon promises to be fun for all who attend and of course the afternoon will center around the running of the Kentucky Derby. Waging on the races from Kentucky will be available at Delanceys Restaurant, which is adjacent to Historic Track. Delancy's is also an outlet of the Catskill Regions' Off-track betting network. Party-goers will be able to wager on their choices and view the races live from Louisville, KY that afternoon while they watch the action on two monstrous television screens which will be set-up on the race track for the attending patrons. However, along with the Derby, attendees will also be able to enjoy live music and dance on a floor set-up on the racetrack under the huge tent. There will be door prizes, raffles and great food, which is a specialty of Delancey's. And Mint Julep cocktails, which are synonymous with the running of the Kentucky Derby, will also be available. To be a part of a fun-filled afternoon tickets, at $50 per person are available. To purchase tickets, and for further information, please contact the Historic Track office at 845.294.5333. By John Manzi for Historic Track

YONKERS, NY - Talk about dominating. Not only did Bob Krivelin win five legs of the recently completed NAADA Trotting Series but he also was victorious in the series $15,000 Finale which was presented Thursday evening at Yonkers Raceway. In fact he won that contest by five lengths with his own Permanent Joy in a time of 1:59. "My horse went a big trip," he said. We had the pole (position) and (Dave) Yarock (with Nautilus De Vie) left like gangbusters which was OK with me but when Alan Schwartz slipped in in front of me as we headed to the quarter pole it upset my plans for a two-hole journey. Yarock's trotter led the field by the first quarter in :29 and with horses hung on the limb and moving up it forced Krivelin to come first-up as the field headed to the half-way point.. "I really didn't want to come out so early but with (Bob) Hechkoff and Joe Lee moving up from the rears I really had no choice but to move when I did," Krivelin related. Getting out in front of the outside flow allowed Krivelin clearance and he was able to challenge Yarock's trotter as they headed for the third stanza. However Nautilus De Vie hung tough and Permanent Joy didn't clear until the two trotters passed the three quarters. But once Kriveiln's horse settled down along the pylons only the margin of victory was in doubt. At the wire Permanent Joy was five lengths in front of runner-up Joe Lee's Boysdroolgirlsrule who finished a long neck better than Bob Hechkoff's AJ Destiny. "I'm proud of my driving victory but I'm even prouder of my training," added Krivelin who doubles as Permanent Joy's trainer. "I keep him in his own huge paddock on my farm which is outside (the village of) Goshen (NY) and rarely do we put a harness on him between races. For extra exercise we tow him along on my farms bridle path.from time to time" Krivelin, a food purveyor in New York City, it marked his 190th amateur driving victory and his 107th win as a trainer. by John Manzi, for NAADA

Monticello, NY - For the first time in decades the NAADA winter/spring trotting series finally received enough entrants to present a consolation final when seven drivers who didn't make the top eight in points for eligibility in the series finale, obtained mounts for the $5000 series consolation today (Wed., April 6) at Monticello Raceway. And when the judges hung the official sign Tony Verruso emerged victorious after he guided his own Sam's Honeybee to a 2:02.2 victory. "Initially I wasn't thrilled about not making the Final but as it worked out maybe it was a blessing in disguise," Verruso said in the drivers room after the race. "I raced my mare in all the series legs but we were outclassed and failed to earn enough points for eligibility in that $15,000 Final tomorrow at Yonkers (Raceway), so winning this (consolation) gave us a bigger payday than we probably would have earned in the series finale." But winning todays consolation at Monticello Raceway wasn't an easy task for 19-1 Sam's Honeybee. But a cool heads-up drive by Verruso showed why he's one of the most talented amateur drivers on he circuits today. When the race began the three inside horses went off-stride on the first turn and the field scattered to avoid complications. "I skirted breaking horses by weaving in and out and finally settling in along the pylons in fourth (position) as we headed to the quarter pole," Verruso explained. Monica Banca, with Pixel Queen cleared the confusion on the first turn as did Bob Davis and Swift Blizzard but it was the lady who showed the way. Verruso was the first to move as the field trotted by the half and into the clubhouse turn. Up the backside Sam's Honeybee was gaining on Pixel Queen but Ms Banca and her charge still had command as they rounded the final turn and headed for paydirt. In the lane Sam's Honeybee was the strong horse as she trotted around Pixel Queen and on to a one length victory. Swift Blizzard held off a fast closing Bad I Am (Jim Marshall IV) for the show dough. Sams Honeybee, trained by Carl Gillispie, paid $40.80 for win. For Verruso, who is the president of the CKG Billings Series, it was his 61st driving victory. Thursday night (April 8) the eight drivers with the most points in the NAADA series will be do battle in the $15,000 Final at Yonkers Raceway. "Hurricane Hannah" Miller, last year's Amateur Driver of the Year, will handle the early favorite, Jacks To Open, from post six. by John Manzi, for NAADA

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