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HAMBURG, N.Y. --- It was the perfect recipe for harness racing success on Friday night (April 14) for The Bronx Bumper in Buffalo Raceway's featured $8,200 trot.   Drawing the pylons in a six-horse field and mixing in the services of driver Jim Morrill Jr., The Bronx Bumper ($3.10) made it look easy in posting a 2-1/4 length win over Kahoku in a seasonal-best 1:57.2 on the fast race track.   The Bronx Bumper and Kahoku were fortunate to head to lead early as the remainder of the field was scattered thanks to breaks by City Kid and Lucky Pablo. It became a two-horse breakaway as The Bronx Bumper, using fractions of 28.4, 58.1 and 1:28.0, brought Kahoku along in second.   In the stretch, The Bronx Bumper faced no challengers and was able to trot away from Kahoku (Ron Beback Jr.) and third place finisher Ali De Vie (Ray Fisher Jr.).   Owned by Michael Torcello and trained by Gerry Sarama, it was the sixth victory in 14 starts this season for the 8-year-old gelded The Bronx Bumper (Ken Warkentin-Carolina Hall). The win pushed his 2017 earnings to $30,284 and $183,889 lifetime.   Morrill Jr. and Larry Stalbaum each finished the evening with three victories while Kevin Cummings had a pair. Trainers Kirk Desmond and Sarama each doubled.   Racing will continue on Saturday night at 6 p.m. with a 12-race program scheduled. There is a $488 carryover in the Pick-5 which begins in the second race.   For more information including the latest news, race replays, results and upcoming promotions, go to www.buffaloraceway.com   by Brian J. Mazurek, for Buffalo Raceway

The U.S. Trotting Association, in conjunction with the Meadowlands Racetrack, will conduct a workshop for those interested in learning to call races on Saturday, June 17, at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J. The workshop, open to all ages, will be conducted by Meadowlands and Freehold Raceway announcer Ken Warkentin, who has called more than 200,000 Standardbred and Thoroughbred races, including 17 Hambletonians. Warkentin, who started calling races at age 16, anchors the Meadowlands show on SNY, has also been on racing broadcast teams for CBS, NBC and ESPN. He provides voice overs for a variety of outlets and has a website, www.kenvoice.com. The workshop was last conducted in 2015 with announcer Tom Durkin as the instructor. The day's events will start at 8 a.m. at the track and wrap up with students who wish to do so calling one of the non-betting, non-purse races for 2-year-olds that will start at 10 a.m. If the number of students who want to call a race exceeds the number of races that day, a random draw will be held to match a student with a race. Tuition is $40 for adults and $10 for high school and college students. Tuition will take the form of a tax deductible donation to the Harness Horse Youth Foundation. Class size is limited to 30. As a tribute to Sam McKee, the late Meadowlands announcer who started calling races at age 14, the USTA and the Harness Horse Youth Foundation have teamed up to provide travel grants, if needed, for high school and college students attending the class. For more information or to sign up, contact Ellen Harvey at ellen.harvey@ustrotting.com or call 732-780-3700. Ken Weingartner

East Rutherford, N.J. -- In the words of racecaller Ken Warkentin as City Hall ($5.00) entered the harness racing winner's enclosure on New Year's Eve, "You can't stop him; you can only hope to contain him." Any way you look at it, there was no fighting City Hall in Saturday's (Dec. 31) featured $35,000 Auld Lang Syne Invitational at The Meadowlands, as he stalked a hot pace from second-over before vaulting clear to a 2-1/4 length victory in 1:49.3. Brett Miller floated the 6-year-old Metropolitan gelding into mid-division in the initial stages as Doctor Butch (Jim Marohn, Jr.) sprinted clear to control early splits of :26 and :54.3 over fast going. Approaching race's midpoint, City Hall angled second-over behind the live cover of 33-time winner Clear Vision (Joe Bongiorno) and worked closer through the far turn before pointing three-wide off the far turn. City Hall vaulted to the fore at the eighth pole and drew off smartly as Doctor Butch and Clear Vision dueled into defeat. Lucan Hanover (Vinny Ginsburg) rallied into second at 20-1 from third-over spotting, while 2014 Little Brown Jug winner Limelight Beach (Drew Monti) sustained a strong stand-side rally to narrowly claim third over his stablemate. The win was City Hall's fifth in a row after he used a :26 last quarter to evade top-level conditioned pacers in his last appearance on December 16. Amber Buter trains the now 33-time winner for Gene Oldford Farms and Tyler Buter. New Year's Eve Pick 5 pays $41k Despite a 17-1 shot in So Take That being the longest-price winner in the sequence and a pair of favorites living up to their billing, the evening's 50¢ Pick 5 returned $41,671.75 on the 3-6-10-8-4 combination, over 53 times the corresponding win parlay. Thisguysarockstar (5-1, Greg Merton), So Take That (17-1, Corey Callahan), Pickwick (4-5, Brett Miller), Dash of Danger (2-1, Merton), and Alberto Contador N (6-5, Marohn) proved victorious in the sequence. Players combined to wager $2,473,933 on the 13-race card. The 2017 season at the Big M kicks off Friday, January 6; post time is 7:15 p.m. Eastern. by James Witherite, Meadowlands

6/1 odds Poet Broline (4m Quite Easy-Candella-Armbro Goal) won today’s Konung Gustaf W:s Pokal (928,830SEK to the winner, 2140 meters autostart, Gr. I International) clocked in 1.12.7kr and driven by Peter Untersteiner, also the trainer. Italy’s 34/1 Telecomando OK (4m Love You-Flavia Kronos-SJ’s Photo) landed second for Enrico Bellei with third to 35/1 Payas Face (4m Gift Kronos-Star Chip-Pine Chip) with Johnny Taker driving. US import Uncle Lasse was unplaced. The fillies battled in the Gr. I International Drottning Silvia’s Pokal also for a winner’s prize of 928,830SEK. 2.3/1 second wagering choice Princess Face (4f Ken Warkentin-Mansia LB-Windsong’s Legacy) scored the victory timed in 1.13.1kr for Bjorn Goop and trainer Daniel Reden. 44/1 Otrobanda (4f Celebrity Secret-Greenhill’s Beauty-Comets Tail) took second for trainer/driver Peter Untersteiner with third to 2.1/1 favorite Treasure Kronos (4f Raja Mirchi-Glide About-Yankee Glide) driven by Christoffer Eriksson for trainer Jerry Riordan. This one is USA/Canada owned by Jeffrey Snyder and David Goodrow. Thomas H. Hicks

CNN Correspondent Richard Roth is a foreign affairs journalist by day, reporting from far flung war zones and the United Nations, but he’s always wanted to call a horse race.  He’s a former Standardbred owner and a long-time fan. On March 31, Roth did just that, calling a race at Freehold Raceway with the assistance of regular announcer Ken Warkentin.  The story of Roth’s day at the races can be seen on cnn.com.  The story has already run  multiple times on the CNN international feed.  The story was placed by the USTA’s Harness Racing Communications division.   

Trainer Tyler George, who has had a fantastic 2016 harness racing meet at Miami Valley Raceway (winning at a 30% clip), swept both the Open I and Open II trotting features on the Sunday (May 1) afternoon matinee. Il Mago (Josh Sutton) needed the help of Southwind Pepino (Hugh Beatty Jr.), who actually finished a neck ahead in the $20,000 Open I but who made an unfortunate break just a step from the line, necessitating a judge's official placement to second. Cimeronken (Kyle Ater) was just a length and a half behind in third. Despite being assigned the outermost post position in the $15,000 Open II, Flight Of The Kiwi was able to wear down his competition to score a 1:55.2 triumph. The altered son of Ken Warkentin never saw the pylons, yet driver Josh Sutton swung the winner three-wide around the final turn and beat Third Pat (Ed Greeno Jr.) and Boytown (Peter Wrenn) to the wire. It was the first win of the season for Flight Of The Kiwi in his fourth start. CC Racing LLC of Illinois owns both Il Mago and Flight Of The Kiwi, who are both 7-year-olds. Miami Valley enters its final week of racing for the year with matinees on Monday and Tuesday, followed by stakes-laden programs on Friday and Saturday night plus Sunday afternoon. The Friday and Saturday evening cards will feature multiple $40,000 divisions of opening leg Ohio Sires Stakes action for sophomore pacers and trotters; while the Closing Day Sunday matinee will feature a pair of $100,000 Grand Circuit stakes for the best older pacing and trotting mares in North America. Gregg Keidel

Vernon, N.Y. -- Charlene Long's Oh No Three O ($6.70) assumed command early in Friday (November 6) evening's $7000 featured trot at Vernon Downs, never looking back en route to a 5-1/4 length harness racing victory.   The 8-year-old Ken Warkentin gelding worked to clear Twice Too Nice (John MacDonald) through a :28.2 initial quarter mile, subsequently working clear and forcing his six rivals to chase him through intermediate splits of :57.1 and 1:25.2. Nearly three lengths clear on approach to the top of the stretch, Oh No Three O drew clearer yet as Wings of Royalty (Chris Lems) pursued more intently, ultimately prevailing in 1:56 for his 25th career victory and second consecutive triumph. Wings of Royalty was a clear second, while Fox Valley Steffen (John Kokinos) rallied mildly to save third. Twice Too Nice broke stride upon cornering for home, checking in last of the septet after her early involvement.   Jeffrey Long drove Oh No Three O for trainer Paul Long.   Chris Lems led all drivers with three wins on the 11-race card, teaming up with Sweet Bettor ($10.20, 1:54.2), Pounce K ($5.00, 1:56.1), and Transit Hanover ($2.10, 1:57.1). Current leading driver John MacDonald's lone tally with Socks and Shuzy ($3.80, 1:57) however kept him six wins clear of Lems with five programs remaining in the 2015 season.   Live racing continues at Vernon Downs with an 11-race program on Saturday (November 7) evening. The first race is due off at 6:45 Eastern Standard Time.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

Pompano Beach, FL…Nov 1, 2015…Oho Diamond, the four year-old trotting mare that broke Peace Corps 25 year-old track record on opening night, overcame her outside post and seven harness racing rivals to score a handy decision in 1:54.2 for Dan Clements in Pompano Park’s Open Trot on Sunday night. The daughter of Ken Warkentin, trained by Renaldo Morales III for owner-driver Clements, scored her 12th win of the season, pushing her seasonal total to $94,718, by far her best campaign ever. Her winning margin over Elin (Andy Santeramo) was one length with Escuela (Ed Hensley) a fast closing third. Pounce Hanover, in the garden spot most of the way, finished fourth with Verdi, last through the final turn, rallying to pick up the nickel in the million dollar octet. A few strides before the start, it looked Oho Diamond was going to try and sprint out with the gate but it appeared she may have bumped into it a bit so Clements had to ease her out of there gently before putting her in high gear around the opening turn to assume command and proceed to post panels of :27.3, :56.4 and 1:25.1 before sprinting home unscathed in :29.1. After the event, Clements said, “She was ready to push the wings of the gate herself so I had to be a bit careful with her so she wouldn’t have any problems. “She was really good tonight. I have had her since April and she has won 10 times for me…nine of them on the engine. The only time she didn’t go wire-to-wire—or close to it—was when we had a second tier post in a long race at Yonkers. “She’s an enthusiastic mare that loves her work.” As second choice in the betting at 8 to 5, Oho Diamond paid $5.40 to win. Other highlights on the Sunday night program included a win by Tymal Recap in the Florida Amateur Driving Club Trot and a carryover in the Pentafecta, necessitated when no bettor correctly selected the first five finishers in that same event. Tymal Recap, a recent purchase by trainer and amateur driver Billy Muggleston, won for the first time in 41 starts stretching back to a Scioto Downs win on August 5, 2014. Also by Ken Warkentin, this seven year-old scored in 1:59.1, pushing his lifetime bounty close to $180,000. P L Humanity (Dennis Whittemore) finished second while What About Brian (Laurie Poulin) annexed show honors. Off as the 6 to 1 fifth choice, Tymal Recap paid $14.60 to his faithful followers and keyed a 5-7-10 trifecta payoff of $2,479.40. The 20 cent Superfecta of 5-7-10-3 returned $1,644.08 and, with no tickets having the 5-7-10-3-2 combo in the Pentafecta, the carryover into Tuesday night’s card is $2,192. In other action, Dorothy Zarza’s Northern Companion, handled by Corey Braden for trainer Howard Klohr, cherished a slight dip in class to garner his 36th victory at Pompano Park, scoring a three length win in 1:51.4. The seven year-old son of Cambest, roared home from five lengths off the pace mid-way through the mile with a :54.4 final half to send his lifetime bounty over the $280,000 mark--$282,342 to be exact. Blueridge Dancer (Matt Romano) finished second while Freeneasy Hanover (Ed Hensley) picked up show honors over Lifeimitatesart and the pacesetting P L Hellcat. Favored at 3 to 5, Northern Companion paid $3.40 to win. Pompano's Open 2 Trot went to Count Speed, driven by Wally Hennessey--in a romp. The pride of owners Paul and Patricia O'Neil, Count Speed, a six year-old son of Majestic Son trained by Dan Hennessey, took command shortly after a hot opening quarter of :26.4 and went on to card panels of :55.2 and 1:24.2 before coasting home to hit the wire in 1:54.3. Gold Savage (Mickey Mc Nichol) was second, six lengths away, while Big Valley Speed (Aaron Byron) finished third. Lugar and Shawnee Magic picked up the final two awards in the field of nine. Count Speed now owns a 23-9-5-2 scorecard this semester, good for $45,055. His lifetime bounty is $243,455. As the 3 to 5 favorite, Count Speed paid $3.20 to win. Finally, Manhatten Benny ($4.20), coming into the action with a mark of 1:54.2 over the Monticello half miler, found the larger Pompano oval to his liking by making a sharp quarter move to the top for Ed Hensley and then going on to score in a lifetime best 1:51.2. Owned by Benny Eggers, Manhatten Benny is a five year-old son of Riverboat King trained by Dale Gilmour by John Berry for Pompano Park

Pompano Beach, FL…October 17, 2015…Oho Diamond, the new owner of the track record for harness racing four year-old trotting mares, and Cashahallic, the victor in last week’s Open trot, are set to lock horns on Sunday night at Pompano Park in this week’s edition of the Open Handicap Trot. Oho Diamond, the excellent four year-old daughter of Ken Warkentin, stopped the timer in 1:53.3 on opening night, eclipsing Peace Corp’s 1:54.2 standard set in 1990. Trained by Renaldo Morales III for owner Dan Clements, Oho Diamond is seeking her 12th win of the year and looks to add to her season bounty of $88,333, by far the best of her career. She will start from post nine in her field with Mike Micallef expected to be in the bike. Cashahallic, the property of trainer Richard Silverman, looked very sharp in winning last week’s open, making a quarter move to the top and securing the win in 1:55.3. Aaron Byron is scheduled to drive this seven year-old altered son of Cash Hall again on Sunday night and will be leaving from post position eight. Elin, Back To Space, Verdi, My Revenuer, Escuela, Tug River Dylan and Dominum Deo complete the “million dollar winning” field. The companion Open pace features Lyons Johnny, Audrey’s Dream and Northern Companion—1-2-3 in last week’s event—along with Whogoesfirst, Raji’s Blue Line, Sir Jake’s Z Tam, King Royalty and Thebestofjoel. Lyons Johnny went a huge first over journey in his last start to eke by Audrey’s Dream in the very last stride in 1:51. Owned by the Baron Racing Stable, Lyons Johnny will have the driving services of trainer Mike Micallef. Audrey’s Dream, meanwhile, will be driven by Ed Hensley, part of the Hensley racing team with Ashleigh as the trainer. Dorothy Zarza’s Northern Companion, trained by Howard Klohr, has been showing his usual stout lake kick in recent events and looms as the danger off of an expected lively pace. Corey Braden will be back in the sulky again. Sunday’s card also features a $7,500 Guaranteed Pick-4, covering races six through nine. Also of note, the Florida Amateur Driving Club will be making a presentation to the Go For The Greens Foundation, an organization which takes an active role in the fight against breast cancer. F.A.D.C. President Dein Spriggs said, “You know, many of us are so immersed in our own little world and then, in an instant, that world is turned upside down when the doctor confronts you with the word ‘cancer.’ “This is our Club’s way of saying, ‘We haven’t forgotten those who are fighting the fight and we’ll continue to do all we can to support the ‘race for a cure.’” The Florida Amateur Driving Club has donated close to $140,000 to worthy charitable causes since its inception. Post time is 7:30 with the F.A.D.C. special presentation taking place after the first race. by John Berry for Pompano Park 

August 22, 2015 - Today’s top harness racing events in Sweden were at Gavle, the E3 Finals for three year-old fillies and colts, each with 900,000SEK to the winners, raced over 1640 meters autostart, and both were Gr. I International contests. The ES Final for fillies went to Princess Face (3f Muscle Hill-Hepburn Broline-Pine Chip) with Adrian Kolgjini up for owner/trainer Lutfi Kolgjini timed in 1.11.1kr for this length victory. This one now shows a slate of 3-3-0 in seven outings for 1,088,500SEK earned. Toohotforyou (3f Scarlet Knight-VasterboFromHeaven-Red Xing) and teamster Ulf Ohlsson and Ninepoints Gaagaa (3f Steinlager-Ninepoints Kelly-Scarlet Knight) with trainer Jorgen Westholm aboard were second and third in a close finish, both clocked in 1.11.2kr. The E3 for colts and geldings went to Heavy Sound (3g Ken Warkentin-Illustre November-Viking Kronos) with Kenneth Haugstad up for trainer Roger Walmann clocked in 1.10.9kr for a three length victory. The winner is owned by AB Svensk Reklamfinans and now has a 6-2-2- slate in 10 starts for 1,681,000 earned.  Camelot Sisu (3m Even Better Odds-Warrawee Karri-Dream Of Glory) handled by Ulf Ohlsson and Farzad Boko (3g Zola Boko-Kathy Silvio-Spotlite Lobell) with Johnny Takter teaming were second and third in another close finish. Also on the card was the Lars Axerlssons Gold Division worth 150,000SEK to the winner and contested over 2140 meters autostart. Italy’s Royal Blessed (5m Varenne-Ivory Kronos-Viking Kronos) took this one in 1.11.4kr for trainer/driver Wim Paal, his first 2015 win and ninth lifetime in 53 starts for 2,419,480SEK earned.  Arazi Boko (8g Varenne-Laura Kemp-Express Ride) was second for Christoffer Eriksson with third to veteran Lord Capar (10m Varenne-Foxy’n Rowdy-Rowdy Yankee) and teamster Thomas Dalborg. Kash’s Cantab, Nothing But Class and Hard Livin were in the beaten field. Thomas H. Hicks  

Vernon, N.Y. -- After making an authoritative brush to the lead at race's midpoint, Howard Gill's War Hero ($5.60) edged clear of his four harness racing rivals, posting a 1:53 victory in Saturday (July 18) evening's $10,000 Open Trot at Vernon Downs.   A Penny Earned (Chris Lems), Mc Tiny's Hope (Ben McNeil), and Winding Hill (Truman Gale) all left more forcefully than the 7-year-old Ken Warkentin gelding, who tracked from fourth through a :27 first quarter before his aggressive push clear midway on the backstretch. Just as A Penny Earned pulled the half back to :56.1, Jimmy Whittemore worked clear with War Hero and gradually opened on his foes. After posting a :27.3 third quarter, the Jessica Okusko trainee would ultimately amass a 2-1/2 length lead over A Penny Earned, scoring in 1:53. Distaffer Mc Tiny's Hope, while detached from the top pair off the far turn, finished an isolated third.   Whittemore earned a driving double on the 11-race card, as did John MacDonald.   Live racing returns to Vernon Downs on Sunday (July 19) afternoon, with first post at 1:15 p.m. Eastern time.   by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

June 11, 2015 - Italy’s June 5th leg of the three-year old Breeders Course series (€22,000 purse, 1650 meters autostart, seven starters) went to Tornado Spritz (3m Ken Warkentin-Gold Nord Fro-Extreme Dream) clocked in 1.13.3kr for an easy harness racing victory over Taylor Roc (3m Nad Al Sheba-Ginny Roc-Lemon Dra) and Telecomando OK (3m Love You-Flavia Kronos-SJ’s Photo). Chart follows for the event at Milan San Siro: 6 18.30 - PR. BREEDERS COURSE - condizionata E 22.000 - (bello - buono)   propr. allev.   1° 6 TORNADO SPRITZ 1650 A.Farolfi 13.3   7.820,00 2.200,00 2° 2 TAYLOR ROC 1650 A.Di Nardo 13.8   3.740,00 920,00 3° 1 TELECOMANDO OK 1650 E.Bellei 14.0   2.040,00 480,00 4° 8 TROJA D'ASOLO 1650 Rene' Legati 14.2   1.020,00 240,00   3 TIMOZ 1650 P.Gubellini R.P.       5 TOLL FREE BI 1650 M.Biasuzzi R.P.       4 TEMON YOUR SM 1650 G.P.Maisto R.P         Saturday June 13 showcases top flight trotting action that complements the Oslo Grand Prix the next day and illustrates the depth of high level performers throughout Europe. The Prix de New York headlines the Enghien FR card as shown below: Saturday June 13 at Enghien Prix de New York – €115.000 – Gr. III, 2150 meters autostart Sometine (C. Martens) Uprince (F. Nivard) Princess Grif (R. Andreghetti) Tornado Bello (T. Levesque) Beckman (E. Raffin) Amour d’Occagnes (x) Solea Rivellière (S. Olivier) Un Fille d’Amour (D.Thomain) Rapide du Digeon (x) Uppercut de Manche (D. Bonne) Roxana de Barbray (G. Gelormini) Boden SWE, the same day, showcases the Gr. I Norrbottens Stora Pris (UET Masters Series, 2140 meters autostart, first money 1,000,000SEK. The field is a good one led by Nahar, Chelsea Boko and Panne de Moteur. Two US registered performers, Creatine and Knows Nothing, are in the field. David Sisu (Kenneth Haugstad) Chelsea Boko (Jorma Kontio) Knows Nothing (Ulf Ohlsson) Nahar (Jan Norberg) Panne de Moteur (Orjan Kihlstrom) Indigious (Erik Adielsson) Backfire (Torbjorn Jansson) Creatine (Robert Bergh) El Mago Pellini (Adrian Kolgjini) On Track Piraten (Johnny Takter) Be there, on-track or online, for this top level action. Thomas H. Hicks

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, April 25, 2015 - March Awareness (George Brennan, $5.40, part of favored entry) tagged A Cool Million (Jordan Stratton) on the money Tuesday afternoon, winning Yonkers Raceway's $66,500 harness racing final of the aptly-named YR/SOA of New York Bonus Trotting Series. Working out a second-over trip from post position No. 5, March Awareness chased A Cool Million as that one threw down intervals of :28, :57.3 and 1:25.4. Bentley Karan (Jason Bartlett) was sequestered second. The leader's stablemate/entrymate, Lucky Colby (Eric Carlson), was first-up, towing March Awareness in behind. A Cool Million owned a length-and-a-half lead into the lane, but March Awareness was getting to him. The latter stuck his tongue out late, winning by a short schnozz in a season's-best 1:55.4. Third went to Bentley Karan, with Lucky Colby and Massive Talent (Andy Miller) rounding out the payees. Detroit Rapper (Jim Marohn Jr.), Dot Dot Dot Dash (Dan Dube) and ABC Crown Me Queen (Brian Sears) completed the order. For March Awareness, a 5-year-old Ken Warkentin gelding co-owned (as Burke Racing) by (trainer) Ron Burke and Weaver Bruscemi, it was his fourth win in 10 seasonal starts. The exacta paid exacta paid $14, with the triple returning $33.60. "He had a good trip, a good mile, even though I moved him earlier in the turn," Brennan said. "They added an inside head pole, and that definitely helped. It worked out very well." A $30,000 series consolation was won by Striker Ace (Tyler Buter, $48.60) in 1:57.4. Frank Drucker

YONKERS, NY, Tuesday, April 21, 2015--She was a late replacement, but harness racing driver  Monica Banca was more than on time when it counted. Filling in for originally-scheduled participant Robert Krivelin, Ms. Banca handily defended the honor of both country and gender, guiding Meadowview Arny ($7.40) to a decisive Tuesday afternoon win in Yonkers Raceway's French-American Friendship Competition. Leading at every pylon in the mile-and-one-quarter, $15,200 event, pole-sitting "Arny" threw down intervals of :31.2, 1:02.1, 1:33.1 and 2:03, before finishing his work day 3¼ lengths in front of 9-10 favorite Amalfi Coast (Peter Kleinhans), who closed from ninth in the 10-horse field. The mile-and-quarter went in 2:32.2. French drivers Romain Poree (Sun of a Victory), Christophe Roszak (Prince Lauxmont) and Michel Poirier (He'sgotlegs) finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively. France's Sophie Blanchetiere, the other woman in this competition, finished seventh with 87-1 outsider Mr. Invincible. For second choice Meadowview Arny, a 7-year-old Ken Warkentin gelding trained by Ms. Banca's partner, Rick Dane Jr., for owner Stephanie Mitchell, it was his fourth win in 11 seasonal starts. The exacta paid $15.80, with the triple returning $66. The competition was the last of five races during the French-centric matinee program, which again featured overflow trotting fields at the added, 1¼-mile distance. "It was my plan to try and be in front," Banca said. "He's such a big, strong horse and doesn't mind the distance races. I'm just so excited." Ms. Banca, a native of Norway, won her 10th career race as a driver. Ms. Banca, it should be noted, is one of the mover and shakers for the Raceway's initiatives in the fight again breast cancer. Last fall, she organized pink blanket sponsorships for winning horses, along with pink whips carried by drivers. Frank Drucker

Howard Gill's homebred War Hero($11.40) took advantage of a pocket trip, pouncing late and drawing clear to a 1:55.2 victory in the featured $10,000 Open Trot on Friday (April 17) evening's Vernon Downs program. The seven-year-old Ken Warkentin gelding secured the pocket behind pacesetter Grey Ice (Jimmy Whittemore) through a :28.2 opening quarter, drafting patiently through the race's intermediate stages. As Grey Ice accelerated on the far turn, War Hero stayed right with him from the pocket, angling off the pegs when first-over challenger Jaipur (Fern Paquet, Jr.) flattened at the apex of the turn. The two pacesetters were on level terms past three-quarters in 1:26.4, but War Hero kicked clear in the final eighth of a mile, kept to task through a 4-1/2 length triumph. Grey Ice was all-out to narrowly hold second, while Ozymandias (Roman Lopez) rallied from the back of the pack to take third. The favored A Penny Earned (Chris Lems) flattened amid his late rally, only mustering fourth honors. Howard Okusko, Jr. handled the driving duties for trainer Jessica Okusko. While Okusko and defending Vernon Downs driving champion Chris Lems each recorded two wins on the night, Jimmy Whittemore led all drivers with an opening-night hat trick. Live racing resumes on Saturday (April 18), with the first of 12 races slated for a 6:45 p.m. EDT post time. by James Witherite, Vernon Downs

"Cruze is the King." That was the call from announcer Ken Warkentin that echoed through The Meadowlands as JL Cruze powered to another compelling harness racing victory. Tonight's victory in the $59,800 Shiaway St. Pat Final complete a winter trotting series sweep at The Meadowlands for the four year old son of Crazed. The victory was the eighth of the season for JL Cruze, bringing his 2015 earnings to $126,410. Partnered with his stablemate Razor Ramone, JL Cruze was the 1/9 prohibitive favorite in the Shiaway St. Pat Final. Taken off the gate just a bit by John Campbell, JL Cruze settled mid-pack early in the mile, while Opulent Yankee went to the lead and reached the first quarter in 28.2. The instant the trotters straighted up with the strong wins at their backs on the backstretch, JL Cruze launched his bid for the lead and quickly cleared the front before the half-mile of 56.3. From there, the race was over as JL Cruze sailed through three-quarters in 1:24.1 under no pressure and he was never asked in the stretch to score an authoritative win in 1:52.3. According to trainer Eric Ell, JL Cruze will contest the final two legs of the Bobby Weiss trotting series at Pocono Downs before setting his sights on The Graduate series for four year old open trotters. JL Cruze is owned by W Kenneth Wood, W J Dittmar Jr and S J Iaquinta. In the $59,000 Clyde Hirt Final, Rockeyed Optimist was as advertised, winning decisively in 1:50. Driven to victory by Tim Tetrick, Rockeyed Optimist sat third through the first quarter which was reached in 27-seconds by his stable mate, Rock Out. As the field straightened away down the backstretch, Rockeyed Optimist made his move for the lead and cleared before the half-mile in 54.1. Around the far turn he received a challenge from Caviart Luca, who reached the leader's wheel through three-quarters of 1:22.2, but Rockeyed Optimist promptly dismissed that challenge and leveled off to win impressively again. Rockeyed Optimist is eligible to The Graduate series for trainer Steve Elliot and owners Perretti, Berkner, Battaglia and A&B Stable. The driving star of the night was Scott Zeron, who won five races, including the $25,000 Dash For The "G" Notes Final with Grab Your Keys. The Jackpot Super Hi-5 Carryover in the fifth race grew to $64,065 as multiple winning tickets connected on that wager this evening. The carryover in the last race Jackpot Super Hi-5 is now $29,735 with no winning tickets selecting the correct order of finish. Racing resumes on Friday, April 4th, with first post time at 7:15 P.M. Darin Zoccali

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