Day At The Track
Search Results
17 to 32 of 2156

Under most circumstances, trainer Nancy Takter would have watched the stretch drive of this past Saturday's Meadowlands Pace and been overcome with a sinking feeling. In those instances, though, she would not have been watching Tall Dark Stranger. Tall Dark Stranger and driver Yannick Gingras captured Saturday's $636,650 Meadowlands Pace in dramatic fashion, giving up the lead to rival Papi Rob Hanover in the stretch before fighting back to win by a neck in 1:47.2. Few people - including Gingras, co-owner Buck Chaffee, and Takter's father Jimmy - thought Tall Dark Stranger would be the winner as the horses began their battle on the final turn. Takter, however, was undaunted as the scene unfolded. "Usually when a horse kind of halfway clears, your heart sinks," Takter said. "I never got that feeling. I never had the feel that I was the loser. It was the weirdest thing ever. I watched the stretch and I had so much confidence in Tall Dark Stranger and knew he would come back. "What a champion he is. He just doesn't want to lose. He's just a great horse." Takter won her first Meadowlands Pace in her second try. In 2019, she finished fourth with favorite Captain Crunch. She also gave the Takter family its first Pace trophy; Jimmy sent out 10 horses in the event for 3-year-old pacers with a best finish of second with Vintage Master in 2009. As is a Takter tradition, the winner's blanket was placed on a bronze horse statue near the entrance of the family's central New Jersey farm. "There have been a lot of great blankets out there, so it was about time that one got on," the 39-year-old Takter said. "When I was growing up, a little kid, Meadowlands Pace night was always a big event. My dad didn't have a lot of pacers at that time, but I remember all these great horses and we would talk about them. I knew it was special to win the Meadowlands Pace." Tall Dark Stranger was the 2019 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male pacer. For his career, he has won 11 of 12 races and earned $1.05 million for owners Crawford Farms Racing, Marvin Katz, Caviart Farms, and Howard Taylor. The colt, a son of Bettor's Delight out of Precocious Beauty, is Gingras' second Meadowlands Pace winner. Gingras got his first Pace victory with A Rocknroll Dance in 2012. "I have a connection with Tall Dark Stranger that makes it a little different than with A Rocknroll Dance," said Gingras, who has driven Tall Dark Stranger in all his qualifiers and races as well as spent time with the horse at Takter's stable. "Then, you have the expectations. A Rocknroll Dance was 9-2 and things worked out on that day, but you don't have the pressure. "Tall Dark Stranger, he's the champ, he's the one that has to be dethroned. He was 1-2 (odds), it was a lot of pressure. And I know Papi Rob Hanover is a great horse. I knew he would show up. Everyone saw Allywag Hanover, he's super fast too. You put all that together, to be able to get the job done, in that fashion too, is a great, great feeling." Papi Rob Hanover and Allywag Hanover both looked poised to defeat Tall Dark Stranger after the latter went for the lead in a :25.4 opening quarter-mile, then reached the half in :53.2 and three-quarters in 1:20.4. Around the last turn, Papi Rob Hanover pulled even with Tall Dark Stranger, with Allywag Hanover following Papi Rob Hanover's cover. "When Papi Rob came, I really didn't feel like I was a winner there," Gingras said. "I thought I was beat. I knew (Allywag Hanover) was in a perfect spot; I thought I was in trouble with both of them. I thought I would be second or third at that point. I just kept trying to keep my horse alive and he just fought. "Halfway down the stretch, I thought I had a chance. Maybe like a hundred feet before the wire, I knew I had (Papi Rob Hanover) even though I wasn't back in front of him yet. I knew I was getting to him and I had time to get him too. It felt pretty good then. "Tall Dark Stranger is a winner and he knows what he has to do to get the job done. He has the desire to dig down deep and give you that little more that's needed." After winning eight of nine races last season, Tall Dark Stranger is 3-for-3 in 2020 and has two sub-1:48 miles already this year. His 1:47.2 clocking in the Meadowlands Pace ranks tied for eighth best by a 3-year-old pacer in history. Gingras believes the horse's strong start this year is in part due to the way he finished last season. Tall Dark Stranger's connections decided to quit with the colt following his win in the Breeders Crown rather than pursue nearly $600,000 in purses in the Matron Stakes and Governor's Cup. "They could have kept on going last year, but they quit with him after having a great year with him," Gingras said. "They decided they were going to focus on trying to put all the chances on our side for his 3-year-old season, and it paid off. They got rewarded for their patience. I think the credit goes to them and Nancy for doing a good job bringing him back." Tall Dark Stranger's next start is expected to be in the Tompkins-Geers Stakes on Aug. 1 at The Meadowlands. Then comes the Cane Pace the following Saturday at The Big M. In the meantime, Takter will savor the Pace triumph. "I was a little disappointed about last year, so it was nice to come back and get it done this year," she said. "It's a very special accomplishment." by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

Hightstown, NJ — Hambletonian Maturity winner Gimpanzee remained No. 1 in the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll, but Meadowlands Pace champion Tall Dark Stranger moved within single digits of the harness racing season’s early leader. Gimpanzee, an undefeated 4-year-old trotting stallion, picked up six first-place votes compared to last week, giving him 24, and increased his points by 17 to 327. Tall Dark Stranger got 10 first-place votes this week and added 80 points to his total from Week 1, taking over the No. 2 position in the rankings. He was followed by Miss Versatility Series third-round winner Manchego, idle Atlanta, and W.R. Haughton Memorial winner Dancin Lou, who was unranked last week. Other newcomers in the top 10 were Del Miller Memorial winner Ramona Hill at No. 7, Stanley Dancer Memorial division winner Back Of The Neck at No. 9, and Meadowlands Pace runner-up Papi Rob Hanover at No. 10. The Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll does not determine Horse of the Year. The members of the U.S. Harness Writers Association vote on all Dan Patch Award division winners plus Trotter of the Year, Pacer of the Year and Horse of the Year. Rankings based on the votes of harness racing media representatives on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown Standardbred Poll: Week 2 – 7/21/2020 Rank Name (First Votes) A/G/S Record Earnings Points Pvs 1 Gimpanzee (24) 4th 4-4-0-0 $401,200 327 1 2 Tall Dark Stranger (10) 3pc 3-3-0-0 $336,785 318 3 3 Manchego 5tm 4-3-1-0 $93,975 245 4 4 Atlanta (1) 5tm 3-2-1-0 $115,450 241 2 5 Dancin Lou 4ph 5-3-0-2 $254,661 128 — 6 Hurrikane Emperor 4ph 4-3-0-1 $158,750 121 5 7 Ramona Hill 3tf 2-1-0-1 $126,465 111 — 8 Shartin N 7pm 3-2-1-0 $83,416 88 7 9 Back Of The Neck 3tc 3-2-1-0 $96,145 75 — 10 Papi Rob Hanover 3pc 3-0-2-1 $160,705 67 — ALSO: Ready For Moni 26; Reflect With Me 22; Hypnotic AM 21; Bet On Becky 19; Backstreet Shadow, Captain Corey 13; Tattoo Artist 12; Kissin In The Sand 11; Allywag Hanover 9; Action Uncle, Yanks Dugout 6; American Courage, Charlie May, Elver Hanover 5; Party Girl Hill, Splash Brother, Workin Ona Mystery 4; Bllack Hole, Our Majordan A, Sorella, Winella Hanover 3; Indictable Hanover, Southwind Amazon 2; Major Occasion A, Odds On Sarasota, Plunge Blue Chip 1. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Major Occasion A and driver Dexter Dunn got an inside trip the entire mile to spring a 50-1 upset over Shartin N in Saturday's (July 18) $172,850 Dorothy Haughton Memorial for older female harness racing pacers at The Meadowlands in a stakes record 1:48.1.   Shartin N, the sport's defending Horse of the Year and 3-5 favorite, was second, and Soho Burning Love A was third in the event formerly known as the Golden Girls.   Starting from post one, Dunn sat second with Major Occasion A as Kissin In The Sand led the field to an opening quarter of :26.1 and half of :54.2 before getting pressure from Shartin N, who was fourth throughout the first half of the race. Kissin In The Sand and Shartin N matched strides at three-quarters in 1:21.1 and battled into the stretch, where Major Occasion A found room along the pylons to scoot to a neck victory.       "It's a surprise, but she's actually been racing really, really good," Dunn said. "Her last quarters have been 25 (seconds); she just hasn't been handling the last turn. They changed her hobbles and she paced a lot better. We got a good trip, obviously, but she has been racing really good. It was a lucky trip, but she's a nice mare."   Major Occasion A is trained by Richard "Nifty" Norman and owned by Enzed Racing Stable. The 6-year-old daughter of Art Major and Fake Occasion has won four of 11 races this season and $158,110. She has won 19 races lifetime and $331,490.   by Ken Weingartner, for The Meadowlands Derick Giwner contributed to this report.  

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Judy Taylor has sometimes given her son, Howard, a tough time about the harness racing horses they have owned together. That appears to be about to change.   The Taylors and breeder Stefan Balazsi's Order By Stable own Hambletonian hopeful Back Of The Neck, who won Saturday's (July 18) $142,250 first division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial for 3-year-old male trotters in 1:52 at The Meadowlands.   Howard Taylor, a Philadelphia attorney, is among the owners of 2018 Hambletonian winner Atlanta, as well as a number of other prominent horses.   "(My mom says,) 'You have all these good horses. I've never had one,'" Howard Taylor said. "I said, 'Every time I buy a horse for you, I own part of it too, I'm not trying to give you a bad horse. But it just never worked out that way. Now it has.'"   Driven by Scott Zeron, Back Of The Neck used a second-over trip to rally in the stretch for his second win in three races this year. Back Of The Neck, trained by Ãke Svanstedt, saw stablemate Third Shift hold the lead after the first quarter before Amigo Volo took control at the half.   After Zeron moved with Back Of The Neck from fourth, Svanstedt came first-over with Third Shift heading around the final turn. Back Of The Neck, the 4-5 favorite, won by 2-1/4 lengths over Third Shift, with Big Oil finishing third.       "He was really handy today, really relaxed, which is good," Zeron said. "He's progressively getting smarter and smarter on the track. Every start is just leading up to the Hambletonian in my eyes, so today it was like leave, let him sit, see how he feels in the hole. I was able to sit in longer than I thought I could because of the pace.   "When I moved him over, and Ãke pulled the two-hole, it was even better. Down the lane, he just finished strong. He was very well within himself."   A son of French trotting star Ready Cash out of Big Barb, Back Of The Neck has won five of 12 starts lifetime, good for $207,375.   Another son of Ready Cash won the second division of the Dancer. Ready For Moni was fifth at the half-mile point before following Chesnut Hill's cover around the final turn and using a three-wide move in the stretch to win in 1:51.4 as the 5-2 second choice in his seasonal debut.   Hollywood Story was second and Beads finished third. The winning margin was one length.       "I couldn't have scripted it any better," winning driver Yannick Gingras said. "It's his first start of the year and I wanted to somewhat take it easy on him. It couldn't have worked out any better. He's great. I think he's ready for it. He's going to get next week off, I'm pretty sure, and he's ready for the [Hambletonian]."   Ready For Moni, trained by Nancy Takter, is owned by John Fielding, Lindy Farms of Connecticut, Herb Liverman, and Bud Hatfield. He is out of Nothing But Moni, whose dam was the two-time Horse of the Year Moni Maker. He has won five of nine career races and $352,575. His top triumph last year came in the Kentucky Sire Stakes final, and he was second in the Valley Victory.   The Hambletonian Stakes, the sport's top event for 3-year-old trotters, is Aug. 8 at The Meadowlands. Eliminations will be held Aug. 1.   by Ken Weingartner, & Derick Giwner, for The Meadowlands

Shartin N, the 2019 Horse of the Year, returns to harness racing action Saturday (July 18) in the $172,850 Dorothy Haughton Memorial for older female pacers at The Meadowlands Racetrack after missing a start because of a minor foot issue. The 7-year-old mare, unbeaten in two outings this season, was scratched from a conditioned race July 5 at Harrah's Philadelphia. Prior to the brief setback, Shartin N won an invitational for fillies and mares at Dover Downs on March 4 and an open handicap for fillies and mares at Yonkers Raceway on June 30. Her victory at Yonkers, where she lost a shoe during the race, came from post eight. "It's unfortunate she had to be scratched, but it was something that was easily taken care of," trainer Jim King Jr. said. "She's had a good week. She had a good group to train with - Soho Burning Love, Bettor Joy, Donttellmeagain - and showed her dominance. That was good because those are some pretty good ones." Shartin N is owned by Richard Poillucci, Jo Ann Looney-King, and driver Tim Tetrick. She has won 36 of 45 career races and $2.07 million since arriving in the U.S. from New Zealand. King has been more than pleased with what he's seen from Shartin N in her limited action this year. "Oh my goodness, I don't know how she could have done it any better," King said. "Both times coming from off the pace and doing her job. It is special to have a horse like her. In so many ways, she's just ordinary, another horse. But in so many other ways, she's not." Shartin N will start the Dorothy Haughton Memorial (formerly the Golden Girls) from post two and is the 8-5 morning-line favorite. Her training partners/stablemates Soho Burning Love A and Bettor Joy N also are in the race, with the former at 4-1 and the latter at 15-1. Kissin In The Sand, who has a 1:47.4 win from two starts, is the 7-2 second choice and Caviart Ally, last season's Breeders Crown Mare Pace winner, is 5-1. The Dorothy Haughton Memorial (race 10) is part of a stakes-laden slate at The Big M. Following is a look at the other stakes events on the card. First race post time is 6:30 p.m. (EDT). Race 2 - $40,000 Miss Versatility for trotting mares (third leg of series) Manchego, the season's fastest trotter thanks to her 1:50 win in the first round of the series, is the 4-5 morning-line favorite. She won her first two races of the campaign before a half-length setback to Atlanta in the Cutler Memorial on July 4. Plunge Blue Chip is the 4-1 second choice. Race 3 - $253,500 Del Miller Memorial for 3-year-old filly trotters Empire Breeders Classic winner Hypnotic AM is the 3-1 favorite, followed by W.N. Reynolds Memorial champ Sorella at 7-2 and returning Dan Patch Award winner Ramona Hill at 9-2. Sorella is No. 2 in Meadowlands announcer/analyst Ken Warkentin's Road to the Hambletonian rankings and Hypnotic AM is No. 5. Race 4 - $142,250 Stanley Dancer Memorial for 3-year-old male trotters (division) Amigo Volo, coming off a win in a division of the Pennsylvania All-Stars and ranked No. 1 in the Road to the Hambletonian, is the 3-1 favorite. Big Oil, also a PA All-Stars winner, is 7-2 followed by returning Dan Patch Award winner Real Cool Sam at 4-1 in his seasonal debut. Six of the eight male trotters in the Road to the Hambletonian ratings are in this race: Amigo Volo, Back Of The Neck (No. 3), Real Cool Sam (4), Third Shift (6), Big Oil (7), and Synergy (10). Race 5 - $142,250 Stanley Dancer Memorial (division) Reynolds division runner-up Beads is the 3-1 favorite. EL Ideal, third behind Beads in their Reynolds split, is 7-2 and seasonal debuting Ready For Moni is 9-2. Beads and Ready For Moni are in the Road to the Hambletonian rankings, at eighth and ninth, respectively. Race 6 - $194,400 Mistletoe Shalee for 3-year-old filly pacers JK First Lady, coming off a 1:49.4 qualifier win, is the 3-1 favorite. She was third by a neck in her only start, June 26. Rocknificent, who won a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes her last time out, is 7-2 and returning Dan Patch Award winner Lyons Sentinel, who was second to Rocknificent in the PASS, is 4-1 from post nine in an 11-horse field. Race 7 - $391,300 William R. Haughton Memorial for older male pacers Dancin Lou, who won a preliminary leg of the Graduate Series and was third in the final, is the 3-1 favorite. Roll With Joe Stakes champ Backstreet Shadow is 7-2 with Roll With Joe runner-up None Bettor A at 9-2. Race 8 - $464,900 Hambletonian Maturity for 4-year-old trotters A 13-horse field going 1-1/8 miles. Gimpanzee, 3-for-3 this year and fresh off a victory in the Graduate Series final, is the 3-1 favorite from post 13. Forbidden Trade, the 2019 Hambletonian winner, won a conditioned race last week at The Meadowlands and is 7-2. When Dovescry, who won the 2019 Hambletonian Oaks, is making her seasonal debut and is 9-2. Race 9 - $636,650 Meadowlands Pace for 3-year-old male pacers Tall Dark Stranger is the 7-5 favorite. Read more here. Race 11 - $123,100 William R. Haughton consolation Sintra is the 3-1 favorite followed by Geez Joe at 7-2 and Western Joe at 9-2. For Saturday's complete Big M entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA    

A little more than 50 years ago, Buck Owens cautioned country music listeners to beware a tall dark stranger. Decades later, the warning could apply to Saturday's Meadowlands Pace. Tall Dark Stranger, the 2019 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old harness racing colt pacer, is the 7-5 morning-line favorite in the $636,650 Meadowlands Pace for 3-year-olds at The Meadowlands Racetrack. The colt, who won last week's single elimination by a half-length over Captain Kirk in 1:48.1 over a "good" surface, starts from post five with Yannick Gingras driving for trainer Nancy Takter. Racing begins at 6:30 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. Post time for the Meadowlands Pace, which is race nine on the stakes-filled card, is 10:05 p.m. Tall Dark Stranger is undefeated in two races this season. He opened his campaign with a 1:47.4 win against older horses on June 27 at The Meadowlands. Over the previous five years, only seven 3-year-old pacers have won with faster miles. "He's a fast horse, but he's not just fast," Gingras said. "He's a great horse. He can do anything you want, race him any way you decide to race him. He's strong, he's got a great gait, he's got all the qualities. Those are the things that make the difference between a fast horse and a great horse." Tall Dark Stranger is a son of Bettor's Delight out of Precocious Beauty. He is owned by Crawford Farms Racing, Marvin Katz, Caviart Farms, and Howard Taylor. Last year, the colt won eight of nine races, finished second in his loss, and earned $717,514. He will try to join Huntsville (2017), He's Watching (2014) and Captaintreacherous (2013) as recent Dan Patch Award returnees to win the Pace. "He's come back great," Gingras said. "I couldn't be any happier, really. His first start he was vicious and the same thing again last week. I don't think he could be coming into the final in better shape. "Last year at times he could be a little bit grabby. He knew really early on what his job was to do, but sometimes he wanted to do a little bit too much. He's a little more manageable this year. If anything, he's a little bit lazy. Leaving the gate last week, in a good way, I had to ask him. He knows what he's out there to do and that it's my job to guide him and he's letting me do my job." Tall Dark Stranger was guaranteed a starting spot in posts one through six by virtue of his elimination win. "For me, I've always felt it's tremendously important to try to win the elimination," Gingras said. "Of course, you don't want to overuse your horse, but I have no problem racing my horse to take the outside posts out of the equation. I feel there is great value to it. These horses can go those miles. He left pretty good last week, but I got a decent middle half and then sprinted home. I don't think he will be worse for wear after that last start. "I like where I drew. You can see what happens. Of course, you've got to go forward. Everybody knows I'm not going to back out of the gate, you're not getting away seventh or eighth in this race, with Tall Dark Stranger that's not happening. You're going forward out of the gate, but you have options. You can see what the outside horses are doing, you can see what the inside horses are doing, and I can race any which way. Post five gives me all the options in the world." Gingras is looking for his second Meadowlands Pace victory. He won with A Rocknroll Dance in 2012. Takter is seeking her first Pace trophy. Last year's Matron Stakes and Governor's Cup winner Papi Rob Hanover, with David Miller driving for trainer Brett Pelling, is the 4-1 second choice on the Meadowlands Pace morning line. Papi Rob Hanover starts from post nine, which is his most favorable starting spot yet this season. He finished third from post 10 in the Pace elim and was second from post 10 in his seasonal debut. Allywag Hanover, also from the Pelling Stable, is the 9-2 third choice. Allywag Hanover advanced to the Pace final courtesy of a bye based on seasonal earnings. Allywag Hanover is 3-for-3 this year and won in 1:48 on July 4 at The Meadowlands. Pelling is the winningest trainer in Pace history, with four victories. Tim Tetrick will drive Allywag Hanover and is looking for his sixth Pace win. John Campbell holds the record with seven. Trainer Tony Alagna, who won the 2013 Meadowlands Pace with Captaintreacherous, has three horses in Saturday's final: Captain Barbossa (10-1), Capt Midnight (15-1), and Captain Kirk (15-1). Capt Midnight finished ninth in the elimination, from which the top eight horses advanced to the final, but drew into the race when Chief Mate was scratched on Tuesday. In addition to the Meadowlands Pace, Saturday's racing includes two $142,250 divisions of the Stanley Dancer Memorial for 3-year-old male trotters, the 11-horse $253,500 Del Miller Memorial for 3-year-old female trotters, the 13-horse $464,900 Hambletonian Maturity at 1-1/8 miles for 4-year-old trotters, the 11-horse $391,300 William R. Haughton Memorial for older male pacers (as well as a $123,100 consolation), $172,850 Dorothy Haughton Memorial for older female pacers, the 11-horse $194,400 Mistletoe Shalee for 3-year-old female pacers, and the third leg of the Miss Versatility Series for older female trotters. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA    

One night a couple years ago while enjoying dinner with a friend, horse owner Elmer Fannin had a thought. If the yet-to-be-raced homebred filly harness racing trotter he had in his stable was as good as the wine they were enjoying, she would be something special. "So, I decided I was going to name her Sorella for the bottle of wine," Fannin said. "That's how it happened. It was just an enjoyable dinner, enjoying some good wine, and now I've got a good horse." Sorella is showing signs of maturing like a fine wine. Last season at age 2, she went off stride in three of her nine starts. Her remaining six races, though, included two wins and two seconds. She won divisions of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and Arden Downs and both runner-up efforts came to Sister Sledge, including in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship. This year, she is 3-for-3. She won the lone division of the W.N. Reynolds Memorial for 3-year-old female trotters last week, when she scored in 1:50.2, the fastest mile of the season by any 3-year-old trotter. One start earlier, she beat a group of Hambletonian-eligible boys in 1:51.2.   "She was good last year but she was shying away from stuff," Fannin said about Sorella, who in 2019 was trained by Staffan Lind and this year is in the stable of Nancy Takter. "She just wasn't settled down and was making some breaks. But when she didn't make a break, she was really good. "Nancy has done a tremendous job with her. You never know how far up the ladder they'll go before they stop. But she's certainly been an amazing filly. She didn't look like she was all out in her last race. It wasn't like she was waiting for the finish line to come to her, she was OK going to the finish line. That was great." Sorella makes her next start Saturday in the $253,500 Del Miller Memorial for 3-year-old filly trotters at The Meadowlands. Sorella will leave from post one with driver Yannick Gingras and is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line. Empire Breeders Classic winner Hypnotic AM is the 3-1 favorite. All but one of the 11 fillies in the Miller Memorial are eligible to August's Hambletonian Oaks, but could be entered against the boys in the Hambletonian. Has Fannin given that scenario any thought? "Yeah, probably all of my life," he said with a laugh. "To have a filly and beat the boys, who wouldn't be thinking about it. A lot of people, like Nancy and Yannick, would have a say in that, but we'll see. She's got a race this week and we'll see how she does. You don't want to get overanxious and get in over your head and not do yourself or the industry, or the filly, any favors." Sorella is a daughter of Muscle Hill out of Kadealia. Fannin raced Kadealia, best remembered for a 75-1 upset in the 2008 Breeders Crown for 3-year-old fillies, and retained her as a broodmare following her career on the track. Sadly, the mare died earlier this year while in foal to Father Patrick. "All of her foals made it to the races, and I thought at some point she was destined to have a good one," Fannin said. "I'm certainly happy to honor Kadealia with Sorella doing so well. Hopefully Sorella continues on and does well and the Father Patrick (yearling) colt I have will do well next year." Fannin, a Delaware resident who with his wife Mary Ann founded custom home builder Country Life Homes a little more than 25 years ago, owns Sorella with Crawford Farms Racing and Brent Fannin. "We're just happy to have her," Fannin said. "We're just all enjoying it and I've got nothing but praise for the trainers, drivers, partners, and, of course, the filly. With her out of the equation, there ain't any fun for anybody." The Miller is part of a big night of racing at The Big M, headlined by the $636,650 Meadowlands Pace for 3-year-old male pacers. In addition, Saturday's racing includes two $142,250 divisions of the Stanley Dancer Memorial for 3-year-old male trotters, the 13-horse $464,900 Hambletonian Maturity at 1-1/8 miles for 4-year-old trotters, the 11-horse $391,300 William R. Haughton Memorial for older male pacers (as well as a $123,100 consolation), $172,850 Dorothy Haughton Memorial for older female pacers, the 11-horse $194,400 Mistletoe Shalee for 3-year-old female pacers, and the third leg of the Miss Versatility Series for older female trotters. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

Real Cool Sam, the 2019 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old colt harness racing trotter, makes his seasonal debut Saturday in the first of two $142,250 divisions of the Stanley Dancer Memorial at The Meadowlands. The Dancer, the penultimate stakes prep at The Big M for 3-year-old male trotters ahead of August's Hambletonian, is part of a stakes-packed card headlined by the $636,650 Meadowlands Pace for 3-year-old colt pacers. Pace elimination winner Tall Dark Stranger, also a Dan Patch Award recipient in 2019, is the 7-5 morning-line favorite. First race post time Saturday is 45 minutes earlier than usual, at 6:30 p.m. (EDT). Real Cool Sam, who was named in honor of late Meadowlands announcer Sam McKee, won nine of 10 races last year for trainer Jim Campbell and owner Jules Siegel's Fashion Farms. The homebred son of Muscle Hill-Cooler Schooner counted the Peter Haughton Memorial and Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship among his victories and set multiple world records along the way. The colt is among 17 Hambletonian eligibles in the two 10-horse Dancer divisions. He will start from post one with driver David Miller and is 4-1 on the morning line. Amigo Volo is the 3-1 favorite followed by Big Oil at 7-2. Real Cool Sam enters the race off second-place finishes in his two most recent qualifiers, June 27 and July 3, at The Meadowlands. He was timed in 1:52.4 last time. "I was real happy with his last two qualifiers," Campbell said. "A few of these other horses have gotten a couple starts ahead of him, but we're just looking to get him prepped and ready for the Hambo. So far so good." Real Cool Sam, who is No. 2 behind Amigo Volo in Meadowlands announcer/analyst Ken Warkentin's Road to the Hambletonian rankings, will attempt to become the first returning Dan Patch Award winner since Pinkman in 2015 to win the Hambletonian. "There wasn't too much that didn't make us happy last year," Campbell said during the winter about Real Cool Sam. "He's good mannered in a race, good gaited, he's got speed. He's obviously going to have to carry his speed a lot further at 3 than at 2. That's the main thing, just carrying your speed further." Campbell will decide Real Cool Sam's next start following the Dancer. He could race once more or go directly to the Hambletonian eliminations Aug. 1 at The Meadowlands. "I'll play it by ear," Campbell said. "Our goal all along was to keep him at The Meadowlands until after the Hambletonian." Campbell also will send out Beyond Kronos in the second Dancer division. Beyond Kronos, by Muscle Hill out of Oyster Kronos, was a three-time winner in the Pennsylvania Stallion Series last year and runner-up to EL Ideal in the Kindergarten Classic final. He is winless in three races this season, but trotted 1:51.4 in a fourth-place finish in a division of the W.N. Reynolds Memorial last weekend at The Meadowlands. "I've been real happy with the way he's gone," Campbell said. "He's gotten into tough races every start but he trotted (1):51.4 last week and I was real happy with the way he did it." Beads is the 3-1 morning-line favorite in the second Dancer division. In addition to the Dancer and Meadowlands Pace, Saturday's racing includes an 11-horse $253,500 single division of the Del Miller Memorial for 3-year-old female trotters, the 13-horse $464,900 Hambletonian Maturity at 1-1/8 miles for 4-year-old trotters, the 11-horse $391,300 William R. Haughton Memorial for older male pacers (as well as a $123,100 consolation), $172,850 Dorothy Haughton Memorial for older female pacers, the 11-horse $194,400 Mistletoe Shalee for 3-year-old female pacers, and the third leg of the Miss Versatility Series for older female trotters. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA     

Mike Wilder has driven in more than 55,000 races in his 30-year harness racing career, but never in the final of a Meadowlands Pace. That, however, will change this weekend. Wilder makes his first trip to The Meadowlands Racetrack for its signature event Saturday, when he will sit behind Catch The Fire in the $631,650 race for 3-year-old male pacers. "It's nice to be a part of that," said Wilder, who has won 8,276 races while competing mostly in Ohio and Pennsylvania. "It's not like every year you know you're going to be in a certain race. Obviously, I've been driving 30 years and it's my first time, so it takes a good horse. It takes a good horse and being at the right place at the right time. "Catch The Fire has been a really good horse. He's pretty special." Of the Meadowlands Pace final's 10 drivers, Wilder is the only one making his first appearance. The last driver to win the Pace in his first try was Tim Tetrick with Southwind Lynx in 2007. Catch The Fire heads to the Meadowlands Pace final off a seventh-place finish in last week's single elimination. The colt started from post eight, was last in the 10-horse field at the half, and rallied with a :25.4 last quarter-mile to grab a spot in the final. He starts Saturday from post two and is 10-1 on the morning line. Elimination winner Tall Dark Stranger is the 7-5 favorite. "The (elimination) was kind of tough the way the race shook out," Wilder said. "That being said, he raced terrific. That horse, he just shows up. Even the other night, he was seventh, but he showed up. He had to pace :25.4 to get the job done and he did it. "I was very happy to see where he drew in the final, it gives him a chance to be part of the fight. Hopefully things shake out good and we get the right trip and get some money. It would be nice to win the race, everybody wants to win, but I don't think there is any question he could be able to grab some of the prize money." Catch The Fire was purchased for $15,000 at the 2018 Lexington Selected Sale. He is owned by Charles Taylor's CT Stables and trained by John Ackley. The horse's sire, Captaintreacherous, won the 2013 Meadowlands Pace. His dam, Dream Outloud, is a half-sister to Life'sliltreasure, who produced 2016 Meadowlands Pace winner Control The Moment. Wilder has driven Catch The Fire in all but one of the colt's 14 career starts. Last year, Catch The Fire won the Kentucky Sire Stakes championship and was third in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final. He has won four of 14 races lifetime, hit the board a total of 10 times, and earned $260,047. "He was pretty special last year," Wilder said. "The first time I raced him, he's not a real big horse at all but John told me not to worry about the size of the horse, he's a very nice colt. That particular day, he was second in the (Pennsylvania) sire stakes at The Meadows. He paced home in :26.3 and you don't get many horses that can do that, especially a 2-year-old. I knew then that I had my hands on something pretty nice." Wilder is an Ohio native and won 13 driving titles at Lebanon and two at Scioto Downs before moving to The Meadows in western Pennsylvania in 2001. Over the past 10 years, he has annually ranked among the top-five drivers at The Meadows in wins and purses. Five times in the past six years he has finished second to perennial Meadows driving champ Dave Palone in wins. This season, Wilder leads drivers at The Meadows in purses with $1.1 million and is second to Palone in wins with 126. Overall, Wilder has won 142 races this year, ninth best in North America. Catch The Fire could keep Wilder on the road for a number of Grand Circuit races. The colt is staked to the North America Cup, Breeders Crown, Little Brown Jug, Cane Pace, Messenger Pace, Tattersalls Pace, and Matron Stakes, not to mention the Delvin Miller Adios at Wilder's home track. "You hope the horse stays healthy and sound and wherever they choose to race him I'm sure he is going to fight," Wilder said. "With the right trip, he's always going to kick home for you, he's always digging. That's how you get paid. This horse can get to the (first) quarter in :26 and then he comes home in :26. I think that's what it takes to be a horse at that level and I think he's proven himself to be that kind of horse. "I'm really looking forward to the season with him and I'm really looking forward to Saturday night being in the Meadowlands Pace." The Meadowlands Pace is part of a jam-packed stakes slate Saturday at the Big M. The card also includes the Hambletonian Maturity for 4-year-old trotters, William R. Haughton Memorial for older male pacers, Dorothy Haughton Memorial for older female pacers, Stanley Dancer Memorial for 3-year-old male trotters, Del Miller Memorial for 3-year-old female trotters, Mistletoe Shalee for 3-year-old female pacers, and the third leg of the Miss Versatility Series for older female trotters. Following is the field for the $631,650 Meadowlands Pace. PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line 1-Roll With JR-Corey Callahan-Jeff Cullipher-20/1 2-Catch The Fire-Mike Wilder-John Ackley-10/1 3-Captain Barbossa-Brian Sears-Tony Alagna-10/1 4-Allywag Hanover-Tim Tetrick-Brett Pelling-5/1 5-Tall Dark Stranger-Yannick Gingras-Nancy Takter-7/5 6-Manticore-Jordan Stratton-Bruce Saunders-15/1 7-Chief Mate-Andy McCarthy-Tony Alagna-20/1 8-Major Betts-Dexter Dunn-Mark Harder-10/1 9-Papi Rob Hanover-David Miller-Brett Pelling-4/1 10-Captain Kirk-Joe Bongiorno-Tony Alagna-15/1 by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

East Rutherford, NJ --- Hurrikane Emperor provided an upset in the $250,000 Graduate Series final for 4-year-old pacers while 1-5 favorite Gimpanzee took care of business in the $250,000 Graduate Series final for 4-year-old trotters Saturday night at The Meadowlands. Hurrikane Emperor, sent off as the fifth choice at odds of 7-1, was second over in fourth at three-quarters before coming three wide off the last turn and storming through the stretch to reign by 1-1/2 lengths over Workin Ona Mystery in 1:47, the fastest mile of the season. Dancin Lou finished third. Favorite Bettor's Wish was eighth. Mark MacDonald drove Hurrikane Emperor to victory for trainer John McDermott and owners Jonathan Klee Racing, Kuhen Racing, and William Garofalo. "I really thought he was going to be awesome tonight and Mark gave him the most beautiful drive in the world," McDermott said. "It worked out beautifully." Hurrikane Emperor is a homebred son of former McDermott standout Hurrikane Kingcole, who died last October at the age of 10. Hurrikane Emperor won seven of nine races as a 2-year-old and opened his 3-year-old campaign with three consecutive wins, including the New Jersey Sire Stakes championship, before seeing his season derailed by sickness. "We don't know what it was, but everything just kept falling apart," McDermott said. "I shut him down. My boys were so great about it, they told me to give him all the time he needed. We did and it's paid off." Hurrikane Emperor won a conditioned race in March before the sport was shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When racing resumed, he returned in the Graduate Series, where he won an opening-round division at Tioga Downs. He finished third in his second-round division last week at The Meadowlands. "This is beyond words," McDermott said. "Through this pandemic it's been such torture, all I did was go deeper in the hole. Thank God for my great partners that have supported me through it because it has not been easy. To come out here, I knew he was awesome this year. Last week we were all slightly disappointed, but the way he got sick last year, I'm trying to not overuse him. "This is just really a blessing. He is so special to us. Owning his daddy, losing his daddy last year, he's family. He's the greatest creature in the world to me. It's funny, as a 2- and 3-year-old he didn't remind me of his father because he was really nondescript and didn't have much of a personality. In the last year, he's grown into such a clown that he's so much like his dad off the track. On the track, he's nice and manageable."   Hurrikane Emperor, out of the mare Hurrikane Schmumma, has won 13 of 22 career races and $534,476. In the Graduate Series final for 4-year-old trotters, Gimpanzee saw Reign Of Honor lead the field around the first turn but moved to the front at the quarter on his way to a 1:50.4 triumph for driver Brian Sears and trainer Marcus Melander. Reign Of Honor, also trained by Melander, was second and Chin Chin Hall finished third. The winning margin was one length.   Gimpanzee, a son of Chapter Seven out of Steamy Windows, is 3-for-3 this year and has won 20 of 26 career races. A Dan Patch Award winner at age 2, the stallion has banked $1.89 million for owners Courant Inc. and S R F Stable. "Reign Of Honor finishing second from a bad post (10) was a little bit shocking that he was so fast behind the gate," Melander said. "Gimpanzee was supposed to win, but finishing first and second, I'm very pleased. "(Gimpanzee) is doing what he's supposed to do. He's going to go back next week for the Hambletonian Maturity, so it was nice to get a nice race on the lead. I was very happy with what I saw. The horse is getting more in form. Even though he's been racing great, I can feel him getting sharper and sharper. It will be very exciting to continue racing with him." The target for next week’s $631,650 Meadowlands Pace for 3-year-olds is clearly on Tall Dark Stranger’s back. And his trainer, Nancy Takter, seems to be just fine with that. Tall Dark Stranger took over the lead just after the quarter and rolled down the road from there in the lone Meadowlands Pace Elimination at The Meadowlands Saturday night, establishing himself as the clear-cut one-to-beat in the track’s signature event next week (July 18). “He’s a great colt,” said Takter. “He’s been great since Day One. He performs every time I put him out on the track.” Hard to dispute given his lifetime record of 10 wins from 11 starts. Major Betts left the gate quickly from post one, as did Tall Dark Stranger from the three. Major Betts went the quarter in :26.1 before TDS took over and hit the half in :54.4. Capt Midnight – who finished ninth and failed to qualify for the final – came calling first-over to apply token pressure at three-quarters in 1:22.1. Then Tall Dark Stranger got serious. Off the far turn, driver Yannick Gingras asked the son of Bettor’s Delight-Precocious Beauty for more speed, and he provided just that, extending his advantage to two lengths at the head of the lane. In deep stretch, 23-1 shot Captain Kirk was closing well after going an inside trip to get second while 4-1 second choice Papi Rob Hanover, who again had to come from well off the pace after drawing poorly (post 10), grabbed third. Tall Dark Stranger won it by a half-length after stopping the clock in 1:48.1. After earning half of the $50,000 purse, his lifetime bank account stood at $751,889 for owners Crawford Farms Racing, Marvin Katz, Caviart Farms and Howard Taylor. He returned $2.80 to his backers as the 2-5 favorite. By winning the elim, TDS earned the right to draw a post position from one through six. He got the five for the big-money final in the draw conducted shortly after the race. “Post five is a great place,” said Takter. “It gives Yannick a lot of options. That’s his job. I was super happy with my horse tonight.” The top eight in official order of finish made the final, with two horses – Allywag Hanover and Chief Mate – earning byes based on seasonal earnings. Mocha On The Rocks finished 10th and last in the elim. MEADOWLANDS PACE FIELD The field for the $631,650 Meadowlands Pace for 3-year-old open pacers, which takes place at The Meadowlands on July 18 and has a post time of 10:05 p.m., with post position, horse (driver, trainer) and morning-line odds: 1. Roll With JR (Corey Callahan, Jeff Cullipher), 20-1 2. Catch The Fire (Mike Wilder, John Ackley), 10-1 3. Captain Barbossa (Brian Sears, Tony Alagna), 10-1 4. Allywag Hanover (Tim Tetrick, Brett Pelling), 5-1 5. Tall Dark Stranger (Yannick Gingras, Nancy Takter), 7-5 6. Manticore (Jordan Stratton, Bruce Saunders), 15-1 7. Chief Mate (Andy McCarthy, Tony Alagna), 20-1 8. Major Betts (Dexter Dunn, Mark Harder), 10-1 9. Papi Rob Hanover (David Miller, Brett Pelling), 4-1 10. Captain Kirk (Joe Bongiorno, Tony Alagna), 15-1 HUGE HANDLE: With two of the races on the card serving as the catalyst with over $350,000 in action, total wagering was $3,440,248, a 2020 Meadowlands best for a 13-race program. When total handle reached $4,100,386 on June 20, the per race average for the 18-race program was $227,799. On Saturday, the average per race was a season-high $264,634. The night got off to a fast start, as $368,907 in bets were taken on the first race, $98,457 of which was bet in the 20-cent Pick-5 pool, another Big M best. A LITTLE MORE: Gingras led the driver’s colony with four winners on the card. … The 20-cent Jackpot Super High-Five carryovers continued to swell. This Friday, when racing resumes at 7:15 p.m., JSH5 players will shoot for big green, as the fifth race carryover stands at $65,089, and the 13th race will start out with $80,368 in the hat. … On Saturday, July 18, Meadowlands Pace Night, post time will be 6:30 p.m. The W.N. Reynolds Memorial divisions for 3-year-old male trotters were won by Jula Trix Treasure and Back Of The Neck, both from the stable of trainer Ake Svanstedt. Jula Trix Treasure, driven by Gingras, won in 1:51.2, with Beads second and EL Ideal third. Back Of The Neck, with Scott Zeron in the sulky, won in 1:52 with Play Trix On Me second and Maesteraemon third. The only Reynolds event for 3-year-old female trotters was won by Takter-trained and Gingras-driven Sorella in 1:50.2, the fastest mile of the season by a 3-year-old trotter. Panem was second followed by returning Dan Patch Award winner Ramona Hill in her 2020 debut. by Ken Weingartner and Dave Little  

Per Engblom had high hopes for Synergy last year at age 2, and while the colt won the Champlain Stakes and eliminations of the Peter Haughton Memorial and Breeders Crown, the campaign failed to live up to his trainer's early expectations. "We really thought we had a great horse," Engblom said of last year, noting a bout of sickness hampered Synergy during the summer and impeded his development. But as the 2020 harness racing season kicks into gear, Engblom remains hopeful Synergy can emerge as a primetime player among 3-year-old male trotters. Synergy makes his second start Saturday (July 11) in the second of two divisions of the Reynolds Memorial for 3-year-old trotting colts and geldings at The Meadowlands, where he leaves from post seven with Yannick Gingras and is the 3-1 morning-line favorite. The two Reynolds splits for the boys feature a total of 14 Hambletonian-eligible horses; Synergy is No. 6 in track announcer/analyst Ken Warkentin's Road to the Hambletonian rankings. The Hambletonian, the sport's premier race for 3-year-old trotters, is Aug. 8 at The Meadowlands. Synergy enters the Reynolds off a third-place finish in a 3-year-old open June 27 at the Big M, where he was timed in 1:52.1. It was the colt's debut, following a 1:54 qualifying effort that featured a :26.2 last quarter-mile. "I was really happy with those two efforts," Engblom said. "He needs to get racing, to get going; he's a big, heavy colt. But he's shown that he's a little stronger this year than last year, so I'm happy with that and I'm looking forward to these races coming up." A son of Father Patrick out of Southwind Sauna, Synergy is owned by Brittany Farms, John Fielding, Herb Liverman, and David Anderson. He was purchased as a yearling under the name Southwind Saranac for $275,000 at the 2018 Lexington Selected Sale and his family includes O'Brien Award winner Federal Flex. Synergy has won four of 11 career races and $164,888. "He had a little bit of trouble carrying his speed last year," Engblom said. "The last sixteenth of a mile he kind of flattened out, but this year so far, going (1):52, he seemed pretty good. Let's hope he can go (1):51 and (1):50 and a piece, too." Engblom also has a starter in the first Reynolds division. Beads, a newcomer to his stable this year, is the 4-1 third choice behind EL Ideal (2-1) and Capricornus (3-1). Beads went off stride in both of his starts this season, but heads to the Reynolds off a 1:52.2 win in a qualifier July 3. Jimmy Takter, who drove Beads in the qualifier, returns for Saturday's race. Last year, Beads won two of eight starts and $22,330. All but one of the horse's races were in Canada. The son of Archangel-Nepentha is owned by Renee Spahr. "He's a little bit of a funny horse, but he's got plenty of ability," Engblom said. "It's more mental issues with him, he gets a little nervous and stuff like that. He's not really stupid or hot or anything, it's just that he gets a little tense. "Going to the lead, so far, has been the model for him. If we can get him to mature, maybe he can race from behind a little bit. But he's showed plenty of ability so far." In addition to the two Reynolds divisions for the boys, there is a single Reynolds Memorial for 3-year-old female trotters. Shishito is 6-1 on the morning line in a field that includes returning Dan Patch Award winner Ramona Hill (3-1 favorite) in her seasonal debut and 2-for-2 Sorella (7-2). Eight of the 10 fillies in the Reynolds are eligible to the Hambletonian Oaks, including Shishito, Ramona Hill, and Sorella. Shishito won her only start of the season, beating male rivals including Hambletonian hopeful Capricornus, in 1:53.3 at Harrah's Philadelphia. Last year, she won four of 11 races and $240,512 for owners Black Horse Racing and John Fielding. "She was a money-maker last year," Engblom said. "She was a very tough girl. She was there the first baby race of the year and she raced in the Breeders Crown final. This year, I've been super happy with her so far. She trotted (1):53 last year and she's been in (1):51.2 (in a qualifier) already this year, so she's developed the right way." Racing begins at 7:15 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at The Meadowlands. The 13-race card also includes $250,000 Graduate Series finals for 4-year-old pacers and trotters and a single elimination of the Meadowlands Pace. For Saturday's complete Meadowlands entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA     

They might not be standard for a harness racing pacer, but Jeff Cullipher has a good idea what his 3-year-old Roll With JR will need to wear in Saturday's lone Meadowlands Pace elimination. "I hope he can put his big-boy pants on," Cullipher said with a laugh. Roll With JR was among a dozen 3-year-old male pacers entered in the Meadowlands Pace. Two horses, Allywag Hanover and Chief Mate, advanced to the final courtesy of byes based on seasonal earnings. The top-eight finishers in Saturday's $50,000 elimination at The Meadowlands Racetrack will join them in the $631,650 final July 18. The elimination field includes returning Dan Patch Award-winner Tall Dark Stranger, who in his only start this year defeated older horses in 1:47.4 at the Big M. The time is tied for the fastest mile of the season. Also in the field is last season's richest 2-year-old male pacer, Papi Rob Hanover, who finished second to multiple Grand Circuit winner Capt Midnight in their only start of 2020. Roll With JR, who finished second to Meadowlands Pace hopeful Catch The Fire in last year's Kentucky Sire Stakes championship, will be making his first trip to The Meadowlands since finishing third in a 2-year-old qualifying race there on June 22, 2019. He heads to the elimination off a 1:51.2 win in his seasonal debut at Harrah's Hoosier Park. For his career, the colt has won four of 12 races and $176,516. His wins last year included a division of the Bluegrass Stakes. "He was such a green horse (last year) I never felt like he reached his full potential," the Indiana-based Cullipher said. "But he went a couple decent miles and showed that he can. He kind of grew into himself over the winter; he's developed and is kind of a nice-sized colt. "He's still the kind of colt that's only going to do what he's made to do. I know I don't have a (1):48 mile in him yet, I don't even know if he could do it. I'd like to think he could step it up with the better horses." Cullipher owns Roll With JR, a son of Roll With Joe out of No One Is Alone, with Pollack Racing. Cullipher and Tom Pollack have been increasing their presence on the Grand Circuit in recent years. "It's exciting," Cullipher said. "Me and Tom are starting to step into these races a little bit. We're just having fun right now. "This might be a one-shot deal, I don't know, but so far I'm happy." Another horse making his first trip of the season to The Meadowlands for the elimination is Major Betts. The Mark Harder-trained colt prepped with qualifiers at Gaitway Farm and Harrah's Philadelphia before winning his only 2020 start in the New York Sire Stakes at Tioga Downs on June 28. Major Betts defeated favorite Splash Brother by three lengths in 1:49.4, the fastest mile of the young season by a 3-year-old on a five-eighths-mile track. "I trained him Tuesday morning and I thought he was super," Harder said. "I couldn't be happier with him." Harder had an opportunity to accept one of the two byes for the Meadowlands Pace but decided against it. "I couldn't be off three weeks going into the final, that would not make sense at all," Harder said. "He needs the work." Major Betts, a son of Art Major out of Southwind Johanne, has won five of 12 lifetime starts and $153,390 for owners Harder, Joseph Jannuzzelli, and Deena Rachel Frost. His wins last year included divisions of the International Stallion Stakes and Tompkins-Geers. "He was just always fast, he was just beautifully gaited," said Harder, who won the 2004 Meadowlands Pace with Holborn Hanover. "He was a colt that had one of those gaits that he just didn't work at it. He did everything pretty easy. "A couple of times last year he did some silly colt things. This year, he acts more professional. He drives like an old horse. It's probably a little bit of rigging, a little bit of growing up, a little bit of everything. Hopefully it's a bit of good management. It might just be good luck." Harder wouldn't turn down any good luck in the upcoming weeks. "A lot of (the 3-year-olds) are very impressive," Harder said. "Tall Dark Stranger and Papi Rob Hanover are very good, Allywag Hanover has been very impressive. They've been racing at The Meadowlands and times there have been crazy. "We beat a horse that looked pretty impressive, Splash Brother. It's a completely different class, but it shows we're there and we're competitive. Tall Dark Stranger and Papi Rob Hanover are the two standouts for sure, but there are a lot of really, really good horses. Nothing is easy." Racing begins at 7:15 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at The Meadowlands. The 13-race card also includes $250,000 Graduate Series finals for 4-year-old pacers and trotters and divisions of the Reynolds Memorial for 3-year-old trotters. For Saturday's complete Meadowlands entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA 

Brian Brown is happy with what he sees from Workin Ona Mystery so far this harness racing season on the racetrack. He is even more pleased by what is not readily visible. The horse's health. Workin Ona Mystery is among the contenders in Saturday's $250,000 Graduate Series final for 4-year-old pacers at The Meadowlands. The event is part of a 13-race card at The Big M that also includes the $250,000 Graduate championship for 4-year-old trotters, a single elimination for the Meadowlands Pace, and Reynolds Memorial divisions for 3-year-old trotters. Racing begins at 7:15 p.m. (EDT). Last year, Workin Ona Mystery started his campaign with three consecutive wins and finished third in the finals of the North America Cup and Meadowlands Pace, where he was beaten by a head. But health woes slowed the horse's progress from there and he won only once in his final five starts. This year in three starts, Workin Ona Mystery has a win, a second, and a third. He captured his opening-round race in the Graduate Series by a neck over Century Farroh in 1:50 at Tioga Downs on June 21 and finished second to Bettor's Wish in last week's second round at The Meadowlands. Bettor's Wish, who skipped the first round in favor of the Roll With Joe Stakes, won by two lengths in 1:48.2. "Right now, we're in pretty good shape," Brown said. "He seems pretty healthy, very alert. He seems full of himself. Every day, he's out there playing and jumping around. I think he's coming into the race pretty good, a lot better than a lot of times last year." As far as how Workin Ona Mystery has changed from last year, Brown said, "Ninety percent of it is that he's healthy." "He did pack on some weight," Brown added. "He was not a real big horse last year. He wasn't short, like a small horse, but he wasn't a thick horse either. He has thickened up quite a bit, so he's got more strength to him. I'm hoping that will help him stay healthy." Workin Ona Mystery has won 10 of 20 career races and $469,641. The son of Captaintreacherous-Dragon's Tale is owned by Diamond Creek Racing, Stambaugh Leeman Stable, Alan Keith, and Wingfield Brothers. Brown brought the horse back slowly in the winter and does not plan to test Workin Ona Mystery against older horses on the Grand Circuit until the Dan Patch Stakes at Harrah's Hoosier Park in mid-August. "He's got to race older horses this year, and that can be hard on them, but he's got such a great attitude," Brown said. "He wants to be a winner, he loves passing horses, and he's an easy horse to drive. He's not the easiest horse to be around in the barn. He's ornery. But on the track, training and racing, he's so easy to drive. "After we struggled so much last year it's nice to just see the real horse. And he may not be the best 4-year-old or older horse, but he will hold his own against them as long as he's healthy." Both preliminary rounds of the Graduate Series had three divisions and resulted in six different winners. Joining Workin Ona Mystery as first-round winners were Dancin Lou and Hurrikane Emperor. Joining Bettor's Wish as second-round winners were Bllack Hole and Brassy Hanover. Bettor's Wish was the Dan Patch Award winner for best 3-year-old male pacer of 2019. He finished third in last month's Roll With Joe, which was his seasonal debut. His 1:48.2 score last week in the Graduate was the slowest of the three divisions; Bllack Hole won in 1:48 and Brassy Hanover in 1:48.1. A total of nine horses in last week's three divisions paced their final quarter-mile in less than 26 seconds. "There are so many horses that come home fast out there," Brown said. "Anymore, time really means nothing. It's who you beat and how much money you made, that's all that matters." For Saturday's complete Meadowlands entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for USTA

Hightstown, NJ - Harness racing driver Matt Kakaley was 16 when Rickards Ed arrived in the stable run by his parents, Linda and John, at Pompano Park. Matt was just starting to work in the barn more frequently and quickly formed a bond with the then 7-year-old pacer. Looking back, it was a time and relationship that helped propel Matt into his career in harness racing. In fact, such was his connection with Rickards Ed that four years later he and his mom bought the horse and still own the 22-year-old gelding in his retirement. "That horse was special to me," Matt said. "He came in the barn and he was the best horse my parents had. He was an open pacer at the time. I started working with him all the time and that was the turning point for me. He was just a great horse around the barn, great to work with. He was fun. "When I was a kid, that horse helped me make the decision, I'd say. That's when I felt like this is what I wanted to do." Rickards Ed won 14 races at Pompano Park that season, all with John in the sulky. The following year, Matt drove the horse to two of his seven victories. "He was just a really tough, tough horse on the racetrack," Matt said. "He was a Camluck (sired horse) and he had that toughness to him." A third-generation horseman, Matt follows in the footsteps of his grandfather, Joe, who owned horses and spurred the family's interest in harness racing, and his parents. He lived in Michigan until he was 12 and spent his teen years around Pompano Park. Matt has won 4,743 races in his career and was the youngest driver, at the time, to reach the 1,000 and 2,000-victory levels. But early on, Matt wasn't focused on becoming a driver. In fact, he only got his qualifying license because a friend was doing it. "It was weird, it wasn't something I was really pushing to do, to be a driver," Matt said. "Not at that age, anyway. But once I started qualifying horses, it was something I wanted to do." Matt mostly worked with his parents, but remembers getting to do interval training for Tom Audley, who was stabled next to his family's barn. "When I was a kid, Tom would have me go in the bike and I would be out there for a half hour or 40 minutes just going trips," Matt said. "I thought that was the greatest thing ever, to go speed in the race bike with those horses. And he paid me for it, so it was a win-win. "When I did get my qualifying license, there were a lot of people down there that helped me out and gave me chances in the qualifiers. Whatever anybody wanted me to do, I would do." Working with the horses gave Matt his greatest joy. "I just really loved being around the horses and taking care of them," Matt said. "The horses my parents had were older horses that had their issues. I would work on them. I would soak their feet, I would rub their legs, work hard on them. I just took pride in it. I took pride when they would race good. "Just working with them every day was a lot of learning. I really cared. I think I got that from my mom. She puts her heart and soul into her horses too." When he was 19, Matt accepted an offer from trainer Mickey Burke to move to Ohio and work for the Burke Stable. Soon, he was driving regularly at Northfield Park, although it did not begin smoothly. Enter another pivotal horse in teenage Matt's life, this one also with the name Matt - Matt Hershey. "Going to Northfield, I didn't know anybody; it was tough," Matt said. "I never raced on a half-mile track before and the first month or two was a little rough. I did win a few races, but there were a lot of bad mistakes and a lot of nights when I was thinking maybe it wasn't going to work out. I'm sure Ronnie (Burke) felt the same thing. He stuck with me and I stuck it out. I kept working hard and it got better. "A couple horses raced big for me. Matt Hershey, he was an open horse at Northfield, went on a really good run (with six wins and two seconds in a nine-race span) and I started picking up some live drives for other people. It just kind of turned the corner. He got good and then I started driving more and I started doing really good. It snowballed." In 2010, Matt received the Rising Star Award from the U.S. Harness Writers Association. Last summer, while in the car on his way to Buffalo Raceway for New York Sire Stakes action, Matt's thoughts returned to his early days as a driver when in a week he would travel back and forth between Northfield and Buffalo (roughly seven hours round trip) while also hitting Tioga Downs on Sundays. "When I think back, I don't know how I did that," Matt said with a laugh. "Just young, I guess. I was just excited to drive anything, anywhere, so I did it." And whenever he thinks back to Rickards Ed, he can thank him for driving him in that direction. by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager    

On Sept. 1, 2007, Somebeachsomewhere paced the fastest mile in history by a harness racing 2-year-old to win the Metro Pace by two lengths over Moon Beam at Mohawk Raceway in Ontario. It was the day, for all intents and purposes, when Somebeachsomewhere became The Beach. Winning driver Paul MacDonell, who earlier this week was elected to the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, recently looked back at that memorable performance as well as the memorable career and legacy of Somebeachsomewhere. THE FIELD Somebeachsomewhere's nine rivals in the 2007 Metro Pace final were (in alphabetical order) Alard Hanover, Dali, Deuce Seelster, Its That Time, Lonestar Legend, Moon Beam, Santanna Blue Chip, Shadow Play, and Weekend Gambler. Dali, Deuce Seelster, Santanna Blue Chip, and Shadow Play all earned more than $1 million lifetime. Dali, who prior to the Metro won the Woodrow Wilson, and Shadow Play were world-record-holders during their careers. Moon Beam was the runner-up in both the Metro and Woodrow Wilson. He won his remaining four races that year. "There were some nice horses in there," MacDonell said. "There was quite a bit of hype about (Dali). He was a nice horse in his own right, no question about it. Deuce Seelster turned out to be a really nice horse in the long run. Moon Beam, I remember him as a 2-year-old, and he was a good colt. It wasn't an easy season, that's for sure." THE LEAD-IN Owned by a group from Nova Scotia, Somebeachsomewhere was trained at age 2 by co-owner Brent MacGrath and Jean Arsenault. He made his debut on July 30, 2007, in an elimination of the Battle of Waterloo and won by three lengths in a track-record 1:54.2 at half-mile-oval Grand River Raceway. He won the final by 2-1/4 lengths in 1:55. "I got to train him before the Battle of Waterloo elimination and I could tell right away he had some serious power to him," MacDonell said. "But you never know how they're going to perform in a race. His first start, he showed he was special right off the bat. He had power and that fluid gait. He stood out." It was 19 days from the Battle of Waterloo final to the Metro Pace eliminations. Despite his early success, Somebeachsomewhere was the second choice in the third of the three elims, sent off at 5-1 odds. Woodrow Wilson champ Dali was the 1-9 favorite. Somebeachsomewhere won by 3-1/2 lengths over Dali in 1:52.1, the fastest of the three divisions. It was the last time Somebeachsomewhere was not the favorite in any race in his career. After going off as the 8-5 chalk in the Metro final, he never was higher than 2-5 in his remaining 17 lifetime starts. "The punters never got another ticket on him like that again," MacDonell said with a laugh about the Metro elimination. MacDonell drove two of the three Metro elim winners. One race prior to Somebeachsomewhere's score, he guided Deuce Seelster to victory in 1:52.2. Deuce Seelster was undefeated in six career starts to that point, with MacDonell notching four of the wins in Ontario Sire Stakes action, but there was little question which horse MacDonell would drive in the Metro final. "(Somebeachsomewhere) was fresh and ready," MacDonell said. "The choice became very clear after the elimination; he was very strong. I didn't want to give Deuce Seelster up by any means, but it was kind of a no-brainer when I did have to make that choice." Moon Beam was the remaining elimination winner, also in 1:52.2. THE METRO PACE FINAL Somebeachsomewhere started the Metro Pace final from post four. MacDonell wasted no time in putting Somebeachsomewhere in front, taking the lead in the race's opening strides. Somebeachsomewhere reached the quarter in :26.3, half in :54.2, and three-quarters in 1:21.4. The colt separated himself from the field in the stretch and won in a world-record 1:49.3. The time took one-fifth of a second off the previous record for 2-year-old pacers, which was established by Rocknroll Hanover in the 2004 Metro at Woodbine. "After I watched all the eliminations and figured things out, to me it was apparent (Somebeachsomewhere) was the best horse, and I drove him that way," MacDonell said. "I didn't really expect him to pace (1):49 and change but he did it and did it quite easily. "I was probably in just as much awe as everybody else that was watching him. You look and you're like, did he really just do (1):49 and a piece? The way he came to the wire, he was strong. I think that's when the legend really began of The Beach. That was his coming-out party, no doubt." To view a replay of the race, click here. Several months after the win in the Metro, MacGrath reflected on its significance. "It was a pretty big deal for us," MacGrath said. "There's never been a Maritimer to win a million-dollar race. For us little guys in Truro to find the winner, it was a big deal. He's created an awful big stir here. It makes people feel good that a horse can be trained here on the east coast of Canada with the rough winters and go on and do what he did." EPILOGUE Following Somebeachsomewhere's win in the Metro, "beach parties" started in the Maritimes as hundreds of fans would gather to watch the colt race on simulcasts. Somebeachsomewhere started twice following the Metro, winning a division of the Champlain in a stakes-record 1:51 (with a :26 final quarter) and a division of the Nassagaweya in 1:51.4. Somebeachsomewhere was not eligible to the Breeders Crown or Governor's Cup, so MacGrath decided to bring the horse home and prepare for his 3-year-old season. "When he started doing what he was doing, then it got to be more about (the) next year," MacGrath said at the time. "Typically, the weather in the Maritimes is nice in September and October. We brought him home and it was, it was terrific. He had one day in the five weeks that he didn't get in the field. The grass was nice and green and lush. It was just what he needed. He loves that life anyway." At the end of 2007, Somebeachsomewhere was voted the best 2-year-old male pacer in both Canada and the U.S. and shared Canada's Horse of the Year honor with Tell All. His 3-year-old campaign stamped Somebeachsomewhere as one of the sport's all-time greats, with only a neck loss to Art Official in the Meadowlands Pace separating him from perfection. Ironically, many consider it The Beach's top performance. "I've had millions of people tell me it was probably his best race," MacDonell said. "He didn't disgrace himself anywhere he went." Memorable victories from 2008 included his 1:46.4 score in a division of the Bluegrass, a clocking that equaled the fastest race mile in history and established the world record for a 3-year-old pacer. He also won the North America Cup, Breeders Crown, Confederation Cup in a half-mile world-record 1:49.2, and Messenger Stakes in torrential rain. Somebeachsomewhere was the 2008 Horse of the Year in both the U.S. and Canada. He finished his career with 20 wins in 21 races and $3.22 million in purses. He was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2009 and U.S. Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2015. "He had all the physical abilities, he had that strength and size, but I think the one thing that set him apart was his intelligence," MacDonell said. "The ones that are hard to get along with are wasting energy for no reason. You need every bit of energy these days to stay competitive. He was like driving a sports car, and when you asked him to go, he was gone. "He had that ability to show up at the racetrack and he knew what he was there for. He was just great all around in every category." Somebeachsomewhere enjoyed great success as a sire before his untimely passing in 2018 as the result of cancer. His offspring include 10 horses to receive year-end honors (Dan Patch and/or O'Brien awards) including two-time Pacer of the Year Captaintreacherous and three-time Dan Patch honoree Pure Country. The 10 award-winners are among 17 Somebeachsomewhere-sired millionaires to date. "His legend status I think is growing even more," MacDonell said. "Even as a sire, what he's done, people realize how great he was. He had that gait that was so fluid, and I see a lot of that in his stock. It brings back memories just watching those horses." Now, MacDonell will join Somebeachsomewhere in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. "It was pretty cool when I got the call," MacDonell said. "It was mind-blowing, really. It's something you don't even think about when you're starting out, you just go about your business. Now, here we are at 57 years old and being inducted into the Hall of Fame. I'm truly honored, truly honored." His association with The Beach will likely remain a topic of discussion forever. "Not too many weeks go by where someone doesn't come along and want me to sign a poster, or even just talk about him," MacDonell said. "He's always mentioned to me. It's been that way for the past 12 years. I'm forever grateful to him, let me tell you. "And I had the best seat in the house." by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager

On Sept. 23, 2010, Rock N Roll Heaven dominated the Little Brown Jug with a historic and still unparalleled harness racing performance. The colt won his first Jug heat in a world-record-equaling 1:49.2 and returned later in the afternoon to sweep the event by winning the second heat in a duplicate 1:49.2. It was the first time in history a horse won twice on the same day with sub-1:50 miles. There have been 27 Little Brown Jug miles since Rock N Roll Heaven's victory a decade ago and only twice has 1:49.2 been equaled or bettered. Wiggle It Jiggleit won his first heat in 2015 in 1:49.2; Betting Line won the second heat in 2016 in 1:49. Rock N Roll Heaven's trainer Bruce Saunders recently looked back at that memorable day and memorable year for his colt. THE FIELD Rock N Roll Heaven's seven rivals in the second, and final, heat of the 2010 Little Brown Jug were (in alphabetical order) Classic Rock Nroll, Doc's Yankee, Dreamlands Art, I'm Gorgeous, Piece Of The Rock, Razzle Dazzle, and Rockin Image. One More Laugh was scratched. "He beat a very nice bunch of horses," Saunders said. "People want to say they weren't that good, but if the race went in (1):50 and a piece or (1):51, it would have been a very competitive race. The fact Rock N Roll Heaven was up to going (1):49 and a piece, and came home as quickly as he did, dwarfed the other horses' ability that particular day. "It made the race fairly boring as far as competition was concerned, but it wasn't boring for us." THE LEAD-IN Rock N Roll Heaven won four of his first five races in 2010, including the Berry's Creek and New Jersey Sire Stakes championship before a costly blip in a division of the Burlington Stakes at Mohawk. Racing in heavy fog, Rock N Roll Heaven got the lead on the backstretch but was frightened by a light on the infield's half-mile timer and went off stride. He had to qualify three days later to compete in the North America Cup eliminations. He won his qualifier in 1:52 and four days after won his Cup elim in 1:48.4. In the North America Cup final, he finished fourth. "He scoped full of pus and mucous," Saunders said. "I think he was definitely the best horse in the North America Cup. In my mind, it was that extra (1):52 mile he had to go in the middle of the week that stressed his immune system enough that he wasn't on his game for the final. It was what it was." Rock N Roll Heaven bounced back with a win in his Meadowlands Pace elimination, then finished second by a head to One More Laugh in the final after battling for the lead through hotly contested early fractions. A second-place finish by a head to Rockin Image in the Oliver Wendell Holmes followed, but the colt would not lose again the rest of the season. He captured the Battle of the Brandywine in a stakes- and track-record 1:48.4 over a rain-soaked "good" surface at Harrah's Philadelphia and then headed to Delaware, Ohio, for the Little Brown Jug. LITTLE BROWN JUG DAY In his first heat, the first of three Jug eliminations, Rock N Roll Heaven started from post two and was third for the first quarter. On the second turn, driver Dan Dube sent Rock N Roll Heaven on his way and the colt powered to a three-length win over Razzle Dazzle in 1:49.2, equaling the world record for a 3-year-old pacing colt on a half-mile track set by Somebeachsomewhere at Flamboro Downs in the 2008 Confederation Cup final. Classic Rock Nroll won the second elim in 1:50.4 and I'm Gorgeous won the third in 1:50.2. When the field was set for the second heat, Rock N Roll Heaven again started from post two. This time, Dube only waited to come off the first turn to move Rock N Roll Heaven to the front. He was not threatened from there, winning by 2-1/4 lengths over I'm Gorgeous, again in 1:49.2. He paced the second half of the race in :53.4 and final quarter in :26.2. Rock N Roll Heaven's two-heat time of 3:38.4 established the world record, lowering the former time of 3:40.1 set by Shadow Play in the 2008 Jug. Wiggle It Jiggleit is the only Jug winner to threaten Rock N Roll Heaven's mark, missing by a fifth of a second in 2015. "Winning the Jug was an unbelievable experience; it was sensational," Saunders said. "I guess as races go, there were far more exciting ones in the Jug than Heaven's dominant win in 2010, but his performance may not be beat for a while. His last half in the last heat, home in :26.2, without being contested was pretty remarkable." To view a replay of the race, click here. Following the race, Saunders told reporters, "I've been reluctant to call him a great horse, but he is a great horse." Looking back at that comment, Saunders said, "I aspire to Tim McGraw's song, 'Humble and Kind.' I think it's best to be humble, be kind, to your competition. But once (Rock N Roll Heaven) got to that level, I think he established himself. It wasn't braggadocious, it was more just a statement of fact." The atmosphere at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, where fans visit with the horses in the Jug Barn in the days preceding the race and 48,118 showed up for Jug Day, made Rock N Roll Heaven's victory even more memorable. "The two or three days when you're there, it's kind of like an out-of-body experience," Saunders said. "You go through doing what you've got to do (to prepare) and try to accommodate all the people that come by to see the horse to make sure it's a great experience for them as well as you. "Like most horses, he loved the attention. Horses love to be looked at and spoken to, they know when they're the focus. That whole aspect of it was very rewarding. The fans there love the game, they love the horses, and love the winner. To put in that kind of effort was special." THE AFTERMATH Rock N Roll Heaven won his remaining seven starts following the Little Brown Jug on his way to U.S. Horse of the Year honors. Five of those victories were by at least three lengths and the triumphs included the Breeders Crown, Tattersalls Pace, Messenger Stakes, and Matron Stakes. For the year, he won 16 of 21 races and earned $2.15 million. He paced a record 11 sub-1:50 miles, with victories in 1:49.2 or faster on every size racetrack -- half, five-eighths, seven-eighths, and mile. The colt, a son of Rocknroll Hanover out of Artistic Vision, was owned by Frank Bellino and bred by Steve Stewart, Charles "Cotton" Nash, Julie Nash, and Francene Nash. In 2017, Rock N Roll Heaven was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame. "He was an unbelievable horse in so many regards," Saunders said. "One of the remarkable attributes he had was that he could pace away from a field of horses any time during the mile. In the middle part, the first part, from the top of the stretch home; if he was fresh, he could just sprint away from horses. And a lot of them stood on their toes trying to keep up with him. "To get a horse that is Horse of the Year is pretty spectacular. He was special." At the end of the 2010 campaign, The Meadowlands Racetrack produced a video looking at Rock N Roll Heaven's season, which can be viewed here. Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager

17 to 32 of 2156