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Chris Beaver will send out the morning-line favorite in each of Wednesday's three John Simpson Memorial Stakes for 3-year-old female harness racing trotters at Harrah's Philadelphia as he looks to push his training stable to a career high in earnings for the sixth consecutive season. Beaver's Simpson favorites are among a group of 3-year-old filly trotters, including Kentucky Filly Futurity hopeful Weslynn Quest, that has combined to earn in the neighborhood of $1 million this season. Overall, Beaver's stable has banked $2.64 million in 2019 and is less than $5,000 from surpassing last year's total of $2.65 million. "I have a fantastic group of 3-year-old trotting fillies," the Ohio-based Beaver said. "I ended up with about 10 (1):55 3-year-old trotting fillies this year and that's really helped the season." Back Splash, who was one of six Ohio Sire Stakes 3-year-old trotting filly finalists for Beaver as well as a Kentucky Sire Stakes finalist, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the first $30,000 Simpson division at Philly. She has won three of 13 races this year and earned $61,100. David Miller drives the filly Wednesday. "She's a fast filly," Beaver said. "She hasn't gotten around the small tracks really good this year, but she did win in (a career-best) 1:54 at Scioto. I think if she gets out there and keeps rolling along and doesn't get into a lot of traffic, she can be good." Pure Chance, who heads to the second Simpson division off an Ohio Breeders Championship victory, has won six of 12 races and $167,492 this year. She is 2-1 and also will have Miller in the sulky. "She's been a really nice filly and she's tough," Beaver said. "I really like her. I think she could make a nice racehorse after she's done with her stakes races. "I had a full sister to her (Sesame) that's made about $250,000 in Ohio, so they've been good ones for me. I like (Pure Chance) better though. She races without hobbles and she's very consistent. The only times she hasn't raced really good, she's had a couple trips where she got roughed up, otherwise she's always been finishing strong. She's put in a good effort every time." Beaver has a second horse, Stone In Love, in the second Simpson division. Stone In Love, who will have George Napolitano Jr. as her driver, has won two of 16 races and $53,078 this season. "She's a nice filly, but she's not quick off the gate so she always kind of gets in a bad spot," Beaver said. "She's usually finishing pretty good though." In the third division, Keystone Abbey is the 2-1 favorite. The filly has won five of 17 races this year, including the Currier & Ives Filly, and earned $101,870. Napolitano will drive Keystone Abbey. "She's been a little bit lucky this year," Beaver said. "She was good that day (in the Currier & Ives Filly), but the favorite ran coming down the lane. She won some races and didn't have to go very fast to win them. She did reel off four wins in a row earlier this year, so things have worked out pretty well for her for the type of horse she is." In addition to his Simpson Memorial Stakes group, Beaver hopes to have two Indiana Sire Stakes 3-year-old trotting filly finalists in recent Buckette Stakes winner Sophia Lia and Morairtime. Those two fillies compete in the final preliminary round of the ISS on Wednesday night at Harrah's Hoosier Park. On Sunday, Beaver expects to have Weslynn Quest in the Kentucky Filly Futurity at Lexington's Red Mile. She finished second to Only Take Cash in the Ohio Sire Stakes final and missed by a nose to stablemate Pure Chance in the OBC. "She's a very fast filly," Beaver said. "I had trouble with her being too hot and making breaks early in the season. I got her straightened out toward the end of the sire stakes season and she set a track record (1:53.3) at Scioto. She has a sister (Weslynn Dancer) that's turned into a good aged horse and she's eligible to a lot of the big races late in the season. "We'll have to see how she goes stretched all the way out against real good fillies, but I think the pedigree is there and the high speed. She's never had to trot in (1):50 before so we'll see what happens." Wednesday's card at Harrah's Philadelphia also includes three divisions of the Simpson Memorial for 3-year-old filly pacers. Rockn Philly, So Awesome, and Trillions Hanover are the morning-line favorites. Racing begins at 12:25 p.m. (EDT). For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA    

Hightstown, NJ -- In mythology, the manticore was a fearsome creature with the head of a man, the body of a lion and the tail of a scorpion. On the racetrack, Manticore is a 2-year-old harness racing colt pacer. Like his legendary counterpart, he is proving to be formidable. Manticore, trained by Bruce Saunders for owners M And L of Delaware and M & M Harness Racing, enters Saturday's (Sept. 28) Bluegrass Stakes for 2-year-old male pacers at Red Mile with three wins in eight races and no finishes worse than third. He is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the third of four Bluegrass divisions, starting from post three with driver Brian Sears. Already a Grand Circuit winner, Manticore heads to the race off a second-place finish in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final. "He's a very nice colt," said M And L of Delaware's Doug Paul. "He was a late foal, born June 5 (2017), and he's just coming into himself. But he started out early and hasn't missed a beat. He's really consistent. He can leave, he can follow, he can cut the mile; he's just very versatile." Manticore is a son of Western Ideal out of the McArdle-sired mare Southwind Piaya. He was purchased under the name Keystone Pablo for $20,000 at the 2018 Standardbred Horse Sale. "What we liked about him is that he was a Western Ideal out of a McArdle mare and he was late in the sale," Paul said. "Our rationale was that (2018 Horse of the Year) McWicked is a McArdle out of a Western Ideal mare, so we reversed it. "He was a very correct colt. Not the biggest colt but correct and substantially built. We had luck with Western Ideal the year before with (stakes-winner) Mangogh. They've always been nice horses." The Paul family traditionally incorporates either "man" or "lady" into the names of its horses. In addition to the mythological manticore, the television series "Game of Thrones" referenced insects called manticores, which contributed to the renaming of Keystone Pablo to Manticore. "It just fit, especially with how popular 'Game of Thrones' was at the time we were naming him," Paul said. Manticore is eligible to all the major stakes remaining this season, but Paul said the connections are taking a wait-and-see approach to deciding his future. "We'll see how he is in Lexington," Paul said. "So far he hasn't disappointed us in any race yet." In the first Bluegrass division, Kentucky Sire Stakes champion Catch The Fire is the 8-5 morning line favorite over undefeated Ohio Sire Stakes champion Elver Hanover at 2-1. Catch The Fire, trained by John Ackley, starts from post four with driver Mike Wilder. Elver Hanover, who is 7-for-7 for trainer Ron Burke, leaves from post two with Yannick Gingras. Seeyou At Thebeach is the 6-5 favorite in the second division. The Brian Brown-trained colt heads to the race off a fourth-place finish in the Metro Pace and starts from post three with Tim Tetrick. Tony Alagna's Captain Barbossa, with Andy McCarthy in the sulky, is the 3-1 second choice. He enters the race off a victory in the Kindergarten Classic Series. Kentucky Sire Stakes final runner-up Roll With Jr is the 3-1 choice in the fourth and final Bluegrass division. He is trained by Jeff Cullipher and will be driven by Doug McNair from post two. In addition to the stakes for 2-year-olds, there is a single 12-horse Bluegrass event for 3-year-old female pacers. Tall Drink Hanover, with McCarthy at the lines for trainer Alagna, is the 9-5 morning-line favorite. She brings a five-race win streak to the race, with her victories including the Shady Daisy and Simcoe. The race also includes Fan Hanover winner Treacherous Reign and sire stakes champions Zero Tolerance (New York), Queen Of The Pride (Ohio), and Beautyonthebeach (Kentucky). Racing begins at 1 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at Red Mile. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

Baby Your The Best was not at her best in her most recent harness racing start, but her second-place finish behind Gai Waterhouse in the Kentucky Sire Stakes final that day only added to trainer Linda Toscano's level of appreciation for the 2-year-old filly pacer. "I love her," Toscano said about Baby Your The Best, who suffered from muscle cramping in the KYSS final on Sept. 15 and was beaten by three-quarters of a length after leading into the stretch. "She doesn't do anything wrong. She tied up badly in her last start and she was really good in spite of it. Hopefully, we've got that behind us and she can go out and do what I know she can do." Baby Your The Best is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in Friday's (Sept. 27) second of two Bluegrass Stakes divisions for 2-year-old filly pacers at Lexington's Red Mile. Gai Waterhouse, trained by Domenico Cecere, is the 5-2 second choice, followed by Carter Pinkse's Annabelle Hanover at 4-1. Purchased as a yearling under the name Emissary for $225,000 at last fall's Lexington Selected Sale, Baby Your The Best is a daughter of Captaintreacherous-Dolphins Can Talk from the family of Dan Patch Award-winner Put On A Show. Her second dam, Stienam's Place, is in the Hall of Fame as a broodmare and her half-brother Flipper J was a stakes winner. Richard Young and Joanne Young, who own Put On A Show, own Baby Your The Best. Baby Your The Best has won two of seven races and finished second in the remaining five. Two of her runner-up performances came to multiple-stakes-winner Lyons Sentinel, including in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final. Baby Your The Best's two victories came in preliminary rounds of the Kentucky Sire Stakes series at Red Mile. "She's big, she's beautiful, she's great gaited, she's got a big pedigree, and she seems to not know the end of the mile," Toscano said. "There is nothing not to like about her." Toscano also has a starter, Rocknificent, in the first Bluegrass division for 2-year-old filly pacers. Rocknificent, who has won three of six races, is the 3-1 morning-line favorite. The filly is coming off a fourth-place finish, her only finish worse than third this season, in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final. Rocknificent, by Captaintreacherous, was the first foal out of Dan Patch Award-winner Rocklamation. Purchased under the name Deo's Proclamation for $145,000 at the Lexington Selected Sale, she is owned by Enviro Stables, South Mountain Stables, and Little E. "She's been a fun horse to race this year," Toscano said. "She's gone some really tough trips; she had to be first-over way more than I would like it. She's a nice filly. I'm looking forward to racing her. Hopefully she will get a really nice trip and finish up good." Toscano's Friday will get underway with Senorita Rita in the first of four Bluegrass Stakes divisions for 2-year-old filly trotters. Senorita Rita, who is 2-for-2 this season, is 6-1 on the morning line. Kentucky Sire Stakes runner-up Shishito is the 5-2 favorite. Senorita Rita won her debut in a division of the New York Sire Stakes on July 4 at Tioga Downs but did not race again until winning a conditioned race Sept. 12 at Red Mile. "She's a really nice filly," Toscano said. "I had to back off with her a little bit because she needed a little bit of time after I got her qualified and raced at Tioga. It's kind of a big test to go from a qualifier and an overnight into the Grand Circuit at this point when the others are so seasoned. But I think she has enough talent, so we'll try." Originally named Seven Links, Senorita Rita was purchased for $285,000 by Ken Jacobs at the Lexington Selected Sale. She is by Chapter Seven out of Lindys Head Nurse. "She's great looking," Toscano said. "I thought I was training three really nice trotting fillies this year. One disappointed, but (Dip Me Hanover) won the Peaceful Way and this one could trot right with her. I thought she was the best training down, so we'll see." In the second Bluegrass filly trot, undefeated Sister Sledge is the 8-5 favorite. She is 7-for-7 this season and enters Friday's start for trainer Ron Burke off a win in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final. Peaceful Way runner-up Hello Tomorrow, from the stable of trainer Per Engblom, is the 2-1 second choice. Engblom's Ms Savannah Belle is the 6-5 favorite in the third division. She was winless in her first three starts but has since put together a three-race win streak including the Kentucky Sire Stakes final. Ramona Hill, unbeaten in three career races for trainer Tony Alagna, is the even-money choice in the fourth and final division. She has won two preliminary rounds of the Kindergarten Classic Series and the consolation division of the Kentuckiana Stallion Management. Stakes-winner Panem, trained by Nancy Johansson, is the 5-2 second pick. Racing begins at 1 p.m. (EDT) Friday at Red Mile. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA 

Yannick Gingras will head to Hollywood Dayton Raceway looking to sweep Friday's harness racing Grand Circuit stakes at the Ohio oval with morning-line favorite Mission Accepted in the Dayton Trotting Derby and second choice This Is The Plan in the Dayton Pacing Derby. It will be Gingras' first time behind Mission Accepted since the duo lost the Crawford Farms Open Trot by a nose on Aug. 11 at Tioga Downs. The 4-year-old stallion has not won since the Vincennes on Aug. 3, Hambletonian Day, at The Meadowlands, but Gingras has been impressed with the horse's efforts in his recent starts. Mission Accepted enters the Dayton Trotting Derby off a second-place finish to Lindy The Great in last week's Caesars Trotting Classic at Hoosier Park. Mission Accepted was eighth in the outer flow for the first three-quarters of a mile before fanning four-wide off the final turn and rallying for the place spot. Two weeks earlier, he was third, beaten only a half-length, in the Charlie Hill Memorial won by Atlanta. Trained by Ron Burke, Mission Accepted is 2-1 on the morning line in the $171,250 Dayton Trotting Derby. "He's been super sharp," Gingras said. "Last time, he was loaded with trot finishing. I was really impressed with how much trot he had. And the race before, he was loaded that day too. He couldn't be coming into the race in better form. I think he's coming into the race in the right way." For the season, Mission Accepted has won four of 17 races, hit the board a total of 11 times, and earned $244,345. He is owned by Burke Racing Stable, breeder Knox Services Inc., David Wills, and the Weaver Bruscemi partnership. "He's very versatile and sweet to drive," Gingras said. "He's not the biggest horse, he's not the most powerful horse, but you know he's going to go on the track and give you everything he's got." This Is The Plan enters the $151,750 Dayton Pacing Derby off a win in last week's Hoosier Park Pacing Derby. After racing from the front in most of his starts this season, Gingras decided to race This Is The Plan from off the pace at Hoosier and got a second-over trip behind favorite McWicked en route to victory. "I did go into the race wanting to change tactics," Gingras said. "He had several tough starts in a row, and I figured it would be nice to try to get him covered up. You always have to respect McWicked and I thought that maybe if I could get McWicked in front of me, that might work out. Usually it doesn't work out that way, but for one time the plan worked out to perfection." McWicked, the 2018 Horse of the Year, is the 5-2 favorite from post one in the Dayton Pacing Derby. This Is The Plan is 3-1 from post five. This Is The Plan has won three of 16 races this year and finished second on six occasions, earning $743,598. He ranks third in purses among all older pacers in North America, trailing only Shartin N and Lather Up. For his career, the 4-year-old gelding has won 10 of 49 races and earned $1.38 million. He is owned by Burke Racing, Weaver Bruscemi, J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby, and Larry Karr. Gingras hopes last week's change in style and subsequent victory results in more versatility down the road. "He's been super consistent," Gingras said. "He's got crazy gate speed and puts himself into the race. I really didn't know how he would race from behind. Heading to the Breeders Crown and the other big races coming up, I wanted to see how he would respond. Hopefully now he will be a little more well-rounded. Last week he showed he was able to do it. Hopefully he can continue in that direction." Racing begins at 6:15 p.m. (EDT) at Hollywood Dayton Raceway. For complete Friday entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA     

After finally getting to spend an entire winter in Florida working with his family's racehorses, Carter Pinske knew it was what he wanted to do full time. So, when the harness racing season was ready to begin, Pinske followed a group of those horses to trainer Richard "Nifty" Norman's stable, where he worked as an assistant for Norman in New Jersey, Canada, and now Kentucky. And on Thursday (Sept. 26), the 24-year-old Pinske will step out for his Grand Circuit training debut in the third division of the Bluegrass Stakes for 2-year-old male trotters with Amigo Volo at Lexington's Red Mile. The gelding, who heads to the race off a second-place finish behind Real Cool Sam in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final, is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line behind Kentucky Sire Stakes champ Ready For Moni. Amigo Volo is owned by Pinske Stables, headed by Pinske's father Karl and grandmother Marlys, and Florida's David J. Miller. With Pinske already in Kentucky with the horse, Norman decided it was time for him to take the reins. "He's been real generous to let me do that," Pinkse said. "I'm very fortunate to have these owners trust me with the horses in Florida and then be completely fine with whatever Nifty decides along with myself. They're great owners and I've been really fortunate all the way around." Prior to this past winter, Pinske helped prepare the family's horses for racing by assisting as much as time permitted around his school schedule. Pinske graduated from college in May 2018 and was happy to get a full winter with the horses in Florida before sending them to Norman as well as trainer Julie Miller, as he had done in previous years. "I went to Florida wanting to train horses, but I didn't know it would blossom like this," Pinske said. "This year, I sent 14 horses to Nifty and I went with them. He's just an awesome guy to learn from. He puts full trust in you and lets you take off. He's a really smart guy with a horse; he's got a really good way with a horse. Just being around him, it just kind of vibrates off him. "I'm extremely appreciative of Nifty. It's a partnership that's not going anywhere." Amigo Volo, by Father Patrick out of Margarita Momma, was purchased for $42,000 at last fall's Lexington Selected Sale. He is a full brother to Reign Of Honor, who won last year's Kindergarten Classic Series championship for Norman's stable. In August, Amigo Volo won a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes in 1:54.4 at Harrah's Philadelphia, setting the world record for a 2-year-old gelding trotter on a five-eighths-mile track. Real Cool Sam, who is undefeated in eight races this year, lowered the record to 1:53.4 when he won the PASS championship at the same track. "He went a really big mile," Pinske said about Amigo Volo's runner-up effort in the sire stakes final. "He had to do a lot of the grunt work and Real Cool Sam got a great trip. I thought we might have him there, but (Real Cool Sam) is just a game horse, a tough one to beat." For the year, Amigo Volo has won two of six races and earned $115,896. "He's just an awesome horse to be around," Pinske said. "He's a little horse, a little spitfire of a horse. I had to be real patient with him down in Florida. He always showed talent, he just lacked maturity. According to Nifty, that's about how the full brother, Reign Of Honor, was when he trained down. That's why we ended up gelding him. But he always showed talent and now has finally gotten to show it here. He's a really big-gaited horse for the size he is." Expectations, who finished second in the Kentucky Sire Stakes final, is the 7-5 morning-line favorite in the first Bluegrass division. Capricornus, who finished second in the William Wellwood Memorial, is the 2-1 choice in the second. Both horses are from the stable of trainer Marcus Melander. Racing begins at 1 p.m. (EDT) Thursday at Red Mile. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

Stienam's Place retired from racing at age 4 following a Dan Patch Award-winning career. Now, at the age of 25, she is retired again, this time following a broodmare career that landed her in the Harness Racing Hall of Fame. Barry Guariglia, whose Green Mountain Farms shares ownership of Stienam's Place with Kentuckiana Farms, said the mare would sell her final foal during next week's opening session of the Lexington Selected Sale. Twenty-four years ago, Guariglia and his racing partners, Peter Goulazian and James Greenwald, purchased Stienam's Place under the name Tranquil Sands for $62,000 at the Kentucky Standardbred Sale. "She's officially retired and will stay at Kentuckiana for the rest of her life," Guariglia said about Stienam's Place, who was the sport's Dan Patch Award winning 3-year-old filly pacer in 1997 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017. "She's done well and gone a long time. It's time for her to just relax, eat some grass, and run around." Stienam's Place was from the first crop of Artsplace and the first foal out of Stienam's Girl. Her second dam, Stienam, was a Dan Patch Award winner at age 3 in 1985. Bruce Riegle trained Stienam's Place and Jack Moiseyev handled the driving in all but several races. For her career, she won 18 of 31 races and earned $1.40 million. Her top win at age 2 came in the Sweetheart; at 3, her triumphs included the Breeders Crown, Jugette, Glen Garnsey, Helen Dancer, and Matron. She won 14 of the final 15 starts of her campaign. She raced once at 4, suffered a severe bone bruise, and was retired. As a broodmare, Stienam's Place has produced 10 horses to reach the races, totaling 108 wins and $4.67 million in purses. First foal Donkeys Can Talk was a Kentucky Sire Stakes champion, but her greatest successes came during the second half of her career as a mom. The filly Showherthemoney was a world-record-setting stakes-winner at age 3 whose victories included the Jugette, Nadia Lobell, Matron, Glen Garnsey and Miss New Jersey. She won 19 of 54 races and $871,161 lifetime. At the same time Showherthemoney was enjoying her big 3-year-old campaign in 2009, 2-year-old filly Put On A Show burst on the scene by winning seven of nine races, including the She's A Great Lady. The following season, she received the Dan Patch Award for best 3-year-old filly pacer, with wins including the Breeders Crown, Nadia Lobell, and Valley Forge. She finished her career with 31 wins in 50 starts and $2.40 million. Two of Put On A Show's offspring have gone on to be stakes-winners, Come See The Show and Meadowlands Pace champion Best In Show. Following Showherthemoney and Put On A Show, Stienam's Place produced three more horses to earn six figures in purses: Good Day Mate ($597,623), Rockstar Stride ($173,240), and The Show Returns ($377,327). "She's had a big impact," Guariglia said. "It took her a while to hit, but with her pedigree and performance as a racehorse, we kind of figured it was just a matter of time before she clicked. Sure enough, she did. "As a racehorse, she was a little ornery in the stall. Bruce had to keep her with a goat (named Bunny) to keep her calmed down. It worked for her. As a broodmare, she's been a perfect lady." Guariglia, whose top horses since Stienam's Place include Dan Patch Award-winning trotter Manchego, said he always enjoyed following the horses produced by Stienam's Place. Her final foal, a colt by Somebeachsomewhere, is named Ponzu. He is hip number 62 and will sell on Oct. 1 at the Lexington Selected Sale. "Some people say, why did you sell Put On A Show?" Guariglia said, adding with a laugh, "Well, first of all, if I knew she was going to make $2.4 million, maybe I wouldn't have. But I wish people the best luck and I want to see them do well. People have a weird angle on that stuff; it doesn't bother me at all. I enjoy watching (her offspring). Absolutely. It's kind of neat. "She was my first great horse. She was good on the track and great in the shed. All the way around, it was a great experience." by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

It is no surprise to find Wally Hennessey winning a high rate of races in upstate New York during the summer. The Hall of Fame driver, who spends the non-summer months at Florida's Pompano Park, has enjoyed countless years of success at Saratoga's harness racing track going back to the late 1980s. This year, though, Hennessey has spent the summer competing at Tioga Downs. He decided the change would benefit the handful of trotters in his stable, the majority of which he thought would perform better on Tioga's five-eighths-mile oval compared to Saratoga's half-mile circuit. As it turned out, Hennessey's horses did not thrive at Tioga. But Hennessey did. With two nights of racing remaining in the 58-day Tioga Downs meet, Hennessey sits comfortably atop the driver standings with 131 wins. The total is a record for the track, which opened in 2006, shattering the previous high of 91 shared by Jim Marohn Jr. (2014) and Howard Parker (2007). Hennessey's win rate at Tioga is nearly 28 percent. "My main reason for going wasn't that I was thinking I was going to be the leading driver," Hennessey said. "My reason was because of my stable. As it turned out, I didn't do as well as I expected to do with my own stable and I did way better than I expected to do driving. So, you never know." Over the past 10 years, Hennessey won nearly 900 races during his summer sojourns in Saratoga, so it was not an easy decision to change his routine. "I love Saratoga, I love the town, I love the people there," said Hennessey, who turns 63 on Oct. 4. "I've seen kids raised and families and I've known people a long time. But this is a business, and this was a business decision. It wasn't something I was doing with my heart. I was doing it with my head. "When you're making a change, especially at my age, the older you get, the harder it is to do. There is always that unknown. But it couldn't have worked any better. I met so many nice people, and I think in life that's quite a thing too, that you're able to meet new people. "The people were so friendly and respectful. That's kind of the way I was raised on Prince Edward Island. They remind me of the same type people. I enjoyed it. I don't know where I'm going next year, but if that's my choice, I wouldn't be second-guessing it." Hennessey, whose decision to race at Tioga was made easier knowing that a number of horsemen from Pompano spent the summer there, graded his experience an "A-plus." He will drive the final two nights at Tioga Downs and then return to Florida and get ready for the Pompano Park meet, which begins Nov. 3. He will use October to get his stable ready for action after turning out his trotters three weeks ago. "My horses were just fair," said Hennessey, who has won the past four driving titles at Pompano. "Good isn't good enough for me, I have high expectations. My horses didn't race that great. I'm not sugar-coating nothing. They were not near as good as I thought they should be. I shut them down to refresh them for Pompano. "I won't be doing any driving (until Pompano resumes), and I need that as well, mentally and physically," he added. "But I'm very happy." by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA     

Southwind Ozzi threw his name into the harness racing ring as the best three-year-old colt pacer in the country with his two heat wins in securing the 74th Little Brown Jug on Thursday (September 19) at the Delaware County Fair. At the start of the $384,000 final heat, David Miller sent Stag Party out of post number 5 and grabbed the early lead. The second elimination winning Fast N First (Brett Miller) was second and American Mercury was third though the first two panels in :26 2/5 and :54 3/5. As the field of six headed down the backstretch the second time, Southwind Ozzi sat second just outside Stag Party in 1:22 1/5. At they turned for home and to the roar of the 48,126 fans, Southwind Ozzi cruised home to score the 1 ¾ length victory over Fast N First and American Mercury (Tyler Buter) in 1:50 1/5. Southwind Ozzi is the sophomore son of Somebeachsomewhere and was bred by Southwind Farms. Owners Vincent A. Ali, Jr. and Alma Iafelice and trainer Bill MacKenzie hoisted the Jug for the first time. Driver Brian Sears also won the 2013 title with Vegas Vacation. Southwind Ozzi leaves Ohio with a four race win streak and $771,263 in career earnings. In the first elimination, Yannick Gingras sent De Los Cielos Deo fast off the gates wings. The gelding then make a wicked break in stride scattering the field. Shake That House (Tim Tetrick) inherited the lead and Stag Party found a spot second at the rail. The leaders past the quarter in :27 1/5, the half in :55. Southwind Ozzi was the first to challenge and was second on the outside at the three-quarters in 1:22 2/5. The eventual winner stuck a nose ahead at the 7/8 mile mark and sprinted home in :28 1/5 to score a 2 ¾ length win over Air Force Hanover (Simon Allard), who won the photo finish over a charging Stag Party. Shake That House held on for the final advancing position. The second elimination was a drag race from the start. Semi Tough (Matt Kakaly) and Artie’s Ideal (Marcus Miller) battled through the opening quarter in :25 3/5. American Mercury (Tyler Buter) took the lead from Semi Tough before the half in :53 3/5. American Mercury led past the three-quarters in 1:21 2/5. A four way photo at the wire showed the fast closing Fast N First (Brett Miller) a nose better than American Mercury. Artie’s Ideal was third and Semi Tough was fourth. Artie’s Ideal and Shake That House were later scratched from the second heat. by Jay Wolf, for the Little Brown Jug

Little Rocket Man might be on the small side, but it has not prevented the 3-year-old harness racing pacer from coming up big for trainer Missy Essig and owners Russ Beeman and Jack Freeman. The gelding, unraced at age 2, has won 10 of 14 races this season and earned $137,630 as he heads to his first career Grand Circuit event, Friday's (Sept. 20) $170,000 Jenna's Beach Boy Stakes at Harrah's Hoosier Park. "He has no idea he's small," Essig said. "He's full of himself." Entering this season, Essig expected "absolutely nothing" from Little Rocket Man. Last year, the horse was sidelined longer than expected following surgery to be gelded and his connections decided to skip the season to give Little Rocket Man additional time to heal and, perhaps, grow. He did not grow much and training down for his 3-year-old campaign showed little interest in breaking the two-minute barrier. It seemed the horse was destined for the Indiana fair circuit, until he got behind the starting gate with a field of horses. "Then, he woke up," Essig said. "He's got his own personality. He's kind of aggravating in the barn; he can be a little ornery. But on the racetrack, he's great. He's very versatile. He can leave, he can sit in the pocket; he's very easy to control that way. You can put him where you want to put him in a race. That's the best thing about him, just the way he races." Little Rocket Man is by Rockin Image out of GT Miss Royal. Essig trained GT Miss Royal for part of her 10-year career on the racetrack. "My dad (Beeman) always said he wanted a baby out of her," Essig said. Little Rocket Man, bred by Victory Hill Farm, was GT Miss Royal's first foal. Freeman signed for Little Rocket Man, then named Just Like Pete, after purchasing the horse for $18,000 at the 2017 Hoosier Classic Yearling Sale. "He's been a nice one to have in the barn, that's for sure," Essig said. Little Rocket Man has picked up four victories on the Indiana Sire Stakes circuit and swept the Jerry Landess Series as part of a four-race win streak in April. He is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line in the Jenna's Beach Boy, leaving from post five with driver Trace Tetrick. Century Farroh, who has won 11 of 13 races this year including the Simcoe Stakes over Meadowlands Pace champ Best In Show and North America Cup winner Captain Crunch, is the 3-1 favorite. "We're really pleased with the post position," Essig said. "I have a good feeling. I hope it all pans out. You don't know until the gate folds." The Jenna's Beach Boy is part of a stakes-filled card Friday at Hoosier Park. Maple Leaf Trot winner Guardian Angel AS is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the $230,000 Caesars Trotting Classic for older trotters. The field also includes 2017 Horse of the Year Hannelore Hanover, 2016 Trotter of the Year Marion Marauder, and stakes winners Crystal Fashion, Six Pack, and Fiftydallarbill. McWicked, the 2018 Horse of the Year, is the 3-1 favorite in the $176,000 Harrah's Hoosier Park Pacing Derby for older pacers. This Is The Plan is the 7-2 second choice followed by Jimmy Freight at 4-1. Evident Beauty, coming off a victory in the Elegantimage Stakes, is the 9-5 favorite in the $135,000 Moni Maker Stakes for 3-year-old female trotters. There also are Kentuckiana Stallion Management Stakes for 2-year-old female pacers and trotters and the Elevation for 2-year-old male pacers. Racing begins at 6:30 p.m. (EDT) Friday at Hoosier Park. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA    

Anthony Iafelice and Vincent Ali Sr., who passed away in 2017 and 2013, respectively, never owned a harness racing horse like Southwind Ozzi. But family members feel their presence as they enjoy the ride with one of the favorites in Thursday's $640,000 Little Brown Jug. Iafelice and Ali were friends, sharing a love of horses and harness racing. Iafelice's grandson, Bill MacKenzie, began training horses for Ali a number of years ago and now MacKenzie conditions Southwind Ozzi for his grandmother, Alma Iafelice, and Vincent Ali Jr. Southwind Ozzi enters the 74th Little Brown Jug, presented by the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in central Ohio, with seven wins in nine starts this year and $480,935 in purses. His victories include the Adios and Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final. He is the 8-5 morning-line favorite in the first of two $128,000 Little Brown Jug eliminations, with Brian Sears in the sulky. "This is a first for everybody," MacKenzie said. "My grandparents owned a couple nice horses, but nothing like him. It's great. This is what anybody that buys a yearling or buys a horse is aiming to do. This is what we do it for. Unfortunately, (my grandfather) is not here to see this, but I'm sure he's looking down." Said Ali Jr., "My dad never had nothing like this either. I wish he was alive to see it. He'd be going crazy right now. That was his dream, to have a horse like this. He's the reason I do this, he got me involved." The Little Brown Jug is the third jewel in the Triple Crown for 3-year-old pacers, following the Cane Pace and Messenger Stakes. Captain Crunch won the Cane and was not entered in the Jug. Messenger winner American Mercury, one of three Jug entrants from the stable of trainer Chris Oakes, is the 5-2 favorite in the second Jug elim. The top-four finishers from each elimination return later in the day for the $384,000 final. Southwind Ozzi, a son of Somebeachsomewhere out of Southwind Solara, was purchased as a yearling for $85,000 at the 2017 Lexington Selected Sale. He was the only horse MacKenzie bought that year for his grandmother and Ali Jr. As a 2-year-old, Southwind Ozzi won once and finished second on four occasions. He was the favorite in the Kindergarten Classic Series championship in November but was derailed by sickness and finished 10th. He began this season with three wins and a second-place finish before being sidelined for nearly two months because of emergency hernia surgery. He returned in July and captured the Adios. "He missed six weeks, but you know what, in hindsight maybe that's helped him," Ali Jr. said. "Maybe it's kept him fresh in a sense. He's racing real good now." Ali Jr. hoped Southwind Ozzi would have a good season, particularly in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes, but tried to temper his expectations beyond that. "My expectations weren't going to the Jug, that's for sure," said Ali Jr., who is a contractor in New York City. "Who would have ever thunk? It's not too often you get a horse like him. It's never been for me, so it's a lot of fun. It's a good time. "This has exceeded my expectations by far." Southwind Ozzi will start from post four in his Jug elimination. The division also includes Hempt Memorial winner Shake That House, who is the 2-1 second choice. "I just do what I have to do, and I leave the rest up to Brian," MacKenzie said, referring to driver Sears, who won the Little Brown Jug in 2013 with Vegas Vacation. "That's what I do with any race. I don't tell him what to do." Following the Jug, Southwind Ozzi is staked to the Simpson Memorial at Harrah's Philadelphia on Sept. 29. He is not eligible to the Tattersalls Pace or Breeders Crown in October but could be supplemented to those events. But those are decisions for another day. "We're just going week to week," MacKenzie said. "Those are all options that we'll keep the door open on, but we don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves. He'll tell us where he's going. That's where we're at." Following are the fields for Thursday's Little Brown Jug eliminations. The first elim is race 15 on the afternoon's card, with an approximate post time of 3:27 p.m. (EDT). The second is race 16, with an approximate post of 3:45 p.m. The final is race 20. First Elimination PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-ML 1-Caviart Rockland-Dexter Dunn-Nancy Johansson-12/1 2-De Los Cielos Deo-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-6/1 3-Shake That House-Tim Tetrick-Chris Oakes-2/1 4-Southwind Ozzi-Brian Sears-Bill MacKenzie-8/5 5-Air Force Hanover-Simon Allard-Rene Allard-8/1 6-U S Captain-Jason Bartlett-Tony Alagna-12/1 7-Stag Party-David Miller-Casie Coleman-15/1 Second Elimination PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-ML 1-Semi Tough-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-9/2 2-Lyons Johnnyjnr-Tim Tetrick-Jim King Jr.-9/2 3-Quatrain Blue Chip-Aaron Merriman-Chris Oakes-6/1 4-Artie's Ideal-Marcus Miller-Erv Miller-7/2 5-Fast N First-Brett Miller-Blake MacIntosh-12/1 6-Spectrum-Andy Miller-Nick Surick-25/1 7-American Mercury-Tyler Buter-Chris Oakes-5/2 8-Escapetothebeach-Joe Bongiorno-Tony Alagna-10/1 by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

Ron Burke knows the feeling of winning at the Delaware County Fairgrounds and it never gets old. Burke, the sport's leading harness racing trainer in wins and purses each of the past 10 years (and well on his way to sweeping both categories again this season), is among the winningest trainers at the fairgrounds over the past 25 years, ranking No. 6 with 30 victories. His triumphs at Delaware include two wins in the Little Brown Jug and two wins in the Jugette and he hopes to add to those totals this week. Burke sends three horses to Wednesday's $259,600 Jugette for 3-year-old female pacers and with a victory would join Billy Haughton and Bob McIntosh as the only trainers to capture the race three times. The Burke Stable, overall, has three wins in the event, with Burke's father Mickey taking the 2007 edition with Western Graduate. Burke's hopefuls in the Jugette are Warrawee Ubeaut, a 2018 Dan Patch Award winner who is the 3-5 morning-line favorite in the second of two $51,920 eliminations, and Sylph Hanover and She's Allright in the first elimination. In addition, Burke sends two horses, De Los Cielos Deo and Semi Tough, to Thursday's $640,000 Little Brown Jug for 3-year-old pacers. With a win, Burke would join five other trainers in a third-place tie for the most victories in the race. Haughton holds the record with six. "Western Graduate gave us our first win of a major race here, so of course that was special," Burke said. "Every time we win (one of the major races) I think it's not going to be as special as before, but it is. It's just a great place. It's a place where you have a lot of fans and they're into the racing, so it's cool. "I'm hoping we can get another one," added the trainer, whose horses have hit the board in 56.9 percent of their 172 starts at the central Ohio half-mile oval. "We have a good feel for this track. We come here Saturday and we bring all the horses and they train here. It does give you an advantage, I think, if the horses go around here and get a feel for it. For a half-mile track, they're able to go so fast here that it does kind of pick them up a little bit." Warrawee Ubeaut brings a three-race win streak to the Jugette, which, like the Little Brown Jug, contests its eliminations and final on the same day. The filly, who won the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final in her most recent outing Sept. 7, has won seven of 12 races this season and hit the board in every start. Last year, she became the fastest 2-year-old pacer in history, winning in 1:48.3 at Lexington's Red Mile. "It's been all right," Burke said about Warrawee Ubeaut's year to date. "I'm not as disappointed as other people. Sometimes we put her in bad spots, but it was with the goal of making her a complete racehorse. And she's become that. She's now controllable, she can race either way. "The fillies that beat her sometimes just raced great. It wasn't that she raced bad; I can think of two times she got beat a nose by horses that just raced great. The fillies this year are very good. But now she seems to be a little sharper than maybe the other ones are. She's getting better all along. She seems to be coming to where we thought she would be." Warrawee Ubeaut, who has earned $1.07 million lifetime, will start her elimination from post one with driver Yannick Gingras. "She got a great draw," Burke said. "It's a good spot. She can do multiple things from there; it really gives her options. I'm excited for her." Burke, who won the Jugette in 2015 with Sassa Hanover and 2012 with Darena Hanover (and has finished second in four other editions of the race), is hoping Sylph Hanover and She's Allright can find their best form in Wednesday's first elimination. Sylph Hanover, a multiple-stakes-winner in 2018, has won only two of 13 races this season and has not finished better than fifth in her past five starts. She last won on July 19 when she captured the Nadia Lobell Stakes at Harrah's Hoosier Park. She's Allright, also a stakes-winner last season, has won one of 12 starts this year. "Sylph has been a disappointment," Burke said. "She has been a disaster. I brought her here and I trained her a first trip and I didn't like her at all. I trained her a second trip and she was way better after I made some changes. I still may make some changes. I think she is going to be better. I needed to spend some time with her and I think it helped. "She's Allright has been way better than her lines the last couple starts. She's had no luck. I thought, this is a place where we do good, I'll give her a shot. I know that filly is a decent filly. Maybe she's not the best filly but she will be competitive." Treacherous Reign, who beat Warrawee Ubeaut by a nose in the Fan Hanover Stakes on June 15, is the 6-5 favorite in the Jugette's first elimination. She is trained by Tony Alagna and will be driven by Dexter Dunn, starting from post four. The Jugette eliminations are races 15 and 16, with approximate post times of 3:27 p.m. (EDT) and 3:45 p.m., respectively. The top-four finishers from each division return for the $155,760 final, which is race 20, with an approximate post time of 4:57 p.m. Complete entries for the Jugette, as well as the Buckette for 3-year-old female trotters and Standardbred Stakes for 2-year-old filly trotters and pacers, can be found here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA    

On Saturday, a group of military veterans will ride on horseback through Manhattan to raise awareness about the high rate of suicide among former servicemen and servicewomen. The third annual "Trail to Zero" ride will cover 20 miles, which represents the number of veterans lost to suicide on average each day. When harness racing trainer Robbie Siegelman heard that number, he was stunned. When he heard about the Trail to Zero event, created in 2017 by the Illinois-based nonprofit therapeutic equine organization BraveHearts, he wanted to provide support. For the past seven years, Siegelman has volunteered with HorseAbility, a center for equine-facilitated programs located near his home on Long Island. There, Siegelman has worked with veterans through the group's HorseAbility for Heroes program, which was one of the reasons he was drawn to the Trail to Zero ride. Siegelman and a group of volunteers from HorseAbility will assist BraveHearts with its ride through New York City. In addition, Paul Martinez, an Army veteran who is the facilities manager at HorseAbility, will participate as a rider. Martinez, who also is the director of HorseAbility's veterans' program, served from 2006-2014. He was an Airborne Ranger Sniper, deployed six times to Afghanistan with the 3rd Ranger Battalion. "We're just trying to do our little part and also get the word out there," Siegelman said about participating in the Trail to Zero. "There is a huge need for it." There are four Trail to Zero rides this year. The first was held last week in Washington, D.C. Following the New York event, there will be rides in Chicago (Sept. 28) and Houston (Nov. 2). In addition to raising awareness about veteran suicide, the mission of the Trail to Zero is to educate veterans and their families about the healing benefits of equine-assisted services. BraveHearts has the largest equine-based program for veterans in the nation and offers services free to veterans. The program seeks to provide emotional, cognitive, social, and physical benefits through riding, ground activities, carriage driving, and gentling wild mustangs. "What the horses have done for these veterans is amazing," Siegelman said. "Horses have turned around their lives and now they're trying to help other people out there who need it. "It really does work. Most people in the horse business know that animals are the best medicine for anything. That's why I come to HorseAbility and work." Veterans in the Trail to Zero group have said they will continue to ride each year until the average of 20 suicides a day becomes zero. Siegelman has spent much of the week with the participants at events leading up to Saturday's ride. "I'm doing this for the same reason that I've always done it. It's what I know," Siegelman said. "I know about horses and I like to help people. I enjoy it and it's rewarding. For me, it's a no-brainer." For more information regarding Trail to Zero, click here. For more about BraveHearts, click here. For more about HorseAbility, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

Mattias Melander is uncertain what the future holds for his career as a driver. The 23-year-old is simply taking it one race at a time. "I don't really have a plan," said Melander, the younger brother of Dan Patch Rising Star Award-winning trainer Marcus Melander. "I don't think about it too much. I like (driving). I'm not sure that's all I want to do, but that's what I want to do right now. I've been getting more chances and I like it more and more. I feel more confident with everything." Melander, who works with his brother at the family's training center in central New Jersey, entered Thursday with 14 wins in 64 drives this year. He got his first Grand Circuit victory in August with trotter Back Of The Neck and will team up again with the 2-year-old colt in Saturday's C$370,000 William Wellwood Memorial at Woodbine Mohawk Park. Back Of The Neck, one of two Wellwood finalists from the Melander Stable, won his elimination last weekend by 1-1/2 lengths over favorite Port Perry in a career-best 1:55. The other Melander finalist, Capricornus, also was an elim winner. Tim Tetrick drives Capricornus. For the season, Back Of The Neck, from the family of Dan Patch Award winner Broadway Schooner, has won three of five races and $53,095. He is a son of Ready Cash out of Big Barb and was purchased for $150,000 at the 2018 Standardbred Horse Sale. He is owned by Howard Taylor, Judy Taylor, and breeder Order By Stable. In addition to his wins in the Reynolds and Wellwood eliminations, Back Of The Neck won his debut in a preliminary round of the Kindergarten Classic Series. He was third in his elim for the Peter Haughton Memorial and seventh in the final from post eight. Melander has driven the colt in all five starts. "After I won with him in the first race, the owners said I could keep driving him, so I was very fortunate they wanted that," Melander said. "He is a little bit (tricky to drive). He behaves, but you have to be very careful with him because he wants to do more than he actually can. You can't grab him too much and you can't grab him too little because then he's going to make a break or something like that. It's a fine line. "He's very talented for sure. He was a late bloomer but once he started developing he (progressed) real fast. He's very nice gaited. He does exactly what I ask him to do. When I tell him to go, he goes. I don't think there is anything I don't like about him. He's a good horse like that." Melander's other wins this year include two preliminary rounds of the Kentucky Sire Stakes series with 2-year-old male trotter Expectations and three state-bred-restricted races in Pennsylvania with 2-year-old male trotter Rome Pays Off. Expectations competes Sunday in the Kentucky Sire Stakes final at Lexington's Red Mile. Melander will turn over the lines to Brian Sears for that race. "That's Brian's drive; I've only been driving him because he hasn't been there," Melander said. "Expectations is a perfect gentleman, perfect to drive. He doesn't get worked up, he's just perfect on the bit, and when you ask him to go, he does." Melander, a native of Sweden, came to the U.S. four years ago and began working at the stable of trainer Jimmy Takter, where his brother Marcus had also worked. Mattias planned to return home after a year, but Takter talked him into staying. "He told me I was going to learn a lot more, and I did," Melander said. "I'm grateful that he told me and convinced me to stay another year. I got a lot more experience working in a big stable. Jimmy is a great teacher. I got to learn a lot that year." Melander's education continues today, particularly in the sulky. "The biggest thing I've learned so far is probably more patience," Melander said. "I could get a little eager before. That's the biggest thing. Don't get too eager. "In the beginning, I would sit and think about (a bad race) a lot," he added. "I've learned more and more to just let that go. If there is something that I did wrong, I'm going to think about it because I want to develop and not do it again. But it's not something I'm going to sit and think about when I'm going to drive another race. You have to move on." Melander hopes to keep moving on successfully but is not putting any expectations on his career. "I just want to keep on driving and develop," he said. "It would be nice to drive in some more big races, that's experience too. Just keep on driving." One race at a time. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

While John Ackley grabbed a hot dog, Charles Taylor grabbed the best horse they've ever had. Taylor, who has spent a dozen years in harness racing as an owner, and his trainer Ackley were at the 2018 Lexington Selected Sale looking for a yearling that might be able to compete on the Grand Circuit. They had already purchased one horse when Catch The Fire entered the auction ring and figured the son of Captaintreacherous would exceed their budget. Ackley decided to get a hot dog. Taylor remained and watched the bidding. When it stalled, Taylor jumped in and bought Catch The Fire for $15,000. By the time Ackley returned, Taylor had signed the slip. On Sunday, Catch The Fire will compete in the $252,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final for 2-year-old male pacers at Harrah's Philadelphia. A week later, he will be at Lexington's Red Mile for the $250,000 Kentucky Sire Stakes final. From there, if all goes well, he will spend the remainder of his campaign on the Grand Circuit, including the Breeders Crown. For the year, Catch The Fire has won three of seven races and finished second on three occasions, earning $82,093 in the process. The colt has a mark of 1:50.4, which puts him tied for the fifth-fastest win time of the season for a 2-year-old pacer. "We just couldn't believe we got him for $15,000," Taylor said about the colt, whose dam Dream Outloud is a half-sister to Life'sliltreasure, who produced O'Brien Award-winner Control The Moment. "Nobody was bidding so I jumped in and I grabbed him. I liked his pedigree and it was a first-time Captaintreacherous, so we were willing to take a shot at him. He was a little small, but he has great conformation. And I think as anybody can see now, he loves to race. "This is by far the best horse we ever had. About two years ago, we decided we were going to make a run at getting a Grand Circuit horse. It just so happened our Grand Circuit horse turned out to be a $15,000 horse." Taylor is the CEO of a telecommunications company, with offices in Ohio and Georgia, and also the CFO of Cell Phones for Soldiers, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing cost-free communication services and emergency funding to active-duty military members and veterans. He grew up in the Washington, D.C., area and was introduced to harness racing around the age of 4 by his father. "My goal in life was to own Standardbreds since I was a little kid," said Taylor, who races under the name CT Stables and has an eight-acre farm in Washington Court House, Ohio. "My father was a big harness racing guy and it just got in my blood. It's a thrill for me to watch Standardbreds. Around 2007, we were at a racetrack and my wife said, you know, you should buy a horse. Well, one horse turned into 10, into 15, and just kept going. I have probably 20 horses now." Catch The Fire, with regular driver Mike Wilder, will start Sunday's PASS final from post six and is 7-1 on the morning line. Papi Rob Hanover is the 3-1 favorite, followed by Adriano Hanover at 4-1 and Cattlewash at 9-2. "Win or lose, we're excited," Taylor said. "This is why we all do it. We've had offers to sell him and I could never do that. I couldn't take our one chance at maybe racing in the big races and give it away to somebody else. (Catch The Fire) loves what he's doing and he's got the heart to do it. He's a little smaller than the rest of them but he just loves it. He comes off the track and he's ready to go another mile. "To me, he's proven in the last couple weeks that he belongs. That's what we were hoping for. It's so easy to think you have a great horse, but if they can't keep stepping up week after week, you've got to consider them maybe not as good. I think at this point he's proven that he at least deserves a shot with the best. We're very excited." Racing begins at 12:40 p.m. (EDT) Sunday at Harrah's Philadelphia. For additional details regarding the PASS finals for 2-year-olds, click here. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

Courtly Choice and Guardian Angel AS head to Scioto Downs off big wins this past weekend in Canada and both will see familiar faces when they line up behind the starting gate for their respective stakes events Saturday at the central Ohio racetrack. Courtly Choice won the Canadian Pacing Derby on Aug. 31 at Woodbine Mohawk Park and will meet six rivals from that race in Saturday's $440,000 Jim Ewart Memorial for older pacers. The group includes the horses that finished in positions two through six in the CPD - Lather Up, Western Fame, This Is The Plan, Jimmy Freight, and McWicked - as well as eighth-place Filibuster Hanover. Guardian Angel AS won the Maple Leaf Trot at Mohawk and will see two foes from that event in Saturday's $220,000 Charlie Hill Memorial for older trotters, runner-up Atlanta and third-place finisher Marion Marauder. The Charlie Hill Memorial is the 13th race on Scioto's 16-race card, with an approximate post time of 10:30 p.m., and will be followed by the Ewart. Post time is 6:30 p.m. for the evening's first race. Courtly Choice is making his second trip to the Buckeye State and will look to make it as successful as the first. Last year, he won the Little Brown Jug at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, one of 10 victories he posted in 2018. Among his other triumphs was the Meadowlands Pace. This year, the 4-year-old son of Art Major-Lady Ashlee Ann has won four of 12 starts and earned $321,100, pushing his career total to $1.28 million. In addition to the Canadian Pacing Derby, he won the Commodore Barry Invitational on May 26 and a preliminary round of the Graduate Series on May 4. Following the Commodore Barry, Courtly Choice was winless in six races but has rebounded and won two of his last three starts. "During the summer, he was sort of fading coming for home and bearing out and not finishing his miles off as much as we would have liked," trainer Blake MacIntosh said. "Even (in the Commodore Barry) he wasn't as strong as I would have liked. He wasn't himself. I know he's had an OK year, but he just hasn't had the year we expected him to have." MacIntosh hopes two factors could help Courtly Choice enjoy success the remainder of the season. First, the horse battled a low white blood cell count earlier this summer, but it has returned to normal. Second, an equipment adjustment seems to have made the horse more comfortable on the racetrack and improved his ability to better finish races. His final quarter mile in the CPD was :25.3, which was the best in the race. "Hopefully he's peaking at the right time and we can get back in the running for aged horse of the year and go from there," MacIntosh said. "Lather Up has been massive all year. You've got McWicked, Jimmy (Freight), This Is The Plan; it's a tough year. It's a stellar bunch. I bet this is one of the toughest aged groups in a long time." Lather Up, who is the 9-5 morning-line favorite in the Ewart Memorial, saw a four-race win streak ended by Courtly Choice's upset at odds of 34-1 in the Canadian Pacing Derby. The streak began with a victory in the Graduate Series championship in 1:46 to equal the fastest mile in history and continued with the William R. Haughton Memorial, Sam McKee Memorial, and Dan Patch Stakes. McWicked, the 2018 Horse of the Year, and 2017 Ewart winner, has two stakes victories this season and is the 9-2 second choice followed by Courtly Choice at 5-1. "You look at those horses (in the Ewart) and there's not one horse in that race that couldn't win it," MacIntosh said. "There are 10 horses and 10 could win it. It comes down to whoever gets the right trip and has the most horse on the end of it." In the Charlie Hill Memorial, Guardian Angel AS is the 8-5 morning-line favorite despite drawing post eight in the nine-horse field. Atlanta, who will start from post seven, is the 5-2 second choice. "It's a tough spot, but I've got a good horse," said Tim Tetrick, who drives Guardian Angel AS. "If I can get him close turning for home, I think I've got a good shot to win. He's so versatile. He can get off the (starting gate) really fast and he likes his work. "His gait is amazing. He's got so much athletic ability and covers so much ground. He feels as good as any trotter you'll ever sit behind. He's very pretty on the racetrack. When you watch from the side, he's definitely going to catch your eye. He's gorgeous." Guardian Angel AS, a 5-year-old son of Archangel-Provide AS, has won seven of 10 races this season and earned $619,434. In addition to the Maple Leaf Trot, the stallion has captured the Spirit of Massachusetts, Cleveland Trotting Classic, and Maxie Lee Memorial Invitational. For his career, Guardian Angel AS has won 23 of 50 races and earned $1.13 million for trainer Anette Lorentzon. "He's done everything we've asked him to do and he's having a great 5-year-old season, that's for sure," Tetrick said. "Anette and (her sister) Anna have done a great job with him. They haven't over-raced him and raced him where they needed to. They've given him every opportunity to come back at (ages) 5, 6, and 7 to be a great horse." Tetrick has driven Guardian Angel AS in nine of his 10 races this season and 19 times overall, sitting behind the horse at least once every year. "He's grown so much, it's amazing," Tetrick said. "At 2 and 3, he wouldn't always fight a horse. He had tons of ability, but if they got to his number he'd let them beat him. Now, if they get to him, he just takes off more. He's really grown that way. "He's gotten a lot tougher and more mentally stable. It's pretty cool to see a horse grow that much." The Charlie Hill Memorial includes three horses to have been named Trotter of the Year: Atlanta, who received the honor in 2018; Marion Marauder, in 2016; and Pinkman, in 2015. Following is the field for the Charlie Hill Memorial. PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-M/L 1-Bridge To Jesse's-Trace Tetrick-Roger Welch-20/1 2-I Know My Chip-Ronnie Wrenn Jr.-Walter Haynes Jr.-25/1 3-Marion Marauder-Scott Zeron-Paula Wellwood-9/2 4-Plunge Blue Chip-Ake Svanstedt-Ake Svanstedt-6/1 5-Mission Accepted-Chris Page-Ron Burke-8/1 6-Pinkman-Brett Miller-Per Engblom-10/1 7-Atlanta-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-5/2 8-Guardian Angel AS-Tim Tetrick-Anette Lorentzon-8/5 9-Top Flight Angel-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-20/1 Following is the field for the Jim Ewart Memorial. PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-M/L 1-Jimmy Freight-Scott Zeron-Andrew Harris-6/1 2-McWicked-Brian Sears-Casie Coleman-9/2 3-Donttellmeagain-Tim Tetrick-Jim King Jr.-15/1 4-Western Fame-Dan Noble-Dan Noble-8/1 5-This Is The Plan-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-6/1 6-Filibuster Hanover-Chris Page-Ron Burke-15/1 7-Courtly Choice-James MacDonald-Blake MacIntosh-5/1 8-Lather Up-Montrell Teague-Clyde Francis-9/5 9-Always A Prince-David Miller-Tyler George-20/1 10-Hitman Hill-Aaron Merriman-Chris Oakes-20/1 Note: Hitman Hill starts from the second tier. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA 

Hello Tomorrow was one of the top-selling harness racing yearling trotters at this past fall's Standardbred Horse Sale and trainer Per Engblom is more than pleased to have the 2-year-old in his stable today. "I love that filly," Engblom said about the daughter of Muscle Hill out of Armbro Deja Vu, who was purchased for $380,000. "She's got a great way (of moving); she covers a lot of ground. She's got a very efficient way of going. Everything is pretty much good about her. She's got what a good filly needs. I think she's got very high potential." Hello Tomorrow is a half-sister to millionaire Dejarmbro. She is owned by Brixton Medical Inc., Hatfield Stables, Marvin Katz and Lynn Katz. The filly's results in four starts this season include winning a division of the Kindergarten Classic Series, finishing second by a nose in her elimination of the James Doherty Memorial, and finishing third in the Doherty final from post nine. On Thursday (Sept. 5), Hello Tomorrow competes in the second of two eliminations for the Peaceful Way Stakes for 2-year-old filly trotters at Woodbine Mohawk Park. She is the 9-5 morning-line favorite in a field of seven, with David Miller driving for Engblom. The filly will be looking to rebound from her only misstep this year, having gone off stride in a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on Aug. 19. "Last start at Pocono, she just didn't get around the track good at all," Engblom said. "I don't really have a reason. We did a little work on her, it wasn't anything major, just small adjustments we had to make to get her right. They're young horses and go through those kinds of things." Hello Tomorrow's start at Pocono was her first on a five-eighths-mile oval, following her three races around The Meadowlands' one-mile surface. She returns to a bigger track Thursday at Mohawk. "She trained super in between here and I think the bigger track is definitely going to help her," Engblom said. "She's a bigger filly and she was great at The Meadowlands. I think she's going to be OK." Hello Tomorrow's Peaceful Way elimination includes two fillies coming off wins in divisions of the Champlain Stakes last week at Mohawk: Spoiled Princess, who is 2-1 on the morning line for driver Yannick Gingras and trainer Richard "Nifty" Norman, and Panem, who is 5-2 for Dexter Dunn and Nancy Johansson. The first elimination is led by Whose Blues from the stable of trainer Luc Blais. The filly won her first four races, including the Pure Ivory Series final, before finishing second to Spoiled Princess in the Champlain. Whose Blues and driver Bob McClure are 8-5 on the morning line. Racing begins at 7:10 p.m. (EDT) Thursday at Mohawk. The Peaceful Way eliminations are races three and six. On Friday, the track hosts two eliminations for the William Wellwood Memorial for 2-year-old male trotters. Engblom will send out once-beaten Synergy in the second elim. Synergy won his first two races, a division of the Kindergarten Classic Series and his elimination for the Peter Haughton Memorial, before finishing fifth in the Haughton final. He was found to be sick and was unraced for 27 days, returning last week with a nose victory in the Champlain Stakes. "I was happy to see him win the race," Engblom said. "I think with that race in him, he will be even a little sharper." Synergy is a son of Father Patrick out of Southwind Sauna. He is a half-brother to stakes-winner Southwind Tesla, from the family of O'Brien Award-winner Federal Flex. Synergy was purchased under the name Southwind Saranac for $275,000 at last fall's Lexington Selected Sale. He is owned by Brittany Farms, John Fielding, Herb Liverman, and David Anderson. "He's a big very laid back colt," Engblom said. "We could tell he had a lot of ability, but he didn't show it. He always did what we asked, but never more than that. But never less than that, either. He was one of those colts that you had to put behind the gate and then you saw what you had." Racing begins at 7:50 p.m. (EDT) Friday at Mohawk. The Wellwood eliminations are races two and five. Friday's card also includes the Simcoe Stakes for 3-year-old female and male trotters. Hambletonian Oaks winner When Dovescry is in the first of two divisions of the Simcoe for the fillies. There is only one Simcoe for the colts and geldings, which includes Hambletonian fifth-place finisher Green Manalishi S. For Thursday's complete entries, click here. For Friday's complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA 

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