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Ken Jacobs has enjoyed his share of success in harness racing, both on the national stage and at home in New York. He has campaigned horses such as Dan Patch Award winner Heston Blue Chip and stakes-winners Kenneth J, He's Gorgeous, Doctor Butch, Jewels In Hock, and Becca J, not to mention many other successful horses. He hopes he can add Missile J to the list in the future. Unraced at age 2, Missile J has won four of seven races this year and brings a four-race victory streak to Saturday's $300,000 Art Rooney Pace for 3-year-old male pacers at Yonkers Raceway. The Linda Toscano-trained Missile J and driver Brian Sears won the single Rooney elimination last weekend at The Hilltop, but will need to fire like a rocket this weekend after drawing post No. 8 for the final. "On a half-mile track, it's very tough," Jacobs said about leaving from the outermost spot on the starting gate, which wins at a rate of 3.6 percent at Yonkers. "You need some luck. "He's a pretty fast horse and has a good attitude. He just has to stay sound. I've got the best trainer, so I'm very lucky. Very lucky. Linda and I have been together for 10 years, maybe longer, and she is very honest and loyal. I really like that. It's been a good partnership and we really enjoy each other." Missile J is a son of stallion American Ideal out of the mare Cantor's Daughter. Missile J was purchased for $100,000 under the name Newsmaker Bluechip at the 2014 Standardbred Horse Sale. Missile J is a full brother to stakes-winner Brownsville Bomber and his family includes millionaire Cam Swifty and stakes-winner Lonesome Day. "I picked them all the same way," Jacobs said. "I have my own criteria that I go on. Once they fall into that, I look at their conformation and family. That's how I do it. If the conformation is there, that's the one I try to get. I really liked this horse. "He trained down real good last year, but he got sore so we just quit with him. He's a pretty nice horse." Jacobs owns Missile J with Wanda Polisseni's Purple Haze Stables. "She said that every year I pick out winners, so could she have a piece of this one," Jacobs said, laughing. "She's such a wonderful person; she really is. She's good for the sport. She just loves the business. We're pretty good friends, so it was no problem. I'm happy Wanda is in on this horse." Missile J debuted with a ninth-place finish on Jan. 2, but since then hasn't been off the board in six races. His first win came in 1:51.1 on Feb. 20 in a conditioned race at the Meadowlands and he lowered his career mark to 1:51 with a victory at the Big M a week prior to the Rooney elimination. The triumph followed a respite of more than two months away from the races. "I gave him time off because I want him fresh for the rest of the year; we've got races all the way into November," Jacobs said. "That kind of helps him I think, giving him a little rest in between." Missile J is staked to the top races on the New York circuit and also has the Progress Pace on his schedule. "I didn't put him in the Breeders Crown or Meadowlands Pace because I wasn't sure how he was going to come back," said Jacobs, who owns a company with multiple locations in upstate New York that distributes electric motors, drives, controls, motor parts and power transmission products. "I thought he was going to be OK, but winning a couple non-winners of two (conditions) you don't know if you can go with the big guys. "He's got the Empire Breeders Classic and the New York Sire Stakes, races that I enjoy. I'm a New York kind of guy. (Driver) John Campbell calls me 'Billy Joel.' That's my nickname to him. He says I'm just a New York kind of guy. I just enjoy the racing. I have to go against the big guys; little old me, I (own) five or six horses. People think I buy 50 horses every year, but I really don't. I usually get two colts and two fillies. But I'm very passionate about it." In the Rooney final, elimination runner-up Rodeo Rock will start from post two for driver Daniel Dube and trainer Don Swick. He finished 1-3/4 lengths behind Missile J, who paced 1:53.2 for the win. Elimination third-place finisher Artmagic, owned by Purple Haze Stables and coupled with Missile J in the wagering, will start the final from post No. 1. George Brennan is listed to drive for trainer Trond Smedshammer. Saturday's card at Yonkers also includes the $100,000 Lismore Pace for 3-year-old female pacers. For more, click here. Ken Weingartner

Four-year-old male pacer Wiggle It Jiggleit finds himself in a familiar position in this year’s first harness racing Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll -- the No. 1 spot. Wiggle It Jiggleit finished last year as the poll’s top-ranked horse. The returning Dan Patch Award-winning Horse of the Year has won five of eight races this year, finishing no worse than second in any start, and is coming off a track-record performance in the Battle of Lake Erie at Northfield Park. Sitting at No. 2 in the poll is 7-year-old New Zealand-import Bit Of A Legend, whose nine victories this season include the Levy Memorial Pacing Series championship. His $473,750 in purses are No. 1 among all harness racing horses in North America. Multiple Dan Patch Award-winning female trotter Bee A Magician is third in the rankings, followed by 4-year-old male pacer Rockin Ron, who earlier this season won the Confederation Cup with a Canadian-record performance, and 3-year-old male pacer Check Six, the Pennsylvania Classic winner. Four-year-old male trotter Maestro Blue Chip, unbeaten in 10 races this year and coming off a victory in a division of the Graduate Series, is No. 6. The remainder of the Top 10 includes two returning Breeders Crown champions in male pacers Always B Miki (No. 7) and Freaky Feet Pete (No. 10) as well as two returning divisional champions in 3-year-old male trotter Southwind Frank (No. 8) and 3-year-old female pacer Pure Country (No. 9). A total of 37 horses received at least one point in the year’s first poll. Each horse in the top seven received at least one first-place vote. The Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll does not determine Horse of the Year. The U.S. Harness Writers Association votes in December on all 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 1 – 5/24/2016 Rank Name (First Place Votes) A/G/S Record Earnings Points Pvs 1 Wiggle It Jiggleit (18) 4pg 8-5-3-0 $289,765 323 -- 2 Bit Of A Legend N (7) 7ph 12-9-2-0 $473,750 250 -- 3 Bee A Magician (2) 6tm 3-3-0-0 $107,000 193 -- 4 Rockin Ron (1) 4pg 11-10-1-0 $207,690 181 -- 5 Check Six (2) 3pc 4-4-0-0 $328,443 151 -- 6 Maestro Blue Chip (1) 4th 10-10-0-0 $130,000 128 -- 7 Always B Miki (4) 5ph 3-2-1-0 $31,250 97 -- 8 Southwind Frank 3tc 1-1-0-0 $12,500 83 -- 9 Pure Country 3pf 2-1-0-1 $159,300 81 -- 10 Freaky Feet Pete 4ph 4-3-0-1 $55,500 77 -- Also: Nickle Bag (56); All Bets Off (47); JL Cruze, Rockeyed Optimist (40); Yagonnakissmeornot (33); Resolve (25); Boston Red Rocks (23); Cufflink Hanover (11); Musical Rhythm (10); Sell A Bit N (9); Betting Line, L A Delight, Wings Of Royalty (7); Major Athens, Pinkman, Shamballa (6); Hannelore Hanover (5); Bushwacker, Darlinonthebeach (4); Caprice Hill, Mach It So (3); All The Time, Bigtown Hero, JK Will Power (2); Dayson, Mel Mara, Unlocked (1). by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications 

The road to August's $1 million Hambletonian Stakes resumes this weekend with a slew of harness racing, including the first appearance of the year by early-season Hambletonian favorite Southwind Frank. And trainer Ron Burke, who conditions Southwind Frank, couldn't be happier. "I'm excited," Burke said. "I'm ready to get going. I'm glad he's racing. "You want to start seeing if he's as good as you think he is. If not, you want to know what you need to work on. But I'm hoping that right off the bat it's good and it just stays good. We just need a little luck and I think he'll take care of the rest. He trained down super and seems great." Southwind Frank, who finished his 2015 campaign with 10 consecutive victories, makes his seasonal debut in Friday's opening round of the New Jersey Sire Stakes for 3-year-old male trotters at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Southwind Frank and driver Yannick Gingras will start from post four in a 12-horse field and are the 7-5 morning line favorite. Other Hambletonian-eligible trotters in the race are Bar Hopping, Brooklyn Hill, Dominion Beach, Honor Above All, Jack Vernon, Metatron, Promise Delivered, Sigmund, and Southwind Flash. Last year, Southwind Frank won 11 of 12 races and earned $786,419. His wins included the Breeders Crown, Peter Haughton Memorial, and William Wellwood Memorial. In addition, his time of 1:52.2 in a division of the International Stallion Stakes set the world record for a 2-year-old male trotter. He received both the Dan Patch and O'Brien awards for best 2-year-old male trotter. Southwind Frank was owned last year by the Burke Racing Stable, the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, Our Horse Cents Stables, and J&T Silva Stables. This season he races for the Southwind Frank Partners, which includes the previously mentioned owners as well as Diamond Creek Racing. A son of Muscle Hill out of the mare Flawless Lindy, Southwind Frank was purchased as a yearling for $100,000 at the 2014 Lexington Selected Sale. His family includes Dan Patch Award winner Cayster as well as stakes-winners Giant Hit and Program Speed. Southwind Frank heads to the New Jersey Sire Stakes off a 1:54 qualifier win on May 14 at the Meadowlands. He finished second in an earlier qualifier, which came a week after being held out of qualifying because of a quarter crack. "Other than that everything has been picture perfect with him, totally uneventful," Burke said. "The quarter crack could have turned into an issue and it didn't. I think it's no longer a worry." This is the second consecutive year that Burke brings a top contender onto the Hambletonian trail. Last year, it was filly Mission Brief, who battled back woes before challenging the boys in the Hambletonian. She won her Hambletonian elimination and finished second to Pinkman in the final. "He's way more push-button than her," Burke said. "And so far we've had no issues. This colt just gets better and better. But honestly, with (Mission Brief), I was more emotionally involved than I am with him. She's my all-time favorite. The losses with her were horrible, the worst in the world. I like him, but I'm not as attached --- at least at this point --- as I was to her. Certain horses you just dig. You know, that's my horse. She's the one I like the most." During his 10-race win streak, Southwind Frank posted every victory by at least 1-1/4 lengths. Burke said it's hard at this point to determine where the colt's bottom is. "He did everything so easily last year and Yannick did such a nice job protecting him, not showing him off," Burke said. "I think there's a lot more there. He does things once in a while when he's training where you're like, 'What the heck?' You're reading the watch trying to figure out if what he did is possible. He might be something really special this year. "I'm just hoping he stays sound. I think the schedule we have set right now in our minds is perfect for him to be at his best when he hits (Hambletonian Day). If you win that, your whole year is made. That's the ultimate goal. Yannick doesn't have one, I don't have one, so it's very important to both of us." Other races on the road to the Hambletonian are Saturday's two Currier & Ives divisions at The Meadows and one New York Sire Stakes division at Vernon Downs. Hambletonian-eligible trotters in the first Currier & Ives division are Desert Runner, Hititoutofthepark, Iron Mine Bucky, and Steed. Hititoutofthepark is the 7-5 morning line favorite. The second division includes Hambletonian eligible Breedlove, Hollywood Highway, and Leggs Matter. At Vernon Downs, three Hambletonian-eligible trotters compete in the second of two New York Sire Stakes splits. They are Chukkar, Reve Royale, and The Perfect Lindy. For a "Hoof Beats" magazine feature on Southwind Frank, click here. Ken Weingartner      

Freaky Feet Pete won over Indiana --- and then much of North America --- with his winning ways over the past two years. Now the harness racing 4-year-old male pacer is getting ready for his first stakes race of 2016, facing seven foes in Saturday's $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie at Northfield Park. The Battle of Lake Erie features not only Freaky Feet Pete, who won 15 of 17 races last year including the Breeders Crown for 3-year-old male pacers, but harness racing's all-time richest horse, 12-year-old Foiled Again, and the 2015 Horse of the Year, Wiggle It Jiggleit. Freaky Feet Pete has won 27 of 30 career races and earned $1.14 million for owners Mary Jo Rheinheimer and Marty Rheinheimer. In addition to the Breeders Crown, Freaky Feet Pete won last year's American-National Stakes at Balmoral Park. Except for the Breeders Crown and American-National, the horse has raced exclusively at Hoosier Park, where he captured two Indiana Sire Stakes championships. The stallion was bred by Mary Jo's husband Larry, who also trains Freaky Feet Pete. The Rheinheimers live near LaGrange, Ind., in the northeast corner of the Hoosier State. Freaky Feet Pete and regular driver Trace Tetrick will start the Battle of Lake Erie from post five. Freaky Feet Pete, who is 3-for-3 this year with all his victories coming in invitational handicaps at Hoosier Park, is 2-1 on the morning line. He is the second choice behind even-money favorite Wiggle It Jiggleit, who drew post one. Freaky Feet Pete won two of three meetings with Wiggle It Jiggleit last season. Larry Rheinheimer recently took time to talk with Ken Weingartner of the USTA's Harness Racing Communications division about the Battle of Lake Erie and the fun of living with Freaky Feet Pete. KW: Let's start by going back to last year when you won the Breeders Crown. What was the reaction like back home? LR: Crazy. I mean he's a hometown hero. If people could watch (the Breeders Crown) on television, they did. If they couldn't, they found it on the computer. Everyone was excited. KW: Do people come up to you a lot to talk about him? LR: Oh yeah. When I go to town or go somewhere, people are always asking when is Pete racing again, or how did Pete do last week. Most of them know how he's done, but they want to know when he's racing again. KW: Are you the most famous duo up in that part of the state? LR: I don't know if I am, but he is. (Laughs.) Everyone knows him. KW: Do you feel any more comfortable now being the center of attention? LR: Not really. (Laughs.) I like to sneak up on them. KW: Well, I don't think that's going to happen anymore. LR: No, we blew that. (Laughs.) KW: But the way it's worked out has been pretty good. LR: It has. It's been a great ride. My wife and I and the kids, we've enjoyed it. And I've got one sister that follows me everywhere we go. KW: What's been the most enjoyable part of it all? LR: Just the fanfare, I think. We've met a lot of very nice people. A super lot. I hear from all over that people watch when Pete races. Now I think the biggest pressure on me is hoping that nothing goes wrong. I've raced enough horses in my life to know they're all going to get beat. That's why we race them. But I'm hoping we go a good race and everything works good. KW: Was it difficult waiting through the winter? Were you anxious to get going again? LR: I was anxious to see how he would come back this year. That was the biggest thing. You go from year to year when you shut them down and you don't know how they're going to come back. You hope for the best, but sometimes it doesn't happen. KW: How long was he off and when did you bring him back? LR: He was off for about six weeks. We didn't let him completely down. One of the reasons we just started back jogging with him was he was so fired up in the paddock. KW: When you started to bring him back did you sense right away that he was good? LR: He did everything handily and never took a bad step or anything. He was feeling good all the time, so we felt pretty good about him coming back. KW: Did you see him change much over the winter? LR: I think he filled out a little more in his chest and a little more in the rump. I think he filled out more this year than he did last year. He feels good. He likes it here at home. He's throwing his head and playing and feeling good. He's enjoying himself and trains nicely. I feel real comfortable with him. KW: What did you think about his performances in his first three races this year? LR: I thought he was good in all three of them. In the last one, Trace came off a helmet with him, which I like, and he was good. To me, that was his best race so far. The qualifiers weren't anything, just qualifiers. The last one, when he raced him from off the pace, that made me feel better. KW: When you saw the draw come out, aside from Wiggle It Jiggleit getting post one, you had to feel better that you didn't get the eight or the seven. LR: (Laughs.) Yeah, I did. I'm not unhappy with the five. You're in the middle of the swing there. But I was happy I didn't have the eight. I was looking for the eight when Wiggle It Jiggleit was the one. (Laughs.) KW: Are you looking forward to your first stakes races of the year? LR: Yes, I am. He's doing good and everything is together and we're ready to go, I think. KW: He trains on a half-mile track, so you're not too concerned about that? LR: Not really. We train him on a half all the time and I think he can handle it. You never know for sure, but I think it will be OK. And with the five hole out there with the banked turn I feel a little more comfortable. KW: What do you think about the race? LR: I'm hoping there are some front-runners out there, but I don't know for sure. And that's Trace's decision. I know when the gate folds, that's when the decision will be made. KW: What's Pete's schedule like this season? LR: I think we're going to go to the Graduate Series at Mohawk next after this race. After that, there are a couple of races out East. KW: It's going to be a fun year watching that (older pacer) division. And a lot of them are Indiana-bred. LR: Indiana has come a long way. These Indiana horses can go anyplace and race. That's what I feel. All of these people brought their broodmares up and everything else and it's paying off for them. Ken Weingartner

There is an old adage in harness racing that says “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” Sometimes, though, how you start is how you finish. And in the case of Rockin Ron, how he starts and how he finishes are often fast. Rockin Ron has reeled off 11 consecutive wins since joining the stable of trainer Ron Burke in November. He will try to make it 12 in a row when he faces eight rivals in Saturday’s opening round of the Graduate Series for 4-year-old male pacers at the Meadowlands Racetrack. His most recent victory came in last Sunday’s Confederation Cup, where Rockin Ron defeated 2015 Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit by three-quarters of a length in a Canadian-record 1:50.1 mile at Flamboro Downs. As has often been the case during his win streak, Rockin Ron grabbed the lead during the opening quarter-mile and never looked back. It was the eighth consecutive race in which he paced his opening quarter in less than 27 seconds. It also was the second time in his last three starts in which he finished with a final quarter in less than 27 seconds. Since becoming a member of the Burke Brigade, Rockin Ron has been in first place at the first call in eight of his victories. Twice he was in second place and once he was in third. In 19 career triumphs, only twice has Rockin Ron come from further back than third at the halfway point. “A lot of our drivers, when they know a horse has speed like that, they want to use it,” said Mark Weaver, who is among the owners of Rockin Ron. “I don’t blame them. You don’t see horses often leave in 26 and change, come right back to you, and then come home in 26 and change.” Rockin Ron and driver Yannick Gingras will start Saturday’s $75,000 Graduate from post four. The remainder of the field is In The Arsenal, National Seelster, J Eagle Feather, Americanprimetime, Rock N’ Roll World, Split The House, Artistic Major, and My Hero Ron. Rock N’ Roll World and My Hero Ron also are from the Burke stable. “In a perfect world, I wouldn’t mind seeing (Rockin Ron) race from behind this week,” Weaver said. “It’s his first time on a big track in a while; maybe change the tactics. They’re not machines, you have to look after them a little bit. The first start we had him, we raced him out of a hole and he shook loose late and exploded. But who knows what will happen Saturday.” A son of Real Desire out of Im All A Roan, Rockin Ron has won 19 of 40 career races and earned $313,858. He is owned by the Burke Racing Stable, the partnership of Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, and RTC Stables. The group thought they had a deal in place to buy Rockin Ron in early 2015, but the sale fell through. Last year, Rockin Ron won two divisions of the Indiana Sire Stakes and finished fourth in the event’s Super Final, which was won by standout and future Breeders Crown champion Freaky Feet Pete. “We love the Indiana-breds,” Weaver said. “We’ve been a huge fan of the whole program. “The secret is kind of out. When you look now, the best older pacers are Freaky Feet Pete, Wiggle It Jiggleit, Always B Miki, you could throw Rockin Ron in there I think, and they’re all Indiana-breds. I think it’s a great place; I love to try to buy horses and race them there. Rockin Ron looks like he’s another one in that same line. “The horses that race in Indiana, when you take them away from there, they produce. They’re tough. To do what (Rockin Ron) has done is the extreme aspect of that, but maybe he’s the type that likes Ronnie’s training program and likes to be put into the race.” Rockin Ron is staked lightly this season, with the Ben Franklin Pace and Prix d’Ete also on his schedule. “We usually try to take it easy with the 4-year-olds,” said Weaver, who has enjoyed success with past Pacer of the Year Award winners Foiled Again and Sweet Lou. “Midway through the spring we didn’t have him staked at all. I don’t think he was even on our staking list. After one of the races earlier this year at The Meadows, I asked if we might not want to try him in some of the 4-year-old races. I’m glad we did. “That was a pretty big mile (last weekend). We’re anxious to see how he does Saturday and then we’ll go from there. I’d be OK if Rockin Ron stepped up to be our best one, that’s for sure.” Ken Weingartner

When trotter Wings Of Royalty was preparing for this season, trainer George Ducharme thought the 4-year-old was acting better than at any time during his previous two campaigns. After watching the stallion nip multiple-award-winner Pinkman by a nose last Friday at the Meadowlands, Ducharme is starting to think it is more than just an act. Wings Of Royalty is 2-for-2 this year after his career-best 1:51.4 win last weekend at the Big M. On Saturday, he returns to action in the first round of the Graduate Series at the Meadowlands. The Graduate Series, which features three preliminary rounds and a $250,000-guaranteed final, is restricted to 4-year-olds. "I was very happy with the way the horse trained back," Ducharme said. "He was out for three months (during the winter) and really physically changed. He just got bigger and stronger. "Training down, he acted a lot better than he had at any time during his 2- or 3-year-old year. I wasn't sure how much he would improve speed-wise, but after the other night I think there's still a little room. Hopefully he can improve a little more, which he will have to do to go with the company he's going to be in with." A total of 13 horses entered Saturday's Graduate opener. Wings Of Royalty and driver Corey Callahan will start from post one in the first of two $50,000 divisions. The remainder of the field is Whataworkout, Canepa Hanover, Honor And Serve, Homicide Hunter, and Crazshana. The second division features Pinkman --- a divisional Dan Patch Award winner at ages 2 and 3 --- as well as two 9-for-9 horses this season, Canadian-based Musical Rhythm and Maestro Blue Chip. The rest of the group is Crescent Fashion, Fashion Creditor, Centurion ATM, and Crazy Wow. Subsequent preliminary rounds of the Graduate Series will be held June 4 at Mohawk Racetrack and June 12 at Tioga Downs. The final is July 9 at the Meadowlands. Wings Of Royalty has won 12 of 32 career races and earned $417,645 for breeder/owner Raymond "Chip" Campbell Jr. A Massachusetts resident, Campbell also bred and owns Wings Of Royalty's sire, stakes-winner RC Royalty, and owned Wings Of Royalty's dam, Sparkling Cider, for more than a decade. RC Royalty also sired 2013 Hambletonian winner Royalty For Life, who was trained by Ducharme and co-owned by Campbell. The maternal family includes 1990 Hambletonian winner Harmonious and Wings Of Royalty's fourth dam, Egyptian Jody, also is the fourth dam of recently retired star female trotter Maven. "Sparkling Cider came from a very nice family," Campbell said. "She really elevated the group of mares that I had at the time. We take pride in (breeding horses). My wife and kids are involved and my parents also before my father passed away. So you do take great pride in being able to breed them, foal them out, raise them, and then have them go off and compete with the best." Wings Of Royalty last year won eight of 20 races and hit the board a total of 15 times. He won the Massachusetts Sire Stakes championship and, thanks to dual eligibility, finished second to Habitat in the New York Sire Stakes championship. He finished fifth in his elimination for the Hambletonian and 10th in the same-day final (won by Pinkman) after drawing post nine. He finished fourth in the Zweig Memorial. "He was a good horse last year; he just was always it seems a step behind the top ones," Ducharme said. "He really impressed me the other night, coming from off the pace and everything. I'm hoping he can hang with those horses this year. "We just paid him into the 4-year-old events, so hopefully he'll be competitive in there and we can see what the future holds after that. After the other night I'm thinking he could turn into the horse that I hoped he would. I'm looking forward to it." Campbell said the plan is to race Wings Of Royalty for at least this season and next year. "We thought we better look at it as a two-year program; 4- and 5-year-old," Campbell said. "We understand how big the step is at 4. We didn't know if he was going to be able to get up two or three more notches, which he was going to have to in order to compete with the best. "Part of our schedule was not a mile like (1:51.4) in May," he added with a laugh. "He more than fulfilled any expectations we had on that night. That mile certainly impressed us enough to give it a shot against a very nice group (this weekend). We hope the horse puts on a good performance. "This game can give you a lot of thrills. If we could ever figure out how to put it in a bottle --- yeah, there are ups and downs --- but the ups are thrills that are difficult to get anywhere else." Saturday's card at the Meadowlands also includes the first round of the Graduate Series for 4-year-old pacers and the first leg of the New Jersey Sire Stakes for 3-year-old male and female pacers.  by Ken Weingartner/Harness Racing Communications/USTA

From his earliest days in harness racing, driver Jim Marohn Jr. has been a man on the go. Born on Long Island, Marohn grew up mostly in New Jersey and followed his father --- the winner of 5,358 career races as a driver --- into the sport. Without the benefit of fair racing in New Jersey, Marohn took to the road to find opportunities in the sulky. During his first three years, a span of 1,654 races, he competed at 12 different tracks, winning at nine of them, from New England to Virginia and west to Ohio and Kentucky. Overall for his career, Marohn has visited 23 different racetracks and posted victories at 20. Marohn got his first win at the age of 20 in 2002 at Pocono Downs. Last year, he picked up career victory No. 3,000 on Sept. 12 behind Smellthecolornine at Tioga Downs. The 34-year-old Marohn has won four driving titles at Tioga Downs and also been the leading driver at Monticello Raceway during his career. This year, he is second in the standings at Freehold Raceway and sixth at the Meadowlands. He is coming off a season in which he established career highs for starts (2,507), wins (435) and purses ($2.63 million). Other accomplishments for Marohn include winning the 2013 Vernon/Tioga Drivers' Championship and being the recipient of the U.S. Harness Writers Association's Monticello-Goshen chapter Rising Star Award in 2008. Marohn recently slowed down to talk with Ken Weingartner of the USTA's Harness Racing Communications division about his career and life on the road. KW: You had career highs across the board last year --- drives, wins, purses --- how did it come about? JM: I got a lot more opportunities last year. I traveled more through the tracks in the Tri-State area and got more work from a lot more trainers. I raced a lot for (trainer) Rob Harmon. Once he got more confident in me and put me up in more places, it just kind of snowballed that I picked up other accounts also. That's really what contributed to the year last year. KW: You've been a traveling man since Day One. JM: When I wanted to drive, I grew up in New Jersey, and Freehold and the Meadowlands weren't places where I was going to get any opportunities just starting out. I had to go where I could get opportunities. I was working for (trainer) Billy Popfinger at the time and he would send strings of horses all over the place. He put me in charge of the strings he sent out on the road and let me drive the horses. So that contributed, too, to me traveling. KW: Do you enjoy the traveling? JM: Totally. I like going to the different tracks and driving against different drivers and different horses. KW: Did it benefit you to go to different places and drive different tracks sizes and against different people? JM: Yes, it did. It got me accustomed to driving on different track sizes, different styles. One of the biggest things it did was introduce me to people. That helped me down the road when I would meet those people again and they were familiar with me. They would throw me work then. KW: What track that you haven't been to would you most like to drive at? JM: Pompano in February. (Laughs.) Growing up in the Northeast, the winters can be brutal. I turn on Pompano and I see those guys in February wearing short sleeves. I almost believe it's a myth, like they're showing replays of races from the summer. Until I go and see it, then I'll believe it. (Laughs.) KW: Who has been the biggest influence on your career? JM: There are a lot of people. Popfinger taught me a lot. But I'd say that always changes. You meet so many people who are really good in this game; I can't really pick out one person. As I got to race around with other guys and pick up traits from (John) Campbell and (Ron) Pierce; Pierce was a guy you could watch on the racetrack and learn a lot from. You pick up so many little things from so many people it's hard to say one is the most influential. KW: When you watch guys, what do you see that can help you? JM: If I'm familiar with the horse they're driving and I see they can get a little more out of that horse, I look back to see what they did. Then I'll emulate it; I'll try it. And just the way guys handle races. The guys who always seem to be in the right spot at the right time, I think that's great. I like watching guys trip horses out and be right there at the end of the race. To me, those are great drives. KW: When you look back at yourself from the beginning of your career, how have you seen yourself change? JM: I think I handle all types of horses better than I did back then. I think I'm more aggressive now than I was back then. KW: Is that a matter of confidence? JM: Confidence and experience. KW: You topped 3,000 wins last year. What was that like for you? JM: That was great. I knew I was getting close to the number, but I didn't know when I got it. One of the races up at Tioga was my 3,000th win, but I didn't even know. KW: What's been your biggest thrill so far? JM: It had to be a couple years ago when I won the Drivers' Championship between Vernon and Tioga. It's something I didn't really expect going into it. I drove really well through the competition and things worked out. And the way the competition ended, with me having to win the last race and Brian (Sears) and Timmy (Tetrick) not having to hit the board, it was just something that will never happen again. KW: Are you going to be racing again at Tioga regularly this year? JM: Right now, I'm just going up on Sundays. I'm going to stay at the Meadowlands through the summer again and I'll do Tioga on Sundays and Pocono on days when the Meadowlands doesn't race. KW: What do you like to do when you're not driving? JM: I really like spending time with my wife (Christie) and daughter (Gianna). I have a daughter who is 2-1/2 and I really enjoy watching her grow up. I like going out with them to do things. With me running the roads right now it's tough to do a lot of things, so when I do get time off that's really what I like to do. KW: Since you're driving around so much, what do you listen to in the car? JM: I'm a big Howard Stern fan. I also play a lot of daily fantasy sports, and they have a channel for that too. So I'm constantly going back between Howard and the daily fantasy channel. A lot of times at night when I'm driving home, like from Pocono, I'll have guys playing in the late baseball games so I'll listen to the games. KW: Are you any good with the daily fantasy? JM: I'm probably a little below average to average. But I enjoy it. I enjoy listening to the games and having something that keeps my mind going because I'm in the car so long. It's fun. KW: What is your favorite food? JM: I'm a steak guy. I don't get to eat it as much as I'd like because I'm always running around. I'd say the most stuff I eat is probably anything off the Starbucks menu. Traveling around as much as I do, I know where all the Starbucks and cheap gas stations are. KW: What is your favorite movie? JM: My favorite movie is "Rounders." I like the whole movie from beginning to end. I like those kinds of con artist/suspense movies, from "Rounders" to all the "Ocean's Eleven" movies. Those are my types of movies. KW: What would you like to accomplish this year? JM: I'd like to win a major stakes race. I don't really have any major stakes horses that I drive consistently, but I'm hoping that maybe as hard as I work and run around that something will fall my way. Ken Weingartner

For the second consecutive year, harness racing trainer John Butenschoen is bringing a son of stallion Yankee Glide and the mare Celebrity Liza on to the Hambletonian trail, but there is little family resemblance between last year’s colt, Boots N Chains, and this year’s hopeful, Hititoutofthepark. “It’s kind of like watching “Twins” with Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger,” Butenschoen said with a laugh. “Physically they’re nothing alike. Hititoutofthepark reminds me more of the Yankee Glide colt I had, (state-bred stakes-winner) Valley Of Sin; kind of about the same gait, same size. “Boots N Chains was a little heavier, thicker type of horse. He was really kind of laid back. This horse here can get a little aggressive on the track at times. They’re two completely different kinds of colts.” Hititoutofthepark is among 15 Hambletonian-eligible trotters competing in Saturday’s (May 14) Pennsylvania Sire Stakes divisions at The Meadows. Hititoutofthepark is in the third of four $41,000-plus divisions and will start from post five with Corey Callahan in the sulky. He is the 5-2 morning line favorite. The seven-horse field also includes Hambletonian hopefuls Granite State, Treasure Keys K, Milligan’s School, and Desert Runner. Milligan’s School, a multiple open stakes winner last season, is the 7-2 second choice. Hititoutofthepark won his 2016 debut on May 7 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, beating defending Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champion Lagerfeld by a head in 1:55. Last year, Hititoutofthepark won five of 11 races and earned $128,820 for owners Give It A Shot Stable, Kurt Welling, and VIP Internet Stable. His victories included divisions of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes, Pennsylvania All-Stars, and Tompkins-Geers Stakes. He was scratched sick from the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship because of a 103-degree temperature. In his start prior to the PaSS final, Hititoutofthepark won by three-quarters of a length over Lagerfeld despite going off stride early in the race. “He had a real good year last year,” Butenschoen said. “We could have had a little bit more money on his card. We didn’t really know what we had. We raced him in Pennsylvania mainly and gave him one shot in Lexington. He raced well there (finishing second in an International Stallion Stakes division) and we turned him out. “Hopefully he’ll be OK for this summer and we’ll have some fun with him.” In addition to the Hambletonian, Hititoutofthepark’s stakes schedule includes the Arden Downs, Currier & Ives, Keystone Classic, Matron, and Yonkers Trot. “We’re not trying to gear up only for the Hambletonian,” Butenschoen said. “It’s just a shot at it. There are a bunch of partners in on him and we thought we’d give it a try and see what happens. We try to zig when other people zag. If it fits his schedule when it comes up we’ll take a look at it then. “I’ve looked forward too many times in the past. I’ve had all kinds of great plans coming out of (winter training in) Florida and horses get sick or making breaks and you’re left scrambling, so I try not to look too far ahead. I kind of knew where his first three starts where going to be and then we’ll see what happens afterwards.” Butenschoen hoped to have Boots N Chains pointed toward last year’s Hambletonian, but the colt never got on a roll after a 2-year-old campaign that saw him win a division of the Simpson Memorial Stakes and post runner-up finishes to French Laundry in the Kindergarten Classic championship and Muscle Diamond in a division of the International Stallion Stakes. “I thought he was going to come back really well, but he just didn’t seem to get any faster from (age) 2 to 3,” Butenschoen said. “He didn’t make that next jump up. Hititoutofthepark, we’ll see. Hopefully he’ll make that jump. But they’ve both made money for me, so I’m not going to complain about either one.” Other Hambletonian-eligible trotters competing on Saturday in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes are morning line favorites Tight Lines (3-1 in the first division) and Mikkeli Hanover (5-2 in the second division) as well as Alexander Hanover, Breedlove, Hollywood Highway, Lagerfeld, Love Matters, Marion Gondolier, Sliding Home, and Southern Cross. Tyson is the 2-1 morning line pick in the fourth division, followed by Lagerfeld at 4-1. by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications  

When horse owner Peter Mazzella was growing up, he looked up to his grandfather, John Nittolo. It was Nittolo, known as "Oompa," who introduced a young Mazzella to harness racing --- and ever since then it has been Mazzella's passion. And although his grandfather is no longer alive, he is still with Mazzella whenever he sends out a horse to compete. Mazzella races under the stable name Oompa's Farm Inc. in honor of his grandfather. On Sunday, two Chris Ryder-trained horses co-owned by Mazzella --- Rodeo Romeo and National Seelster --- will participate in the C$244,000 Confederation Cup for 4-year-old pacers at Flamboro Downs in Ontario. Rodeo Romeo will start from post one while National Seelster will leave from post six. The nine-horse field also includes Wiggle It Jiggleit, the 2015 Dan Patch Award Horse of the Year. "I used to hang out with my grandfather, go to the farm with him, and that's how I got into the horses," said the 57-year-old Mazzella, who as a young child gave his grandfather the name "Oompa" when he couldn't pronounce "Grandpa," and the name stuck forever thereafter. "He was like an idol. He lived for the horses. When he was dying, I made him a promise that any horse I ever owned would race under the stable name Oompa. And that's what I did. "That's something I'm kind of proud of. I haven't had any Wiggle It Jiggleits, but I've had some nice horses. It's something that means a lot to me. He got me started in the horse business. It was a love of his and it's a love of mine." Mazzella, who has a 20-acre farm in Cream Ridge, N.J., owns Rodeo Romeo with Ohio's Bob Mondillo and New Jersey's Michael Day. He shares ownership of National Seelster with Mondillo. The partners bought both horses at the 2013 Standardbred Horse Sale. National Seelster, a son of Bettor's Delight-No Strikes Against whose family includes millionaires Strike An Attitude, Delinquent Account and Artiscape, was first for $50,000. Rodeo Romeo, a son of Rocknroll Hanover-Southwind Vanna and a half-brother to recent Pennsylvania Classic winner Check Six, was purchased for $30,000. Neither horse raced at age 2 as the connections gave both time to mature physically. Last year at 3, National Seelster won eight of 21 races and earned $203,402. His wins included four preliminary divisions of the New York Sire Stakes, an elimination for the Adios and a preliminary round of the Buddy Gilmour Series. He was often a victim of bad post luck in the big money races; he drew the outermost starting spot or second tier in all four of his starts for $400,000 or more. National Seelster is winless in two starts this year, heading to the Confederation Cup off a second-place finish to Mel Mara in a conditioned race at the Meadowlands on April 30. Rodeo Romeo won three of 10 races last year and earned $45,333. All three of his victories came after October and he closed the season with consecutive triumphs in conditioned races at the Meadowlands. This year, he has won four of six races, including the Sagamore Hill Pacing Series championship at Yonkers, and earned $67,660 while hitting the board in every start. He heads to the Confederation Cup off a win in a conditioned race at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on May 1. "When people don't see horses racing at 2 they think something happened to them, but it's better to not race if you're not quite ready," Mazzella said. "We just gave them the time they needed. Chris liked both colts. They both came back really strong. We're happy with both of them. "They can go to the front, they can come from off the pace; they're very versatile. They've raced against some really top horses in the last year or so. I think they've shown what they're made of. Obviously you need a lot of luck in this game. You have to draw well, stay sound. But I think they should have a good year." National Seelster and Rodeo Romeo are eligible to the upcoming Graduate Series, but Mazzella is taking it one race at a time. And that means focusing on the Confederation Cup. "When you're racing against horses like Wiggle It Jiggleit and these kinds of horses, you've got to take one at a time," Mazzella said. "Wiggle It Jiggleit isn't the only good horse in that race, though. There are nine horses in that race and all good horses. Of course Wiggle It Jiggleit is a champion, and he certainly deserves it. He's a great horse. When I'm not in a race with him, I root for him. "But I think our horses will race well," Mazzella added. "Chris is great at prepping horses. You just need to get a good trip and hope for the best." Post time Sunday is 6 p.m. Below is the full field for the C$244,000 Confederation Cup. C$244,000 Confederation Cup PP/Horse/Driver/Trainer 1. Rodeo Romeo (Brett Miller-Chris Ryder) 2. My Hero Ron (Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke) 3. Americanprimetime (TBA-Rick Dane) 4. Rockin Ron (Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke) 5. Drachan Hanover (Randy Waples-Marcel Barrieau) 6. National Seelster (Sylvain Filion-Chris Ryder) 7. Rockin In Heaven (Trevor Henry-Dr. Ian Moore) 8. Rock N Roll World (Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke) 9. Wiggle It Jiggleit (Montrell Teague-Clyde Francis) Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager Harness Racing Communications A division of the U.S. Trotting Association

Bee A Magician is staying home. The connections of the Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff winner decided Monday to decline the automatic invitation to the May 29th Elitlopp at Solvalla Raceway in Sweden. Harness racing trainer Richard "Nifty" Norman said the decision by owners Mel Hartman, Herb Liverman and David McDuffee was unanimous. "It's a tremendous honor to receive an invitation, but she is not the greatest traveler and the owners thought the best thing for the horse is to keep her home," Norman said about the 6-year-old mare. "She's in a good little groove right now and they didn't want to upset her." Bee A Magician was declared the winner of the Elitlopp Playoff after Resolve was disqualified from first place for going inside three pylons in the stretch. Despite the disqualification Resolve also was extended an invitation to the Elitlopp, which holds its eliminations and final on the same day. Resolve is trained and driven by two-time Elitlopp winner Ake Svanstedt, who has spent the last three years based in the U.S. For her career, Bee A Magician has won 43 of 67 races and $3.80 million. She was the Horse of the Year in the U.S. and Canada in 2013 --- going undefeated in 17 races --- and the Dan Patch Award winner for best older female trotter in 2015. She enjoyed multiple successes last year against male rivals. She became the first female trotter to win the Maple Leaf Trot since 2006 and she became the first mare to ever win the Arthur J. Cutler Memorial and Centaur Trotting Classic. She also knocked off the boys in the Charlie Hill Memorial Trot. Her victories last season also included the Armbro Flight Stakes for trotting mares. This year, Bee A Magician is 2-for-2 with earnings of $84,500. Ken Weingartner  

David Miller chuckled when acknowledging his harness racing career has come a long way since he got his first win in 1981 at Lebanon Raceway. The 51-year-old Ohio native recently became only the third driver in the sport’s history to surpass $200 million in lifetime purses --- adding another accomplishment to his already Hall of Fame credentials. Miller exceeded the $200 million mark on May 4 when he won with 40-1 longshot Hickory Chumley at Harrah’s Philadelphia. Miller, who has posted a record 13 years with at least $10 million in purses, joined John Campbell (nearly $296 million) and Ron Pierce ($215 million) as the only drivers with more than $200 million. All three drivers are members of the Harness Racing Hall of Fame. In addition to ranking third in purses, Miller is sixth in career wins with 11,705. He was the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Driver of the Year in 2015 and 2003. In 2003, Miller led the sport in purses and drove No Pan Intended to the Pacing Triple Crown and Horse of the Year honors. No Pan Intended, the last horse to sweep the Pacing Triple Crown, passed away April 29 in Ireland, where he was standing stud prior to going to Australia. Miller recently spoke about his accomplishments, as well as No Pan Intended and owning a 3-year-old trotter with trainer Nifty Norman, with Ken Weingartner of the USTA’s Harness Racing Communications division. KW: Congratulations on reaching $200 million. How nice was it to accomplish that? DM: It was real nice. Last year people started telling me I was getting close to it. It’s a big milestone. I’m pretty proud of that. KW: You’re only the third person to get there, so it’s rare. When you start out driving, I’m sure you couldn’t even imagine a number like that.  DM: Yeah (Laughs). Ain’t that the truth. KW: And to do it with a win must make it even more special. DM: It does. I raced him one other time and he was OK, but I didn’t think I would get it on him. It was great. I’m glad he won instead of finishing like fourth and getting it. It was pretty neat, really. KW: Looking back, what other milestone really stands out to you? DM: Getting into the Hall of Fame. To be recognized for all your work and dedication, that was something special. KW: Do you remember your first win vividly? DM: Yeah, yeah. The horse’s name was Wee Diller. It was at Lebanon. I sat close with him and moved him on the backstretch and he cleared them and won. KW: Do you remember how much you made on that one? DM: (Laughs.) I’d imagine that purse was a thousand (dollars) or eleven-hundred. But I don’t remember the purse for sure. KW: But that was one of the first steps on the journey to $200 million. DM: Yes it was. I’ve come a long ways. KW: Changing subjects, it was sad to see the news about No Pan Intended. DM: That was awful. He was still a young horse; he was only 16. They were pretty excited about getting him over there. I was hoping he would do some good over there. It was too bad. KW: I’m sure you have special memories with him. DM: For sure. After I heard about it I went home and I have a tape with a lot of his races and watched them. I texted (trainer Ivan Sugg) my condolences too. It was too bad it had to happen. KW: What made him so special on the racetrack? DM: His biggest attribute was that he was a really sound horse and could get around any type of track. And he was tough and fast. KW: Changing gears again, you have Cufflink Hanover with Nifty. (The gelding finished second in the Dexter Cup on Saturday.) Nifty said you picked him out. DM: I had about five of them picked out at Harrisburg. He was the only one that went in my price range. I must have expensive taste. He only cost $30,000. KW: What did you like about him? DM: His breeding. His dam is a sister to CR Kay Suzie. He’s got some pedigree there. I watched his video and then when I went to the sale I looked at him and he was nice. He was put together straight and had a nice body on him and a nice head. He was the last one I had picked out to buy. The other ones were bringing way too much. KW: I didn’t know you had a budget. DM: (Laughs.) I paid $100,000 once for a horse, (stakes-winner) Mistery Woman, but I ended up with four partners on her by the time I got done. KW: He’s eligible to some stakes like the Yonkers Trot and Matron, but not the Hambletonian. Any second thoughts about that? DM: I never had any interest in putting him in that. He’s fine with what he’s got. I bought him hoping he would be a nice (Pennsylvania) sire stakes horses and that’s what he is. You see it happen, but it’s hard to think you’re going to give $30,000 for one and win the Hambletonian. He’s turned out to be all right though. He can make money with the schedule he has. He’s done well. So far so good. by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications

Ake Svanstedt says Dante possesses the ability to cover short distances extremely quickly. On Saturday, the harness racing colt used that skill to win the $140,800 Dexter Cup at Freehold Raceway. Starting from post seven, Dante and trainer-driver Svanstedt blazed to the front prior to the first turn and coasted from there, winning the Dexter Cup by 1-3/4 lengths over Cufflink Hanover. Credevie finished third. The time for the mile was 1:59.4 over a track labeled good. Dante, part of the favored entry with Dominion Beach, paid $4.20 to win. Dante benefited from several horses --- including Dominion Beach --- going off stride in the first turn, which enabled Svanstedt and his horse to separate from the field by several lengths. Dominion Beach rallied from more than a dozen lengths back, going three wide at the halfway point, to get alongside Dante on the backstretch, but was unable to sustain his drive in the stretch. Dominion Beach finished fifth, beaten by 4-1/4 lengths. Dante and Dominion Beach won their respective Dexter Cup eliminations last weekend. "He's very quick and he feels much better this time after his last race," said Svanstedt, who trains Dante for owner Anders Strom's Courant A B stable. "He's in very good shape. (The horses making breaks) made it more easy for us. It was an easy race; not so fast." Dante, a son of Credit Winner out of the stakes-winning mare Michelle's Angel, was purchased as a yearling for $355,000 at the 2014 Lexington Selected Sale. He is a full brother to millionaire Archangel. Last year, Dante was winless in two races. This year he is 2-for-2. "He's a different horse," Svanstedt said. "He was very nervous last year. He was stressed last year and did not trot so good. He was always pulling. Now he is nice to drive. He's grown up and is a much better horse." The Dexter Cup is the first major stakes event for 3-year-old trotters on the road to August's $1 million Hambletonian at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Dante is not eligible to the Hambletonian, but is staked to races on the New York circuit as well as the Breeders Crown. Earlier on the card, Dazzling Dollars won the $58,000 Lady Suffolk Stakes for 3-year-old female trotters by a half-length over Southwind Hope in 2:00. Curikee finished third. Dazzling Dollars went off at 10-1 and paid $22.60 to win. Favored entry-mates Flowers N Songs and American Gal K both went off stride. Trond Smedshammer trains and drives Dazzling Dollars for owner Purple Haze Stables. Dazzling Dollars has won two of 10 career races and earned $128,624. The filly, by Cash Hall out of Designed To Dazzle, won a division of the New York Sire Stakes last year and finished second in the NYSS championship. Ken Weingartner

If Mars Blackmon were to handicap Sunday's inaugural harness racing $150,000 Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff at the Meadowlands, he might have difficulty putting his finger on Resolve's success. Because unlike the fictional Blackmon's proclamation that "It's gotta be the shoes" to explain Michael Jordan's prowess, Resolve is at his best barefoot. Last year, Resolve won four of 13 races and hit the board a total of 12 times on his way to $700,938 for owner Hans Enggren and trainer-driver Ake Svanstedt. His wins included the TVG Free For All Series championship and an elimination of the Maple Leaf Trot. He finished second in the Maple Leaf Trot final, as well as the Breeders Crown Open Trot and Hambletonian Maturity. He received Canada's O'Brien Award for best older male trotter. The 5-year-old Resolve is part of an all-star field of nine entered in the Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff. The race winner will receive an invitation to the Elitlopp at Solvalla Racecourse in Sweden on May 29. The Playoff is scheduled for race one on Sunday's matinee program with a post time of 12:40 p.m. It will be broadcast live on national television in Sweden and anchors a six-race trotting block that will make up the V64 wager in Sweden. Resolve will start Sunday from post four and is 10-1 on the morning line. In his only start this season, Resolve finished fourth in the Open Handicap on April 22 at the Meadowlands, behind Playoff contenders Bee A Magician, Gural Hanover, and Shake It Cerry. Racing with shoes on for his seasonal debut, he was last at the halfway point, but finished strong with a :53.4 final half-mile. On Sunday, the shoes will be off. "In his first race, he had a bad post (six) but he came home very fast," Svanstedt said. "He feels good. I think he is in good form; he is in good shape. He has had two weeks to get ready and he feels good when he trained. "Now we are going to race him without shoes and he's much faster without shoes. And now we have a good post. If everything is normal he is going to do a good race." Bee A Magician is the Playoff's 9-5 morning line favorite, starting from post seven with Brian Sears driving for trainer Richard "Nifty" Norman. The winner of 42 of 66 career races and $3.72 million, Bee A Magician captured her only start this season, the aforementioned Open Handicap at the Meadowlands on April 22. JL Cruze, undefeated in three races this year, is the 2-1 second choice from post one with John Campbell at the lines for trainer Eric Ell. The 6-year-old Bee A Magician was the 2013 Horse of the Year in the U.S. and Canada and the 2015 Dan Patch Award winner for best older female trotter. JL Cruze, who is a 5-year-old, was the 2015 Dan Patch Award winner for best older male trotter. "JL Cruze is a very good horse and Bee A Magician too," Svanstedt said. "Now she has a bad post; JL Cruze has a good post. I'm impressed with JL Cruze. He is a big and tough horse. Bee A Magician needs a good trip to win, but (Sears) always gives her a good trip. We'll see what happens." Resolve has won 10 of 40 career races and earned $917,125. Svanstedt was pleased with the stallion's 2015 campaign, particularly because the horse was unimpressive while training in Florida during the winter. "I could never dream he would have a year like that when we were training him in Florida last winter," Svanstedt said. "He trained bad. He made breaks all the time when we trained on the round track. The first time he didn't make a break was when we qualified him. "But this winter he trained good; much stronger and better." Svanstedt is in his third year of competing in North America. He was Sweden's Trainer of the Year five times and Driver of the Year on three occasions prior to moving his stable to the U.S. in the winter of 2013. During his career overseas, Svanstedt won many of the top races in Europe, including the Elitlopp twice. He would enjoy the opportunity to return to Sweden with Resolve for another Elitlopp. "If he is as good as I hope, we would go," Svanstedt said. Fans can learn more about each of the horses entered in the Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff by visiting www.elitloppplayoff.com/ and can join the discussion on social media using #ElitloppPlayoff. Ken Weingartner

Harness racing trainer Richard "Nifty" Norman and driver David Miller have teamed up to win a number of open stakes races in recent years, but never with a horse they owned together. That could change Saturday. Miller and Norman share ownership of Cufflink Hanover, who is the 2-1 morning line favorite in Saturday's $140,800 Dexter Cup at Freehold Raceway. The gelding has won four of 10 career races, including his Dexter Cup elimination last weekend in 1:57.3 --- the fastest of the three elims for the event --- and earned $70,914. Cufflink Hanover will start the Dexter Cup final from post three, with Miller in the sulky. Miller on Wednesday became the third driver in harness racing history to surpass $200 million in career purses. "We hope we can have a little fun with him; that was the idea," said Norman, whose major stakes wins with Miller include the 2012 Hambletonian Oaks with Personal Style and a 2009 Breeders Crown with Poof She's Gone. "We'll see how it goes. "He raced good last week and got a good draw. We'll have to see how the race goes, but he's going to show up there." The Dexter Cup is the first major stakes event for 3-year-old trotters on the road to August's $1 million Hambletonian at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Last year's Dexter Cup winner, Habitat, reached the Hambletonian and finished seventh in the final. Less than a month later, he won the Yonkers Trot. In 2013, Dexter Cup runner-up Dontyouforgetit also went on to race in the Hambletonian and four years ago Market Share competed in the Dexter Cup --- he lost a shoe early in the race and went off stride --- and later won the Hambletonian. Cufflink Hanover, Dominion Beach, and Dante won last week's Dexter Cup eliminations. They are joined in Saturday's final by second-place finishers Steed, Sir Royson, and Inukchuk Chuck. Two third-place finishers chosen by lot, Credevie and Hillman, also advanced to the final. Dominion Beach and Steed are eligible to the Hambletonian. Stakes-winner Dominion Beach, trained by Nancy Johansson, and lightly-raced Dante, trained by Ake Svanstedt, will race as an entry because both are owned by Anders Strom's Courant A B. Dante, a son of Credit Winner out of the stakes-winning mare Michelle's Angel purchased as a yearling for $355,000 at the 2014 Lexington Selected Sale, is a full brother to millionaire Archangel. Cufflink Hanover was selected by Miller and purchased for $30,000 as a yearling at the 2014 Standardbred Horse Sale. A son of Andover Hall out of the mare CR Savoire Faire, his family includes 1995 Horse of the Year CR Kay Suzie and multiple-stakes-winner CR Renegade. "When I broke him for David, I liked him," said Norman, who owns horses under the Enzed Racing Stable. "I just liked his gait. He had a great gait and a good attitude. He's a nice-looking horse. He was easy to like." Although Cufflink Hanover is not eligible to the Hambletonian, the horse's stakes schedule includes the Yonkers Trot, Currier & Ives, Keystone Classic, Matron, and Tompkins-Geers. "We didn't think he was a top-level horse," Norman said. "He's kind of a second tier horse, but he's a nice solid horse. He acts like he can get around a half-mile track good, which should help." In the Dexter, the entry of Dominion Beach and Dante is the 5-2 second choice on the morning line. Dominion Beach will start from post five with driver Marcus Johansson while Dante will leave from post seven with Svanstedt at the lines. Dominion Beach, a son of Muscle Hill out of the Dan Patch Award-winning mare Windylane Hanover, has won two of three races this year, including his Dexter elim in 1:58. A full brother to multiple-stakes-winner Muscle Diamond, Dominion Beach has won three of 12 races lifetime and earned $98,267. Dante won his Dexter elimination in 1:58.3 in his seasonal debut. The colt was winless in two races last season. Sir Royson, from the stable of trainer Linda Toscano, drew post No. 1 and is 7-2 on the morning line. Sir Royson, who has won three of six career races and finished off the board only once, will be driven by Jim Marohn Jr. Steed, trained by Richard Johnson, will start from post eight in the eight-horse field and is 4-1 on the morning line. Matt Kakaley is the driver. "The other winners of the eliminations drew outside of us, so I think we got the best draw of the winners," Norman said. "I think (Sir Royson) is pretty decent too. It's one of those half-mile track races and we'll just have to see how things go. We'll need a little bit of luck but he should be right there." Ken Weingartner

Darlinonthebeach handed Pure Country the first loss of her career in last weekend's eliminations for Saturday night's $313,800 Miss Pennsylvania Stakes, but harness racing trainer Nancy Johansson knows her filly faces another challenging task ahead. Johansson trains Darlinonthebeach for breeder/owner White Birch Farm. Darlinonthebeach, who is 2-for-2 this year after hitting the board in nine of 10 races last season, is the 5-2 morning line favorite in the Miss Pennsylvania, which is restricted to Pennsylvania-sired 3-year-old female pacers. Darlinonthebeach will start the final from post four with David Miller in the sulky. Pure Country, who was unbeaten in 10 starts in 2015 and received the Dan Patch Award for best 2-year-old female pacer, will leave from post six with driver Brett Miller and is the 3-1 second choice. She made her seasonal debut in the first of three Miss Pennsylvania eliminations and finished third after getting to the front following a :26.3 opening quarter-mile and leading into the stretch. Newborn Sassy, who finished second to Darlinonthebeach's 1:50.4 mile in that elim, is 5-1 on the morning line and will start from post two with driver Tim Tetrick. Newborn Sassy won eight of 10 races last year, including the Matron Stakes, for training tandem of Jim King Jr. and Jo Ann Looney-King. Call Me Queen Be and I Said Diamonds, the remaining two elimination winners, will leave from posts five and nine, respectively. Call Me Queen Be, with Scott Zeron driving for trainer Ross Croghan, is 4-1 on the morning line and I Said Diamonds, with Matt Kakaley in the bike for Matias Ruiz, is 10-1. "I think Pure Country is a great filly," said Johansson, who is the daughter of Pure Country's trainer, Jimmy Takter. "She needed that race. Newborn Sassy needed that race too; it was the first start of the year for them. I'm sure Pure Country and Newborn Sassy are going to be much better this week. They're going to be tighter. It's going to be a good race." Darlinonthebeach is a daughter of stallion Somebeachsomewhere out of the mare Darlin's Delight. White Birch Farm also bred, raced and owns Darlin's Delight, who earned $2.90 million in her career and received the 2006 Dan Patch Award for best 3-year-old filly pacer. Last year, Darlinonthebeach won two of 10 races, including a division of the International Stallion Stakes, and finished second on five occasions, including the She's A Great Lady Stakes. "It seems like she's matured a little bit from last year," Johansson said about Darlinonthebeach. "She grew up quite a bit; filled out quite a bit from last year. I think that helps. When they get stronger they can carry their speed a little longer. Mentally I think she's a bit more focused than she was last year. It all just needs to come together, which so far it has." Darlinonthebeach's only off-the-board finish came in last October's Breeders Crown final, where she finished sixth after going off stride at the halfway point. But Darlinonthebeach made up ground with a :26.4 last quarter-mile that was nearly one-second quicker than any other horse in the race. "It was unfortunate in the Breeders Crown that she ran into the horse in front of her because I think she would have been right there on the wire with Pure Country in that start," Johansson said. "She made up an enormous amount of ground; she was really sharp that day. But that is what it is; you can't change that now." Because she won only twice last year, Johansson was able to qualify Darlinonthebeach once and then put the filly into a conditioned race for Pennsylvania-preferred female pacers ages 4 and under. Getting a start prior to the Miss Pennsylvania eliminations was an advantage, she said. "Qualifying and racing is a big difference," Johansson said. "But you don't want to race these 3-year-old fillies against open (level) mares. For her, she had the advantage where she was still in non-winners of three and Pennsylvania-bred, so I had an option to race her somewhere. "I think she raced really well (last weekend)," the trainer added. "She went (1:)50.4 under no urging whatsoever. When I watched the replay I realized David didn't even encourage her to go coming down the stretch. He just pulled the earplugs and she was off. So I was happy with it. So far so good." Pocono will conduct two race cards Saturday sandwiching the Kentucky Derby. The first card, with first-race post time of 11 a.m., features three divisions of the Pennsylvania All-Stars for 3-year-old male trotters. The evening card, in addition to the Miss Pennsylvania, includes the $561,500 Pennsylvania Classic for Pennsylvania-sired 3-year-old male pacers. Ken Weingartner

Harness racing trainer Ron Burke will send four horses to Saturday night's $561,500 Pennsylvania Classic at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono and he is undecided, at this point, which is the best. Of course, with three of them leading the morning-line odds, it is easy to understand why. "It looks like they're all at least good," Burke said about his quartet, led by morning-line favorite Check Six and also including JK Will Power, Big Top Hanover, and Manhattan Beach. "If there is anyone that I'd lean toward that I think is my best one, especially on a big track, it's Check Six. But after the other day I really couldn't tell." Check Six and JK Will Power won last weekend's eliminations for Saturday's final, which is for Pennsylvania-sired 3-year-old male pacers. Check Six edged Big Top Hanover by a nose in 1:50.4 and JK Will Power defeated The Catamount Kid by a neck in 1:51.1, with Manhattan Beach finishing third. Last year, Check Six won four of nine races and earned $114,889 for owners Burke Racing Stable, the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, William Switala, and James Martin. He put together a four-race win streak after a third-place finish in his debut and second-place finish two weeks later. But he stepped on a nail and was slow to regain his form after battling an infection. A son of Somebeachsomewhere out of the mare Southwind Vanna, Check Six is 2-for-2 this season and will start the Pennsylvania Classic from post four with driver Yannick Gingras. Check Six is a half-brother to Sagamore Hills Pacing Series champion Rodeo Romeo and his family includes 1994 O'Brien Award winner Village Jiffy. "I thought he was my best colt last year, for sure," Burke said. "I didn't even think it was a question. Then he stepped on a nail and it took him forever to get over the infection. But he's come back great." JK Will Power, the 3-1 second choice on the morning line, also is 2-for-2 this year. Last season, the son of Somebeachsomewhere out of the stakes-winning mare Whats New Pussycat won two of nine races and earned $123,757 for owner 3 Brothers Stables. His family includes past Breeders Crown champ Molly Can Do It and Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champ Billie Bluechip. "He was super," Burke said about JK Will Power's elimination, where he took the lead prior to the halfway point and held off The Catamount Kid. "He doesn't love the lead, and he still fought off (The Catamount Kid). He's a little bit lazy; he's better with a target." JK Will Power, who starts Saturday from post three with driver David Miller, battled growing pains last year but is much improved this season. "I think it's going to lead to him being a lot better horse," Burke said. "I can see him taking a big step in the right direction." Big Top Hanover won last year's Matron Stakes and a division of the International Stallion and finished second in the Breeders Crown. All totaled, he won four of 15 starts in 2015 and earned $450,253 for owners JT45 and Burke Racing Stable. This year, he has a second- and third-place finish in two starts. The colt is 4-1 on the Pennsylvania Classic morning line and will leave from post one with driver Matt Kakaley. His second dam, Ain't No Stopn Me, was a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champion and the mother of stakes-winner Cheyenne Rei. His family also includes stakes-winners Ain't No Stopn Him and Lon Todd Hanover, as well as Artstopper, who is the dam of Breeders Crown winner Always B Miki and Blue Chip Matchmaker Series winner Yagonnakissmeornot. "He's not the flashiest colt, but then you put him in a race and he does even better than you think he's going to," Burke said. "I don't know how good he is. But (post one) is a great spot for him." Manhattan Beach will start the Pennsylvania Classic from post nine in the nine-horse field and is 10-1 on the morning line. The gelding will be driven by Jim Morrill Jr. Last year, Manhattan Beach won one of nine races and earned $97,559 for owners Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, Geoffrey Lyons Mound, and Wingfield Brothers. He has a win and a third in two starts this season. A son of Somebeachsomewhere out of the world-champion mare Benear, he is a full brother to 2014 Little Brown Jug winner Limelight Beach and Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship runner-up Momas Got A Gun. "He was the only one that finished (last week) raging with pace," Burke said. "I thought it was a great prep for him. Where he drew is a disaster, but it is what it is." Burke said it was a challenge to get horses ready this early for a major test, but the allure of a half-million-dollar purse was too difficult to pass. "Most of the horses going in there were coming off qualifiers or one start," Burke said. "It was hard to get them ready like that. But it's very hard to give that race up. You win this race, for any of these colts, their year is made." Pocono will conduct two race cards Saturday sandwiching the Kentucky Derby. The first card, with first-race post time of 11 a.m., features three divisions of the Pennsylvania All-Stars for 3-year-old male trotters. The evening card, in addition to the Pennsylvania Classic, includes the $313,800 Miss Pennsylvania for Pennsylvania-sired 3-year-old female pacers. Ken Weingartner

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