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Howard Taylor has enjoyed many memorable moments in harness racing, but nothing in his past might compare to the emotions he will feel this weekend. On Sunday, Harrah's Philadelphia will present the inaugural $150,000 Jerry Taylor Invitational for older pacers, an event named in honor of Taylor's late father. Jerome "Jerry" Taylor, a Philadelphia-based attorney who participated in harness racing for more than four decades, passed away in October 2013 at the age of 82. "This is probably my biggest honor in harness racing," said Taylor, who in addition to being an attorney himself has owned, trained and driven harness racing horses for more than 35 years. "Horses mean a lot to me, but they meant even more to him. He never, ever missed a race. He would go everywhere and he absolutely loved them. "I remember friends of his would get mad at him because he would never make plans to go anywhere until after the draw came out. You couldn't call him up to see what he was doing next weekend because he wanted to see if his horse got in to race. He knew what he was doing if the horse got in." Taylor developed his own passion for harness racing through his father, who bought his first horse in 1972. Jerry Taylor got into owning horses through a client who was a trainer and owned a number of successful horses over the years. Among the most notable was New Jersey Sire Stakes and Grand Circuit champion Devil's Adversary. He renamed a number of his horses to include "Devil" in the name because of the success of Handsome Devil a year prior to the arrival of Devil's Adversary in 1983. "That was his first really good horse," Taylor said about Handsome Devil. "He thought that was lucky, so the next year he named all his horses 'Devil.' He changed the names of all of them." Jerry Taylor, who raced at Liberty Bell and Brandywine Raceway for years, was known for his sense of humor. "He was a bit of a cutup," Taylor said. "He had more one-liners and things to make people laugh than anybody." The Jerry Taylor Invitational features an eight-horse field that includes Levy Memorial Pacing Series champion Domethatagain, who is the 2-1 morning line favorite, as well as 2014 Canadian Pacing Derby winner Modern Legend and millionaires Clear Vision and Dancin Yankee. "My father and I were very close," said Taylor, who is probably best known for owning three-time Dan Patch Award-winning female trotter Buck I St Pat. "I worked with him my whole life because when I worked with the horses when I was younger they were his horses. When I became a lawyer, I went to work for him and then I became a partner in the firm. I spent more time with my father than anybody. "I miss him terribly. It's going to be an emotional day, but I'm looking forward to it. I was touched when I found out they decided to name the race after him. No one loved racing more than my father." by Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications USTA

Goshen, NY --- Musclesprinctonian has provided co-owner Jim Monismith with several win photos, but the trotter’s impact goes beyond the racetrack. In fact, harness racing as a whole has given Monismith a positive outlet since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease two years ago. Monismith, a retired probation officer from Middletown, N.Y., is among the 24 participants at the U.S. Trotting Association’s 17th annual Driving School. The school is conducted at the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Goshen and the Mark Ford Training Center near Middletown. On Thursday, the second day of the four-day program, participants spent the morning working with trainers at Ford’s complex and the afternoon gaining insight into amateur racing from Joe Faraldo and Lon Froncione and into stable management from Kelly Ford. Monismith had the opportunity to jog a horse for the first time on Thursday morning. It was even more memorable because it was with Musclesprinctonian, a 4-year-old male trotter he owns with Oldford Farms, Tyler Buter and Nicole Monismith. The group bought the son of Muscle Hill-Broadway Schooner last July. “It’s a lot tougher than I thought,” Monismith said about sitting behind a race horse. “I didn’t realize that it takes such upper body strength. He really wanted to run. After I finally got him calmed down a little bit my back started bothering me. I was sitting straight up; I don’t know how these guys do it when you see them leaning all the way back. We only went around the track three times and I couldn’t imagine doing that every day, jogging horses and then racing horses at the track at night. “I wanted to come to the Driving School just to gain more knowledge and to be able to jog a horse,” he added. “I’d been around the barn before, but now doing the work, I do it for the love of the sport.” Monismith became a fan of harness racing as a teenager. “I worked at a deli and the owner there had Standardbred horses, so I used to go to the track with them back in the day, especially at Monticello, and sit in the owner’s box,” he said. “From that point on, I just loved the sport.” After retiring because of his illness, Monismith got the chance to buy into Musclesprinctonian thanks to his relationship with Amber and Tyler Buter. Musclesprinctonian has won two of seven races and hit the board a total of five times this year. He races Saturday night at Vernon Downs. “I go to a lot of tracks and got to know a lot of people,” Monismith said. “This is very therapeutic for me. I go to a lot of the races when the Buters have horses in and especially when my horse is racing. He’s been in the winner’s circle a couple times so I’ve gotten my picture taken, but I just find being at the farm to be very therapeutic. “This is just for the fun of it and whatever happens, happens. It’s been great. I have good days and bad days (dealing with Parkinson’s disease). This gives me something to do rather than just sitting at home doing nothing. I had a rough job for 27 years as a probation officer so it’s just nice to be on my own schedule and do things on my own. I’m alive and I’m enjoying it.” by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications

Freehold, NJ --- El Diablo BR is getting thrown into the fire. A Norwegian-born son of Muscle Hill, El Diablo BR makes only his fourth career start Friday (May 15) when he faces six rivals in the second of two New Jersey Sire Stakes divisions for harness racing 3-year-old male trotters at the Meadowlands Racetrack. The field consists entirely of Hambletonian Stakes-eligible horses and includes stakes-winners Muscle Diamond and French Laundry. “That’s like the Hambletonian right from the get-go,” trainer Trond Smedshammer said. “I would have rather not found out this way what I’ve got, but that’s the way it is with the New Jersey Sire Stakes. “He showed some ability trotting in (1):55 and a piece as a 2-year-old and now in (1):54.4 this year. I know he’s going to trot in (1):52, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s good enough for the bigger stakes here. You see people qualifying in (1):52.” El Diablo BR was bred by Norway’s Bjorn Rishaug and is out of the stakes-winning mare Fiery Chip. Last year, the colt was limited to two starts because of sickness and soreness. He finished fifth in his debut, a preliminary division of the Kindergarten Series in which Habitat defeated The Bank by a neck, and was timed in 1:55.4. He then went off stride in a division of the New Jersey Sire Stakes Green Acres Series at Freehold and Smedshammer decided to turn out the colt for the rest of the year. El Diablo BR came back this season and began his campaign with a second-place finish from post nine in a conditioned race at the Meadowlands. The race was won by Soboro Hanover, who also is eligible to the Hambletonian. In addition to the Hambletonian, El Diablo BR’s stakes schedule includes the Goodtimes Stakes in June and Canadian Trotting Classic in September. “He trained good all winter,” Smedshammer said. “He’s been a little bit of a bully at the Meadowlands. He comes on the track and he wants to be a tough guy and kick and stuff like that. Hopefully by racing every week he’ll settle down and learn. He’s going to be going a few weeks in a row now and if he’s any good he’s got the Goodtimes right after. He’ll get plenty of races in the next five weeks, that’s for sure. “He’s also got stakes back there (in Norway). The Norwegian stakes competition level is like night and day compared to here. If he’s not good enough here, he’ll go back there.” El Diablo BR will leave from post four with driver Tim Tetrick in his New Jersey Sire Stakes division. He is 6-1 on the morning line. Muscle Diamond, who finished second in last year’s Breeders Crown, is the 6-5 favorite followed by French Laundry at 2-1. The eight-horse first division -- also consisting entirely of Hambletonian-eligible trotters -- is led by last year’s New Jersey Sire Stakes champion, Guess Whos Back. The Nik Drennan-trained colt is making his seasonal debut and is the 6-5 morning line favorite. Canepa Hanover is the 2-1 second choice. Also debuting Friday is Mission Brief, who is the 3-5 morning line favorite in the first round of the New Jersey Sire Stakes for 3-year-old female trotters. by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications 

Harness racing trainer Jim Campbell is happy with Honor And Serve's preparation for his 3-year-old season. He is less excited about the way the trotting colt will have to start it. Honor And Serve opens his campaign Thursday by competing in the fourth of four Pennsylvania Sire Stakes divisions at Harrah's Philadelphia. He faces a group that includes returning Dan Patch Award-winner Pinkman as well as stakes-winners Walter White and Cruzado Dela Noche. A total of 23 Hambletonian Stakes-eligible trotters will race in Thursday's Pennsylvania Sire Stakes divisions at Philly. Trainer Jimmy Takter sends out the morning line favorite in each division: Uncle Lasse in the first, Whom Shall I Fear in the second, The Bank in the third, and Pinkman in the fourth. The $1 million Hambletonian is Aug. 8 at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Last year, Honor And Serve won two preliminary divisions of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and finished second to Billy Flynn in the $260,000 series championship. He also finished second to Habitat in a division of the Bluegrass Stakes at The Red Mile. He ended the season with six top-three finishes in nine starts and earnings of $164,920 for owner Fashion Farms. Two of his off-the-board finishes came when he went off stride and the other was a fifth-place finish where he was beaten by only 1-1/2 lengths in a division of the International Stallion Stakes. "I was happy with his year," Campbell said. "He raced really good in some of the sire stakes, including the sire stakes final, and he raced good in Lexington too. We had a couple disappointments with him making breaks in the Peter Haughton (Stakes) and the Matron; in the Haughton he just took a bad step and in the Matron he kind of got jammed up a little bit. "But he was the type of horse that never got hurt or anything like that, so hopefully he'll come back and have a good year for us." Honor And Serve is a son of Donato Hanover - the 2007 Horse of the Year - out of mare Honorable Daughter, who received the 2008 Dan Patch Award for best 2-year-old female trotter. Bred by Valley High Stable, the colt sold for $75,000 at the 2013 Standardbred Horse Sale. "He's matured both physically and mentally," Campbell said. "He showed us some nice speed last year and he's bigger and stronger this year so hopefully he'll be able to carry it further." Honor And Serve prepped for the start of this season with two qualifiers, winning the second in 1:56.2 on May 5 at Harrah's Philadelphia. He will start his Pennsylvania Sire Stakes race from post one with driver Tim Tetrick and is the 4-1 second choice on the morning line. Pinkman, who is 2-1, also is making his seasonal debut. He will leave from post three with driver Yannick Gingras. Last season, Pinkman won six of eight races and earned $566,960. Named after a character from the television series "Breaking Bad" (as is stablemate Walter White) the gelding's victories included the Breeders Crown, in a stakes-record-equaling 1:53.2, and Valley Victory Stakes. Walter White, Cruzado Dela Noche, and Dapper Don all enter the race 1-for-1 this season. Cruzado Dela Noche won a division of the Pennsylvania All Stars on May 2 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono while Walter White and Dapper Don won conditioned races. "We couldn't have asked him to be any better in his two qualifiers," Campbell said about Honor And Serve. "It's just unfortunate he got into the division he got in, but we have no control over that. "He's staked for everything. What he races in, that's going to be week to week. There are a lot of good horses out there, that's for sure." Whom Shall I Fear, who is a full brother to Dan Patch Award winners Pastor Stephen and Father Patrick, is 3-for-3 this year after going winless in five starts last season. He is coming off a victory in the Pennsylvania All Stars and is the 9-5 morning line favorite in the second PaSS division. Uncle Lasse, a full brother to Trotter of the Year Shake It Cerry, last year won a division of the Bluegrass and finished second in the Peter Haughton and Valley Victory. He is making his seasonal debut and is the 2-1 choice in the first PaSS group. The Bank, who also won a Bluegrass division last season, is the 2-1 favorite in the third division. Here is a link to Thursday's entire card at Harrah's Philadelphia. by Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications USTA

Hot Shot Blue Chip has returned. Where he goes from here remains to be seen, but harness racing trainer Jonas Czernyson is happy to have the mercurial trotter back in his barn. It is a much better place for the 9-year-old gelding than out in his fields. Hot Shot Blue Chip, a multiple-stakes-winner with $1.20 million in career purse earnings, last raced in August 2013 and was retired in early 2014 because of a knee injury. But Hot Shot Blue Chip failed to enjoy his newfound leisure time, so Czernyson decided to bring him back for some work on the training track. "He was getting mean to the other horses he was turned out with, he was kicking at people," Czernyson said. "I said let's bring him in and put him back in training and see what happens. We did that in the beginning of February and slowly I got him trained down. He kept on going and kept on going. "It started out just as something to do because he was so bored being at the farm. That's why I brought him in. I saw that he was sound before I brought him in; the others were galloping in the field and he was trotting in the field. I said we'd give him a chance." Hot Shot Blue Chip, owned by Tom Dillon, progressed so well that Czernyson put him in a qualifier Thursday at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. With Scott Zeron handling the driving, Hot Shot Blue Chip sat in sixth place for most of the mile before coming home with a :28.2 final quarter-mile to post a 1:56 win. "He qualified pretty good and he came out of it OK," Czernyson said. "Now we're going to see what the next step is. We haven't gotten that far yet because we didn't know what he was going to do. "He likes to be a race horse, so whatever class we have to race him, that's where he's going to go," Czernyson added. "He's not staked to anything, so he's not going to make it back to be a stakes horse. He's going to tell us where he should race. But I'm never going to put him in a claimer and he's never going to leave my barn. Me and Tom have an agreement on that. He's going to stay here and be our pet." Hot Shot Blue Chip did not require surgery for his injury, but needed time to heal. "It was a bone in the knee, it wasn't in the joint or anything, and everyone just said he needed more time," Czernyson said. "But when you have an 8-year-old, it's tough to give him time. So we gave him a year off and it looks like it's healed." Hot Shot Blue Chip, a son of Revenue S-Hustle N Muscle, has been known for his inconsistent performances on the racetrack. He went off stride in nine of the 20 most lucrative starts of his career - including the Hambletonian, Kentucky Futurity and two editions of the Breeders Crown - but was talented enough to win the 2012 Credit Winner Stakes and 2012 Pride In Progress. He defeated Chapter Seven, Arch Madness and Mister Herbie in the Credit Winner while establishing his career mark of 1:51.2. In addition, he finished second in the 2010 Breeders Crown Open, 2011 Pride In Progress and two editions of the Allerage Farms Open Trot. He also finished third in several stakes, including two editions of the Maple Leaf Trot. "He always gives all he has - or runs," Czernyson said with a laugh. "But that's Hot Shot. I took the hobbles off of him (for Thursday's qualifier) because he runs with them too. There was no need to have him running in hobbles. And he looks nicer that way." For his career, Hot Shot Blue Chip has won 21 of 82 races. Time will tell whether he can add to that total. "He filled out nicely; he looks as good as he did before," Czernyson said. "He's a nice horse to have around. I'm excited about it. I'm happy to have him back." by Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications USTA

Harness racing driver Tyler Smith says pacer Let's Drink On It has grown up and matured a good deal since last season. It's not unlike the way the 22-year-old driver describes himself, too. Smith and Let's Drink On It are getting ready for their first stakes engagement of 2015, the Confederation Cup for 4-year-old pacers at Flamboro Downs in Ontario. A total of 16 horses entered the event, so two eliminations will be raced Sunday, with the top four finishers from each group advancing to the C$200,000-added final on May 17. Last year, the Joe Seekman-trained Let's Drink On It won eight of 25 races and earned $422,363 while providing Smith with his first regular Grand Circuit drives. The duo teamed to win a division of the Circle City Pace and eliminations for the Little Brown Jug and Delvin Miller Adios. They finished second in the Little Brown Jug final and a division of the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes. "It was unbelievable, especially as young as I was, to get to drive a colt like him," Smith said. "That's where everybody wants to be in their career, driving Grand Circuit horses like this. I've been very fortunate to get the opportunity at a young age. I've been very, very fortunate at a young age to drive good horses." Smith was the leading driver at Hoosier Park in 2013, the same year he became the youngest driver in harness racing history to reach 1,000 career wins, and finished second to Trace Tetrick in the Hoosier Park standings last season. Smith, a native of Washington Court House, Ohio, finished last year with 412 victories and a career-best $3.76 million in purse earnings. Racing regularly on the Grand Circuit was a learning experience. Last year, Smith drove in eight open stakes worth more than $200,000. In the previous five years of his career, Smith drove in a total of four open stakes worth more than $200,000 -- with all of those starts coming in Indiana. "It taught me a lot, getting the experience of racing in the big races, and getting the experience racing against those guys that are the best," said Smith, who has 1,695 lifetime wins. "I watch them night in and night out when I have a break, but to be able to drive against them, they're there for a reason. They're the best. "I still learn to this day, but I learned a lot last year. You have to take each race as it goes. When you go for a million dollars you know you're going for a million dollars, but you can't let the nerves and the pressure get to you. You have to treat it just like another race. Everybody wants everything to work out, but there are times it doesn't. You just can't beat yourself up over it, you have to learn from it and move on from it. "I feel like I've grown up and matured a lot as a driver. I feel like I'm ready for the big leagues." A day after the Confederation Cup eliminations, Smith will head to Monticello Raceway for the New York Sire Stakes to drive a 3-year-old male trotter named The Physician for trainer Anette Lorentzon. "I've got a couple New York Sire Stakes horses," Smith said. "I'm just ready for the stakes season to get back going. I'm going to try to travel some this year and hopefully it works out." Let's Drink On It is in the second of the two Confederation Cup eliminations. He will start from post six and is 6-1 on the morning line. Ron Burke's Limelight Beach, who won last year's Little Brown Jug, is the 8-5 favorite. He will start from post one with driver Yannick Gingras. The remainder of the field is Luck Be Withyou, Ideal Cowboy, Somewhere Fancy, Nirvana Seelster, Vance Bayama, and Melmerby Beach. So far this season, Let's Drink On It has one win and two second-place finishes in three starts. He enters his Confederation Cup elim off a 2-1/2 length victory over Night Pro in 1:50.1 in the Invitational at Hoosier Park. He paced his final quarter-mile in :26.3. "He's come back very good," Smith said. "He's definitely grown up and matured a lot more. Last year he could be a little funny here and there to drive, but this year he's been perfect to drive. He's definitely gotten a lot stronger. He was a good-looking colt anyway last year, but he's filled out a lot more. He's definitely filled into his 4-year-old self." Let's Drink On It, a son of former Seekman star Art Official out of the mare Letmedowneasy, is owned by Tina Seekman, Larry Bond, Hal Hewitt, and Vincent Boido Jr. He has won 14 of 40 career races and earned $617,089. The first Confederation Cup elimination has National Debt, leaving from post one with Chris Christoforou at the lines for trainer Rob Fellows, as the 2-1 morning line favorite. Bettorever, with Corey Callahan driving for Jeff Bamond Jr., is the 5-2 second choice, starting from post four. The remainder of the field is Three Of Clubs, P L Hellcat, All Bets Off, Big Boy Dreams, Boomboom Ballykeel, and Mattamerican. by Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications USTA

After more than 40 years of, in his own words, "dabbling" in harness racing, Nova Scotia's Bruce Kennedy figured time was of the essence if he was ever going to find a big-time stakes horse. Kennedy, who is in the convenience store business in Bible Hill, hopes he has finally found one in 3-year-old male pacer Wakizashi Hanover. And he is bringing a group of friends and new owners along for the ride. "I had to get one in a hurry or I wasn't going to get one," the 74-year-old Kennedy said with a laugh. "Maybe this is our lucky strike." Last year, Wakizashi Hanover had two wins and three second-place finishes in six starts, earning $104,089 for the Kennedy-led Tri County Stable. One of his seconds was by a neck and another by a nose, and his only off-the-board effort was a fifth-place finish in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship. He set a track record at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono with a 1:51 triumph in July. Wakizashi Hanover, trained by Jim King Jr. and Joann Looney-King, won his first start this year in a conditioned race at Harrah's Philadelphia and is now getting ready for a $32,000 division of the Pennsylvania All Stars on Saturday at Pocono Downs. Jim Morrill Jr. will drive the gelding, who is 5-1 on the morning line. The Ron Burke-trained entry of Yankee Bounty, the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champ, and Rich Wisdom is the 2-1 choice. "We had a great year with him last year," Kennedy said about Wakizashi Hanover. "He was very consistent for us. "He's fully loaded this year (for stakes races). We didn't load him up last year because we didn't have any idea that he would be a good horse. We thought he might be OK, we thought he would make the races, but had no dreams of getting in the top crowd. So we decided to take his (2014) earnings and reinvest in him." Wakizashi Hanover is eligible to a number of major stakes, including the Breeders Crown, North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace, Battle of the Brandywine, and Max C. Hempt Memorial. A son of Dragon Again out of the mare Western Gesture, Wakizashi Hanover was purchased for $23,000 at the 2013 Standardbred Horse Sale. He is a full brother to female pacer Sand Gesture, who won a Matron Stakes elimination in 2010 and finished second in a number of stakes, and his family also includes stakes-winner Perfect Gesture. "Wakizashi Hanover was one of probably 10 that we shopped down," said Kennedy, who received assistance from Brent MacGrath of Somebeachsomewhere fame in finding the yearling. "We weren't looking for an expensive colt. We had four brand new owners out of our six people who were going to purchase him, so we were looking for something that was going to be reasonable. "We liked a lot of things about him. His gait was good. He wasn't a blocky, bulky horse. He wasn't a flashy really extremely attractive horse, but he seemed to do everything right and he seemed to have his parts all in the right place." Wakizashi Hanover has spent his winters in Pinehurst, N.C., with trainer Gordon Corey. It was during a previous trip to Pinehurst several years ago that Kennedy met Jim King. "We had a horse a few years ago that we sent down to Gordon for the winter," Kennedy said. "We went down there and stayed three months with him and jogged and trained. Gordon always had horses for Jimmy King. When it came time to race, we liked what Jimmy was doing and we pushed that horse over to Jimmy to get ready. So it was an easy decision for us to go to Jimmy when we got Wakizashi Hanover." Kennedy owns Wakizashi Hanover with Percy Bonnell, Wayne Burley, David Bugden, David Chabassol, and Dr. Scott Bowen. Last year, Kennedy and some of his fellow owners made the lengthy trip from Nova Scotia to Pennsylvania on three occasions to watch Wakizashi Hanover race. Once, they flew to Philadelphia and back in the same day. "That's commitment," Kennedy said with a laugh. "But he was good enough for us to want to follow. This doesn't come along every year." As Kennedy, with his four decades of activity in the sport - ranging from training, driving and working in an administrative capacity - is well aware. "It's really nice, for the other owners especially," Kennedy said. "What a nice introduction to the industry when you can have a bit of a winner to start out with. They're very excited and I'm more than pleased with him. We're watching and hoping." by Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications USTA  

Murderers Row is ready to step to the plate. Or, perhaps more accurately for a harness racing horse, step to the gate.  Murderers Row is one of nine 3-year-old female trotters entered in Friday's $39,816 John Simpson Memorial Stakes at the Meadowlands Racetrack. The filly - whose name is a reference to the moniker bestowed upon the famed New York Yankees lineup in the late 1920s - will start from post one with John Campbell driving for trainer Brett Bittle. The race also includes stakes-winners Allerage Star, Model Behavior, and Shaqline. It will be the first start of the season for Murderers Row, who last year struggled at the beginning of the campaign but closed out 2014 by winning three of her final four races. "We know she's not top of the hill, but we're hoping she's in the middle somewhere," said Steve Jones, who is among the group that bred and owns Murderers Row. "It took a little while for her to figure it out, but now she seems like she has (figured it out) hopefully. Time will tell." Murderers Row's father is Donato Hanover, who was Horse of the Year in 2007, and her mother is million-dollar-earner Housethatruthbuilt, who received the 2004 Dan Patch Award for best 3-year-old female trotter. Murderers Row is a full sister to stakes-winner Real Babe and her family also includes 1999 Dan Patch Award winner Master Lavec. Last year, Murderers Row finished second in a division of the Reynolds Memorial Stakes in her second career start, but was winless in her first five races - going off stride in two. She got her first victory in 1:56.1 in a late-closer at Lexington's Red Mile and followed up with back-to-back triumphs in the preliminary rounds of a series for 2-year-old female trotters at The Meadows. Unfortunately for her connections, the filly returned to her breaking ways and went off stride and finished eighth in the $31,500 final. "The last race of the year she was 1-2 (odds) and made a break for really no reason," said Jones, who named Murderers Row and owns the filly with Mary Kinsey and Ted Gewertz. "She did that a few times last year. It wasn't a soundness issue, it was more maturity; more between the ears and being immature. "John Campbell said he thought her gait is better now. We're hoping she gets off on the right foot. Every time she goes to the gate you wonder about the breaking part, but she didn't break in her qualifiers." Chuck Sylvester trained Murderers Row for much of last year. Jones said Bittle is racing the filly to start this season because Sylvester is still in Florida. He joked that Bittle was an appropriate choice because his grandfather, Charlie Keller Jr., was a star for the Yankees in the 1940s and later founded harness racing's Yankeeland Farms. "I am very close with Charlie Keller (III)," Jones said. "Brett and Charlie's background is pretty much all Yankees." Yankeeland Farms bred 1998 Hambletonian winner Muscles Yankee, who is the father of Murderers Row's dam Housethatruthbuilt. Yankee Stadium is known as "The House that Ruth Built." The Yankees' legendary 1927 Murderers' Row included Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, and Earle Combs. Jones hopes his version can knock out a few victories this year. Murderers Row is not eligible to the Hambletonian Oaks, but does have the Currier & Ives Stakes, Landmark, Reynolds, Arden Downs, Tompkins-Geers, and Hudson Filly Trot on her schedule. "She's a well-bred filly, out of a very nice mother, and we're hoping she's going to be OK this year as a 3-year-old," Jones said. "She looks like she's going to be a decent horse." Friday's Meadowlands card also includes the $43,106 Reynolds Memorial for 3-year-old female pacers. The field includes stakes-winners Bettor Be Steppin, Divine Caroline, and Happiness as well as She's A Great Lady runner-up Bedroomconfessions and New York Sire Stakes championship runner-up Bossers Joy. Weeper, last season's Matron Stakes winner, makes her 4-year-old debut in the $27,500 Open for female pacers. The race also includes Breeders Crown champion Sayitall BB plus stakes-winners Gallie Bythe Beach and Fancy Desire. by Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications USTA

Harness racing trainer Riina Rekila cannot explain it, but something compelled her to make her first trip to drive in a race in New Jersey with E L Love in the Lady Suffolk Stakes. Whatever forces were at work, it proved to be a worthwhile journey. E L Love, hailing from a family of stakes-winners that includes full-brother Appomattox and half-brother E L Titan, improved to 4-for-4 in her career by winning a $35,750 division of Saturday's Lady Suffolk for 3-year-old female trotters by 2-3/4 lengths over favorite Riley's Dream in 1:58 at Freehold Raceway. It was E L Love's first try in stakes company - she previously had won three conditioned races at three different tracks in Canada by a combined total of eight lengths - and a rare visit to the U.S. by Rekila, who during the past three-plus years made only 10 starts as a driver in the States. "I've had an idea - I don't know why - that I just felt like I had to come here at some point," Rekila said after driving E L Love to victory for breeder/owner Erkki Laakkonen. "I've had in my mind for a few years that I was going to win this race. I don't know why, but that's why I paid her and some of my other horses into it." E L Love is a daughter of Yankee Glide out of the mare Courtney Hall, a stakes-winning full sister to millionaire Cameron Hall. E L Love is Courtney Hall's fifth foal and the previous four - E L Rock, Appomattox, E L Rocket, and E L Titan - each earned at least $233,000. E L Titan, who also is trained by Rekila and won last year's Carl Erskine Trot, leads the group with $581,351. "They have a different style, but they both have unbelievable speed and how easy they can go," Rekila said. "She's a fast horse and she wants to do it." Rekila plans to race E L Love on the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes circuit in addition to a number of open stakes, but the filly is not eligible to the Hambletonian Oaks. Rekila has had previous success in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes with Christiana Hanover, who in 2010 won a preliminary round of the series in a then-track-record 1:53.4 at Pocono Downs. "She's the nicest horse, but she can be tough, tough, tough," Rekila said about E L Love, adding with a laugh, "I wouldn't make her mad if you want to be alive. You have to know how you treat her." Rekila also is preparing E L Titan for his 4-year-old campaign. E L Titan, who in addition to defeating Father Patrick in the Erskine finished second to Father Patrick in the Breeders Crown, Canadian Trotting Classic, and American-National Stakes, is doing stud duty while working his way back to the races. "He's training pretty good," Rekila said. "I've been taking my time. I've been to Mohawk a few times, a little bit faster but not very fast. I don't want to stress him too much. I just want to take my time, maybe race in late July or August and try to get him ready for later in the year." Rekila, a 33-year-old native of Finland, often drives the horses in her stable. She has won 163 races as a trainer and 140 as a driver. "I like to drive them, especially at the beginning, because then I know if I have to do some shoeing changes or if they are lame somewhere," Rekila said. "I know (catch) drivers can do it, but even when I win a race I'm thinking about things I can do for the next one." And maybe also thinking about places she can go, whether she can explain it or not. by Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications USTA

Freehold, NJ --- Habitat made life easy for harness racing driver Yannick Gingras in Saturday's $133,170 Dexter Cup, taking the lead after the first turn and cruising to a 3-3/4 length win over Divisionist in 1:56.4 at Freehold Raceway. "I like it that way; perfect for me," Gingras said about the uncontested trip. "I just had to worry about the first turn, but once he was through there I know there would be no catching him." The Dexter Cup, for 3-year-old trotters, is the first open stakes test on the road to the Hambletonian Stakes. The $1 million Hambletonian is Aug. 8 at the Meadowlands. Last year, Habitat won seven of 13 races and earned $534,407 in purses -- a total that ranked third among all 2-year-old trotters, behind only divisional Dan Patch Award winners Mission Brief (female) and Pinkman (male). Habitat's victories included the William Wellwood Memorial and Matron Stakes as well as divisions of the Tompkins-Geers, Champlain, and Bluegrass. A son of Conway Hall-Habit's Best, the colt is trained by Ron Burke and owned by Burke Racing, Our Horse Cents Stables, and Weaver Bruscemi. Habitat was making his seasonal debut in the Dexter Cup. He led the field through fractions of :28.2, :58.4, and 1:27.4 on his way to victory. "On the backstretch, I could tell they were coming a little bit so I just opened him up a little so I wouldn't have to rush him in the last turn," Gingras said. "He was never in doubt." Gabe The Bear Dean finished third, followed by Apostles Creed, Sixteen Encores, Ha Taylor, Broken Record, and Bavaro. Apostles Creed, Divisionist, Habitat, and Sixteen Encores are eligible to the Hambletonian. Habitat made one start on a half-mile track last year, going off stride in a division of the New York Sire Stakes at Buffalo Raceway. This time, he completed his task without trouble. "It was a waltz around, which is great for his first start," said Burke's assistant trainer Shannon Murphy. "He didn't have to get stressed out at all and he did everything right. A half-mile track, he only raced once on it last year and he made a break and we were a little concerned, but once Yannick scored him down he gave me the thumbs up. "He filled out (last year to this) and didn't get really much bigger, but he's matured mentally and we're hoping for a big year with him." Earlier on the card, E L Love and Northern Obsession each won a $35,750 division of the Lady Suffolk Stakes for 3-year-old female trotters. E L Love, driven by trainer Riina Rekila, won by 2-3/4 lengths over Riley's Dream in 1:58. Northern Obsession, driven by Eric Abbatiello for trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera, won by a half-length over Southwind Cartier in 2:01. by Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications USTA

East Rutherford, NJ --- Some of harness racing's biggest stars, including five Dan Patch Award winners, were in qualifier action Saturday at the Meadowlands Racetrack, where they were greeted by an unseasonably cold morning and stiff headwind in the stretch. Three of the Dan Patch Award winners - older trotters Father Patrick, Market Share and Bee A Magician - met in the ninth of the day's 16 qualifiers, but it was Kevin McDermott-trained Melady's Monet who led them all to the finish line. Melady's Monet, who has raced in the Opens during the winter at the Meadowlands and has won five of eight starts this season, won by 1-1/4 lengths over Father Patrick in 1:54.4. Market Share was third and Bee A Magician fourth, both timed in 1:56. Four-year-old Father Patrick, making his first trip of the season to the track, and driver Yannick Gingras were content to sit behind Melady's Monet through the stretch after fractions of :29.1, :57.4, and 1:27. No harness racing horse earned more money last year than Father Patrick, who banked $1.69 million. He was a divisional Dan Patch Award winner at both ages 2 and 3. "(Father) Patrick looked fantastic," trainer Jimmy Takter said. "Yannick said he was just crawling over (Melady's Monet), but he didn't want to make a sprint of it." Father Patrick, whose wins in 2014 included the Breeders Crown for 3-year-old male trotters, Canadian Trotting Classic and Beal Memorial, has done stallion duty while preparing for this season. "He loves it," Takter said. "Everything is good. He's filled out quite a bit; he's much more stout." Bee A Magician, a 5-year-old mare who was the Dan Patch Award Horse of the Year in 2013, was making her final qualifying start prior to the Miami Valley Distaff on May 3. "She was good," trainer Nifty Norman said. "She's come back really good. I'm very happy with her. (Driver Brian Sears) likes to qualify nice and simple, but he's very happy with her. If he's happy, I'm happy." Market Share, a 6-year-old who has won $3.68 million in his career and received Dan Patch Award honors at ages 3 and 4, was making his first qualifying start as he gets ready for the Cutler Memorial (eliminations May 9) at the Meadowlands. "It was pretty much what we expected," trainer Linda Toscano said. "We've kind of gone back to basics and we knew we were going to race him just at the end of the mile. It was such a tough qualifier; we don't really have anything to prove. We just needed to get some work under him. "He'll come back and qualify again next week and he should be the better for it. If he acts like he's good for the Cutler, we'll go to the Cutler. He'll tell us." Pinkman, who was voted the 2014 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male trotter, was the only award-winner to win his qualifier. The Takter-trainee won by three-quarters of a length over stablemate Uncle Lasse in 1:55.1. Aldebaran Eagle and Cruzado Dela Noche, who each won an International Stallion Stakes division last year, were third and fourth, respectively, followed by Breeders Crown runner-up Muscle Diamond. Last season, Pinkman won six of eight races and earned $566,960. Named after a character from the television series, "Breaking Bad," the gelding's victories included the Breeders Crown, in a stakes-record-equaling 1:53.2, and Valley Victory Stakes. "Pinkman is so lazy," Takter said. "He does what you ask of him. It's not impressive at all, but that's him. And he wins. He might be one of those horses we always underestimate." Artspeak, who received the 2014 Dan Patch Award for best 2-year-old male pacer, made his first qualifying effort Saturday, but went off stride approaching the three-quarters point and finished 10th. Hurrikane Ali, trained by John McDermott Jr., won in 1:51.4. Last year, Artspeak won eight of 10 races and earned $742,185, with top wins coming in the Metro Pace and Governor's Cup. He went off stride in both losses. "He loses his focus sometimes when he comes first over like that," trainer Tony Alagna said. "He did it the other day training up here. He just doesn't pay attention. (Driver Scott Zeron) says he felt perfect, he just loses his focus. If he's on a helmet, he doesn't do it. But he's got to be able to come first over as well. "I'm going to take his hobbles back in a little bit more because they're still two inches longer than they were last year. We'll train him next week and make sure he's OK before we put him back in to qualify. That's why we gave ourselves some extra time, just to make sure, because he's done it before. It's frustrating, but if training horses was easy everybody would do it. We'll fix it and he'll be as good as ever." Takter sent out four qualifier winners, with 3-year-old filly trotters Wild Honey (1:55.1), Lilu Hanover (1:57.4) and Fly Angel Fly (1:56.3) joining Pinkman in victory. Takter's 3-year-old male trotters The Bank, Walter White and French Laundry finished second through fourth behind Crazy Wow in another qualifier featuring multiple stakes winners. "I thought they qualified very good," Takter said. "It's tough weather; the wind is tough, but I'm happy with all of them." Crazy Wow, who won last year's New York Sire Stakes championship for 2-year-old male trotters, was making his debut for trainer Ron Burke after spending last season with Dan O'Mara. Crazy Wow won in 1:54.1. "He was very good," Burke said. "I wasn't surprised, but he was even better than I thought he would be." Burke also had wins with 3-year-old filly pacers Happiness (1:53.1) and Southwind Roulette (1:53.3). JK Endofanera, who won the 2014 North America Cup, finished second to Larry Remmen-trained Somesizesomestyle in 1:51.3 in a qualifier for older male pacers. Somesizesomestyle was a Breeders Crown runner-up in 2014. "Overall I thought it was real good," Burke said. "I was happy with JK Endofanera; he was strong for his first start. My better horses were what they should have been. They improved today. That's all you're looking for, improvement each time." Steve Elliott had two qualifier winners, with 3-year-old male trotter Twain Drive (1:56.2) and 3-year-old male pacer Artistic Major (1:53.2). Toscano's Dapper Don won a qualifier for 3-year-old male trotters in 1:58.2 and Alagna's 4-year-old male trotter Propulsion won in 1:55. Other winners were Wayne Givens' 5-year-old pacing mare Jerseylicious (1:51.4) and Monte Gelrod's 3-year-old male pacer Maxdaddy Blue Chip (1:52.3). For the complete charts of Saturday's qualifiers, click here. by Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications USTA

With his first career win now under his belt, Divisionist heads to Saturday's Dexter Cup elimination at Freehold Raceway looking to build on his success. And harness racing trainer/driver Charlie Norris believes the 3-year-old trotter is ready to put his best foot forward. Divisionist was winless in 13 races last season, going off stride four times, but had on-the-board finishes in divisions of the Reynolds and Simpson stakes plus two divisions of the Kindergarten Classic and one of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. The colt broke his maiden on April 14 with a 1:57.2 triumph at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. "He had an issue last year with breaks, but he's come back well this year," said Norris, who trains Divisionist for owners Carrie Norris, G And B Racing and Acadia Farms. "It was just a matter of maturity. He was really good there in his first start. Physically he's matured a lot and we're definitely on the right track for this year." Divisionist will start Saturday's single elimination for the $133,170 Dexter Cup - the first stakes test on the road to August's Hambletonian Stakes - from post five. He is 4-1 on the morning line. The three-horse Ray Schnittker-trained entry of Switchblade Hall, HA Taylor, and Bavaro is the 9-5 morning line favorite. Rounding out the field are Handover The Money and Southwind Mozart from the stable of trainer Ake Svanstedt, Jimmy Takter's Apostles Creed, and Oyvind Hegdal's Explosiveday. The top four finishers in the $44,400 elimination will join Broken Record, Gabe The Bear Dean, Habitat, and Sixteen Encores in the Dexter Cup final on May 2 at Freehold. Those four horses received byes based on lifetime earnings. Apostles Creed, Divisionist, Habitat, Handover The Money, Sixteen Encores, and Southwind Mozart are eligible to the Hambletonian. Divisionist, who has earned $44,612 in his career, is a son of Andover Hall out of stakes-winning mare Only Lonely. He was purchased for $40,000 at the Lexington Selected Sale and his family includes former Ontario standout Beer Budget. "He's out of a decent mare and he showed a lot of athleticism in his video," Norris said about purchasing Divisionist as a yearling. "I thought he might be OK. He wasn't great last year, but at different times -- even at Lexington when he made a break -- he showed a lot of raw speed." Last year in a division of the International Stallion Stakes at Lexington's Red Mile, Divisionist went off stride behind the starting gate, but rallied from more than 20 lengths back to get within a length of the lead while racing three wide on the final turn. He was unable to maintain his surge, but finished fifth. "Hopefully he'll just keep getting better," Norris said. "If you're in the business, everyone has high hopes. That's why we're in the yearling game. I don't know if he's a (1):51 trotter or a (1):52 trotter, but I think (1):53 is not out of his reach at all. If he keeps in the right spots and gets his confidence up, I think he'll be alright." Norris raced Divisionist with trotting hobbles last year, but has taken them off this season. "I'm going to leave them off unless he shows me otherwise," Norris said. "He's really come around. He's coming into (the Dexter Cup elimination) good and he's fit enough. I don't know if he's top caliber, but in the secondary stakes and some of the earlier ones here, I think he can prevail a little bit." By Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications USTA

Freehold, NJ --- Camille has made more than a million dollars on the racetrack thanks to her tenaciousness, which harness racing trainer Ron Burke deems priceless. He hopes the mare passes that quality to her offspring -- and she will get the chance following her appearance in Saturday’s (April 25) $261,000 Blue Chip Matchmaker championship at Yonkers Raceway. The Matchmaker will be Camille’s final race. Then the 7-year-old pacer, who has won 37 of 115 starts and $1.27 million, will be bred to recently retired Burke standout Sweet Lou. “I think she’s proven herself to be iron tough,” said Burke, who owns Camille with Weaver Bruscemi LLC, M1 Stable, and Jack Piatt III. “She raced at the top of the game and I think she more than deserves the chance to be a broodmare. She’s a cool horse, one of my favorites. And so is Sweet Lou. So that’s kind of neat.” In this year’s Blue Chip Matchmaker Series, Camille posted two wins and two second-place finishes in four preliminary races. At the conclusion of the event’s five preliminary legs, she was second in points to Carolsideal, who was unbeaten in four Matchmaker starts. Camille and driver George Brennan will start from post eight in the Matchmaker final. Carolsideal, with driver Daniel Dube at the lines for trainer Rene Allard, will leave from post four. “She’s been really good,” Burke said. “This is a nice way for her to end her career. We hoped for a little bit better draw (for the final), but it is what it is.” Camille is a daughter of Camluck out of the mare Art Of Design. She is a full sister to Chancey Lady, who earned more than $2 million during her racing career. “She’s well bred, but I hope she passes on her grittiness,” Burke said. “She’s a fast horse, but she’s not blinding fast. She’s good gaited, but she’s not the greatest gaited. So more than anything I just hope she passes on her will to win.” Camille won the $214,370 Ellamony at Flamboro Downs in 2012 and captured the $158,000 Artiscape at Tioga Downs in 2013 with a late rush from eighth place at the top of the stretch. The race featured fractions of :25.1, :52.3 and 1:19.4 as Camille equaled the then-world record of 1:48.3. “That was really something,” Burke said. “That was a great race; it was a crazy mile. She hadn’t been as sharp as she’d been in the past, so to win that, it’s the (most special) race that comes to mind the quickest.” In addition to sending out Camille in the Matchmaker, Burke will have Take It Back Terry in the $529,000 George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series championship. Like his stablemate, Take It Back Terry finished second in the preliminary round standings, which were topped by P H Supercam. Take It Back Terry, also driven by Brennan, drew post five in the Levy final. P H Supercam, with Jason Bartlett driving for trainer Jeff Bamond Jr., got post eight. “It’s not the best draw, but it’s not the worst draw either,” Burke said. “There are enough horses in there that are going to go forward, so it’s just going to be a kind of wide-open unpredictable race.” Take It Back Terry opened the Levy with a second-place finish, but heads to the final off three consecutive victories. Burke owns the 6-year-old son of Western Terror-Second Symphony with Weaver Bruscemi, Larry Karr, and Phil Collura. The gelding, who Burke purchased as a yearling for $30,000 in 2010, is a half-brother to stakes-winner Cuz She Can. He has won 29 of 103 races and earned $625,166 in his career. “He’s been very good,” Burke said. “I didn’t expect this. We always expect him to race well and do well, but he’s really stepped it up a little bit extra. He’s the nicest horse in the world to be around, just easy going, and he’s consistently gotten better from year to year. “We’ve raced him hard, so we’ll give him a break after the Levy. He’ll get two months off and then go back to the grind.” Following is the field for the Blue Chip Matchmaker final in post order with drivers, trainers and morning line. 1. Venus Delight, Jason Bartlett, Jeff Bamond Jr., 7-5 2. Yagonnakissmeornot, Brian Sears, Rene Allard, 8-5 3. Fancy Desire, Yannick Gingras, Daniel Renaud, 12-1 4. Carolsideal, Daniel Dube, Rene Allard, 8-5 5. Monkey On My Wheel, David Miller, Andrew Harris, 8-1 6. Strings, Eric Carlson, Jennifer Sabot, 20-1 7. Krispy Apple, Tim Tetrick, Jeff Bamond Jr., 7-5 8. Camille, George Brennan, Ron Burke, 5-1 Note: Venus Delight and Krispy Apple are racing as an entry. Yagonnakissmeornot and Carolsideal are racing as an entry. Following is the field for the Levy final in post order with drivers, trainers and morning line. 1. Domethatagain, Daniel Dube, Rene Allard, 9-1 2. Lucan Hanover, David Miller, Andrew Harris, 9-2 3. Windsong Jack, Eric Carlson, Jennifer Sabot, 20-1 4. Beach Memories, Yannick Gingras, Scott DiDomenico, 9-2 5. Take It Back Terry, George Brennan, Ron Burke, 5-2 6. Polak A, Brian Sears, Tony O’Sullivan, 15-1 7. Mach It So, Tim Tetrick, Jeff Bamond Jr., 9-5 8. P H Supercam, Jason Bartlett, Jeff Bamond Jr., 9-5 Note: Mach It So and P H Supercam are racing as an entry. by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications  

Freehold, NJ --- Billmar Scooter never won a major stakes, but owner Gene Oldford would take a stable filled with horses like her. And who knows, if all goes well she might produce one of them herself. Oldford decided earlier this year that Billmar Scooter would be retired after reaching $800,000 in career earnings. On Wednesday, the 10-year-old mare surpassed that number – and did it in style – winning a conditioned race at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Her next assignment will be motherhood. Oldford, who shares ownership of Billmar Scooter with driver Tyler Buter, plans to breed the mare to American Ideal. “We’re really going to miss her,” Oldford said. “She’s been so good to us, but it’s probably time to breed her. We had a breeding coming to American Ideal and we thought this would be a good time to use it. I told Tyler that all we have to do now is find her replacement. She just kept plugging along every year.” Billmar Scooter, a daughter of stallion Keystone Raider out of the mare Its Scooter Time, was bred by Bill Roberts of Michigan and raced by Bill and Marie Roberts during the early part of her career. Oldford bought the horse on the recommendation of trainer Al Sisco following Bill Roberts’ death and raced the horse for more than seven years. Since 2011, Amber Buter handled the training. The horse raced at 28 tracks during her career, from the Michigan fairs to the East Coast and Canada. She enjoyed one of her best seasons in 2012, when she was named Pocono Downs’ Pacer of the Year thanks to capturing nine of 12 starts at the track. In addition to high-level wins at Pocono and Yonkers throughout her career, she won a preliminary division of the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series at Yonkers in 2012. Lifetime, Billmar Scooter won 45 of 240 races and hit the board in 56 percent of her starts. She finished her career with $804,218 in purses, making her the richest daughter of Keystone Raider. “Her consistency was what I most admired about her,” Oldford said. “She really never got lame or sick or sore. We gave her a little time off in the wintertime, just enough to freshen her up, and she was good. “She was pretty much always in the money,” he added. “I never complained when she was second. I’ve been in the business long enough, and told people time and time again, that I’m always happy with seconds. If I could get seconds every time I’d be thrilled.” One of Billmar Scooter’s memorable second-place finishes came to Park Avenue, another daughter of Keystone Raider, in the $48,383 Michigan Pari-Mutuel Final for 4-year-old female pacers at Sports Creek Raceway in 2009. Oldford also was among the owners of Park Avenue. “What a night that was, to have them come in 1-2,” said Oldford, who is enshrined in the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association Hall of Fame. “Usually you’re just happy to get a check let alone be 1-2. “I’ve always liked Keystone Raiders. Overall they’ve been good.” Of course, while Oldford is happy with second-place finishes as a rule, he was delighted Billmar Scooter capped her career with a win. “That was perfect,” said Oldford, an 82-year-old native of Detroit who now lives in St. Clair, Michigan. “The only thing that would have made it better is if I would have been there.” Tyler Buter was thankful to have the best seat in the house for Billmar Scooter’s final victory – the driver’s seat. “It was fitting she went out in style,” Buter said. “She’s just an absolute sweetheart and she loved to race. She’s like one of those employees who would never miss a day of work. She wanted to race every day. She loved her job.” by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications 

When it comes to qualifying for the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series championship, Heez Orl Black N is on the outside looking in. But thanks to a preliminary-round win last week at 13-1 odds, the gelding's chances of advancing to the lucrative harness racing final have improved significantly. Yonkers Raceway on Saturday hosts the last preliminary round of the Levy Series. Twenty of the top 21 horses in the standings were among the pacers entered, with the group divided into three seven-horse fields. P H Supercam, who is No. 1 in points and guaranteed a spot in the final thanks to winning all three of his previous Levy starts, is in the second division. He is joined there by Beach Memories, who is tied for second in the standings. Horses receive 25 points for each start in the series. First-place finishes are worth 50 points, with 25 points for second, 12 points for third, 8 points for fourth and 5 points for fifth. The top eight horses in the standings following Saturday's preliminary round will qualify for the final on April 25. The next eight horses are eligible for the consolation. The top 14 horses in the standings are separated by 71 points. The field for Saturday's third Levy division includes four horses - Take It Back Terry, Fat Mans Alley, Windsong Jack and Domethatagain - who are in the top nine. Michael's Power, who is tied for second in the standings, was not entered this week. Heez Orl Black N, who is 10th in the standings, drew post No. 1 in the first division. The all-black 7-year-old New Zealand-bred gelding, trained by Anita Vallee, trails Sapphire City by four points for the eighth spot in the standings. Sapphire City drew post three in the same Levy division as Heez Orl Black N while Polak A, who is seventh in the standings, got post five. Bettor's Edge, who is 11th in the standings, three points behind Heez Orl Black N, received post No. 2. No other horses in the top 11 are in the first division. "With a good draw, I think we have a chance to hit the board and then we'll let the chips fall where they may," said Shaun Vallee, who owns Heez Orl Black N with Daniel Vlahakis' DPV Racing Stable. "I'm not wishing any of the other ones bad luck, but just hoping I have enough luck to get in." Vallee purchased Heez Orl Black N, a former stakes-winner in New Zealand, in October. Heez Orl Black N, a son of stallion In The Pocket out of the mare Cracker Kate, won 15 races and $182,615 competing Down Under. "When he was racing over there, his races were very consistent and very good races," said Vallee, who saw Heez Orl Black N while visiting friends in Australia. "I was just lucky they were willing to sell him. They had so many in the same class and were willing to sell him." In his first start this year, Heez Orl Black N finished third at the Meadowlands. He then was sent to Yonkers, where the half-mile oval suited his smaller build. He won his first two starts at The Hilltop before finishing second to P H Supercam in a conditioned race in late January. "After I raced him a couple starts, I thought that if he kept racing consistently that we could put him in the Levy," said Vallee, who drove Heez Orl Black N in his first nine starts. "But in the beginning, I wasn't that sure. After he won three or four races, I thought he might be alright in there and we gave him a chance. "He's average to smaller (size). That's his game, the half-mile (track). We'll give him a couple weeks off after the Levy and then he'll race mostly in overnights at Yonkers. That's a good spot for him. Unless he does real good in the Levy, then I might try to put him in other races. But I'm not so sure he'll be real good at the mile track against those other horses when they start going big miles." Heez Orl Black won last week with driver Brian Sears by one length over National Debt in 1:53.1. He also has two fourth-place finishes among four starts in the Levy. "He's versatile and he's all race horse on the track," Vallee said. "No matter where he is, he never stops trying. Even if he's in what you'd call an impossible spot, he's still trying to do it. That's a good sign." Heez Orl Black N Levy Standings (Top 20): 1. P H Supercam 225; T2. Beach Memories, Michael's Power, Take It Back Terry 200; T5. Fat Mans Alley, Windsong Jack 187; 7. Polak A 175; 8. Sapphire City 170; 9. Domethatagain 168; 10. Heez Orl Black N 166; 11. Bettor's Edge 163; 12. Lucan Hanover 162; 13. Frankies Dragon 158; 14. Mach It So 154; 15. National Debt 142; 16. Machs Beach Boy 140; 17. Clear Vision 137; 18. Texican N 128; T19. McErlean, Warrawee Needy 125. by Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications USTA

The Howard Taylor-owned harness racing gelding has won six of 11 races this year, good for $75,475 in purses, and heads into Saturday's $30,000 Bobby Weiss Series final for 3- and 4-year-old male pacers off victories in his two preliminary rounds of the event at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Major Uptrend, a 4-year-old, won both of his starts in the series by 1-3/4 lengths in 1:51.3. His first triumph came over YS Lotus, who has posted two wins in the series to go with two second-place finishes, and his most recent score came over Victory At Last, who was unbeaten in three previous series starts. Trained by Ron Burke and driven by Matt Kakaley, Major Uptrend will start Saturday's Weiss final from post two. "He's just blazing fast," said Taylor, who purchased Major Uptrend in December. "I don't know how good he is class-wise, but he's got great speed. He's far exceeded what I thought I was getting. "What I'm looking forward to is when he gets to where he has to go with horses that can go with him how much guts he's got. I don't know. We'll find out." Major Uptrend is a son of stallion Somebeachsomewhere out of the million-dollar-earning mare Tricky Tooshie. He sold for $177,000 as a yearling, under the name Toronto Hanover, and won six of 19 starts and $26,352 prior to Taylor purchasing the horse on the recommendation of Doug Lewis. Taylor was interested in Major Uptrend because the gelding fit the conditions of a number of winter series. "That's what I always look to, what I can do with them -- not what they've done," Taylor said. "What they've done wasn't for me and doesn't help me any, but it's where I can go from here. This horse had all kinds of late-closers he was eligible to, so I thought it was a no-brainer." After finishing second by a neck for Taylor in his first start, Major Uptrend closed 2014 with a win in which he rallied from the back of the pack with a :25.3 last quarter-mile. This year, Major Uptrend has finished no worse than second in any race in which he remained pacing. He went off stride once in a preliminary round of the Escort Series at the Meadowlands and twice in the Sagamore Hill Series at Yonkers Raceway. "I don't think he's a real big fan of a half-mile track," Taylor said, referring to Yonkers. "He's a funny horse. I've seen him enough and I think I've learned a lot about him. He's one of these horses that if you're going to do something, you've got to do it. You can't start and then change your mind. If you change your mind he just gets mad and jumps." Major Uptrend finished second to Company Man in the final of the Escort Series and finished second to Rockeyed Optimist in the final of the Sonsam Series. He handed Rockeyed Optimist his only loss of 2015 in a preliminary round of the Sonsam. Following the Weiss Series, Major Uptrend is eligible to the Whata Baron Series at the Meadowlands. The Whata Baron begins with two divisions Saturday and concludes May 2. "I still don't know what I have," Taylor said. "I know I have a horse that's as good as anything in these series. We'll probably give him some time off after these series - he's been going hard every week - and then bring him back and find out what we have in open company. "But it's been a fun ride so far." YS Lotus, trained by Rene Allard, drew post No. 1 for the Weiss Series final and will have Simon Allard at the lines. Shadow Margeaux, who has a win and three second-place finishes in the event, got post five for trainer Steve Salerno and driver Larry Stalbaum. Victory At Last, also from the Burke stable, got post eight with George Napolitano Jr. listed to drive. Napolitano also is listed on Burke-trainee Coaster, who drew post seven. By Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications USTA

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