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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two horses in history have won the Canadian Trotting Classic at age 3 and Maple Leaf Trot at age 4. Crystal Fashion will try to add his name to the list this weekend. Crystal Fashion brings a three-race win streak to Saturday's C$600,000 Maple Leaf Trot at Woodbine Mohawk Park. The Jim Campbell-trained 4-year-old gelding won his Maple Leaf Trot elimination last week, following victories in the Cashman Memorial and Hambletonian Maturity. He will start the Maple Leaf final from post two with David Miller at the lines. Crystal Fashion, who won last year's Canadian Trotting Classic as part of a $1.08-million season, is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line behind 5-2 favorite Guardian Angel AS, who also was a Maple Leaf elimination winner. With a win Crystal Fashion would join Market Share and Mr Muscleman as the only horses to win the Canadian Trotting Classic, which is for 3-year-olds, and Maple Leaf Trot in successive years. Market Share accomplished the feat in 2012-13; Mr Muscleman in 2003-04. Mr Muscleman added a second Maple Leaf title in 2005. Ima Lula is the only other horse to win both the Canadian Trotting Classic and Maple Leaf, in 1977, but she captured both at age 4, prior to the CTC being restricted to 3-year-olds. "We've been very fortunate," Campbell said about Crystal Fashion. "He's come up big in some of the big races. He's always been the type of horse to give us a great effort every time we put him out there. "He definitely is more versatile this year. You can race him any way you want, which is a huge advantage when you're racing at this level. Even as a 2- and 3-year-old, being first over never bothered him, but he was always better chasing horses. This year, he can chase after them or he can go on the front end; he can do it from either way. It gives the driver options." Crystal Fashion, owned by Fashion Farms, has won 18 of 38 career races and finished worse than third only six times. Only once has he been worse than fifth. In addition to his aforementioned victories, his triumphs last year included the Beal Memorial, Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship, and an elimination of the Hambletonian. He finished fourth in the Hambletonian final. "The biggest change (from last year) is that he's grown and filled out a lot," Campbell said. "But his mannerisms are the same as they have been the last couple years. He's just a nice horse to be around. He's a real pleasure. He's just got a great personality. He's always got his head out (of his stall) and is looking for someone to come up and say hi to him." Crystal Fashion is part of a talented field in the Maple Leaf. The 10-horse group includes three Trotter of the Year recipients - Atlanta and Marion Marauder in the U.S. and Speeding Spur in New Zealand - as well as divisional award-winners Emoticon Hanover in Canada and Manchego and Six Pack in the States. Earlier this year, Atlanta trotted the fastest mile in Canadian history when she won the Armbro Flight Stakes in 1:50.2 at Mohawk. Guardian Angel AS became the fastest male trotter in a race on a half-mile track when he won the Cleveland Trotting Classic in 1:52 at Northfield Park. "This has got to be one of the best races of the year," Campbell said. "I think it sets up for a good betting race. The way it looks, anything could happen. I'm sure there is going to be a lot of action in there. "You could make a point for a lot of horses in there. There are a lot that have been on their game lately and a couple that are maybe starting to come back into form. For a trainer with a horse in there, it's a tough race; it's hard to say which way it'll go. But on the other hand, for somebody that loves watching horse racing, they're going to see a really good race." Racing begins at 7:10 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at Mohawk. The Maple Leaf Trot is race five on the card, which also includes the C$525,000 Canadian Pacing Derby for older pacers (race eight) and C$171,503 Simcoe Stakes for 3-year-old pacers (race nine). For complete entries, click here. Following is the field for the C$600,000 Maple Leaf Trot. PP-Horse-Sire-Driver-Trainer-M/L 1 - Six Pack - Muscle Mass - Ake Svanstedt - Ake Svanstedt - 4/1 2 - Crystal Fashion - Cantab Hall - David Miller - Jim Campbel l- 3/1 3 - Guardian Angel AS - Archangel - Tim Tetrick - Anette Lorentzon - 5/2 4 - Speeding Spur N - Pegasus Spur - Jody Jamieson - Linda Toscano - 10/1 5 - Dancer Hall - Deweycheatumnhowe - James MacDonald - Rod Boyd - 20/1 6 - Dream Together - Muscle Hill - Randy Waples - Luc Blais - 15/1 7 - Manchego - Muscle Hill - Andy McCarthy - Nancy Johansson  -8/1 8 - Marion Marauder - Muscle Hill - Scott Zeron - Mike Keeling - 8/1 9 - Emoticon Hanover - Kadabra - Dan Dube - Luc Blais - 20/1 10- Atlanta - Chapter Seven - Yannick Gingras - Ron Burke - 9/2 by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA    

With the Hambletonian Stakes already on his list of accomplishments, Forbidden Trade will try for the second jewel in the Trotting Triple Crown when he faces seven foes in Saturday's (Aug. 31) $500,000 Yonkers Trot at Yonkers Raceway. Nine trotters have captured the harness racing Triple Crown since its inception in 1955, the most recent Marion Marauder three years ago. Forbidden Trade and driver Bob McClure will start the Yonkers Trot from post six. Gimpanzee, the 2018 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male trotter and third-place finisher in the Hambletonian, leaves from post four. Soul Strong, who was a parked-out fourth from post 10 in the Hambletonian, starts from post two. It will be Forbidden Trade's first trip to The Hilltop, but the Luc Blais-trained colt is no stranger to success on half-mile-sized tracks such as Yonkers. Forbidden Trade won at Ontario's Grand River Raceway last season in 1:56.4, the fastest mile by a 2-year-old trotter in Canadian history. It also will be McClure's first visit to Yonkers. The 28-year-old, though, did plenty of driving on Ontario's half-mile ovals before becoming a regular at Woodbine Mohawk Park in 2018. McClure led Canada in wins in 2017 and 2016. He was third last year and in 2015. "At the end of the day they're all still going in a circle," McClure said about racing at Yonkers for the first time. "I know it's a tight half, but I've driven on a lot of (half-mile tracks) here too. "Good horses, they get around pretty well anything," he added. "(Forbidden Trade) is just a complete professional. That's why he was so successful at 2; he was like a 4-year-old to drive. He never made any mistakes; he was just perfect." Forbidden Trade, owned by Serge Godin's Determination stable, won seven of 11 races last year and received the O'Brien Award as Canada's best 2-year-old male trotter. This year, Forbidden Trade has won six of nine starts and finished no worse than third in any race. He has won five of his past six races, with his only setback being a third-place finish in his Hambletonian elimination. He won the same-day final by a neck over favorite Greenshoe. "He came back this year and he's faster, he's stronger, he's always been great gaited, and he's just as smart," McClure said. "You look at all the races he's won, you can leave with him and go out of there in :26 (seconds) or you can take him back and come home in :26. He just does whatever he has to do. "He's just a really good horse." Forbidden Trade has raced once since the Hambletonian, winning a division of the Ontario Sire Stakes Gold on Aug. 12 at Woodbine Mohawk Park. "He was really good that day," McClure said. "I'm sure he's in top form. He was feeling so good, Luc decided to go (to the Yonkers Trot)." Forbidden Trade, who has earned $907,728 in his career, will start the Yonkers Trot from one of the least advantageous post positions from a statistical standpoint. Posts one through five at Yonkers produce winners at a minimum of 14.3 percent, led by post one at 18 percent, while post six is at 8.5 percent. "It's just a starting spot," McClure said. "We'll probably just get off the gate and see how things turn out. You never know what's going to happen. Gimpanzee is probably the horse to beat, so we'll go from there." The three legs of the Trotting Triple Crown are the Hambletonian, Yonkers Trot and Kentucky Futurity. The Futurity, held at Lexington's Red Mile, is Oct. 6. Racing begins at 6:50 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at Yonkers. The Yonkers Trot is race six on the card and will be followed by the $500,000 Messenger Stakes for 3-year-old pacers. Bettor's Wish, the sport's top money-earner this season with $859,544, leads the field of eight in the Messenger, which is the second jewel in the Pacing Triple Crown. Captain Crunch, who won the first jewel, the Cane Pace, did not enter the Messenger. The card also includes the Hudson Filly Trot and Lady Maud. For complete entries, click here. Below is the field for the 65th Yonkers Trot. PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer 1-Osterc-Dexter Dunn-Per Engblom 2-Soul Strong-Dexter Dunn-Ake Svanstedt 3-Sheena's Boy-Andy Miller-Ake Svanstedt 4-Gimpanzee-Brian Sears-Marcus Melander 5-Livinonthedash-Marcus Miller-Erv Miller 6-Forbidden Trade-Bob McClure-Luc Blais 7-HL Revadon-Jim Marohn Jr.-Harry Landy 8-No Drama Please-Jason Bartlett-Tom Fanning by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA   

After a slow start to her harness racing campaign, Manchego will try to resume her return to winning form when she heads to Woodbine Mohawk Park for Saturday's (Aug. 24) second of two eliminations for the Maple Leaf Trot. The 4-year-old mare, who was a Dan Patch Award winner in 2017, has won two of her past three races, including a stakes-record 1:50 performance in the Steele Memorial earlier this month. "She needed a little bit of time to get back into herself, but I think history has showed that when she's on top of her game she's tough to beat," trainer Nancy Johansson said. "She's a super nice filly. She's nice and relaxed now and nice to be around and happy. Earlier in her life, she was always a little on edge. Now she's as cool as a cucumber. She's really confident in herself." Manchego was one of five mares entered in the Maple Leaf Trot, which attracted 13 horses. The mares joining Manchego in the second elim are Hannelore Hanover, the 2017 winner of the event, and Emoticon Hanover. They will meet male rivals Crystal Fashion, Marion Marauder, Run Director, and Six Pack. In the first elim, the mares are Atlanta and Dream Together. They are joined by males Speeding Spur N, Dancer Hall, Cruzado Dela Noche, and Guardian Angel AS. Guardian Angel AS is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the first elimination, followed by Atlanta at 5-2. Crystal Fashion is the 5-2 choice in the second division, followed by Manchego at 3-1. The top five finishers from each elimination return Aug. 31 for the final. Manchego, whose career victories include a Breeders Crown in 2017 and the Hambletonian Oaks in 2018, was winless in her first five races this season. She was unlucky when it came to draws, getting posts seven, eight (twice) and 10 in her first four starts. She raced from off the pace in her first two starts, but it was too difficult to make up ground in the stretch. "People always say post position doesn't matter, that it's just a starting point, but it does matter because nowadays they go fast the whole mile," Johansson said. "If you're sitting eighth, you can't catch up. So, unless you're going to blast off the gate, which is what we ended up having to do." In the Graduate Series championship at The Meadowlands, when she started from post 10, she got to the front in an opening quarter of :26.2. She ended up finishing fourth, beaten only 1-1/2 lengths, in Atlanta's 1:49.1 world-record mile. Manchego was timed in 1:49.2. Two starts later, she picked up her first win of the season with a 1:50.1 triumph from post nine at The Meadowlands. She followed with her gate-to-wire triumph in the Steele Memorial on Hambletonian Day at the Big M and was the bettor's second choice in the Joie De Vie Stakes on Aug. 11 at Tioga Downs, only to get knocked out of contention by a horse that broke in front of her just after the start of the race. "It was a little disappointing she got wiped out last time because Dexter (driver Dexter Dunn) said she'd never scored down that good for him," Johansson said. "But she's very good and hopefully we can just keep her there." Manchego, by Muscle Hill out of Secret Magic, has won 21 of 34 lifetime starts and earned $1.69 million. She is owned by Barry Guariglia's Black Horse Racing. "It was a little frustrating early, but I was never overly concerned," Guariglia said about Manchego's start to this season. "They said just give her a little time and she'll come. And sure enough. "You always worry about desire. Once they throw it in mentally, then you're in trouble. But she's got the desire. She likes to do her work." Andrew McCarthy will drive Manchego on Saturday, sitting in for Dunn, who will be at Yonkers Raceway to race Bettor's Wish in his Messenger Stakes elimination. "That doesn't worry me," Johansson said. "Dexter has done a very good job with her, but I'm sure Andrew can do just as well of a job." The Maple Leaf Trot eliminations are races two and three on Saturday's card, which begins at 7:10 p.m. (EDT). The night also includes two divisions of the Eternal Camnation Stakes for 2-year-old female pacers and one division of the Nassagaweya for 2-year-old male pacers. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

When Bettor's Wish won May's Art Rooney Pace at Yonkers Raceway, it served as a harbinger of the colt's rise to prominence among harness racing 3-year-old pacers. On Saturday, he returns to The Hilltop for the first time since that victory, facing five rivals in the first of two eliminations of the Messenger Stakes. Bettor's Wish was not staked to the Messenger, so his connections paid $30,000 to make him eligible to the race. The colt, trained and co-owned by Chris Ryder, has won seven of 10 races this year (finishing second in his three defeats) and earned $839,544, which tops all horses in North America. He heads to his Messenger elim off victories in the Carl Milstein Memorial and a division of the Kentucky Sire Stakes. Interestingly, Bettor's Wish was not originally staked to the Art Rooney, either, but his connections paid a $6,000 supplement fee in February to make him eligible. Bettor's Wish won the $300,000 Rooney by six lengths. "He's been great," said Scott Ezzo, an Ohio resident whose wife Lisa heads Bella Racing Ltd., which is part of the horse's ownership group. "The Art Rooney was the one that set the stage. When he won that race, we said he was going to be something to enjoy. "We weren't sure (what to expect from Bettor's Wish entering this year). I talked to Chris throughout the winter and he said he was training really well. But Chris never tips his hand. So, when Chris supplemented him to the Art Rooney, that got my attention." Bettor's Wish has attracted plenty of attention in the months to follow. In addition to winning the Milstein and Rooney, the colt finished second in the Meadowlands Pace, missing by a head after being parked out the entire mile, and second in the Cane Pace, where he was defeated by a neck. He also was second in the North America Cup. Over the course of his career, Bettor's Wish has won 12 of 22 races and finished worse than second only three times, with two thirds and a fourth accounting for the remaining setbacks. "It's been tremendous; we've had a lot of fun following him," Lisa Ezzo said. "We have so many people that are following him along with us. We just love that. It's been fun for a lot of people, I think. "I think he's a little guy and people always want to root for the little guy. But he races big. He doesn't know his size." Bettor's Wish, by Bettor's Delight out of Lifetime Star, was purchased for $20,000 at the 2017 Lexington Selected Sale. He has earned $1.11 million so far in his career. The colt is owned by Ryder, Bella Racing, Leah Cheverie's and Art Zubrod's Fair Island Farm, and the recently created Bettors Wish Partners group of original owner Ken Solomon and newcomers Dana Parham and Eric Cherry's Let It Ride Stables. The Messenger Stakes is the second leg of the Pacing Triple Crown, following the Cane Pace (won by Captain Crunch, who did not enter the Messenger) and ahead of the Little Brown Jug. The Jug is held at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in Delaware, Ohio, which happens to be the hometown of the Ezzos. Bettor's Wish is not eligible to the Jug, but a win in the Messenger final would allow his connections to supplement. Any horse not eligible to the Jug can be supplemented if it wins either the North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace, Cane Pace, or Messenger. "Our backs are against the wall," Scott Ezzo said. "Hopefully we'll get in." Bettor's Wish is undefeated in three lifetime races at Yonkers, all this season, and has won six of seven career starts on half-mile tracks, such as Yonkers. His only loss on a half came by a neck in last year's Battle of Waterloo. He flashed his big-track ability in his most recent victory, stopping the clock in 1:47.4 at Red Mile, which is tied for the second-fastest mile of the season by a 3-year-old pacer. "He's proven to me to be very durable," trainer Ryder said. "Every time he races, he does something that impresses you, he does something good. It's just a good ride, we just have to keep it up. We're just taking it week by week." The Ezzos have enjoyed success with other horses, such as 2006 Breeders Crown winner Charley Barley and world-record-setter Kiss Me Onthebeach, but Bettor's Wish has been something else. "It's just been incredible," Scott Ezzo said. "We've had some good horses, but he's the best. I'm not taking anything away from the other ones, but he's like the Energizer bunny; he just keeps going, and going, and going." Joining Bettor's Wish in the first Messenger elimination, which is a non-betting race, are Captain Trevor, Escapetothebeach, American Mercury, Branquinho, and Lyons Johnnyjnr. Bettor's Wish starts from post one with regular driver Dexter Dunn. The horses in the second elimination, which is race five on the betting card, are U S Captain, Air Force Hanover, Aflame Hanover, Waterway, Buddy Hill, and Reigning Deo. Buddy Hill is the 9-5 morning-line favorite. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA 

Tim Tetrick is accustomed to having good harness racing seasons, but 2019 is shaping up to be one of his most memorable. Tetrick is the regular driver of harness racing's No. 1-ranked horse, the New Zealand-bred pacing mare Shartin, and earlier this year reached career win 11,000. And last month it was announced that Tetrick is one of four people on the ballot for the Hall of Fame. The results of the voting will be announced later this year. On top of that, Tetrick entered Friday leading the sport in earnings by a wide margin. His $9.12 million in purses were $2.8 million ahead of second-place Jason Bartlett. In addition, Tetrick had won 505 races, second to only Aaron Merriman's 579. Tetrick is on pace for more than 800 wins and more than $14 million in earnings, which are levels only one driver in history has surpassed in the same year. The driver? Tetrick, who accomplished it first in 2007 when he set the record for wins with 1,189 and earnings with $18.3 million. The following year he again surpassed the 800-victory and $14-million plateaus, winning 902 races and $19.7 million. Those earnings remain the sport's record. For his career, Tetrick ranks fourth all time in purses with $211 million and ninth in wins with 11,181. He has been named Driver of the Year by the U.S. Harness Writers Association on four occasions. Tetrick recently took time to speak with Ken Weingartner, the U.S. Trotting Association's media relations manager, about his career, the Hall of Fame, and Shartin, who has won 17 of her past 18 races and competes in Sunday's $137,000 Artiscape at Tioga Downs. The 6-year-old mare has won 12 of 13 races this year and earned $742,927. Last year, she became the first pacing mare in history to earn $1 million in a season, reaching $1.05 million thanks to 19 victories in 24 starts. KW: You're having such a great year, on pace for over 800 wins and over $14 million, what have been the keys to success? TT: Just getting the right horses, that's all. Some years you just don't have the power. This year, I've had good stables and good horses to drive. The right horses get between my arch. KW: When you get on a roll, does it feel different? TT: It's definitely a lot easier to get out of bed and go to work when you're winning four, five, six (races), that's for sure. When you have a bad few days or couple of weeks, you start thinking you can't do it anymore, you get down on yourself. I try not to think about it. I enjoy going to work. KW: Is that the key, trying to enjoy it every day? TT: Exactly. If you over-think it, you're going to mess up. You can't over-think it. The things that can bother you, you just can't let them bother you. I tried to learn that a long time ago, but it's hard. You've got to be able to turn the page, no matter what happens. You've just got to forget about it. KW: What have been the highlights for you this year? You're getting to drive Shartin, won your 11,000th race ... TT: All of the above. (And) getting nominated for the Hall of Fame, it's a dream come true. Getting to drive great horses, like Shartin. Getting to compete at a very high level. It's pretty awesome. KW: What does it mean to you to be nominated for the Hall of Fame? TT: I never thought about it when I was younger. Over the last four or five years, I've had such great success and the numbers are good, you kind of start looking ahead. You see some of your peers that you still work with get nominated and it's pretty cool to see them go in and what it means to them. It's a Hall of Fame for a reason. They only take the best of the best. To be even considered, it's a great honor. Hopefully it will come true. KW: Reaching 11,000 wins, do those milestones mean a lot to you? TT: For sure. I know records are meant to be broken, and stuff like that, but that's a lot of wins. Most people don't get 11,000 drives in their careers and I've been able to go to the winner's circle over 11,000 times. My biggest thing, though, is the money. I've gotten to win over $200 million and there are only three guys ahead of me. And I'm only 37. But the wins are awesome. I'm racing against the top 10 guys every day, so to have that many wins is awesome. KW: Do you get extra motivation from that, knowing the competition you're facing? TT: I always want to try to beat the best. Not only are they very good at what they do, they're very safe to drive with, and they're smart. It doesn't make your job easier, but it does make your job easier racing against the best guys in the world. KW: How have you seen yourself grow over the years and what are you most proud of? TT: I still learn things every day. I heard (retired driver) Cat Manzi say one time that he learned a lot from watching the younger guys when they came up. You never stop learning, the way you sit in the bike or the way you handle a horse. I like getting a young horse and being able to come off the track and tell a trainer something that I think can make the horse better. And they come back the next week and tell you, man, that really helped. Equipment changes, or whatever it is. That is a lot of fun to me. KW: It's more than just being on the track with a horse for two minutes. TT: Exactly. I know I'm a catch driver, but I still think of myself as a horseman. I always put the care of the horse first and try to do what's best for the horse and still make them go as fast as I can. And make a lot of money. (Laughs.) KW: I wanted to talk about Shartin. Jim (trainer Jim King Jr.) and everybody around the horse say what a great job you've done helping her along, going back to the beginning last year. What has it been like to see her development and how do you view your roll in it? TT: It's awesome to watch her grow and see what she's turned into. From the first time I saw her, I could never dream she could do what she's done. She's exceeded my expectations, for sure. I think Jimmy and (his wife) Jo Ann are giving me too much credit. Good horses make good drivers look better. She's been a work in progress, a little too eager at times, but Jimmy and me work together. It's different when you race than when you train them. I hear all the time, "They didn't do that at home." Well at home you don't have a starting gate and grandstand and people cheering at you. And there are nine other drivers that are trying to beat you. On the racetrack, she's different. She wants to win and she's very eager about it sometimes. They've done a great job keeping her fit. She actually loves traveling, going places; you see her just get her game face on. KW: With a horse that can be a little overanxious, what do you do to try to keep them relaxed and focused? TT: There are different ways. You try to keep her by herself because when she gets around other horses, she wants to go after them almost. When a horse gets close to her, even in the post parade, she thinks it's race time. If you keep her by herself, she takes care of herself after that. She's a beast. KW: That type of desire, is it something you can sense in a horse? TT: In her you can. You can feel it in the lines. When you're coasting on the lead by yourself, she's actually really calm and relaxed. But she'll see other horses coming before I do. She watches. She won't let a horse pass her. She wants to fight. KW: Has she reached her full potential or is there more there? TT: There's more there. I've never hit the bottom yet. The other day, that wasn't all she had, I know that. Hopefully she doesn't ever have to go faster than that. She's a horse that might last three more years if we take care of her and pick our spots. Why show off if you can make a million dollars a year with a horse? As long as we win. It doesn't pay more if you win by four or five lengths. I just let her do what she wants to do and win by the least amount we can. KW: How meaningful was it to reach a million dollars with her? TT: The first (time) was unheard of and she might do it two years in a row. It's just awesome. She's well on her way. She's ahead of her pace from last year and I think she's stronger and more mentally stable than she was at this time last year. She just amazes me every day. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

Wins have been hard to come by, but that hasn't diminished This Is The Plan's performances in the eyes of his owners. After all, if not for history's co-fastest horse Lather Up and defending Horse of the Year McWicked, the 4-year-old gelding would have plenty more to show for his efforts. This Is The Plan has won one of 12 races this year, with his triumph coming in the Ben Franklin Pace on June 29. Since then, he has been runner-up to Lather Up three times (Graduate championship, William R. Haughton Memorial, Sam McKee Memorial) and McWicked once (Joe Gerrity Jr. Memorial). Overall, This Is The Plan has six second-place finishes in his past seven starts. The Somebeachsomewhere gelding will try to get back to the winner's circle Sunday (Aug. 18) in the C$200,000 Prix d'Ete for 4-year-old pacers at Hippodrome 3R in Quebec. There is no Lather Up, but plenty of competition, including O'Brien Award winner Jimmy Freight and Confederation Cup champ Done Well. This Is The Plan will start from post four with driver Dan Dube at the lines for trainer Ron Burke. He is 5-2 on the morning line, part of the favored entry with stablemate Done Well. "We can't complain, he's been super," said Mark Weaver, who is a member of This Is The Plan's ownership group. "Ronnie has thought all along he would be a good fit for us just because he is so handy. He's been able to leave (the starting gate) and put himself in a good position. Unfortunately, when Lather Up comes moving to the front there's not much you can do except try to hold on for second. That's what he's been able to do, which is fine." This Is The Plan has won eight of 45 career races and earned $1.19 million. He was purchased by the Burke Brigade last September and paid immediate dividends with wins in the Matron Stakes (in a dead heat) and Progress Pace. He also finished third in the Breeders Crown. This season, he is No. 2 in purses among older male pacers, with $551,618. Only Lather Up is richer, with $677,448. "Nowadays, especially for the 4-year-olds, so much money is on the smaller tracks," said Weaver, who shares ownership of This Is The Plan with Mike Bruscemi (as Weaver Bruscemi LLC), Burke Racing Stable, J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby, and Larry Karr. "We try to acquire horses that we think can get around the turns. He can leave and get around smaller tracks so well. That was one of the reasons we were interested in him last year." Done Well joined the Burke stable at the same time as This Is The Plan. He began this season well, with a second in a preliminary round of the Graduate Series and wins in his Confederation Cup elimination and the final. He was found to be sick following a fourth-place finish in the Camluck Classic and has been off the board in his past six starts. During that stretch, he has started from post eight twice, post nine twice and post 11 once. For his career, Done Well has won nine of 32 races and $533,245. He is owned by Burke Racing, Weaver Bruscemi, J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby, and Wingfield Brothers. Done Well will start the Prix d'Ete from post three with driver Bob McClure. "To start the year, Done Well was super and This Is The Plan was drawing bad and having bad racing luck," Weaver said. "Now the last month and a half, it's kind of flip-flopped. (Done Well) has been racing against the best and has gone through a couple little ups and downs. But he's certainly a factor. "We like our horses, we like our posts, we like our drivers, so we'll take our chances from there." Racing begins at 1 p.m. (EDT) Sunday at Hippodrome 3R. The Prix d'Ete is race 11 on the card. Following is the field. PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-M/L 1-Hitman Hill-Eric Goodell-Hunter Oakes-7/2 2-Pretty Handsome-Trevor Henry-Andrew McCabe-6/1 3-Done Well-Bob McClure-Ron Burke-5/2 4-This Is The Plan-Dan Dube-Ron Burke-5/2 5-The Downtown Bus-Doug McNair-Jeff Gillis-4/1 6-Jimmy Freight-Louis Roy-Richard Moreau-3/1 7-Turbo Hill-Hunter Oakes-Hunter Oakes-7/2 8-Casimir Richie P-Sylvain Filion-Dr. Ian Moore-5/1 by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

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