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Homicide Hunter and harness racing driver George Napolitano Jr. will be reunited this weekend for the first time since their win in October's Breeders Crown Open Trot and the two have proved to be a dynamic duo. Napolitano has driven the trotter 11 times in his career and posted nine victories. "We get along good," said Napolitano, who will drive 7-year-old Homicide Hunter in Sunday's (May 26) $100,000 Maxie Lee Invitational for older trotters at Harrah's Philadelphia. "He's just a good ol' horse, it's pretty simple. He's got the heart to win. He always sticks his nose out. He makes it pretty easy for a driver." Homicide Hunter, history's fastest trotter with a time of 1:48.4 set last year in the Allerage Open Trot at Lexington's Red Mile, is the 3-1 morning-line favorite in the Maxie Lee and will start from post three. He is making his third start of the season and enters off a 1:52.4 victory in a preliminary round of the Great Northeast Open Series at Philly on May 19. Yannick Gingras, who is in Sweden for the World Driving Championship, drove Homicide Hunter in his first two starts this year for Ron Burke, who took over the training of the horse in April. The gelding was trained the previous three years by Chris Oakes. Ten of Napolitano's prior drives behind Homicide Hunter came at Napolitano's home track, The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, including victories in the Great Northeast Open Series final and the Breeders Crown. It was the first Breeders Crown triumph for Napolitano, who has won more races at Pocono than any driver in history and was the North American leader in wins in 2010. "(The Breeders Crown) meant everything," said Napolitano, who has 9,633 wins in his career. "I always wanted to win that big race at my home track, and he led me to it." Homicide Hunter, owned by Crawford Farms Racing, has won 40 of 80 lifetime starts and earned $1.73 million in purses. Last year, he had nine victories in 16 races and received the Dan Patch Award for best older male trotter. "He's a real laid-back, simple horse," Napolitano said. "He's just a cool animal. He's a true champion. He just does his job great." Will Take Charge is the 4-1 second choice on the Maxie Lee morning line. He will start from post five with Scott Zeron driving for trainer Jeff Gillis. The 6-year-old gelding won the open handicap at Yonkers in his most recent start, May 11. Guardian Angel As and Cruzado Dela Noche are both 9-2. Guardian Angel As will have Tim Tetrick in the sulky for trainer Anette Lorentzon and starts from post two. He enters off a preliminary round Great Northeast Open Series triumph on May 12. Cruzado Dela Noche, who won the Cutler Memorial on May 4, leaves from post eight with driver Brian Sears for trainer Marcus Melander. The Maxie Lee Invitational is race 11 on Sunday's card at Harrah's Philadelphia. The track is also hosting the $100,000 Betsy Ross Invitational for older female pacers, the $100,000 Commodore Barry Invitational for older male pacers, and three divisions of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes for 3-year-old male pacers. Racing begins at 12:40 p.m. (EDT). For complete entries, click here.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com

Marcus Melander trains the top three horses in the first Road to the Hambletonian rankings released this week by Meadowlands Racetrack announcer/analyst Ken Warkentin, and No. 1 makes his first harness racing start of the season Monday (May 27) in the $215,200 Empire Breeders Classic for 3-year-old male trotters at Vernon Downs. Gimpanzee, who was 9-for-9 last year and took home the Dan Patch Award for best 2-year-old male trotter, will start from post five in the EBC for Melander and regular driver Brian Sears. Last year, Gimpanzee won seven times on the New York Sire Stakes circuit, including the $225,000 final, before capturing his elimination and the final of the Breeders Crown. "He's doing good," Melander said of Gimpanzee, the horse atop Warkentin's rankings, followed by stablemates Greenshoe and Green Manalishi S. "He's filled out nicely. He's not the biggest horse but we've been very happy with him all winter. He doesn't make any noise here at home, he just looks like a regular horse. He's nice and calm. I can't be more excited for his season to start." Gimpanzee, who earned $591,358 in purses last season for owners Courant Inc. and S R F Stable, heads to the Empire Breeders Classic off a second-place finish by a head to 2017 Horse of the Year Hannelore Hanover in a qualifier on May 18 at The Meadowlands. The time of the mile was 1:53. The colt also qualified on May 4, winning in 1:55, and on April 27, when he was fifth in 1:58.3. "Hannelore Hanover just got him at the wire, but we were very happy with his last qualifier," Melander said. "The first qualifier we went with an open bridle and it was a windy day, so maybe that didn't look too impressive, but the last two qualifiers have been very good." Of the eight remaining horses in the EBC, four are eligible to Hambletonian: Gettin Serious, Star Track Hanover, Mr Vicktor, and Cavill Hanover. Lightly raced Mr Vicktor is 3-for-3 this year for trainer Buzzy Sholty and has won four of five career starts. Melander was uncertain of Gimpanzee's schedule beyond Monday. He would like his horses to have four or five starts heading to the $1 million Hambletonian, which is harness racing's top event for 3-year-old trotters and will be held Aug. 3 at The Meadowlands. "We'll see how he races on Monday and then we'll decide," Melander said. "He's fully staked so we can choose whatever we want to do." So far, only Greenshoe has made a start this season among Melander's highly regarded trio. Greenshoe won the preliminary round of the New Jersey Sire Stakes for 3-year-old male trotters in 1:51.2 on May 17 at The Meadowlands. Last year, the colt won two of four races, including the NJSS final, despite going off stride in each start. Greenshoe                                  --Lisa photo "I know the horse is fast, so my only concern was that he was going to behave himself," Melander said. "It looked like he was behaving behind the gate and then in the race he looked perfect. He did a huge race and I couldn't be more happy with him. "He'll get this week off and we'll aim for the sire stakes final (on May 31). It's a long season and winning in (1):51, I don't think he needs another race between here and the final." Green Manalishi S, who won five of 10 races last season and never was worse than second, will qualify for the third time this year on Saturday at The Meadowlands. The colt went off stride in his most recent qualifier, May 18 at the Big M, after winning his first in 1:54.1. Green Manalishi S                                     --New Image Media "The track is normally very good at The Meadowlands, but it was loose and in the first turn it was just too loose for him and he made a break," Melander said. "He'll be qualifying again this Saturday and then he will race (June 2) at Pocono in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. "He's been training down very good. We took a slow start with him because the first sire stakes was at The Meadows and I didn't want to go out there with him. We had a couple of months to prepare him and he feels very prepared. He grew a lot during the winter and filled out nicely. I think he will have a good season." Gimpanzee's start in the Empire Breeders Classic is expected at approximately 3:29 p.m. (EDT) Monday. The EBC for the male trotters is race nine and will be preceded by the Empire Breeders Classic for 3-year-old female trotters. For Monday's complete Vernon entries, click here.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com

When pacer Rodeo Rock won his seasonal debut for driver Andy McCarthy from an impossible spot, McCarthy began contemplating all that might be possible for the 6-year-old harness racing gelding. "He kind of excited me that night," McCarthy said after recounting Rodeo Rock's eight-wide rally from last place in the stretch at The Meadowlands during the March 2 preferred handicap. "I finally got him out like halfway through the stretch and he paced on and got by a couple good horses. He won from a spot that he wasn't supposed to win from, an impossible spot. "He was a good horse last year, but I think he can mix it up with the big boys this year." McCarthy's excitement for Rodeo Rock led him to drive the horse in the Levy Series at Yonkers, where he hit the board in all five starts, including two wins in preliminary rounds and a second-place finish in the final. For the season, McCarthy has driven the gelding in seven of his eight races. On Sunday (May 26), Rodeo Rock is among eight older male pacers in the $100,000 Commodore Barry Invitational at Harrah's Philadelphia. The field also includes last year's winner of the race, Filibuster Hanover, as well as 2018 Dayton Pacing Derby winner Donttellmeagain and 2018 Meadowlands Pace and Little Brown Jug champion Courtly Choice. Rodeo Rock heads to the Commodore Barry off a 1:49 win in a Great Northeast Open Series event at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, where Eric Goodell handled the driving. "He's been racing great," McCarthy said. "He did an excellent job in the Levy Series and he just dead-set jogged in (1):49 at Pocono. I think he is ready to put on a big show on Sunday." Rodeo Rock has won four of eight races this year and earned $264,400 for trainer Robert Cleary and owner Royal Wire Products. Lifetime, the son of Rock N Roll Heaven-Electric Fool has 24 victories in 89 races and $623,055 in purses. "He's a big strong horse with high speed," McCarthy said. "He can do it any way. You can sit back, you can leave with him, he can come first over; pretty much drive him the way the race goes. Robert Cleary has done a great job with him, managed him very good. He's kind of looking at the big picture." McCarthy's workload at Philly on Sunday also includes a drive behind Caviart Ally in the $100,000 Betsy Ross Invitational for older female pacers. The eight-mare field also includes defending champ Shartin N. Caviart Ally, a 5-year-old mare owned by Caviart Farms, is a multiple-stakes-winner whose triumphs include the 2017 Jugette and 2018 Milton Stakes. She has earned $1.19 million during her career. Last year, Caviart Ally won seven of 19 races and earned $341,291. She finished second on three occasions to the Dan Patch Award-winning Shartin N, including in the Breeders Crown. She will start the Betsy Ross from post three while Shartin N leaves from post seven. "We'll want to take advantage of that good draw; it's not often that she draws that good," McCarthy said, laughing, as he referred to Caviart Ally's two stakes starts from post nine, one from post eight, and one from post 12 last year. "We might as well make the most of it." Caviart Ally made her 2019 debut with a second-place finish in a conditioned race at Pocono before posting wins in the preferred for fillies and mares at The Meadowlands and in the second round of the Rainbow Blue Series at the Big M. She was trained previously by Noel Daley, who returned to his native Australia at the end of last season, and now is in the stable of Brett Pelling. Caviart Ally                                            -- Lisa photo "She's been terrific," McCarthy said. "She's a pretty big mare and she takes a couple starts to really get tuned up. Her last start at the Meadowlands was great. I think she is just going to be better going forward. I know she came home in :25.4 (in her most recent race) but I think she'll be even better this week from that run. "Brett has changed her up a little bit. He's gone with an open bridle; she always kind of had a closed bridle on (previously). She's probably a little more relaxed now. She's getting the job done on the end of the mile." Following Sunday's races, McCarthy will head to Sweden for three days to watch his younger brother, Todd, represent Australia in the World Driving Championship. "It should be cool," McCarthy said. Racing begins at 12:40 p.m. Sunday at Harrah's Philadelphia. In addition to the Betsy Ross and Commodore Barry, the track hosts the $100,000 Maxie Lee Memorial Invitational for older trotters and three divisions of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes for 3-year-old male pacers. For complete entries, click here.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com

When it comes to reasons for admiring a horse, Wisdom Tree checks all the boxes for Tom Pollack. "She is one of my favorites," said Pollack, who owns the 4-year-old female pacer with harness racing trainer Jeff Cullipher. "She can race on any sized track, she is handy, she is tough, and she is fast. She is one of those horses that does everything right. It's hard to not love her." Last year, Wisdom Tree won 11 of 18 races, including the Nadia Lobell Stakes and New York Sire Stakes championship, and earned $436,111. On Wednesday (May 22), she will make her first start of 2019 against eight rivals in the $20,000 open for pacing fillies and mares at Harrah's Hoosier Park. Wisdom Tree, the 3-1 morning-line favorite, will start from post five with driver Sam Widger. Pollack and Cullipher had hoped to race Wisdom Tree earlier this month in the Sam "Chip" Noble Memorial at Miami Valley Raceway, but the mare's return to action was delayed because of illness. "It took maybe a couple extra weeks to get her back," Pollack said. "We just took our time. She's qualified twice and she was sharp in both of those (winning the first in 1:54.1 and the second in 1:52.3, both at Hoosier). She's refreshed and good and ready to go." Wisdom Tree is a daughter of Betterthancheddar out of Wisdom. She was purchased for $28,000 at the 2016 Lexington Selected Sale. Pollack co-owned Wisdom Tree's half-brother Rich Wisdom, who was a stakes winner, and her family also includes stakes-winner Allamerican Captor. As a 2-year-old, Wisdom Tree went off stride in three of her first six races, but then had three wins and a second in her last five starts of the campaign. Her only misstep during that span came when she made a break from post eight in the New York Sire Stakes final at Yonkers. She ended her season with a win over 3-year-old fillies in 1:52.4 at Hoosier. "You could tell she had it in her, she just made a few breaks at the wrong times," Pollack said. "We kind of knew (after her season finale at Hoosier) that if she matured, she would be something to be reckoned with. Sure enough, she was." At 3, Wisdom Tree debuted with a seventh-place finish before reeling off four consecutive victories. The win streak came during a five-month span that saw Wisdom Tree, who spent her time in New York with trainer Ed Hart, capture 11 of 13 starts overall. After winning the New York Sire Stakes championship, she finished second in a division of the Glen Garnsey Memorial and third in both the Courageous Lady and a division of the Pegasus. The season concluded with a fifth-place finish in a division of the Circle City. "She cut the mile (in the Garnsey) that went (1):47.3 and it took a lot out of her, I guess," Pollack said. "The last start at Hoosier she really was tired and told us so. In hindsight, we went a little too far with her. But overall, she was a wonderful horse and it was a fun ride for sure." Pollack is hoping for another fun ride this year. Wisdom Tree is staked to several Grand Circuit races, including the Lady Liberty and Golden Girls at The Meadowlands and the Allerage Mare Pace at Red Mile. "There are some good mares, and good 4-year-old mares out there, so it's going to be a competitive bunch," Pollack said. "She's going to have to step up her game for sure. But if she can compete at a relatively high level, we'll definitely keep going with her." Racing begins at 6:30 p.m. (EDT) Wednesday at Harrah's Hoosier Park. For complete entries, click here.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com

When Purnel Jones Jr. and his wife Libby were looking to partner with other people to buy horses several years ago, Jones called renowned owner Mark Weaver for advice. Instead, Jones ended up with an invitation. Life has not been the same since. Purnel and Libby, who at the time were recently retired after selling their regional oil-and-gas business, were asked if they wanted to join the ownership groups involved with horses trained by Ron Burke, harness racing's leading conditioner for the past 10 years in a row. Burke Racing and Weaver, with his longtime racing colleague Mike Bruscemi, are two-time winners of the sport's Owner of the Year Award. "The first thing I thought of when we were fortunate enough to retire was how I could get back into the business," said Purnel, who followed his father into the sport and had a license to train and drive horses before stepping away from racing to focus on business. "I called Mark Weaver, who I've known for about 10 years, to ask him to point me in the right direction. He said there was a spot opening up in the ownership group and that I was welcomed if I wanted to get in. It was a no-brainer for me. My goodness gracious, you can't beat those guys. They're smart. It's not by accident that Burke and Weaver are so successful, that I can say." In 2018, the Joneses were among the owners of Dorsoduro Hanover and Warrawee Ubeaut, who both were Breeders Crown champions and divisional Dan Patch Award honorees, as well as a third Breeders Crown winner, Percy Bluechip, and stakes-winners Baron Remy and This Is The Plan. "I can't even imagine having a year like that again," Purnel said. "You talk about fun and traveling to the races, it was fantastic. I'm hoping for continued success, but to hope for that (kind of success again) is a little excessive. But you can't rule out anything with Ronnie. He has a great eye for the horses." On Sunday, the Joneses will watch three of their horses compete in the C$188,500 Confederation Cup for 4-year-old pacers at Flamboro Downs. Dorsoduro Hanover and Done Well were elimination winners last weekend. Those two Burke trainees are joined by stablemate This Is The Plan in the nine-horse field. Done Well and driver Dexter Dunn, who captured their elim in 1:51.4 over a sloppy surface, is the 7-5 morning-line favorite from post five while Dorsoduro Hanover, with regular driver Matt Kakaley, is the 5-2 second choice from post one. Dorsoduro Hanover won his elimination, also over a sloppy track, in 1:53.4. The other owners on Done Well are Burke Racing, Weaver Bruscemi, J&T Silva, and Wingfield Brothers. The group owning Dorsoduro Hanover is the same, with the exception of Wingfield Five rather than Wingfield Brothers. This Is The Plan, who finished fifth in his elimination and starts from post eight, is owned by Burke Racing, Weaver Bruscemi, J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby, and Larry Karr. "I thought Done Well was off the hook," Purnel said. "I don't know how much the track changed between the time he raced and Dorsoduro Hanover raced, but you certainly can't be disappointed with (Dorsoduro Hanover's) race either. He's as tough as nails. "We're all excited to see what happens." Done Well                  ---Norm Files photo Among the Burke trio's competition is Jimmy Freight, who earned the O'Brien Award in Canada for last year's best 3-year-old male pacer. He finished fourth in the elimination won by Dorsoduro Hanover after starting from post eight, a spot that has produced only four winners in 185 pacing races this year. Jimmy Freight and driver Louis Philippe Roy will start Sunday from post two. He is 3-1 on the morning line. "I wasn't that much excited when I saw the draw for the elims, being in my mind in the toughest division and starting from the far outside, but one more time Jimmy didn't disappoint," Roy said. "I'm a little more excited about the draw for the final, I think we're among the three or four horses with the best shot to win. "I haven't seen much difference with (Jimmy Freight) between (ages) 3 and 4," the driver added. "He was and still is the perfect horse on the track, you can do whatever you want with him, smart and perfectly gaited." Jimmy Freight                                        ---Mike Lizzi photo Racing begins at 6:55 p.m. Sunday at Flamboro Downs. Following is the field for the Confederation Cup, which is race 10. PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line 1-Dorsoduro Hanover-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-5/2 2-Jimmy Freight-Louis Philippe Roy-Richard Moreau-3/1 3-Pretty Handsome-Jonathan Drury-Andrew McCabe-15/1 4-American History-Sylvain Filion-Tony Alagna-12/1 5-Done Well-Dexter Dunn-Ron Burke-7/5 6-The Downtown Bus-Doug McNair-Jeff Gillis-7/1 7-Rockin Speed-Billy Davis Jr.-Jared Seekman-15/1 8-This Is The Plan-Joe Bongiorno-Ron Burke-20/1 9-Ghost Dance-Randy Waples-Nick Gallucci-4/1   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com

Jim Campbell figures when you bring together many of the best 4-year-old trotters in North America, there is no such thing as an easy spot. So, although his returning millionaire Crystal Fashion will avoid two 2018 Dan Patch Award winners (Atlanta and Six Pack) and a 2017 Breeders Crown champion (Fiftydallarbill) in Saturday's (May 18) opening round of the Graduate harness racings series at The Meadowlands, Campbell is not expecting a stroll in the park. Crystal Fashion competes in the second of two $50,000 divisions, starting from post one with regular driver Tim Tetrick. "On paper maybe the other one does look a little tougher, but when you go race them, they're all going to go fast and they're all going to be tough," Campbell said. "So, I don't put a lot of thought into that. Every time I think there is a division that looks easier on paper they always go more. "It's a good group of 4-year-olds out there. The only thing I worry about is my own horse. We're going to send him out there to race and whatever happens, it happens. Just being at the Meadowlands, you know they're going to be going fast no matter what." Generating speed is not an issue for this group. Returning Trotter of the Year Atlanta, with her 1:50.4 season-opening win in the Miami Valley Distaff on May 6, is the year's fastest trotter while Fiftydallarbill's 1:51.3 time in winning a conditioned race last weekend at the Meadowlands is second best. And last year, Six Pack became the sport's fastest-ever 3-year-old with a 1:49.1 win in the Kentucky Futurity in addition to trotting 1:50 earlier in the campaign while Crystal Fashion tied for the sixth-fastest mile ever by a 3-year-old (1:50.1). Not to be forgotten, Atlanta won the Hambletonian in 1:50.4 and had a season-best mark of 1:50.3, which ranks seventh among all female 3-year-old trotters in history, and multiple-stakes-winner Phaetosive - who is in Saturday's second Graduate division with Crystal Fashion - was not far off with a 1:51 mark. Crystal Fashion, who won nine of 17 races last year including the Canadian Trotting Classic and Earl Beal Jr. Memorial, made his first start of 2019 on May 4 in the Great Northeast Open Series for trotters at Harrah's Philadelphia, where he finished fourth. "He's the type of horse that needs to get racing to get himself tight," Campbell said. "He's going to need some more racing to get himself into top shape, but I was very happy with his first race. "He hasn't really changed (from last year). He's got the same personality and everything like that. He maybe filled out a little more, but for both a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old he was a good-sized colt. Maybe he grew a little bit, but for the most part he's pretty much the same." Phaetosive, who won last year's Elegantimage Stakes, will be making her seasonal debut, as is New York Sire Stakes final runner-up The Veteran. Custom Cantab, an Indiana Sire Stakes champion mare who won 13 of 17 races last season including the Matron, heads to the Graduate's second division off a third-place finish in the Miami Valley Distaff. In the first division, Six Pack and Eurobond are the two trotters making their seasonal debuts. Six Pack won 11 of 15 races last year including the Kentucky Futurity, Yonkers Trot, and Matron. He received the Dan Patch Award for best 3-year-old male trotter. Six Pack                              Mark Hall photo "He trained back good," trainer-driver Ake Svanstedt said. "He qualified two times. He was maybe a little lazy the last qualifier, but he had an open bridle. I think he is sharp now. He feels much better when we train after the second qualifier. I hope he can do a good race. "We're going to race him in the Graduate and then the Hambletonian Maturity. After that he can go in the open. He feels strong. He's a big horse. He is so big I think he can be stronger when he is older. We'll see after a couple of races what he can do." In addition to Atlanta, there will be a second Hambletonian winner competing on Saturday's card at the Meadowlands as 2015 champion Pinkman looks to pick up his second win in the Mr Muscleman Series for older trotters. A total of four Hambletonian winners will be in action this year: Atlanta, Pinkman, Perfect Spirit (in Europe) and Marion Marauder. The Meadowlands also hosts the second round of the Rainbow Blue Series for older female pacers on Saturday. The six-horse field includes Dan Patch Award winners Kissin In The Sand (2018) and Youaremycandygirl (2017) as well as millionaire Caviart Ally. Racing begins at 7:15 p.m. (EDT). For complete entries, click here.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com

When harness racing trainer John McDermott approached the owners of star-crossed male pacer Hurrikane Kingcole and mare Hurrikane Schmumma to float the idea of breeding them, Jonathan Klee was unsure what to think. “I remember telling John, I’m not a breeder, I’m a lawyer,” said Klee, who was among the owners of both horses. “However, we all believed in Kingcole and John can be convincing, so all the owners discussed it and we gave it a go.” It turned out to be a wise choice. The first mating of Hurrikane Kingcole to Hurrikane Schmumma in 2014 resulted in a filly, Hurrikane Empress, who won a New Jersey Sire Stakes championship and finished her career with $219,902 in purses. She is now in foal to Sweet Lou. The second mating resulted in a colt, Hurrikane Emperor, who last year at age 2 captured sire stakes titles in New Jersey and Kentucky and was named New Jersey’s Standardbred of the Year. He won seven of nine races and earned $226,900 under the tutelage of McDermott and his son John Jr. “Last year was a dream come true,” Klee said. “Unlike buying a horse at a sale or claiming a horse, when you own the sire, dam and foal it’s a different type of feeling. Emperor is like a child to all of us. We have known everything about him since birth.” Hurrikane Emperor begins his 2019 season Friday (May 17) in the first round of the New Jersey Sire Stakes at The Meadowlands. His connections are hoping for not only success in state-bred stakes action this year but on the Grand Circuit as well. “If everything goes perfectly, we’ll go through the New Jersey Sire Stakes and use it as kind of a stepping-stone to the North America Cup,” said Jeff Kuhen, another of Hurrikane Emperor’s breeders/owners. “It’s been pretty great to see that Emperor is as good as Kingcole was, if not hopefully better. “He hasn’t done anything yet, knock on wood, to show us that he can’t go on any track and race any kind of style. That’s why I’m pretty excited to see what he can do this year.” Driven primarily by Dan Dube, the colt won from off the pace and from the front last year and impressed with his ability to relax at any point during a race. His fastest win time, 1:49.3 in his half-length triumph over Blood Money in the Kentucky Sire Stakes final at Red Mile, was tied for the fifth best of the season by a 2-year-old pacer. “He impresses me more every day I’m with him,” said McDermott, who also trained Hurrikane Kingcole and Hurrikane Schmumma. “His potential is endless. He’s got wicked speed like his father, but he’s the most intelligent and manageable horse I’ve ever been around. He’s so cool about things. “He didn’t get that from dad,” the trainer added with a laugh. “The thing people don’t know about his father was that his father was relaxed. The problem was that once you started him, you couldn’t stop him. Emperor can leave, sit, come back, do anything you want. That’s the beautiful thing about him.” Hurrikane Kingcole, speedy but rarely healthy, won 14 of 49 career races and equaled a world record in 2012 with a 1:48.1 mile at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. His career mark of 1:47.3 came in the consolation division of the Meadowlands Pace. He now performs stud duty in Australia. In addition to Klee and Kuhen, Hurrikane Emperor is owned by the third of the three breeders, Pegasis Investment Group, as well as William Garofalo. The colt is eligible to most of the major open stakes for 3-year-old male pacers including the North America Cup, Max C. Hempt Memorial, Meadowlands Pace, Adios, and Cane Pace. He is not eligible to the Breeders Crown. “We will give him every chance to prove how good he can be,” Klee said. “It will be a tribute to all of the little owners, breeders and farms who dream of breeding and racing a champion if Emperor can go out, compete, and win at the highest level.”   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com

Fans got their first look at Swedish-bred trotter Darling Mearas during Saturday's (May 11) qualifiers at The Meadowlands Racetrack, but they will have to wait a little longer than anticipated to see the 6-year-old mare in her first race in North America. Darling Mearas, who earned $750,199 in Europe and counted the 2016 Swedish Trotting Oaks and 2018 European Championship for harness racing mares among her wins, posted a 1:56.1 victory in her Big M qualifier for trainer-driver Ake Svanstedt. But Svanstedt was not completely happy with the performance, so he plans to delay Darling Mearas' debut, which was expected to come in Monday's (May 20) first round of the Miss Versatility Series at Woodbine Mohawk Park. "She trained back good but when she qualified, I was not a hundred percent satisfied with her," said Svanstedt, who took over the training of Darling Mearas following her arrival in the U.S. earlier this spring. "We're not going to race her yet. We're going to wait a couple of weeks. Her gait was not perfect in the last turn. She must feel a little bit better." Darling Mearas, a daughter of Cantab Hall out of the Muscles Yankee mare Khao Manee, won 12 of 29 races in Europe for trainer Stefan Persson and breeder-owner Snogarps GÃ¥rd, a farm run by the Wihlborg family. The family might be best known to North American racing fans as the owner of 2014 Breeders Crown champion Commander Crowe, who earned $5.09 million worldwide in his career. Calle Wihlborg told Sweden's Sulky Sport magazine the decision to send Darling Mearas to North America was made in part because she would have more opportunities to race in stakes events restricted to mares. Svanstedt was selected as the trainer because "purely historically, he has been very good at getting older horses to take another step." Darling Mearas is staked to a number of Grand Circuit events this season, including the Breeders Crown, Armbro Flight, Dr. John R. Steele Memorial, and the TVG Championship. "The plan is to race her here this summer and then breed her with a top stallion here in America next spring," Svanstedt said. "She is a good horse. She was one of the best mares and she was a good horse in the stakes races when she was young. She has a lot of power and she wants to do the job. She is always nice to drive and if you ask her, she does the job."   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com

Hightstown, NJ — Filly pacer DD Delicious made a good impression on harness racing trainer Travis Alexander last season as a 2-year-old. Unfortunately for Alexander and the horse’s owner, the Mark Wasserman-led Fiddler’s Creek Stables, physical maturity issues prevented her from making an impression beyond the training center at Mark Ford’s farm in upstate New York. But by starting this spring with wins in her first two career races, DD Delicious looks as though she is out to remedy that situation. Her next opportunity to continue making a name for herself comes Tuesday (May 14) when she steps up from conditioned classes to state-bred stakes action as Yonkers Raceway hosts the first round of the New York Sire Stakes for 3-year-old female pacers. It will not be an easy test. DD Delicious competes in the first of two $85,250 divisions and faces a field that includes Zero Tolerance and St Somewhere, who were both winners on the Grand Circuit in 2018, as well as So Awesome, who lost last year’s New York Sire Stakes final by a nose to Money Shot Hanover. DD Delicious and driver Matt Kakaley are 5-1 on the morning line. Zero Tolerance, with David Miller driving for trainer Joe Holloway, is the 5-2 favorite. In her most recent start, DD Delicious won in 1:54.1 at Yonkers with Scott Zeron in the sulky. The filly won her debut in 1:53.3 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono with Kakaley at the lines. “I’m looking forward to seeing what my filly can do,” Alexander said. “I know Matt thinks a lot of her. She’s been a nice filly all along; I was really high on her last year. She’s not a flashy filly, she just goes about her work. “The best thing about her (previous race) at Yonkers was Scott said she got around the turns as quick as the straightaway. For her, that’s a little bit of an advantage. All the fillies in that race are very nice fillies. If I can get close, I’m not saying I can beat them, but I’ll be happy with a check.” DD Delicious, a daughter of Art Major out of D D Delightful, was bred by Fiddler’s Creek Stables. She impressed Alexander with her speed last year while training down but needed more time to mature physically before she could get to the races. “She had some growing up issues with her knees,” Wasserman said. “We try not to rush our horses. When a horse says they’re ready, then we do it. We turned her out and she came back great. She just needed time to grow up.” In addition to the New York Sire Stakes, DD Delicious is staked lightly on the Grand Circuit. “Sometimes hindsight is 20/20,” Wasserman said. “We didn’t stake her heavy but we’re very happy with where we are. I want to see if we’ve got a nice stakes filly. One step at a time. I’m really excited about (Tuesday). This is her first real challenge. It’s only her third race, but she’s been racing really well. She likes her job. She wants to go; she wants to race.” Said Alexander, “I was very fortunate that Fiddler’s Creek Stables had the patience to wait on her. She’s starting to show what I believed in all along.” Racing begins at 6:50 p.m. Tuesday at Yonkers. The New York Sire Stakes divisions are races nine and 10. Money Shot Hanover, with Tim Tetrick driving for trainer Mark Harder, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the second division. For complete entries, click here.    by Ken Weingartner USTA Media Relations Manager

Winning a race is always special for an owner. But when Linda Schwaid and her husband Era "Ernie" Williams watched their homebred pacer Lets Get Real win his harness racing career debut this past Saturday at Freehold Raceway, it provided a rush that lasted for days. That's because Lets Get Real was no ordinary first-time starter. Lets Get Real is 10. "Just to see him race was special," Schwaid said. "To see him win? My heart was beating for days. I couldn't believe it. It was total shock. "We've had winning horses before, but not like this. Not after all the work we put in." Lets Get Real, a stallion by Real Desire out of Sea Squall, was born in April 2009. Schwaid and Williams liked the horse, but his development was delayed because of several physical issues at an early age. When Lets Get Real began to progress, Williams, who trained the horse, was slowed by medical issues with his heart and his spine. "We'd train and then we'd have to stop," Schwaid said. "It was on and off, on and off. Everything just went slowly. Our health was more important than getting to the races. "We do go out every day, even through the health issues, and take care of him. He's one of our babies."                                                                                                       --Ken Weingartner photo Last fall, Schwaid and Williams, who are stabled at Winner's International in central New Jersey, turned the horse over to trainer Mario Letizia with the hopes of continuing his development. "Mario loved him the day he met him," Schwaid said. "She didn't tell me how old he was," Letizia said, laughing. "I remember I saw him like three years ago when Ernie was jogging him out there. I kind of thought he was a nice-looking horse the first time I saw him. When I started dealing with him, I thought he was a nice horse. "He's good to take care of, actually. He's got some speed, he really does. He's got a bit of ability. I took him to Freehold to school him before he qualified. He's like a 2-year-old (learning everything). That's why it was amazing the way he won. He was like a professional." Lets Get Real, who qualified once in 1:59.2 at Freehold prior to his debut, won his first race in 1:58.2 with Eric Abbatiello in the sulky. In doing so, Lets Get Real became only the second North American-bred harness horse in the past 30 years to make his first lifetime start at age 10 and win a race. The other was pacing mare Jodesaidno, who was a 10-year-old rookie when she won at the Stark County Fair in Ohio in 2009. So rare is the occurrence that Freehold's Director of Racing Karen Fagliarone called Letizia to make sure he had entered the correct horse. "She said, he's 10 and never raced? I said, yeah, that's him," Letizia said. "He always seemed good," Schwaid said. "He always seemed like he wanted to do it, so we just kept trying and trying. We knew he had speed, it was just a matter of being consistent with him and getting our issues straightened out. It was just getting everything in the right place at the right time. "It was really great (to see him win). Especially when you breed them and you see your baby come all the way to that. It really feels good."                                                                                                    --Ken Weingartner photo Schwaid and Williams first became interested in harness racing while living on Long Island, not far from Roosevelt Raceway. Williams, who was working for Grumman at the time, got to know a trainer and eventually was asked if he wanted to jog horses. "We fell in love with the horses," said Schwaid, who was working as a laboratory supervisor at a hospital. "We did it part time in the afternoons while we were working and decided that when we retired we would do it full time. "It keeps you going. It keeps you getting up every day and keeps you going. It's rewarding to go out there and see them. It brings you out of a lot of misery." It has been especially helpful in providing a pleasant diversion for Williams, who is 76. "It gives my husband hope," Schwaid said. "It's inspirational for him. He comes every afternoon and helps feed and he will walk him around." Schwaid and Williams have one other homebred racing at this time, a 6-year-old pacing mare named Arts And Flowers. Three days after Lets Get Real's victory, she won at Harrington Raceway, giving her 19 wins in 64 career races. Lets Get Real is not entered to race this week, but his connections are looking forward to his next start. And no matter what happens in the future, they will never forget his first. "It just proves it's never too late," Schwaid said.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com  

Yannick Gingras is looking forward to having a good time when he participates in the World Driving Championship, which will be held May 24-31 in Sweden. But the U.S. harness racing representative knows that for all the fun, it won't take long for his competitive instincts to kick into high gear. "Right around the first race," Gingras said with a laugh. "I'm very competitive. No doubt, I'm not going there to finish second; I want to go there and try to win it. But I want to embrace the whole thing. "I know many of the guys in the competition are really guys that like to win. It's going to be a hard challenge. It's going to be some hard racing, but I'm very much looking forward to it. You've got to have fun also. You want to try to win, but you also want to enjoy the experience." Gingras will be making his first appearance in the World Driving Championship, which was introduced in 1970 and is now held every two years. Twelve drivers from 11 countries are participating in this year's event, which returns to Sweden for the first time since 2001. Canada's James MacDonald is the event's defending champion. Other participants this year are Doug McNair (Canada), Eirik Hoitomt (Norway), Franck Nivard (France), Matthew Williamson (New Zealand), Michael Nimczyk (Germany), Mika Forss (Finland), Rick Ebbinge (Netherlands), Rodney Gatt (Malta), Todd McCarthy (Australia), and Ulf Ohlsson (Sweden). Gingras has raced in Sweden on several occasions during his career. The first leg of the World Driving Championship will be at Solvalla Raceway with three races on May 24 and one race the following day. There will be no races on Elitloppet Day on May 26 at Solvalla. The action resumes May 27 with five races at Lindesbergs Fornaboda followed by five races May 28 at Sundbyholm and five races May 29 at Dalatravet Rattvik. After a one-day break, the champion will be crowned after the final five races at Gavle. "I have many friends in Sweden that we've met over the years," Gingras said. "I love being there. I love the atmosphere; I love the crowds. I think it's going to be a tremendous experience to be able to enjoy it in Sweden. "As far as the racing goes, it doesn't hurt that I've raced there in the past. But you also have to remember there are going to be guys from everywhere, so the style of racing is going to be a little of everything. You just have to go in there open minded and drive the race as it comes. I don't think it's going to be Scandinavian type of racing; I think it's going to be like a free for all, really, in a way. We'll see how it goes." Gingras has led the sport in purses four times in his career and finished no worse than second in each of the past seven years. He was named Driver of the Year in 2014 and 2017 by the U.S. Harness Writers Association and was the organization's Rising Star Award winner in 2003. For his career, Gingras has earned $171 million in purses, a total that ranks eighth in harness racing history, and won 7,153 races. Among his numerous accomplishments, he has captured 21 Breeders Crown trophies, which is No. 6 among all drivers in the history of the event, and was the regular driver of Foiled Again, the sport's all-time richest horse. The 39-year-old Gingras, who moved to the U.S. from Canada in 2001 and has been a resident of New Jersey for 15 years, was selected to represent the U.S. in the World Driving Championship by U.S. Trotting Association President Russell Williams. "Yannick has been an elite, big race driver for the past several years," Williams said. "He is a fan favorite, is always very good with the media, and he will be an excellent representative both on and off the track." Dave Magee was the most recent U.S. representative to win the championship, in 1995. The two other winners representing the U.S. were Ron Pierce in 1989 and Joe Marsh Jr. in 1974. "It's definitely a great honor and something I'm looking forward to," Gingras said about being selected to represent the U.S. "I go into every race the same way; I want to win them all. If I get to (win the championship) it would be a great accomplishment. It would be something I remember the rest of my life." Following is a list of winners of the World Driving Championship. Year-Champion-Nation Represented-Location(s) 2017-James MacDonald-Canada-Canada 2015-Dexter Dunn-New Zealand-Australia 2013-Pierre Vercruysse-France-France 2011-Jody Jamieson-Canada-U.S. 2009-Birger Jorgensen-Denmark-Norway 2007-Christophe Martens-Belgium-Australia/New Zealand 2005-Roberto Andreghetti-Italy-Italy 2003-Mark Jones-New Zealand-Canada 2001-Jody Jamieson-Canada-Finland/Sweden 1999-Sylvain Filion-Canada-Australia 1997-Heinz Werwering-Germany-Germany 1995-Dave Magee-U.S.-U.S. 1993-Heinz Werwering-Germany-Germany/Belgium/France 1991-Maurice McKendry-New Zealand-Australia/New Zealand 1989-Ron Pierce-U.S.-Canada 1987-Ted Demmler-Australia-Sweden/Denmark/Finland/Norway 1985-Anthony (Tony) Herlihy-New Zealand-Australia/New Zealand 1983-Robert Cameron-New Zealand-Macau 1981-Ulf Thoresen-Norway-Norway/Finland/West Germany/Italy 1979-Ulf Thoresen-Norway-Australia/New Zealand 1978-Kevin Holmes-New Zealand-U.S./Canada 1977-Ulf Thoresen-Norway-West Germany/France/Norway 1976-No competition 1975-Keith Addison-Australia-Australia/New Zealand 1974-Joe Marsh Jr.-U.S.-West Germany/Norway/France 1973-Ulf Thoresen-Norway-Austria/France/West Germany/Italy 1972-Guiseppe Guzzinati-Italy-U.S./Canada 1971-Adolf Ubleis-Austria-U.S./Canada 1970-Herve Filion-Canada-U.S./Canada   For more information on the World Driving Championship, click here.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com

Nancy Johansson was a fan of Blood Money before she ever got to train the horse. Now that the 3-year-old male pacer is in her stable, she is an even more ardent admirer. Blood Money, who in 2018 was in the harness racing stable of Johansson's father, the now-retired Jimmy Takter, won last year's Matron Stakes on his way to $347,744 in purses for owner Diamond Creek Racing. His earnings ranked fourth among all 2-year-old male pacers last season, when he captured five of 13 races and hit the board 12 times. He was second in the Kentucky Sire Stakes championship and third in the Governor's Cup. On April 27, Blood Money made his seasonal debut for Johansson by defeating older horses in 1:50 at The Meadowlands Racetrack. Starting from post eight, the colt was in ninth place at the half-mile point, more than 10 lengths behind the leader, but rallied for a two-length victory at odds of 7-5 with Scott Zeron in the sulky. Blood Money's next start is Saturday in the first of three $30,000 Pennsylvania All-Stars divisions at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. He is the 5-2 morning-line favorite. "I always liked him a lot last year when my dad had him," Johansson said. "I always had my eye on him. I told him that Blood Money is a good horse. I said he would be his best one." She added with a laugh, "It worked out good for me that my dad retired." Bred by Diamond Creek Farm, Blood Money is a son of Sweet Lou out of Blood Diamond. He is a half-brother to stakes-winners Blood Brother and Blood Line and hails from the family of Hall of Fame broodmare Arterra (dam of O'Brien Award-winner Western Terror and millionaire If I Can Dream) and Dan Patch Award-winner Delinquent Account (dam of Dan Patch Award-winner Artiscape). Blood Money joined a Johansson stable that was already home to last season's top 2-year-old male pacer, Dan Patch Award-winner Captain Crunch. The two colts possess similar dispositions. "He's very laid back, not fussy," Johansson said about Blood Money. "He's very easy to be around. I took him out jogging the other day and he stood still in the same spot for like 20 minutes just looking at the environment around him. I thought, oh, OK, I guess we're enjoying the view today. He's just super relaxed and nice. He's showed some high speed too, so we'll take that. "The mental part is huge. That's one of Crunch's biggest assets too, he's just so mentally chill. Nothing bothers him. You have to keep them together physically, obviously, but half my job is to make sure these horses are mentally there. If they're naturally relaxed, it's easier to do that." Following the Pennsylvania All-Stars, Blood Money will be pointed toward the Art Rooney Pace at Yonkers Raceway (May 25 final; eliminations if necessary May 18) while Captain Crunch will make his seasonal debut on May 19 in the second leg of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes, which will be at Pocono. Both horses are eligible to a number of Grand Circuit stakes, including the North America Cup (June 15 final), Max C. Hempt Memorial (June 29), Meadowlands Pace (July 13), Adios (July 27), the Little Brown Jug (Sept. 19), and Breeders Crown (Oct. 26). "The plan is to keep them separated as much as possible," Johansson said. "I like Blood Money. He's been really nice all along. I think he grew up a little bit from last year; he filled out a lot. I think that will help him carry himself a little better. He's really good looking. I think he's going to make a lot of his own noise this year too." Lyons Night Hawk is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in Saturday's second Pennsylvania All-Stars division at Pocono and Air Force Hanover is the 3-1 choice in the third. Racing begins at 7 p.m. (EDT). For complete entries, click here.   by Ken Weingartner USTA Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com  

If not for the whirlwind known as Woodside Charm and a world-record-shattering mile, filly trotter Winndevie could have completed her 2-year-old season with an undefeated record. But there was no shame in finishing with a 6-for-7 slate, capped by a victory in the New York Sire Stakes championship. On Tuesday (May 7), the harness racing filly returns to the site of last year's final triumph - Yonkers Raceway - to begin her defense of the title as the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the third of three NYSS divisions for 3-year-old female trotters. The race, with a purse of $54,833, will be Winndevie's seasonal debut for trainer-driver Trond Smedshammer and owner Purple Haze Stables. "She's been good all winter; I've been happy with her," Smedshammer said about Winndevie, a daughter of Credit Winner out of Vida De Vie. "She's more mature, looks good. She's good and healthy. She only has one qualifier in her, so she's not super ready, but we'll see. "She was great (last year); you can't knock that. It was as good as it could have been. She's a nice filly. I like her speed and her stamina. She's pretty good on a (half-mile track), maybe not better than some, but like most of the Credit Winners is good gaited. If she stays healthy, she should be good in New York this year too." Winndevie spent 2018 exclusively in New York Sire Stakes competition. She won her first five races of the season before finishing second to eventual Dan Patch Award-winner Woodside Charm at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Woodside Charm trotted the mile in 1:53.4, history's fastest mile by a 2-year-old trotter on a half-mile track, bettering the previous record of 1:55.2 for a 2-year-old filly, not to mention Don Dream's 1:55 mark for a male. Winndevie was timed in 1:54.1. Nine days later, Winndevie captured the New York Sire Stakes championship with a sustained first-over grind over the race's last five-eighths of a mile. Smedshammer decided to end the filly's season there rather than go on to compete in the Breeders Crown. "If she was really good in the final, I was going to put her in the Breeders Crown, but I thought she bounced a little bit off that big mile at Saratoga," Smedshammer said. "I thought that big mile at Saratoga would have improved her, getting stretched out like that, but she took a step backwards. She won, but she wasn't at her best. She was bumpy on the turns, so I put her away. Hopefully it will pay off this year." Winndevie is eligible to this year's Breeders Crown as well as the Hambletonian Oaks, so she could have opportunities to see the Grand Circuit in 2019. "We'll see if she's going to go into anything other than New York later on," Smedshammer said. "Our primary goal is New York, to try to win as much as we can there." The 6-5 morning-line favorite in the first NYSS division, with a purse of $53,833, is Stella Jane, the 2018 Kindergarten Classic winner. She will have Jason Bartlett in the sulky for trainer John Butenschoen. With Out A Doubt, a winner on the NYSS circuit last season, is the 5-2 choice in the second division, with a purse of $54,833, for driver Andy Miller and trainer Erv Miller. Racing begins at 6:50 p.m. (EDT) Tuesday at Yonkers. For complete entries, click here.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com

Freehold, NJ --- Osterc and harness racing driver Yannick Gingras made a three-wide move on the backstretch and overtook leader Cavill Hanover on the final turn on their way to victory in Saturday's $118,950 Dexter Cup for 3-year-old trotters at Freehold Raceway. Osterc, the 3-5 favorite, won by 1-1/4 lengths over HL Revadon in 1:57. Skyway Kon Man finished third and Cavill Hanover was fourth. The Dexter Cup is the first stakes race on the road to August's $1 million Hambletonian Stakes, the sport's premier event for 3-year-old trotters. Osterc is eligible to the Hambletonian, as are HL Revadon and Cavill Hanover. "He had plenty of go," Gingras said about Osterc, a 2018 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champion who was making his seasonal debut. "He got a little bit bumpy going around the last turn, but other than that he was perfect. He had a lot of trot and he got the job done. As far as trot-wise, there were no worries anywhere." Osterc, who started from post six in a field reduced to seven horse by the scratch of Big Money Honey, got away in sixth place as HL Revadon went to the early lead. HL Revadon yielded the top spot to Cavill Hanover as the leaders reached the quarter-mile point in :28.2. Cavill Hanover continued to lead through a half in :57.4 and three-quarters in 1:27.3. Osterc, who began his move to the front just prior to the midway point and flushed the cover of Dexter Cup elimination winner Whirl Winds K, trotted the final quarter-mile in :29.1 to win for the sixth time in eight career starts. Osterc is trained by Per Engblom, who is in his first year with his own stable after spending the past six years as Jimmy Takter's top assistant. The Dexter Cup was Engblom's first stakes victory. He trains the colt, a son of Cantab Hall out of Oh Oh Hereshecomes who has earned $285,876 lifetime, for breeder-owners Christina Takter and Goran Falk. "That was nice, very nice," Engblom said. "Coming off the last turn Yannick said he hit the wheel and was close to making a break, but he had plenty of trot, so that was a good feeling. I was sure he had enough power it was just a question of keeping him flat." Osterc paid $3.40, $2.60 and $2.40. Osterc One race prior to the Dexter, Gingras captured the $66,000 Lady Suffolk for 3-year-old female trotters with 6-5 favorite Magical Beliefs. The filly, trained by Linda Toscano, won by a half-length over Cardinale in 1:57.4 with Golden Tricks finishing third. Magical Beliefs, a daughter of Cantab Hall out of Frisky Magic who was making her seasonal debut, is owned by Highland Green Farms, South Mountain Stables, and R-And-I Farms. She has won five of 11 career races and earned $201,989. Magical Beliefs, who is not eligible to the Hambletonian Oaks, paid $4.40, $3.20 and $2.40. Ken Weingartner

Over the previous 30 years, there were six times when the three richest 3-year-old harness racing pacers from a season returned to race at age 4. Only once since 1995, though, did it occur when all three of those horses were male. But it will happen a second time Saturday (May 4) when Dorsoduro Hanover, Courtly Choice, and Lather Up make their 4-year-old debuts in the opening round of the Graduate Series at The Meadowlands. Dan Patch Award-winner Dorsoduro Hanover, who was the top money-winner among 3-year-old pacers in 2018 with $1.28 million, and North America Cup winner Lather Up, who was third with $893,512, compete in the first of two $50,000 Graduate divisions. Courtly Choice, who won the Meadowlands Pace and banked $910,603, is in the second. Four more of the top-10 male earners are also entered in the Graduate: American History, Thinkbig Dreambig, Always A Prince, and This Is The Plan. In fact, most of the richest 3-year-old male pacers from 2018 are returning, with multiple-stakes-winner Stay Hungry, who is standing stud at Hanover Shoe Farms, the lone retiree from the top half of the list. The only recent occurrence of an all-male top three coming back at age 4 happened in 2015 when McWicked, JK Endofanera, and All Bets Off returned. "It's crazy," said Matt Kakaley, the regular driver of Dorsoduro Hanover. "All the good ones have come back. You don't ever see that. I think there is going to be some good races. They're going to take their shots in the older races too and I know they're going to hold their own. "There was no standout last year. There were three or four of them that were pretty equal, I'd say off the top of my head, mine, Courtly Choice, Lather Up, Jimmy Freight. They were a little better than the other ones, but it's not like the next group was far behind. Those other ones can get a little bit better over the winter, too. Hopefully there will be a lot of good races and give everyone some excitement." Dorsoduro Hanover won 10 of 22 races last year including the Breeders Crown and Adios. Kakaley said he sees little different in this year's version of the Ron Burke-trained gelding. "He might have grown a little bit, but he's always been a big, good-looking horse," Kakaley said. "I'm expecting him to do good. I'm expecting him to race good in the 4-year-old races and have a good year. We'll have to wait and see if he can step up with the likes of McWicked (the 8-year-old stallion who is the returning Horse of the Year in the U.S. and Canada). McWicked is a special horse." Courtly Choice, who won 10 of 16 races last season and also counted the Little Brown Jug among his triumphs, had surgery during the off-season to remove an undescended testicle. He heads to the Graduate off a qualifier win in 1:50.4 with a final half-mile of :52.4 at Woodbine Mohawk Park. "We're very happy with the way he's trained back and the way he's qualified," said trainer Blake MacIntosh, who co-owns the horse. "(The surgery) seems to have helped his gait and he seems a lot more comfortable on the turns. We're looking forward to a great season and hopefully things go our way and we get our breaks and that's all we can ask for." Given the depth of the competition, MacIntosh knows it will not be easy. "I think the 4-year-old division is probably tougher than the older horses, other than McWicked, when you look at the bunch," MacIntosh said. "It's going to be a battle all year. I think the fans are going to have a lot of great horses to watch as 4-year-olds." Lather Up, trained by Clyde Francis, won 11 of 18 races last season. "He's sound and he seems like he came back to his right self," said Montrell Teague, who drives the stallion. "We're hoping for good things. It's going to be a fun year. (All the returning 4-year-olds) are good for the sport. There is a lot of money going to the breeding shed, but the sport needs the better ones to come back and put on a show. You can still make good money doing that." Racing begins at 7:15 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at the Meadowlands. The card also includes the $175,200 Arthur J. Cutler Memorial for older trotters. For complete entries, click here. Ken Weingartner  

After spending the early part of his harness racing career as a big fish in a small pond, Pappy Go Go is ready to head into open waters. Pappy Go Go, a 5-year-old gelding who dominated in the Canadian Maritimes before arriving in the U.S. in 2018, will compete in Saturday's (May 4) first round of the Great Northeast Open Series for trotters at Harrah's Philadelphia. The Andrew Harris trainee is the 3-1 morning-line favorite in the race, which also includes 2018 Canadian Trotting Classic winner Crystal Fashion (7-2) and millionaire Melady's Monet (4-1). A week ago, Pappy Go Go and driver George Napolitano Jr. won a conditioned race at Philly by 6-3/4 lengths in 1:52. The time equaled his career best, first established in a conditioned start on March 30 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, and is the second fastest trotting time of the season. Now he will go for the most lucrative purse of his career - $30,000 - on Saturday. "I'm in the same boat as everybody else; I don't know if he can go with these horses or not," Harris said. "I'm anticipating the race as much as anyone. I want to see what he is, see what he's got. I'm excited to see if he can handle it." Pappy Go Go is a son of Tad The Stud out of Paging Willy. He was bred by Calgary's Bill Andrew, a recent inductee into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame whose family has long been involved in harness racing in the Maritimes. As a 3-year-old Pappy Go Go was 13-for-13 racing in the Maritimes, where he won a total of 19 of 24 starts in his career. In January 2018, he sold for $30,000 to Michael Goldberg's Chai-Five Racing and now competes for Michael Goldberg Racing LLC. Goldberg gave Harris credit for picking out the horse. "He was a proven winner," Goldberg said. "He didn't have the competition he has today, but he had beaten everything he had taken on before, and we liked the look of the horse. "We love the horse," he continued. "He behaves well, he's great to be around, and he continues to improve. This is going to be a big test for him, this is the deepest competition he's faced, but he's got two (1):52 miles this year and is sharp. We're excited about the race. We're going to see what we have the next couple weeks." Goldberg, a psychologist who splits his time between Florida and his native Massachusetts, got started in harness racing in 1992 when he bought into a $2,500 claimer at Foxboro Raceway. His father and brother also got involved in the sport and were co-owners of 2004 Cutler Memorial winner War Paint. "I took a little hiatus when I got married and had kids, but got back into it a few years ago," said Goldberg, who also has gotten involved in breeding and attaches the Boston-reference "Beantown" as a prefix to his horse's names. Pappy Go Go has won nine of 40 races for Goldberg and Harris, earning $109,273. He has hit the board in seven consecutive starts, winning two and finished second on four occasions. "He was kind of in a rough spot last year as a 4-year-old racing aged horses, and he was also racing (a different level) of horses," Harris said. "It was just kind of a maturation process for him. Now he's developed into a nice horse. He had a few little issues last year with steering and now this year, I can't even tell you why, he's steering so much better." Harris was attracted to Pappy Go Go because of his ability to win races. He hopes to see it continue. "I love a horse that loves to win," Harris said. "I don't care where you're at, when you're winning dominantly and you're the big fish in your small pond, there is always that chance to step up to the next level. He was worth the gamble just because of his winning nature." Saturday's card at Philly also includes the $30,000 first round of the Great Northeast Open Series for female pacers. Harris' Dont Think Twice A, co-owned by Goldberg, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the race, which also includes returning Dan Patch Award winner Kissin In The Sand for her debut at age 4. Racing begins at 12:40 p.m. (EDT). For complete entries, click here.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com      

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