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Tony Morgan's drive to keep working hard has resulted in a whole lot of winning drives. Harness racing driver Morgan entered Wednesday on the verge of joining Dave Palone and Herve Filion as the only drivers in North American harness racing history with at least 15,000 career victories. The 56-year-old Morgan came into the day needing three wins to reach the milestone and has eight drives this evening at Dover Downs. "It's nice to be recognized by your peers, but it probably means more to my family than to me," Morgan said about his approaching 15,000 wins. "I get my kicks out of just working every day. I like that. I like the daily grind. I like the competition and keeping busy. "It's another feather in my cap, I guess, so it's nice. And it gives my family something to talk about. That's nice too." Morgan, who was born in Ohio, rose to prominence in Chicago and now calls the Delaware circuit home. The son of driver/trainer Eddie Morgan Jr., himself the winner of 4,724 races, Morgan got his first win one month shy of turning 15 in 1973. In 1995, Morgan led all drivers in North America in wins, and captured the title again in 1996, 1997, 2006 and 2008. From 1995 through 2009, he was never out of the top 10 and racked up 10,695 wins during that span. Morgan was Harness Tracks of America's Driver of the Year in 2006, 2002, 1997 and 1996. He is one of only three drivers to win more than 1,000 races in a year, totaling 1,004 in 2006. Horses driven by Morgan have earned $117 million in purses, good for 13th place on the all-time list. So far this year, Morgan has won 54 races and is fifth in the driver standings at Dover Downs. For the past three seasons, he has averaged 323 wins and nearly $3 million in purses. "I always have done quite a bit better when I'm busy than when I'm not, so I try to stay busy," Morgan said. "I've got a pretty strong work ethic. I figure that if I can outwork everybody I'll do alright." Palone leads all harness racing drivers in the world in wins, entering Wednesday with 16,934. Germany's Heinz Wewering is second on the worldwide list, with more than 16,760, followed by Filion and Morgan. Morgan could pass Filion's total of 15,183 wins sometime this summer. The two competed against each other in the mid-2000s, following Morgan's move to Delaware from Chicago, and Morgan said following in Filion's footsteps was special. "Of course, he's been almost every driver's idol forever," Morgan said. "He was a great guy and a great driver and he outworked everybody for years and years. I guess that's kind of the model I've always followed. I've tried to stay as busy as I can, and the more practice you get, the better you get at it. "He was a very sharp guy. I spent a little bit of time with him when I first got to Delaware. He was a really nice guy. He was really good to the young guys and that's kind of a novelty, in my experience anyway. I think that people when they get older they tend to be kind of short with the young guys. I don't think that's the way to be." Morgan has tried to follow Filion's example in dealing with younger drivers today. "I like to think that the young guys can learn something and it's nice to be able to help some of them along," Morgan said. "They teach me something every night too." And no doubt help fuel the drive. by Ken Weingartner/Harness Racing Communications/USTA  

Harness racing driver Ronnie Wrenn Jr. ended 2014 winning at a historic rate and the beginning of a new season has done little to slow him down. No driver in harness racing history has more wins in his first four consecutive seasons of at least 1,000 starts than Wrenn's total of 2,148 victories from 2011-14. Brett Miller is second, with 1,745 from 1999-2002. Wrenn captured his second consecutive national driving title last year, winning 847 races. It was the highest victory total since Tony Morgan's 961 triumphs in 2008. In the process, Wrenn also joined a small group of drivers to win at least 700 races in back-to-back years. The others are Morgan, Tim Tetrick, Dave Palone, Walter Case Jr., Jack Moiseyev, Herve Filion, and Mike Lachance. Entering Friday, Wrenn had 174 wins this year, a total that placed him third in North America. Corey Callahan led with 181 victories, followed by Aaron Merriman with 179. Wrenn is bidding to become the first driver since Morgan to claim three consecutive national driving titles. Morgan, who has won 14,992 races in his career, accomplished the feat from 1995-97. "Each year I just want to better myself," Wrenn said. "Each of the last four years I've won more and been more successful and made more money. I've been at the right place at the right time and I've driven for a lot of good trainers. I've been lucky. It helps to have a little horsepower." On Saturday, the Ohio-based Wrenn will visit The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono for its opening night. It will be Wrenn's first trip to Pocono, where he has 10 drives on the card. Wrenn is the two-time defending driving champion at Northfield Park, but that track is dark on Saturdays. "My Saturdays, I really haven't had much going on," Wrenn said. "I was racing back home in Michigan a little bit just to take it easy and be closer to home until Scioto (Downs) starts. My plan right now is to go to Pocono on Saturdays and we'll just see what happens. "I love racing in Ohio and I've got a lot of good connections here and it's a growing state for sure. I like racing at Northfield. I'm still planning on going to Scioto when it opens on May 2. We'll just see what happens. I'm going to take it one day at a time, one weekend at a time, and we'll see how it goes." Wrenn was pleased to get so many drives for Saturday's Pocono card. He has two morning-line favorites and several other horses with favorable ML odds. "I'm very happy," Wrenn said. "For my first time out there it looks like I should be able to do some good hopefully. I've never been out there. I'm excited to go out there and drive with some drivers I've never driven with and work with some different horses." The 28-year-old Wrenn didn't begin driving on a full-time basis until 2011 because of focusing on college. He has won 2,346 races and earned $9.50 million in purses since starting his career on the fair circuit in his home state of Michigan three years earlier. Wrenn, who won the 2013 national driving title with 714 victories, captured his second title last season thanks to a near-record December. Wrenn won 119 races in December - just three triumphs shy of Morgan's record for a single month set in June 2008 - to overtake Merriman in the final days of the year. He finished six wins ahead of Merriman. The title was special to Wrenn, who missed time in January 2014 because of wrist surgery and endured the loss of his father to cancer in May. "Winning it for the first time was definitely awesome, but last year it seemed like I overcame a lot of adversity," said Wrenn, who changed his driver colors to his father's black and maroon. "I think it meant a little more. I think my mom appreciated it quite a bit. I think she was a little overwhelmed by it. I was happy for that. "Aaron definitely had a great year. Just to be able to put together a little run at the end of the year and get it done was pretty cool. I just caught a lot of live drives. "If I could get three (titles) in a row, that would be awesome. But there are guys like Aaron and some others who are always in the top five that make it really tough. Hopefully I can stay healthy and just have a good year." Following is the list of the top 10 drivers for total wins in the first four consecutive seasons in which they had at least 1,000 starts: Name -- Wins -- Years -- Age at start Ronnie Wrenn Jr. -- 2,148 -- 2011-14 -- 25 Brett Miller -- 1,745 -- 1999-2002 -- 26 Eric Carlson -- 1,719 -- 2009-12 -- 34 Gaetan Lamy -- 1,714 -- 1990-93 -- 43 Jordan Stratton -- 1,706 -- 2007-10 -- 20 Corey Callahan -- 1,679 -- 2007-10 -- 29 Marcus Miller -- 1,572 -- 2009-12 -- 20 Scott Zeron -- 1,540 -- 2008-11 -- 19 Tony Hall -- 1,522 -- 2004-07 -- 26 Matt Kakaley -- 1,480 -- 2007-10 -- 19 by Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications USTA

Freehold, NJ --- John McDermott stares into the stall of Hurrikane Kingcole and a wistful smile crosses the harness racing trainer’s face as he watches his 6-year-old pacer move playfully toward him.  “I just wish we had a chance for him to show what he’s really made of,” McDermott says. He thought this might be the year. Hurrikane Kingcole, back on the racetrack after throat surgery last year appeared to correct a myriad of health issues, was 2-for-2 in 2015. The speedy stakes-winner captured his two starts by a total of seven lengths and posted one of the season’s fastest times to date -- 1:49.4 -- in January. But two weeks ago, Hurrikane Kingcole turned up sore after a training mile. Last week, tests revealed that Hurrikane Kingcole suffered a broken splint bone in his left front leg. Although McDermott said the injury was minor, and a return to racing was deemed probable following surgery, he decided it was time to stop. Hurrikane Kingcole, who in 2012 paced 1:48.1 at Mohegan Sun Pocono to equal the then-world record for a 3-year-old on a five-eighths-mile track, has been retired. McDermott, who last year bred Hurrikane Kingcole to two mares, hopes the stallion can land a stud deal sometime soon. A son of Cam's Card Shark out of the mare Blazing Yankee, Hurrikane Kingcole won 14 of 49 career races and earned $582,807. His lifetime mark is 1:47.3. “He had an undefeated 6-year-old season; he’s got that going for him,” McDermott quipped Monday morning. “But really I’m thrilled that he won his last two starts. It couldn’t have gone a better way. “It’s important to me that this horse doesn’t get hurt on the racetrack. Every veterinarian I’ve talked to believes we could do the surgery and bring him back to race, but you’re going to lose a percentage (of performance). I don’t want him to come back to race in non-winners and hope he’s going to work out and make $100,000 the hard way. That’s not what he’s about. He’s supposed to be a special horse, and he always has been.” Hurrikane Kingcole struggled with immune system issues as well as breathing difficulties throughout much of his career. Still, he managed to produce memorable performances -- even if not always in victory. As a 3-year-old, Hurrikane Kingcole jumped and went off stride behind the gate in his elimination for the North America Cup at Mohawk, spotting the field more than two dozen lengths. That he rallied to miss advancing to the final by only 1-1/4 lengths was impressive, but not nearly as much as what track officials told McDermott following the race: A transponder carried by Hurrikane Kingcole clocked the horse in 1:46.1 for his mile. “The speed that he went that night was just insane,” McDermott said. “But that sums his whole life up. It was the most amazing mile I ever saw -- and I got absolutely nothing for it.” Later that summer, Hurrikane Kingcole missed advancing to the final of the Meadowlands Pace by a whisker, but won the consolation the following week by 8-3/4 lengths in 1:47.3. The Pace final went in 1:48.1. Less than a month later, Hurrikane Kingcole led the field in the New Jersey Classic to three-quarters in a record 1:18.2 only to lose by a head to Panther Hanover. Hurrikane Kingcole’s top career victory came in a division of the Nassagaweya Stakes in 2011 at Mohawk. “His gait is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before,” McDermott said. “His front leg stands so far out beyond his nose when he’s in full gear, it’s ridiculous. He wears a 64-inch hobble, but he strides out so far that it’s not a true measurement of his gait. That’s what really made him special.” Purchased by McDermott for $10,000 as a yearling, Hurrikane Kingcole is owned by Jeffrey Kuhen and the partnership of Arthur Brewer, Mitchell Cohen, Jeffrey Gorden and Jonathan Klee. And while McDermott is losing a very good horse from his stable, he is losing a very good friend as well. “He’s the best,” McDermott said. “He’s the reason I get up every day to come to the barn. The rest of them, I love them all, but he has such a life to him. He wants to make you happy. He’s never once thought there was something wrong with him. He thinks he’s ‘The Man’ every day and he just loves doing what he does. “I love the personality. He’s just such a pleasure to be around. He likes what he does, he likes us; he’s just a happy-go-lucky horse. He’s just awesome.” by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications

Freehold, NJ --- It didn’t take long for harness racing driver Montrell Teague to determine Wiggle It Jiggleit was different. Wiggle It Jiggleit, a 3-year-old pacer who is unbeaten in five lifetime races as he heads into Saturday’s $58,000 Buddy Gilmour Series final at the Meadowlands, opened Teague’s eyes in his first career start. Racing in late August at Mohegan Sun Pocono, Wiggle It Jiggleit won by six lengths in 1:51.2, covering the final half-mile in :54.1 under no urging while racing first over. It was the horse’s only start of 2014, but it was enough. “After that race, I told my dad this is going to be the best horse I’ve ever driven,” Teague said, referring to his father, trainer George Teague Jr. “He doesn’t have a flaw right now. He does everything right. He doesn’t overexert himself; he goes when I ask him. That’s what makes great horses. “He’s just an overall classy horse.” Wiggle It Jiggleit enters the Gilmour Series final off two preliminary round wins in which his victory margin totaled nearly six lengths. He won his opening round division in 1:51.2 and last week in 1:52.1. But his top moment of the year, so far, came in the first leg of the Sonsam Series at the Meadowlands, where Wiggle It Jiggleit defeated older horses in 1:49.4. He followed Escort Series champion Company Man’s cover briefly on the backstretch before racing first-over the rest of the way, pacing the final half-mile in :53.2. His time for the mile is tied for the second-best mark of the season for any pacer. “That’s the only time I’ve asked him to work,” Teague said. “He did it so easy and seemed to have plenty left in the tank. I don’t know how fast he is.” Wiggle It Jiggleit, who has earned $37,550 in lifetime purses, is a son of stallion Mr Wiggles out of the mare Mozzi Hanover. George Teague Jr. Inc. owns Wiggle It Jiggleit, as well as both the sire and dam. Mr Wiggles, who also was trained by Teague, won the 2009 Hoosier Cup and finished second in the Breeders Crown and Adios. Following the Gilmour Series final, Wiggle It Jiggleit will get some time off and light work until Teague prepares to bring back the gelding for the summer stakes season. Teague’s longtime assistant Clyde Francis is listed as the trainer of Wiggle It Jiggleit, who was limited to one start last season because of soreness. “I didn’t want to take any chances and end up hurting him for this year,” George Teague Jr. said earlier this year. “It worked out good. I was able to put him away earlier, get him sounder, and get him back together early this year to see what I’ve got. He seems as good as some of the better horses I’ve trained in the past. “He reminds me of his dad. He appears to be a real serious horse.” In the Gilmour, Wiggle It Jiggleit will face seven rivals, including National Seelster and Coaster. National Seelster won an opening-round division of the series before tasting defeat for the first time in four career races when he faced Wiggle It Jiggleit last week. Coaster also won a preliminary leg of the series. “It doesn’t get any better than this, knowing everyone is watching the Meadowlands to watch (Wiggle It Jiggleit),” Montrell Teague said. “There’s no better feeling.” by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications  

Freehold, NJ --- The USTA website provides periodic glimpses at some of harness racing’s stars as they prepare for harness racing action this year. Today, we look at ageless record-setting pacer Foiled Again. FOILED AGAIN Dragon Again – In A Safe Place – Artsplace Owners: Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, JJK Stables Breeder: Barbara Matthews Trainer: Ron Burke Driver: Yannick Gingras 2014 Record: 26-6-8-5; $863,563; 1:50.2h Career: 224-83-56-32; $6.90 million; 1:48f Honors: Dan Patch Award for best older male pacer in 2013, 2012, 2011. Dan Patch Award for Pacer of the Year in 2011. O’Brien Award for best older male pacer in 2013, 2011. The road back: The 11-year-old Foiled Again qualified in 1:54.3 at the Meadowlands on March 7 and will return to the Big M on Friday for another qualifier as he prepares for the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series at Yonkers Raceway. The Levy begins March 21. Foiled Again won the series in 2010 and 2009. He finished second in the final in 2013 and 2012 and was third in 2014 and 2011. “It was good,” trainer Ron Burke said about Foiled Again’s first qualifier of the year. “He did everything we asked of him, so we were happy with him. “We lost some time with the weather, but he’ll be fine. He couldn’t be any better. He’s training back as good or better than any other year. He’s an incredible horse. He just gets better and better all the time.” Bittersweet: Last year, Foiled Again finished second to now-retired stablemateSweet Lou in earnings among older pacers. Sweet Lou, who set a record with six consecutive wins in faster than 1:48, was named best older male pacer and Pacer of the Year. Sweet Lou won six of the races in which Foiled Again competed, with Foiled Again finishing second on three occasions. Overall for the year, Foiled Again’s second-place finishes included the TVG Free For All Series Championship, Canadian Pacing Derby, Dayton Pacing Derby, American-National, Allerage, and Mohawk Gold Cup. “Foiled’s schedule this year is basically the same as in the past,” Burke said. “I decided to have him be one of my top two horses for the big races. I don’t think anybody has his consistency. I’m going to have to stay the course and hope the races are a little weaker this year. Without (Sweet) Lou being in it should help him a little bit. Lou hurt him because he just couldn’t pace as fast as Lou. No matter what he did, he couldn’t get to him. If Foiled can get to a horse, he’ll usually beat him. But he just could never get to him.” Oh, that’s rich: No horse in harness racing history has banked more money than Foiled Again’s $6.90 million in lifetime North American purses. Foiled Again is the richest 7-year-old in history ($1.40 million in 2011), richest 8-year-old ($1.20 million in 2012), richest 9-year-old ($1.40 million in 2013) and richest 10-year-old ($863,563 in 2014). Combine the earnings of the next three richest 10-year-olds on the all-time list and they fall nearly $66,000 short of Foiled Again’s 2014 campaign. One in a million: Foiled Again is the only horse in North American harness racing history to have three million-dollar seasons. “I don’t know if there will be another one that can do it for so many years at the top level,” driver Yannick Gingras said. “He’s one of a kind. I know at this point that he’s got less ahead of him than he has behind him, so I’m enjoying him a lot more. I know every race is a privilege. He’s a very special horse and I’m thankful I get to drive him.” As easy as 1-2-3: For his career, Foiled Again has hit the board 57 times in races worth at least $100,000. Size doesn’t matter: Foiled Again has won at least one race worth more than $450,000 on every sized racetrack in North America -- half, five-eighths, seven-eighths and mile. “I hate to say it, but it’s almost now where we take him for granted,” Burke said. “It’s just because he’s so consistent. You never have to worry about him. You never have to worry that he’s going to race bad this week. He’s not going to; he races good every week.” Rambling on: The only older male pacers to receive three consecutive Dan Patch Awards are Foiled Again and Rambling Willie (1975-77). Interestingly, until Silent Swing’s $155,270 season in 2013, Rambling Willie was the sport’s richest 11-year-old pacer of all time, with $151,599 earned in 1981. “I think the most remarkable thing about Foiled is that he’s an 11-year-old and we’re still talking about him,” Burke said. “You just don’t see horses that are even ages 8 or 9 that are a major factor in their class. He’s 11 years old and nobody can say they’re definitely going to beat him this year. He’s got as good a chance as anybody at the end of the year to be talked about for aged pacer of the year.” Crowning moment: Foiled Again won the 2013 Breeders Crown at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs by a nose over Pet Rock in the slop to become at age 9 the oldest Breeders Crown champion in history. “I really believe that race sums his career up,” said Gingras, who pumped his fist three times in celebration that night when the photo-finish result was posted on the tote board. “Doing it the way he did, roughing it up; he never had a breather at any point during the race. He was able to beat the best there was and no one had any excuse. He just refused to lose.” by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications 

Breeders Crown champion Sayitall BB returns to harness racing action at The Meadowlands Friday, looking this year to be the talk of the division for older female pacers. The 4-year-old Sayitall BB will prep for the upcoming Blue Chip Matchmaker Series at Yonkers Raceway by competing in the Open Handicap for fillies and mares Friday at the Hilltop. She starts from post seven with driver George Brennan and is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line. Sayitall BB won 10 of 16 starts in 2014 and earned $519,910 for owners Burke Racing Stable and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. She captured five of her last six races, including the Breeders Crown for 3-year-old female pacers on Nov. 21 at the Meadowlands. She was supplemented to the Breeders Crown for $62,500. Trainer Ron Burke purchased Sayitall BB in October 2013 after the filly won her career debut by 4-1/2 lengths in 2:00.4 at Lebanon Raceway. She went 4-for-4 the remainder of the 2013 season in conditioned races at The Meadows. A daughter of stallion Tell All and mare Challo B B, Sayitall BB is a half-sister to million-dollar-earner Go On BB, who also raced for the Burke Stable. "We bought her off a maiden race at Lebanon and to think that we would supplement her to the Breeders Crown, I would have said never in a million years," co-owner Mark Weaver said. "But we did it and the fact that she won was pretty cool." Her connections hope there are many more wins in her future. Sayitall BB followed her Breeders Crown victory with a triumph in the Open Handicap for fillies and mares on Dec. 5 at Yonkers. She was the only 3-year-old in the field, winning from post six in 1:54.3 as the even-money favorite. The performance helped lead to Sayitall BB getting a chance to compete in the Matchmaker. "Yonkers is a funny track," Weaver said. "Some horses that we think can get around there do, and then some don't. We wanted to give her a shot. If she wouldn't have gotten around there, we probably would have brought her back in May when the bigger races came. But the fact she showed she could handle it, we figured we'd give her a mini-break and come back for the Matchmaker." Sayitall BB enjoyed two mini-breaks last year. She raced in January in the Blizzard Series at Woodbine before receiving a three-month layoff. When she returned, she raced eight times, winning four starts and finishing second in the Lynch Memorial and New Jersey Sire Stakes finals. With no other stakes events on her schedule, she got another three-month layoff before her season-ending string of races. "We could have raced her in the Opens, but it didn't really make sense," Weaver said. "It made more sense to give her some time and let her develop. She surely seemed to appreciate it. "In theory, I would think it would help her (coming back this year). But at the same time, Ronnie races and trains his horses as hard as anyone and they keep coming back, and he's had great success with the older horses. I don't think it could hurt that she had a break there, but it wouldn't have discouraged me if she did have a full year." Four-year-old mares have won three of the six Matchmaker Series finals, with two - Ginger And Fred and Rocklamation - coming from the Burke Stable. Rocklamation and Anndrovette tied for the 2014 Dan Patch Award for best older female pacer. Weaver thinks this year's race for the honor could be wide open, with 4-year-olds like Sayitall BB and 2014 Dan Patch Award-winning 3-year-old champ Color's A Virgin ready to enter the fray. "I think there's a chance where this year's 4-year-old class could be a factor in the division," Weaver said. "It's hard to pinpoint one thing (that stands out about Sayitall BB); I guess just the fact she knows how to win. She seems to do it any way. She's just tough. She brings it every week. She's a solid filly." by Ken Weingartner / Harness Racing Communications / USTA  

Harness racing trainer Shaun Vallee hopes Midnight Lightning is ready to strike in Saturday's second leg of the Buddy Gilmour Series for 3-year-old male pacers at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Midnight Lightning, trained and co-owned by Vallee, finished third in his opening-round division last weekend, beaten 3-3/4 lengths by undefeated Wiggle It Jiggleit in 1:51.2. This week, Midnight Lightning and driver Corey Callahan start from post one in the second of two $20,000 divisions. George Teague Jr.'s Wiggle It Jiggleit and Chris Ryder's National Seelster, who are both 3-for-3 this season, are in the first division. The estimated $75,000 Gilmour final is March 14. A son of Camluck out of the mare Twin B Intimate, Midnight Lightning has won one of six races this year and earned $10,920. He picked up his victory in a conditioned race at the Big M in his start prior to the Gilmour, coming home with a :26.1 final quarter in a 1:52 mile. "Other than the weather, he's been good," said Vallee, who owns Midnight Lightning with DPV Racing Stable. "If I could have him a little fitter I'd be happier about it. He's about 85 percent. He's got a good brush and he can sustain it a long way, but I think he'll be able to sustain it even further once he gets a little fitter." Midnight Lightning often has shown a burst of speed at some point in his races, but Vallee was unhappy with several of his starts earlier this season. After scoping the colt, he put Midnight Lightning on Lasix following his fourth race of the year. "After he raced his first start, he was very good, but the next couple starts he was flat and I was a little disappointed," Vallee said. "I put him on Lasix and he's been a completely different horse." Vallee purchased Midnight Lightning for $20,000 under the name Twin B Incentive at the 2013 Standardbred Horse Sale. He is a half-brother to Twin B Tenacious, who won on the New York Sire Stakes circuit last year. "He stood good, had a good demeanor, had a good head and neck to him," Vallee said. "And I didn't mind Camluck as a sire; they're very tough." Midnight Lightning raced only once at age 2, which was by design. "That's what I do with all my young horses," Vallee said. "I bring them to the races, let them see what they're supposed to do, and then turn them out. I give them time to mature. I never really race them as a 2-year-old." Dan Vlahakis, who races as DPV Racing Stable, has been an owner with Vallee and his wife Anita for nearly 25 years. "They're such great people," Vlahakis said. "You couldn't ask for a better team." Following the Gilmour Series, Vallee will look for other series opportunities for Midnight Lightning. "All the way training down I believed he had it," Vallee said. "He showed signs of being a nice horse. How nice, I wasn't sure at the time. But I think he'll be competitive in most of the series that he races in. He's a very nice horse." by Ken Weingartner / Harness Racing Communications / USTA  

Dan Dube is feeling good. As a result, the 45-year-old harness racing driver is doing good as well. Two years removed from back surgery to correct a sciatic nerve issue, Dube is the leading driver this season at Yonkers Raceway and entered Thursday needing only two wins to reach 8,000 for his career. Dube has won 65 races this year, with 64 coming at Yonkers, where he leads the raceway's defending driving champ, Jason Bartlett, by 22 victories. He is winning at a 24.5 percent clip at the Hilltop and is the only Yonkers regular with a win rate of better than 16 percent. He has won $771,770 in purses this year, trailing only Corey Callahan for the most in North America. "You have great drivers at Yonkers, but right now I'm just on a good run," Dube said. "I'm driving for some hot barns and driving good horses helps a lot. "So far this year everything I do seems to be right. Sometimes you can do nothing right, but this year everything is going the right way. That's fun." Dube said his success was "a little bit of both" feeling better physically and getting horse power. The Quebec native decided to have back surgery in January 2013 after winning 206 races the previous year. It was his second-lowest win total in more than two decades. He missed six weeks of action because of the surgery. "Back pain affects everything," Dube said. "It's tough to be focused. You're not comfortable. You can't sit right on the bike because you're in pain. It bothered me for a while, but I was scared of surgery because you never know what can happen. But I'm glad I did it. I'm glad it all went away." Dube received the Rising Star Award from the U.S. Harness Writers Association in 1997 and three years later was the regular driver of Horse of the Year Gallo Blue Chip. He also drove 2010 Horse of the Year Rock N Roll Heaven. Although he has no Grand Circuit-type horses on his radar now, Dube would welcome the chance to drive in some of harness racing's major stakes. "If somebody asks me to go with a good horse, for sure I'm going to go," said Dube, who among his top lifetime wins counts five Breeders Crowns. "It's fun to win races and it's always fun to win big races. It's a thrill." As he nears 8,000 career victories, Dube also is approaching $100 million in purses. He needs $4.29 million to surpass that plateau. But don't expect the soft-spoken Dube to readily know his stats. "It's good to have 8,000 (wins), but it's just a number," Dube said. "I never look at numbers, but it's good. I just hope to keep doing good." He added about his aversion to interviews, with a laugh, "I try to run away." "Even in French, I'm no good," Dube said. "I'm not a big talker. I like to keep quiet. That's just the way I am." Dube is happy racing at Yonkers, where he drives for a variety of trainers including Jimmy Takter, Scott DiDomenico, Rob Harmon and Rene Allard. "I got some good horses right away and it helps with everything," Dube said. "The trainers and owners have more confidence in you. I got off to a good start and it's kept going so far. Hopefully it keeps going." And everything keeps feeling good. by Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications

Columbus, OH --- In conjunction with and the 2015 World Harness Handicapping Championship, which will be held at the Meadowlands on Saturday (April 25), the United States Trotting Association announced the dates for its series of 10 free, online qualifying contests. The winner of each contest will be awarded a free entry into the WHHC final in New Jersey. Contestants can register and enter for free at starting on Tuesday (Feb. 17) at 9 a.m. The USTA qualifying series will feature racing from 10 different member tracks, with the first one scheduled for Friday (Feb. 27) with racing from WHHC host, The Meadowlands, starting at 7:15 p.m. (EST). Free Platinum Plus past performances will be provided for each contest by TrackMaster. The contest format will be the selection of one horse and an alternate, in case of a late scratch, for a $2 Win-Place wager on each race at the featured track that evening with all selections to be submitted prior to post time of the first race. There will be a limit of 1,500 players per contest. By entering, contestants agree to all the contest rules and regulations including: (1) Entries are limited to ONE (1) per person, PER HOUSEHOLD (this includes husband/wife teams--only ONE may play). Multiple entries from the same household will be disqualified upon conclusion of the contest. There are absolutely no exceptions to this policy. (2) Any activity by individuals or groups of players (e.g., group play, multiple tickets per family members, multiple tickets from the same computer, etc.) deemed to be made in an effort to gain an advantage or violate the ONE (1) entry per person/per household rule will be investigated and may result in the immediate disqualification of any or all individuals involved. Please note that IP addresses for all players are recorded. A complete listing of rules and regulations is available at Following is a schedule with featured racetracks for the 2015 USTA Free, Online WHHC Qualifying Series: Date--Track--Time (EST) Fri. (Feb. 27)--Meadowlands--7:15 p.m. Sat. (Feb. 28)--Balmoral Park--8:10 p.m. (7:10 p.m. CST) Sun. (March 1)--Cal Expo--7:50 p.m. (4:50 p.m. PST) Fri. (March 6)--Yonkers Raceway--7:10 p.m. Sat. (March 7)--Miami Valley Raceway--6:30 p.m.  Sun. (March 8)--Pompano Park--7:30 p.m. Fri. (March 13)--Maywood Park--8:10 p.m. (7:10 p.m. CST) Sat. (March 14)--Buffalo Raceway--6:35 p.m. Fri. (March 20)--Saratoga Raceway--6:45 p.m. Sat. (March 21)--Northville Downs--7:30 p.m. For more information on the 2015 World Harness Handicapping Championship at The Meadowlands on Saturday (April 25), click here. Ken Weingartner

Melady's Monet is painting a picture of success this winter at the Meadowlands and the 6-year-old trotter's connections hope his artistry continues into the upcoming stakes season. But no matter what decisions the horse's connections make in the future, they will be secondary to the choices that led to his present. Melady's Monet, who has won five of six starts since arriving at the Meadowlands in November and is the 4-5 morning line favorite in Friday's open handicap, is a son of stallion Revenue S out of the mare Keystone Melady. The mare was owned by Luca and Ester Balenzano when she suffered a career-ending fracture at Pompano Park two days before Christmas 2005. The injury was severe and veterinarians recommended euthanizing Keystone Melady, but Luca Balenzano wanted to try to save the mare. Keystone Melady underwent successful surgery and the Balenzanos decided to keep her as a broodmare. "She was special, she really was," Ester Balenzano said. "She would always give you everything she had every time she raced. We were told to put her down (following the accident) but Luca wouldn't stand for it. "It really is a miracle." The couple's first two breeding attempts resulted in one horse making it to the races, but little success. The Balenzanos were ready to give up on the idea, but friend Tom Faulhaber suggested breeding the mare to Revenue S. The result was Melady's Monet. "It was getting to the point where we said we were getting too old for this and maybe we should adopt her out, (but) we thought we'd give it one more shot," Ester said. "We were lucky enough to get (Melady's Monet). He is a blessing." Melady's Monet has won 24 of 88 career races and earned $420,183 for the Balenzanos' Melady Enterprises LLC. As a 3-year-old, then in the stable of trainer Taylor Gower, the trotter won the New Jersey Sire Stakes Green Acres championship at Freehold and in subsequent seasons found success in the open handicaps at Yonkers. In September, Melady's Monet arrived in the stable of trainer Kevin McDermott. In his first start for McDermott, the gelding finished second to Bee A Magician in a conditioned handicap at Harrah's Philadelphia, kicking off a string of 13 races in which he has finished worse than second only once. He established his career mark of 1:52 in November at the Big M. "Amy Allen at Gilcrest Training Center broke him for me," Ester said. "She did a fabulous job and from the very beginning she said to me that this is one special colt. "It's been unbelievable to see him blossom the way he has. Not that I ever had a doubt, but you never think your horse fits in with the upper open trotters. I know right now he's not racing with all the top-caliber trotters, but (driver) Tim Tetrick said he belongs with the best and we should stake him to the top races this year." The plan is to keep Melady's Monet near McDermott's base in New Jersey, but make the horse eligible to events such as the TVG Free For All Series, John Cashman Jr. Memorial and Crawford Farms Trot. "I want to keep him at home," Ester said. "I really don't want to ship him. I'm very protective of him. I don't just think of this year; I hope he's another Arch Madness. I want to race him until he's 8, 9, 10. I always tell Kevin, I want to protect this horse. "I plan on giving him a little time off in the spring. I want him to be fresh for the races that are coming up in the late spring and early summer." Melady's Monet enters Friday's open handicap off a three-length victory over Take My Picture in 1:55.1 on Jan. 30 at the Meadowlands. It was the horse's first start in 28 days, a layoff necessitated by a quarter crack. "The owners wanted to give him time and get him right," McDermott said. "He's been a different horse since. The owners deserve all the credit. They love this horse. They did right by saving the mare and they deserve what they got. "He's just an incredible horse." by Ken Weingartner, for Harness Racing Communications

Wiggle It Jiggleit has been just a little bit impressive in winning his only two career starts - beating his harness racing foes by a total of 18-1/4 lengths - but George Teague Jr. needs to see a little bit more from the 3-year-old pacer. "The horse is going to have to do more than that for me to be super impressed," Teague said with a laugh. "But he seems like a real nice horse. He's got a great set of lungs, a high rate of speed and he's a really, really intelligent horse. He's got all the qualities, he just has to stay sound, and get lucky." Teague, who owns and trains Wiggle It Jiggleit, will get a better look at the gelding in Saturday's first round of the Sonsam Series at the Meadowlands. Wiggle It Jiggleit, who was limited to one start last season because of soreness, faces a field of 4- and 5-year-olds in the event. He will start from post six with Montrell Teague handling the driving. Escort Series champion Company Man is also in the field, starting from post seven. A total of 20 horses, split into two divisions, entered the Sonsam's first round. Escort runner-up Major Uptrend is in the second division, starting from post eight. Wiggle It Jiggleit is the only 3-year-old in the first round of the event. The second leg of the Sonsam Series is scheduled for Feb. 14 and the estimated $75,000 final is Feb. 21. "It's going to be a little bit of a tall order to race against those horses, but I'm hoping it gives me an idea what I'm staking for," Teague said. "I think he's worthy of staking. He dealt with a little bit of colt soreness (last year) so I couldn't get a good gauge whether he was a top-tier colt or just a horse. So I'm starting him up a little early to try to get an idea." Wiggle It Jiggleit is a son of stallion Mr Wiggles out of the mare Mozzi Hanover. Teague owns both horses and raced both horses during their careers on the track. Mr Wiggles won the 2009 Hoosier Cup and finished second in the Breeders Crown and Adios. "I had the mom and dad, which makes it fun for me," Teague said. "Mr Wiggles to me was a very impressive racehorse. He had a couple issues that he overcame. I know he gave a hundred percent. He was always one of my favorites. Of all the horses I've had, he was one of the toughest horses that I put on the racetrack. "(Mozzi Hanover) was the favorite in her Lynch (Memorial) elimination, but she came up sick and had some issues of her own. But she was a very talented filly." Last year, Wiggle It Jiggleit won two qualifiers - by a total of 27-1/4 lengths - before capturing his debut by six lengths in 1:51.2 on Aug. 31 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. After sitting out the remainder of the campaign, the horse returned on Jan. 25 with a 1:52 victory at Dover Downs. "His first race was a very impressive race, I will say that," Teague said. "He came first over at Pocono and never dropped the bit. The other night was virtually the same. I knew I was heading to the Meadowlands so I wanted to tighten him up a little bit. He won and did it like he's supposed to." Teague could have continued to race Wiggle It Jiggleit last year, but didn't want to push it. "I didn't want to take any chances and end up hurting him for this year," he said. "It worked out good. I was able to put him away earlier, get him sounder, and get him back together early this year to see what I've got. He seems as good as some of the better horses I've trained in the past. "The game plan is not to do too much now. I want to give him three or four starts right now and see if he's good enough to stake to some of the other races. He reminds me of his dad. He appears to be a real serious horse." Teague's longtime assistant Clyde Francis, who co-owned Mozzi Hanover during her racing days, is listed as the trainer of Wiggle It Jiggleit for Saturday's start at the Meadowlands. "Clyde told me over the summer that this horse reminded him of some of the best horses we ever had," said Teague, who trains a stable of 25 horses, focused on homebreds, in Delaware. "He called it. He liked the horse from the beginning and I'd like to see him get a little recognition." Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications USTA

Harness racing driver Kevin Cummings enjoyed a career year in 2014 and shows no signs of slowing down this season as he approaches a milestone win total. The 44-year-old Cummings set lifetime bests with 334 wins and $1.55 million in purses last year and won the driving titles at both Batavia Downs and Buffalo Raceway. He has won multiple driving championships at each track, but 2014 marked the first time he captured both titles in the same year. So far this year, Cummings has 23 wins in 75 starts and leads the Buffalo Raceway standings by two victories over Billy Dobson. Cummings needs only seven victories to reach 3,000 for his career. A lifelong resident of Hamburg, N.Y., Cummings races exclusively at his hometown Buffalo Raceway and nearby Batavia Downs. He followed his father, trainer John Cummings Sr., into harness racing, as did his brothers John Jr., Anthony and Todd. Cummings recently took time to talk with Harness Racing Communications’ Ken Weingartner about his career, future and culinary talents. KW: Congratulations on all your success last year.  KC: Thank you. KW: What was the key to having such a big year? KC: I think driving live horses. I got off to a good start, and when you start out hot, people start putting you down (to drive). And it just stayed that way. I’ve never had a year like that. Three-hundred and 34 wins was a lot for as many drives as I had. I had a great year. KW: You race exclusively at Batavia and Buffalo. Have you considered going anywhere else? KC: I haven’t. I own a bunch of horses and I help train them. I have a family here (wife Rhonda and daughters Kristy, Kara, Kandice and Kali) and it’s hectic enough even with just these two places. I just don’t want to take that time away from family. For me, it just doesn’t seem like it’s worth it. If you go somewhere else, you have to break in. It would be harder for me to do that, I think. I don’t want to take that time away to try to establish something that I can’t really stay with anyway. KW: You’re seven wins from 3,000. What does that milestone mean to you? KC: It’s nice. I come from a family of drivers. My three brothers drove; two of them are still driving and the other one (Anthony) is just training. Me being the youngest and having the most wins, I kind of like that. It kind of gives me bragging rights at Thanksgiving and Christmas. KW: Do you make sure to bring it up? KC: Oh, yeah, absolutely. They don’t want to hear it, but I’m going to bring it up anyway. (Laughs.) When I was younger, they always brought stuff up to me, but now they don’t want to hear it. KW: Is driving something you always wanted to do? KC: Yeah. My dad got us all into it. It’s definitely what I wanted to do. I was probably 8 or 9 when I jogged a horse. I remember the first time I trained a horse to the bike I was 10. I went a mile in 2:09. I trained with my brother Todd, he’s a year older than I am, so it was pretty fun. KW: Do you remember your first win? KC: Yeah, it was with Orlando Otto in 1989. I had two (horses) in. My brother Anthony trained and drove those horses, but he put me on them. He was out of town. The one had the eight-hole and was like 80-1 and I finished second with him. He paid $77.20 to place; I remember that. The other one won and paid like $10 to win. Those were my second and third drives of my life. The first one I didn’t do any good with. KW: What do you most enjoy about driving? What keeps you going? KC: It’s still fun for me, even though I’ve been doing it for so long. I like the competition. I like the time with my dad, we talk about racing afterwards. It’s just in me. KW: Did you play other sports when you were growing up? KC: Baseball. I was a pretty good baseball player. I was a pretty good hitter. I played in high school and on rec teams. I’ve always been competitive. KW: You and your brothers opened a restaurant years ago. Do you still have it? KC: John and Tony originally opened it, then me and Tony owned it, then I owned it myself, and now Tony owns it with someone else. I had brought in a partner because I started getting back into the horses when the slots came into town and made the money better. I ended up selling the half that I owned back to Tony. KW: What type of restaurant is it? KC: Pizzeria. KW: Which is harder, working in the restaurant or working with horses? KC: Well, I like working with horses. I worked (at the restaurant) and I didn’t mind it. It wasn’t that bad. Obviously the restaurant is always nicer in the winter where I am. But in the summer you can’t beat jogging horses and racing horses. That’s ideal. KW: Are you a good cook? KC: I can cook a pizza for sure. KW: I think two of the most difficult things you can do are run a restaurant and run a stable, and you’ve done both. KC: They’re both time consuming. And it’s nonstop. The pizzeria closes only two or three days a year. Other than that, you’re married to it. When the opportunity came up to get back into the horses I jumped at it because my dad was still doing it. He was getting older and I wanted to help him. They say 10 years is about the limit for a guy in a pizzeria, and I was there 11 or 12 years. I was ready to move on. KW: What’s been the highlight of your career so far? KC: I would have to say, a few years back me and my dad owned an open horse together (named Arm And A Leg). For like three years he was like the best horse at the track. We had a lot of good memories from that horse. When I look back, I think of him. Also maybe the night I won the (2006) Kane Memorial with Michael Scores. He was a really good horse. KW: What do you see for the future? KC: I don’t plan on going anywhere. I don’t think the driving can get much better because I’m doing well right now. I’m happy with that because I know the business is up and down. It’s tough. You will have your downside so you’ve got to enjoy it while you’re there. The only thing that could get better is my stable of (eight) horses, but I had a decent year with them. You just have to take it all in stride. by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications

Some people win the Super Bowl and go to Disney World, or in the case of this year Disneyland. Harness racing owner Bill Dittmar Jr. is going back to the Meadowlands. Dittmar is the co-owner of 4-year-old trotter JL Cruze, who on Jan. 24 won the $50,000 Super Bowl Series final at the Big M. On Thursday the horse begins a second winter series at the Meadowlands, the Charles Singer Memorial for 3- and 4-year-old trotters. JL Cruze competes in the first of two opening-round divisions Thursday. The gelding will start from post No. 4, with driver John Campbell at the lines for trainer Eric Ell, in the seven-horse field. The second leg of the Singer is scheduled for Feb. 12 and the estimated $50,000 final is Feb. 21. Dittmar, who lives in Langhorne, Pa., and partners Stephen Iaquinta of Havertown, Pa., and Ken Wood of Denton, Md., bought JL Cruze for $37,000 at November's Standardbred Horse Sale Mixed Sale. The horse has won five of seven starts for his new owners, including three of four this year. The group purchased JL Cruze because he fit favorable non-winners conditions at Dover Downs, where the owners race frequently, and it was an added bonus the horse met the conditions for the Super Bowl, Singer Memorial, and Shiaway St Pat winter events at the Meadowlands. The Shiaway St Pat Series is in March. "He's in real good shape right now," Dittmar said about JL Cruze, who won the Super Bowl title by two lengths over Opulent Yankee in 1:54.4. "We had about 10 horses earmarked at the sale. As long as he fit into our price range, he was one of the ones we were looking for because he fit the (conditions) at Dover Downs, where we were looking for him to fit in. "It's worked out very well. We made him eligible to all three series (at the Meadowlands). We thought he would be very competitive in the Super Bowl, and we're hoping for the best in the next two." For his career, JL Cruze has won eight of 21 races and $73,847. In his five starts prior to November's sale, all at Vernon Downs, the son of Crazed-Topcat Hall posted one win, two seconds and two thirds. "He was coming on right before we got him, and John Campbell liked him," Dittmar said. "Once Eric got ahold of him, he thought he had potential." Dittmar, who works as an insurance inspector, grew up near Liberty Bell Park and started owning harness racing horses in the 1980s. "I used to go over to Liberty Bell a couple nights a week," Dittmar said. "That's how I got into it. I bought a horse with a couple guys and we had some success. It got in our blood real quick." One of Dittmar's top recent horses was Anders Bluestone, who won the 2011 Maxie Lee Memorial final over Buck I St Pat and Corleone Kosmos at Harrah's Philadelphia. Dittmar and Wood still own the horse, who now stands as a stallion in Delaware. Dittmar hopes JL Cruze can follow in Anders Bluestone's footsteps on the racetrack. JL Cruze is the 6-5 morning line favorite in his Singer division, which also includes Opulent Yankee, who is 8-5. Blocking The Way, who finished third in the Super Bowl final, is the 5-2 favorite in the second division. That split also includes Super Bowl fourth-place finisher Propulsion (3-1) and fifth-place finisher Two Hip Dip (4-1). Walk The Walk, who did not compete in the Super Bowl, is 7-2. In the Super Bowl final, JL Cruze raced on the outside through an opening quarter of :28.4 and half of :56.1 before getting the lead from Two Hip Dip. Opulent Yankee, who handed JL Cruze his only loss this year in the second round of the series, got into second place on the last turn but was unable to make up ground in the stretch. "We thought (JL Cruze) would be better racing from behind, but his last two starts it hasn't worked out," Dittmar said. "The first quarter in the final went real slow and we kind of got stuck out there, so he had to push on. We still think he would probably be better off chasing horses, but we've got to take what they give us." While the connections are focused on the Singer and Shiaway St Pat series, they will have to decide by Feb. 17 whether to nominate JL Cruze to the Graduate Series for 4-year-old trotters. The three-leg series concludes with a $250,000 final on July 11 at the Meadowlands. "We've got a couple weeks to look at that," Dittmar said. "You're going to have better horses there. That's a tough call. Now you're investing a little more money. Other than that, we haven't looked that far yet because we didn't really expect him to be where he is. You just never know sometimes." Ken Weingartner / Harness Racing Communications / USTA

Columbus, OH --- The United States Trotting Association has announced that the next meeting of its Television Committee will take place by conference call on Wednesday (Feb. 11). The committee was tasked last year with investigating the feasibility of a national broadcast campaign and delivering recommendations to the USTA Board of Directors upon completion. The harness racing group most recently met in late October. The committee is chaired by Dan Leary, the USTA's director of marketing and communications, and is composed of members Ivan Axelrod (USTA chairman of the board), Alex Dadoyan (Standardbred Owners Association of New York), Kevin Decker (The Meadows), Moira Fanning (Hambletonian Society), Sam McKee (Meadowlands), Chris Schick (Cal Expo), and Mike Tanner (USTA executive vice president). USTA President Phil Langley believes that the committee should and will be aggressive and open-minded in investigating various options that would increase harness racing's visibility. "Obviously, there are financial challenges that preclude the USTA from funding on its own a multi-race, national schedule of televised race broadcasts," said Langley. "The money just isn't there to do what The Jockey Club has sponsored for the past few years. "But all of the new research out there indicates that more people, especially the younger ones the sport would love to attract, are getting their news and entertainment via online platforms. I think that there's a real possibility there, from both a cost and exposure standpoint. It's like hockey. You don't go to where the puck was. You play where the puck is going." Nonetheless, Langley quickly points out that the USTA has funding available to assist those member racetracks that plan to televise their biggest, most prestigious races. "We, along with several other industry groups and individuals, gave money to the Meadowlands for the past several years to get the Hambletonian on television and plan to do the same in 2015. We also sent $25,000 to the Little Brown Jug last year that helped fund that race's live broadcast. But our executive committee also approved a budget line item that would have the USTA provide partial funding for other races, too. We would love to help racetracks help themselves in enabling top events like the International Trot, Meadowlands Pace, Dan Patch Invitational, or Kentucky Futurity, for example, to be broadcast." Langley asks that all such applications be received at the USTA offices by the end of February so that proper consideration of each request can be given in advance of discussion at the annual USTA Board of Directors meeting, which will take place this year from March 14-16 at the Hilton Columbus Easton hotel in Columbus, Ohio. All requests should contain details concerning the promotion of each respective broadcast, including any advertising, additional sponsors, and/or social media tie-ins. from the USTA Communications Department  

Freehold, NJ --- Harness racing trainer Erv Miller hopes Manofmanymission’s younger brother is growing ready to take on the assignment of facing stakes-level trotters. Team Six, a 5-year-old son of stallion Yankee Glide out of the mare Armbro Vanquish, has won 12 of 35 career races and earned $136,300 so far in his career. He is a full brother to Manofmanymissions, who also was trained by Miller and won the 2010 Breeders Crown for 2-year-old male trotters and the 2011 Kentucky Futurity on his way to $1.21 million in lifetime earnings. Last week, Team Six won the B1/A1 Handicap at the Meadowlands by a half-length over Lindy’s Tru Grit in 1:53.1 at odds of 50-1. Appomattox, the favorite, was third and Spider Blue Chip fourth. On Friday, Team Six and driver Marcus Miller will start from post five in the Classified/FFA Handicap at the Big M. The field also includes Modest Prince, Odds On Amethyst, Coffeecake Hanover, Take My Picture, Lindy’s Tru Grit and Melady’s Monet. “He’s in pretty good company right now, so we’ll have to see how he gets along,” Miller said about Team Six, who was purchased for $200,000 at the 2011 Lexington Selected Sale. “That’s why we kept him, because we hoped he would come on to be an aged trotter; that he could compete at the stakes level against older competition. “Off and on he shows that kind of ability. I think he’s just coming into his own a little bit right now.” Team Six was unraced at age 2 and won three of 13 starts at 3. Last season, he won seven of 19 races and established his career mark of 1:52.4. “He’s starting to come around, I hope,” Miller said. “He’s a pretty heavy horse. Hopefully as he gets a little older, he’ll get along a little better. “He stays a lot sounder now than he did as a young horse. As a younger horse we had a little trouble keeping him sound. I think (being a heavier horse) was part of it. I think that’s what kept him from being a good 2-year-old. He was just a little too immature, a little too heavy boned, to really develop good as a young horse.” Team Six is owned by Peggy Hood, Mystical Marker Farms, Paymaq Racing and Jorgen Jahre Jr., which is some of the same group that ownedManofmanymissions. “We had good luck with that horse and those guys wanted to take a shot at the same family,” Miller said. “I’m pretty optimistic that (Team Six) could come on and be a bit of a stakes horse for us. He’s not the kind of horse that has to have a perfect trip, although that’s what he got last week. But he’s a big strong horse where I think he can endure a little work.” Miller knows Team Six will have to raise his game to compete at the top level in the older trotting division, but he’s hopeful the horse can find a place among that group. “There’s room for them if you’ve got one that’s good enough,” Miller said. Now it’s up to Team Six to accept that mission. By Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications

Purchased for $250,000 at the 2012 Lexington Selected Sale, the 4-year-old trotter was unraced at age 2 because of immaturity, but has won five of his last eight starts dating back to August. He is 2-for-2 this season, with both victories coming in the preliminary rounds of the Super Bowl Series for 3- and 4-year-old trotters at the Meadowlands. Propulsion will start Saturday's $50,000 Super Bowl final from post one with driver Tim Tetrick. He is part of an entry with Blocking The Way and Opulent Yankee - a group that has been tabbed the 4-5 morning line favorite. "He's a horse we always had high hopes for, he just was really immature and needed some time," said Alagna, who trains Propulsion for owners Brittany Farms, Joe Sbrocco, Jeff Gural's Little E LLC, and the partnership of Marvin Katz, Al Libfeld and Sam Goldband. "Spending (a lot) of money doesn't guarantee they'll be good right away -- or ever -- but he's a very high-speed horse. He had some minor growing pains and it just took him a little while to put it all together. He reminds me a lot of (late stakes-winner) Modern Family as a young horse. He's got a lot of potential." Propulsion flashed that potential in October when he beat stakes-winner Odds On Amethyst by 1-1/2 lengths in 1:52.3 in a late closer at The Red Mile. A son of stallion Muscle Hill out of the 2007 Hambletonian Oaks-winning Danae, Propulsion (originally named Deyrolle) is a half-brother to stakes-winner D'Orsay and his famly also includes 1974 Horse of the Year, and successful broodmare, Delmonica Hanover. "After he won at Lexington, we knew this series was coming up, so we thought it would be a good place to get him back started on his 4-year-old career," Alagna said. "We shut him down so he would fit the series (conditions) and I think a lot of people keep these series in mind in the fall when they're deciding whether to go on or stop." Propulsion, who has won five of 10 career starts and earned $43,790, also is eligible to the Charles Singer Memorial Series and Shiaway St Pat Series at the Meadowlands. If all goes well, the horse could then head to the Graduate Series for 4-year-old trotters, which features three preliminary rounds followed by a $250,000 final. "He has the potential to be a Grand Circuit horse, he really does," Alagna said. "That's why these series are great for a horse like him because he can go through these three series at the Meadowlands and then have a little bit of a break and maybe go into that new Graduate Series. "It gives him a lot of nice starts against his own kind before he'd ever have to go against the better horses. But he'll have an opportunity and hopefully everything will go that way." Propulsion faces a tough group in the Super Bowl final. Opulent Yankee, who starts from post 10, also won both his preliminary races in the series. Other division winners JL Cruze, Two Hip Dip and Blocking The Way drew posts four through six, respectively. "I think it's a very tough series," Alagna said. "We've been tinkering with him a little, making some adjustments with him every start, and hopefully he'll be at his best for the final." Saturday's card at the Meadowlands also features the $56,000 Escort Series final for 3- and 4-year-old male pacers and the $47,600 Worldly Beauty Series final for 3- and 4-year-old female pacers. The Worldly Beauty, on paper, shapes up as a showdown between Alagna's Witch Dali and Ron Burke's Donttellruss. Last week, Witch Dali had a five-race win streak snapped by Donttellruss, who posted a one-length victory in 1:51.3. Witch Dali, a daughter of Dali out of Whitesand Gem, missed nearly all of last season because of a foot issue. She returned in December and swept the Niagara Series at Woodbine, capturing the final in a series-record 1:51.2. "She had a foot issue that wouldn't resolve itself, so we just waited on her," said Alagna, who owns the 4-year-old mare with Brad Grant. "We just took our time and did the right thing by her, and she's paying us back so far. "She's been fantastic. She cut the mile (last week) and Donttellruss sat on her back and beat her, but it was more so the fact our mare was hot the other night. It's the first time she's really been overly aggressive and we made some changes on her this week for the final and I think she'll bounce right back. She came out of the race good and we're in good shape." Donttellruss will start the Worldly Beauty final from post six with driver Corey Callahan and is the 6-5 morning line favorite. Witch Dali will leave from post 10 with Tetrick and is the 9-5 second choice. By Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications/USTA    

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