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Jeff Gillis has no complaints about Will Take Charge’s 2018 harness racing season, a campaign that saw the gelding finish fifth on the money list for older trotters, but he also believes it could have been better. Will Take Charge, who makes his 2019 debut in Saturday’s open handicap at Yonkers Raceway, won nine of 26 races last year and earned $469,535. His victories included the Maxie Lee Memorial in a world-record-equaling performance and the Crawford Farms Open Trot, but he won only once in his final 10 starts and finished off the board in five of six Grand Circuit finals during that span. “It’s hard to complain about the overall money he made,” said Gillis, who trains Will Take Charge and joined Mac Nichol in ownership of the horse last fall. “I did feel that he went off form at an inopportune time. Maybe it was in part due to less than ideal management. He raced through last winter and it maybe caught up with him late in the year. “If he could have maintained his form from August through the end of the year, I think he would have made substantially more money. We’ve rested him up and we’re looking to build on that this year.” Will Take Charge will enter Saturday’s race off a four-month respite. Prior to the layoff, the gelding had made at least one start in a month from May 2017 through November 2018. Nichol purchased the horse in November 2017. He was previously trained by John Bax and was runner-up in the Ontario Sire Stakes championships at ages 2 and 3. For his career, Will Take Charge has won 21 of 76 races and earned $900,436. Will Take Charge will start from post six in a field of eight Saturday with Tim Tetrick in the sulky. The gelding prepped for his seasonal bow with two qualifiers, winning in 1:58 on March 7 at Woodbine Mohawk Park and winning in 1:57.1 on March 15 at Yonkers. “He seems to have come back quite well,” Gillis said. “He put on a little weight over the winter. He wintered at Kentuckiana Farms in Kentucky and they did a great job with him. He’s looking the part. I was happy with his two qualifiers, they were kind of right on target. I’m excited to have him back in to go.” Gillis said Will Take Charge’s first stakes test will be the Arthur J. Cutler Memorial on May 4 at the Meadowlands. “I feel like we’ll be right up there near the top; at least that’s the plan,” Gillis said about the upcoming campaign in the division. “He’s as handy as a shirt pocket. He can leave with the car, you can take him off, he comes off cover well, he won the Maxie Lee first up. He’s just a very, very versatile horse. And he likes to race. He’s got a good attitude; he enjoys life. There is nothing not to like about him.” Saturday’s card at Yonkers also includes six second-round divisions of the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series. Winners from the first round were Anythingforlove A, Ideal Jimmy, More The Better N, Rodeo Rock, The Wall, and Western Fame. The Levy and companion Blue Chip Matchmaker Series, which is Friday for older female pacers, both feature five preliminary rounds followed by added-money finals April 20. For Saturday’s complete entries, click here. Racing begins at 6:50 p.m. (EDT).   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association

Jim Campbell knows stakes-winner Alexa's Power will face a challenge this year at age 4, leaving the age-restricted ranks to take on the best older female pacers in the sport, but the harness racing trainer believes his mare has a temperament that could help her along. "She's got that feisty, racing attitude to her, and she likes to race," Campbell said. "I think those are pretty good qualities to help her make that transition. But it's a very tough group, probably as tough as there's been in a long, long time. "The toughest part for them is coming back at 4 and making that transition. She needs to get some racing and see what she can do." Alexa's Power starts to get that racing Friday at the Meadowlands, where she kicks off her 4-year-old season in the preferred handicap for fillies and mares. She faces eight rivals, including 2018 Golden Girls winner Divas Image, who is the 2-1 morning-line favorite. Alexa's Power, with Marcus Miller in the sulky, is 6-1. Last year, Alexa's Power won multiple Grand Circuit stakes, including the Jugette and Lismore Pace. She won nine of 20 races, hit the board a total of 17 times, and ranked fourth in divisional earnings with $469,363. The three horses that finished ahead of her in purses have either a Dan Patch or O'Brien award to their credit: Kissin In The Sand, Youaremycandygirl, and Percy Bluechip. "I was very happy with her," Campbell said. "She's such a nice filly to race because she gives you a good effort every time you put her out there. And she's just a real nice horse to be around, too. She's one that you love having in the barn." Alexa's Power, a daughter of Somebeachsomewhere out of the O'Brien Award-winning mare Michelle's Power, is owned by breeder Jeff Snyder and his son Michael. She is a full sister to stakes-winner Mac's Jackpot and her family also includes Canada's 2012 Horse of the Year Michael's Power as well as Hall of Famer Cam's Card Shark. Alexa's Power The mare prepped for Friday's race with two qualifiers at the Meadowlands. She finished fifth in the first and fourth in the second, beaten 1-1/4 lengths. "She bled a little bit in her second qualifier, so we put her on Lasix; it will be her first start on Lasix," Campbell said. "But other than that, she's come back good. "We were thinking of the (Blue Chip Matchmaker Series) for her, but bleeding and not getting off on the right foot, that was going to be pretty tough. We're just going to get her a few overnights and see where she's at and go from there. She's staked up. We'll go race to race and see how she is and go from there." Racing begins at 7:15 p.m. (EDT) Friday at the Meadowlands. The card also includes a preferred handicap for trotters, where Sutton is the morning-line favorite (2-1) over Trolley (5-2). Sutton handed Trolley his only loss in five races this season on March 8. Trolley defeated Sutton in his seasonal debut on Feb. 22. For Friday's complete entries, click here. Ken Weingartner

No matter what she does, Kristina Smith carries the memory of her grandmother with her. Smith's horses always will too. Smith, the 21-year-old daughter of trainer Randy Smith, lost her grandmother, Linda Jean Nelson, to cancer in 2015. Nelson was an inspiration to Kristina on multiple levels, including around the horses and on the racetrack. Nelson was an accomplished horsewoman, even setting the track record for trotting under saddle at Scarborough Downs in the 1970s. So when Smith began her own training career earlier this year, it was important for her to honor her grandmother and the contributions she made to her life. Smith decided her horses would race in pink equipment, including a Buxton with Nelson's name on it, in memory of her grandmother. Twelve days ago, an 8-year-old pacer named Uppercutz went onto the track at Miami Valley Raceway wearing that equipment and gave Smith her first win as a trainer. photo -Kristina Smith "My grandmother meant the world to me," Smith said. "She helped my dad raise me and she was always there for me, even when she was sick. We lost her too soon. There was so much more she could have taught me, not only with the horses but about life and being a good person because she was a prime example. I wouldn't be where I am and who I am if it wasn't for her and for that I keep her legacy alive." Smith grew up in New England, where her dad started his stable when she was 3. She now lives near Columbus, Ohio, where she works for trainer Sandy Beatty and has her own one-horse racing stable plus a retired Standardbred owned previously by her grandmother that is now a riding horse. The trotter, Blue Boy Yankee, is no stranger to having someone on his back --- Smith raced him under saddle in 2014 and 2015. Smith was unaware of her grandmother's under-saddle exploits when she began riding but was happy to discover the connection. "I think it's meaningful to follow in her footsteps," Smith said. She also is following in her father's footsteps, and in the case of Uppercutz's victory, beating him. Randy's horse A List finished third in the same race. "Everyone was teasing him," Smith said, laughing. "But he said if he had to lose to someone he would rather lose to his daughter." Randy found Uppercutz for his daughter, who claimed the gelding out of a race in Maine. Not surprisingly, she rides the pacer as part of his training regimen. The horse has raced eight times for Smith and posted a win and two seconds. "I take him trail riding; I have a blast with him," Smith said. "He doesn't want to stay on the track to jog. He'll jog for about 10 minutes and try to run off the track. I've learned it's easier to ride him because he enjoys that more than jogging in a jog cart. He seems to be a horse that likes the one-on-one attention." Uppercutz winners circle                 -photo Brad Conrad Smith does not intend to train horses on a fulltime basis. Whatever success Uppercutz enjoys on the track, Smith plans to use the profits to go to equine dentistry school. "For the time being, just having one is good," Smith said. "I've always wanted to have my own smaller stable. I probably wouldn't want to have more than three racehorses plus the riding horse. The smaller the better. It's very time consuming to do everything the right way. I'd rather have a smaller stable and have every horse get the attention they need. I was always told quality is better than quantity." No matter what she does, Smith will continue to use the lessons she learned from her grandmother and father along the way. "I was definitely very fortunate to have them to teach me," Smith said. "My dad would always say to me growing up, 'I just want you to be the best you can be.' That's what I strive to do. I know my grandmother looks over me and I want her to be proud."   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com  

Columbus, OH - The U.S. Trotting Association announced Tuesday (March 19) the launch of the USTA Chip ID app to utilize with Universal Worldscan Reader Plus microchip readers from Merck/HomeAgain®. The USTA Chip ID app can be downloaded from iTunes (Apple) and Google Play (Android) by searching "USTA Chip ID." Paired with a HomeAgain® Universal WorldScan Reader Plus microchip scanner, this App will rapidly identify horses that are registered with the USTA. Scanning the horse's microchip with a paired scanner and the App open will return the horse's name, year of foaling, color, sex, sire and dam. Once the app is installed, the Bluetooth functionality of the Universal HomeAgain® WorldScan Reader Plus microchip scanner must be paired with the device. The app provides explicit directions on this procedure. After logging in with Pathway/My Account credentials and connectivity is established, the chip can be scanned. For users without an account, the app allows for easy registration to obtain one. Once a horse is identified, the app provides direct access to Pathway, the USTA's statistical database, with its basic horse information as well as the menu of performance, pedigree and breeding reports for that horse. Last April, the USTA announced an innovative collaboration with Merck Animal Health and HomeAgain® to be the organization's sole microchip provider. The technology allows for a quicker, safer and more accurate identification process versus freeze branding. Additionally, the scanning feature instantly measures equine body temperature. The USTA is the first horse registry to formally incorporate temperature scanning into their microchip identification program. This significant health-related information can be a sentinel for contagious and potentially fatal equine diseases such as Equine Herpes Virus 1 and Equine Herpes Virus Myeloencephalopathy (EHM). The USTA will microchip around 9,000 foals annually, as well as another 25,000 older racehorses, stallions, and broodmares. Foals can be swiftly microchipped in the neck at an early age with minimal pain -- microchipping appears to be less painful and more efficient than the current freeze branding method. Beginning with the foal crop of 2019, the primary means of USTA horse identification will be the microchip and by 2021, all horses that race in the U.S. at all USTA member tracks (including county fairs) will be required to be identified with a microchip. All USTA extended pari-mutuel racetracks will be equipped with readers to identify horses and county fair officials that will be responsible for identifying horses will be required to have them as well. For more information on the new USTA Chip ID app and microchipping, visit http://members.ustrotting.com/microchipping.cfm or contact USTA member services at memberservices@ustrotting.com or call toll free at (877) 800-USTA (8782).   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com

Columbus, OH - Following the U.S. Trotting Association's 2019 Board of Directors Annual Meeting held March 8-11 in Columbus, OH, the USTA's Call to Action Subcommittee issued the following announcement regarding the issue of harness racing hidden trainers on Thursday (March 14). At the Call to Action Subcommittee meeting on Friday night (March 8) the committee updated their plan regarding the initiative to prohibit hidden trainers from continuing to ply their unethical trade by using program trainers (commonly referred to as "beard" trainers) when that hidden trainer is banned from being licensed or has been suspended. "The essence of the beard trainer problem is that trainers currently under suspension or whose license has been denied are conducting business as usual, they are making a mockery out of the industry," said Call to Action Committee Chairman Mark Loewe. "Currently, we have to rely on the state regulators and licensing is their only tool to combat this problem." "It is important to note that beard trainers are cooperating in a scheme to defraud the regulators and the public, so they are also culpable," added Loewe. USTA Director and Subcommittee member Joe Faraldo previously presented the concept of "regulatory discovery" to end this unethical practice. Essentially, regulatory discovery requires suspected beard trainers to provide a series of documents to regulators, who could examine the flow of money and other communication to ascertain they are just acting as a shill for the hidden, unlicensed trainer. If so, the beard trainer would also be suspended or have his or her license application rejected. "It is important to note that this process is not expensive for the regulators because it requires no additional detectives or other investigatory expense" explained USTA President Russell Williams. "And it should also be noted that it is very likely that it won't be necessary to get every commission to adopt regulatory discovery or to catch every beard trainer. A few prosecutions will go a long way," added Williams. The USTA first presented the regulatory discovery concept at Association of Racing Commissioners International meetings in Omaha, NE last July, and will pursue it to a conclusion. As a result, the proposal was assigned to an ARCI subcommittee for further consideration. The committee determined that they will submit it again for discussion at the ARCI meeting scheduled for August 8-10 in Saratoga Springs, NY. The USTA is also prepared to take the concept directly to regulators, track operators and horsemen's organizations. In fact, Faraldo indicated that the policy has already been implemented at Yonkers Raceway, where he is the president of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York. At this year's Call to Action Subcommittee meeting, the committee drafted three proposals regarding guidelines for regulatory discovery to be distributed to racing commissions, racetracks, and horsemen's associations, respectively. In addition, the USTA is also looking at its own licensing and membership structure to determine whether it can act as an association to implement regulatory discovery. Ken Weingartner

Harness racing driver Cory Stratton will be in the sulky Saturday (March 16) at Meadowlands Racetrack, but it is a seat he plans to take less often as he focuses on building his own training stable. The 26-year-old Stratton, the younger brother of driver Jordan Stratton, started his barn in 2018 after spending several years helping manage other stables and working for other trainers. He has 10 horses and is based at the Mark Ford Training Center, not far from his Middletown, N.Y., home. Stratton was the Monticello-Goshen chapter of the U.S. Harness Writers Association's Amateur Driver of the Year in 2010 and its Rising Star Award winner in 2012. He was driving at Monticello Raceway this year but stopped last month to focus on training. "I enjoy driving, but it came down to turning down more horses or giving up Monticello," Stratton said. "I just enjoy training more. I enjoy working with them all week and when they do well you know you've accomplished something. It's nice to see your horses do good." Stratton was working for trainer Travis Alexander when he decided to branch out. Another conditioner, Peter Tritton, helped Stratton get started by recommending him to an owner that had asked Tritton to train one of his pacing mares. "I didn't want to extend my stable," Tritton said. "I said (Stratton) would do a really good job. He's a hard worker. I know he's got ability. I told people I think he's worth a chance. He's young and keen and he does the work himself. It's always good to help the young people in the sport. I'd recommend him to anyone looking for a trainer." The 7-year-old mare sent to Stratton, Best Of Jenna, won eight of 25 races with him last season and has added two more victories this year. "She's kind of a nice mare," said Indiana's Jacob Graber, who helped his son, Mark, find Best Of Jenna's new trainer. "She's had some issues; she's hard to deal with. I didn't know Cory from Adam, but (Tritton) told me Cory would do a good job. He told me that if Cory can't get the job done nobody else will, and he was right. We're very pleased with Cory. There are other people in my area that notice that too. Cory is a nice guy and his brother Jordan is too. They're very nice people." Stratton credited his dad, Dave, brother Jordan, Tritton and Alexander as influences on his career. "I was happy working for Travis, it was good to work under him, but everybody wants to be their own boss," Stratton said. "When the opportunity came up I wasn't passing it up. "My dad was a really good trainer so I learned a lot from him. Peter Tritton has helped me out. He is one of my go-tos and he's a great guy as well. Having Jordan drive for me has definitely helped as well. Without him I wouldn't be where I am." Stratton won 17 of 66 training starts last year and $191,441 in purses. He entered Thursday with five wins in 34 races this season. "I'd like to keep growing, keep succeeding and doing well," Stratton said. "Mark Graber is a great owner and he really helped me. Without Peter Tritton and him getting me going again it would have been difficult. They sent me some quality horses. "Obviously it would be nice to have some stakes horses down the road or some sire stakes. But I'm happy just racing at the big tracks and doing well. I'm hands on, I work with the horses every day. I race them where they can win, in the right conditions. I'm not afraid to ship them around if I have to. If they're not racing good somewhere, I'm not afraid to take them somewhere else and freshen up their attitude. I'm not afraid to try things." Stratton will drive Swift As A Shadow, a horse he co-owns, on Saturday at the Meadowlands. He starts from post 10. "The horse drew the 10 hole, but he's been razor sharp," Stratton said. "He kicks home good, so I'll hope that the cover flow is good and he'll sprint home pretty good." On Friday (March 15) at the Big M, 5-year-old pacer On Cruise Control makes his second start for Stratton after arriving from Canada. The horse is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line in a GSY Amateur Series event. "He wasn't that great in his first start, but he was off a couple weeks," Stratton said. "He should be all right in there. I don't see why he can't do good. It could be a pretty good weekend." Regardless of what happens this weekend, Stratton is happy with his career decision. "I'm loving it," he said. "I'm enjoying the ride. Hopefully it never ends." Ken Weingartner

Ken Jacobs bought Somebaddude in January for two purposes - to shake from the winter doldrums while waiting for the harness racing stakes season to arrive and to have a horse to race in the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series at Yonkers Raceway. Jacobs has never had a horse in the Levy, but the "Dude" will change that Saturday. Somebaddude, trained by Linda Toscano, was among 47 older male pacers entered in this weekend's opening round of the six-week-long Levy, with the group divided into six $50,000 divisions. Somebaddude, who is one of only four 4-year-olds in the first leg, will start from post two in the second division. The Levy fields also include past champion Bit Of A Legend N (third division) and fellow 2018 finalists Somewhere In LA, Mach It So, Dr J Hanover, Western Fame (all in the first division) and Rockin Ron (second division). Jacobs, a longtime leading owner in New York with scores of Grand Circuit and state-bred stakes wins to his credit, bought Somebaddude for $90,000 at the Tattersalls January Select Mixed Sale at the Meadowlands. The gelding has won one of five races this year and finished second twice, including a runner-up finish in a conditioned race at Yonkers last month. "In January I was getting claustrophobic with all the snow and I bought two horses," Jacobs said, laughing. "I also bought a trotter from Finland, Whether Or Not. I bought Dude to put in the Levy. I don't know if he can beat the Levy type, but I figured I could have some fun and I've never had one in the Levy. It was kind of my goal to get one in there. "I'm having fun with both horses, I really am. It's nice to have something going that you can be proud of racing in the winter. I wanted to have something racing in the winter because it's a long wait for (the 2-year-olds). This gives me something to get excited about." Whether Or Not, a 5-year-old gelding by Cantab Hall, has won four of five races this season, all at Yonkers. Somebaddude is a son of Somebeachsomewhere out of New Album and his full brother The Wall also is competing in the Levy. For his career, Somebaddude has won seven of 36 races and earned $119,505. He was a two-time runner-up in the Kindergarten Classic Series at age 2 and has found his best form in the past several months. His 1:53.2 win at Harrah's Philadelphia on Dec. 16 caught Jacobs' eye and the gelding followed it with a 1:50.4 victory at the Meadowlands on Dec. 29, his final start prior to the Tattersalls sale. "I thought I could get him fairly cheap because he hadn't done a heck of a lot," Jacobs said. "But I knew they had just (gelded) him and he did a turnaround. "When he raced at the Meadowlands in December I was hoping he would come in second; unfortunately he won," he continued, adding with a laugh, "That cost me probably around $20,000, but I bought him anyway." Ken Jacobs The Levy and companion Blue Chip Matchmaker Series, which begins Friday for older female pacers, both feature five preliminary rounds followed by added-money finals April 20. A horse receives 25 points each time she or he races in a preliminary round. Points are also awarded based on finish, with 50 points for a win, 25 for second, 12 for third, eight for fourth, and five for fifth. "He's a 4-year-old going against aged horses," Jacobs said about Somebaddude. "There are a lot of good horses in there. We're going to see if we can get a couple checks and see where we end up. He just tries all the time. He's a nice little horse." Ken Weingartner

Medusa is revved up and ready to go. The harness racing 8-year-old pacing mare is set for her fourth appearance in the upcoming Blue Chip Matchmaker Series at Yonkers and will look to continue her good fortune in the event, which included a second-place finish in the 2017 final. "You always wonder, especially with a mare at her age, that when you shut her down the engine might not start back up," said trainer Randy Bendis, who co-owns Medusa with Pollack Racing. "But she really came back great. She's fresh and ready to go." A total of 35 mares entered Friday's opening round of the Matchmaker and were divided into five $40,000 divisions. Medusa races in the first, which also includes millionaire Newborn Sassy. New Zealand-bred star Shartin, the 2018 Dan Patch Award winner for best older female pacer and defending Matchmaker champion, is in the fifth division. For her career, Medusa has won 37 of 132 races and earned $881,743. She has spent much of her career competing at The Meadows and Yonkers, with nearly half of her career appearances coming at The Hilltop. Medusa has won 10 of 61 races at Yonkers, hit the board a total of 32 times, and earned a paycheck in 55. "She's got near world-class ability, especially on a half," Bendis said. "Her ability to get around four turns is what will keep her a factor this year. She is just a great half-miler. Shartin is just better than everybody, but she fits with the rest of them. On a half, a lot of it is the draw. If you get a good string drawing you can make a lot of money real quick." Pollack and Bendis, who is based in western Pennsylvania, bought Medusa at the beginning of her 5-year-old season in January 2016. Since then, she has produced three consecutive seasons with earnings between $206,444 and $246,691. "She's a warhorse now," said New York-based trainer Ed Hart, who conditions Medusa for Bendis when the mare is racing at Yonkers. "She's just a big, strong, good-looking mare. She's been doing it for many years. You can leave, you can take her off; she's just a versatile mare. You wish you had a barn full of them. Take care of her and she'll do the rest." The Matchmaker and companion George Morton Levy Memorial series, which begins Saturday for older male pacers, both feature five preliminary rounds followed by added-money finals April 20. A horse receives 25 points each time she or he races in a preliminary round. Points are also awarded based on finish, with 50 points for a win, 25 for second, 12 for third, eight for fourth, and five for fifth. Sell A Bit N, a two-time Matchmaker runner-up, also is among this year's group along with millionaire Mach It A Par. "It's a very tough series," Hart said. "She loves Yonkers, she loves the half; I think she should be fine with a little bit of luck." Following last year's Matchmaker, Medusa finished second to Shartin in the Chip Noble Memorial at Miami Valley Raceway before focusing on the top-level overnights for fillies and mares at The Meadows and Yonkers. Bendis is looking at a similar schedule this season. "I think she can go with the better mares early," Bendis said. "I think it would be a lot to expect of her in July and August on the big tracks to go with them. If we can get the first part of the stakes season, I think that's what we can ask of her. "Ed has done a wonderful job with her. She will probably stay (at Yonkers) for as long as it works. It sure has worked recently for us there." Medusa is a daughter of Bettor's Delight out of Mythical. She was bred by White Birch Farm. There are no secrets behind her success. "She's easy on herself, a sound mare, a happy mare; that's a good combination," Bendis said. "She likes her field time. In the winter it's tough to give them quality field time, but we just try to keep her as happy as we can. We train her up a little bit, but figure out what she needs week to week. She normally responds well. "She's in great shape. She's never trained a bad trip in her life for me. She's just that kind of mare. I'll shed a real tear the day we pull the harness off her for the last time because not too many come around like her." Follow the links for early Matchmaker program pages for Friday (March 15) and early Levy program pages for March 16. Friday's program pages will be finalized today (March 12); Saturday's program pages will be finalized on Thursday (March 14). Ken Weingartner

Columbus, OH - Longtime Pennsylvania harness racing horseman and executive Ron Battoni will represent Harness Horsemen International (HHI) on the United States Trotting Association's Uniform Medication Subcommittee, it has been announced. The alliance's goal is to develop comprehensive proposals on the use of therapeutic medications and recommended penalties for violations in harness racing. The USTA is resolute in its belief that there should be separate, uniform rules for separate racing breeds, and in May 2018 launched the Harness Racing Medication Collaborative, a group of academic and practicing veterinarians whose purpose is to assist in identifying and developing the scientific background for medication regulation in Standardbred racing. Battoni is best known for his more than 25 years as the executive director of the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen's Association (PHHA), but previously drove and trained Standardbred racehorses prior to becoming a racing official. He was integral to the construction of the state's Race Horse Development and Gaming Act, which allowed the introduction of slot machines to Pennsylvania racetracks. In his new role on the subcommittee, he will serve on behalf of HHI, which is comprised of 15 horsemen's associations throughout the United States and Canada. "Ron brings a world of practical experience to the subcommittee," said Russell Williams, President of the USTA, "and his experience both legislatively and as a horseman will be invaluable to our mission. I've known Ron for many years and have worked with him on several projects. He is a great choice for this position and I'm grateful for HHI's support." The other subcommittee members are Joe Faraldo (Chair), Mike Tanner (Staff Chair), Bob Boni, Sam Beegle, John Brennan, Mark Davis, Joe Frasure, Mark Loewe, Steve O'Toole, Dr. Andy Roberts, and Russell Williams. Ken Weingartner

When harness racing trainer Nancy Johansson answered her father's call, she was more than happy to hear she would be receiving a new horse in her barn. Her pleasure, however, escalated into sheer delight when the impending arrival's identity was revealed. "When my dad (retired Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Takter) called, he said, 'Get ready for a new horse in your barn,'" said Johansson. "He said to begin preparing because the horse was on the way and then he said, 'Oh, the horse is Manchego.'" It was announced shortly after her seventh-place finish in the $500,000 Breeders Crown on Oct. 27, 2018, at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, that Manchego would be retired to become a broodmare. Owned at the time by John Fielding, Herb Liverman and Barry Guariglia's Black Horse Racing, the daughter of Muscle Hill-Secret Magic was conditioned by the recently retired Takter for the duration of her two-year career. Guariglia, who is now Manchego's sole owner, intended to breed his 4-year-old mare to Walner after a winter vacation. His plans, however, were immediately altered after Takter's inspection of her physique subsequent to her return. "I think people are going to be really surprised when they see her," said Johansson, who manages an operation of 47 to 48 head with her husband Marcus. "She has really filled out and grown. She looks terrific and we are very excited to have the opportunity to race a horse like her." As a freshman, Manchego rewrote the history books with a perfect 12-for-12 season. Her major wins included the $330,800 Jim Doherty Memorial, the $252,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final, the $307,500 Peaceful Way final, and the $600,000 Breeders Crown final. She is the only undefeated 2-year-old filly trotter to win the Breeders Crown and the only unbeaten 2-year-old filly trotter to win a Dan Patch Award. "She is one of the greatest 2-year-old filly trotters of all-time," Johansson said. "She is a very special horse." Manchego's talent was again on display as a sophomore in one of the deepest divisions in recent memory. Not only did she have to contend with the likes of Trotter of the Year Atlanta, but world champion Plunge Blue Chip and the ever dangerous Phaetosive. Like Atlanta, Manchego also took on male rivals and acquitted herself admirably. In fact, she defeated Crystal Fashion by a nose in her $25,000 Earl Beal Memorial elimination, broke stride in the $500,000 final of that contest for the first loss of her career and was second by a nose to Met's Hall in the Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial. "That was a very talented group of 3-year-old trotting fillies," Johansson said. "She also raced against the boys, too, and it's quite possible she ran out of steam by the end of the season." Nancy Johansson In addition to her participation in those open events, Manchego captured the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, was nosed out by Plunge Blue Chip in world record time (1:49.4) in a $128,500 Delvin Miller Memorial division, and won the $172,000 Moni Maker. For her career, the mare has banked $1.53 million and compiled an impressive record of 26-19-3-2. She sports a lifetime mark of 1:50. Manchego's surprise return adds even more excitement to an already stellar division as Atlanta, Plunge Blue Chip and Phaetosive remain in training, as do 2017 Horse of the Year Hannelore Hanover, dual Breeders Crown winner and O'Brien Award winner Emoticon Hanover and the talented Dream Together. "I make it a special point to spend some time with her every day," Johansson said. "I feel like I am living in a dream; it's surreal. We are so very thankful." Ken Weingartner

Columbus, OH - The United States Trotting Association's 2019 Board of Directors annual meeting is scheduled for Friday (March 8) through Monday (March 11) at the Hilton Columbus at Easton. This year's meeting is starting a day earlier on Friday afternoon to allow for the addition of numerous subcommittee meetings and other working group sessions prior to the start of the usual committees and general sessions. The agenda kicks off with the USTA Youth Delegate Committee on Friday at 3 p.m. followed by the USTA Subcommittee - Call to Action at 6 p.m. and concludes following the Board Protocol Subcommittee at 7 p.m. Saturday's schedule leads off with the Executive Committee at 8 a.m. followed by sessions on USTA IT Education for board members and UC/Davis Genome Research, then subcommittees on Uniform Racing Rules and Legislative Advisory before lunch at noon. The afternoon slate is the Harness Racing Medication Collaborative Subcommittee, an Amateur Driving working group, the Fairs Subcommittee with the Communications/Marketing Committee meeting, starting at 3 p.m., ending the first full day of meetings. Saturday evening features the annual Welcome Reception sponsored by the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies and Van Gundy Insurance Agency starting at 6 p.m. The Board of Directors' General Session kicks off the Sunday (March 10) agenda starting at 8 a.m. Following is the agenda for the General Session: 1. Call to Order 2. Pledge of Allegiance 3. Roll Call 4. Introduction of New Directors 5. President's Report 6. Chairman's Report 7. Election of Officers 8. Executive Vice President's Report 9. Financial Report 10. Break 11. Subcommittee Updates a. Board Protocol b. Harness Racing Medication Collaborative c. Call to Action d. Youth Leadership Development 12. Standardbred Transition Alliance Update 13. Other Business 14. Group Photo Following the general session, President's Awards will be presented at the Recognition Luncheon slated for noon. Later in the day, the Racing Committee meets at 1 p.m., the Registration-Owners/Breeders Committee at 3:30 p.m. and the Rules Committee at 5:30 p.m. On Monday (March 11), the agenda commences with the Finance Committee at 9 a.m. The 2019 meetings will then conclude with the second Board of Directors General Session starting at 10:30 a.m. where committee reports will be made, the 2019 budget will be approved and USTA President Russell Williams will make closing remarks. For daily news updates starting Saturday, please visit the USTA website at www.ustrotting.com. Also, follow all the up-to-date news on ustrotting.com and HarnessRacingFanZone.com Facebook and Twitter pages. The hashtag #USTABOD19 will be used on social media throughout the meetings. Ken Weingartner

Columbus, OH - Through the end of February this year, the amount wagered through the USTA Strategic Wagering Program has increased by more than $2 million ($2,005,679) compared to the first two months of 2018. That 43.7 percent increase in harness racing handle was achieved through 219 guaranteed-pool wagers offered at nine different racetracks during the first two months of 2019. In addition, during January and February of this year, the total amount of guaranteed pools in the Strategic Wagering Program increased by $1,107,223 (39.6 percent) compared to the first two months of 2018 when there were 130 guaranteed-pool wagers offered. "Strategic Wagering is solid and has proven to generate interest and handle. The challenge is to figure out how to further leverage the program to increase pool liquidity," said Chris Schick, chairman of the USTA Strategic Wagering Committee. "These upward trends should continue as there are 124 Strategic Wagering Program offerings this March compared to 60 during the same month last year." In addition, two new tracks have been recently added to the program - Saratoga Casino Hotel in February and Rosecroft Raceway this month. Saratoga Casino Hotel joined the program with $5,000 Pick-5 and $25,000 trifecta guaranteed pools on Wednesdays and Thursdays, while Rosecroft Raceway will host their inaugural Strategic Wager on Wednesday (March 6) with a $2,500 guaranteed Pick-5 that will be offered on Wednesdays and Sundays. In 2018, 19 different racetracks participated in the program. Free TrackMaster past performances for the USTA Strategic Wagering Program can be viewed by visiting http://handicapping.ustrotting.com. Up-to-date carryover information as well as those past performances are available on Twitter at @USTAStratWag. The U.S. Trotting Association, in cooperation with its member tracks, established the USTA Strategic Wagering Program in April 2011 to provide value to horseplayers by guaranteeing the size of designated betting pools. The responsibility for these guarantees is shared equally by the USTA, the track hosting the wager, and in some cases, with the local horsemen's association as well. Ken Weingartner

Columbus, OH -- United States Trotting Association President Russell Williams announced Tuesday (March 5) that former USTA President Phil Langley and USTA Director from District 1 Steve McCoy are the recipients of the annual USTA President's Awards. Williams will present the awards at this year's annual meetings in a Recognition Luncheon at the Hilton Columbus at Easton on Sunday (March 10). Langley, who resigned his position as USTA president at the end of 2016, was first elected to the USTA Board of Directors from District 5 in 1983. He began the first of his four terms as USTA president in 2003. "Phil had the ability to achieve a level of unified action on the USTA board that was unequaled during my time as a director," said Williams of his predecessor. "It has been deeply satisfying for me to build on his achievements." A 1959 graduate of Dartmouth College, Langley became racing director and racing secretary for the Chicago Downs Association and Fox Valley Trotting Club in 1965. He served in those positions as well as vice president of Fox Valley until 1998 when Sportsman's Park discontinued harness racing. Langley also was a member of the ownership group for both Balmoral Park and Maywood Park, served as treasurer of Balmoral and was director of racing at both tracks. In addition, he was a member of the Illinois Department of Agriculture Advisory Board, Racing Industry Charitable Foundation Board of Directors, Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame Board of Trustees and the North American Harness Racing Secretaries Association. He also served in an advisory capacity for both the Illinois State Fair and Du Quoin State Fair. Langley was inducted in the Living Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y., on July 1, 2007 and was previously inducted into the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Hall of Fame in 1994. Steve McCoy McCoy, who chairs the USTA's Subcommittee on Board Protocol, was appointed by the District 1 directors to the USTA Board on Jan. 22, 2014 to replace Sam "Chip" Noble. "In several sensitive and complex matters, Steve's analytical and drafting skills have made the USTA a stronger, more up-to-date organization that is more responsive to the membership than ever before," said Williams in making the announcement. McCoy is a former president of the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association and has served the OHHA Board of Directors for more than 15 years. He was introduced to harness racing by his father, an owner, breeder and equine veterinarian, and has been involved in the sport for more than 30 years as an owner himself. Among his top horses were Power Score, Spider Woman, Chip And Run, Striking Mystery and Give 'Em The Ax. He earned a B.A. degree (summa cum laude) from The Ohio State University in 1970 and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California at Berkley in 1973. McCoy currently serves as the General Counsel for The Showe Companies and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Best Lawyers of America since 1987. Ken Weingartner

Joe Holloway knows Rainbow Room will have to make up for lost time, but the harness racing trainer believes his pacing mare is ready for the challenge. Following a 15-month absence from competition because of an injury, multiple-stakes-winner Rainbow Room returns Wednesday (March 6) when she faces eight rivals in a conditioned race at Dover Downs. Rainbow Room drew post seven and is the 2-1 morning-line favorite with driver Corey Callahan. The now 4-year-old Rainbow Room won seven of 12 races at age 2, never finished worse than third, and earned $467,880 for owners Crawford Farms Racing, Val D'Or Farms, and Ted Gewertz. She qualified once in preparation for her 3-year-old campaign, but suffered a broken coffin bone and was sidelined for the season. "She looks good, she's sound," Holloway said. "But it's already a tough transition from (age) 3 to 4 and she didn't even get a 3-year-old season. She's basically going from 2 to 4 and I know I'm going to have to deal with little bumps in the road in the beginning. "Usually at 2 you just overpower horses. At 3 you have to be a little more versatile, but not as much as by the time you race the aged ones. Then you have to be versatile, you have to be able to handle stuff, so she's got a pretty steep learning curve in front of her. But I think she's going to be fine. I expect by the end we're going to be just where we want to be." Rainbow Room is a daughter of two Horse of the Year Award winners, sire Somebeachsomewhere and dam Rainbow Blue. She was purchased for $100,000 at the 2016 Lexington Selected Sale and is a full sister to 2012 Dan Patch Award-winner Somwherovrarainbow. As a 2-year-old, Rainbow Room won three preliminary divisions of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and the series championship. She also won the Kentuckiana Stallion Management Stakes and her elimination of the Breeders Crown. She finished third in the Breeders Crown final. She prepped for Wednesday's start by qualifying twice at the Meadowlands. She finished sixth in the first, timed in 1:53.3, and was third in the most recent on Feb. 15, timed in 1:53.2 with a :26 final quarter-mile. "I was happy with the second qualifier, happier than with the first," Holloway said. "Although with the first she went (1):53 and a piece and that's what I expected she could do. It's tough. It's a year from when she qualified (in 2018) but she only qualified once so she is a year-and-a-half away from competitive racing. "Hopefully I can race her in a couple of overnights before I race in the open. And then I can get a couple opens before I race top open company. But I expect her to have a great season. The main thing to be happy about is she's sound. Now we'll see what happens." Racing begins at 4:30 p.m. (EST) Wednesday at Dover Downs. Rainbow Room is in the 11th race, with an approximate 7:50 p.m. post time. For complete entries, click here. Ken Weingartner

Eugene D. "Gene" Oldford, 86, whose career in harness racing as a breeder, owner, and administrator led to his induction into the Michigan Harness Horsemen's Association Hall of Fame in 2013 as well as numerous other accolades, passed away peacefully on Feb. 25, 2019, at Blue Water Hospice Home in Michigan. Mr. Oldford was a longtime member of the MHHA board of directors, past president of Harness Horsemen International, and member of the U.S. Trotting Association. He received the 2014 HHI Person of the Year Award as well as multiple honors from MHHA including Board Member of the Year, Owner of the Year, and an Appreciation Award. Among his favorite horses was Godiva Hall, a multiple-stakes-winner and world-record-setting female trotter, in the mid-2000s. Other top horses included pacers Billmar Scooter and Park Avenue. His current group of horses included stakes-winners Two AM and Chin Chin Hall, a 3-year-old trotter who is eligible to this summer's Hambletonian. His son Stephen is a U.S. Trotting Association director and amateur driving champion. Eugene D. Oldford was born to parents Stephen and Clara (Hallett) Oldford on July 28, 1932, in Detroit. He graduated from Croswell-Lexington High School in 1950 and attended St. Clair County Jr. College and the University of Michigan. He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and was stationed in Panama. Mr. Oldford, along with his brother Bill, acquired Huron Tool and Manufacturing, now Huron Inc., in Lexington, from their father Stephen in 1958. The company was sold to US Industries in 1968. He founded Oldford and Associates, an automotive manufacturer's representative sales firm, in 1973 where he continued to work until his unexpected death. He was also co-founder of Black River Manufacturing, Port Huron, along with partners Jarold Hawks and Isaac Lang Jr. Always active in his community, Mr. Oldford served in various leadership roles on the Worth Township Board, Boy Scouts of America, Jaycees, Croswell-Lexington Little League, Masonic Lodge and Trinity Episcopal Church. Over the years, he gave generously to his community establishing the Stephen and Clara Oldford Scholarship fund to assist students attending St. Clair County Community College. Mr. Oldford is survived by his three children, Stephen (Gale), Susan Zappa and Laurie. He was blessed with five loving grandchildren, Michelle (Manny) Chavez, Troy (Kelly), Kara, Joey Zappa and Vincent; and three great-grandchildren; Alex Chavez, Bensen Chavez, and Brooklyn. He is also survived by special friend, Nancy Edmonson; brother, William; sister-in-law, Jill Meyers; niece, Kathy (Gwen) Johansen; and nephews, Will (Ann Marie) and Douglas (Amy) Gough. He was preceded in death by Sandra S., Barbara L. Edwards and Joseph R. Zappa. Mr. Oldford was a loving and generous man who made friends wherever he went. He deeply loved his family and friends and lived a very active and full life. Please join the family to celebrate Gene's life. A visitation will take place on Friday (March 1) at the Pomeroy Funeral Home in Lexington from 2-9 p.m. On Saturday (March 2), a funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. in Trinity Episcopal Church, Lexington, with visitation in the church beginning at 10 a.m. until the time of the service. Memorials contributions may be made to Trinity Episcopal Church, Project Blessing, Blue Water Hospice, The Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame or New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com @harnessracenews @HarnessKenW    

Orlando, FL -- Moments into his speech to accept the Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award on behalf of legendary pacer Foiled Again during Sunday's U.S. Harness Writers Association's Dan Patch Awards banquet, co-owner Joe Koury Jr. was halted by USHWA member Gordon Waterstone. Koury knew he had not exceeded his time limit because he was just getting started, so he was surprised. Surprise was about to turn to shock. "Don't you think we ought to have the award-winner here?" Waterstone soon said to Koury. Enter Foiled Again. Foiled Again turned the idea of a surprise party upside down when he emerged from behind the curtained stage area to the delight of the 320 banquet attendees at Rosen Shingle Creek resort. Only a handful of people knew in advance of Foiled Again's appearance, which was conceived by Waterstone with Foiled Again's co-owners Ron Burke and Mark Weaver. "I was wondering what was going on," said Koury, who like the entire Burke Brigade other than Burke, Weaver and Foiled Again's caretaker for the night, Devan Miller, had no idea of the plan. "Next thing you know, Foiled was coming out. I was absolutely shocked. It was a great experience. It was exciting." Said Joe Koury Sr., "When Foiled showed up, it was unbelievable. I was shocked. Tears were rolling down my cheeks, it was just amazing." "I didn't expect it; that's the last thing that would have crossed my mind," said Yannick Gingras, who drove Foiled Again for the majority of the gelding's career and won numerous major stakes together. "I thought it was really cool, something different." Many others had the same reaction, which was what Burke and his co-planners had hoped. "It was unbelievable," Burke said. "I knew it would be a hit, especially with my father (Mickey), but it was a hit with everybody. It was one of the coolest moments ever. We thought it would be something nobody would be expecting and would add a little bit of fun, and it did." Waterstone, who in addition to being a member of USHWA is associate editor of The Horseman And Fair World magazine, worked with the resort's staff to set up Foiled Again's appearance. It required an extra bit of insurance and a protective covering for the banquet room carpet, which was new. "I called Mark about bringing Foiled Again to the banquet and he said to talk to Ronnie," Waterstone said. "I called Ronnie and he said absolutely, but he wanted to do it as a secret. "It came off better than I thought it would. You keep your fingers crossed. The reaction was unbelievable. To be involved in this was really cool." Foiled Again was already staying near Orlando, at the Burke's winter stable in Astor. "Devan did a great job," Burke said. "She had to prep him for it and people were wondering why she was prepping him when he was just there hanging out. He looked incredible. I was thrilled." Unfazed by the cheers that filled the banquet room and the joyful commotion that soon engulfed him, Foiled Again stood perfectly for his admirers. photo Chris Tully "He was like a little showman," Joe Koury Sr. said. "He's like a celebrity, a celebrity of the humblest measure. It was just unbelievable. He's amazing. I love him to death." Foiled Again reached harness racing's mandatory retirement age of 15 when the calendar turned to 2019. He is the sport's all-time richest horse, with $7.63 million in purses, and ranks ninth with 109 lifetime wins. He received Dan Patch Awards for best older male pacer in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was Pacer of the Year in 2011. Last year, he embarked on a Farewell Tour that attracted numerous fans to racetracks across North America, as well as garnering mainstream media attention. He will be inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in July. Foiled Again is owned by Burke Racing, the partnership of Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, and the Koury family's JJK Stables. The group bought the horse in 2008 when he was 4. He was trained by Mickey Burke briefly before Mickey retired and handed the lines to his son Ron. "He's a dream come true," Joe Koury Jr. said. "To be a part of this with such great friends and partners is amazing. We were all young guys who, for the most part, were just getting started. He brought us up all together and put us on a different level. It's just been a phenomenal ride." And now that the ride is completed, Foiled Again will enjoy a life of leisure. "He's basically going to live my dad's life," Ron Burke said with a laugh. "They'll be hanging out together forever."   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association

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