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Hannelore Hanover is ready to get back on the racetrack and trainer Ron Burke thinks harness racing's defending Horse of the Year is entering her upcoming campaign feeling as good as she did at the end of last season. And that was pretty darn good. The 6-year-old female trotter closed 2017 with a three-race win streak that included the Breeders Crown Open Trot, making her the first mare since Moni Maker in 1998 to claim the trophy, and the lady's division of the TVG Series championships. Two weeks prior to beginning her streak, Hannelore Hanover recorded the fastest mile in history by a female trotter when she captured the Allerage Farms Open Trot in 1:49.2. On Saturday morning, Hannelore Hanover will qualify at the Meadowlands with regular driver Yannick Gingras as she prepares for the Arthur J. Cutler Memorial on May 5 at the Big M. "Everything seems really good," Burke said. "She feels like the way she felt at the end of the year last year, so I'm happy with that. Right at the end of the year she finally put it together. She was winning, but didn't feel right. By the end of the year, she got herself sounder, sharper. "This year right from the get-go she seems better, stronger. I'm hoping last year carries over into this year." Hannelore Hanover won 10 of 17 races last year, finished second five times, and earned $1.04 million for owners Burke Racing Stable, the Weaver Bruscemi partnership, Frank Baldachino, and J&T Silva Stables. For her career, the daughter of Swan For All out of High Sobriety has won 36 of 58 races and $2.47 million. Burke said Hannelore Hanover did not change much during the winter. "She is who she is now at this point in her career," he said. Hannelore Hanover is one of 14 horses from the Burke Brigade that will qualify Saturday. Among those joining her are 6-year-old male trotter Crazy Wow and 5-year-old male pacer Check Six, both multiple-stakes-winners last season; 2017 Little Brown Jug winner Filibuster Hanover; 3-year-old male trotter U Need Stones, a New Jersey Sire Stakes champion; 3-year-old male pacer Seeing Eye Single, an Ohio Sire Stakes champion; and 4-year-old male pacer Rock N Tony, an Indiana Sire Stakes champion who joined Burke's barn in November. "Right now I'm happy with everybody," Burke said. "Hopefully it will be a good year." Others entered to qualify Saturday include multiple Dan Patch Award-winning female trotter Broadway Donna, multiple O'Brien Award-winning female trotter Caprice Hill, stakes-winning male trotters International Moni, Lindy The Great, and Yes Mickey, stakes-winning male pacers Blood Line, I'm A Big Deal, This Is The Plan, Pedro Hanover, and Closing Statement, stakes-winning female pacers Darlinonthebeach, Blue Moon Stride, and Reign On Me and stakes-winning female trotter Plunge Blue Chip. Qualifiers begin at 10 a.m. (EDT). For the complete list of entries, click here. Ken Weingartner

If Western Fame were human, harness racing driver Mark MacDonald could envision him fidgeting with his necktie while bemoaning a lack of respect. A multiple-stakes-winning pacer, Western Fame has not been the favorite in his most recent six victories (five at odds of 9-2 or higher) and has been the betting public's top choice only five times in his past 39 races. When he was the favorite during that span, he produced three wins and missed a fourth by a nose. In his past three starts, all in preliminary rounds of the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series at Yonkers Raceway, Western Fame won twice and finished second by a half-length. On Saturday, the 5-year-old stallion competes in the $532,000 Levy championship, leaving from post No. 1 with MacDonald driving for trainer Jimmy Takter. Western Fame is 7-1 on the morning line. "He's always been a little bit of a Rodney Dangerfield; no one gives him a whole lot of respect," MacDonald said. "I don't think people realize what a nice horse he is. He's always been a little under the radar." Western Fame has won 12 of 46 career races and earned $750,618 for breeder/owner Brittany Farms. Last year, he won the Prix d'Ete and Confederation Cup, and in 2016 he won a heat of the Little Brown Jug (where he was second to Betting Line in the final), a division of the Bluegrass Stakes, and an elimination of the Breeders Crown. In addition to his runner-up Jug finish in 2016, he was second in the Matron Stakes (at 23-1), Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship (from post seven at 29-1) and a division of the Tattersalls Pace (by a neck at 9-2). "He's been a lot of fun," MacDonald said. "He didn't race much at 2 and didn't really start coming into his own until September of his 3-year-old year. He's a lightly raced horse and he's really turned into a nice racehorse." Prior to this year, Western Fame was a horse that needed to be raced aggressively from the start. Half of his wins were gate-to-wire and only twice was he worse than second at the race's midpoint. This season, he has not led prior to the stretch and only once was he better than third after three-quarters. "I found that as a 3- and 4-year-old he was kind of a one-trick pony; he really liked to be on the front," MacDonald said. "He's matured and is more versatile now. He seems to really have the will to go forward and likes a target. He's won all different kinds of ways. I really like the way he's coming into the race." The Levy brings together a number of harness racing's top older male pacers. Last year's divisional Dan Patch Award winner and defending series champion Keystone Velocity is the race's 5-2 morning-line favorite, followed by Mach It So at 4-1, Dr J Hanover at 9-2, and Somewhere In L A at 5-1. Evenin Of Pleasure follows Western Fame, at 8-1. New Zealand-bred Bit Of A Legend, who won the 2016 Levy championship, topped the points at the end of the five preliminary rounds. He drew post seven for the final and is 9-1. Rockin Ron -- who joined Bit Of A Legend, Somewhere In L A, Dr J Hanover, Mach It So, and Western Fame as multiple winners in the prelims -- will start from post eight. "It's wide open," MacDonald said. "There are not too many horses in that race that you could say would be a total head-scratcher if they won. If any horse can win from the outside, it would be Bit Of A Legend. Rockin Ron got the eight hole, but he's a good horse too. That race is so competitive. "At the end of the day it's going to come down to whoever gets the best trip or a lucky break. That's it. Whoever can work out the best trip is going to win." Also on Saturday's card is the $373,000 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series championship for older female pacers. New Zealand-bred Shartin, who posted a series-best three wins in the preliminary rounds, is the 8-5 morning-line favorite from post No. 1 with Tim Tetrick driving for trainer Jim King Jr. Racing begins at 6:50 p.m. (EDT) with the Matchmaker championship carded as race nine and the Levy as race 10 on the night's 12-race card. For complete entries, click here. Ken Weingartner

Carter Pinske will graduate from college next month and he is looking forward to the work ahead. That means lending a hand at the family's custom cabinetry and millwork business, which dates back to the 19th century, as well as taking an increased role in what by comparison is a more recent pursuit -- harness racing. The Pinskes have been involved in harness racing since the mid-1950s when Carter's great-grandfather Robert began competing at the Minnesota county fairs. Pinske Stables is now led by Carter's father Karl and Karl's parents Tim and Marlys. Carter has worked with the horses for years, when not in school, and is anxious to spend more time around them in the future. "The horses have been my passion," Carter Pinske said. "I've been involved with them since I was old enough to be. I jogged my first horse when I was 9 or 10 and went my first training mile when I was 11. It's hard to get out of your blood once it's in there." In the past, Pinske helped prepare the family's horses for racing by assisting as much as time permitted with the winter training at Southern Oaks in Florida. Now, he hopes to spend the entire winter working with the horses before they head to their respective trainers, primarily on the East Coast, for their campaigns. "I'd like to make the trip east to visit the horses as many times as I can," said the 22-year-old Pinske, who is an animal science/business dual major at South Dakota State. "Since I started college, I've been involved in making decisions with my dad and grandpa. I really like going to the sales and picking out the horses. But what I most enjoy is the training side, watching them develop on a weekly basis." There was plenty for the Pinske Stables to enjoy in 2017, led by stakes-winning pacers Hayden Hanover and Points North. Hayden Hanover, owned with Jim Simpson and trained by Julie Miller, had the fastest winning mile of the season for a 2-year-old male pacer thanks to his 1:50 score in a division of the International Stallion Stakes. He finished second in both the Metro Pace and Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship. Points North, trained by Richard "Nifty" Norman, won a division of the Bluegrass Stakes and capped his season with a victory in the Kindergarten Classic series championship. Points North qualified on Saturday at the Meadowlands, timed in 1:53.1 with a :26.4 final quarter-mile. "Both of them trained back great," said Pinske, who spent the summer following his freshman year in college working with Julie Miller and her husband Andy at their stable. "Points North has shot up; he really put on weight and got taller, actually. Hayden stayed about the same height, but he put on a lot of muscle too. Training back, the two were great. No hiccups so far, and that's all you can ask for. You just keep your fingers crossed." Another 3-year-old male pacer, American Vision, also qualified Saturday, finishing in 1:53 for trainer Norman. American Vision, owned with Mitchell and Tom Pinske's Curly Tall Curly Small stable, was winless in seven starts last year, primarily on the New York Sire Stakes circuit. "We thought he would be able to go with them, but he didn't have luck the whole year, between post positions and some trips," Pinske said. "Then about halfway through the year he had some sickness trouble. He never really got the chance to show himself. This year training down he's really come around. He's been able to go with Points and Hayden. "I don't like to jinx myself, but I think that (3-year-old male pacer) division is probably as open as it's been. There are a lot of tough horses and I think every week you could see a different horse show up. So it's going to be tough, but I think we have a chance to have some fun. But it's a long season and a lot of tough horses in that division." Also among the returnees are 3-year-old female trotter Lucky Rainbow, who finished third in the New York Sire Stakes championship, and 3-year-old male trotters Voss Volo (a full brother to stakes-winner Bill's Man) and Haveitalltogether. The stable retired stakes-winning female trotter Overdraft Volo, co-owned with Kentuckiana Racing Stable and bred to Muscle Hill last week, and sold female pacer Inverse Hanover. "Last year was like a dream season," Pinske said. "And all of the owners we're involved with are awesome. It's really fun when it works out. That's all you can hope for; you hope to have a little bit of fun with it." The Pinskes also have a group of 2-year-olds comprised of four male pacers, three female trotters, two male trotters, and one female pacer. "We have a pretty good group of trotters that I really like," Pinske said. "They've been a solid group. They show potential. On the pacing side, same deal. It's a real solid group. "The season is slowly starting and I'm getting excited." Ken Weingartner

Columbus, OH --- DerbyWars.com will host a World Harness Handicapping Championship Mega-Qualifier on Saturday (April 14) featuring five qualifying spots for the $75,000-guaranteed WHHC presented by DerbyWars to be held April 28 at the Meadowlands. Players can qualify online for the $75,000 WHHC contest, which features a first-place prize of $40,000 and pays the top 10 finishers, at www.DerbyWars.com. The WHHC Mega-Qualifier entry fee is $115, with the five WHHC qualifying spots based on 50 entries. The contest will consist of the second half of the races at partner tracks Meadowlands and Woodbine Mohawk Park. The format is a mythical $2 Win-Place-Show contest, where players will pick one horse in each of 12 races and earn payouts equivalent to $2 Win-Place-Show payouts at the track, subject to maximum payouts. Players may qualify for as little as $19 every night on DerbyWars.com, or on Saturday night during the early races. DerbyWars hosts WHHC qualifiers every Saturday night. A full list of qualifiers for the WHHC Mega-Qualifier and the WHHC can be found at www.derbywars.com/tournaments/list/whhc. The $1,000 WHHC entry includes a $300 live bankroll with $700 to the prize pool with zero takeout. There is a limit of two entries per person. If the contest exceeds 107 entries, the prize pool will increase from $75,000. For more information on the 2018 WHHC at the Meadowlands and a list of players already qualified, click here. Ken Weingartner

Bill Matz enjoyed the highest of highs last year when Beckhams Z Tam delivered the longtime harness racing owner his first Breeders Crown trophy. As Matz awaits the pacer's return this spring, he is keeping an eye on Heavenly Sound; a 3-year-old that he hopes can follow in Beckhams Z Tam's hoof prints and develop into a stakes player as the season progresses. Beckhams Z Tam, who was winless in six races at age 2 in 2016, last year posted five early-season conditioned-level wins followed by multiple successes on the Indiana Sire Stakes circuit before upsetting Downbytheseaside in the Breeders Crown for 3-year-old male pacers at his home track, Hoosier Park. "That story turned out great," Matz said. "Those are the moments you wait your whole life for. What an experience. It was just awesome. There was electricity in the air that night. It was a great party for everybody. "I'm not that much of a trotting guy, I've never had much luck with them in my career, so whenever we talked about what race we'd most like to win, the Hambletonian or the Breeders Crown, I always said that for me the Breeders Crown would be the thrill of a lifetime. I reached the pinnacle." Matz hopes Beckhams Z Tam can keep him feeling like he's on top of the world. Beckhams Z Tam, owned by Matz's Z Tam Stables and trained by Jamie Macomber, will start his stakes campaign in the Graduate Series for 4-year-old pacers and also test himself against older horses in unrestricted stakes events. Last year, Beckhams Z Tam won 11 of 20 races, hit the board a total of 18 times, and earned $512,545. "It should be interesting," Matz said. "Turning (age) 3 to 4, you never know what you're going to get. You keep your fingers crossed. They say he's trained back great, that he's rock solid. We're hoping to have the luck continue straight through to the end of the year." Heavenly Sound, owned by Matz and Cary Potkin as M & M Harness Racing, won two of 13 races last year. He started this season in conditioned-level races and finished second his first two starts, by a total of less than a length, before posting back-to-back victories. The colt's first win was in 1:50.4, with a :26.1 final quarter-mile, at the Meadowlands. The time is tied for the season's fastest by a 3-year-old pacer. His second win was a 1:52.2 triumph in the first round of the Bobby Weiss Series for 3- and 4-year-old male pacers at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Heavenly Sound returns to action Saturday in the second round of the Weiss. He will start from post five in the first of three divisions, with Tom Jackson driving for trainer Bruce Saunders. The colt is the 5-2 morning-line favorite. "I've got to give Bruce all the credit," Matz said. "Bruce picked him out and thought we had a good one. He told us to shut him down last year and give him some time and he's come back great. He went a big mile at the Meadowlands and it looks like he's one of the top ones in the Weiss, which is always a great feeling." Heavenly Sound is a son of 2010 Horse of the Year Rock N Roll Heaven, who was trained by Saunders, out of Frankie's Dream, who is a full sister to stakes-winner Happy Dreamer. Heavenly Sound was purchased for $27,000 at the 2016 Standardbred Horse Sale. The colt is eligible to a number of events including the Breeders Crown, Max C. Hempt Memorial, Cane Pace, Matron Stakes, New York Sire Stakes and Empire Breeders Classic. "I love that he's showing some speed, especially when I know he's got a lot of races on half-mile tracks down the road," said Matz, a New Yorker who owns two dozen horses. "If you don't have speed and get away toward the back, it's game over before you even start." Following Saturday's races, the Weiss Series for male pacers will continue with preliminary rounds April 21 and April 28. The $30,000 championship is May 5. For Saturday's complete Pocono entries, click here. First race post time is 7 p.m. (EDT). The Weiss divisions are races three, four, and 12 on the 14-race card. Ken Weingartner  

When harness racing trainer Jeff Bamond Jr. looks at Mach It So this season at age 8, he sees a horse that looks a lot like the one he saw a year ago at age 7. Considering that Mach It So established a career high for purses in 2017, the similarity is enough to bring a hopeful smile to Bamond’s face. Mach It So earned $759,871 last year, when he won his second William R. Haughton Memorial in three years and finished the campaign with a victory in the TVG Series championship. He finished second in the Joe Gerrity Jr. Memorial and Bobby Quillen Memorial and was third in the Breeders Crown and Sam McKee Memorial. For his career, Mach It So has won 42 of 124 races and earned $2.50 million. “He’s the same as he’s always been,” said Bamond, who owns Mach It So with his father as Bamond Racing LLC. “He likes to do his work; he doesn’t moan about it. It’s the same as it’s been every year. Hopefully his year goes the same. If it goes half as good I’d be happy.” Mach It So is off to a strong start this year, with two wins in four starts in the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series at Yonkers Raceway. The final preliminary round of the Levy is Saturday, with Mach It So competing in the second of three divisions. The gelding is the 9-5 favorite on the morning line, starting from post three in a six-horse field. David Miller is his driver. The eight highest point-earners from the Levy’s five preliminary rounds advance to the April 21 championship. Mach It So is fifth in the standings, trailing Somewhere In LA, New Zealand-bred Bit Of A Legend, Rockin Ron, and Dr J Hanover. A horse receives 25 points each time he races in the preliminary rounds. 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. Mach It So’s division Saturday includes only one other horse in the top eight, sixth-place Evenin Of Pleasure. Defending series champ Keystone Velocity, who is 12th in points, also is in the field. Saturday’s first division features the four horses that are seventh through 10th in points: Missile J, Western Fame, Bettor Memories, and Australian-bred Chumlee. Long Live Rock, who will start from the rail, is tied for 13th. The third division includes Somewhere In LA, Bit Of A Legend, and Dr J Hanover. Somewhere In LA and Bit Of A Legend are two-time winners in the series while Dr J Hanover is undefeated in three series starts. Also in the third division is Always At My Place, who is 11th in points. Rockin Ron, who has two wins in the series, is idle. “The series is always competitive,” said Bamond, who with his father owned 2014 Levy winner P H Supercam and is hoping to guide Mach It So to his fourth appearance in the championship. “It’s always about where you draw. Some horses don’t draw well and they probably deserve to be in the final and the other way around. The final is just about whoever draws the best and gets the best trip.” Mach It So’s best finish in a Levy championship was fifth in 2015, but he has never drawn better than post seven in his three previous finals. Bamond might be looking for a change in Mach It So’s luck, but not much else. “He’s off to a good start this year,” Bamond said. “I’m very happy. “He’s a little quirky, but he’s a pretty cool guy.” BLUE CHIP MATCHMAKER SERIES Friday at Yonkers features the fifth and final preliminary round of the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series for female pacers. There are three divisions, with points-leader Lakeisha Hall leading the opening group. The first division also includes New Zealand-bred Motu Moonbeam (third in points), Lady Shadow (seventh), and Australian-bred defending champion Mackenzie (eighth). New Zealand-bred Shartin, who is second in points thanks to going 3-for-3 before taking off last week, is the morning-line favorite in the third division, which also includes ninth-place Clear Idea. Fourth-place Twinkle is the favorite in the second division, which also includes Medusa (fifth), Scandalicious (sixth), and Safe From Terror (10th). For Saturday’s complete Yonkers entries, click here. For the complete Levy standings, click here. For Friday’s complete Yonkers entries, click here. For the complete Matchmaker standings, click here. Racing at Yonkers begins at 6:50 p.m. (EDT). by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager 

Hightstown, NJ --- Deputy Julianna arrived in the stable of owners Larry and Le Anna Muckenhirn in October 2008, and the then harness racing 3-year-old female trotter made an immediate impression. “I’ll never forget the day she got off the truck,” Larry said. “I just fell in love with her. She was wonderful.” Deputy Julianna had a brief but successful career for the Muckenhirns, but upon retirement made a lasting impression on the couple’s involvement in harness racing. She became the Muckenhirns’ first broodmare and produced five foals before passing away last year. “She had the heart, she had the desire, she had the ability,” Larry said about the mare, who won 15 of 42 career races and swept the 2008 Expresson Series for the Muckenhirns. “She had such a good background that we decided to take a chance and start breeding her.” Her two most recent foals, Beabob’s Bear and Beabob’s Boss, are sons of stallion Swan For All -- Indiana’s top money-winning trotting sire -- and have brought the promise of keeping Deputy Julianna’s memory alive. They are the Muckenhirns’ only racehorses at this time. Beabob’s Bear, a 3-year-old, was limited to four starts in 2017 because of surgery to remove a bone chip, but won twice and is staked to events for Indiana-bred trotters. Beabob’s Boss is a 2-year-old preparing for his career debut. “This is our last shot,” Le Anna said. Beabob’s Bear makes his 2018 debut Wednesday (April 11) in the first round of the Cardinal Series at Hoosier Park. The gelding is the 2-1 favorite on the morning line, starting from post nine for driver Trace Tetrick and trainer Tom T. Tetrick. Post time is 6:30 p.m. (EDT) for the first race and the Cardinal is race 10 on the 10-race card. The second round of the series is April 18 and the final is April 25. “We can’t wait until Wednesday night,” Larry said. “We’re just hoping he has a good race. We’re not worried about him winning, we just want him to behave out there. He’s still learning. He’s only got four races in him, but he’s got the ability that’s for sure.” Added Le Anna, with a laugh, “The trainer told us Bear is very spoiled. He’s just a beautiful horse. He got a late start last year so we didn’t stake him. We didn’t want to push him. But this year we’ve got him in three or four series and then the (Indiana) stakes.” Larry and Le Anna, who live in Anderson, Ind., near Hoosier Park, bought their first racehorse in the early 2000s and enjoyed their greatest success with trotter Blowlowsanta. The gelding competed at the top levels in Indiana and finished his career with $340,404 in purses. “We still own Blowlowsanta,” Larry said. “He’s the one horse that we said my wife could get attached to.” Chimed in Le Anna, “And that didn’t work real well.” Blowlowsanta’s success helped the Muckenhirns build a training center, Pace Setter Farm, on 58 acres near Hoosier Park. The facility, now owned by their son Chad Gooding and managed by Le Anna’s sister Amy, is home to 140 stalls and five-eighths-mile track. Gooding is on the Indiana Standardbred Association Board of Directors. The Muckenhirns’ horses are named to honor Larry’s parents, Bea and Bob. “My parents, who lived in Michigan, were very supportive of us,” Larry said. “They were elderly and could never make it here to see the first barn and the track being built, but they really enjoyed our enthusiasm and our risk-taking in the horse industry. So we decided to name all our horses using the first name Bea and Bob.” The Muckenhirns, who are both retired from administrative roles in the food services department for the Anderson schools, enjoy going to the training center and watching their horses. And, of course, they enjoy seeing them in one other location. “I particularly like the winner’s circle,” Le Anna said. by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager 

Hightstown, NJ --- Cozette McAvoy has spent fewer than six years in harness racing, but her involvement in the sport has grown from simply owning horses to also include training and breeding. The 38-year-old McAvoy, a corporate attorney, has won 53 races as a trainer since 2014 and assembled a broodmare band of a dozen horses. She hopes to have two homebred 2-year-olds hit the racetrack later this year. “I’m really happy with it,” McAvoy said, adding about her breeding operation, “I don’t intend to be a huge size. I totally love the movie ‘Secretariat,’ as I’m sure many people do. My dream is a bit of what (Penny Chenery) had. You go out in the morning with your cup of tea and the sun is coming into the barn and you’re peeking in on a horse or two. “I want to always know their names and take time to say hi to them. And they know who I am and I know who they are. Having a smaller operation like that suits me just fine.” So far this year on the racetrack, the Pennsylvania-based McAvoy has seen her stable notch six wins in 42 races this year, with 4-year-old male trotter Presidente Zette leading the way. Presidente Zette, who was unraced at 2 and limited to four starts at 3, has won three of eight races and hit the board a total of six times this season. Last weekend, the stallion won his first-round division of the Bobby Weiss Series for male trotters by a neck over Stormont Power in 1:57.1 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. On Sunday, Presidente Zette is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line in the second of three Weiss divisions. Meadowbranch Ricky, another opening-round winner, is the 5-2 favorite for trainer Jenny Melander. Racing begins at 7 p.m. and the Weiss divisions are races three through five on the 14-race card. “You can see from the race times and the past performances of the horses that are racing in the series that he fits in quite well,” McAvoy said about Presidente Zette. “He seems to be one of the top horses entered in the series, so I’ve got high hopes for him.” McAvoy bought Presidente Zette under the name Southwind Magnum for $12,000 at the 2015 Lexington Selected Sale. He is by Muscle Hill out of Missymae Bluestone and a full brother to Southwind Mozart, who was second in the 2015 Yonkers Trot and later a winner in Europe. He also is a half-brother to New Jersey Sire Stakes champion Southwind Cocoa and his full brother Mission Hill (formerly Southwind Bugz) sold for $335,000 last fall in Lexington. “I was not expecting to bid on him,” McAvoy said. “I was thinking he was going to be a high-priced yearling. He ended up being one of the most inexpensive yearlings I bought. I was very surprised at that. I’m thrilled to have Presidente considering how it easily could have not been me as the owner.” Presidente Zette missed his 2-year-old campaign because of surgery to remove bone fragments and got a late start to his 3-year-old season, but is making up for lost time. “He’s great,” McAvoy said. “Like many ungelded horses, I think sometimes they’re a little more interested in chasing things than racing things. It can be an exercise in patience. But he’s certainly putting it all together now. I’ve been really happy with him. “He’s a sweetheart, even though he’s a stud. You can fuss with him in the stall and pet him and feed him treats. When you ask him to go, he will really grab ahold of you and go. He’s really, really powerful and really nicely gaited.” Given his inexperience, McAvoy did not stake Presidente Zette to any events this year. But given his pedigree, McAvoy is anxious to see how the stallion develops. “We’re going to take it one race at a time and go from there,” McAvoy said. “The more he shows, the more we’re willing to give him other chances at harder things. It’s a matter of letting the horse tell us when he’s ready to take the next step. “I think anybody that has a well-bred stallion is hopeful the horse will eventually mature enough to really have a nice record and win some money. Obviously, not having anything huge at (ages) 2 or 3 is a typical of the normal stallion profile. But I have a growing broodmare band of my own, so we’ll just play it by ear and see what happens.” If nothing else, maybe one morning in the future McAvoy will be enjoying a cup of tea, peeking in on one of his sons or daughters, and saying hi. by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager

After spending more than a year away from the races in an effort to resolve chronic foot issues, multiple-stakes-winner Sutton returns to harness racing action in Friday's first round of the Shiaway St Pat Series for trotters at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, N.J. Sutton, who finished third as part of a photo finish with Marion Marauder and Southwind Frank in the 2016 Hambletonian, is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the second of two $15,000 Shiaway St Pat divisions. The 5-year-old stallion, trained by Julie Miller and driven by Andy Miller, has won seven of 26 career races and earned $440,263. He is owned by the Andy Miller Stable Inc., Jason Allen, and Doug Allen. "We thought the 4-year-old season is tough anyway for a trotter, so we wanted to give him all the time he needed," Julie Miller said. "We thought turning him out for the year and bringing him back (at 5) would be the best solution. "We try to keep our expectations low so we're not disappointed, but he came back really nice. The issues had resolved themselves, and hopefully they stay that way. We're really happy with him. His attitude is super and he's most definitely matured; he's big and strong. We thought, let's go for this series and see what evolves." Sutton is a son of 2007 Horse of the Year Donato Hanover out of the stakes-winning mare I Wanted Wings. He was purchased for $40,000 at the 2014 Standardbred Horse Sale. His victories include divisions of the Bluegrass and Tompkins-Geers stakes as well as an elimination of the Breeders Crown at age 3. He has a lifetime mark of 1:51.2, which came in a qualifier at the Meadowlands in 2016. His connections hope Sutton can return to a stakes schedule later this season. "We staked him pretty heavily, but you just can't go off the high dive with the best horses in the older trot division," Miller said. "This series the Meadowlands has provided is very beneficial. We pointed him toward this series to get him back on the track. Hopefully he can have some success this year." Team Miller also sends out 7-year-old gelding Opulent Yankee in the first division of the Shiaway St Pat Series. Opulent Yankee, who has won four of five races this year, is the even-money favorite on the morning line. Opulent Yankee is owned by Little E LLC, Arthur Geiger, and David Stolz. He has won 22 of 86 career races and earned $418,795. "I just call him the veteran warhorse," Miller said. "He's been a picture of consistency. He's a pleasure to be around in the barn; he's a good boy. He's one of those nice ones that you're really proud of. He does his job week in, week out, year in, year out. He's just a really nice horse. "I don't think he's one of the top ones, but it looks like he should be able to compete in this series pretty well." The Shiaway St Pat Series features two preliminary rounds followed by a final on April 20. Post time is 7:15 p.m. for Friday's first race, with the Shiaway St Pat divisions carded as races two and four. On Saturday, the Meadowlands hosts two first-round divisions of the Burning Point Series for female pacers and one first-round division of the Whata Baron Series for male pacers. Both series include two preliminary rounds followed by finals on April 21. For Friday's complete Meadowlands entries, click here. For Saturday's complete Meadowlands entries, click here. Ken Weingartner

Rockin Hot Lady was slowed by issues at ages 2 and 3, but with three wins in her past four starts, the 4-year-old female pacer is starting to reward harness racing trainer Ernie Gaskin's confidence in her. On Friday, the mare will attempt to extend her hot streak in the Dr. Don Mossbarger Memorial Series championship at Ohio's Miami Valley Raceway before possibly being sent to compete on the East Coast. Purchased as a yearling for $23,000 at the 2015 Hoosier Sale, Rockin Hot Lady is owned by Gaskin's wife, Darla, and daughter Emily, the race marketing manager and a race commentator at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino. Also a member of the ownership group is Shelby Ratcliff, the daughter of Centaur Gaming Chairman and CEO Rod Ratcliff. Rockin Hot Lady, by Rockin Image out of Deferred Comp, is a full sister to Rockin Rum Springa, a multiple winner on the Indiana-bred stakes circuit, and half-sister to successful invite-level gelding Nitro. "She came from a proven family and was a nice big filly, so we stepped out for her," Gaskin said. "She trained down great as a 2-year-old, but she later had the start of a (fracture) so we shut her down. She came back at 3 and things went OK, but then she kind of fell off the edge of the earth. "It took us a little while to get it figured out. She wasn't physically lame, so we were looking for bleeding and ulcers and stuff like that and it turned out to be EPM (equine protozoal myeloencephalitis, a neurological disease). Once we got it figured out, it's been a lot better." Rockin Hot Lady has won seven of 37 career races, with six of those victories coming in her past 12 starts, and earned $54,900. She enters Friday's Mossbarger Memorial final off a 1:54.3 win by a nose over Turnitdownforwatt in a second-round division of the series. It was her first start of the season. "She's coming around," Gaskin said. "We like her. We got a little messed up with the weather (coming back this year); I'd love to have one more race in her. We'll see. "She is beautifully gaited. She's one of those that fools you a little bit. You look down at your watch and you're surprised how fast you've gone. She's a fluid mover that way." Rockin Hot Lady will start from post No. 1 on Friday with driver Trevor Smith, the 22-year-old brother of driver Tyler Smith. Trevor also drove Rockin Hot Lady last week. "Trevor is just another good, young, athletic horse kid coming up," Gaskin said. "I'm happy to have him." The $25,000 Dr. Don Mossbarger Memorial -- named to honor the founder of renowned breeding facility Midland Acres and a member of the Ohio Harness Racing Hall of Fame -- is the ninth race on Miami Valley's 13-race card Friday. Post time is 6:05 p.m. for the first race. Other winners in the Mossbarger's two preliminary rounds were Won For Gigi, Desire One, and Turnitdownforwatt. Friday's Miami Valley card also features the $25,000 open for pacing fillies and mares, which includes Darla Gaskin co-owned American Girl. American Girl's presence is one reason Gaskin is considering sending Rockin Hot Lady east to trainer Julie Miller. Another is Rockin Hot Lady's early speed and versatility. "She can leave in quarters of :25.4 and get around any sized track," Gaskin said. "We'll decide what to do after the final. We already have American Girl and I don't really want to race them against each other. We've had great luck with Julie. Her and (husband) Andy are great." To view Friday's complete Miami Valley entries, click here. Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager

Hightstown, NJ --- When he was a teenager, John Devito would hop on a bus with a friend and head to Yonkers and Roosevelt raceways, where he developed a passion for harness racing. Trips to the track these days continue to provide the 54-year-old Queens, N.Y., resident with thrills, but as much more than a fan. Devito, who is in the car wash/express oil change business, owns 20 horses including a handful of homebred trotters. One of those horses, Ms American Muscle, competes Tuesday (April 3) in the first round of the Bobby Weiss Series for 3- and 4-year-old female trotters at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Pocono hosts three divisions of the Weiss for female trotters on Tuesday’s 14-race card. Action begins at 7 p.m., with the Weiss events as races three through five. Ms American Muscle, a 3-year-old making her seasonal debut for trainer Jenny Melander and driver Mike Simons, is 6-1 on the morning line in the second division. Ms American Muscle won her final start of 2017, a conditioned race at Harrah’s Philadelphia, for her first lifetime victory. “Jenny says she should be OK,” Devito said. “There are a lot of horses making their first (seasonal) starts in there. I don’t think she’s in too deep, but you never know. I think she will be OK.” Devito and his late racing partner Rocco Manniello purchased Ms American Muscle’s dam, 2002 Filly World Trotting Derby champion CR Ms American Pie, from Rod Allen and Joseph Palermo III in October 2013. At the time, CR Ms American Pie was in foal to Donato Hanover and the resulting filly was named My Cherry Pie, who was a winner on the Pennsylvania Stallion Series circuit in 2017. Ms American Muscle is My Cherry Pie’s full sister. “We never did it before, so it was just trying something new,” Devito said about breeding. “A lot of times you go to the sales and the yearlings are off the charts. We figured we would take a shot on the breeding end. CR Ms American Pie is an outstanding mare with great bloodlines and she was in foal to Donato. We just took a shot with it.” Devito’s relationship with Allen yielded another result. Devito was introduced to Melander, his trainer for the past several years, by Allen. “They’re all good people,” Devito said. “Jenny is a great trainer, a great person. I feel like I’m in really good hands with her. She’s going to have a lot of success; she’s an extremely hard worker. I’m very happy that I’m with her.” Devito’s successes last year with Melander included Golden Son and Ameliosi, who both won preliminary rounds of the Yonkers Raceway/Standardbred Owners Association of New York Bonus Trot Series and combined for $286,477 in seasonal earnings. In 2016, Roccos Tacos won a division of the Arden Downs. He missed last year because of injury, but is on the comeback trail this season. “I enjoy going to the racetrack and watching the races,” Devito said. “It’s been good to me. “We’re hoping to have a good year. It’s like one of those things, lucky and good. There is always a luck factor. You can breed the best mare to the best stallion and it doesn’t always work out. If you have a little luck on your side, it always helps. It’s always good.” For Tuesday’s complete Pocono entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager

Brad Grant was focused on the future when he and his harness racing partners purchased Dr J Hanover for a sales-topping $280,000 at the 2017 Tattersalls January Select Mixed Sale. After two preliminary rounds of this year's George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series, the now is looking pretty good too. The Levy is a six-week series for older male pacers at Yonkers Raceway. Five-year-old Dr J Hanover is 2-for-2 in the event, including a 1:52.4 victory last week that was the fastest of four divisions. On Saturday, the Tony Alagna-trained gelding is the 9-5 morning-line favorite in the second of four splits, leaving from post four with driver Brett Miller. "Tony had him pointed to this series and drawing the rail the first two legs is always nice," Grant said, referring to Dr J Hanover starting from post No. 1 in each of the previous rounds. "If you look at his 3-year-old year, he did pretty well at Yonkers. Tony always said he could get around this track pretty good. It seems to fit him, which is great. "We're going to keep our fingers crossed that he can continue, but there are a lot of tough horses in there. There is a group of them that can win on a given night depending on how the race goes and the draw. But it looks like (Dr J Hanover) matured and filled out a little over the winter. He looks great and seems a little stronger." As a 3-year-old, Dr J Hanover raced at Yonkers eight times, winning six. For his career, he has won 10 of 22 starts at the Hilltop and hit the board a total of 15 times. Last season -- his first year with Grant and partners Robert Leblanc, Steven Wienick, and Irwin Samelman -- Dr J Hanover won five of 23 races and earned $169,807. His top moment came in a division of the Graduate Series at Mohawk Racetrack, where he won in 1:46.4 to set the record for the fastest pacing mile in Canadian history. The previous year, at 3, Dr J Hanover was third in the Little Brown Jug and Messenger Stakes as well as a division of the Tattersalls Pace. The son of Somebeachsomewhere-So Perfect has won 15 of 45 career races and $551,580. "When I bought him, I bought him for the long haul," Grant said. "I think last year was a good year, but I thought he left some money on the table in some of his races. "Again, in the long run, I think he's got longevity and can be a great aged pacer. I think as a 5- and 6-year-old he could really prove his worth. Tony thinks he can go with the big boys. He's staked up pretty good. I think he can compete with the best of them. But there's a tough bunch of aged pacers. They're hard sluggers." Dr J Hanover is not the only horse with a 2-for-2 record in the Levy. Six-year-old Rockin Ron, who is the 9-5 favorite in Saturday's third Levy division, also is perfect thus far for trainer Ron Burke and driver Yannick Gingras. Other Levy winners last week were Evenin Of Pleasure and Western Fame. Other winners in the first round, which consisted of five divisions, were New Zealand-bred Bit Of A Legend, Mach It So, and Always At My Place. The Levy and companion Blue Chip Matchmaker Series, which is for older female pacers and continues with its third round Friday night, both feature five preliminary rounds followed by added-money finals April 21. A horse receives 25 points each time he or she races in the preliminary rounds. 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. "I don't think any trainer wants to race five or six weeks in a row because it's tough," Grant said. "It's a tough call for a trainer to decide whether to take a week off. The points are valuable this year, and they're going to be right down to the end, I think." For Saturday's complete entries at Yonkers, click here. For the Levy standings, click here. For the Matchmaker standings, click here. Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager

Hightstown, NJ --- He’s known around the barn as E.T., but Evolution Tour is not from outer space --- even if harness racing trainer Jim King Jr. says with a laugh the gelding is “an alien.” This E.T. is quite at home in Delaware, where this week the 3-year-old pacer will try to capture his first DSBF championship after two narrow misses last season. Dover Downs hosts four $100,000 Delaware Standardbred Breeders Fund finals for 3-year-old pacers and trotters as part of Thursday’s 14-race card. Racing begins at 4:30 p.m., with the DSBF championship for female trotters kicking off the action. The remaining finals are races two (male trotters), six (female pacers) and eight (male pacers). Evolution Tour is unbeaten this year in two races, both preliminary rounds of the DSBF, and is the 3-1 third choice on the morning line behind last season’s two-time DSBF champion Slick Tony (2-1) and Transitioning Joy (5-2). Slick Tony, who beat Evolution Tour by a nose in both of last year’s state-bred finals, starts from post No. 1 while Transitioning Joy leaves from post No. 2 and Evolution Tour from post No. 3. Slick Tony, a son of stallion No Spin Zone, is owned and trained by George Leager, who also bred the colt, and will be driven by Russell Foster. He has won 10 of 13 career races and never finished worse than second, earning $166,797 in purses. Transitioning Joy, a son of Barber Pole, is trained by Clyde Francis for owners George Teague Jr. Inc. and Joy Teague. The homebred colt, who has won four of 12 lifetime starts and earned $71,600, will be driven by Montrell Teague. Tim Tetrick will drive Evolution Tour, a son of Roddy’s Bags Again owned by King’s wife Jo Ann. “My job is pretty much done,” King said about the final. “I’m going to leave the rest in the hands of the master. How it’s going to play out, you figure that Slick Tony’s not going to settle for anything less than second and Joy is not going to want to sit third. So chances are I’m going to be third and first over. But Timmy will get it figured out. I think my horse is good enough and I know my driver is.” Evolution Tour, purchased for $15,000 at the 2016 Standardbred Horse Sale, has won six of 10 career races and never finished worse than second on his way to $111,550 in purses. He defeated Slick Tony and Transitioning Joy in a first-round division of this year’s DSBF series and heads to the final off a 4-1/2 length win over G W T last week. In last year’s championships, Evolution Tour came from off the pace from post No. 8 at Harrington Raceway to miss by a nose in the first final and then got nipped by a nose at Dover Downs after leading from the start from post No. 1 in the second final. “The first time was just a lack of experience,” King said. “He had the ability to go by, he just didn’t. Some horses are more racy than others. That wasn’t on the top of his list. He didn’t put forth his best effort there. But Slick Tony is a really nice horse. The second time, Slick Tony just out-footed him. Timmy elected to cut it and he just got caught. “But they were both good paychecks.” King thinks Evolution Tour better understands the game this year. “That’s the biggest thing right now,” King said. “He’s come into himself and he’s a lot more willing than he was before. He was a bit of a slow learner. He didn’t know he was supposed to excel at times. Now he’s kind of picked that up. Timmy has put him on the front end and he’s stepped off. Timmy’s come first over and he had every reason not to go forward when they turned for home, but he did. “He’s just improved and is getting to be more of a racehorse all the time.” King expects “E.T.” to remain close to home for the rest of the campaign. “He’s going to be really good for the Delaware stakes,” King said. “As far as him being a top contender someplace else, I’m not seeing it. I just think he’s going to be really nice for around here.” In Thursday’s remaining DSBF finals, Deja Vu Blue is the 2-1 morning-line favorite among female trotters, Super Fly is the 3-1 pick among male trotters, and Go Sandy Go is the 5-2 choice among female pacers. For Thursday’s complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager 

Hightstown, NJ --- Dan Ater has spent more than four decades in harness racing, winning nearly 1,500 races as a trainer and 1,700 as a driver on his way to a spot in the Ohio Hall of Fame, but he has never experienced anything like the ride he is enjoying as the owner of Sandys Victory. Ater purchased the 7-year-old female trotter for $8,200 at an auction in November 2016 and has watched the mare win 21 races and $257,435 in purses since then. Sandys Victory’s most recent triumph was March 18 in the Open Handicap at Miami Valley Raceway. For the year, she has won four of nine races, finished second twice, and earned $65,690, which ranks fourth among all trotters in North America. “I waited my lifetime to find this one, so I doubt I’ll find another one,” the 63-year-old Ater said with a chuckle. “I’m just thankful I got her. She’s been a life changer. We’ve had nice horses, but I’ve never had one that I own myself. She’s just helping things out. “It takes a good horse to get you over the hump. I hope every trainer or every owner has that kind of horse because I know how much hard work you put in to it.” Sandys Victory is no stranger to work, either. She has raced 59 times for Ater, making at least three starts a month for 12 consecutive months -- and 15 of the past 16 months overall. “She’s a frequent flyer, I’ll tell you that,” Ater said. “She’s just one of those that shows up and works every week. Those kind are hard to beat. We don’t do a lot of work with her, but she’s always ready to go do her job and she rarely throws in a bad race.” Ater’s son, Kyle, drives Sandys Victory, who has hit the board 39 times for Ater and earned a paycheck a total of 50. Ater does not train the mare often, and gives her plenty of time in the fields at his family farm, where she prefers to hang out with the boys rather than the girls. “If you put her with another mare they just want to squeal and fight,” Ater said. “We turn her out with old Lucky Lime, a gelding, and a couple other geldings and she’s out there running right with them.” Sandys Victory, a daughter of Victory Sam out of Amessageforsandy, enjoyed success on the Ohio Sire Stakes circuit for her previous connections, earning $124,491 as a 3-year-old. Ater purchased her with the hopes of getting a nice horse for claiming races, but she quickly moved up the ranks to the open level. “No doubt she wouldn’t have been this good if she hadn’t been taken care of when she was a young horse,” Ater said. “That’s the big thing. She was a nice 2- and 3-year-old. I could never figure out why she sold for so little (to me). I just got lucky.” Ater, who has been battling cancer for years, set career training highs with 150 wins and $1.53 million in purses in 2017. He plans to continue racing Sandys Victory on a regular basis with the occasional week off here and there. “I’m just going to keep her in that routine,” Ater said. “As long as she’s racing good I’m just going to let her be. She’s not thin; she looks good, she acts good. “She’s been good to me. She doesn’t owe me anything. I just hope she keeps on going because she’s sure one of those that’s fun to have around.” by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager 

Point Somewherelse enjoys a special place in Jeff Gregory's stable, and not solely because the stallion is Gregory's only pacer. Point Somewherelse was bred by Bill Weaver, a Hall of Fame breeder and owner who passed away two years ago, and Gregory drove the horse's dam, Don't Point At, during her final season of harness racing in 2013. A year later, Gregory decided to cut back on catch driving and return to training horses after a 20-year hiatus from that side of the sport. The first horse he raced from his reconstituted training stable was a Bill Weaver-owned trotting filly. Gregory and Weaver also teamed up with trotter Tight Lines, who has raced at the top levels at Yonkers Raceway. "It was kind of nice for me to come across another horse of Bill Weaver's because we had such a good history together as friends and business partners," Gregory said. "He's missed by a lot of people. "Bill didn't have many pacers; (Don't Point At) was one of the few pacers he had. She was an open (level) mare at Yonkers, a really hard-knocking mare." Point Somewherelse, a 4-year-old son of Somebeachsomewhere, races next in Tuesday's $63,400 Sagamore Hill Series championship at Yonkers. The stallion has won four of six races this year, including two preliminary rounds of the Sagamore Hill. He will start Tuesday's final from post five with Gregory in the sulky. Other two-time winners in the preliminary rounds of the series were Mach N Cheese, Obscene Blue Chip, and Sometimesawinner. The Kevin Switzer-trained Sometimesawinner, driven by George Brennan, is unbeaten in three races this year and the Sagamore Hill's 5-2 morning-line favorite. Point Somewherelse is the 7-2 second choice. Racing begins at 6:50 p.m. Tuesday and the Sagamore Hill final is race No. 7 on Yonkers' 10-race card. "Post five isn't the end of the world," Gregory said. "It could have been better, but it could have been a lot worse. If things shake out his way, if he gets any sort of a decent trip, he's just as good as the rest of the horses. But it's a tough race for sure. There are other horses in the race just as good as he is. It's kind of an evenly matched field, so it could go any which way." As a 2-year-old, Point Somewherelse won a division of the Liberty Bell Series and finished third in the John Simpson Memorial. He was purchased by Steve Finkelstein's Jesmeral Stable in May of his 3-year-old season from the stable of trainer Noel Daley, who also trained the stallion's dam, Don't Point At. For his career, Point Somewherelse has won seven of 27 races and earned $130,426 in purses. "We bought him early summer last year thinking we might have a good 3-year-old for the stakes," Gregory said. "He just wasn't quite good enough for the top horses. The 3-year-olds are so tough; you've got to have a great horse to compete. "We thought the competition might be a little softer (this) spring. We were hoping to get lucky and find a softer spot. Knock on wood, it's worked out so far, but it's never easy. He seems to get around Yonkers well and Steve Finkelstein lives five minutes from there. Hopefully the horse is going to be a good overnight horse for him for five or six years and whack out a little money." Gregory, who is based in central New Jersey, has an 18-horse stable, with 17 trotters. Of his trotters, seven are 2-year-olds and four are 3-year-olds. Over the past two seasons, Gregory has won 46 races and $1.16 million in purses as a trainer and won 100 races and $2.86 million as a driver. For his career, the 51-year-old Gregory has 6,860 driving wins. "I got super lucky and got great owners," Gregory said. "They're all experienced owners and they know the ups and downs of the business. They give me the time I need with the horses and don't pressure me. And I've got a great staff. (Assistant trainer) Roni Newhart is excellent. She takes a lot of pressure off me. It helps me enjoy the business knowing I have reliable people. It puts your mind at ease." Gregory, who won the 2005 Hambletonian Oaks with Jalopy and captured a Breeders Crown in 2011 with Chapter Seven, enjoys working with trotters. "It seems that's how we do our best work," Gregory said. "I think we have a small edge because I can train them and drive them. I get used to them. We're not switching drivers every week. It's great if you can get a top catch-driver every week, but it just doesn't happen unless you've got the best horse in the country. "I'm enjoying this side of the business again. I like, and my owners like, taking a shot and dreaming on a young horse. Hopefully we can continue doing that. Hopefully it keeps working out." Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager

Hightstown, NJ --- When Clyde Perfect watched his cousin, trainer Ron Potter, win the Little Brown Jug with Big Bad John in 2011, he decided it was time to get involved in harness racing as a horse owner. Perfect -- who created the Perfect North Slopes ski area in southern Indiana nearly four decades ago and worked previously as a bricklayer, brick contractor, and farmer -- was a mere 78 years young at the time. “I’m just a rookie in the business,” the now 84-year-old Perfect said with a laugh. “When Ron won the Little Brown Jug, I thought, I ought to get one of them and let Ron train it. So that’s what I did.” Perfect, who lives in Indiana, along the Ohio River west of Cincinnati, raced his first horse in 2013 and has enjoyed his share of success over the years, with 80 wins and nearly $1.25 million in purses. Male pacer Ollie Pop won a division of the Ohio Breeders Championship and finished third in the Ohio Sire Stakes final as a 2-year-old in 2014 and filly pacer Pearl Crush won an Ohio Breeders Championship at age 2 in 2017. And then there is Zoe Ellasen, named after two of Perfect’s great-granddaughters. The 4-year-old female pacer has won 13 of 41 races and earned $245,465 heading into Friday’s $25,000 Fillies & Mares Open Handicap at Miami Valley Raceway. She is 9-2 on the morning line, with Tyler Smith driving for Perfect and trainer Potter. Perfect purchased Zoe Ellasen for $9,500 under the name Evil Woman at the 2015 Ohio Selected Jug Sale. She is a daughter of Santanna Blue Chip out of Spring Delight, who is a full sister to multiple-stakes-winner Bettor’s Edge. “She was raised by a guy I kind of knew and I didn’t think she was all that expensive, so why not,” Perfect said about buying Zoe Ellasen. “She’s done real well. She’s the best one I’ve had. As long as she keeps doing good we’ll keep going and seeing what she can do. “Maybe someday she will be a nice broodmare for somebody,” he continued, adding with a laugh, “That’s like buying green bananas, those broodmares.” Zoe Ellasen’s career wins include multiple divisions of the Ohio Sire Stakes series. She was third in the championship as a 2-year-old and fourth last season at 3. She finished third in last year’s Circle City, which was won by Agent Q, and she competed in the Jugette, finishing fifth in her elimination and missing a trip to the final by a quarter-length. Several races earlier on the Jugette card, Pearl Crush had won her division of the Ohio Breeders Championship. “That was really great,” Perfect said. “When I’m feeling low, I go back and watch the replay.” Of course, the Jugette is held at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in central Ohio, which is also home to the Little Brown Jug. Perfect was no stranger to the Jug prior to Big Bad John’s win in 2011, but Big Bad John’s victory was not surprisingly the most impactful. “A lot of guys race all their lives and never get in that winner’s circle,” Perfect said. “I had family ties to the sport, but just never got involved until then. We had quarter horses when my kids were young. Not racing quarter horses, just pleasure quarter horses. I wish I’d gotten involved a little earlier, but it was tough with getting the ski area going and running that.” Perfect expects to have 10 to 12 horses, mostly Ohio bred, in action this year. “I just enjoy watching the horses race,” he said. “It’s been fun and exciting.” by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager 

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