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YONKERS, NY, Saturday, July 13, 2019 -- Columbo (Eric Goodell, $6.70), sans the rumpled raincoat, was the fastest frosh Saturday night (July 13th), winning Yonkers Raceway's $120,250 final of the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace for harness racing 2-year-old colts and geldings. The race again honored the Hall of Fame founder of Hanover Shoe Farms. From post position No. 4, Columbo had designs on leaving, but was caught wide early as the inside threesome all had the same idea. Hunter Hill (Tyler Buter), as the 9-5 favorite, eventually worked around American Rebel (Pat Lachance), making the lead before a non-stressed, 29-second opening quarter-mile. They weren't going much (:57.4) to the half, either, when Columbo took out of fourth. He began to engage Hunter Hill after a 1:26.2 three-quarters, with Save Me a Dance (Jason Bartlett) working from second-over. Hunter Hill was grudgingly giving up the ghost in and out of the final turn as Columbo put him away. The latter then held off Save Me a Dance to win by a half-length in 1:55.4. A from-last, eight-hole Manticore (Jim Marohn Jr.) closed crisply for third at 36-1, with a tiring Hunter Hill and American Rebel settling for the smaller envelopes. Level Up (Mark MacDonald), Han Solo (George Brennan) and a misbehaving-early lone gelding Freedom Warrior (Jordan Stratton) completed the order. For third choice Columbo, a son of Sweet Lou owned by Ken Jacobs and trained by Gareth Dowse, it was his second win in as many season/career tries. He did take down the fastest of last week's three eliminations in 1:54. The exacta here paid $15.60, the triple paid $163.50 and the superfecta paid $468.50. "You never know how these races with 2-year-olds are going to unfold," Goodell said. "Before anything, you want to get around the first turn "I thought about moving when Tyler (Buter, driving Hunter Hill) did, and I thought I made a mistake when I didn't," Goodell said. "When I did go with him, he was acting sort of goofy, sort of wanting to make friends with the other horses. He didn't really seem to get it until late. "I think he can move forward from here." Saturday night's pair of $46,000 Open/Open Handicaps were won by... --(Open Pace), Scott Rocks (Buter, $7) in a life-best 1:51.2; --(Open Handicap Trot), Cromwell (Bartlett, $12.20) in 1:53.3, fastest local trot mile of the season. Frank Drucker

YONKERS, N.Y. – When harness racing trainer Kevin Lare purchased Freedom Warrior off trainer Jimmy Nickerson in mid-June, the freshman gelding came with a warning. Although he already qualified twice with Tim Tetrick in the sulky, including a 1:52.4 second-place finish with a :26.4 final quarter, the American Ideal son had yet to race and was still green. “When I bought him, I had been told by Timmy Tetrick and the gentleman I bought him from that he’s just a 2-year-old, that he hadn’t learned yet and it didn’t take much for him to get really hot-headed, run away, stuff like that,” Lare said. However, to Lare’s surprise, he experienced no issues with Freedom Warrior leading up to the gelding’s first start in the eliminations of the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace last Saturday (July 6) at Yonkers. Freedom Warrior was two fingers when training with cotton-stuffed ears and an ear hood. However, for his first race, Lare opted for pop-out ear plugs. “The other night, I warmed him up, he was fine,” Lare said. “I passed somebody warming up, somebody passed me. I actually had to tap him with the whip because I wanted to go a good last quarter warming him up to make sure he was OK to get around that track. “I made an equipment change,” the trainer continued. “Now I’m in a race going for money, I go to the pop-out earplugs. I know he can hear through the ear plugs some from putting them in him at the farm; they’re not completely soundproof.” Just before the start of Freedom Warrior’s elimination, the last of three that evening, fireworks went off near the racetrack. Freedom Warrior heard them and became a runaway with Jordan Stratton in the sulky. As the race began, the fireworks went off again, and Freedom Warrior took off. “They set off some fireworks about 30 seconds before he went to go to the gate and Jordan said he lost his mind when he heard that,” Lare explained. “Jordan put him to the gate, and as the gate folded, Jordan said they set some more fireworks off as they hit the first turn, and he lost his mind again and Jordan was just a passenger.” Freedom Warrior pulled Stratton along, unratable and barely controllable. He was 3 lengths clear of the field past a quarter of :27.1 and after a half-mile in :54.4, the first-time starter was 10 lengths ahead of his nearest rival. Lare watched from the paddock, bracing for the worst. “I knew he was going to stop and that he was getting ready to come home in 40 seconds if he doesn’t fall. I’m thinking that he’s going to fall because he’s going to choke him off,” Lare recounted. “I thought he was going to choke, flip a palate, hopefully he doesn’t fall, but I just know he’s coming home in :35 tops. I just know he’s getting ready to pull up to a walk.” However, Freedom Warrior stayed on top by 7 lengths through three-quarters in 1:23.4. But fatigue soon began to set in. Waiting in the wings, a trio of rivals – Columbo, Hunter Hill, and Roll With JR – took their aim. Columbo took the first shot, edging to the outside at the top of the stretch as he appeared poised to go past the tiring leader. Meanwhile, Hunter Hill and Roll With JR loomed close behind. With only the top two finishers guaranteed to advance to the final, Lare was ready to pack his bags. “I know at that point in time the best he’s going to be is fourth, that these three are going right by him,” Lare said. “But when the first one got to him, he took back off and raced that horse. That was awfully impressive to me. I couldn’t believe it and Jordan couldn’t believe it either.” Freedom Warrior dug in, only letting Columbo past in the final sixteenth. The others never got to him and Freedom Warrior finished second by 1 ¼ lengths to earn a place in the $120,250 Sheppard Final this Saturday (July 13).  “Is he fast? Yeah, he’s fast. We saw that the other night. Without a doubt, he is a nice horse, but he doesn’t need many trips like that, for sure,” Lare said. “Jordan never did pull the plugs on him or touch him with the whip. He felt bad for the horse, as I did. I definitely was not coming back for the final at the half. I thought he was getting ready to walk across the wire. I did not see that coming at all. “I hope it’s that easy of a fix, that I can just go back and put the cotton in his ears. I can only hope,” Lare said. “You jog him without the cotton, the stone hits the wheels, here where we’re at, trains hook up right behind us and he does freak out. But when he’s got his ear hood on and the cotton in his ears, I can send my 12-year-old kid out to jog him and he wouldn’t be a problem.” Bred by Curran Racing, Adam Michael, and Heidi Rohr and trained down by Rohr’s husband, Freedom Warrior came onto Lare’s radar after being contacted by an agent. Lare and owner Forrest Bartlett have been searching for a talented 2-year-old for several years, and the pair felt Freedom Warrior was that horse. “I’ve been telling an agent for the last couple years that I’ve been looking for a top-notch 2-year-old if they could find one. The owner, Forrest Bartlett, we’ve actually tried to buy a few in the last couple years here,” Lare said. “He was always willing to step up to the plate. Forrest wasn’t interested in one that just looked OK, he wanted one that had a chance of being a top-ten horse. (The agent) called me and that was it, we got the job done from there.” Although one might pass Freedom Warrior by on looks alone, Lare was immediately impressed by the gelding’s gait and his ease of motion. “He’s not a big, strappy-looking horse or anything like that. He’s a gelding, so he’s not built like a stud horse or anything,” Lare said. “He’s not a looker, he’s not one that you’re going to turn your head and say, ‘wow, look at that horse.’  “But on the racetrack, he covers so much ground,” Lare continued. “When I sat behind him and trained him, I was impressed because he covers the ground so easy and he covers so much of it. When he picks them up and puts them down, horses that wear a longer hopple than he does, he’s covering more ground than they are every stride. He does it very easily and effortlessly. I really like that about him.” After purchasing Freedom Warrior, Lare took the gelding to Ocean Downs to qualify June 27. Although the heavy half-mile track was not ideal for the 2-year-old, it was the trainer’s last chance to get a trial in before the Sheppard. Lare expected a slow mile, but got more than he bargained for when finishing second a half-length behind Breeze Away B in a 1:56.2 mile. “The track was really deep. Jonathan said that was a 54-and-a-piece mile at Yonkers. So, I was very impressed with him that day,” Lare recalled. “I did have to make a couple equipment changes after qualifying that day, but that’s why I went down there, to find out exactly what I needed to do.” Freedom Warrior drew post six in the Sheppard Final and will again have Stratton in the sulky. Elimination winners American Rebel, Columbo, and Save Me A Dance drew posts two, four, and five, respectively while elimination runner ups Han Solo and Manticore will start from post one and post eight, respectively. Hunter Hill and Level Up, the two fastest third-place finishers in last week’s eliminations, drew posts three and seven, respectively.  “Of course, I would have liked to draw the rail in the final too. After what happened last week, I think he would have gained a lot of respect leaving the gate. I’m sure he’s going to be headed in the same direction anyway, we just hope it isn’t as fast fractions,” Lare said. “Of course, the six hole is no advantage there, but with his gate speed, it’s not going to hinder him that much. He is quick off the wings, but we just want to be able to settle him back down. “I think he’s got a huge chance. Personally, I think he’s the best, I really do,” Lare continued. “They’ve got him to beat in my opinion. All he’s got to do is get some honest fractions. He can pace as fast home as he was leaving the gate last week, he just can’t do it off those fractions.” For Lare, a victory in the Sheppard Final, the first open Grand Circuit stakes final for 2-year-olds this year, would be especially meaningful. The trainer hopes to see owner Bartlett rewarded for his purchase. “It would be great for Forrest Bartlett. He stepped up to the plate, he spent money buying this horse. He’s been a great owner for me,” Lare said. “I’ve had great horses before; he’s not the first one, nor do I hope he’s the last one, nor do I hope he’s the last one that Forrest buys. It would be great to win the first major stakes race the horse is in. That would be great for Forrest and great for me.” Saturday night’s card also features the weekly $46,000 Open Handicap Trot and Open Pace, along with the $37,000 4-Year-Old Open Handicap Pace. First post time is 6:50 p.m. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, July 6, 2019 - Yonkers Raceway's Saturday night harness racing (July 6th) offered a look into the future. A trio of $25,000 eliminations for the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace saw 18 (after one defection) 2-year-olds (17 colts and one gelding) vie for an invite to next Saturday night's (July 13th) $120,250 finale. Columbo (Eric Goodell, $26.60), from post position No. 3, won the fastest of the elims, sitting the loosest of pockets as lone gelding Freedom Warrior (Jordan Stratton) was a wild horse...as defined by runaway intervals of :27.1, 54.4 and 1:23.4. Columbo predictably closed ranks and went by, winning by a length-and-a-quarter in a purse-debuting 1:54. Freedom Warrior held second, while a steppy 3-4 choice Hunter Hill (Tyler Buter) found his best stride late for third. For fourth choice Columbo, a son of Sweet Lou owned by Ken Jacbos and trained by Gareth Dowse, he led exotics of $164 (exacta), $339.50 (triple) and $1,181 (superfecta). The other elims were won by... --American Rebel (by American Ideal); co-owners (trainer) Rob Harmon,Robert Robinson/driver Stratton; (first life win) 1:57.1/$8.30; --Save Me a Dance (by Heston Blue Chip): owner Robert Key/trainer Andrew Harris/driver Jason Bartlett; (life-best) 1:55.2/$6.40. The eight finalists include the three elimination winners plus Freedom Warrior, Han Solo, Hunter Hill, Level Up and Manticore. Open draw for the Sheppard Pace takes places Monday afternoon (July 8th). Saturday night's pair of $46,000 Open Handicaps were won by... --(Pace), Micky Gee N (Stratton, $8.90) in a life-best 1:50.1; Micky Gee N --(Trot), Eye ofa Tiger AS (catch-driver Goodell, $5.70) in 1:54.3. Eye ofa Tiger AS Frank Drucker

YONKERS, N.Y. – Monique Cohen will start two horses in the harness racing eliminations of the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace Saturday night at Yonkers Raceway: homebred Han Solo and Harrisburg buy Level Up. While the latter’s journey to the races was smooth sailing, Han Solo narrowly survived a brush with death to become the 8-5 morning line favorite in an elimination of the first open 2-year-old stakes of the season. By Mister Big out of the Jet Laag mare Leah, Han Solo is Cohen’s first homebred. Cohen owned Leah in partnership and campaigned the mare across the east coast from 2007 through 2012. When the partnership finally dissolved, Cohen kept the mare who’d won 27 of 181 starts and earned $124,264, primarily in the pre-slots era.  “She did it the hard way. She was my pet and every time she raced in a claimer, I was cringing that she would get claimed,” Cohen said. “When the partnership dissolved, I bought her out and we traded a pretty expensive trotter for a piece of her for just so I could keep her. “She was just a little ATM machine,” Cohen continued. “She didn’t make a lot of money, but she was always sound, she was always wanting to do her job, and she was just an all-around good little mare. She’s not a big mare, but she was just a friendly little mare that was my pet.” After retiring Leah to her farm in 2013, Cohen decided to give the gray mare a chance at a second career as a broodmare. On March 24, 2017, ‘Princess Leah,’ as Cohen affectionately calls her, had her first foal, Han Solo. “He looked like a donkey,” Cohen recalled. “He was pitch black and had so much hair. The only gray was around his eyes and his muzzle. He had the thickest hair you’ve ever seen and he was huge, huge. I felt so bad for this mare. “That summer, he started shedding that black fuzz and he started getting lighter and lighter as the summer went on,” Cohen continued. “By September, he was pretty gray. He was still dark gray, but not that black.” When it came time to wean Han Solo from Leah, Cohen sent the colt to the farm of nearby owner Nick Vamvilis of Seafood Delight Stable.  “[Nick] had a yearling he was weaning, Seafood King, and he said, ‘can you bring your baby over here because our baby is alone and he needs a friend.’ He’s only 15 minutes from our farm, so we turned him out there,” Cohen said. “Nick was going to switch Han Solo from one paddock to another paddock. He said he just went down and he couldn’t get him up and he called me to come out there.” Cohen and her daughter raced to Han Solo’s side and tried in vain to get the horse back on his feet. After some time, the vet arrived and pulled blood, but nothing physically wrong could be found with the colt. “My daughter, Sheena McElhiney, who’s a trainer said, ‘let’s throw everything and the kitchen sink at him, anything. At this point, what does it matter,’ ” Cohen recalled and the team began administering strong antibiotics in a last ditch effort to save Han Solo. “My daughter and I sat in the field with him overnight. He was trying to get up the whole night and he was just throwing himself 30 or 40 feet in the field. We put a tent over him the next day because it was so hot,” Cohen remembered. “In the morning the vet came, and the blood work just showed a little elevation in his white count, but he had no clue. He was calling doctors in Kentucky, New Bolton, everywhere trying to figure out what this was.” About 30 hours after Han Solo collapsed, Cohen made the difficult decision to euthanize the colt. Preparations were made and the vet was summoned. Just before the injection was administered to end Han Solo’s suffering, Vamvilis made a final plea. "By 4:30 or 5 o’clock that night, I called the vet back and said, ‘I can’t see him like this anymore,’ ” Cohen said. “We called everybody and we got the flatbed ready to haul him away. The doctor came and his assistant was getting ‘the blue shot’ ready. He had his head on my lap and Nick came over and just grabbed his halter and said, ‘come on Han, just get up, one more time.’ ” Han Solo leapt to his feet.  The somber crowd stared mystified as the colt’s legs trembled under his weight once more. After about five minutes of standing, Han Solo was steady again and walked across the paddock to the fence to see Seafood King. One month after his near-death experience, Han Solo began training alongside Seafood King and Level Up. Although he had a tricky disposition, Han Solo took to his work well. “He has a personality. He was good line-driving in only a couple days and then we put him in the cart. He likes to jog with other horses because he likes to play with them and plod along with them. As fast as they go, he’ll go. He loves his work,” Cohen said. “In the barn, he’s kind of rambunctious, but as soon as you put the harness on him, he’s ready to go. The first thing when you pull him out of the stall, you throw the harness on him.”  By June 1, 2019, Han Solo was ready to qualify. He won his first baby race on the front end in 2:03.1 at Saratoga and returned to the Spa the following week to score in another trial in 2:01.2. The results encouraged Cohen. “We qualified him up at Saratoga and he’s a little bit lazy. He’ll go as fast as he needs to go. I knew he could go faster because he’s gone faster at home on our five-eighths track. He had to get experience behind the gate, and he wasn’t afraid of the gate, he got right up on the gate, so that was nice to see,” she said. On June 19, Han Solo made his pari-mutuel debut in a $5,750 2-year-old maiden at Saratoga. Han Solo raced 4 ¾ lengths behind 1-5 favorite Herecomesbullville early and stuck to the pylons behind a :57.3 half-mile. As rival Shade Thrower took on Herecomesbullville nearing the three-quarters, driver Bruce Aldrich, Jr. put Han Solo in gear.  Angling three-wide around the final turn, Han Solo ranged up within 2 lengths of the leaders. Fully extended, Han Solo stormed down the center of the track and surged past Herecomesbullville in the shadow of the wire to win his debut at odds of 5-1. “That was very exciting. Everybody who knows him is so happy,” Cohen said. “He’s got a good following around here and they’re just so happy to see him on the track. After what happened to him, we just didn’t know what to expect.” After finishing second to 3-year-old Fargo Hanover in his second start at Plainridge June 28, Cohen entered Han Solo in the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace. The colt drew post one in the first of three $25,000 eliminations. The top two finishers and the two fastest third-place finishers in each elimination will advance to the estimated $120,250 final July 13. “The only thing he’s eligible for was the Massachusetts Sire Stakes, so we wanted to get him a little more experience. We thought this was a good race,” Cohen said. “After this, we’re going to give him a little break and then bring him back for the Mass. Sire Stakes. He’s just Mass. bred, so there’s not a lot of races for him. We wanted to get a little more mileage under him and he’s doing well and competing well, so we thought, why not, let’s take a shot.” Cohen will also start Level Up in the second elimination of the Sheppard. The Art Major colt drew post two and is 3-1 on the morning line.  Vamvilis purchased Level Up out of the 2018 Harrisburg Yearling Sale for $55,000. After two impressive qualifiers at Saratoga, a 16 ¾-length win in 1:59 at first asking and a 3 ½-length score in 1:57.3 second time out, Level Up finished on the board in two legs of the New York Sire Stakes at Yonkers and Monticello June 20 and July 1, respectively. “He likes to do his job. He can leave. He’s an easy one. We were really happy with getting him,” Cohen said. “He’s been doing well in the New York Sire Stakes. We’ve been really happy with him. “Both of them have been drawing really well so far. We’re just so excited that we have two babies we can really go out there and compete with.” Saturday night’s card also features the weekly $46,000 Open Handicap Trot and Open Handicap Pace, along with the $37,000 4-Year-Old Open Handicap Pace. First post time is 6:50 p.m. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. For entries to the races, click here.   By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Friday, July 5, 2019-Back in ancient times-1964-it was decreed there would be a race honoring one of the titans of the industry. Hence, Yonkers Raceway began the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace, Westchester's premier harness racing event for 'open' 2-year-old pacing colts and geldings. The race, either as a single dash or split stake, gives props to the Hall of Fame founder of Hanover Shoe Farms and has been won by some of the fastest freshmen in harness-racing history. The Sheppard's 2019 incarnation begins with 19 hopefuls in three, $25,000 Saturday night (July 6th) eliminations, going consecutively as races 3,4 and 5. The first two finishers in each elim, plus the two fastest third-place finishers, return for the $120,250 finale, set for next Saturday night (July 13th). Some of the entrants already possess resumes. In the first elimination, So So De Vie (American Ideal/George Brennan, post 3) has a New York Sire Stakes start, while American Rebel (American Ideal/Jordan Stratton, post 5) has done that foe one better, with a pair of NYSS tries. Han Solo (Mister Big/Jason Bartlett, post 1) was a debuting 1:58.1 overnight winner at Saratoga. For those who look at the sticker price, Cheerio Hill (Captaintreacherous/Tyler Buter, post 6) sold (as Captainfrightful) for $105,000, more than any other of the plebes in this season's event. Second-elim standouts include Save Me a Dance (Heston Blue Chip/Bartlett, post 4), a sire stakes winner (1:56.1) at Monticello this past Monday afternoon (July 1st). He was joined in the NYSS win column by Cigars and Port (So Surreal/Mark MacDonald, post 5), who traversed the Catskills in 1:56.3 Level Up (Art Major/Stratton, post 2) missed an inch in another Monti statebred event the same day. The final elimination for the Sheppard includes Hunter Hill (Somebeachsomewhere/Buter, post 4), who has taken down a pair of Philly overnights in identical 1:55 efforts.   Frank Drucker Manager of Publicity Yonkers, NY 10704

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, July 14, 2018-They're 2-year-olds. Things happen. Such was the case in Saturday night's (July 14th) $100,000 Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace, Yonkers Raceway's premier event for 'open' frosh colts and geldings honoring the Hall of Fame founder of Hanover Shoe Farms. When the stone dust settled, Hickfromfrenchlick (Mark MacDonald, $5.30) emerged an open-length winner in a six-horse race that was not for the squeamish. At the outset, the eventual winner-from post position No. 2-was off the gate. His next-door neighbor to the outside, Just Plain Loco (Jim Marohn Jr.), tried to leave but threw in steps. He eventually righted the ship, but was wide into the first turn. Meanwhile, 4-5 choice World on Edge (George Brennan) led into the first turn, only to jump it off That left first starter and 58-1 rank outsider Can We Dance (Greg Merton) as sort of a default leader from his outside post. The bombardier put up intervals of :28 and :57, the latter as pole-sitting Hurrikane Kingklee (Dan Dube) tried to pull pocket, only to reconsider. Nearing the 1:26.1 three-quarters, the field truncated...even World on Edge, who then misbehaved again. Hurrikane Kingklee finally did dispose of the longshot leader, while Hickfromfrenchlick was right behind. The 'Hick' inhaled the tiring front-enders in the final turn, opening to two lengths into the lane. Hickfromfrenchlick then rolled home in his parimutuel debut, the final margin 3¼ lengths in 1:55.4. Just Plain Loco, who angled widest into the final turn, survived his race race-and-a-half to finish second, with another first-starter Treasure Tom (Jason Bartlett) third. Hurrikane Kingklee and Can We Dance settled for the minors, while World on Edge needs to think about what he did. For second choice Hickfromfrenchlick, a $47,000 (Goshen NY) plebe son of Larry Bird, er, So Surreal, co-owned by (trainer) Ray Schnittker, Nolamaura Racing and Thomas Spatorico, he's won both of his purse tries (Landmark at Goshen). The exacta paid $20, the triple paid $155 and the superfecta paid $367. "He shied from the car at the start," MacDonald said. "I was fortunate with the breakers to get away where I did and just sort of sit there. "When Danny (Dube, Hurrikane Kingklee) pulled, I was right behind him and he just sort of paced away. Ray (Schnittker) told me not to screw it up. A strange race. Glad we won." Saturday's $44,000 Open Handicap Pace was won by odds-on Always at My Place (Brennan, $3.10) in a season's-best 1:50.3. Sunday's (July 15th) matinee goes at 11:28 AM, with the first four 'French' trots going as both overflow-field and added-distance (mile-and-a-quarter) by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, N.Y. – The Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace is one of the first major Grand Circuit events for 2-year-old pacers, and according to trainer Tom Fanning, it takes a special kind of horse to win the $100,000 stakes.  “I think it’s a good value race if you think your horse is going to be handy on a half and they happen to be ready, I think it’s a good race to go in,” Fanning said. “I think you have to have a certain kind of horse. They have to be handy, good on the turns, and athletic to do well early on a half-mile track.” Fanning thinks he may have that certain type of horse in Just Plain Loco, a 3-1 morning line chance to capture the 54th edition of the Sheppard Pace tonight (July 14) at Yonkers Raceway. The son of Well Said out of the Bettor’s Delight mare Symphony in Motion didn’t turn many heads at last year’s Harrisburg sale due to his small size, but Fanning and co-owner Paul Lang liked what they saw and were the top bidders when the hammer fell at $15,000. “The owner liked him very much. I think he liked the pedigree and he was dual eligible. He was big on that, he was eligible to some races in New Jersey and in Pennsylvania. He was a real small horse, but I think his brother was also small. He wasn’t my top selection, but there were some things I did like about him,” Fanning said. Although Just Plain Loco was small in stature, Fanning was surprised by how athletic the pacer is. He wears a much longer hopple than would be expected for his size and proved to be a very nice mover on the racetrack. However, he was also full of energy and unfocused, so the decision was made to geld Just Plain Loco early in his training. “We actually gelded him pretty early. He really wasn’t focused in on his work. Once we cut him, he got better and better. He trained down pretty well then,” Fanning said. “He’s very good in a race. On the track, he’s very squirrely, looking at everything. We always joke, he never jogs in a straight line. But when it’s time to do his work, once we turn him to go a mile, he would straighten up. He was good about things, but he likes to fool around a lot too.” Although Just Plain Loco was training down well and making his times, Fanning felt because of his size, the gelding was having to work harder to keep up with the group. Fanning began training Just Plain Loco by himself and let him develop at his own pace. “He didn’t get beat in his training miles or anything, he just had to work at it a little bit more,” Fanning explained. “We had him in company until about March, but because of his size, I took him out of company and trained him by himself just because I didn’t really want to put any pressure on him. He would just do his thing, he’s go the time, he’d be willing enough to do it. I put him back in company in the middle of May or so when they were ready to qualify almost.” Just Plain Loco qualified twice in June. He made his debut at Gaitway, where he finished fifth in his first trial June 18. Although he was beaten 19 ½ lengths, Fanning was pleased with the effort; Just Plain Loco went 1:56.2 with a :28.0 final panel. He returned with a fourth-place finish, timed in 1:57.0 with :27.4 last quarter, in a Harrah’s Philadelphia qualifier June 26. “I was happy with both of them,” the trainer opined. “We had trained him before his first qualifier in 2:01 and he got beat pretty good his first race, but he came home in :28.0. I was standing about halfway up the stretch and I could see he had some go to him, he was pacing right along. It was deceptive because we weren’t going to push him. The second qualifier, he came home in about :56.0 and paced pretty good on the end of it again. He was wrapped up.” Just Plain Loco made his pari-mutuel debut in a $13,000 overnight for 2-year-olds at Harrah’s July 8. Although bettors dismissed him at odds of 14-1, Just Plain Loco worked his way to the lead and scored a length victory in 1:54.0. The tactics, if not the win, were even a surprise to his trainer. “It didn’t surprise me he won, it was surprising he went to the front,” Fanning said. “He got a little bit aggressive. When the gate opened, he got surrounded. He’s not a real aggressive horse, but he was right in the middle of the pack and he got a little excited, so (David Miller) just sort of paced out of there and he ended up on the front.” After posting a pair of inspiring qualifiers and a strong debut, Fanning decided to enter Just Plain Loco in the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace. He will start from post three with driver Jim Marohn, Jr. in the sulky.  Just Plain Loco’s five rivals include 3-2 morning line favorite World On Edge. The Ron Burke-trainee qualified in 1:55.0 at Gaitway June 4 before debuting a winner in New York Sire Stakes at Yonkers June 26. He will start from post five in the Sheppard. Hickfromfrenchlick posted a 14 ½-legnth victory in his debut at Goshen June 29 when beating one rival in a 1:57.3 (27.1) mile and drew post two in the Sheppard for trainer Ray Schnittker. Hurrikane Kinglee, Treasure Tom, and Can We Dance complete the lineup. “It’s hard to say. Two-year-olds on a half, it’s really hard to get a read on it. It’s hard to make a prediction,” Fanning said. “I think our horse will be good on the turns and if he races back to last week, he should be pretty close with these horses.” Saturday’s card co-features the weekly $44,000 Open Handicap Pace. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Wednesday, July 11, 2018--The phrase 'small but select' gets invoked for Saturday night's (July 14th) $100,000 Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace, Yonkers Raceway's premier event for 'open' 2-year-old colts and geldings. With just six entrants (down from 20 a season ago), all go straight to the gate for the finale, with Yonkers again paying homage to the Hall of Fame founder of Hanover Shoe Farms. The race began in 1964, with iconic Bret Hanover its first winner. It continued, sometimes as a split stake, through 2003, before being resurrected in 2012. This season's Sheppard goes as the sixth race during the dozen-race card, with first post at the usual 6:50 PM. There appears to be some aptitude among the happy half-dozen, led by statebred World on Edge (George Brennan, post 5). The son of Roll with Joe, co-owned (as Burke Racing) by (trainer) Ron Burke, Joe DiScala Jr., J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby and Adriano Sorella, made a successful purse debut here, winning his $53,000 division of the New York Sire Stakes late last month (down-the-road 1:57.1). At $50,000 (Harrisburg), he was the priciest of the participants. Another member of the Empire set is pole-sitting Hurrikane Kingklee (Dan Dube), who's been third in both of his sire stakes tries (here and Monticello). The Art Major colt is trained by John McDermott for co-owners Jonathan Klee Racing, Kuhen Racing and George Vierno. Just Plain Loco (Jim Marohn Jr., post 3) was a 14-1 upsetter in his first race for money, a 1:54 effort at the Meadowlands. The gelded son of Well Said is co-owned by (trainer) Tom Fanning and Paul Lang. "He's a small horse--maybe the smallest I've ever trained--but doesn't know it," Fanning said. "He's athletic and handy and should move forward off that start." Treasure Tom (Jason Bartlett, post 4), a Mach Three gelding---the other in the field--enters the Sheppard off a pair of Pocono qualifiers...both with Bartlett driving. We can't guarantee Larry Bird is going to be in and around Westchester Saturday night, but his nicknamesake (new word) is. Hickfromfrenchlick (Mark MacDonald, post 2) was a blowout winner in the $11,000 division of Goshen's Landmark Stakes (1:57.3, back half :56.3). The statebred son of So Surreal is co-owned by (trainer) Ray Schnittker, Nolamaura Racing and Thomas Spatorico. Can We Dance (Greg Merton, post 6), trained by Nancy Johansson, is another making his first purse try. The son of A Rocknroll Dance is a half-brother to Sweet Rock, a career earner of more than $611,000. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway  

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, July 15, 2017 -  Harness racing driver Jordan Stratton actually beat Jordan Stratton Saturday night (July 15th). Stratton and Kwik Talkin' ($5.60) held off odds-on Springsteen (Jason Bartlett) in a glorified match race, winning Yonkers Raceway's $110,500 final of the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace for 2-year-old colts and geldings. The mile tickled the teletimer in 1:53.4, two-fifths of a second faster than the previous stakes record of Hail the Taxi (2012)...also driven by Stratton. At the outset, Kwik Talkin'-from post position No. 7-was thrown in the fray, along with pole-sitting Springsteen, Real Rayenbow (Chuck Connor Jr.) and Hora Star (Greg Merton). 'Rayenbow' was the first leader, before the 3-4 choice Springsteen played leapfrog. Hora Star was seated as Kwik Talkin' drove on, making the lead just after a spiffy :27.4 opening quarter-mile. After a 56-second intermission and moving toward a 1:25.2 three-quarters, the 48-1 Hora Star made a second move, but never came near the leaders. The pair of people's preferences, who finished 1-2 in last week's fastest of three (1:54.4) elims, were about to have the final to themselves. It was Kwik Talkin', as the second choice, opening a couple of lengths in and out of the final turn before defeating Springsteen by a length-and-a-quarter. It was seven lengths back to Trump Nation (Eric Goodell), who photoed Phat Blue Chip (Brent Holland) for third. Persist Blue Chip (George Brennan) earned the final pay envelope, while Real Rayenbow, Hora Star and Damion Diesel Hahn (Ray Schnittker) completed the order. Trump Nation and Persist Blue Chip was last week's other elimination winners. For Kwik Talkin', an $18,000 (Harrisburg) a perfect (4-for-4) son of Well Said trained by Rob Harmon for Ontario co-owners Robert Robinson, Jacqueline Dinelle and Scott & Lisa Henry, the mile was a life-best effort. The exacta paid $9.20, with the triple returning $22.60. "He doesn't race as a 2-year-old," Stratton said. "He doesn't act as a 2-year-old," Harmon said of the winner, indoctrinated at Ottawa's Rideau Carleton Raceway. "I knew I've have to use him early, but once I made the lead, he rated the way an older horse would," Stratton said. Kwik Talkin Saturday night's $55,000 Open Handicap Pace was won by a pole-sitting, pocket-protecting Bakersfield (Holland, $21.80) in 1:51.3, the highlight of his chauffeur's five-win night. Bakersfield Frank Drucker  

YONKERS, N.Y. - Ottawa-based horseman Robert Robinson is no stranger to working with talented horses. Every year, he breaks and trains quality 2-year-olds before shipping them out to trainers who will campaign and race them. Among his former harness racing pupils are Gerries Sport, a multiple Ontario Sire Stakes winner. “I do train some horses for people that are pretty well respected, but once I get them ready, they go on to other places,” Robinson explained. Robinson started with a roster of 16 horses last fall, many of which were 2-year-olds for clients and a few of which were freshman of his own. Like in years past, nearly all of them shipped out as planned. Robinson now trains a stable of three horses and looks after one broodmare. This time, however, one of the talented 2-year-olds who made his way stateside is his own, Kwik Talkin. Robinson purchased Kwik Talkin, a son of Well Said and the Cam’s Card Shark mare Kwik Dial, out of the 2016 Harrisburg Sale for $18,000. A half to Pennsylvania Stallion Series-placed Kwik Mac and from a family that includes millionaire pacer Dial Or Nodial, Kwik Talkin drew attention at the sale, but for the wrong reasons. “Before I went to the sale, I looked at the video and he moved pretty good,” Robinson recalled. “I remember when I went to the sale, I went back to look at him a few times. He toed out a bit in the right front. I was with a good friend of mine who races in Toronto and he said, ‘does that right front not concern you?’ I said ‘not at all because I watched him trot, I watched him pace and he had lots of clearance.’ ” While others shied away, Robinson stepped up and took Kwik Talkin home. Partnering on the colt are Jacqueline Dinelle, Robinson’s wife, and an old friend of Robinson’s, Scott Henry and his wife Lisa. For the Henrys, Kwik Talkin is their first delve into racehorse ownership. “After my dad died, they bought my dad’s farm,” Robinson explained. “They got my number last year and they asked to buy into a horse. They ended up getting in on this horse and it’s the first horse they’ve ever owned. “I knew Scott from when I first started racing. His dad had some horses and his father is probably one of the first people who ever gave me a catch drive,” Robinson remembered. Training down, Kwik Talkin never had any bad days. Although he wasn’t a standout among Robinson’s stable, Kwik Talkin showed promise by winning his first qualifier in wire-to-wire fashion at Rideau Carlton May 31. It was in a schooling session at the track the following week that Robinson first realized he had a very talented colt on his hands. “In the two weeks between his qualifier and his first race, I took him to the track and schooled him with aged horses. Three of them were in to race that Sunday and went (1):55 and he just blew them away in the schooling,” Robinson said. “That was my first indication that he was going to be real good. I always thought he was a nice horse, but I thought he was a little bit better than a nice horse after that schooler.” Kwik Talkin continued to face older horses in his first two pari-mutuel starts at the Ottawa oval. He won his debut June 15 by 2 1/2 lengths, pacing a mile in 1:58.3 before doubling up with a 1:55.0 score the following week. In both victories, his owner and then trainer drove him. “He really impressed me when he went in (1):55. He probably stopped and went three or four times in the mile and whenever I asked him he just kept going,” Robinson said. Kwik Talkin’s impressive outings in Canada earned him a trip to compete in the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace elimination at Yonkers Raceway July 8, the only Grand Circuit event Robinson staked him to. Last year, Robinson was the underbidder on Summer Side, winner of the 2016 Sheppard Pace, and thought his colt could pursue a similar path. “I followed that horse a little bit and saw what he did, so I figured this was a good spot,” he explained. “He’s only got some Pennsylvania Sire Stakes after this, so he’ll end the year with seven or eight starts, which is probably a good thing. It works out good that the horse isn’t going to be over-raced this year.” Racing out of Rob Harmon’s barn, Kwik Talkin sparkled in his Sheppard elimination. After racing parked through an opening quarter of :27.4, Kwik Talkin cleared the lead, but was soon met with the challenge of Phat Blue Chip. Forced to yield, Kwik Talkin rated in the pocket until finding clear racing room a furlong from the finish. Angled three-wide by driver Jordan Stratton, Kwik Talkin charged down the center of the track with dead-aim on rival Springsteen. With minimal encouragement, Kwik Talkin streaked past his competition to score by a length in 1:54.4, the fastest of the three Sheppard eliminations by more than two seconds. His final quarter of :27.1 was the fastest on the 12-race card. “I felt there was a lot more under the hood. A lot of horses ship from Rideau Carlton to other tracks and will go faster because it’s not the fastest track,” Robinson reasoned. “I was kind of surprised after watching the other divisions that they could go that fast. I thought that was impressive.” Although Kwik Talkin is the 2-1 morning line favorite for Saturday’s $110,500 Sheppard Pace Final, it won’t be a walkover as he will start from post seven. Trump Nation and Persist Blue Chip, winners of their eliminations last week, drew posts two and eight respectively. Springsteen, Damion Diesel Hahn, Phat Blue Chip, Real Rayenbow, and Hora Star complete the field. “I’m just hoping he does well,” Robinson said. “I’ve done good for other people, but this is like the first one that I’m doing good for myself, so it’s a little bit more special. My partners went last week and my wife and I are going this week. It will be our first trip there, so hopefully he’ll be good.” First post time Saturday at Yonkers is 7:10 p.m. EST. For entries for the card, click here. by Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Thursday, July 13, 2017 -- Persist Blue Chip may have impressed his harness racing connections last week, but the gods of the open draw openly mocked him. One of three winners of their respective $25,000 elimination races, Persist Blue Chip was 'rewarded' with a trip behind Yonkers Raceway's eight-ball for Saturday night's (July 15th) $110,500 final of the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace. Yonkers' premier open stakes event for 2-year-old pacing colts and colts goes as the sixth race (approx. post time 9 PM) during the dozen-race card. First post is the usual 7:10 PM. The eight-hole getaway probably means a come-from-behind try from Persist Blue Chip, not a new experience. In his maiden-breaking (1:58.3) elim, he was last among the six-pack early before rallying up the cones to defeat Damian Diesel Hahn by a head. The son of Roll with Joe, a $57,000 Harrisburg purchase, goes out for co-owners (as Burke Racing)/trainer Ron Burke, Weaver Bruscemi, James Martin and William Switala. "I thought I could leave (in the elimination), but there was a lot of inside speed," driver George Brennan said. "He came home well, a good back half (sitting sixth, nine lengths from the lead) and that's what's going have to happen again in the final. "Chris (Ryder, owner/trainer of Springsteen) and Rob's (Harmon, trainer of Kwik Talkin') horses are both very talented and raced very well (finished 1-2 in the fastest elim). You play hand you're dealt. "He's a nice colt and Ronnie (Burke) said he's does everything right, so we just have to see how it develops." ...and continue Persist-ing. The Sheppard, which began in 1964 (a split stake for any number of years and unraced from 2004-11), once again honors the founder of Hanover Show Farms. The field for the finale, with drivers and early odds...1-Springsteen (Jason Bartlett, 3-1), 2-Trump Nation (Eric Goodell, 4-1) 3-Damion Diesel Hahn (Ray Schnittker, 20-1), 4-Phat Blue Chip (Brent Holland, 8-1), 5-Real Rayenbow (Chuck Connor Jr., 15-1) 6-Hora Star (Greg Merton, 12-1), 7-Kwik Talkin' (Jordan Stratton, 2-1), 8-Persist Blue Chip (George Brennan, 6-1). Trump Nation (first-start 1:57.1) and Kwik Talkin' (life-best 1:54.4) were last week's other elimination winners. Frank Drucker

YONKERS, NY, Monday, July 10, 2017--Yonkers Raceway's $110,500 final of the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace for harness racing 2-year-old colts and geldings goes Saturday night (July 15th), with an annual six-figure look at the stars of tomorrow. The Sheppard is carded as the sixth race (approximate post time 9 PM) of the dozen-race dossier, with the usual first post of 7:10 PM. The open draw came out in favor of Springsteen (Jason Bartlett, post 1), a solid second in last week's fastest (of three) $25,000 elimination races. Chris Ryder owns, trains (and last week drove) the son of Rock N Roll Heaven, an $18,000 Lexington purchase. The open draw did not come out in favor of Ottawa import Kwik Talkin' (Jordan Stratton, post 7), who defeated Springsteen by a length a week ago in that zippy 1:54.4 elim. The Well Said colt, trained by Rob Harmon for Canadian co-owners Robert Robinson, Jacqueline Dinelle and Scott & Lisa Henry, is 3-for-3 after that life-best work here last Saturday night. Trump Nation (Eric Goodell, post 2) and Persist Blue Chip (George Brennan, post 8) won last week's other elims in maiden-breaking miles of 1:57.1 and 1:58.3, respectively, both from off the pace. The remainder of the finale field includes Damion Diesel Hahn (Ray Schnittker, post 3), Phat Blue Chip (Bartlett also listed, post 4), Real Rayenbow (Bartlett listed again, post 5) and Hora Star (Brennan also listed, post 6) Program changes for the Sheppard, named for the founder of Hanover Shoe Farms, shall be made Tuesday night (July 11th). The evening before the Sheppard (that would be Friday, July 14th), the Raceway hosts the $170,499 New York Sire Stakes Art Watson Pace for 3-year-old fillies. Frank Drucker

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, July 8, 2017-Yonkers Raceway's premier open event for 2-year-olds colts and geldings, the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace, offered a trio of $25,000 elimination races Saturday night (July 8th). The first and third elims were prim and proper, but the middle one was dynamite. Ottawa invader Kwik Talkin' (Jordan Stratton, $3.40) proved he was kwik walkin' as well. From post position No. 2, he prevailed in a mile with much movement, whipping a stubborn Springsteen (Chris Ryder) by a length in a snappy 1:54.4. 'Phat' was third, beaten 4½ lengths. Those two, plus pole-sitting Phat Blue Chip (Jason Bartlett), mixed it up two- and three-wide through intervals of :27.4, 57.4 and 1:27.1. It was Springsteen getting first 'run,' ripping out of a three-hole and leading into the lane. He could not stall the winner, now 3-for-3 in his career after cutting his teeth at Rideau Carleton. For Kwik Talkin', an $18,000 (Harrisburg) son of Well Said trained by Rob Harmon for Ontario co-owners Robert Robinson, Jacqueline Dinelle and Scott & Lisa Henry, the mile was a life-best effort. The exact paid $17.20, with the triple returning $31.80. "Nice horse," Stratton said. "Hopefully, we draw well in the final." Harmon offered a bit more insight. "The owners called and asked if I'd take the horse," he said. "I didn't know anything about him. I trained him here (Yonkers) last Friday in 1:58 and he was getting around the track well. I just added a line pole outside, since he's sort of green and doesn't know a whole lot." Another example of why ignorance is bliss. Those three frosh are to be joined in next week's $110,500 finale of the Sheppard by the other elimination winners-maiden-breakers Persist Blue Chip (George Brennan, $10.20) in 1:58.3 and Trump Nation (catch-driver Eric Goodell, $23.40) in 1:57.1-as well as second-place finishers Damion Diesel Hahn (Ray Schnitttker) and Hora Star (Brennan) and Real Rayenbow (Jason Bartlett). Real Rayenbow cut the mile as the 13-10 fave in the final elim before fading to third. Persist Blue Chip ($57,000 Harrisburg) is a Roll with Joe colt, while Trump Nation, a son of Betterthancheddar, did not sell at auction. The Sheppard is, of course, named for the man behind breeding behemoth Hanover Shoe Farms. The open draw takes place Monday afternoon (July 10th), Saturday night's pair of $55,000 Open Handicaps were annexed (big word) by... --(Pace) Somewhere in L A (Bartlett, $4.70) in 1:51, matching fastest local mile of season; --(Trot) Homicide Hunter (Brian Sears, $10) in 1:55.4. Special Saturday props to Brennan for his five-win night, including the first four races during the dozen-race card. New York Sire Stakes hit town for the first time this season Monday night, with the $169,500 Hugh Grant Pace for 3-year-old colts and geldings. by Frank Druker, for Yonkers Raceway

My first Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace as Yonkers Raceway’s new, wet-behind-the-ears PR man in 1981 was a memorable one for many reasons. For one, it was my fledgling harness racing press conference, held outdoors in what was known back then as the Empire Terrace Gardens. The amazing Herve Filion, who recently passed away, was ultimately the winner with Icarus Lobell, flying high to a length and a quarter win. And most memorable is that on that day, I met the immortal Art Rooney, the Pittsburgh Steelers founder and Rooney family patriarch. After the presser, “The Chief” walked the facility with our great staff photographer Mike Cipriani and yours truly, sharing cigars with the maintenance workers, electricians, and many staffers, while talking football and racing. Pinch yourself kid, it’s real. And so the Sheppard just upon mention of the race itself evokes fond memories.   This year’s renewal is worth, and the stakes for two-year-old colts and geldings kicks of the stakes-laden summer calendar at Yonkers  on Saturday night, July 15, with three $25,000 elimination races to be contested this Saturday night, July 8, to decide the eight finalists.   The first two finishers in each elimination and the two fastest third-place finishers will return for the finale.   The Sheppard is named for the man behind breeding behemoth Hanover Shoe Farms, and the three eliminations are slated as races four, five and six on the card.   A number of precocious freshman will battle it out in the elimination heats.   In the second division Wild Bill, with trainer Ray Schnittker driving from post five, won his debut in a sizzling 1:53.1 in Pennsylvania All Stars event (Pocono) this past Sunday night. The son of Somebeachsomewhere looks to his give his trainer/driver a second consecutive Sheppard victory, having won last year’s edition with Summer Side.   Ray Schnittker won last year’s Sheppard behind Summer Side, drives Wild Bill and Lucky Leonard in Saturday’s elimination races Invading from Ottawa is Kwik Talkin’, steered by “Air” Jordan Stratton from post two. The son of Well Said who is unbeaten in two career outings.   “Air” Jordan, pictured steering Fast Eddie, drives fast Kwik Talkin’ in Sheppard elim Another pair of winners headline the third elim, with Paprike Blue Chip, guided by Corey Callahan from post one, and Lucky Leonard (Schnittker, post seven). Paprike, a Roll with Joe gelding, won a Pocono overnight in 1:54.2, while “Leonard” —another son of Well Said —captured a Pennsylvania All Star event in 1:55.1.   Brett Miller, who won last year’s Messenger Stakes with Racing Hill, guides America’s Guest in Sheppard In the first division, America’s Guest, with Brett Miller in the sulky from post three, is the quickest of the freshman entered in the Sheppard, raced-timed in 1:53 in his purse debut at The Meadowlands.   Saturday night’s 12-race card has a first post of 7:10 pm.   By John Cirillo

YONKERS, N.Y. - “We try to zig when everybody else is zagging,” VIP Stable’s Ed O’Connor said as he reflected on the partnership’s unconventional path to success with Keystone Velocity. Purchased for a hefty price as an 8-year-old who had missed years on the harness racing track, the 2017 George Morton Levy Series winner captured the Ben Franklin Pace last Saturday (July 1) at Pocono Downs. When VIP Stable starts a pair of 2-year-olds in Saturday’s Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace Eliminations at Yonkers Raceway, it will put its zig-zagging tactics to the test again. Phat Blue Chip and Paprike Blue Chip cost just $9,000 and $7,000 at auction last year, respectively, but are already proving to be valuable additions to VIP’s roster. Trained and co-owned by Tom Fanning, Phat Blue Chip was the first yearling sold at public auction in North America last year and will make his debut in one of the first open stakes race for 2-year-olds this season when he starts against the pylons in the second of three Sheppard Eliminations. “Tom liked him and he bought him for himself and approached us after the fact. We bought in. At the price he was, he fit a lot of the things that we look for,” O’Connor explained. “We buy well-bred horses, but we don’t buy six-figure type horses. They individually look the part, they look nice.” A gelding by American Ideal, Phat Blue Chip is the second foal out of the Camluck mare Warm Waffles and will be the first to race. Although he isn’t flashy, Phat Blue Chip does his work and has shown some promise. “He always showed ability, but was never one that Tom was talking about as being a superstar. There’s no indication yet that he’s going to be, but he does well,” O’Connor said. “He’s shown some ability and he looks like he might be worth the money we paid for him.” In his first qualifier June 19, Phat Blue Chip raced near the back of the field before finishing with a :27.3 final quarter. He returned June 27 at Harrah’s Philadelphia and starting from post eight, cleared the lead before sitting the pocket. Posting a :29.3 final panel, Phat Blue Chip ranged up to win by 3/4 of a length in 1:56.0. “We’ve got our fingers crossed. So far so good. He’s never had a problem, he trained well down the whole way,” O’Connor explained. “He qualified kind of easy the first time and came home really nicely. He won his next qualifier and it looks like he might be a nice one.” While Phat Blue Chip is a 3-1 chance in his $25,000 trial, trailing the 7/5 morning line choice Kwik Hanover, a winner in both of his two pari-mutuel starts thus far at Rideau Carlton, Paprike Blue Chip is the 2-1 favorite in his split, set to go as race six on the 12-race program. Paprike Blue Chip hammered down at the Goshen Sale just 10 horses after Phat Blue Chip. Trainer John Butenschoen found the son of Roll With Joe, a half to then 17-time winner Buddha Blue Chip and New York Excelsior Series winner Oh Sugar. “My partner Tom (Janes) was there with him, so we were kind of in from the ground floor on this one,” O’Connor said. “Paprike Blue Chip really fit the M.O. for the stuff we end up buying with John. He’s a Roll With Joe, who’s a good commercial sire. We look at the individual and John does a fabulous job picking out ones that just look nice.” While Phat Blue Chip doesn’t attract attention in the mornings, Paprike Blue Chip makes his presence known. “He’s been a little flashier the whole time,” O’Connor said. “He has always looked like he’s going to do ok. Paprike Blue Chip has been toward the better ones in John’s barn the whole time and we had some pretty big expectations for him for the last couple months.” Those expectations came closer to fruition when Paprike Blue Chip made his debut June 27 at Pocono Downs. Fresh off a third place finish to $450,000 buy Pro Beach in a June 17 qualifier at The Meadowlands where he was beaten just 1 1/2 lengths and posted a final quarter of :26.1, Paprike Blue Chip tracked winging leader Real Rayenbow before settling in the pocket up the backstretch. On the final turn, Paprike Blue Chip edged to the outside, glided to the lead, and bested the pacesetter by 1 3/4 lengths to stop the clock in 1:54.2. “John goes down to Florida every year with 35 or 45. They train three, four, five at a time. They’re used to passing, they’re used to sitting in holes. I can’t say enough good stuff about how he gets them ready,” O’Connor praised. “This is a good example of him having the horse ready to do what he needed to do from day one.” Like Phat Blue Chip, Paprike Blue Chip will start from post one in his Sheppard Elimination. To return for next week’s $110,500 final, the freshman must finish first or second in their eliminations or be among the fastest two third place finishers. “There’s no telling how good the rest of the fields are. They look like talented bunches in there,” O’Connor observed. “We’re just hoping we can get a clean trip and try to come away with some money. If we get lucky, maybe one or both of them proceed onto next week, but starting from the rail is a huge advantage.” First post time Saturday at Yonkers is 7:10 p.m. For entries for Saturday’s races, click here. by Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Monday, July 3, 2017 - Yonkers Raceway's premier freshmenfest, the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace, attracted 20 plebes for the harness racing 2017 edition. Thus, there are a trio of, $25,000 elimination races this Saturday night (July 8th), with the first two finishers in each-plus the two fastest third-place finishers-returning for the $110,500 finale a week from Saturday night. The Sheppard, named for the man behind breeding behemoth Hanover Shoe Farms, has its three elims going as races 4,5 and 6. Quite a few of these first-season gentlemen have already shown promise. The second division includes Wild Bill (Ray Schnittker, 5), a winner at first asking (1:53.1) in Pennsylvania All Stars event (Pocono) this past Sunday night. The son of Somebeachsomewhere looks to his give his trainer/driver a second consecutive (Summer Side) Sheppard victory. Down from Ottawa is Kwik Talkin' (Jordan Stratton, post 2), a Well Said colt who is 2-for-2 to begin his career. Another set of winners landed in the third elim, with Paprike Blue Chip (Corey Callahan, post 1) and Lucky Leonard (Schnittker, post 7). The former, a Roll with Joe gelding, won a Pocono overnight in 1:54.2, while the latter-a Well Said colt-won a PA All Star event in 1:55.1. The first division finds America's Guest (Brett Miller, post 3), raced-timed in 1:53 in his purse debut across the river. Saturday night's dozen-race dossier (post time 7:10 PM) also includes the requisite $55,000 Open Handicaps, with Luck Be Withyou (Brian Sears) and Awsome Valley (Jason Bartlett) in their respective eight-hole for the Pace (8th race) and Trot (9th race). For the full fields click here. Frank Drucker

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