VERNON, NY—The 2-year-old filly pacers Spreester (American Ideal) and Barefoot Beauty (Art Major) each delivered career-best 1:54.3 clockings in Friday night’s $76,100 New York State Fair competition at Vernon Downs, while in a non-Excelsior series event, the 2-year-old colt pacer Jet Airway (Jereme’s Jet) became the fastest freshman performer of the 53-program meeting with a 1:53.1 performance in race seven. The victories by Spreester and Barefoot Beauty came in divisions of Friday’s $37,900 Excelsior series for NY-breds, and tied another frosh filly high-stepper, Misty Major, for fastest mile honors by a representative of their age, sex and gait through Aug. 23. Spreester’s score, her fifth in seven career outings, came in Friday’s fourth event with Frank Coppola, Jr. doing the driving for trainer Paul Zabielski and owner Kimberley Zabielski, while Barefoot Beauty’s second season’s triumph came two races later, with Ron Waples doing the steering for trainer Gregg McNair and owner James Avritt, Sr. Friday’s other 2-year-old filly pacing winner was Sweet Brown (Bettor’s Delight), who earned a 1:55.1 “maiden” victory with Jim Morrill, Jr. doing the teaming for trainer Amber Buter and owner Tyler L. Buter in race five. Jet Air Way produced his second win in five starts with Charlie Norris at the controls for trainer Erv Miller, the Ervin Miller Stable, Tangle Massey, Paul Sunderhaus and Larry Agle. The swiftest first-place finisher in Friday’s $38,200 Excelsior series action for 2-year-old trotting fillies was Thoughtfilly (Conway Hall), with Morrill, Jr. driving in the first race. It was the second score in five starts for quick-stepping bay, who is trained by Brandon Simpson and owned by the Mystical Marker Farms, Peggy Hood, Dirk Simpson Stable and the Simpson Racing Stable. Friday’s other trotting division winners were Absinthe (Crazed) in 1:59.4 in race nine, and Lindy’s Crazy Dolly (Crazed) in 2:00 in event 10, each a first-time starter trained by Frank Antonacci for the Lindy Farms of CT and the Lindy Racing Stable, respectively. Chris Lems, who teamed both Absinthe and Lindy’s Crazy Dolly, earned his 15th driving double of the Vernon campaign, while Antonacci earned a pair of conditioning credits, and Morrill, Jr. two driving wins. DOWNS DOINGS In addition to Sweet Brown, Absinthe and Lindy’s Crazy Dolly, other equine athletes earning their initial pari-mutuel victories during Friday’s 12-race program were the freshman trotter Justin On Broadway (Broadway Hall) in 1:59.4, and the 3-year-old pacer Battle Gun (Dragon Again) in 1:55.1… The Downs will continue with State Fair racing for New York-bred freshmen tomorrow (Aug. 24), with male trotters and pacers displaying their talents in seven Excelsior series divisions during a 13-race program, that will begin at 6:45 p.m… A special program on Sunday, Aug. 25 will feature the first round of this season’s 7th-Annual All-Star Drivers’ Championship, as well as the $700,000 (est.) Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial for 3-year-old trotters. There will also be a Corey Callahan bobblehead doll giveaway, free drivers’ championship T-shirts (both items dispensed while supplies last), as well as an iPad and Laptop computer giveaway… A revised 2013 racing and stakes calendar, as well as additional information regarding Vernon Downs, its casino, hotel, racing and promotional events can be obtained at www.vernondowns.com. Jim Moran
Sunday's Gr. I Gallop Prix Mornay (1200 meters, 350,000 euro purse) was captured by No Nay Never (2m Scat Daddy-Cat’s Eye Witness-Elusive Quality) under David Flores for trainer Wesley Ward. The colt, with principally US owners that include Frank Antonacci (Lindy Farms) and trainer Ray Schnittker, was bred by Johnson and Sparrow and scored for the third time in 2013. He was off at 2/1 odds in the feature event at Deauville, before a large crowd, that is also hosting a three-day thoroughbred sale with today being the second day. Saturday's first day of the Arqana sale reported 66 of 87 horses offered as sold for total receipts of €14,091,000 ($8,778,736). The gross, which includes one private sale, marked a 50% increase compared with the first day of last year's sale. The average price increased by almost 40% to €214,323 ($285,623). The median price was €128,000 ($170,583), and the clearance rate was 74.7%. Six horses sold for €500,000 ($666,338) or more, 11 were sold €400,000 ($533,318) or more, and 22 for more than €200,000 ($266,659), compared with 15 at that price in 2012. by Thomas H. Hicks
As Royalty For Life chases Hambletonian glory, he carries with him the hopes of the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts, from South Dartmouth to Belchertown, from the Cape to the Berkshires. More important, he is also validating the vision of the state legislature. A dozen years ago, at the dawn of a new century, the Massachusetts Sire Stake program was moribund. Twice in a span of eleven years the track at Foxboro, which was the only racing venue in the state, had closed its doors. In both cases it was several years before racing resumed in the commonwealth. In 1999, Plainridge Racecourse rose from the ashes of that rubble, offering the local horsemen a racing venue for a hundred days a year.Stables that are structured around overnight horses can live three or four days at a time – no matter how inconvenient it might be there is always a draw taking place somewhere. But breeders, the backbone of the harness racing industry,the element which literally, as well as figuratively, pumps new blood into iton an annual basis and perpetuates its growth must take a longer view. Those investors can't live condition sheet to condition sheet. In 2001, with three seasons in the book at the new track,the Massachusetts legislature crafted an omnibus racing bill. Recognizing the commitment of Plainridge and its horsemen, the lawmakers sought to strengthen the state’s Standardbred breeding program, an initial step on the path towards stability for the harness racing industry. Focusing on mares rather than stallions, the new regulation allowed harness breeders access to any stallion, any where - with the caveat that the mare had to foal in Massachusetts,thus offering that traditional support for the state’s agricultural industry.This change allowed owners of mares to breed to the highest quality stallions,if they chose to, and at least in theory to increase the quality of the local breeding program's product. In essence, what had been a sire stake program became a futurity, and the focus on mares allowed more people to participate, returning harness racing to its more democratic roots. Within two years, a product of the restructured program,RC Royalty, made appearances in the Breeders Crown, as both a two and a three year old. Bred by Chip Campbell of Belchertown, the son of Credit Winner raced in the Massachusetts program, but is much better known for his appearances in events such as the Hambletonian. Now, his son Royalty For Life, repeats his father's story.While he was sired in New York, he is a product of the Massachusetts breeding program, bred by Al Ross of South Dartmouth, along with Chip Campbell and Paul Fontaine, and is considered among the pre-race favorites in the Hambletonian. It only seems appropriate that a horse bred in a state known for its “City of Champions,”competes in the “Super Bowl of trotting.” Might there be more Royalty For Life’s in the years tocome? Perhaps. With expanded gaming on the horizon in Massachusetts, the breeding program in the state has caught they eye of at least a couple of other successful owners whoare no strangers to the sport’s limelight. During the past couple of breeding seasons the powerful Lindy Farms, owner of such notable horses as Hambletonian competitor Crazed, has sent mares to the Bay State. There have even been inklings that the farm, located in nearby Enfield,Connecticut, might eventually build a wing in a Massachusetts locale. Bill Varney, who has demonstrated success in sire stake programs in New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Maine and Canada has also sent mares to Massachusetts during the past two seasons,with an eye toward the future. “It looked like an opportunity close to home,”said Varney, who hails from Bangor, Maine, noting that the monies he pays to farms, veterinarians and blacksmiths all contribute to the Bay State’s economy. A little over a decade ago a proactive legislature tookthat first step, and the local sire stake program has grown. Still, the Massachusetts harness racing industry remains at a crossroads. While that expanded gaming seen on the horizon potentially gets a bit closer everyday, how much of that revenue willfind its way to the industry is an open question. The answer to that questionwill decide if Royalty For Life – a Massachusetts eligible racing in the sport’s premier event - is merely an exception, or if in the future, locally bred horses of that caliber in events such as the Hambletonian might become the rule. by Robert Lieberman
Despite winter standardbred training winding down in South Florida, there remain interesting human and equine stories that illustrate what's good about the harness racing industry, people and horses, dreams of future stakes wins and career development. A case in point is Lindy Racing Stable, capably trained by Frank Antonacci, Domenico Cecere and John Duer.
Lindy Farms, in conjunction with the Harness Racing Horse Youth Foundation, sponsored a Family Day for members of the Bourbon Slush Stable on Sunday, June 19.
When Lindy Farms' Frank M. Antonacci approached Walsh Harness and Saddlery about providing equipment for the newly created Bourbon Slush Stable, Walsh's president Paul Treiber didn't need much time to deliberate.
Tragedy struck the Antonacci family and Lindy Farms this morning at the main farm in Connecticut. According to postings on the Lindy Farms Facebook page, a large portion of the harness racing breeding barn at the farm in Somers collapsed under the weight of overnight snow.