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Harness racing returns to Cal Expo Saturday night under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with a 14-race program on tap and a first post of 6:15 p.m. Racing will be conducted on Saturday nights in October, expanding to Saturday and Sunday programs in November. Plans then call for a three-night a week schedule beginning on December 26 with Friday racing added to the mix. Heading the opening-night card are two divisions each of the opening legs of the Bill Conlin and Annette Funicello Pacing series; an Open II event for the pacers and an Open II contest for the trotters. Robin Schadt is the new Director of Racing. My goal is to produce a racing program where every horseman gets their horses raced on a regular basis for decent money and to provide the betting public with competitive fields on which to wager, she said. Saturdays program features four wagers at a reduced 16 percent takeout, including the new 10-cent Cal Expo Jackpot Pick 6 that starts on the third race. The wager requires a single winning Pick 6 ticket, or there is a carryover. The other low-takeout wagers are the 50-cent Pick 5 that begins on the first race; the 20-cent Pick 4 that covers races 10 through 13 and comes with a $20,000-guaranteed pool; and the 10-cent Super Hi-Five on the nitecap. Taking a closer look at the Open II Trot, multiple stakes-winning I Love New York returns to California for Bruce Clarke, while the Open II Pace finds A Real Miracle heading an interesting cast as he makes his way back from Indiana for Junior Wilkinson. Luke Plano back to defend driving title Luke Plano, fresh from capturing the driving title at the winter/spring Watch and Wager LLC meeting here at Cal Expo, is back to defend the crown. At that last meet, Luke made 160 trips to the winners circle, with his nearest competitor being James Kennedy, who had 121 winning tours at that session. Both will be in action on Saturdays 14-race program. Its exciting to be back, said Plano, who has been plying his trade in Indiana this summer. I know there are going to be some new horsemen here, and that should certainly add to the competitiveness of the racing. As far as switching from the seven-eighths track at Hoosier Park to the one mile here, there are a lot of similarities. The one difference would be that even though you can win from the back at Hooiser, there is more of a speed bias and you want to be close if you can. Here are Cal Expo, its a much fairer track in that regard and you have more options. As has been the case in the past, Plano will have a very small stable of his own while normally driving in just about every race on the card. Ill have anywhere from three to six horses in my barn, but I prefer to concentrate on the driving, he explained. Its worked out real well that way. Luke will be looking to get off to a quick start on opening night with several very live performers set to go to the post under his direction. Its a good bet hell be posing for more his share of pictures. By Mark Ratzky                      

COLUMBUS, OH. - Harness racing driver Lemoyne 'Moonie' Svendsen reached the coveted 3,000 wins plateau at Running Aces on Sunday night.   The 55-year-old Minnesota native (born in Albert Lea) drove his first winner at an Iowa county fair at age 16 in 1975 and has won races each of the 39 years since then. The likeable green and yellow-clad reinsman is also approaching the coveted $10 million earnings mark with horses he has steered in his career.   Svendsen's best year was 2011 when he guided 266 winners and just lost the dash title at Cal Expo (to Luke Plano) in the waning weeks of the meet. Lemoyne has been a mainstay in California harness racing circles for the past 15 years and has been making his summer home at Running Aces for the past five years.   He also won 206 races in 2009 and over 100 times in ten other seasons. Earlier in his career Svendsen won dash titles at both Quad City Downs and Thunder Ridge.   The milestone triumph came with Meritage Hanover, fittingly owned and trained by fellow native Minnesotan Mark Anderson, for whom Svendsen has driven regularly over the past couple years.   An adept passing lane move allowed Svendsen to gain a thrilling half-length 1:54.3 victory over Gencor's Z Tam (Jason Ryan) and Nancy's Skyscape (Gerry Longo) in a bottom claiming class event. Off at 7-1 odds, Meritage Hanover rewarded $2 backers with a $16.40 win mutuel.   The elated newest member of the 3,000 Wins Club was joined in the winner's circle by his immediate family--wife Jodi, son Sonny and daughter Kaitlyn.   "My dad got me started in this business as a kid and its all I've ever done," chuckled Svendsen after the race. "I'll never forget the thrill that my first win with a horse called Miss Lasko forty years ago gave me. For that matter, this one was pretty darned thrilling, too. I must say every win between those two has been exciting as well. Winning never gets old!"   Gregg Keidel        

ANDERSON, Ind.-June 26, 2014 -  Hoosier Park played host to a stakes filled card on Thursday, June 26 with five divisions of three-year-old trotting colts and six divisions of two-year-old pacing fillies battling in Indiana Sires Stakes action. It was the second round of stakes action for the three-year-old trotting colts and the opening round for the freshman fillies. After the dust settled on the evening's 14-race card, the track record for three-year-old trotting geldings was equaled and a national season's mark for two-year-old pacers had been established. Can't Touch Her and Tyler Smith stole the show after they recorded the fastest mile of the season for two-year-old pacers, regardless of gender or track size, with a 1:53.3 triumph in their $20,000 division of the stakes action. In near gate-to-wire fashion, Can't Touch Her recorded her third win of the year and a national season's mark in just her fourth career start. Leaving from post two, Smith sent Can't Touch Her away from the gate firing but Image of Felicia and Luke Plano also left alertly to get the first call in :27.4. Opting out of a pocket trip, the Steve Carter trainee took control at the half and dictated fractions of :57.0 and 1:26.1. As the field turned for home, Image of Felicia tipped from the pocket but Can't Touch Her wasn't done. Using a :27.2 final quarter, the daughter of Rockin Image-Can't Quit Smiling paced on to the wire to finish a length in front of Image of Felicia. Rockin Bikini closed well in the late stages of the mile to round out the trifecta for driver Trace Tetrick. As the heavy betting favorite, Can't Touch Her returned $4.40 at the windows. "She always had talent training down this winter but could get a little rough gaited at times," Carter noted after the victory. "We made some adjustments and she trained really well this week so I knew she would be sharp, just not that sharp. Hopefully she can stay good all season." Owned by Steve and Tammy Carter, Can't Touch Her is from the first crop of Rockin Image and the second foal from her dam, Can't Quit Smiling. Can't Touch Her has now won three of four seasonal starts while earning $13,750. On the trotting side of the stakes action, Rose Run Parker continued his winning ways and extended his win streak to 10 after he scored in 1:54.1 in his division of the $20,000 Indiana Sires Stakes for three-year-old trotting colts and geldings. Rose Run Parker remains undefeated in his sophomore season and the 1:54.1 victory equaled the track record for three-year-old trotting geldings at Hoosier Park. Driver Ricky Macomber Jr. left no room for error as he sent Rose Run Parker, heavily favored at 1-9, to the front from post three. Justice Jet and Ed Hensley would make the publics' choice work for position but Rose Run Parker pressed on and secured the lead at the half in :58.1. As the field turned for home, Rose Run Parker put his talent on display and began to trot away from the rest of the field. The son of Jailhouse Jesse-Centergy was under wraps at the wire and finished six lengths in front of Gloire Dream and Lewayne Miller. Justice Jet trotted evenly to earn third place honors. Heavily favored at the betting windows, Rose Run Parker returned $2.10 for the victory. The 14-time career winner has now amassed $403,500 for his connections of Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, and W. Haas Jr. Rose Run Parker's ten race win streak includes wins in the first $75,000 Indiana Sires Stakes Final for three-year-old trotting colts and the $45,250 Madison County Stakes last season. With the win, Rose Run Parker has earned his spot in the second of five $75,000 Indiana Sires Stakes final for three-year-old trotting colts and geldings slated for July 5 at Hoosier Park. Indiana Sires Stakes action continues at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Friday, June 27 with eight divisions of $20,000 Indiana Sires Stakes for two-year-old pacing colts and four divisions of $20,000 Indiana Sires Stakes for three-year-old pacing fillies. The live racing schedule at Hoosier Park will follow a Tuesday through Saturday schedule with a daily post time of 5:15 p.m. by Emily Gaskin, for Hoosier Park  

The winter/spring Watch and Wager LLC harness meeting at Cal Expo concluded Saturday night with Luke Plano capturing the driving title, while Tim Maier ended up the leading trainer. Plano reached the winners circle with 160 times, with James Kennedy finishing second in the standings with 121 winning tours. Tim Maier rounded out the top three with 90 victories in the sulky. In the trainer standings, Maier edged out Bob Johnson by four wins as 79 of his stable representatives got the job done, while 75 Johnson trainees were victorious. Gene Vallandingham was third with 70 visits to the charmed enclosure. The trotters and pacers are set to return to action here in October. General Manager Chris Schick is looking to add some new twists, including the addition of the popular Jackpot Pick Six to the wagering menu. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness

With Gary Seibel taking a week off for a family obligation, Cal Expo is pleased to have Frank Mirahmadi handling the announcing duties on Friday and Saturday. Mirahmadi, who began his career at Hollywood Park in 1992, just wrapped up another season as the voice of the prestigious Oaklawn Park meeting in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and will once again be calling the action on the Northern California fair circuit this summer. Frank is also well known as a TVG racing analyst, for his appearances in several racing movies and his spot-on impressions of personalities both in and out of racing. "I started going to harness races at Hollywood Park and Los Alamitos in the 80's when I was in high school." he noted. "We had a blast and I still remember many of the horses. "My favorite was Courageous Red. He was so talented and very consistent. I always bet on him and was frequently rewarded." It may surprise some people that Mirahmadi will actually be calling his first harness race Friday evening. "I attempted to call one harness race, at a fair in Michigan," Mirahmadi said, "from the infield in the voice of Marv Albert back in 1999. This will be my debut as I can't really even consider that an official call. "It's definitely going to be a challenge. My top priority is to never use the words run or running in my calls. Im really looking forward to it and was very happy to get the call from management." Sophomore Sire Stakes get marquee treatment A pair of $10,000 California Sire Stakes featuring Brewski in the pacing event and Placer in the trotting affair headline the Friday night Cal Expo program that gets under way at 6:15 p.m. Brewski is a homebred daughter of Little Steven and the Tulane mare Wooski who races for Billie Schwartz and trainer Junior Wilkinson with Chip Lackey at the controls. She picked up her first stakes trophy two weeks ago when she made every pole a winning one while equalling her mark with the 1:57 3/5 clocking. De Valeria was runner-up in that affair is another offspring of Little Steven and is a multiple stakes victress for owner Eugene Afentoulis and driver/trainer Steve Wiseman. Her most recent added-money decision came on February 28 over a sloppy track with former trainer Luke Plano in the sulky. Js Littlerockstar rattled off back-to-back Sire Stakes tallies in March, but made a break as the 3-5 choice in that last gathering on April 11. James Kennedy owns, trains, drives and bred the bay filly. She will be looking to return to her best form while back with her peers. Placer is a homebred son of Panama Hanover who carries the banner of Desomer Racing Stables Inc. with Steve Desomer in his usual place in the bike. He has accounted for four of the last six Sire Stakes for the division, including two weeks ago when he hung a neck decision on Snuff N Bear as the even-money favorite. The latter is a New Age Hanover colt who is owned and was bred by Mary Harris, takes his lessons from Kennedy Lindsey and will be guided by James Kennedy. He was a dominating winner of the February 28 get-together for this group and has just missed in the last two stakes clashes behind Ahh Panama and Placer. The racing continues Saturday evening with a Sire Stakes contest for the 3-year-old pacing colts that rematches the most recent trophy earner Laissez Moi Passer with previous stakes victors King Of The Crop and Rikybrnthegaragdwn. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness

One of the recent additions to the Cal Expo drivers room is Sean Smithpeters, a 31-year-old native of Illinois who drove two winners last weekend for his mother, owner/trainer Gretchen Smith. "I first got involved with harness racing at the same time my mom did", Sean explained. "She took over a boarding facility at the Champaign County fair grounds back home in Illinois when I was in high school. "At the time, we only had riding horses, but on the grounds was a half mile limestone track and several Standardbreds were training there. We decided to try our hand and I began driving on the fair circuit the few horses we had. In 2008 we had enough horses that I was able to get the qualifying drives to obtain my "P" license. I actually made my first starts here in 2009 while out on vacation." As can happen, Smithpeters explained that soon after events in his life conspired to keep him from perusing this driving ambition, but now things have come full circle and he is back in California and the sulky. "Recently my family and I decided it was time for a change of scenery and made the move out here from Illinois," Smithpeters said. " A few weeks back, after a couple weeks here jogging and qualifying a few, I made my first starts since 2009. "Everyone here has been very helpful and kind while I'm trying to shake off the rust and hit my stride driving," Smithpeters said. "Hopefully everything keeps moving forward well and I'll be driving here for quite some time." And so far for Gretchen, shes happy to be joining forces on the racetrack once again with her son. "Its exciting for me to see him back in the bike and watch him develop his skills," Gretchen Smith said. "Being able to see him everyday again is great. I'm very happy he and his family have come to California." Sire Stakes, Open Trot, Open Pace on tap A $10,000 California Sire Stakes for pacing males headed by Rikybrnthegaragdwn and King Of The Crop; an Open Trot featuring Hellogottagobuhbye and Sharpshootennorris and an Open Pace share the spotlight at Cal Expo Saturday night. A 12-race card is on tap with first post set for 6:15 p.m. The Sire Stakes will go as the second event, with the Open Pace the third race and the Open Trot the fourth on the evening. Rikybrnthegaragdwn is a 3-year-old son of Livin It Up out of the Sportsmaster mare Sports Bra who has accounted for three of the stakes events decided for the division with King Of The Crop capturing the other three. He is owned by Maryann Plano and is now conditioned by Tim Brown with Rich Wojcio handling the lines. In the most recent big-money clash two weeks ago, Rikybrnthegaragdwn took advantage of a mid-race break by his arch-rival over a sloppy track and made every pole a winning one. With former driver/trainer Luke Plano at the controls, he waltzed home by five and a half lengths that evening. His 1:55 standard was established in a February 22 conditioned affair. King Of The Crop is son of Little Steven who is owned, trained and driven by James Kennedy. He comes into this assignment having posed for pictures following five of his 10 trips to the post. He has been alternating stakes scores with his main rival, picking up his most recent trophy on March 15 and then losing his chance in that last get-together two weeks ago with the break over the off going. He established his lifetime mark of 1:55 1/5 with his February 1 score. Completing the field are Laissez Moi Passer, who leaves from the rail with Williams Hernandez; Holme Base with Steve Desomer at the controls; and Tony Cheesecake, who will have the services of Chip Lackey. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness        

Duet will be looking for the second trophy of her career when she suits up in Friday nights featured Sire Stakes for owner/trainer Rick Cisco and pilot Tim Maier. The daughter of Disco Devil posed for pictures following the February 14 added-money gathering for this division, which features a very contentious group of 3-year-old pacing distaffers. I got this filly last summer and broke her, Cisco related when asked about the bay miss. She needed some time, so I was patient and waited with her. Luke Plano qualified her and told me she was ready for stakes company, so thats where we went. He had a filly of his own in there, and when I asked who I should drive, he suggested I get Tim. Hes done a great job with her and hes also been very helpful as far as giving me suggestions after the races. Since her February stakes tally, Duet was fourth and fifth with her peers and then turned in a solid effort in the most recent gathering for this group two weeks ago. She finished well that evening to complete the exacta behind Js Littlerockstar and should be sitting on a good outing Friday. After the race following her stake win where they went to the three-quarters in 1:25 and change, I had her scoped and she had a sinus infection, Rick noted. It took her awhile to truly recover from that and it hurt her in the next two stakes races.. As far as this week goes, James Kennedys filly has won the last two stakes, but I still think this is a pretty wide-open field as all of these have the ability to win on an given night. My filly is still green and learning and after this meet is finished Im going to give her all the time she needs. Sophomore Sire Stakes feature contentious casts Two $10,000 California Sire Stakes are the focus of attention at Cal Expo Friday night, with Js Littlerockstar eyeing her Third Straight big money score in the distaff pacing event while Placer and Ahh Panama are among the major players in the Trotting contest. Js Littlerockstar is a daughter of Little Steven and the Pacific Fella mare Sweet Sakra Sue who has moved to the head of the sophomore pacing filly division over the last month. James Kennedy owns, trains, drives and bred the distaffer. In the March 14 stakes clash, the Kennedy performer was unhurried early, came first over at the half and ignited when it counted to be up by a length. In the most recent gathering for this division two weeks ago, Js Littlerockstar raced up close and personal and got the job done by a length and a quarter as the 8-5 favorite. Duet was the runner-up in that affair for owner/trainer Rick Cisco and pilot Tim Maier. The Disco Devil offspring was an impressive winner of the February 14 stakes in a 1:57 2/5 performance and turned in a solid effort in that last get-together for this group two weeks ago. De Valeria was the leader of the division earlier in the meet and helps make things very interesting with her top effort with Steve Wiseman, while Brewski rounds out the compact field with Chip Lackey at the controls. The last three Sire Stakes for the trotting set have gone to three different performers. Ahh Panama was the most recent to be taking pictures two weeks ago, as she made every pole a winning one at 8-1 that evening for owners Henry Wieseneck, Marty Garey and Bob Johnson, who also conditions the daughter of Panama Hanover. Placer has three stakes trophies on the mantle for Team Desomer, but lost his chance in the most recent get-together when he made a break before the half. Snuff N Beer got the job done in the February 28 stakes for owner/breeder Mary Harris and trainer Kennedy Lindsey and must be respected.  by Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness            

This past Sunday the California Harness Horsemen’s Association (CHHA) held its annual awards meeting at the Hilton in Sacramento to honor divisional stakes winners, horse of the year and the induction of a horse into the CHHA’s hall of fame. Cut It Out, by Levity out of the Jenuine Hanover mare, Jenuine Frost was inducted into the hall of fame for California this year. Owned by Mark Holden and trained and driven by Bob Rosen, Cut it Out was a sensational mare, taking a mark of 1:55.1f and earned $436,594 lifetime. Winning 19 out of 22 races and earning over $212,000 in her 3 yr. old year, she won every sire’s stakes race either on the front end or coming from behind while setting the 3 yr. old filly track record at Los Alamitos.  Cut it Out was voted California horse of the year in 1985 and 1986. Show Runner by Little Steven out of Peace Runner was voted 2013 California horse of the year. Bred by the late Alan Kirschenbaum and owned by Denise Maier and Eileen Brodbar , Show Runner dominated the 3 yr. old filly stakes races, while winning 19 out of 33 starts for the year. Awards were also handed out to divisional stakes Champions who were, Show Runner 3 yr. old pacing filly owned by Denise Maier and Eileen Brodbar. Bit Player 3 yr. old pacing colt, owned by Desomer Stables More Tequila 3 yr. old trotting filly owned by Frank Neverez Freedombird 3 yr. old trotting colt owned by Melissa Erzene. 2013 Stallion awards were handed out to top breeding stallions, Hi Ho Silverheels, pacer owned by Wayne Knittle Panama Hanover, trotter owned by Debbie Budahn . The CHHA also welcomed new board of directors Steve Wiseman and Luke Plano. by Robin Clements, for the CHHA

A Filly and Mare Open Pace headed by Show Runner and Haggin Oaks and an Open Trot the brings out the likes of Franks Best, Fort Valley As and Hellogottagobuhbye share the spotlight at Cal Expo on Friday. Show Runner comes into the Distaff Open have ended up in the winners circle following 22 of her last 37 trips to the post. The Little Steven mare, now racing under the banner of A Piece Of The Action LLC, is trained and driven by Tim Maier The bay mare was a dominating winner of the January 31 Open, then did not see evening action again until last weekend. Sent off the 1-2 favorite in that affair, she went coast-to-coast in a sparkling 1:52 4/5 performance with Luke Plano at the controls. She has been assigned the No. 10 post by Racing Secretary Fred Kuebler for this go-around. The Open Trot finds Franks Best, Hellogotagobuhbye and Fort Valley As vying for favoritism after chasing home Sharpshootennorris in last weekends top dance for the trotting set. Franks Best is on the verge of reaching the $200,000 earnings mark for his owner/trainer/breeder Bob Johnson and will as usual have Mooney Svendsen giving directions. He is looking for his first snapshot on the season after finishing second in six of his nine trips to the post. Hellogottagobuhbye has been victorious in three of his last six starts for owner/driver Daniel Maier and trainer Tim Maier and was fourth in his most recent attempt after doing his work in first-over fashion from the 10 slot over the slop. He made every pole a winning one on March 21 in impressive fashion. Fort Valley As is looking to make amends after making little impact at even-money favorite in that last clash at the top rung in his first evening appearance since early December. Jennifer Sabot owns, George Reider trains and Chip Lackey pilots the son of Tom Ridge, who is looking to add to a $366,000 bankroll with a 1:55 mark in tow. Pick 5 is hit for $8,773 payout! There are three wagers offered here each night with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate, including the 50-cent Pick 5 that was hit by a single ticket last Saturday night to the tune of $8,773 with another 60 cents tossed in for good measure. To put this in perspective, if the regular takeout had been in place, the payoff would have been $7,832, with $941 less going into the winning players pocket. The other bets with the 16 percent takeout here are the 20-cent Pick 4, which comes with a $20,000-guaranteed pool on Friday and a $25,000 guarantee on Saturday; and the 10-cent Hi-Five on the nightcap. Taking a closer look at last Saturdays Pick 5 sequence, the handicapper did a pretty good job when you consider that favorites blanked in the sequence, which was decided over a sloppy racetrack. Docs Zippy set the tone when he won the featured Open Pace for trainer George Anthrop and regular pilot Patrick Galbraith, upsetting the classy 1-5 Pancetta, who had the demanding No. 10 post in his first evening appearance of the year. Chalk it up as the Third Straight big effort from Docs Zippy and a solid return for Pancetta. Most bettors probably felt the classy returnee Fort Valley As and the repeat-seeking Hellogottagobuybye were the way to go in the Open Trot that followed, but Sharpshootennorris had other ideas and parlayed a pocket trip into a 12-1 upset for Steve Wiseman. Native Country and Tim Maier got the job done at 7-2 some 20 minutes later, while it was Wiseman again in the following as Lodi Nickolus made it look easy at $7.80 in a Trotting event. While it had already been difficult to get to the final leg, making things even more complicated was the fact that this looked to be the most wide-open race of the sequence. When all was said and done, it was Wiseman posing for pictures once again with the aptly-named Quick On My Feet. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness

She may be small, but Incredible Gambler packs a big kick in the stretch and has now posed for pictures following four of her last five trips to the post here at Cal Expo. The 8-year-old New Jersey-bred daughter of Allamerican Ingot who currently goes about her business for owner Clint Lugar and trainer Salvador Wenceslao, with Dave Siegel having guided her in three of those aforementioned four scores. Siegel has a long history with Incredible Gambler, having previously owned the mare, and theyve developed a great rapport over the years. Shes one of my favorite horses to drive, Siegel noted. I get along with her really well, and know her strengths and weaknesses as well as any other horse I drive. She comes ready to race every week and seems to really enjoy racing, though frankly she does not really like racing in the slop. Since she is a strong closer, she really likes the big track and the dirt surface suits her very well. She is small in stature, which makes for great visibility, really handy and two fingers to drive. The Lugar colorbearer, who sports a 1:54 career standard, recently went over the $100,000 earnings plateau. I was very happy that she returned to Cal Expo after her eastern journey and that Clint continues to give me the opportunity to drive her, Siegel added. Incredible Gambler is slated to suit up in Friday evenings ninth race with main man Siegel giving directions from the No. 4 post. She figures to make her presence felt once again when push comes to shove in the stretch. Sire Stakes, Distaff Open Pace on tap A pair of $10,000 California Sire Stakes for 3-year-olds and a Distaff Open Pace are on tap Friday night at Cal Expo, with Js Littlerockstar and Placer heading their respective stakes while Show Runner and Ladys Art square off in the co-feature. . A 14-race card is scheduled with first post set for 5:45 p.m. The Sire Stakes for the pacing fillies goes as the fourth on the program, while the race for the trotters is the sixth and the filly-mare Pace occupies the second spot on the program. Js Littlerockstar is a 3-year-old daughter of Little Steven out of the Pacific Fella mare Sweet Sakra Sue who is owned, trained, driven and bred by James Kennedy. After finishing second in her first two added-money outings this season, she earned a trophy in the most recent clash two weeks ago. Sent off as the 5-2 second choice in that affair, the bay miss rallied with second-over cover and ignited at crunch time to prevail by a length. She came her final quarter in :28 flat while stopping the timer in 1:58 that evening. De Valeria will attempt to make amends after finishing fourth that night after being shuffled as the odds-on choice. The Eugene Afentoulis colorbearer accounted for two of the previous three Sire Stakes for the division with trainer Luke Plano at the controls. Placer is eyeing his four stakes score in the race for the sophomore trotters. The homebred son of Panama Hanover races for the Desomer Stables Inc. with Steve Desomer handling the lines. In the last stakes gathering on March 14, Placer was parked to the lead at the half, took complete control of things from that point and came to the wire with two and three-quarter lengths to spare in a lifetime-best 2:00 1/5 clocking. by Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness

While owners Richard Morita and David Yamada suffered a tough beat last Saturday when One And Only was nailed on the line in the Open Pace after doing all the heavy lifting from the 10 post, it was smiles all around a couple of hours later when their veteran Split Ticket got the job done in a conditioned affair. The 10-year-old son of Bettors Delight, who like One And Only is conditioned by Lino Pacheco and was handled by Luke Plano, recently went over the $200,000 earnings plateau and sports a 1:50 mark that was established four years ago. It's always a thrill for Dave and I to see the old man Split Ticket getting a chance to strut his stuff, Morita related. At 10, time is catching up with him, but in his mind I think he still believes hes the King. Its amazing that he is still racing considering he had stem cell surgery on both his front legs early in his 3-year-old campaign about three months after we bought him at the Meadowlands sale. Ticket has been responsible for most of our success today, since he basically carried the barn and made enough money to buy other horses. Every win he gets is a special thrill. As for One And Only, he is having a solid season with five wins from his eight trips to the post, including a 1:52 career-best performance, and hes on the verge of reaching a $100,000 bank account. One and Only has been as tough as nails all year, his co-owner beamed. He has met all comers, and in his earlier losses, he was gapped way behind the leaders and had no chance. With the 10 hole, you can't leave every week. As you saw this last time, they pushed hard from the inside and kept him out going :26 4/5 to the quarter. Even with that, he put in a terrific effort. Congratulations to Phantom Dan, who raced very well from the back, as did Doc Zippy. While Morita lauds the pacers, he is also quick to point out the human connections. Credit to our trainer Lino Pacheco for keeping our horses in great shape all year long. We've also been fortunate to have Luke driving for us, as he certainly knows Split Ticket the best, and has always driven One And Only very well. Docs Zippy, Natives Revenge headline co-features Docs Zippy, third in a blanket finish in last weeks Open Pace; and Natives Revenge, a well-regarded invader from the Bob Johnson barn, are top billed in Saturday evenings co-features at the Watch and Wager LLC meet at Cal Expo. A 13-race card is on tap with first post at 5:45 p.m. Docs Zippy will suit up for the eighth race on the program, while Natives Revenge makes his California debut in the following event. Natives Revenge is a 4-year-old son of Allamerican Native who takes his lessons from Bob Johnson and will have Mooney Svendsen giving directions. Last season he established his lifetime mark when he toured the five-eighths Pocono Downs oval in a snappy 1:51 4/5 tour. The Johnson representative should be nice and tight after last weekends qualifier, where he blitzed the field by 16 lengths with a 1:54 1/5 clocking. An early lead of three and a half-lengths turned to nearly 10 on the final bend and he came to the wire with 16 lengths on his nearest rival, the $347,000 earner Pacinello. Docs Zippy was third while beaten only a neck by One And Only and Phantom Dan in last weeks Open and looks nicely spotted in his race for owner Toman Enterprises Ltd, trainer George Anthrop and driver Patrick Galbraith. Split Ticket returned to his winning ways last week and this classy 10-year-old looks dangerous right back to loom the main threat. He races for Richard Morita and David Yamada with Lino Pacheco training and Luke Plano at the helm. The son of Bettors Delight enters this weekend with $205,000 on his card and a 1:50 standard that was set five years ago. He made every pole a winning one in last weeks 9-1 score and has that back class to draw upon. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness

Fridays main event is an Open 2 Trot that finds Hellogottagobuhbye and Franks Best escaping the top ranks and getting away from the streaking El Azteca, who has rattled off six straight victories. Hellogottagobuhbye is a 6-year-old son of Dream Vacation who is owned and driven by Daniel Maier with Tim Maier the conditoner. He has won three of his nine trips to the post this season, including a victory in the opening leg of the Jim Grundy Series on March 1, and has been second and third behind El Azteca in his last two appearances in the Open Handicap. Franks Best comes into this assignment with some impressive credentials, as the multiple stakes-winning Armbro Scribe gelding has banked over $190,000 for his owner/breeder/trainer Bob Johnson with a 1:56 2/5 lifetime standard. Mooney Svendsen will once again be in the sulky. While Franks Best is still looking for his first snapshot on the year, he has four runner-up finishes from his seven attempts and like Hellogottagobuhbye will appreciate getting away from El Azteca. He figures to play the role of stalker behind his main rival in Fridays headliner. $25,000 guaranteed Pick 5 Friday There is a Pick 5 carryover of $9,145 going into Friday nights program with the wager sporting a $25,000-guaranteed gross pool and a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. The Pick 5 is a 50-cent wager and begins on the third race. There are three wagers on the card that offer the 16 percent takeout. In addition to the Pick 5, there is the 20-cent Pick 4 that has a $20,000-guaranteed pool on Fridays and a $25,000 guarantee on Saturdays and the 10-cent Hi-Five on the nightcap. Friday nights carryover is the result of favorites blanking in last Saturday evenings Pick 5. While the opening event in that sequence was a two-horse race between the winner King Of The Crop and arch-rival Rikybrunthegaragdwn, 14-1 upsets by Scooter Babe and Fox Valley Wyatt and victories by 7-2 Try This and 3-1 Me Tarzan sealed the deal. Dream Weaver, George Reider join forces with winner Wanna Win did the track-and-attack to perfection last weekend, getting the cheese for the combination of owner Dave (Dream) Weaver of TVG fame, trainer George Reider and pilot James Kennedy. Wanna Win posed for pictures nine times last season, including a lifetime-best 1:52 4/5 clocking over the mile and a quarter Colonial Downs oval in Virginia. Her win last week was her second in her last four trips to the post here for Team Weaver and Reider. I met the Dave through our mutual friend Wade Miller, Reider explained. He told me that Dave was looking to relocate a few horses from Northfield Park to Cal Expo and asked me if I was interested. After a few phone calls the partnership was made. I have two mares for him right now, and when they got off the truck from Ohio they both had their problems. Racing on a half-mile track with sub freezing temperatures will do that, but both horses have adapted to California quite well. Wanna Win, a 6-year-old daughter of No Pan Intented, sat a pocket trip when she clicked on February 22 with Luke Plano in the bike, then came from next-to-last with a :27 3/5 quarter to romp home at most recent asking with Kennedy handling the lines. This is a mare who hits her knees like a lot of standardbreds, some doing it more than others, George continued. Shes in the latter category, and.with the bigger track, the shoeing change and the different equipment with some slight adjustments, she's responded quite well. Weaver, who is known for his ice cold exactas on TVG, has always been a big booster of the trotters and pacers. Dave is not your typical horse owner, Reider said. Hes very knowledgeable about situations that arise on the track..I just wish that we could race down in Los Angeles, so he could actually see his horses race live. by Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness                                                                                                                                      

Saturdays finale of the Jim Grundy Trotting Series is named for the driver/trainer who was a California mainstay for four decades. He passed away in 2009 at the age of 74. Jim Grundy made 2,617 trips to the charmed enclosure as a driver, with more than $10.3 million in earnings and was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2007. Originally a hockey player in his native Canada, a knee injury forced Grundy to hang up his skates and stick in 1958. Going into the family business of harness racing, he found his second niche in life as a driver/trainer. Grundy apprenticed under famed horsemen Eddie Cobb, Clint Hodgins and Frank Popfinger before going out on his own in the early 1960s. He was the leading driver at Monticello for three straight years beginning in 1971 before heading west with his wife Deborah, a former schoolteacher and bookkeeper for the stable. It was here that Grundy blossomed into one of the states top harness horsemen. Teaming with owners like Chris Bardis, Lloyd Arnold and Ron Zumbrun, he won countless stakes races with the likes of Googie, Hugabear, Steam and Easel. He was especially noted as an outstanding trainer of young trotters. Steve Desomer, Gene Vallandingham and Rick Kuebler competed against Grundy for many years and have high praise for his skills. Jim was not only our friend, but partners with us on many memorable horses, Desomer said. He was an exceptional horseman and that resulted in a long and successful career. Vallandingham related, I knew Jim from the time he came to California. He was a nice guy and a great horseman and I always enjoyed his company. Kuebler also did battle with Jim on many occasions at Cal Expo, Hollywood Park and Los Alamitos. Id have to say he was the most accomplished trainer of young trotters weve ever had in the state. Even after his retirement, horsemen would seek him out to get advice in shoeing and balancing a trotter. It was all about his expertise and passion and he is missed. Jim Grundy Series final, Open Pace, Sire Stakes set A $10,000 California Sire Stakes headed by Rikybrnthegaragdwn and King Of The Crop; the $12,300 finale of the Jim Grundy Trotting Series and an Open Pace featuring One And Only are the highlights on Saturday evenings 14-race card at Cal Expo. Rickybrnthegaragdwn and King Of The Crop have divided up the first four stakes races at the meeting for the 3-year-old pacing colts. Rikybrnthegaragdwn races for Maryann Plano with Luke Plano driving and training, while King Of The Crop carries the banner of his breeder Frank Nevarez and is trained and driven by James Kennedy. A son of Living It Up out of the Sportsmaster mare Sports Bra, Rikybrnthegaragdwn captured the first stakes race of the season for this group on January 18, then was second and third in the next two big-money events while King Of The Crop was posing for pictures. In the most recent stakes two weeks ago, he made every pole a winning one, holding safe by nose over King Of The Crop in a 1:55 2/5 clocking, two ticks off the mark he established in his previous decision in a conditioned affair. The latter is by Little Steven accounted for back-to-back stakes on February 1 and 15 in game fashion, including a 1:55 1/5 tally. Sent off the 4-5 choice in that last added-money clash, he sat the pocket behind his arch-rival and just missed while coming a :26 3/5 final quarter. In the Open Pace, One And Only is a 6-year-old son of Bettors Delight who carries the banner of Richard Morita and David Yamada, takes his lessons from Lino Pacheco and will once again have Luke Plano giving directions. He comes into this assignment having posed for pictures following five of his seven starts on the year and is closing in on the $100,000 mark in career earnings with a 1:52 2/5 standard. The field for the Jim Grundy finale will line up this way from the rail out: Axle, with David Siegel at the controls; Donna Letsgo, Luke Plano; Try This with Williams Hernandez; High Dollar for Tim Maier; Giles L S Hanover, Mooney Svendsen; and Silverlode, to be guided by Steve Desomer. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness  

After mixing it up with the likes of El Azteca and Inside Broadway in his previous two outings, Franky Provolone got some class relief last weekend and responded with a solid victory for owner Robin Clements, trainer Vickie Desomer and pilot James Kennedy. The 7-year-old trotter has carried the Clements banner for the last two years and the victory put him over the $115,000 earnings mark. After getting shuffled at the midway point in that mile, he got clear sailing when it counted and motored home in :28 and change to seal the deal. When he came back from Minnesota last summer, he was pretty tired and not 100 percent, Robin noted. I raced him one time at the opening of this meet and he was no good, so I turned him out. In the past, Clements would have given Franky Provolone some time at the Desomer ranch, but that was no longer an option and her fields were filled up with broodmares. Jennifer Sperry is a good friend of mine and she ended up taking him to her farm down in Patterson for a well deserved break. Franky became part of the Sperry family, hanging with retirees Pussy Cat and her Claudius Augustus filly Sassy Catitude along with 30 yr old Steroid Stallion. He was turned out for two months and put on about 150 lbs. Jennifer and her husband Steve did a great job as Franky is a horrible eater and hard to get that weight on. Jennifer was patient and found out Franky is a buffet kind of guy and doesn't like to eat the same thing everyday. When he came back we stuck to the same plan on his feeding and switched him up a lot. I raced him in the Open Trot, but he wanted no part of El Azteca, and then I was finally able get him in a class where he belongs. James Kennedy did a great job with him the other night and I was very happy how things worked out. Sire Stakes, Open Trot, Distaff Pace headline card A pair of $10,000 California Sire Stakes for 3-year-olds featuring De Valeria and Snuff N Beer, an Open Trot headed by El Azteca and an Open Distaff Pace hold the spotlight Friday night at Cal Expo. El Azteca, who recently over the $100,000 mark in earnings, eyes his sixth straight win while once again doing his work from the assigned No. 10 post. The 5-year-old son of Panama Hanover is owned, trained and was bred by Marco Rios and will have Luke Plano in the sulky. De Valeria is a daughter of Little Steven and the Fandango Fella mare Princess Kiara who has captured three of the four stakes races for the sophomore pacing fillies at this meeting. She is owned by Eugene Afentoulis and is reined and trained by Luke Plano. The dark-hued miss used track-and-attack tactics to draw away through the stretch in the first two Sire Stakes clashes, then had to settle for third as the 3-5 choice in the February 14 gathering. She got her revenge in the most recent big-money joust two weeks ago, having no trouble with the sloppy track as she rallied smartly to the lane and pulled away by two and a half lengths. Duet accounted for the other stakes and goes postward for owner/trainer Rick Cisco and pilot Tim Maier, while Clara Bea carved out all the pace in that last Sire Stakes before checking in second and carries the banner of Schwartz, Axelrod, Rachford and trainer Junior Wilkinson with James Lackey guiding. Looking at the trotting event, Snuff N Beer and Placer have each earned two stakes trophies to this point while establishing themselves as the leaders of the division. Snuff N Beer is a Mary Harris homebred from the Kennedy Lindsey barn with Luke Plano in the bike, while Placer is a Desomer Stables homebred with Steve Desomer handling the lines. In the most recent get-together on February 28, Snuff N Beer appeared to relish the off going as he dueled to the stretch and then came away late for a two and three-quarter lengths score. He also posed for pictures following the first stakes of the year on January 17 with a strong finish. by Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness    

After making a clean sweep of the Sire Stakes for his division at this meeting, the 4-year-old trotter Freedombird has added two more conditioned victories to the resume, including a dominating score at even-money with Luke Plano last weekend. "He's still a work in progress, but hes very game and all business when that gate starts rolling," trainer Gordie Graham related. "He likes to have a target, because when hes out in front he has a tendency to think his work is done. The key with trotters is to relax, and hes definitely getting there. Luke said when he moved with him the other night he only needed two fingers, which is a great sign. Hes late maturing and Im sure we havent seen his best yet. Freedombird is a son of Panama Hanover out of the diminutive Sacramento mare Kimmie Girl, an extremely popular performer who carried the banner of Walt and Patty Petersen. Like Freedombird, she retired with a slew of Sire Stakes trophies on her mantle. Gordie is an excellent trainer and Luke does a great job driving Freedombird, Patty related. This horse is very lucky to have them on his team. Patty reports that Kimmie Girl is at home right now and enjoying life. She has a 2-year-old filly named Pattycakepattycake by Claudius Augustus who is the process of being broken, Petersen informed. Shell come home during the break and be given some time to grow. She doesnt look a all like Kimmie, as she is very big but light on her feet and fleet of foot with a lot of spring in her step. Sounds like another nice trotter could be coming down the line. El Azteca puts streak on line in Open Trot El Azteca, who went over the $100,000 mark in earnings while registering his fourth straight victory two weeks ago, heads the cast set for Saturday nights featured $5,500 Open Handicap Trot at the Watch and Wager LLC meeting at Cal Expo. A 5-year-old son of Panama Hanover, El Azteca is owned, trained and was bred by Marco Rios and will have Luke Plano in the sulky. For the second straight time, he will be asked to get the job done from the demanding No. 10 post position this weekend. The razor-sharp performer won an Open Pace at 22-1 in June at Hoosier Park in a sparkling 1:55 with Scott Cisco at the controls, but then went to the sidelines until mid-January, when he returned with an easy win in an Open Handicap here with Tyler Smith driving. Luke Plano took over two weeks later and it was a curtain call for the Rios charge. El Azteca was then assigned that.10 post for his most recent tour on February 21 and was up to the task as the 1-2 choice. Plano dropped in early with the trotter, made a big move past the half and after opening five lengths in midstretch, came to the wire with a length and a half on Franks Best that evening. Owner/trainer/breeder Bob Johnson sends out the main threats in the uncoupled pair of Inside Broadway with James Kennedy giving directions and Franks Best with Mooney Svendsen at the controls. They are also half-brothers, both being out of the American Winner mare Inside Edition. Franks Best was 3-5 when facing his stablemate last week, but it was Inside Broadway who got the barn bragging rights. He went right to the front for Kennedy and won easily, while Franks Best had too much work to do from last and had to settle for second money. Looking for an upset are Sharpshootennorris, who has the inside slot and Steve Wiseman guiding; High Dollar for Tim Maier; and Hellogottagobuhbye, who gives the Maier barn two looks at the outcome. The 14-race card will begin at 5:45 p.m. by Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness      

Rikybrnthegaragdwn and King Of The Crop put on four great battles in the California Sire Stakes series for the 3-year-old pacing males at this standat Cal Expo Harness, ending up with two trophies each once the dust had settled. The Luke Plano reined-and-trained Rikybrinthegaragdwn drew first blood on January 18, but had to be happy with a second and a third in the next two stakes clashes behind King Of The Crop and driver/trainer James Kennedy. Rikybrnthegaradgdwn evened the score last weekend, carving out all the fractions and then coming a :26 and change final quarter to hold safe by a head over his pocket-sitting arch-rival in a very game performance. They're both nice horses, but still green, Plano related after his colt scored in 1:55 2/5, a week after motoring by conditioned foes in a 1:55 tour. Even though Riky is a stud, hes as mild-tempered a horse as youre ever going to be around. Hes got a great personality and a toddler could jog him. By Living It Up out of the fine racemare and producer Sports Bra, Rikybrnthegaragdwn was broken last year in Florida by Lukes dad Rick and has really developed in the last few months. Hes getting better all the time, the younger Plano noted. I think hes going to turn out to be a good one. Of course, one cant interview Luke without asking about the name, which it turns out goes back many years and involves his dad, his uncle and his grandfather. The story goes that my dad burned down the garage when he was a kid, but my grandfather was never told who did it. Anytime my uncle Fran wanted something from my dad and he didnt get it, he would ask my grandfather, Who do you think burned down the garage? and my dad would have to give in. We now have an answer to that burning question. Haggin Oaks has top billing in Open Distaff Pace Haggin Oaks, who returned to her winning ways with a solid score at most recent asking, gets the top billing in Friday nights $5,000 Open Handicap Distaff Pace at Cal Expo. A 13-race card is on tap, with first set for 5:45 p.m. The main event will go as the second contest on the evening with Haggin Oaks leaving from the assignment outside post with trainer James Kennedy at the controls. An 8-year-old daughter of Hi Ho Silverheels from the Incredible Finale mare Ladyladybemybaby, Haggin Oaks races for the partnership of Shari Burns, Ferris Funk and Gerald Cimini. She comes into this assignment with $158.000 in the bank and a 1:52 3/5 mark that was established last year at Tioga Downs. After recording a smart win here on November 22, the dark-hued mare had to settle for a series of place and show finishes while chasing home the likes of Show Runner and Strings. Both of those mares have headed East, leaving Haggin Oaks as the big gun in the division. Sent off at 50 cents on the dollar in her last appearance two weeks ago in the Open, the Kennedy trainee lived up to the backing as she made the lead at the quarter, took complete control at that point and came home with a length and a half to spare in a 1:54 3/5 performance. Ladys Art hits hard with her top mile and has to be respected. James Wilkinson conditions the daughter of Art Major for owner/breeders Kenneth Seastron and James Kouretas and Chip Lackey will be in his usual spot in the sulky. Her last score came in a conditioned affair on January 17. Completing the field are Sea Bug, who leaves from the rail with Patrick Galbraith; Windsun T Bird, to be handled by Luke Plano; and Pismo Beach, who will have the services of Mooney Svendsen. by Matt Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness  

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