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Hi Ho Houdini may have gotten off to a late start, not making his first trip to the post until December, but he's certainly making up for lost time having won six of his seven starts with sights set squarely on Sunday's Sire Stakes for the harness racing 4-year-old pacing males. The son of Hi Ho Silverheel's, who races for Lujuanna Lopez, takes his lessons from Gordie Graham and is regularly piloted by Luke Plano, was an impressive winner of the first stakes dance of the season for the division a month ago and has captured the Marvin Shapiro and a conditioned event in the interim. "It's a dream come true to have a horse like this," Lopez related. "This is beyond what I could have ever hoped for with Hi Ho Houdini." Lopez , who currently has five horses, first became involved with the sport when she was rescuing horses some nine years ago and started to meet members of the harness racing community. "The more people I met, the more interested I became," she explained. Lujuanna's farm was home to the Park Place mare Holls Park Place while she was carrying Hi Ho Houdini, so she has been involved with the pacer from the very beginning. "He's quite the athlete, but he can also be very mischievous," she noted. "The day he was born, that night there was a ruckus coming from the barn and I went out with my rifle, thinking it might be a fox or a coyote. It turned out he was he was racing back and fourth and it was causing Holls Park Place to throw a fit." At the moment, the only ones who are throwing a fit are Hi Ho Houdini's rivals. Sire Stakes, pair of Opens head marquee A $10,000 California Sire Stakes for the 4-year-old pacers featuring Hi Ho Houdini and Uringoodhands; an Open Trot headed by Northern Stormont and an Open Pace featuring I'm An Athlete head the Sunday program at Cal Expo. There will be 12 races presented by Watch and Wager LLC and the action gets under way at 5:05 p.m. The Open Pace is the third event on the evening, the Open Trot occupies the sixth-race slot and the Sire Stakes goes as the eighth race. In the first stakes dance for the 4-year-old males one month ago, Uringoodhands was the 1-5 favorite , but it was Hi Ho Houdini who prevailed while turning in a lifetime best 1:53 1/5 performance with a sparkling :26 3/5 final quarter. Uringoodhands is a Kent's On Nuke homebred who races for Mark Anderson, hails from the Gordie Graham barn and will be guided by James Kennedy. Hi Ho Houdini is another Graham trainee who represents Lujuanna Lopez with Luke Plano once again handling the lines. Since that Sire Stakes score, Hi Ho Houdini has added two more victories, including a handy decision in the Marvin Shapiro Pace two weeks ago. Sent off the 1-9 favorite in that contest, came out late on the final bend, took command early in the drive and went on to a two-length score. Suiting up for a conditioned affair last week, the sharp performer once again rewarded the chalkplayers to the tune of $4 as did the track-and-attack to perfection for Plano and won going away by two and a quarter lengths. Taking on this dynamic duo, from the rail out: Lodi Machete Man from the Pierre Girard barn; the Vickie Desomer-conditioned Musician, Sounion for Edwin Quevado; the Sal Wenceslao-trained Laissezmoipicoler and Hi Ho's Little Rev from Bob Johnson's shedrow. By Mark Ratzky, Publicity - Cal Expo Harness

There was a lot more to Winsom Kellys harness racing victory in a conditioned trot last week than meets the eye. The 10-year-old Egocentric gelding, who carries the banner of Nikki Hudson and KC Carvalho and is reined and trained by Luke Plano, was putting a happy ending to what could have been a tragedy last spring. We were taking him to Running Aces for the summer meet and he got what they call shipping fever, Plano explained. He had pneumonia with lots of fluid in his lungs and he had to be rushed to the University of Minnesota. He was there for several weeks and it was actually touch and go there for a while. I want to thank Mike Minnella, who really stepped up when we needed it. Winsome Kelly, who was claimed by Plano a year and a half ago for a bargain $4,000 before working his way up to the Open level, got back into training late last year and was making his fourth start on the comeback trail when he clicked in that last appearance. I was a little concerned when he first came back, because hed always been very aggressive in his training and he was acting a little on the lethargic side, Luke related. I raced him a little conservatively in his first couple of starts, then he showed me in his race two back that he was getting to his old self when he came a :27 and change final quarter. He put it all together last week, and it was a very satisfying win all the way around. Northern Stormont heads marquee in Open Trot The Steve Wiseman-trained Northern Stormont, who has accounted for two of his last four appearances in impressive fashion, heads the cast for Sunday evenings $6,000 Open Trot. A field of six will face the starter with Northern Stormont leaving from the assigned outside post. Taking him on are the James Kennedy-trained pair of Commandergalleon and Bankers For All; the Robin Clements-conditioned Frank Provolone and Winsom Kelly from the Luke Plano shedrow. There will be 12 races Sunday night with first post of 4:55 p.m. and the headliner will occupy the eighth-race slot on the program. Northern Stormont is a 5-year-old son of Earl Of Stormont who carries the banner of George McCrystal, Mark Kremen and Scott Ehrlich. He has captured 11 of his 62 lifetime starts and set his 1:54 4/5 mark last year at Hoosier Park. The bay sidewheeler was an easy winner of a conditioned event on December 12, then had to settle for a third and a fifth-place in his next two starts with conditioner Wiseman at the controls while taking on the likes of hard-hitters El Azteca and Flameon. He last suited up on January 3 in an Open III affair with Plano guiding and returned to his winning ways with a perfect stalk-and-pounce trip while adding Lasix. Northern Stormont should be tough in this spot no matter how things shake out early. Winsom Kelly is fresh from a facile conditioned tally over a sloppy track and looks like a major threat right back for Plano. Nikki Hudson and KC Carvalho own the 10-year-old son of Egocentric, who was a 1:56 1/5 victor here last season for his career standard. By Mark Ratzky

There was a very popular exacta here last weekend, in more ways than one, when fan favorites Franky Provolone and Franks Best crossed the line in that order to the delight of the harness racing chalkplayers. Both are newly-turned 9-year-old sons of Armbro Scribe who are known for making more than share of winners circle appearances around these parts and as a result are very popular with the fans. Franky Provolone is the pride and joy of owner/trainer Robin Clements and with his victory under Luke Planos direction he pushed his career bank account to just shy of $193,000. He set his mark of 1:55 4/5 in 2014 during one of his Running Aces invasions. Meanhile, Franks Best is a multiple Sire Stakes hero who is owned, trained and was bred by Bob Johnson and had regular pilot Mooney Svendsen at the controls for his runner-up effort. He has $232,000 in the bank and a 1:56 2/5 career standard. The win by Franky Provolone was especially sweet for Clements, as the trotters heart went into atrilia fibrillation this summer in Minnesota, which in laymans terms means he had an erratic heartbeat. This was his fifth start on the comeback trail and his first trip to the winners circle, as Plano guided him to a perfect second-over trip behind Franks Best and then overpowered that rival for the length and a quarter score as the 1-2 favorite. As is usually the case, Franks Best was game in defeat as he did the heavy lifting in first-over for fashion under main man Svendsen and certainly didnt give up without a fight in what turned out be a very entertaining mile. Jessesjo gets top billing in featured Trot Jessesjo, who has been chasing home El Azteca and stablemate Flameon at the top level of late, gets some class relief and looms the one to beat in Sunday nights $4,400 Open III Trot. A 12-race card is on tap and things get underway at 4:55 p.m. The co-feature on the evening is a $4,400 Open III Pace that brings out the likes of BBs Harley, Quality Sport and Bettormeboy. Getting back to the Trot, Jessesjo is a 9-year-old son of Jailhouse Jesse who is owned by Mark Anderson, hails from the Gordie Graham barn and will as usual have the services of Chip Lackey while leaving from the outside post in the field of five. Jessesjo recorded back-to-back victories here on November 29 and December 5, on both occasions making every pole a winning one with Lackey at the controls. Since those scores, he has turned in a pair of third-place finishes behind El Azteca and Flameon at the Open I level and lost his chance on December 20 with an early break. Its Not Over was fourth in last weeks top dance for the trotting set and will also appreciate getting away from the two big guns of the division. The son of Panama Hanover carries the banner of trainer Bob Johnson and Ed Actkinson and Mooney Svendsen has the return assignment from the No. 3 slot. Completing the field are Northern Stormont for driver/trainer Steve Wiseman; Big Baller, who takes his lessons from George Reider and will be guided by David Siegel; and the Lino Pacheco-trained Windsun Galaxie, who leaves from the rail with James Kennedy in the sulky. In the co-featured Pace, BBs Harley, Bettormeboy and Quality Sport were assigned the outside slots and figure to play tough after knocking heads with tougher competition through much of this meeting. Im An Athlete, Willey Bite and Stable Eyes round out the cast. By Mark Ratzky, Publicity Cal Expo

Bill Vallandingham, who was the harness racing starter here from 1994 until health issues forced him to leave the job in 2014, will be honored Saturday evening by Cal Expo. I had a lung transplant on January 7 at Stanford, Vallandingham explained. I was able to leave the hospital a week later, but I had to stay in the area for a month to make sure everything was fine. Bill related that he is right on schedule with his recovery. Its getting better and better every day. Im playing golf two to three times a week, and the only difference is, now Im using a cart. Bill was inducted in the California Harness Horsemens Association Hall of Fame last year along with his brother Gene and Alan Horowitz, and estimates he has sent somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 fields on their way as the starter. He has worn many hats around the racetrack, including groom, paddock judge, horse identifier and horse tattooer before eventually assuming his 20-year stint as the Cal Expo starter. A horsemens friend and a big supporter of California racing, Vallandingham would often on his own time make sure he had the gate on the track so the young horses could get gate time, or if a farm needed their foals tattooed, Bill was there when asked. Ken Fowler worked those two decades at the wheel while Bill was in the back of the car sending the fields on their way, and he took over the starting duties last year. :Billy and I were pretty much joined at the hip for 20 years. I owe everything to him, Fowler said. I miss him being here so much. Hes been like a father to me, helping me through my personal problems and all the time teaching me about the starting car and everything thats involved. Bill Vallandingham has always stood up for California harness racing, and Saturday night, Cal Expo is proud to stand up for him. Shelly Goudreau Pace headlines card The Shelly Goudreau Pace brings out a field of nine Saturday night at Cal Expo with last weeks Prep winner Real Attitude getting the top billing. There will be 13 races Saturday evening with a first post of 6:15 p.m., and the action continues Sunday night under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with a 12-race program that gets underway at 4:55 p.m. Real Attitude is a 13-year-old son of Real Artist who carries the banner of Kc C Carvalho and is reined and trained by Luke Plano. Last season saw the veteran posing for pictures following 12 of his 41 appearances and he pushed his career earnings to $434,000 with a 1:51 1/5 mark. Real Attitude won an Open III contest here in late November, then had to settle for minor awards in his next three outings before returning the charmed enclosure in last weeks Shelly Goudreau Prep. Sent off the 6-5 choice in that affair, Real Attitude sat next-to-last for the first three-quarters of the race. Swung to the extreme outside by Plano for the stretch, he exploded late and prevailed by a length and a half. Frankthebank was a fast-closing runner-up to complete the exacta at 32-1 while leaving from that outside post that evening. The now 14-year-old Sportsmaster gelding races for Richard and Marlene Thomas, takes his lessons from George Reider and will be guided by James Kennedy. He is looking to add to a $455,000 bank account with a 1:51 career standard. Completing the field, from the rail out: Midnight Destroyer for Gerry Longo; KFG Cody, Williams Hernandez; Wrangler Potogold, Steve Wiseman; Rascal Flatter, Frank Petrelli; Sheer Desire, David Siegel; Rays Rayzer, Tonny Succarotte; and Lucky Land, Tim Clevenger. By Mark Ratzky, Publicity Cal Expo Harness

With his victory in last Saturday nights opener, V Mack became the first six-time winner at the Cal Expo meet for harness racing trainer George Reider and pilot Luke Plano. The 4-year-old Iowa-bred son of Voracious Hanover is owned by Reider in partnership with Dave and Rob Haness and has been putting both his gameness and versatility on display during the course of the opening weeks of this stand. What a nice find this one was on the last night of racing in Minnesota, Reider explained. I split a horse transportation truck with Luke Plano coming back to California and there was one spot left on it. Nolan Van Otterloo is one of the mainstay breeders out there and told me he had V Mack for sale, so I went over to the barn to check him out. I liked what I saw and purchased him. Dave Haness was a little surprised that I bought the horse so fast, but he believes in me and I believed in the horse. V Mack won with Plano at the controls on opening night, had traffic troubles at next asking and was unable to threaten, and has since rattled off five straight victories while just missing his 1:54 4/5 mark in a couple of those scores. Luke says a horse like Mack helps in races that dont necessarily set up the way you plan. Hes just so versatile, and whenever you call on him hes there and you can use him a couple of times during a race. V Mack will make his next appearance in Saturday nights 10th race. With Plano having a horse from his barn in the line-up, veteran Gerry Longo will be at the controls this time around. Robert Gordon Final gets marquee treatment The $9,200 Robert Gordon Final for pacers holds the spotlight at Cal Expo Saturday night, with last weeks elimination winners Outlawsparkthewind and Dickies Motel heading the cast. A 13-card is on tap with a first post of 6:15. In addition to the Gordon final, there is a $5,000 Open I Pace and a $5,000 Open for pacing fillies and mares. The racing action will continue Sunday evening with a 4:45 starting time. Getting back to the Robert Gordon, Outlawsparkthewind is a 4-year-old Canadian-bred son of Blue Burner who comes into this weekends assignment having posed for pictures following four of his last five trips to the post. Hes owned by Drew Anderson, hails from the Bob Johnson barn and will be handled by William Hernandez. Outlawsparkthewind kicked off his hot streak with a tally in a elimination for the Bob Staats Pace, then finished sixth in the final after being hard-used early. Since that setback, he has rattled off three straight victories on the front end with Hernandez at the controls on each occasion. Sent off the 8-5 second choice in last weeks Gordon elimination, the Anderson colorbearer went right to the top, set the fractions without challenge and came to the wire three-quarters of a length on the pocket-sitting favorite Crusin For You while completing a 1:55 3/5 tour. Beginning with the Saturday, December 26 program, purses at Cal Expo will be raised by 10 percent across the board. Ben Kenney, Cal Expo CFO said, The purse pool was in good shape coming out of the last meet, with each live race up 19 percent over the previous season. This meet is off to a good start and the horsemen deserve this purse increase. By Mark Ratzky, Publicity Cal Expo Harness

The 3-year-old trotting filly Katie Mouse appears to have acclimated nicely to her new home, scoring back-to-back wins for the team of owner Stephen Grollneck, trainer Kennedy Lindsey and pilot Luke Plano. The Illinois-bred daughter of Armbro Tropicana captured three of her 19 starts before joining the Lindsey barn and moving her act to the West Coast, and has now posed for pictures the last two weeks while establishing a new mark in the process. I bought her from someone I know in Illinois who was looking to sell, Lindsey related when asked about the bay miss. It looked like she would fit out here and would benefit by racing on a mile track. After a needed effort with her trainer in the bike, Katie Mouse was paired with Plano for the first time on November 15 and came with a nice late charge to get the job done by a half-length as a 7-1 shot. Sent off an even-money co-choice last week, they took advantage of the rail post and made every pole a winning one while prevailing by three-quarters of a length over the pocket sitter. Luke said she was real good in that first win, Kennedy said. We were going to play it by ear as far as the tactics go last time, and she just went right to the front. I was pretty confident the entire way, although I know shes the type of horse who waits a bit on them. Can Katie Mouse keep the momentum going and complete a hat trick? Stay tuned. Quality Sport, BBs Harley in main event Quality Sport, who has used a strong closing kick to win two of his last three starts; and BBs Harley, his most immediate victim last time, get another chance to settle the score in Saturday nights featured $5,000 Open I Pace. A 12-race program is on tap with the headliner going as the third event on the evening and a first post of 6:10 p.m., while racing continues Sunday with things getting underway at 5:10 p.m. Quality Sport is a 7-year-old son of Sportsmaster who carries the banner of Ronald and Tammy Wells and is reined and trained by Steve Wiseman. He comes into this assignment with seven wins from his 36 starts on the year with a lifetime mark of 1:53 1/5 that was set this summer at Running Aces. The dark-hued pacer came from well back to post a neck upset at 10-1 on November 7 with Tony Succorotte at the controls, had to settle for third at next asking and then came calling late with trainer Wiseman in his last outing to prevail by a half-length over BBs Harley while returning $20 to his backers. BBs Harley is a 3-year-old from the Gene Vallandingham shedrow who races for A Piece Of The Action LLC with Williams Hernandez in the sulky. He registered solid front-end victories on October 31 and November 14, led the way to deep stretch in that last tour but was unable to contain Quality Sport at crunch time. Rounding out the field are Endeavors King, who gives the Vallandingham barn another look at the outcome from the cozy rail slot; Im Real Good from the Lino Pacheco shedrow; and At Last for Grodie Graham. A reminder there are two wagers on the program that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout race. They are the 50-cent Pick 5, which this season features a 25 percent minor pool payout; and the 20-cent Pick 4, which comes with a $25,000-guaranteed gross pool. by Mark Ratsky, for Cal Expo Harness        

COLUMBUS, MN. - American Dancer and Stuckey Dote swept their respective $8000 splits of Minnesota-sired two-year-old races on Wednesday night in their final tune-ups before Minnesota Night Of Champions on Sunday, September 12 at Running Aces, when each of the eight freshman and sophomore divisions will race for $21,000 purses. With three $11,000 races for older state-breds also scheduled that night total purses will be $201,000. American Dancer broke her maiden in the filly division following six straight show finishes in her first six starts. Sent off at 5-1 odds, driver Luke Plano positioned American Dancer in third from the innermost post position then sent her first-up following the halfway station. Lapped onto favored pacesetter Dag Inmy Stockings (Duane Roland) at the head of the stretch, American Dancer paced home strongest of all to repel Cruzin Coco (Adam Hauser) by just over a length in 1:57 with Dag Inmy Stockings holding for the show dough. The win was one of three on the program for Luke Plano, who also won the opener with Fox Valley Salsa and the nightcap with Stylemaster. Stuckey Dote (Tim Maier) added to his impressive rookie season resume with another resounding triump, this time by better than ten lengths in 1:57.1. The Merlin Van Otterloo owned and trained son of Voracious Hanover now sports six wins and two place finishes in eight career starts and a bankroll of $24,960 entering the upcoming championship fray. You'llseemeupfront (Lemoyne Svendsen) and Mint To Cruise (Nick Roland) earned the place and show payoffs. Gregg Keidel

COLUMBUS, MN. - Harness racing driver Luke Plano, a winner of 2,818 races, reached the $10 million purse earnings plateau on Wednesday night (August 26) at Running Aces. The 35-year-old son of veteran trainer-driver Rick Plano began his driving career at Cal Expo in California in 2000 when he won 26 races and earned $121,902 in purse money for the owners of the horses he drove in his rookie season. He had his first 100 win season in 2003 and has captured between 118 and 292 races every year since. Luke has sported a UDRS over .320 for the last eight seasons and earned purses in excess of $500,000 every year since 2004. Currently Plano is completing his first full season at Running Aces and stands fourth in the dash standings behind Nick Roland and Steve Wiseman, who are tied for the lead with 62, and Tim Maier who is one win ahead of Plano with 48. Plano's milestone victory came behind the trotter Al-Mar Pizzazz, who notched her fifth win in six starts since Luke became her regular pilot. The four-year-old SOS Lunar Eclipse daughter bested a field of condition and claiming trotters chasing a $4800 purse in 1:58.4. Norwegian-born trainer Ulf Holm-Johansen owns the Minnesota-sired trotter in partnership with Vernon Devine. A single astute handicapper solved the 50-cent Pick Six on Wednesday and was rewarded with a handsome $2,452 return. Gregg Keidel

Driver Luke Plano captured half of the eight races on the Tuesday night (July 21) harness racing program at Running Aces, including a triumph in the night's featured $8000 Open Pace. Plano worked out an ideal two-hole trip for Coopers Beach as he followed heavily-favored Headsup Yankee (Nick Roland) until the head of the stretch then held off fellow closers Quality Sport (Tony Succarotte) and It's Getting Hairy (Gerry Longo) by three-quarters of a length in 1:53.1. Coopers Beach, a six-year-old Western Ideal gelding, took a life mark of 1:50.2 at Pompano Park earlier this year, but had been languishing in claiming races at Hoosier Park of late until moving to Running Aces a month ago. Owned by Plano's mother Maryann and partners John Darrah and Lawrence Keethe, the winner now has two wins in addition to a place and a show finish in his first four starts in Minnesota. Plano also guided Forceful Gale to an impressive front-stepping 1:57 victory in a $5500 top condition trot, besting Margin Call (Rick Magee) and Evolution Of Dance (Dean Magee). Jeff Brewer trains the winning six-year-old Strong Gale gelding for owner Ann Wrobbel. Plano stablemates Stylemaster (1:56.1) and Up Town Watts (1:55.3) copped the final two races on the card, giving Luke four wins on the night and running his total to nine in the last four nights. Stylemaster is owned by Nikki Hudson, while K C Carvalho became new owner of Up Town Watts via the claim box one week ago. A single winning 50-cent Pick Six ticket was sold with the astute handicapper scoring a handsome $1,957.65 return on his astute half-dollar investment. Gregg Keidel

Harness racing reinsman Luke Plano scored a hat trick at Running Aces on Wednesday night, bringing his total up to 20 after 20 nights of the current 53-night meet. The 35-year-old blue and white-clad reinsman started his night with an upset win behind Brandi Mayree, who actually finished second but was placed first after being interfered with in the stretch. Brandi Mayree is owned by the Little Bapa LLC Stable and trained by George Reider. Plano followed up with a pair of back-to-back victories in fillies and mares condition races from his own stable. Becky B Skipalong topped Wild About Eagle (Steve Wiseman) and Dakota Law (Nick Roland) in 1:55.1; then High Bet Hanover was victorious over Hotmones (Roland) and Bad Feeling (Dean Magee) in 1:55.2. Both mares are owned by K C Carvolho. Brandi Mayree paid $26.20 to win, Becky B Skipalong returned $30.20 and High Bet Hanover paid $6.40 as the second choice. Gregg Keidel Director of Racing    

Going into last weekends California Sire Stakes for the 3-year-old pacing colts, Uringoodhands and Hi Hos Little Rev had dominated the division and were getting all the love from the harness racing fans, going off at 1-5 and 5-2, respectively. Apparently Lodi Machette Man didnt get the memo. Mary Harris and Pierre Girards Little Steven homebred, who was being handled by Luke Plano for the first time, worked out a beautiful pocket trip and prevailed by a length and three-quarters for his initial stakes tally while returning $16 to his backers. Lodi Machette Man had to settle for distant third-place finishes in the previous five big-money gatherings, but now it was his turn to shine. Hes been steadily coming along, and the previous week I got locked in, said trainer Girard, who had driven the pacer in all his previous outings. The horse has still been green, which is the reason Ive been driving up to this point. I dont want another person to have to do my job. Now hes starting to mature and it was time to let another driver take over and Luke is certainly one of the best with some great hands. He had never been behind the horse before that night, but he listened to everything I said and he gave Lodi a tremendous drive, sitting in a perfect position into the stretch behind the two favorites, who were battling. It was also nice of him to give me credit when he was interviewed after the race. There are two more stakes races left at this meet for the sophomore pacing colts and it will be interesting to see if Lodi Machette Man and his new best friend Luke can pick up another trophy for Mary and Pierre before its a wrap. Contentious Distaff Open Pace headlines program Blue Gem, fresh from a 15-1 upset last week; and Part Time Lady, who battled hard with the favorite in that contest before tiring, head the cast for Friday nights $6,000 Filly-Mare Open Pace at Cal Expo. There will be 12 races Friday night under the Watch and Wager LLC banner and the action is set to get underway at 6:40 p.m. The feature will go as the eighth event on the evening. Blue Gem is a 6-year-old daughter of Nirvana and the Cambest mare Cherry Tree Blue who is owned, trained, driven and was bred by Harold Herrera. She was winning for the second time on the season from nine outings in last weeks score at this level and the 1:54 clocking shaved a tick off her career standard. Part Time Lady did the heavy lifting in that clash at this level last week, carving out the fractions and then dueling hard with odds-on Love Live Laugh to the stretch before weakening to fourth. Ronald and Tammy Wells own the 6-year-old Jeremes Jet mare while Steve Wiseman reins and trains. Part Time Lady has five wins this year from 11 appearances, the most recent coming under these conditions on March 1 from the demanding No. 10 post with the 1:54 1/5 final clocking establishing a new mark. Completing the field are Rag Doll with Mooney Svendsen; Internal Check, to be handled by Tim Maier; High Bet Hanover, Luke Plano; Diva Las Vegas with Daniel Maier; and La Madawna De Rosa, who leaves form the rail with Williams Hernandez at the controls. ******* Saturdays action will include a simulcast of the Jackpot Hi-5 from Woodbine, which features an $847,458 carryover and a mandatory payout. The Jackpot Hi-5 is a 20-cent wager with a low 15% takeout rate. By Mark Ratzky, Publicity Cal Expo Harness          

A $10,000 California Sire Stakes for the harness racing 4-year-old pacing fillies featuring Js Littlerockstar and Brewski gets the marquee treatment at Cal Expo Sunday evening. There will be 13 races under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with a first post of 4:55 p.m. The Sire Stakes goes as the third on the evening with a field of six scheduled to face starter Kenny Fowler. Js Littlerockstar is a daughter of Little Steven out of the Pacific Fella mare Sweet Sakra Sue who is owned, trained, driven and was bred by James Kennedy. She has several stakes trophies on her mantle and has posed for pictures following the last two Sire Stakes decided for this division. Brewski and Clara Bea will give trainer Junior Wilkinson a strong one-two punch in the headliner. Billie Schwartz and Wilkinson co-own Brewski, while they are partners on Clara Bea along with Ivan Axelrod and Don Rachford. Luke Plano will guide the multiple stakes winning Brewski, who was disqualified from her victory in the January 4 Sire Stakes and then missed by a head to Js Littlerockstar in the most recent big-money clash on January 18. The Wilkinson trainee proved a punctual 3-5 favorite in last weeks assignment, brushing to the front for Plano by the quarter and going on to a half-length victory over stablemate Clara Bea in that conditioned event. The latter will once again have Chip Lackey in the sulky this weekend. Rounding out the cast are La Diva De Rosa, who takes her lessons from Lester Smith and has Edward Hernandez guiding; De Valeria, a George Reider trainee with Tim Maier at the controls; and the Rick Cisco-conditioned Duet with Steve Wiseman in the sulky. Cenaltafirecracker getting some post position relief In terms of post position, Cenaltafirecracker is going from the equivalent of the basement to the penthouse when it comes to her assignment in Sunday nights 11th race at Cal Expo.. The 4-year-pld pacing mare, who is owned and trained by Steve Crump, hasnt drawn inside the No. 5 slot in her last five trips to the post, including last weeks start where she had the outside in a field of nine. Despite that poor post, Cenaltafirecracker turned in an excellent mile that evening with James Kennedy at the helm, coming from last to rally for third while turning in a sparkling :27 1/5 final quarter. Brewski and Clara Bea, the two mares who beat her, are both suiting up earlier on the card in a Sire Stakes. I guess she was due for a little luck when it comes to post position, Crump noted when asked about the 4-year-old daughter of Allamerican Merlin. She finished really strong the other night and now she gets the rail, so she should be pretty tough if she turns in that same effort. Crump noted that the bay performer is pretty good around the barn and knows what has to be done once the gate gets rolling, but can be a handful in between. Shes fine around the barn and all business during a race, but she does have her quirks when it comes to scoring down. She really keeps her driver on his toes, because she can be pretty timid waiting for the race to start and will spook at a lot of things. The earplugs help, because any odd sounds put her on edge. Speaking of sounds, what Crump would like to hear Sunday night is track announcer Gary Seibel saying something close to, Now entering the winners circle is Cenaltafirecracker. By Mark Ratzky, Publicity Cal Expo Harness

Everybody knew the game plan with Bank Of Lodi going into last weeks Sire Stakes was to head to the front and improve position, and thats exactly what the trotting daughter of New Age Hanover did to perfection. Unlike the previous stakes engagement two weeks earlier where Bank Of Lodi was hard used early and tired to threat after carving out the fractions, Luke Plano was able to get the mare to the front with less pressure. She did the rest, waltzing home by nearly four lengths over odds-on Placer. Getting used early from an outside post the start before certainly hurt her chances, said trainer Pierre Girard, who also co-owns Bank Of Lodi with the mares breeder Mary Harris. I was very happy when we drew an inside post this time. The bay miss has shown that she does her best work when shes allowed to roll on the front end, which was also the scenario when she picked up her first stakes trophy here in December. I decided to give her a little break before this last start, because shed been racing every week, Girard related. She uses a little different bridle, because the opposite of most horses, it actually relaxes her to be able to see everything. Whatever Girard and Plano are doing, its working, as Bank Of Lodi has now posed for pictures following two of the last three Sire Stakes for this division. There is only one big-money dance remaining for this group, that coming next week. Pierre is also very pleased with another trotter in the barn named AJs Little One, who has rattled off back-to-back wins with Plano guiding and appears to have a new lease on life at age 11 after going 0-for-18 last season. Shes very happy being at the farm now and its showing in her races, he noted. Jim Grundy Trot prep gets top billing The Jim Grundy Trot prep, a prelude to the finale in two weeks, headlines an 11-race program at Cal Expo Sunday night that gets underway at 4:55 p.m. A field of six will face starter Kenny Fowler in the Grundy, which is scheduled as the fourth race on the evening. They will line up this way: Vari Forgetful, Brussel Sprout, Silverlode, Hooray Kate, Timmy T and Lodi Dorian Blues. Vari Forgetful turns up having posted back-to-back victories at 58-1 and 14-1 for driver/trainer Bruce Clarke. The 6-year-old homebred daughter of Armbro Variable races for Jack Coffey, has over $105,000 in her bank account and sports a 1:56 4/5 mark that was established last year at Pompano Park. Silverlode figures to have her share of backers after chasing home the classy Franks Best at most recent asking. The Desomer Stables Inc homebred is a multiple Sire Stakes victress who is just shy of the $100,000 earnings mark and Steve Desomer will once again handle the lines. Lodi Dorian Blues is coming off two very nice tries and will have trainer/co-owner Pierre Girard in the sulky. Mary Harris co-owns and bred this 6-year-old son of New Age Hanover, who will do his work from the outside slot. A reminder that there are four wagers offered here each evening that feature a reduced 16% takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5; the 20-cent Pick 4 that has a $25,0000 guaranteed pool; and the Hi-5 and Jackpot 6, which are both 10-cent minimum wagers. ******* The next two weeks will find the trotters and pacers in action on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, with racing February 13-15 and 20-22. By Mark Ratzky  

A $24,192 carryover in the Jackpot 6 and a $30,000-guaranteed gross pool for the Pick 4 are among the wagering highlights on Fridays harness racing program at Cal Expo. The Jackpot 6 and the Pick 4 are both offered with a reduced 16% takeout rate, along with the Pick 5 and the Hi-5. The Jackpot 6 and Hi-5 are 10-cent wagers; the Pick 5 is a 50-cent bet and the Pick 4 comes with a $30,000 guaranteed pool and can be purchased in 20-cent increments. Going into Fridays program, the carryover on the Jackpot 6 stands at just shy of $25,000. The 10-cent minimum wager pays out 70% of the net pool to the tickets with the most winners, with the remaining 30% designated for the carryover on those nights. When there is only one unique winning ticket selecting on all six winners, the entire net pool for that night and the carryover is paid to the holder of that ticket. There was a mandatory payout when the last meet completed on December 21, with a carryover of $22,655 going into that program. A total of $45,33 was wagered that evening and the payout was $2,106 for each 10-cent ticket. Racing will be conducted this week on Friday and Saturday nights, with no racing on Super Bowl Sunday, February 1. Next week, there will be Saturday and Sunday night programs, February 7 and 8. Following that, there will be back-to-back three-night weeks with cards on Friday through Sunday, February 13, 14, 15; and Friday through Sunday, February 20, 21, 22. Open Trot, Distaff Pace, Sire Stakes set An Open Trot headed by El Azteca and Its Not Over; a Distaff Open Pace and a trio of $10,000 California Sire Stakes are on tap Friday night at Cal Expo. First post for the 14-race card is 6:10 p.m. Looking at the 4-year-old Sire Stakes Trot, Placer, Ahh Panama and Bank Of Lodi are the major players after finishing in that order in the most recent stakes clash for this division two weeks ago. Placer is a homebred son of Panama Hanover out of the Website mare Charlottes Web who races for Desomer Stables Inc. with Vickie Desomer the conditioner and husband Steve in the sulky. He prevailed by a neck over Ahh Panama in that last added-money clash on January, adding another trophy to his display case. Ahh Panama is a daughter of Panama Hanover who races for Hank Wieseneck, Marty Garey and Bob Johnson with Johnson training and Steve Wiseman doing the honors. A stakes victress last season, she is looking for some revenge after just missing in that stakes two weeks ago. Bank Of Lodi has been a stakes winner at 3 and 4 for his owner/breeders Mary Harris and Pierre Girard, with Girard training and Luke Plano in his usual spot in the bike. The New Age Hanover mare accounted for the December 14 stakes clash in coast-to-coast fashion, and then carved out the fractions in that last stakes get-together and was no match for Placer and Ahh Panama in the stretch. The 3-year-old pacing filly stakes will be a rematch between Avila Beach and Smash, who were one-two in the initial big-money affair this division, while the Sire Stakes for the 3-year-old trotters goes as a non-betting affair prior to the regular program. The Open Trot is set as the third race on the evening and should provide another great battle between El Azteca and Its Not Over, who have dominated things at the head of the class during this meeting. James Kennedy guides the former for owner/breeder/trainer Marco Rios, while Chip Lackey will be in his usual spot behind Its Not Over for trainer Bob Johnson. By Mark Ratzky, publicity Cal Expo Harness

Out of 31 races last week, a grand total of three were won in coast-to-coast fashion, and one of those was turned in by China King and harness racing pilot Chip Lackey while capturing the Open Pace at juicy 19-1 odds. The East Coast invader, who races for Gary and Jennifer Sabot and trainer Gene Vallandingham, had suffered brutal beats at the hands of the streaking St Lads Lotto in his previous two efforts, but was able to turn the tables last weekend with his 1:52 1/5 tour. To be honest, I didnt go into that race with the same confidence I had the previous two starts when he was just nipped, Lackey explained. Hed missed a couple of starts, it looked like there was plenty of other speed in there and after a night and a half of racing to that point, there hadnt been a horse win on the front end. On top of that, Id been having some pretty bad luck with my drives. That said, I always try to be optimistic when I go out there and I will say that Jen (Sabot) and Gene were pretty confident about China Kings chances and did a terrific job to have him ready. Lackey was able to buzz the pacer right to the front and cut out fractions of :27 2/5, :54 4/5 and 1:22 3/5 en route to the three-quarters of a length upset over the 1-2 St Lads Lotto, who had his seven-race win streak snapped in the process. This is a very nice one, Chip noted. There are a lot of horses who like to roll away from there and then you have to wrestle with them, but hell pretty much do anything you want and is very ratable. Everything considered, I thought they might want me to take back with him last week, but they said to let him fire out and thats what we did. It was a tremendous effort when you remember he hadnt raced in three weeks, and it also did a lot to raise my spirits after some tough luck. High Bet Hanover eyes another snapshot Sundays distaff pacing feature goes in two divisions, with High Bet Hanover and Js Littlerockstar heading their respective races. A 10-race card is set with first post at 4:50 p.m. High Bet Hanover comes into her contest having posed for pictures following four of her last five starts, with her only setback coming two weeks ago when she took on some very tough male rivals. The Bettors Delight mare, who races for Kc C Carvalho, is conditioned by Tim Brown and will have Luke Plano guiding, rattled off three straight victories here between December 22 and January 2, then had her work cut out versus the likes of A Real Miracle at next asking. Returning to face fillies and mares last week, High Bet Hanover was hammered down to 1-2 and did not disappoint her many supporters. Plano left into a tracking trip with his charge, took aim on the leaders in the stretch and swept by when it counted for a length and a half score. Js Littlerockstar has been a gem of consistency and will be well backed in the co-feature. James Kennedy owns, trains, drives and bred the Little Steven mare, who has multiple Sire Stakes trophies on her mantle. The bay miss has accounted for the last two stakes engagements for her division, getting the January 4 score after the disqualification of arch-rival Brewski, then hung a head decision on that foe in last weeks Sire Stakes clash in another big mile. Next week will find the trotters and pacers in action under the Watch and Wager LLC banner on Friday and Saturday nights, with no racing on Super Bowl Sunday, February 1. By Mark Ratzky, publicty Cal Expo Harness                                          

If pedigree means anything, Smash is going to be a tough customer in the first Sire Stakes clash for the 3-year-old pacing fillies on Sunday. Junior Wilkinson conditions and co-owns the daughter of Little Steven with Billie Schwartz. The dark-hued filly is out of the Givemewhatineed mare I Need A Miracle, who was herself a multiple Sire Stakes victress. “This is the third foal from I Need A Miracle,” Wilkinson informed. “The other two are Tony Cheesecake and A Real Miracle, who both won in 1:53 last Saturday. She’s a big, good looking filly and we’ve liked her from the very start.” Even without the impressive lineage, Smash looks imposing on paper as the first added-money event for the division approaches. The dark-hued filly proved a punctual even-money favorite in her December 21 debut, had tough trips in her next two outings and then returned to her winning ways at most recent asking with a solid 1:57 2/5 score. Her second start saw Smash far back early from a tough post and she did well to get a share that night, then in her next outing she made a break at the start to spot her opposition some 20 lengths and turned in an outstanding mile thereafter to lose by less than three lengths. “The night she made the break, she was trying to leave and the hopples were probably a bit too long,” Wilkinson explained. “The effort she turned in after losing all that ground at the start was pretty amazing.” There were no such mistakes in last week’s tour, as Plano left into a tracking position with Smash, took aim on the leader at the head of the lane and motored by smartly to set her up perfectly for this weekend’s trophy quest. Sunday program spotlights Sire Stakes performers Two California Sire Stakes for the 4-year-olds and the first added-money gathering for the 3-year-old pacing fillies top Sunday’s card at Cal Expo. There will be 10 races on the evening and the action gets underway at 4:40 p.m. A reminder that through the month of January, there is a $30,000-guaranteed pool on the 16% Pick 4, one of four wagers on the card with that reduced takeout rate. The others are the Pick 5; the Jackpot 6 and the Hi-5 on the nightcap. In the two Sire Stakes for pacing distaffers, J’s Littlerockstar and Brewski have the top billing in the contest for the 4-year-olds while Smash and Avila Beach are among the major players in the race for the sophomores.  Bank Of Lodi, a convincing winner of the first stakes for her division at the meeting, looks to keep the momentum going in the 4-year-old trotting event. Bank Of Lodi is a homebred daughter of New Age Hanover out of the Armbro Rotary mare Bankers Babe who is owned by Mary Harris and Pierre Girard, takes her lessons from Girard and will have Luke Plano back at the controls. The bay mare was sent off at 40 cents on the dollar in the most recent added-money event for this division on December 14 and did not disappoint her many backers. Plano buzzed her right to the front that evening, withstood a strong bid at the head of the lane to prevail by three lengths. Bank Of Lodi established a new career standard with the 1:59 1/5 clocking and has been facing solid competition in her subsequent three appearances. She will definitely appreciate getting back with her peers this weekend with another trophy on the line. Placer is a multiple stakes winning son of Panama Hanover who races for Team Desomer with Steve Desomer at the controls. He was making a bold move at Bank Of Lodi in that last stakes clash when he jumped offstride, but came back to mind his manners and checked in a good second in the Dr. Gary Budahn Trot behind Jailer and then looked sharp winning a conditioned contest last week. by Mike Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness

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