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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

Bubs Desire made it two wins from his last four appearances with an impressive conditioned score last weekend and he appears to have found a nice winter home for trainer Ray Burt. “I’ve got 11 horses out here for Matias Ruiz,” Burt related when asked about Bubs Desire. The 6-year-old son of Real Desire carries the banner of Roslyn Delgaudio and has been guided in all his Cal Expo outings by Luke Plano. “Matias claimed him for $25,000 and he’s gone :49 and a piece a few times,” Burt said. “He told me that he can have kind of a funny attitude, but if I keep him happy he’s a real good one. I give him a lot of time outside in the pen, and he really seems to like that.” Bubs Desire, who sports a 1:50 2/5 mark at Pocono Downs, has made five starts since switching his base to California and seems to be getting the hang of things. “He needed his first start here, then in the second one he raced on the lead and tired and Luke told me he just wanted no part of the front end,” Ray explained. The pacer put it all together in his third local outing, rattling off a 1:52 3/5 score, had some issues at next asking and then returned to his winning ways at most recent asking after doing the track and attack to perfection for Plano. “Luke said he was vicious in the pocket and absolutely loved being on the helmet in that first win,” his trainer noted. “Let’s just say that he had some dietary issues in his next start and draw a line through the race, and then last time he showed what he can really do. “The plan with these horses is to find the best spots for them and win as many races as possible before they go back East in the spring.” Hoboken Hanover, Pick 4 guarantee increase highlighted Hoboken Hanover, a sharp first-over victor last week for Tim Maier, gets the top billing in Friday night’s featured pace. He will do his work from the outside post in the field of nine.  A 10-race card is on tap with first post at 6:40 p.m. and racing is now being conducted under the Watch and Wager LLC banner on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. A reminder that through the month of January, the guarantee on the low-takeout Pick 4 has been raised to $30,000. The Pick 4 is one of four wagers offered each night with the reduced 16% takeout rate, the others being the Pick 5; Jackpot 6 and Hi 5 on the nitecap. Hoboken Hanover is an 8-year-old son of Cam’s Card Shark who comes into Friday’s headliner with $282,000 in his bank account and a 1:50 4/5 mark. He was reserved early in last week’s score, made a bold first-over move to the stretch and won going away by a length and three-quarters. Looking ahead to Saturday and Sunday, Sire Stakes action will dominate the programs. On Saturday, the 4-year-old pacing males will do battle with Laissez Moi Passer, Rikybrnthegaragdown and King Of The Crop getting a rematch after coming to the wire noses apart in that order in the most recent big-money clash two weeks ago. Saturday evening will also find the 3-year-old pacing colts and 3-year-old trotters getting their initial chance at added-money and it will be interesting to see how those divisions will be shaping up this season. On Sunday, the 4-year-old pacing mares and 4-year-old trotters square off in Sire Stakes events. J’s Littlerockstar and Brewski are among the major players in the pacing contest, while Bank Of Lodi and Placer figure to get their share of attention in the trotting event. Sunday’s card will also find the initial added-money races for the 3-year-old By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness

Im Fasterthanyu, who celebrated her 10th birthday this week, has lived up to her name in five of her last eight trips to the post while carrying the banner of Fabiola Quevedo with Edwin Quevedo the conditioner and Luke Plano at the controls. Interestingly, two of the three setbacks for the daughter of Cammibest came in starts where Plano was unable to sit in the sulky behind the veteran mare. She registered her most recent score two weeks ago when being re-united with Luke for the first time since recording a four-race winning streak during the month of November. Leaving from the tough No. 9 slot in that assignment, Im Fasterthanu  was hard used early to the pocket, tracked to the lane then had the right answer when the question was asked and prevailed by three-quarters of a length while lowering her mark to 1:54 4/5 in the process. She was third in last week’s assignment after being hard-used on the front end. “I bought her this fall from Canada because I thought she would fit here,” Edwin related. “She’s every easy to train and most of the time she acts more like she’s 4 or 5 than a mare who is turning 10. She’s feeling very good right now.” The trainer was asked about the success his mare has had when she joins forces with Plano. “He does seem to have the right touch with her. He told me when he drives her, she seems to give her best.” Im Fasterthanu will suit up once again on Friday while doing her work from the cozy rail post in the 11th and final event on the program. It will be interesting to see if she can start off 2015 with a bang. There are four wagers here each night that come with the reduced 16% takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5; the Jackpot 6; the 20-cent Pick 4 and the 10-cent Hi-Five on the nitecap. Cenalta Power has top billing in feature Cenetla Power, an Open winner at the meet for Ryan Grundy, gets some class relief and heads the field for Friday’s main event at Cal Expo. First post for the 11-race card is 6:40 p.m. and the headliner is set as the seventh event on the evening. A reminder that racing is now being conducted under the Watch and Wager LLC banner on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Cenalta Power is a 6-year-old Alberta-bred son of Brandon’s Cowboy who is owned, trained and driven by Grundy. He has two victories from five appearances since coming down from Canada, including an 11-1 upset in the November 15 Open. The bay gelding sat a tracking trip in that contest, ignited when the question was asked and was up by a half-length. He added a conditioned victory two starts later on December 13, lowering his lifetime mark to 1:52 4/5 with that nose decision. Cenalta Power has returned to the Open ranks for his last two outings, checking in fifth and fourth behind the streaking St Lads Lotto in those appearances. He figures to appreciate getting away from that rival and looms large in his cast as he leaves from the No. 5 slot. Taking him on are Stable Eyes, Country Jewel, Cowboy Cold, Rusty Skipp, Bubs Desire, Always Wanna, Alligator Falls, Allamerican Solo and Phantom Dan. The first two mentioned pacers are entered under filly-mare Open II conditions and were assigned the inside slots. Looking ahead to Saturday’s card, a $10,000 California Sire Stakes headed by King Of The Crop and an Open Pace that brings out the aforementioned St Lads Lotto are the featured attractions.

The Toucam Sam story got even better last week as the veteran pacer captured the Alan Kirchenbaum Series consolation in impressive fashion for Michael and Patricia Minnella with Luke Plano doing the honors. An 11-year-old son of Cams Card Shark out of the Western Hanover mare Arizona Yankee, Toucam Sam has just shy of $600,000 in his bank account and sports a sparkling 1:49 2/5 mark that was established six years ago. "We purchased him in August of 2013 after we found him on the Ongait.com website," Michael Minnella said. "We felt if we could not get him back to the races and compete at a high level, we would register him as a stallion in California. "Training down we were very optimistic. We got down to miles in 2:20 and Toucam was having major breathing problems. We consulted with Dr. Audrey Clifton and she suggested we have UC Davis come out and do a dynascope on him while training. We then gave the video of the dynascope to Dr. Mueller and Dr. Yarborough of Los Caballos Equine. "We consulted with the doctors and let them know that Toucam still wanted to compete. Dr. Muller felt he could help, so Dr. Yarborough did the tie back surgery on Toucam in the spring of last year. We gave him the time off he needed and started him back at Keith Wileys Farm in July." Minnella noted that Emilio Cisneros takes care of Toucam Sams day-to-day needs and has been a vital part of his return to the races, while Luke Plano has been very helpful with training and equipment adjustments. "The beginning of this meet has been a dream come true to my wife and I," Michael noted. "Toucam gives us all that he has every race. He leaves nothing in the tank." County Jewel gets top billing in Distaff Pace An Open II Distaff Pace headed by Country Jewel and Ladys Art and an Open II Trot featuring Hillcrest Romeo and Franks Best headline the Saturday night program at Cal Expo. A 13-race card is set with first post at 6:15 p.m. The featured trot is going as the fifth event on the evening, while the featured pace occupies the eighth-race slot on the program. Racing is now being conducted on Saturdays and Sundays, expanding to three nights a week at the end of the month with Friday racing being added to the mix beginning December 26. Country Jewel is a 6-year-old daughter of Pacific Missile out of the Towners Big Guy mare Country Fences who races for Brev Creech, David Siegel, Gregg Robinson and Bob Thronson, is conditioned by George Reider and will be guided by co-owner Siegel from the outside slot in the field of seven. The bay mare comes into this assignment with eight wins and 11 seconds on the year from 34 trips to the post, sports a 1:53 mark that was established this season at Running Aces and is looking to add to a $116,000 bank account. After facing the boys in her previous starts at the meet, Country Jewel surfaced with fillies and mares for last weeks assignment and proved a punctual 4-5 choice with Siegel at the controls. She made what proved to be the winning move past the half, opening up on her rivals turning for home and coming to the wire with four and three-quarters lengths to spare in a 1:54 tour of the good track. Taking her on Saturday, from the rail out: Starry Skys for Gerry Longo; Stable Eyes, who will be guided by Tim Clevenger; Free Girl, Luke Plano; Internal Check, Daniel Maier; Love Live Laugh, Tim Maier; and Ladys Art with Chip Lackey in the bike. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness

One of the best races of the meet could be for the driving crown, with Luke Plano, Steve Wiseman and James Kennedy staking a claim for the title through the first six weeks of this stand. Plano came into this week atop the standings with 20 trips to the charmed enclosure, bringing his lifetime total to 2,644 with $9.5 million in earnings. Luke is following in the footsteps of his father Rick, who was a leading driver and trainer in California for many years. There are some new horsemen here and that adds to the competitiveness of the racing, Plano said. Ill have a few horses in my barn, but I prefer to concentrate on the driving. Steve Wiseman is currently second with 18 victories to his credit at the meet, while leading the trainer stands with 15 of his representatives returning to have their picture taken. His total driving wins now stands at 2,136 with $8.2 million in earnings. Being the leading driver and trainer was the goal coming into the meet, Steve explained. Ive never won a training title before, so that would be nice, and Ive got a great crew to help me. James Kennedy is also off to a good start here with 13 snapshots and figures to be right in the hunt through the close of business in early May. Kennedy, who recorded a number of driving and training victories with the popular mare Haggin Oaks, currently sits with 866 sulky scores on his resume. (use as a reverse box) A reminder there are four wagers offered here every night with a reduced 16% takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5; the Jackpot 6; the Pick 4 and the Hi-5 on the nitecap. Featured Pace brings out A Real Miracle A Real Miracle, victorious in three of his five appearances at the meet, looks to keep the momentum going when he heads the cast for Saturday nights $6,000 Open Pace at Cal Expo. A 12-race card is on tap with first post set for 6:10 p.m. There is now Saturday and Sunday racing under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post on Sunday at 4:40 p.m. Beginning December 26, Friday action will be added to the mix. A Real Miracle is a 4-year-old son of Real Desire who is owned by Junior Wilkinson, Billie Schwartz and Ivan Axelrod, is conditioned by Wilkinson and is guided by Luke Plano. He established his 1:52 1/5 career standard this summer over the seven-eighths Hoosier Park oval. The Wilkinson trainee has clicked three times from five stats at this meet, including a dominating victory in the main event on opening week. After tiring in his next two tries, he returned to his winning ways last week as he made what proved to be the winning move for Plano on the backside and went on to a length score. In the most recent clash at the top of the class, A Real Miracle was dispatched as the 3-5 favorite and did not disappoint the chalkplayers. Plano buzzed the bay performer right to the front, moderated the pace and then held safe by a neck over the pocket-sitting longshot Mar Dream. The latter put a score into the favorite last week, as he sat the pocket journey and missed by only a neck while two and a half-lengths clear of the rest of the field A 6-year-old son of Cambest, Mar Dream is owned by David Neumeister, is trained by Bob John and will again have Mooney Svendsen at the controls. He has a 1:50 2/5 mark and over $171,000 in his account. Rounding out the field from the rail out are Cenalta Power for Ryan Grundy; Lifetime Louie with Dave Siegel; Ideal Smile, Steve Wiseman; and Pointsman, who will have the services of Chip Lackey. The headliner goes as the fourth race on the program. A reminder that there are four wagers offered here every night with a reduced 16% takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5; the Jackpot 6; the Pick 4 and the Hi-5 on the nitecap By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness    

Bruce Clarke has returned for another winter stay in California, bringing along his top trotter I Love New York and a dozen other assorted performers. You can say that Im hoping to rebuild, said Clarke, an accomplished driver/trainer who has driven over 2,900 winners in his career and recently went over the $12 million mark as a chauffeur. I Love New York is owned by Clarke along with longtime clients Jack Coffey and Patricia Waldeck and the 6-year-old Broadway Hall homebred is nearing $250,000 in earnings while sporting a 1:54 3/5 career standard that was established here last season. His most recent victory came in late August over the five-eighths Tioga Downs oval in the state hes named after and the dark-hued trotter has gone some big miles for Clarke since his introduction to the game. Im out here for the winter and its nice to get away from the cold, Bruce related. This wasnt the best of summers for the barn, because we had a lot of bad luck, but Ive got some young ones here that Ill be getting ready. The one thing missing from his arsenal this year would be some Sire Stakes performers, which has been a mainstay of the shedrow over the years, but Clarke still figures to make his presence felt during the course of this meeting. A reminder that there are now four wagers here that feature a reduced 16% takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5; the Jackpot 6; the Pick 4 and the Hi-5 on the nitecap.    High Bet Hanover High Bet Hanover, who has fired nothing but bullets at this meet in five appearances, heads the cast for Sunday evenings featured Open III Pace for fillies and mares. An 11-race card is on tap under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with a first post of 4:45 Pacific. The headliner will go as the second race on the evening with a field of six set to face the starter. High Bet Hanover has recorded two victories and three seconds from her five starts at the stand for owner Kc C Cavalho, trainer Tim Brown and driver Luke Plano. Overall, she is going for her eighth snapshot on the season from 41 trips to the post. The 6-year-old Bettors Delight established a new lifetime mark three starts back when she captured the finale of the Annette Funicello Series on October 18 in 1:53 4/5. She came back to be the runner-up in a conditioned affair and then returned to her winning ways in her most recent tour. Sent off the even-money choice in that contest, High Bet Hanover sat a tracking trip for a half, then attacked to the final bend and went on to a two and three-quarter length score with Plano This time around, Director of Racing Robin Schadt has assigned the mare the outside post. Dont Hurry Love completed the exacta behind High Bet Hanover last week and will be looking to turn the tables. The 5-year-old daughter of Dontgetinmyway races for Ed Actkinson, takes her lessons from Bob Johnson and will be guided by Mooney Svendsen. She boasts $135,000 in earnings and a 1:54 1/5 career standard. Completing the cast are Free Girl, who gives the Brown barn two looks at the outcome; the Steve Wiseman-trained duo of Surprisingly Sweet and Razzle Be Dazzled; and Rag Doll, who hails from the Lino Pacheco barn and leaves from the inside slot. Mike Ratzky - Cal Expo Harness

Last Saturday night was a good one for harness racing pilot and co-owner Dave Siegel, as he guided Lifetime Louie to victory in the Open III Pace and finished second with the mare Country Jewel in the Open II Pace. Both horses are conditioned by George Reider. Siegel partners with Brev Creech, Greg Robinson and Bob Thronson on Country Jewel and with Reider and Dave and Rob Haness with Lifetime Louie. Country Jewel is a diamond,no pun intended, that I found for the Reider barn while scouring the country for a horse that I thought would fit in Minnesota and California and that would fare well in George's barn. Her being Minnesota sired is preferable given the Running Aces allowance program and our DHA program. That said, I expected her to be a mid-level claimer and George and her day-to-day groom Kim Hines have done wonders with her as she has become an open-level mare. They both have a way of getting sometimes difficult horses to relax and not that she was that way, but they did that with Axle last year, and Silence Son this year. I wanted to help George get some nice horses that I could drive, and Jewel has become just that, the Jewel of the barn. Lifetime Louie did the stalk-and-pounce to perfection last weekend to pick up his first score of the meeting. Lifetime Louie was a horse we claimed last year that we knew had some feet problems, which is another area of George's strengths. We correctly thought he could improve the horse and he is another that has surpassed expectations. Kim does an exceptional job with Louie too, which I have come to expect from all of the horses in her care. He is a delight to drive and very handy. He has a huge heart and he is one I get along with very well. Co-features honor Joe Lighthill, Robert Staats The Joe Lighthill Trot, the Robert Staats Pace and an Open II Pace share the spotlight on Saturday nights 13-race program at Cal Expo. Racing is now being conducted under the Watch and Wager LLC banner on Saturday and Sunday nights, expanding to three nights a week on December 26 when Friday racing is added to the mix. First post Saturday is 5:40 p.m. with a 4:45 p.m. start on Sunday. The Joe Lighthill and Robert Staats are named for the late driver/trainer and late owner/breeder who were so important to California harness racing. The Lighthill goes as the sixth event on the card, the Open II Pace occupies the 11th-race slot and the Staats has been designated as the penultimate race of the evening. The Open II Pace is headed by A Real Miracle, a 4-year-old son of Real Desire who is owned by Junior Wlkinson, Billie Schwartz and Ivan Axelrod, is conditioned by Wilkinson and is guided by Luke Plano. He established his 1:52 1/5 career standard this summer over the seven-eighths Hoosier Park oval. The Wilkinson trainee has clicked twice from four stats at this meet, including a dominating victory in the main event on opening week. After tiring in his next two tries, he returned to his winning ways last week as he made what proved to be the winning move for Plano on the backside and went on to a length score over favored Country Jewel. Lining up against A Real Miracle are Del Rio Seelster, who hails from the Gordie Graham barn; the George Reider-trained Lifetime Louie; Mar Dream from the Bob Johnson shedrow; and Cowboy Cold, who calls the Tim Brown barn home and leaves from the cozy rail slot. By Mark Ratzky, publicity Cal Expo Harness                    

A contentious Open III event for pacing fillies and mares headlines the first Sunday program of the Cal Expo meeting. Racing is now being conducted here under the Watch and Wager LLC banner on Saturday and Sunday nights with a first post of 4:45 Pacific on Sundays. Plans call for an expansion to a three-night-a-week schedule on December 26 with Friday action being added to the mix. Looking at the feature, High Bet Hanover is a 6-year-old daughter of Bettors Delight out of the Artsplace mare Highland Dexter who is owned by Kc C Carvalho, conditioned by Tim Brown and will once again have the services of Luke Plano. The bay miss was a close second in the first two legs of the aforementioned Funicello Series, then rode a second-over journey to victory in the October 18 finale of the event as she showed the way home by a length and a quarter over Wild About Eagle in that event while lowering her mark to 1:53 4/5 in the process. Wheeled back in a conditioned contest last weekend, High Bet Hanover was sent off the 4-5 favorite. She found herself well back early and with too much to do, but did come calling late to finish second while missing by three-quarters of a length in another big mile. Wild About Eagle will be looking to avenge her loss to High Bet Hanover in the Funicello final. The 7-year-old daughter of The Panderosa is owned by Kathy Plested and Mark Benvenga with Steve Wiseman doing the driving and training. In last weeks tour she drew the tough 9 slot, but was able to leave strong and eventually settled into the two-hole by the quarter. Once straightened for home, she took aim on favored pace-setter Windsun T Bird and overhauled that one by a neck while recording a 1:55 flat mile. High Bet Hanover goes for solid trio High Bet Hanover figures to have her share of backers in Sundays filly-mare main event as she goes postward for the productive team of owner Kc C Carvalho, trainer Tim Brown and pilot Luke Plano. The 6-year-old Bettors Delight mare captured the finale of the Annette Funicello Series two starts back while lowering her lifetime mark to 1:53 4/5 in the process, then finished gamely be second while taking on males in last weeks assignment. "We bought her privately last year to fill a spot we needed with our Minnesota barn," Brown related. "She had a good meet, but then she started hitting herself and there were some shoeing issues that had to be worked out." High Bet Hanover lost tough decisions in the first two legs of the Funicello, but got the job done in the finale while changing tactics to ride a second-over journey to the stretch. "Luke used to have her, so he knows her real well and drives her great," Tim said. "I actually think shes better when she can sit near the pace, but she got a perfect trip in the final and it all worked out." Sundays headliner is a chance for High Bet Hanover to renew acquaintances with Wild Wild About Eagle, who hung a nose decision on her earlier in the meet before completing the exacta behind her in the Funicello finale. Tim Brown and Kc C Carvalho have formed one of the more lucrative owner/trainer relationships on the Cal Expo backside in recent memory. Ive trained for him for three years now, and hes more like a brother to me than an owner. Hes very much involved in everything to do with the horses. By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness                           

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                      

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