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WILKES-BARRE, PA - There were four divisions of the "non-winners 4 races lifetime" condition going for $15,000 each as the top purse events on the Tuesday night card at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Two of them were on the pace, with a favorite and a second choice taking the big end of the purse, and two were on the trot, where form took a bit of a holiday. The pacers hit the track first, and in the initial event for that gait Captain Deo, a sophomore son of Somebeachsomewhere out of the $1.9M-winning mare Worldly Beauty, justified his favoritism with a dominating 2¾ length tally for driver Marcus Miller, trainer Tony Alagna, and the ownership of Alagna Racing LLC, Joe Sbrocco, In The Gym Partners, and Captain Deo Partners. Captain Deo won on the engine in 1:51.1, which included a 30 second quarter in the second split - meaning in the other 3/4s Captain Deo flashed 1:21.1 speed. In the other pacing section, a distaff event, Saratoga invader Northern Swift equaled her lifetime mark of 1:53.3, overcoming a first-over journey for driver Matt Kakaley (who led the drivers' colony on Tuesday with four wins), trainer Jean Drolet, and the ownership of Funky Munky Stable LLC and Marthe Drolet. The victorious daughter of Mach Three won by 1¾ lengths over pocketsitting Don't Mach Mia, who photoed out favored Covfefe, who had set most of the pace, for second. On the trot, perhaps it was appropriate on Election Day that one of the winners would be QB Kemp, a Triumphant Caviar sophomore gelding named after the former pro football player turned politician. QB Kemp hung in there like a beleaguered quarterback or determined officeseeker, setting the pace while keeping favored Northern Major on the rim, yet still winning by two lengths while lowering his mark by two seconds to 1:56.1 as a 9-1 shot for driver Tyler Buter, trainer Rob Harmon, and Harmon Racing Stable LLC. A $21.00 win price, however, pales next to the $72.40 for $2 generated by the winner of the other featured trot, Nice Stuff. The Yankee Glide four-year-old mare, who started from the rail, got a literal break when a foe went offstride past the half, advanced to the pocket under the guidance of driver Tom Jackson, then rallied in the lane for a length win in 1:56.2. Acquired by trainer Bucky Angle and the ownership of Howard and Joshua Kaufman at the end of the summer, Nice Stuff now has won two of her last three starts after going 3-for-62 before her acquisition, and her surprise triumph here generated a $1295.00 1-4 exacta with 20-1 Campbellini, a single 50-cent 1-4-9 winning Trifecta ticket worth over $2900 with 21-1 Broadway Bruiser third, and a single 10-cent Superfecta ticket on a "1-4-9-all" payout also in the $2900 neighborhood. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs  

Batavia, NY --- The $320,000 New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) consolation races were contested in eight divisions at Batavia Downs on Friday night (Sept. 21) with Jason Bartlett and Marcus Miller getting the lion's share of the eight harness racing contests. Bartlett won three and finished third two more times while Miller won two and finished second four times. Despite a heavy downpour early in the card, the track set up quickly and two lifetime and two seasonal marks were set during the evening in the NYSS races. Here is a race by race recap of the consolation events. 2-year-old filly pace Winner-Topville Angelina (American Ideal-A Fiesty Affair) 1:57.2 Owners-Erv Miller Stable, Michael Anderson and George Golemes Trainer-Erv Miller Breeder-Robert Hamather (non-betting) Topville Angelina (Marcus Miller) travelled second the entire mile behind Sun Viser (Billy Davis Jr.) through even fractions until the top of the stretch when Miller tipped her and she quickly paced by the leader down the lane to win by three lengths in 1:57.2. 2-year-old filly trot Winner-Sweet Chapter (Chapter Seven-Mom's A Sweetie Pie) 2:01.2 Owners-Hutt Racing Stable, Blake MacIntosh, Glenn Bechtel and the Mortgage Boys Stable Trainer-Blake MacIntosh Breeder-Winbak Farm Mutuel-$3.20 Sweet Chapter (Jim Morrill Jr.) went right to the front and dictated the entire race. Contending with a heavy downpour during the mile, Sweet Chapter trotted to the three-quarters in 1:30.1 without a challenge before Hot Chapter (Marcus Miller) started an attack on the outside. Hot Chapter trotted hard down the lane in the middle of the track but Sweet Chapter had enough left to hang on and win in 2:01.2. 2-year-old colt and gelding pace Winner-KJ Leo (Art Major-Winsmith Jess) 1:54.4 Owners-Brenda Messenger, Philip Shapiro and Scott Woogen Trainer-Gary Messenger Breeders-Brenda Messenger, Philip Shapiro and Scott Woogen Mutuel-$24.40 Cub Fan (Marcus Miller) was a strong leaver and set the pace once he settled ahead of KJ Leo (Billy Davis Jr.) who would get the perfect trip. After getting to the half in :57.1, Jet Rock (Kevin Cummings) pulled first up and pushed the issue with Cub Fan all the way to the top of the stretch. At that point he faded and KJ Leo popped the pocket and paced down the lane stride for stride with Cub Fan. When they hit the wire they were a neck apart with KJ Leo getting the better of the photo in 1:54.4, which was a new lifetime mark. 2-year-old colt and gelding trot Winner-JNR Express (Coway Hall-Yankee T L C) 1:59.3 Owners-James De Armond and Russell Young Trainer-Jessica Okusko Breeder-Donald La Page Mutuel-$9.00 JNR Express (Kevin Cummings) took no prisoners as he left and led at every station. After trotting well in hand through a 1:29.2 three quarters, JNR Express took a two-length lead into a stretch and held off a late surge by Brady Bunch (Marcus Miller) and Whimzical Chapter (Dan Daley) to win in 1:59.3, which was a new lifetime mark. 3-year-old filly pace Winner-Solitary (American Ideal-Lonesome Day) 1:54.4 Owners-William Daggett Jr., Lawrence Vukovic and the J L Benson Stable Trainer-Nick Surick Breeder-Docs Farm Mutuel-$3.30 Pelican Blue Chip (Jim Morrill Jr.) grabbed the lead by the quarter and took the race to the half in :57. An outer flow began to advance and by the three quarters horses were three deep heading into the turn with Solitary (Jason Bartlett) locked in fifth with no racing room. Believe In Me (Drew Monti) who was second on the outside bore out and gave Solitary and opening to get out and get out she did. Bartlett gave the filly her head and she shifted gears and paced away from the field to win by three lengths in 1:54.4, which was a new seasonal mark. "The race didn't unfold as I expected and I had to make my way out of traffic in the last turn. But When I got her free it was over," said Bartlett after the race. 3-year-old colt and gelding trot Winner-I'm The Muscle (Muscle Mass-Lady Bling) 1:57.4 Owner-Rheau Viau Trainer-Rene Allard Breeder-Blair and Erna Corbell Mutuel-$2.30 In a race shortened by two scratches, I'm The Muscle (Jason Bartlett) wanted nothing but the front and didn't waste any time getting there. He trotted unchallenged on top by two open lengths in :29.3, :59.3 and 1:29.1 before rounding the last turn and flying home in a quick :28.3 to win in 1:57.4. "He has been getting better and better each week and last week he was closing on Six Pack Late. He's a real nice horse," said Bartlett in the winner's circle. 3-year-old filly trot Winner-Supergirl RIley (Muscle Mass-Crown Laurel) 1:57 Owners-Paymaq Racing, George Golemes and Harvey Eisman Trainer-Erv Miller Breeder-Brittany Farms Mutuel-$2.10 Marcus Miller took advantage of the continuing front end bias and put the 1-9 favorite Supergirl RIley right on the point as the field followed in single file. With the rest of the group gapping behind, the pocket-sitting Golden Muscle (Drew Monti) pulled at three-quarters to take her shot. But halfway through the turn, Golden Muscle broke and Supergirl RIley found herself all alone trotting down the stretch a wrapped-up winner by three in 1:57. "She's just an unbelievable horse. She does everything right and she won easy tonight," said driver Marcus Miller after the race. 3-year-old colt and gelding pace Winner-Ideal Feeling (American Ideal-Feelinglikeastar) 1:52.4 Owner-Rick Berks Trainer-Mike Deters Breeder-Winbak Farm Mutuel-$3.10 Ideal Feeling (Jason Bartlett) seated third off the gate but then came quick past the eighth pole to grab the lead. Rolling handily past the half and to three-quarters in 1:24.1 without any opposition, Ideal Feeling watched as Lyons Steel (Kevin Cummings) left his cover and made his bid for the win. As the race moved down the lane, Lyons Steel continued to gain ground but Bartlett kept Ideal Feeling to task and he won by a half length in 1:52.4 to take his third consecutive win. Before the races began, Batavia Downs held a press conference with regional media outlets to formally announce the track being awarded the 2019 NYSS Night of Champions. The Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding and Development Fund awarded the $1.8 million finals to Batavia Downs because of its excellent facilities and their ability to promote the race and offer an exciting fan experience. Henry Wojtaszek, President and CEO of Batavia Downs Gaming and Hotel expressed his excitement looking forward to next year. "We are very excited for Batavia Downs Gaming to host the $1.8 million finals if the New York SIre Stakes with the long history this facility has with harness racing. We have made so many improvements to the track and can't wait to host everyone that weekend and showcase our new hotel and beautiful clubhouse." Kelly Young, Executive Director of the Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding and Development Fund said "2019 will be the 30th edition of the Night of Champions and we look forward to bringing it to western New York and Batavia Downs. We're really excited to watch this race track do what it does best; that is promoting harness racing and bringing fans in to watch the best horses the state has to offer." The date of the finals will be announced once the actual racing schedule is finalized. By TIm Bojarski, for Batavia Downs  

We are now just about a month away from the 2018 Breeders Crown, to be hosted by none other than The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Excitement is definitely building for that monumental event. But that doesn't mean everything else stops. Overnight racing at Pocono continues to hurtle forward, with each new week bringing us a fresh batch of excellent performances. With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the finest efforts from the past week of racing as we hand out the Weekly Awards. PACER OF THE WEEK: MAROMA BEACH Stepping up in class is never easy to do, but that's especially true when you have reached the upper rungs on the condition ladder. At that point, taking a jump into a higher condition means you will be going up against the toughest horses on the grounds. That was the predicament that faced Maroma Beach, a four-year-old gelding trained by Ron Burke. He was coming off a victory gate to wire in his previous start on September 1 in a career-best 1:50. That was the good news. The bad news was that the earlier victory came against a $12,500 condition pacing group, and on Saturday night, the opposition would come in the form of a $17,500 class. That meant Maroma Beach skipped a class to make the move up and face that field, and that was reflected in the odds, as he went off at 13-1. Still, driver Pat Berry was aggressive, sending the gelding to the lead from an outside post and setting swift fractions. Throughout the race, Maroma Beach kept a solid advantage, preventing anyone from putting too much pressure on him. In the lane, he was able to dig in and come home strong, finishing a half-length in front of fellow long shot Seel The Deal N in 1:50.4. Maybe Maroma Beach will move up again following that second straight victory. One thing is for sure: He'll have less people doubting his ability to do it next time around. Other top pacers this week include: Persistent Threat A (George Napolitano Jr, Gilbert Garcia-Owen), who rolled to a win in a condition pace in 1:49.3, a new career-best and the fastest pacing time this week at Pocono; Bettor N Blue (Eric Carlson, Gilbert Garcia-Owen), whose victory on Saturday night in 1:51.4 was his second straight claiming handicap win at Pocono and his third straight overall; and Eclipse Me N (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who captured Tuesday night's featured condition pace for mares in 1:51. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: MUSCLE DIAMOND In the $21,500 featured condition trot on Sunday night, the field was stacked. Among the entries: Fraser Ridge, winner of four consecutive races; What's The Word, a three-year-old who had barely missed behind the superstar Crystal Fashion in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championships; and Dayson, who was coming off his first victory of the year and was the 8-5 betting favorite. Muscle Diamond's record was propped up by two wins at The Meadowlands, with both of his victories coming in faster times than anybody else in the field could manage. Muscle Diamond, a six-year-old stallion trained by Brett Bittle, left from post position #4 in a field of seven. He sat back in the pack early and then appeared to be content to follow cover for a while on the back stretch. But driver Tyler Buter coaxed him into action, and with a sudden burst of speed, he went three-wide around Fraser Ridge and kept right on rolling past the pacesetter Dayson. By the time the field reached the three-quarter pole, he had opened up a sizable lead. Considering the powerful late kick of Muscle Diamond, you knew that lead was going to be tough to overcome. He kept the field at bay all the way around the final turn and through the stretch, winning by three comfortable lengths over Dayson. The win proved that he could handle the 5/8-mile oval at Pocono as well as he could the one-mile jaunt at The Meadowlands. And his winning time of 1:52.2 was the fastest trotting mark of the week at Pocono. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Ostrich Blue Chip, a mare who picked up a condition win on Saturday night in a new career-best mark of 1:52.3; Sciroccco Imsosmart (Tyler Buter, John Butenschoen), who handled a tough condition group on Sunday night in 1:55.2; and Boxing Gloves (Marcus Miller, Erv Miller), who stepped up in class to win his second straight condition trot on Tuesday night in 1:55.4, a new career mark. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: CAJOLE HANOVER With trainer Joe Poliseno in the bike, this condition trotter opened up Sunday night's racing with a surprise at 22-1, paying off $46.40 on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MARCUS MILLER Known for coaxing home long shots at Pocono, Miller was at it again on Tuesday night, scoring with 19-1 shot Boxing Gloves among his three victories on the evening. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: GILBERT GARCIA-OWEN Garcia-Owen immediately made an impact this past week after switching to a training role, picking up three victories on the Saturday night program. That will do it for this week at Pocono, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com. by Jim Beviglia, for Pocono Downs

Tioga Downs played host to a leg of the Kindergarten Classic for both 2-year-old pacers and trotters on Friday (September 14). All classes raced for a purse of $10,000. Cloud Nine Fashion remains unbeaten with Kindergarten Classic win in the second division for trotting fillies. Amanda Blue Chip (Scott Zeron) led the field to a first quarter in :28.3. Jezzys Legacy (Ray Schnittker) took her turn taking the lead with a lap to go. She led them to the half in 58.4 and three-quarters in 1:26.4. Cloud Nine Fashion ($3.30) went first-over just before the three-quarter mark. Owned by Fashion Farms LLC. and trained by Jim Campbell, she took over in the stretched and won easily in a lifetime best of 1:56.0. Jezzys Legacy held on for second. Amanda Blue Chip was third best. Cloud Nine Fashion is a filly by Muscle Hill-I'm On Cloud Nine. She is now a perfect five for five in her career. Starita (Tim Tetrick) wins first division of the Kindergarten Classic for trotting fillies. Princess Deo (Troy Beyer) led to a first quarter of :28.2 Starita ($3.00) took over with five-eighths of a mile left. Trained by Joe Holloway for owners Val D'Or Farms and Theodore Gewertz, she controlled all the rest of the fractions (:57.4, 1:26.1 1:56.0). Second place finisher Big Weezy (David Miller) and Princess Deo (third) both came at her in the stretch but Starita was too tough. Starita is a filly by Trixton-Morningstar. She captured her third career victory in eight lifetime starts. Cub Fan (Tyler Buter) fires late to win Kindergarten Classic for pacing colts and geldings. Sweet Troy (Atlee Bender) went to the front and led to a first quarter in :28.2. Mountain High (David Miller) took control and led to a half of :58.0 and three-quarters in 1:25.4. Cub Fan ($4.40) was fourth at the top of the stretch. Owned by Michael Anderson and trained by Erv Miller, he came charging down the stretch to win in 1:54.0. Southwind Ozzi (Mike Simons) came up late to finish second. Escapetothebeach (Tim Tetrick) took third money. Cub Fan is a gelding by So Surreal-Pardon. It was his second win in five career starts. Cantab Fashion (Mike Simons) easily wins the Kindergarten Classic for trotting colts and geldings. Sheena's Boy (Ake Svanstedt) took the group to a first quarter in :28.3. Cantab Fashion ($5.80) took over and never looked back putting up all the rest of the fractions (:58.1, 1:26.0, 1:54.2). Battenberg (David Miller) finished second with entry mate Caesars Crazy (Tyler Buter) getting third. Cantab Fashion is a colt by Cantab Hall-Defiant Donato. He now has three wins in four career starts. Trainer Jim Campbell and owner Fashion Farms LLC. teamed up for their second win of the night. Michelon's Filly (Marcus Miller) wins non-betting Kindergarten Classic for pacing fillies. Alkippe (Tim Tetrick) controlled all the early fractions (:27.2, :56.0 1:24.2). Michelon's Filly followed in the pocket all the way until she got to the stretch. Trained by Erv Miller for owners Ronald Michelon and Michael Anderson, she flew by in late stretch to win in a lifetime best of 1:53.0. Alkippie settled for second. Under The Hood (Tyler Buter) was third best. Michelon's Filly is a filly by Captaintreacherous-New Album. It was her third win in seven lifetime starts. Leading driver Mike Merton won four on the night to give him 65 wins on the season. He now leads by eight races with three more cards to go. Tioga Downs returns to live racing with a 13 race card on Saturday (September 15) at 6:15. For more information go to www.tiogadowns.com by John Horne, for Tioga Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - Summertime fled The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in a hurry - it was 59 degrees when the races started on Saturday evening -- but the change in temperature made no difference to the American Ideal gelding Ideal Kiss, who won for the fifth time in his last six starts when he won the $20,000 claiming handicap pacing feature in 1:50.4 over "good" going. Ideal Kiss made the lead before the first turn for driver George Napolitano Jr. despite beginning from the outside post seven, "and he improved his position from there," responding to mild stretch rocking to keep pocketsitting Big N Bad at bay by 1¼ lengths at the finish. The win was the third of the night for "George Nap," giving him 16 over the last five Pocono cards, and his second of the evening teaming with trainer Hunter Oakes. Northfork Racing Stable the owner of the winner of $170,630, with almost half of that, $80,930, won in just over eight months this year. Music Is Art and JJ Flynn accounted for the $17,500 co-featured conditioned paces, though their styles of racing - and margins of victory - couldn't have been more different. First up was Music Is Art, a son of Art Major who swept four-wide on the far turn from third-over, then - aided by some tight quarters in traffic inside of him spinning for home - drew away by seven lengths in 1:52.1. The winning race favorite, who raised his earnings to $162,240, was guided by Anthony Napolitano as he won for trainer Mike Deters and owner Rick Berks. In the other division, driver Marcus Miller had the Western Ideal gelding JJ Flynn in high gear from the start, cutting all the pace then holding off pocketsitter Feeling Cam Lucky by a neck in 1:51.2. Now with a career bankroll of $326,608, JJ Flynn is trained by Josh Green, who is a co-owner of the winner with Richard Lombardo and Charles Cochran III. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

WASHINGTON, PA, July 5, 2018 -- First-time starter Michelon's Filly stalked the leader from the pocket, then poured through the Lightning Lane to score in 1:54.4, fastest win in Thursday's $60,000 Pennsylvania Stallion Series stake at The Meadows. The event for freshman filly pacers was contested over three divisions, with Margret Hill and Another Beach Day taking the other splits to give Dave Palone a stake double among his four victories on the 13-race card. Mami Hanover led her field into the final turn, but when the walls started to close in, Michelon's Filly had the shortest route to the finish line, edging Typhoon by a neck. Ponder Time earned show. "She had a lot of go today, and she's pretty handy," said winning driver Marcus Miller. "I think that's her greatest strength. She's very versatile. That will help as we go through the season and the races go a little faster." Erv Miller trains the daughter of Captain Treacherous-New Album for Ronald Michelon and Michael Anderson. Margret Hill wasn't the stake's swiftest winner, but she was the most visually compelling. She spotted the 1-2 favorite, More More More, 6 lengths before overtaking her with a quick and determined uncovered move and downing her by 2-3/4 lengths in 1:56.3. Journey Of Love completed the ticket. "She was green," Palone said of the daughter of Somebeachsomewhere-Sarandon Blue Chip. "She had a good turn of foot, and I like the way she passed the favorite. She'll learn." Brian Brown conditions Margret Hill for owner/breeder Tom Hill. Another Beach Day wasn't on the lead at any point in her two qualifiers, but Palone put her there in her career debut. She held off the rallying Alii Nui by a head in 1:55, with Sure R Lookin Good third. "She came advertised as a good filly, but she was completely lost on the lead," Palone said. "Every time I got her attention, she swelled up for me. I think she'll be better than a stallion series filly." Mike Hall trains the daughter of Somebeachsomewhere-Another Delight and owns with David Hamm, CTC Stable and Howard Taylor. Live racing at The Meadows resumes Saturday, when the program features the Sand Tart, a $182,962 PA Sires Stake for 2-year-old filly pacers. First post is 1:05 PM. by Evan Pattak, for The Meadows

CHESTER PA - Driver Marcus Miller, who led the driver colony in his native Illinois before coming East and showing he can drive with the best sulkysmiths around, earned career victory #3000 by guiding the maiden trotter Boxing Gloves to a 1:59 victory Thursday afternoon at Harrah's Philadelphia. The milestone victory wasn't an easy one for horse or driver, as the 6-5 race favorite had to come uncovered at the 3/8 and grinded away. But turning for home, the winning Muscle Hill colt seized the lead, and Marcus kept his ridgling's mind to business to the wire to score number 3000. The victory was probably all the sweeter because Marcus won for his father, trainer Erv Miller, who conditions the sophomore for Silver Linden Farms. The 2016 Rising Star Award winner from the U.S. Harness Writers Association, the 29-year-old certainly has talent running throughout his pedigree: in addition to dad Erv, Andy Miller is his uncle, and "Hurricane" Hannah Miller is his sister. Currently seventh in the standings among the all-star Philly drivers colony, Marcus's biggest career victory came in a 2016 Breeders Crown with Someomensomewhere. A look at the feature races of the day: Driver Victor Kirby has seen both sides of the harness racing game at Harrah's Philadelphia recently. In his last pari-mutuel start, Kirby's pacer had stumbled and fell near the half-mile pole; in his first betting start since that unceremonious event, Victor guided New Heaven wire-to-wire from the outside post eight to take a new mark of 1:54.2 in the $17,000 trotting feature Thursday. The son of Yankee Glide, trained by Ron Burke for Burke Racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Knox Services Inc., and David Wills, dictated early fractions of 28.1 and 57.4, then was required to speed up as favored EI EI O stormed up uncovered, with those two nose-to-nose past the 1:25.2  marker at the three-quaters. Through the stretch New Heaven was under attack from every direction, from Pricelesspossesion in the passing lane to Casa Palmera not all that far removed from the outside fence, but he held with determination, winning by a half-length over EI EI O, with Pricelesspossesion third and Casa Palmera fourth, those two both within a neck of second. In the $14,500 co-feature, first-over Classic Belisima wore down pacesetter Sir John F, who had been hard-used to make the top, drawing away late to tally by 1½ lengths in 1:56. John Cabot trains the daughter of Crazed, who has now assembled a bankroll of $269,760 lifetime, for owner William Cantrell. From the PHHA/Chester Philadelphia

CHESTER PA - Bettorhaveanother worked her way to the top fairly easily for driver Marcus Miller, rated the half, then sprinted home in 54.2 to equal her mark of 1:50.3 - taken in almost identical fashion two weeks before -- in winning the $18,000 featured pace for distaffs during a Friday night card at Harrah's Philadelphia. Two weeks ago, Princess Fabulosa was favored over Bettorhaveanother, but the winning daughter of Bettor's Delight got to the half in 56.1 and then zipped home in 54.2 to withstand the grind of her foe. This week Princess Fabulosa again was the crowd's choice, but again her first-up challenge was repelled by Bettorhaveanother - who had the exact same first half (56.1) and second half (54.2) clockings in both events! Ron Burke conditions Bettorhaveanother, who now has seven wins in 15 seasonal starts and a career accumulation of $349,377, for the familiar pairing of Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. Driver George Napolitano Jr. was hot at both ends of the action at Harrah's Philadelphia Friday evening, winning three of the first five races and then sweeping the Late Double for a total of five wins on the card. FINISHING LINES - The next action at Harrah's Philly will be this Sunday at 12:40, when the track will host its "SUPER SUNDAY" of first-rate racing. The $150,000 Maxie Lee Trot (Marion Marauder is the early favorite), the $150,000 Betsy Ross Pace (with the early nod to Shartin N), and the $150,000 Commodore Barry Pace (with Filibuster Hanover the chalk off his Confederation Cup win) will be joined by two divisions of a Pennsylvania Sire Stake for three-year-old pacing fillies, a division for each Invitational class in the Great Northeast Open Series (and these races are tough - Hannelore Hanover is in the trot), and an attempt (weather permitting) on the 1:08 world record for pacing 5/8 of a mile on a 5/8 mile track, ensuring an outstanding day of competition for the pleasure of live or simulcast fans. From the PHHA/Harrah's Philadelphia

As we barrel forward into the month of April, we are still waiting for signs of spring to show up in the weather in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Rest assured, however, the cold weather hasn't had any negative effect on the early-season racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. If anything, the racing action is ripping along as if we were all basking in a heat wave in the middle of summer. That means lots of competition for this edition of the Weekly Awards. PACER OF THE WEEK: WALKS OF LIFE First of all, any horse sort of named after an 80's hit gets my immediate stamp of approval. But this eight-year-old gelding has brought the game to match up with the name. And his success started long before he arrived at Pocono for the beginning of the meet. Racing on the New Jersey circuit, Walks Of Life hit the board in every one of his first eight 2018 races while winning five of them. He didn't waste any time at Pocono either, winning his first two races of the meet in gate-to-wire fashion. After winning at the $12,500 and $15,000 claiming levels, he went back at it against the $15,000 claimers on Saturday night. This time around, he was working for a new barn, going for trainer Toni Freitas after the bulk of his 2018 success came with Vincent Fusco Jr. Even with the barn switch, the Pocono faithful believed in Walks Of Life, making him a 3-5 favorite as he left from post position #1 in a field of eight. When driver Jim Morrill Jr. asked him for a quick burst of speed on the front stretch, he moved to the lead, which is where he loves to operate. From there, the favorite handled a first-over challenge from Mainland Key N, while the pocket tripping Annuity tried to stay close for a final rally. But the rest of the field turned out to be playing for second, as Walks Of Life glided away from the pursuit and ended up winning by 5 ½ convincing lengths in a season-best time of 1:51:2. Now with wins in seven of ten on the year, he also became the first horse to rack up three wins in the Pocono 2018 meet. And, with how great he's been going, he'll probably be tough to beat as he tries to be first to four. Other top pacers this week include: Cowboy Terrier (Eric Carlson, Ron Burke), who scored a condition victory on Saturday night in a sizzling time of 1:50, fastest of both his career and of all pacers on the young 2018 racing season at Pocono; Kimberlee (Jim Marohn Jr., Ake Svanstedt), a filly whose victory on Sunday night in the first leg of the Bobby Weiss late closer series made her two-for-two at Pocono in the meet and came in a career-best 1:53:3; and Charmbro Curiosity (Marcus Miller, Dan Morrissey), who stepped up in claiming price to $10,000 on Saturday night and won his second straight at Pocono, this one coming in 1:53:4. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: TOUR DE LINDY A year ago as a three-year-old, the most memorable win for Tour De Lindy came when trainer Lucas Wallin drove him to a victory at Pocono at some of the longest odds for any winner in the entirety of 2017 at the track. When he returned to Pocono racing on March 27, he came in much more highly-regarded. He had begun the year with back-to-back near-miss second-place finishes at The Meadowlands. With Wallin handing the driving chores off to Marcus Miller, the four-year-old gelding easily handled a tough non-winners of four grouping in 1:55, which marked a new career-best time. On Sunday night, Tour De Lindy stepped up his game to face the non-winners of six group with a purse of $17,000. Leaving from a #6 post in a field of eight, he was made the 1-2 betting favorite in a field of eight. And Miller once again set about putting him out in front of the field with a move to the outside on the race's first turn. With seemingly no sweat, Tour De Lindy stepped past Zagster and grabbed the lead, daring anyone to come and try to catch him. Needless to say, nobody could, nor did anyone really threaten his supremacy in the race. After being rated well by Miller, Tour De Lindy powered home in the lane to win by 2 ¾ lengths over Ataboy Hanover and matched his career-best time of 1:55 from the week before in the process. That time was also the fastest of any trotter on the week at Pocono. Considering how well he's been racing, it will likely be quite a stretch before this gelding is ever again deemed a long shot like he was a year ago. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Ameliosi (Marcus Miller, Jenny Melander), a mare whose victory in a condition group on Saturday night in 1:55:1 gave her four wins in five races on the year; Chas Hanover (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who picked up a win in a division of the Weiss series for male trotters on Sunday night in 1:56:2, the fastest time of the three Weiss divisions for that group; and Myrna Myrna (Mike Simons, Scott Betts), who posted the fastest winning time among three divisions of the Weiss for distaff trotters in the slop on Tuesday night with a 1:57:4 victory, a new career-best. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR This mare rallied from way back in Tuesday night's featured condition pace to win at 24-1 with Jim Taggart Jr. in the bike, paying off $51.80 on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MIKE SIMONS Mike looks well-stocked in the distaff trotting Weiss series after scoring victories in two of the three divisions of the first leg held on Tuesday night. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JENNY MELANDER Melander had fun with the trotters at Pocono this week, scoring trotting victories with Ameliosi on Saturday night, Meadowbranch Ricky on Sunday, and Ms American Muscle on Tuesday. That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com.   Jim Beviglia

Harness racing driver Marcus Miller enjoys driving at Lexington's Red Mile. It is not all related to the success he enjoyed there a year ago, but that probably doesn't hurt. Last year, Miller won three divisions of the International Stallion Stakes and a division of the Bluegrass. He also finished second in three divisions of the Bluegrass and in a division of the Glen Garnsey. For the track's entire Grand Circuit meet, Miller hit the board in 12 of 23 starts for a .338 driver rating. "It's a big, fast track; that's my favorite part about it," Miller said about racing at The Red Mile. "It's such a fun track. You can kind of come from all over the place. The trip really matters, the pace really matters. It's just a lot of fun." Miller hopes to continue the fun when this year's Grand Circuit meet at The Red Mile begins at 7 p.m. Thursday with five divisions of the Bluegrass Stakes for 2-year-old male trotters. Miller will drive in three of the divisions with horses trained by his father, Erv. None of the three colts are at odds longer than 6-1 on the morning line. Leading the way for the Millers is Keystone Apache, who won last week's Standardbred Stakes for 2-year-old male trotters on Little Brown Jug Day (Sept. 21) at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in Ohio. Keystone Apache raced on the outside the entire mile and went three wide heading to the final turn to win by a neck over Can't Afford It in 1:56.2. For the year, the son of Explosive Matter-Found An Angel has won three of nine races and $65,527. All three of his victories have come in his past four starts. "If he can keep racing like he did on Jug Day, I think he can go with a good bunch of them," Miller said, adding with a laugh, "It wasn't the trip I was planning on. But I did think he was the best horse in the race. He definitely performed as good as he could. "(My dad) has always liked him and I think in the last few starts we're really getting to see why. He's really got a good attitude. I think he's just gotten a lot more sure-footed. I think the attitude was always there, but now you're able to use him a little bit without having to worry so much." Keystone Apache is 7-2 on the morning line in the first Bluegrass division. He is the second choice behind You Know You Do from the stable of trainer Jimmy Takter. You Know You Do, a son of Muscle Hill-You Want Me, won the Peter Haughton Memorial and finished second in the William Wellwood Memorial. He has finished no worse than second in seven of eight starts, winning four. Miller's next Bluegrass drive will come with Farsetti Hanover in the fourth division. Farsetti Hanover has won two of nine races this year and $75,139. He has won two of his past three starts, including a division of the Reynolds Memorial, and finished third in the Haughton. "He's a really nice colt," Miller said. "I think the last start at the Meadowlands (a fourth-place finish) I really didn't want to be on the front. He came up a little bit empty late. But he's a handy horse and good gaited. I like him. He's really grown a lot right now and I think he'll keep getting better also." Farsetti Hanover, a son of Donato Hanover-Finesse Hanover, is 4-1 on the morning line. Jim Campbell-trained Crystal Fashion, by Cantab Hall out of Window Willow, a two-time winner on the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes circuit, is the 5-2 favorite. In the fifth and final Bluegrass division, Miller will drive Tito. The last time Miller drove the colt was in August. He was driven most recently by Miller's uncle, Andy, on the New York Sire Stakes circuit and heads to the Bluegrass with two wins in his past three starts. Overall, Tito, a son of Muscle Mass-Stonebridge Encore, has won two of nine races and $77,173. Tito is 6-1 on the morning line. The favorite is Takter's Maxus, who is 2-1. Maxus, by Muscle Hill out of Gerri's Joy, heads to the Bluegrass off a third-place finish in the Wellwood. "When they're 2-year-olds they change so much from week to week, so when it's a solid month from the last time I drove them they're usually quite a bit different," Miller said. "But I really like (Tito). He's a really nice colt too." All three of the Millers' horses are eligible to the Breeders Crown in October. "I think they all have a shot at it, it will just depend how these next few starts shake out," Miller said. "They're all good horses, that's for sure." The favorite in the second Bluegrass division is New Jersey Sire Stakes champion U Need Stones, a son of Wishing Stone-Sequin Hanover from the stable of trainer Ron Burke. The favorite in the third division is Julie Miller-trained Met's Hall, a son of Cantab Hall-Met's Inn who has won four of six races. Click here for Thursday's complete card at The Red Mile. Ken Weingartner

Two of North America’s rising harness racing stars will be coming to Perth to compete in an International Invitation Drivers series at Gloucester Park during the TABtouch Inter Dominion series. Recently crowned World Champion, James MacDonald and the USA representative, Marcus Miller, who ran third in that series, will take on Australasia’s best over two nights; the third night of Inter Dominion heats (Friday 1 December 2017) and Grand Final night a week later (Friday 8 December). The International Invitation Drivers Series is sponsored by Sky Racing, which is importing more North American racing every year, long-time Gloucester Park Harness Racing (GPHR) supporter Slater Gartrell Sports and Harness Racing Australia. Just over a month ago, MacDonald won the World title on home soil, defeating the likes of Mark Purdon and Dexter Dunn of New Zealand and Australia’s Shane Graham. Dubbed, ‘Captain Canada’, McDonald at only 31 years of age, has won over 1700 career races and over $22.5 million in stakes. A modest McDonald said after winning the World Title “Obviously it’s a big accomplishment. I’m really proud of it but I know I still need to get better, I still need to keep working hard if I want to be one of the best” Regarding his trip down under, McDonald says “I am really looking forward to visiting Australia” “I’ve wanted to go there since I was a kid and to be able to go there and do what I love will be amazing. I’m excited to see how horse racing differs from here in North America” Miller, who is from a famous American harness racing family, has made a name for himself in a relatively short career, winning over 2800 races and almost $30 million in stakes, and his invitation came at the recommendation of the greatest harness driver of all-time, John Campbell, who recently retired with 10,668 wins, amassing a staggering $299,899,141 in stakes. “Marcus Miller is a very talented young driver and a rising star in our industry and even more important he is a fine young man. I know everyone in Australia will be impressed with his driving skills, horsemanship and how he conducts himself” said Campbell.  Miller is excited to take up the challenge of driving against Australasia’s best. “After getting to know a bunch of guys from Australia and New Zealand during the World Drivers Championship, I have been hoping to get a chance to come down there and race” said Miller “I am so excited and honoured that this opportunity came this quickly and is during such a big week as the Inter Dominion Grand Final” said Miller “Even my parents are planning on coming and making a holiday of it and seeing other parts of Western Australia and Australia” Miller added Miller’s father Erv, is ranked third on the all-time winners list for trainers, having prepared 5062 horses for victory and winning stakes of over $77.4 million, including world champion pacer, Lis Mara. Marcus and Erv combined to win the $52,500 Standardbred Two-year-old Colts and Geldings on Little Brown Jug day with Keystone Apache. GPHR Committee and management are excited to once again host an International Drivers Series in conjunction with the TABtouch Inter Dominion. “It’s great to have been able to attract the calibre of drivers such as James and Marcus” said GPHR Chief Executive Michael Radley “It was a wonderful part of the series when Tim Tetrick drove here in 2015 and Tim has since been a such a great ambassador for Australian racing back in the US. “I would like to thank our sponsors, Sky Racing, Slater Gartrell and HRA for their support, as without it we couldn’t have these international promotions for our great sport” The TABtouch Inter Dominion will commence with the first set of heats on Friday 24 November, before travelling to Donaldson Park, Bunbury for the second night of heats on Tuesday 28 November. The third set of heats returns to Gloucester Park on Friday 1 December and the $1.1M Grand Final will be conducted on Friday 8 December. Interstate and International visitors can witness all the action of the 2017 TABtouch Inter Dominion through official tour operator, Harness Racing Travelworld. This year’s tour will be based at beautiful and historic Fremantle for the first five nights, followed by a two-night tour to the Margaret River region, where some of the best food and wine in the world is produced. It will also include premium restaurant bookings for the heats and Grand Final at Gloucester Park. To book freecall 1800 628 383 or visit the website www.harnessracingtravel.com.  Gloucester Park

TROIS RIVIERES, QUEBEC – James MacDonald, the representative of host country Canada in the 2017 World Driving Championship, added his sixth win of the tournament at Hippodrome 3R in Quebec Wednesday night to widen his lead in the contest, and the trip to the fifth and final venue, Red Shores Charlottetown Driving Park on Prince Edward Island for racing Friday, looks more and more like a triumphant “home stretch” for the 31-year-old, for he is a native of the Island province, and he may be well receiving the driving crown at the place where it all started for him. Hippodrome 3R is appreciative of having the honor of hosting eleven of the world’s best drivers in their fourth stop on their five-stop West-to-East journey across Canada in the World Driving Championship, which is held every two years in conjunction with the World Trotting Conference; Canada was selected as host in honor of the country’s 250th anniversary of being a home for horse racing. The standings going into the card: James MacDonald                                            Canada                 144 points           (five wins) Mika Forss                                                          Finland                 130 points           (three wins) Marcus Miller                                                    United States     123.5 points       (three wins) Shane Graham                                                  Australia              97 points            (one win) Dexter Dunn (defending champion)                   New Zealand      93 points Noel Baldacchino                                                 Malta                    90 points Eirik Hoitomt                                                      Norway                89.5 points          (one win) Bjorn Goop                                                         Sweden                86 points             (one win) Gerhard Mayr                                                    Austria                  83 points Mark Purdon                                                     New Zealand      69 points Rik Depuydt                                                       Belgium                68 points Here is a description of the four races at the Quebec half-mile oval, all contested at 1 1/16 miles: RACE ONE ($4000 pace): Dexter Dunn, James MacDonald, and Marcus Miller were all 2-1 in the betting, and those three drivers and their horses – respectively, Imagine Speed, Ninoscredit, and Maracasso --were 1-2-3 at the quarter, though Dunn and Imagine Speed had to pay a 27 price to get to the front. The field stayed in that order until a half-mile remained, when Gerhard Mayr moved Eataam Whosurboy first-over to challenge the leader, and with a strong move with 3/8 remaining Eataam Whosurboy got in gear and started a move that carried him to the lead nearing the far turn. The key to the race was the horse with the cover behind Eataam Whosurboy – who was nobody, which allowed Miller and Maracasso to get out behind him and then move after the new leader, with MacDonald and Ninoscredit pinned in as the two horses went by. Ninoscredit came on well in the stretch, but Maracasso had the jump on him and sustained to the wire, winning by a length in 2:06.1 over the 1 1/16 miles to give Marcus Miller his fourth win of the tournament. “I wasn’t sure if I’d get that kind of trip when we left the gate,” Miller noted after the race. “But I was able to get out behind the horse who went to the lead and could keep James (MacDonald) in. I was able to keep going and win, but MacDonald got out and finished second – he’s tough, driving very well now.” DRIVERS’ ORDER OF FINISH: Miller, MacDonald, Mayr, Dunn, Depuydt, Baldacchino, Goop, Graham, Purdon, Forss, Hoitomt. LEADER BOARD AFTER FIRST 3R RACE: MacDonald 157, Miller 141.5, Forss 132, Graham and Dunn 101. RACE TWO ($4600 trot): When you work out a second-over trip from post eleven – the third trailer – on a half-mile track, you know things are going your way – and you are making things go your way. Native son James MacDonald managed to work out a second-over trip with Federal Strike in this event, following Abundasass and driver Bjorn Goop. Both were out much of the 1 1/16-mile distance, but worked their way to the front spots down the backstretch the final time. It looked for a moment as if MacDonald might not get clearance – that pesky Marcus Miller again – but this time Miller’s horse backed off, and Federal Strike moved out and took it from there, going by Abundasass as the slight favorite and winning by 1 ¼ lengths, with the added-distance time of 2:08.1 declared a 3R track record, since the books and Standardbred Canada had no record of a race over the distance listed. “I can’t believe I worked out a trip like that,” a disbelieving/euphoric MacDonald said after the contest. “But I know the respect that Bjorn Goop has earned and is given in Sweden and Europe, and when I found a way I could follow him, I figured – I hoped that would be able to carry me up. He did and then my horse got his chance, and we won.” Asked if he felt in a commanding position by now, MacDonald put his game face back on and said, “Still have to grind it out – lots of great drivers out there.” DRIVERS ORDER OF FINISH: MacDonald, Goop, Forss, Miller, Mayr, Graham, Hoitomt, Dunn, Baldacchino, Purdon, Depuydt. LEADER BOARD AFTER 3R RACE TWO: MacDonald 175, Miller 149.5, Forss 142, Graham 107, Dunn 105. RACE THREE ($4200 pace): “The Finnish Lion,” Mika Forss, looked like everything was going his way. His pacer Shanghai B G, the slight 2-1 favorite, got away in the pocket behind a strong pacesetter in Jolt’s Prayer (Dexter Dunn), saw waves of challenger fell back, then looked to move his move on the far turn. “And my horse felt good.” And then his sulky broke. “My sulky seat started to break on me, and I had to hold on (to the sulky),” Forss noted after the race. Despite being driven literally one-handed (and perhaps accounting for his bearing out in the stretch), Shanghai B G was able to rally, and he was just up at the – well, finish line for the Finnish Lion, the 1 1/16 miles in 2:06.1. “That’s never happened to me in all of my career,” the veteran Forss noticed after the race, which provided his fourth victory of the tournament. It also boosted him back into second, a half-point ahead of Marcus Miller, who was on Forss’s back throughout but could do no more than keep his 24-1 shot going for third. MacDonald was in the parked tier and rallied for fifth. DRIVERS ORDER OF FINISH: Forss, Dunn, Miller, Mayr, MacDonald, Purdon, Hoitomt, Graham, Baldacchino, Goop, Depuydt. LEADER BOARD AFTER 3R RACE THREE: MacDonald 182, Forss 160, Miller 159.5, Dunn 118 (no wins but five seconds in the tournament), Graham 111. RACE FOUR ($4400 pace): Nobody wanted to leave anything anywhere but on the track for the last local race, and the field was stacked two- (or more-) deep the entire way. But Noel Baldacchino, from the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta, used the physics to his advantage: he and Tidewater Tomahawk drafted behind the pacesetting Danzig Moon in the pocket, then moved out,  was already past the former leader when he made a stretch break, and drew off, winning by 3¼ lengths over the favored Hard Rock, closing well to give defending champ Dexter Dunn his sixth second of a winless tournament, with that MacDonald guy from Canada working his way through with 23-1 shot Winoc Jimmy for third. It was the first win of the tournament for Baldacchino, and oddly Tidewater Tomahawk, who was the program choice, returned $16.30 to win. DRIVERS ORDER OF FINISH: Baldacchino, Dunn, MacDonald, Depuydt, Hoitomt, Forss, Goop, Purdon, Miller, Graham, Mayr. AFTER THE FOURTH ROUND OF THE TOURNAMENT: James MacDonald                                            Canada                 192 points           (six wins) Mika Forss                                                          Finland                 166 points           (four wins) Marcus Miller                                                    United States     162.5 points       (four wins) Dexter Dunn (defending champion)                  New Zealand      131 points Noel Baldacchino                                              Malta                    120 points           (one win) Shane Graham                                                  Australia              113 points           (one win) Bjorn Goop                                                         Sweden                111 points           (one win) Gerhard Mayr                                                    Austria                  109 points Eirik Hoitomt                                                      Norway                108 points           (one win) Rik Depuydt                                                       Belgium                85 points Mark Purdon                                                     New Zealand      83.5 points FINISHING LINES – Also featured during the card was the draw for Sunday’s $200,000 Prix d’Ete, for the leading four-year-old pacers in North America. The entrants, with their post positions and listed drivers: 1, Sintra (Jody Jamieson); 2, Lyons Snyder (Daniel Dube); 3, Awesomeness (driver TBA); 4, Roll Away Joe (Louis Philippe Roy); 5, Western Fame (Trevor Henry); 6, Stonebridge Beach (Stephane Pouliot); 7, Sports Authority (Pierre Luc Roy); 8, Dr J Hanover (Doug McNair). Bali went one of the fastest miles in Hippodrome 3R history when he won a $3800 pace in 1:53.1 for Team Auger, sprinting home in 56.1 under the guidance of the track’s leading driver, Stephane Brosseau … In a $4200 trot, the mare Lucky Promesses won her seventh straight start, here in 2:01.2 for breeder/trainer/driver Jerome Lombart. From the Quebec Jockey Club

TROIS RIVIERES, Quebec - The Hippodrome 3R will host leg four of the five-stop World Driving Championship this Wednesday, August 16, and an evaluation of the drivers' likely performance in the four races through an evaluation of the track's knowledgeable morning line reveals some interesting patterns - ones that could help reshape or shape the standings before the final leg at Charlottetown two days afterwards. The World Driving Championship is held every two years in conjunction with the World Trotting Conference, which in 2017 is being staged in Canada, as the country celebrates its 250th anniversary of horse racing. The two drivers to watch in the H3R harness competition figure to be James MacDonald, representing host country Canada, and Noel Baldacchino, from the tiny (316 square kilometers) Mediterranean island of Malta. The races to be used for the competition at H3R are races 5 through 8 - with, unusually, MacDonald drawing the favorite in the first two races and Baldacchino in the latter two in the random draw matching drivers and horses. In just as strange a coincidence, two other drivers have drawn the second choices in consecutive races. Dexter Dunn, a New Zealander and the defending World Driving Champion, was evaluated as second behind Baldacchino's horses in races 7 and 8, and Marcus Miller, of the United States, is second choice to MacDonald's sulky assignments in races 5 and 6. The full projection, understandably, finds Baldachino and MacDonald rated as the top two, with the former having a one-point edge based on their other two mounts. Dunn is rated third and Miller fourth - but Miller would do well to get as many points as he can from his first two drives, as his horses in the final two races are both evaluated to be - last, eleventh! Then again, Miller already is in the lead after the first leg of the series, and morning lines have been known on occasion to not always reflect how the racing takes place. Plus, we have yet to find a racehorse that could read the morning line in a program to see how they might do! Post time at the Hippodrome 3R on Wednesday is 7:15 pm. The entire race card will be simulcast, not only throughout North America, but also to Australia and New Zealand. H3R is also holding a meet and greet for the race fans with all eleven drivers starting at 6:15 pm and the opening ceremonies for the night will start on the racetrack at 7:00 pm. For more information, visit www.quebecjockeyclub.com or www.standardbredcanada.ca. From the Quebec Jockey Club      

The United States' Marcus Miller emerged with the early lead in the harness racing standings after driving a pair of winners during the 2017 World Driving Championship opener on Saturday, August 12 at Century Downs Racetrack & Casino in Calgary, Alta. while Canada's James MacDonald also doubled up to finish the five-race leg in second-place.   The North American reinsmen dominated the first of five WDC legs hosted by Standardbred Canada, with Miller accumulating 57 points and MacDonald earning 50 points while Australia's Shane Graham put forth a consistent showing hitting the board in three of the races to secure third position in the standings, trailing MacDonald by just two points. Sweden's Bjorn Goop was the other first leg winner and finished in fourth-place with 43 points.   "I'm very happy," said Miller early on in the competition featuring 11 top international drivers. "There's a lot of races to go yet so I'm just going to try to hang in there and keeping doing the same thing."   Miller opened the 2017 World Driving Championship with a victory in the first race aboard 2-1 second choice Ashlynn Grace ($6.20) to take the early lead in the point standings. He secured a pocket trip with Ashlynn Grace, who started from the trailing tier in post 10, behind the inside leaver and found room between horses in the final turn to come through for the two-length victory, timed in 2:05.3 over the extended 1-1/16 mile distance.   The United States reinsman then sent 9-5 favourite Kavola ($5.60) three-wide from the outer flow approaching the third quarter mark to take over command in the third race and held off a wall of closers to win by one and a quarter lengths in 2:07.3.   "It's unbelievable. I know everybody at home is watching," said Miller of representing his country. "It's something else, this is one of the most exciting times in my life as far as harness racing goes."   MacDonald was victorious in the second and fifth races. In his first win, he cleared to command from post eight after the first quarter and held off the competition for the victory in 2:03.1 aboard Lucky Lucka ($19.70). His second victory came aboard Barossa Blue Genes ($6.70), tipping three-wide off cover approaching the third quarter mark and drawing clear in the stretch to win by two and a half lengths in 2:03.3.   "It's a whole different ball game and I've never been involved in anything like this," said MacDonald of the international tournament. "I'm really excited to be doing it and thankfully having a little bit of success."   The drivers will head to MacDonald's home track at Mohawk Racetrack in Campbellville, Ont. for the second WDC leg on Monday, August 14.   "At Mohawk, I'll know all 11 horses in the race and I'll know their tendencies, not to say that's what they're going to do that given night, but I'll have a little bit of information," said MacDonald. "Every little bit you have ahead of someone else helps."   Goop's victory in the fourth race was his first in Canada as he made a power move in front of the grandstand sending Newport Min ($40.90) three-wide to the lead and then prevailed in a three-way photo finish in 2:07.1.    The opening WDC leg at Century Downs was the culmination of the First Annual Calgary Racing Festival. The week-long event, running through to Saturday, included an Industry Day, Mid-Summer Classic card, Charity Bowling and Charity Golf tournaments, and a Charity Gala.   After the next leg at Mohawk, the drivers will head to Georgian Downs in Innisfil, Ont. on August 15. The action then moves to Trois-Rivières, Que. on August 16, where Hippodrome 3R will host the fourth leg before the drivers head to Prince Edward Island's Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at Charlottetown Driving Park for the fifth and final leg of the Championship on August 18, one of the major highlights of Old Home Week.   The reinsmen will earn points based on their finishing position in each race and the top point-earner at the end of the five-day competition will be declared the 2017 World Driving Champion and win $25,000 in prize money.   The World Driving Championship -- along with the 25th anniversary edition of the World Trotting Conference, to be hosted in Charlottetown -- are both held every two years and will coincide with the 250th Anniversary of horse racing in Canada, and Canada 150 celebrations.    WORLD DRIVING CHAMPIONSHIP LEG #1 LEADERBOARD   Rank - Driver (Country) - Points 1. Marcus Miller (United States) - 57 2. James MacDonald (Canada) - 50 3. Shane Graham (Australia) - 48 4. Bjorn Goop (Sweden) - 43 5. Gerhard Mayr (Austria) - 38 6. Mika Forss (Finland) - 34 7. Dexter Dunn (ITA/New Zealand) - 29 8. Rik Depuydt (Belgium) - 25 9. Noel Baldacchino (Malta) - 24 10. Mark Purdon (New Zealand) - 21 11. Eirik Hoitomt (Norway) - 16   Jeff Porchak World Driving Championship Media Liaison standardbredcanada.ca

WILKES-BARRE PA - Pacing distaffs ascending the class ladder got the harness racing spotlight on Tuesday at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with the $18,000 "nw 7 races" feature going to the Rock N Roll Heaven mare Angels Rockn Pink in 1:53.   Driver Marcus Miller made every pole a winning one with the John Butenschoen trainee, defeating favored I Wish You Well by a length while raising her lifetime earnings to $218,454 for Crawford Farms Racing.   There were also two $16,000 races for the "n/w 5 races" set, with both winners taking new marks of 1:52.4. In one, the Sportsmaster mare Frog Pond Princess, who had a seasonal mark of 9-0-4-3 vs. "nw 6" types at Yonkers, found the drop, the switch in track, and scratching in from the AE list just the ticket for her 2017 breakthrough, winning by 1¼ lengths for driver George Napolitano Jr., trainer Lance Hudson, and owner William Hartt. In the other, the Western Ideal filly Ideal Plan took the lead from favored Beach Club late on the first turn, set the pace, then used a 28 last quarter to come home strongly and foil the potential pocket rocket by a half-length for driver Scott Zeron, trainer Casie Coleman, and the partnership of West Wins Stable, Jim Fielding, and Kevin McKinlay.   Finally, a mention should go to Meteoric, a three-year-old gelding who conquered a $14,000 "nw 3 races" field of trotters in 1:52.4, winning by 11½ lengths for driver Joe Bongiorno, trainer Richard Johnson, and owner Mahlon Martin. The sophomore certainly has the pedigree to stand him well in stakes action, as a son of Explosive Matter and having a third dam who produced the ill-fated Hambletonian favorite Dancer's Crown.   PHHA / Pocono

The 27-year-old harness racing driver Marcus Miller, who in two weeks will receive the 2016 Rising Star Award from the U.S. Harness Writers Association, today was named by the U.S. Trotting Association as America's representative for August's World Driving Championship in Canada. Miller, a native of Illinois now living in eastern Pennsylvania, has won 2,648 races in his career and is coming off a season in which he established a personal best with $5.44 million in purses. His top win came in October when he guided 17-1 longshot Someomensomewhere, trained by his father Erv, to victory in the Breeders Crown for 2-year-old female pacers at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Drivers from around the globe will compete in the World Driving Championship, which was introduced in 1970 and is now held every two years. The 2015 event, in Australia, was won by New Zealand's Dexter Dunn. "This is a great honor and I'm very excited," said Miller, who for the competition will trade his customary black, white and red driving colors for the United States' traditional stars and stripes. "That's so cool, to get to wear the red, white and blue colors. "Obviously I would love to win. I think it's also a great opportunity to face some drivers that are coming from different backgrounds; a chance to learn some things and have a little fun. But goal No. 1 is to win, to bring the trophy back home." Said USTA Executive Vice President and CEO Mike Tanner about Miller's selection, "We're thrilled that Marcus has agreed to represent the United States this summer, and is so excited about doing so. He brings the whole package to the table -- talented, engaging, and with a real respect for the sport of harness racing. He's breaking through in a big way, and the world is about to see why." Miller won't need to go far to get advice about driving in international competitions. His uncle, Andy, has twice represented the U.S. in the World Driving Championship, finishing fourth in 2005 and sixth in 2007. In addition, Miller's sister, Hannah, represented the U.S. in last year's FEGAT World Championship for Amateur Drivers (the World Cup) in Hungary and finished second, one point from the top. She also has competed in numerous amateur events in the U.S. and Europe against drivers from France, Spain and Italy. "I'll definitely be able to get some advice. Andy has done the (World Driving Championship) twice and Hannah's been everywhere for driver challenges," Miller said, adding with a laugh, "She's probably the one to ask first." The World Driving Championship, which coincides with the 250th anniversary of horse racing in Canada, begins Aug. 12 at Century Downs in Alberta. The second leg is Aug. 14 at Mohawk Racetrack in Ontario, followed by the third round a day later at Georgian Downs, also in Ontario. The fourth leg is Aug. 16 at Hippodrome 3R in Quebec before finishing Aug. 18 at Red Shores Racetrack and Casino on Prince Edward Island. Dave Magee was the most recent U.S. driver to win the championship, in 1995. The two other winners for the U.S. were Ron Pierce in 1989 and Joe Marsh Jr. in 1974. "A Chicago boy," Miller said about Magee, "just like me." Miller started driving regularly in 2009 and won multiple driving titles on the Chicago circuit before moving to the East Coast in 2013. His victories in the Midwest included a couple American-National Stakes and a number of state-restricted races. Last year, Miller won four open stakes divisions at Lexington's Red Mile in addition to his major stakes breakthrough in the Breeders Crown. "I think the last two or three years have been huge leaps and bounds," Miller said. "I'm a lot more confident, a lot more comfortable, when it comes to higher stakes, just being able to anticipate how those races play out. They take experience. When you're in those races, you're in with the guys who have the most experience. They're hard drives to get, so you want to do as well as you can right away, but it takes experience to do well. "You realize pretty quickly that they are just another race. Once they say 'go' you just have to drive your horse, drive your race. The buildup and the post-race are way different, but during the race, that's all it is -- a race. A long time ago, when I had my first (Illinois) Super Night drive, my dad slapped me on the back and said to just pretend I was at a county fair. I try to remember everything he tells me, but that one really stuck." And while Miller is grateful for the successes he enjoyed in 2016, not to mention the accolades, he is focused solely on continuing his improvement this year. "There was like a little streak last year where it seemed like everything was going right, capped off with the Rising Star Award," Miller said. "It's been unbelievable. I definitely enjoyed it. "But I've hung all the pictures up and now it's 2017 and it's time to work on new (accomplishments). As much as you don't want to dwell on the losses, I don't think when you're doing well that you want to over-celebrate either. You just have to keep moving forward and try to add to it." Ken Weingartner

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