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The $10,200 Robert Gordon final headed by Mystery Dragon and Major Jesse and the $9,000 Shelly Goudreau final featuring Lucky Ivan and Cantholdmeback highlight Saturday night's harness racing action at Cal Expo. There will be 12 races on the evening under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post set for 6:10 p.m. Mystery Dragon and Major Jessie captured last weekend's Gordon eliminations with identical 1:54 2/5 clocking with James Kennedy in the sulky for both scores. Mystery Dragon went off at 4-1 in his heat, while Major Jessie returned $27 to his backers. Mystery Dragon is a newly turned 4-year-old son of Mystery Chase who is owned and trained by Richard Schneider. He has accounted for four of his seven appearances at this meeting and did the stalk-and-pounce to perfection in last Saturday's score that saw him prevailing by a length and a half. Major Jesse is by Art Major out of the Bettor's Delight mare Hannah Isabel who goes about his business for Ronald Rettig-Zucchi with Jessie Pacheco the conditioner. He was able to work out a perfect pocket trip in last week's decision with the 1:54 2/5 tour being a new lifetime standard. Looking at the Goudreau final, Lucky Ivan and Cantholdmeback were victorious in their elimination races and Luke Plano was at the helm for those scores.. Both pacers went off favored in their respective contests. Lucky Ivan is owned and trained by Rick Bertrand and equaled his career mark with the 1:54 2/5 decision, while Cantholdmeback is owned and trained by Jessie Pacheco and will be gunning for his fourth victory from his last six trips to the post. Races honor memory of Gordon, Goudreau Saturday night's Robert Gordon and Shelly Goudreau finals are named for two legendary figures in California harness racing. Robert Gordon passed away in 2006 at the age of 65, while Shelly Goudreau died as the result of a racing accident at Hollywood Park in 1982 at the age of 34. Gordon started his 40-year career in Ohio and learned his lessons under the outstanding horseman Bob Farrington. He eventually settled in California and was a mainstay at the top of the trainer standings from the late 70s through the early 90s, conditioning such stars as Stand By N, Theora Hanover and Pack Leader. Stand By N raced under the banner of Bob and Loretta Staats stable and she was his all-time favorite. The Down Under import had a 1:52 career standard and banked $255,000 in a brilliant career on the racetrack, then went on to be an equally outstanding broodmare. She was inducted in the California Hall of Fame in 2010. Robert Gordon was a past president of the Western Harness Standardbred Association and the California Harness Horse Breeders Association, while in the early 90s he served as a director of the USTA. He was president of Premier Harness Racing, which raced at Los Alamitos, and was instrumental in keeping the sport alive in California in the mid 90s at a time when harness racing was definitely on the ropes. Gordon was also director of backstretch operations for the Sacramento Harness Association and helped in starting the not-for-profit corporation, which was operating at Cal Expo at the time of his death. Steve and Vickie Desomer have fond memories of their many years side-by-side with Gordon. "When Steve broke his leg in a racing accident, we turned the horses over to Bob, she recalled. It was the most fun we have had in the business no stress and great results. By the way, in addition to be an excellent horseman, Bob was always extremely good to his help. He always looked out for them and helped in any way he could." Shelly Goudreau passed away from injuries sustained in a racing accident at Hollywood Park on August 27, 1982 and suffered severe injuries. Six days later, on September 2, Goudreau, who was just 34 at the time, passed away. Goudreau first got his driving license in 1966 at the age of 18 and soon led all reinsmen at Windsor Raceway for two consecutive years. It wasn't long before he ventured to the United States to compete at several Michigan tracks. Goudreau made the trek to California in 1977 and immediately went to the top of the driving colony. While competing at Hollywood Park and Los Alamitos, he won the most races and earned the most purse monies on that circuit for two consecutive years. He came back east to compete at Roosevelt Raceway and Yonkers Raceway and won many major stakes in New York, including the $200,000 George Morton Levy Pace in 1979 in track-record time at Roosevelt. Goudreau drove at the Meadowlands Racetrack and was once again successful. He competed at the 'Big M' against another up-and-coming driver at the time named John Campbell, as well as a familiar face from home in Ray Remmen. The 1981 season proved to be Goudreau's best year. He competed in both the Hambletonian (with Santa Ana) and the Little Brown Jug (with Freedom Fella). He won 170 races and earned $2.3 million in purses that year - gaudy numbers for the then-33-year-old. During his career, Goudreau was responsible for the success of such horses as Genghis Khan (p, 1:51.4 $983,467), Try Scotch (p, 1:54.3 $956,770), Tijuana Taxi (p, 1:54.3 $784,306), Apollos Way (p, 1:56 $502,536), Freedom Fella (p, 1:54.4 $491,790), Tender Loving Care (p, 1:52.4 $327,822) and Superman (1:58.1 $140,794). In his short career he amassed 2,291 wins and $12,942,265 in purse money. At the time of his death he was eighth in the North American driver standings. He was inducted into the Canadian Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 1983. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness        

There are two harness racing wagers offered here each night with a reduced 16 percent takeout, and one lucky patron at the California satellite in Monterey saw the impact first-hand last Friday when they held the only winning ticket in the 20-cent Pick 4 that returned a whooping $33,644. To put things in perspective, using the regular takeout, that ticket would have been worth $30,039, which is still a very nice score but a difference of $3,605. Using a ticket that went 4 by 4 by 2 by 3 for a cost of $19.20, the patron was able to string together longshots Winonefordoug and Place At The Beach while finishing up the sequence with a well-regarded pair of performers in 5-2 shot Art Genta and 3-1 Nutmegs Desire. In addition to the 20-cent Pick 4, which comes with a $30,000-guaranteed gross pool, the reduced 16 percent takeout is also offered on the 50-cent Pick 5, which covers the first five events each evening. *** Friday's program at Cal Expo is headed by the Gary Budahn Trot Prep and a $6,600 Filly and Mare Open Pace. The field for the Budahn Prep will line up this way from the rail out: Rss Express, Silverlode, Franky Provolone, Winsom Kelly, Livid Luke, Dougs Hobby Horse, Cadet and Franks Best. Looking ahead to Saturday's card, the finals of the Shelly Goudreau and Robert Gordon will highlight the action with last week's elimination winners Major Jessie and Mystery Dragon and Lucky Ivan and Cantholdmeback heading their respective races. Delightfully Wild returns with a huge effort Despite being away from the wars for four months, Delightfully Wild was up to the task in last week's Filly and Mare Open Pace and got the job done off a pocket trip by a neck with Luke Plano giving directions. The daughter of Bettor's Delight goes about her business for Richard Morita and David Yamada with Lino Pacheco training and the 1:54 1/5 final clocking shaved a tick off her previous lifetime mark. "What a nice surprise to end 2017," said Morita. "We bought Delightfully a little over a year ago at the Delaware sale. We were fortunate that Gretchen Smith was there and looked over a number of horses for Dave and me. "As it turned out, Wild was for sale on the last day and we got her. Sometimes the 'best buys' are the ones you don't get, and we were lucky to get her after missing on some of our earlier bids. "She has been solid for us right from the beginning, but really started to blossom in the spring here, and in Chicago over the summer. We gave her a nice break after a hard year of racing and she has trained back really well. "We certainly didn't expect to win the Open after just one slow qualifier, but Lino has kept her sharp and has been impressed with how strong she has become. Credit for our horses' success is due to our trainer and drivers, who do a great job." Morita points out that Delightfully Wild is a case in point. "She had a tendency to get on a line, sometimes making it hard to keep her straight, but she seems to have matured and now can better use her speed. Our drivers have done a nice job with her, including Jim Lackey, Ryan Anderson, and now Luke." By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

David Siegel recently recorded his 500th victory in the sulky here and was reflective when speaking afterwards about that score, his day job and the state of harness racing in California. "I turn 60 next year, so I know that 500 will be the only driving milestone I will achieve," Siegel said. "I was really hopeful to get it done this meet, and the horse I got it done with was appropriately named 'Beacon of Hope.' While I have achieved one of my life's objectives, I would like to believe that perhaps a Beacon of Hope will shine upon the other horsemen at Cal-Expo with regard to their futures." By day, David is the President of TrackMaster, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Equibase, which is the Thoroughbred industry's official source for racing information. "We service both the Standardbred and Thoroughbred industries providing electronic information for handicapping,' Siegel explained. " We have thousands of consumers as our customers as well as a number of racing institutions including every ADW in North America. "I am involved in every aspect of our business including a number of special projects for Equibase. One that is currently taking much of my time is using GPS technology for the tracking of horses during races. This will eventually provide more information for players as well as enhance the broadcast of races at reasonable cost to the tracks." Back in 2001, David I took a ride in the starting gate at Pompano Park. That lead to his getting involved on the ownership side and eventually he took part in the USTA's amateur driving school. "Since much of my life follows the 'go big or go home' philosophy, I really got into the driving and over time, began to drive every racing day working my way up the licensing ladder," he related. "It was not easy living two hours from the track and being away from my wife every weekend for six months. But I got it done and still thoroughly enjoy the driving. "My first trainer was Ed Hensley. After he moved Lou Pena and Ray Burt are the guys that really helped me out about driving and getting mounts. After they left, Gilbert Garcia and Bernie Wolin were my go-to trainers. Are you seeing a pattern here? It seems the guys who help me leave soon afterwards!" And has Siegel modeled himself after any particular driver over the years? "There is no one in particular I try to mirror stylistically. I try to do my homework and drive safely and give every horse the best chance I can. "While I would say I have been pretty well accepted by the drivers, I know I am not viewed by many trainers the same way other drivers are and therefore don't get the drives I might if I were a full time horsemen. "This part gets frustrating at times, but I would not trade my life with any of the other drivers. I am so fortunate to have a good job and still get to excel at one of my keen interests. I have the best of both worlds." Goudreau, Gordon Eliminations headline card Two divisions of the Robert Gordon eliminations and two divisions of the Shelly Goudreau elminations get the marquee treatment on Saturday night's Watch and Wager LLC program at Cal Expo. There are 11 races on tap with first post set for 6:10 p.m. The Gordon eliminations will go as the third and fifth events on the evening, while the Goudreau eliminations will occupy the 6th and 9th-race slots on the card. The top five finishers from each of these heats will advance to next week's respective finals, named for two legends in California harness racing. He Grins Again and West for Gold finished one-two last weekend in a solid mile and go in separate divisions of the Gordon. The former is a 3-year-old son of Place To Be who races for George Reider and Dave, Rob and Kimberly Haness with Reider training and Steve Wiseman guiding and will be gunning for his third straight trip to the charmed enclosure. Finishing just a neck in his wake last week was West For Gold, who goes about his business for Santiago Quintana with Edwin Quevado doing the conditioning and Mooney Svendsen once again handling the lines. He recorded a 1:53 4/5 lifetime-best victory here on November 24. There are two wagers that are offered here each night that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5, which is decided on the first five races on the evening; and the 20-cent Pick 4, on the penultimate four races. The Pick 4 comes with a guaranteed gross pool of $30,000. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

Smash has been a solid performer for harness racing owner/breeders Junior Wilkinson and Billie Schwartz, with some Sire Stakes trophies on her mantle and a 1:53 /5 mark that was established this summer at Hoosier Park under Wilkinson's direction. The dark-hued daughter of Little Steven has posed for pictures twice at this meeting in conditioned company and is coming off a good runner-up finish behind Shesamysterytome in last week's Filly and Mare Open at Cal Expo. "We bred her and we bred her mother I Need A Miracle and we're proud of both of them," Wilkinson related. "She's a full sister to A Real Miracle and she's been good to us. "She's had too much for them when we've been able to drop her into conditioned spots, and her last start in the Open was very good because she got a little unlucky and then was flying at the end." Smash is set to make her next start Friday night as she once again takes on a solid group of fillies and mares, including last week's victress Shesamysterytome, in the featured Open. She was among four in the field who were assigned to draw for outside posts and unfortunately got the short straw in this case and will have to do her work from the from the No. 8 slot for this go-around. Distaff Open brings out well-matched field An evenly-matched field of eight pacing fillies and mares will do battle in Friday night's featured $6,600 Open, with Shesamystertome seeking a repeat score at the head of the class. The main event will go as the 7th contest on an 11-race card under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post set for 6:10 p.m. Shesamysterytome is a 3-year-old daughter of Mystery Chase who carries the banner of Ashley Sluggett and Trevor Williams and is trained and driven by Ryan Grundy. She has prevailed in three of her four starts at this session since coming in from Canada. After capturing a pair of conditioned events in her first two outings at this meet, she finished second behind Capitol Hill in her next try. Suiting up from the rail in last week's top clash for this group, Shesamystertome made what proved to be the winning brush to the lead past the quarter and went on to a length and a quarter score while rewarding her backers to the tune of $20.40. Capitol Hill had to settle for a fourth as the mild favorite in that affair, but has several Open scores at this stand. George McChrystal and Kathie Plested own, Plested trains and Steve Wiseman will once again be at the controls. Sparkin Your Fire accounted for back-to-back top dances earlier this month and figures right in the thick of things. Gerry Longo trains for Peg Hoffman with Mooney Svendsen in the bike and this mare set a lifetime mark of 1:54 with her December 1 decision here. Rounding out the field are Smash, Windsong Lindsey, Delightfully Wild, Rush And A Brush and If You Say So. *** There are two wagers that are offered here each night that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5, which is decided on the first five races on the evening; and the 20-cent Pick 4, on the penultimate four races. The Pick 4 comes with a guaranteed gross pool of $30,000. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

An Open Trot that brings out track record-holder Pridecrest and an Open Pace featuring Jazzmanian Devil, Eastender and I'm An Athlete share the harness racing spotlight on a special Tuesday night card at Cal Expo. First post for the 14-race program is 5 p.m. with the Open Trot going as the second event and the co-featured Open Pace immediately following as the third contest of the evening. The harness action will continue this week with Friday and Saturday cards. Pridecrest is a 5-year-old son of Angus Hall from the Wesgate Crown mare Spilled Milk who competes for Mark Hinshaw with Luke Plano doing the driving and training. He has accounted for all three of his outings at this meet since arriving from the Midwest, including a track-record performance on November 3. In that event, he went right to the front for Plano waltzed home with nearly 10 lengths on his nearest rival while stopping the timer in the new course standard of 1:53 2/5. He came from off the pace to romp eight nights later, then overcame the assigned No. 10 post and an early miscue to get the job down at most recent asking with some late heroics as the 1-5 choice. He will once again be asked to do his work from the assigned No. 10 spot on Tuesday while facing Talkin Tootsie, Itzaziam, Silverhill Volo, Silverlode and Dougs Hobby Horse. Jazzmanian Devil is a 6-year-old who carries the banner of William Condon with Kathie Plested conditioning and Mooney Svendsen in his usual position in the sulky. He has accounted for two of the last three Open Paces at this session and was a 1:52 1/5 victor over this layout earlier in the year. Eastender narrowly missed to Jazzmanian Devil in the December 1 clash at the head of the class and looms large for owners Maryann Plano and Nikki Hudson and driver/trainer Luke Plano, while I'm An Athlete is a hard-knocking Ronald Rettig-Zucchi colorbearer from the Jesse Pacheco barn who helps make things very interesting with James Kennedy at the controls. *** There are two wagers that are offered here each night that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5, which is decided on the first five races on the evening; and the 20-cent Pick 4, on the penultimate four races. The Pick 4 comes with a guaranteed gross pool that has been raised to $30,000. Silverlode earns money the old fashioned way Silverlode, who will celebrate her 9th birthday next week, added another victory to her resume last weekend and has now banked just shy of $160,000 for owner/breeders Steve and Vickie Desomer. A daughter of British Sterling out of the outstanding racemare and producer Charlotte's Web, Silverlode has been a mainstay on this circuit for quite some time and established her lifetime standard of 1:55 1/5 over this track last season. In last week's appearance with Mooney Svendsen handling the lines, the bay miss dropped into a stalking spot early from her outside slot, made a powerful move to the lead past the half and went on to a seven and a half-length romp while making even-money look like an early Xmas gift. "We were a little hasty getting her ready to race at this meet," Vickie said. "That may explain whey her early efforts weren't that good. "She is honest and willing and has remained relatively sound throughout her career. She's lovely to work with and has had the added benefit of Telma Hernandez and Emilio Cisneros as her caretaker." By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

Cal Expo is guaranteeing a $25,000 gross pool on Friday night's harness racing 50-cent Pick-6, with a $10,684 carryover going into the sequence that covers races 6 through 11 on the program. First post for the 13-race card is 6:10 p.m. On Saturday, there will mandatory payouts on all wagers. There will be no live racing here next week, with the trotters and pacers back in action on December 26 with a special Tuesday evening card that will begin at 5 p.m. There will also be racing that week on Friday and Saturday, December 29 and 30. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness  

Cenalta Call Girl, who has already captured the Annette Funicello Final at this harness racing meeting at Cal Expo, looks to add the $9,800 Robert Staats Final to her resume here Saturday night. Eight pacing fillies and mares will do battle in the main event, which goes as the 6th event on a 12-race program under the Watch and Wager LLC banner. First post is 6:10 p.m. There will be mandatory payouts on all wagers Saturday. Cenalta Call Girl is a 3-year-old daughter of Allamerican Merlin who is owned by Rene Goulet and Helen and Myra Empey and is reined and trained by Goulet. She comes into this contest having posed for pictures following four of her nine lifetime trips to the post and three of her four local appearances. On November 17, the bay miss proved a punctual 3-5 favorite in the Funicello Final as she came first-over to get the job done with Goulet. In last week's Staats Prep, Cenalta Call Girl exploded with a :26 4/5 final quarter to win going away by a length and a quarter in another impressive mile. Yeswellnomaybe was her most immediate victim in that affair and looms large once again for owner Fabiola Quevedo, trainer Edwin Quevedo and pilot Ryan Grundy. She has recorded four runner-up finishes from her six appearances at this meet. Completing the field are Free Radical, Alwaysalittlemore, Rockin Repeat, Cenalta Cougar, Wizzel Stix and Be My Lucky Lady. **** There will be no live racing here next week, with the trotters and pacers back in action on December 26 with a special Tuesday evening card that will begin at 5 p.m. There will also be racing that week on Friday and Saturday, December 29 and 30. Race pays tribute to Robert Staats Saturday night's feature race is named for Robert Staats, the prominent owner/breeder who passed away in 2011 at the age of 69 at his home in Reno, Nevada. Along with his wife Loretta, Robert Staats was active in the sport beginning in the early 1970s, with Bob Gordon handling the training duties for most of those years. Upon Gordon's passing, Rick Plano and Bob Johnson conditioned the Staats performers. Among those outstanding color-bearers have been Stand By, the brilliant New Zealand-bred race-mare and producer; her son Moxie, a 1:49.3 performer with more than $400,000 in earnings; Nemisis, a sparkling 1:48 winner; the popular mare Reno Rose; Bells To Be Rung; and the stakes-winning BG's Prodigy, who was named after Bob Gordon. Stand By was the horse who put the Staats stable on the map and she was his all-time favorite. The Down Under import had a 1:52 career standard and banked $255,000 in a brilliant career on the racetrack, then went on to be an equally outstanding broodmare. She was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2010. Stand By produced nine foals and they have earned more than $1 million, with her son Moxie retired to stud at the Desomer Farm and becoming a top sire in his own right. "Bob Staats was first and foremost a kind and classy gentleman," said Cal Expo General Manager Chris Schick. "Bob raced top quality New Zealand imports and California Sire Stakes competitors for nearly 40 years. We are proud to honor his memory here at Cal Expo." By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness  

Gerry Longo put on a show at Cal Expo last Friday night as he sent out four winners on the harness racing card, guiding three of them himself. The 71-year-old Longo kicked off his four-bagger when Sparkin Your Fire accounted for the Filly and Mare Open with Mooney Svendsen in the sulky, making it two straight scores at the head of the class. Longo came right back and captured the next race with HairwayTo Heaven to the delight of the chalkpayers and added victories with Place at the Beach and Gene Eugene before the 12-race program was concluded. Once a fixture at or near the top of the standings at this track, Hollywood Park and Los Alamitos, Gerry was away from California for three decades when he came out for this meet in 2014 and has been returning on a regular basis for the local action. "I can tell you that the weather is nice, the people are great and I'm impressed with the way they've upgraded the facility," Longo has said. When asked about his exit from the Golden State in the mid-1980s, Longo explained that he made the move to Chicago at a time when it looked like harness racing was about to go down for the count in California. "I did some racing back there in '78, '79 and '80, then I bought a place and started racing in Chicago full time," he said. "I like to travel, so I've also been racing at tracks in Virginia and Minnesota." Last Friday evening, he was traveling quite a bit to the winner's circle and it was great to see those green, black and gold colors getting photographed. Sparkin Your Fire, Capitol Hill clash Friday night's Cal Expo program is headed by a $6,600 Filly and Mare Open Pace that finds Sparkin Your Fire and Capitol Hill getting another chance to settle the score. A 13-race program is on tap with first post set for 6:10 p.m. and the main event is scheduled as the 4th contest on the evening. Sparking Your Fire is a 5-year-old mare who carries the banner of Peg Hoffman with Gerry Longo the conditioner and Mooney Svendsen doing the honors. She is coming off back-to-back decisions in the Distaff Open, storming home late for Svendsen on both occasions to get the job done. While the first of those tallies was going away by three lengths, the most recent saw her late heroics handing a neck decision on Capitol Hill. The latter will leave from the No. 6 post just inside her main rival for owners George McChrystal and Kathie Plested with Plested the conditioner and Steve Wiseman giving directions. She captured three of her first four outings at this meet between November 4 and November 25 at this Open level. There are two wagers that are offered here each night that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5, which is decided on the first five races on the evening; and the 20-cent Pick 4, on the penultimate four races. The Pick 4 comes with a guaranteed gross pool that has been raised to $30,000. *** There will be no live racing here next week, with the trotters and pacers back in action on December 26 with a special Tuesday evening card that will begin at 5 p.m. There will also be racing that week on Friday and Saturday, December 29 and 30. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

The start of a harness race is extremely important, and when it comes to getting the harness racing fields away in good order here at Cal Expo, Kenny Fowler is the man. Along with his assistant/driver Larry Dana, Fowler is responsible for making sure everybody is up close and personal with the starting gate when the car starts to speed ahead to send them on their way. "I'm coming up on my 30th year," said Fowler. "I started in 1988 with Larry Jones and then I spent 20 years as the driver with Bill Vallandingdam, and that experience was invaluable." For the last four years, Fowler has been the starter here at Cal Expo and does an excellent job of giving every horse and driver the best possible start. Much like a referee in a sporting event, when you don't hear much about them, that means they are doing a good job. One of the changes that has been made over the years is the switch from the traditional Cadillac to a four-wheel drive, which is especially import when it comes to traction and off tracks. "There are special challenges when it's raining, no question about that," Kenny related. "One is getting the wings on the starting gate closed before you get into the turn. When the wings are open all the weight is on the back of the car, so it's a little tricky. "To be honest, the wind and the fog are much tougher obstacles than the rain and a muddy racetrack." Robert Staats Prep matches pacing distaffers A well-matched field of eight pacing fillies and mares will do battle in Saturday night's featured Robert Staats Prep, with Rockin Repeat and Be My Lucky Lady among the major contenders. The feature will go as the eighth on an 11-race program under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post set for 6:10 p.m. Rockin Repeat and Be My Lucky Lady will have a rematch Saturday after finishing a head apart in a conditioned event here last week. Rockin Repeat got the better of that skirmish after sitting a pocket trip that evening. A 3-year-old daughter of Rockin Image, Rockin Repeat is owned by George Reider and Dave and Rob Haness with Reider training and Luke Plano once again doing the honors. Last week's 1:53 2/5 victory established a new lifetime mark for the sophomore. Be My Lucky Lady is a Hi Ho Silverheel's homebred who takes her lessons from Kathie Plested and will have Steve Wiseman at the controls. She has been runner-up in her last two trips to the post and is a nice fit with this group while leaving from the No. 6 post. Cenalta Call Girl took the measure of several of these rivals in the Annette Funicello Final last month and should be right in the thick of things. The Canadian miss races for Rene Goulet and Helen and Myrna Empey with Goulet reining and training. Rounding out the field are Cenalta Couger, Yeswellnomaybe, Alwaysalittlemore, Free Radical and Wizzel Stix. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

George Reider admits his barn "hasn't been lighting them up so far" at this Cal Expo harness racing meeting, but he's optimistic that things are headed in the right direction. "We had a good meet this summer at Running Aces," Reider noted. "At the end of that meet we purchased a few horses and now it's just been a case of getting to know them." One pacer in the barn that George is really pinning his hopes of is a 2-year-old who answers to the name of Pride of the Sierra. "I think he's going to be a real nice colt. We'll be qualifying him in a few weeks." Meanwhile, the Reider barn of 14 is starting to warm up and you can look for him to bemaking his share of winner's circle appearances in the near future and through the end of this session in the spring. George also mentioned that he's very pleased that his good friends Nick Roland, Jessica Johnson and Terry Kaufman are among the new connections competing here at Cal Expo "They've really added to our races and I'm so glad to see them competing here." Pair of Opens sit atop the marquee A $6,600 Open Pace featuring Jazzmanian Devil and Firedrake and a $5,500 Distaff Open Pace headed by Sparkin Your Fire and Capitol Hill are the main events on Friday night's Cal Expo program. Jazzmanian Devil is a 6-year-old son of Sand Shooter from the Artsplace mare Artbeat who is owned by William Condon, takes her lessons from Kathie Plested and will have Mooney Svendsen giving directions. The long-fused performer looped the field to prevail at 6-1 in the November 4 Open, had to settle for the show money at this level the following week, then got back to his winning ways at most recent asking as he came home in a sizzling :26 flat to get the job done by a neck. Firedrake also has two Open victories to his credit at this meeting for Set The Pace Racing LLC and driver/trainer Nick Roland. The Dragon Again gelding has posed for snapshots following 11 of his 20 starts on the year with a 1:51 2/5 lifetime standard that was recorded at Running Aces over the summer. Firedrake accounted for the October 28 top dance despite a tough trip from the demanding No. 10 post and also captured the November Open as the 3-5 favorite, but has had to settle for a third and fifth behind Jazzmanian Devil in the other two contests for the top pacers on the grounds. Looking at the Filly and Mare Open, Sparkin Your Fire carries the banner of Peg Hoffman with Gerry Longo the conditioner and Mooney Svendsen handling the lines. She got a nice prep race in her local debut in the November 25 distaff Open, then stormed home to prevail at 9-2 in the most recent clash at the top level for the pacing fillies and mares while taking the measure of favored Capitol Hill. The latter mare won three of her four outings at this Open level between November 4 and November 25 and had to settle for second in the most recent clash after being hard used on the front end. George McChrystal and Kathie Plested own, Plested is the trainer and Steve Wiseman will be in the sulky. There are two wagers offered here each night that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate, affording players the chance to gets some real value. They are the 50-cent Pick 5, which is decided on the first five races of the evening; and the 20-cent Pick 4, which covers the penultimate four contests on the program. The Pick 4 comes with a $30,000-guaranteed gross pool. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

Mystery Dragon, who has posted three impressive victories at Cal Expo since arriving from Canada, looms an overwhelming harness racing favorite in Saturday night's $8,300 Bill Conlin Memorial Pace. An 11-race card is on tap under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post set for 6:10. The Conlin will go as the sixth event on the program. Mystery Dragon is a 3-year-old son of Mystery Chase who is owned and trained by Richard Schneider and will once again be handled by Nick Roland. He has dominated his rivals in all three appearances at this meet. Sent off at 2-1 in his local debut on November 11, he came first-over for Roland at the half and went on to a convincing three and a quarter-length decision, lowering his lifetime standard to 1:54 1/5 in the process. Mystery Dragon was a punctual 4-5 choice at next asking after being hard-used early to command from an outside slot, then was the 3-5 chalk in last week's Bill Conlin Prep and did not disappoint his many backers as he never looked like a loser on the front end and came to the line with a length and a quarter on Richellu Cowboy. The latter is another Canadian-bred miss who races for Quentin and Kimberly Schneider with Quentin the conditioner and Steve Wiseman in the bike. She was able to leave into a nice trip in last week's Prep and came home well to gain the place spot in an improved effort. Rounding out the field are Lilbitofmama with James Kennedy; Herecomesthethundr, William Hernandez; He Grins Again, Luke Plano; Crash and Burn with Chip Lackey guiding; Lilmessinaround, Ryan Grundy; and He's a Navajo, to be piloted from the outside by Tony Succarotte. There are two wagers offered here each night that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5, which is decided on the first five races on the evening; and the 20-cent Pick 4 on the penultimate four races. The Pick 4 comes with a guaranteed gross pool that has been raised to $30,000. Bill Conlin remembered with Memorial Race Saturday's main event is named for Bill Conlin, the longtime sportswriter, editor and columnist for the Sacramento Bee who passed away in 1997 at the age of 84. "Bill Conlin, quite simply, is a legend, a real newspaper man who loved his work and his hometown of Sacramento like no other," related Sacramento Bee columnist Debbie Arrington. "With great wit, he covered sports and more in this city for six decades, first at the Sacramento Union and then The Bee. He know everyone - from Ronald Reagan to Al Davis - and was a daily presence in The Bee's Sports section until his retirement in 1985. "Through it all, harness racing remained one of his favorite sports, both to cover and to watch as a fan." Debbie noted that when Conlin passed away in June of 1997, Cal Expo's harness drivers paid tribute to him in the winner's circle before the race named in his honor, which was won by the great pacer and sire Little Steven. "It's wonderful that Bill's name still lives on at Cal Expo in a sport that he truly loved," Arrington added. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

The $7,500 Joe Lighthill Trot headed by Talkin Tootsie; an Open Pace featuring Firedrake and a filly and mare Open Pace highlighted by Capitol Hill share the harness racing spotlight at Cal Expo Friday evening. Friday's Joe Lighthill Memorial Trot is named for the outstanding driver/trainer who was a mainstay in California for decades and passed away at the age of 78 in 2006. Mr. Lighthill, who began his career in the mid 1940s, drove 2,272 winners for purse earnings just shy of $7 million and reined and/or trained some of the most outstanding performers of their generation. Included in that illustrious group were Meadow Skipper, Countess Adios, Tender Loving Care, Hickory Pride, Peter Lobell, Try Scotch and BC Count. "Joe was the consummate horseman and a good friend," said Vickie Desomer, who will send out Silverlode in Friday night's headliner with husband Steve in the sulky. "Time and time again Steve and I relied on him to get our young green horses safely around the track and he always did just that. He was truly one of the greats, not just in California, but across the nation." A field of eight will line-up for the Joe Lighthill Trot with Talkin Tootsie likely to attract plenty of attention for owners Martin Gary and Hank Wieseneck, trainer Bob Johnson and pilot Mooney Svendsen. He won an Open II contest two back and was runner-up to the streaking Pridecrest at most recent asking.. A Cenalta double for Gordon Empey Trainer Gordon Empey sent out a pair of pacers on last Friday night's card here and ended up scoring with both as Cenalta Eclipse and Cenalta Artistry got the job done. Cenalta Eclipse had Steve Wiseman at the controls with the 4-year-old gelding prevailing handily in his conditioned affair, while Cenalta Artistry returned a healthy $26 proving clearly best toward the end of the same program with Rene Goulet guiding the mare. This is Empey's second foray to Cal Expo from Canada, having such a good time last season that he has returned with another string of performers while enjoying the warmer Sacramento climate. A 71-year-old native of Alberta, Gordon only came to harness racing about 16 years ago and has now developed a love of the sport on all fronts. "I'd been to the races with my uncle when I was in my 20's, but just as a fan," he explained. "I guess I was about 55 when I was re-introduced to the game by some friends, then that led to buying some broodmares and going on from there." At first, Empey continued to do farming while breeding harness horses on the side, but it really got into his blood. "It was eight or nine years ago that we started racing more and more of them, and then two years ago I took out my trainer's license." Its nights like last Friday that make it all worthwhile. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

Before this harness racing meet, Rene Goulet had not competed here at Cal Expo in 18 years, but he's happy to be back and enjoying the warmer temperatures. "The people here are nice and friendly and it's been fun catching up with everybody," said Goulet, who has brought eight performers down from Canada along with his partner Glenda Smith. "It's also nice to get away from that cold and snow." Including in the group that came down with Goulet is the 3-year-old pacing filly Cenalta Call Girl, who has provided him with his first two victories at this stand, including a tally as the odds-on choice in last week's Annette Funicello Pace. Rene was pretty much born into the sport, learning about harness racing from the ground up from his father Art and uncle Al Goertzen. "I pretty much knew by the time I was 10 this is what I wanted to do," related the 50-year-old native Manitoba. Goulet cut his teeth on half-mile tracks, but has also done his share of driving on five-eighths and mile ovals in the Great White North. "I actually prefer a mile track like the one here at Cal Expo, because I like to let my horses sit and finish." When asked about his favorite horse, Rene is quick to point at KG Explorer, who is among the performers who have shipped down for this invasion. "He's 13 now and I've had him since I bought him for $1,500 as a 3-year-old." Pridecrest, Capitol Hill command the spotlight An Open Trot headed by the streaking Pridecrest; a filly and mare Open Pace featuring Capitol Hill and the Bill Conlin Prep headline the Saturday night action at Cal Expo. First post for the 12- race Watch and Wager LLC program is 6:10 p.m. The Open Trot goes as the fourth event, while the Conlin Prep is the sixth race and the distaff Open is scheduled as the eighth contest on the card. A 5-year-old son of Angus Hall from the Wesgate Crown mare Spilled Milk, Pridecrest races for Mark Hinshaw with Luke Plano doing the driving and training. He comes into this assignment with $177,000 in his lifetime account and will do his work from the assigned No. 10 post this weekend. The dark-hued performer made his California debut on November 3 and made every pole a winning one that evening for Plano crossing the wire with nearly 10 lengths on his nearest rival while establishing a new track record with the 1:53 2/5 final clocking. Suiting up the next week from the outside post in a field of nine, Pridecrest once again put on a tour-de-force mile as he stalked early, took over turning for home and drew off by six and a quarter lengths to prove a punctual 2-5 favorite. Taking him on are Becky Badger Baby for Nick Roland; Agrestores Comet, James Kennedy; One Chief, to be guided by Steve Wiseman; Talkin Tootsie, Mooney Svendsen; and Itzaziam, who leaves from the rail with Sean Smithpeters at the controls. Looking at the co-feature, Capitol Hill is a 6-year-old daughter of Badlands Hanover who has fired big-time in all four starts at the meet and has come away with a pair of victories, including last week's distaff Open in a very game first-over performance with Steve Wiseman. George McChrystal and Kathie Plested own with Plested the conditioner. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

Ryan Grundy is off to a good start to this Cal Expo meet, bringing down a solid group of harness racing performers from Canada who are proving quite photogenic. If the name Grundy sounds familiar, it's because Ryan is the 35-year-old great nephew of the late Jim Grundy, a mainstay on this circuit for decades and one of the best driver/trainers to every ply their trade in California. Jim Grundy passed away in 2009 at the age of 74. He made 2,617 trips to the charmed enclosure as a driver, with more than $10.3 million in earnings and was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2007. "I grew up around the horses," Ryan related. "I was probably about 6 years old when I knew this was what I wanted to do." It was Jim Grundy's brother, Art, who was a mentor to Ryan. "My grandfather is the one who taught me everything. He was very good at bringing young horses to the races and did all his own shoeing, which I also do." Ryan struck out on his own in his early 20's, starting out on the fair circuit in Manitoba. *** There are two wagers offered here each night that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5, which is decided on the first five races on the evening; and the 20-cent Pick 4 on the penultimate four races. The Pick 4 comes with a guaranteed gross pool that has now been raised to $30,000. Scary Harry heads contentions pacing feature A well-matched field is set for Friday night's $4,400 pacing headliner at Cal Expo, with Alan Horowitz Memorial runner-up Scary Harry, the hard-knocking Eastender and the classy One And Only among the major players. There will be 12 races on tap Friday evening under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post set for 6:10 p.m. There are another 12 events scheduled for Saturday night. A good case can be made for almost all of the participants in the main event, with Scary Harry likely to have his share of supporters off four straight solid miles since coming in from Hoosier Park. The 5-year-old Sportswriter gelding is owned, trained and driven by Chip Lackey and is coming off a tough head loss as the 3-2 favorite in last week's $20,000 Horowitz after clearing late in the mile. In his previous tour, he flew home in :27 flat to prevail in an elimination heat with a 1:53 3/5 final clocking. Eastender should be nice and tight after a solid runner-up finish under these conditions after some traffic issues last week. Luke Plano reins and trains the son of Cheyenne Rei for Maryann Plano and Nikki Hudson and he closed out his Running Aces campaign this season with a lifetime-best 1:53 2/5 tour of the Minnesota oval. One And Only is the richest member of the cast with his $260,000 bank account and sports a 1:51 2/5 career standard that was set in Pennsylvania three years ago. The veteran goes about his business for Richard Morita and David Yamada with Jessie Pacheco the conditioner and is making his first evening appearance since late August at Hawthorne. Completing the field from the rail out: Sapient Hanover with Sean Smithpeters; Senga Nitro for Ryan Grundy; Dupage's Z Tam, Nick Roland; Dontdoubtthelakers with James Kennedy; and Swagasaurusrex, who will be guided by trainer Gerry Longo. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

Fly Away and Scary Harry, impressive winners of their respective elimination heats last week, head the harness racing cast for Saturday night's $20,000 Alan Horowitz Memorial Pace at Cal Expo. First post for the Watch and Wager LLC program is 6:10 p.m. and the harness action continues on Saturday evening. Fly Away is an 8-year-old son of Allamerican Native who races for the partnership of Scott Ehrlich, George McChrystal and Kathie Plested with Plested the conditioner and Steve Wiseman in the sulky. After a runner-up finish on opening week, Fly Awaty was sent off at 4-1 in last week's second elimination heat while doing his work from the outside post in the field of eight. The trailer for a half-mile, he began to pick up momentum on the final turn, then flew home for Wiseman to get the job done by a half-length in a 1:53 2/5 mile. Scary Harry looked equally strong in his heat for owners Chip Lackey and Tim Clevenger and driver/trainer Lackey. He was reversed early, rallied with cover turning for home and came a sparkling :27 flat final quarter to prevail by a length as the even-money favorite. This 5-year-old is by Sportsmaster out of the Armbro Cadet mare One Cadet and shows a lifetime mark of 1:52 flat that was established at Pompano Park earlier this season. Like Fly Away he likes to pour it on in the stretch. Completing the field are Walker Meister, Cowboy Mathis, Oh Yeah, Mighty Fine Hi Ho, Jump The Shark, Allamerican Solo and Good Citations. Race honors memory of Alan Horowitz Friday night's Alan Horowitz Memorial is named for a major force in California harness racing over the last several decades and a member of the California Harness Horsemen's Association (CHHA) Hall of Fame who passed away in April at age 72. Mr. Horowitz, who wore many hats in the business, started out as a partner with longtime friends Donald and Barbara Arnstine and Steve Desomer with a $25,000 claimer named Quaker Byrd. Quaker Byrd won his first race for the partners and Alan was hooked. Moving on, Alan would eventually become a board member and president of CHHA. In 1994, Mr. Horowitz was instrumental in bringing harness racing back to Cal Expo in the form of Capitol Racing and was also its successful general manager. He was serving as the Executive Secretary of the CHHA at the time of his retirement in 2013 and continued to stay in touch with the sport that he loved so much. "It is impossible to overstate Alan's importance to the harness racing industry in California," said David Neumeister. "Simply put, if it were not for Alan, the sport would no longer exist in this state. "Between his time as executive director of Western Standardbred Association (now CHHA) and owner/ manager of our only yearling sale company when racing was flourishing in California, and his decision to retire from CHHA a few years ago, against all odds and some very powerful adversaries, Alan almost single-handedly took us from the brink of extinction in the mid-90s and formed and led Capitol Racing in Sacramento to several very successful years of harness racing in that city. "Were it not for his quiet determination and tactical brilliance, we would not be racing here today." Cal Expo is proud to present the Alan Horowitz Memorial on Friday night. On Saturday evening, Cal Expo will feature the Annette Funicello for pacing fillies and mares, paying tribute to the actress/singer and harness racing advocate who passed away in 2013. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness  

Everybody should get a call as good as the one harness racing trainer Luke Plano got from owner Mark Hinshaw last month. "He said he was looking for a winter home for his trotter Pridecrest and asked if I was interested," Plano related. "I'd seen him race a little at Hawthorne and didn't waste any time saying yes." All Pridecrest has done in two starts at Cal Expo is win back-to-back Open Trots by a combined 16 lengths, including a track-record 1:53 2/5 tour of the Sacramento oval two weeks ago. "He's a big strong horse with a tremendous gait and he doesn't waste any action," Plano explained. "Going into that first start here he had that solid resume and had trained well, but I can't say I was expecting a mile like that one. "He was pretty aggressive that night and was setting some strong fractions, but I wasn't sure how he was going to be in the stretch, and it turned out he was super." Pridecrest wheeled back in last week's top dance for the trotters and was equally impressive getting the job done from the outside post in a field of nine. He was first-over to command going to the final bend and went on to another romp at 40 cents on the dollar. "I wanted to see if he would be manageable and he was, although we did get stuck behind some poor cover for a bit there. Once again, he was very strong in the stretch and very impressive." Annette Funicello Pace brings out distaffers The $8,200 Annette Funicello for pacing fillies and mares headed by Cenalta Call Girl highlights the program on Friday night at Cal Expo. First post under the banner of Watch and Wager LLC will be 6:10 p.m. and the action will continue on Saturday evening with the $20,000 Alan Horowitz Memorial being the main event. Friday's featured contest is named for actress/singer Annette Funicello, who passed away in April of 2013 at the age of 70. Annette Funicello was married to harness horsesman/breeder Glen Holt from 1986 until her death and was a strong supporter of the sport. Cenalta Call Girl is a 3-year-old daughter of Allamerican Merlin who is owned by Rene Goulet and Helen and Myrna Empey with Goulet doing the driving and training. She comes into this assignment having captured two of her six lifetime appearances. Cenalta Call Girl recorded her first decision at Northlands Park in late September, surging on the money to be up in the final strides, then made her Cal Expo debut a winning one in the Funicello Prep last weekend as she did the stalk-and-pounce to perfection and drew off to a length and three-quarters score as the 3-2 favorite in a 1:55 2/5 performance. Free Radical completed the exacta in that affair at 13-1 to make a nice move forward in her second outing over this layout since arriving from Minnesota. The Hot Pans offspring competes for Set The Pace Racing LLC and is reined and trained by Nick Roland. Rounding out the cast are Be My Lucky Girl with Steve Wiseman; Alwaysalittlemore, Luke Plano; Rockin Repeat, David Siegel; My Hearts Conquest with William Hernandez; and Nat-A-Katt, who will be guided by Edward Hernandez. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

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