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Plainville, MA --- A pair of Winners-Over paces topped the Memorial Day card at Plainridge Park on Monday (May 27) and there was no one to laughing at Late Night Joke's harness racing performance in the fastest of the two divisions. In the $13,000 seven-horse leg, Quick Shot (Drew Campbell) played hardball with Late Night Joke (Shawn Gray) on the point but eventually relented past the 26-flat quarter. But as soon as Late Night Joke cleared, Quick Shot came right back out to reclaim the lead. These two paced strongly atop the field from the half to three-quarters with only a mild bid from Rockin' Cougar (Nick Graffam) during that time. Around the far turn it became a two-horse race and Late Night Joke pulled the pocket before the stretch and drew alongside Quick Shot when they finally did straighten out. From that point on Gray had the whip tucked and Late Night Joke cruised home to a two-length victory in 1:50.4, which was a new seasonal mark. Late Night Joke ($10.80) scored his second consecutive win and third of the year for owner Dandy Farms Racing and Ft. Racing Stable. Jimmy Nickerson trains the winner. In the $14,000 second division, Avatartist (Mark Eaton) found his way to the front once again but after three straight weeks of :25.4 first panel splits, this time in a more controlled :27.4. With no one pushing the issue, the race continued to the half in :57.3 and it was really over at that point. Avatartist then went back to back quarters in :27.2 and :27.4 and held off late charges by Sir Pugsley (Shawn Gray) and Fashion Bythebeach (Mitchell Cushing) to win by a length in 1:52.4. Avatartist                                --Tom Melanson photo Driver Mark Eaton also trains and co-owns Avatartist ($10.40) with Bob McHugh, Robert Griffin and Russell Young. Driver Jay Randall had a big day at The Ridge scoring a Grand Slam on the afternoon. Randall won with Goddess Ofgoodness (1:57.4, $4.00), My Mind Is Madeup (1:52, $6.40), Fuzzylegsandall (1:54.4, $14.40) and Weekend Fling (1:55.1, $12.80). Racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Thursday (May 30) with post time at 4 p.m. As a result of no one picking the winning combination once again, there is a $7,170 carryover pool for the Wicked Hi-5 pentafecta wager in the sixth race on Thursday.   By Tim Bojarski for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts

Plainville, MA --- On Monday afternoon (May 20) Mach Doro A asserted his dominance for the second week in a row and overpowered a full field of nine top pacers as he took the $16,000 Open Handicap pace at Plainridge Park. Avatartist (Mark Eaton) left from post nine and seated the whole harness racing field as he sped to the quarter in :25.4 over the sloppy track. As the race passed in front of the stands, J JS Delivery (Shawn Gray) pulled first-over and brought Bet You (Heath Campbell) and Mach Doro A (Ron Cushing) with him in the outer flow. The race hit the half in :55 and J JS Delivery was drawing closer to Avatartist, but he wasn't doing it fast enough for Mach Doro A as Cushing tipped that one three-deep up the backside and blew past the field. By the three-quarter pole Mach Doro A had cleared in 1:23.1 and that marked the beginning of the end of the race. As he rounded the turn he started pulling away with the rest of the field double-decked behind him. Cushing looked over his shoulder at the top of the stretch and saw he was home free and Mach Doro A strode-out to an unprompted seven-length lead at the wire where he won in 1:52. The time was the second consecutive lifetime mark for Mach Doro A. Now a winner of 33 out of 83 races and $296,246 lifetime, the 8-year-old Mach Doro A is also two-for-two at Plainridge Park this year for owners Kevin Sywyk, Ron Cushing and Frank Ranaldi. Heidi Gibbs is the trainer. In the co-featured $14,000 conditioned pace, Passport To Art (Shawn Gray) got a perfect pocket trip behind Pokerface Bluechip (Mitchell Cushing) before tipping in the last turn to launch a strong stretch drive that wore down the leader at the wire where he won in 1:51.4, which was a new lifetime mark. Passport To Art ($12.20) is owned by Elizabeth and Dyce Spaluto and is trained by Alicia Gray. Passport To Art                     -Tom Melanson photo Shawn Gray had a huge day at Plainridge on Monday, winning five races on the card. Besides the already mentioned Passport To Art, Gray also scored with Queen For Life (1:59.2, $5.00), Jake G's Champion (1:57.3, $19.00), Chip Walther (1:52.3, $9.40) and Sir Pugsley (1:51.4, $3.00). With that performance Gray now has a commanding lead in the dash win race for the meet topping Mitchel Cushing by 12; 42-30. Racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Thursday (May 23) at 4 p.m. With now winner in the Wicked Hi-5 pentafecta in race six or nine on Monday, there is a carryover pool of $1,995.95 for that same bet in race six on Thursday.   By Tim Bojarski for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusett  

Plainville, MA --- Heavy downpours, steady wind, a sloppy track and seven formidable foes could not prevent Starznheaven from capturing the $16,000 Open Handicap pace at Plainridge Park on Monday afternoon (April 22). Avatartist (Mark Eaton) was the fastest off the wings and skimmed through the water to the quarter in :26.2. But despite the torrid pace for any condition, Shawn Gray was not content to sit and pulled Starznheaven, took the lead and then dared everyone to catch him. Starznheaven got to the half in :54.2 and the three quarters in 1:23. There Tisadream N (Mitchell Cushing) pulled from third and paced even with Avatartist but the pair were still two-lengths behind the leader heading into the stretch. Starznheaven was motoring strong under a hand-drive from Gray while his pursuers tried to catch him, but that was not the case this day as Starznheaven held off their bid to win by two lengths in 1:51.4. The time was a new seasonal mark for the winner. It was the third win of the year and 40th of the career for Starznheaven ($3.60) who is owned by Marc Reynolds, Scott Dillon and Bradford Veilleux and trained by Jimmy Nickerson. In the $15,000 Winners-Over pacing co-feature, Gibbs (Mitchell Cushing) got away a distant seventh at the quarter before pulling third-over in a lively outer flow and then tipped three-wide coming off the far turn to circle the field and pull away to a two-length win in 1:53.1. It was the second straight win at Plainridge Park for Gibbs ($17.20) who is owned by Rick Howles. Eric Beach does the conditioning. Mitchell Cushing and Shawn Gray both had driving triples on the card while trainer Jimmy Nickerson did the same on the training side. The oppressive racing conditions provided some premium payouts on Monday including Rockin Cougar (Nick Graffam) who paid $58.40 in the ninth and All Artist (Drew Campbell) that returned $61.20 in the tenth. Racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Thursday afternoon (April 25) with post time at 4 p.m. For more information of harness racing in Massachusetts log on to the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts at www.sominc.net and Plainridge Park at www.plainridgeparkcasino.com.   By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts

Plainville, MA --- After not racing since last December at Gloucester Park in Australia, Tisadream N made his first North American start a winning one after capturing the $15,000 Winners-over pacing feature at Plainridge Park on Monday (April 15). Avatartist (Mark Eaton) flew off the gate and took command of the race before hitting the turn and marched swiftly over the track rated good to the quarter in :26.3. The field stayed in single file behind him to the half when Tisadream N (Mitchell Cushing) pulled first and flushed Major Leaguer (Jimmy Whittemore) for live cover heading up the backstretch. The two outsiders moved forward but when the race hit three-quarters Major Leaguer dropped in second behind Avatartist, leaving Tisadream N a clear path to continue the grind alone towards the leader. Avatartist took an open length lead into the stretch but Tisadream N was fully underway with Cushing bouncing in the bike and the team collared Avatartist in the shadow of the wire to win in 1:52.2. The time was a new lifetime mark for the winner. It was the 14th lifetime win for Tisadream N ($6.20) who is a 6-year-old gelded son of Bettors Delight and Dreamy Atom that is owned by Tony Gruppo and Tim Bojarski. Scott Rollins does the training. Cushing had two more winners on the card to score the driving hat trick. He also won the under card $12,000 mid-level conditioned pace with JK Willpower ($4.40) who took the lead from Quick Shot (Drew Campbell) past the quarter and never looked back in 1:54.1. JK Willpower is owned by Michael Goldberg Racing and is trained by Jeff Lieberman. JK Willpower              -photo Tom Melanson And Cushing's third win came with Gibbs ($10.80) who won by five open lengths in a seasonal best of 1:52.4. Gibbs is owned by Rick Howles and is trained by Eric Beach. Not to be outdone, Jim Hardy and Shawn Gray both scored driving doubles on the card as well. The 20-cent Wicked Hi-5 pentafecta in the ninth race returned and instant jackpot. The combination of 1-8-6-5-3 returned $8,169.48 for two dimes. Racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Thursday afternoon (April 18) with post time set for 4 p.m. For more Massachusetts racing information please log on to the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts at www.sominc.net or Plainridge Park at www.plainridgeparkcasino.com .   Tim Bojarski  

Plainville, MA---A reversal of strategy produced favorable results as Mistress Valentine raced to a harness racing victory under cover in the $12,000 trotting feature at Plainridge Park on Thursday afternoon (June 15). Mistress Valentine (Mark Eaton) left as usual, but when Guiltywithanexcuse (Greg Merton) pulled from second to try for the lead at the quarter pole there was no argument. Eaton and his usually front-running mare let Merton go to the top and opted to take the trip. From there Guiltywithanexcuse did all the heavy lifting as he took the group to the half in :57.1 and three-quarters in 1:25.1. At that station the pack was in two rows; four in and three out. Guiltywithanexcuse had a narrow lead with One Swan For All (Wally Watson) outside, Wind And A Prayer (Kevin Switzer Jr.) three deep and Mistress Valentine locked in at the rail behind a wall of horses. As they headed down the straightaway, Mistress Valentine had trot but no racing room. But as Merton started getting after Guiltywithanexcuse, he started to drift off the pylons. Eaton saw his opening and started throwing the lines to chase his mare into the hole and came away a nose victor over Guiltywithanexcuse in 1:55.3. It was the fourth win of 2017 and 34th lifetime for Mistress Valentine ($4.40) and it pushed her annual assets to $33,155 for owners Bob McHugh and Mark Eaton, who does the training as well. In that race, Guiltywithanexcuse was claimed by Raymond and Eva Labonte for $20,000. Greg Merton had three driving wins and Monique Cohen had two tallies on the training side. Fans of the Wicked Hi-5 pentafecta wager were rewarded on Thursday as the largest payoff since the inception of the bet was doled out. In the sixth race, the bearer of a single 20-cent straight combination of 6-3-8-7-2 was presented with $9,864.66. Needless to say there is no carry-over for Friday. Racing resumes on Friday afternoon with post time set for 4 p.m.   By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts

Mark Kennedy admits that when he was not in a good place at the end of 2013, but a 2014 New Years resolution got him back on track and it all came together when he drove his first harness racing winner at Cal Expo last Saturday night. Mark is a 31-year-old Colorado native who has a harness pedigree his father is longtime horseman Earl Kennedy and his brother James is one of the top driver/trainers on the grounds. Were a very close family and Ive been around the sport all my life, he said. While Mark had done a lot of grooming and eventually assistant training, events had kept him from his dream of being a harness driver until 2014 rolled around and he made his mind up to change his life. I really did it for my daughter Kinsey and my son Colten, to show them that you can accomplish what you dream, Kennedy explained. The first part of the plan found Mark going back to Pennsylvania and working with Lou Pena, which gave him the chance to be around some very nice horses while getting some excellent first-hand experience. I got my qualifying license last fall, just before I came back to California, and it was thanks to my dad, my brother, Mark Eaton and Gene Vallandingham that I got the chance to get in those qualifying drives. Mark received his P driving license on March 1 and three weeks later was posing for pictures with Fox Valley Largo in his sixth lifetime trip to the post. It was a family affair, with Earl owning the 11-year-old and James doing the training. It was the resolution I made coming true, Kennedy noted. I felt great and it was like a great stress had been lifted from me. It was everything I thought it would be. Sire Stakes, Open Pace command the spotlight A $10,000 California Sire Stakes for 3-year-old pacing colts featuring Uringoodhands and Hi Hos Little Rev and an Open Pace headed by St Lads Lotto top Saturday nights Watch and Wager LLC program at Cal Expo. A 12-race card is on tap with first post set at 6:10 p.m. There will be Saturday and Sunday racing this week, with the trotters and pacers in action on Friday and Saturday night next week, April 3 and 4, with no racing on Easter Sunday. Uringoodhands is a homebred son of Kents On Nuke out of the Surmo Hanover mare Sparks Will Fly who is owned by Mark Anderson, hails from the Gordie Graham barn and will once again have the services of James Kennedy. The dark-hued performer has captured four of the five stakes races decided for the division, with his lone setback being a neck loss to Hi Hos Little Rev in their January 31 meeting. Uringoodhands has made every pole a winning in the three subsequent Sire Stakes, with Hi Hos Little Rev checking in second in each of those races. The latter is a son of Hi Ho Silverheels who carries the banner of Vanessa Gilliam with Bob Johnson training and Mooney Svendsen at the controls. He was runner-up to Uringoodhands in the first stakes gathering on January 17, hung that neck decision on him in the next match-up, and has finished second in the last three big-money match-ups. Laissezmoipicoler, Devils Rein, Loci Machette Man, Sounion and Musician complete the field. There are four wagers on the program that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. They are the Jackpot 6 and Hi-5, which are 10-cent minimum bets; the 50-cent Pick 5; and the 20-cent Pick 4, which has a $25,000-guaranteed pool as part of the USTA Strategic Wagering Program. Last Saturday night there was one perfect Jackpot 6 ticket returning $65,456, not a bad return for a dime investment. By Mark Ratzky, publicity Cal Expo Harness        

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