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WASHINGTON, PA, Sept. 12, 2017 -- Ron Burke figured to be a force in Tuesday's $86,498 Keystone Classic at The Meadows -- he trains eight of the 17 freshman filly pacers who dropped in -- but he was even more dominant than that, teaming with harness racing Matt Kakaley to sweep the event with Double A Mint, Strong Opinion and Majorsspeciallady. Double A Mint turned in the most powerful performance, rolling to a facile 5-1/2-length victory over stablemate Danikova in 1:52.4 and lifting her bankroll to $115,499 for Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Dandy Farms and Silva, Purnel & Libby. She's In For Life completed the ticket. "She gets better," Burke said of the daughter of Bettor's Delight-Double Creme, who will be pointed to stakes at Hoosier Park and the Red Mile. "She tries harder. She's a typical Bettor's Delight -- they try." Strong Opinion finished a disappointing seventh in the Pennsylvania Sires Stake championship, but Kakaley Indicated there was a good reason she couldn't get more involved. "She was third over in the last turn, not really in a terrible spot, but a horse broke in front of her and took her out of the race," he said. "I've loved her all along. She's beautiful to drive, and she goes when you ask her to go." In the Keystone Classic, the daughter of Well Said-Rough Sketch made the lead with a quarter-pole move and had little trouble holding off Sarpa Hanover by a length in 1:53.3, with Ana Hanover third. Burke Racing Stable, Jack Piatt II, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and Silva, Purnel & Libby campaign Strong Opinion, a $50,000 yearling purchase. The victory by Majorsspeciallady was more tactical than flashy; when Kakaley gave her a soft opening half of 58, the daughter of Somebeachsomewhere-See Major waltzed home in 1:54.1, a length better than Aims Whisper. The first-over Cult Icon earned show. "She hasn't always been in the right spot, but she's the kind who definitely will get better with age," Burke said. "The thing about her is, when she's in with horses she's supposed to beat, she beats them." He indicated Majorsspeciallady, a $30,000 yearling acquisition, is headed to engagements at Hoosier Park and the Red Mile for owners Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and J&T Silva Stables. North America's perennial leading trainer was a factor elsewhere on Tuesday's card, as his 5-year-old Shadow Play-Titania Seelster mare, Tessa Seelster, captured the $20,000 Filly & Mare Not Listed Preferred/Preferred Handicap Pace for Dave Palone in 1:52. Shesasmokinlady was second, 1-1/4 lengths back, while Yankee Moonshine rallied for show. Tessa Seelster now boasts $490,913 in career earnings for Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and Jonathan Newman. Brian Zendt collected three wins on the 14-race card. Wednesday's program at The Meadows features a $102,700 Keystone Classic for freshman filly trotters. First post is 1:05 PM. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

WILKES-BARRE PA - Matt Kakaley posted the 4000th win of his driving career on Sunday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, guiding the maiden trotter Rose Run Tyrone to an open length victory to reach the harness racing milestone. Fittingly, Matt's 4000th winner was behind a horse trained by Ron Burke, for the 29-year-old Kakaley's career really took off at the start of the decade when he became one of the preferred drivers for Burke's far-flung stable, giving him plentiful driving opportunities at top ovals and the chance to handle some of the sport's best horses. Kakaley has posted seven straight seasons of earnings over $5.9M, and in early September of this year he has already bankrolled almost $6.5M, putting him in line to reach his personal seasonal high of $8.1M, which he accomplished in 2014. (And, by gosh, that almost looked like a smile on the poker-faced-driving Kakaley as he went under the finish line!) Celebrity Eventsy earned a new lifetime mark of 1:52.2 after taking full advantage of a pocket journey in winning the $25,000 winners-over trot. Jim Marohn Jr. hustled the four-year-old daughter of Manofmanymissions to the lead before the 27.2 quarter, then yielded to Centurion ATM and sat in the golden chair through middle splits of 56 and 1:24. But Centurion ATM had no answer for the pocket rocket late as Celebrity Eventsy blasted on by to win by 2¾ lengths. Staffan Lind conditions the winner of $551,060 for Celebrity Farms. The Majestic Son gelding Golden Son notched his ninth victory of the season, and third in his last four starts, while equaling his lifetime best of 1:53.2 in the $20,000 co-feature trot. Driver George Napolitano Jr. sent the four-year-old to the lead past the quarter and remained in control from there, although Golden Son had to stay sharp to hold off the big late bid of third-over Infiniti As by a half-length. Jenny Melander trains the winner, who has earned $138,767 already this year, for owners John Devito and Rocco Manniello. The Downs will now celebrate its annual "early" Oktoberfest, with a break in racing until a week from Monday, the 18th, when post time will be at 4:30 p.m. PHHA / Pocono

WILKES-BARRE PA - On Sunday night Rose Run Parker returned to The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, and he promptly ran his local harness racing scorecard to two straight wins and three triumphs in his last five starts with a 1:53.1 victory in the $20,000 featured trot. Driver Matt Kakaley hustled the Jailhouse Jesse gelding to command after the quarter, and the winner of $878,865 posted identical halves of 56.3 while in control. Double L Lindy, coming off a check earning effort in the Hambletonian Maturity, was second, 1½ lengths behind the winner and a neck ahead of third-place Celebrity Pegasus. Rose Run Parker's current form skein at The Downs mirrors a lifetime fondness for finishing first - the six-year-old has now taken 44 of his 74 lifetime starts, just shy of 60%. Ron Burke trains the veteran for the powerful combine of Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. PHHA / Pocono

YONKERS, NY, Friday, June 16, 2017 - I Said Diamonds (Matt Kakaley, $7) went up and over laboring harness racing lasses Friday night (June 16th), winning-at first seasonal purse asking-Yonkers Raceway's $55,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace. This was the first local live program since a May 28th matinee and debuted the new start/finish line, which shortened the stretch by some 105 feet (660 to 555 feet). Unhurried from post position No. 4, I Said Diamonds settled sixth as Northfield expat Beyonce's Rockn (Jason Bartlett) made short work of an assigned eight-hole. That one made the lead after paying a 27-second, opening-quarter price for the privilege. The newbie was not in a giving mood, hanging Petticoat Series winner Cousin Mary (Jordan Stratton) in her attempt for the lead. A :55.1 intermission over a 'good' surface that had taken on some water put the closers in play. Down the backside, Lispatty (Mark MacDonald), as the 3-2 choice, went three-deep, but I Said Diamonds went deeper and much faster. The latter grabbed the lead passing a 1:24.1 three-quarters, then widened. She opened 3½ lengths off the final turn, whipping Lispatty by 4¼ lengths in 1:53.2. Hidden Land (Brian Sears), Delightful Dragon (Brent Holland) and Freeze Out (George Brennan) settled for the minor moolah. For second choice I Said Diamonds, a now-4-year-old daughter of Well Said owned by A Piece of the Action Stable and trained by Matias Ruiz, she entered off a six-win, $304,000 season as a soph. The exacta paid $27.60, the triple returned $142.50 and the superfecta paid $400.50. Holland won a race, moving him to within four of the 5,000  win plateau (that would be 4,996 for those of you keeping score of such things). A friendly reminder from Yonkers Raceway that Saturday evening’s (June 17th) Pick 5 wager starts with a carryover of $1,845.99.   The Pick 5 is a 50-cent base wager comprising races 7 through 11 during every racing card. It has no consolation payoff, meaning if no one selects all five winners (as was the case Friday night), the entire pool (minus takeout) moves to the next racing program. Frank Drucker

All Bets Off won Saturday's $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie at Northfield Park, making him only the second horse to win both a Carl Milstein Memorial and a Battle of Lake Erie, two of the track's prestigious harness racing Grand Circuit events. Wiggle It Jiggleit accomplished the same feat. All Bets Off (Bettor's Delight - Armbro Penelope - Dexter Nukes) is owned by the partnership of Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Frank Baldachino and Panhellenic Stable. He is trained by Ron Burke. Matt Kakaley had the winning drive. As the gate pulled away from the stellar Battle field, Luck Be Withyou and Aaron Merriman rushed to the front, setting wicked-fast fractions of :26, :52.4 and 1:20.3. "I figured the race would rock and roll early. I thought I should get away mid-pack and cross my fingers," said Kakaley. "The trip worked out perfectly for us." All Bets Off started from post four and made a three-wide bid late in the third panel to make the front and best his competition by 2¼-lengths, stopping the clock at 1:49.2. The time represents a new track record for five and up pacing horses. The former 1:50.4 mark was set in 2002 by Western Millennium and Walter Case, Jr. "All Bets Off is a special horse to me and has really helped further my career to a place I'm not sure it would be without him," offered Kakaley. "This win feels good." Saturday's win marks the 25th score for All Bets Off in 86 career races and increases his bankroll to $2,372,503. All Bets Off Ayers Ratliff  

WILKES-BARRE PA - Skippin By, forced to go a fast first half by Yes You Can, held off that foe by ¾ of a length at the wire to emerge triumphant in the $16,500 harness racing featured mares pace Tuesday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.   Matt Kakaley got away fourth with the daughter of Shadow Play, then made a quarter-move, which turned out to be an elongated one as Yes You Can also sought the top past the 27 quarter. Yes You Can did make the lead in front of the stands and then yielded to Skippin By, but not before forcing a 54.4 half.   Unusually for Pocono, the third quarter (28.1) was the slowest in the race, which meant that Skippin By, after reaching the ¾ in 1:23, still had plenty in the tank, and the favored winner of over $700,000 careerwise was good enough to thwart the potential pocket rocket in winning for trainer Ron Burke and the ownership of Burke Racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Wall Brothers Stable, and Bruce Soulsby.   There was a pair of $16,000 paces for distaffs in the co-featured position. The quicker went to the Rock N Roll Heaven mare Angels Rockn Pink, who quarter-moved for driver Marcus Miller and went on to a 1:52.2 victory by 2½ lengths for trainer John Butenschoen and Crawford Farms Racing. In the other, the Well Said filly I Wish You Well tied her 1:52.3 lifetime best set last week, rallying from the pocket to catch odds-on Miss Jones by 1¼ lengths for trainer/driver Pat Lachance and the ownership of Luc Ouellette Incorporated and Alan Alber.   PHHA / Pocono

WILKES-BARRE PA - Harness racing driver Matt Kakaley and trainer Ron Burke teamed to take both the $20,000 featured trot and an $18,000 co-featured pace over a sloppy track Sunday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.   In the top-level trot, the Jailhouse Jesse gelding Rose Run Parker was sent to the top from the outside post eight by Kakaley, making the lead at the 27.4 first pole, then hanging up middle numbers of 56.4 and 1:24.3 before holding off a tough challenge from Classicality by ¾ of a length in 1:53.2, with favored Rock Of Cashel third. Owned by Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Rose Run Parker sure does know how to find his way home first - this was his 42nd win in only 68 career outings, during which he has accounted for $853,065.   Rose Run Parker     In the $18,000 pacing event, the Roll With Joe colt Miso Fast, third in his Breeders Crown Final last year, showed in his second start of the year that he is coming into top form, rallying from the pocket on Sunday to take a 1 3/4-length decision in 1:52.3. Kakaley and Burke are also the braintrust behind this promising sophomore, who is owned by Burke Racing Stable LLC, Our Horse Cents Stables, and J&T Silva Stables LLC.   In the $18,000 trot, the mare Spicedbourbongirl reinforced the adage "It's hard to suffer interference if you're in front," sprinting right to command and then taking advantage of trouble encountered by the two favorites to win by 6 1/4 lengths in 1:54.4 over a sloppy track. Last year's Matron and Valley Victory winner Snowstorm Hanover, making his seasonal debut, erred late on the first turn; favored Libertarian skirted that incident with relative ease, but then himself went offstride advancing on the leader off turn two. That left the door open for Spicedbourbongirl, and the Cantab Hall mare went through in style for trainer/driver Jeff Gregory, with her bankroll swelling to $218,793 for the Jesmeral Stable and Jeff Gregory Inc.   PHHA / Pocono

WILKES-BARRE PA – All Bets Off enjoyed a perfect pocket trip behind dueling contestants for the lead, then went to the Pocono Pike and went by the stubborn pacesetting Major Uptrend to post a 1:51.1 sloppy track victory in the $25,000 harness racing featured pace at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Saturday night.   70-1 shot Dojea Solo was fastest off the gate from the outside post seven and soon cleared everybody, with 4-5 favorite All Bets Off never ducking inside from post two and proceeding on to the lead nearing the 27.1 quarter. 2-1 second choice Major Uptrend, going for his sixth straight victory and ninth in his last ten trips to the gate, followed All Bets Off the first panel, then soon brushed up to take over the lead, with Orillia Joe coming at him towards the 56 half.   Major Uptrend and Orillia Joe went at each other down the back with a ferocious 26.4 third quarter to light the board at 1:22.4, with driver Matt Kakaley having the best seat in the horse behind the victorious son of Bettor’s Delight. In the stretch All Bets Off made the famous left-hand turn into the Pocono Pike; Major Uptrend was his usual gritty self, but All Bets Off had enough in reserve to wear down the Major by a neck. Dojea Solo rallied despite his long odds to take third in a picture over Orillia Joe.   The Ron Burke trainee has now won two straight races, and with this victory he boosted his lifetime bankroll to $2,260,503 for Burke Racing Stbale LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Frank Baldachino, and The Panhellenic Stable Corporation.   All Bets Off     Matt Kakaley wound up with four driving victories, two of them for Ron Burke   PHHA / Pocono

Matt Kakaley saw many of McWicked's victories during the horse's Dan Patch Award-winning campaign in 2014, but not from a favorable vantage point. Kakaley drove horses that lost nine times to McWicked that season, which culminated with McWicked being named harness racing's best 3-year-old male pacer. Last weekend McWicked won again, but this time Kakaley was much happier with the view. Kakaley began driving McWicked three weeks ago in the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series and the two teamed to advance to Saturday's $529,000 championship at Yonkers Raceway by getting last week's crucial triumph following two second-place finishes. "It's cool how it's worked out where I finally get to drive him," Kakaley said. "I raced against him many, many times and he usually beat me every time I raced him. I think I got the better of him once or twice. "This has worked out good. He's getting sharp at the right time. He was super the other night."McWicked will start Saturday's Levy final from post No. 1 and is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line behind favorite Somewhere In L A, who enters the race off back-to-back victories. Missile J, the only three-time winner in the event's five preliminary rounds, is 4-1 while defending champion Bit Of A Legend N is 5-1. "It's going to be a good race," Kakaley said. "It's a good group of horses. Missile J is the one to beat, but Somewhere In L A has been racing good, Bit Of A Legend has been racing good. I don't think any one horse lays over (the field). There are probably four or five that have a really big shot." McWicked, owned by Ed James and trained since last year by Steve Elliott, was stymied at ages 4 and 5 by throat issues that resulted in two surgeries. This year, the 6-year-old son of McArdle-Western Sahara has won three of seven races and earned $71,000 to push his career purses to $1.83 million. Kakaley and McWicked needed last Saturday's win to secure a place in the Levy final. A week after losing by a nose to Clear Vision in a gate-to-wire attempt, McWicked rallied from four-lengths back at the half to win by three-quarters of a length over Caviart Luca. "He's been getting better and better each start," Kakaley said. "The (previous) start, when I had him on the front, he was just kind of waiting on a horse and Clear Vision got him. I asked Steve to make a little bridle change and he was sharp. He was super. "He's getting right at the right time for this series and the rail always helps at Yonkers. He's just a pleasure to drive. He'll do anything you want. He's all professional. Steve has got him really good right now. Hopefully I can work out a good trip and give him a big chance to get the job done." Two races prior to the Levy championship, Kakaley will drive Medusa in the $310,600 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series final. Medusa, who had one win in the five preliminary rounds for trainer Andrew Federico Jr. and owners Randy Bendis and Tom Pollack, is 20-1 on the morning line from post six. Mach It A Par, who shared the points lead in the prelims with Shesjustadelight N, is the 2-1 choice from post three. Regil Elektra, a three-time winner in the series, is 5-2 from post five and Shesjustadelight N is 4-1 from post two. "I wasn't too thrilled about the draw," Kakaley said. "She drew outside a couple of the main contenders. But she's been really good. She was really sharp when she won and she was really good last week, I just didn't really have much room up the passing lane. But she finished with a good amount of steam. "I was really looking forward to her being a live shot in there. Hopefully things will work out because she's been good. I think she still has a shot; she just needs the race to set up for her." Complete entries for the Saturday races at Yonkers can be found by clicking on this link. Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager

WILKES-BARRE PA - Dash Of Danger kept his Bobby Weiss Series record after the third preliminary round for harness racing male pacers on Monday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, scooting up the Pocono Pike and reducing his mark a fifth to 1:51.3 to take his $15,000 section.   The Western Hanover gelding fled the gate quickly from his outside post six for driver Matt Kakaley, but met a determined railstarter in Dakota Jack, with the latter forcing the winner to take the pocket seat by the quarter in 26.4. Dakota Jack (2-1 odds) put up middle splits of 54.3 and 1:23.1 (the slowish third split explained partially by a headwind), with Dash Of Danger (the 9-5 second choice) in the two-hole and even-money favorite Rough Odds swinging three-wide off cover turning for home   The race was on among last week's three winners in the Weiss, and it was Dash Of Danger who emerged victorious, largely through track geometry, as he could duck into the Pike and then held off Rough Odds, who suffered a good deal of ground displacement while wide then straightening and, though closing perhaps strongest of all, missed by a length, with Dakota Jack third.   The victory was the fourth in succession, all at Pocono, for Dash Of Danger, who is trained by Ron Burke for the combine of Burke Racing Stables LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, and Marc Reynolds.   Also finding the inside route the winning one over the red clay surface was the Somebeachsomewhere colt Magritte, who lowered his record four seconds to 1:51.4. Matt Kakaley also had sulky duties behind this winner and handled him the same way as Dash Of Danger, getting him into the pocket, then tipping him down into the Pipe, er, Pike, making the lead, then holding off the deep inside bid of Ascaryone Hanover by a head for trainer Anette Lorentzson and owner Ted Gewertz.   Also getting a new speed badge was the third winner among the males, the Bettor's Delight gelding A Bettors Risk, lowering his mark to 1:52.2 for driver Simon Allard, trainer/brother Rene, and owner Robert Hamather. A Bettors Risk made the lead, got a 58 middle half breather, then withstood Western Tyrant, who was sixth at headstretch but blasted home, only to miss by a half-length.   On the female pacers side of the Weiss, the Camluck mare Cousin Mary rang up her sixth straight win and boosted her Weiss record to 2-for-2 with a seemingly-effortless wire-to-wire victory in 1:53.2 - the only one of tonight's Weiss winners to not take a new mark, as she went a fifth faster upon coming to Pocono last week. But Cousin Mary won with what looked like plenty of reserve for driver Anthony Napolitano, as she ran her 2017 record to 9-for-11 and her seasonal bankroll to $112,500 for trainer Andrew Harris and owner Jeffrey Williamson.   Also raising her Weiss tally to 2-for-2 and taking a new record was the Bettor's Delight filly Miss Jones, who made a quick brush to the lead early in the backstretch and then won handily in the fastest female sector, 1:52.4, for driver Corey Callahan and trainer Joe Holloway. Owner Ted Gewertz, who also owns a piece of Monday Weiss winner Magritte as noted above, racked up an owning double, as he is in partnership on this promising miss with Crawford Farms Racing and Val D'Or Farms.   Trainer Scott Di Domenico, who recently reached the 1000 career training wins plateau, is well on his way towards 2000 with a talented barn that includes Angel's Pride, a Roll With Joe filly who made a sweeping late move en route to an open-length victory for driver Jim Marohn Jr. while lowering her mark two seconds to 1:53. Triple D Stables Inc. shares ownership of Angel's Pride with JFE Enterprise LLC, and with only six lifetime starts under her girth, it's logical to think that this filly can improve even further.   Trotters take over the Weiss Series spotlight on the Tuesday card at Pocono, with the third preliminary round for females and the second prelim for males each filling three divisions.   Jerry Connors   Pipe, er, Pike   And to explain the part in highlighted in bold in the fifth paragraph, here is a copy of the most famous painting of the Belgian artist Rene Magritte; the French translates to "This is not a pipe."        

WILKES-BARRE PA - The Western Terror gelding Dash Of Danger - and his driver - emerged with top honors during the opening night of the 2017 Bobby Weiss Series at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on Sunday, with "Dash" winning in 1:51.4 to knock a tick off his lifetime best, set last week.   The Ron Burke-conditioned four-year-old, owned by the partnership of Burke Racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, and Marc Reynolds, had to overcome the tough tuck-then-first-over trip, but he had more than enough power in the lane in winning by 2¾ lengths.   Dash Of Danger's driver, Matt Kakaley, was the human star of the night, as he posted six winners. He had gotten the card off to a spectacular start by reining home the longest shot on the board, Threeupthreedown, to a $119.20 payoff in the Early Double opener, then came right back with another of Burke's three winning charges on the night, Migrate Blue Chip, to complete a very rare "9-9" Double worth $501.80.   Other male Weiss winners in their first round preliminary divisions, like the ladies' worth $15,000 each, were Highalator and My Three Sons. Highalator, a Somebeachsomewhere colt out of the $900,000-winning world champion Higher And Higher, now has six wins in a row after a 1:54.4 - 56.3 - 28.1 engine effort for driver Victor Kirby and trainer Jenny Bier, who also co-owns the promising sophomore with co-breeder Charles Dombeck.   Kakaley was originally listed to drive the Real Desire four-year-old gelding My Three Sons, but he stuck with another Burke trainee, Art N Music, and settled for third, just a neck off, behind the 1:53.2 winner, who came from third-over to edge Dakota Jack by a nose for driver David Miller and owner/trainer Anette Lorentzon.   In the three Weiss cuts for distaffs, Miss Jones was impressive in what looked like the most competitive section, taking a new mark of 1:53.4 in front of Corey Callahan for trainer Joe Holloway and the ownership of Crawford Farms Racing, Val D'Or Farms, and Ted Gewertz. The Bettor's Delight filly opened a big lead, then had more than enough to withstand previously-unbeaten Chat Snap by a length on the money.   The brothers Allard, driver Simon and trainer Rene, posted five victories on Saturday's Pocono card and came back Sunday with four triumphs, one of them with the American Ideal mare I Deal In Kisses. The winner moved to the lead past the quarter and went on to equal her lifetime mark of 1:53.3 for Allard Racing Inc.   Driver Victor Kirby took another trip to the Pocono winners circle after guiding the Dragon Again filly Rewind Again to victory in 1:54.1, earning her a new speed badge by 2/5 of a second. Rewind Again, an easy wire-to-wire winner, ran her record to 3-for-4 this year and 5-for-8 lifetime for trainer Gary Simpson, co-owner with Eric Good.   Pocono's next program will be on Tuesday night, when three divisions of trotting females will open up their Weiss Series preliminary action.   PHHA / Pocono  

Ken Wood has seen Soto grow up. And now Wood is watching the harness racing 5-year-old pacer tangle with the big boys. Last week, Soto won his first-round division of the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series at Yonkers Raceway. Soto defeated a field that included defending Levy champion Bit Of A Legend N, 2014 Levy winner P H Supercam, open-stakes-winners Wakizashi Hanover and Somewhere In L A, plus world champion Always At My Place. "It was a privilege to be in the same race with those horses," said Wood, who owns Soto with Bill Dittmar Jr. and Stephen Iaquinta. "There are a lot of horses better than him, but it's fun to have him be able to race with them. He's not the best horse in the world, but he's decent when he gets it his way a little bit." Wood and his partners bought Soto for $40,000 at the Standardbred Horse Sale Mixed Sale in 2015. Since the purchase, Soto has won 17 of 50 races and earned $234,045 in purses. For his career, the stallion has won 21 of 75 starts and banked $345,575. Soto won only one of his first six races for his new owners, but eventually worked himself up to the Preferred/Open level of competition at Dover Downs and Yonkers prior to heading to the Levy. "He didn't start off with a boom, but he's gotten a little better all the time," Wood said about Soto, whose family includes Dan Patch Award-winners Sportswriter and Precocious Beauty. "He was a nice purchase for the money we gave for him. "When you're at the sale, you look at all of them. He showed some 26-second last quarters early as a 3-year-old, and if they're doing that well early on, there's speed in there. He had a few little problems, but nothing serious. You know they're supposed to get better as a 4- and 5-year-old. That's what I go by, anyway. "I think somebody else helps me raise my hand once in a while," he added. "We're not geniuses, just lucky." Wood, who also co-owns 2015 Dan Patch Award-winning older male trotter JL Cruze with Dittmar and Iaquinta, uses the profits from his horses to fund his mission to dig wells for safe drinking water in Africa. Since starting his Lifetime Wells project in 2006, his group has put in a total of 1,700 wells in Ghana and Tanzania. "It's going good," Wood said. "We've got one rig drilling every day with the locals. When I go four times a year I drill in Tanzania myself. I spend three months every year over there." It was upon returning from one of his trips that Wood realized Soto had done a lot of growing up following his season as a 3-year-old. "I've never seen a horse grow from (age) 3 to 4, but he's grown six inches taller," Wood said. "He was a little bitty fella. I'd been in Africa for a while and when I came back he grew a lot. He's grown much taller than he was. I've never had that experience before when they grow at that age, but he sure did." Soto returns to the Levy Series this Saturday, where he will compete in the second of four second-round divisions. Soto, trained by Eric Ell and driven by Matt Kakaley, will start from post two. The field also includes Bit Of A Legend N, Rockin Ron, Mach It So, McWicked, Guantanamo Bay, and Blood Brother. The third division features two first-round winners --- Provocativeprincen and Missile J --- while the fourth division includes opening-round winner Long Live Rock. The series has five $50,000 preliminary rounds followed by a $200,000-added final, which is scheduled for April 22. "Post position helps quite a bit at Yonkers, naturally," Wood said, referring to high win percentages for horses with inside starting spots on the half-mile oval. "Luck went our way the first race anyway. We're just hoping he gets checks because we know those other horses are better than he is." If Soto keeps enjoying success, though, Wood might no longer be able to say that. "I hope I have that problem," Wood said, laughing. For Saturday's complete Yonkers card, click here. Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager Harness Racing Communications A division of the U.S. Trotting Association

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, February 25, 2017 - Saturday night offered any number of harness racing entrants for Yonkers Raceway's upcoming George Morton Levy Memorial Series (nominations close this Wednesday, March 1-hint, hint), including favored Soto (Matt Kakaley, $4.50), winner of the featured $50,000 Open Handicap Pace. In play from post position No. 4, Soto then gave up the baton to Somewhere in L A (Mark MacDonald) just before a moist :26.4 opening quarter-mile. After a 56-second intermission and moving down the backside, First Class Horse (Tyler Buter) took out of fourth, That one towed Guantanamo Bay (Jason Bartlett) while moving into a :27.4 third quarter (1:23.4). Somewhere in L A owned a length-and-a-half lead into the lane, was good, though not quite good enough. Soto dipped inside, edging past by a neck in 1:52.1. Third was a best-of-the-rest Guantanamo Bay, with Roland N Rock (Jordan Stratton) and Caviart Luca (George Brennan) rounding out the payees. For Delaware-based Soto, a 5-year-old son of Rock N Roll Heaven trained by Eric Ell for co-owners Kenneth Wood, William Dittmar Jr. and Stephen Iaquinta, it was his fourth win in seven seasonal starts. The exacta paid $27.40, with the triple returning $147. Frank Drucker

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, February 4, 2017 - Down-the-roaders Allerage Star (Andy Miller, $3.80) and Somewhere in L A (Matt Kakaley, $36.60) shared the Saturday night harness racing marquee, winning Yonkers Raceway's co-featured $45,000 Open Handicaps. Allerage Star-odds-on favorite from post position No. 5-made short work of the week's featured trot. Benefitting from a scratch directly inside of her, she went the distance (:28.3, :58.3, 1:27.2, 1:55.3). Longshot Military Blue (Brent Holland) chased from the pocket before losing contact, while Rock of Cashel (Scott Zeron) wound up a three-hole second. The margin, two lengths into the lane, was the same at the wire. Springbank Sam N (Jordan Stratton), Dot Dot Dot Dash (Steve Smith) and season-debuting, eight-hole-assigned Hemi Seelster (Jason Bartlett) settled for the remainder. For Allerage Star, a 5-year-old daughter of Angus Hall trained by Julie Miller for co-owners Little E LLC, Jason Settlemoir, David Stolz and Arthur Geiger, it was her first win in three seasonal starts. The exacta (two wagering choices) paid $13.40, with the triple returning $58.50. Saturday's pacing feature saw eight-baller Somewhere in L A make the lead from Roland N Rock (Stratton) just past a nifty :26.4 opening quarter-mile. After a :55.4 intermission, slight 2-1 choice Long Live Rock (Dan Dube) moved from fifth. He closed in nearing the 1:24.4 three-quarters, but 'L A' maintained a short lead in and out of the final turn. The leader was tenacious, holding off Long Live Rock by a neck in 1:52.4. Caviart Luca (George Brennan) was a second-up third, with 'Roland' and Givenupdreaming (Bartlett) came away with the minor moolah. For sixth choice Somewhere in L A, a 6-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding trained by Rich Banca for co-owners D'Elegance Stable IX, Carmen Ianncone, TLP and Gandolfo Stables, it was his fourth win in five '17 tries. The exacta paid $164, with the triple returning $786. Saturday also featured an 'unhit' Pick 5, so Monday's gimmick begins with a carryover of $3,283.05 (50-cent base wager, Monday comprising races 7 through 11). Frank Drucker

That Matt Kakaley is nothing if not an instigator. What Kakaley did Saturday night was blow up Yonkers Raceway's Pick 5 harness racing wager, winning three-fifths of it with double-digit numbers. First, Kakaley--with a catch-drive--bottomed out the $45,000 Open Handicap Pace with First Class Horse ($29.40). Leaving outside his six rivals, First Class Horse was strung out early by Mach it So (Jason Bartlett), then just rolled along...as in 27 seconds flat, :54.3 and 1:21.4. He owned a length-and-a-three-quarter lead into the lane before the hooves began to get heavy. However, even a slow (:28.4) last quadrant couldn't get him beat, as 7-5 fave The Real One (Pat Lachance) closed well but not well enough. The one missed by three-quarters of a length in 1:50.3, with Mach it So, Blood Brother (Scott Zeron) and the ubiquitous Foiled Again (George Brennan) rounded out the payees. For fifth choice First Class Horse, a 4-year-old son of Western Terror owned by Vincent Laurenzo and trained by Tom Milici, it was his sixth win in 31 seasonal starts. The exacta paid $88.50, with the triple returning $150. As if Kakaley didn't throw enough of a monkey wrench into the Pick 5 players, he threw in Somewhere Fancy ($29.60) and Dream Out Loud N ($46.20) into the equation, ensuring much unclaimed coinage. Thus, Monday's program features a $7,260.85 double-carryover booster shot into the Pick 5 (50-cent base wager, races 6 through 10). Frank Drucker

FORT WASHINGTON, MD - All Bets Off was the beneficiary of a perfect trip and a contested early pace to capture the $100,000 Potomac Pace Tuesday evening while equaling the harness racing track record for a mile at Rosecroft Raceway. Driven by Matt Kakaley, All Bets Off was timed in 1:48.2 while edging Split the House by a nose and tying Nuclear Breeze's 2007 track record in the inaugural edition of the Potomac Pace. All Bets Off started sharply to sit second behind Split the House, who showed the way around the first turn and along the front stretch while setting blistering fractions of 23.3 (seconds) and 52.1 for the first half after withstanding an early challenge by Mel Mara and driver Corey Callahan. Split the House, the 5-2 second choice, continued to show the way along the backstretch, hitting the three-quarter pole in 1:19.3. Shamballa, the 9-5 favorite, was taken to the outside by Scott Zeron heading into the far turn but was unable to mount a serious challenge. Kakaley eased All Bets Off off the rail for the stretch drive and steadily wore down the game pacesetter at the wire. Wakizashi Hanover, driven by Trace Tetrick, closed strongly along the inside to finish third. "It was absolutely perfect. I got to follow David around there. That horse had to go big fractions because he left Corey out there in the front of the grandstand. A half in 52.1 (seconds) was smoking.," said Kakaley, who winner was sent to post as the 4-1 fourth choice.. "I was kind of worried about Shamballa being second-over but he really didn't factor in at all of the last turn. Coming off the turn, I thought I'd get right by, but Split the House was real game though." The Potomac Pace was the first race at Rosecroft to offer a purse worth $100,000 or more in nearly 10 years. The historic 67-year-old facility has hosted Breeders' Crown races, the Messenger Stakes and the William E. Miller Memorial. However, it hasn't been since the $122,170 Wayne Smullin Memorial in 2007 that a race with the significance of the Potomac Pace has been held at Rosecroft. Tuesday evening's mile invitational offered the eight pacers in the field opportunities to step out of the imposing shadows of Always B Miki and Wiggle It Jiggleit, harness racing's most celebrated and accomplished superstars. Always B Miki was recently retired, while Wiggle It Jiggleit is enjoying a well-deserved hiatus. "It makes a big difference for my horse because he's just as good as all the others. He's not quite as good as Wiggle It Jiggleit and Always B Miki, but he's a very, very good horse. I mean, he's got more than $2.2 million now," Kakaley said. Split the House held on to second after setting All Bets Off for his track-record equaling performance, a length ahead of Wakizashi Hanover. "I am really proud of my horse tonight. We set great fractions throughout the race and we just missed the win," Miller said. "I couldn't have asked for more from my horse, and look forward to our next race. Third-place finisher Wakizashi Hanover entered harness racing's spotlight when he pulled off an upset victory over Wiggle It Jiggleit in the $1 million North America Cup at Mohawk Raceway in June 2015. The son of Dragons Again, who is owned by Tri County Stable and Bruce Kennedy, defeated the odds-on favorite by three-quarters of a length while pacing in 1:48 for driver Tim Tetrick. A winner of $1.1 million in 2015 and named Canada's champion 3-year-old pacing colt or gelding, Wakizashi Hanover became hampered by a paralyzed flap in his airway the end of the 2015 season and he underwent tie-back surgery in April. Winless in four starts after returning to action in July, the Pennsylvania-bred pacer underwent a second surgery in August that has breathed new life into his racing career. "I had to settle for the 7 Hole early, and when the passing lane opened, he really kicked in," said Tetrick of Wakizashi Hanover. "He gave his race, and I was happy that he closed on them so well." The Potomac Pace may well be the last of All Bets Off's career. "I love this horse," Kakaley said. "He's had a great career. I think the plan is for him to go off to stud." David Joseph

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