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It's what the amateur drivers live for; steady action. And that was the case this past weekend for members of the C.K.G Billings Harness Racing Driving Series when there were races at Batavia Downs on Friday and at Vernon Downs and on Saturday. Races there followed an event at the Red Mile on Thursday (Sept 25) which was won by Steve "You're Never Too" Oldford, as was reported earlier. But Oldford was at it again on Friday after he drove nine hours from Lexington to race at Batavia Downs in two Billings contests winning the second one with a catch-drive behind Allpointsbulletin in a time of 2:02.3. After leaving from the pole position Oldford's trotter took command with Dave "Poppa" Glasser ducking in behind him on the first turn with Somolli Crown. They raced one-two around the track with Somolli Crown tight on Oldford's back until the lane where Glasser rallied and the two trotters crossed the wire nearly simultaneously with neither driver sure as to who won. "Glasser and I were so busy trying to get our horses home that neither of us was sure who won it," Oldford said. "Glasser went back to the winners circle but when the judges posted my numbers I then circled back for the winners circle presentation." Third place went to 21-1 longshot Say It Best driven by "Tough Tony" Ciuffetelli. After the race Oldford told trainer Andy Torre that he won a race the previous day at the Red Mile. "Andy told me he won there in 1958. Why, that was the year I was born," Oldford said incredulously. Allpointsbulletin returned a $6.60 win mutuel. He is owned and trained by Torre who will turn 80 years old on September 30. The first Billings event was a pace and it was won by Richard "Call Me Rick" Roach, a Michigander from Davison who notched his first driving victory of the season although he was victorious 134 times in the past. And with Oldford also from the Wolverine State it made a Michigander double. Roach had Windsong Destroyer from post five and he worked a pocket -trip as Dave "Poppa" Glasser cut the fractions with The Spartan. And although Glasser's pacer went a strong trip Roach came calling in the lane and Windsong Destroyer rallied to a length triumph over the pace-setter in a time 2:01.1. The betting favorite, Rammy Girl in rein to Tony "the Capo" Verruso, finished third with broken equipment. Windsong Destroyer, owned by Sharon Stockwell, paid $16.40 for win. On Saturday at Vernon Downs Mighty Matt" Zuccarello won the Billings trot there with 43-1 shot Armstead Kyra in a time of 1:56.1 "We had the five-hole and I left to get position but we ended up on the front end," Zuccarello explained. "We went a fast quarter (27.3) so once I got on the lead I tried to back off a bit so my mare would have something left at the end." After the half was trotted in :58.1 Choke Hold and Vladimir "Butch" Melnichenko pressed Armstead Kyra on the outside but Zuccarello's trotter had enough to stave off her, and all comers, in the lane to win by a full length over Choke Hold, the betting favorite. Permanent Joy came from way back to finish third for Bobby "Rapid Rail" Krivelin. Understandably Zuccarello was thrilled after his fastest ride to the winners circle and he added; "I really appreciate (trainer) Gary (Messenger) allowing me to drive her (Armstead Kyra) and I hope I get a chance to drive her again." The winner is owned by Brenda Messenger and Dr. Scott Woogen. She paid $89.00, $21.00 and $15.00 across the board. John Manzi  

Trenton, NJ --- For most of her life, the extent of Shelley Johnson’s photography featured holiday and vacation photos, much like the rest of the world. About 10 years ago, her husband Jeff surprised Shelley with a point-and-shoot camera for Christmas, in hopes that nine months later she would be able to take sharp action photographs at the Little Brown Jug at the Delaware County Fair in Ohio. “I’m not sure what Jeff was thinking,” said Johnson, who lives 35 miles east of Columbus, Ohio. “I had never taken action shots. I took it as a challenge.” Jeff must have known something no one else did, because the challenge has been well met. A decade later, most of the cover photos on Scioto Downs programs are taken by Shelley, who has developed an eye for action and just this week enjoyed shooting another Little Brown Jug. But her efforts in photography go beyond the racetrack. She also shoots photographs for the New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program, which has Standardbred facilities in Ohio and Michigan. “I find great joy shooting photos of Standardbred horses retiring from the track and moving on to other careers,” she said. “New Vocations retrains Standardbred racehorses for various occupations under saddle and places them in new, caring homes. Each month I photograph these great horses going up for adoption. This is my way of promoting harness racing and helping the Standardbred horse adoption program.” While Jeff is the big horseman in the family, he did provide Shelley with a birthday present when he bought her a horse for her birthday named Master Chip in 2005. But it wasn’t like she just had to unwrap the horse at the stable. “I had to do all of my own bidding at the (Ohio Selected Jug) sale,” she said. “I had never been to an auction, let alone bid on anything. It was quite stressful. He didn't do much on the track, but I sure loved him. He has a good home now and enjoys life.” The Johnsons have also partnered with other owners on trotting fillies She’s Not Red and ML Cupcake, who are both broodmares now. They still have ML Cupcake, who was Ohio’s 2-year-old filly Trotter of the Year in 2010. “I can't wait until next spring to see her baby,” Shelley said. They also have a 2-year-old filly trotter, Carolina Charm, who has won four of six starts this season. “The racing was always Jeff's thing,” Shelley noted. “He knows horses, stallions, etc. I only enjoyed watching the races if it was a horse I knew. That's when I started taking pictures. It gave me something to do, and he was able to stay for the entire card without me wanting to go home!” It has led to a long, steady climb for the Ohio retiree who is technically a professional photographer by virtue of her sales, but still considers it a hobby. After receiving that first camera, she experimented on her feathered friends before horses, taking photos of birds at the feeder outside the dining room window. When she and Jeff bought their first horse, Shelley would try to capture him in action at the track. When she shot the Jug, it became a bit tougher as horses trying to win races traveled a lot faster than those being jogged and trained. “I took pictures, but they didn’t really turn out,” she said. Johnson kept plugging away. She took online classes for nature photography and equine photography. Neither dealt with shooting actual race action, but did help in the process. “I learned a lot about headshots and conformation shots in the equine class,” she said. “Also the proper distance to avoid distortion in the photos.” She also put in countless hours practicing at the farm of her friend Doris, who jogged and trained her own horses and taught Shelley a lot about the animals. But all the practice and all the talent in the world can only get a photographer so far without the right equipment. As her interest increased, so too did the quality of Shelley’s cameras. The big turnaround in her photos came several years ago when Jeff bought his wife a professional grade lens. “That’s made a huge difference,” Johnson said. “He even said if he had known the lens would make that much difference, he would have gotten it for me sooner.” She knew she arrived as a photographer when Scioto Downs made her a cover girl two years ago. “At that point,” she said, “I guess I thought, hey, I got this!” The monumental first cover came on June 21, 2012, with a photo of the entire field of a race on the starting gate, and an Ohio Lottery billboard behind them proclaiming “Winners Are Everywhere.” “It felt amazing to see it,” Johnson said. Aside from the program covers, she has had several photos in magazines by virtue of New Vocations using them. A week ago, Johnson was thrilled to see that one of her photos was used on the Scioto Downs billboard out front. She has discovered that she gets her finest results when not focusing on anything in particular. “I do my best when I just shoot random, with no pressure,” she said. “If I get it, OK. If I don't, OK. I will try to focus on a certain horse in a race if someone wants me to get a picture of their horse. That's hard though. The horse isn't always in view.” And as good as she has become, Johnson still feels the biggest key to her success “is probably just good luck.” “Most of the time I single-shoot the pictures,” she explained. “My camera doesn't shoot enough frames per second to use continuous mode. If I try to shoot in continuous mode and the horse has its foot planted on the track, it usually ends up planted in all of the shots. I like to try for shots with all four off the ground.” As for attempting to choose her favorite photo, Shelley said it’s like trying to pick a favorite child. She notes that when so many photos do not come out, “whenever I get one that I think looks good, I’m happy.” Judging by her success in recent years, Shelley Johnson has had quite a bit of happiness lately. To view Shelly Johnson’s work, check out her website at by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent  Courtesy of the US Trotting Association Web Newsroom    

This Week: Review Stakes, Illinois State Fair, Springfield, Ill.; Fox Stake, the Ralph Wilfong, the Horseman Stakes and the Hoosier Stakes, Indiana State Fair, Indianapolis, Ind.; Carl Milstein Memorial, Northfield Park, Northfield, Ohio; Gold Cup and Saucer final, Red Shores Racetrack & Casino, Charlottetown, PEI; Joe Gerrity final, Saratoga Casino and Raceway, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; Nassagaweya and Eternal Camnation, Mohawk Racetrack, Campbellville, Ont.; and Tompkins-Geers, Tioga Downs, Nichols, N.Y. Schedule of events: An extremely busy week of Grand Circuit action kicks off on Monday (Aug. 11) at the Illinois State Fair with the $35,900 Review Stake for 2-year-old trotters, the $21,450 Review Stake for 2-year-old colt pacers and the $18,800 Review Stake for 2-year-old filly pacers. The Tuesday (Aug. 12) program features the $30,500 Review Stake for 3-year-old pacers and the $28,600 Review Stake for 3-year-old trotters. The Indiana State Fair will host one day of Grand Circuit racing on Wednesday (Aug. 13) with the feature being the $55,462 Fox Stake for 2-year-old colt pacers. The co-featured event is the $36,080 Ralph Wilfong for 2-year-old colt trotters. The Hoosier Stakes for 2-year-olds will see two divisions each in the $26,920 2-year-old colt pace, the $26,632 2-year-old filly pace, the $25,928 2-year-old filly trot and the $22,404 2-year-old colt trot. The Horseman Stakes for 3-year-olds features single divisions in the $36,028 3-year-old colt pace, the $33,664 3-year-old filly pace, the $32,728 3-year-old filly trot and the $32,156 3-year-old colt trot. Then on Friday (Aug. 15), Northfield Park will host the $400,000 (est.) Carl Milstein Memorial for 3-year-old colt pacers and a $100,000 (est.) consolation in the same event. Red Shores Racetrack & Casino will host the C$60,000 (est.) Gold Cup and Saucer final for older pacers on Saturday (Aug. 16) and a C$20,000 (est.) consolation on Friday (Aug. 15). Also on Saturday, Saratoga Casino and Raceway will feature the $260,000 Joe Gerrity for open pacers and Mohawk Racetrack will contest the C$245,000 (est.) Nassagaweya for 2-year-old colt pacers and the C$215,000 (est.) Eternal Camnation for 2-year-old filly pacers. Grand Circuit action concludes on Sunday (Aug. 17) at Tioga Downs with Tompkins-Geers stakes for 3-year-olds of both sexes and gaits, as well as the 2-year-old colt and filly trotters. These events carry purses estimated from $53,000 for the 3-year-old filly pacers to $85,000 for the freshman colt trotters. Complete entries for the races at the U.S. tracks are available at this link. Entries for the Canadian tracks are available at this link. Last time: Sweet Lou, driven by Ron Pierce, paced the fastest mile in Hoosier Park history with a 1:47.2 score in the $250,000 Dan Patch Invitational on Friday (Aug. 8). Sweet Lou defeated stablemate Bettor's Edge in 1:47.2 in the Dan Patch. In a talented group of nine, Pierce sent Sweet Lou away from the gate firing, but stablemate Bettor's Edge and Ricky Macomber Jr. were quickest off the car and reached the opening panel in a speedy :25. Carol's Comet and Aaron Merriman were well-placed In The Pocket second with the 1-5 favorite, Sweet Lou, next in line in third. Pierce, sensing the outer flow starting to form, gave Sweet Lou the green light and he easily reached the front at the second station in a blazing :52.4. Heston Blue Chip and Corey Callahan had the daunting task of beginning the first-over charge down the backside and had reached the leader's wheel at the three-quarter mark in 1:20.1. With the torrid pace taking its toll, Bettor's Edge and Sweet Lou settled into a match race and paced away from the rest of the field. Using a :27.1 final panel, Sweet Lou was able to hold off his stablemate by a half-length to score his ninth win of the season and first Dan Patch Invitational win. Bettor's Edge was a game second while Carol's Comet finished third as the longest shot on the board at 53-1. Sweet Lou returned $2.40 to his backers at the window. Trained by Ron Burke, Sweet Lou won for the 31st time in 67 lifetime starts for owners Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, Larry Karr, and Phil Collura. The victory pushed his career earnings over $3 million to $3,033,961. The 5-year-old has now paced a record six consecutive winning miles under 1:48. Complete recaps of all the races are available at the Grand Circuit website. Grand Circuit Standings: In 2014, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2014 Grand Circuit awards. Here are the leaders following the past weekend. Drivers: 1. Yannick Gingras - 646; 2. Tim Tetrick - 502; 3. Ron Pierce - 369; 4. David Miller - 290; 5. Brian Sears - 245.   Trainers: 1. Ron Burke - 1,016.5; 2. Jimmy Takter - 529; 3. PJ Fraley - 204; 4. Ray Schnittker - 189; 5. Ake Svanstedt - 172. Owners: 1. Burke Racing - 233.05; 2. Weaver Bruscemi - 211.8; 3. Bamond Racing - 156.5; 4. 3 Brothers Stable - 112; 5. Knutsson Trotting - 105. Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will be taking place next week at Mohawk Racetrack and Tioga Downs. Mohawk Racetrack with contest eliminations in the Canadian Pacing Derby for older pacers, the Metro for 2-year-old colt pacers and the She's A Great Lady for 2-year-old filly pacers on Saturday (Aug. 23). The Sunday (Aug. 24) card at Tioga Downs will offer eliminations for the Cane Pace for 3-year-olds and the second leg of the Kindergarten for 2-year-old colt and filly trotters. Paul Ramlow Grand Circuit Publicity Director

This Week: North America Cup, Fan Hanover, Roses Are Red, Goodtimes and Armbro Flight finals, Mohawk Racetrack, Campbellville, Ontario; and Meadowlands Maturity, Meadowlands Racetrack, East Rutherford, N.J. Schedule of events: The Grand Circuit spotlight will be on Mohawk Racetrack this weekend as the Ontario oval hosts five lucrative stakes finals on Saturday night (June 14) led by the C$1 million Pepsi North America Cup for 3-year-old colt pacers. Also on the card will be the C$457,500 Fan Hanover for 3-year-old filly pacers, the C$330,000 Roses Are Red for older mare pacers, the C$272,100 Goodtimes for 3-year-old colt trotters and the C$266,000 Armbro Flight for older mare trotters. Friday night (June 13) will see Meadowlands Racetrack host the $100,000 Meadowlands Maturity or 4-year-old pacers. Two-time defending Pacer of the Year Captaintreacherous makes his seasonal debut in that race. Complete entries for the Mohawk races can be found by clicking on this link. Meadowlands entries can be found by clicking on this link. Last time: Last weekend's Grand Circuit action was highlighted by the $200,000 Charlie Hill Memorial for older trotters at Scioto Downs and second choice Modern Family prevailed in an all-age track record-equaling clocking of 1:52.2. Modern Family left alertly and took the front end from Creatine at the opening quarter in :27. The order remained intact with a very soft half-mile time in :56.4. At that point Arch Madness began to turn up the heat with a first-over move and gave the winner all he had to offer down the backstretch. He was followed on the rim by DW's NY Yank and favored Market Share. Driver Dave Palone asked Modern Family to trot in the third quarter and he responded with a :27.3 panel to gain some separation. From there the Daryl Bier trainee trotted away and won in 1:52.2 by 1-3/4 lengths over longshot Archangel and Creatine. Market Share finished a disappointing sixth. Five sets of eliminations for this weekend's Mohawk stakes finals were also part of last week's Grand Circuit action. Leading the way were the finest 3-year-old pacing colts on the continent facing off in three Pepsi North America Cup eliminations. Lyonssomewhere, McWicked and Tellitlikeitis all turned in impressive victories heading into this weekend's C$1 million final. Lyonssomewhere and driver Corey Callahan shot through an opening in deep stretch to take the first of three C$50,000 eliminations June 7 at Mohawk. Trained by Jimmy Takter, the son of champion Somebeachsomewhere kept his racing record perfect, now five-for-five, as he scored by 1-3/4 lengths in a career best 1:50.1. Beat the Drum wound up second, with JK Endofanera fading to third. McWicked and driver David Miller rallied from third in mid-stretch to haul down Sometimes Said and take the second C$50,000 Pepsi North America Cup elimination by two lengths in 1:48.3. Sometimes Said, with driver John Campbell, appeared headed to victory but Miller eased McWicked out from third and blew by the pair for the win. Sometimes Said wound up second, Let's Drink On It was third and Ideal Cowboy was fourth and also advanced to the final. The third and final Pepsi North America Cup elimination looked to be the toughest on paper, with He's Watching, Luck Be Withyou, Tellitlikeitis and Doo Wop Hanover all highly-regarded contenders. But at the finish, it was the Jimmy Takter-trained, Brett Miller-driven Tellitlikeitis who rolled by the odds-on choice, He's Watching, to win by a comfortable 2-1/4 lengths in 1:48.4, just a tick slower than McWicked's time in the second elim. He's Watching, the 3-5 favorite, took over from Luck Be Withyou before the half was reached in :54.2, while Tellitlikeitis was tucked in third along the rail. He's Watching hit the three-quarters in 1:21.4 and appeared capable of holding off a bid from Luck Be Withyou in mid-stretch. But Miller moved out from third with Tellitlikeitis and came motoring home for the emphatic win over He's Watching, with Luck Be Withyou third. Complete recaps of the weekend races are available at the Grand Circuit website. Grand Circuit Standings: In 2014, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2014 Grand Circuit awards. Here are the leaders following the past weekend. Drivers: 1. Yannick Gingras - 313; 2. Tim Tetrick - 276; 3. Ron Pierce - 205; 4. George Brennan - 164.5; 5. Brian Sears - 135. Trainers: 1. Ron Burke - 502.5; 2. Jimmy Takter - 175; 3. PJ Fraley - 169; 4. Joe Holloway - 122; 5. Julie Miller- 100. Owners: 1. Bamond Racing - 136.5; 2. Burke Racing - 112.3; 3. Weaver Bruscemi - 104.8; 4. 3 Brothers Stable - 62; 5. Brad Grant - 49.5. Looking ahead: Next weekend will see Grand Circuit action taking place at Meadowlands Racetrack and Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. The Meadowlands will host a leg of the TVG Free For All series for older trotters on Friday (June 20), while Pocono will have eliminations for the Ben Franklin (older pacers), Earl Beal Memorial (3-year-old colt trotters), Max Hempt Memorial (3-year-old colt pacers) and James Lynch (3-year-old filly pacers) on Saturday (June 21). by Paul Ramlow, for the Grand Circuit

COLUMBUS, MN. - Scott Altizer, trying Running Aces for the first time this summer, captured both of the trots on the Tuesday night harness racing program. The Michigan horseman, who is currently training a string of seven trotters, won the opening non-winners race with Jailhouse Bride in 2:00, beating favored Switcheroo (Rick Magee) by a head with Realife Go (Tim Roach) completing the trifecta ticket. Altizer also owns the three-year-old Jailhouse Jesse filly who was making her 2014 debut, although she did win $2684 during a winless freshman season.   Altizer's True High Voltage shocked the fourth race field with a 1:59 triumph in a bottom conditioned class, paying $79.20 to win and igniting a 10-cent superfecta payout of $1,228. The 13-year-old roan gelding won for the 54th time in his career and the winner's share of the $3000 purse put him just a whisper short of $200,000 in lifetime earnings.   Duke Of Hazards (Magee) was second by a length with D D's Tiger (Brandon Jenson) garnering the show dough.   Nick Roland and Tim Maier also completed driving doubles on the card.   Gregg Keidel

Long shot players’ dreams came true in the fourth race at Northfield Park on Tuesday (May 13), as (4) Guns Sharp Shooter led his harness racing competition from coast to coast at odds of 61-1.     Jeffery Stimer Jr of Hanover, Michigan owns, trains and drove the six year-old gelding.  It was the second win this year and third career score for Guns Sharp Shooter and third lifetime driving triumph for 32 year-old Stimer.         (4) Guns Sharp Shooter (61-1) was followed across the wire by (1) MJ Cruiser (23-1), (3) Luckey Rei (1-1) and (7) Roan Bruiser (52-1).     Guns Sharp Shooter returned $124.40 to win; the 4-1 Exacta paid $1,840.60; the 4-1-3 Trifecta returned $5,480.20; and the 4-1-3-7 Superfecta paid $9,234.38 for a 10-cent ticket.  Northfield Park Adds $7,500 Guaranteed Pick-5 Total Pool To Wednesday’s Card Northfield Park is announcing the addition of a $7,500 Pick-5 total pool guarantee to Wednesday’s (May 14) program.  Beginning in Race 3, the $7,500 Pick-5 guaranteed total pool includes a carryover of $1,496.21. Northfield’s Pick 5, Pick 4 and the Pick 3’s offer a reduced takeout rate of just 14 percent.      Wednesday’s post time is 6:00 p.m.   Ayers Ratliff    

This Week: John Simpson Memorial Stakes, W.N. Reynolds Memorial, Arthur J. Cutler Memorial eliminations and TVG Free For All Series, Meadowlands Racetrack, East Rutherford, N.J. Schedule of events: The Grand Circuit at Meadowlands Racetrack begins this week on Friday (May 9) with the $51,543 John Simpson Memorial for 3-year-old colt trotters, the $48,415 W.N. Reynolds Memorial for 3-year-old filly pacers and the $33,516 John Simpson Memorial for 3-year-old filly trotters. The Saturday (May 10) card at The Big M features a single $50,000 division of the TVG Free For All Series for open pacers and two $40,000 eliminations for the Arthur J. Cutler Memorial for older trotters. Complete entries for the races can be found by clicking on this link. Last time: Sophomore trotters and older mares of both sexes were in the spotlight last weekend with Grand Circuit action at Freehold Raceway and Miami Valley Raceway. Leaving from post No. 1, Sumatra and Brian Sears never trailed as they won the $115,370 Dexter Cup for 3-year-old trotters by 2-1/4 lengths over Derby in 1:57.4 on May 3 at Freehold Raceway. Sumatra, owned by Joe Smith and trained by Tom Fanning, is eligible to the Hambletonian. Sumatra was a 1:57.4 winner in the Dexter Cup final. Sumatra finished third in the Dexter Cup elimination on April 26 in his seasonal debut. It was Sears' first time behind the horse, which raced out of the stable of trainer Julie Miller in 2013. Smith bought Sumatra for $100,000 at the Standardbred Horse Sale's mixed sale in November. "I didn't know the horse last week and he got a little wound up on me," said Sears, who stepped in as the driver of Sumatra after Andy Miller was injured in an accident in April. "This week, we tried our best to keep him calm through the post parade and scoring down and it definitely helped. He was a lot better this week." Sumatra, sent off at odds of 1-5, led throughout the race around Freehold's half-mile oval. Sears was able to keep King City and Dexter elim winner Sarcastic Man stuck on the outside for the entire race. Sarcastic Man and driver Ron Pierce, who started from post eight, tried to make a three-wide move around the final turn, but finished fifth. Second-place finisher Derby, third-place Donato's Wish, and fourth-place Sheer Action all were from the stable of trainer Ray Schnittker. In her first start of the year, Maven, the 2013 Dan Patch Award winner for best older female trotter, set a track record 1:53.3 in the $60,000 Miami Valley Distaff on May 4 at Miami Valley Raceway. A race earlier, after causing a recall, Shebestingin set her own track record of 1:50.4 in winning the $50,300 Sam "Chip" Noble III Memorial. Both new records were set in the first two Grand Circuit races ever contested at Miami Valley Raceway on the final night of the track's inaugural season. Maven posted a track record 1:53.3 clocking in her seasonal debut. In the Miami Valley Distaff, Rockin With Dewey led the field through the first quarter in :27 before driver Yannick Gingras guided the 1-5 Maven to the lead and never looked back through splits of :56.4 and 1:26. "I was a little afraid when we were hung on the outside around the first turn," said trainer Jonas Czernyson. "But she handled it pretty good and was really strong. Yannick never even pulled the plugs." The 5-year-old Glidemaster-M Stewart mare, who is headed for Sweden to race in the Elitlopp, finished 2-3/4 lengths ahead of early leader Rockin With Dewey and paid $2.40 to win. In the Sam "Chip" Noble III Memorial for pacing mares, She's Shocking was first off the gate and set the pace through an opening quarter of :27 before yielding the lead to eventual runner-up Yagonnakissmeornot, who led the field through splits of :55.3 and 1:23.2. Shebestingin stalked the leader first-over and gained steadily on the backstretch and through the final turn before taking the lead at the top of the stretch and drawing away for a 1-1/2 length victory. The winner paid $5.00. Val D'Or Farms, Ted Gewertz and L&L Devisser LLC own the daughter of Bettor's Delight-Armbro Tussle. Complete recaps of the weekend races are available at the Grand Circuit website. Grand Circuit Standings: In 2014, the Grand Circuit leaders in three categories (driver, trainer and owner) will once again be tracked on a points system (20-10-5 for the top three finishers in divisions/finals and 10-5-2 for the top three finishers in eliminations/legs). Winbak Farms is the sponsor for the 2014 Grand Circuit awards. Here are the leaders following the past weekend. Drivers: 1. Yannick Gingras - 191; 2. George Brennan - 129.5; 3. Tim Tetrick - 110; 4. Brian Sears - 87; 5. Jason Bartlett - 79. Trainers: 1. Ron Burke - 305.5; 2. PJ Fraley - 135; 3. Joe Holloway - 72; 4. Rene Allard - 60; 5. Ben Wallace - 30.5. Owners: 1. Bamond Racing - 118.5; 2t. Burke Racing - 77.2; 2t. Weaver Bruscemi - 77.2; 4. Brad Grant - 34.5; 5. Ted Gewertz - 28.05. Looking ahead: Grand Circuit action will again take place next weekend at Meadowlands Racetrack, with the final for the Arthur Cutler Memorial for older trotters, while Scioto Downs returns to the Grand Circuit with the LaVerne Hill Memorial for older pacing mares. by Paul Ramlow, for the Grand Circuit

Just like the old-style Kodak point and shoot camera, harness driver Brad Kramer needed only to point and shoot Kayla Grace to the lead and the undefeated three-year-old filly did the rest. It was the 15th straight victory for the daughter of He’s All That, who led from start to finish in the third race $5,800 pace at Hazel Park (MI) on Friday. She won by one and one-quarter lengths in 1:56.1 and paid just $2.20 to win. Trained by Marie St Charles and co-owned by her husband, Kevin with the ECS Racing, LLC of Michigan, it was the third start this year for Kayla Grace, who last year was a perfect 12 for 12 at age 2. By Steve Wolf, for

Undefeated pacing filly Kayla Grace made her sophomore debut on Saturday night at Michigan's Northville Downs and earned her 13th consecutive victory. Kayla Grace ($2.80) opened the evening's harness racing card with an eight and three-quarter length triumph in 1:57.4. Brad Kramer sent the Hes All That-A Maze Of Grace filly wire-to-wire for trainer Marie St. Charles. She is owned by Ed and Cheryl Sayfie's E C S Racing LLC and Kevin St. Charles. To read the rest of the story click here.

Roger Cole, former harness racing fair and pari-mutuel Starter, passed away Wednesday (3/12) at the age of 69.  The long-time mid-Michigan owner, trainer, and driver, was born in Charlotte on Jan. 4, 1945, the son of Frank and Margie Cole. Roger served in the United States Army from 1965-1968. In addition to his passion for harness racing, Roger enjoyed fishing, golfing, attending auctions, collecting clocks and knives, and playing pool. He worked at Fisher Body and retired after 35 years of service. He was a member of the Eagles Club and the American Legion, both in Charlotte, and UAW Local 602. Roger is survived by his wife, Norma (Johnson) Cole of Eaton Rapids; daughter, Amanda (Chris) Miller of Eaton Rapids; grandchildren, Katalyna, Kellan, Katyana Miller, all of Eaton Rapids. He was preceded in death by his parents; sons, Sammi and Nick Cole; brothers, Ken, Joe and Larry Cole. Funeral services will be 11 am Tuesday, March 18, 2014 at the Shelly-Odell Funeral Home, 518 S. Main St. Eaton Rapids. Visitation will be Monday from 2-4 pm and 6-8 pm. Memorial contributions can be made to the American Heart Association, 2140 University Park Dr., Okemos, MI 48864. Our deepest condolences to Roger's family and friends on their loss. Michigan Harness Horsemen's Association  

Fourth in a series of stories about 2013’s leading drivers, the vehicles they drive in pursuit of victory, and other current relevant facts. 2013 North American dashwinning champion Ronnie Wrenn Jr. owes a good deal of thanks for his learning the skills that helped win him that title to his father, Michigan Hall of Famer Ron Wrenn Sr. – and he also is appreciative of his dad for providing another kind of “horsepower.” “I did most of the driving in my truck, a 2011 Ford F-150, between racetracks during last summer,” said the 27-year-old recently, “but when I decided to race at Northfield during the week and take advantage of the fact that Colonial Downs (near Richmond VA, 450 miles away) raced on weekends last fall, my dad, along with a Northfield regular named “Road Dog,’ got behind the wheel of the truck most of the time so I could get some sleep between the Friday night Northfield card and the Saturday afternoon racing at Colonial.” The truck had 160,000 miles on it by year’s end – “probably 60,000 or 70,000 miles just last year,” Ron Jr., also known as "Ronnie," adds – but also at year’s end Ron had 714 wins, clear by 69 victories for the North American crown. Among the top ten drivers, only he and another Ron (Pierce) had 50 or more wins at four different tracks, and no one but Wrenn had 20+ wins at seven different ovals. One of those tracks, Raceway Park in Toledo, isn’t back in 2014, which Ron Jr. laments (you would too if you had a .532 UDR at a track that was closing). But he’s trying his hand at the new Miami Valley oval presently, and he’s only four wins behind leader Tony Hall while driving a limited schedule as he continues to make Northfield, the track where he won 388 races last year, his base. In fact, it’s remarkable that Wrenn has climbed back to third in the Northfield 2014 standings already – considering he underwent surgery at the start of the season and didn’t race at the Cleveland oval until January 29. “I had to get my right wrist, which I broke playing football when I was younger, operated on. I had been dealing with the situation for a while – I had been going to therapy for three years for it – but it was just time to get the situation fixed properly. I’ve recovered well, and I’m feeling awesome right now.” Which is bad news for those trying to keep Wrenn from defending his dash title. Despite driving on only 17 cards this year, Ronnie has 40 victories at press time, good for 21st in North America in “half the season” the others have had available to them. (One win higher in the standings – his uncle Peter, at 9,200+ career wins.) Ron Wrenn Jr. says he tries to keep up with sports news when he is driving his truck – “My favorite is ESPN Sports, and I can usually find a station with it wherever I drive.” If he keeps up his winning rate since coming back from his injury, Ronnie may hear his name over the airwaves in ten months or so -- the national media will have to sit up and take note if a 28-year-old already has two national win titles to his career credit. Driver                      Total Wins        Tracks                           Wins Ron Wrenn Jr. 714 Northfield 388     Northville 96     Scioto 88     Raceway Park 52     Buffalo 29     Colonial 27     Batavia 21     Hazel Park 7     Monticello 4     Wooster 2 By Jerry Connors for

We are visiting today with Floridian veteran trainer and horseman Michael Deters. Michael Deters is currently having incredible success with the best pacing colt he has ever trained and owned in Prairie Jaguar.  During his current streak, Prairie Jaguar has posted four winning miles in 1:50 or faster at Pompano Park, the most ever by any Standardbred in the track's fifty year history.  Michael ranks annually in the top five trainers at Pompano Park in wins and UDRS training ratings. The lightly raced Prairie Jaguar will be shipping up north soon to take on the some best pacers in harness racing.  His first test will be the Whata Baron stakes at the Meadowlands beginning on April 5th. One-On-One is done exclusively for by Brian McEvoy HLINK: Congratulations on having Prairie Jaguar being named Horse of the Month by the USTA for the month of January.  He has won his last 7 starts including a pair of Pompano Park Open victories in January.  How is he holding up? MD: It is the first time this has ever happened for me and I am pretty tickled.  It would be better if he got a chance to race more often.  For a horse to be real sharp they need to race every week. He is racing every other week. He has been good every start. Prairie is real sharp now. Since he came back from Canada every race has been great. HLINK: You have now won seven races in a row including four races under 1:50 or less. Last summer Prairie Jaguar was racing in Canada for non-winners of $1,000 in last three starts. That is quite an improvement.  What happened to improve his form so drastically? MD: When I had the horse a couple of years ago he went in 1:51.2 at Pompano. He came home in :27.1.  It was only his sixth or seven lifetime start. They wanted me to race in the Open Pace.  I didn't think he was ready with only a handful of starts to race in the Open Pace. We sent him to Canada to Laurie Poulin's brother.  He just didn't have any luck racing with the horse. I don't know what to tell you as to what happened to the horse. There is no big secret with this horse.  He is really good.  In all the races in Canada he was never involved in the race. Since he has been back he has really stepped up. Jason Dillander has done a tremendous job driving the horse.  We have fattened him up and made him a happy horse again. A horse has to be happy or they don't want to go. If a horse is happy they will perform for you. HLINK: Prairie Jaguar has been handicapped with the eight post in the Open Pace. Has Pompano Park limited you to the amount of times you can race and whether you can continue to race in the Open Pace? MD: I certainly hope I can race twice a month. They have led me to believe I can race twice a month for the time being. HLINK: A couple of races back Prairie Jaguar won in dominating fashion from the 8 post, near the finish line the track announcer screamed "how good is this horse". Please tell us how good is Prairie Jaguar? MD: I think he is an uncapped talent.  He has not been challenged yet. I am sure when I get up north he will be tested. As of now, we have not found the bottom. I would be surprised if he can't pace in 1:48.  If I could race him two weeks in a row at Pompano, he would go in 1:48 and change.  I believe the track record is 1:48.4.  If we paced him two weeks in a row, we would own the track record! HLINK: I understand you are planning to ship the horse up north soon. Are you going to put him in Levy Series at Yonkers, or do you have other plans? MD: He raced up north last year on a 1/2 mile track and didn't have a lot of success.  He is not going to race on a 1/2 mile track unless I go with him.  I would hate to put him in against the best horses in North American until he can get his feet wet.  The plan right now is to go in a new series at the Meadowlands called the Whata Baron.  It is a series for non-winners of $100,000 lifetime. HLINK: You will be going up against Wake Up Peter and some other quality pacers.  What do you think of his chances? MD: My horse is a proven winner.  He has won seven in a row and has the ability to do well.  We will find out when he puts his nose up against the starting gate against the better horses.  He has just been tremendous since he came back from Canada. Every race has been great.  HLINK: What are you plans after the Whata Baron? MD: Hopefully he can race against the upper echelon. When you are in the northeast there are plenty of places to race. In Florida there is only one place to race.  As far as other stake races, I really don't know yet. To be in the higher up stake races you have to dominate right away. If he is that good, we will educate him this year and next year go in the big stakes. He has minimum starts for a six-year-old horse.  The sky is the limit for him. The horses are going so fast as two or three-year-olds that they don't hold up. HLINK: Are you going north with Prairie Jaguar or do you plan to put him with another trainer? MD: That is very much up in the air at the moment. If I don't go now I will be up later to race him in the northeast circuit. HLINK: You seem to have an attraction to horses sired by Spy Hard.  Your partner Laurie Poulin had Spy Hard as a stallion in Florida.  Spy Hard is a full brother to the great Riyadh.  Do you think that is where Prairie Jaguar gets his speed? MD: He only sired a handful of horses.  I had two of them.  I had a Spy Hard filly named Prairie Lee.  She made over $45,000 in the Florida Sire Stakes at three.  She won twice at Tioga in 1:51. I sold her as she did not get around Pompano that well.  Prairie Jaguar is a full brother to Riyadh.  I think that helps a lot.  The key to a good horse is a good mare.  The mother is an unraced Auturo horse named Cat Lady.  She only had one other foal named Three Putt Again.  He was a Florida Champion and won in 1:51 as a three-year-old.  HLINK: You have an outstanding mare in Winbak Heavenly.  Unfortunately you had to chase Summertime Lea all summer.  She was able to win close to $150,000 last year racing in the New York Sire Stakes for three-year-old fillies. MD: She is not too far off from racing this year.  I trained her in 2:18 the other day.  She should be racing at Pompano by March for a short time.  I will look to send her up to race at Yonkers.  HLINK: Have you given up the driving part of the business? MD: I am old and fat (laughter).  I usually only drive the problem children. I will qualify the ones who have trouble getting around.  I leave the driving for the skinny guys who can go fast. HLINK: Tell us about your partnership with Laurie Poulin. MD: We have had horses together for about five years. She has a small breeding farm.  The last two years we have done well. We had a few shaky years. The horses have raced well. We have had a couple of nice colts. It is a descent partnership. HLINK: Do you have any future stars coming up in your stable? MD: I have a two-year-old brother to Prairie Lee and a two-year-old sister to Prairie Jaguar.  I like them both a lot. They seem like real nice babies. They are both Florida bred's and are doing everything right.  I have two-year-old trotting colt by Conway Hall that has been in 2:18.  I am looking to race him in the New York Sire Stakes. HLINK: How did you get your start in the business?  Your dad was in the business. MD: My dad raced at Pompano Park in the late sixties and early seventies.  I went to high school and college in Michigan.  When my father died I decided I could starve better in warm weather than cold weather.  My dad had thirty head at Hillcrest Farm in Florida.  When my dad died I went to work there.  I never had another job other than the horses. HLINK: You seem to have a lot of great help working for you.  One of your caretakers, Tracey O'Leary, was recently honored by the Florida Chapter of the U.S. Harness Writers Association as "Caretaker of the Month".  MD: Tracey has been with me for about twenty-five-years.  He does an outstanding job along with Bernie Germain.  My wife Shelly is the nuts and bolts of the operation.  My son Michael is my biggest supporter and helps out also. HLINK:  You were the President of the Florida Breeders Association around the time Pompano Park got the slots. What happened that they never got any of the slot revenue? MD: We were assured twelve million dollars a year.  That didn't happen for one year.  The first year we got ten million.  Since then it has gone backward.  The Florida Horsemen got the royal shaft.  They got the goldmine and we got the shaft.  Hopefully something positive will happen with this next legislation session.  If it doesn't the future of harness racing in Florida will be in jeopardy.  We were told for years it was going to happen. We were on the bill to be included in the slot revenue.  Then all of a sudden we were not on the bill.  All of the rest of the racing entities in horse racing in Florida were included and get a percentage of the slot revenue. I am not actively involved any more.  Hopefully things will go our way in Tallahassee starting in March. HLINK: Regardless of the situation developing in Tallahassee, Mike Deters has an exciting future awaiting him every time that Prairie Jaguar steps on the racetrack. By Brian McEvoy for

Fresh off a front-stepping score in the Preferred 3 at The Raceway at Western Fair District, Leafs And Wings used his come-from-behind skills to notch an impressive tally in Monday’s $11,000 Preferred 2 & 3 at the London half-miler. Sent off at odds of 6-1 in the eight-horse affair, Leafs And Wings got away seventh for driver Scott Wray while Smokin Bear shot to the front and supplied the field with fractions of :28, :57 and 1:27.1. Leafs And Wings was third-over and covered up through the middle stages of the mile, but his :30.1 closing panel propelled him to the top and he drew clear to win by 1-1/4 lengths over race favourite Smokin Bear in 1:58.1. Thats The Life finished third. Mike Rogers trains the seven-year-old son of Rambaran-Rockton Road for owner/breeder Gregory Rogers of Auburn Hills, Michigan. It was the second win of the season and the 25th lifetime tally for the career winner of $283,766. Monday’s card also featured a set of $7,000 Preferred 3 events, with My Man Charley and Winzel taking home weekly bragging rights in their respective assignments. Alfie Carroll manufactured the winning trip My Man Charley in his tilt, and in doing so the pacer cracked the goose egg that had been residing in his 2014 win column. After going 0-for-3 to start the year, the six-year-old son of Mach Three-Break Of Day survived a first-over trip to win today’s effort by 2-1/2 lengths over Stoney Durkin in 1:57.4. Judge Jon took home the show dough. The 19-time winner, who hangs his harness bag in the barn of trainer Victor Puddy, is owned by Susan Strongman, Jerome Voldock and Limco Inc. His share of the loot lifted his lifetime earnings to $274,040. Winzel demolished the trotting foes he faced in his $7,000 test. Nick Steward sat third with the Todd Kennedy trainee for the first half of the mile before brushing to the lead in the third quarter. The gelding eventually drew clear to win by 7-1/2 lengths in a time of 2:00.3. Sonny Vale was next best, with Elmo Rockbottom taking home third prize. It was the first win of the year for the nine-year-old son of Royal Strength-Worthy Outlaw, who is now a 34-time winner to date. Janet Fairall, Britt Kennedy and Nancy & Jack Holmes share ownership on the career winner of $217,007. To view results for Monday's card of harness racing, click the following link: Monday Results – The Raceway at Western Fair District. Reprinted with permission by

After surviving late pressure from a first-over foe, Thats The Life then had to survive a Judges’ inquiry and a driver’s objection to take home top prize in Monday’s featured $11,000 Preferred 2 at The Raceway at Western Fair District. Thats The Life, who was sent off as the 9-5 favourite, got away third in the eight-horse affair while Clic K powered the field through first-half panels of :28.4 and :59. Thats The Life and Alfie Carroll moved to the outside halfway around the second turn and managed to drop into the two-hole nearing the mid-way point. Kendal Gustav was left first-over, and shortly past the half-mile marker he and Thats The Life raced in tight quarters and made contact with one another when Thats The Life manoeuvred out of the pocket position. Thats The Life brushed to the front in the backstretch and led at the three-quarter pole in 1:29. He then used a :30.2 closing quarter to stave off a determined Kendal Gustav by three-quarters of a length in 1:59.2. Smokin Bear was third. Lorne House, the driver of Kendal Gustav, filed an objection against Alfie Carroll, the driver of Thats The Life, claiming interference was caused by that foe shortly past the half. The ORC Judges disallowed the objection and let the original numbers stand. Victor Puddy trains Thats The Life for owner Keith Cassell of Smiths Falls, Ontario. The six-year-old son of Life Sign-All That now owns a 2-3-0 record from five trips to the track this season. The 19-time winner has banked more than $225,000 to date. Monday’s card also featured a set of $7,000 Preferred 3 affairs – one for pacers and one for trotters. Leafs And Wings was a front-stepping winner in the pacing affair for the tandem of driver Scott Coulter and trainer Michael Rogers. The seven-year-old son of Rambaran-Rockton Road parked past the quarter pole in :28.2 before clearing to the lead and tossing out middle splits of :59.4 and 1:29.2. The public’s top choice then used a :30.2 final frame to win by one-quarter of a length over Twin B Brat in 1:59.4. Judge Jon survived a tough, first-over trip to finish third. Gregory Rogers of Auburn Hills, Michigan bred and owns the 24-time winner who broke into the win column for the first time this season. The lion’s share of the purse increased his career cash stash to $278,266. The $7,000 Preferred 3 for trotters went to Joyful Road, who erupted for a 38-1 upset in her assignment for driver Lorne House. The five-year-old daughter of Thunder Road-Hasty Image rallied into the slowing tempo and drew clear to win by 1-1/2 lengths over Winkys Pride, with the show dough going to House Of Cash. Peter Core of Sarnia, Ontario shares ownership on the mare with partners Raymond Core, Daniel Diebold and Don Allensen. The homebred improved this year’s record to 2-1-0 from five starters while her overall bank account climbed upwards of $77,000. To view results for Monday's card of harness racing, click the following link: Monday Results – The Raceway at Western Fair District. Reprinted with permission by

Columbus, OH --- Minnesota resident Gerry Tuzzolino won the inaugural USTA online qualifier for the 2014 World Harness Handicapping Championship on Thursday evening by one dollar with a total of $108.80. Only two dollars separated the top three finishers in the contest involving the first 12 races from Northfield Park among the 942 who entered.   Bryan Jackson ($107.80) and James Gillam ($106.80) were second and third, respectively. Fourth-place finisher Keith Rosintoski was only another three dollars back with $103.80.   Tuzzolino clinched the first USTA qualifier when his original choice #5 Lets Just Dance scratched and his alternate selection #6 Calchips Muscle won paying $5.60 and $3.60 in Race 12, the final race in the contest. Each of the other top four finishers correctly selected the winner.   With his victory, Tuzzolino earned a free berth ($800 value) to the $60,000 World Harness Handicapping Championship (WHHC), which will be held at the Meadowlands on Saturday, April 19, 2014.   The second contest in the series of 10 USTA Free, Online Qualifiers to the WHHC takes place tonight (Friday, Jan. 31) with the first 12 races from The Meadows where first post time is 6:55 p.m. (Eastern).   Contestants can enter free at prior to the start of the first race. Free TrackMaster Platinum Past Performances are available now on that site.   Following are the top 10 finishers in the first USTA online qualifier for the WHHC:   USTA Free, Online WHHC Qualifier 1 - Northfield Park, Jan. 30, 2014   # Name Earnings 1 Gerry Tuzzolino $108.80 2 Bryan Jackson $107.80 3 James Gillam $106.80 4 Keith Rosintoski $103.80 5 David Miller $101.00 6 Richard Riccaldo $100.00 7 Joseph Ferriero $ 97.00 8 Joe Barre $ 96.00 9 William Stanczak $ 95.60 10 Charles Amsden $ 95.00   Following is the schedule/results with featured racetracks for the 2014 USTA Free, Online WHHC Qualifying Series:   Date Track Winner Thursday Jan. 30 Northfield Park Gerry Tuzzolino   Friday, Jan. 31 The Meadows 6:55 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7 Meadowlands 7:15 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8 Yonkers 7:10 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13 Dover Downs 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15 Cal Expo 8:45 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21 Buffalo Raceway 6:40 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22 Pompano Park 7:05 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28 Maywood Park 8:10 p.m. Saturday, March 1 Balmoral Park 8:10 p.m.   by Dan Leary for USTA

Ronnie Wrenn Jr. returns to the sulky Monday (January 27). The 2013 winningest driver in North America has not driven a race since his wrist surgery at The Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio on January 6. "My right wrist had an old sports injury. I broke it playing football when I was younger and had broke it a few times since," said Wrenn. "All of my wrist's cartilage is gone so they had to remove one of my bones and make some incisions in that tendon." Wrenn has spent his time off relaxing after an extremely busy 2013. He spent time with family in his home state of Michigan, spent time as a spectator at Northfield Park and enjoyed a cruise in the Caribbean. "These past few weeks have been tough because I really like driving horses and it is hard not being able to do what you want to do," explained Wrenn. "I am very excited to get back in the bike an start competing again. Wrenn is scheduled to drive in 13 of the 15 races programmed on Monday at Northfield Park with a post time of 6:00 p.m. $30,000 Pick 4 on Thursday Northfield Park is announcing the addition of a $30,000 Pick-4 total pool guarantee to Thursday’s (January 23) program.  Beginning in Race 8, the $30,000 Pick-4 guaranteed total pool includes a carryover of $5,701.14. Northfield’s Pick 5, Pick 4 and the Pick 3’s offer a reduced takeout rate of just 14 percent.   by Ayers Ratliff for Northfield Park  

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