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Nichols, N.Y. -- While steady rain in the Southern Tier made for sloppy going by the end of Saturday (September 12) evening's 10-race harness racing card, the spirits of those backing Jim Marohn, Jr. were anything but dampened by his six-win performance on the Closing Night program at Tioga Downs.   The "Mighty Mite Part Two" reeled off five wins in the first six races, teaming up with Take Charge Karl ($3.50, 1:55.2), Smellthecolornine ($5.50, 1:54.4), Race Me Rocky ($15.00, 1:54.2), Bugger Bruiser ($17.80, 1:52.1), and Ruthless Ace ($5.50, 1:55.1).   In the closing race of the season, a co-featured $14,000 Open Trot, Marohn wasted no time taking charge with Swishnflick ($6.10), sprinting clear of Lutetium (Corey Braden) early on and edging away from a first-over challenge by B Yoyo (Joe Bongiorno) at the top of the stretch. The 5-year-old Kadabra mare beat the boys by four lengths in 1:55 over sloppy going, with Bourbon Bay (John Cummings, Jr.) emerging from traffic to just nab Lutetium for second.   Arthur Green trains Swishnflick for owner Kenneth Westerside.   The other featured event on the evening's card, a $14,000 Mares Open Pace, saw Arodasi ($9.90) sustain a first-over move out of midfield, working clear of pacesetter and odds-on favourite Icommandmyspirit (Cummings) in mid-stretch while holding sway of pocket rival Southwind Trini (Marohn) for a 1:53.2 victory. Mike Simons handled the driving duties of the 6-year-old Western Terror mare for owner-trainer Joe Pavia, Jr. and co-owners Peter Shank, Joseph Barbera, and the AGC Stables.   Seasonal champions acknowledged   With the 61-program season at Tioga Downs in the books, Mike Simons was crowned the leading driver, amassing 82 wins on the meet over Jim Marohn, Jr.'s 76. The race for leading trainer went to Gary Messenger, harnessing 32 winners over Ronnie Morales, III's 28.   Mach It a Par was named Pacer of the Year, having reeled off six wins at Tioga in 10 starts, rallying from off the pace to be a formidable force in top distaff events. Dan Clements owns the mare, while Ronnie Morales, III handled the training duties. Bourbon Bay took Trotter of the Year honors, breaking the track record for trotters on Opening Night with a front-end 1:52.1 mile and not looking back, earning seven wins in 12 local starts on the season. John Cummings, Jr. leases the gelding, with Megan Wilson training.   Racing will return to Tioga Downs in May of 2016. For updates on the 11th season of harness racing in the Southern Tier, visit   by James Witherite, Tioga Downs

Nichols, N.Y. -- Leading driver Mike Simons enjoyed a dominant evening at Tioga Downs on Friday (August 28), scoring four wins on the nine-race harness racing card. Among those triumphs was one with Arodasi ($4.50) in the featured $14,000 Mares Open Handicap Pace, as they held off a stout late charge from Mach It a Par to just prevail.   After Simons swept the daily double with Puff Mommy ($6.80, 1:54) and Quaint Irene ($6.20, 1:57.3), he settled to the back of the pack with Arodasi in the distaff feature. Second from last in the field of six and trailed only by even-money favourite Mach It a Par, the 6-year-old daughter of Western Terror was far off a torrid :54.3 initial half mile produced by pacesetter Shutthefrontdoor (John Cummings, Jr.). On approach to the far turn, Simons pointed Arodasi second-over to follow the live cover of P L Hula (Aaron Byron), still stalked by Mach It a Par through a :27.3 third sectional. Arodasi swept three-wide at the apex of the turn, ultimately taking the lead just upon entering the home straight--but not home free. Mach It a Par--a winner of her five previous races--kicked cover, chasing valiantly down the grandstand side, but only able to close to within half a length of Arodasi's 1:50.4 victory. Southwind Trini (Jim Marohn, Jr.), boxed on the backstretch and far turn, escaped traffic in upper stretch to just save third.   Trainer Joe Pavia, Jr. shares ownership of Arodasi with Peter Shank, Joseph Barbera, and the AGC Stables, Inc.   Despite a pair of near misses in races four and five, Simons bounced back to complete his grand slam in the sixth race, a $5,000 claiming trot. Ashcroft ($4.40), a 13-year-old gelding Simons owns in partnership with Albert Abdala, III, made an early push to the lead, holding clear of a late-rallying Berto Adalina (Jason MacDougall) in 1:56.4. Simons's son Shawn trains the 59-time winner.   Live racing returns to Tioga Downs on Saturday (August 29) evening, with the first of nine races due off at 6:15 p.m. Eastern time.   by James Witherite, Tioga Downs

Nichols, N.Y. -- Enjoying a second-over trip through a :28 third quarter, Arodasi ($4.30) prevailed as the even-money harness racing favourite, kicking cover and sprinting clear to a 1:51.1 victory in Friday (August 21) evening's $14,000 Mares Open Pace at Tioga Downs.   Mike Simons kept the 6-year-old Western Terror mare off a contested early pace, settling into fourth as Shutthefrontdoor (Dan Clements), Donttellruss (Aaron Byron), and Southwind Trini (Jim Marohn, Jr.) all vied for contention through a :27 initial quarter. After Southwind Trini, who won that three-way battle, rated a :55.2 half, she faced strong first-over pressure from Donttellruss on the backstretch. Arodasi slid second-over on approach to the far turn, closing in steadily and swinging three-wide as Donttellruss reached the apex of her bid. While Southwind Trini had enough to repel Donttellruss's challenge, Arodasi was able to vault clear in the final sixteenth, drawing off to defeat the longtime pacesetter by 1-1/4 lengths. Justhaventmetuyet (Corey Braden) rallied belatedly down the grandstand side to take third.   Trainer Joe Pavia, Jr. owns Arodasi in partnership with Peter Shank, Joseph Barbera, and the AGC Stables, Inc.   John Cummings, Jr. and Jim Marohn, Jr. both recorded driving doubles on the nine-race card.   Live racing returns to Tioga Downs on Saturday (August 22) evening, with the first of 10 races scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Eastern time.   by James Witherite, Tioga Downs

Cowgirl Hall overcame post 9 by rolling to the front and thwarting her only serious challenger as she captured Tuesday's $22,500 Filly & Mare Winners Over $10,000 Life/Preferred Handicap Trot at the harness racing meeting at The Meadows. Wide throughout a swift 27.1 opening panel, Cowgirl Hall then had to deal with the menacing first-over bid of Kandian Klub. But the 6-year-old daughter of Cash Hall-Centerfold Hall was up to the task, prevailing in 1:53.1 for Dave Palone. The pocket-sitting Whata Donato was second, 1-3/4 lengths back, while Bessie rallied for show. Ron Burke trains Cowgirl Hall, who now boasts $745,428 in career earnings, for Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Jack Piatt III and Michael Rosenthal. Mike Wilder piloted four winners and Tony Hall three on the 14-race card.   Evan Pattak    

Despite setting a grueling pace with even-money favorite Fireyourguns tracking from the pocket throughout, Steelhead Hanover ($6.00) had enough left in deep stretch to narrowly prevail in Monday (July 27) evening's $12,000 Open Pace at the harness racing meeting at Tioga Downs.   Mike Simons secured a close tracking spot with the 6-year-old Bettor's Delight entire on the first turn, situated just behind Fireyourguns (Aaron Byron) and Eastend Eddie (Jim Marohn, Jr.) through a :26.3 first quarter.   Upon completing his brush to the lead with a circuit to go, Steelhead Hanover kept at a rapid pace, bracing for a sustained challenge from Fireyourguns on the far turn after a :54.3 middle half.   Driven out through the stretch, Steelhead Hanover prevailed by a neck, holding off Fireyourguns in 1:49.4 over fast going.   Eastend Eddie hooked three-wide in the stretch, sustaining a belated rally to hold third.   Joe Pavia, Jr. trains Steelhead Hanover for Dijo Racing, Joseph Barbera, the AGC Stables, and Pint Size Racing.   While Simons completed a driving double in the sub-featured $10,000 Open II Pace with Electrofire ($3.90, 1:51.4), Jim Marohn, Jr. led all drivers with three wins on the 10-race card.   The "Mighty Mite Part Two" teamed up with Giddy Up Delight ($6.60, 1:52.4), Flying Cowboy ($15.80, 1:50.3), and Retail ($6.10, 1:53).   Live racing returns to Tioga Downs on Friday (July 31) evening, with first post scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Eastern time.   James Witherite

In his second local start, Paul and Patricia O'Neil's Verdi ($9.60) held off steady pressure from Six Bax and subsequently held off a late stand-side charge from even-money favorite Spice It Up Lindy to capture Saturday (July 18) evening's $14,000 Open Trot at the ahrness racing meeting at Tioga Downs.   With a pair of scratches reducing the field to five, Verdi did battle with fellow 7-2 joint second favorite Lexis D J on the first turn, driven clear by Mike Simons after a :28.1 first-quarter duel.   Upon reaching the backstretch, Verdi was nudged along by the first-over Six Bax (Jim Taggart, Jr.), holding off intensifying pressure through three-quarters in 1:26.1.   At the top of the stretch, Verdi was fully extended, but battled stoutly through the final yards. Not only did he stave off Six Bax's extended challenge, but he also kept the late-charging Spice It Up Lindy (Charlie Norris)--who kicked cover off the far turn and accelerated in the final sixteenth--at bay for a 1:56 victory. Spice It Up Lindy missed by a long neck, while Six Bax stayed on to finish third.   John Hallett trains Verdi, a 4-year-old gelded son of Kadabra.   In addition to the feature, Simons took both halves of the early double, teaming up with Twin B Heartland ($5.40, 1:55.3) and Yolo Lindy ($2.80, 2:02.1) for a driving hat trick on the 13-race card.   Live racing returns to Tioga Downs on Sunday (July 19) afternoon, with the first of 13 races due to commence at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time.   James Witherite

Nichols, N.Y. --Harness racing driver Mike Simons scored a driving grand slam on Friday (June 19) evening's 10-race card at Tioga Downs, capturing two of the three first-round divisions of the Tioga State Bank starter series.   The series, for pacers who started for a claiming price of $5,000 or less in at least one of their last three races, attracted 21 entrants, 20 of which faced starter Greg Wasiluk in three $6,000 divisions. Simons teamed up with Remus Blue Chip ($5.30) and Joe de Fino ($8.60) for a pair of first-round wins, clearing to the fore early and not looking back on either occasion. Remus Blue Chip, a Daniel Gill-trained 7-year-old Art Major gelding, floated past Diamonds Princess (Aaron Byron) to secure the lead past a :27.2 first quarter, controlled the terms while uncontested, and edged away to a 1:53.1 victory over the late-emerging Who Dat Love (Dan Clements). Likewise, 7-year-old Mario Dessureault trainee Joe de Fino crossed and cleared his six rivals to establish the lead in a :27.1 first quarter. After fending off and turning aside the first-over Galex (Aaron Byron), Joe de Fino edged clear in upper stretch, holding a two-length advantage over the late rallying Veal Marsala (Fern Paquet, Jr.) for a 1:54 score.   The earlier Tioga State Bank series division was captured by Private Interview ($4.60), who drew off at will for a 9-1/4 length win over Fine Fine Fine (Dan Clements) and My Fella (Fern Paquet, Jr.) in 1:52.4. Corey Braden drove the 8-year-old Real Artist gelding for owner/trainer Robert Gale.   In addition to his two Tioga State Bank series wins, Simons teamed up for victories with Icapella Hanover ($3.60, 1:56.1) and Last Minute Cindy ($3.10, 1:54.3).   Live racing returns to Tioga Downs on Saturday (June 20) evening. First post for the 12- race card is slated for 6:15 p.m. Eastern time.   by James Witherite, Tioga Downs  

Nichols, N.Y. -- Making her push to the fore on the backstretch yet again, Somenicebeach ($3.20) reeled off her second consecutive victory in Friday (June 12) evening's $14,000 harness racing mares open pace at Tioga Downs. The 4-year-old daughter of Somebeachsomewhere was only better than one of her four rivals in the early stages of the race, settling well behind pacesetter Senorita Santanna (John Cummings, Jr.) through a :55.2 initial half mile. On the backstretch, Mike Simons angled Somenicebeach off the pegs, and she made steady ground, taking a narrow lead from Senorita Santanna through three-quarters in 1:23.3. Senorita Santanna would fight back on the far turn, but was ultimately put away by Somenicebeach at head-stretch. Stormunn (Aaron Byron) angled off the pegs to chase off her pocket trip, but could only close to within a length of Somenicebeach, a 1:52.3 winner over good going.   Sophie Desroches owns and trains Somenicebeach, who earned her 11th career win. Simons scored a driving hat trick on the evening, also teaming up with Maejusmac ($5.70, 1:52.2) and Prince Jubilee ($32.20, 1:54) earlier in the nine-race card.   Live racing returns to Tioga Downs on Saturday (June 13) evening, with the first race slated for a 6:15 p.m. Eastern post time.   by James Witherite, Tioga Downs

Making her second start back off a three-month layoff, Somenicebeach ($5.20) invaded from Yonkers to take Friday (June 5) evening's harness racing $14,000 Mares Open Pace at Tioga Downs.   Mike Simons settled the 4-year-old Somebeachsomewhere mare off pacesetters Tipitina (Corey Braden) and K J's Caroline (Jim Taggart, Jr.), tracking loosely through a :56.3 half mile before commencing a first-over bid with three-eighths remaining. Somenicebeach responded instantly once Simons moved her off the pegs, accelerating after Tipitina through a :27.3 third quarter before edging clear on the far turn. A length in front at the eighth pole, Somenicebeach was driven out to hold clear, staving off a stout late charge from Mach It a Par (Dan Clements) for a 1:51.3 victory. K J's Caroline held third off her tracking trip.   Owner Sophie Desroches trains Somenicebeach, now a 10-time winner.   Earlier in the program, a quartet of Spanish amateur drivers competed against a group of their American counterparts, with Agustin Mascaro and Jaume Bassa notching a pair of victories for the visiting team. Mascaro controlled the pace with My Sweet Mandy ($13.40) in a 1:55.2 win in the opener over the blind-switched Puff Mommy (Bernardo Jaume) and Diamonds Princess (Bassa), while Bassa came back to win the second with Simaz ($4.30), rating sensible fractions before staving off a late charge from Nowerland Nathan (Jaume) and far-turn pressure from Sand Wyndham (Miquel Vich).   Live racing returns to Tioga on Saturday evening, with the first of nine live races scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Eastern time, shortly following the simulcast of the 147th Belmont Stakes.   by James Witherite, Tioga Downs

WILKES-BARRE PA - For a track with a 47.8% winning favorites rate heading into Sunday's harness racing program, The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono offered some tasty win mutuels on well-pedigreed horses in the first three of the four $20,000 divisions of the Pennsylvania Stallion Series for three-year-old pacing colts.   The chalkplayers finally had their moment in the spotlight in the fourth and final division, and even in that event favored Parklane Eagle had a couple of anxious moments before winning in a personal best 1:51 for driver David Miller and trainer Peter Foley. The son of Somebeachsomewhere, owned by Shirley Le Vin, had controlled the early pace with fractions of 26.4 and 55.1, but 47-1 shot Kwik Mac gave the frontstepper something to think about as he got to within a neck at the 1:23.1 3/4s. Parklane Eagle shrugged off that challenge though, and by the wire he had that rival 3¾ lengths in arrears of him.   Hall of Fame driver Miller also brought the “best bet for the odds” winner of four, a horse with impeccable connections making his first start of the year for trainer Jim Campbell. Gallic Beach is a son of Somebeachsomewhere out of Western Gallie, whose dam Galleria (herself a champion racemare) has also produced the unlucky Gallie Bythe Sea, a Breeders Crown elimination winner at two and three who through misfortune got to start in neither final. And Gallic Beach was ready right out of the box, setting the pace and blazing home in 54.3 to earn a new speed badge of 1:51.4 for owner/breeder Fashion Farms LLC - and returning a generous $15.40.   Sire Somebeachsomwhere had a third Stallion Series winner in Guantanamo Bay, who overcame the first-over route to hang a head loss on Jo Pa's Well Said, flying late after coming from sixth at the half, to take a new mark of 1:52 for driver Mike Simons, at 11-1 odds, highest return on the four winners. Trainer Fred Grant, a native of Nova Scotia, conditions the winner for owners from his native province, James Bagnell and Ann Smith.   It's rare to get 5-1 at Pocono on the track's eight-time driving champion George Napolitano Jr., and even rarer if "GNap" is teaming with top trainer Chris Oakes. But the backers of the McArdle gelding Mckenry got just such a windfall in his division, as the pacesetting winner got a nontaxing half in 57, then flew home in 55 for "GNap" to hold off "ANap" (his brother Anthony) and hard-charging Angelo J Fra by a half-length, with the 1:52 final package giving each series winner a rewritten speed mark. Mckenry won for Susan Oakes, Conrad Zurich, Hauser Brothers Racing Enterprises, and the Wheelhouse Racing Stable.   The Stallion Series' four winners reflect the purpose of Pennsylvania's "little brother" to the Sire Stakes - it gives a chance for horses not quite yet at the top a chance to race competitively for good money. Parkland Eagle had three lifetime wins coming into his race - which was the exact total of the other three winners combined. But after four miles in 1:52 or better, one of more of the visitors to Victory Lane Sunday at The Downs could be stepping up to battle the "big boys" as they develop.   PHHA / Pocono  

Vernon, NY -- Taking advantage of a perfect pocket trip, Kelly Hope's Little Santamonica ($4.10) employed potent closing kick en route to a 1:51.2 victory in the harness racing featured $10,000 Mares Open Pace on Friday (May 8) evening at Vernon Downs.   The seven-year-old Little Steven mare sprinted to the lead early, yielding to even-money favorite Southwind Trini (Greg Merton) just after a :27.3 initial quarter. With clear sailing from the pocket through a :56.4 middle half, Chris Lems started his bid with Little Santamonica in upper stretch, pushing clear immediately upon asking. The pair drew off in a :26.4 final quarter to defeat Southwind Trini by 1-1/2 lengths, while The Filly Princess (Roman Lopez) made a late push to take third.   Jordan Hope trains Little Santamonica, who earned her 33rd career win.   While Chris Lems teamed up with Table Games ($7.50, 1:53.4) later in the card to complete a driving double, John MacDonald earned top driving honors with three wins of the night. He teamed up with Odds On Cygnus ($6.80, 1:54.2), Pancakes ($11.80, 1:52), and My Lucky Word ($3.40, 1:58.1) for his driving hat trick.   Pacing mares likewise took center stage at Tioga Downs, with a pair of $6,800 co-featured conditioned events sharing top billing for the evening. The Perkins Racing Stable's Addys Way ($2.80) did not look back after an early push to the fore, sprinting away through a :27.4 third quarter en route to a 1:52.1 victory over K J's Caroline (Jim Taggart, Jr.). Leading driver Mike Simons handled the driving duties aboard the Camluck mare for trainer Daniel Gill. The other co-featured event saw Elizabeth Bluechip ($11.60) sustain a late push off cover, just collaring Rosie de Vie (Henrik Lundell) in a 1:53.4 mile. Trainer Jeffrey Long was in the bike behind the late-rallying Bettor's Delight mare.   Live racing returns to both Vernon and Tioga on Saturday (May 9) evening. Post time at Tioga is 6:15 p.m., while racing at Vernon kicks off at 6:45 p.m.   by James Witherite, Vernon and Tioga Downs  

Nichols, NY -- Fresh off a pair of second-place finishes at Pocono, Road Untraveled ($3.20) made a strong early push to the fore and never looked back en route to a 1:50.1 victory in one of two co-featured $8,800 upper-level conditioned harness racing pacing events on Sunday (May 3) afternoon at Tioga Downs.   Driver Mike Simons pushed to the lead with seven-year-old Grinfromeartoear of in the initial stages, but couldn't back down the pace after clearing Hurricane Howard (Jim Marohn, Jr.) in a :26.4 initial quarter due to strong pressure from the first-over American Island (John Cummings, Jr.) through a :54.2 first half. On the backstretch, Road Untraveled turned aside American Island's threat, subsequently sprinting clear of his pocket rival Hurricane Howard to prevail by 3-3/4 lengths in a decisive 1:50.1. Hurricane Howard held second, while Artistic Major (Aaron Byron) was urged to stay even late, holding third off a tracking trip.   Mike Simons's son Shawn handles the training duties of the 16-time winner, while the elder Simons shares ownership of Road Untraveled with Christopher Giaccio.   While Road Untraveled kicked clear after setting the pace, Cobble Beach ($6.00) rallied off cover before a slingshot move to a 5-3/4 length win in the other co-featured event. The five-year-old Artiscape gelding drafted behind the cover of Oh My Joepa (Corey Braden) on the backstretch, pushing to the fore when John Cummings, Jr. moved him three-wide on the far turn. Cobble Beach drew clear at will through the stretch, soundly defeating Oh My Joepa and Dreamlands Art (Simons) in 1:52.3.   James Clouser, Jr. owns and trains the 11-time winner.   Marohn wins five in Tioga return   After Mike Simons won five races on Opening Night, perennial leading driver Jim Marohn, Jr. returned to Tioga for the Sunday afternoon card, registering five wins of his own on the 11-race program. In addition to a 1:51.4 win with Prairie Jaguar ($7.00) in a third-level conditioned event, he was victorious aboard Stonebridge Tonic ($5.10, 1:52.1), Affluenza ($4.10, 1:51.4), Terrys Star Dragon ($7.70, 1:53.1), and Brandons Escape ($13.20, 1:53.3). Simons scored a Sunday driving double, as did John Cummings, Jr. and Brandon Simpson.   Live racing returns to Tioga on Friday (May 8) evening, with first post scheduled for 6:15 p.m. eastern time.   by James Witherite, Tioga Downs    

Nichols, NY -- Enjoying a solid form spree in early-year stakes events on the Woodbine Entertainment Group circuit, Bourbon Bay ($7.30) shipped south to Tioga Downs as one of six entrants in the Opening Day (May 2) harness racing feature, leaving the other five in his wake en route to a 1:52.1 score in the $14,000 Open Trot.   The four-year-old Sand Vic gelding allowed Deacons Valley to clear the front early, powering to the fore after a :27.1 first quarter and not looking back. After clearing the lead and continuing through a :55.3 half, lessee-driver John Cummings Jr. opened up on the field with Bourbon Bay, amassing a three-length lead through a :27.1 third quarter and holding that margin through the far turn. While 3-5 favorite Twin B Spike Man (Mike Simons) mounted a rally off the far turn, he could only gain into second, 1-3/4 lengths in arrears of Bourbon Bay's 1:52.1 track record performance. Deacons Valley faded to third after chasing from the pocket.   Megan Wilson handles the training duties of Bourbon Bay, who cored his 14th career win in 30 starts. The 5/8-mile track, rated "fast" for the Opening Day 10-race card, was truly fast, with seven winners equaling or improving upon their lifetime marks. While Mike Simons couldn't prevail with Twin B Spike Man in the featured event, he registered five wins on the program, scoring with My Muscleman ($6.00, 1:55), Lightning Paige ($3.90, 1:54), Twain Drive ($3.50, 1:57.2), Crazy Eyes ($5.50, 1:56.2), and J R Jazz ($9.30, 1:57.1).   Panpero Firpo upsets in Vernon feature; MacDonald and Hochstetler sweep Farina splits   Vernon, NY -- After mustering just minor shares in recent tries against top Saratoga company, Panpero Firpo ($19.00) employed a change of tactics in tonight's $10,000 Open Pace at Vernon Downs, closing the pocket behind dueling leaders before pouncing in deep stretch for a 1:51.4 score.   The five-year-old No Pan Intended entire drafted behind an extended duel between JK Panache (Chris Lems) and Talking Blues (Frank Davis), sitting just off them through the first three-quarters of the mile while boxed in by a second-over Damon Blue Chip (John MacDonald), last week's Open winner. At the top of the stretch, with Talking Blues beginning to fade, Brett Crawford made his move with Panpero Firpo, taking over late and holding off Damon Blue Chip for a 1:51.4 triumph. JK Panache was a worn-down third after enduring steady pressure.   Trainer Jackie Rousse owns 16-time winner Panpero Firpo in partnership with Bill Reepmeyer.   Additionally, a pair of $4,000 second-round divisions of the Anthony Farina pacing series were contested, with trainer Homer Hochstetler and driver John MacDonald teaming up on both winners. Hot Lemonade ($2.40) pushed clear and turned aside a stiff challenge from Flight Again (Truman Gale) for a 1:53.2 victory in the first division, while Speaking Out ($5.80) sustained an uncovered bid to take the second division in 1:55.1. The Anthony Farina series final is scheduled for Mother's Day (May 10) along with the Catherine Burton trotting series final.   Live racing returns at Tioga Downs on Sunday (May 3) afternoon, with a 1:30 p.m. first post, while Vernon Downs resumes racing action on Friday (May 8) evening at 6:45 p.m.   by James Witherite, Tioga/Vernon Downs

WILKES-BARRE PA - JL Cruze was once again on "cruze"-control Tuesday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, winning his $15,000 division of the fourth and preliminary leg of the Bobby Weiss Series for male trotters in 1:52.4.   JL and "JC" - Hall of Fame driver John Campbell - moved rapidly from fourth nearing the quarter to take over the lead from main challenger Opulent Yankee under the wire the first time, and the triumphant Crazed gelding was not threatened from there, sprinting home in 55.4 - 27.2 to keep the game Opulent Yankee 1¼ lengths at bay at the finish.   JL Cruze, a winner of over $140,000 already this season, is now perfect in two Weiss starts for trainer Eric Ell and owners Ken Wood, Bill Dittmar Jr., and Steve Iaquinta, and already has 10 wins in but 12 seasonal starts. With no show wagering, JL Cruze attracted $8329 in a $9658 place pool, but the real value may have been the JL Cruze-Opulent Yankee exacta, which was a big overlay at $3.20.   In the other Weiss section for this class, the Holiday Road colt Holiday My Way not only recorded his first Weiss score, but he also broke his maiden, and in fine fashion with a 1:56.2 personal mark. Trained by Shawn Simons and driven by his dad, "The Trot Man" Mike Simons, Holiday My Way made an early move to the lead and went on to win for Rick and Regina Beinhauer and the T L P Stable.   Tuesday's Pocono card also featured the last prelim round for pacing females (both of these $30,000 Championships will be next Tuesday). The first section saw The Beach Nextdoor win her third straight in Weiss competition, with the Somebeachsomewhere mare shading 27.3 in the final panel to equal her lifetime mark of 1:53 as a "pocket rocket." Jim Morrill Jr. was again in the sulky for trainer Brewer Adams and owners Adams Racing LLC and Brian Clark.   Like The Beach Nextdoor, Donttellruss used rallying tactics from the two-hole in the other cut, gaining into the 27.3 kicker to win in 1:53.3 over her stablemate in the Ron Burke barn, Allthatjazz De Vie, marking the second straight week that that pair has finished 1-2. The victorious mare by Panspacificflight was driven by Andrew McCarthy for the Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, Lawrence Kerr, and Frank Baldachino.   ****************** The field has been drawn for the first of the Weiss Series Finals, this Saturday's $30,000 event for pacing males, and while two major contenders benefited from the draw, one suffered the unkindest luck of all.   Getting the rail was YS Lotus, who responded to getting a full week off last Saturday by pacing to a lifetime best of 1:50.2 for driver Simon and trainer/brother Rene Allard (who teamed for seven victories on the Pocono card last Saturday). Prior to that win, "YS" had started 6 times in 18 days, competing in both the Weiss and the Sagamore Hill Series at Yonkers, but the extra racing seems to have only honed the gelding to a career edge.   The other Weiss winner last week is Major Uptrend, making him 2 for 2 in the series, and he seems quite likely to be the betting favorite for trainer Ron Burke and driver Matt Kakaley. The Major won in "only" 1:51.3 last week, but it was from the difficult post eight, and he has been very versatile and consistent on the bigger-sized tracks in 2015.   The "unlucky" Weiss finalist is Victory At Last, who had posted victories in each of the first three prelims, but had to settle for second behind Major Uptrend last week. Also a member of the Burke stable, Victory For Last is "stuck behind the 8-ball" for Saturday's Championship.   PHHA / Pocono

Trenton, NJ --- It was almost too perfect. A harness racing driver named Shawn who has four-leaf clovers on his colors winning his first career race as a driver on St. Patrick’s Day. It sounds like a hokey movie plot, but it was as real as a pint of Guinness in Dublin. “That made it even more special,” said 21-year-old Shawn Simons, who drove Caviart Spencer to victory at Monticello Raceway on March 17. And it was predicted by an old friend, Eddie Sager, who called Shawn two weeks prior to the race. “Eddie has known me since I’ve been born and he said ‘I got you your first winner at Monticello,’” said Simons, the son of veteran driver Mike Simons. “I said ‘Whoa, slow down.’ We talked about the horse; he wanted me to take him so we bought the horse.” The price was $3,000 for the 9-year-old, although Simons had no idea he was that old. “I actually didn’t even ask for his age,” Shawn said. “I kept asking him is there anything wrong with him that I’d have to work on. He said ‘I wouldn’t sell you a bad horse,’ and I said ‘You got me there,’ so I was pretty confident in this horse. “I walked into the barn the next day and saw this horse and I said ‘Wow, he’s small!’ But he’s a great racehorse. He’s got a weird attitude, he’s kind of bashful, but he can race.” Shortly thereafter, as millions of Americans dined on corned beef and cabbage, Caviart Spencer raced in fourth place throughout much of his race, following the outside cover of favorite One Shark Road and driver Jimmy Taggart after the half-mile point before going three wide on the final turn. “It was the best of luck for (One Shark Road) to go first up so I could follow him,” Simons said. “I was following him and about halfway at the end of the turn I’m thinking ‘Wow I can actually be in this race up until the end.’ “Right before the head of the stretch, I got after him and I’m yelling at him and I’m feeling it. And then I realize I didn’t pop the (ear)plugs yet. So I popped the plugs and I go by Taggart, and I hear the announcer say ‘Can Shawn Simons finally get his first Monticello win?’ and when I heard that my adrenaline just went right through the roof and I’m like ‘Yeah I can,’ and I just kept driving him. I was just so energetic and gave a little fist pump at the end.” As he came across the finish line, Shawn experienced something he never felt before. “It was such a weird feeling; a good feeling,” he said. “It kind of felt like you shed your skin and you break through your skin and you’re reborn. My skin was was crazy.” It turned out that Scotty Bicum, a groom for the Simons at their Big Z Farms in Montague, N.J., had a good feeling before the race considering what day it was. “Scotty kept saying ‘It’s St. Paddy’s Day, you might get ’em kid,’” Simons said, who won at odds of 38-1. “And then afterwards we said ‘Of course it’s St. Paddy’s Day and we’re gonna win.’ It was just perfect timing, just a great day.” Mike Simons was right there to take it all in. “I thought he was kind of getting emotional,” Shawn said. “He got out of the cart and they all had smiles on their faces and he was like ‘I knew you could do it kid.’ My dad gave me a big hug, it was a great picture.” Shawn had 21 drives before getting his first driving victory, to go along with 15 wins as a trainer. “It’s a much more intense feeling when you win as a driver,” Simons said. Shawn has spent a lifetime around the sport. He grew up at Pocono Downs, where the Simons were stabled for years. “I just hung around the horses all the time in the summer time, whenever I wasn’t in school,” he said. “On summer nights I would just run all around the grandstand all night long.” At age 14 he asked his dad if he could work the paddocks at Tioga Downs because he could get a groom’s license in New York at that age. At age 17 he began working with his dad on a few horses at Pocono Downs. “That’s where I learned most of my stuff,” he said. Two years later Shawn moved up to the Big Z where he has worked ever since. He began actual hands-on training at age 18 and still has the first horse he trained with and drove behind. “Me and my dad trained him on the main track at Pocono Downs,” Shawn said. “I got on the bike and it was actually pretty fun. The horse did all the work. It’s not like racing, you only have to deal with one other horse. In racing you have to deal with six or seven others. “He said ‘How’d you like it,’ and I said, ‘It was easy.’ He said ‘Did you like it?’ I said ‘Yeah,’ and I just kept going from there.” Firmly entrenched in the sport, Shawn wants to continue to train and drive. He and Mike have 16 horses at the Big Z, with Mike owning half of them and Shawn owning quarters to halves of four or five. “I hope I can become more of a popular driver so I can also catch drive for other people as well,” he said. “I’m looking to get a couple more wins under my belt. We like Tioga, we always race at Tioga. I’m hoping to become a little bit of a catch driver there, if not this summer than next summer.” And if at all possible, he’ll look to get back in the sulky on St. Patrick’s Day from this point on. After all, there may just be something to this luck of the Irish thing. by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent 

It was a double dose of Miller at The Meadowlands on Thursday night with Dave and Brett Miller combining to win six races on the harness racing program, with the Buckeye crossing the finish first on four occasions and Brett scoring a driving double. Dave Miller scored wins with Alhambra in a C-2 trot, Colossal and Rocnrolwilneverdie in a pair of C-2 pacing events and My QP Doll in the nightcap, a C-2 Filly and Mare pace. Not to be out-done, Brett earned victories with Explodent in the $10,000 claiming pace and Casanova Lindy in a $12,500 claiming trot. Mike Simons turned the Late Pick 4 on its end with a 45-1 upset in the eighth race with Spectator K, resulting in a payoff of over $1,000 for just $.50 cents. The fifth race jackpot super hi-five went unclaimed, resulting in a carryover of $35,863 into the Friday program. The last race jackpot super hi-five also carried over, with $56,093 heading to the last race pool on Friday. Post time for the Friday card is 7:15 P.M. Darin Zoccali

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