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Plainville, MA --- The classic line "Thank you sir, may I have another?" from the movie Animal House seems more than fitting to describe the effort put in by top-class pacer Bettors Fire N on Thursday afternoon (Nov. 14) after taking his second straight harness racing win in identical fashion in the $15,000 Open Handicap pace at Plainridge Park. Opus Blue Chip (Bruce Ranger) took the initial lead in the race while Bettors Fire N (Mitchell Cushing) employed an overland route to the front that he reached by the quarter in :26.2. And once he hit the pegs, the rest of the field was racing for place. After grabbing leather and taking a leisurely saunter to the half in a pedestrian :30 flat, Cushing tapped the gas pedal and flew to the three-quarters in 1:24.1 with Bet You (Kevin Switzer Jr.) a half-length behind and outside while the rest of the field was bunched and keeping pace. But after rounding the final turn and hitting the stretch, Bettors Fire N found another gear and started to pull away from his pursuers under no urging whatsoever and cruised home to an easy two-length win in 1:52.3. Continuing to build on an already stellar season, Bettors Fire N ($2.80) chalked up his 11th win of the year and pushed his earnings to $179,220 for owners Kevin Sywyk, Ron Cushing and Frank Ranaldi. Heidi Gibbs trains the 11-year-old gelded son of Bettors Delight-Sparks A Flyin. Since making his North American debut in October of 2018, Bettors Fire N has never lost a race at Plainridge Park, going a perfect six for six during that time. In the $10,000 upper-level conditioned undercard pace, Passport To Art (Shawn Gray) pulled early into an outside grind behind Beachchip Hanover (Kevin Switzer Jr.) chasing down the leading Fernleigh Rebel N (Drew Monti) and eventually took the lead from his cover down the lane to win by a nose in 1:53. Passport To Art ($8.00) is owned by Elizabeth and Dyce Spalluto and is trained by Alicia Gray. Mitchell Cushing led all driver with three wins on Thursday while Nick Graffam and Shawn Gray each had two. Mike Girouard and Jimmy Nickerson were the top trainers winning two races apiece as well. Racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Friday (Nov. 15) at 1 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts

Plainville, MA --- After shipping back from a two-week stint at Yonkers Raceway, Bettors Fire N turned up the heat on his competition at Plainridge Park on Thursday afternoon (Nov. 7) as he took no prisoners en route to winning the $20,000 Open Handicap featured harness racing pace. Rock Diamonds N (Ron Cushing) and Bettors Fire N (Mitchell Cushing) flew off the wings and went right to the front, with Bettors Fire N grabbing the lead and Cushing then grabbing leather as no one challenged early. He took the field to the quarter in :28 and the half in :56.3 before Betterlatethnever (Drew Monti) pulled first-over into the breeze. Bettors Fire N switched gears after hearing hoofprints and zipped the third panel in :27.2, leaving Betterlatethnever hung without advancing. The race rounded the final bend and when they straightened out at the top of the stretch, Betterlatethnever faded enough to allow the pocket-sitting Rock Diamonds N out of the hole to take a late shot. With both Cushings driving hard to the light, Bettors Fire N would not give up or in and he won by one-half length in 1:51.3. It was the 55th lifetime win and 10th win of the year for Bettors Fire N ($5.20) who has now earned $171,720 this year for owners Kevin Sywyk, Ron Cushing and Frank Ranaldi. Heidi Gibbs trains the winner who in only 32 North American starts, has now won $202,120 in purses. The same connections own and train the runner-up Rock Diamonds N. In the secondary featured $10,500 upper-level conditioned pace, Tisadream N (Drew Monti) sat a perfect garden spot trip behind Quick Shot (Drew Campbell) through fractions of :26.4, :55.3 and 1:23.2. Then coming off the far turn and heading into the lane, Tisadream N pulled and out-muscled the stubborn Quick Shot in a hard-fought stretch drive to win by one-quarter length in 1:52.1. Tisadream N ($3.60) scored his seventh win of the year and has now earned $55,110 in 2019 for owners Tony Gruppo and Tim Bojarski, Scott Rollins trains Tisadream N. Mitchell Cushing led all drivers on Thursday with three wins on the card while Drew Monti scored two. Scott Rollins was the top trainer with two tallies as well. Racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Friday afternoon (Nov. 8) at 1 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts      

Plainville, MA --- After two sharp, close finishes at Yonkers Raceway in her most recent harness racing starts, Color Envy returned to Plainridge Park and captured the $12,000 feature pace for fillies and mares on Thursday afternoon (Oct. 10). Color Envy (Mitchell Cushing) got away sixth in the pack of nine off the gate but was out and rolling before the half. That's where she picked up cover from Y C Easy (Kevin Switzer Jr.) into the backstretch. When that cover stalled approaching the three-quarters Color Envy tipped three-deep and continued to make up ground on the front running Avery Seelster (John Nason). By the top of the stretch Color Envy was only a length off and drew even with the leader quickly, then drew away by a length to win in 1:54. Color Envy ($2.20) is owned by William Hart and trained by Lance Hudson. Cushing led all drivers on Thursday, winning three races. Live racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Friday (Oct. 11) at 2 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts  

Veteran pacer Betterlatethnnever (Western Terror) has been a winning machine over the course of the last several years. The Jimmy Nickerson-trained pacer got his career off to a late start but once he started, he has never stopped. On Saturday night at Saratoga Raceway, the ten year old was the longest shot on the board in the evening's $15,000 Open Pace with reinsman Mitch Cushing in the sulky. After the race's favorite traveled unopposed on the lead in a first half in 56 seconds, he faltered heading to three quarters and a host of closers swallowed up the favorite around the final turn. Betterlatethnnever closed with a power surge on the far outside and emerged victorious after a scramble in the stretch, stopping the timer in 1:53.1 to record the upset at odds of 9-1. The win was the tenth of the season for the Nickerson trainee and though it was the first in the local Open in 2019 for Betterlatethnnever, it wasn't his first career victory in a Saratoga Open. Back in the '17 season at the age of eight, Betterlatethnnever won an Open in a career-best 1:50.1, a mark that still stands as a lifetime mark for the classy pacer. Century Endeavor (Gerry Mattison) finished second in the Saturday feature while Lord Willoughby A (Larry Stalbaum) earned the show spot. Betterlatethnnever paid $21.20 to win and led an exacta and triple in the six-horse feature that returned $110 and $307.50, respectively. The Open win was the first at Saratoga in the young career of driver Mitch Cushing. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon at the Spa with a matinee beginning at 12 Noon. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway

Plainville, MA --- Plainridge Park's leading driver Mitchell Cushing exhibited why he's at the top of the harness racing charts this year after winning five races on the 11-race card at Plainridge Park on Monday afternoon (Sept. 16). The highlight of the afternoon was a sharp come-from-behind score with Starznheaven in the $14,000 Winners-Over pace that was the feature race of the day. Starznheaven tucked fourth off the gate while Captain Deo (Nick Graffam) and Opus Blue Chip (Kevin Switzer Jr.) slugged it out to the quarter in :25.4 before Switzer relented and took a seat. Everyone used the next eighth of a mile to take a breath and catch up, but before the :54 half Fernleigh Rebel N (Shawn Gray) and Starznheaven started up again and moved in the outer flow. About halfway up the backstretch Fernleigh Rebel N stalled, forcing Starznheaven to go three-wide to not loose touch with the leader. Starznheaven got around the fader but Opus Blue Chip pulled out under him before he could slide back down and kept him wide right into the stretch. Heading down the lane they were three across the track; Captain Deo, Opus Blue Chip and Starznheaven. All three were game and driving but Starznheaven had more at the end and grabbed a one-length victory in 1:50.3. The time was a new seasonal mark for the winner. Starznheaven ($4.00) got his seventh win of the year and increased his cash flow to $70,221. Lifetime he now has 44 wins and $397,763 banked. Marc Reynolds, Scott Dillon and Bradford Veilleux own the 7-year-old son of Rock N Roll Heaven-Dancinwiththestarz that is trained by Jimmy Nickerson. Cushing rounded out his piloting pentafecta with Ramblin Art (1:54.1, $3.40), I Am Golden (1:54, $4.00), Stone Fire Hanover (1:53.3, $5.40) and Cruizing Hill (1:53, $3.40). Today's victories give Cushing 125 wins for the year and a commanding 21-win lead over Drew Campbell (104) and Shawn Gray (102) for year-end driving honors. In the third leg of the $10,000 Wood End Light series for 2-year-old trotters, George Ducharme's Massachusetts-bred Life Is A Feast (Royalty For Life-Luau Hanover) scored a major upset when he pulled from third at the half, went to the front and proceeded to annihilate the field with a 14-length romp in 1:56.4. It was the first career win and a lifetime mark for him, but was also just one-fifth of a second off the 1:56.3 track record set by another Mass-bred, Hashtagmadeyalook (Chapter Seven-Royalty Free) in 2017. Life Is A Feast ($22.40) who was driven by Howard Parker, is owned by Al Ross and Paul Fontaine, and was bred by Karen Carroll. He is also eligible to the $1.8 million (est.) Massachusetts Sire Stakes that get underway at Plainridge Park on Sunday (Sept. 29).   Live racing at Plainridge Park resumes on Thursday afternoon (Sept. 19) at 2 p.m. and there will be a $34,944 carryover pool for the Wicked Hi-5 wager in the sixth race. By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts  

Plainville, MA --- The 4-year-old harness racing pacing mare Color Envy has spent all year racing at Yonkers Raceway, closing out that stand with a 3-3/4 length win two weeks ago. She shipped into Massachusetts on Thursday (Sept. 12) to make her first start in the Commonwealth and ended her day a winner in the $12,000 conditioned pace for fillies and mares at Plainridge Park in a new seasonal mark. Color Envy (Mitchell Cushing) got away fifth while Easteriffic (Matty Athearn) set the pace to the half in :56.3. Cushing was out and rolling first-over with Color Envy by that point and continued to gain ground up the backstretch and around the last turn. At the head of the stretch Color Envy was pacing even with Easteriffic before out-working her in the lane to post a 1-1/2 length win at the wire in 1:53.3. The heavily favored Color Envy ($3.40) is owned by William Hartt and is trained by Lance Hudson. Mitchell Cushing had two wins on Thursday and is the leading driver at the Plainridge meet, now boasting 118 wins for the session. However the leading dash winning driver for Thursday was Drew Campbell as he scored four victories during the afternoon. Campbell moved into second place with his effort and now sits behind Cushing with 103 wins after jumping past Shawn Gray, who now slips to third with 101 wins at the conclusion of today's racing. The Wicked Hi-5 pentafecta jackpot continues to grow after no single unique winning ticket was sold again on Thursday. As a result, there will be a carryover pool of $29,718 in the sixth race on Friday (Sept. 13) when live racing resumes at Plainridge Park. By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts

Plainville, MA --- Despite making two moves by the half, Mach Doro A took control of the race from there and stormed home the best in the $14,000 Winners-Over Handicap harness racing pace at Plainridge Park on Monday afternoon (Sept.2). Starting from post eight, Mach Doro A (Mitchell Cushing) left and settled in third to the quarter in :26.3. That placement was short lived as Cushing pulled in front of an advancing outer-flow in front of the grandstand and was back in the breeze chasing Captain Deo (Shawn Gray) by the half in :55.1. Moving around the second, turn Mach Doro A continued advancing towards the lead and got it on the backstretch after a brutally fast :26.1 third panel. Unfazed by the pace, Cushing tucked the whip and line-drove Mach Doro A around the last turn and down the stretch where he cruised home to victory in 1:50.1. The clocking was a new lifetime mark for the winner. Mach Doro A now has seven wins in 16 starts this year and $79,120 in the bank accounts of owners Kevin Sywyk, Ron Cushing and Frank Ranaldi. Heidi Gibbs trains the 8-year-old altered son of Mach Three-Three Eagles. Cushing also won the $12,000 upper-level conditioned pace with Fernleigh Rebel N who left from post five and led at every station during the mile before breaking the beam in a new lifetime mark of 1:52.2. Fernleigh Rebel N ($4.60) is owned by Raymond Ferguson and is trained by Bryant Sears. Cushing continued to work hard on Labor Day scoring two more wins with I Am Golden (1:54, $4.80) and JJ Shark (1:52.3, $13.40) to round out his driving grand slam. The second leg of the $10,000 2-year-old trotting series "The Wood End Light" was held on Monday and produced an historic result. Capital Comet (Drew Monti) tripped-out third for the first five-eighths of the mile and then pulled first-up before the three-quarter pole. From there the colt trotted right by My Blue Opal (Jay Randall) in the turn and pulled away to a wrapped-up 5-3/4 length win in 1:57.4. The time was a new lifetime mark for Capital Comet and also tied the track record for 2-year-old trotting colts set by French Moni in 2016. Capital Comet ($3.60) is owned by Lindy Farms of Connecticut, Robert Rudolf and the M Biasuzzi Stable. Domenico Cecere trains Capital Comet. Racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Thursday (Sept. 5) with post time at 2 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts  

Swift early fractions poised Rock Diamonds N and 21-year-old New England native Mitchell Cushing to rip through the field and claim victory in the 60th renewal of the Guardian Gold Cup & Saucer at Charlottetown Driving Park on Saturday, Aug. 17 as reports by Standardbred Canada. The inside three starters shot for the front with Bet On Brett brushing quickest to the top. Trial-winner Sir Pugsley sat second while Bettors Fire N, driven by Mitchell’s father Ron Cushing, ducking to third. Rock Diamonds N sat sixth past a :26.3 opening quarter and glided along the cones as Bettors Fire N pulled first over into a :54.1 half. Pacesetter Bet On Brett began to retreat up the backside. Sir Pugsley pulled pocket to take command while Bet On Brett got circled by defending champion Somewhere Fancy, with Lisburn stacked three wide and Midway Island, the other trial winner, four wide. Sir Pugsley passed three-quarters in 1:23.2 but clung to the lead as Somewhere Fancy and Lisburn loomed closer and eventually moved to the front turning for the finish. Rock Diamonds N remained at the pylons and shot through the open stretch to power past everyone and stop the clock in 1:51.4. Somewhere Fancy finished second while Lisburn took third. “I really thought my dad’s [horse] was going to step around Sir Pugsley, but we got a nice spot that opened up,” Cushing said after the race. “They all left out of there real hard, so I just took back and, after that, you just have to go with instinct—what you see with the other as they’re running out of gas and whatnot.” Winning his eighth race from 16 starts this season and his 24th from 62 overall, Rock Diamonds N races for owners Kevin Sywyk, Ron Cushing and Frank Ranaldi and has earned $282,362. Mitchell Cushing, growing up driving at the fairs in Maine and now the leading driver at Plainridge Park in Massachusetts, won in his first start in the Gold Cup & Saucer. “I thought Fryeburg Fair was pretty cool,” Cushing said, “but this is completely different. This is like what you see at a professional sports game.” Father Ron had driven Rock Diamonds N in all his stateside starts previously, including when the six-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding finished second as the favourite to Sir Pugsley in his trial last week. Ron, siding with Bettors Fire N in the final, invited Mitchell to drive the eventual winner while Bettors Fire N finished off the board. “We’re the biggest competitors,” Cushing said of racing against his father. “If we’re in against each other, I can’t wait to beat him because it means my paycheck is more than his. I wanted to beat him more than anybody on the racetrack tonight.” Rock Diamonds N returned $12.80 to win. From Standardbred Canada

Plainville, MA --- For the second straight start, Rock Diamonds N dominated the best of the bunch at Plainridge Park by winning the $14,000 Winners-Over Handicap on Monday afternoon (Aug. 5). Despite being handicapped with the outside post seven, driver Ron Cushing left and put Rock Diamonds N on the lead and did not look back from there. After sprinting quarters of :26.2, :54.4 and 1:22.1 with little opposition, Rock Diamonds N turned for home and sprinted to a new lifetime mark of 1:50, winning by two lengths. The time was also just 2/5th's of a second off the track record for aged pacing geldings. It was the second win in a row and seventh of the year for Rock Diamonds N ($3.00) and it pushed his earnings to $62,485 for owners Kevin Sywyk, his driver Cushing and Frank Ranaldi. Heidi Gibbs is the trainer. The secondary feature was a $12,000 upper-conditioned pace that saw Captain Deo put a circle around his opposition in the second fastest mile of the day. Captain Deo (Mitchell Cushing) also went to the front and got things his own way. After seating the pesky Saratoga invader Saulsbrook Deputy (Jay Randall) in :26.2, Captain Deo proceeded to post a comfortable half of :55 before speeding up the backstretch in :27.4 prompted by Sailor Jerry (Nick Graffam) who was on the outside. By the head of the stretch Captain Deo had opened up a two-length advantage and cruised home to a 1:51.2 victory. Captain Deo ($2.40) has now made $84,860 on the strength of six 2019 wins for owner Bill Hartt. Lance Hudson trains the winner. Drew Campbell led all drivers on Monday scoring a grand slam during the card followed by Mitchell Cushing who had a hat trick of his own. Racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Thursday (Aug. 8) with post time at 4 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts  

Plainville, MA --- After cruising to easy wins in two of her last three outings at the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, Write Me A Song shipped into Massachusetts and put on quite a show while winning the $14,000 Winners-Over Handicap pacing feature for harness racing fillies and mares on Thursday afternoon (June 6) at Plainridge Park. Leaving from post seven, Write Me A Song (Mitchell Cushing) was a blur off the gate and out-hustled Shez Sugarsweet A (Ron Cushing) to the front, smoking the first quarter in :25.4. With the field moving in single-file order towards the :54.2 half, Gw Show Faith (Drew Campbell) pulled first up and tried to apply some pressure. That became a failed bid on the backstretch as the tempo picked up with Write Me A Song and Shez Sugarsweet A a tight one-two and pulling away from the field. When the breakaway pair hit the three-quarters in 1:22 it appeared the race could go either way. But when Shez Sugarsweet A tipped at the head of the stretch for her final lunge, Write Me A Song shifted into overdrive, pulled away from the threat and cruised most handily to the wire by 1-1/2 lengths in 1:51.2. It was the 14th win in only 30 lifetime starts for Write Me a Song ($2.20) who now boasts a $259,527 lifetime bankroll. The 4-year-old daughter of Sportswriter-Song Writer is owned by William Hartt and trained by Lance Hudson. Earlier on the card, Magic Joe Lindy made his seasonal debut a winning one after being challenged multiple times during the mile in the sub-featured $10,000 conditioned event for 5-year-olds and under. Magic Joe Lindy                                               --Tom Melanson photo After watching Mantario (Mcgwire Sowers) take an early lead, Magic Joe Lindy (Patrizio Ancora) pulled out past the eighth and took command by the quarter. But a rest would not be on the schedule for this horse today as Notabadgame (Heath Campbell) came first over and drew alongside the leader, pushing the race to 1:23.1 at the third panel. It was there Notabadgame folded allowing the pocket-sitting Mantario an opening to move and he was full of pace. Mantario advanced to Magic Joe Lindy's flank and almost got even. But Magic Joe Lindy held sway and toughed-out the win in 1:51.2. A 2-year-old Kentucky Sire Stake finalist, Magic Joe Lindy ($2.80) got his 3-year-old campaign off to a stellar start for owner Lindy Farm of Connecticut and trainer Domenico Cecere. Shawn Gray and Mike Stevenson led all drivers on Thursday scoring three wins apiece on the card. Trainer Joel Wheeler was the top conditioner sending two from his barn for pictures. The Wicked Hi-5 pentafecta carryover pool continues to grow as it was not hit again on Thursday. The pool for that bet will start at $6,077 in the sixth race when racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Friday (June 7). Post time for the first race is 4 p.m.   By Tim Bojarski for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts  

Plainville, MA --- After five non-winning starts in the Open trot, Namesmuscle did the drop and pop on Friday (May 24) to win the $12,000 conditioned feature for the diagonally gaited at Plainridge Park. Namesmuscle (Matt Athearn) took early command and rebuffed a quick bid from Fluff Me Up (Jay Randall), seating that one by the quarter. With the field in single file, the group marched to the half in :57.3 where Front Street (Mitchell Cushing) pulled first over with Sortie Hanover (Drew Campbell) right on his tail. As the race progressed to three-quarters Front Street was unable to get closer than a length to the leader so in the far turn, Sortie Hanover went three wide around him to continue to track down Namesmuscle. But Namesmuscle had slipped away with a two-length lead and trotted smartly on the front to the wire where he won in 1:55.2, which tied his lifetime mark. It was the second win of the year for Namesmuscle ($4.00) who has now bankrolled $21,720 in 2019 for owner William Phipps. Gretchen Athearn trains the winner. When live racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Memorial Day Monday (May 27) there will be a $5,273 carryover pool for the Wicked Hi-5 pentafecta wager in the sixth race. Post time for the first race is 4 p.m.   By Tim Bojarski for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts  

Plainville, Ma --- On the heels of facing top Open mares like Shartin N and Bettor Joy N in the Blue Chip harness racing series at Yonkers Raceway this spring, Betterb Chevron N shipped into Massachusetts and captured the $14,000 Winners-Over Handicap pace for fillies and mares at Plainridge Park on Thursday afternoon (May 24). Shez Sugarsweet A (Ron Cushing) got off the wings best and led the field to a comfortably rated :56.2 half. Betterb Chevron N (Mitchell Cushing) came first-over there with Spilling The Beans (Mike Stevenson) tagging along on the rim. Betterb Chevron N drew alongside Shez Sugarsweet A in the back straight and the two mares paced in unison to the three-quarters and around the far turn before Shez Sugarsweet A grudgingly gave way allowing Betterb Chevron A to take a short lead going into the stretch. With a length separating her from the her closest rival as she headed down the lane, Betterb Chevron N coasted to the wire and won in 1:54. After winning her first three North American starts back in January and February, Betterb Chevron N ($3.00) now added her fourth victory of the year to the card for owner William Hartt and trainer Lance Hudson. Cushing also won two more races to claim a driving Hat Trick on Thursday. In the $12,000 conditioned event Notabadgame ($25.80) got away sixth off the gate and trailed the leader by 10-lengths before pulling second-over at the half, tipping three-deep at the five-eighths and opening up a five-length lead that would get him home first in 1:53.1 Jackie Greene owns and trains the winner. Notabadgame                                       --Tom Melanson photo Then Cushing helped extend the streak of the winningest horse of the current Plainridge meet to five when Gitn Drunkonaplane ($2.80) led at every station before cruising home by a length in 1:54.3. Owned by Simzer and Derue and trained by Brett Derue, Gitn Drunkonaplane has yet to taste defeat at The Ridge in 2019. Racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Friday (May 24) with a 12-race card that goes to post at 4 p.m. The Wicked Hi-5 pentafecta in race six features a carryover pool of $4,172.   By Tim Bojarski for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts

Plainville, MA --- Western Stepp was one of the toughest resident mares at Plainridge Park last year winning 26% of her starts. This year she's already two-out-of-three after taking the $12,000 Winners-Over pace for fillies and mares on Thursday afternoon (May 9). After being on the engine for the last three weeks, Western Stepp (Mitchell Cushing) found herself in the caboose watching Shesjustadelight N (Ron Cushing) dictate the fractions. That one took to group to the quarter in :27.1 and the half in :57.2. It was at that station Roll With Ann (Nick Graffam) got into the mix on the outside with Western Stepp following second-over in that tier. Try as she did up the backside, Roll With Ann could not get closer than a length of the leader and by the three-quarter pole, Western Step had to tip three-deep around her with Spilling The Beans (Mike Stevenson) going four-wide as well. Now three across the track at the head of the stretch, Shesjustadelight N, Western Stepp and Spilling The Beans fought hard all the way down the stretch before Western Stepp simply out-fought her rivals to win by a neck at the wire in 1:54.3. It was the third win in a row and 30th of her career for Western Step ($8.60) who is owned by Diane Dunn and trained by James Dunn. Cushing added two more wins during the card to finish the day with a driving hat trick. The fastest mile of the session was registered in the co-featured $12,000 conditioned pace for 5-year-olds and under when Notabadgame (Drew Campbell) pulled first-over from fifth past the three-eighths pole and motored to the lead by three-quarters. At that point Sometimes Always (Nick Graffam) came at him and drew alongside at the head of the lane. Three pylons into the straight Sometimes Always took the lead, but Notabadgame came back under methodical urging from Campbell to win by a length in 1:53.4. Notabadgame                                         -Photo courtesy of Tom Melanson It was the third win of the year for Notabadgame ($6.40) who is owned and trained by Jackie Greene. There were some huge payoffs at Plainridge on Thursday for the betting faithful. In the ninth race the 20-cent Wicked-Hi 5 had a carryover pool in excess of $7,700 and one lucky punter scored the winning combination of 8-4-1-6-2 and collected $9,246.38 for the two-dime investment. Then in the 11th race the longest shot on the board, Funny Lena (Nick Graffam), finished second at 59-1 prompting a 1-9-6 trifecta combination that returned $10,328.80 for a $2 ticket. Racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Friday (May 10) with post time at 4 p.m.   By Tim Bojarski for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts

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

Plainville, MA --- When Plainridge Park opens their doors to welcome racing fans to the start of the 2019 live harness racing meet on Monday (Apr. 8), they will also be celebrating their 20th year of operations hosting the Standardbred sport. Plainridge Park (then Plainridge Racecourse) held their grand opening in April of 1999 when an overflow crowd of 4,500 guests filled the parking lots and jammed the grandstand to witness the first live harness racing in the Commonwealth since Foxboro Park closed two years earlier. The track offered 14 races that first afternoon with an average purse of $3,900. Fans cheered as Worth Mentioning won the very first race by 12 lengths in 2:00.1 with Steve Smith driving. Two decades later, Plainridge Park has risen to new heights on the strength of the new $115 million casino complex that opened in 2015. Since then the racing product has benefitted from enhanced overnight purses of up to $20,000 per race as a result ever since thanks to the proceeds from gaming that go towards the track's purse account through the Massachusetts Race Horse Development Fund. Since the casino opened the facility at Plainridge Park has created significant economic benefits for local residents by generated as much as $186 million in annual revenue as well as employ 500 people who work at the site as stated in a December 2018 report by the University of Massachusetts. Plainridge Park's 2019 meet features 108-days of live harness racing held every Monday, Thursday and Friday through November 29. Sunday racing will be added from September 29 through October 27. Post time is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. on all race days through August. It will then move to 2:00 p.m. during September and October and move once more to 1 p.m. for the final month of racing in November. Plainridge Park will continue to offer exciting wagering opportunities which includes the 20-cent Jackpot Wicked Hi-5, which will now be offered twice daily in races six and nine. Plainridge also offers full card harness and Thoroughbred simulcasting seven days a week. On the track, three millionaire drivers who made serious money for their connections at the Ridge last year will be back to ply their trade once again in 2019. 2018 leading driver Drew Campbell will return to defend his driving title and see if he can improve on his stellar 160-win and $1.25 million earnings season of a year ago. Also returning will be 21-year-old rising star Mitchell Cushing, who finished second with 139 wins and just over $1 million in purses. And rounding out this teaming trifecta is Shawn Gray who finished third in the standings, scoring 125 victories and $1.23 million in earnings. All three drivers registered career highs for money won last year and Campbell and Gray finished fourth and eighth respectively among all drivers in North America in Universal Driver Rating (UDR). The tracks signature race, the $250,000 Spirit of Massachusetts Trot, will return in 2019 after a year's absence and will be held on Sunday (July 28). The race will draw North America's top aged trotters and put the track in the National spotlight once again over the summer. Also on that same card will be the newly instituted $100,000 Clara Barton Pace which is an Open event for fillies and mares. Plainridge Park will also host the Massachusetts Sire Stakes (MASS) starting in September. Three preliminary legs for both gaits and genders valued at a total of $840,000 (est.) and eight finals totaling $800,000 (est.) make the $1.64 million 2019 MASS the richest races of the meet at Plainridge. State sponsored Standardbred breeding in Massachusetts is one of the fastest growing programs of its type in North America on the strength of its rapidly increasing purse account. 2-year-old eligibles have increased 50% since 2017 and resident mares have gone up 30% during that same time. Owners and breeders from the northeastern United States and Southern Ontario are taking advantage of breeding horses that have the ability to compete in two separate sire stake programs as a result of the resident mare rule in Massachusetts which allows any sire from any state to be bred to them, giving the offspring dual-eligibility. The 2019 MASS race dates are Sunday (Sept. 29) 3-year-old First Leg $35,000 added; Monday (Sept. 30) 2-year-old First Leg $35,000 added; Sunday (Oct. 6) 3-year-old Second Leg $35,000 added; Monday (Oct. 7) 2-year-old Second Leg $35,000 added; Sunday (Oct. 20) 2-year-old Third Leg $35,000 added; Monday (Oct. 21) 3-year-old Third Leg $35,000 added; Monday (Oct. 28) 2 and 3-year-old Finals $100,000 est. For more information on all the live racing action at Plainridge Park throughout the year log onto the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts (www.sominc.net ) or Plainridge Park Casino (www.plainridgeparkcasino.com ).   By Tim Bojarski for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts  

Mitchell Cushing is the first to admit that patience is not his strong suit. Cushing, who turned 21 on Jan. 12, is coming off a year that saw him finish second in the harness racing driver standings at two New England racetracks on his way to 247 wins and $1.51 million in purses, both personal bests in his fledgling career. He drove the legendary Foiled Again to victory in a Farewell Tour race at the Windsor Fair in Maine, captured a Massachusetts Sire Stakes title with I'm A Clown, and finished second to Dan Patch Award-winner Shartin N with Apple Bottom Jeans in the TVG Series championship for female pacers. And he is anxious for more. "Everything has progressed quickly and I wouldn't want it any other way," said Cushing, adding with a laugh, "The way I am, if it can happen tomorrow I'd rather have it happen yesterday. "I'm pushing it to happen as fast as it can. I know there are so many things along the road to get there, but I absolutely love what I do and I'm going to push to be the best I can be." Cushing, the son of driver Ron Cushing, began driving in 2014. In his first four years he won 141 races, a total he exceeded by 106 in 2018. He finished second in the driver standings to Drew Campbell, who is approaching 5,000-career wins, at both Plainridge Park and Scarborough Downs last year. "I had some quality opportunities," Cushing said, referencing regular drives for Plainridge leading trainer Jimmy Nickerson as well as for Apple Bottom Jeans and I'm A Clown conditioner Kevin Switzer. "That helps. That makes it nice. I'm extremely thankful people have given me so many good opportunities." With racing in New England on hiatus for the winter, Cushing has spent January competing at Freehold Raceway and the Meadowlands Racetrack, both in New Jersey. Cushing has five drives at the Big M on Friday and is listed on another five for Saturday. He has a total of three drives over the weekend at Freehold. "It keeps me busy and I'm doing what I love," said Cushing, who lives in Maine. "I wouldn't want to do it any other way. I'm happy." Cushing has won 10 of 147 races at the Meadowlands during his career. He enjoyed his two best weekends last October, when the Breeders Crown was at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Cushing won 4 of 23 drives at the Big M during that span. "When I take a look back at it and take a deep breath, it couldn't be going any better," Cushing said. "I'm extremely thankful for the way it's going. If you would ask me on a day when I wasn't being appreciative and wanting to win races, I wish it was going the same as it was in October while everybody was at the Breeders Crown. But that's not realistic. "It's hard for me to accept that because I'm so competitive and when I get an opportunity I don't want to waste it. It's a good thing to be competitive, but sometimes you have to take a deep breath and work hard and let stuff happen. These last couple weeks, with the time I've put in, I'm getting more quality drives. I'm running from Freehold to get to qualifiers (at the Meadowlands) and stuff is starting to go my way a little more. That's kind of nice. It's starting to get to the point where people think they can use me to begin with, not just when someone picks off." Cushing grew up around harness racing and always enjoyed the sport and horses. But it wasn't until he suffered a knee injury his junior year of high school that focusing on it as a career became a passion. Cushing tore his ACL and during his recovery was unable to do much in the way of physical activity. He could, though, jog horses. "I always loved it, but that's when it changed," Cushing said. "Even before I was out of high school I was pushing hard to progress." Cushing has seen his career and abilities progress, especially in terms of getting along with horses. "Getting behind a horse and getting a quick and solid understanding of a horse, I think that's what developed the most," Cushing said. "As a catch driver, that's what your job is. You've got to be able to get on and get along with a horse the best you can for two minutes. As last year went on, I think that was my biggest growth. "And learning the races better, understanding races better, your decision-making gets quicker. People know about you statistically, but sometimes people wait for you to do the wrong thing and think maybe you're not ready. When you do things the wrong way, or you do things the right way, it changes opinions. I'm just going to keep trying to do things the right way and hopefully people think I deserve (an opportunity)." Cushing will continue racing at the Meadowlands and Freehold until Plainridge reopens in April. At that point, he hopes to have accomplished enough at the Meadowlands to continue getting drives on the weekends. "I don't expect to be there on a stakes night, but on a regular night throughout the year, that would be a huge personal accomplishment," Cushing said. "I hope I can just keep doing what I'm doing. It will get to a new level." And that would be worth waiting for. Ken Weingartner  

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