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Hightstown, NJ --- Steve Rybka had driven in several races in his young harness racing career prior to his trip around Monticello Raceway on Jan. 3 with Rockintheniteaway, but he had never experienced feelings on the racetrack like he did that afternoon. “I got goose bumps at the three-quarter pole,” the 22-year-old Rybka said. “I came second over and once I tipped her and cleared, I was thinking I was going to win. It was a different feeling. I got butterflies in my stomach.” Rybka guided Rockintheniteaway to a 2-1/4 length win that afternoon, at odds of 28-1, for his first career victory as a driver. The New York native had three wins as a trainer in 2017, all with Cruzing Hill at Saratoga. “I was just really happy, and happy with the horse,” Rybka said about his driving triumph. “She was 28-1, but I was happy with how she was training and thought she had a shot that day. It was definitely a cool feeling. I’ll never forget it, that’s for sure.” Rybka, who lives in upstate New York about 20 miles south of Albany, followed his father, Darren Rybka Sr., and brother, Darren Rybka Jr., into the sport. “I was at the barn all the time growing up,” Rybka said. “Once I got out of high school, I worked for a year and then I came back and started working for a bunch of people (in harness racing) again. It’s pretty addicting. “I pretty much wanted to do this my whole life. I always wanted to have a stable of my own.” Rybka is training two horses in addition to trying to make it as a driver. He has driven at Monticello and Saratoga, posting one win, three seconds and four thirds in 16 lifetime starts. “Driving is what I want to do,” Rybka said. “I’d like to have my own horses too, maybe four or five, a small stable. But I definitely want to be a catch driver. “It’s not going to happen overnight. Saratoga is not an easy place to start, but I’ve got to give it a shot. I just want to get my name out there. Maybe I can get a couple shots and have some success. I just want to put a good image out there and do my best for everybody.” Rybka played football and basketball in high school and enjoys the competitiveness of racing. “It reminds me of playing sports,” Rybka said. “I get the same feeling when I get on the track, the adrenaline rush. When you get into a race, it’s really unbelievable.” Rybka and Rockintheniteaway will be in action again Thursday at Saratoga. He is hoping to drive more often as the year progresses and gain valuable experience. “I think I can handle a horse pretty well and I get along with them,” Rybka said. “I try to drive smart. I can read a program pretty good; I can handicap a race. And I feel like I can put horses in good spots and give them a good trip. But every single horse is different. The more you sit behind, the more you’re going to learn. “If I drive 10 horses next week and every one of them has the eight hole, that doesn’t bother me because I’m still learning. Any drive is a drive. It doesn’t matter if I’m driving the favorite or if I’m driving 99-1. I just love the competition. And I love the animals. They’re cool animals and they’re fun to be around. They definitely give you a lot of memories you won’t forget.” by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager 

It's Eric Warner's job to set up the daily race fields at Monticello Raceway but you can’t draw up what you don’t have. The raceway was forced to cancel its scheduled extra harness racing card for Friday afternoon because there’s a “severe horse shortage,″ as stated by the New York State Gaming Commission. An ideal day calls for 80 horses to make a full card, said Warner, Monticello’s director of racing. Monticello managed to schedule 10 races on Monday and Tuesday, and has nine scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. Friday was a rare opportunity for a fifth day of racing at Monticello but a sufficient lineup was unavailable. “It’s industry-wide at this point,″ Warner said. “We try to race more times during the winter because other tracks are closed and we generally have more horse population to race but at this point we didn’t have enough to go five days. ... It is disappointing.″ Warner said many horses are stabled at the facility and others are transported from farms in the Middletown and Pine Bush area. Some horses come from as far away as the Saratoga region and northeast Pennsylvania but those horses may be unavailable as their owners get them ready for the upcoming openings at Saratoga Casino Hotel next month and Mohegan Sun Pocono in the spring. “I have said over and over again, there is not a shortage of horses; there’s too much racing,″ said Buffalo Raceway chief operating officer Jim Mango. Buffalo tried to schedule three days of racing but had to cancel its Friday cards last week, this week and next because of the shortage. Mango said his Buffalo facility was stabling 300 horses at this time last year and only 130 now. “In New York state, at any one time you could have five (harness) race tracks going ... it’s just ridiculous,″ said the outspoken Mango. “We’re trying to deal with it as an industry where there unquestionably has to be a reduction of race days.″ “It’s definitely a serious problem, especially for the tracks that are racing the lower class of horses, which certainly the small harness tracks are in the category like that, the tracks that offer the smaller purses.″ Monticello Raceway actually had to get approval from the state gaming commission to cancel since all race dates are applied for and approved by the commission. Monticello has three remaining “fifth” racing dates on July 6, Aug. 3 and Dec. 21. Series schedules announced The New York Sire Stakes season will culminate with the $1.8 million finals hosted by Yonkers Raceway on Sept. 22. The finals for the Excelsior Series will be hosted by Saratoga on Sept. 23. The Sire Stakes and Excelsior Series divisions will open action at Yonkers on May 8. Goshen Historic Track will host events in both series on June 30 and July 1. The schedule for the County Fair Series will be released in a few weeks. The New York Sire Stakes is the premier harness-racing program for 2- and 3-year-old Standardbreds, and is administered by the Agriculture & New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund. At a glance New York Sire Stakes schedule (for local tracks) 3-year-old Colt Pace: June 18 at Monticello; June 30 at Goshen; July 30, Aug. 28, Sept. 22 at Yonkers 3-year-old Filly Pace: June 30 at Goshen; Aug. 6 at Monticello; Sept. 6, Sept. 22 at Yonkers 2-year-old Colt Pace: June 26, Aug. 24, Sept. 22 at Yonkers; July 4 at Monticello 2-year-old Filly Pace: July 6, July 24, Sept. 22 at Yonkers; Sept. 10 at Monticello 3-year-old Colt Trot: July 1 at Goshen; July 16 at Monticello; July 27, Sept. 11, Sept. 22 at Yonkers 3-year-old Filly Trot: May 8, Aug. 7, Sept. 22 at Yonkers; June 4 at Monticello; July 1 at Goshen 2-year-old Colt Trot: July 9 at Monticello; Aug. 20, Sept. 14, Sept. 22 at Yonkers 2-year-old Filly Trot: June 25 at Monticello; July 3, Aug. 13, Sept. 22 at Yonkers New York State Excelsior Series 3-year-old Colt Pace: June 18 at Monticello; June 30 at Goshen; July 30, Aug. 28 at Yonkers 3-year-old Filly Pace: June 21, Sept. 6 at Yonkers; June 30 at Goshen; Aug. 6 at Monticello 2-year-old Colt Pace: June 26, Aug. 24 at Yonkers; July 4 at Monticello 2-year-old Filly Pace: July 6, July 24 at Yonkers; Sept. 10 at Monticello 3-year-old Colt Trot: July 1 at Goshen; July 16 at Monticello; July 27, Sept. 11 at Yonkers 3-year-old Filly Trot: May 8, Aug. 7 at Yonkers; June 4 at Monticello; July 1 at Goshen 2-year-old Colt Trot: July 9 at Monticello; Aug. 20, Sept. 14 at Yonkers 2-year-old Filly Trot: June 25 at Monticello; July 3, Aug. 13 at Yonkers By Ken McMillan Reprinted with permission of The Times Herald-Record

Michael Merton notched his 3,000th harness racing career winning drive at Monticello Raceway on Thursday January 18. The milestone win came aboard Armor Hanover in the 7th race, the 9-year-old SJ'S Caviar gelding won by 7 lengths in 1:57.2, he is owned and trained by Doug Berkeley of Montgomery NY. Michael hails from a family that has been deeply embedded at Monticello Raceway since its inception in 1958. Michael started his career driving as an amateur, he then received his P license in 1991. Michael and his brother Greg has been mainstays in the Monticello Raceway backstretch and driving colony for decades. 2017 was a banner year for Michael, he drove 257 winners and amassed a personal best of $1,150,003 in yearly purses earned, his career earnings are a respectable $10,628,662. Michael was greeted in the winner's circle by many of his fellow horseman, family member and well-wishers. Wasting no time, Merton won the final race of the card with Ideal Candidate, setting his sites on 4000. By: Shawn Wiles

One harness racing dynasty ends and another continues, Dolores Basilone secured her second consecutive training title at Monticello Raceway, along the way she set a new mark with the most wins for a Monticello trainer with 222 trips to the winner's circle, the new mark surpassed the former record of 218 wins held by Joe Minieri. Basilone's tally of 222 wins including 4 wins off the grounds vaults her into 6th nationally, her barn earned $754,072 in 948 starts at Monticello Raceway. Gary Messenger was second with 116 wins, followed by Robert Lounsbury was third with 113, Dan Gill, 85 and rounding out the top 5 was newcomer Jennifer Lappe. Jim Devaux also had a career best year as he took home his first ever leading dash winner title with 301 wins in 1204 starts and ended the year with Monticello earnings of $986,516. Devaux also notched a milestone when he drove his 5,000 winner earlier this fall. The double driving Devaux also finished 3rd for the most wins at Saratoga Raceway. Devauxs numbers also warranted national attention, as he finished 6th place in the nation with 544 wins and earnings of $3,005.547. James Taggart Jr. was second in the drivers standing with 256 wins and former Monticello Raceway leading dash winner Bruce Aldrich Jr. was 3rd with 244, followed by Michael Merton with 200 and Kyle Dibenedetto with 144 and the morning line favorite to be a future dash winner, Austin Siegelman also had 144 wins to his credit. by: Shawn Wiles  

It is rare to have a 14-year-old veteran harness racing  campaigner stay sound long enough to race until their 15th birthday, but on Wednesday December 27, Monticello Raceway had 2 - 14-year-old warriors race in their final career start in the same race, Grecale AS and Schalom G. Grecale AS retires as the winningest aged trotter in North America in 2017 with 17 wins. The son of Sugarcane Hanover has a stellar season with yearly earnings over $50,000. Grecale AS is trained by Don Hoover of Ballston Spa, NY, his final career tally race is 299 - 59 - 42 - 24, $393,089 and a lifetime mark of 1:56 as a 10-year-old. The other elder statesman is Schalom G, a son of Toss Out - Pleasure Way, ironically, took his lifetime mark (1:52.4) as the age of 10 also. Schalom G is owned and trained by harness racing blue blood Jim Doherty Jr. of Monticello NY. His final career tally is 245 43-34-27 and $373,520. Schalom G recently did his Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer impression over the weekend for his young fans in Liberty NY. Grecale AS and Schalom G. are both foreign bred, Grecale AS was foaled in Italy and Schalom G was foaled in Germany, in 2003. The barefooted Grecale AS, went out in style as he scored an easy wire to wire victory in 2:03.4 with Monticello Raceway leading dash winner James Devaux at the helm, Schalom G finished a game 4th. By: Shawn Wiles

In the harness racing winner’s circle after the 7th race on Tuesday, December 5 at Monticello Raceway, longtime Monticello Raceway horseman Norman Bradbury was honored for his extensive and prominent career and was honored in a retirement ceremony. The native of Bay Roberts, Newfoundland, Norman Bradbury has been a fixture at Monticello Raceway for over 4 decades since his first start in 1979.  Prior to arriving to the backstretch of Monticello, Norman served as trainer for the Grey Brothers of Providence, Rhode Island for many years and trained several winters in Pinehurst NC. Norman and his wife Donna, a longtime Monticello Raceway employee where married in Pinehurst in 1976.   During his rich career, he has enjoyed many highlights, Normans career pinnacle moment came aboard Kittiwake, ($554,206 – 1:54.3) when he drove her to victory in the Lady Catskill at his home track Monticello Raceway. Other of Bradbury’s top performers include Pride N Price, Tiffany Collins, Good Night Action and the recently retired Red Eye Bluechip. Norman’s final career stats display 403 driving wins, $1,390,362 in amassed purse earnings, he trained winners of over $1,797,797. The 7th race of the program was carded as the Norman Bradbury Retirement Race, it contained a field of gritty campaigners, much like Norman. After an early slugfest between Fools Gold (PP3) and (Kyle Dibenedetto) who set a 28 second opening quarter, Can’t Knock M finally got the lead at the half in 58.2 B Seventeen, who was driven by Justin Huckabone started the outer flow at this point. The stealthy Vaganova (Jim Devaux) followed B Seventeen with live cover right behind B Seventeen, B Seventeen got the lead down backstretch as they hit the ¾ in 1:28, as they turned for home, both were poised for victory, the duo raced in tandem down the lane and split the teletimer at the exact same time, resulting in a semi rare Dead Heat of 1:58. B Seventeen is a 5 YO Art Major gelding, out of Jugette and multiple stakes winner Armbro Bombay, the former $125,000 yearling is trained by Jon Berube of Circleville, NY, his DH win ticket returned $4.90. Vaganova is trained by Jim Doherty Jr. the 4-year-old son Rock N Roll Heaven who notched his 6th win for the waning 2017, pushing his seasonal earning over $30,000 and paid $22.20. Following the race, Norman was accompanied in the winner’s circle by his wife Donna and son Grant, as well as numerous friends, and many of the horsemen that he has come to know Norman well during his many years in the backstretch of Monticello Raceway. By Shawn Wiles

MONTICELLO, NY - The last two amateur races of the season at Monticello Raceway were contested on Wednesday, November 29 and when the harness racing judges hung the official signs Tony Ciuffetelli emerged victorious in the $6000 NAADA Consolation while Jennifer Lappe copped the $6500 Catskill Club Final. Ciuffetelli reined trotter Better To Be Lucky home first in a 2:01.2 clocking whereas Lapped scored a 1:59.2 triumph with pacer Lightning Strike. There was only a five horse field for the NAADA consolation and taking advantage of the short field Tony Ciuffetelli sent his charge to the lead. Once there they made every pole a winning one en route to a head victory over Connie Keeper and driver Bob Krivelin . "Since my horse is good on the lead, and with the pole position and the short field, I thought the front end was the place to be," Ciuffetelli said after the race. They charged to the front and Better To Be Lucky trotted off to an early lead. But they couldn't shake Connie Keeper who followed along doggedly in the two hole as the others faded lengths behind. When the leaders headed for home Krivelin moved Connie Keeper out to challenge and they raced neck and neck to the finish and at the wire Better To Be Lucky prevailed by a head. Third place went to Grand Vision in rein to Bob Ciavardini. "He had breaking issues earlier this year but he's OK now.", Ciuffetteli said referring to Better To Be Lucky. "I was getting after him pretty good as we neared the wire but he stayed at his work and hung tough today" Ciuffetlli also owns and trains the winner who returned an $8.20 mutuel. The Catskill Amateur Club's finale was a tribute to the ladies as three were finalists and the gals finished one -three an action packed driving finish. When the wings of the mobile starting gate folded Monica Banca sent Fox Valley Leo to the lead followed on the outside by Lightning Strike and driver Jennifer Lappe. But as they approached the first stanza in a swift :27.2 Lappe found room on the inside and tucked in nicely behind the leader. Before the field passed the halfway point in .57.2 Gerry Fielding was out and going with Troon, the betting favorite. They rallied alongside Fox Valley Leo as the three quarter timer flashed 1:27.4. When they straightened for paydirt Fox Valley Leo and Troon battled side by side and then in mid-stretch they were joined in the passing lane by Lucky Strike and the three raced to the finish. At the wire Lappe's pacer, Lucky Strike, prevailed by a length. Troon was second and Fox Valley Leo third. "We got lucky finding room along the pylons or we'd have been hung out," a joyous Lappe related in the paddock as she hung up the lines. "Lightning Strike is a pleasure to drive and I guess we just clicked." It marked Lucky Strike's fourth victory in his last five starts for Lappe. Owned and trained by Bill Mintz he paid $4.00 for win. On Friday the $15,000 NAADA Final will be contested at Yonkers Raceway as a non-wagering affair prior to the first race on the betting card. by John Manzi for NAADA and the CADC

Monticello Raceway featured its normal Thursday mainstay, the harness racing 'Catskill Amateur Driving Event'. Changing her tactics and deviating from the norm this week rather than cut the mile, Jennifer Lappe was content to sit the pocket journey while Monica Banca aboard Fox Valley Leo cut the fractions. Monica Banca and Fox Valley Leo left the gate first from post 5 and had the lead in the first turn, Lightning Strike the 1-5 favorite and Jennifer Lappe protected their position from the 2 hole and settled in the garden spot while Fox Valley Leo left splits of 28.2, 58.4. 1:29.2 on the teletimer. Bob Davis and Sand Benelli tried to get the outer flow going at the half in the small 6 horse field but found no takers, but continued to grind it out on the backside. At this point the heavy track took its toll on Fox Valley Leo as Banca popped the ear plugs at the ¾, but to no avail as the early pacesetter faded in the lane. Sand Benelli ranged into contention of the top of the stretch, but the real estate saving Lightning Strike was able to clear and go on to win by a length over Sand Benelli in 2:00:2. It was the third win in a row for Lappe and Lightning Strike, the 9 YO gelding by Cam Terrific is trained and owned by William Mintz, and in the process picked up his 7th seasonal win. Paul Walker and Doc's Zippy were 3rd. All 3 of Lightning Strikes string of wins have come in the Catskill Amateur events and has 4 wins in 6 starts in the event. Live racing resumes on Monday November 20 with a 12:25 post time. By: Shawn Wiles

As is the norm, Monticello Raceway Thursday's harness racing card features amateur racing. On November 2, the Catskill Amateurs were featured in an 8-horse field that went to post for a purse $3,900. As the gate left, Jennifer Lappe and Lightning Strike spurted away from post position 6, she was followed by Monica Banca and Fox Valley Leo, (PP3) Banca was the recent winner of the Catskill Amateur final held earlier in the year, Lightning Strike and Lappe cut fractions of 28.2, 58.0, 1:27 and tripped the beam in 1:56.2 on her way to a 2-length victory over the pocket sitting Fox Valley Leo, Sand Benelli (Bob Davis) finished 3rd. It was the 5th win of the year for Lighting Strike a 9-year-old gelding by Cam Terrific, he is owned trained and by William Mintz of Harris, New York. By: Shawn Wiles

Efforts by the North American Amateur Drivers Association and the Catskill Amateur Drivers Club are under way to organize a race for military veterans who are also amateur harness drivers are coming to fruition according to NAADA vice president, Alan Schwartz. The event will be held on Thursday November 9, noted Alan Schwartz a former U.S Marine who besides being the vice president of NAADA is also the president of the Monticello Raceway's Harness Horsemen's Association. At the end of the November 9th racing card at the Mighty M both NAADA and CADC will each donate $1000 to the Veteran's Food Pantry of Sullivan County, NY. Both amateur organizations are urging those who plan on attending the afternoon's race card to please bring along a non-perishable food item which will then be delivered to the veteran's food pantry. Beginning Wednesday November 1, Monticello Raceway will revert to its winter post time of 12:25pm. By Shawn Wiles

Monticello, NY - Ever since the resurgence of amateur harness racing in the early 1980's Monticello Raceway has been in the forefront of that movement. On the Thursday afternoon card of October 26th three events--two NAADA trots and one trot for Billings drivers were carded and when the races were declared official , Alan Schwartz, Jennifer Lappe and Bobby Krivelin each were victorious in their respective splits. Schwartz won the first NAADA Trot with Linda Marie in 2:00 while Lappe copped the second division with Fox Valley Steffen in a 2:00.3 clocking. Krivelin's triumph came in a Billings Trot when he guided Permanent Joy home first in 1.59. In his NAADA split Schwartz, driving Linda Marie for the first time, sent the 6-year-old Crazed mare to the lead when the wings of the mobile gate folded although it wasn't his pre-race plan. "I thought I'd follow Peter's (Kleinhans) horse (Toss Cartwright-the betting favorite from the rail) and sit in behind him but my mare got away quickly so I sent her to the lead and it was a good thing I did because Toss Cartwright made a break on the first turn," Schwartz related. Schwartz and his trotting mare stepped by the first quarter in a swift :28.4 and with the next stanzas well rated no others took a shot at the leader and she cruised though fractions of :31.1 and :30.3 before kicking in a :29.3 final quarter en route to a 1-1/2-length triumph over Tony Verruso's Flirting Duesy and Bobby Krivelin's Connie Keeper. Owned and trained by Jim Doherty, Jr Linda Marie paid $6.50 for win. The second NAADA split was a six-horse field with two women among the drivers-, and one, Jennifer Lappe, showed she knows her way around the racetrack when she kept her charge, Fox Valley Steffen close to the pace and then maneuvered him on the final turn so she had a clear passage to the wire. "I was content to follow the leaders as Paul (Minore) set steady fractions with Wygant Prince and on the final turn I looked for the short path to the wire and used the passing lane to my advantage. In the deep stretch we trotted by Ladys Big Stormont (Alan Schwartz ) and Wygant Prince (Paul Minore) and we were home free." Ms Lappe owns and trains Fox Valley Steffen who as the longest shot on the board paid $23.20. The final amateur race was leg of America's premier traveling roadshow, the CKG Billings Series. In that contest seven trotters lined-up behind the starting gate and when the wings folded Bobby "Rapid Rail" Krivelin and Permanent Joy took charge. After starting from the five hole Krivelin sent his veteran 9-year-old trotter to the front and literally toyed with the opposition and played catch me if you can. But no one could as he and his Trot For Joy gelding cruised through fractions of :29;:58.3 and 1:28.3 before finishing a solid two lengths in front of Tim Lizzie and driver "Yankee Joe" Lee for a two-length victory in 1:59 "He's super on the lead," Krivelin said upon his return to the paddock as he handed the lines to the horse's groom. "He's (Permanent Joy) is a nice old horse and a real pleasure to drive." Owned by the Hero Stables and trained by Krivelin, Permanent Joy won for the fifth time this season and 35th time in his career. He returned a $7.00 mutuel. by John Manzi for NAADA & The Billings Series  

MONTICELLO, NY - In a week inundated with races for harness racing amateur drivers, Monticello Raceway, for the second consecutive day, programmed two amateur events on the afternoon card of October 18 after showcasing two on the previous days program. Today (Thursday),one was for members of North American Amateur Drivers Association and another for those who are members of the Catskill Amateur Drivers Club with many drivers belonging to both organizations. In the NAADA contest Alan Schwartz and Ladys Big Stormont made a laugher out of it when they used the front end route to score an easy 3-1/4 length trotting triumph over Jennifer Lappe's Fox Valley Steffen in a 2:00:1 cocking. Not to be outdone, Joe Lee used a similar route to notch an oh-so-easy 1:56 victory with Artistic Cruiser in the Catskill Club's pacing event later on the card. In a week which featured 12 contests through Thursday afternoon with two more to follow tonight at Yonkers Raceway. With the continuing shortage of available racing stock the amateur movement is welcomed, not only by sportsmen and women who partake of the opportunities to drive just for the fun of it, but also by the racetracks which need competitive races for their wagering clientele. When the gate sprung in the NAADA trot Schwartz sent Ladys Big Stormont towards the front but after encountering Fox Valley Steffen and driver Jennifer Lappe Schwartz contemplated taking a hole or going for the lead, with the latter winning out. Ladys Big Stormont got parked in a rather soft 29 first quarter before taking command. Then once on top Schwartz's charge was comfortable by the half in 1:00. First to move was Joe Lee when he took Tim Lizzie off the pylons and moved toward the front but three lengths behind the leader was all Tim Lizzie could muster. Ladys Big Stormont drew away from his competition on the final turn and coasted home comfortably tripping the mile timer in 2:00.1 The veteran trotter had been good earlier in the season and after a stagnant period he vaulted back to score his second consecutive triumph today. "He had been sluggish for a handful of starts so I turned him out for 10 days on my nearby farm and he returned to his earlier season form," Schwartz said referring to Ladys Big Stormont's recent improvement. Schwartz owns the winner who is trained by Rick Harp. He paid $4.20. In the Catskill amateurs pacing event Joe Lee looked for a spot along the pylons with Artistic Cruiser after the start but couldn't find any room. "So, I made up my mind to go for the lead which I did," the New York Yankee's assistant locker room manager related. "Actually I didn't have any other choice. But it certainly turned out to be the right move." After a :28.1 first quarter Lee and Artistic Cruiser gained command on the second turn and they led the field by the half in:57.4. Still strong as they passed the third stanza in 1:26.4 Artistic Cruise began to open daylight on the field and they had four lengths as they turned for home which was opened to five at the wire. Second place went to KJ Brent, driven by Billings president, Tony Verruso. Visiting Kiwi, Gavin Cook, who competed in the NAADA v New Zealand competition on Wednesday was offered chance to be a guest participant and he finished third here with Crown Isle. Artistic Cruiser, a 5-year-old Artistic Fella gelding, is owned and trained by Tom Milici. Sent off as the odds-on favorite he returned a $3.60 mutuel.   by John Manzi for NAADA and the Catskill Amateur Drivers Club

It's all over except for the shouting and it was the Kiwis who were the loudest after trouncing the home team in the recently completed USA vs. New Zealand Amateur driving harness racing friendship competition. In the third and final leg of the international rivalry which was held at Monticello Raceway on Wednesday, Oct. 18 ,the New Zealanders not only won both races but in the second contest event they finished 1-2-3. Going into the last day of the competition the Americans had a short point lead which quickly evaporated when, in the first contest, New Zealand's Mike Maynard romped home an easy winner in 1:59.2 with Sheer Desire, a pacer winless in 11 previous seasonal starts. "I had the fifth position behind the mobile and the owner (Rory Coolbaugh) told me to send him (Sheer Desire) to the top which I did," Maynard said. "When Sheer Desire got in front he was brave and the farther he went the stronger he was and at the finish we were some five lengths ahead of the second place finisher (King Otra with NAADA's Gerry Fielding aboard)" Third place went to the Kiwi's Gavin Cook who was guiding Silver Chief. As he was hanging up the reins when he returned to the paddock after the race one could easily see the joy that Maynard exuded. "This is my very first visit to America and to have won a race on US soil makes me feel great," said Maynard, a software engineer (his words) back home. Sheer Desire , an 11-year old Real Desire gelding owned by Rory Coolbaugh and trained by Frank Kamine, paid $11.00 for win. In the second NAADA v New Zealand event Maynard came close to a driving double but it was not to be when his pacer Shamderock, rallied in the lane but feel a neck short at the wire. The victory went to his teammate Cheree Wigg who finished first with Bangbangkisskiss. The talented diminutive lady driver finished as the overall point champion in the competition. The previous night at Yonkers Raceway Ms Wigg, who claims to be an office executive and a "hobby trainer" back home, was victorious with Big Turn On in the one event contested there and her two wins in five contest races topped all others. In her Monticello event she sent 36-1 shot Bangbangkisskiss to the lead from post position three and they paced through fractions of .29.2, 1:00.2; 1:30.2 before tripping the timer in 2:00.2 while keeping Shamderock and teammate Mike Maynard at bay. New Zealand's Colleen Negus finished third with Lady's Bag Man two lengths behind the winner. "It was getting close at the finish but my horse had enough to turn away Mike's pacer,"Ms Wigg said but couldn't restrain from smiling when she pointed out the names of the two horses she drove to victory in the competition - (Big Turn On & Bangbangkisskiss) Her smile was even bigger when she glanced at the tote board and saw Bangbangkisskiss paid $75.50; $22.80 and $17.20 across the board. The pacer is owned by Gina Frazzitta and trained by David Wiskow. "We had an enjoyable time hosting our New Zealand friends but the way they beat us up they probably had a better time," noted NAADA president Joe Faraldo. "We look forward to next year when we'll travel Down Under for yet another Friendship Competition with the Kiwis.", by John Manzi for NAADA

On Monday October 16, Monticello Raceway hosted the $400,000 New York Sire Stakes Consolations, with eight harness racing divisions each racing for a purse of $50,000 each. When one thinks of Sire Stake events, one thinks of hot balmy days of July and August. Today the conditions were far from the Sire Stake norm, with temps in the mid 50's, with intermittent sun and a persistent raw wind. 2-Year-Old Filly Pace The short 5 horse field only offered win and place wagering, Dan Dube and Python Blue Chip (Roll With Joe - Michell's Dream) eased their way to the front past the ¼ in 27.4 and stayed there every step of the mile. Michelle's Jazz (Andrew McCarthy) popped out from the garden spot to take a shot at Python Blue Chip at the top of the lane, but Dube hit the wheel disc for extra measure and the filly responded to win by 4 lengths in 1:55.3 for her 2nd win of the year for trainer Ake Svanstedt. Michelle's Jazz was second, followed by Sand Artist (T. Tetrick) 2-Year-Old Colt Pace Aces in Heaven (PP1) protected his position from the rail and left briskly, the post time favorite Courtly Choice (Mark MacDonald) patiently took the lead past the ¼ pole in 27.2 and tripped the following beams in 56.4 1:25.4. and played catch me if you can. Cheese Melt (Dan Dube) didn't see the wood often during his mile, he made a hugh 3 wide move to pass Aces In Heaven in the lane. Courtly Choice scored in 1:56.1, Cheese Melt was 2nd followed by Aces In Heaven 3rd. The son Art Major - Lady Ashlee is trained by Blake Macintosh did not disappoint his faithful, returning $4.40. 3-Year-Old Trotting Colts Zack's Zoomer took the overland route to score in the most impressive effort of the day, as Cresurrey was cutting the fractions (28.4, 58.4 1:27.4) followed by Aces and Eights. Zack's Zoomer was doing his Avis impression and was trying harder. Marcus Miller unleased Zack's Zoomer down the backside in an impressive 3 wide move a the 5/8's pole. The son of Deweycheatumnhowe continued to grind it out to prevail in 1:57.1, LQ 28.3, Cresurrey was 2nd and Aces and Eights (Dan Daley) sat the pocket the entire mile and finished 3rd. 2-Year-Old Trotting Colt The barefooted Cruising In Style (Jason Bartlett), scored a win, but not without some anxious moments. The son of Muscle Mass carved out splits of 30.2, 1:01.4 1:31.4, past the ¾ marker Cruising In Style got rough gaited and was 1 bad step away from jumping off stride, but kept his composure to record the win in 2:01.1 over a hard closing Seven Irons (Tim Tetrick) with Seven Knights (Bruce Aldrich Jr.) Cruising In Style is trained by Andrew Harris for Thestable Cruising Group. 2-Year-Old Filly Pace The eight-horse field was reduced to 7 with the scratch of Oooteeny, Eunice (Eric Goodell) from the rail showed the way barely to the ¼ before Sevenbuyeleven took the lead and reeled off fractions of 29, 59.3, 1:30 to scamper away to an easy 4 length victory in 1:59.3 over the pocket sitter Eunice, finishing 3rd was Perfect Summer K (J. Stratton) Sevenbuyeleven by Chapter Seven is trained by Linda Toscano and is owned by Ken Jacobs and paid a paltry $2.70. 3-Year-Old Pacing Colts Following the successful trend of the day, Octane Bluechip (Dan Dube) from the rail, went down the road for as far and fast as he could go. Dan Dube put the Art Major sleeper hold on the field with a 30 second 2nd quarter and had just enough in the tank to hold off Outrajus Blue Chip (Andy McCarthy) in the fastest mile of the cold afternoon in 1:54.4 and Twin B Cowboy ranged up for 3rd. The 3/5 fav Talent Soup was never a threat and finished last. 3-Year-Old Filly Trot Ostrich Blue Chip made short work of the 7-horse filed and was never headed in an easy 6 length win over Busy Doing Nothin (Ray Fisher Jr.) and Flyhawk Charm (J. Bartlett) in 1:58.1. The Chapter Seven lass is owned by the estate of the great patron of the sport Fred Monteleone, who recently passed away. In the winner's circle was his daughter and other family and friends and shared a special moment. 3-Year-Old Filly Pace The lass with the class was World Apart (Art Major), her wins this year include the Simpson Stake and the The Lady Maud. Candlelight Dinner and Jim Morrill cut the mile to the half, 27.2 - 56.0, she was trailed by World Apart to the 5/8 pole. World Apart pulled the pocket to challenge the now tiring Candlelight Dinner and came first over on the outside at the ¾ marker in 1:25.2, once on the lead World Apart hug on in a tight photo. Touchamatic (George Brennan) was bobbing and weaving thru traffic the entire mile was able to get up and finish 2nd, Magic Forces was 3rd for Marcus Miller. Drivers Jason Bartlett and Dan Dube each had a driving double, Art Major and Chapter Seven each recorded two sire wins each. By Shawn Wiles

Monticello Raceway hosted the Catskill harness racing amateurs on Thursday afternoon October 12th, the 7-horse field went to post for a purse of $3,900. Ken Heins aboard Crown Isle left hard from the rail as did Fox Valley Leo and Monica Banca, going into the first turn Strong Signal and the heavy favorite KJ Brent (Robert Krivelin) got tangled up in close quarters forcing KJ Brent off stride. Heins played hard ball and gave Banca a taste of the chilly Catskill Mountain air as the pair raced side by side past the ¼ in 27.3, they continued in tandem to the half in 57. The eventual race winner Sand Benelli, at this point was last and gapped 15 lengths from the leader. Down the backside Crown Isle and Fox Valley Leo continued to slug it out, at this point the outer flow devolved. Crown Isle still firmly held his ground as he took the field to the ¾ marker on 1:27, Fox Valley was getting leg weary on the outside caused congestion forcing Lighting Strike and Sand Benelli 3 deep at the paddock gate, as the early pace setters began to tire. The pair skipped away by 2 lengths at the top the stretch, Bob Davis and Sand Benelli were able to get up in time to win over Lighting Strike by ¾ lengths in 1:56, Blue Fin was 3rd. Sand Benelli paid $33.80. Strong Signal was placed third but due to the interference in the first turn was DQ'd and was set back to last. Bob Davis owns and trains the well-traveled Sand Benelli, an 11-year-old gelding by The Panderosa who garnered his 3rd win of the year. By: Shawn Wiles             -30-       All emails from Empire Resorts, Inc. and its subsidiaries, and any files transmitted with it are confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to which they are addressed. If you are not the intended recipient you are hereby notified that disclosing, copying, distributing or taking any action in reliance on the contents of this information is strictly prohibited. This e-mail and any files transmitted with it are considered privileged and confidential and may not be used by either party in any pending or future legal proceedings. Empire Resorts, Inc., 204 State Route 17B, Monticello, NY 12701 845-807-0001  

On the heels of the harness racing Night of Champions, Monticello Raceway will host the New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) consolations on Monday October 16, post time for the 12 race card is 12:50 . There will be 8 races, for each division of age, sex and gait, each division will race for a purse of $50,000. Owners that plan on being attendance for the afternoon will be given a free food voucher for the new state of the art Sports Bar, a free program, along with a special gift. Any owner that plans on being in attendance should contact the Race Office at (845) 794 - 4100 ext. 557 or 555 to make accommodations. The Monticello Harness Horseman's Association in conjunction with Monticello Raceway and the Harness Breeders of New York State will have a BBQ in the paddock for participating horseman and grooms throughout the card. 2 Year Old Filly Trotters Sevenbuyeleven (Tim Tetrick) earned her speed badge of 1:55.1 last week at the Red Mile winning a heat of the International Stallions Stakes, she is the richest and fastest filly in the race, she scores from post position 4. Setntheworldonfire (PP6) has only been off the board once this year for trainer Noel Daley, Andrew McCarthy will drive the Muscle Yankee lass. 2 Year Old Colt/Geldings Trotters Seven Iron (PP4 - Tim Tetrick) was impressive at the Red Mile in the Bluegrass stake, taking a LTM of 1:55.3, equally as impressive is his tally for the year 10 2-2-4, with freshman earning of $91,893. Cruising in Style (Jason Bartlett) has been in the thick of things all year on the NYSS circuit, he will start from the rail in the 5-horse contest. My Lindy Winner (Jim Morrill Jr.) looks to regain her early season form (PP2) that saw her win at Saratoga Raceway in a brisk 1:56.4. 2 Year Old Filly Pacers Michelle's Jazz is the 5-2 favorite from the rail with Andrew McCarthy at the helm. American Myth (Jason Bartlett) brings her 2-race win streak in overnight company at the Meadows, she will score from post 2 for trainer Ed Hart. Mink Pink (Eric Goodell) has been model of consistency with 3 seconds and 2 thirds in her last 5 starts, but she has yet to enter the winners circle this year. She will start from (PP4) 2 Year Old Colts/Geldings Pacers Persist Blue Chip (George Brennan) was a winner earlier in the year at Monticello Raceway in 1:58.1, in this company he will start from the 6 hole. Trump Nation has been very sharp lately, he has 2 Excelsior A wins and a place finish to his credit for trainer Andrew Harris. Aces In Heaven will score from the rail with John MacDonald in the bike and is the morning line favorite. 3 Year Old Filly Trotters Twice the bridesmaid in NYSS competition and heat winner of the Zweig, Ostrich Blue Chip (PP3) in her last 7 starts she has 5 wins and 2 place finishes, Scott Zeron will drive the favorite. Busy Doing Nothing knows her way around a ½ mile oval will benefit from the rail, Ray Fisher will drive. 3 Year Old Colts/Geldings Trotters The Trond Smedshammer stable brings an entry with Cresurrey (PP6 - Jason Bartlett)) and Texican (PP7) for owner Purple Haze Stable LLC. Arch Credit is the morning line second favorite at 3-1, the son of Credit Winner has recently rounded into consistent form. The often-erratic Optimist Blue Chip will start from the rail with Tim Tetrick in the bike. Aces And Eights was impressive in his Vernon Q 1:55.4 last week for Dan Daley. 3 Year Old Filly Pacers World Apart (PP4 - Jason Bartlett) has been a model of consistency, her potent resume includes 3 wins and earnings over $140,000, along the way she earned wins in the Simpson Stake and the Lady Maud, she was 2nd in her NYSS division at Monticello in September. Artrageous (Mark Macdonald) is looking to extend her win streak to 3. 3 Year Old Colts/Geldings Pacers Outrajus Blue Chip looks to be in top form from post 3 and has been installed the morning line fav at 5-2. Octane Blue Chip (Dan Dube - PP1) will also be in the hunt. Benji 's Best was a NYSS winner at Monti this summer in 1:53.4, he was a winner of the EBC consolation in 1:50 at Tioga Downs, post position 8 will hampers his efforts today. By: Shawn Wiles

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