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If there's one thing that Bob "the Headhunter" Hechkoff learned since he became an amateur harness racing driver is that when you have the best horse in a race go the front, control the race, and make the others try to catch you. And that's precisely what the Executive Recruiter did with The Franchise in the Billings trot today (Sat. Apr. 30) at Freehold Raceway. After they gained control nobody could catch them and they got first-call on every pole to go on and score a 2:00.2 victory in the six-horse race. "We had to work a little to make the front from the five-hole but once we were on top we controlled the race," Hechkoff offered after his victory."And my horse was strong all the way to the wire." Hechkoff and The Franchise had to hustle to get the lead from the five-hole but they cleared the other five horses coming off the first turn and they had command by the first quarter which was trotted in a swift :28.4. Once on the lead they made every pole a winning one en route to a neck triumph over Hit The Hill and driver "Yankee Joe" Lee. Third place went to Sam's Honeybee who was driven by his owner and Billings president, Tony "the Capo" Verruso. It was the second seasonal victory for the Muscles Yankee 6-year-old gelding who is co-owned by his driver and his trainer, Kyle Spagnola. Sent off at odds of 3-10 The Franchise paid $2.60 for win. Coming off his best season as an amateur driver where he won 23 races durin 2015 it was "the Headhunter's" third seasonal triumph and 80th win since he joined the amateur ranks in 2000. A second Billing trot was also on the Saturday card at Freehold Raceway. That contest saw Scott “the driving doctor” Woogen, with Peoplesayimnogood, rally from third at the top of the stretch to collar “Coach Paul” Minore and Wygant Prince at the wire for a  neck triumph in 2:01. Third place went to King’s Cavalier, driven by “King David” Offenberg. It was the first seasonal victory for the 4-year old Lear Jetta  gelding owned by his driver  and trained by Gary Messenger.  Peoplesayimnogood returned a $14.20 win mutuel.  For Doc Woogen, a gastroenterologist, it was his 145th lifetime driving victory  Next up for the Billings amateurs will be a contest(s) on Saaturday May 7 again at Freehold Raceway. By John Manzi for the Billings Series

Trotters dominated a rainy, cold afternoon on Thursday (April 28) at Harrah's Philadelphia. The featured event was a non-winners of $21,000 in their last 5 starts, going for a purse of $17,500. The 4/5 favorite was the 5-year-old gelding Opulent Yankee (Andy Miller). The son of Muscles Yankee has been facing open company at The Meadowlands as of late, and drew post 3 for this affair. He was perfectly placed in the pocket, behind the speed of Crosby's Clam Bake (Brett Miller). They came to the top of the stretch still in that order, but longshot Watkins (Dave Miller) had other plans. The 9-year-old son gelded son of Striking Sahbra circled up 3 wide to gun down Crosby's Clam Bake to win by a nose in 1:53.4, over the sloppy going. Opulent Yankee settled for third. It was the 3rd win in the last 5 starts for the Jack Franklin trainee, who is owned by Tom Ceraso Jr. He paid $56.40. There were also two divisions of a non-winners of $15,000 in the last 5 starts on the trot. Division one went to the lightly raced Kelsey's Keepsake (Joe Bongiorno). She was making her second start of the year, after going 4 for 14 in the win column in 2015. The Ron Burke trainee brushed powerfully passed the quarter, and never looked back, scoring a 5 length victory in 1:55.1. She paid $3.20. In the second division, it was Leonard Buckner's Picture This (Andrew McCarthy) scoring the victory. This 6-year-old gelded son of Classic Photo brushed to the point after the quarter, and was able to hold off the pocket-sitting longshot Deacon's Valley (Corey Callahan) to win by a head in 1:56.4. It was the Charlie Norris trainee's 2nd straight triumph, and the 15th of his career. He paid $4.40 to win. by Mike Bozich, for Harrah's Philadelphia

DOVER, Del.--- Corey Callahan and Somebody As made it look easy rolling to a second consecutive victory in the $24,000 Open/Handicap trot on a windy and chilly Wednesday, March 2, at the harness racing meeting at Dover Downs. Somebody As and Callahan got away quickly from the outside to take the early lead and continued to extend the margin until turning for home when War Cry Hall with Tim Tetrick picked up the pace in the stretch to close within a half-length at the wire in 1:54.3. Owned by Kjell Johansson and breeder ACI Stuteri, the seven-year-old altered son of Striking Sahbra-Noblesse AS, conditioned by Anette Lorentzon, recorded his third win in four starts this season and victory number 24 and $475,583 in lifetime earnings. Winemaster Hanover (Toby Lynch) edged Panamanian Hanover (Tony Morgan) for third money. Jack Parker Jr. found room along the passing lane and led a cavalcade of trotters to the finish line in a lifetime record 1:55.4 clocking to win the secondary feature $15,000 4&5-Year-Old event. It was the third win of the year with three seconds in eight starts for the RC Royalty-Becca J gelding, who now has banked $34,700 for owner Jim Moore III. Stirling Diva (Tetrick) closed for second in front of Kolbee's Star (Callahan), third. Ragazzo Dolce. a classically-bred Muscles Yankee-Bella Dolce gelding driven by Jim Morand for owners Mike Casalino and trainer Dylan Davis, returned to the winner's circle for the first time since January when he won eight races in-a-row, poured it on in the stretch on the way to a 1:55.1 triumph in one of three $12,000 trots on the supporting card. Enrico AS (Allan Davis) was next best with Awsome Valley (George Dennis) the third-place finisher. Tim Tetrick drove PL Incoming to a lifetime best 1:57 score in a second $12,000 trot, this one for 4&5-year-olds. Winsun Cobra (Pat Berry) and Dance For Me Sasha (Vic Kirby) were second and third respectively. Rich Lombardo and JJ&M Stable own the Kadabra -Kaparah gelding trained by Josh Green, who won for the first time in 2016. Tetrick returned in the final $12,000 trot, to guide odds-on favorite Maestro Blue Chip to his fourth-straight victory in 1:54.1. The Credit Winner-Up Front Holsey horse is trained by Jim King for Richard Pollucci. A 29-1 shot Brew Master (Allan Davis) was runner-up. Eskimo Joe (Callahan) was the show horse. Tim Tetrick drove three winners and Corey Callahan had a double, Monday through Thursday racing begins at 4:30 p.m. Dover Downs is dark on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. When at the track, watch live races and enjoy dining in the Winners Circle Restaurant's acclaimed Harness Racing Buffet. Call 302-674-4600 for reservations. Marv Bachrad

Pietro Gubellini teamed his trainee Tentation Ans (4m Muscles Yankee-Coronation Ans) to victory in today’s Prix du Trophee des Plages at Vincennes. This Quinte+ event was raced over 2700 meters by 15 European starters for a €44,000 purse. This recent wnner in Belgium scored in 1.14.7kr as favorite  at odds of 9/10. Scuderia Phenomena SRL owns the winner. 17/1 Caline was second for owner/trainer/driver Mathieu Abrovard with 42/1 Clairette de Beaum third with J-M Bazire driving. Philippe Allaire had another winner when his trainee Down To The River (3f Thorens Vedaquais-Tornade de Neury) won the monte Prix de Jullouville-les-Pins (purse €33,000, 2700 meters, 12 starters) for owner Mme. G. Poulsen-Allaire and jockey Yoann Lebourgeois. The winner is  by a US$729,000 winning son of Cygnus d’Odyssee won easily at 2.7/1 odds over favored 9/10 odds Dynastar (3f Coktail Jet-Ode du Chatelet) for David Thomain and trainer Thierry Duvaldestin. Time was 1.20.2kr. Also on the card was the €48,000 Prix des Fed.Quest Et Basse Normandie over 2700 meters. 12 European eligibles battled with 3.7/1 Donttellmeanymore (7g Andover Andover-Possessive Lilly) winning in 1.14kr for Franck Nivard. Fabrice Souloy trains the winner for Wallen Invest. Vivaldi (by Love You) was second for Mathieu Abrivard with Veloute (by Offshore Dream) third for Yoann Lebourgeois. The Prix de Plestin-les-Greves (purse €54,000, 2100 meters autostart, nine starters) resulted in a solid 1.13kr victory by 1.3/1 favorite Brisbane du Bourg (5m Jasmin de Flore-Nistelles d’Aveze) with Eric Raffin up. Sebastien Guarato owns and trains the winner. Brune des Forges (5f Rolling d’Heripre) was second for david Thoman at 27/1 with third to 9/1 Belle Etoile Bleue (5f Ready Cash) and trainer/driver Sebastian Ernault. Bahamas (5m Goetmals Wood-Pin Up de la Loge) took the monte Prix de Plouescat (purse €50,000, 2700 meters, 17 starters) timed in 1.14.1kr at 16.1/1 odds for Alexandre Abrivard. Berlioz de Ginai was second for Eric Raffin and Boyonnaz de l’Inam landed third for Clement Frecelle. Thomas H. Hicks

The Arden Homestead Stable of Delhi, New York and Crystal Springs Farm of Millersburg, Ohio announce that Flex The Muscle, will stand 2016 stallion duty at Crystal Springs Farm in Millersburg. A foal of 2007 with lifetime earnings of $937,460 and a winning record of 1:52.4f , Flex The Muscle was foaled and raised at Silver Linden Farms in Woodburn, Indiana and sold at the 2008 Standardbred Sales Company Yearling Sale for $140,000. Sired by Muscles Yankee from the mare Alix Hall by Conway Hall, Flex The Muscle chalked up 32 wins and hit the tote board in 46% of his 176 starts. In addition, he won 2 of his 4 lifetime starts Racing Under Saddle with a record of 1:59.2m and won $19,750 in addition to his $937,460 purse earnings. During his racing career Flex The Muscle showed both stakes speed and raceway durability with 13 stakes wins at ages 2 and 3 and19 wins as an aged trotter. At age 3 he won the Dexter Cup, the New Jersey Sires Stakes Final, the Charles Smith Memorial, the Galt Memorial and the Old Oaken Buckette setting a new track record at that time for 3 year old trotters at Delaware, Ohio. Flex The Muscle stands for a fee of $2,000 with multiple breeding discounts with shipped semen available. Inquiries should be made to Ray Yoder at Crystal Springs Farm, 4351 State Rte 557, Millersburg, OH 44654 or by telephone: Tel# (330) 231-2776, Fax# (330) 893-1914 or to Peter Gerry at (609) 865-0137.

East Rutherford, NJ---Just as an impending snowstorm closing in on the New York City metropolitan area did not interrupt Friday (January 22) evening's 14-race harness racing program at The Meadowlands, eight rivals closed in--but failed to engulf--Opulent Yankee ($4.60, part of entry) in the featured $25,000 Open Handicap Trot, carded as race two. Andy Miller floated forward with the 5-year-old Muscles Yankee gelding at race's outset, working clear of Massacaia (Brett Miller) well after a :27 initial quarter mile. Once assuming command, Opulent Yankee kept at a sprightly tempo, reeling off intermediate splits of :55 and 1:23.3 while his stablemate Allerage Star (Scott Zeron) gradually gained into a joint second with a boxed Massacaia. Off the far turn, Opulent Yankee kicked clear at will, extending his lead to three lengths in mid-stretch before taken in hand late for a 1:52.1 win, his first of 2016 and his ninth career triumph. Detroit Rapper (Jim Marohn, Jr.) negotiated heavy traffic through the stretch, splitting foes in the final sixteenth to just take second, while 65-1 longshot A Little More Love (Joe Bongiorno) made a late push off stalled cover to take third. Julie Miller trains Opulent Yankee for the partnership of Little E, Geiger, Settlemoir, and Stolz. Later in the card, a pair of $15,000 sub-featured events were contested, one for top-level conditioned distaff pacers and the other for trotters which have not won six races. The distaff pace saw Ron Burke trainee Tessa Seelster ($3.60) capture a second consecutive win, crossing and clearing from her outside post 8, rating an uncontested lead, and holding clear of a mildly chasing Not Before Eight (Anthony Napolitano) for a 1:51.2 victory. Yannick Gingras drove the 4-year-old Shadow Play mare. While another Burke trainee in Its Huw You Know (Gingras) set the pace in the sub-featured trotting event, he was collared in the final yards by Paris Princess N ($8.80), who enjoyed a pocket trip throughout before pouncing late to prevail in 1:54.3. Forever As (Tim Tetrick) rallied from off the pace to take second, just half a length from the victorious 7-year-old Diedre Don mare. Scott Zeron drove Paris Princess N for trainer Paul Blumenfeld. The evening's card amassed $2,636,111 in total handle, up $96,749 from the corresponding Friday night card in 2015. As Saturday's races have been abandoned and re-carded as drawn for next Saturday (January 30), racing will return to The Meadowlands next Friday (January 29). Both Jackpot High 5 pools carry over to next week, with the seventh-race version of the 20-cent wager now boasting $11,602 in added money and the finale carrying $64,800 extra should one punter take down the entire pool. Post time will be 6:35 p.m. Eastern time. For more information on racing, dining, and entertainment at The Meadowlands, visit playmeadowlands.com. by James Witherite, Meadowlands Media Relations

DOVER, Del. --- I Like My Boss did it again, beating the top trotters at the track with a 1:53 victory in the $21,000 Open/Handicap trot at Dover Downs on Wednesday, Jan. 6. Another streaking trotter, Ragazzo Dolce, won his seventh in-a-row. For the second straight day, harness racing driver Corey Callahan drove four winners. The all-Delaware bred I Like My Boss, made his first 2016 start a memorably one, scoring a lifetime mark,1:53 triumph, in the top trot of the week. With regular driver George Dennis at the controls the now five-year-old altered son of Don Boss Vita-Wild One turned back veteran Tough Mac (Corey Callahan), the early leader for his 25th lifetime win in 51 races for owner-trainer Bob Shahan his breeder with grandchildren Jimmy and Ashley Parsons. I Like My Boss has now won $340,180. Tough Mac held on for second with Indiana stakes winner, Bluebird Reverend (Montrell Teague) third. The sub-feature $15,000 4&5-Year-Old trot was won by Drinksforthehouse, from post 8, guided by Corey Callahan. The for-year-old Conway Hall-Pacific Photo gelding won his second in-a-row for trainer John Cabot and recent owners Howard and Josh Kaufman. Lighter Hanover (Vince Copeland) won the battle for second edging Machuca (Allan Davis). The sterling bred Ragazzo Dolce re-enforced his title as 'king of the claiming trotters" recording his seventh straight victory, as Jim Morand pulled the Muscles Yankee-Bella Dolce five-year-old gelding out of third on the final turn and blew away his rivals for a 1:56 victory in a $15,000-$20,000 Claiming Handicap. It was his 14 career win in 52 assignments and lifted his all-time earnings to $113,855. Ronan (Tony Morgan) came on to finish second. Brew Master (Teague) the early leader, held on for third. Strong finishing Ashes Cash was best in the stretch, in a $12,000 trot, chalking up a 1:54.2 victory for owner-trainer Leigh Raymer of the Tyler Raymer Stable with Corey Callahan driving the third of four winners. Hemi Seelster (Brett Miller) was right there second in front of Five Towns (G.Dennis). An eight-year-old gelding owned by David Miller, Ashes Cash, a son of Cash Hall- Ashameg, won for the 26th time in his career and now has earned $182,560 lifetime. The other $12,000 trot went to Providence West's Odessa, a 1:58.1 winner for drover Justin Vincent and trainer Kim Vincent. The win was the second straight for the Crown Prince Gar-Current Yield gelding. Phantom Rusty (Jonathan Roberts) was runner-up with Simply Sassy (Morgan) the show finisher. GIANT SCULPTURE, BLACK AQUILA A HEAD THURSDAY FEATURE Giant Sculpture, Black Aquila A and Rock N’Roll Jet lead nine to post in the Thursday, Jan. 7 feature at Dover Downs. First post is 4:30 p.m. Bill Emmons’ Giant Sculpture has been racing well against the top claiming pacers at the track and now drops back into the conditioned ranks with Allan Davis holding the lines. Breakway Racing and Bonuccelli Racing’s Black Aquila A, with Corey Callahan, drops down in class while Dawn Webb and trainer Buddy Bright’s Rock N’Roll Jet, a winner last start with Art Stafford Jr., steps up a notch. Frank Chick’s recently acquired Savannah Splendor and George Dennis should be a factor. Pierce, owned by Engel Stable and Nick Surick Stable, gets a good post with Marcus Miller in the bike. Leslie Betts’ well-bred Teresa’s Beach makes his first start in 2016 and starts from post 1. Owner-trainer Bill Moffett’s Leyden and Ross Wolfenden must overcome starting from post 8. Steve Warrington’s homebred Rebel Soldier driven by Jim Morand and Steve Good’s T’s Electric has been racing well at Rosecroft. Jonathan Roberts will drive.     Dover Downs now features a $5,000 Pick-4 daily. Marv Bachrad

December 30, 2015 - Michael Nimczyk teamed 6.1/1 Montecore Mo (6g Jpoker Mauritz-Mystere Hanover) to victory in the Prix Champions Series Finale at Berlin Mariendorf. Mommert Ulrich owns the winner that scored in 1.12.8kr over 1900 meters autostart against nine rivals for the €15,000 purse. 3.9/1 Wild Viking (7g Mandarino Blue-Lucie Justice) was second for Rudolf Haller with third to 7.2/1 Abano H with Jochen Haide driving. Also this evening at Mariendorf was the Prix Dinner For One (purse €5,000, 1900 meters autostart, 12 starters) and 11/1 Jana (5f Franic-Tille Lobell) took victory timed in 1.16.6kr for driver Heinz Wewering and owner/trainer H-J Ganschow. 3/1 Abano W (5g Abano As-Countess Diamond) was second for Michael Nimczyk with 20/1 Dolomit R (8g Ghiotto-Dodona) third for driver Norbert Bieman. Wewering was back in the winners’ circle with Impulsiv (3g Muscles Yankee-L’Amica) at 4.9/1 timed in 1.15.6kr in the €6,000 Prix Mr. Pommeroy over 1900 meters autostart (11 starters). Heinz Wewering trains this winner for owner Schmeer Schiffler. 1.8/1 favorite Holy Wood Star (3f Goetmals Wood-Hello Merrylou) was next for Micael Nimczyk with 3.4/1 Hera (3f Alesi OM-Divina) third to the line for teamster Thomas Panschow. At Paris-Vincennes amateur drivers contested the €14,000 Prix de Saint-Denis (2100 meters autostart, 16 starters) and the 1.13.6kr winner was 2.4/1 Unrefundable (7g Offshore Dream-Lilyjessbrand) with Romain Poree up. Pierre Vercruysse trains Unrefundable that defated 10.1/1 Soprano de Mai (9g Lucky d’Hilly-Chinson de Mais) for Jean-Charles Piton. Third was 65/1 Safie Pont Vautier (9f Jolmeto-Lisa Pont Vautier) for owner/driver Franck Lair. Thomas H. Hicks

East Rutherford, N.J. -- Trainer Julie Miller's stable accounts for the morning-line favourites of both Open Trots on Friday (December 18) evening's 14-race harness racing card at The Meadowlands, and over $150,000 in guaranteed pools and carryovers await punters on a card that boasts 10- and 11-horse fields all round.   The featured $25,000 Open 1 Handicap Trot is carded as the evening's eighth race, coinciding with the start of a $50,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4. Julie Miller sends out 5-2 morning line favourite Opulent Yankee from post 7 for the partnership of Little E, Geiger, Settlemoir, and Stolz. The 4-year-old Muscles Yankee gelding is rounding into form, most recently chasing Handover Belle in last week's Open after emerging out of traffic a quarter mile from the winning post. Andy Miller will once again drive the 8-time winner. Among Opulent Yankee's toughest competition are Waiting On a Woman (post 5, Corey Callahan), a winner of two straight upper-level events for trainer Kyle Spagnola before a game defeat at this level last week; top-level Philadelphia shipper and Ron Burke trainee Appomattox (post 6, Yannick Gingras); and Crosbys Clam Bake (post 9, Scott Zeron), who sprung a 29-1 upset over Open foes for the Andy Federico stable a fortnight ago.   A sub-featured $20,000 Open 2 Handicap Trot is scheduled two races earlier, and Miller trainee Lindy's Tru Grit was assigned post position 10 after a lengthy stakes campaign through the summer and fall months. The 5-year-old Cantab Hall entire qualified sharply last week after a two-month layoff, sprinting off to defeat Crazshana by over 11 lengths in a 1:54.4 mile. Andy Miller handles the driving duties of the 2-1 morning line favourite for the Lindy Racing Stable and Robert Rudolph. Like his stablemate later in the evening, Lindy's Tru Grit will have to tackle a fit Burke trainee invading from Harrah's Philadelphia in March Awareness (post 7, Gingras).   In addition to the standard $105,000 in guaranteed pools throughout the evening's Pick 5 and twin Pick 4s, both Jackpot High-5 wagers bring carryovers into Friday's card. In the fifth race, the 20-cent wager carries a $7,181.28 progressive jackpot, while $34,296.44 will be added to the 14th race pool should a lone winner emerge.   Post time for Friday's program at The Meadowlands is 7:00 p.m. EST. For more information on racing, dining, and entertainment at The Meadowlands, visit playmeadowlands.com.   Darin Zoccali

Harness racing trainer Julie Miller likens Opulent Yankee's return from a nearly five-month layoff to compete in Friday's Open Handicap for trotters at the Meadowlands to "jumping off the high dive a little bit." But it might help the trainer determine whether the 4-year-old gelding can make a big splash in 2016. Opulent Yankee has won six of 18 races this year and finished second on nine occasions en route to $141,881 in purses. He finished no worse than second in any of his first 15 starts of the season and eight of his second-place finishes came to world champion JL Cruze. In fact, overall, JL Cruze won 11 of the 12 races Opulent Yankee failed to win. A son of stallion Muscles Yankee out of the mare Opulent Bluestone, Opulent Yankee finished second in the Super Bowl, Singer Memorial, Shiaway St Pat, and Weiss series finals. He won two preliminary legs of the Super Bowl as well as one preliminary round of each the Singer, Shiaway St Pat, Weiss and Graduate series. Opulent Yankee will start Friday's nine-horse $25,000 Open Handicap from post three with driver Andy Miller. He is 5-1 on the morning line, which is the third choice behind 5-2 favorite Handover Belle and 3-1 Master Of Law. "He's had a great season," said Julie Miller, who trains Opulent Yankee for Jeff Gural's Little E LLC, Arthur Geiger, Jason Settlemoir and David Stolz. "He was finishing second to JL Cruze, which wasn't a bad thing. This summer we decided to give him a little time off and he's come back nicely. "I think we're jumping off the high dive a little bit starting right out in the Open, but that's where he fits and where he has to race. It's kind of a step up from just series, but hopefully he'll be able to do OK." As a 3-year-old, Opulent Yankee trotted the fifth-fastest winning mile by a sophomore male trotter, 1:51.4, despite racing only five times. This season, he has a mark of 1:52.3, which is among the top 40 by an older trotter, and was timed as fast as 1:51.3 in a fourth-place Graduate Series finish behind stakes-winners JL Cruze, Father Patrick, and Resolve. Opulent Yankee finished eighth in the Graduate Series final on July 11, despite a 1:51.4 effort, and was given time to refresh. He had raced at least twice in each of the first six months of the year. "He had enough starts," Miller said. "He just needed a little vacation time. I wanted to get him fresh and back at it for the winter meet. A well-deserved break was needed, rather than tackling the TVG (Free For All Series). Opulent Yankee enters this weekend's Open Handicap off two qualifiers. He finished second in the first qualifier, timed in 1:56, and won the second qualifier in 1:53.1. "He's got those two nice qualifiers, but as a trainer I'd like to see him in an easier spot and give him a chance to get his legs underneath of him," Miller said. "It is what it is. Hopefully he can compete at this level. He loves the Meadowlands, he loves a mile track, and I think Andy gets along with him excellent. I'm optimistic about it, but at the same time they're going to race and they're going to go fast. I don't want to over-extend him his first start, but we go to the races to do our best and to win." As for Opulent Yankee's future, Miller's plan at the moment is to have no plan. "I'm going to play it by ear," Miller said. "I don't see him as of right now being a top stakes horse going against the best of the best. But I'd like to eat my words and see that happen. "He can prove to me what he wants to be as a 5-year-old." by Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications USTA

The Thursday afternoon harness racing feature from Harrah's Philadelphia was a trotting event for winner's Over $25,000 lifetime carrying a purse for the same amount. Race favorite DW's NY Yank (Yannick Gingras) was coming off of a fifth place finish in the Dayton Trotting Derby. He won a similar race here at Harrah's Philly just three starts ago. Starting from post eight, he had to overcome an early tussle for the lead, battling with seventeen time winner Classic Belisima (Corey Callahan) before clearing past a quarter in :28.1. After a rated second quarter of :29.1 (:57.2 half), DW's NY Yank faced a fresh challenger in high percentage winner Boffin (Geo. Napolitano Jr.). They battled beyond three-quarters (1:25.3). That's when longshot Sumatra (Dave Miller) made his move. The 4-year-old son of Muscles Yankee swung off of cover from second-over position, and was able to sweep on by to win in 1:54.3. DW's NY Yank finished second, while Boffin was third. It was the third win in the last five starts for the Tom Fanning trainee, and the twelfth of his career. Sumatra ($19.20) is owned by Joseph Smith. Michael Bozich  

Driver Eric Abbatiello collected wins in a pair of $7,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes - Green Acres - one by seven lengths and the other by a head - on Thursday, October 1, 2015 at the harness racing meeting at Freehold Raceway. In the first of the two trotting events, both prior to the betting card, Abbatiello guided Mountain Top [Muscle Hill] to a seven-length tally over Switchblade Hall [Muscles Yankee] in the three-year-old trotting colt division. SS Poseidon [Muscle Hill] was nearly 26 lengths back in third. The time for the mile was 2:01 flat. Noel Daley trains the colt and co-owns with Mario Mazza of New Hope, PA. Mountain Top has won two straight and has three wins, one second and two thirds in 15 starts this year. He has a lifetime bankroll of $61,570. It was more of a battle in the two-year-old trotting colt division as Stayin Strong [Muscles Yankee] won by a head over Steed [Muscle Hill]. It was seven and a half lengths to Threeupthreedown [Muscle Hill] in third. The Julie Miller trainee trotted the mile in 2:00.1. Jason and Douglas Allen of Vincentown, NJ own Stayin Strong, who has three wins, one second and two thirds in nine starts for earnings of $27,114. He has swept the three preliminary legs of the Green Acres, heading into the $25,000 final on Thursday, October 8, 2015. Carol Hodes

MANALAPAN, NJ - September 24, 2015 - Eric Abbatiello piloted both winners - Mountain Top and Stayin Strong - in a pair of $7,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes - Green Acres - on Thursday, September 24, 2015 at Freehold Raceway. Both were contested as non-wagering events prior to the program. In the three-year-old trotting colt division, only two went to post and Mountain Top prevailed by three quarters of a length over SS Poseidon, driven by Steve Smith, in a 1:59.2 mile. Both entrants are sons of Muscle Hill. Mountain Top, trained by Noel Daley, posted his second win of the year and has finished in-the-money in five of 14 starts this year. He was third in last week's $50,500 Charles Smith Trot. He has banked more than $55,000 lifetime for Mario Mazza of New Hope, PA and Daley. Stayin Strong [Muscles Yankee] made it two straight in Green Acres competition for two-year-old trotting colts and geldings, finishing three-quarters of a length ahead of Threeupthreedown [Muscle Hill], also driven by Smith. Inukchuk Chuck [Muscles Yankee] was third by three and a half lengths. While Steed [Muscle Hill], the Harold Dancer, broke and finished last in the field of four. Stayin Strong, trained by Julie Miller, trotted the mile in 2:00.1. James and Douglas Allen of Vincentown, NJ own Stayin Strong who has two wins, one second and two thirds in eight starts for earnings of $23,264. The New Jersey Sire Stakes - Green Acres continue on Friday with splits for two and three-year-old trotting fillies. Saturday's card features pacers with eight entrants in the $37,500 New Jersey Futurity, sponsored by the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey, for three-year-old New Jersey-sired colts and fillies [the eighth race]. There will also be a pair of Lou Babic Memorials, sponsored by the New Jersey Sire Stakes. The $56,000 Lou Babic for two-year-old pacing fillies will be a non-wagering contest while the $85,400 Lou Babic for two-year-old pacing colts is the sixth race of the day. By Carol Hodes for the SBOANJ

Delaware, OH --- French Laundry cleaned up in Thursday’s (Sept. 24) $126,000 Old Oaken Bucket for harness racing 3-year-old male trotters at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, winning by 2-3/4 lengths over Andy Ray in a track-record 1:53.4. When the starting gate opened, Mesmerized went to the early lead from post five, leaving French Laundry and driver Yannick Gingras in second place around the first turn. Gingras moved French Laundry to the front quickly, though, clearing to the lead before reaching the quarter in :28. From there, it was all French Laundry. The colt reached the half in :57.2 and three-quarters in 1:25.1. His winning time lowered the Delaware County Fairgrounds track record for a 3-year-old colt trotter, previously 1:54.2 by Triumphant Caviar in 2009, and was one-fifth of a second off the stakes record of 1:53.3 established by gelding Dennis in 2008. Andy Ray, named in honor of driver Andy Ray Miller, finished strong to edge Mesmerized, driven by Miller, for second place. Walter White finished fourth. French Laundry, sent off as the 4-5 favorite, is trained by Jimmy Takter for owners Christina Takter, John and Jim Fielding, Marvin Katz, and Al Libfeld. A son of Muscles Yankee out of the mare Creamy Mimi, French Laundry has won four of 14 races this year and earned $212,038. For his career, the colt has won 11 of 26 starts, including the 2014 Kindergarten Classic championship, and earned $525,157. "This colt is definitely not as temperamental as (his dam) Creamy Mimi," said co-owner Marvin Katz. "She could be cantankerous and be a handful. This colt is not like that, but he does have her ability. He has showed that just by making half a million dollars. "This year he has just had some bad luck. That includes racing luck and some bad draws. Like the outside in the Hambletonian for instance. But we always knew he was talented and are very pleased with his win here today." by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications  -- Kimberly French also contributed to this report

Stayin Strong, driven by Eric Abbatiello and trained by Julie Miller, was a length and a quarter winner in the $7,000 opening leg of the New Jersey Sire Stakes - Green Acres for two-year-old trotting colts, the third race on Thursday, September 10, 2015 at Freehold Raceway. Stayin Strong, a son of Muscles Yankee, picked up his first win in six starts, covering the mile in 2:00.4. He paid $6.20 to win. Threeupthreedown [Muscle Hill] was second with five and a half lengths to Luv at First Site [Muscle Yankee] in third. Stayin Strong, bred by Lauren and Robert Tucker, campaigns for Jason and Douglas Allen of Vincentown, NJ. Carol Hodes  

A pair of American Nationals for 2yo trotters and another Super Night elimination closed the books on a busy holiday weekend of harness racing stake action at Balmoral Park. In the opening American National a field of seven diagonally gaited fillies lined up behind the gate to battle for a purse of $46,750. Overlooked in the wagering after having some "breaking" issues to start her career, Diamond Creek Racing and Robert & Lynda Stewart's Catch All was as sure footed as could be while stepping her way to a three-quarter length victory in a snappy 1:56.4 for driver Trace Tetrick. Ducked off the gate as Bold Dresser (Oyvind Hegdal) led the field through opening splits of 28.3 & 58.4 Catch All was positioned perfectly in third as she moved to the outside with the field heading around the final bend.   "I wanted to let her get settled in for a bit before I asked her for anything," said Tetrick. "When I raced her at the Indiana State Fair she felt great to me and she showed me that day that she could grind away on the outside if you needed her to."   Grind away she did on this night, drawing to within a head of the pace setter as the two fillies reached the three-quarter-mile mark in 1:27.1. In the lane the Bob Stewart trained daughter of Muscles Yankee--Clever Catch wore down the leader and proceeded to draw clear for her first career win in start number four. I Luv Blackhawkred (Lewayne Miller) turned a pocket sitting trip into a second place check while Bold Dresser held on for the show dough. After the impressive win, which was just three ticks off the track record of 1:56.1, Tetrick was quick to praise the $17,000 Lexington Select purchase. "I thought a lot of her after that second place finish in Indy," said Hoosier Park's leading reinsman. "Everything is still pretty new to her with this being only her fourth career start but I though she really stepped up tonight and showed that she's going to be a very serious race horse." The fourth choice in the wagering Catch All returned $21.40, $7.60 & $2.80 to her backers. Another 9-1 choice captured the $60,400 American National for 2yo trotting colts as Mystical Marker Farms, Bobby Brower, Ben Graber and Victory Hill Farms Barryscourt rallied in the final strides to nip 1-9 favorite Waitlifter K by a neck in 1:56.1. Perfectly handled by driver Lewayne Miller, the gelded son of Northern Kid--Katie Hall left alertly from post six and was able to find a seat in third as Waitlifter K (Trace Tetrick) carved out uncontested splits of 28.3, 57.3 & 1:26.2. With the heavy favorite opening up a three-length advantage at the top of the lane things looked bleak for the Bobby Brower trainee but Miller never stopped urging his charge as he gradually cut into the margin while racing on the outside of horses. With a sixteenth of a mile to go Barryscourt edged alongside the leader and gamely managed to poke a neck in front in the final strides to post his third win in four career starts. Waitlifter K was forced to settle for the runner-up role on this night while JD Cheese (Dale Hiteman) was third, 4¾ lengths behind the top pair. With the win the Kentucky Sire Stakes champion, who returned $20.20, $2.60 & $2.20 now boasts a gaudy bankroll of $125,400 in just four career starts. The final Super Night elimination of the busy weekend also put trotters in the spotlight as a field of 10 sophomore fillies battled in a $12,500 Lady Ann Reed Stake elimination. The top 9 finishers will return next Saturday for the $80,000 (est.) final where they will be joined by Persuasive Look. This battle produced one of the most impressive performances of the weekend as Dr. Patrick Graham's Fox Valley Yoko rallied from far back to win by a half-length in 1:58.2 for driver Kyle Wilfong. Hampered in the draw with post nine, the daughter of Pizzazzed--Hallie Rose saved ground for most of the mile while sitting near the back of the pack. After finally securing racing room in the lane, the Curt Grummel trained miss uncorked a huge rally going from eighth to first in the final quarter mile to notch her third win in 10 starts this year. Shez So Sassy finished in the bridesmaid role while Lc'snmotion (Mike Oosting) rallied to be third. Also gaining spots in the final were Bi Polar Rose, Fox Valley Harrah, Patient ID, Maple Grove Karen, None of That Stuff and Divinely Floozy. Tom Kelley  

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