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Orlando, FL --- As she traveled from New Jersey to Florida for Sunday night's harness racing Dan Patch Awards tribute, trainer Nancy Johansson passed time on her flight by reading a Hoof Beats magazine story about her Horse of the Year winner JK She'salady. JK She'salady, bred and owned by 3 Brothers Stables, was undefeated in 12 races last season and became the first 2-year-old female pacer in harness racing history to be named Horse of the Year by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. She was honored Sunday at USHWA's Dan Patch Awards Night of Champions Banquet at the DoubleTree Hilton Hotel at SeaWorld. "When I was reading that story it really sunk in more, like, wow, this is what we're coming all the way to Florida for," Johansson said. "It's very exciting. It's something that I think everybody works for, and it's nice to be able to accomplish that. It's really sunk in more now." JK She'salady is the fourth 2-year-old to receive Horse of the Year, joining pacer Niatross (1979), trotter Nevele Pride (1967) and pacer Bret Hanover (1964). The three previous 2-year-old winners were colts. She is the first female pacer to be voted Horse of the Year since Rainbow Blue in 2004 and the fourth female pacer overall to receive the honor. The others were Bunny Lake in 2001 and Fan Hanover in 1981. "It's unbelievable," Johansson said at the time of the Horse of the Year announcement in December. "The hard work paid off. She's just such a special horse. "She's as perfect as they come, and I guess finishing off with Horse of the Year exemplifies how perfect she is." In addition to joining the connections of JK She'salady in picking up the Horse of the Year trophy, the 33-year-old Johansson received the Rising Star Award from USHWA. "It's nice that somebody appreciates your ability and your hard work," Johansson said. "Not everyone might admit it, but I think all people like to be recognized. It's very gratifying." The trip to Orlando was gratifying for reasons other than picking up awards. Johansson and her husband, trainer-driver Marcus Johansson, got to enjoy some vacation time with children Ella and Marcus Jr. "Marcus is a huge part of everything that goes on," Johansson said. "He's just as qualified to be Rising Star as I am. It's a lot of fun (to be together). It's great that it happened to be in Orlando this year and we got to have a couple of days away (from work) and my kids got to have a little fun. They sacrifice a lot because we work crazy hours and we're always running around." Older female trotter Shake It Cerry, trained by Johansson's father, Jimmy Takter, received the Trotter of the Year award and older male pacer Sweet Lou, trained by Ron Burke, received the Pacer of the Year trophy. Takter received the Trainer of the Year honor. In addition to owning JK She'salady, 3 Brothers Stables - Alan, Ronald and Steven Katz - was named Breeder of the Year and shared Owner of the Year with John Fielding. Other honorees included Hall of Fame inductee Joe Thomson, Communicators Hall of Fame inductees Bob Marks and Kathy Parker, Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award winner Russell Williams, Breakthrough Award winner Emily Gaskin and Driver of the Year winner Yannick Gingras. Horses receiving awards for division honors -- in addition to JK She'salady, Shake It Cerry and Sweet Lou -- were 2-year-old male trotter Pinkman, 2-year-old female trotter Mission Brief, 3-year-old male trotter Father Patrick, older male trotter Sebastian K, older female trotter Classic Martine, 2-year-old male pacer Artspeak, 3-year-old male pacer McWicked, 3-year-old female pacer Color's A Virgin, and older female pacers Anndrovette and Rocklamation (tie). For a complete list of honorees, click here. By Ken Weingartner / Harness Racing Communications / USTA    

When young trotter Cruzado Dela Noche went off stride at the start of his second lifetime race, trainer Nancy Johansson might have been disappointed, but when she watched what happened next, she was impressed. Cruzado Dela Noche regained his footing and trotted his final quarter-mile in :26.3 to cap a :54.4 second half in a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes at The Meadows. "I was like, oh wow, he can go a little," Johansson said, laughing. "He had an outside post and broke leaving the gate, which is something babies can do, but he's shown speed from the beginning." Johansson hopes to see more of that speed Saturday when Cruzado Dela Noche competes in the second of two Breeders Crown eliminations for 2-year-old male trotters. He will start from post nine, with driver David Miller, and is 6-1 on the morning line. Kindergarten Classic Series champion French Laundry is the 5-2 favorite followed by Peter Haughton Memorial runner-up Uncle Lasse at 3-1. Both horses are trained by Johansson's father, Jimmy Takter. Takter's Pinkman, the Valley Victory Stakes winner, is the 2-1 favorite in the first elimination, followed by Matron Stakes winner Habitat at 5-2 and Peter Haughton winner Centurion ATM at 4-1. The top five finishers from each elimination advance to the $500,000 final on Nov. 22. Elim winners will draw for posts one through five for the final. Known around the stable as "Nacho," Cruzado Dela Noche has won three of 10 races and earned $164,040 for owner Courant A B of Sweden. He is a son of 2010 Hambletonian winner Muscle Massive, a Takter-trained colt for which Johansson was the groom, out of the mare Alidade. Cruzado Dela Noche beat French Laundry by three-quarters of a length in 1:53.4 in a division of the International Stallion Stakes in October. Only two 2-year-old male trotters have posted a faster winning time this season, Centurion ATM and Pinkman. "He raced enormously," Johansson said about the International Stallion, which was contested in a rainstorm at The Red Mile. "He trotted (1):53.4 in the pouring rain on the front end and did all the work himself. He's very honest." Cruzado Dela Noche finished third in the Matron Stakes last week, beaten a half-length by Habitat, in his first start since the International Stallion. "He was really good," said Johansson, who also trains 2-year-old female pacer JK She'salady, the No. 1-ranked horse in harness racing's weekly Top 10 poll. "He hadn't raced since Lexington so he was a little short, but I was happy with the race. "I think he fits (in the Breeders Crown). I think he's just as good as any of the other ones. I don't think there's anyone I'm really afraid of. I think if things work in his way he could just as well be the winner at the end as anyone else. I think he deserves a little more credit than he's gotten. He's living in Lady's shadow a little bit I think. "I like him a lot. Not only that, but he's a Muscle Massive, which is very close to my heart." by Ken Weingartner, for Harness Racing Communications

As trainer Nancy Johansson gets ready to prepare JK She'salady for the final weeks of her season, she can only laugh when she thinks about how the star filly pacer looked a year ago. "I liked her from the beginning, even though she was fat like a broodmare when she came in (to begin training for her 2-year-old campaign)," Johansson said with a big smile. "I think about it when we're breaking the babies now. At this time last year, she was exhausted after two laps around the track. But she always had a good attitude and did everything we wanted her to do. "It's amazing. That's why I love working with young horses, so you can see the progression." JK She'salady has progressed to the point of being mentioned in the conversation for Horse of the Year. Last Saturday, she won the Three Diamonds Stakes for 2-year-old female pacers at Woodbine Racetrack by 1-1/2 lengths over Solar Sister in 1:52.1, giving her 10 victories in 10 races and $620,830. Next up is the season-ending Breeders Crown at the Meadowlands, with eliminations - if necessary - Nov. 14 and the final on Nov. 22. JK She'salady is owned by breeders Alan, Ron and Steve Katz, who are better known in harness racing as 3 Brothers Stables. A daughter of stallion Art Major out of the mare Presidential Lady, she is a full sister to standout 3-year-old male pacer JK Endofanera. "She's an awesome horse," Johansson said. "It's not only that she manages to win, but she does a lot of work in the races. She's first up a lot. She deserves every win she gets. It's not like she's sitting on the rail and shakes loose, she works for them. She's got more determination than a lot of horses I've seen." JK She'salady has won each of her most recent seven races by at least one length. Three times, she has won by four or more lengths, including the She's A Great Lady Stakes in a world-record-equaling 1:50.1 at Mohawk. "She knows what the goal is," Johansson said. "She knows that she's supposed to be first. I always say that's what makes great horses great - they know what this is about. She has tons of determination and grit, but she's smart too. She's not just out there running on talent. She has a lot of talent, but she's figured everything out too. "And she's easy on herself, too. After she races, she comes home and attacks her feed tub. Nothing really bothers her. She's smart. If it's raining outside, she'll lie down and sleep. She's like, 'Rain day!' When it stops raining, she'll get up ready to jog. In that way, she's super easy to train. I don't have to worry about all the stupid things horses can do." As her win total has increased, so has recognition. Last week, JK She'salady received eight of 35 first-place votes in the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll. She was ranked No. 3 among all horses, and first among pacers. The next poll will be released before noon on Tuesday. No 2-year-old female pacer has ever been named Pacer of the Year, much less Horse of the Year. In the last 15 years, none have even received much consideration. See You At Peelers won all 13 of her starts in 2010, becoming just the second 2-year-old female pacer to receive the division's Dan Patch Award with an undefeated season, and got one vote for Pacer of the Year. My Little Dragon, who went 6-for-6 in 2005, received two Pacer of the Year votes and one nod for Horse of the Year. The 2-year-old filly pacer with the most support in recent years was Eternal Camnation, who got 30 votes for Pacer of the Year in 1999, but was outdistanced by Triple Crown winner Blissfull Hall, with 153 votes. "That doesn't really matter to me," Johansson said. "I just try to make (JK She'salady) as perfect as she can be for every race. That's my job. Everything else is just extra." JK She'salady cruised to wins in her first three races, but really opened Johansson's eyes in her fourth start, which came in a division of - interestingly - the Eternal Camnation Stakes at Mohawk. She was in seventh place, 9-1/4 lengths behind the leader, at the halfway point and three wide, still more than three lengths back, as she made her way around the final turn. As the field straightened for home, she was in front - and won by seven lengths with regular driver Yannick Gingras. "That was the first moment where I was like, wow, she's the real deal," Johansson said. "I've never seen a horse that can make a move in the turn like she can. Usually in the turn you lose a length or a half a length, but she'll come out of the turn and be on top by two. I think that's pretty amazing with her. "She loves it. She's put away a lot of nice horses in the last turn. Those fillies are pacing hard and she just goes by them. She's just a dream come true." by Ken Weingartner, for Harness Racing Communications  

TORONTO, October 25 - The finest two-year-olds in harness racing were on display Saturday night at Woodbine Racetrack for the Fall Four Stakes. Consisting of the Governors Cup, Valley Victory, Three Diamonds and Goldsmith Maid, the Fall Four Stakes has been an annual showcase of the best freshmen in the sport. A costly miscue and a giant upset got the action underway in the $464,000 Goldsmith Maid for two-year-old trotting fillies. Mission Brief, the 3/5 heavy favourite, made a break leaving the gate throwing the fate of the rich final up into the air. Capitalizing on the public's choice break was 70-1 longshot Smexi and driver Corey Callahan. A daughter of Explosive Matter, Smexi got a two-hole trip behind Stubborn Belle and driver Paul Macdonell and was able to come off the leaders back in the stretch and trot on to a length and a half victory. Stubborn Belle held on for second, while Juanitas Fury finished third. "Leaving out of there I looked over and saw that she (Mission Brief) had made a break," said Callahan following the race. "We got really lucky Paul and I, we just kind of got things on our own up there, nobody really moved and it worked perfect for me." Trained by Jimmy Takter for owners Christina Takter, John and Jim Fielding and Herb Liverman, Smexi had only one victory in eleven starts heading into the Goldsmith Maid. Takter, who drove Smexi in her elimination last week, handed the lines over to Callahan and told the driver his filly was ready and to put her in the race. "Tonight before the race he (Takter) pulled me aside and told me listen she was a little rough on me last week," said Callahan. "But I warmed her up tonight and she was really sharp and on her toes." The Goldsmith Maid victory pushes Smexi's career bankroll to over $364,000. Smexi paid $159.30 to win, while a $2 exactor paid just under $1,200. Smexi Fall Four night quickly became the Takter show in the $521,000 Valley Victory for two-year-old trotting colts and geldings. Takter trainees finished first, second, fourth and fifth to almost take the entire purse home in the rich final Pinkman and driver Sylvain Filion were able to convert off a second over trip to narrowly defeat stablemate Uncle Lasse by a head in 1:55.4. The heavy 3/5 favourite, Habitat, finished third wedge between Takter starters, as The Bank and Walter White finished fourth and fifth respectively. A son of Explosive Matter, Pinkman was making only his sixth career start in the Valley Victory final, but has now won four of those starts for earnings of over $330,000. Following the race, Takter explained why Pinkman was a little late getting to the races. "We castrated him after his baby races, he kind of didn't pay attention where he was suppose to," said Takter. "He had a very complicated castration, so it took a little bit of a long time for him to get where he (is), but he has surprised me a lot." Takter also said the son of Explosive Matter wasn't on his radar as a superstar training down. "Average, he did everything right, but I had quite a few horses that I thought were a lot better, but these horses that have the good willing to want to do it, especially at this time of year, can get it all." Pinkman is owned by Christina Takter, John and Jim Fielding, Joyce McClelland and Herb Liverman. He returned $16.60 to win. Pinkman Artspeak, this year's Metro Pace winner, bounced back in impressive fashion to win the $565,000 Governors Cup for the two-year-old pacing colts and geldings. Leaving from post position six, Artspeak and driver Scott Zeron got away sixth and were able to get into the outer flow on the backstretch, as Lost For Words hung up a big half of :54.3. As the field rounded the final turn, Pierce Hanover cleared to the front leaving Artspeak second over on the back of Lyons Again, as the field ripped by the three-quarter pole in 1:21.4. In the stretch, Artspeak came off his cover and powered by his rivals to take the lead and score a solid length and a half victory in 1:50.4. Go Daddy Go got up to finish second, while Pierce Hanover held on for third. A son of Western Ideal, Artspeak is trained by Tony Alagna for owners Brittany Farms, Marvin Katz, Joe Sbrocco and In The GYM Partners. Heading into the Governors Cup final, Artspeak had made a break in two consecutive starts for the first two losses of his career. Following the race, Alagna spoke about the recent miscues from the two-year-old and getting him ready for the final. "I came up Tuesday, trained him up Wednesday and he trained fantastic at the farm, so I thought we had the kinks worked out," said Alagna. "Most people know that if I didn't have confidence the horse was ok, with the connections that own the horse he would've never been here to race, so I was very happy that he showed us the redemption that everybody thought he should." After training Artspeak earlier in the week, Alagna said he told the connections at dinner that he had full confidence in the horse. "I told them that night at dinner, he's back on his game, we've got our horse back." By adding the Governors Cup to his resume that already includes the Metro Pace, Artspeak has now won the two richest events of the season for two-year-old pacers. His record now stands at eight wins from ten starts for career earnings of just over $805,000. Artspeak paid $3.50 to win. Jk Shesalady improved to a perfect ten for ten with another victory in the $424,000 Three Diamonds for two-year-old pacing fillies Saturday night at Woodbine. Sent off as the heavy 1/5 favourite, Jk Shesalady and Yannick Gingras got away fifth and sat along the rail until the midway point of the race. Around the final turn, Gingras sent Jk Shealady first up to challenge the leader, The Show Returns, as the fillies were on even terms at the three-quarter pole in 1:24. Jk Shesalady came off the turn and quickly created separation with the field and cruised home to an impressive looking length and a half victory in 1:52.1. Solar Sister took the place spot, while Ideal Nuggets finished third. The Three Diamonds victory was the tenth win in a row for the undefeated Jk Shealady. Following the race, Gingras talked about racing her first up once again Saturday night. "It seems to be working for her, so no sense in changing anything," said Gingras. "She likes to relax in the first half and she's got a huge brush for the second half." A daughter of Art Major, Jk Shesalady is trained by Nancy Johansson for owners 3 Brothers Stable. Jk Shesalady has now banked over $669,000 in her rookie season and has earned herself consideration in Horse of the Year talk. She returned $2.50 to win. Mark McKelvie

FREEHOLD, NJ - October 25, 2014 - Western Pioneer, making his first start for new owners, overcame a judges' inquiry to post his first career victory in the $43,000 New Jersey Futurity for two-year-old pacers, the ninth race on Saturday, October 25, 2014 at Freehold Raceway. Western Pioneer, a son of Western Ideal bred by Hanover Shoe Farms, paced the mile in 1:55.1, getting up in the final strides to catch Edward Teach [Rocknroll Hanover] for a three-quarters of a length victory, his first in 12 career starts. Rock N' Roll World [Rocknroll Hanover], the Green Acres champion, was third by four and a half lengths. Dealt A Winner, the pre-race favorite, was scratched sick, leaving seven starters. Western Pioneer, driven by Tim Tetrick and trained by Nancy Johansson, was purchased as a yearling at the Harrisburg Sale for $15,000 by Perry Soderberg of Highstown, NJ. Ownership was transferred to 3 Brothers Stables of New York City and Johansson on October 17, 2014. Sent off as the slight 2-1 favorite over Cheyenne Robin [Rocknroll Hanover], one of two fillies in the field, Western Pioneer [$6.20] made his move to the outside at the three-quarters as Edward Teach took the lead, prompting the judges' review. Western Pioneer has finished in-the-money in five of 12 starts for earnings of $72,274. The New Jersey Futurity is sponsored by the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey. Western Pioneer By Carol Hodes for SBOANJ        

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