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Champion harness driver Dexter Dunn is set to try to establish himself in North America again. And he hasn't ruled out a permanent move there should his winter campaign prove an enormous success. Dunn has won the last 10 national drivers' premierships but will relinquish his title to good friend Blair Orange this season, with the latter 28 clear on the standings after bringing up win 200 for the season at Manawatu on Tuesday. Orange's numbers this season have been so staggering he now has Dunn's national record 229 wins for a season in his sights and barring injury or suspension should probably set a new mark. But Dunn says the end of his premiership domination isn't why he is heading to New York in a few weeks. "I spent a few months up there driving a few years ago and really enjoyed the experience and always wanted to come back," says Dunn. "But the right opportunity never really presented itself until now." That finally did come when Kiwi trainer Chris Ryder, who is now based in North America, approached Dunn about driving in the US with his support. "Chris has been a long-time family friend and suggested the time was right and he would support me and try and help me get outside drives. "There has been a bit of visa paperwork to get through and I still have to go for a final interview at the US consulate in Auckland in a few weeks. But if and when the paperwork is finalised, hopefully I can get up there sooner rather than later. "Their [US] really good horses, the ones that will be racing in the better races later in the summer, are all starting to come out in the qualifiers at the moment so I'd love to be able to get some serious drives and the sooner I am there the more likely that is to happen." Dunn expects to be away from New Zealand from around mid-June until maybe just before the New Zealand Cup carnival in November, which would mean could drive at the rich Breeders Crown on October 27. But if the trip turned out to be an enormous success he could be tempted to stay. "I intend being back for the Cup carnival and driving like normal here over the summer. "But you never know what can happen. Anything is possible, including basing myself up there fulltime. "But I don't expect that to happen on this trip." After 10 remarkable years during which Dunn has emerged from obscurity to win 10 premierships and win 2180 races in New Zealand alone, the superstar of the sulky admits the time for a new challenge has come. "I still love the big carnivals, our summer racing and some of the special days we have, like Kaikoura for example. "But you do have the odd time when driving so much gets stale, especially when you have been travelling as much as I have for the last five years. "It usually only lasts a weekend and you are back fine the next week, but it does happen. "So this will be a good freshen up for me, a new challenge and a chance to learn some new things." Although Dunn has already seen his premiership run ended by Orange this season, any longer-term North American ambitions from him would put Orange in the perfect position to start his own premiership domination. The pair are so far in front of their rivals in numbers of drives and races won in the last couple of years it would be hard to envisage a new serious premiership contender emerging. So if Dunn tastes success during his upcoming US trip and decides to spend more winters there in the years to come, the national premiership would appear to be Orange's to own. Michael Guerin

Goshen Historic Track, where it all started and where it still is today, is prepping for its 181st season of exciting harness racing and 2018 will be the 108th year of Grand Circuit Racing at "the Cradle of the Trotter". Racing action will commence with three matinee racing programs on consecutive Sundays beginning with June 3 and continuing on June 10 and June 17. Post times for the matinee race cards will be at 1pm. This year will mark the 57th consecutive season of matinee racing over the historic double-oval. Grand Circuit racing begins on Friday, June 29 and will feature the Landmark Series and the CKG Billings Harness Driving Series. Then on Saturday, June 30, 3-year-old pacers will be featured in New York Sires Stakes action. On Sunday, July 1 will be the annual Hall of Fame Trot with various members of Harness Racing's Hall of Fame at the controls, which has always been a fan favorite. Then after that race is completed the Hall of Famers will be available for photos and autographs. Also slated on the July 1st card is the New York Sire Stakes for 3 year old trotters and the race under saddle. The 2018 racing season ends won Monday, July 2nd with the New York Sire Stakes for horses competing in the County Fair division. All post times for racing will be at 1pm. Also part of the Historic Track offerings this season will be a Poker Run on Saturday, May 26 and Goshen High School Graduation on Friday, June 22. There will be a concert at the facility on Friday June 29 after the racing card is completed. On Tuesday, July 3 Historic Track will host the Harness Horse Youth Foundation followed on Saturday, July 28 with the Jimmy Sturr Concert. The annual Car Show is set for Sunday, Sept. 2nd and the tracks Golf Outing fundraiser is scheduled for Monday, September 10. by John Manzi for Historic Track

Andreios Kardia (Aaron Byron) won the Tioga Downs Open Pace ($12,000) on a soggy Mothers Day Sunday (May 13). Mr Big Load (Fern Paquet Jr.) rushed out to the quick lead and covered all the early fractions (:27.0, :55.2, 1:23.2). Andreios Kardia ($7.30) went first over from fourth just after the halfway point. Owned by Ina Madill and trained by Jeff Byron, he flew by at the top of the stretch and easily held off the late charge from runner-up finisher, Doo Wop Hanover (Jim Meittinis). Chantepleure (Austin Siegelman) finished third. Andreios Kardia, who is a 7-year-old gelding by Badlands Hanover, won for the second time this season. It was his 28th career victory. Jim Taggert Jr. won three on the day. He went to the winner's circle with Bettorsluckystreak ($5.70), Fanelli Royal ($6.40), and Tarport Andy ($10.80). Tioga Downs returns to live action on Friday (May 18) at 6:15 p.m. For more information go to www.tiogadowns.com John Horne for Tioga Downs

With no Fillies and Mares Open to headline the harness racing card, the $9,500 pace for conditional or claiming mares was featured on Friday night at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Bye Bye Michelle (Stonebridge Regal) was dropping out of the Open Pace for distaffers when she drew the outside post in the six-horse feature. The veteran mare was the public's even money favorite on Friday evening and the Melissa Beckwith trainee moved out to the early lead in a fast first quarter of 27.1 before getting a big breather in the race's middle half. Pocket sitter Robin J (Bruce Aldrich Jr) came out of the two-hole and came after Bye Bye Michelle in the final furlong but to no avail. With Mark Beckwith in the sulky, Bye Bye Michelle held on to win by a half length, stopping the timer in 1:54.1 for her third win of the season. Robin J had to settle for second while Squeeze This (Frank Coppola Jr) earned the show spot. Bye Bye Michelle paid $4.00 to win and led a chalky exacta and triple that returned $9.00 and $20.60, respectively. Live racing continues on Saturday night with a $14,500 Open Pace as the evening's feature. First post time is set for 6:45pm. Mike Sardella

Friday night featured the Virginia O’Brien Pacing Series Final for fillies and mares at Saratoga Casino Hotel. Eight distaffers who earned the most points in the series’ two legs competed in the $32,200 Final over a sloppy track on Friday evening and it was the race’s favorite that would end up prevailing. Maggies Way (Dream Away) had second-place finishes in each of the series’ legs but after drawing post position four in the Final, she wound up as the public’s 9-5 betting favorite. Driver Shawn Gray moved Maggies Way out to the early lead, a lead she would never relinquish. Longshot pocket-sitter Cakeatin Annieway (Bruce Aldrich Jr) won the photo for place with Simply Awesome (Mark Beckwith) earning the show spot. Maggies Way, who is trained by Mike Girouard, set a lifetime mark of 1:56.4 in what was by far the biggest win in the career of the five year old mare. Despite the favorite winning, the exacta and triple paid a hearty $119 and $803, respectively. Maggies Way adds her name to the list of previous O’Brien Memorial winners that consists of Karla Art, Shesnobeachboy and Nashurallability.  Live racing continues on Saturday night with the JP Morel Pacing Series Final highlighting the twelve race card. First post time is set for 6:45pm.    Mike Sardella

YONKERS, NY, Friday, May 4, 2018—First, she won the open draw. Then, she closed matters early. Odds-on favorite Mach it a Par (Jason Bartlett, $2.60) toyed with her six foes Friday night (May 4th), easily winning Yonkers Raceway’s $40,000 Filly and Mare Open Pace. Away second, Mach it a Par went up and over Bettorhaveanother (Joe Bongiorno) before a 28-second opening quarter-mile. A qualifier-esque :57.4 intermission effectively ended what minimal suspense actually remained. Motu Moonbeam N (Brent Holland) was the first to move—from seventh—and subsequently broke after Call Me Queen Be (Eric Goodell) appeared to come out underneath her. Meanwhile, Mach it a Par maintained her open lead in and out of a 1:26.1 three-quarters, widening to 3½ lengths off the final turn. She finished if off by 2½ lengths in 1:54.2. Culinary Delight (Larry Stalbaum) did get into second, with Bettorhaveanother, Call Me Queen Be and Delightful Dragon coming away with the minors.   For Mach it a Par, an 8-year-old daughter of Mach Three co-owned by D’Elegance Stable IX, Carmen Iannacone, T L P & Gandolfo Stables and trained by Richard Banca, it was her fourth win in 13 seasonal starts. The exacta paid $8.40, with the triple returning $28.60. Derby Day fun begins early Saturday (May 5th), with mutuel windows opening at 10 AM in advance of the 144th  Kentucky Derby. First post at Churchill Downs is 10:30 AM, and Yonkers getting the spirit with the obligatory hat contests, mint juleps and an array of food and drink specials. Of course, since a wager or two is made, windows are open both inside and outside, with Derby post time set for about 6:46 PM.     Frank Drucker Yonkers Raceway  

As in the years in past, CeCe Levy and her brother, Bobby Levy, will be presenting the harness racing trophy to the winner of the George Morton Levy, a race named in the honor of their father. This year joining them in the presentation at Yonkers Raceway will be Bobby's children Tristin and Gavin. The accomplishments of George Morton Levy are too many to mention and if he had not existed our sport may not have, too. Levy invented harness racing as we know it when he opened Roosevelt Raceway introducing pari-mutual and night time racing. He would also later introduce the mobile starting gate which would revolutionize the sport. Some of his other accomplishments include the implementation of the International Trot and the single heat racing. There is also a funny story from a few years ago. While on their way to the winners circle the Levy family members who were to present the trophy to the winner got separated from the Yonkers PR people and ended up on the outside of the winners circle and the security guard would not let them in to present the trophy. Later they were photo-shopped into the winning photo. CeCe said that she and her family are grateful beyond words to Yonkers Raceway for staging the George Morton Levy and honoring her father. CeCe also made a prediction that this year's race will be won by Tony Alagna's horse, Dr J Hanover. Pictures CeCe Levy & Freddie Hudson CeCe Levy, Freddie Hudson & Bobby Levy Wally Hennesey, CeCe Levy & Jim Morrill CeCe Levy at Goshen HOF CeCe and Dave Miller By Fred Hudson

Kiwis will be able to enjoy the feature harness racing card from Yonkers, New York this Sunday.   Trackside will broadcast the first nine races live, with Race 10 the Levy Final (featuring Bit Of A Legend) to be replayed when possible.   Trackside 1 will take the action until 12noon, then it will move over to Trackside 2.   The time-honoured Levy Final has previously been won by great horses such as Falcon Seelster, Jaguar Spur, Dragon’s Lair and Foiled Again (twice).   Although he just missed a spot in the Levy Final, Christen Me has drawn barrier one in the consolation which is Race 8, due off at 1.35pm New Zealand time.   The programme features a host of expat Kiwi horses, with the rich mares feature – the Matchmaker Final – consisting of Shartin, Sell A Bit and Motu Moonbeam.   Please note that due to the nature of North American racing and start times these races may go later than advertised so there may be instances where races will be played in a replay situation.   The start times and Kiwi horses are as follows:   Race 1 – 10.52am - featuring Sammy The Bull Race 2 – 11.13am – featuring Texican, Highview Conall, Franco Rayner, Simply Susantional (em) Race 3 – 11.38am – featuring Torrid Bromac, Dream Out Loud Race 4 – 12.02pm – featuring Mach Time, American Boy (first US start) Race 5 – 12.26pm – featuring Gina Grace, Eclipse Me Race 6 – 12.49pm – featuring Statesman Race 7 – 1.12pm – Matchmaker Consolation – featuring Shesjustadelight Race 8 – 1.35pm – Levy Consolation –featuring Christen Me, Luciano Race 9 – 1.58pm - $373,000 Matchmaker Final – featuring Shartin, Sell A Bit, Motu Moonbeam Race 10 – 2.12pm (Replay) – $532,000 Levy Final – featuring Bit Of A Legend Race 11 – 2.44pm (No TV) Race 12 – 3.17pm (No TV) – featuring Alberto Contador, Texas Terror   Jess Smith

HAMBURG, N.Y. --- A disappointing second place finish last week left a bitter taste in the mouth of Sportsmuffler. But on Wednesday night (April 18), she bounced back nice and tasted sweet victory by registering a two length decision over Aritzia Hanover in the featured $10,400 Open Pace for the mares at Buffalo Raceway.   After watching Aritzia Hanover reel off fractions of :28.4 and :58.4 to the half, Sportsmuffler (Drew Monti) began her first over journey to the lead. Getting to the top with a quarter mile to pace, Sportsmuffler ($3.10) used a :28.0 final panel to seal the deal in going the mile in a seasonal best 1:56.3.   Aritzia Hanover (Billy Davis Jr.) held on for second place while Hey Kobe (David McNeight III) rallied late for third.   It was the second victory in five starts in 2018 for the 6-year-old Sportsmuffler (Sportsmaster-Whatifthere'smore). Owned by Rose Campbell and trained by Steven Kiblin, Sportsmaster has now earned $14,309 this season and $227,165 lifetime.   Monti completed the evening with a triple in the sulky while Ray Fisher Jr. doubled. Kiblin finished the night with two training wins.   Racing will continue on Saturday night at 6 p.m. with a 12-race program scheduled.   For more information including the latest news, race replays, results, entries, simulcast schedule and upcoming promotions, go to www.buffaloraceway.com     Brian J. Mazurek, for Buffalo Raceway   Photo: Sportsmuffler taste sweet victory at Buffalo Raceway. Photo by Steve Roth  

All four non-Indian casinos in state are missing their financial targets Little more than a year since their grand openings, two of New York’s four non-Indian casinos are asking the state for financial help. Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady and Del Lago Resort and Casino in Seneca County are both making their cases with state lawmakers as the negotiations for the 2018-2019 state budget wind down to the final hours in Albany. Details on their requests are elusive and, given the secretive nature of deal-making in the Capitol, quite possibly subject to change or outright rejection. But the casinos' financial data is readily available through an online state database. Both casinos’ performance (and that of the two other casinos) has fallen well short of initial projections offered when their backers were trying to sell their proposals to state regulators and New York voters were being asked to approve limited legalized casino gambling. Rivers projected tax payments of $69 million to $86 million during its first year of operation but paid $45.45 million to the state from March 2017 through February 2018. Del Lago projected $59 million to $76 million but paid $42.92 million. Meanwhile, Rivers’ first general manager departed in November and Del Lago’s general manager announced Tuesday he would be departing at the end of this week. Both had been with their respective operations since before they opened. Also Tuesday, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported that a Del Lago official was in Albany, asking state lawmakers to provide relief. The official would not specify what exactly he was seeking. A Del Lago spokesman would say only that the casino is suffering from recently increased and grossly unfair competition from nearby Indian-run casino operations. Details were likewise hazy on the request by Rivers. A New Jersey public relations agency working for Rivers said there would be no comment on the matter.  A lobbyist reportedly working for the casinos did not return a call seeking comment.  The state Gaming Commission and state Department of Taxation and Finance said the casinos’ requests has not reached the stage where it would be in their hands.  The State Division of the Budget would say only that “budget negotiations are ongoing,” which is certainly very accurate: The state budget deadline is 11:59 p.m. Saturday. However, Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie, whose district contains Rivers Casino & Resort, said he has been given a rough idea of what Rivers is requesting, and said he endorses it. In summary, Rivers seeks: To take 10 percent of the tax money it pays to the state and spend it instead on marketing. The goal is to increase patronage, increase gambling and thereby increase its own revenue. (This ultimately would bring in more tax revenue, Steck said; in the meantime, there would be no reduction in host-community payments to the city, county, city school district or to surrounding counties.) An end to the requirement that it pay the state to run security checks on its prospective employees. (Steck said that the state hasn’t been collecting that and doesn’t require it of the nearest competing gambling facility, Saratoga Casino Hotel.) An end to payments Rivers is required to make to Saratoga Casino Hotel to make up for revenue shortfalls in Saratoga. (An official with Saratoga Casino Hotel said this is inaccurate, Rivers pays it nothing — it pays the horsemen’s association to compensate for reduced prize money at the Saratoga harness track.) “None of this is a huge change,” Steck said, adding that the requests seem reasonable and he supports them. Thirteen months into the casino era in Schenectady, he considers Rivers a positive force in the city, having fulfilled its promise of increased economic activity in surrounding areas and a new revenue stream for the local municipalities. “I’m not a fan of casinos generally,” Steck said, calling them effectively a tax on the poor and the middle class.  He said he would have sought other means of boosting state tax revenue had he been governor. But he’s not governor, and the man who is, Andrew Cuomo, didn't share his views. So New York has four non-Indian casinos, and he accepts that as reality. Aware of the pun, Steck added: “You have to play the hand you’re dealt.” James Featherstonhaugh, corporate secretary and part-owner of Saratoga Casino Hotel, said the situation is unfolding much as he expected it would when the state authorized construction of a full-service casino 20 miles south of Saratoga. That is: a 25-percent revenue reduction for the Saratoga Casino Hotel, where the gambling options are limited to video gaming machines and wagers on harness racing. Featherstonhaugh expects nothing good to come of the late-hour move by Rivers and Del Lago to gain relief through the state. “I think it’s clear that the gaming universe in New York could be thoughtfully and responsibly reviewed with the goal being to have both a healthy industry which will continue and grow education revenue in New York,” he said. “But that cannot be done in 48 hours or 72 hours.” Featherstonhaugh thinks it will be another 18 months or so before the financial picture stabilizes for the two Capital Region gambling facilities.  Steck said he hadn’t researched the financial impact of Rivers on Saratoga Casino Hotel, nor has he heard any complaints about it. Rivers opened Feb. 8, 2017. A New York State Gaming Commission database shows that $1.99 billion was gambled at Saratoga Casino Hotel from March 2017 through February 2018, an 18.1 percent decrease from $2.43 billion in the preceding 12 months. By John Cropley Reprinted with permission of The Daily Gazette

The Standardbred Owners Association of New York is pleased to announce that the French American Trotting Club has reached capacity and will move forward with the acquisition of French trotters to race at Yonkers Raceway. The French American Trotting Club will move forward with 23 or 24 participants, each acquiring a French trotter for $28,000 which includes shipping costs. The horses will be eligible to race without any further entry fee in a series at Yonkers Raceway exclusively for horses brought over in this program with legs carrying a $30,000 purse and a final for $100,000. We would like to thank all horsemen for their tremendous support and enthusiasm expressed for the program. Further information will be provided to the participants shortly. Tentative plans call for horses to be selected in France the week of May 28 and shipped back to New York in mid-June.  

HAMBURG, N.Y. --- A coveted spot in the World Harness Handicapping Championships at The Meadowlands is up for grabs on Saturday night (March 24) at Buffalo Raceway when the local competition takes place starting at 6 p.m.   Entry fee is $10 at Buffalo Raceway with the winner receiving $500 in cash, hotel accommodations for two nights and paid entry ($1,000 value) into the World Harness Handicapping Challenge presented by DerbyWars.com at The Meadowlands on Saturday, April 28th. The runner up in the Buffalo Raceway event will pocket $250 with third place taking home $100.   There's a $75,000 guaranteed prize pool in The Meadowlands tournament with $40,000 going to the winner.   In the qualifier, players will get ten 'mythical' $200 win wagers. Entrants must play five races on Buffalo Raceway's card while the other remaining five bets will be played at The Meadowlands.   Entrants must be a Hamburg Gaming Rewards Club member in order to participate. Becoming a member is free to join. You also must be 18 years of age to be a contestant.   For more information including complete rules and regulations, go to www.buffaloraceway.com     by Brian J. Mazurek, for Buffalo Raceway  

Trotamundo (RC Royalty) won the harness racing trotting feature for the second time this season on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Guy Howard-trained five year old hit the board in half of his 32 seasonal starts in 2017 but only registered one victory. His '18 win tally already moved to two on Thursday as driver Billy Dobson moved Trotamundo out to the early lead in the $7,500 feature for New York sired trotters. The race's pocket-sitting favorite was Explosive (Mark Beckwith) who prevailed in his first start of 2018 last week but was no match for Trotamundo on Thursday afternoon. Trotting away to win by open lengths, Trotamundo recorded the victory in a career-best 1:58. Whizzer Hanvover (Ron Harp) came on for second while Explosive had to settle for the show spot. The win helped Dobson pad his lead in the driver standings early on in the campaign on an afternoon when Jay Randall was the driving star. The veteran reinsman piloted three winners on the matinee card. Live racing continues on Friday evening with a 6:45pm first post. Mike Sardella

Elkton, MD -- Post Time with Mike and Mike, presented by BetAmerica, is excited to announce their line-up for Thursday morning (March 8) at 10:30 a.m. They will be joined by Chris Page, one of the top leading drivers in Ohio; Matt Rose, handicapper for the Daily Racing Form (Harness Eye) and charter at Yonkers Raceway; Scott Robinson, co-owner of Lost In Time; and Janine Gesek, representing Pacing for the Cure.   Page, one of the top drivers in the Buckeye State, joins the program for the first time to talk about his illustrious career. Page, who has earned just under $30,000,000 in earnings and won just over 4,000 races is coming off a career season where he helped pave the way for Downbytheseaside to Pacer of the Year honors. He will discuss his illustrious career and where he sees things going in his upcoming future.   Robinson, the co-owner of two-year-old pacer of the year Lost In Time will join the program for the first time as well on Thursday. He will discuss how his champion pacer has been training leading up to his three-year-old season. Robinson attended the Dan Patch Awards in Florida with WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair, he will discuss that experience and some of his thoughts about what brought Flair to the awards.   The "Inside Handicapping" segment continues this week with Matt Rose, who will talk about some of the new handicapping angles at Yonkers Raceway with some of the changes that the track has brought on. Rose will discuss the improving handle and how that can play to the gamblers favor each race night.   March is National Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. Gesek, from Pacing for the Cure will join to discuss some of the things going on with Pacing for the Cure Ambassador Mr. Bill G. She will also highlight some of the events coming up to help support the cause of Multiple Sclerosis.   Post Time with Mike and Mike, presented by BetAmerica, can be heard live every Thursday at 10:30 a.m. via their website www.posttimewithmikeandmike.com or on the archive at www.betamerica.com/BARN.     By Michael Carter, for Post Time with Mike and Mike

YONKERS, N.Y. – Cammie Haughton was ecstatic as he drove over the George Washington Bridge on his way home from the track around midnight Monday, February 26. Bettors pumped $927,279 through the windows on that evening’s 12-race program, signaling to Haughton the changes he’s made since assuming the role of Director of Racing are paying off. “When I go over the G.W. Bridge the other night doing almost $1 million, I was like, ‘yeah man, this is great! We’re almost there,’ ” Haughton exclaimed. “I was so happy, just thrilled to death. Who else does that? Who else is happy to do that for racing? I’m happy with the position I got and I’m happy to help. Things are working.” In his new role, Haughton’s primary mission is to increase handle on the track’s races. His daily routine that involves working with the broadcast department, executive office, race office, and the horsemen before presiding over the scheduling of races in the evening means he has a hand in nearly everything that goes on at the track. “When I leave there at night, my head is spinning. But here it is on my day off and I’m thinking about all this, but you have to,” Haughton said. “That’s the thing, I do care. I’m not the guy to just sit around and not do anything. I’m on it, I’m on it big time.” Thus far, his initiatives are producing results. Domestic and international commingled handle at Yonkers from January 1 through February 28 topped $29.2 million on 424 races, a 64.2% increase from the $17.8 million bet on 419 contests over the same period last year. Just over two months into his tenure in his new role, Haughton is already making a reputation for himself as someone who gets things done. He cited the driver’s room at the track as an example. The room was in disrepair when he found it, but will soon get a needed facelift. “The tiles are coming up off the floor, it needs to be painted, the lockers all need to be emptied and cleaned. So, guess what? I got it done,” Haughton said. “I got the brand-new floor ordered, I got the painters, I talked to the horseman, we’re ready to get the lockers emptied and moved. We’re going to have a new locker room here in a couple weeks. You have to do those things, you have to.” While it may seem arbitrary to the racing product, completing projects like this are part of Haughton’s mission to leave no stone unturned. He describes his strategy as a back to basics approach that focusses on making common-sense improvements to deliver the best racing product possible to the gambling public. He formed his strategy in the months leading up to commencing his term as Director of Racing when he put himself in the customers’ shoes. “Before I got my job, I sat and observed the races for two months. I knew I was going to be Director of Racing, but I didn’t have the job yet,” Haughton recalled. “So, I was observing and writing down all these things that needed to be done on a pad and a piece of paper.” Haughton noted a lack of racing action, poor scheduling of post times, and the live broadcast as areas in need of major improvement. Beyond simply identifying the problems, he began working to solve them immediately. His first stop was a meeting with the drivers where he laid out his plans and sought their support. “I told them the wolves will be at our door if we don’t start turning this thing around,” Haughton said. “I told them basically, ‘look, if you don’t like what I’m going to be doing, first of all, it’s for your benefit – the drivers and the trainers and the horsemen, it’s for everybody’s benefit. If you don’t like what I’m doing here, go race somewhere else.’ All the drivers are cooperating 100 percent with what’s going on.” Haughton cites the support of the Yonkers horsemen and the Standardbred Owners Association of New York as a critical component of his ability to make changes at the track. He sees them as partners in his mission to improve the racing, not as resistors who want to keep the status quo. “They want change, I can see, and they want a better product,” Haughton remarked. “I feel that when they see me walk in the paddock and I’m dressed in a tie and a jacket, very professional, that’s how I was brought up in my family, I think they kind of like that, that somebody’s watching the ship now. “They’re willing to do whatever it takes and it’s working,” he continued. “I’m very thrilled with the cooperation of the SOA, the cooperation of the management, and everybody around me wants to help.” With the horsemen on his side and aware of his expectations, Haughton stunned the harness racing world when he announced his next move: the removal of the passing lane from Yonkers’ half-mile racetrack. “They either pull or they get locked in. It’s called racing,” Haughton said. “With the passing lane, the first five horses would go around the track and they would know that when you get to the stretch, it’s a lot easier. So, they sit, and they sit, and they sit. That’s not racing to me. They’re racing now.” Without the passing lane, the percentage of winning favorites at Yonkers through the end of February was 37.7 percent, a 10.2 percent decrease from the 42 percent strike rate of favorites over the same period in 2017. While detractors protested the move, citing concerns that bettors would lose chances to cash if their horses lacked racing room in the stretch, Haughton takes another argument. When he considered the point from the bettors’ perspective, he saw increased opportunities for trip handicappers to find value. “I saw a horse locked in the other night that had all kinds of pace in the stretch and obviously, he couldn’t get through,” Haughton said. “Here’s a gambler who’s playing Yonkers Raceway, that puts it in his mind that number four was locked in last week and couldn’t get out. He’s going to bet that horse the following week. He’s going to follow that horse and know that he had pace in the stretch and couldn’t get out.” Although the removal of the passing lane is the most glaring change Haughton has made, he thinks other initiatives have been just as important in increasing handle. Proper scheduling of post times has had the biggest impact on betting volume than any other change, he claims. “Scheduling the times is very, very important. That is the most important,” Haughton said. The scheduling of post times involves two components. First, he ensures post parades are scheduled to give bettors ample time to evaluate the horses as a physical specimen before placing a wager. Second, Haughton aims to make sure Yonkers’ races go off between other major racetracks to avoid conflicts. “It was blowing my mind, the horses coming out onto the racetrack for two minutes and going right to the gate,” he said. “How do you get money in the pools if they’re out there for two minutes and go right to the gate? You can’t do it. It’s impossible.” Haughton’s efforts to coordinate post times has already spurred increased communication and cooperation from other racetracks, the historical lack of which has been a constant gripe of gamblers playing multiple racetracks for years. “The other racetracks, they’re even calling me now. ‘Can you slow down a little bit because we have 15 races, you have 12 and we’re trying to go in between and it’s getting late for us.’ Then I have to make a decision,” Haughton said. Haughton’s choice to keep horses on the track longer before the start plays off one of his other initiatives, to improve the quality of Yonkers’ simulcast presentation. One of his primary areas of focus thus far has been to ensure each horse gets a clear, close up camera shot before the race. Haughton understands the vast majority of his customers aren’t at the track. Rather than fight this, he is catering to these players’ needs. “It’s not like it was years ago when 20,000 people were coming out for racing. There’s basically nobody at the tracks now, it’s all coming in from simulcast,” he said. “I told every operator that runs these cameras, ‘I want close ups on these guys. I don’t want these horses looking like ants on a screen.’ It’s better for the people who are sitting home watching the races.” Haughton isn’t finished tweaking the product at Yonkers. As the year goes on, he will look to make more changes. He teased increased improvements to the broadcast as one of the changes to look out for. “The good weather is coming. I’m going to throw a camera on top of the paddock, on the roof. We’ve got that in motion,” he explained. “As soon as the good weather comes on a Friday or Saturday night, I’m going to have a camera up there. Close up shots as they come around the final turn. Like NASCAR, they have cameras everywhere. You’ve got to change it up.” Haughton has also been pleased with the initiative of offering free full card past performances on Monday evenings, an initiative undertaken in cooperation with the SOA of NY. He hopes to see that promotion expanded to include additional nights in the future. “That’s fantastic. That’s another thing that we have to get up on our broadcast and show,” he said. “Here’s the thing, if you don’t promote it and get on it and get it out there, nothing’s going to happen.” Other possible future initiatives include increased field sizes, a reworking of the racing classifications and the racing schedule, and a slanted starting gate to aid the chances of outside horses. While these are still in the early planning phases, Haughton notes he has plenty of time to forge ahead with them. “I love the starting gate idea, I love it,” he said. “I think it’s going to happen. Right now, our handle is up, racing is never better, the track seems to be very, very good as far as the surface. Things are good. Now if they keep going in the good way, maybe that starting gate will come. “Here’s the thing,” he continued. “We’ve got the eyes on us now at Yonkers Raceway and I want to keep that. Now I just need to keep the interest in what we’re doing.” Yonkers Raceway races on a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday basis with a first post time of 6:50 p.m. For a complete racing schedule, click here. For a schedule of upcoming stakes races, including the Petticoat Series, Sagamore Hill Series, YR/SOA of NY Bonus Trotting Series, Matchmaker Series, and Levy Series, click here.   Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY  

YONKERS, NY, Tuesday, March 6, 2018—A friendly reminder from Yonkers Raceway that Thursday evening’s (March 8th) Pick 5 wager starts with a carryover of $7,516.89 and a $20,000 guaranteed pool. The Pick 5 is a 50-cent base wager comprising races 7 through 11 (if less than 11 races, it’s final five races during that particular card). It has no consolation payoff, meaning if no one selects all five winners (as was the case Tuesday night), the entire pool (minus takeout) moves to the next racing program.   FRANK DRUCKER

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