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Yonkers, NY --- The $1.8 million New York Sire Stake finals convened at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday (Sept. 12) with 60 of the best state-bred harness racing Standardbreds clashing to determine year-end honors in eight $225,000 divisions. Although there were a couple of upsets during the evening, several favorites performed as expected and some put on impressive efforts. The Allerage Farm 3-year-old filly trot went to Hypnotic Am (Chapter Seven-Daydream Am S) in a runaway performance that produced a new stake record. A short field of seven got even shorter when the gate released the field when Love A Good Story and Seventimesalady both made breaks as Hypnotic Am (Brian Sears) opened up a five length lead at the quarter in :27.2. From there the filly was on cruise control. With no one getting close enough to challenge, Sears went an easy :30 second quarter and :29 up the backside. Hypnotic Am rounded the last turn all by herself and hit the line the same way; on top by five in 1:55, which was a new stake record.   "She was looking around a little bit at the quarter because she hasn't been on a half in a while, but she kept her mind on her business and really performed," said Sears. "She was really good tonight; she's a real sweetheart. I wish they hadn't canceled the Yonkers Trot because I think she would have been really good in there." Hypnotic Am ($2.50) is now a two-time NYSS Champion and this win has boosted her earnings to $916,260 for breeder/owner Courant Inc. Marcus Melander trains the filly. Then in the Cameo Hills Farm 3-year-old filly pace, Hen Party (Roll With Joe-My Lady Day) won in a strong gate to wire performance to extend her winning streak. Racine Bell (Jason Bartlett) was first for the front but Hen Party (Tim Tetrick) soon overtook and when she did, it was for good. Hen Party got to the half in a moderate :56 as So Rude (Joe Bongiorno) made her move at the five-eighths and pushed the third panel to a :27.4 clip. But that was as far as she got as Hen Party opened up heading down the lane and held off a late rush by Moaning Lisa (Jim Marohn Jr.) and won by 1-1/4 lengths in 1:53.1. It was the fourth straight win and seventh out of the last nine starts for Hen Party ($2.80) who now boasts over a half-million in lifetime earnings with $541,621 in the bank. The Tony Alagna trained Hen Party was purchased by Crawford Farms Racing for $100,000 at the 2018 Harrisburg Sale, bred by Frederick Hertrich III. The NYSS 3-year-old colt and gelding trot was won by Hobbs (Credit Winner-Cruella De Ville) after a dominating performance. Hobbs (Jason Bartlett) left like a bullet and seated Chaptiama (Brian Sears) who had a notion to take the lead himself. Under a tight rein, Hobbs scooted through very even fractions of :28.3, :58.4 and 1:28.1, but still had Chaptiama right behind him. Coming off the turn, Sears pulled Chaptiama to take their best shot at the leader but that shot wasn't nearly enough. Hobbs kicked away in deep stretch and won by 2-3/4 lengths in 1:56.3. "Hobbs is a very handy trotter and you can drive him like a pacer," said Bartlett. "He's honest, he has gate speed and he's always there for you no matter how the mile goes and that's the best thing about him." One of the few owners who attended live was Scott Farber of Runthetable Stable, who also bred Hobbs. He was elated after the race when the horse named after one his father raced became a NYSS champion. "This is a very difficult business and it's hard to get one here and even harder to breed one that gets here," said Farber. "I give a lot of credit to (trainer) Jim Campbell because last year he said this horse was going to come back great, and he couldn't have been more right." Hobbs ($4.60) won his fifth race in his last six starts and pushed his earnings to $282,965 this year for Runthetable Stable and trainer Jim Campbell. The Blue Chip Farm 3-year-old colt and gelding pace was won by Blank Stare (Bolt The Duer-Hypnotize) who upset Splash Brother at the wire. After Major Betts (Dexter Dunn) made a break in the first turn trying for the lead, Splash Brother (Tyler Buter) took the front ahead of Genius Man (Marcus Miller) and Blank Stare (Corey Callahan). As they approached the half, Major Betts had settled himself and was once again moving up the rim towards the leader. But that threat only lasted past the five eighths and that's when Blank Stare made his move on the outside. Blank Stare caught Splash Brother heading into the last turn and the two matched strides into the stretch. Both drivers rocked all the way to the wire but Blank Stare won the battle under the light by 3/4's of a length in 1:52.2. The third win of the year for Blank Stare ($22.40) made him a NYSS Champion and pushed his earnings to $199,699 in 2020. The John Butenschoen trainee is owned by the Harmony Oaks Racing Stable, James Crawford IV and In Over My Head Stable. Blank Stare was bred by Winbak Farm and was a $22,000 purchase at the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale in 2018. The Winbak Farm 2-year-old pacing fillies division was won by Test Of Faith (Art Major-Cannae Cammie) in a powerful front-end performance. Heart Of Mine (Jason Bartlett) and DC Batgirl (Billy Dobson) argued early for the lead but it was Test Of Faith (Jim Marohn Jr.) who ultimately took control. Pacing smartly on the lead, Test Of Faith controlled to front comfortably going to the half in :57 before Party Queen (Tim Tetrick) rolled along outside. That challenge picked up the pace but the leader was holding a strong 1-1/2 length margin. Marohn urged the filly through the last turn and she sped away in the stretch, opening up two at the beam in 1:54.1, tying the stake record. Test Of Faith ($2.40), who was the top point-getter in her division, has now won five out of six lifetime starts and has bankrolled $257,750 this year, all in NYSS events. Owned by Melvin Segal, the Kentuckiana Racing Stable and Eddie Gran, Test Of Faith is trained by Brett Pelling. Test Of Faith was a $92,000 yearling purchase at the 2019 Harrisburg Sale and was bred by Frederick Hertrich III. The Crawford Farms 2-year-old filly trot went to Iteration (Chapter Seven-Steamy Windows) who miraculously recovered from a slow start. Iteration (Brian Sears) had her nose on the gate in the turn and made a break as the car turned into the stretch. Sears got her back trotting but spotted the field eight lengths when the wings folded. That allowed Splash Blue Chip (Ake Svanstedt) to take the front and cut the fractions. With two more breaks by Ifnotmewho and Credit Income, the field was quite spread out and Iteration was trotting fifth, about 10 lengths behind. Splash Blue Chip continued to lead by three past the half until Aela Jamieson (Andy Miller) drew alongside and had Iteration on her back. Aela Jamieson matched strides with Splash Blue Chip around the final bend and down the lane while Iteration tipped three deep and motored by everyone to win by a nose in 1:59. "I had her on the gate because she's been getting a little aggressive lately and she got a little aggressive again," said Sears. "But she came back ok and got the job done." Following in the footsteps of her full brother Gimpanzee and stablemate Hypnotic Am, Iteration ($4.20) is now a NYSS Champion on the strength of her third win of the year. Courant Inc. owns and Marcus Melander is the trainer. Iteration was purchased for $250,000 at the 2019 Harrisburg Yearling Sale, bred by the Order By Stable. The NYSS 2-year-old colt and gelding trot went to Steel (Chapter Seven-Pink Power) who upset the field at 19-1 in his first lifetime victory. Incommunicado (Scott Zeron) was the master of fractions while Steel (Andy Miller) sat the garden spot the entire mile. With the field single file to the half in a slow 1:00.2, Ambassador Hanover (Ake Svanstedt) pulled first up from third and put some pressure on the leader by the time they got to the three-quarters. At the head of the lane Incommunicado had rebuffed the challenge from Ambassador Hanover but Steel popped the deuce and out-brushed the leader to the wire and won by a head in 1:59, which was a new lifetime mark. Steel ($40.20) is owned by the Pinske Stable and Crawford Farms Racing, who also bred the winner. Julie Miller is the trainer. The $65,000 yearling purchase from the Lexington Selected Sale, Steel was bred by Crawford Farms Racing. The NYSS 2-year-old colt and gelding pace was won by King James Express (Art Major-More Diamonds) who made a strong backside brush to take command of the race. Undefeated American Courage (Matt Kakaley) grabbed the lead off the gate in front of Town Gossip (Joe Bongiorno) and Major Makeover (Mark MacDonald) and they paced that way to the half and around the clubhouse turn. There, King James Express (Jason Bartlett) pulled first over just as American Courage experienced some difficulty on the backside and slowed to a walk, locking Town Gossip in behind him. The new order as they headed around the last turn was King James Express on the point followed by Carrythetorchman (Marcus Miller) and Town Gossip, who had extricated himself from his predicament. Heading to the wire, King James Express was just too strong and held off all challenges to win by 2-1/4 lengths in 1:56. "I saw that American Courage didn't look right in the turn, he got a little bumpy. But I was waiting for Mark (MacDonald, Major Makeover) to pull first because my horse is better with cover. But I had to go first and when I cleared he was ok on the point and got game when he heard the horses coming behind him. He's been a nice horse all year, it didn't surprise me when he won the race." King James Express ($11.80) is owned by Mark Harder, Deena Rachel Frost and Wayne Carleton and is trained by Mark Harder. Gregory Dey bred the winner who sold for $20,000 at the 2019 Harrisburg Sale. By Tim Bojarski, for the New York Sire Stakes

YONKERS, N.Y. - “She’s pretty. She’s worth taking a photo of,” trainer Brett Pelling said, describing standout 2-year-old harness racing pacing filly Test Of Faith ahead of her bid in the New York Sire Stakes Final Saturday at Yonkers Raceway. “She’s not a chestnut, but she’s close. She’s very graceful, beautiful balance. She’s a very attractive horse.” Not just a pretty face, Test Of Faith has shown talent to back up her physical. She’s 4-for-5 in the New York bred series and finished second in her only loss. Her earnings stand at $145,250 for owners Melvin Segal, Kentuckiana Racing Stable, and Eddie Gran. And Test Of Faith is the 9-5 favorite on the morning line in $225,000 championship Saturday night (Sept. 12). Bred by Frederick Hertrich, III, Test Of Faith is by Art Major out of the Cam’s Card Shark mare Cannae Cammie, who placed in multiple stakes and earned $538,140 on the racetrack. Test Of Faith is a half to Alexis Faith, 2017 NYSS Champion 2-year-old filly and multiple Grand Circuit stakes winner, and to Cant Beach That, who Pelling trained to a runner up finish in the Kentucky Sire Stakes Final for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings last year.  The pedigree put Test Of Faith on Pelling’s short list at last year’s Harrisburg Yearling Sale and Pelling went to $92,000 to bring the filly home.  “It’s a very good family. She has really good strength, she’s a very strong filly. She’s not really like her brother; her brother goes to a knee a little bit, but she paces very clean,” Pelling said. “One’s a girl, one’s a boy. He’s a big, strong, rugged horse. She’s quite tall, but she’s very graceful.” Test Of Faith trained down without a hitch. As the time to qualify grew closer, Test Of Faith stood out from her peers for her reliability and professionalism.  “She’s been bullet proof. Right from the very beginning, she showed good ability. She’s always trained well. The biggest thing with her is, there’s never been any problem of any kind, which for a 2-year-old is a rarity. She’s been push button right from day one,” Pelling said. “The first time we asked her to go quick, she was perfect. She trains great in front, she trains great behind. Probably her number one quality is she’s very relaxed, she’s very sensible. A lot of these fillies, you race them on the front end and they might get a little aggressive. She could not be more opposite to that. She’s as loose-lined as a horse can be and that’s a good horse.” Test Of Faith qualified at Magical Acres Training Center June 16. She drew in with Farady Hanover, a $275,000 Harrisburg purchase and full sister to Filibuster Hanover trained by Noel Daley, prompting Pelling to be conservative. With Brett’s son Jack in the bike, Test Of Faith stayed inside as Farady Hanover wired the field. Test Of Faith finished last of four, pacing her mile in 2:00 with a :27.3 final quarter. Pelling liked what he saw. “We knew she was good in her qualifier. We locked her in and I knew some of the other fillies that she baby raced with were high-priced fillies with good trainers and I knew they had to be pretty decent,” Pelling said. “I could see she was just sitting there watching them and I felt she could move by them at any time. I think right from the beginning, I knew she was pretty good” Test Of Faith qualified again at Magical Acres June 23. This time, she rode the pocket and with a :27.4 final quarter, sprinted past rival Heart Of Mine to score a 1 3/4-length win in 1:58.1.  Test Of Faith made her pari-mutuel debut in NYSS at Vernon Downs on Independence Day. Floating out from post five, driver Jim Marohn, Jr. had had few options but to forge to the front as two rivals left to his inside. Test Of Faith worked to the top in a :26 opening panel, clearing midway around the first turn. Despite the swift fractions, Test Of Faith turned away the first-over challenge of Major Houlihan before pacing clear of the field in the stretch. She won by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:52.2. “The first time we raced her up at Vernon, that was never the intention to go down the road in 52. But the horse inside of her really pushed forward, (Marohn) didn’t have a spot to put her, and he just ended up going on to the front. I think the first race was the only race that stung her a little bit. She got through that OK and ever since then, she’s been fine.” Test Of Faith’s second start didn’t go as planned either. Racing around the first turn at Tioga in the next NYSS leg July 19, Marohn tried to place her in the pocket, but as the pace slowed, Test Of Faith collided with the leader’s wheel and made a break. She caught back pacing and raced in fourth before recovering for a second-place finish. “We were trying not to bust her out of there. She left in 26 seconds in the first start of her life. The obvious thing is not to do that again,” Pelling said. “It was a shame she got ran into because she would have won. That’s racing. You try to be cute and sometimes being cute doesn’t work.” Since then, Test Of Faith has taken no chances. She’s led at every call in the last three preliminary legs of the NYSS Aug. 4 at Yonkers, and Aug. 12 and 24 at Saratoga, winning by 3 1/2, 4, and 4 lengths, respectively. Pelling pointed out the Aug. 12 start, in which Test Of Faith made a three-wide move to the lead in a :27.3 opening quarter. “She’s been on high-idle, just absolutely cruising. One of the races was very impressive, the one before last,” Pelling said. “They took a shot to leave her out there a little bit. The horse in front had one parked, but Jimmy just pulled her three-wide and he just went to the front. She did that in three or four steps. She’s got a very, very quick step, she’s very reliable.” Test Of Faith drew post six in the NYSS Final, the first of nine races on the $1.8 million program Saturday night at Yonkers. She will face seven rivals, six of which she has beaten at least once in the preliminaries: DC Batgirl, Party Queen, Heart Of Mine, Think Of Galaxies (who beat Test Of Faith at Tioga July 19), Spicy Covina, Rightfully Mine, and Albergita Hanover. “She’s absolutely perfect. She’s looks fabulous. She hasn’t had any issues, that’s the bottom line,” Pelling said. “I imagine she’ll just roll out of there and how much they want to hurt their horses to be the one following her, I don’t know, but she’ll be in front.” Pelling hopes Test Of Faith can make amends after his Allywag Hanover finished fourth as the 3-5 favorite in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Final for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings at Harrah’s Philadelphia Sept. 6. This is also the biggest race of Test Of Faith’s season as she is not eligible to the major fall stakes. “I had one on Sunday over at Chester who was the favorite in his Sire Stakes final and he came up sick, so that was really, really disappointing. There’s only so many races for them,” Pelling said. “This filly is not staked through the end of the year. The owner is quite conservative. “This is the big one for her. She has four starts left and this is the biggest purse she’s going to go for all year,” Pelling continued. “I wish her the best. She deserves to win it, I think she’s been the best filly right through. That’s what it’s all about, when they get there if the best horse can come through and get it, that’s the way it should be.” First post time for the $1.8 million Night of Champions card is 7:12 p.m. Free full card past performances are available here. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

The OpEd article was submitted by Richard Ball, New York State Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets It has been a difficult year for all of us, with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting our personal lives and presenting unprecedented challenges for industries and businesses across the nation.  The state’s equine industry, including our harness racing Standardbred breeding industry, is no exception.  It also faced uncertainties and disruption amid the pandemic earlier this spring as the racing season was delayed and additional measures were put in place to ensure the safety and protection of all New Yorkers.  Yet, more than ever, we celebrate the championship events this coming weekend and our success in offering a strong stakes season, within a shorter window of time, that continued to provide New York’s high-quality Standardbreds a consistent opportunity to earn robust purses.  The New York Sire Stakes program, one of the nation’s premier Standardbred programs, moved forward in 2020 with a slightly modified race program, yet still distributed $10.2 in purses and will host more than 500 separate events this year.  Nine youngsters have already earned more than $100,000 in New York Sire Stakes purses and one outstanding filly, 3-year-old trotter Love A Good Story, has dominated her division to accumulate a quarter of a million in earnings from the Sire Stakes this season in advance of the finals. Her counterpart on the pacing side, Hen Party, has also eclipsed the quarter of a million-dollar earnings mark with her New York performances, including a victory in the Empire Breeders Classic. On the other side of the spectrum, new guaranteed minimum purse levels on the statewide New York County Fair circuit helped to strengthen the value of fair racing as a training ground for young horses and attracted new participants in the industry.  Fair associations and our horsemen did an outstanding job of coming together to help make this happen.  The New York Sire Stakes is the foundation for a strong Standardbred breeding industry in New York.  It has a widespread impact on agriculture—from farms to training facilities and veterinarian services– and is a driver of the New York economy.  We have a lot to be proud of when it comes to our Standardbred industry in New York, and New York State is committed to its continued success.  We were pleased to showcase the County Fair Champions at Goshen Historic Track last weekend and celebrate an exciting season of racing at fair sites across the state. We look forward to several major events coming up, including the Excelsior Finals at Tioga Downs Friday and the $1.8 million New York Night of Champions at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday.  I also wish much success to our breeders offering their yearlings at the upcoming Goshen Yearling Sale, the first major auction of New York-bred Standardbreds this year, and to all our breeders throughout the fall auction season. Moving forward, we will continue to adapt to the opportunities and challenges ahead and make decisions for the direction of the program that support breeders and highlight New York’s Standardbred industry.  We look forward to 2021 and continuing the 60-year tradition of offering the nation’s leading Sire Stakes program, with its three tiers of outstanding competition, to showcase the best of New York State.  by Richard Ball, New York State Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets  

NICHOLS, N.Y. - The New York Sire Stakes Excelsior Finals head to Tioga Downs this Friday, one day prior to the $1.8 million New York Sire Stakes Finals at Yonkers Raceway. With $400,000 in purse money up for grabs Friday, the event will kick off a weekend of season-ending competition for the top 2- and 3-year-olds bred in the state. The full list of entries can be found here. Heading into the finals, Just Joshing leads the division for 2-year-old filly trotters with two wins and two second place finishes in four starts. Dresden is the morning line favorite among 2-year-old filly pacers, also with a pair of wins through two starts. Undefeated in four starts, Barn Hall is the horse to beat in the 2-year-old colt trot. The freshman has won more than $34,000 for trainer Steven Pratt. Isaac, undefeated in three Excelsior starts, leads among 2-year-old colt pacers. C And T's Credit is looking to pull the double in the 3-year-old filly trot. She won her Final last year and may be poised to do so again as she sits atop her division. The 3-year-old trotting colt to watch is Conquest AS. He has four wins in five starts, with a second-place finish rounding out his season record. The horse is in a competitive division with trainer entries from George Ducharme and Anette Lorentzon. Bolt Of Beauty will hope to fend off challengers to the crown for 3-year-old pacing fillies in one of the most competitive divisions in this year's series. The same can be said for Levine who holds a narrow lead atop the points standings for 3-year-old pacing colts. Owners who wish to attend in-person must email to reserve space no later than Thursday (today) at 5 p.m. Post time o n Friday is 3 p.m. From the New York Sire Stakes

This year's harness racing season has been hard on so many but not so much for Love A Good Story (Chapter Seven), the sophomore trotting filly trained by Julie Miller. Dominating a small but fierce division, she's swept all five legs in convincing fashion and now boasts over a half million dollars in career earnings. Miller, who is currently second in the New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) trainer standings, has her eyes set beyond this weekend's $1.8 million New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions at Yonkers Raceway. "We have the option to go onto Lexington as long as she maintains being happy and healthy," said Miller. "We hope to bring her back next year." Andy Miller pilots the 3-year-old for his wife and owners Daniel Plouffe, Pinske Stables and Kentuckiana Racing Stable. "She and Andy have a great connection you just dream about," said Miller. "Real fortunate, she's dominating that level of competition and things have really worked out for her." In 2019, Love A Good Story, demonstrated her promise, winning six legs and finishing fifth in the NYSS Final on her way to more than $230,000 in seasonal earnings. Miller's plan for the 2-year-old at the time seemed to pay off. "We gave her a lot of time, raced at Lexington and then we elected to put her away and give her green grass, some vacation time and then picked up training back in Florida," said Miller. "When back in Jersey, she matured. She filled out and she knows her job and what she is supposed to do." Miller will look to finish the season with a perfect NYSS record. With so many changes to this year's schedule due to COVID-19, Miller reflected on her preparation for this weekend's finals. "There was a little bit of time in between the races - a longer time frame. I was able to train her easy last week - I'll train her up," said Miller. "New York Sire Stakes is the toughest spot to race in. To be a part of the race and be successful, it's all you want." Love A Good Story heads into the Night of Champions as the top overall earner in NYSS purses this season and will look to boost her already impressive $226,850 bankroll in the final for 3-year-old filly trotters, which goes off as race two. She drew post five in the seven-horse field, but will have to contend with top filly Hypnotic AM, who drew inside her in post three. New York's richest night of harness racing returns to Yonkers Raceway this Saturday. Eight final events featuring the best state-bred 2- and 3-year-olds will be contested for $225,000 purses each. Post time is 7:12 p.m. A full list of entries can be found here. By Eliza Bianco, for the New York Sire Stakes  

Splash Brother is making quite a comeback this year, having earned his place behind the gate on the $1.8 million New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions at Yonkers on Saturday. According to co-owner and trainer Ray Schnittker, the 3-year-old harness racing gelded pacer looked solid last year until a fateful day at Saratoga. "He looked really good that day until Mark McDonald fell off and Splash Brother got loose," said Schnittker of the incident while scoring down for a leg of the New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) on July 20, 2019, at the half-mile track. The driver sustained a broken shoulder, which was later repaired by surgery, and was forced to sit out the rest of the year on the sidelines. Schnittker said the horse was also impacted, despite performing well in NYSS events the rest of the season and finishing fourth in the Final at Batavia Downs to close out his 2-year-old year. "We believe he hurt his shoulder because something was just bothering him, but we still to this day don't really know. We just knew that he wasn't the same." But the son of So Surreal trained back well in 2020, winning the $240,600 Empire Breeders Classic and two legs of the Sire Stakes while being steered by regular driver Tyler Buter. His last start on Sept. 1 was a return to Saratoga where he dug in for a 1:51 victory, just a fifth of a second off the track record. "It's funny when he came back this year, it was no problem," said Schnittker. "It is like he is a 5-year-old child with that type of energy behind him." Schnittker is trying to capture some of the same magic he had in last year's NYSS season. He picked up two Night of Champions wins at Batavia last year with Cigars And Port and USTA District 8 Horse of the Year Hickfromfrenchlick. For now, Schnittker is concentrating on the NYSS Final, where his horse starts from the rail as the 9-5 morning line favorite in the eighth race on Saturday. Following that, Splash Brother is heading to Indiana for five races in which Schnittker is expecting good outcomes. The New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions takes place September 12 at Yonkers Raceway. Post time is 7:12 p.m. Spectators are not permitted, but owners of horses competing may reserve their spot to attend in-person by calling the NYSS office at 518-388-0224 by Friday at 3:00p.m. By Leah Rostohar, for New York Sire Stakes

Harness racing trainer Travis Alexander is not letting a recent setback stop American Courage from vying for the title of top 2-year-old pacing colt on the $1.8 million New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions on Saturday, Sept. 12. The trainer calls an equine virus that ran through his barn in mid-August a blessing in disguise as it may give his colt an edge in his $225,000 Final. The virus caused Alexander to scratch American Courage from the fifth preliminary leg for freshman pacing colts at Vernon Downs on Aug. 28. "We could have raced and pressed for points as he was clean on race day but we weren't taking any chances," said Alexander. "We let him tell us how he was feeling, and we decided to scratch." Still, American Courage remains unbeaten in his career with a perfect seven-for-seven and with $180,000 in total earnings accumulated already this year. This includes starts in the New York Sire Stakes and the Springfield (formerly the Sheppard) at Yonkers. "You never know how they are going to be, he's been a surprise," said Alexander. "I always knew he had a large amount of ability, but things just have to go your way. All of these horses are fast and bred so well; they're getting more Thoroughbred-like." Despite easing up on the colt's training as he recovered, the Alexander is still confident pointing the colt into the largest purse start of his young career. He will leave from Post 5 in the fifth race on Saturday with driver Matt Kakaley. "I haven't even trained him a mile in August," said Alexander. "I haven't even tightened the screws. I just started him back up yesterday (Sept. 2), but he'll be ready to go." Alexander isn't just referring to the Night of Champions, but to three major stakes races ahead, including the Metro Stakes in Canada on Sept. 26. The scheduling proximity between the NYSS Finals and the Metro poses a challenge to trainers and any connections looking to cross the border. As of right now, any person coming from the United States must quarantine for two weeks in accordance with COVID-19 regulations. Back-to-back races across the border means Alaina, Alexander's wife, is already in Canada for the Metro Stakes while Travis focuses on the Night of Champions. "Alaina is somewhat upset about not being here for the finals in person. She takes care of him and runs his barn. She's basically the boss," said Alexander. "She knows every wrinkle of American Courage so, being here alone, it puts a lot of pressure on me for sure." A lot of pressure, but also a belief that he has the right team in place to realize the pacer's brimming potential. "Matt (Kakaley) has done an amazing job. It makes my job easier," said Alexander. "I have full confidence in American Courage." The New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions takes place September 12 at Yonkers Raceway. Post time is 7:12 p.m. By Leah Rostohar, for New York Sire Stakes  

YONKERS, N.Y. - New York's richest night of harness racing returns to Yonkers Raceway this Saturday with the $1.8 million New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions. Eight finals races featuring the best state-bred 2- and 3-year-olds will be contested for $225,000 purses each. Post time is 7:12 p.m. A full list of entries can be found here. American Courage (American Ideal) will be heavily favored among the 2-year-old colt pacers. It's been seven wins in seven starts for trainer Travis Alexander and driver Matt Kakaley, including four wins in the NYSS. The freshmen has proven he knows how to win at Yonkers with three wins on the track this year, including a win in the $104,250 MGM Springfield Stakes Final. American Courage will start from the 5 post for owner Fiddler's Creek Stables LLC. Test of Faith (Art Major) will be the filly to watch as the points leader looks to cement her place as the best 2-year-old pacer this season. In five NYSS starts, she's recorded four wins and a second-place finish. She's also the top earner among 2-year-olds in the series this year with $145,250.00 for trainer Brett Pelling and owners Melvin Segal, Kentuckiana Racing Stable, and Eddie Gran. She starts from post 6 in the final. Ambassador Hanover (Chapter Seven) is undefeated in four NYSS starts. Ambassador Hanover is trained by Ake Svanstedt and is owned by Howard Taylor, Judith Taylor, Order By Stable. Destined To Dance (Chapter Seven) stands atop the points among 2-year-old filly trotters at a perfect five-for-five in NYSS starts this season. John Butenschoen trains for co-owner/breeder Crawford Farms and co-owners Heritage Standardbreds and Rich Preziotti. Destined To Dance drew the 3 post in her division final. Chapter Seven has sired the point leaders in each of the four NYSS trotting divisions. Standout rivals Major Betts (Art Major) and Splash Brother (So Surreal) will be favorites looking to settle their score in the final for 3-year-old colt pacers. Major Betts is trained by Mark Harder for owners by Joe Jannuzzelli and Deena Frost. Splash Brother is trained by Ray Schnittker, who co-owns with Steven Arnold, Tammy Flannery and Nolamaura Racing. Hen Party (Roll With Joe) sits atop the points standing for 3-year-old filly pacers with four wins in five NYSS starts. This past week, the Empire Breeders Classic winner tied the track record for her division with a 1:52 at Saratoga. She starts from post 3 for trainer Tony Alagna and owner Crawford Farms Racing. Chaptiama (Chapter Seven) will want to avenge a second-place finish in last year's final as a 2-year-old in what's proven to be the most competitive division in the NYSS this season: 3-year-old colt trotters. Chaptiama is facing challengers Hobbs, Barn Holden, Berkery J, and Bourbon Express, all finalists last year. Chaptiama is trained by Trond Smedshammer for owner Purple Haze Stables. Top overall earner in the NYSS this season, Love A Good Story (Chapter Seven), will look to bolster her already impressive $226,850 in purse money in the final for 3-year-old filly trotters. Finishing the season with a perfect record will be the goal for trainer Julie Miller and owners Pinske Stables, Kentuckiana Racing Stable and Daniel Plouffe. "We saw great performances from our New York-breds in what proved to be a very competitive season, despite it being a little shorter than usual due to the current pandemic," said M. Kelly Young, executive director, Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund. "We'd like to congratulate all the owners, trainers and drivers representing the New York Sire Stakes at the Night of Champions, and thank all of our participants throughout our program for their flexibility this season." Race sponsors for the event include New York-based breeders and institutions: Allerage Farm, Blue Chip Farms, Cameo Hills Farm, Crawford Farms and Winbak Farm. The Finals for the NYSS Excelsior Series are scheduled for Sept. 11 at Tioga Downs, post time is 3 p.m. The County Fair Finals were raced on Sept. 6 at Goshen Historic Track. A livestream of the event can be viewed here. From the New York Sire Stakes

Vernon Downs played host for two divisions of the New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) for sophomore harness racing trotting colts & geldings on Friday (September 4). Barn Holden (Mark MacDonald) holds on to win the $55,000 first division. Hobbs (Jason Bartlett) jumped out to the early lead but Barn Holden ($6.10) went by and took over with a lap to go. He hit the first quarter first in :27.3. He used a :29.1 second quarter to hit the half in :56.4. He would cruise to three-quarters in 1:25.4. Hobbs would make his move popping out of the pocket as they made the turn for home. Barn Holden dug in as Hobbs tried to get closer. Sky Castles (Scott Zeron) came three-wide in deep stretch. Hobbs gave one last lunge and Sky Castle a late surge but in the end Barn Holden held on to win by a nose in 1:54.2. Hobbs got second with Sky Castles taking third.   Barn Holden is a 3-year-old colt by Conway Hall. He is Owned by Nancy Pratt, Out In The Country Stables, Purple Haze Stables, and trainer Steven Pratt. It was his fourth win this season and seventh career victory. Chaptiama (Trond Smedshammer) captures the $56,000 second division. Third Shift (Ake Svanstedt) went straight to the front with Berkery J (Scott Zeron) following in second. Third Shift led to the first quarter in :28.3. They remained in single file with no change in the order as Third Shift led to the half in :57.2. As they headed for three-quarters things would change drastically. Third Shift went on a break just as Berkey J was making his move first-over. Third Shift was first to three-quarters in 1:26.1 but he caused interference to Berkey J causing him to go on a break. As they reached the stretch Beerthirty K (Tyler Buter) inherited the lead but right away Chaptiama challenged him. The two sophomores began to slug in out all the way down the stretch with Chaptiama emerging as the winner in 1:55.2. Beerthirty K had to settle for second. Third Shift finished third but was placed fifth for interference. Altus Hanover (John MacDonald) was awarded third money.   Chaptiama is a 3-year-old gelding by Chapter Seven. He is owned by the Purple Haze Stables and trained by Smedshammer. It was his fourth win in 2020. He now has six career victories. Jason Bartlett and Leon Bailey each drove two winners on the card. Bartlett got his wins with Discus Hanover ($2.20) and Grosseto As ($152.00). Bailey went to the winner's circle with The Big Bankroll ($9.40) and Jenny Lake ($5.10). Vernon Downs returns to live racing on Saturday (September 5) with a 13-race card starting at 3:00 p.m. For more information go to by John Horne, for Vernon Downs  

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. - The New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) will be livestreaming the draw for the 2020 "Night of Champions," via Facebook on Monday, September 7. The finals for New York State's premier harness racing program for 2- and 3-year-olds is set to take place Saturday, September 12 at Yonkers Raceway. Monday's draw will begin at 12:00 p.m. and can be accessed through the NYSS website, NYSS Facebook page and the Yonkers Raceway Facebook page. This year's draw will be closed to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions. "The 2020 season presented a unique set of challenges for our members and fans so we are thrilled to be able to still offer ways to connect with them through virtual events such as this live draw," said M. Kelly Young, executive director, Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund. "We are looking forward to an exciting evening of racing at the Night of Champions and this live streaming event helps build further anticipation of what is to come the following weekend." From the New York Sire Stakes

Vernon Downs welcomes two divisions of the New Yorks Sire Stakes (NYSS) for 3-year-old harness racing trotting colts & geldings on Friday (September 4).   The Jim Campbell trained Hobbs (Jason Bartlett) is the horse to beat in the $55,000 first division. The gelding by Credit Winner has won four straight races including three legs of the NYSS and a division of the $97,750 Empire Breeders Classic (EBC). He has five lifetime wins and has over $260,000 in the bank.   His chief rival will be the Steven Pratt trained Barn Holden (Mark MacDonald). The colt by Conway Hall has three wins in eight starts this season. He has six career wins and has amassed nearly $200,000 lifetime.   Third Shift (Ake Svanstedt) is the favorite in the $56,000 second division. Svanstedt also trains the Chapter Seven colt. His two wins this season were in a leg of the NYSS and a division of the $97,750 EBC both at Vernon Downs. He has five lifetime wins and career earnings of over $320,000.   His main threats will be Berkery J (Scott Zeron) and Chaptiama (Trond Smedshammer).   Berkery J (Chapter Seven) is trained by George Ducharme. His only win this season was a NYSS win at Vernon Downs. He has four career wins and won over $220,000 lifetime.   The Smedshammer trained Chaptiama (Chapter Seven) has three NYSS wins this year. He boasts five lifetime wins and over $300,000 in winnings.   The 13-race card starts at 3 p.m.   For more information go to   by John Horne, for Vernon Downs    

Harness racing three year old pacing colts and geldings were featured on Tuesday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel as part of the New York Sire Stakes. Splash Brother (So Surreal-Sugarcoated- The Panderosa) just missed the track record for three year old geldings when the Ray Schnittker-trained superstar paced to a 1:51 victory in his $74,500 division of the Sire Stakes. Tyler Buter sat behind Splash Brother who finished fourth in the stakes final last year as a two year old despite going winless on the campaign. The sophomore season has brought the victories for Splash Brother who scored for the fifth time in eight seasonal tries on Tuesday. Buter aggressively moved the speedy soph to the lead going to the opening quarter, bypassing fellow even-money shot Major Betts (Jordan Stratton) before powering through the first half in a demanding 55 seconds. Save Me A Dance and Jason Bartlett powered up first-over heading to three-quarters but was dismissed by a game Splash Brother who dug in turning for home. The even money shot was approached briefly by the co-favored Major Betts in the stretch before turning that one away and stopping the timer in an impressive 1:51. The track record for three year old geldings belongs to Funknwaffles who paced just a tick faster than Splash Brother did on Tuesday when he scored in 1:50.4 in a NYSS race in 2017 with Corey Callahan at the controls.   Major Betts wound up as the runner-up on Tuesday while Save Me A Dance earned the show spot to Splash Brother who is owned by Schnittker, Arnold, Flannery and Nolamaura Rcg, all of New York. The $75,900 division on Tuesday went the way of Uhtred (Art Major-Seaside Roxy-Mach Three) who had Scott Zeron piloting for trainer Carmen Auciello. Uhtred went off at odds of 6-1 and got a perfect trip from Zeron before pouncing in the stretch. Longshot Genius Man and reinsman Marcus Miller cut the mile and rebuffed the favored Groovy Joe (Matt Kakaley) around the final turn while Uhtred gobbled up ground on the pylon path. The Auciello trainee surged late and got up to win by a nose in 1:51.4. Genius Man, dismissed at odds of 10-1, was a game second while the favored Groovy Joe had to settle for third.   Uhtred paid $14.80 to win in what was his third victory in five career starts. The exacta and triple came back $87 and $193, respectively. Uhtred is owned by Earl Hill Jr. and Stephen Klunowski of Ontario, Canada. Live racing continues on Wednesday evening with NYSS action featured once again as three year old pacing fillies come to town. First post time is set for 7:15pm. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

Vernon Downs played host for two divisions of the New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) for harness racing freshmen pacing colts & geldings on Friday (August 28). Trainer Mark Harder sweeps both divisions. Southwind Petyr (Dexter Dunn) charges late to win the $51,300 first division. With unbeaten American Courage out of the race scratched sick, it was a wide-open affair. What About Bob (Troy Beyer) took the lead as they went by the stands for the first time. Southwind Petyr ($5.10) took control just before hitting the first quarter in :27.1. Sauvignon Bluechip (Tyler Buter) came flying first-over from fourth and took command and hit the half first in :56.2. Major Makover (Mark MacDonald) made a move first-over going around the final turn. Sauvignon Bluechip still had a slight lead as he hit three-quarters first in 1:25.1. As they made the turn for home Major Makover came hard at Sauvignon Bluechip in the stretch. Southwind Petyr desperately needed racing room. He finally found an opening on the inside and squeezed right on by to win his first career race hitting the mile in 1:52.4. Major Makover finished second with Sauvignon Bluechip settling for third. Southwind Petyr is a colt by American Ideal-Southwind Paris. He is owned by Deena Frost, Wayne Carleton, Dean Lockhart, and trainer Harder. It was his first win in two career starts. Southwind Petyr King James Express (Jason Bartlett) captures the $50,400 second division. Make My Deo (Tyler Buter) went to the lead and led to the first quarter in :27.0. The big favorite I'll Drink To That (Dexter Dunn) came first-up from third and took the lead hitting the first half on top in :55.1. I'll Drink To That looked strong hitting three-quarter first in 1:23.3. King James Express ($10.60) made his move from third as they reached the stretch. He came flying down the stretch like he was fired out of a cannon. He blew right on by to win in a lifetime best of 1:52.0. I'll Drink To That held on to finish second. Stop Staring (Mark MacDonald) came up to finish third. King James Express is a gelding by Art Major-More Diamonds. Owners Carleton, Frost, and Harder once again teamed up as part of the NYSS sweep. He is now two for six in his career. King James Express Vernon Downs returns to live racing on Saturday (August 29) with a 13-race card starting at 3 p.m. For more information go to John Horne for Vernon Downs

Tioga Downs welcomes New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) for harness racing 2-year-old trotting colts & geldings on Sunday (August 30).   Eight freshmen trotters are set to race for $104,400. Ahundreddollarbill (Jason Bartlett) should be the horse to beat.   Trained by Dan Daley, he is a colt by Chapter Seven-Swinging Royalty.   The colt has pulled off back to back impressive NYSS wins at Saratoga and Vernon Downs.   He is two for four in his young career.   Special Prosecutor (Scott Zeron) and Dee's Red Delicious (Corey Callahan) should be his chief rivals.   The David Dewhurst trained Special Prosecutor (Chapter Seven-Valley Makayla) has two wins in five lifetime starts including a NYSS win at Yankers.   Dee's Red Delicious (Credit Winner-Apple Plush) already has a NYSS win at Tioga on July 26th.   The gelding trained by Bruce Saunders is two for five in his career.   The 13-race card starts at 1 p.m.   For more information go to   John Horne for Tioga Downs              

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. – The New York Sire Stakes and The Hambletonian Society, in conjunction with Goshen Historic Track, have released the Racing Protocols for the New York County Fair Finals and Landmark Stakes set for Sunday, Sept. 6. Rules for owners and other documents have also been released. Post time will be at noon. Protocols and important documents can be found at, or at the links below. County Fair Finals & Landmark Protocols County Fair Finals & Landmark Screening Questionnaire Goshen Historic Track Condition Sheet All participants are required to adhere to the Protocols for NYS County Fair Finals & Landmark Stakes Racing 2020.  Horsemen and owners should review protocols in advance and be prepared to adhere to these on race day. Social distancing guidelines will be mandated and face masks are required. Be sure to read the information about protocols for Coggins and Rabies for all horses and Health Certificates for out-of-state horses.  Participants are encouraged not to arrive before 9:00 a.m. and may not enter the grounds until properly screened. All entry onto the grounds will be through the back-paddock gate on Parkway for COVID-19 screening and identification. Everyone will receive a wrist band to wear for the day once screened. Entry for horsemen will be limited to two people per horse and you are asked to limit attendance to just those people necessary to race. Drivers must be listed on the program to drive.  Owners may attend the races but must be listed as a current owner of the horse with the U.S. Trotting Association and reservations must be made in advance, no later than 5:00 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 4. Owners of horses entered may call the Historic Track Race Office at 845-294-5333 to be placed on the admissions list. No same-day owner admissions will be accepted, and no other spectators will be permitted. Owners will undergo the same screening as horsemen through the back-paddock gate and will have to show identification.         As for the Screening Questionnaire, all individuals attending the races, both horsemen and owners, are encouraged to print and complete this in advance to expedite entry to the grounds. Due to New York State regulations, no viewing will be allowed from the grandstand. All viewing will be conducted from the backstretch. Owners and horsemen are invited to bring lawn chairs and coolers to enjoy the day. Water will be available near the paddock judge. Alcohol is restricted. Owners of the winning horse will be allowed in the Winner’s Circle, following social distancing guidelines and wearing a face mask. Races will be also livestreamed, starting with an 11 a.m. pre-show before the noon post. The link and program will be available on the New York Sire Stakes website the morning of September 6. The livestream will be available for playback for one year. As for horse entries, the entry box closes at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 2. Participants can enter online through the U.S. Trotting Association for all events. If you would like to enter for the County Fair Finals by phone, call the Fair Entry Hotline at 518-388-0964. If you would like to enter for the Landmark Stakes by phone, call the Goshen Race Office at 845-294-5333. We ask that you do not enter by phone more than 48 hours in advance. Jason Politi | Baker Public Relations

Vernon Downs welcomes two divisions of the New York Sire stakes (NYSS) for harness racing freshmen pacing colts & geldings on Friday (August 28). In the $51,300 first division all eyes will be on the unbeaten American Courage (Matt Kakaley). The colt by American Ideal-Nota Fool Bluechip is trained by Travis Alexander. So far he has been phenomenal with seven wins in seven starts. He has won four legs of the NYSS plus a big win in the $104,250 MGM Springfield Stakes Final (Yonkers Raceway). The David Dziengiel trained Sauvignon Bluechip (Tyler Buter) should be his toughest rival. The colt by Art Major-Some Girls Do picked up a NYSS victory at Yonkers in his last start. He has finished second to American Courage on two occasions. I'll Drink To That (Dexter Dunn) is the top choice in the $50,400 second division. The colt by American Ideal-Margarita Monday lost by just a half-length to American Courage in his last start. Trained by Chris Ryder, he picked up a NYSS win at Tioga Downs for his only lifetime victory in four lifetime starts. King James Express (Jason Bartlett) and Carrythetorchman (Marcus Miller) should be major contenders. King James Express (Art Major-More Diamonds) is trained by Mark Harder. The gelding has a NYSS win at Saratoga for his lone career victory. The Erv Miller trained Carrythetorchman is a colt by American Ideal-Kattimon. He has two wins in six career starts. The 15-race card starts at 3 p.m. For more information got John Horne for Vernon Downs  

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