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WILKES-BARRE PA – Two-year-old trotting fillies were featured in seven $20,000 divisions of the Pennsylvania Stallion Series’ second preliminary Monday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, and although the “off” harness racing track was below peak speed throughout the evening (“+1” in “good” conditions later changing to “sloppy”), all the winners took lifetime marks.   The Donato Hanover filly Zoe Bi was the only filly to register a second straight score in the Stallion Series, and she succeeded swiftly, with her 1:57.4 clocking the fastest of the night for trainer Christopher Beaver, also co-owner with Marion Beachy and Synerco Ventures. Pocono’s leading driver, George Napolitano Jr., moved the baby miss to the top past the quarter, then brought her home in 58.1 to be almost five lengths clear of her opposition at the finish.   Driver Andy Miller picked up two winning catch-drives in the Stallion Series action. One came with the second-fastest winner, the Explosive Matter distaff Bombshell Belle, who won by 6½ lengths in 1:58.1. On the lead at the stretch call in her first Stallion Series start at The Meadows only to make a break, the Robert Baggitt Jr.-trained filly was overlooked here and paid $31.40 to win as she tallied for Christine Baggitt and noted amateur horseman Mitchell Walker.   Miller’s other win came with the Cantab Hall filly Keystone Carly in 1:59.4, after a phrase often heard among baby trotter races: “a war of attrition.” Three in the field of seven broke early; a fourth broke during the second quarter; and then La La Winnie, who had put up amazing fractions of 27.1 and 57.4, made a break at the half – with Keystone Carly officially 17 lengths back at the half. But she and favored Reiza were the only two who had remained flat, and the latter had been close-up in the pocket when the leader miscued, inheriting a lead that was 7½ lengths at the 1:28.2 3/4s. But the early fractions took their toll and Keystone Carly, with the patient Miller, was the fresh filly late, charging by to score by 1½ lengths for trainer Todd Schadel, who shares ownership with his wife Christine and Rick & Regina Beinhauer.   Cantab Hall picked up another siring credit when trainer Jimmy Takter also took sulky duty behind Basquait, who stepped home in 29.1 to complete a 2:00 tally. Basquait, named after perhaps the greatest graffiti artist who later went on to work with Andy Warhol, was picture-perfect in winning for Order By Stable.   Also with two winning offspring was sire Muscle Massive, the faster of which was Women’s Lib, who went wire-to-wire in 1:58.4, last half 58.1, for trainer Donna Marshall. Sharing ownership of the winning distaff with the renown Arden Homestead Stable is her driver, whom famed announcer Jack E. Lee would undoubtedly call “Diamond-uh-Jim-MARSHall-1-2-3-4” – Jim Marshall IV, son of the longtime noted horseman Jim III and only in his second year of driving in the professional ranks.   Enchanting was the other successful daughter of Muscle Massive, holding off the Team Orange Crush filly Cloud Dancer by a neck in 2:00.4. Enchanting, who led at every call, is owned and trained by D.R. Ackerman.   Also successful on the wet night was the Andover Hall filly Fish Is Fish, who used a pocket journey as a springboard to a nose victory over first leg winner Explosive G, who had taken the lead in the stretch, in 1:59.2. Driver Dan Rawlings shipped northeastward with trainer Dirk Simpson, and their filly made the long ride worthwhile for them and owner Ed Teefey.   Five divisions of Sire Stakes two-year-old trotting fillies are carded for tomorrow night (Tuesday), the last night of the week in Pocono Saturday through Tuesday basic schedule.   PHHA / Pocono

WASHINGTON, PA, July 16, 2017 -- On Monday, July 17, The Meadows Racetrack & Casino will offer a $25,000 total-pool guarantee for its Pick 5 wager as part of the United States Trotting Association's Strategic Wagering Initiative. The Meadows added the "instant" guarantee after Saturday's Pick 5 was uncovered, resulting in a two-day carryover of $8,484.76. In addition, Monday's card includes a $5,000 total-pool guarantee for the Pick 4, a regular feature of each program at The Meadows. Minimum wager for the Pick 4 (races 4-7) and Pick 5 (races 9-13) is 50 cents. Since Pennsylvania law requires a minimum per-race wager of $2, a player wagering at the 50-cent level must bet at least four tickets. First post for Monday's program is 1:05 PM. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino  

DAYTON PA - The 2017 Pennsylvania fair schedule of harness racing gets underway this weekend at the Dayton Fairgrounds in Armstrong County, just northeast of Pittsburgh. Two-year-olds will take to the track at high noon on Saturday, while on Sunday at the same time a full slate of three-year-olds will be racing.   This year the Pennsylvania Fair Sire Stakes will feature an improved yet simplified purse structure, thanks to the work of the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen Association (PHHA) and the Standardbred Breeders Association of Pennsylvania (SBAPA), with Sam Beegle and Jim Simpson heading the respective associations' efforts.   The Fair Sire Stakes will be divided into "A" and "B" divisions. For the "A" cuts, the purse will be $7500 plus the $75 starting fees if there is one division, $5000+ each if two divisions, and $3750+ each if three or more divisions. The "B" Sire Stakes were formed to place emphasis on the homegrown state agricultural project: while the former Quaker State Series allowed eligibility for "PA-sired OR wholly PA-owned" horses, being a Sire Stakes of course now necessitates the animal being sired by a state stallion. There will be a purse of $2500 plus starting fees for however many "B" divisions are needed.   At this stage of the season, of course, the two-year-olds are getting the final touches on their racing education, and indeed only one of the babies in Saturday's 12 races has so much as made a pari-mutuel start. But what a start that was: Venier Hanover won a maiden contest at The Meadows in 1:54, following up on a 1:55.2 first charted line qualifier. The gelding certainly has this kind of ability in his pedigree: his third dam is Oxford Mary Ann, the dam of Cambest, whose 1:46.1 time trial in 1993 was eclipsed only last year by a tick by Always B Miki at Lexington.   Among the three-year-olds, trotter Gee Wizz George and pacer Marvalous Artist, who set the Dayton colt divisional standards at two last season, will both be in action Sunday, whose card will also feature a dozen races. Also among the entrants are Camera Lady (a Dave Brickell stablemate of Venier Hanover), the winningest two-year-old in all of North America last year with 15 trips to Victory Lane for the pacing filly, and Gemalous, who conquered the "Lady" in their Pennsylvania Fair Sire Stakes Championship.   Roger Hammer and Team Shaw (driver Chris and trainer/brother Jason), who have been the big guns along the Keystone fair circuit the last couple of years, both will send out a healthy contingent of hopefuls, looking to maintain their lofty perches atop the horsemen's win columns.   Publicity Office, Pennsylvania Fair Harness Horsemen's Association        

WILKES-BARRE PA – The ladies had their turn in the harness racing spotlight on a warm Monday evening at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with Little Joke picking up her second straight win in the $14,000 distaff claiming handicap pace, and Driving Miss Crazy paying immediate dividends on a claim by leading a blanket finish in the $14,000 claiming handicap trot.   Little Joke, a winner a level below Monday’s in a lifetime best 1:51.4 seven days ago, did even better this week, laying not far off a fast pace (54.1 to the half), showing a big kick on the far turn, and then drawing off to a two length victory while lowering her newly-minted speed mark to 1:51.1. Scott Zeron winning for the third time on the card, was behind the Bettor’s Delight mare, trained by Buzzy Sholty for owner Vincent Laurenzo.   Driving Miss Crazy, a Crazed mare haltered by owner Margaret Olmstead and trainer Robert Lounsbury last week, overcame post nine in making her first start for her new connections a winning one under the guidance of Matt Kakaley. Driving Miss Crazy made the most of a pocket journey to defeat late-closing Joe Tucky by a neck in 1:56.1, with the first six finishers within a half-length of the winner at the wire (including the pair who dead-heated for fifth).   PHHA / Pocono

WASHINGTON, PA, May 15, 2017 -- Trixie Dust was all out to nail the stubborn leader, One Class Act, but she inched past to score in a harness racing career-best 1:55.2, fastest mile in Monday's $100,000 Pennsylvania Stallion Series stake at The Meadows. The event for 3-year-old filly trotters was contested over five divisions, with Gin's Tonic, Canwood, EZ Passer and My Cherry Pie also taking $20,000 splits. Dave Palone enjoyed a stake double behind Trixie Dust and My Cherrie Pie. One Class Act took her field through a swift 1:25.2 three-quarters but showed no inclination to yield to the first-over Trixie Dust. The even-money favorite surged late to down One Class Act by a nose, with Massive Risk third. "She's better racing from the back," Palone said of the daughter of Winning Mister-Emma J, "so I thought if I could sit tight and not have to use her until the last turn, she'd be fine. When I moved her, I thought she would win. She picked me right up like the good ones do. I drove her dad, and she reminds me a lot of him." Rich Gillock trains Trixie Dust and owns with Paula Sokol. Gin's Tonic stalked Ms Mullen from the pocket, then shot the Lightning Lane to prevail by a head for Jim Pantaleano. Great Kate earned show. "When we had her at Freehold for the Lady Suffolk, she couldn't quite get around the turns there," said J. Neal Ehrhart, who conditions the daughter of Muscle Massive-Don't Say Don't -- an $8,000 yearling acquisition -- for Virginia Ehrhart. "But she likes this track. She won a Keystone Classic division here last year. She'll stay in the stallion series, but later in the year she has the Liberty Bell and the Simpson if she's good enough." Canwood, who swept a late-closing series at The Meadows before encountering some tough older performers in an overnight event, relished the return to her division. She grabbed the lead first up for Brian Zendt and thwarted the uncovered challenge of Smartie Partie to score in 1:56.2. Igotsomethingtosay finished second, 1-1/4 lengths back, while Smartie Partie saved show. "She won pretty handy today, and they stretched her a little bit, too," Zendt said. "I was being careful with her because I'd never had her to the half in 57 before. I didn't want to be too hard on her." Bill Zendt trains the daughter of Cantab Hall-Hallywood for Judith Wolkimir and Fred Kayne. Pantaleano and Zendt each piloted three winners on the 13-race card. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

WILKES-BARRE PA - Three $30,000 Championships in the Bobby Weiss Series for the different sexes and gaits will be the highlights of the coming week's harness racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with both male and female pacing Championships on Monday night and the trotting females set for Tuesday. (The trotting males began their preliminary Weiss action a week later, so they will have their fourth and final prelim this Tuesday, and then go in their $30,000 Championship next Tuesday.)   No Weiss horse in any division will be able to pull off a "sweep" - wins in all four preliminary rounds and then a capturing of the Championship. But the prelim action has certainly marked several horses as likeliest to get the major share of the respective Championship purses.   In Monday's Championship for pacing males, Highalator has been made the 5-2 morning line favorite from post four for driver Victor Kirby after taking an unusual path to the final: he paced to easy wins in the first two Weiss prelim legs, then skipped the third week and raced last week in an overnight rather than bump heads with the tough Weiss crew, posting his eighth straight victory in easy fashion.   One horse who looked like he may have been in a position to "sweep" was Dash Of Danger, who had three wins to start his Weiss campaign, but then last week was caught by Talent Soup in 1:51.1, fastest of all Weiss prelims. Dash Of Danger will look to get back on the winning trail Monday (post one, driver Matt Kakaley, 3-1); Talent Soup, who had only a win and a fourth to his Weiss credit, stood "on the bubble" in tenth in this division's standings, but a couple of defections above him finds him coming back for the Weiss Championship (post five, driver David Miller, 6-1).   Among the pacing females, another long winning streak will be on the line as Cousin Mary looks for her eighth straight victory. To be driven by Anthony Napolitano from post four and 5-2 on the morning line, Cousin Mary did not compete in the first Weiss prelim, but has raced strongly since coming to the mountain oval, winning last week in 1:52.3, fastest prelim clocking in her section. Her major rival may be her stablemate in the shedrow of Andrew Harris, Itty Bitty (post one, George Napolitano Jr., 7-2), who won twice in the Weiss prelims.   On Tuesday in the Weiss Championship for trotting females, Sunrise Avenue, starting from post one for driver Eric Carlson, had the best Weiss prelim record with three wins and a second, but it seems likely she'll be second choice to Checkmate Time (post four, driver John Campbell), who in her first start of 2017 and only her fourth lifetime outing, trotted effortlessly in 1:53.3, over a second faster than any other Weiss prelim in this category.   In the trotting male side's two last round prelims Tuesday, two of last week's three winners, Tech Titan and Uncle Leroy, are back in to go, as are all three horses who won their first two Weiss starts in this section but couldn't stretch their win streaks last week - Hilarious Hero, Bend In The River, and Ooh Rah.   Fast overnight horses dominate the Pocono cards on Saturday and Sunday. "Starting off the racing week" on Saturday, that day's $20,000 pacing feature finds a well-matched field of eight headed by Book Binge, Phil Your Boots, and Barimah A, all of whom have won in sub-1:51 time already this year.   Sunday's $18,000 featured pace features the return of the three-year-old Miso Fast after having qualified in 1:52.2 - 26.4 at Philly; Miso Fast was third in his Breeders Crown Championship at two en route to winning over $250,000 as a freshman.   PHHA / Pocono  

Mother Nature was kind to the suburban Philadelphia area on Thursday (April 20th) afternoon. The rain held off long enough to provide a delightful mix of sun, light wind, and comfortable temperatures for the 14-race harness racing program at Harrah's Philadelphia. The featured event was a trot for non-winners of $20,000 in their last 5 starts, positioned as race 5 on the program. In a wide-open wagering board, the slight favorite was Blair and Erna Corbeil's Rubber Duck (Joe Bongiorno). The 5-year-old son of Muscle Mass was coming off of a break from an outside post in an upper-conditioned level event at Yonkers. He performed solidly in his two outings before the miscue. The versatile Rich Johnson trainee settled into an early sixth shy of the quarter, as hall of fame driver Dave Miller fired Skates N Plates sharply off the wings. The 6-year-old Andrew Harris charge set deliberate fractions of :27, :55. and 1:24, enjoying an uncontested lead for most of the mile.   In the mean time, the $3.7 million dollar earner Market Share (Tim Tetrick) was progressing mildly first-over, after finding a good early spot just off the speed. Rubber Duck was able to latch-on to that cover at race's midpoint. Bongiorno sent the lukewarm public choice 3 wide at the eighth, and was able to storm past the leader willingly to win by 3 lengths, stopping the clock in 1:52.2. It was the first seasonal victory for Rubber Duck, and his 9th career triumph out of 51 starts. Skates N Plates finished second, while My Love Bi (Napolitano Jr.), who sat a loose pocket for a majority of the mile, settled for third. In other action, Craparotta and Berry Racing's Glenferrie Dreamer (Pat Berry) sprung the upset (7-1) in the very next race, a trot for non-winners of $15,000 in their last 5 starts. He defeated the heavily-favored Crosby's Clam Bake, who was sent out at odds of 1-5. He finished third after setting the tempo. Glenferrie Dreamer, who is trained by Traci Berry, set a lifetime mark of 1:52.4 with his 21st victory. On the pacing side, 3-year-old filly pacer Dr J's Kiss continues to impress since her arrival from South Florida. The daughter of Somebeachsomewhere turned heads in her local debut last week, coming from off the pace to score in 1:53.2 in-hand in a race for fillies which have never won 3 starts . She faced similar competition on Thursday, and as expected, was the heavy favorite. The result was similar. The Joe Pavia Jr. trainee quarter-brushed on this occasion, and once again was the easiest of winners in 1:53.3. "She's been handling like a real professional," said Driver Dave Miller. "She's been very strong both races. I don't know the reason, but she's come back very good this year." When asked what the future plans were for this potential filly star, Miller said the Sire Stakes in May are a good possibility. Live racing continues Friday afternoon, with a first post of 12:40 PM. Harrah's Philly races live every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday with that 12:40 EST start time. Michael Bozich

WILKES-BARRE PA - Maybe Hall of Fame harness racing horseman John Campbell might want to reconsider that July 1 career change he's talked about.   Set to become the president/CEO of the Hambletonian Society on the first of July, Campbell showed he still has plenty of sulky magic left at his command, sending Muscle Diamond right to the front in the $20,000 handicap trotting feature Sunday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, backing off the half, then sprinting home to be a very easy winner over odds-on favorite Melady's Monet in 1:53.3.   Campbell had the winning son of Muscle Hill in high gear early and quickly made the top, forcing tucks while going to the quarter in 27.1. With no challengers looming, Campbell gave Muscle Diamond a huge breather on the front end in quarter two, hitting the half in 57.4, with Melady's Monet starting up uncovered. The favorite got to within just over a length of Muscle Diamond on the far turn after a 1:25.4 clocking at the ¾, but in the stretch Muscle Diamond sparkled with a 27.4 kicker, winning by 4 1/2 lengths. Melady's Monet claimed second, a length to the good of the pocketsitter Crazy About Pat.   Muscle Diamond would fit any definition of impeccably-bred, a Muscle Hill out of millionaire / world champion / divisional champion Windylane Hanover, and his career earnings of $662,899 have been achieved in but 31 starts - if trainer Brett Bittle can find the key to an extended campaign for the fast trotter, who was second in his Breeders Crown at two and then third at three, you'll hear much more from him and owners Brett and Dan Bittle and the Charles Kellers, III and IV.   The victory was #10,637 of Campbell's storied career; more importantly, his lifetime earnings are now at $299,366,442, and that number that begins with a "3" looming on the horizon does seem attainable.   The biggest purse race of the night for pacers was an $18,000 "nw 7 races or $70,000" contest, which went to the four-year-old gelding Dash Of Danger, who took a new mark of 1:52 for the hot connections of trainer Ron Burke and owners Burke Racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, and Marc Reynolds. Matt Kakaley rushed up down the backstretch with the sidewheeler, also with top-shelf breeding (a Western Terror half-brother to the $2M+-winning mare Glowing Report), paced on to a big lead late on the final turn, then held off the bold late rush of Shane Adam, who trailed most of the way, by a half-length.   PHHA / Pocono  

WASHINGTON, PA, March 11, 2017 -- Grand Priority pulled the pocket just in time to get clearance and powered home to pull off a 23-1 upset in Saturday's opening leg of the Walter Russell Memorial Pace at The Meadows. Art N Music took the other $12,500 division in the harness racing series for 3- and 4-year-old colts, stallions and geldings. The event honors the memory of the late Hall of Fame judge Walter Russell, who served with distinction at a number of venues. Grand Priority was stalking Louie's So Bossy down the backside when the outside flow started to close in. Brad Provost angled Grand Priority off the pylons, and the 4-year-old Western Ideal-Joy Luck Hall gelding opened a daylight lead in an instant. He scored in 1:56, 2 lengths better than the 2-5 favorite, Indigo Art, with Gossip Boy third. William Provost trains Grand Priority and owns with Mary Smith and Trotwood Farms. In the $20,000 Preferred Handicap Pace, Lincolnjames wore down his stablemate, Mykindachip, with a relentless uncovered bid and downed him by a length for Mike Wilder, trainer Ron Burke and owners Burke Racing Stable and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. Believeinthespirit earned show. The 6-year-old Northwest-Winbak Lucy gelding extended his lifetime bankroll to $169,387. Tony Hall, Aaron Merriman, Dan Rawlings and trainers Dirk Simpson and Burke each enjoyed a double on the 12-race card.   The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

WASHINGTON, PA, March 8, 2017 -- Pressured most of the mile while on the lead, Ms Mullen drew away from the field into the final turn and scored decisively in Wednesday's opening leg of the Mary Wohlmuth Memorial Trot. Pennys N Dimes upset at 15-1 in the other division of the series for harness racing 3- and 4-year-old fillies and mares at The Meadows. The event honors the memory of the late Mary Wohlmuth, longtime manager of the 2:00 Club, the erstwhile gathering spot for horsemen and horsewomen. Ms Mullen was unplaced in her five previous career starts and hadn't raced since Aug. 22. But she was more than willing when Tony Hall sent her to the front, and she gamely thwarted the prolonged challenge of Blameitonthealcohl to prevail by 2 lengths in 1:59.3. Eva Ka Jean was third-placed-second while Cantabmymoney finished second but was placed back to third for a late break. Dirk Simpson trains and leases Ms Mullen, a 3-year-old daughter of Muscle Massive-Kentucky Bluebird. In the $20,000 Preferred Trot, Cantab Lindy sat patiently behind the dueling leaders, then shot the Lightning Lane to pull off the 18-1 upset in 1:55.4 for Mike Wilder and owner/trainer Brent Davis. Tricky Nick was second, 1/2 length back, while Trustworthy Kid rallied for show. The 9-year-old Cantab Hall-Lindy N Caviar gelding extended his career bankroll to $368,057. Dave Palone and Wilder each collected three wins on the 13-race card. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

WASHINGTON, PA, March 7, 2017 -- Prompted by a three-day carryover of $19,578.12, The Meadows Racetrack & Casino has established a $50,000 total-pool guarantee for its harness racing Pick 5 wager on Wednesday, March 8. The guarantee, one of the largest in track history, is offered as part of the United States Trotting Association's Strategic Wagering Initiative. In addition, Wednesday's card includes a $5,000 total-pool guarantee for the Pick 4, a regular feature of each program at The Meadows. Minimum wager for the Pick 4 (races 4-7) and Pick 5 (races 8-12) is 50 cents. Since Pennsylvania law requires a minimum per-race wager of $2, a player wagering at the 50-cent level must bet at least four tickets. First post for Wednesday's program is 1 PM. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

Barn Girl, Dapper Dude, Tamarind and two other harness racing horses live on a farm in Slippery Rock. When they see the horse trailer, they get very excited because they know they are going to The Meadows racetrack. “They really, truly, love to race,” said William Bercury, who trains the horses that are owned by his wife, Renee Bercury. I “met” Barn Girl in January when she calmly stepped off the track after trotting faster than seven other mares and fillies to win the featured race of the day. I thought she looked small, as horses go, and dainty. The 5-year-old bay mare is 15.1 hands high and 815 pounds, Bercury told me. Proving that in her case, neither size nor sex matters. Barn Girl “beat the boys” on Feb. 15, Bercury said in a telephone interview. The only mare in the Preferred Handicap Trot, Barn Girl beat stallions and geldings, which is easier said than done because they generally are 100 pounds heavier and 4 inches taller than she is. Barn Girl is almost diminutive compared to the famous thoroughbred Secretariat. The Triple Crown winner nicknamed “Big Red” was 16.2 hands high and 1,155 pounds. Growing up without a horse of my own, I was entranced by the Walter Farley horse books, especially “The Black Stallion” and “The Black Stallion’s Sulky Colt.” Hanging out in The Meadows paddock on Jan. 18 with people who live the kind of lives that Farley wrote about, I got to ask and Bercury and their driver, Aaron Merriman, a series of dumb questions that they patiently answered. Do you talk to the horses when you are racing? Do they listen to you? How smart are horses? Do you have a favorite horse? Are the horses happy if they win? How do you communicate with them and control them when you are riding in a sulky behind them rather than sitting astride their backs? Merriman, the winningest harness racing driver in the country in 2015 and 2016, says he talks to horses during races, and they listen. “When they flick their ears back, they’re listening. But when their ears go flat on their head, they’re mad. You don’t want to see that,” he said. Bercury is always watching Barn Girl’s ears because they are often edging toward flat. “She’s a mare, and she is a very wary mare,” he said. Not to be sexist, but horse people generally agree that mares are moodier and harder to handle than geldings, which are neutered males. “Around mares you need to be attentive and do things their way,” Bercury said. “If you want a nice, easygoing horse, go with a gelding.” Since the couple bought Barn Girl in October, “she has adapted well to her surroundings, and we have adapted well to her ways,” Bercury said. “Mike, our assistant, treats her like a pet. We often enter the barn and find him singing or talking to her in the mellow tones of true love.” Since she moved into the Bercury stables, Barn Girl has had 11 starts and seven first-place wins, two seconds and two third-place finishes. Her lifetime record for 61 races is 30 wins, 10 seconds and 12 thirds. Her lifetime earnings are $394,196. Bercury said they bought Barn Girl from Ron Burke, “the top trainer in the country and perhaps the world. He sold us this horse because he had several mares in the same category … Ron Burke and his staff have been Barn Girl’s biggest fans since we bought her and have cheered us on as friends and first-class competitors.” Many animal lovers don’t think horses are as smart as dogs. Some people don’t think they’re smart at all. “Oh, they’re smarter than you’d think,” said Merriman, 38, who has been driving since 1999. Horses are especially smart about “picking up on people who fear or dislike them. They respond well if you’re relaxed and confident.” “Absolutely I have favorite horses,” he said. “They’re not necessarily the fastest horses. They’re the ones that try the hardest.” Merriman drives all of the Bercury horses, including Dapper Dude, an 8-year-old stallion with more than $1 million in lifetime earnings. He also drives horses for many other trainers and diplomatically did not provide the names of his favorite or least-favorite horses. “Some horses are happy when they pass a horse on the track,” Merriman said. “Some seem to enjoy being out in front.” Bercury, who with his wife has owned horses since 1978, is convinced “they want to win. I think they know the object is to beat the other horses. If they have confidence in the driver, they go.” “Aaron is not just a driver. He’s a horseman,” Bercury said. “He knows horses and he likes them, and that makes a difference. I have never seen him put a whip to a horse.” The driver uses the reins to guide the horse during the race. There are horses who would prefer to pick their own race route, Bercury said with a chuckle, but “their way is usually not the smart way.” So how do drivers and trainers communicate with harness racing horses? When you ride astride a horse, your legs are used to control and send signals and cues to the horse. You can put your hands on their necks to calm or encourage them. You can learn forward to talk to them. In a sulky or job cart, driver only have their hands. “When I drive or train, I really only have two fingers on the reins,” Bercury said. So some of the communication between drivers and race horses is akin to some form of magic that can neither be explained nor taught. The stalls of each of the Bercury horses open up into their own individual pastures. The horses are able to visit each other over the the fences. Tamarind, 9, is currently in the final weeks of what Bercury calls his “vacation.” The stallion wasn’t sick or lame when Bercury gave him six weeks off from training and racing. A vacation is just something Bercury believes a horse needs, now and then. “These horses give it their all. They work very hard, and they need time to be horses. They roll in the snow or do whatever they want to do. It’s their choice.” “Some people say they can’t afford vacations. I say I can’t afford not to.” By Linda Wilson Fuoco Reprinted with permission of The Sun-Gazette

WASHINGTON, PA, March 1, 2017 -- Parked more than half the race before making the front, Call For Justice found more late over the sloppy surface to capture his second straight harness racing victory in Wednesday's $20,000 Preferred Handicap Trot at The Meadows. Sent toward the front from post 9 by Dave Palone, Call For Justice didn't clear the leader, Barn Girl, until well past the half. Though he appeared vulnerable in mid-stretch, the 5-year-old son of Justice Hall-Mika's Mazurka dug in to hold off Valley Of Sin by 3/4 lengths in 1:56.2. Chef Lee rallied for show. Ron Burke trains Call For Justice, who now boasts $298,797 in career earnings, for Burke Racing Stable and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. Palone collected four wins on the 13-race card while Jim Pantaleano and trainer Ron Burke each enjoyed a three-bagger. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

WASHINGTON, PA, March 1, 2017 -- Not many busboys in the clubhouse dining room will go on to win 7,000 harness races, yet that's just the unique career path Jim Pantaleano has taken. He got harness racing  career win 7,000 Wednesday at The Meadows when he piloted PL Intimidator to victory in the eighth race. "I just go to work -- I enjoy it quite a bit -- and don't think about the numbers that much," said Pantaleano, whose mounts have earned more than $48.4 million. "It just kind of sneaks up on you." Pantaleano was a student at Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, when he began working in the clubhouse at nearby Northfield Park and determined that he would become a driver. "It looked very interesting," he said, "and I thought I would give it a try. A lot of people go to the races and think driving would be neat, so I'm probably not much different in that regard. But I actually ended up doing it" After a fling at Muskingum College (now Muskingum University) -- "I took two years off from life, you might say" -- Pantaleano visited Northfield's barn area and made the rounds of stables, looking for any work he could find. A sympathetic trainer, Mel Turcotte, hired him as a groom, but that didn't help him get drives. "I got some catch drives," he recalls, "on horses that usually were unruly." With seed money to which his father and a family friend contributed, Pantaleano claimed for $3,000 a horse that became the foundation for his own stable. He enjoyed success in Ohio, abandoned training when he relocated to Freehold and Yonkers in 2004 and settled at The Meadows a few years ago. These days, many of Pantaleano's assignments come from his wife, trainer Christen Pantaleano, whom her husband describes as "a brilliant woman." "She wasn't involved with horses but took a liking to them," he said. "She taught herself everything she needed to know." Driving for your spouse, he said, is both "good and bad." "When her horse races good, she's happy, so then I'm really happy. When her horse doesn't perform well, she very rarely blames the driver, but she's passionate about her work, and she'll get very upset when her horses don't perform the way she would like." For the future, Pantaleano doesn't plan any major changes. "I really got lucky landing at The Meadows at this stage of my career," he said. "I enjoy afternoon racing. I enjoy helping my wife with her stable. My goals really are to stay healthy and earn enough money to take care of my family and do the things we enjoy doing together." The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

The rain held off just enough for the gates at the stable entrance of the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono to open on Wednesday morning at 7:30AM.  Soon the stable area was filling up with the sounds of whinnies and laughter as horsemen arrived with their precious cargo, officially kicking off the 2017 harness racing season. Linda and John Kakaley were the first to arrive with Mcsorley’s Mistake and Swiss Platinum, both owned by Charlie and Mary Johnston.  A smiling Linda helped John get the first two horses settled in their stalls before a few more of theirs arrived soon after.  John hit the track to train with Mcsorley’s Mistake as the torrential downpour began, but neither John nor the trotter seemed to mind. Horses for the Peter Pellegrino Stable soon arrived in a trailer driven by Ollie Rose III, and Bucky Angle’s trailer was seen being unloaded by the veteran horseman.  Outrider Tia Shafer’s horses Red and Hollywood., along with pony Niles stepped off the trailer after their long ride from Ohio, and were greeted by hugs from Tia.  Stall applications are still being taken for the stables at with special reduced rates for the 2017 season.  Call Luann Reynolds at 570-831-2125 for details. The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono stable area features an excellent training track; tack shop and farriers; two veterinary clinics; laundry facilities; and a secure area with a guard on the premises 24 hours a day.  Entry is with a license only.  The stable area is minutes from major interstate highways. Racing opens for the season at the renowned 5/8 mile track on Saturday, March 18th..  Three dates have been set aside for Qualifiers; Tuesday, March 7; Thursday, March 9th;  and Wednesday, March 15th.    Jennifer Starr

WASHINGTON, PA, Feb. 22, 2017 -- Racing off a 13-week layoff, Call For Justice found an escape route late and went on to capture Wednesday's harness racing $20,000 Preferred Handicap Trot at The Meadows. Call For Justice zipped to the early lead for Dave Palone but was shuffled to fourth into the final turn. Palone was able to angle Call For Justice to the outside, and the 5-year-old son of Justice Hall-Mika's Mazurka took off when he saw racetrack, scoring in 1:54.2. Barn Girl, parked most of the mile, was a game second, 3/4 lengths back, with Chef Lee third. Ron Burke trains Call For Justice, who now boasts career earnings of $288,797, for Burke Racing Stable and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. Palone and Burke each fashioned a four-bagger on the 13-race card while Aaron Merriman collected three wins. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

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