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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 https://myhorsemen.mohegansunpocono.com 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

WASHINGTON, PA, Feb. 17, 2017 -- On Saturday, Feb. 18, The Meadows Racetrack & Casino will offer a $20,000 total-pool guarantee for its Pick 5 harness racing wager as part of the United States Trotting Association's Strategic Wagering Initiative. The Meadows added the "instant" guarantee after Wednesday's Pick 5 was uncovered, resulting in a two-day carryover of $7,212.32. In addition, Saturday'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 Saturday's program is 1 PM.   The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

WASHINGTON, PA, Feb. 15, 2017 -- The only harness racing mare in the field, Barn Girl stalked TSM Photo Bugger from the pocket, then blew by in the lane to capture Wednesday's $18,000 Preferred Handicap Trot at The Meadows. Aaron Merriman kept Barn Girl under wraps until the top of the stretch, when she brushed past the tiring leader and scored in 1:54.3. Valley Of Sin followed cover well for second, a neck back, while Trustworthy Kid, the 1-2 favorite, rallied for show. Bill Bercury trains Barn Girl, a 5-year-old daughter of Cash Hall-Turquoise Sweetie who extended her career bankroll to $394,196, for Renee Bercury. It was one of three wins for Merriman on the 13-race card.   The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

WASHINGTON, PA, Feb. 14, 2017 -- Unefoisdansmavie made it two straight at The Meadows when she converted a gritty uncovered move to victory in Tuesday's $13,800 featured trot for harness racing fillies and mares. Unefoisdansmavie was sixth by 7-1/2 lengths when Eric Goodell sent her first over after the leader, Princess Pablano. It took until mid-stretch, but the 10-year-old daughter of Revenue S-Peace To The World finally put away Princess Pablano and prevailed in 1:56.2. Homepage rallied for second, a neck back, while Whata Donato shot the Lightning Lane for show. Ron Burke trains Unefoisdansmavie, who now boasts $673,107 in career earnings, for Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and Jack Piatt III. Jim Pantaleano piloted three winners on the 12-race card.   The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

WASHINGTON, PA, Feb. 14, 2017 -- Medusa zipped to the front for Tony Hall and made a shambles of the race, opening a 6-length lead in the stretch before gearing down and capturing Monday's $18,000 Filly & Mare Not Listed Preferred/Preferred Handicap Pace at The Meadows. The victory highlighted a spectacular day for Hall, who won seven of the 13 races on the harness racing card. Hall had ducked Medusa in her three most recent starts but took advantage of post 4 to put the 6-year-old daughter of Bettor's Delight-Mythical in control early. She easily repelled the first-over challenge of Spreester and defeated her by 2-1/2 lengths in 1:52.3, with a rallying Show Runner third. Randy Bendis trains Medusa, who now boasts $432,012 in career earnings, and owns with Tom Pollack. Hall's haul benefited seven different trainers: Sarah Andrews, Karen Fread, Rich Gillock, Kevin Johnson, Angela Porfilio, Jason Shaw and Bendis.   The Meadows Racetrack & Casino Home of Pennsylvania's largest jackpot ever paid, The Meadows is an all-inclusive entertainment destination and significant economic generator for the region. With its nearly 1,300 employees, The Meadows provides approximately $125 million in taxes annually and more than $14 million per year to the Local Share Account designated for new economic, community and industrial development projects. The Meadows features 82 table games and more than 3,100 slot machines, premier restaurants with spectacular views of the gaming floor and the racetrack, a racing grandstand with VIP suites, a simulcast area, an 11,000 square foot event center, a 7,500 square foot banquet room and an all-ages bowling center. The Meadows also offers a high limit slots area and a high limit table games room featuring exceptional service in a relaxing, upscale setting. For more information, please see: www.meadowsgaming.com.

WASHINGTON, PA, Feb. 8, 2017 -- Trustworthy Kid continued to dominate The Meadows' trotting elite Wednesday when he scored a facile victory in the $18,000 Preferred Handicap. In five starts this year following a four-month layoff, the 8-year-old harness racing SJ's Caviar-Penn Worthy Lane gelding has rolled up three wins and two place finishes. On Wednesday, he quarter-poled to the lead for Dave Palone and prevailed by a measured length in 1:55.2 over a "good" surface. The pocket-sitting TSM Photo Bugger was second, with Chef Lee a ground-saving third in his seasonal debut. Lisa Dunn owns and trains Trustworthy Kid, who extended his career bankroll to $466,697. Tony Hall, Aaron Merriman, Mike Wilder, trainer Ron Burke and Palone each enjoyed a double on the 13-race card. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

WASHINGTON, PA, Feb. 7, 2017 -- Unefoisdansmavie threw down a 27.3 third quarter in the slop, fast enough to discourage most of the field and carry her to a harness racing victory in Tuesday's $15,000 Filly & Mare Winners Over $10,000 Life Handicap Trot at The Meadows. After Eric Goodell gave her a comfortable 1:00.1 first half, Unefoisdansmavie was well positioned for that explosive third panel. Only Princess Pablano could stay with her, but that one's first-over bid fell a length short, with Whata Donato fourth-placed-third. The winning time was 1:56.4. Ron Burke trains Unefoisdansmavie, a 10-year-old daughter of Revenue S-Peace To The World who now boasts $666,207 in career earnings, for Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and Jack Piatt III. Jim Pantaleano collected three wins on the 13-race card, giving him seven over the last two programs. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

WASHINGTON, PA, Feb. 6, 2017 -- Show Runner made it two straight at The Meadows when she stalked Spreester from the pocket, then inched by her late for harness racing driver Jim Pantaleano to capture Monday's $18,000 Filly & Mare Preferred Handicap Pace. Spreester, who rolled through three-quarters in 1:24.1 without an effective challenger, had plenty left for the drive. But Show Runner was the stronger mare in the lane, downing Spreester by a neck in 1:52.2. Medusa rallied from last for show. Christen Pantaleano trains Show Runner, a 7-year-old daughter of Little Steven-Peace Runner who now boasts $416,931 in career earnings, for A Piece Of The Action LLC. It was one of four wins on the 12-race card for Jim Pantaleano. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

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