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Harness racing trainer Luc Blais is feeling good about the horses he has in this year's $6 million Breeders Crown at Hoosier Park in Anderson, Indiana but there's also a feeling of melancholy because he'll be competing without his greatest horse, Intimidate. The eight-year-old gelding was retired earlier this year.   Blais, co-owned and trained Intimidate, who won the 2012 Breeders Crown for three-year-old male trotters and went on to win many other significant races and almost $1.5 million in his career.   "It's a big hole (not having him in the barn)," Blais said. "He was a proud competitor. He loved racing. He was a professional horse."   Blais' contingent for the 2017 Breeders Crown include: Emoticon Hanover in the $250,000 Mare Trot; Dream Together in the $500,000 3-Year-Old Filly Trot; and Lookslikeachpndale in the $526,250 Open Trot. It includes many hard-knocking horses Intimidate faced in his career.   Blais also has 3-year-old filly trotter On A Sunny Day racing in a $63,000 supporting feature on Friday's card. She's been a star on the Ontario Sires Stakes circuit.   All of the horses are owned by Serge Godin's, who races under the stable name Determination.   Blais' best chance would appear to be with Emoticon Hanover, who is the 4-5 favorite in a field only four competitors and leaves from the rail.   Emoticon Hanover has won 15 of 36 career races and is on the way to surpassing the $1 million mark in earnings. Purchased for $165,000 as a yearling at the Harrisburg Sales, Blais and Godin had a good feeling about the horse the first time they saw her because she was "very sporty" and "very alert."   She goes into her race with consecutive wins in her last three starts and victories in five of her last six. Included in the win streak is a world record time of 1:50 2/5 for four-year-old mares on a five-eighths mile track. It happened in the Joie De Vie at Tioga Downs and shaved a full second off of the old mark. Daniel Dube drives the daughter of Kadabra, who has been flashing some front-end speed or sitting just off of the lead in the last six starts.   "I think it's the first time she's raced in front in that caliber of competition," Blais said. "She's been good all season, she's stepped up, and it's a good feeling. She's an honest mare."   This will be Emoticon Hanover's third consecutive Breeders Crown start. She posted a second in last year's 3-Year-Old Filly Trot won by Broadway Donna. She was sixth in the 2-Year-Old Filly Trot.   Blais said this will be the first time in his career with an entrant in a field of only four starters. Maybe the third time will be the charm for Emoticon Hanover. She's certainly in a good spot.   Dream Together, a daughter of Muscle Hill, was purchased for $240,000 as a yearling at the Lexington Select Sales.   "That was a lot of money, but she had the family and the conformation," Blais said. "She was not right at two, but she's come back better at three and doesn't look tired at this time of year. I think she's going to be better at four. She's a very strong filly."   She has won three of 13 starts this year and banked $235,778, but happens to be a good filly racing against the superbly-talented Arianna G., the 3-5 morning-line favorite. Dream Together is listed at 10-1.   "I always say when you're in the race, the first thing is you have a chance," Blais said. "The second thing is, you try to put your horse in the best position you can. The competition is so tough, if (the favorite) has a bad trip you never know. Arianna G. is very special, but you never know. When we go into a race, we go (for the win). We like competition."   Lookslikeachpndale, a $185,000 yearling purchase at the Harrisburg Sales, has won two of 16 starts this year and 12 of 50 overall with earnings of $531,438. The field includes the likes of Hannelore Hanover, Crazy Wow, Marion Marauder and Resolve, each of whom has banked more than $2 million in their careers. Lookslikeachpndale, is listed at 20-1.   "That's a big race, but you never know, sometimes you get the trip," Blais said. "It's going to be an interesting race to watch, lots of good horses inside.   "It's tough to say how it's going to go, but I'm very confident for this weekend," he said. "I got a good feeling about all my horses."   By Perry Lefko for Breeders Crown

Veteran trainer Herb Holland is happy to be a member of harness racing's dream team. The 59-year-old, whose career in the business goes back to the early years of the Meadowlands, is part owner of a horse, Sir John F., that is owned by brothers John and Jim Fielding and Christina Takter, whose husband, Jimmy, trains the two-year-old Donato Hanover colt. Sir John F is entered in this year's Breeders Crown in the Two-Year-Old Colt & Gelding Trot, only the third time Holland has had a horse in harness racing's championship event. Holland trained Light Beam, which raced in the 1988 Breeders Crown in the Two-Year-Old Filly Pace and did not hit the board. He also was affiliated with onetime world-record holder Sweet Michelle, who raced in the 1994 Breeders Crown Open Mare Pace and finished third. Holland purchased Sir John F for $45,000 at the Lexington Select Sale, and a mere 15 minutes later he was approached by Jim Fielding about buying a share in the colt. Subsequently, Kevin McKinlay, who has had horses with the Fieldings, bought a share. The horse was subsequently sent to Takter, who liked the horse so much when he began training the colt that he wanted to buy a share. "As soon as he qualified him, he said 'tell your partners I want in,'" Holland said. So Holland has gone from owning 100% of the horse to now owning 22.5%, but the upside is that he is now associated with Takter, one of the top trainers of the modern era, and the Fieldings, among the top owners in the business. Takter and the Fieldings have outstanding success in the Breeders Crown. Takter leads all trainers with 21 wins. John Fielding is second to Brittany Farms in wins and earnings among owners. Jim Fielding has also had success, winning four of 21 races in which he is named as an owner. Holland said selling off interests in the horse was the right thing to do. "Would he have still raced in the Breeders Crown? I think so," Holland said. "The ownership group is good. I've got a good relationship with Jimmy Takter. I'm happy to have John and Jim and Kevin McKinlay and Jimmy involved with him. It's old hat to Jimmy racing in the Breeders Crown, and for John it's nothing new. It's nice when you're part of a big race and you have a chance to get some money. "Jimmy is pretty down to earth. If he doesn't like the horse, he doesn't mince his words. He tells you straight up. He liked the colt early on. We did have some bad luck with him. He was getting a little warm behind the gate with us. Jimmy raced him one time and realized what the issues were and he attacked it and everything has gone forward since then. We're hoping for better things ahead." As an aside, Holland was training in the United States when Jimmy Takter came over from Sweden back in 1982. "He's the trainer (of the horse), so it's not quite the same as when you're actually the trainer, but as an owner it's always exciting to be in those big races," Holland said. "When he's in Takter's barn, the benefits you get are he's probably the foremost trotting trainer in North America. If I take a colt to race it myself I may not get the driver I wish. He usually gets the top drivers, and you get his experience in the Breeders Crown and the big races. With one horse it's not financially feasible to race them all over the U.S. "When they approached me I thought it might be a good business opportunity to get involved with them. I didn't really want to give up any part of my ownership, but if you're going to be on board, you're on board so I was willing to let a bit of mine go and everyone followed suit. I was happy with the partnership. It worked out well for everybody. "When Takter bids on them, you don't get them," he added. "I don't know who was the underbidder, but (Takter and the Fieldings) weren't involved on it." Holland changed the name of the colt from Estok Hanover, which he didn't particularly like, to Sir John F. "When I got to train him down, I thought he was a pretty nice colt, so I changed his name and told John," he said. "I told him a good horse deserves a good name." John Fielding had some concerns that naming a horse after him could backfire because that type of thing can sometimes be a curse. "I'm not a believer in black magic, folklore," Holland said. "I believe it is what it is. If it's a good horse it will be a good horse. I don't think naming one after anyone jinxes it. I was praying he would turn out as well as I was hoping he would and win some big races for John and us. But you never know for sure. I thought he was a nice colt and that's why I did it. John is an icon in the industry, and if you're going to knight someone in our industry as an owner, you'd certainly knight John. "I've raced lots of horses, and even though I haven't been to that many Breeders Crowns it's exciting to be involved with a horse like this. When it's part of an ownership and I'm not in the paddock warming him up and doing the day-to-day things with him, it's a little bit different. But it's still good." The horse has raced nine times so far and has a win and two seconds and earnings of $28,090. He raced fifth in his elimination race. Sir John F starts from post six in the $600,000 Breeders Crown Two-Year-Old Colt Trot and drew a morning line of 20-1 against the superstar colt Walner. He does pick up the services of Yannick Gingras, who ranks seventh in the all-time Crown driver standings. The two-year-old colt trot race is carded as the sixth race with a slated post time of 8:40 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29 at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Who knows, Sir John F might turn into Mr. Holland's opus. by Perry Lefko for Breeders Crown

It is with a sense of emotion that harness racing owner Jeff Durham is going into the Breeders Crown for the first time following the passing of his father, who had been instrumental in his career, earlier this month. Durham's father, Jack, had been in failing health the last 10 years and passed away at the family home in Omemee, a couple hours east of Toronto. He was 71. "He hadn't been well, but it went a little quicker than we thought," Jeff said. "It's emotional and to talk about (going into the Breeders Crown) really gets to me. He wanted us to go. It's just one of those things where life carries on." The night before Jack passed, Windsun Revenge, who Jeff owns with Robert Van Camp and Van Camp Trotting Corporation and will race in the $500,000 Crown Trot on Friday, won a race at Mohawk with a career mark of 1:51 4/5. "My father got up and watched the race and the next day he passed away," Jeff said. "It was kind of a bittersweet type of thing. We always thought the horse had a little bit of talent otherwise we wouldn't have kept him eligible in the spring. It cost $6,000 (Canadian) to keep him eligible. He had a few hiccups in the spring and summer and we quit with him. We took him to a few vets and one found something and he's a total different horse. He couldn't trot in 1:56 in the summer and now he's trotting in 1:51 4/5. He always had the ability; it's just one of those things where you hope they step up at the right time, and I think he's stepping up at the right time." Windsun Revenge, who has won four races in 13 starts this season and earned $72,530 and has collectively banked $293,763, finished seventh in the Maple Leaf Trot by 6¼ lengths. But the gelding has won his last two races and qualified with a 22-length win. Windsun Revenge starts from post four 4 in the $500,000 Breeders Crown Open Trot on Friday, Oct. 28 at The Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ, and is 12/1 in the morning line. It's race nine on the 13-race card, with a planned post time of 10:29 p.m. "He's definitely going to be a long shot, but it's an eight-hour drive for us and we weren't coming down just for a check, that's for sure," Jeff said. "If we didn't think we have a shot we wouldn't be paying a $13,000 (Canadian) starting fee. We wouldn't be coming down just for something to do." Rick Zeron had been scheduled to drive the horse, but was asked by Jeff if he would allow his son, Scott, to drive and he gladly turned over the reins. Scott, who has been one of the top drivers at the Meadowlands, had already named to drive another horse in the race. "It's kind of exciting to be in the Breeders Crown for the first time," Jeff said. "I'm not one to get too excited about things. But not too many people get opportunities to race in the Breeders Crown, that's for sure. I think he belongs. There's a couple in there that are tough, but I don't think we're out of place in there, to be honest with you." Van Camp owns Brooks Performance Horse Feeds, where Jeff is a wholesaler and salesman. Windsun Farm and Robert Van Camp are the breeders of the gelded son of Kadabra, sharing ownership in the Windsun Revenge's dam, Oaklea Polly. The Revenge part of his name was borrowed from a TV show of the same title starring Van Camp's daughter, Emily, who is also known for her roles in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) and Captain America: Civil War (2016). Windsun Revenge is Jeff's only horse in training at the moment. He has a couple yearlings and a two-year-old. Jeff looks after the horses in the morning and spends the afternoon delivering feed for his customers. His father, Jack, had been instrumental in Jeff's start in the horse business, buying a property 35 years ago where he built a farm and two homes. "I never really worked other than on the farm," Jeff said. "It was my dad that got me into the horse business. My dad had horses before my brother and I were even born. He had to get out of the horse business. It was either feed the horses or feed the family. When he could afford to get back into it, he bought some land, built some barns and built some houses and the rest is history. He always had a few broodmares and colts, and my brother and my dad claimed a few horses. We've had some good horses, one that raced in 1:49, Durham's Cam, about 10 years ago. He was a good raceway horse. He made about $400,000. He was a good overnight racehorse at Mohawk that you could race every Saturday. My dad used to name the (family) horses with the prefix Durham. Durham's Cam was probably the last Durham horse. "Between my brother and myself, we always had four or five horses racing," Jeff added. "Because my dad hadn't been in good health the last 10 years, I had been doing most of the training. But I always asked him for fatherly advice. Robert bought Windsun Revenge back at the yearling sale and I bought a piece of him. You never know with horses. The young ones are the ones you can hit a home run with if you get lucky." by Perry Lefko for Breeders Crown

It's been a great year for Rick and Scott Zeron and what would make it even better is winning a Breeders Crown race, something the father-and-son have yet to do in their illustrious harness racing careers. Rick Zeron, one of the sport's best all-around horsemen, has driven in 39 Breeders Crown races, his best finishes a couple of seconds with Armbro Rosebud in the 1997 Two-Year-Old Filly Pace and Soulful Hanover in the 2000 Three-Year-Old Filly Trot. Soulful Hanover also represented his best finish in 13 starts as a trainer. Scott has driven in 44 Breeders Crown races, his best result a second-place finish with Cee Bee Yes in the 2014 Three-Year-Old Filly Trot. If the racing gods are co-operative, the Zerons will celebrate their first Breeders Crown wins with Shamballa in the Open Pace in this year's event at the Meadowlands, a track which has been kind to both members of Team Zeron in 2016. Scott drove Shamballa to victory for his father in August in the U.S. Pacing Championship, upsetting a field that included the likes of Wiggle It Jiggleit and Always B Miki. Both are entered in the Open Pace. On the same card that he steered Shamballa to victory, Scott won the Hambletonian with Marion Marauder, who subsequently went on to sweep the Trotting Triple Crown. Scott will be driving Marion Marauder in the Three-Year-Old Colt & Gelding Trot. He also has several other drives in the two-day championship event. Rick said Shamballa has a shot considering he has drawn the two hole in the field of 10, the same starting position in which he won the U.S. Pacing Championship, after drawing the outside post in his last three races. "Miki has the four hole and Wiggle It has the seven hole, so you're going to have some outside flow moving and the rail horse leaves so I'm looking for good things," Rick said. "Scott is really happy with the draw and, cross our fingers, we'll see if we can get our picture taken with a Breeders Crown trophy on Friday. That would be an extra boost if we can get this done. It would be a great achievement for Team Zeron. I'd be ecstatic to win a Breeders Crown. I have no words to describe it. I'd have to wait until it happens and then I could give you the words. Right now we're in the Breeders Crown and we drew good and I'm looking for good things. "I thought I was going to win it with Soulful Hanover. I came from about ninth at the head of the lane and finished second by 1½ lengths, beaten by Aviano. It was the shot that I thought I was going to win, and I think we've got a shot this week, too." Shamballa, a six-year-old gelding by Somebeachsomewhere, has won four of 16 races this season and almost $400,000 for an ownership group that includes Rick. "I got him late when he was a four-year-old," Rick said. "I raced him late at five. I trained him like the Europeans train their trotters to have them strong at six, seven and eight. He's done everything that I've asked of him. We came up light in the Canadian Pacing Derby (finishing seventh by five lengths). He got a little bit sick on me. I kind of let some money go out the door there, but he's made close to $400,000 this year and I'm happy with that. We've got two more races this year - the Breeders Crown and the TVG - so hopefully we can get some money in there and get him over the $1 million mark." Rick was originally scheduled to drive Windsun Revenge in the Open Trot, but the ownership group of Van Camp Trotting Corp., Robert Van Camp and trainer Jeff Durham asked the patriarch if he would allow his son to drive. Scott had been listed to drive to Il Sogno Dream. "My son has a great head on his shoulders," Rick said. "He's very confident in himself. He prides himself in looking good all the time. He works out more than most 27-year-olds. He keeps himself in as good a shape as a horse trainer can keep a top horse in shape. He handles himself extremely well and he holds in his nerves in big races. He analyzes things extremely well. He knows when he's got a shot to put his horse into the race and he knows when he doesn't have that good of a shot to fall off the gate and try and get the owner as much money as he can. "He's learning every day, which I'm extremely happy about because a lot of young drivers stop learning because they think they know it all. My son learns every day." Scott left the Ontario circuit three years ago to race full-time in the U.S., in particular at the Meadowlands, and he's become one of the top-10 earners, currently sitting in the top-five this season with more than $7.5 million. "It all comes down to the Breeders Crown," Scott said. "I've been close a couple times. I've had very good chances to do it and have come up just short. To me it's not the same thing as the Hambletonian where you get one race once a year. We have 12 Breeders Crown races, so I have a good chance of doing it - a very difficult one, too. It's missing on the resume, but I'll get the Breeders Crown win sooner rather than later. "It would be gigantic to win with Shamballa. A lot of the fact is it's my Dad's horse and we have such a great relationship. The other element is you're battling the Goliaths every single time we get behind the gate in that division with Wiggle It Jiggleit and Always B Miki. When I won the U.S. Pacing Championship, it was all the emotions of winning for my Dad and being a giant slayer. It's a big, big deal winning that division and the added incentive of winning it with my Dad." Scott is also excited about the prospect of winning with Marion Marauder, who would be in contention for Horse of the Year if the son of Muscle Hill won in the Breeders Crown. "I feel like there's a lot riding on this race in that respect," he said. "I want Horse of the Year just for the magnitude of the races he's won and what he's done. It's so hard to argue against Miki and Wiggle because they race 30 starts a year. They are in the box every week, racing non-stop in all their dances, whereas my horse will have 15 starts. It's so tough. I can't be the attraction that those horses are because they are always racing. "We pick our spots because we're only a three-year-old, but the magnitude and prestige of the races that my horse has won it's a big deal to get this last one." The complete field for the $421,000 Breeders Crown Pace is as follows: Race 7: post time 9:35 p.m. Post Position, Horse, Driver, Trainer, Morning Line 1 - Split the House - Brian Sears - Chris Oakes- 25-1 2 - Shamballa - Scott Zeron - Rick Zeron- 8-1 3 - Mach It So - Tim Tetrick - Jeff Bamond- 20-1 4 - Always B Miki - David Miller - Jimmy Takter-6/5 5 - Dealt a Winner - Andy Miller - Mark Silva-15-1 6 - All Bets Off - Matt Kakaley - Ron Burke-15-1 7 - Wiggle It Jiggleit - Montrell Teague - Clyde Francis-8/5 8 - Luck Be Withyou - Brett Miller - Chris Oakes-12-1 9 - Melmerby Beach - Yannick Gingras - Ettore Annunziata-40-1 10 - Americanprimetime - Andrew McCarthy - Rick Dane-40-1 By Perry Lefko for Breeders Crown

Harness racing trainer Per Henriksen is old enough to know that you're never too old to take a shot in the Breeders Crown. The 70-year-old native of Norway, who is based out of Norwood, Ontario, is back in this year's Breeders Crown presented by Mullinax Ford at the Meadowlands in New Jersey on Saturday night, seven years since he last raced in the championship event. He sends out Muscle Hustle in the $500,000 Three-Year-Old Colt Trot, a race stacked with some solid contenders, including Bar Hopping, Southwind Frank and Marion Marauder, each of whom has won some prominent stakes races this season. Muscle Hustle has been a topnotch horse this season on the Ontario Sires Stakes circuit, including setting a Canadian and OSS record on a five-eighths mile track, banking almost US$200,000 in 14 starts. The horse was sent to Henriksen as a two-year-old by Robert Bergh, Sweden's top trainer, who was having some issues with the son of Muscle Mass. Henriksen is considered somewhat of a horse whisperer because of his ability to figure out the head cases. In the case of Muscle Hustle, Henriksen decided to put trotting hopples on the colt early in his career. This will the last time Henriksen harnesses the colt, who is scheduled to be sent back to Sweden after the Breeders Crown. "If I didn't think my horse had a shot to win, I would not spend $7,500 for to go in the race," he said. "It's always a pleasure going back to the Breeders Crown when you have horses that you think are good enough to compete. I thought I had three that were good enough to compete, but I got one to the final and he qualified really good (with driver Chris Christoforou) and Chris said he's as good as any of these horses with the right trip. We drew the five hole, which is good, so we're optimistic." Henriksen has had 22 previous starters in the Breeders Crown for $1.2 million in earnings and has won three times, all in the Three-Year-Old Filly Trot: Expressway Hanover in 1993, Oolong in 1999 and Southwind Serena in 2007. Expressway Hanover and Oolong won at short prices, Southwind Serena at 50-1. She is notable for being Yannick Gingras' first Crown win and is also the dam of the world champion and Breeders Crown freshman winner Mission Brief. "Any time you can win a Breeders Crown it means a lot, there's no doubt about that," Henriksen said. "That's something special. Yes, I'll take a new owner if they pop up with a good horse, don't misunderstand me. Not that I need it, that's not the point. I'm 70 years old. I just don't want to live in a tent when I'm done doing this. "I just had a (physical) and the doctor said he couldn't find anything wrong with me. He said, 'Per, you're like a 55-year-old - your heart rate, everything. You don't have any aches or pains. You're so lucky, you don't know how lucky you are.' "If I can win the Breeders Crown, it will be such a pleasure, most of all for the people around me who support me all the time - my owners, my support staff. It's not going to change my lifestyle, let's put it that way, but it's a joy. "It would mean a lot to me to win, especially with Robert Bergh," he added. "He's my friend. I've sent horses to him in Sweden as four-year-olds when I thought they were better off there than in North America. Muscle Hustle struggled with an allergic problem all summer and all fall. He was supposed to go to the Hambletonian and I thought I had a really good shot, but he got an allergy. We got him on some serum but it didn't help him enough. I think this horse is good enough to go with any of them. If he's 100 percent and on his game and gets the right trip, he can beat any of them." This has been an interesting year for Henriksen. He won the Ahlsells Invitational driver championship for legends of the sport in Sweden. "That's a sign that you're getting old when you get invited to a legends' race," he quipped. He also posted his 1,000th career training win in North America. "It feels good (winning 1,000). At my age, everything feels good," he said. "I had the two best three-year-old trotting colts in Ontario this year with Muscle Hustle and Bee In Charge. I had another one, Blenheim, that was knocking on the door in the Grand Circuit. How often do you get a trio of three-year-old trotting colts that can compete on the Grand Circuit? One won $300,000 and the other one about $200,000. I can't complain. "To get those kind of horses to train is just a pleasure. Two of those horses were ones that other people couldn't get going and that gave me even more joy." Henriksen came to North America from Europe in the 1980s and won the 1986 Hambletonian with Nuclear Kosmos. He was voted the O'Brien Award for Horsemanship in Canada in 2009 when he won more than $1.6 million as a trainer - his third $1 million season in a row - and almost $700,000 as a driver. He has been cutting back on his drives in the last two years, steering young horses to figure them out and then turning them over to catch drivers. "I like to drive my two-year-olds for awhile to take care of them," he said. "In my opinion a horse is like a bar of soap. There's only that many washes in it. If you use it too hard early, there's nothing left at the end. Anybody can correct me if they think I'm wrong, but I think I can keep some of these horses trotting when they may break stride with catch drivers. I might not be able to make them go that fast. I might lose a fifth of a second, but most of the times you're better off going a fifth of a second slower and keep them trotting." The complete field for the $500,000 Breeders Crown 3-year-old Colt and Gelding Trot with named driver and trainer is as follows: 1 - Waitlifter K - Muscles Yankee - Kakaley - Harris 2 - Marion Marauder - Muscle Hill - S. Zeron - Wellwood 3 - Bar Hopping* - Muscle Hill - Tetrick - Takter 4 - Sutton* - Donato Hanover - A. Miller - J. Miller 5 - Muscle Hustle - Muscle Mass - Christoforou - Henriksen 6 - Double L Lindy - Muscles Yankee - Svanstedt - Svanstedt 7 - Love Matters - Explosive Matter - Sears - Takter 8 - Winter Harbor - Muscle Hill - D. Miller - Alagna 9 - Southwind Frank - Muscle Hill - Gingras - Burke 10 - Lagerfeld - Yankee Glide - D. Miller - Takter AE1-Blenheim- J. Campbell - Henriksen AE2-Southern Cross - A. Svanstedt-Svanstedt *Designates elim winner By Perry Lefko for Breeders Crown

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