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Kenny Fowler doesnt mind if you call him a backseat driver. In fact, hes downright proud of the fact. Fowler is plying the trade of harness starter for the first time in his career at this meeting, making sure the trotters and pacers get off to a clean and fair start to their one-mile journey. Even though Kenny was born in Sacramento some 53 years ago, it wasnt until he was in college that he truly got exposed to harness racing and realized its what he wanted to do with his life. I was going to Sierra College and I went to work during the summer for my brother Donnie, who owned the Winners Circle cafeteria at the track, Kenny related. I found I really liked the horses, and eventually I left college and started learning about the sport from the ground up. Originally it was Al Sleva and Dick DeSantis who took a young Fowler to Lodi and gave him the chance to get hands-on experience with the standardbreds. He eventually went to work for Chip Lackey and had the chance to go to Canada and win some races under that stables banner. From there, Kenny went to work for the late Bob Gordon and had the chance to be around some very nice performers. He even had some thoughts about becoming a driver, but then fate intervened and he found himself on a different path. It turned out they needed someone to drive the starting car, and the qualifications were you had to speak English and have a drivers license, Fowler recalled. Bobby heard about it and told me I should try it. Kenny got the job, and recalls in only his second night on the job he was guiding around the car for a stakes race at Los Alamitos. He drove for Larry Jones, John Wilson and Todd Nixon before Bill Vallandingham became the starter in 1994 and held that position for 20 years before health issues forced him to take his leave this fall. Vallandingham recently underwent successful lung transplant surgery and is doing very well, and with Fowler moving to the starters position, Larry Dana is filling in his old spot as the driver. As part of his job and continuing a proud California harness tradition, Fowler was the fellow in the tuxedo leading the winner into the charmed enclosure for a picture following each race. It took a little while to get used to the tuxedo, but then I got to like it, Kenny said. I owe everything to Billy, he continued. I miss him being here so much. Hes been a like a father to me, helping me through my personal problems and all the time teaching me about the starting car and everything thats involved. Billy and I have been pretty much joined at the hip for the last 20 years. It was about three years ago that I started working with schoolers and then last summer I passed the USTA starters test, meaning I could be the starter at any track in the country. A Real Miracle heads main event A Real Miracle, who has spent the majority of the meeting in the shadow of St Lads Lotto and China King, gets the top billing in Saturday evenings $5,000 featured Pace. The headliner goes as the third event on a 10-race program that will get underway at 6:40 p.m. A reminder that through January, the guarantee on the 16% takeout Pick 4 has been raised to $30,000. The Pick 5, Jackpot 6 and Hi-5 are also come with that reduced 16% takeout. Racing is being conducted this week under the Watch and Wager LLC banner on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Next week will find Friday and Saturday action, with no racing on Super Bowl Sunday, February 1. Looking at Saturdays feature, A Real Miracle should have more than his share of backers. The 5-year-old son of Real Desire races for Junior Wilkinson, Billie Schwartz and Ivan Axelrod with Wilkinson training and Luke Plano once again at the controls. While A Real Miracle has had to settle for most minor awards while squaring off against a couple of very tough customers in St Lads Lotto and China King in the Open Pace, but gets away from those foes for the second time in the last three weeks. On January 10 in a conditioned affair, the Wilkinson trainee proved a punctual 1-2 favorite as he made every pole a winning one and prevailed by a neck in a 1:53 tour. He came back last weekend to finish fifth in the Open Pace behind the top performers on the grounds after being well back in the early stages. Taking him on Saturday are Announcement and Bubs Desire, who are both hail from the Ray Burt shedrow; Enee Weene And Me for Tim Brown and the James Kennedy reined-and-trained Allamerican Solo. By Mark Ratzky, publicity – Cal Expo Harness

YONKERS, NY, Friday, January 16, 2015-Spirit of Desire and harness racing driver Jason Bartlett outfought Palm Patrol (Mark MacDonald) in a good, old-fashioned match race Friday night, winning Yonkers Raceway's $35,000 featured Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace. In play early from post position No. 5, Spirit of Desire worked around Palm Patrol just at a :27.4 opening quarter-mile. After a :57.2 intermission, Momma Rock (Brian Sears) tried it first-up from fourth. However, that bid was weak at best as Spirit of Desire found a 1:25.4 three-quarters. She and her "stalker" then had the race to themselves through the lane. Palm Patrol appeared to grab a short lead, but the aptly-named Spirit of Desire stuck her tongue out on the money in 1:55. Momma Rock wound up a best-of-the-rest third, beaten more than seven lengths. Last week's victress-and this week's slight 5-2 choice-Set Me Up (George Brennan) and Cooking the Books (Eric Carlson) rounded out the payees. For fourth choice Spirit of Desire, a 5-year-old daughter of Real Desire trained by Tim Lancaster for co-owners Bill Lancaster, Neal Rosenberg and Margaret Ames, it was her second win in as many seasonal starts The exacta paid $52.50, with the triple returning $272. The Raceway's live season continues night Saturday (post time 7:10 PM). After that, it's Monday (7:10 PM), Tuesday (1 PM), then Thursday through Saturday (all at 7:10 PM). Note the next Sunday matinee is Feb. 22. Evening simulcasting accompanies all night programs, with afternoon simulcasting available daily. Frank Drucker

Bubs Desire made it two wins from his last four appearances with an impressive conditioned score last weekend and he appears to have found a nice winter home for trainer Ray Burt. “I’ve got 11 horses out here for Matias Ruiz,” Burt related when asked about Bubs Desire. The 6-year-old son of Real Desire carries the banner of Roslyn Delgaudio and has been guided in all his Cal Expo outings by Luke Plano. “Matias claimed him for $25,000 and he’s gone :49 and a piece a few times,” Burt said. “He told me that he can have kind of a funny attitude, but if I keep him happy he’s a real good one. I give him a lot of time outside in the pen, and he really seems to like that.” Bubs Desire, who sports a 1:50 2/5 mark at Pocono Downs, has made five starts since switching his base to California and seems to be getting the hang of things. “He needed his first start here, then in the second one he raced on the lead and tired and Luke told me he just wanted no part of the front end,” Ray explained. The pacer put it all together in his third local outing, rattling off a 1:52 3/5 score, had some issues at next asking and then returned to his winning ways at most recent asking after doing the track and attack to perfection for Plano. “Luke said he was vicious in the pocket and absolutely loved being on the helmet in that first win,” his trainer noted. “Let’s just say that he had some dietary issues in his next start and draw a line through the race, and then last time he showed what he can really do. “The plan with these horses is to find the best spots for them and win as many races as possible before they go back East in the spring.” Hoboken Hanover, Pick 4 guarantee increase highlighted Hoboken Hanover, a sharp first-over victor last week for Tim Maier, gets the top billing in Friday night’s featured pace. He will do his work from the outside post in the field of nine.  A 10-race card is on tap with first post at 6:40 p.m. and racing is now being conducted under the Watch and Wager LLC banner on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. A reminder that through the month of January, the guarantee on the low-takeout Pick 4 has been raised to $30,000. The Pick 4 is one of four wagers offered each night with the reduced 16% takeout rate, the others being the Pick 5; Jackpot 6 and Hi 5 on the nitecap. Hoboken Hanover is an 8-year-old son of Cam’s Card Shark who comes into Friday’s headliner with $282,000 in his bank account and a 1:50 4/5 mark. He was reserved early in last week’s score, made a bold first-over move to the stretch and won going away by a length and three-quarters. Looking ahead to Saturday and Sunday, Sire Stakes action will dominate the programs. On Saturday, the 4-year-old pacing males will do battle with Laissez Moi Passer, Rikybrnthegaragdown and King Of The Crop getting a rematch after coming to the wire noses apart in that order in the most recent big-money clash two weeks ago. Saturday evening will also find the 3-year-old pacing colts and 3-year-old trotters getting their initial chance at added-money and it will be interesting to see how those divisions will be shaping up this season. On Sunday, the 4-year-old pacing mares and 4-year-old trotters square off in Sire Stakes events. J’s Littlerockstar and Brewski are among the major players in the pacing contest, while Bank Of Lodi and Placer figure to get their share of attention in the trotting event. Sunday’s card will also find the initial added-money races for the 3-year-old By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness

WASHINGTON, PA, Dec. 9, 2014 — Dismissed at 32-1, Americangirlfriend stayed calm when her cover broke stride and pulled off the upset in Tuesday’s $15,000 Filly & Mare Not Listed Preferred Pace at The Meadows. Americangirlfriend and Jim Pantaleano were following Miss Kilo when that one jumped it off entering the final turn. Unperturbed, Americangirlfriend persevered and scored in a career-best 1:52.2, 1-1/4 lengths better than the rallying Tremor Hanover. Early leader R Marie Hanover saved show. J.C. Miller, Jr. trains the 3-year-old daughter of Real Desire-Movealittlecloser, who soared over $100,000 in lifetime earnings, for Randy Ringer. Mike Wilder drove four winners on the 15-race card while Tony Hall, Aaron Merriman and trainer Mark Goldberg each fashioned a triple. by Evan Pattak, for the Meadows

WASHINGTON, PA, Dec. 8, 2014 -- Dew N Doughnuts powered to the lead at the quarter and rolled to a comfortable victory in Monday's $15,000 Winners Over $10,000 Life Pace at The Meadows. Hammered down to 4-5, Dew N Doughnuts justified the heavy support as he made the decisive move from third for Mike Wilder and scored in 1:52. Nitro Seelster rallied for second, 1-1/4 lengths back, while I'm Feelin Good closed well for show. Norm Parker trains Dew N Doughnuts, a 4-year-old son of Real Desire-Artbitration who now boasts $158,295 in career earnings, for Tom Klosky, Jr. Tony Hall piloted four winners and Dave Palone three on the 15-race card. by Evan Pattak, for the Meadows

Goshen, NY... Ballots for the 2015 inductees to the Living Horse Hall of Fame are in the mail. There is less than a month in which to vote - ballots must be postmarked by December 26, 2014. All members in good standing of the Harness Racing Museum are eligible to vote for TWO horses they feel exemplify greatness. The slate of eligible horses selected by the Living Horse Hall of Fame Nominating Committee follows. If members have not received their ballot by December 15 please contact Joanne Young at development@harnessmuseum.com or by phone at 845-294-6330 and one will be immediately sent to you. Only Museum members in good standing are eligible to vote for this prestigious award. The winners will be announced in January and inducted July 5, 2015. THE NOMINEES ARE: Deweycheatumnhowe (Nominated as Racehorse) 2,1:54.2; 3,1:50.4 ($3,155,178) Bay Horse, 2005 (Muscles Yankee - Trolley Square - Speedy Somolli) FOOL'S GOAL (Nominated as Racehorse) 3,1:53.4; 7,1:51.3 ($3,057,070) Bay Gelding, 1995 (Armbro Goal - Contestique - Tuneful Contest) Mr Muscleman (Nominated as Racehorse) 2,1:59; 3,1:53.3; 5,1:51.1s ($3,582,823) Bay Gelding, 2000 (Muscles Yankee - Meadowbranch Irene - Meadow Road) Real Desire (Nominated as Racehorse) p,2,1:50.4; 3,1:49; 4,1:48.2 ($3,159,814) Bay Horse, 1998 (Life Sign - Deadly Desire - Troublemaker) Somebeachsomewhere (Nominated as Racehorse) p,2,1:49.3; 3,1:46.4 ($3,221,299) Bay Horse, 2005 (Mach Three - Wheres The Beach - Beach Towel) THE LIVING HORSE HALL OF FAME CRITERIA AS A RACEHORSE: Must have won 75% of its lifetime starts OR gone undefeated in a single season campaign of 12 or more races OR the winner of $3 million lifetime OR named Harness Horse of the Year (U.S. and/or Canada). AS A STALLION: Must rank among the 10 all-time leading moneywinning sires at his gait OR have sired at least 100 $200,000 winners OR the leading money-winning sire at his gait in three or more seasons AS A BROODMARE: Must have produced a $1 million winner and two other winners of $500,000 OR produced a Harness Horse of the Year (U.S. and/or Canada) and another $500,000 winner. Broodmares meeting the "broodmare category" criteria are automatically elected members of the Harness Racing Living Horse Hall of Fame. If you are not a current member and would like to vote, call or email Joanne Young at development@harnessmuseum.com for a membership application, or obtain one online at http://www.harnessmuseum.com/pages/membership/membership.htm. Mail completed membership applications to The Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame, 240 Main Street, Goshen, NY 10924, or renew by calling 845-294-6330. You may also fax the form to 845-294-3463 or email it to Joanne. The Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame is located at 240 Main St. in Goshen, NY and is open daily from 10:00 am - 5:00 pm. Thanks to U.S. Trotting Association support, free admission is currently offered for walk-in visitors and $4.00/person for docent-guided group tours. Please feel free to contact us at 845-294-6330 or visit our website at www.harnessmuseum.com. by Paul Wilder, for the Harness Racing Museum

One of the best races of the meet could be for the driving crown, with Luke Plano, Steve Wiseman and James Kennedy staking a claim for the title through the first six weeks of this stand. Plano came into this week atop the standings with 20 trips to the charmed enclosure, bringing his lifetime total to 2,644 with $9.5 million in earnings. Luke is following in the footsteps of his father Rick, who was a leading driver and trainer in California for many years. There are some new horsemen here and that adds to the competitiveness of the racing, Plano said. Ill have a few horses in my barn, but I prefer to concentrate on the driving. Steve Wiseman is currently second with 18 victories to his credit at the meet, while leading the trainer stands with 15 of his representatives returning to have their picture taken. His total driving wins now stands at 2,136 with $8.2 million in earnings. Being the leading driver and trainer was the goal coming into the meet, Steve explained. Ive never won a training title before, so that would be nice, and Ive got a great crew to help me. James Kennedy is also off to a good start here with 13 snapshots and figures to be right in the hunt through the close of business in early May. Kennedy, who recorded a number of driving and training victories with the popular mare Haggin Oaks, currently sits with 866 sulky scores on his resume. (use as a reverse box) A reminder there are four wagers offered here every night with a reduced 16% takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5; the Jackpot 6; the Pick 4 and the Hi-5 on the nitecap. Featured Pace brings out A Real Miracle A Real Miracle, victorious in three of his five appearances at the meet, looks to keep the momentum going when he heads the cast for Saturday nights $6,000 Open Pace at Cal Expo. A 12-race card is on tap with first post set for 6:10 p.m. There is now Saturday and Sunday racing under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post on Sunday at 4:40 p.m. Beginning December 26, Friday action will be added to the mix. A Real Miracle is a 4-year-old son of Real Desire who is owned by Junior Wilkinson, Billie Schwartz and Ivan Axelrod, is conditioned by Wilkinson and is guided by Luke Plano. He established his 1:52 1/5 career standard this summer over the seven-eighths Hoosier Park oval. The Wilkinson trainee has clicked three times from five stats at this meet, including a dominating victory in the main event on opening week. After tiring in his next two tries, he returned to his winning ways last week as he made what proved to be the winning move for Plano on the backside and went on to a length score. In the most recent clash at the top of the class, A Real Miracle was dispatched as the 3-5 favorite and did not disappoint the chalkplayers. Plano buzzed the bay performer right to the front, moderated the pace and then held safe by a neck over the pocket-sitting longshot Mar Dream. The latter put a score into the favorite last week, as he sat the pocket journey and missed by only a neck while two and a half-lengths clear of the rest of the field A 6-year-old son of Cambest, Mar Dream is owned by David Neumeister, is trained by Bob John and will again have Mooney Svendsen at the controls. He has a 1:50 2/5 mark and over $171,000 in his account. Rounding out the field from the rail out are Cenalta Power for Ryan Grundy; Lifetime Louie with Dave Siegel; Ideal Smile, Steve Wiseman; and Pointsman, who will have the services of Chip Lackey. The headliner goes as the fourth race on the program. A reminder that there are four wagers offered here every night with a reduced 16% takeout rate. They are the 50-cent Pick 5; the Jackpot 6; the Pick 4 and the Hi-5 on the nitecap By Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness    

Last Saturday night was a good one for harness racing pilot and co-owner Dave Siegel, as he guided Lifetime Louie to victory in the Open III Pace and finished second with the mare Country Jewel in the Open II Pace. Both horses are conditioned by George Reider. Siegel partners with Brev Creech, Greg Robinson and Bob Thronson on Country Jewel and with Reider and Dave and Rob Haness with Lifetime Louie. Country Jewel is a diamond,no pun intended, that I found for the Reider barn while scouring the country for a horse that I thought would fit in Minnesota and California and that would fare well in George's barn. Her being Minnesota sired is preferable given the Running Aces allowance program and our DHA program. That said, I expected her to be a mid-level claimer and George and her day-to-day groom Kim Hines have done wonders with her as she has become an open-level mare. They both have a way of getting sometimes difficult horses to relax and not that she was that way, but they did that with Axle last year, and Silence Son this year. I wanted to help George get some nice horses that I could drive, and Jewel has become just that, the Jewel of the barn. Lifetime Louie did the stalk-and-pounce to perfection last weekend to pick up his first score of the meeting. Lifetime Louie was a horse we claimed last year that we knew had some feet problems, which is another area of George's strengths. We correctly thought he could improve the horse and he is another that has surpassed expectations. Kim does an exceptional job with Louie too, which I have come to expect from all of the horses in her care. He is a delight to drive and very handy. He has a huge heart and he is one I get along with very well. Co-features honor Joe Lighthill, Robert Staats The Joe Lighthill Trot, the Robert Staats Pace and an Open II Pace share the spotlight on Saturday nights 13-race program at Cal Expo. Racing is now being conducted under the Watch and Wager LLC banner on Saturday and Sunday nights, expanding to three nights a week on December 26 when Friday racing is added to the mix. First post Saturday is 5:40 p.m. with a 4:45 p.m. start on Sunday. The Joe Lighthill and Robert Staats are named for the late driver/trainer and late owner/breeder who were so important to California harness racing. The Lighthill goes as the sixth event on the card, the Open II Pace occupies the 11th-race slot and the Staats has been designated as the penultimate race of the evening. The Open II Pace is headed by A Real Miracle, a 4-year-old son of Real Desire who is owned by Junior Wlkinson, Billie Schwartz and Ivan Axelrod, is conditioned by Wilkinson and is guided by Luke Plano. He established his 1:52 1/5 career standard this summer over the seven-eighths Hoosier Park oval. The Wilkinson trainee has clicked twice from four stats at this meet, including a dominating victory in the main event on opening week. After tiring in his next two tries, he returned to his winning ways last week as he made what proved to be the winning move for Plano on the backside and went on to a length score over favored Country Jewel. Lining up against A Real Miracle are Del Rio Seelster, who hails from the Gordie Graham barn; the George Reider-trained Lifetime Louie; Mar Dream from the Bob Johnson shedrow; and Cowboy Cold, who calls the Tim Brown barn home and leaves from the cozy rail slot. By Mark Ratzky, publicity Cal Expo Harness                    

New Zealand pacer Lets Elope will make his debut for Victorian-based harness racing trainer Brent Lilley on Sunday. Sent to Lilley to take advantage of the local handicapping system, Lets Elope is engaged in the St Arnaud Cup. Despite the gelding’s 20-metre handicap, Lilley is confident Lets Elope can begin his Australian career on a winning note. “He has settled in really well and I’m looking forward to starting him on Sunday,” Lilley said. “He was open class in New Zealand, but over here he is still an M1, so his owners gave me a call and asked to send him over. “Sunday’s Cup is the ideal race to start him off in and he’s the one to beat.” Following his provincial engagement, Lets Elope is likely to follow the country cup circuit this campaign, with Lilley positive the son of Real Desire can become a strong feature race contender. “Down the track I reckon he can be competitive in the better races,” Lilley said. “For now, I will just pick races as they come along and let him work through the grades. “He is pretty reliable from the stand and is good from the mobile, so there are plenty of options. “I’ll certainly be looking at the country cups with him.” From Alta Vista, the six-year-old is a half-brother to top performer Five Star Anvil, which is no stranger to country cup glory, having captured the 2013 Mildura Cup. PAUL COURTS

As he crossed the line at Geelong yesterday, Jason Fino had arguably the most vocal cheer squad in the history of harness racing. With the cheers blanketing the race broadcaster, the happy group was expected to be in the dozens. As it turned out, Fino’s fans club was a party of three – his children, Nathan, Mitchell and Hayley. “I couldn’t believe how loud they were,” Fino declared. “You’d think there was at least a dozen of them. “After the line, Greg (Sugars) even said ‘that’s some cheer squad’ as everyone could hear them.” While he likes to believe they were barracking for their father, Fino has a sneaky suspicion the cheers were for Chestervale Jet, which they kids have shares in! Clearly a family favourite, Chestervale Jet enjoyed the perfect one-one trip before scoring by a head from Machncheese, with Giant Steps a half-neck away third. Covering the last half in 58 seconds, the son of Real Desire rated 2:01.3 for the 2100 metres to break his maiden at his 30th start. “He has run a number of placings and I always felt it was only a matter of time before he won,” Fino said. “He’s no star, and as he showed today, he just had to wait his turn. “Hopefully this will get the ball rolling and he can pick up a few more wins along the way. “The kids all pitch in around the stables, but Mitch and Hayley have other interests, whereas Nathan will eat, live and breathe horses. “I’ll never forget the day we found him with the dog tied to the float and he was trying to put the harness on it..we couldn’t stop laughing.” As for Fino’s three-member cheer squad, they only exist after one of his obligatory trips to Moonee Valley during the 1990s led to him meeting to his future wife, Rachael Pace. “I was just starting out with horses, learning the ropes, when I made my usual voyage to the Valley with a few of the junior drivers I knew,” Fino said. “It was a standard operation to be there on a Saturday night to hang out with the boys before hitting the town, then one night I met Rachael. “As soon as I saw her I knew I was going to marry her.” Fino’s introduction into the industry began years earlier via his grandfather, the late Joe Abela. Abela prepared several handy types throughout the late 1970s and ‘80s, with Romantic Joanne the best of the crew. It was a former school teacher, however, who prompted Fino into pursuing a career with horses. “I was around horses from a young age as my grandfather was a trainer, but he passed away before I was really old enough to have anything serious to do with them,” Fino said. “Then as I was a little older in High School, a lady who worked there as a guidance counsellor recommended I worked in a stable for work experience. “So I did a stint with John Thompson and haven’t stopped being around horses since. “My Aunty’s husband is the jockey Alan Cooper, so I also spent a bit of time around the gallopers, but it soon became obvious I was going to be too tall to be a jockey. “After that I migrated back to harness racing and have been loving ever since.” PAUL COURTS

Thirteen-win pacer Lets Elope has ended his New Zealand career on a triumphant note. The winner of $324,978 is scheduled to leave for Australia either Wednesday (October 22) or next week. Co-owner/trainer Frank Cooney said he was left with no option but to send the 6-year-old Real desire gelding abroad. He said he made the decision well before Friday’s win in the $14,000 Smart Choice Mobile for the C3-C9 pacers at Alexandra Park. “There’s just nothing for him up here now until possibly Christmas and the New Year. He’s not quite good enough to compete against the (NZ) Cup horses and he would be handicapped out of it if he stayed up here. “Australia was the obvious option because he will be a M1 pacer there,” Cooney said. Let’s Elope was quoted at $151 to win the New Zealand Cup. He will now head to Victoria and race at Melton’s Tabcorp Park in the Brent Lilley colours. “He may come back one day because he’s owned here in New Zealand but to be honest I think he will win more over there and that’s where he will stay,” said Cooney, whose wife Anne co-owns Lets Elope with Peter Haslam and Warren Outrim. Haslam pointed out that lets Elope had never been beaten once he got to the front in his races. That trend continued in Friday’s 2200m mobile. Brilliant anticipation from driver Tony Herlihy (MNZM) saw Lets Elope sprint hard to the lead when hot favourite Hughie Green broke wildly at the 600m. The 3-year-old galloped for 200m yet still managed to finish a huge third – half a length and 7-3/4 lengths behind Lets Elope and Norvic Nightowl. Imajollywally was later promoted to third. Lets Elope stopped the clock in 2:41.8 (mile rate: 1:58.3) with final 800m and 400m sectionals of 56.1 and 26.6. Co-trainer Tate Hopkins said it was very difficult for any horse to make up ground from the back when the good horses were coming home in 56 and 26. “That’s why he’s not going to the (NZ) Cup Carnival. It’s just too hard for a horse like him to make up ground on the top horses when they are going that fast. “And they are likely to go faster in the Junior and Senior Free-For-All down south. Those were the two races he probably would have started in,” Hopkins said. “It’s sad to see him go but Frank has made the best decision for both the horse and owners,” he added. Cooney said Lets Elope was the equal best horse he had trained – alongside eight-win ($101,050) mid-1980s pacer, Kurahaupo Eden. Courtesy Duane Ranger - Harness Racing New Zealand  

Well known harness racing owner and breeder Basil Blackwell has never been short of a nice horse around him and in Voluntad 1:56.4 ($28,766) he has another classy racehorse. Bred and owned by Basil and raced out of the Dickie barn as are most of his horses, Voluntad is a six year old mare by Real Desire from the Road Machine mare White Nights who has already left two smart winners in Mont Ventoux 1:55.5 and Lively Nights 1:58.4. Voluntad is from the family of Miranda Star which has been so successful for so long for Robert Reid. Voluntad only started racing in December 2013 and quickly showed she was above average. Going into tonights (September 19th) race at Alexandra Park she had already won three times from just ten starts and the punters made her a warm favourite. Two fixed odds bets of $5,000 were placed on her late in the piece but the punters would have been smiling to themselves from the time she left the mobile. Sent straight to the front from barrier two by regular pilot Josh Dickie, Voluntad kept up a steady pace before being attacked by Rykaard with 1200 meters to go. The next 400 meters was cut out in 29.4 before Voluntad regained control as they went to the 800 meters mark. She then ran down the back straight in 28.9 before scooting home in 28.1 for an effortless victory with Josh hardly moving in the bike all the way up the straight. Voluntad hit the finishing line nearly three lengths clear without being extended which bodes well for her as she works her way through the grades. She paced the 2200 meters in 2:43.3, a mile rate of 1:59.4 with closing sectionals of 57 and 28.1 Voluntad looks capable of mixing it with the better mares later in the season in races such as the Queen Of Hearts if she can keep improving at her present rate of progress. Harnesslink Media  

Fifty-four of the 68 winners of the Little Brown Jug go back to Hal Dale. Two of those winners, Keystoner and Good Time, were his sons, while all the rest are linked to either his son, Adios, or his grandson Meadow Skipper, neither of whom won the Jug. Adios, who was born in 1940, pre-dated the Jug, which started in 1946. Meadow Skipper did participate, but he was parked most of the mile in the 1963 final and finished third to Overtrick, who set an all-age world record of 1:57.1. While Adios, who was twenty years older than Skipper, got a head start; eight sons and a grandson—Romeo Hanover—by Adios had won editions of the Jug before the principal of Skipper’s first crop, Most Happy Fella, won in 1970. Meadow Skipper certainly made up for lost time. Thirty-four of 43 Jugs since 1970 have been won by sons or other descendants of his—that’s about 80%. The only gap larger than one year during that run was the three year stretch at the beginning of the run, between 1971 and 1974, when Nansemond, Strike Out, Melvin’s Woe and Airliner were victorious. Between Hot Hitter’s win in 1979 and Abercrombie’s in 1993, there was a 13 year dry spell for Adios and any other progenitor not named Meadow Skipper. The last Adios line colt to win the Jug was Real Desire in 2007. Beyond his own failure to win the Little Brown Jug, Skipper’s prolific band of sons, grandsons and great grandsons, as successful as they have been at producing Jug winners,  have a spotty record when it comes to winning the race. Yes, Most Happy Fella, Niatross and Bettor’s Delight won, but the list of Skipper’s descendants who produced winners but didn’t win it themselves is much longer: Cam Fella, Western Hanover, Falcon Almahurst, Western Ideal, No Nukes, Cam’s Card Shark, Rocknroll Hanover, The Panderosa, Tyler B, French Chef, Oil Burner, Tyler’s Mark…. While Adios had nine sons win the Jug, Meadow Skipper only had four. The difference is that while Adios only got four from his greatest son Bret Hanover and three via his great grandson Abercrombie, Skipper got twenty from the Most Happy Fella branch, eleven from the Cam Fella branch, and seven through Albatross.   Since the turn of the century only three Adios Line colts have won the Jug—Astreos, Mr Feelgood and Real Desire—and none of those victories have come in the last six years. The other dozen were won by Skipper line stallions. This year’s Jug may prove to be a game changer, and there are a couple of ways that can happen. The field won’t be drawn until Saturday, but in his latest edition of Road to the Little Brown Jug, Delaware PR man Jay Wolf rates McWicked as the top contender. He, of course, is from the Adios line, being a son of McArdle, who has been keeping the Bret Hanover artery on life support in recent years. McArdle’s daddy, Falcon Seelster, wasn’t in the Jug, although he did set a world record of 1:51 at Delaware as a sophomore on Jug Day 1985. The call of that race by Roger Huston trumped the Jug itself, where Nihilator won in a time that was more than a second slower. A win by McWicked would prevent a seven race losing streak by Team Adios. Another way in which the 2014 Jug could be a game changer would be a win by a son of Somebeachsomewhere. Jay lists four possibilities on his Top Ten list: Ron Burke’s Limelight Beach, who just finished second to McWicked in the $260,000 PASS Championship Final; Jimmy Takter’s Cane winner, Lyonssomewhere; Bob McIntosh’s gelding, Somewhere In LA, who finished third to McWicked in the PASS Final; or Brent MacGrath’s Melmerby Beach, who won a split of the Simcoe over the weekend. This would represent a dramatic change because no member of the line running from Volomite through Sampson Hanover has ever won the Little Brown Jug, and no top line descendant of Volomite has won in 38 years, since Stanley Dancer’s Keystone Ore beat Joe O’Brien’s Armbro Ranger in 1976. The other two winners going back to Volomite are Overtrick in 1963 and Rum Customer in 1968. SBSW skipped the Jug, and last year Captaintreacherous, the star of his first crop, did the same. There may be no Jug winners on the branch he is now the figurehead for, coming down from his great, great, great grandsire Sampson Hanover, but that one was very handy on a half. In September, 1951, 4-year-old Sampson Hanover, who was converted from the trot as a three-year-old, became the first pacer or trotter to win a race in under two minutes on a half mile track. He accomplished that historic fete in the Almahurst Pace at Delaware, Ohio. So, we have the inspiration of Sampson Hanover’s Delaware heroics for the sons of SBSW and for McWicked his granddaddy Falcon Seelster’s world record mile over that track and his great granddaddy Bret Hanover’s world record of 1:57 in the Jug. Either way, it’s time for a colt not tied to Meadow Skipper to step up and take the prize. He’s Watching is quick as a cat around those turns and his pilot Tim Tetrick is no slouch. It won’t be easy, but it’s about that time. by Joe FitzGerald for http://viewfromthegrandstand.blogspot.com/    

Catalogues for the Illawong Reduction Sale, to be conducted by Graeme Board & Company at Nagambie (Vic.) on Sunday, September 28, are now available. The unreserved sale comprises 52 lots including 18 broodmares, 11 racehorses, eight yearlings, five two-year-olds, six three-year-olds and four stallion services. The yearlings are by well credentialled sires such as Modern Art, Grinfromeartoear, Real Desire, Life Sign, Vintage Master, Major In Art, Shadyshark Hanover and Muscle Mass. The sale commences at 12.30pm with harness, sulkies and a horse float and will followed by the sale of horses at 1pm. For a copy of the catalogue contact sale co-ordinator Peter Dow on phone 0412 195 986 or Graeme Board 0408 636 273 8355 or email graemeboard56@gmail.com Pedigrees are available on the website www.graemeboard.com Click on the Illawong Reduction Sale link. by Peter Wharton, for Graeme Board & Company

Eight top three-year-old pacers will contest the first jewel of pacing's Triple Crown, the 60th Cane Pace, and nine top drivers will contest the second half of the Vernon/Tioga Drivers' Championship on a blockbuster Labor Day (Monday, September 1) card at Tioga Downs.   He's Watching brings a four-race win streak into the $437,325 Cane Pace, carded as Monday's ninth race. Since fading to third in the North America Cup, the son of American Ideal proved a powerful 1:46.4 winner in the Meadowlands Pace and an equally dominant 1:49.1 winner in the Empire Breeders Classic, taking the eliminations for each respective event as well. Usual driver Tim Tetrick has once again been listed by trainer David Menary. He's Watching is one of three $35,000 supplemental entries, along with Luck Be Withyou and Lyons Somewhere.   Among those looking to deny He's Watching the first jewel of pacing's Triple Crown are Milstein runner-up Luck Be Withyou and North America Cup winner JK Endofanera.   Luck Be Withyou, the Chris Oakes-trained son of Western Ideal, chased McWicked in the $400,000 Milstein at Northfield two weeks ago, finishing in a dead heat for second with McWicked, just three-quarters of a length behind eventual winner All Bets Off, who pounced up the open stretch. Ron Pierce is listed to drive the nine-time winner.   JK Endofanera, the lone millionaire in the field, rebounded well from a sixth-place finish in the Meadowlnads, taking second in the Empire Breeders Classic before scoring a 1:50.1 Geers Stake win locally. Ron Burke has listed Brian Sears to handle the driving duties.   Ten three-year-old pacing fillies entered the Shady Daisy, which will be raced as a single $124,325 dash in the afternoon's seventh race. Fancy Desire, a $7,500 supplemental entry, leads the full field, having won the $300,000 James Lynch at Pocono in 1:49.3 among seven other career wins. Mark MacDonald has been nominated by trainer Kevin Carr to drive the Real Desire filly. Geers winner Katie Said (Marcus Miller), Pennsylvania standout Tyra (Tim Tetrick nominated), and stakes-placed Gallie Bythe Beach (John Campbell nominated) are also among the Shady Daisy entrants.   Eight distaff trotters will vie for their share of $40,000 in a Miss Versatility preliminary event, carded as the third race. Divisional standout Maven returned to her winning ways in a Preferred event at Pocono last week, struggling in prior events since returning to the States after a sixth-place finish in the Elitloppet. The Jonas Czernyson trainee will be reunited with regular driver Yannick Gingras, and will race as part of a three-mare entry with stablemates D'Orsay (Corey Callahan) and Ma Chere Hall (David Miller). Classic Martine, who has found her way into the spotlight as of late with wins in the Armbro Flight and Ima Lula events, also draws into the star-studded event, with Tim Tetrick listed to drive the Chris Oakes-trained daughter of Classic Photo.   In addition to the high-profile stakes action, nine of the premier drivers in the sport complete the Vernon/Tioga Drivers' Championship, with the first round taking place on Friday (August 29) at Vernon Downs. As in years past, the overall winner of the nine-race tournament takes home a $25,000 first prize--the equivalent of the commission for winning a $1,000,000 race. All nine drivers additionally will donate their commissions to charity.   Tioga Downs honors last year's Driver's Championship winner Jim Marohn, Jr. with a bobblehead giveaway. Fans can receive their bobblehead, as well as a Drivers' Championship t-shirt (while supplies last) at the promotions table on the tarmac prior to and during the races. Post time for the 11-race card is 1:30 p.m. EDT.   by James Witherite, for Tioga Downs

Shepparton, Victoria, Australia --- Life Sign, the 1993 Little Brown Jug winner and Hall of Fame member, died at Morley Park stud near Shepparton, Victoria, Australia on Aug. 14, 2014, at the age of 24. A son of the incomparable Abercrombie and world champion filly Three Diamonds, Life Sign raced only as a 2- and 3-year-old, amassing $1,912,454 from 18 wins, 10 seconds and five thirds in 35 starts. Besides his record-breaking Little Brown Jug success, he won such prestigious classics as the 3-year-old Breeders Crown, Art Rooney Memorial, International Stallion Stake, Burlington Pace, Governor’s Cup, American-National and the Bluegrass Stake. At the stud Life Sign left the winners of more than $113 million in stakes in North America, placing him among the top ten money-winning sires at his gait of all-time. While in Australia his stock has earned $12.4 million and in New Zealand, they amassed almost $2 million. Real Desire 1:48.2 ($3.1 million), the 2002 Horse of the Year; Peruvian Hanover 1:49.4 ($1.8 million); the Meadowlands Pace winner Day In A Life 1:49.4 ($1.8 million); and the 2-year-old pacing colt of the year I Am A Fool 1:51.2 ($1.1 million) were among the seven millionaires sired by Life Sign. He was the broodmare sire of the winners of more than $97 million and eight millionaires including Loyal Opposition 1:48.4 ($2.6 million) and Breeders Crown winner Village Jolt 1:50.4f ($1.6 million). Life Sign was inducted into the Living Horse Hall of Fame in 2013. by Peter Wharton

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