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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

The first day of the two-day meet at the Arden Downs racetrack, during the Washington (PA) County Fair, was limited to two divisions of the three-year-old filly pace before a widespread band of rain overswept the area around 10:30 a.m. and forced the cancellation of the day's remaining races for sophomores. Getting to the Washington winners circle before the skies opened and the rest of the card was washed out were the Real Desire filly Southern Sweetie, a 2:01.4 winner for driver Brady Brown, trainer Mike Gillock, and owner Rich Gillock; and the McArdle miss TSM Soul Sister, now 5 for 8 this campaign after a 2:02.2 triumph for driver Todd Cummings, trainer Bob Krenitsky Jr., and owner Ted Tomson. With a break in the weather for tomorrow, the two-year-olds will try to get their racing in at Washington, with a 10 a.m. first post (unfortunately, those nationally-acknowledged handicappers at The Weather Channel say that showers and thunderstorms are about even money to hit the area shortly after midnight). ***** Lewisburg WV, home to the West Virginia State Fair and an annual four-day harness meet in conjunction with the fair, is 223 miles almost directly south of Washington, and the same line of wet stuff falling to its north had taken hold of its area, too, lasting until early afternoon. The WVSF's racing had one advantage, though: post time there was 5:30 p.m., and when the skies closed, lead trackmen Glen Ford and Joe Hayes Jr. did a terrific job of refurbishing the half-mile oval to the point that it was safe and raceable, and its curtainraising 5-race card was held. Featured was a $1700 Open trot, going to the Victory Sam gelding Calling A Victory in 2:07.2 over the sodden oval. Driver J D Wengerd figured out early that the front end was very desirable in these conditions by winning the first race in that way, and he again used those tactics in the finale to complete a driving-training double for himself and conditioner Shane Heasley. One other event, a $1500 pace, should be mentioned, taken in a tremendously-courageous performance by the Camtown Fella gelding Go Easy On Me in 2:03.4. Both driver Jeff Lieberman, behind Call Him Clint from post three, and driver Chuck Perry, behind Go Easy On Me one gate spot outside him, wanted the lead in this contest -- and Lieberman kept Perry hung through a vicious 29.2 opener. Go Easy On Me finally backed off for the two-hole nearing the 3/8, and the revved Call Him Clint went on to hit the half in 59.3. But then Perry, again not heeding the name of his horse, moved him back outside at the 1:31.2 3/4s, and went by his early tormentor on the turn. Don'tforgetmysugar was proverbially licking his chops sitting just off this duel, but Go Easy On Me found more in the lane and held off his late rival in 2:03.4 for driver Perry and trainer/owner Henry Lewis - as game a showing as you'd see in a 1:52 mile at a pari-mutuel track. Again, with atmospheric cooperation (and Lewisburg's forecast is identical to Washington's except for more likelihood of rain in late morning), the second day of the WVSF meet will have the first of its six races at 1 p.m. tomorrow. Jerry Connors

WILKES-BARRE PA - The fourth and final preliminary leg of the Pennsylvania Stallion Series for harness racing three-year-old pacing fillies was held at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs Friday night, with all three favorites winning and some idea of the Stallion Series Championship qualifiers developing. In the first cut, Somenicebeach made easy work of her career stakes debut by leading at every call en route to taking a new mark of 1:52. McVita Bella who *preliminary* calculated to be the Stallion Series pointsleader (*all official figures will come from the Harrisburg office of the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission*) was second to the daughter of Somebeachsomewhere, who was guided by Pocono's leading driver George Napolitano Jr. for trainer Chris Oakes and owner Susan Oakes. Jim Morrill Jr. was in the sulky behind the other two winners, first with the Real Desire filly Real Drama, who was a pocket rocket in reducing her speed tab to 1:52.3. Kelly O'Donnell conditions the winning filly for the Bay Pond Racing Stable. Real Drama won her cut by three lengths; Morrill had much harder work in the third division, as he and the Well Said filly Lucy's Pearl rallied gamely from the two-hole to edge stubborn pacesetter Beach Body by a half-length in the fastest time, 1:50.3. "Trotting Guru" Ron Gurfein may train more pacers if he continues to bring out tough misses like this one, who is owned by Gurfein in partnership with Elizabeth Novak. After careful math (and again we STRESS these are NOT official figures), the following pointstandings (based on a 35-25-15-10-8-5-4-2-1 distribution) for the PAStS 3PFs emerge: 1. McVita Bella, 120; 2. Lucy's Pearl, 105; 3. Eiffel Tower, 4. Real Drama (both had 95 points, but Eiffel Tower wins the money tiebreaker $25,000 to $21,600); 5. Do Your Job, 6. Stucklikeglue (both with 70 points, Do Your Job with more money $20,000 to $12,200); 7. Beach Body, 65; 8. Baby Cat, 64; tie 9. Marathon Day and Oogle Google (both tied at both 60 points and $15,000 in earnings; if needed to split them, there would be a shake of the pills). The top nine declaring in will advance to the Stallion Series Championship, to be held at The Meadows on September 9.

CAMPBELLVILLE, August 1 - All eyes in harness racing will be on the Meadowlands this Saturday for the Hambletonian and local standout Harper Blue Chip will be one of eleven trotters vying for harness racing's highest profile trotting title. Trained by local conditioner Mark Steacy, Harper Blue Chip will start from post position nine with driver Brian Sears in the $1,006,125 Hambletonaian, which is carded as Race 13 on Saturday afternoon. Harper Blue Chip races for owners Landmark 6 Racing Stable of Kingston, David McDonald of Cornwall, David Reid of Glenburnie and George Judson of Athens, Ontario. The son of Majestic Son - Winning Jonlin is coming off a 3 ¾ length victory in the Canadian Breeders Championship at Mohawk on July 19. In six starts this season, Harper Blue Chip has visited the winner's circle twice and has only missed the board once when he finished fourth to the Father Patrick in the $500,000 Earl Beal Memorial at Pocono Downs on June 28. Just like the Beal Memorial, Harper Blue Chip and the rest of the field will be gunning for Father Patrick, who enters the Hambletonian on a 15 race win streak. Father Patrick is just one of three starters (Nuncio and Trixton) sent out by trainer Jimmy Takter. Takter's trio are the top three choices on the morning line. Harper Blue Chip is the fourth choice in the early odds of 12-1. Steacy admits that it will be a tough task defeating Takter's trio, but that his horse is on top of his game. "We've got our work cut out for us," said Steacy. "I was quite disappointed drawing the nine, it kind of made things a lot more difficult, but our horse is going into the race really good and healthy, so I expect a good effort from him as long as we have some race luck." Since the fourth place effort in the Beal, Harper Blue Chip has dominated locally and Steacy believes Harper Blue Chip is a better horse than the last time he faced the continent's very best. "I think with the trio of Jimmy Takter's it's a big step up, but he's raced against these horses before, never been able to beat them, but he's gone against them and he's been respectable," said Steacy. "I think my horse is better than the last time he raced against these horses and I think he's improved with every start and again a lot of racing luck and you never what might happen." Steacy has an idea of the trip he would like for his charge, but will leave the strategy up to defending and two-time Hambletonian winning driver Brian Sears. "It's going to be up to Brian Sears, but I'm hoping he will try to charge off the gate...obviously you want to be as close to Father Patrick or Trixton or one of those horses that you can be." Defeating Takter's trio will be a tough task for the Mark Steacy trainee, but Steacy knows what it takes to win a million dollar race with a three-year-old trotter. In 2006, Steacy captured the million dollar Canadian Trotting Classic with Majestic Son, the sire of Harper Blue Chip, overcoming favourites Chocolatier and Trotting Triple Crown winner Glidemaster. On Saturday afternoon, Steacy will be looking to recreate that million dollar magic with Harper Blue Chip. No horse has been hotter on the WEG circuit this season than State Treasurer and the Dr. Ian Moore trainee will take his talents south to the Meadowlands to battle with the sport's top free-for-all pacers on Saturday. State Treasurer will start from post two with driver David Miller in a field of nine for the $257,700 US Pacing Championship. The five-year-old son of Real Desire - Ideal Tresurer has won seven times in ten starts this season, including a victory last Saturday night in the Preferred at Mohawk in 1:48.3. State Treasurer has started in the WEG Preferred seven times this season and is currently riding a six race win streak in the circuit's top class. All six of those wins have been sub-1:50 miles. His biggest victory of the season was on May 30 in the $150,000 Molson Pace at Western Fair. State Treasurer's rivals on Saturday include Sweet Lou, who is currently on a seven race win streak, and Captaintreacherous, the 2013 Pepsi North America Cup winner. Two starts back, State Treasurer tackled this group in the $463,000 William Haughton Memorial at the Meadowlands and finished fourth, while only beaten 2 ½ lengths. This Saturday, State Treasurer will need to bring his top game and the speed he has been putting on display. by Mark McKelvie, for WEG

Prepping for Hambletonian Day's U.S. Pacing Championship, State Treasurer turned in a 1:48.3 triumph in the $34,000 Preferred Pace at Mohawk Racetrack on Saturday night. The 4-5 favourite overcame an outside post eight start for the eighth sub-1:50 victory of his career for trainer Dr. Ian Moore. Chris Christoforou drove the five-year-old son of Real Desire, who is owned by Sally MacDonald of Souris, P.E.I. and Paul MacDonald of Regina, Sask. Evenin Of Pleasure (Sylvain Filion) and Fool Me Once (Paul MacDonell) fired off the gate together with the later eventually clearing the former into a scorching :25.3 first quarter. Meanwhile, State Treasurer found a spot along the pylons in fifth and launched his attack down the backstretch, chasing Fool Me Once by the half in :53.2 and then edging a head in front by the 1:21.1 three-quarters mark. State Treasurer then drew clear of Fool Me Once into the stretch and held off the late-rallying Ellis Park (Steve Condren), who won the Preferred last week. Captive Audience (James MacDonald) closed for third over Fool Me Once. To view the rest of this story click here.

ANDERSON, Ind.-July 25, 2014 - While she may have played the bridesmaid in her first start against stakes company, Im The Real Lady found the winner's circle when it mattered most as she shined in the featured event, the $75,000 Indiana Sires Stakes Final for two-year-old pacing fillies, at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Friday, July 25. With driver Peter Wrenn at the lines, Im The Real Lady was able to overcome a tough, first-over trip to score the second win of her career in a lifetime best performance of 1:54.3. Leaving from the coveted rail position, Im The Real Lady was eased off the gate to settle along the rail in fifth while the rest of the field sorted out early positions. Trace Tetrick had Flight Cancelled dialed in as he sent her to the front through an opening panel in :28.4. Shady Linds and Ed Hensley were well placed In The Pocket while Aristobrat Hanover and Tyler Smith found good, early position third along the rail from post nine. Flight Cancelled dictated fractions of :58.1 and 1:26.4 before ever feeling pressure from the rest of the field. Unable to wait any longer, Wrenn gave Im The Real Lady the green light heading into the final turn and they began their long first-over journey to the front with Ashok Ace and Lewayne Miller in tow. The field began to tighten as they rounded the final turn and it was a cavalry charge to the wire. With the even money favorite Feetonthedashboard and Dale Hiteman making a costly break around the final turn, the race appeared to be wide open. Im The Real Lady had reached the leader's wheel half-way down the stretch and dug in gamely to put a nose in front at the wire. Flight Cancelled held on for the second place honors while Aristobrat Hanover took advantage of a ground saving trip to round out the trifecta. Sent off at odds of 4-1, Im The Real Lady returned $10.00 at the betting window. "The trip wasn't perfect but she was on her game tonight," Wrenn noted after the win. "She's a pretty handy little filly that is just starting to learn how to race and come into her own." Trained and Owned by Perry Smith, the daughter of Real Desire-Hysterical Lady has now won two of three career starts while amassing $47,100 in career earnings. Im The Real Lady won her career debut at Hoosier Park and followed that performance up with a second place finish in her elimination round of the Indiana Sires Stakes action last week. Live racing at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino will continue on Saturday, July 26 with a 14-race card highlighted by the $22,000 Invitational Pace. With a daily post time of 5:15 p.m., the live racing schedule will follow a Tuesday through Saturday schedule and be conducted through November 15. by Emily Gaskin, for Hoosier Park

WASHINGTON, PA, July 20, 2014 -- Sandbetweenurtoes extended her winning streak to seven when she scored a gutsy victory in Saturday's $208,846 Pennsylvania Sires Stake for sophomore filly pacers at The Meadows. The event, known as the Romola Hanover, was contested over three divisions, with Beach Gal and Take That Hanover capturing the other splits. Sandbetweenurtoes raced only once at 2, finishing off the board. But she's won all her starts this year and was hammered down to 2-5 Saturday. Nevertheless, she had to withstand a stiff first-over challenge from Cinamony to down her by 3/4 lengths in 1:51 on a track rated "good." Allstar Rating was third. Winning driver Brett Miller, who has been aboard for six of those seven victories, said he knew Sandbetweenurtoes, was special the first time he drove her in the slop at the Meadowlands. "I got parked to the half that race, it was pouring down rain, and the fractions were wicked," Miller said. "At the half, I said to myself, this filly will stop. And she won. Right there I thought, wow, she's something else. "She's got guts. She gives 110 percent. Don't get me wrong -- she's well bred and a good-sized filly, but she has no quit in her. She is just dead game. That's what makes her special in my mind." Larry Remmen trains the daughter of Somebeachsomewhere-Al's Girl, who soared over $200,000 in career earnings, for Bradley Grant. Beach Gal moved first over from fourth and held off Also Encouraging to down her by a neck in 1:51.4 for David Miller, trainer Dave Menary and owners Kenneth Ewen, Hewvilla Farms, Denis Breton and Larry Menary. Early leader Marathon Day completed the ticket. "She's the type that can come first over," David Miller said. "I've raced against her before, and I know she's pretty gutsy. She's raced on the lead and got beat. So I think she races better going after them." Take That Hanover fired out to the early lead for Dave Palone and wasn't seriously threatened, scoring in 1:52.2. Southwind Silence was second, 2 lengths back, with Someislandsomwhere third. Chris Oakes conditions the daughter of Well Said-Transfer Hanover for J&T Silva Stables, Susan Oakes and Hauser Brothers Racing. $80,000 Pennsylvania Stallion Series, 3-Year-Old Filly Pacers Also featured at The Meadows Saturday night were four $20,000 divisions of the Pennsylvania Stallion Series for the sophomore filly pacers. All of them were staged later in the card, so all were raced over a "sloppy" surface -- but the mud didn't matter to newly installed Hall of Famer David Miller, who won two of the events among his five sulky victories on the card. Oogle Google, winner of only one of her first 10 starts, has improved tremendously in recent starts for trainer Bruce Saunders, here collecting her fourth win in succession with a 1:53 score for Miller on the front end. The daughter of Real Desire was game in victory for the ownership combine of Mondillo, Robinson, Robinson, and Cheatam. Eiffel Tower was a popular "hometown" and homebred winner in her cut, moving top the lead in front of the stands and going on to victory in 1:54. It was another visit to The Meadows' Victory Lane for driver Miller, this time guiding the daughter of The Panderosa for trainer Dean Collins and breeder Glenda Collins; the latter co-owner with Janine Zito. The Meadows' - and North America's - all-time leading driver Dave Palone put Lucy's Pearl on the front at the quarter in her cut, and when she opened up a clear lead on the far turn, it looked like it might be easy for the daughter of Well Said. But first-over McVita Bella never said die, and Lucy's Pearl was all-out to hold off her onrushing foe by the minimum margin in 1:53 for "The Trotting Guru," Ron Gurfein, taking a rare excursion on the pacing side as trainer and co-owner with Elizabeth Novak. The front end was also the route for success for the Western Terror filly Do Your Job, who did her job nicely to win in 1:54. Scott Zeron guided the filly, now 6 for 11 lifetime, for trainer Tom Fanning and owners David VanWert and the Fly By Night Stables. by Evan Pattak, for the Meadows                

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