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Trenton, NJ --- Judy and Buck Chaffee have been parents and harness racing horse owners for more than three decades. But they never had the pleasure of both coming together so joyfully as they did during a four-day span last month. On Sept. 20, the Chaffees experienced the biggest racing triumph of their 33 years in the business when Caviart Ally won the $163,950 Jugette Stakes final for 3-year-old female pacers in Delaware, Ohio. While they could not witness the event in person, it was for a good reason as they were at their Vienna, Va., home with daughter Drew and her husband Kevin, awaiting the arrival of their grandson. “The baby was due at any moment,” Judy Chaffee said. “She was having contractions that day, which did stop.” They re-started and remained four days later, when Tyler Grayson Fahrendorff came into the world at 20 inches long; weighing 7 pounds, 14 ounces. “It’s been quite an experience for us,” said Judy, who said she and Buck had not come off Cloud Nine more than a week later. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a more stressful day. Not only could the baby have come but we actually had two fillies racing in the Jugette that day and it was quite a rollercoaster of emotions. “Our filly, Jaye’s A Lady, raced first. We were hoping she would do well and make the final, and she broke stride right at the start. So, that was a low feeling at that moment. Then we went from Jaye to Ally. We went from one extreme to the other. It was quite a day. We’ve experienced it all over the years, but I think this is the highest we ever felt.” The Chaffees watched it all unfold on the Internet and were also getting phone updates from son Terry, who operates their Caviart Farms in Paris, Ky. They wanted to be at the race, but they knew they would not have enjoyed it had they left Drew and Kevin alone. “Their little girl was staying with us in case she had to go to the hospital,” Judy said. “As much as we would have loved to have been there, we opted to stay home for our daughter because we’d be taking care of their little girl while she was in the hospital. We had a choice to make, and like with everything else, I think family has to come first.” Especially when it comes to the Chaffees, as their current standing as breeders and owners has been handed down through the generations. Judy’s maternal grandfather, Lowell Chapman, was a Standardbred owner in Maine who raced on the New England and Canadian circuits. Judy met him a few times but was so young, that the two never really talked about racing. “But I think I inherited the love of horses from him,” Chaffee said. “My mother and father went to the races and I used to have to babysit my sister when they went. I got to go sometimes, but I never realized I would ever be part of it. My mother (who has passed away) would speak about that, and we both agreed my grandfather and I would have a ball together. We would be going to (the sales) together. It would have been quite a bonding experience and we would have loved experiencing it.” Photo courtesy of Judy Chaffee Judy Chaffee's love of horses has been handed down through the generations. In 1978, however, Judy saw herself as a career journalist. Working as a reporter for the Portland Press Herald, she met architect Clarence “Buck” Chaffee at a project meeting at the selectman’s office. Judy met him as “Buck”, which probably helped get the relationship started as opposed to the alternative of the given name. “He was named after his father, and they were looking for something to call him so they wouldn’t be called the same,” Judy said. “His aunt came up with the name Buck; I’m glad she did.” Their chemistry was immediate and the two began dating. Shortly thereafter, Buck was moving from Maine back to his home state of Virginia and Judy gave up her newspaper career to join him. When it came time to meet her future in-laws, Buck and Judy were greeted by a note on the door that said, “Meet us at Rosecroft.” It was then, that Judy discovered Buck’s parents raised and raced horses in the Mid-Atlantic area, most notably at Rosecroft and Freestate. “It’s funny, when Buck and I met each other we never even mentioned horses,” Judy said. “It turned out we both loved the horses and the racing.” The two married within the same year they met and the first of seven children came shortly thereafter. “I expected to work as a reporter, I guess, forever,” Judy said. “When Buck and I started to have a family, I became a stay at home mom and raised the family.” As the family grew, so did their love of racing. One day in 1984, Buck and Judy decided to attend the Standardbred Horse Sale in Harrisburg, Pa., as spectators only. It would turn out to be a milestone day in their lives. “We were watching the sale progress; and Buck turned to me and said, ‘Which would you rather have, a house or a horse?’ and I said, ‘A horse,’” Judy recalled. “We bought our first horse, her name was Good Tal. So that was the beginning, and we’ve had horses ever since.” But not without some immediate trepidation. “When we bought her,” Judy said with a laugh, “Buck looked at me and said, ‘What do we do now?’” As luck would have it, an Ohio resident sitting behind them was eavesdropping. “He told us, ‘Send it to Joe Adamsky, he’s a good, honest horseman,’” Judy said.   Photo courtesy of Judy Chaffee Buck and Judy Chaffee with trainer Nancy Johansson. The Chaffees did just that, and Good Tal became a stakes champion in Ohio. The couple remained lifelong friends with Joe (who has since passed away) and his wife and had him train several other horses. After Good Tal, Buck and Judy began adding to their stable and raising them on Buck’s parents’ family farm in Fredericksburg, Va. “Every year we tried to buy a horse or two and we had some success,” Chaffee said. “Nothing that was like Ally or anything, but we enjoyed it. We’ve had horses with (Ohio trainer) Jim Arledge for quite a while.” Arledge worked with Caviart Sydney, whose biggest win came over My Little Dragon in the 2006 Matron Stakes for 3-year-old filly pacers, and Sydney’s mother, Caviart Sierra. “Basically, Sydney was racing against My Little Dragon and Darlin’s Delight during those 2- and 3-year-old years,” Judy said. “She didn’t beat them except for this one race. But she was there all the time. Sierra won her first five races, which were all stakes races, but then she was injured and it basically ended her career and she became a broodmare for us.” In 2007, after several years of intense research, the Chaffees purchased their Kentucky farm on Winchester Road -- the famed Avenue of Champions. “We always wanted to have a breeding farm once we got in the business,” Judy said. “We used to go to Kentucky and we just looked for a farm there. Buck was busy working so Terry and I went and picked out a farm. It’s 225 acres and it works well for us, there’s room to expand. We have 18 broodmares, and the yearlings and the foals.” They named it Caviart Farms because of Judy’s penchant for the 1980s TV show “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous,” hosted by Robin Leach. “He would end the show and say, ‘Champagne wishes and caviar dreams,’” Judy said. “I liked the caviar dreams and we did have caviar dreams. Buck said, ‘I like it better with a T on the end,’ so that’s where Caviart came from.” So, it was a case of pretty much making up words? “Basically, yes,” Judy said with a laugh. Terry runs the farm and is on the phone with his mom constantly while Buck tends to his consulting business that he started 10 years ago. “This is my profession now,” Judy said. “I pick out the stallions, I keep track of the ovulation of the mares and tell Terry who to check each date and so forth. I handle the paperwork part of it and Terry runs the farm. He’s amazing and so good with the horses, I can’t speak highly enough of him. We couldn’t possibly have the business without him. “Terry is the only one who’s fulltime but all our kids take an interest. After we won the Jugette, I was on the phone with my daughter Drew and I was like, ‘We just won the Jugette!’ She texted all the other brothers and sisters and everyone was watching the replay. They’re all very interested in how we’re doing but they don’t actually work in the business.” Nigel Soult photo In her first start since the Jugette, Caviart Ally won the second of two divisions of the Bluegrass 3-year-old filly pace in 1:51 on Oct. 1 at Red Mile. Caviart’s main trainers are Arledge, Nancy Johansson and Noel Daley, who trains Caviart Ally. Daley recommended the purchase of Caviart Ally, as he worked with family member All Speed Hanover. The Chaffees were actually looking to upgrade by purchasing a filly broodmare at Harrisburg, but figured if the horse could race, they would do that as well. They got Caviart Ally for $35,000. “Noel looked at her and said she didn’t look like All Speed because he was taller, but he thought she was the right size and looked perfect for a Bettor's Delight (sired horse) so we bought her and she has become everything,” Chaffee said. “She’s become our best racing filly ever and will certainly be at the top of our list for broodmares once she gets there. We’ll race her at least another year, maybe two years before we look to breed her. “Ally certainly owns our hearts. It’s been a long time coming and it’s been a dream, and it finally happened.” After the win, Judy posted on her Facebook page, “The biggest and best day ever in racing!!! Thank you Caviart Ally -- and trainer Noel Daley, driver Andy McCarthy, son Terry Chaffee who is COO of our farm and represented us at Delaware -- and all of Team Daley. And thank you to my husband who allows me to fulfill my dreams with the horses!!!” Indeed, the happiest part of this story is that going into the horse business together only helped to strengthen Buck and Judy’s already solid marriage. “It’s been great,” Judy said. “We generally agree on everything and if we don’t, we work it out. So, we’ve never had any problems. We both love the horses, we love the racing. We both get excited together and we share the experience. So, if anything I think it’s a wonderful thing for a marriage.” A marriage that experienced four days in September that will certainly be one of its high points. by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent 

Trenton, NJ --- If there is one thing Evan Hoagland possesses, it’s discipline. He probably wouldn’t be embarking on a career as a harness racing driver without it. Or, he probably wouldn’t have a degree in business. But he has both, because he was able to grind it out to the max over the past few years. Known as either “Hoagy” or “Little Hog” (brother Connor is “Big Hog”), Evan would drive evening races at Saratoga, then make the 90-minute drive back to Castleton (VT) University. He would complete his homework before bed, then arise at 5 a.m. for practice with the Spartans Division III football team, for which he played running back. He was a man committed to getting a degree just as something to fall back on, and also dedicated to a Standardbred driving career. He had the wherewithal to get both, but is not sure what gave him such focus and continence. “I don’t really know, I guess I just did it,” the 21-year-old Hoagland said. “It was long and arduous. But it definitely gave me some discipline, that’s for sure. I’ve always been pretty good at being disciplined, I put that a lot on my father and brother; they made me the man I am today.” Evan said that Connor, who’s 4-1/2 years his senior, served as a mentor. His dad, John, set an example of a “work ethic that was second to none,” by running a successful insurance business. “He had a pretty nice job with Safeco and turned the rest of his career down because they wanted to move him to Seattle,” said Hoagland, who hails from Whitehall, N.Y. “He started out a business on his own in 2001 and built it up from nothing. I’ve taken a lot of pride in trying to follow the footsteps of my dad and my brother. That’s probably the biggest thing in terms of going back and forth (from Saratoga to Castleton) and trying to manage everything that was going on.” All the hard work is starting to pay off, as he earned his first pari-mutuel win on July 9 at Saratoga in the C.K.G. Billings Amateur Driving Series. Driving a mare that he owns and trains, Little Hog guided Tapit to a first-place time of 1:58.2 after starting as second choice from the four-hole in the eight-horse event. Hoagland found room along the pylons in third position before the field trotted by the first panel in a swift :27.4. “As soon as the gates opened, I knew I was going to have to do a first up,” he said. “There was a horse that did :27 and change off the gate and he doesn’t come home great if he does that. I knew I was going to be all right.” As the field headed to the halfway point, Hoagland moved his mare first-up and gained the lead at the three-quarter mark. “I had to get her out moving,” he said. “She likes to chase a horse more often than not. I knew when I was hitting third and coming first up, that hopefully the horse (on the lead) would come back to me and he did. And she went right on by and never stopped going. At the top of the stretch I knew we were going to get it done. I was opening up and when she gets her legs she keeps fighting and doesn’t let anybody pass her.” Hoagland was happy, not only to get the win, but to do it with that particular mare. “We’ve had her for probably three years now,” he said. “She’s my favorite horse I’ve ever had and probably ever will. She’s just a sweetheart, you can do whatever you want with her. I was hitting the board with her, getting second, third, second, third. Finally it all worked out. It felt pretty good, pretty validating. “And I can’t get rid of her,” he added with a laugh. “It’s my girlfriend’s daughter’s favorite horse, so I’d hear it from all sides if I didn’t keep her.” Hoagland has gotten a win at Plainridge since then and also hit the board on numerous occasions as he tries to make a name for himself while teaming up with his brother and father. John Hoagland was never a trainer as his business kept him too busy. But he and his brother Jason owned horses with fellow Whitehall resident Richard Smith. “My father always loved the horses,” Evan said. “Any free time we had when I was young, me, my dad, my brother; we’d be out at the barn. He never could do it fulltime but always loved the horses, taught me everything he could. I picked it up here and there.” Once Evan got to high school, however, sports took over as he played football, basketball and baseball. He was also pretty busy in the classroom. Upon graduating in 2014, Hoagland had already earned nearly two years of college credits from SUPA (Syracuse University Private Advance) courses -- discounted college courses that earn college credits. Thus, when torn ligaments in his foot marked the end of his football career as a junior, Hoagland graduated in 2017, after just three years, with his business degree. “I was never really a business type,” he said. “I just did it because you could always use a business degree. But I’m not suited for a desk, I’ve got to be moving around, use my hands. I talked to my father, I said I have a chance to do the horses, we had three or four at that time, why don’t we do that.” By then, he had already started driving. John had strayed from the stables for a while but the love was too strong and he returned while Evan was in college. That is what led to Hoagland’s breakneck schedule from driving races, to football, to the classroom and back. The father and two sons had opened Hoagland Racing LLC, which currently has four horses. “We’ll pick out horses and are always on the lookout for something cheap here and there,” Hoagland said. “We can’t pay too much money. Our best horse we paid a few grand for and she’s made umpteen times that.” The family began working with trainer Kyle Spagnola at a stable in Stillwater, N.Y., which is now a facility being used for the Saratoga Horse Show. Evan got invaluable experience working in Spagnola’s barn, as he took care of a few horses but mostly jogged and trained, which he enjoyed. Evan got his qualifying/fair license in 2015 and drove a large amount of fairs and qualifiers in 2016. He got his training license and provisional driving license this past year and is now on the lookout for any drives he can get. “I’ve been driving as many races as I can, but it’s tough,” he said. “In Saratoga they have a rule for P drivers, no nine-horse fields or the second tier. So it’s tough because a lot of these races are nine-horse fields, especially the ones I drive in that class. I take as many drives as I can. Any time I can get out there and learn for myself, it’s an excellent opportunity.” He also has no aversion to learning from others. “Any help I can get I love it and anybody that I’ve been around has usually been pretty good about helping me,” Hoagland said. “They’re giving me tips here and there and telling me anything I ask. But some things you’ve got to learn by yourself, especially the driving. That’s the fun part for me, just being out there. I can learn tons from the top drivers, and that’s great. But just getting out there, going behind the gate and going around, that’s a great learning tool.” And he feels that driving would be a great career if it works out. “I just enjoy it,” he said. “Our family loves it, they love seeing me drive so I figured ‘Well I have a really good opportunity to be around these horses the rest of my life and I love it.’ I think I’m going all right with what I’ve got now. I’m learning every day, that’s the greatest thing of all. The guys who have been around the business for 60 years and never stopped learning. I’ve been around it only a handful of years and only started driving the last two or three years.” Hoagland also competed in power lifting with his brother, and Evan actually set U.S. records in his weight class and division for squat, bench and dead lift. He feels his athletic prowess and strength come in handy in the bike. “The horses are all stronger than you are,” he said. “So it definitely helps being able to hold them and calm them down.” Hoagy enjoys working with the horses as much as he likes driving them, and feels that will never change no matter how his career advances. He has four wins to his credit as a trainer. “I love being with them and jogging them,” he said. “Just say I do get hundreds or thousands of drives a year, I would still try to be around it every morning. I like getting up, go walking around the barn and seeing the horses' heads pop in the shedrow.” by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent 

Trenton, NJ --- It was a night to celebrate a milestone for Joe W. Putnam and -- so hoped an inquisitor – a night to celebrate Joe’s son following in his footsteps. The interviewer did not get the answer he sought, however, as Joe D. Putnam was a senior catcher for the Pendleton (Ind.) Heights High School baseball team who was also in his fifth year of running a successful mowing business for himself. “I always told people I wasn’t going to get involved in the horse business,” said Joe D., who goes by Joey. “When dad got his 3,000th win at Hoosier Park, they interviewed him and then asked me what my plans were and I said I was going to go to college.” The question came two years too early. “Look where I am now,” Joey added with a laugh. He’s in the sulky, in the stables, in the paddock and, on June 22, was in the winner’s circle for the first time. After gaining his qualifying/fair license early in the spring, the 19-year-old drove several races behind a 3-year-old trotting filly named Kidswillbesassy. “She was making breaks,” Putnam said. “She was a good learning horse but we weren’t having much luck. It’s funny; now I’m racing her and she’s doing pretty good.” But not as good as U’ll Learn did on Putnam’s memorable first win at the Harrison County Fair in Corydon, Ind. The 2-year-old pacing filly was making her first career start with a driver who raised her. U’ll Learn was homebred by Joe W. and his partners, Trent Stohler and Bill Reepmeyer. The Putnams own the filly now. “I wanted to get a baby so I could grow with it, and have something to drive since I’m just starting,” Putnam said. “You’ve got to work your way up. It’s not like you just want to hop on some horses for other owners.” As the months went on, the novice horseman began seeing good things in his filly. “I’ve been with her since Day One as far as breaking her,” he said. “I thought we had something to work with. She’s by Real Desire and out of Western Kit and they’re all known for having to mature their 2-year-old year, and not really racing. The first two we had didn’t race as 2-year-olds. But she trained down really well. I was excited to get to the race with her, this being my first year of driving as well.” U’ll Learn drew post three and got away second. She followed the leader until pulling even at the three-quarter pole. “We got into the last turn for home, and she just felt live,” Putnam said. “I chirped to her a couple times, she just went on, she won by about two or three lengths.” And the joy was twofold, since Joey not only got his first win, but did it with the first horse he could take credit for. “That one was huge, it meant a lot, because I broke her and she was mine, not somebody else’s,” he said. “So that was pretty awesome. If there was any horse I could have won with that would have been the one. I’ve had a few others when I was younger but this is the first year I’ve been all-in in the horse business.” Indeed it is. Despite the success of his dad, who has 3,015 driving wins and 1,007 training wins, Joey found the business too unpredictable for his taste. “I’ve seen how awesome it can be and before you know it you’re on the down,” he said. “There’s a lot of adversity.” Putnam was content to play football, basketball and baseball through sixth grade before settling on baseball in middle school. He played travel baseball and was in a different state four days a week, while also playing for the high school varsity team all four years. He would occasionally go out to the barns to jog a horse but there was no instant love affair. To his dad’s credit, he never pressured Joey into following in his footsteps. He and his wife actually encouraged their son to get a college education. “He liked when I came and helped at the farm,” Putnam said. “It was never anything serious. It was jog a few horses, sweep, water, it wasn’t like anything big. He never really pushed, we never really talked about it. He would ask if I wanted to drive. I just never really did. I’d go to the track and sit up in the clubhouse and grandstand, but never in the paddock, until last winter in Miami Valley, Ohio. That’s when it really started.” Upon graduating from high school in 2016 with baseball in his rearview mirror -- he turned down some small schools who recruited him in order to maintain the mowing business -- Putnam suddenly took a bigger interest in the horses. He was already enrolled at Ivy Tech, a community college in his hometown of Anderson, Ind., and is now in his sophomore year. But during that summer of ’16, something clicked while working with his dad. “The summers prior I always helped out but if I wanted to go with friends or go to baseball or go do things, he was pretty lenient,” Putnam said. “But that summer after senior year, I felt like it was a job and I took it pretty serious at the farm.” Once college started he continued in the stables, taking classes in the afternoons and evenings in order to work the mornings. During an annual family vacation in Florida during his freshman year, father and son talked about Joey possibly driving and the decision was made. Putnam got his qualifying/fair license in the spring and just earned his provisional license on Sept. 7. He is pursuing an associate’s degree in Business Management at Ivy Tech, but still has some racing to do as it has been a fairly successful rookie year. Putnam has driven in 49 fair races or qualifiers and he has teamed with a 6-year-old named Sum It Up to win four times. The two set the track record in 1:58 at a fair in Xenia, Ohio and will be in the final of the Signature Series Trot during Jug Week in Delaware, Ohio. Sum It Up was owned by Frank and Cheryl O’Mara. After Frank passed away earlier this year, Cheryl approached Joe W. about training the horse. “My dad used to drive him, and now I’m driving him,” Putnam said. “That’s going to be a fun day in Delaware.” Joey hasn’t forgotten about U’ll Learn, of course. The horse was named when Putnam got her, but he wouldn’t dare change it. “It’s such a good name, it goes pretty well with everything that is going on this year,” Joey said. “I’m learning about driving for sure. And I tell the employees ‘You’ll learn’ when certain situations arise in the barn. Before her first start I was telling everybody ‘You’ll learn’ (about how good she is). She proved what she was made of that day. That was pretty awesome.” Speaking of learning, Putnam had plans on transferring to Ball State after getting his associate’s degree, but that may be put on hold. “I want to give driving a shot,” he said. “It’s going to take a few years to get established and make a name for myself. But as long as that opportunity keeps coming I’m going to see what I can do for a driving career and training. I’d like to work my way up the next five years. My ultimate goal is to be a top driver. That’s where I see myself headed. But I’m not going to get away from working at the barn in the morning. It’s a lot of work but it’s very rewarding.” And he has the right guy to learn from in his father. “He’s a huge influence really, and even more over the last year,” Putnam said. “I always appreciated how hard he’s worked, but now I see it first hand, running the roads. He’s always wanted me to go to college, that way I have options. But now that I’ve gotten involved with this, we have fun going to the fairs together. Him and my mom both push my studies just to make sure, but I think he likes it a lot now that I’m involved.” More than likely, that’s what the Hoosier Park interviewer was hoping to hear two years ago; proving once again that some things just take time. by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent 

Trenton, NJ --- It’s one thing to celebrate your first harness racing driving win, it’s quite another to celebrate your first three when they come right in a row on the same afternoon. Or, in Bradley Ferguson’s case, not celebrate them. “Actually I had to finish out working the day,” Ferguson said of his unforgettable performance. “I didn’t really get much time to celebrate. We had about 19 (horses) in that day. Later on I did. But there wasn’t much celebrating time after the races, it was right back to work.” That won’t detract from what Ferguson accomplished on July 8 at the Newton County Pun’kin Vine Fair in Kentland, Ind. The 32-year-old could win the Hambletonian and it might only tie that day as his most memorable. Well, OK, maybe not. But it will definitely put a smile on his face whenever he thinks back on it. “Oh man it was amazing; I was on top of the world,” Ferguson said. “It was an amazing day.” All three victories came with Don Eash-trained horses, and the historic first came while driving Shelby’s Honor, who Ferguson drove to a fourth-place finish in his driving debut a couple of weeks earlier. Brad drew the rail in the four-horse, 2-year-old colt trot, and had a horse he was familiar with. “Don gives me some nice horses to drive; and I drove him about four starts and he had been sharp, each start he got a little better,” the Anderson, Ind. product said. “I knew the horses that were in there, and if I could get out in front of them, I could probably beat them. He was pretty good; he got a little rolly through the turns so I had to ease him through the turns.” At one point, a horse came up on the outside and Ferguson feared that if it got ahead of him, the victory would have been snatched away. “But I kept him rolling, got him through the turns,” he said. “Actually, there was a pylon that got knocked out in the middle, coming around the last turn. This colt is a super nice colt, he trotted right on through it. He did it pretty easy and we won by a length or two.” The horse won in 2:15.3 and Brad’s emotions coming across the line were as expected. “Oh man, that was great,” Ferguson said. “I had the biggest smile on my face; it was just an amazing feeling. I’d been doing this a long time and Don gave me the opportunity to start driving. To get a horse like that and be able to get the first win, it was great.” And it was only the beginning. Next up was the 3-year-old filly pace with Meadowbrook Sharla. Rather than have the mindset that he finally got his first win, and anything else would be gravy, Ferguson looked at it as another opportunity. “I thought she was a pretty nice horse too,” he said. “I figured if I could get to the front end, I didn’t think anybody would be able to catch me. I rolled her out of the gate, I got to the front. I just tried to rate the mile where I wasn’t using her too much. Coming out of that last turn I didn’t think they’d be able to get me. I let her go a little bit and she won that one by about five (in 2:04.4). She was good that day.” Little did Ferguson know another victory was yet to come. Driving 3-year-old gelding pacer E R Vincent, Brad won in 2:03.2. “I was actually thinking, ‘If I can get a good trip I should be able to do really well with that colt,’” he said. “I sat in the two hole with him through the three-quarter pole. I just got by in the stretch. It was pretty amazing to get three in a row. I didn’t think it was going to happen. “I wasn’t thinking about winning or whatever. I was just trying to concentrate on driving and getting around there and doing the best I could. To get three in a row, that was a pretty amazing experience. I’m a new driver, I’m first starting out and that was great. I didn’t see that coming at all.” Ferguson may be new to driving but he’s a veteran when it comes to Standardbreds. Just prior to his 19th birthday, a friend offered him a job with driver/trainer Roger Cullipher in 2004. He began by cleaning stalls and grooming five horses, and started to meet some influential harness racing folks along the way. “I had never been around horses before but I just took to it and I wanted to stick with it,” he said. “It’s just a good business to be in.” He stayed with Cullipher for a while and then began working for some other Indiana horsemen before meeting Eash through his contacts. He began working for Don full time in 2014. “I had been around the business for years and he needed some help and offered me a job,” Ferguson said. “He gave me the opportunity to drive for him.” Brad kept procrastinating but finally got his driving and training licenses this past spring. He had only driven a handful of races before hitting his July trifecta and, since then, got another win with Shelby’s Honor at the ISA Elite at Portland. He has also hit the board with three seconds and three thirds in his 19 career drives. Ferguson took to driving immediately as he tries not to let the thrill of being in the bike overwhelm him. “It’s more or less trying to stay as calm as you can and trying to do it the best you can; but it is a very big rush,” he said. “Especially when you get horses all stacked up around you, it’s an adrenaline rush. You’ve got to stay clear headed and calm.” Brad credited Eash for being his biggest influence, and hopes to advance his career in both driving and training. “I’ve groomed for a lot of people over the years, but Don’s actually put me in the position to move ahead by giving me the opportunity to start driving and letting me train a lot of horses,” Ferguson said. “I would like to own some and train and drive a little. I kind of like them both. I’ve been training for years and I just started driving, and I just like it all the way around.” Even if he can’t celebrate his good fortune immediately after it happens.   by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

Trenton, NJ --- When does a person’s first harness racing driving win get overshadowed by the second? How about when their fingerprints are found on every aspect of the second. That was the case for Ohio’s Emily Hay, whose first victory in the sulky was great, but her second was elevated to downright awesome. In fact, it caused memory loss. “It was an emotional moment; I was so excited I passed the vet,” Hay said with a laugh. “They were like ‘Hey you have to turn around and come back!’ I was like ‘Whoops, sorry, my bad.’ We were like all hopping and skipping and ‘Yay!’ It was a really good night.” What made it so special was, unlike her first driving win when she was behind someone else’s horse, this was the first time she was in the winning bike with a horse she also owned and trained. She scored in 2:01.4 with the 12-year-old pacing gelding Touch And Go at the Wilmington, Ohio fair. “I don’t even know how to explain that one,” she said. “The kids were there (Colton, 4 and Gavin, 8); my friend said when I came across the finish line the kids knew that I won and just took off on the track yelling ‘We won! We won!’ “Somebody had to get them off the track on the golf cart. You weren’t stopping them. They were going to the winner’s circle. When they got there they hopped on the bike and somebody had given Colton a goldfish so he’s sitting on the bike with a goldfish. It was great.” As usual, Colton grabbed his mom’s whip when it was over. “There aren’t many who can say that their favorite fan is their son,” Hay noted. Her driving career began in 2012 and she was winless in 42 races entering this season. Ironically, just shy of age 42, she started winning. “Maybe that’s my lucky number, maybe I should play that,” she said. Hay entered the 2017 campaign with three wins as a trainer and she has equaled that mark with three wins this year. The first win this year came when Tyler Smith drove Touch And Go -- a horse Emily owned and trained -- to victory at Hoosier Park on April 6. “Everybody at Hoosier could probably hear me down in the winner’s circle hollering,” Hay said of the April 6 victory. “It’s a little more exciting as the trainer because that’s the hard work you put into that horse, you can see your hard work paying off.” She got another one on June 7 when Sam Widger drove Royal Delta to a victory at Hoosier Park. The first driving win came 13 days later. Hay went to an Ohio Ladies Pace event in Ottawa, Ohio and was looking for a horse to drive. She ran into her trainer friend, Tricia Shepard, who put Emily behind her horse, Mr I Am. Hay took it as a good omen that Shepard’s colors and her own were both purple. “It all kind of matched and they bring his own bike,” Hay said. Another irony is that a few years earlier Emily actually sat at the same banquet table with the horse’s owners when Mr I Am was honored as a 3-year-old fair circuit winner. “He’s just a fabulous horse,” Hay said. “He’s real easy going. He knows the track. They told me he’s good on the half-mile track. They said get him to the gate, he’ll come right out of the gate and that’s what I did.” Mr I Am took the early lead and never gave it up despite being challenged throughout the race. “A horse would come up and he would just go faster,” Hay said. “He kind of like graded his own mile. I just knew if I felt somebody coming at me, I could just ask him a little bit and he would go. We led the whole mile of the race. “It’s like one of those horses, they feel a horse coming up behind them and beside them and they speed up a little bit. He was very good. I was nervous because you’re on someone else’s horse and you don’t know it as well as you know your own. But he had it in his mind he was gone, and he was gone.” And it was Emily gone wild as she came across the finish line in 2:00 with the 8-year-old pacing gelding. “Oh my gosh, I started crying,” she said. “Even talking about it you still kind of get choked up. My little boy and our niece were there. A couple of other people were there, they didn’t know whether they should get in the winner’s circle. I’m like ‘Whenever I get in the winner’s circle everybody get in there!’ because I don’t get in there that often. And I worked hard for this one, so everybody was welcome. I was excited, I started crying a little bit, they let me have the blanket so we have it hanging up in the house. It was a really neat experience.” It got even better 20 days later. On July 10 in another Ladies Pace event at Wilmington, Hay was driving Touch And Go. Climbing in the bike she admitted to being nervous, but only because, “I always get nervous. I’m a nervous wreck sometimes. I guess it’s good, because they always say if it’s too much like a job it’s not fun.” It turned out those nerves were unnecessary. “I knew this horse was good on the half,” Emily said. “We were coming around, he was pulling a little bit, he wanted to go and I thought ‘I don’t know, we may be pulling too early.’ As soon as we pulled him, he got out and won by seven lengths. He was fired up and ready to go.” So was Hay and her family. “That was awesome, because that was my horse,” she said. “I own it, I train it. The kids were there so everybody got in the pictures. That was pretty awesome.” Hay is one of the more unlikely Standardbred participants one is likely to come across. Her fulltime job is at a hospital lab as a phlebotomist -- someone who takes blood and then studies the samples and logs them into medical records. She also owned saddle horses at her Celina, Ohio, home. So naturally, she came home one day to find a note on her door from a neighbor, who was giving Emily a Standardbred horse that the neighbor’s boss was trying to get rid of. “I find this note ‘Here’s this horse,’ and I had no clue, I was just like ‘Yeah, sure,’” she said. Hay called her friend Bobby Werner, who knew something about racing horses. The conversation never picked up much traction. “I said ‘Hey these people have a racehorse,’” she said. “And he said, ‘What is it?’ and I said, ‘It’s a racehorse?’ and he said, ‘Is it a pacer or a trotter?’ and I said, ‘It’s a racehorse.’ I didn’t know.” Werner looked at the horse -- named Aloha Kelly but called Joe by Emily -- and they decided he was wasn’t big enough for big tracks so they entered him in fairs. The 7-year-old pacing gelding gave Hay her first win as a trainer on June 12, 2013 at the Paulding Fair. That was Aloha Kelly’s last hurrah as he is now a pleasure horse, but Emily got the bug. She now owns two horses -- 5-year-old pacing mare Royal Delta and 7-year-old pacing gelding Tymal Torch, who is just getting back in racing shape. Touch And Go was sold back to the original owner earlier this month. Hay said that two horses are enough to deal with considering she also has a fulltime job. She now refuses to let one of her own horses race unless she’s driving it. “I don’t want them to win if I’m not there,” she said, while inventing a new word. “I’m superstitiousy that way.” Her future plans are to continue to drive in the Ladies Pace races although she finds it a little less painful driving against the men. “It’s a little bit easier racing with the guys than it is the girls because they’re a little bit nicer,” Hay said with a laugh. “The girls will pretty much park you every day. Racing in the Ladies Pace, people don’t realize how tough of a class that is. It’s a very tough class.” Off the track, it’s a different story. “It’s funny when you’re off the racetrack it’s like we’re friends, but on the racetrack we’re out here to race,” she said. “Off the racetrack, it’s ‘hey let’s go get some ice cream, I’m buying.’ It’s tough but it’s fun, and everyone gets along, that makes it even better.” by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

Trenton, NJ --- Most people try to pick up some extra money in December in order to do holiday shopping. Jason Telfer had no idea it would lead to the start of a new career, harness racing. The 32-year-old Iowan had been around horses most of his life but never had an overwhelming urge to get in the sport. But at the end of last year, he had left his meat packing job and hooked up with the father-son tandem of Paul and Gary Liles. Six months later he began driving at fairs and, shortly after that, he notched his first two driving wins. He is now looking to make a go of it in the sulky. “I didn’t really think this was going to happen,” Telfer said. “It’s been in the family, but I didn’t figure it would be me doing it. I like to go watch and help out but I never figured I’d be behind a horse, racing.” Asked what gave him the impetus, Jason said, “I really don’t know. Some extra side work, some extra money I needed, so I got a job with Gary last December. That was the main reason.” Telfer was born in Ottumwa, Iowa, made famous in the TV show M*A*S*H as Radar O’Reilly’s hometown. Unlike Radar, he grew up in Eldon before moving to his current residence of Selma at age 13. Jason’s parents grew up in Humboldt, Iowa, where his great-grandfather used to race. “It’s in my mom and dad’s blood, but they quit doing it,” Telfer said. He became re-introduced to it when he began dating his girlfriend, Heidi Saner, 14 years ago. Heidi’s dad, John, was racing in Illinois, but moved to Selma after Heidi and Jason began dating. “He started racing over here for Paul Liles; so I just went out to the track to watch and I really enjoyed it,” Telfer said. “I was all around it growing up through my school years, I helped clean stalls and that kind of stuff, but never anything more than that.” It all changed in December when he began helping the Liles family. After getting more involved and jogging horses, Jason got the urge to drive one. He said his first time in the bike was not too excruciating after his jogging experiences. “I really enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s something different that I enjoyed. The first time I was jogging I was pretty scared because I was stuck in between horses but after that, the racing is nothing different than the jogging. I was used to it after the first week or so.” His first actual race came in June at the Wapello County Regional Fair in Eldon and was, “pretty good, I felt pretty relaxed out there.” He raced seven more times before getting his first win on July 5 with Hasty I D Claire at the Lee County Fair in Donnellson. It was a three-horse race in which Telfer was second through the first two trips around the track. There was a catch, however. “That track is short down there and you have to go three laps on that track to get a mile,” he said. “The leader thought we were done. He pulled up on the second lap and I passed him. I got a little break there.” He almost got a bad break at the end, but held on to win. “It started raining a little bit,” he said. “I didn’t have gloves on so I couldn’t hold on very much longer. She actually broke right at the wire. So I kept holding on and my hands were slipping. It just slipped right out of my hands pretty much as we came across.” The excitement of the loose reins sort of nullified the elation of winning; but only for a moment. “I was worried hanging on but I enjoyed the win afterward,” he said. “Pictures with my family, my girlfriend and father-in-law (John Saner) that got me started.” Two days later Jason won again at the Keokuk County Fair in What Cheer, when he drove Paul Liles' 2-year-old pacing filly The Real Prize to victory. “That one was a lot easier,” he said. “The horse turned out to be a real prize.” Telfer has not won since, but has hit the board a number of times. “Me and my father-in-law have two horses,” he said. “I got a colt (Perfect Popper) that we lease from a guy. I drove him 12 times and got six seconds. I just can’t win with him, only seconds.” Jason will continue to work for the Liles family and has a nice schedule through August. He is at Humboldt this weekend and will race in the Cyrus Stakes the following Saturday. “We have six more races every weekend,” he said. Telfer is already looking forward to next year. He has some horses with his parents and is getting a few with John Saner, who he refers to as his father-in-law considering how long he and Heidi have dated. “I’m hoping to get out on my own and train and drive on my own,” he said. “I feel pretty good about where I am right now. I feel really good. And I’ll be getting my own horses for next year and try to go against all the big wigs.” by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

Trenton, NJ --- Marcus Melander has never won a Hambletonian but the 25-year-old harness racing trainer has the essence of Hambo greatness surrounding his entire being. And while the Swede does not have a favorite in Saturday’s $1.2 million Hambletonian Stakes for 3-year-olds at the Meadowlands, he does have a Tim Tetrick-driven horse in each elimination getting pretty good odds. In the 10-horse division (race nine), Enterprise is 9/2, with only Devious Man (5/2) and What The Hill (3/1) being given better chances. Enterprise, who outgrew an immature streak after racing only once as a 2-year-old, won his first five career starts. A son of Chapter Seven out of the mare Shes Gone Again, Enterprise is a half-brother to New Jersey Sire Stakes champion Guess Whos Back and his family includes Dan Patch and O’Brien Award winner Poof She’s Gone. Enterprise was purchased for $100,000 at the 2015 Lexington Selected Sale. “Enterprise raced last week and was a little short,” said Melander, who began training the horse late last summer. “He got beat by a good horse, though (fellow Hambletonian starter International Moni). I was happy with him, but he needed that race for sure. I think that race will put him forward for the Hambletonian. He was a little sick up there in Canada (when he finished fourth in the Goodtimes final on June 17) so maybe he missed a little too much, had a race less (than hoped). But I still think he will be a hundred percent.” In the nine-horse division (race eight), Long Tom is at 3/1 odds, second best on the board behind favored International Moni (5/2). The colt, who came to Melander from Europe in April 2016, was this year’s New Jersey Sire Stakes champion at the Meadowlands. “Long Tom hasn’t raced since the Stanley Dancer (July 15), but he came out of that race very good,” Melander said. “I’m very happy with him. He’s been training great. There’s nothing to complain about there.” The trainer’s optimism should be taken seriously if exposure to Hambo success stories have any bearing on the matter. Marcus’ uncle, Stefan Melander, won the 2001 Hambletonian as trainer and driver with Scarlet Knight. Marcus worked with Stefan in Sweden and after moving to the U.S. from Stockholm with his family in 2014, Marcus began working for trainer Jimmy Takter, a four-time Hambletonian winner. His family purchased the farm in New Egypt that was previously owned by the late, legendary Stanley Dancer, who shares the record for Hambletonian training victories with five. And finally, the guy in the sulky is no Hambo Day slouch. The 35-year-old Tetrick won the 2012 Hambletonian with Market Share and drove to second-place finishes with Crazed in 2008 and Smilin Eli in 2013. In 2007 he won a single-season record 1,189 races, is a four-time U.S. Harness Writers Association Driver of the Year (most recently in 2013) and stands fifth all-time in earnings with $182 million. Melander knew of them all while growing up in Sweden, as he stayed up throughout the night to follow the results of United States harness racing while making a name for himself as a driver in Europe. At age 19, Marcus won Sweden’s equivalent to the USHWA’s Rising Star Award and had just over 100 wins before moving to America. Now, he is precariously close to realizing every Standardbred trainer’s dream in what he feels is anyone’s race. “The best horse (Walner) is not in, so it’s like a wide-open race now,” Melander said. “It’s 10 horses that can win it. It was Walner before, who was No. 1, and then numbers two to 10. All of them were as good as each other. It will be the horse with the best trip. You need to be lucky when they draw and everything like that. It’s wide open, really.” Melander feels the set-up, which requires the eliminations and the final to be contested the same day, could favor his horses. The top five finishers in each elimination reach the final. “I think that would be good for both of them because they’re both strong horses,” he said. “I think they are both a hundred percent. I’m very happy with both of them.” Following are the Hambletonian elimination fields. Hambletonian Elimination (race eight) PP-Horse-Sire-Dam Sire-Driver-Trainer-Line 1 - Southwind Woody by Muscle Hill from a Pine Chip mare - Matt Kakaley - Ron Burke - 12/1 2 - Bill’s Man by Credit Winner from a Yankee Glide mare - Corey Callahan - John Butenschoen - 5/1 3 - Guardian Angel AS by Archangel from an Allstar Hall mare - Jason Bartlett - Anette Lorentzon - 10/1 4 - Giveitgasandgo by Yankee Glide from an Andover Hall mare - Corey Callahan - John Butenschoen - 8/1 5 - International Moni by Love You from a Speedy Crown mare - Scott Zeron - Frank Antonacci - 5/2 6 -Stealth Hanover by Andover Hall from a Credit Winner mare - Francisco Del Cid - Francisco Del Cid - 30/1 7 - Victor Gio It by Ready Cash from a Pine Chip mare - Yannick Gingras - Jimmy Takter - 6/1 8 - Long Tom by Muscle Hill from a Windsong’s Legacy mare - Tim Tetrick - Marcus Melander - 3/1 9 - Jake by Muscle Hill from an Andover Hall mare - Dan Dube - Luc Blais - 8/1   Hambletonian Elimination (race nine) PP-Horse-Sire-Dam Sire-Driver-Trainer-Line 1 - What The Hill by Muscle Hill from an Angus Hall mare - David Miller - Ron Burke - 3/1 2 - Seven And Seven by Chapter Seven from a Kadabra mare - David Miller - Tom Durand - 8/1 3 - Sortie by Explosive Matter from a Tagliabue mare - Andy McCarthy - Noel Daley - 10/1 4 -Shake it Off Lindy by Crazed from a Love You mare - Brett Miller - Frank Antonacci - 20/1 5 - Dover Dan by Andover Hall from a Royal Troubador mare - Brian Sears - John Butenschoen - 8/1 6 - Enterprise by Chapter Seven from a SJ’s Caviar mare - Tim Tetrick - Marcus Melander - 9/2 7 - Southwind Cobra by Muscle Hill from a Broadway Hall mare - Yannick Gingras - Ron Burke - 15/1 8 - Achille Duharas by Andover Hall from a Pine Chip mare - Yannick Gingras - Jimmy Takter - 20/1 9 - Devious Man by Credit Winner from a Garland Lobell mare - Andy Miller - Julie Miller-5/2 10 - Perfect Spirit by Andover Hall from a Kadabra mare - Ake Svanstedt - Ake Svanstedt - 12/1   by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent 

Trenton, NJ --- As a father of two, Staffan Lind knows about raising kids; which makes him qualified to assess that training a harness racing 2-year-old colt trotter like Captain Morgan is comparable in certain ways. Captain Morgan is racing in one of two eliminations of the Peter Haughton Memorial Friday night (July 28) at the Meadowlands. The top five finishers from each race advance to the final on Hambletonian Day (Saturday, Aug. 5), at the Big M. “It’s a challenge with 2-year-olds, but when you come this far, it’s basically like having your own kid at graduation,” Lind said. “You try to make improvements in helping them along. It’s similar with dealing with kids, they need the help and you appreciate the maturation as they get better. “There’s a lot of unknown, but that’s the beauty of it too. I think most guys that develop young horses, it’s everything from finding them at the sale and developing them, and trying to figure out which is the best way forward with him.” Lind owns a share of the horse, which was purchased for $47,000 at the Lexington Selected Sale, with Bender Sweden Inc., Roy Holth, and KemppiSuojalampiStable. By Cantab Hall out of Muchness, his original name was Muchadoaboutnothin. But Staffan and Marie Lind felt that a nice glass of rum is much to do about somethin’ and renamed him Captain Morgan. “We were actually talking about naming a horse that,” Staffan said. “That’s my wife’s favorite drink. I like it too. We knew we had to have a good horse to give it that name.” And Lind thinks he has a good one, as this relationship was love at first sight. “I liked this horse from the moment I saw him at the farm in Kentucky,” the trainer said. “I was doing my homework in Kentucky before the sale, it was one of the horses that really jumped out that I liked. Going into the sale I knew that I would try to get him. He’s a big, good-looking horse that I see a lot of potential in. “I liked his build and his gait; the way he was moving in the field and on the video. He reminded me a lot of Billy Flynn, another colt that we had some success with in the past.” Captain Morgan has done little to dismiss those thoughts through his first three starts, where he collected a first and a third with Brett Miller in the sulky. The horse won his debut in a division of the Pennsylvania All-Stars, but made a break in his next race (a PA Sire Stakes event) and finished third in his most recent, also in PASS company. Lind said of his victory, “He was good, he was up front all the time. He just did what he needed to do to win that day.” Things were going well in the second start until he broke. “He left the gate really good and Brett said once he got to the front he kind of relaxed and slowed down by himself; so he kind of lost focus there,” Lind said. “He did that in one of his qualifiers too. You have to keep him on his mind a little bit, but after that he’s usually very fast. “He’s like most 2-year olds, He’s developing as we go, it’s very hard to know who’s going to jump up more than others. I believe because of his size it should be beneficial to be on the big track (this week at the Meadowlands).” One thing the horse does not lack is the art of conversation. He’s one of those animals who’s already worldly at age 2. “He’s a big talker, but he never does anything wrong,” Lind said. “He wants to keep the conversation going with everybody, he’s a very friendly horse and nice to be around. He’s a sweetheart. He never minds his work and he knows everything about life at this point.” Lind is optimistic heading into the Haughton, noting that the horse has developed well in each start and trotted a solid 1:56.3 in his last start at Harrah's Philadelphia. “I think we have him set with the way we want him to race,” Lind said. “We have an outside post (six) but he’s good behind the gate. I think we can get into the top five.” In looking at the big picture, Lind said, “I think he’s a Grand Circuit horse for sure. He’s good sized, I think at this point he hasn’t reached his potential, I think he’s going to improve as we go along.” And if Captain Morgan does well this weekend, perhaps the Linds will celebrate with a yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum? “We will, for sure,” Staffan said with a laugh. For the complete entries for the Peter Haughton Memorial eliminations, click here. by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent 

Trenton, NJ --- Joe Lee is living the dream. He grew up in the Bronx, moved to Yonkers at age 13, and loved harness racing and the New York Yankees every step of the way. In 1995 he became a Yankees batboy at age 15 and, at 37, is assistant equipment manager for baseball’s most glamorous franchise. He became an amateur driver in 2010, won his first race in 2011, and is off to the best start of his career this season with seven wins, three seconds, and two thirds for $31,635 in purses in 36 starts. Since the start of 2015, Lee has garnered 22 of his 27 career wins and has hit the board 65 times after finishing in the money 17 times in his first five years. He owns two horses with former Yankee manager Joe Torre and his mentor, Buzzy Sholty. Along with driving and working in the Yanks clubhouse, Lee is a financial advisor for a firm in West Chester, N.Y. With the Yankees on the road recently, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent Rich Fisher talked to Joe about a wide range of subjects; on everything from John Campbell to Derek Jeter, to comparing great athletes with prized horses; to revealing how a Yankee player once donned his colors in the Yankee Stadium laundry room; to his mind-numbing first race and several other subjects. RF: So what’s been your more pleasant surprise this year -- the young Yankees being in first place or the best start of your driving career?  JL: Probably both. Seeing the Yankees in first place is great and getting to turn to go to the winner’s circle a bunch of times is a lot of fun. RF: What’s been the key to this start of yours? JL: The horses have been pretty good. Good horses make good drivers. I’ve just been lucky enough to put some of the horses in position to win. The rest is up to them and luckily, so far so good. I’ve just had good opportunities from some of the trainers I’ve been driving for. RF: How tough is it for you to get drives? Between being a financial advisor and assistant equipment manager, I would imagine it could be difficult. JL: Right now it hasn’t been hard because I’ve been doing pretty well. A lot of trainers see an opportunity to race in the amateur races because it might be a little softer; their horses don’t have to race as hard to get a piece. I think a lot of trainers have gained a little confidence in me over the years and fortunately I get a lot of phone calls. That’s really nice. I don’t have to go fishing for them. RF: Was it like that from the start? JL: I had some connections in the sport, so it wasn’t terribly hard for me to get some drives. Sometimes you feel the pressure like you have to do good with a horse. The difference between the amateur racing and being catch drivers, is they might be able to sit behind 10 or 12 horses a night and everybody gets to see them a bunch of times. But when you only have one opportunity, just that one race on Friday night, you want to put the horse in the best position possible and if you don’t people say, “Aw man, he can’t drive.” So there’s a little more pressure on that one drive because you can’t make a mistake. RF: What exactly are your days like with the Yankees? How long are you there before the game, how long after? JL: When the Yankees are home, I’ll go to the office first thing in the morning, and stay there until about 1:30 and then I’ll go down to the stadium by 2. I’m at the stadium until around after midnight. Then I’ll be back at the office in the morning. When the team is on the road, then I’m back in the office from 9 to 5. RF: So what are your duties for the Yankees? JL: All the clubhouse guys and equipment managers are in charge of having the equipment ready for the team, like their bats and uniforms have to be ready to go. We’re in charge of the food they’re going to eat. We feed them three times a day. We make decisions on what restaurants are going to come in and cook for us, what they’ll be eating for the day. It goes beyond baseball. We’ll help guys out if their families are in town and they want to go see a Broadway show or go to dinner at a restaurant. We’re making those reservations and getting them the tickets. It’s like being a personal concierge for them. We’re putting out fires all day. RF: I thought that was the job of (Seinfeld’s) George Costanza, the assistant to the traveling secretary. JL: (laughing) It’s sort of the same thing. That position doesn’t exist in real life. There are interns for the traveling secretary but no regular assistant. RF: Well George said a college intern took his place when he was fired. I guess he wasn’t lying.  JL: Basically that’s how it would work if that job did exist. RF: That clubhouse must be a happy place this year. Is it a little different environment from the Core 4 days, when you had a veteran crew that knew it should win, as opposed to a younger bunch that is forging their own name?  JL: The Core 4 weren’t veterans at one time, they were still a Core 4 but very young. I can remember when those guys first came up, and this is very, very similar. I was there back then and I’m seeing a lot of similarities between then and now. There certainly is a buzz in the clubhouse right now, the guys get along very well, there’s a great camaraderie between everybody. Not that there hasn’t been in the last couple years, but this year with a little more youth it’s just a little more of a buzz. Right now the confidence of the team is very high. These guys feel if they’re down two or three runs they know they’re always in it. There were a couple of standout moments this year so far that really showed them they could beat anybody. They beat Chris Sale in Boston. If you can beat Chris Sale in Fenway Park you can beat anybody. And also when they were down 9-1 at home and ended up winning 14-11, that was a huge moment. From there they’ve just been rolling. They’re pretty confident right now. It’s the same thing with the horses. You can have a horse that’s kind of going on his own all the time, but if he wins one race and he comes off a helmet and blows past the field, the next couple of weeks you’ll see a different horse. There’s no question a horse gets brave and so do the ballplayers. RF: I was actually going to ask you that? You’re around them both a lot. Can you compare pro athletes with racehorses? JL: All the time. The biggest comparison is there are some horses that can race week in and week out and deal with the grind of working that hard all the time and there are others that can’t. That’s the same thing in baseball. A lot of time you get players who are so sore and play every single day and they can just go out there and do it for that three-hour period for those nine innings and then worry about the pain tomorrow. And they’re very similar in their workout regiment. It’s very much a routine. Horses jog every day and they train three days out, then they race. The players have their routine. They come in, they watch video, they work out, they go have batting practice, they play the game, they go home. It’s the same thing the next day. It’s very, very similar. RF: Can you assess a horse through watching pro athletes and give tips to trainers?  JL: That’s a good question. I think the trainers have a good idea of what they’re doing. The guys that are surviving this game as long as they have, I don’t tell them what to do. Sometimes if the horse was running out or running in or just didn’t have it or is hitting himself in the race a little, the trainer would want to know that information. But they just take that little feedback and go with it on their own. I just stay out of their way. They’re the ones who are with the horses every day. They know their horses better than anybody. If there is an issue, the next week if you sit behind the same horse they’ll have fixed it. RF: I read where there aren’t any guys on the Yankees that have your interest in harness racing, but do you ever try to get any of them interested? JL: I own a couple of horses with Joe Torre. But a couple of the ballplayers know I race. Just last week, Adam Warren asked if I had raced lately. And we were watching some of my latest races. He gets a kick out of it. He actually keeps saying “I want to come to the races one night and watch you guys race.” I’ll get him out to the racetrack. Phil Hughes (now with the Twins) was always interested in watching me race. One day I was washing my colors at the stadium and I went to get them out of the dryer. He was standing in my colors, wearing them. Helmet and all, he was standing there near the washer and dryer with a whip in his hand. RF: Was he living out a fantasy, or what?  JL: I think it was more mocking me that I would even be doing my laundry in the stadium and that it would be my racing stuff. RF: They always say there’s a lot busting going on in the locker room. JL: Ohhh, believe me, I’m not exempt from it. RF: Brian Cashman’s family was big in the sport of harness racing. Do you ever talk to Brian about it?  JL: His dad ran Lexington for a long time and his brother John was a trainer and driver down in Kentucky for a long, long time. I just saw John Cashman III not too long ago. That’s how Brian met the Steinbrenner family; through harness racing. Brian grew up on a farm. John Cashman was training some of Steinbrenner's horses and they were very friendly. George was involved in both harness racing and Thoroughbred racing. RF: Do you talk to Brian about it much?  JL: Yeah, he asks me all the time “Have you won anything, when’s your next drive?” But he was never into the sport as much as his brother and father were. They were real, real horsemen, and Brian was more into baseball. RF: So with the hours you put in between investment finance and especially with the Yankees at home, some guys would say that’s enough and just relax on the couch. But you’re running out there getting in a sulky during free time. Harness racing must truly be a passion for you.  JL: I grew up loving the sport. My parents owned a couple trotters when I was a kid, we would go to the races all the time. Every Friday and Saturday night I was at the racetrack. I was the kid down at the fence, asking the drivers of the last two races if I could get their whip, stuff like that. Finally I said I have to see what it’s like to sit behind one, and the moment I sat behind one and jogged one, I gave up riding from there. It is a passion. To this day I don’t care if I’m 100-1 or 2-5; when the wings of the gate open, and the starter at any track -- and last year I drove at 13 tracks -- calls you and says “All right guys, get them together, bring them to the gate,” it’s a huge rush. There is just a rush of having the horse’s nose on the gate alongside eight to 10 other horses to your left and right. It’s just the competitiveness to try and win a race. To win something that you were just a spectator at your whole life, it was like all of a sudden today you were asked to play shortstop for the Yankees because Didi Gregorius couldn’t play. Who wouldn’t go out there and grab their glove and try to win the game with the team? Unfortunately we’re not a team with the other horses and drivers in the race, but you’re a team with the horse that you’re driving and it’s a lot of fun to try and get along with a horse that someone puts you on. You see that even in the pros. You’ll see one guy drives a horse every now and then and another guy drives the same horse every now and then and sometimes for some reason that horse responds to that one guy better than the other. I love that this Karets wasn’t winning early in the year and when I jumped on him he won three of his next four starts (for me). I just get along with that horse; he’s always relaxed for me. Just things like that, you look forward to. It’s almost like, when you get along with them, they know that you’re driving. It’s like “Oh, I’m going to put in a good effort for this guy today.” You almost get that feeling sometimes. It’s just the rush of it. I must have watched 100,000 races in my life before I finally sat behind one. To finally be in the same game. . . I’ve driven in a lot of the pro races before I did the amateur races just because of my schedule; and to go behind the gate and to your left is Jason Bartlett and to your right is George Brennan or Brian Sears or Jim Taggart or Bruce Aldrich. All these guys that have thousands and thousands of wins; and there you’re sitting. But there’s a chance you can beat that guy. Some of these guys are living Hall of Famers and you can beat them on any given day in any given race, and there’s a thrill in that. RF: Yeah, whether it happens or not, you have the chance to do it.  JL: Exactly. You have the ability to be on the same playing field as the guy you were betting on 100 times. I could practice every day for the rest of my life and I’m never going to be on the field at the stadium. But this is a sport where you can be at a professional level with the pros. If you try a little bit and work at getting your license and taking the test and doing what you have to do to get there, who could turn that opportunity down? To say “OK, John Campbell’s got $299 million in purses, but I might beat him in just this one race.” I never look at it like I’m trying to catch these guys. I’m never going to catch David Miller in wins or Dave Palone in earnings. But for that one race if I happen to be behind the gate with them on that particular day, I’ve got the same shot as anybody else. RF: Can you describe your emotions in your very first race?  JL: Joe Holloway gave me my first qualifying drive and, (laughing), it’s so funny, the difference between watching a race and being in it was nothing like I expected. To this day the whole thing was a total blur. It was at Freehold Raceway. All I could remember was that the starting gate disappeared; I had no idea where the starting car went after he let us go. I had the three hole and all I could think was, get down to the rail, and you just don’t even know what you are doing during the race. After watching a million races in my life, all of a sudden I had no idea where the quarter pole was, the half, the three-quarter. That oval became a total maze for me. It’s so different. It’s just a different perspective from watching it on TV, or on the apron of the track. All of a sudden you’re being swarmed by seven other horses leaving the gate at the same time. It was just total chaos to me because it sped up in my eyesight so fast. It looked so fast to me. I felt like we were going 150 miles an hour. I didn’t even know where I was. Thank God the horse knew to keep turning left. RF: (laughing hysterically) I take it things got better after that?  JL: Well yeah, now I think after so many drives the past few years, it slows down. The race is definitely slower in my eyes. I never feel it’s speeding out of control and because of that I think it’s taught me a lot of patience on the racetrack. You can make decisions easier when it looks slower in your eye. I can remember Joe Torre telling that to players. When games got away from players it was always because the game sped up in front of them and caused them to make errors, whereas a Derek Jeter always saw the game in slow motion, that’s how he could make those decisions and just look better than everyone else. He was able to keep the game at a regular pace in his eye. RF: Let’s go a step beyond. Describe the feeling after the first win. JL: My first pari-mutuel win was at Monticello on a horse that I owned, a pacer called Bad Obsession. I had driven her in a regular race. April Aldrich was training her for me up there. She was the favorite, I got away fourth or fifth, came first over and she grinded it out for me the rest of the way. My first pari-mutuel win was against the pros up there in Monticello. RF: What was that feeling like when you came across the line?  JL: You just try to enjoy the ride down the stretch. I knew I had the race won. I had gotten clear so I knew they weren’t going to catch me. You just can’t believe you’re going to be the guy going back to the winner’s circle. It’s never about the money. It doesn’t matter if you’re racing for $2,500 or $200,000, a win is a win. So yeah, it’s a great thrill. My parents were there to see that, that was nice. When you win one, you cannot wait to get behind the next one and try to win the next race because it’s such a great feeling. Who doesn’t want to repeat that feeling all the time? In amateur racing we’re pretty much racing twice a week at either Yonkers or Monticello. And every week they’re gracious enough to put a card up at the Meadowlands, so you’re getting two to three starts a week. It’s not easy to win a race at any time. You’ve got to enjoy them when they happen. They don’t happen all the time. RF: I know Buzzy Sholty tutored you, but exactly what did he mean to your career? Is it a stretch to say he made it all possible?  JL: Every bit of it. A hundred percent of it. He was the one that let me come down and start driving his horses. He knew I had a horse background when I was show jumping, so he was comfortable letting me jog his horses. Then we started training, and he helped me get my license. He introduced me to enough people that I could start making the connections to start talking to other trainers or owners about getting qualifying drives. We have a great relationship. I talk to Buzzy every day. He’s like a brother to me. I wouldn’t be racing at all if it wasn’t for Buzzy and Mike Sorrentino Jr. Those are guys that were lifelong guys in the horse business and they carry a lot of weight. A lot of people in the business know them and if they ask for a little help in letting me drive a horse, people were willing to do it for them, and that’s how I got the opportunity. RF: You became a Yankee batboy at age 15 so I’m guessing you were a big baseball fan. Were you as big a harness racing fan as baseball?  JL: A bigger harness racing fan than baseball. I was always into horses. There wasn’t a vacation I didn’t go on where we didn’t go horseback riding or I wasn’t show jumping horses or we were not at a racetrack. I’ve probably been at every track in this country, both Thoroughbred and harness. RF: Being into the sport as much as you are, was it as big a thrill to meet guys like Brian Sears and Tim Tetrick as it was to be in the same clubhouse as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera?  JL: Definitely! When you work with somebody every day, the novelty of that kind of wears off. Being in the clubhouse every day with Derek Jeter was kind of like, really no big deal. But the first time I met John Campbell I was 16 years old and he was sitting right outside the dugout. He was driving some horses for George Steinbrenner. I knew who he was, I was in my uniform bat boy-ing and I asked the team photographer to take a picture of John and I. John gave me his card and said “Send it to me when you get it developed, I’ll sign it and send it back to you.” I’ve known John since I was 16 and John and I became close friends. John helped me along the way too. Seeing John Campbell at the game, for me that was better than seeing Mickey Mantle (laughing). I didn’t care that Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter or Bernie Williams was in the dugout. I was like “John Campbell’s here today, who cares about Mariano Rivera!” I’m eating lunch and dinner with those guys every day. That’s boring compared to meeting John Campbell right outside the dugout. That was great. RF: What would you consider the highlight of your career?  JL: I would say three. My first win at the Meadowlands was the Hambletonian Amateur Race. I won that for Mark Ford with Upfrontstrikesgold. That was fun. Last year with winning the (Billings Amateur Series) Silver Cup down at (Harrah’s Philadelphia) with Captain Primeau, that was a lot of fun. The biggest thrill would be I got to beat the pros at Monticello one day in the mud and paid $183 to win. I beat Jim Taggart at the wire and was 90-something to one. That was (2015). I had driven the horse (Blowout) the week before and he was so bad, he wanted to go back to the paddock after the half. The next week, at the three-quarter pole, he still felt like he had something left and I started moving him. I tipped three wide and he was coming and I was like “Wow, I’m going to hit the board” and down the stretch I’m like “My God I might win this thing.” I turned to Jim Taggart at the wire and said “Did I get you?” and he said “Yeah, you got me.” His name was Blowout. It’s really a lot of fun when you think that you have no chance and all of a sudden the horse wakes up. RF: What do you see in your future?  JL: I would do the amateurs as long as I can. When one fits that I can win with, whether it be my own or somebody else asks me to drive, even if it’s a pro race, I’m all for that too. I’m always up for that challenge to race against the pros. It’s a different type of racing. The pro races play out different than the amateur races. They race a lot tighter and they’re a little pushier on the track, but I like that. I’ll be on both if the opportunities come. RF: Are you where you want to be at this point in your career?  JL: Right now I don’t think I would change a thing. I love being able to race as much as I’m racing. Last year was a thrill. I logged so many miles last year between winning a race at the Little Brown Jug in Ohio, to going to Canada to race, and this winter we raced a few down in New Zealand. RF: New Zealand!  JL: I never thought that going to Buzzy Sholty’s farm to just jog a horse on a Saturday morning would ever lead me to racing in New Zealand. That’s ridiculous when you think about it. You have to be half a nut job to even want to do all this and fly all these places and spend the money and pay for hotels. Here I traveled all the way to New Zealand. You’re talking an 18, 19 hour time difference, for two or three races. For six minutes worth of races! Short of landing on the moon to go race, what else is next? (On the New Zealand trip) my parents tagged along. We went to Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. We made a three-week trip out of it. I was not flying all the way to New Zealand for three races. That would have been nuts. These trips cost money, but at the same time, how do you put a price on going behind a racehorse? I can’t put a price on that. To me it’s worth every penny. by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent   

Trenton, NJ --- Harness racing driver Mattias Melander doesn’t consider himself to be a master at driving in slop. “It doesn’t matter too much for me,” he said. “Of course everybody loves when it’s a good track. But it’s just another day.” Well, that’s not necessarily true. At least it was not on May 5, when the 20-year-old gained his first two career victories on the rain-drenched track at Freehold Raceway. After going 0-for-31 in starts over his first two seasons, the Swedish import drove 13-year-old trotter Captain Primeau to an easy win. “I had post three, it was a rainy day, but he had a good post,” Melander said. “I wanted to get in the lead and try and get him there as good as possible. I got the lead and it could not have gone better. We just got the lead and never got interfered with from that point.” For Mattias, it was the end of an aggravating drought. “It got a little frustrating,” he said. “But I took my time and it finally came. It meant a lot. I’ve been here almost a year and a half and I’ve been waiting for that win. It felt great.” And not just for himself. As an assistant trainer for Jimmy Takter, Melander is friends with Captain Primeau’s co-owner/trainer Conny Svensson, who is Takter’s blacksmith. Svensson owns the horse with his wife Anneli. “I was mostly happy for Conny,” Melander said. “I know how happy he gets. But it was a little bit of relief for me.” It was only the fourth time Mattias had driven Captain Primeau, but he was familiar with the horse from being around him and from talking to Svensson about him. Later that day, Melander drove Wygant Princess to victory. The 6-year-old trotter is owned and trained by Mattias’ big brother, Marcus, and is the horse Marcus got his first Meadowlands victory with. “That’s basically the only horse I’ve been racing besides the couple times I drove Captain Primeau,” Melander said. “To get her to win was great. I know how much she fights. I was happy for her to get her win too.” Marcus, who came to America from Stockholm before his younger brother, works with his family at the old Stanley Dancer stables in New Egypt, now renamed Melander Stables. While Marcus would stay up all hours to watch live reports on American harness racing, Mattias was a bit more subdued. But he still loved horses since the family always had them. When the Melanders moved to the U.S., Mattias stayed behind. He attended high school for one year before going to work at his uncle’s stable at age 16. “I just felt that’s what I wanted to do my whole life,” Melander said. Marcus initially worked for Takter and when Mattias came over for vacation he would visit the East Windsor, N.J. stables. “Marcus always followed it more than I did, but when I went back home I obviously started following him and Jimmy more closely,” Melander said. After a few trips to Takter’s farm, it was decided that Mattias would come over and work for the Hall of Fame trainer. “My family had had been wanting me to go over and work with Marcus and work for Takter,” said Mattias, who does farm work for his family after completing his day. “It took me a while to eventually get here, and once I got here I started working the day after I came. Working for Takter has been a really great experience for me. It’s probably the best teacher you can have.” In what ways? “Just the way he trains his horses,” Melander said. “All his opinions, everything like that. You just learn a lot when you’re there.” Since they work with most of the horses, Mattias has done some training of Dan Patch Award-winner Ariana G, among numerous others. “We switch around a lot, so we get to know all the horses, and we pretty much drive all the horses in the stable,” he said. Mattias would like to be both a driver and trainer and is hoping to get more drives. At the moment he is mostly driving qualifiers. He says he’s still developing his style. One thing is certain, however. His current job has accelerated his progress. “I moved to work here with Takter, so I think (my career) has been going much further than where I thought I would be at this time,” he said. “So, that’s good.” by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

Between running their own breeding business together, along with their own separate real estate companies, Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld don't really have time to work themselves into frenzied anticipation for the harness racing season debut of their prized female trotter. That being said, Katz has not completely pushed Ariana G's 3-year-old season opener Friday at the Meadowlands to the recesses of his mind. "Both Al and I are very busy in our own business," Katz said. "We've experienced it enough to not think about it too much, and we haven't. We're very involved at this time of the year on the breeding side of things with foals; matings are going on, we're making preparations for the yearling sale. That really takes a lot of our time and attention in addition to our professional careers, which are demanding." However. . . "I can't help but say I've been thinking about her returning and looking forward to it for sure," Katz continued. "She's a very special horse so we're excited and looking forward to that. She has unlimited potential. She's a very exciting horse. I think in the eyes of many she's a very special horse as well." She was special enough to win the 2016 Dan Patch Award for best 2-year-old filly trotter after winning nine of 11 races and earning $743,967 in purses. Trained by Jimmy Takter and driven by Yannick Gingras, Ariana G won the Breeders Crown for 2-year-old filly trotters, the Jim Doherty Memorial, the Peaceful Way Stakes and New Jersey Sire Stakes championship. In March, Takter told Hoof Beats magazine "I don't think I ever had a better 2-year-old trotting filly." Bred and owned by Katz and Libfeld, Ariana G opens her campaign in a division of the New Jersey Sire Stakes with Gingras back in the sulky. She will start from post No. 3 and is the even-money favorite on the morning line after prepping with two qualifiers. In the first she went 1:56 with a last quarter-mile of :27.1 in finishing second to Magic Presto, and in the second on May 6, she won in 1:55.1 with a :27.2 last quarter. "She was well in hand doing that," said Katz, a Toronto resident who watched replays of both races. "Yannick didn't pop the earplugs or anything like that. So she's still got very good speed. "She also sat in the pocket around the top of the turn and she really accelerated. Her ability to turn on her speed when she starts accelerating is very dramatic. Yannick has commented about that in the past and that was certainly evident in her qualifier." So far, everything looks good to go with the filly. "From what Jimmy Takter said, he's totally pleased with the way she's come back," Katz said. "He's very excited and we're looking forward to her performance." What is interesting to note, is that the last three female trotters to be named the Dan Patch Award winner at age 2 -- Broadway Donna in 2015, Mission Brief in '14 and Shake It Cerry in '13 -- and four of the last five (Check Me Out in 2011) all came back to win the award at age 3. Takter has had three trotting fillies -- Shake It Cerry, Pampered Princess (2006-07) and Passionate Glide (2005-06) -- win Dan Patch awards as 2- and 3-year-olds. Katz feels it's not just a coincidence, noting that when outstanding horses have such a head start in ability early in life, it is tough for the next level to close that gap in just one year. "In the case of trotters in general, particularly if you have horses at the level that are winning Dan Patch Awards and so forth, all things being equal there's going to be improvement between the 2-year-old and the 3-year-old year, just because of the maturity, strength and experience," Katz said. "When a horse is really at the top of their class it's very difficult for an inexperienced horse to make up that much ground that quickly. "There's exception to every rule, of course, but typically, the horses that were the dominant 2-year-olds will be among the dominant 3-year-olds. Horses like Ariana G and horses that had very high speeds as 2-year-olds, if there's improvement they're up near record performances at that point if the normal maturity process takes hold." And while Ariana G's connections are certainly hoping for big things and have her staked in everything, they aren't making any bold plans or predictions past this weekend. "We'll go one race at a time, see how she goes on Friday night," said Katz, who with Libfeld was named 2016 Dan Patch Breeders of the Year. "Hopefully it's a good first outing for her and we'll go from there. I would hope we go through the New Jersey Sire Stakes program and get through the two races and the final, and then see what happens." * * * Nine Hambletonian-eligible male trotters will be in action Friday at the Meadowlands as the New Jersey Sire Stakes season gets underway. There are two divisions of NJSS for 3-year-old male trotters, with a total of 13 horses. The first division, a six-horse group, includes Hambletonian eligibles Fly On, Southwind Woody, Long Tom, and Deacon Tony. The second includes Hambletonian eligibles King On The Hill, What The Hill, New Jersey Viking, Southwind Cobra, and Signal Hill. What The Hill, from the stable of trainer Ron Burke, won last year's New Jersey Sire Stakes championship for 2-year-old male trotters and the Peter Haughton Memorial. ROAD TO THE HAMBLETONIAN A look at open stakes for 3-year-old male trotters and state-restricted stakes featuring Hambletonian eligibles Date - Track - Event - First - Second - Third May 6 - Freehold - Dexter Cup - Lord Cromwell - Gustavo Fring - Southwind Cobra Hambletonian eligible in bold. by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent  

Trenton, NJ --- Co-owner Frank Baldachino was already excited to watch his million-dollar mare’s seasonal harness racing debut this weekend, and events from the past week have ratcheted that excitement up a few extra levels. Coming off a breakout campaign in which she won the 2016 Dan Patch Award for best older female trotter, Hannelore Hanover starts her 5-year-old season Sunday in the $86,400 Miami Valley Distaff for older female trotters at Miami Valley Raceway in Ohio. Hannelore Hanover won last year’s Distaff in a track-record time of 1:52.3. She will not, however, line up behind the gate as the record-holder as 4-year-old Kestrel set the new standard of 1:52.1 at Miami Valley on April 29. Thus, the two most recent record-holders will go at it Sunday on the track they own. “What was shaping up to be maybe not the most dramatic and dynamic race of the season could be really interesting and really exciting this Sunday for everybody involved,” said Baldachino, who owns Hannelore Hanover in partnership with trainer Ron Burke, the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, and J&T Silva Stables. “We thought Bee A Magician and Mission Brief would be back this year, but unfortunately they both got hurt and they’re both retired. Kestrel kind of stepped up. They talk about the next man up. This will be the next mare up.” The central New Jersey resident sees some similarities between the two trotters. “If you look back at her 2- and 3-year-old seasons in Ohio, she (Kestrel) has a lot of the same characteristics that Hannelore had,” Baldachino said. “She looks like one of the best ones out there in Ohio at 2 and 3. And she’s come back pretty well after an extended vacation at 4. She set that track record pretty handy on the front end.” And while that lends to some nice build-up for the race, the bigger anticipation will be how Hannelore Hanover looks in her first start of 2017. If it’s anything like last year, look out. In 2016, the mare won 17 of 20 races and finished second twice to earn $1.11 million. She finished one vote behind Marion Marauder for Trotter of the Year. For her career, Hannelore Hanover has earned $1.42 million, hitting the board 38 times in 41 starts, with 26 victories. That wasn’t really the plan when the ownership group ponied up an extra $2,000 to purchase the Indiana-sired horse for $32,000 at the 2013 Standardbred Horse Sale. Then again, it’s always nice when a plan doesn’t work out in this kind of way. “She kind of caught us all off guard,” Baldachino said. “Not the fact she was a good horse, but of the way she did it. Me, Ronnie and Mark all knew she was a nice horse. We thought as a 3-year-old she was Ronnie’s second-best trotting filly behind Mission Brief, so that says a lot right there.” Her performance said even more. Last year’s victories included several against the boys, such as the Hambletonian Maturity, Baldachino’s personal favorite since it came at his home track at the Meadowlands, and the Centaur Trotting Classic. She also won the Breeders Crown, the Armbro Flight, TVG Series Mares championship, Fresh Yankee and Muscle Hill. In further competition against the boys, she won an elimination for the Maple Leaf Trot and finished second in the final. Baldachino felt her “total coming out party” was when she equaled the world record of 1:51 while setting the Canadian record at the Armbro Flight at Mohawk. “She ran away and hid from that field in (1):51,” Baldachino said, adding about driver Yannick Gingras, “He could have gone faster if he had to. Right then and there I knew we had something really special. And the Meadowlands race (Hambletonian Maturity) kind of just reiterated that.” Talk about exceeding expectations. And when asked, Baldachino didn’t mind talking about that at all. “I thought she’d be a nice horse, maybe dabble around in a couple of Grand Circuit stakes for the mares because you did have Bee A Magician, you did have Mission Brief, you did have some really top quality horses you had to race against. “We knew she could compete against those types but whether she could win was another story. She didn’t only win but she usually devoured the competition and won pretty handy. We’re really looking forward to this year. We think there’s a lot more things to come. She’s bigger and she’s stronger.” Baldachino feels Hannelore Hanover at age 5 is entering her peak years. “We think this should be the year she should come full circle,” Baldachino said. “If we see a little improvement from 4 to 5, you could be seeing some world-record performances and some performances no trotting mares have ever seen before. “She’s bigger; she’s a real big, strong filly. She’s long gaited, just put together great. You couldn’t ask for a more put together female trotter than what’s there.” The mare is eligible for every major trot race for both boys and girls this year, but was held out of Saturday’s Arthur J. Cutler Memorial because Burke wanted to start her out with a few girls-only races. By making herself eligible for the boys’ races this year, Hannelore Hanover has saved her owners close to $110,000 in supplement money that they had to pay last year. “That will probably make our decision a little easier to drop her in against the boys, if she’s in top condition and racing well,” Baldachino said. “(As to) how much she will race, we’ll take it one week at a time and one start at a time. If she comes out of Miami Valley good and sound and healthy, she has Miss Versatility next (first leg at Mohawk on May 22). “We have a lot more Grand Circuit stuff between Mohawk and the Meadowlands and Hoosier. I’m sure there will be some 4-year-olds that come out of the woodwork this year that were good last year. And we’ll play it by ear. One week at a time; one race at a time. But she’s in everything.” In addition to her North American stakes, Hannelore Hanover is under consideration for Sweden’s prestigious Elitlopp at the end of May, but Burke said it was “50-50” whether he would accept an invitation for the mare. “I’m leaning toward no,” Burke said. “It puts the Armbro Flight a little bit in jeopardy and that’s a very important race to her. But I do appreciate it because you don’t get these opportunities all the time to go over there and have a chance to be competitive. And I think she would be very competitive. I won’t say no, but 50-50 at best. I love the idea, but it’s a matter of making her schedule work.” For now, the focus is on Sunday. Hannelore Hanover drew post three in the field of seven and will have Gingras in the sulky. “Yannick said she’s qualified super both times,” Baldachino said. “We expect her to race really well in her first start. She’ll be ready. We’re not going to gun her by any means; it’s her first start back. “She’ll be ready with whatever she has to line up on the gate with. We expect her to race real well. The two horses to beat are the ones inside of us, beside her. It looks like she drew a good spot to stalk, hopefully come on late or a quarter-pole move and maybe play catch me if you can. That might be the way to go. But you leave that up to Yannick.” That has certainly been a winning formula so far. Following is the Miami Valley Distaff field in post order with listed drivers and trainers. The race is No. 9 on Sunday’s card, with a 4:45 p.m. estimated post time. PP-Horse-Sire-Driver-Trainer 1 - Churita - Airzoom Lindy - Trace Tetrick-Matt Rheinheimer 2 - Kestrel - Triumphant Caviar - Josh Sutton-Chris Beaver 3 - Hannelore Hanover - Swan For All - Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke 4 - South Side Hanover - Cantab Hall - TBA-Paul Fusco 5 - Flowers N Songs - Deweycheatumnhowe - Jim Pantaleano-Rich Gillock 6 - Barn Girl - Cash Hall - Aaron Merriman-William Bercury 7 - Charmed Life - Majestic Son - Louis-Philippe Roy-Rene Allard by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

Trenton, NJ --- To say that Marta Piotrow took the standard route to becoming a harness racing trainer would be your standard false statement. It’s a little more complicated than your basic “My family was in the business, I just always loved it and wanted to do it,” story. To start with, it took the 33-year-old Poland native seven years to go from her initial horseback ride to riding regularly. Her goal growing up was to be a veterinarian or mounted police officer and that altered when she developed an interest in teaching and breeding. Before fulfilling final graduate requirements for a Master’s in Animal Science at Michigan State University, she landed a position managing broodmares and foals while teaching equine science classes. It was at that point she developed an interest in Standardbreds, but before going full speed ahead into training she worked to achieve higher pregnancy rates at Allerage Farms in Pennsylvania. That lasted until 2016, when Marta got her trainer’s license and took on training as a fulltime profession. In 19 starts last season her horses took four seconds and three thirds. On Jan. 5, Marta hit the win column for the first time when her horse, Doc, won at Monticello Raceway. Five days later, Winbak Prince won at Monticello, giving her two wins in a row to start off the 2017 season. “I was really happy to start the New Year with my first start being a win,” Piotrow said. It was the culmination of a long haul. Marta’s parents both rode English and hunter jumpers in Poland, and her first ride on a horse came when her mother was pregnant with her. Once born, she climbed atop one on her own at age 7 and quickly fell in love with it. At 13, her father, a successful automotive mechanical engineer, was recruited by General Motors and the family relocated to Detroit in 1997. “The adjustment was easy for me,” Marta said. “I jumped two grades and was lucky enough to have a private English tutor when growing up to learn the language. All I had to do was pick up the accent, which came natural with age.” With her interest in horses already piqued, Marta decided to forego criminal justice and attended Michigan State to major in animal science and equine science and management. “I developed an interest in breeding horses and potentially teaching,” she said. “So instead of working toward a veterinary future I was offered to stay on for a Master’s in Animal Science with a focus on equine reproduction.” Before obtaining her degree, Piotrow took a job at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pa., as an assistant Standardbred Manager. It involved some classroom instruction and broodmare management of the Standardbred facility on campus. She managed broodmares and foals and helped Manager Fred Hofsaess with stallions and yearlings. Marta was promoted to manager when Fred retired. She taught courses in stable management, mare and foal management, stallion management and yearling management, “some of which I had developed and expanded and added to the new teaching curriculum.” While working at Delaware Valley, Marta took a personal interest in the breed she needed to understand for teaching purposes and breeding, which were Standardbreds. Hofsaess recommended some training centers for her to look into, which she pursued and began working with folks in their barns and on the track. She also began to paddock horses at nearby Harrah’s Philadelphia. “Shortly, I adopted a Laag Standardbred broodmare and went on to buy my first yearling in partnership and everything started to come together from there,” Piotrow said. “More involvement was more knowledge and more love for the sport. I was not lucky enough to grow up in this business, I had to work extra hard for anything I needed to learn, whether it was work for no pay or low pay in the beginning, I didn't care. I sucked it up to get better and stay involved and learn.” Marta was mentored by some top trainers, as she started out with Nancy and Marcus Johansson and moved on to Trond Smedshammer, who taught her about training young horses and developing more skill on the track. In 2015, Meadowlands boss Jeff Gural was looking for help at his Allerage Farms in Pennsylvania. Gural wanted someone with experience to achieve higher pregnancy rates with foals and yearling prep. It was not the easiest of choices. “I was a good fit and it was also a good fit for me at the time personally but I had to give up training for Trond, and that was a tough call,” Marta said. “I just started to be comfortable there, Trond was great to work for and I was learning a lot.” She eventually took the job and remained there from January 2015 to June 2016. She now owns and trains two horses -- Winbak Prince and Doc -- in a partnership with her boyfriend, driver Anthony Napolitano. They are stabled at Anthony’s farm in Nescopeck, Pa. “I’m starting small but looking to grow in the business,” Piotrow said. “I no longer work at Allerage, but Jeff had been very supportive of me while I was there and encouraged my continued involvement.” Marta qualified Winbak Prince twice in 2016 as a driver and said, “You can certainly look forward to me driving a little more in 2017. I love to drive.” Napolitano usually drives their horses but is taking the winter off. Thus, Michael Merton was in the sulky when Doc gave the trainer her first win at Monticello. “He was just coming off a decent second the week prior,” Piotrow said. “He drew the three hole, a much better post for him on a half (-mile track). Michael gave him the perfect trip and Doc was good until the end, finishing strong. This little horse has been really good to us so far. He is hard working and tough and has been showing a lot of class.” In looking toward the future, Marta said she hopes to drive her own horses one day, but added with a laugh, “I will leave the owners’ horses to the professionals.” At the rate she is going after the circuitous route she took, Piotrow has become a pretty classy professional in her own right. And this journey is just beginning. by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

Sam Cohen isn’t your typical high school student when it comes to working a part-time job. He’s not flipping burgers or selling movie tickets at the Multiplex. Actually, he isn’t even making any money, though the work he does is priceless. He’s loving every minute of it and a lot of harness racing horses in need are getting a huge boost thanks to his effort. Cohen has become the face of Halters for Hope, a non-profit organization that supports Standardbred adoption groups through the buying and selling of halters once worn by famous horses. “It’s been really awesome,” Cohen said. “I’ve been meeting a lot of new people that basically have the same goal as me, wanting to help horses and people that love horses. I just love interacting with people like that.” Halters for Hope was started in 2009 by Sam’s father, Standardbred owner Andrew Cohen, and Moira Fanning of the Hambletonian Society. With Sam’s help, they ask for donations of used halters from famous horses and sell them. The purchasers then write out a check that goes directly to a rotating list of Standardbred adoption groups. “My dad just wanted to figure out a way to rescue Standardbreds and help the ones that had been rescued,” Cohen said. “He came up with the idea when he had some old halters from his dad (Edward), and he thought, ‘Wow these are really cool, maybe I can do something with this,’ and it just kind of came to him. “He’s always been interested in horses, he grew up in Montreal. His dad owned racehorses. I think he wanted to do it because my mom (Laura Riese) has owned horses. I think horses really run in the family and he really cares about them.” The Cohens live in Greenwood Village, Colo., a mere 10 minutes from Denver. When the program began, Sam was just 10, so his dad laid most of the foundation. But he asked Sam to come with him when he was making his pitch. “He showed me the ropes, basically,” Cohen said. “I was confused because I didn’t understand why people would want so much for halters of horses. All these halters were so much money, I was really amazed. As I’ve gotten older and gotten more into the harness racing scene I thought ‘Wow this is really cool.’” When Sam entered Cherry Creek High School as a freshman, Andrew began to give him more responsibility. Now a senior, Cohen is in charge of maintaining the Halters for Hope Facebook page, while also writing letters to the trainers, owners and breeders to see if they would be interested in selling halters. “I started typing them up in ninth grade,” said Cohen, who is a member of the CCHS chess team and tennis team. “I get good grades in English; I can write.” In his correspondence, Sam introduces the organization as a good cause, promising to get the money from the sales into the right hands. “We just give a lot of background on ourselves and on our cause,” he said. “Most trainers and owners really like it, so they’ll contribute in any way they can.” Cohen sends the actual letters or e-mails, and each one is personalized. Andrew and Sam both research whom they might want to contact. “Some of the people he knows, and he can get me some information on them,” Cohen said. “But if there’s a really nice halter out there, I’ll research that person, research that area and just see if I can get to know anything about them before I write to them.” Cohen also handles follow up thank you notes to donors. And who are the main targets? “Horses that are finished racing and have had an outstanding career,” Cohen said. “Those are more profitable for the non-profits.” Since the program began, Halters for Hope has sold approximately 50 halters and raised around $10,000. The halters have ranged in price between $150 and $400. Some of the more famous halters that have been sold or are available for sale belonged to Matt's Scooter, Loyal Opposition, Continentalvictory, Father Patrick, Somebeachsomewhere, Bettor's Delight, Mr Muscleman, Forrest Skipper, Camtastic, See You At Peelers, Bunny Lake and broodmares D Train, Rich N Elegant and Hattie. The full list of what halters are available can be found on the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/haltersforhope/. Cohen said they try to spread the funding around with the charities, and do some due diligence to ensure the money is well spent. “We’ve been working with a bunch of people to make sure these are legitimate organizations that we’re donating to. We’ve worked with the USTA and with Moira to make sure we are sending money to the right organizations.” Cohen said that in the future, they might expand the inventory, but for now they are happy to stick with halters. “It’s definitely going better than we could have hoped,” Cohen said. “We didn’t know how passionate people were who want collectible halters, how much they’re willing to pay and how much the horses in need, need that money. It’s just a good feeling.” Sam’s duties may be curtailed slightly by next fall, as he is currently applying to colleges in Colorado and on the West Coast, and hopes to end up in Oregon. “I like the rain,” he said. And although his endeavors in harness racing right now are limited to fundraising and operations for Halters for Hope, Cohen is not completely ruling it out for stepped-up involvement later in life. “My dad has been trying to get me interested all my life,” he said. “It kind of runs in the family. I don’t want to say I won’t be interested. You never know. Doing this definitely piques my interest because I love horses and I see all the good that this does. And I like watching the races with my dad, especially when he gets into it, it’s really funny.” by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

Clay Craib is turning into the self-made harness racing man. “When I say my last name is Craib, everyone’s like ‘Where were you raised at?’” he said. “I say I was raised in Anderson (Indiana) but I wasn’t raised in this business. I’m kind of making my own name for myself.” Unlike so many other drivers and trainers in the sport, the 21-year-old didn’t have a father, or grandfather, or uncle or cousin or mother or sister who had any ties to harness racing. He’s a guy who just loved horses as a kid and always wanted to race Standardbreds. His dream is slowly coming to fruition. On Nov. 17, Craib got his first driving win with Pan Full Of Money at Hollywood Dayton Raceway. It was his first success in 33 attempts after getting several thirds. “I was stuck there on third for a little while and couldn’t get past it,” he said. “But it kept building my confidence up, that’s for sure. Each time I got done racing a horse, I would go back and watch and see where I messed up. I would see if I should have moved him a little later or sooner for the stretch drive. I try to watch and learn by all my mistakes, basically. “I learned where to get away and where not to be. In my last start I was a little too aggressive.” Craib has been aggressively pursuing this career since boyhood, although the closest he got to the track was when his parents took him to Hoosier Park. “When I was 6, 7 years old I remember running up and down the fence when the horses were coming across the wire,” he said. “One night, it was the very last race of the night. I just happened to ask Andy Miller for his whip, and he threw it over the winner’s circle. I still have it!” Craib did not live on a farm, but grew up within an area that had plenty of Standardbred farms and he would visit them frequently as he got older. “I would just ride horses,” he said. “Barrel horses, rodeo horses, stuff like that. I just always liked horses. I was working with them, I was young still and I wasn’t training them at the time. I just kind of started out doing leg wraps, and cleaning stalls and stuff like that. I guess they saw I had a desire and wanted to do it and just gave me a little more leeway.” When he was still in high school (he was home schooled), trainer Walter Haynes invited Craib to work with him during the summer. Haynes was impressed by the youngster’s dedication and the two eventually bought a horse together that they raced at county fairs. “He asked me if I was a gambling man,” Craib said. “I said ‘Sure’ so we bought a horse. He said ‘I’ll start showing you some stuff and see if you can do it.’ That’s how it all started. I wasn’t getting a paycheck, but I helped him with his horses and he didn’t charge me stall rent or feed bill or anything like that.” The horse -- Bens Beach Boy -- was a 2-year-old pacer bought from trainer Steve Carter. Craib jogged and trained him, Haynes drove him and “he was actually the first horse that made me some money.” Several more owners started letting Craib take care of their horses and at a certain point he decided, “Well heck, if I could do it for them, I could do it for myself.” Owner Marlin Fry also liked Craib and allowed him to jog his first horse, Norma Rockwell, who is now the mother of Indiana Sire Stakes winner Nora Rockwell. Craib then became friendly with owner Jerry Schwartz, who he had bought a yearling from. Schwartz was impressed with the job Clay did with the horse, and started sending him more to train. “That took time out of working for other trainers,” Craib said. “I felt ‘Well, here’s the real world. Time to put on the big boy boots.’” Craib got his training license and driver’s license in 2015. He started driving in some qualifiers near the end of the Hoosier Park meet, but not as many as he wanted. “It kind of took me a little while,” he said. “And then a couple people asked me if I wanted to qualify some horses for them. I did, and I just took my time and tried to do my best at it.” This past season Craib drove the four horses he trained -- two of which he owns. He finally experienced “a feeling I never had before” when Pan Full Of Money came through. “I just wanted to get a good trip,” he said. “The bunch she was with, it looked like she had a good shot. I really didn’t want to get locked in, but we got to the half and the guy came over first up and I couldn’t move so I just kind of sat chilly and rode it out. A little before the three-quarter pole there was a little opening that opened up, I just swung her three deep and she did the rest, I was just the passenger.” Craib will continue to train his horses and hopes to continue racing in Ohio. It has been a slow, steady process and he’s encouraged by how it’s going. “It’s hard to find an owner you can train for at my age, not being raised in the sport,” he said. “Honestly, I figured I’d still be working for someone instead of being on my own and doing it myself. I’m definitely happy with how it’s going.” by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

Trenton, NJ --- Christian Lind was long uncertain about being a harness racing driver, but it took just one race to convince him the sulky is the place to be. Winning a debut race out of post nine will do that for a guy. The son of trainer Staffan Lind, all but one of Christian’s 32 rookie drives came with his dad’s horses. The first was on July 19 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, when Lind and 3-year-old female pacer Rock Me Baby started from the nine hole and triumphed at odds of 15-1. Welcome to the show, kid. Feeling no pressure because of the draw, the 25-year-old Lind’s hopes were to just make a good showing, maybe work his way up toward the front. “I was sort of thinking OK, maybe finish in the top four or something, then move on to the next one,” he said. Instead, he ended up savoring that one. We’ll let Christian tell the tale. “I left a little bit and saw that everybody was leaving on the inside, I sort of just drifted,” he said. “I ended up fifth through the first turn. On the backside I pulled my horse and the horse in front of me pulled out in front of me and I just rode off that until the stretch. “I pulled three wide at end of the turn and just went by them down the stretch. She felt amazing.” A pleasant surprise? “Yeah, especially out of post nine,” Lind said. “I was just elated at that point; I didn’t see it going that way necessarily. I was very happy but very surprised.” He also had an awakening about what he wanted to do with his life. “Before that first start I was kind of wishy-washy -- is this something I want to do or not?” Lind said. “It’s a lot of pressure, especially racing for my dad. I want his horses to do good. “But I sort of proved to myself I could do it just by winning that first race. I thought after that, maybe I have a chance of doing this full-time and I was looking forward to racing after that.” Lind was not done surprising himself. During a late-October night at Pocono, three drivers each won twice in the first six races -- George Napolitano Jr. (8,138 lifetime wins), Marcus Miller (2,610 wins) and Lind, who entered the night with three wins. He stood tall with the big boys, driving his dad’s trotter, Promise Delivered, and pacer, Mr D’s Dragon, to victories. Lind finished his first season with a 15.6 percent win rate, garnering five victories in 32 starts. Four were at Pocono and one at Lexington’s Red Mile. He also had five seconds and one third. “I thought I knew how to drive horses, but to win a race, that’s a little different,” Lind said. “Before I started I felt I probably had a good chance, but when you get in there you see it’s tough enough to finish first, second or third. So yeah, I was surprised that I got a few wins.” For a while it seemed unlikely Christian would follow in the footsteps of his dad, who bought his first horse with the money he and some buddies won in Sweden’s V65 (akin to the Pick-6). Growing up in Vasteras, an hour west of Stockholm, Christian was a soccer player. The family moved to Florida when he was 9 and by then Staffan’s profession was harness racing. Christian continued to play soccer in high school but issues with heel spurs made it nearly impossible to walk after games, so he gave up the sport. Upon graduation, his family needed help at their stable so Christian volunteered his services. He planned on working there only as needed but, before he knew it, Lind was still working there and began training horses. “In the beginning it was a little trying on me to wake up every morning right after high school to come help in the barn and all that stuff,” Lind said. “But starting to drive and train horses you really do fall in love with it. I thought I should help out until they got more help but it just turned into me sticking around.” The family goes back and forth from Florida to their Celebrity Farms Stable in Goshen, N.Y. In Florida, where they will be until April, they are stabled at the Palema Trotting Center. This year, something clicked inside of Christian. “He’s been working with us since he left high school and he’s trained a lot of horses, but it wasn’t until this year that he really wanted to start to drive,” Staffan said. “So far he’s been doing real good.” Lind had qualified more than 10 horses at Pocono and got his license in early July, a week before his first race. He got his training license around the same time but right now he is focusing on driving. “I’d been training horses since I started, and I’d spent a couple years in the bike where I’m comfortable enough with it,” Christian said. “It’s a big difference (racing) but I feel like I got used to the actual driving of the horses very early on.” Leading up to his first race, Lind said he got tremendous encouragement from his dad, who was stoking his confidence. “He was telling me I could do it and he was giving me a lot of encouragement,” Christian said. “He’s been a tremendous help. Ever since we started doing this, he’s worked super hard and sort of instilled in me to also work hard. He’s especially doing it now that I want to do this.” Staffan has been extremely impressed by his son. “He is very calm and cool; he never gets too excited,” said the dad. “So far he’s been handling the horses good and putting them in position in the races.” One of the main things Staffan would like to see is his son to start driving for other trainers besides himself. “He had some opportunities to drive for Tony Alagna out in Kentucky and hopefully he can pick up some more drives,” Lind said. “If he had the opportunity I’d tell him to drive for someone else if he could. It’s the way you broaden your horizons and get contacts. He can always drive my horses whenever he wants to, but if he can get an opportunity he should take it.” Christian understands his dad’s thinking and realizes he is just looking out for his best interests. He knows that the more trainers he drives for, the more drives he will get. “Instead of two drives a night, it will be more than that, I’ll get more used to it and hopefully turn it into a career,” Lind said. “He’s just thinking of the opportunities it would give me. Of course, if he needs me, I’ll drive for him.” Lind is uncertain about training, as he feels it’s stressful. He wouldn’t mind owning a horse, saying “It’s always a little more fun when you’re driving a horse you have a stake in.” The bottom line is, after wavering about being in harness racing, Lind’s complete focus is now on being a driver. And he will probably be a little more aggressive after a lot of near misses. “I got a bunch of fourths this year,” he said, referring to six fourth-place efforts. “It’s a little bit frustrating but you just get used to it. “In the beginning you just sort of get into the rhythm how other people drive and you fit yourself into that. You don’t want to be in the way and you’re just trying to get by.” He also got five firsts, which were enough to make him yearn for the sulky. Come to think of it, one win was enough to do that. by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

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