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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

Trenton, NJ --- Forget about holiday protocol, harness racing trainer Bob McIntosh is jumping right over Halloween and American Thanksgiving. “It will be a little bit of Christmas if we get the right trip,” said McIntosh, referring to his horse L A Delight in Saturday’s (Oct. 29) $500,000 Breeders Crown for 3-year-old female pacers at the Meadowlands. McIntosh is the trainer and co-owner and co-breeder, along with C S X Stables and Al McIntosh Holdings Inc. He is once again teamed up with driver John Campbell, as the two have won five Breeders Crowns together. “John and I have been together for, I don’t know how many years, 30 years or more I guess,” McIntosh said. “I’ve got confidence in John and I’ve got confidence in the filly.” Their most recent win came with Thinking Out Loud, another McIntosh homebred, in 2014. Their first successes came in 1992 with Artsplace and So Fresh. They won with Immortality the following year, and took first with Western Shooter in 2001. And while McIntosh feels every win is special, two Breeders Crown triumphs that jump out to him did not involve Campbell as the driver. One was his first Crown win with Sunset Warrior in 1986, who was a longshot going in. The other came in 1997 with Artiscape, who was co-owned by Brian Monieson and George Segal's Brittany Farms. Monieson had cancer that year and it was the last time he got to see Artiscape race, as he passed away a short time later. “That brought a tear to my eye when I saw Brian in the winner’s circle,” McIntosh said. “It was karma. Good things happen to good people. Brian was a great owner and a great guy.” McIntosh would love nothing more than to create another great moment and feels he has a horse capable of doing so. L A Delight, by Bettor’s Delight out of the Western Hanover mare West of L A, has won nine races and $540,276 this season, hitting the board in 13 of 16 starts. She has earned $1,073,403 in her short career. “She’s had a great season,” the trainer said. Campbell drove her to the win in the Jugette at Delaware on Sept. 21, which McIntosh felt, “was the ultimate.” “She’s in against those top fillies and beat them,” he said. “Any time you win one of those big races, it’s always great.” He also felt it was “pretty sweet” that she went undefeated in the Ontario Sires Stakes. In her Breeders Crown elimination last weekend she got away last but managed to rally to a second-place finish despite some fatigue. “I think she raced as good as she could in the elimination, she got a nice trip,” McIntosh said. “She spent 15 hours on a truck going down there, but that’s the way it goes. I think she’ll even be better this week.” L A Delight drew the eight hole, which doesn’t have the trainer too thrilled. But with the Breeders Crown’s all-time winningest driver in the bike he doesn’t discount the McIntosh-Campbell magic being conjured once more. “We didn’t draw where I wanted to, we’ve got some good fillies on the inside of us, but I’ll leave it up to John to figure out the trip,” McIntosh said. “John is Mr. Dependable. The more there is in the purse the better he drives. With big money he’s a great driver. He’s one of the best big money drivers. “If the trip comes up favorable I think we can get the job done with a little luck -- a lot of luck. I have great respect for the other fillies too. She’ll figure it out, I guess. But who knows? If she finishes in the top three I’ll be happy.” McIntosh said his horse is very laid back, unassuming and easy on herself. But that changes once she is on the track. “I trained her down as a 2-year-old, by then I had two or three better than her,” he said. “Then she got behind the starting gate, she showed she’s a warrior and wanted to win. She has a big time desire to win. “She’s just perfect. No lameness issues, no nothing. I would say she makes us all look smart. Some of them are a little tougher to get where you want them, but she’s been just picture perfect.” McIntosh enters the race second to Jimmy Takter in Breeders Crown wins and wouldn’t mind getting closer. “I was leading for a long time, but he got me,” McIntosh said with a laugh. “But I’ll settle for one more -- this year, anyway.” Should it happen, feel free to stop by the McIntosh stable for a celebratory eggnog. For Friday’s complete Meadowlands/Breeders Crown card, click here. For Saturday’s complete Meadowlands/Breeders Crown card, click here. For more information go to www.Hambletonian.com or www.playmeadowlands.com. Follow Breeders Crown news and updates on Twitter @Breeders_Crown, using #BCrown16 and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BreedersCrown. Fans can also go to http://harnessracingfanzone.com/, the Place for Harness Racing Fans to See, Share, Connect and Play. by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent 

Harness racing trainer Trond Smedshammer is going against his philosophy not once, but twice this week. So far, it seems to be working out. Smedshammer has qualified two Purple Haze Stables horses for the $600,000 Breeders Crown for 2-year-old filly trotters, as Chezatter and Hillarmbro will both compete in this Saturday’s final at the Meadowlands. “We usually don’t race 2-year-olds at this time of year, but this filly has been good all year,” Smedshammer said of Chezatter. “Hillarmbro is just good. She’s not as experienced as Chezatter, but she’s good. The breed has changed a little bit the last few years; they get to their speed so quickly.” Chezatter, a filly by Explosive Matter out of the Malabar Man mare Chez Lucie, has hit the board in nine of 10 starts, with four firsts and four seconds. She has won $175,062 and has had David Miller in the sulky for eight of her last nine races. Smedshammer has driven her other races. “This filly is very talented, so I didn’t see a reason not to give her a chance,” Smedshammer said. In the Oct. 21 Breeders Crown elimination. Chezatter sprinted from the pocket down the stretch to overtake Ariana G for first place in a career best 1:53.4. Smedshammer was not surprised at her late burst. “Not with that kind of trip,” he said. “I thought if their positions were reversed in the Doherty, she might have gone by then (in a second-place finish). She just loves to chase down horses. She’s been good all year.” Hillarmbro, a Muscle Hill filly out of the Dream Vacation mare Armbro Emma, has not been good all year, but has certainly come on strong after the first month. Her first two races produced one fourth, but she won her next three, took second in Bluegrass and International Stallion Stakes divisions at Lexington, and was third in her Breeders Crown elimination. The filly has earned $50,187. “She just needs to learn a little bit,” said Smedshammer, who has been Hillarmbro’s only driver.” She’s gotten a little bit too aggressive. She wants to beat horses, but she wants to beat them right away. She’s got to learn to cool down a little bit.” Smedshammer said he was happy with her in the elimination, despite the face she did not steer completely straight in the stretch. “I had to keep checking her a little bit and it was tough for me to go by,” he said. “But she had a lot of trot and she’ll be good (in the final).” Thats All Moni was the other elimination winner, even lthough driver Tim Tetrick didn’t feel the race worked out the way he thought. “But that’s horse racing,” Tetrick said. “She’s got enough talent to go with anybody. She just has to get the right trip. I think she’s going to get better every start.” Trained by Jimmy Takter, Thats All Moni is a daughter of Cantab Hall out of the Pine Chip mare Mom's Millionaire. She has hit the board in each of her 10 career starts with five wins and earnings of $220,773. She lowered her mark to 1:54.1 with the Breeders Crown elimination victory. Another driver who didn’t get the elimination race he was expecting was Charlie Norris, who managed to get a game Treviso into the final when she finished second to Thats All Moni. “I had to use her pretty hard in the second quarter to get to the lead, but she hung in there,” said Norris, also the horse’s trainer. “It wasn’t much of a last quarter, but being off a couple weeks, she fought back at the wire. She raced really well, I thought.” By Muscle Massive out of the Taurus Dream mare Valbonela, Treviso has won five of 10 starts with two seconds and a third for $149,569. She won divisions of the Bluegrass and International Stallion Stakes before taking second in her Breeders Crown elimination. “She was very good in Lexington,” Norris said. “She’s minding her manners now and she seems pretty good. I re-rigged her a little bit and she seems to be fine. She’s driving two fingers in the race. I couldn’t ask for anything more, she’s absolutely perfect to drive.” In looking at the final, Norris is cautiously optimistic. “Both of Trond’s fillies are tough, they’re on top of their games,” he said. “Jimmy (Takter) has got a couple nice fillies (Thats All Moni and Ariana G). It’s tough. It’s going to depend on the draw and the first three-eighths of a mile. “I feel really good going into the final. She trained good the last few weeks and hopefully we can get one more good week out of her.” by Rich Fisher

After looking like a mere shadow of herself two weeks ago, this harness racing lady appears to be back in form entering the $250,000 Breeders Crown Mare Pace final Friday night at the Meadowlands. Lady Shadow, an O'Brien Award winner in Canada at ages 3 and 4, entered the Oct. 9 Allerage Mare Pace in Lexington with eight firsts and a second in her previous nine races before finishing eighth. After some tweaks by trainer Ron Adams, Lady Shadow rebounded last Friday to win her Breeders Crown Mare Pace elimination by 7-3/4 lengths in 1:48.4 over a track rated "good" because of rain. "She raced huge, she's back to her old self," Adams said. "She looked very strong, the plugs were still in, and I was very happy with her." The 5-year-old is one of the favorites heading into the final, where she will face a field that includes Frost Damage Blues, also an elimination winner, stakes-winning Solar Sister, and 2015 Breeders Crown 3-year-old filly champion Divine Caroline. Lady Shadow finished fourth in last year's Mare Pace. According to the trainer, it didn't take much to get Lady Shadow back on the right track for last week's elimination. "We made a few little changes to her daily routine," Adams said. "She tied up on us in Lexington and she was just no good. We've made some changes to her routine and training schedule to try to prevent tie up and it seemed to bounce her right back to her old self. "She's been iron tough all year. I like her attitude and her willingness to race." Lady Shadow, driven by Yannick Gingras, feels right at home at the Meadowlands. She has won all three of her starts there this year, including the Lady Liberty and Golden Girls. Adams noted that she enjoys big tracks such as Mohawk and the Meadowlands. "She gets to use her speed to her advantage," he said. "On the smaller tracks she gets jammed up in the turns a little bit. Here she gets to stretch her legs and just kind of roll along. That's what she likes." What she likes most of all is to compete. She has won nearly half of her 53 career starts, posting 26 victories to go with eight seconds and three thirds. Her career earnings are $1.36 million and this year she has won $630,981, which leads all older female pacers. "When she shows up at the racetrack she's all game, she's here to race," Adams said. "She brings it every week. She had a good year last year. She went some big trips and kind of had a little bit of bad racing luck in between, too." Co-owned by Howard Taylor's and Richard Lombardo's BFJ Stable, Ed Gold, Carl Atley and David Kryway, the group purchased the daughter of Shadow Play and Lady Camella in the summer of 2015. Adams, who took over training Lady Shadow in June 2015, couldn't have been happier. "I followed her whole career," he said. "I knew she was a nice mare. She just got better, bigger, stronger, and came back even better this year." In the first elimination race, Solar Sister won but was disqualified and placed fourth for interfering with Sassa Hanover, who went off stride nearing the wire. Thus, Frost Damage Blues, who finished second by a neck, was declared the winner after going 1:51.1. Divine Caroline was placed second and Sassa Hanover third. Katie Said got the last spot in the final by finishing fifth. Frost Damage Blues, driven by Brett Miller, has won five of 10 starts with two seconds in winning $58,063. In her elimination, she was seventh with a quarter-mile to go and stormed home in :25.2. "She raced great," trainer Tom Fanning said. "She came from a bit of a tough spot, but that's kind of how she likes to race. Every time we've taken her out of her game it's been a little disappointing. We just do what she likes." Fanning is hoping Frost Damage Blues, a 4-year-old daughter of Western Ideal-Art Matters, can buck a trend on Friday night. "Her year has been good but she's been a little unlucky," he said. "She seems to get rough trips in the finals and it hasn't worked out for her. Maybe here it will work out. It worked out (in her elimination) so that was good. She's a nice mare. She tries hard. I think our mare can finish off a mile as good as any of them." Solar Sister has hit the board in 12 of 15 starts this season, with four firsts, four seconds and four thirds for $347,922. Trainer Gregg McNair hopes the 4-year-old daughter of Mach Three-Cabrini Hanover is coming around after two thirds and a sixth in her previous three races before the elimination. "She hasn't raced that good her last three starts, but here I think she raced a little bit better," McNair said. "She raced better than she had been racing. She came up real flat at Flamboro (finishing third in the Ellamony on Oct. 1). Two starts ago, the trip didn't work out for her. But the race we were really disappointed in was Flamboro." For the most part, though, the trainer is happy. "She's been a good mare," McNair said about Solar Sister, who was Canada's 2015 O'Brien Award winner for best 3-year-old filly pacer. "We really haven't over-raced her. She's raced pretty good down here; she seems to like the Meadowlands." Trainer Joe Holloway had Dave Miller drive two mares into the final with Divine Caroline and Bettor Be Steppin, who finished fifth in Lady Shadow's division. Divine Caroline was the U.S.'s 2015 Dan Patch Award winner for best 3-year-old filly pacer. Both horses are familiar with the Breeders Crown, having been there at ages 2, 3 and now 4. Last season, Divine Caroline (Rock N Roll Heaven-Loving Caroline) and Bettor Be Steppin (Bettor's Delight-Two Steppin' Sally) combined to win 13 races and earn $1.13 million. "This year has been a disappointment, but it's a tough transition from 3 to 4," Holloway said. "Both made the final, so that part's accomplished. I thought they raced good. "Steppin had to back up and I knew I was just going for a check. Caroline, she's improving each time a little bit; I'm a little bit optimistic with her and hope for a bigger check. Maybe Steppin can grab a check too. We'll just have to see how the race goes." Finishing behind Lady Shadow in her elimination were Bedroomconfessions, Regil Elektra, and Skippin By. Following is the field in post order for the $250,000 Breeders Crown Mare Pace. PP - Horse - Driver - Trainer 1 - Divine Caroline - Rock N Roll Heaven - D. Miller - Holloway 2 - Lady Shadow* - Shadow Play - Gingras - Adams 3 - Katie Said - Well Said - S. Zeron - Takter 4 - Frost Damage Blues* - Western Ideal - B. Miller - Fanning 5 - Solar Sister - Mach Three - D. McNair - G. McNair 6 - Skippin By - Shadow Play - Callahan - Burke 7 - Sassa Hanover - Rock N Roll Heaven - Gingras - Burke 8 - Regil Elektra - Mach Three - Bongiorno - Armer 9 - Bettor Be Steppin - Bettor's Delight - D. Miller - Holloway 10 - Bedroomconfessions - American Ideal - S. Zeron - Alagna by Rich Fisher USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

In four days Scott Zeron will attempt to become the youngest driver to win a harness racing Triple Crown, for either trotters or pacers. Throw in the fact his horse's owners are paying a hefty supplemental fee of around $50,000, and that could make for a lot of pressure as Zeron gets set to drive Marion Marauder in the Kentucky Futurity at Lexington's Red Mile on Sunday (Oct. 9). But a laidback, understanding group -- consisting of trainers Paula Wellwood and Mike Keeling and owners Marion Jean Wellwood and Devin Keeling -- have made things easy for the 27-year-old Canadian since this journey started at the Hambletonian and continued with the Yonkers Trot. "They're not hanging over me going, 'This is the end all, be all, we want this,'" Zeron said. "Heading into the Hambo they told me, 'It's a long year, we've got a lot of races to race,' and not saying, 'Listen, this Hambletonian is all we want, it's all we care about.' That would make it pressure filled. They just want the horse to race well. "(Pressure) varies for every horse and every trainer. The connections I'm driving for are just the nicest, greatest, most appreciative people you could ever drive for. I know that they're confident in me, without a doubt, and I'm confident in my horse. I really think it hasn't been a pressure filled year." It has been nothing but an enjoyable year. Having a horse as talented as Marion Marauder also helps calm the nerves. "This is the kind of horse that both the connections and myself have never been able to be a part of, so it's all taken in stride," Zeron continued. "The nerves would be different if I had a horse that broke every other week, things like that. But this horse is a true gentleman and the connections are just a pleasure to drive for." The last Trotting Triple Crown winner was Glidemaster in 2006. He became the eighth horse to sweep the Hambletonian, Yonkers Trot, and Kentucky Futurity. Marion Marauder won the Hambletonian in August and Yonkers Trot in September. Since then, his connections hedged on attending the Kentucky Futurity, with the original plan to skip the event. Ironically, it was after Marion Marauder was beaten by Bar Hopping at the Canadian Trotting Classic in his most recent start that thoughts began to differ. Mike Keeling had wanted to hit the Red Mile all along, and he finally convinced the rest of the group it was the right thing. "As far as I know, right after the Canadian Trotting Classic, they didn't want to have a five-week break until the Breeders Crown elimination; it was just a little too long," Zeron said. "We went over the list of who we felt could be going to the Futurity, and the rule is that if there's 12 they go straight to the finals." The draw is not until Thursday, so it will not be known until then whether there is just one race. If not, the eliminations and final will both be contested Sunday. "I think for them it was a matter of praying we don't go two heats, only in the best interest of the horse not having to go two heats twice in the year," Zeron said. "And I think, if you ask them, it was a case of Marion feeling really well the last two weeks, and they just wanted to race him." Zeron admitted he would have been disappointed, but understanding, about losing his shot at history. "For sure, but I would have supported whatever decision they made," he said. "The Breeders Crown is another one I haven't won. If we go straight to the final, the plan will work out brilliantly." Marion Marauder has won nine of 12 races this year and earned $1.25 million. His victories include the Hambletonian, which also contested eliminations and the final on the same day, Yonkers Trot, Goodtimes Stakes and a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial. He finished second in the Canadian Trotting Classic and Colonial. The driver admitted he could never script a season like this. "When things are going right, they're just going right," said Zeron, who has been the horse's lone driver since the middle of his 2-year-old season. "If you really break it down, Marion has been a phenomenal animal for me. "Those two major critical (Triple Crown) stakes we had coming into the Futurity, we won by a nose and a head. The roles could have been reversed either way. I'm grateful to just have a horse like him to take me on this kind of trip. He's a pleasure to drive. He makes me confident when I'm out there with him. I just have to put him in a spot to have a chance to win the race. That's really my only job, he does the rest." Marion Marauder is coming off a three-week layoff since losing the Canadian Trotting Classic and Zeron feels it was a necessary respite after an extremely busy schedule. "He was coming off a stretch of (racing) five consecutive weeks," Scott noted. "All the races prior to that, he had layoffs. He had three weeks between the Stanley Dancer and the Hambo. He's always had nice comfortable breaks except for those five weeks straight. By the end of it they just wanted to assess the way he came out of the Trotting Classic, and I think he's been more than feeling well which is why they made the decision to come to Kentucky." Zeron, who has finished second in the Futurity twice, would supplant Trond Smedshammer as the youngest driver of a Trotting Triple Crown winner. Smedshammer was 37 when he trained and drove Windsong's Legacy to the Triple Crown in 2004. On the pacing side, George Sholty was 33 when he guided Romeo Hanover to complete the Pacing Triple Crown in 1966. William Myer drove Romeo Hanover in the Cane Pace with Sholty winning the Little Brown Jug and Messenger. Although seeking his first Futurity win, Zeron has won the Tattersalls so he has had some success in big 3-year-old races at the Red Mile. He is already the youngest driver to win the Little Brown Jug (with Michael's Power in 2012) and the second youngest to win the Hambletonian. As a Canadian, he still yearns to win the Canadian Trotting Classic, but a win on Sunday would take away the sting of that setback. "It would take ALL of the pain away from that, no doubt," Zeron said. "I would forget about the Trotting Classic by winning the Futurity and getting that Triple Crown." The list of drivers to be part of a Trotting Triple Crown-winning campaign includes Hall of Famers Joe O'Brien, Ralph Baldwin, John Simpson Sr., Stanley Dancer (twice), Howard Beissinger, and Campbell. To join that list at all would be impressive. To be the youngest man on it makes it even more notable. "It's a big deal for me," Zeron said. "I'm here for the whole Grand Circuit two weeks. It all leads up to that last day. I'm excited about it, I'm confident my horse can do it. "It's a lot for a horse to do. But hopefully we draw well, hopefully I drive well and the horse is on his game." One thing that's not on is the pressure. by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

Trenton, NJ --- The fact that harness racing driver Chris Presley got his first driving win last month is not nearly as impressive as the fact that he lived through college long enough to gain such an accomplishment. Growing up in Michigan, the 21-year-old Presley was raised in what he termed “A Michigan family,” meaning they all root for the university that plays football in Ann Arbor. Chris, however, spent two years at Michigan State -- where they eat Wolverines for breakfast. “I had Michigan stuff and they hated it,” he said. “I always walked the streets in caution. I never wore yellow on campus, but I really wanted to.” After participating in Michigan State’s animal science program, Presley earned a certificate in equine studies last year. He quickly got his driver and trainer licenses and headed for Bowling Green, Ohio, where he started working with Billy Farmer. Since Ohio State is Michigan’s most hated rival, Chris once again found himself in enemy territory. “I can’t stand Ohio State,” he sighed. “Everybody around here loves it. I’m always in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He was in the right place on Aug. 12, when he drove 3-year-old pacing filly Angela Nichole to victory at the Hartford Independent Fair in Croton, Ohio. “It was a rough first go, the first few times I drove,” Presley said. “It’s kind of a funny story, because the first three drives I had, I was parked the whole mile for the first three drives. “I finally said, ‘Well you know what, we’re in cheap, it looks like we have the best horse in the race so we’ll sit back.’ We just sat pretty through the three-quarter pole and she opened up by 14 in the stretch.” He did so with a Gene Humphrey-trained horse that had not been too popular among the other drivers. “They had her racing as a 2-year-old last year, nobody got along with her,” Presley said. “I was lucky enough to be up at Delaware at the fairgrounds one day and they were qualifying her. They needed somebody, I had my colors and there I was. I got to drive her the rest of the year. “I’ve been driving her at every fair. She’s a hard-working little filly.” And she gave him a night to remember after pulling Chris into the winner’s circle for the first time in his professional career. “That felt great,” he said. “I’d been waiting for that since I was 3 or 4 years old. I just got started late. I didn’t really have the opportunity in Michigan where I was.” Presley, who now has two wins, 13 top-three finishes “and a whole lot of fourths,” grew up in Michigan Center. Neither of his parents had horses but his grandmother, Marie Konieczki, trained a few and Chris was fascinated by them. “I could never get away from it,” he said. “My parents didn’t really want me to do it, they didn’t really want me to get hooked on it. I got to be around it when I was really little, and then I went out with my grandma to Indiana in the summers and took care of the horses.” Konieczki works for Jamie Macomber, who oversees all training responsibilities for the division of the Ron Burke Stable racing at Hoosier Park. She got into the business through her association with Danny Davidson. By the time Presley turned 13, he had thrown himself into playing sports. He played football, basketball and baseball at Michigan Center High School, and was recruited for hoops by some small colleges. He could not get horses out of his blood, though, and every morning on his way to school he would see trainer Al Tomlinson out jogging horses. “I stopped in one day and asked him for a job,” Chris said. “The first time I ever jogged a horse I was probably 18.” He then went to Michigan State and his career was soon underway. After moving to Ohio, Presley was given the opportunity to train six or seven horses on his own. “That was a good experience, it helped me out a lot,” he said. “You learn more doing it kind of on your own, than you do just helping out.” Presley eventually hooked up as a second trainer for Peter Wrenn, who ran into Konieczki in Florida and decided to give her grandson a call. Chris is now slowly building up a resume. His main focus is now on driving and he is not afraid to pay his dues. “I’ve probably been to 30 fairs this year, one or two drives at each one, but that’s where you’ve got to start,” he said. “I travel three hours sometimes just for one drive. But I haven’t been doing bad. For the horses I’ve been driving I’ve been doing pretty good. I’m getting started, trainers are noticing, and other drivers think I’ve excelled pretty far along for how long I’ve been doing it. I haven’t really been involved that long. “I’m just kind of building up clientele, showing people I have the potential to do it. That’s why I have to go to all these fairs. You hear people say they’re busy, they can’t make it, but I really like to move everything out of the way so I can go to the fairs and drive a couple of these horses.” Looking down the road, Presley feels he and his girlfriend may look into making some purchases. “I’d like to get a few horses of my own, so I don’t have to travel around working for other people,” he said. “But, I like what I’m doing now because I get enough free time where I can go to the fairs, go to the track if I need to race. But I’d like to have four or five of my own one day.” Don’t bet against him. If Presley could survive being a Wolverine in the land of the Spartans, he’s probably a pretty capable guy. by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent 

Trenton, NJ --- If harness racing driver Ryan Harvey were a Standardbred instead of a human, he probably would have sold for half a million at a yearling sale just based on his pedigree. Harvey’s grandfathers, who both passed away this year, are harness racing royalty. Paternal granddad Harry Harvey is a Hambletonian winning driver and Hall of Famer, while maternal grandfather Walter “Boots” Dunn had an eight-decade career and is believed to be the leading amateur driver of all time according to USTA records. “They all joke about it, that if they had pedigree books for the drivers I’d be close to the front page,” Harvey said. “It puts a little pressure on me but I kind of hope to use it to my advantage. I’ll take the attention and obviously it’s given me more opportunities than if I wasn’t Boots and Harry’s grandson.” Ryan drove Famous Mistress -- trained by his aunt Lisa Dunn -- to his first career victory earlier this month at the Greene County Fair in Waynesburg, Pa. Since he does not have a registered set of colors yet, Harvey won the race wearing Boots’ colors and helmet, while also wearing Harry’s pants and vest. “I’m going to milk that for as long as I can,” Harvey said. “Once I get my actual set of colors that are registered, I’ll find a way to keep them in the mix.” And while his famous grandfathers have been major factors in Harvey’s career, his dad (and Harry’s son) Leo, has been Ryan’s biggest inspiration. Growing up in Imperial, Pa., in the shadows of the Pittsburgh Airport, Harvey would attend afternoon kindergarten class so Leo, a driver and trainer, could take him to The Meadows racetrack every morning. Instead of sleeping until 8, Ryan was rousted from bed at 6 a.m. to help out at the track. “This probably happened earlier than kindergarten,” Harvey said, “but my memory only started working in kindergarten.” He did the usual chores such as cleaning stalls and feeding the horses. He also had some unusual responsibilities while sitting on Leo’s lap when they drove around the track. “He’s a jokester,” Ryan said. “We’d get up alongside another trainer who was one of his friends and he’d whisper something in my ear to say to them. He’d have little 5- or 6-year-old me yelling out little smart remarks to all these people and then we’d trot right past them. “At the end of the day he’d give me money for the cafeteria to get some food and then he’d send me on to p.m. kindergarten. He made it fun. He got me in there and he didn’t hold back. I don’t think there were many 5-year-olds on the track at that point.” At age 10, a relative suggested Harvey enroll in the Harness Horse Youth Foundation camp, which taught him the sport’s nuances before the end-of-camp race. “Just little things, like braiding the horse’s hair, kind of the ins and outs,” Ryan said. “Even at that point I was ready to get behind a horse and go. I can remember looking forward to that race the whole week.” Harvey won the race, which he and his family recently watched on video. “My camp was at The Meadows, where (longtime Hall of Fame announcer) Roger Huston is,” Ryan said. “He knows my family pretty well. I won that race and he was giving his usual emphatic call. I came across the wire and he said ‘And there’s another driver in the family!’ I think a lot of people could see it coming.” All the while he was learning under Dunn, who lived 100 miles north in Cochranton, Pa. Ryan spent plenty of time there, getting a hands-on education most drivers can only dream of. He would also make trips to New Jersey and almost be in awe of grandpa Harry. “They’re both very important in harness racing in their own right,” Ryan said. “I would see Boots in action and I’d be like ‘All right, this is how it’s done.’ With Harry it was just like ‘Whoa!’” Both were also important to young Ryan. “Harry was more of a look-up-to-as-a-legend type of deal with me, where I kind of thought he was larger than life,” Harvey said. “Anytime I had the chance to say my grandfather won the Hambletonian I would use that to my advantage. “He was 92 when he passed, I’m 23, so most of the time I spent with him he was in his 80s. But he was still training and I was lucky enough to go to his barn. He had an impeccable operation where he was very business-like and no corners were cut. He was a no BS type man and I kind of always looked up to him like he was too good to be true.” And then there was Boots, a constant hands-on influence. “We’d be up here every single weekend,” said Ryan, who now lives at Boots’ farm and takes care of it. “He was more consciously impacting almost my every decision, not just harness racing. Boots would ride in the back of the trailer with the horses, there were no corners cut.” And while Boots assured Ryan he had the talent to drive Standardbreds, Harvey’s mom Kathy urged him to attend college. An admitted bookworm, Ryan said, “I was addicted to horses but I also didn’t want to put school in the backseat. We’d go to fairs and they would overlap with school. I’d take my schoolwork with me and make sure I had that done before anything.” Harvey showed business savvy at a young age, picking dandelions at the barn and selling them to make enough money for a candy bar. He went to the University of Pittsburgh and graduated with an economics degree. The summer after his junior year he got a Wall Street internship at a start-up online publication. Ryan would ride his bike -- a favorite form of transportation he still uses frequently -- from his NYU dorm to work. “Every day I sat behind a desk and basically hated it,” he said. Harvey began re-evaluating his goals and, despite having some job offers on the table, returned home to be with Dunn. After Ryan’s graduation, Boots’ cancer began to worsen and a nursing home was not an option. “He wouldn’t have fared well in that environment,” Harvey said. “He was jogging horses until the day he died. I came up here and helped take care of him and spend some special time with him. That’s when I got out of the job market. From there it’s been harness racing 100 percent.” Harvey and his aunt Lisa now tend to a dozen or so horses in training on Boots’ farm, and also have a broodmare operation that is preparing nine yearlings to race next year. Lisa, who is one of Boots’ daughters, provided Ryan with numerous drives but he went his first 17 without a win. With many of his family members on hand, he was disappointed when his horse broke behind the gate in his first race. “I was kind of getting to the point where I was like ‘All right, I need to do this now or never,’” Harvey said. “She was putting the faith in me, I had to go out there and produce results.” He did just that at the Greene County Fair on Aug. 9. It was only a three-horse race but the favorite, Brauti Hanover, has been winning at a steady rate on the fair circuit. “We kind of went in just hoping to get second, but it turned into a horserace,” said Harvey, who took advantage of Brauti Hanover bearing out and losing ground on the turns. “It was a stretch drive,” Harvey said. “We were pretty much neck and neck, stride for stride. I was just thinking about winning, and after it finally happened I kind of realized what just went down. I could hear my mom screaming and I was really overcome with joy and excitement. It was a special feeling. I think I might have shed a tear under my driving glasses but I was trying to hold back.” It was an exciting drive for Harvey, but not half as harrowing as one that he made at age 18. During his freshman year at Pitt, Ryan helped jog horses at fairs. One day he was approached by a starter who did numerous fairs and was responsible for getting the starting gates from fair to fair. “I guess I seemed like a likely candidate, because he approached me and said ‘Hey young fella, would you drive this?’” Harvey said, still laughing at the memory. “That starting gate doesn’t exist anymore; it was near the end of its life. And I was in this old jeep, if you would go over 55 it would rattle.” Harvey had to make a 150-mile drive halfway across Pennsylvania, from Hughesville to Honesdale. “I’m going down Interstate 80 with this starting gate, probably getting the weirdest looks I’ve ever gotten in my life,” Harvey said. “Even at 23 people probably think I’m not much more than 18. At 18 people probably thought I was 15 driving down the highway with this thing.” It was the kind of experience that colorful careers are made of. The kind of careers that both of his grandfathers had. And while he was disappointed that neither was alive to see his first driving victory, their spirit will live within Ryan forever. As of now, all thoughts are of harness racing. “The fair season’s coming to an end, after that I’ll kind of regroup, get my bearings,” Harvey said. “I just want to get along this summer and try to make next summer better. Anytime I can drive for Lisa, it makes me happy if I can do well for her. But it’s a different kind of feeling if you can do well for others. “I hope to build up the faith and trust from other owners and trainers and kind of get my name out there and see what I can do with it.” It’s a name that people certainly respect in the business -- on both sides of the family. by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent 

Trenton, NJ --- There’s no question Erv Miller is one of the top trainers in harness racing. But when it comes to giving Knute Rockne-type pep talks, he may have to pick up a few tips. In sending one of his trainers out on his second professional drive at Vernon Downs in New York, Erv wasn’t encouraging Atlee Bender to go out and win one for the Gipper -- or even the Bender or the Miller. “He said, ‘I want you to take your filly (Rockin Winner) up there and I also want you to race the big colt (restricted stakes-winner Jet Airway),” Bender said. “I just started grinning. He said he was sticking his neck out for me when he let me drive that horse. He said ‘Don’t let me down.’” Bender continued laughing as he told the story, saying, “That made me more nervous than if he’d have said how to drive him. He didn’t tell me how to drive him he just said ‘I’m sticking my neck out for you, don’t let me down.’ Coming from Erv, that’s a little intimidating.” But it wasn’t debilitating, as Erv’s neck made out just fine after Atlee’s drive became his first win. The 24-year-old from Indiana brought Jet Airway from behind with a :26.2 final quarter-mile to win in 1:50.4 on July 30. Bender got away last in the five-horse field and, at the advice of Erv’s son Marcus Miller, popped the earplugs early around the first turn. “They were moving out pretty good and he settled in there pretty good,” Bender said. “I was second over past the half, and I just followed that guy around to the last turn and went three wide at the head of the stretch. I was in the middle of the racetrack and won by a length and a half.” The victory was big on numerous levels, as it was Bender’s first; he didn’t let Erv down; and his family was on hand for the occasion. “It was awesome,” Bender said. “As I came across I was just thinking ‘I can’t believe I’m actually doing this.’ My mom and dad said they were going to come out and watch. They drove nine hours, so I was happy to win for them being there. That’s pretty sweet.” So was the phone call he got from Erv shortly afterward. “He just called and said ‘I don’t need nothing, I just wanted to say congratulations professional,’” Bender said. “He said I did a good job.” It was a nice payoff for 10 years of hard work. Bender’s foray into horses came from watching his uncles race ponies as a kid. One uncle began working with Standardbreds, which piqued Atlee’s interest. “That was my whole life,” Bender said. “I wanted to try the horses.” He initially helped a friend from his church race ponies and started doing it himself at age 14. He soon bought a pony with family friend Lewayne Miller and continued to drive them as a hobby until age 22. Miller raced horses at Indiana’s Hoosier Park, where he became friends with Erv Miller (no relation) and began working for him. Weary of his job in a trailer factory, which he had since graduating high school, Bender asked Lewayne if Erv needed help. It turned out he did need someone in Indiana. Bender met Miller at a sale, the two hit it off, and Atlee started working for Erv two years ago, both in Indiana and Florida. This past year, Miller brought him to his stable in Wind Gap, Pa., making Bender his second trainer. As one would expect, working with a harness racing icon has been invaluable. “I’ve learned a lot of things,” Bender said. “I didn’t have a lot of experience from the harness racing aspect. It’s the same concept as ponies, but he does his stuff a lot different. He taught me a lot, how to set a horse up as far as rigging, training-wise and driving. He taught me a lot about how to drive horses. “He’s always trying to teach you to do better. He’ll harp on you a little bit, but that’s just for good intentions to make you better. He really wants you to succeed and get the most out of every horse you drive. He emphasizes that every horse is different, and you can’t drive them all the same. He really taught me a lot as far as the driving aspect.” Miller felt Bender learned his lessons well enough to give him a shot with Jet Airway, who had strong 2- and 3-year-old campaigns, winning 10 of 30 races including four divisions of the Ontario Sire Stakes and earning $371,555, before being limited to four starts last year. “He broke down a little bit,” Bender said. “We just started him back and he’s pretty sound now.” Atlee began qualifying horses for Miller last year and the trainer rewarded him with that now memorable drive. Bender said he had no time to get nervous, as it was only he and one groom on hand at Vernon Downs. Atlee had to race Jet Airway in the second race; and the horse he owns, Rockin Winner, in race five (he is part owner of two other horses with Lewayne Miller). “We were kind of pushed for time, so I didn’t have much time to get nervous,” Bender said. “I was warming up Rockin Winner, I got off the track and jumped on Jet Airway, so I wasn’t nervous.” Bender finished fourth with Rockin Winner. Two weeks later, he drove Jet Airway to a second victory in a career-best 1:49.2 over a sloppy track in the Open/Preferred at Vernon. Once again, Bender got away last in the five-horse race. “The horse that beat us the previous week got away fourth,” Atlee said. “He pulled second over, and just followed him. In the turn he went three wide, I followed him and at the head of the stretch I tipped four wide and we were side by side for the stretch and I pulled away. I looked over at the time and I saw (1):49.2. My eyes just got all big and I started smiling.” Bender has evidently earned his trainer’s trust. He has two more races Friday at Harrah’s Philadelphia and another two Saturday at Tioga Downs. Atlee’s dream is to become a fulltime driver but he said if that doesn’t come to pass, he would be happy to train horses. Either way, it beats the trailer factory. “I like it a lot better,” he said. “I’ve never woke up and said ‘I have to go to work.’ I want to go to work. I want to be with horses instead of doing the same thing over and over.” by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent   

Trenton, NJ --- About the only thing that could replace Saturday (Aug. 6) as the most memorable day for accomplishments in harness racing driver Scott Zeron’s life, is if he is ever elected Prime Minister of Canada. And even that might not do the trick, as the 27-year-old Canadian had a Hambletonian Day for the ages at the Meadowlands on Saturday. First, he defeated harness racing’s “Big Three” by driving Shamballa to an upset victory in the $225,550 U.S. Pacing Championship for older pacers. The fact Shamballa is trained and partly owned by Scott’s dad, Rick Zeron, made it even more special. Two races later in the $1 million Hambletonian, presented by Mullinax Ford, Zeron came from first over to drive Marion Marauder to a photo-finish win over Southwind Frank. It was the second such occurrence of the afternoon as Marion Marauder also defeated Southwind Frank in their Hambletonian elimination. Finally, Zeron capped his day by being recognized as the leading driver at this year’s Meadowlands meet. Zeron’s 82 wins were 12 more than runner-up Tim Tetrick. Zeron, who became the second-youngest driver to ever win the Hambletonian, became the first under-30 driver to win the Big M title since 29-year-old John Campbell led the colony in 1984. Any one of those feats would have made for an awesome day. To gain all three was like reaching into the pocket of a barely used jacket and discovering a crumpled $100 bill; hitting the Powerball later that day; and having the IRS immediately declare there will no longer be income tax on lottery winnings. “I don’t know how I could have a bigger day than I did on Saturday,” said the personable Zeron, who will drive Shamballa in Friday’s (Aug. 12) $300,000 Dan Patch Stakes at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino. “It wasn’t just about those two big wins; it was about winning the Hambletonian, an internationally known race, and also winning for my dad. It’s going to be very tough to surpass the emotions I had that day.” The fun started in the second Hambletonian elimination of the day. Marion Marauder was up against Southwind Frank, who had beaten him in all four meetings last year and was a 1-5 favorite. At 3-1 odds, Zeron’s horse trotted a lifetime best mile of 1:51.3 and overtook Southwind Frank in the final strides. “When I was looking on the TV, it doesn’t look as bad, it looks like he had three or four lengths on me, but when I was out there and by the time I had gotten all the way up four wide, it looked like he was a quarter-mile away from me,” Zeron said. “When I moved my horse over and he had that momentum, I thought halfway down the lane maybe I could get him. “I started asking my horse a little bit. I’m getting a little closer and I start pushing him a little more. When I got closer and closer I knew it was going to be huge to win that elimination and head into that final (because of being ensured a starting spot inside post six). It turned out the post position didn’t matter because everybody drew well.” Shortly thereafter, Scott got in the sulky behind Shamballa, who went off at 8-1 in the U.S. Pacing Championship. Rick Zeron’s horse was going against world champions Wiggle It Jiggleit, Always B Miki and Freaky Feet Pete, considered harness racing’s “Big Three” this year. Shamballa promptly made it the “Big Four” by pacing a career-best 1:47.1 to upset 2015 Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit by one length. “I went into that race definitely thinking I had a chance to win it,” Zeron said. “If I had the right trip I could beat those horses. He showed in a very vigorous first-up trip (in the William R. Haughton Memorial) when Miki beat me in a mile and an eighth race, that I could stay with those horses (Shamballa was second by three-quarters of a length). If things kind of worked out, I could beat the Big Three. “Not a lot of people believed I could. I was ecstatic with that one, with the family connections. I wish my dad was there to watch that race with me, but it was unbelievable to win that race. I was so excited. Beating those horses is one thing, but to win it for your father is another.” Although not in attendance, Rick felt the emotions and took the humble route when it was over. “The last thing he’ll ever talk about is the horse,” Scott said. “He’ll tell me how proud of me he is, and how much he loves me and he knew we could do this. And then we’ll get to ‘The horse raced great.’ He was all water works when we went across that wire. The fact that both of us believed this horse could do it and to always be the underdog, it felt unbelievable to get that win.” Zeron is looking forward to facing the "Big Three" again in Indiana on Friday, and feels Jimmy Takter’s horse may make a bigger impact after finishing fourth as the favorite in the U.S. Pacing Championship on Saturday. “It’s a great track for Miki and Miki was coming off a three-week layoff,” Zeron said. “I think he would be better up at Hoosier.” After posting two huge wins Saturday, Zeron and Marion Marauder geared for Scott’s first drive in a Hambletonian final. Both driver and horse were feeling good after their earlier victory. “It was huge to mow down Southwind Frank (in the elimination) with the insurmountable lead that he had,” Zeron said. “It was great for my horse to beat him. You just get that momentum, everything has to click on that day and that’s kind of the way it happened. To win from where we were sitting at that three-quarter pole, it just felt like we were going to win that final.” They prevailed in the most gut-wrenching way possible, launching a first-over assault to win a photo finish over Southwind Frank. Marion Marauder was fifth after a half-mile and second behind favorite Bar Hopping after three- quarters, before Bar Hopping dropped back and Marion Marauder charged ahead and ultimately held off Southwind Frank. “I knew I was going to be first up and I was very content with that because I could control my own destiny,” Zeron said. “My horse just slowly, gradually picked up his speed throughout the mile, so first up isn’t a spot that’s too challenging for him. I was happy, though, that when I did move him first up, he grabbed on and he wanted to go. “He knows coming around that turn that soon it’s go time. But when I moved him up to go first up, he wanted to go. It’s an amazing feeling to have that; when it’s the second heat, you already won a big first heat, and to just know that he felt good right there at the half. It was a warm feeling for me to know he wanted to win this race.” Zeron had to keep his joy in check, however, due to the photo finish. Southwind Frank's driver Yannick Gingras glanced over and congratulated Zeron, who remained mellow as he looked over to find Marion Marauder’s connections heading to the winner’s circle. “I’m staring over there and not one of my people are going over to that stand,” he said. “Nobody else was either. I’m thinking this is much closer than I even think. This could really be tight. “When I hit that wire I couldn’t enjoy it because I was so concerned about whether or not I won or not. We’re on CBS, so I’m not going to start fist pumping and going ballistic when there’s a shot I might not have won.” After a few minutes, which seemed like a few hours for Zeron, trainers Paula Wellwood and Mike Keeling and owners Marion Jean Wellwood and Devin Keeling, Marion Marauder was declared the winner. “When they put it up on the TV screen all my connections went nuts,” Zeron said. “Then it really started to sink in.” As did the fact he was the track champion in just his third year of driving at the Meadowlands. Zeron had been eyeing the title for the past two months and finished with a 12-win cushion over Tetrick. “I wanted it and Timmy and I would talk about it in the last couple months, how many is he away, how many am I up by,” Zeron said. “For me it meant a lot. I was very focused on it the last few weeks.” Scott admitted things have accelerated in his career much faster than he thought. He has now crossed off two major races on his bucket list -- the Little Brown Jug and the Hambletonian. “They’re the two biggest races, especially for that international presence,” he said. “Everybody watches those races.” His top goal has not been reached, however, as he is still seeking a victory in the North America Cup. “Growing up in Canada, to me that’s the end-all, be-all race,” he said. “The NA Cup is my hometown race, that’s the one I want next year.” After all, it couldn’t hurt if he ever waged a campaign for prime minister. by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent 

A word of advice concerning Saturday’s Hambletonian: don’t take the “other guys” for granted. Southwind Frank and Bar Hopping will be the clear-cut harness racing favorites when the 91st edition of the Hambletonian, presented by Mullinax Ford, takes place at the Meadowlands on Saturday (Aug. 6). But there are four talented dark horses that can make things very interesting coming down the stretch. They are Sutton, Milligan’s School, Marion Marauder and Brooklyn Hill. Bar Hopping is a 9-5 favorite in the first nine-horse elimination at 2:58 p.m. Also in his race will be Milligan’s School (10-1) and Brooklyn Hill (3-1). Southwind Frank is a 4-5 favorite in the second elimination at 3:25 p.m., while Sutton is 6-1 and Marion Marauder is 3-1. Milligan’s School has three firsts and a second in seven starts this year, winning $160,166. He has finished in the money in 14 of 23 career starts, including eight firsts, and has won $462,726. He drew post four in his elimination. Trained by Julie Miller and driven by Andy Miller, Milligan’s School opened the season winning two straight Pennsylvania Sire Stakes events in 1:55.3 at the Meadows and 1:54.4 at Harrah’s Philadelphia. After breaking in his next two starts he trotted to a a career best 1:53.2 in the $75,000 Earl Beal Jr. Consolation at Pocono and is coming off a second-place trip in the $300,000 Zweig Memorial at Vernon Downs on July 24. “I take complete responsibility (for the breaks), that was my fault,” Julie Miller said. “I was tinkering with his shoes, I made a bad choice, but I got him back the way he was. If it wasn’t broken, I shouldn’t have tried to fix it. Luckily he’s bounced back after those mishaps and Andy was really pleased with him in the Zweig, so we like him.” Sired by 1997 Hambo elimination winner Yankee Glide, Milligan’s School is owned by Natalia Stroy of Stroy, Inc. Stroy, an importer and exporter of meats, is flying in from Russia to watch her first Hambletonian entry. “She’s very excited, obviously,” Miller said. “She’s remarkable. Pete Spears of Hanover Shoe Farms introduced us at Harrisburg and we had horses with her last year and now this year. “She’s a smart, educated lady, she follows American racing and I’m always impressed by her e-mails and the questions she asks. She has her finger on the pulse. I’m glad to work with her.” After Andy Miller drives Milligan’s School, he will climb in the bike behind Sutton, who his stable owns along with Jason and Doug Allen. Sutton opened this season winning a qualifier at the Meadowlands in 1:51.2 on May 28, making him the fastest 3-year-old trotter of 2016. He won his first start of the year in an overnight race at Pocono in 1:56.2 over a sloppy track on June 5. After finishing fifth as the beaten favorite in a PA Sire Stakes event at Pocono on June 12, he raced against older foes in two overnights at the Meadowlands, finishing seventh and second. The horse, who drew post three, is coming off a strong second to Southwind Frank from post 11 in a $153,250 division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial on July 16. He then posted a 1:52.4 score in the $75,000 Zweig Consolation on July 24 at Vernon Downs. “We’ve been really happy his last few starts, it seems like he’s putting it together,” Julie Miller said. “He raced at Pocono in the mud and I think that kind of kinked him up. Luckily I think he’s come out of that and I think we have him as healthy and fit as we can have him for Saturday.” Sutton has two wins and two seconds in six starts, earning $87,539 this year. He has four wins and five seconds in 15 career starts for $166,706 in winnings. He is the first foal of his dam, I Wanted Wings, who won the NJSS final at two. “He’s always had a great demeanor on and off the track,” Miller said. “He is full of himself, being a stud horse and nickering and playing. But I really just think he’s always been sensibly mannered. It’s just overcoming his endurance and fitness. He’s coming into himself and Andy has a lot of confidence in him.” Andy Miller, whose best finish in five Hambo finals was fourth in 2009, has a potential pleasant dilemma of who to drive if Milligan’s School and Sutton both reach the final. According to his wife, however, it’s not an issue at all. “We have no choice because we own part of Sutton,” she said. “He will be the driver of Sutton if he makes it. I will have to snatch up a catch driver for Milligan. I am not even going to worry about it. (Milligan’s School) is a nice horse to drive and there’s a top-notch crew that’s going to be here Saturday. If we cross that bridge, I am sure I can find one. I don’t think I’ll get an ‘I’ll pass’ on that.” Marion Marauder hopes to finally pass Southwind Frank -- preferably in the Hambo final -- after having finished second to him four times as a 2-year-old. The two missed each other earlier this year when they were in different divisions of the Stanley Dancer Memorial. Starting from post six, Marion Marauder won his $153,250 division in 2:08.1 at a mile and one-eighth as the even money favorite. He was then entered in a July 30 qualifier at the Meadowlands as a Hambletonian tune-up but, in order to maintain his confidence, was eventually scratched from a field that included numerous older and accomplished horses. “We don’t want to go in against aged trotters,” trainer Paula Wellwood said. “We drew in against Pinkman and Rose Run Parker. I wasn’t going to do that.” The Canadian-based horse, who drew post four, was trained by Linda Toscano at Magical Acres last Saturday in order to work on his endurance. “He’s got the speed, and he trained very, very well,” Wellwood said. “He doesn’t mind the New Jersey heat at all.” Marion Marauder has four wins in five starts this year, winning $194.905. He has five wins, five seconds and three thirds in 18 career starts, good for $476,891 in earnings. Paula’s mother, Marion Jean Wellwood, and her son, Devin Keeling, own the horse. He is trained by Wellwood and her husband, Mike Keeling. Marion Marauder is named after Marion Wellwood and the McMaster University mascot, the Marauders. Devin enrolled to play football at McMaster, and Marion Marauder was born on his birthday. The colt's sire, Muscle Hill, was the 2009 Horse of the Year after going 12-for-12 and winning the Hambletonian in a world record 1:50.1. Scott Zeron, 27, who currently leads the Big M standings and is eyeing his first Meadowlands driving title, is hoping to make his first Hambo final appearance driving Marion Marauder. “He couldn’t be coming into the Hambletonian any better,” said Zeron, who became the youngest driver in history to reach 2,000 wins in 2013. “He has finished with guns a blazin’, and I haven’t had to pop the ear plugs. He’s strong and fresh, and his last quarter is always his best.” While Zeron aims for uncharted territory, Hall of Famer David Miller is gunning for his 12th Hambletonian final with Brooklyn Hill. Miller has two third-place Hambo finishes. Another son of Muscle Hill, Brooklyn Hill has not won a race this year but has finished in the money in four of five starts to earn $46,500. He has two firsts, eight seconds and two thirds in 15 career starts, winning $235,200. He opened the season by finishing second in a New Jersey Sires Stakes division on May 20, and followed with a second-place finish to Southwind Frank in the $100,000 final on June 4. After taking second in an elimination, Brooklyn Hill made an early break and finished eighth in the $500,000 final of the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial at Pocono on July 2. “We kind of had a mishap at Pocono, so that put us where we’ve made only $46,000 this year,” said trainer Jonas Czernyson, who has put 13 starters in Hambletonian finals and had a second-place finish in 2000. “But we’ve got five starts, with three seconds, one third and one break. You can’t really fault him. He’s trotted in (1):52 in about half of those starts. I’m very happy about him. I think he’s going to be right there.” Brooklyn Hill’s final Hambletonian tune-up produced a third-place finish in the $75,000 Zweig Memorial Consolation, setting the pace and trotting a 1:53.2 mile. “I think we’re in a good spot,” Czernyson said. “Leading up to this, I think he’s as good as we can get him right now. I’m very happy with how he’s been. I’m excited.” Owned by SRF Stable of Delray Beach, Fla., Brooklyn Hill starts from post five, prompting Czernyson to note, “I’m happy we drew mid-pack. I think we are good to go.” Below are the fields for the two Hambletonian eliminations: $70,000 Hambletonian Elimination 1 Race 8 - Post time 2:58 p.m. PP-Horse-Sire--Driver-Trainer-Morning Line 1. Bar Hopping - Muscle Hill - Tim Tetrick-Jimmy Takter-9/5 2. Lagerfeld - Yankee Glide - Yannick Gingras-Jimmy Takter-12/1 3. Make Or Miss - Donato Hanover - Joe Bongiorno-Ron Burke-20/1 4. Milligan's School - Yankee Glide - Andy Miller-Julie Miller-10/1 5. Brooklyn Hill - Muscle Hill - David Miller-Jonas Czernyson-3/1 6. Mavens Way - Muscle Hill - John Campbell-Ake Svanstedt-6/1 7. Tight Lines - Yankee Glide - Jeff Gregory-Jeff Gregory-25/1 8. Iron Mine Bucky - Explosive Matter - George Dennis-Greg Haverstick-15/1 9. Reigning Moni - Donato Hanover - David Miller-Jimmy Takter-4/1   $70,000 Hambletonian Elimination 2 Race 9 - Post time 3:25 p.m. PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line 1. Jimmy William - Cantab Hall - Tim Tetrick-Jimmy Takter-20/1 2. The Royal Harry - RC Royalty - Ake Svanstedt-Ake Svanstedt-20/1 3. Sutton - Donato Hanover - Andy Miller-Julie Miller-6/1 4. Marion Marauder - Muscle Hill - Scott Zeron-Paula Wellwood-3/1 5. Southwind Frank - Muscle Hill - Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-4/5 6. Hollywood Highway - Muscle Massive - John Campbell-Staffan Lind-30/1 7. Dominion Beach - Muscle Hill - Bjorn Goop-Nancy Johansson-30/1 8. Love Matters - Explosive Matters - Brett Miller-Jimmy Takter-12/1 9. Waitlifter K - Muscles Yankee - David Miller-Andrew Harris-10/1 by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

Joe Bongiorno is in position to become the youngest driver to ever win the Hambletonian, harness racing's most prestigious event. That can lead to some pretty anxious moments in the days leading up to the race. But the 22-year-old from Colts Neck, N.J., has a great way of not thinking about it. He just doesn't give himself the chance. With the 91st edition of the Hambletonian, presented by Mullinax Ford, set to take place at the Meadowlands on Saturday (Aug. 6), Bongiorno will be driving 20-1 longshot Make Or Miss out of post three in the first elimination. Rather than dwell on the magnitude of what he is doing, Bongiorno just stays busy. He has not had a day off in three weeks. This week, he raced at Yonkers on Monday and Tuesday and Harrah's Philadelphia on Wednesday, and will compete at Yonkers on Thursday, Philadelphia Friday afternoon and the Meadowlands Friday night. After the Hambo, trainer Tony Alagna is flying him to Vernon to drive some Sire Stakes on Saturday night. "I think the more horses you drive, the sharper you stay," he said. "As long as you're not getting run down it's OK. I'm still young. I can do this without getting too exhausted and too tired." Named 2011 National Amateur Driver of the Year by the U.S. Harness Writers' Association and 2011 Rising Star Award winner from the Monticello-Goshen chapter of USHWA, Bongiorno is enjoying his finest season to date. He has already amassed career highs in purse starts (1,565), firsts (254), seconds (227) and thirds (192). He has $1,959.235 in earnings, just $14,453 shy of last year's all-time high; and credits trainers such as Richie Johnson, Alagna and Burke for giving him quality horses to drive. Growing up within an hour of the Meadowlands, Bongiorno and his harness racing family have attended Hambletonians since he was a child. Despite his youth, he understands as much as any veteran what the race means. "I was on my way back from Canada the other day, so I was sitting at the airport watching the post position draws," he said. "You just watch that press conference video and see all the fans in the videos of the Hambletonians back in the day. It just gives you chills to watch a video like that. When I was just starting out, I never thought I'd be driving here this young. "You're racing in the most prestigious race in harness racing. I'm doing it in my favorite track. There's nothing like it. It's an awesome place to race, Jeff Gural has done an unbelievable job keeping the place going. Just to race in this race is awesome and if I get lucky enough that things click and the horse happens to do some good, there's no words to explain how it would feel." Joe got his break last November when he drove Burke's Make Or Miss to a dead heat win in the $489,400 Valley Victory Stakes for 2-year-old trotters. It was his first drive in a race worth more than $150,000. "When I got lucky enough to pick up Make Or Miss and we got to the dead heat in that Valley Victory final, I knew he was my horse to drive this year," Bongiorno said. That has not been the greatest of rewards for the driver, as the horse is winless in four 2016 starts, making breaks in three of them. Coming off a 2-year-old season in which he had two wins and one second for $214,445, he has earned just $1,532 during his sophomore season. There is, however, another side to the story. "So far this year, things haven't really clicked with this horse," Bongiorno said. "But on the other hand, Ronnie did make some shoeing changes that he and I both agreed on, that we thought would help the horse stop interfering. I watched the horse train (Wednesday) morning, Ronnie trained him himself, and the horse looked the best he's ever looked. He looked absolutely phenomenal." The handlers are hoping the alterations will stop Make Or Miss from getting in his own way. "He hits his hind shin pretty hard and I think that's what's been going on; he hits himself and he just can't get through it," Bongiorno said. "We made a pretty drastic change to him, because the way we looked at it is, what we've been doing hasn't been working and for something to change you had to make a change. So that's what he did." Bongiorno calls racing in the Hambo at his age an "unbelievable opportunity" and while he isn't making any grand predictions, he feels Make Or Miss has the potential to surprise some people. "I know he's a longshot going into the race, but I don't look at this horse that way," he said. "I look at this horse as if things do click, miracles can happen with him; because he is fast enough. To me he's about as fast as any of them, if not faster. He's a very, very fast horse, it's just a matter of getting his gait down. "From what I saw (Wednesday), I've watched this horse train all year this year and he's not looked anything like he looked today. He looked absolutely unbelievable. Ronnie made a few equipment adjustments as well as the shoeing, and he just looked like a different horse on the racetrack. So I'm hoping that things click just like they did last year in the Valley Victory." Whether they do or not, it will be an afternoon to remember for Bongiorno. He is not intimidated by a big race at the Big M -- at which he is fourth in the driving standings this year -- after driving longshot Manhattan Beach to a fourth-place finish in the Meadowlands Pace. "It was cool," Bongiorno said. "You're thinking 'Wow at 22 years old I'm driving in the Meadowlands Pace.' I drove the race like I would drive any other race and that's what I intend on doing at the Hambletonian also. "It's another race, it's another big race, and you do gain experience as you drive in these bigger races. A lot of money's on the line; some people drive different. I just have to do my thing, drive it like another race. Win, lose or draw, it's just a great experience to be a part of this race." And with the schedule he keeps, Bongiorno won't really be thinking about it until the day it arrives. The Hambletonian as well as the U.S. Pacing Championship and Hambletonian Oaks will be presented during a 90-minute broadcast from 4-5:30 p.m. (EDT) Saturday on CBS Sports Network. Hambletonian Day first race post time is noon. Below are the fields for the two Hambletonian eliminations: $70,000 Hambletonian Elimination 1 Race 8 - Post time 2:58 p.m. PP-Horse-Sire--Driver-Trainer-Morning Line 1. Bar Hopping - Muscle Hill - Tim Tetrick-Jimmy Takter-9/5 2. Lagerfeld - Yankee Glide - Yannick Gingras-Jimmy Takter-12/1 3. Make Or Miss - Donato Hanover - Joe Bongiorno-Ron Burke-20/1 4. Milligan's School - Yankee Glide - Andy Miller-Julie Miller-10/1 5. Brooklyn Hill - Muscle Hill - David Miller-Jonas Czernyson-3/1 6. Mavens Way - Muscle Hill - John Campbell-Ake Svanstedt-6/1 7. Tight Lines - Yankee Glide - Jeff Gregory-Jeff Gregory-25/1 8. Iron Mine Bucky - Explosive Matter - George Dennis-Greg Haverstick-15/1 9. Reigning Moni - Donato Hanover - David Miller-Jimmy Takter-4/1   $70,000 Hambletonian Elimination 2 Race 9 - Post time 3:25 p.m. PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line 1. Jimmy William - Cantab Hall - Tim Tetrick-Jimmy Takter-20/1 2. The Royal Harry - RC Royalty - Ake Svanstedt-Ake Svanstedt-20/1 3. Sutton - Donato Hanover - Andy Miller-Julie Miller-6/1 4. Marion Marauder - Muscle Hill - Scott Zeron-Paula Wellwood-3/1 5. Southwind Frank - Muscle Hill - Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-4/5 6. Hollywood Highway - Muscle Massive - John Campbell-Staffan Lind-30/1 7. Dominion Beach - Muscle Hill - Bjorn Goop-Nancy Johansson-30/1 8. Love Matters - Explosive Matters - Brett Miller-Jimmy Takter-12/1 9. Waitlifter K - Muscles Yankee - David Miller-Andrew Harris-10/1 by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

Trenton, NJ --- Harness racing trainer Ed Hart and owner Jeff Snyder might be best known for their successes with pacers, so seeing them team up with a Grand Circuit trotter might appear to be a little out of character. But Hart says training 2-year-old Another Chapter -- who is racing in the second of two Peter Haughton Memorial eliminations Friday (July 29) at the Meadowlands -- isn’t much different than what he is used to. “I don’t think so,” Hart said, when asked if he changes his approach. “A lot of time you just have to take your time. I guess what I’m saying is for both (pacers and trotters). It’s how they develop as they come along. You just have to take your time with it.” Hart has not seen enough of Another Chapter to draw any firm conclusions on his future. He likes what he has seen so far, as the colt has one third-place finish in three starts -- all on the New York Sire Stakes circuit. He heads to his Haughton elimination off a fifth-place finish on July 21 at Vernon Downs, where he came home fastest of all, in :27.4, and was beaten only 1-1/2 lengths. Brett Miller will drive Another Chapter on Friday. He is the 4-1 third choice on the morning line, behind two trotters from the stable of trainer Ron Burke, What The Hill (2-1) and Southwind Cobra (3-1). Another Chapter’s sire is Chapter Seven, the 2012 Horse of the Year. His dam is Southwind Catlin, the New Jersey Sire Stakes champion at age 2 in 2004. He is a half-brother to 2013 Breeders Crown winner Spider Blue Chip and the family also includes stakes-winner Flawless Bluestone and Pine Schooner, who is the mother of 2009 Hambletonian Oaks winner Broadway Schooner. He was purchased for $125,000 by Snyder -- perhaps best known as owner of 1994 Horse of the Year Cam’s Card Shark and co-owner of 2005 Horse of the Year Rocknroll Hanover -- and Four Friends Racing Stable at the Standardbred Horse Sale. The owners changed his name from Orthodox Blue Chip to Another Chapter. “I think the owners were interested in the first crop of Chapter Seven, and this is another exciting horse coming in,” Hart said. “He’s a well bred horse. That’s what Jeff Snyder has liked.” Hart was unable to make many comparisons between Another Chapter and his parents, as he did not know Southwind Catlin and only saw Chapter Seven race. “He’s not a real big horse, just a nice, medium size horse,” Hart said. “I don’t think Chapter Seven was very big either.” The trainer did note that Another Chapter does share a major trait with his siblings. “I’ve got a few Chapter Sevens and the one thing I’ve liked is all their attitudes,” he said. “He’s got a lot of try. He’s got a very good attitude, he just tries all the time.” Asked if there is anything about the horse that concerned him, Hart said, “I don’t think so. It’s like all young trotters, he’s still a little bit of a work in progress. There are going to be mistakes and bumps down the road but overall he’s been OK. He seems to be getting better each week.” The trainer noted that in the stable, Another Chapter is quiet for a colt, saying “he’s nippy, but he’s good. He’s a happy horse. He’s sharp; not a salty type of horse.” The horse’s health has been solid so far, as he has yet to take a sick day. Immediately after reporting that, Hart laughed and said, “I probably shouldn’t say that. I better knock on wood.” Because his races have been limited so far, Hart doesn’t have a firm idea of what type of trip he likes. Another Chapter has shown a tendency to be aggressive behind the gate, so they have been taking it easy with him. “For the most part, he’s finished up pretty strong in the mile,” Hart said. “I know it’s a tough task (Friday) coming from the sire stakes, but I do like his chances (to advance). I raced him at Vernon and I think the best part of his mile was toward the wire. He’s finishing up real strong.” Hart, who had the sport’s top 2-year-old male pacer in 2004 in Village Jolt (also owned by Snyder); and harness racing’s top 3-year-old male pacer in 2011 in Roll With Joe, has Another Chapter staked up. “We’ll just see how it develops, see how he finishes out the rest of the sire stakes,” Hart said. “I think he has all the major stakes; the Breeders Crown and what not. So we’ll try and get through this week, finish out the sire stakes and see what happens towards the fall. “He’s one of those colts that just seems to get better every week. That’s what you want. We just have to keep going forward.” by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

A word of advice to Julie Miller's friends. As the harness racing trainer gets Milligan's School ready for his final Hambletonian prep event, don't post anything on her Facebook wall because you won't hear back until at least next week. Milligan's School is competing in Sunday's (July 24) $300,000 Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial main event for 3-year-old trotters at Vernon Downs, and he has the complete attention of his trainer. "Not that I'm older or I'm wiser, I don't know about those kind of things, but I really try to just stay off social media at this point," Miller said. "I don't read a bunch of stuff. I need to focus on my horses, not what everybody else is doing. I really just try to zone in and let the external noise figure itself out." She also tries to keep things simple as the stakes grow higher. "I try not to over-think things," Miller said. "I just really try to stay on track. We have our goal and mission. When things are going right in my stable we do the same things, and it's the same when things are in a rough patch. I try not to let other things distract me from my goal and my purpose with my horses." The purpose on Sunday is not just for Milligan's School to compete, but to win his final race before the $1 million Hambletonian, which is Aug. 6 at the Meadowlands. A son of Yankee Glide out of the mare Tori Ann, the horse has won three of six starts this year and earned $85,166. He has taken two divisions of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial Consolation division, after a shoeing incident caused him to go off stride in his elimination. He was sixth last weekend in his division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial, which was won by Marion Marauder. Milligan's School had a tremendous freshman campaign, with five wins, three seconds and two thirds, good for $302,560 in earnings in 16 starts. He won divisions of the Bluegrass and International Stallion stakes at Red Mile in Lexington; was second to Dog Gone Lucky (by a head) in the Matron Stakes; third in the Valley Victory final; and fifth in the Breeders Crown. "I would say things are pretty much status quo this year (compared to last)," Miller said. "He raced excellent last year. With how his schedule was this year he hasn't had many starts yet. We had a hiccup in the Earl Beal eliminations and that was kind of a missed opportunity, but we're looking forward." One thing that has changed is the horse's physical stature, which makes the trainer happy considering the competition. "Obviously I do think he's a little bigger and stronger than he was last year and he's going to have to be," Miller said. "That's a great division. Southwind Frank and Marion Marauder, they're just excellent horses. You're going to have to be not just 100 percent, but 110 percent because Frank and Marion are so dominant right now. I hope I can still compete with them. I don't want to race just for the money I want to race for the win." Milligan's School drew post four Sunday, which puts him in a good starting point. He is 5-1 on the morning line. The four-horse entry of Love Matters, Bar Hopping, Hollywood Highway, and Lagerfeld is the 9-5 favorite. Love Matters, Bar Hopping, and Lagerfeld are trained by Jimmy Takter while Hollywood Highway is from the Staffan Lind Stable. The horses are an entry because of common ownership. "It's that time of year, it's getting to be crunch time, this is why we work hard all winter long," Miller said. "He feels good, he's healthy. I feel like I've got him at the best that he can be. Hopefully we can count on that and make good. "Like everybody else, I don't know what's going to happen. The goal here is the Hambo, this is going to be a really good determination if he fits in there. I'm hoping for a good effort. There's a lot of money on the line. We've got a good position so I'm hoping he can make good on it. I hope he's at his best and he can work on a good trip." If it results in a trip to the Hambletonian, then things will be right on schedule for the Millers and Russia-based owner Natalia Stroy of Stroy Inc. When Julie and her husband Andy, the horse's driver, picked Milligan's School out at the Standardbred Horse Sale they did so with high hopes. He sold for $120,000. "I explained to Natalia that I think he's a stakes horse," Miller said. "That was the whole goal when we bought him, was to make him a stakes horse and so far he's fulfilling that promise. I told the owner I thought he'd be a top contender and at least a sire stakes horse and hopefully a Grand Circuit horse. He's blossoming into what we wanted him to be." Miller considers herself "pretty fortunate," noting that Milligan's School is a mild mannered horse that can lead or come off cover. "That's really one good thing about him," she said. "He's two fingers to drive and he's honest and he'll give you his best chance." And how does Andy like driving him? "I think he likes to drive anything that's winning," Julie said with a laugh. "I do think it's more special, because it's one we train in the barn. So that's a little bit more special. Andy gets on really well with the horse. We're just hoping for some good things." Following is the field for the Zweig: PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line 1. Love Matters-Brett Miller-Jimmy Takter-9/5 2. Hititoutofthepark-Corey Callahan-John Butenschoen-6/1 3. Bar Hopping-Tim Tetrick-Jimmy Takter-9/5 4. Milligan's School-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-5/1 5. Trolley-Marcus Miller-Erv Miller-2/1 6. Hollywood Highway-John Campbell-Staffan Lind-9/5 7. Lagerfeld-Yannick Gingras-Jimmy Takter-9/5 8. Blenheim-Chris Christoforou-Per Henriksen-8/1 9. Smalltownthrowdown-Dan Daley-Dan Daley-10/1 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 7 - Freehold - Dexter Cup - Dante - Cufflink Hanover - Credevie May 7 - Pocono - PA All Stars - Tyson - Edinburgh - Will Self May 7 - Pocono - PA All Stars - Mikkeli Hanover - Granite State - Marion Gondolier May 7 - Pocono - PA All Stars - Hititoutofthepark - Lagerfeld - Cloud Nine Hanover May 14 - Meadows - PASS - Cufflink Hanover - Love Matters - Southern Cross May 14 - Meadows - PASS - Truemass Volo - Marion Gondolier - Hanks Tank May 14 - Meadows - PASS - Milligan's School - Hititoutofthepark - Desert Runner May 14 - Meadows - PASS - Lagerfeld - Tyson - Hollywood Highway May 20 - Meadowlands - NJSS - Southwind Frank - Brooklyn Hill - Bar Hopping May 21 - Meadows - Currier & Ives - Iron Mine Bucky - Steed - Hititoutofthepark May 21 - Meadows - Currier & Ives - Cufflink Hanover - Hollywood Highway - Truemass Volo May 27 - Meadowlands - NJSS - Mavens Way - Jack Vernon - Double L Lindy June 2 - Philadelphia - PASS - Hollywood Highway - Taco Tuesday - Sliding Home June 2 - Philadelphia - PASS - Lagerfeld - Truemass Volo - Dupree June 2 - Philadelphia - PASS - Milligan's School - Reigning Moni - Iron Mine Bucky June 2 - Philadelphia - PASS - Love Matters - Tight Lines - Alexander Hanover June 4 - Meadowlands - NJSS Final - Southwind Frank - Brooklyn Hill - Mavens Way June 12 - Pocono - PASS - Love Matters - Taco Tuesday - Desert Runner June 12 - Pocono - PASS - Trolley - Lagerfeld - Cufflink Hanover June 12 - Pocono - PASS - Hititoutofthepark - Hollywood Highway - Dupree June 18 - Mohawk - Goodtimes - Marion Marauder - Will Take Charge - Blenheim June 19 - Vernon - Empire Breeders Classic - Dante - Just For Today - Thats A Bad Boy June 26 - Buffalo - NYSS - The Royal Harry - Crazycat - A Jersey Contract July 1 - Tioga - Tompkins-Geers - Dominion Beach - Cufflink Hanover - Waitlifter K July 1 - Tioga - Tompkins-Geers - Hititoutofthepark - Blownoutofthewater - Steed July 2 - Pocono - Beal Memorial - Southwind Frank - Trolley - Bar Hopping July 14 - Yonkers - NYSS - Dante - The Royal Harry - Credevie July 16 - Meadowlands - Dancer Mem. - Southwind Frank - Sutton - Love Matters July 16 - Meadowlands - Dancer Mem. - Marion Marauder - Bar Hopping - Iron Mine Bucky Hambletonian eligible winners in bold by Rich Fisher, USTA Senior Correspondent

There's really no other way to put it. Scott Zeron is optimistic when it comes to driving Marion Marauder. The Canadian-based trotter drew post six in his $153,250 division of Saturday's (July 16) Stanley Dancer Memorial for 3-year-old male trotters at the Meadowlands Racetrack and will not have to contend with Hambletonian favorite Southwind Frank, who is in the opposite division. Marion Marauder finished second to Southwind Frank four times last season. Marion Marauder is the 5-2 morning line favorite in his Dancer division, with Jimmy Takter-trained Bar Hopping the 3-1 second choice from post nine in the 11-horse field that will go 1-1/8 miles. "I think the Stanley Dancer looks great," Zeron said of the prep race for the $1 million Hambletonian on Aug. 6 at the Meadowlands. "He couldn't be coming into the race any better. Last week when we were just in an overnight to make sure he got prepped for the Dancer, he finished guns a blazin', splitting horses. I didn't have to pull the earplugs and he was as strong as he's ever been going across the wire. I'm excited, and he's lightly raced so he's fresh." Marion Marauder has won three of four races this year, including the Goodtimes Stakes at Mohawk Racetrack on June 18. A week ago, he started from post nine in a 3-year-old open at the Meadowlands and stormed home from last place in :26.3 to finish second-placed-first when Jack Vernon made a break and was eventually placed ninth. Owned by Marion Jean Wellwood and Devin Keeling and trained by Paula Wellwood, Marion Marauder has won four of 17 career races and earned $404,862. As a 2-year-old, he won once in 13 starts but finished second five times and third three times. "Last year he had a few quirks," Zeron said. "He didn't like going up to the gate. If he did, you had to follow another horse and then slide him onto the gate at the last second. So that was the main reason we never positioned him in a winnable spot last year. He was always a little too far back. We did what we had to do with the quirks we were working with." Those issues have been resolved this year, not to mention the fact that Marion Marauder has gotten substantially bigger. "I don't usually see a big difference from (ages) 2 to 3," Zeron said. "Not a lot of them get a lot of size and mass to them like I've seen him do this year. That's going to be a great thing, we're going to need that for two heats in the Hambo." Since the Stanley Dancer attracted 11 starters in each division, it will be contested at 1-1/8 miles rather than the traditional one-mile distance. That added distance is another reason Zeron feels good about his horse. "I think it helps me," said Zeron, who leads all drivers at the Meadowlands in wins with 70 this year. "If he was a stone cold frontrunner I think it'd be terrible. But the fact that my horse likes coming off the pace, it's good. The further he goes in the mile, the better he picks up his speed. It's better suited to me. "Obviously having trailers is never a good thing but I'm perfectly fine with the extra eighth. I'm not worried about it being harder for him to win. I feel like it's a little easier for him to win." Of course, it's not like Zeron would complain if Marion Marauder got out front. "But so far I like him a little bit better following the helmet," he added. "I almost feel like he slowly starts to build up his speed the further in the mile he goes. His last quarter is always going to be his best quarter." Zeron has driven Marion Marauder in eight of his career starts, including second-place finishes to Southwind Frank in last year's William Wellwood Memorial and Breeders Crown. "So far the trips have been working out," Zeron said. "We're being patient with him, trying to have him in the right situation heading home, and he'll always give you everything he's got. It's always nice driving a trotter who's good gaited, well mannered and lets me do whatever I want with him. He's very easy for me to drive." As for not getting another shot at Southwind Frank in the Stanley Dancer, Zeron is not complaining. He hopes it will materialize a few weeks down the road. Southwind Frank, trained by Ron Burke and driven by Yannick Gingras, is the 6-5 morning line favorite in the first of the two Dancer divisions. "Any time you can miss one of the favorites, it's good for all of us," he said. "To beat Southwind Frank, if we have to do it on Hambo Day than that's the time we'll try to do it. But it's perfectly fine he's in a separate division. By the same token, my horse isn't a frontrunner. I'm not saying he can't do it, but horses like Southwind Frank, when they're in a race they push it and that's always a good thing." It seems everything about Marion Marauder is a good thing where Zeron is concerned. "He's given me no inkling as to why he would be not capable of winning (on Saturday) and I feel like he's only gotten that much better every start he's raced this year," he said. "The extra eighth should be suited for him. Everything is prepping into solid form for the Hambo and I'm excited about it." It's not hard to tell. 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 7 - Freehold - Dexter Cup - Dante - Cufflink Hanover - Credevie May 7 - Pocono - PA All Stars - Tyson - Edinburgh - Will Self May 7 - Pocono - PA All Stars - Mikkeli Hanover - Granite State - Marion Gondolier May 7 - Pocono - PA All Stars - Hititoutofthepark - Lagerfeld - Cloud Nine Hanover May 14 - Meadows - PASS - Cufflink Hanover - Love Matters - Southern Cross May 14 - Meadows - PASS - Truemass Volo - Marion Gondolier - Hanks Tank May 14 - Meadows - PASS - Milligan's School - Hititoutofthepark - Desert Runner May 14 - Meadows - PASS - Lagerfeld - Tyson - Hollywood Highway May 20 - Meadowlands - NJSS - Southwind Frank - Brooklyn Hill - Bar Hopping May 21 - Meadows - Currier & Ives - Iron Mine Bucky - Steed - Hititoutofthepark May 21 - Meadows - Currier & Ives - Cufflink Hanover - Hollywood Highway - Truemass Volo May 27 - Meadowlands - NJSS - Mavens Way - Jack Vernon - Double L Lindy June 2 - Philadelphia - PASS - Hollywood Highway - Taco Tuesday - Sliding Home June 2 - Philadelphia - PASS - Lagerfeld - Truemass Volo - Dupree June 2 - Philadelphia - PASS - Milligan's School - Reigning Moni - Iron Mine Bucky June 2 - Philadelphia - PASS - Love Matters - Tight Lines - Alexander Hanover June 4 - Meadowlands - NJSS Final - Southwind Frank - Brooklyn Hill - Mavens Way June 12 - Pocono - PASS - Love Matters - Taco Tuesday - Desert Runner June 12 - Pocono - PASS - Trolley - Lagerfeld - Cufflink Hanover June 12 - Pocono - PASS - Hititoutofthepark - Hollywood Highway - Dupree June 18 - Mohawk - Goodtimes - Marion Marauder - Will Take Charge - Blenheim June 19 - Vernon - Empire Breeders Classic - Dante - Just For Today - Thats A Bad Boy June 26 - Buffalo - NYSS - The Royal Harry - Crazycat - A Jersey Contract July 1 - Tioga - Tompkins-Geers - Dominion Beach - Cufflink Hanover - Waitlifter K July 1 - Tioga - Tompkins-Geers - Hititoutofthepark - Blownoutofthewater - Steed July 2 - Pocono - Beal Memorial - Southwind Frank - Trolley - Bar Hopping July 14 - Yonkers - NYSS - Dante - The Royal Harry - Credevie Hambletonian eligible winners in bold by Rich Fisher, USTA Senior Correspondent

Round Two in what is hoped to be a season-long series of pacing showdowns is set to take place at the Meadowlands Racetrack on Saturday, and at least one owner involved with the principal characters will cherish every minute of it. He likely won't be alone. Highlighting the $471,800 William R. Haughton Memorial for older male pacers is another much-anticipated battle between 5-year-old Always B Miki and 4-year-olds Wiggle It Jiggleit and Freaky Feet Pete. The trio will have its second head-to-head-to-head meeting in what is the most talked-about rivalry in harness racing in years. Always B Miki won the first match-up at the July 2 Ben Franklin Pace at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, beating Freaky Feet Pete by three-quarters of a length in a world-record-equaling 1:47. Wiggle It Jiggleit, the 2015 Horse of the Year, took third. Last weekend, Wiggle It Jiggleit beat Freaky Feet Pete at the Graduate Series championship at the Big M, but the race was only for 4-year-olds so Always B Miki wasn't eligible to compete. "Before the Ben Franklin, I can't recall seeing as much dialogue on a race in a very, very long time," said Bob Boni, one of Always B Miki's owners. "There was a real buzz all week about that. It started out this week with similar sentiments. Everyone is wondering what's going to happen in the race? "I think it's drawn a tremendous amount of attention. It's on a great card, a lot of people are going to see it. We've got a number of other times when we're scheduled to hook up, potentially, and I think it will be something that will continue to grow because it's a very talented field of older horses." It is something that Boni and his fellow owners (Bluewood Stable, Roll The Dice Stable and Christina Takter) do not take for granted. "We're very fortunate and very appreciative," Boni said. "Those are the words I constantly use. I've been very blessed that I've had some pretty good horses over the years. Miki's the latest right now and he's about as good as anybody's horse. It's a great thrill, but you can't race horses on this level for a long time and not appreciate how fortunate you can be and how great it is to be around horses like this." Especially when it comes to Always B Miki, who was sidelined for nearly a year because of injuries but has returned to win nine of 11 starts with two second-place finishes and earn $642,710 since last October. In seven starts this season he has five wins and two seconds, winning $341,500. Trained by Jimmy Takter and driven predominantly by David Miller, he has finished in the money in 36 of 42 career starts, with 23 wins and $1.56 million in earnings. Roger Welch trained him as a 2-year-old and Joe Holloway had him at age 3, and Boni credits everyone involved for making the pacer the horse that he is today. His chief rivals on Saturday have equally impressive statistics, which has helped create the excitement. Wiggle It Jiggleit -- owned by George Teague Jr. and Teague Racing Partnership, driven by Montrell Teague, and trained by Clyde Francis -- has won 32 of 40 lifetime races. Freaky Feet Pete -- bred by Larry Rheinheimer, who trains the stallion for his wife Mary Jo and son Marty -- has won 29 of 35 career starts. Always B Miki drew post five in the Haughton Memorial while Freaky Feet Pete is in post seven and Wiggle It Jiggleit is in 10. The race attracted 12 starters, so it will be contested at 1-1/8 miles rather than the traditional one-mile distance. "We always have confidence in him," Boni said. "Jimmy and David have just done a great job with the horse. It's going to be fun all year racing. We'll go at it again and I'll always say the same thing, I like our chances, as I'm sure the other guys will say too. "The Ben Franklin was a hard-fought race and they all were competitive, they all took shots and they made it a very good event. How it's going to happen this week I have no idea because if you try to talk to anyone that tried to handicap the Ben Franklin, I don't know anybody who handicapped it the way the race fell." Boni feels what is interesting is that all three horses are Indiana-sired and none of the three are owned by major stables, which he feels should give hope to other owners out there. "We're essentially a small stable, we're one horse," he said. "George Teague races a moderate stable and the Rheinheimers, this is the first time they've been exposed on this level, so these are not some of the names that you've seen in recent years. That's a very healthy thing. The naysayers that say you have to buy expensive horses and have to have a big stable, that's not always the case. You can compete. It can happen at any time." In assessing the horses, Boni feels each one has their unique qualities and some similarities. "Very little seems to bother Wiggle It Jiggleit, he can race on any size racetrack, and Freaky Feet Pete, the same thing; he's been a terrific horse from his 2-year-old season," he said. "They all have brilliant high speed. I would say the other two probably leave the gate faster than Miki does. He's not quick off the gate. But once they get settled in they can all go very fast and they show they can go fast a long way." Boni says Always B Miki enters the Haughton Memorial a healthy, happy horse. "It would have been nice if we didn't have those injury issues, but he did," the owner said. "In a somewhat bizarre way, I think he's a better horse for it. He's much sounder now." It's because of those injuries that Always B Miki's group continues to cherish all the good things that happen now. "I don't think there's anybody here that takes any of this for granted and if anybody did, Miki's had a way of reminding us with a couple incidents that we better not take it for granted," Boni said with a laugh. "I think we're all very appreciative. I don't know anybody who doesn't appreciate what he does." The Haughton Memorial is part of a stakes-filled card Saturday at the Meadowlands. Among the night's other races are the Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace, Mistletoe Shalee, Hambletonian Maturity, and divisions of the Stanley Dancer Memorial and Delvin Miller Memorial. Following is the field for the Haughton Memorial. PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer 1. Limelight Beach-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke 2. Shamballa-Scott Zeron-Rick Zeron 3. Dealt A Winner-Brian Sears-Mark Silva 4. Americanprimetime-John Campbell-Rick Dane Jr. 5. Always B Miki-David Miller-Jimmy Takter 6. Mach It So-Tim Tetrick-Jeff Bamond Jr. 7. Freaky Feet Pete-Trace Tetrick-Larry Rheinheimer 8. Melmerby Beach-Corey Callahan-Ettore Annunziata 9. In The Arsenal -Brett Miller-Kelvin Harrison 10. Wiggle It Jiggleit-Montrell Teague-Clyde Francis 11. Always At My Place-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke 12. All Bets Off-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke *Always At My Place and All Bets Off start from the second tier. Story by Rich Fisher/USTA Senior Correspondent

Daryl Bontrager had more immediate success as a harness racing trainer than a driver, which is fine with him since he is more focused on training at the moment. But he was happy to finally break through while actually sitting in the bike on June 1, when he drove 2-year-old pacing filly Kim’s Desire to a fair win in Converse, Indiana. It was his first driving victory after going 0-for-27 last year. “It meant a lot, it always feels good to win, obviously, but I was more out just for the experience,” Bontrager said. “I haven’t been focusing too much on driving at this point. I’ve mostly just been focusing on training, and it was a fair win. So I’m still looking for a first pari-mutuel win. “I’ve got that same horse in (tonight at Hoosier Park). So hopefully, maybe I’ll get my first pari-mutuel win there. Mostly during pari-mutuel drives I’ll let my buddy Lewayne Miller do the driving for me.” The 27-year-old has his own stable -- which he plans on registering under the name of Elite Harness Racing -- at the Elkhart Family Fairgrounds in Goshen, Ind. He trains seven horses, six that race and one that he is trying to get into racing condition. It is something Daryl has been working toward since his youth. Born and raised Amish, he was always around ponies at home and spent most of his days driving them. “I’d buy and break horses, get them broke to drive and sell them once I got them broke,” he said. “As I got older the size of my horses got a little bigger, I ended up having a trotting bred race pony that I bought as a yearling, and I raised her on the race pony circuit. She ended up winning stake races as a 2- and 3-year-old, and then it just kind of went from there.” Bontrager raced ponies for seven years and set the goal of having a world champion. That came to pass in 2012 when race pony Skyway Majestic was the fastest 3-year-old pacer. “I like setting goals, and once I reach them I set new ones,” he said. “I decided I wasn’t going to do Standardbreds until I achieved the goal of having a world champion. Once I did, then I decided to take my shot at the Standardbreds.” Unlike the year-long wait he had to endure for his first driving win, Daryl won the first race he was ever listed in as a trainer two years ago. Overall he has amassed 37 training wins in 222 races. Bontrager’s foray into Standardbreds wasn’t met with cheers by his family, but they finally relented. “They’re not big on it,” he said. “They’re not big on the horse racing but they’ve accepted it and they know that I’ve been successful and they’re not trying to hold me back.” There are numerous Amish-raised youths in harness racing throughout Bontrager’s part of the country, so he’s not a rarity. “Only in my family,” said Daryl, who does have a brother-in-law that breeds horses. “The pony racing and trotting bred thing, that’s huge. Probably about 75 percent of the pony racing is young Amish kids. There’s a lot of Amish that do breed the Standardbreds, especially in Indiana and Ohio.” And Daryl is proud to be a part of it all, as he has steadily been building a successful career. He owns part of every horse in his stable, which is housed 10 minutes from his Middlebury home. Although his friend Miller -- who is also Amish -- has done most of Bontrager’s driving, he is getting some nice stakes races from other trainers. Thus, Daryl may be doing a lot of driving after getting his pari-mutuel license last year. He’s not complaining. “I like driving the young horses just to get them started the way I like them and I’ll probably keep driving the 2-year-old (Kim’s Desire) since Lewayne drives a lot for another big-time trainer and there will be some conflicts,” he said. “Very likely I’ll drive the 2-year-old throughout the year.” He enjoyed driving her to that first victory, which came without much drama. “I ducked her to dead last and then the pace was really slow going to the half,” he said. “I pulled her first up from last and by the time we hit the three-quarter pole I had her to the front and I just coasted home and she actually won by six. She won quite easily.” It was more of the same the following week, when he ducked away to third, pulled her first up at the half and got her to the front in the last turn to win by 11 lengths. And while training is the main focus now, Bontrager doesn’t discount being in the sulky more frequently in the future. “I do enjoy driving, and at some point I may get to the point where I drive all my own, I’m not sure,” he said. “Right now I’m just kind of taking it one step at a time and seeing where things go.” At the moment, everything is going just fine. by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent   

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