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Harness racing trainer Richard Banca has become the 28th person identified in the horse doping scandal that yielded indictments against some of the biggest names in Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing. Banca’s name was not among those listed when indictments were announced Monday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. He was arrested Monday and released after posting a $200,000 personal recognizance bond. That another name has surfaced fuels speculation that the investigation launched by the FBI and the Department of Justice will yield more names, perhaps many more. The court documents regarding Banca include a deposition from FBI agent Bruce Turpin, who links Banca to Louis Grasso and Conor Flynn, who were among the 27 indicted Monday. Like the others, Banca is being charged with “misbranding” drugs. Turpin testified that Banca’s property in Middletown, NY was searched Mar. 9 and that the FBI found a number of illegal substances and handwritten notes with instructions on how to administer those drugs. Turpin lays out a scenario where Flynn, Grasso and Banca worked together to illegally administer drugs to horses and says that Flynn was Banca’s assistant. “I have learned that Grasso has, on multiple occasions, supplied Flynn with adulterated and misbranded performance-enhancing drugs for Flynn to administer–or deliver to others to administer–to racehorses,” Turpin testified. In further testimony, Turpin reports: “Based on my discussions with an agent who has spoken with a confidential source, I have learned that Flynn has stated, in substance and in part, that Flynn administers horses owned, trained, or otherwise under Banca’s control, with PEDs at Banca’s direction. In 2011, Banca was sanctioned by the New York Racing and Wagering Board for Oxymetazoline violations and given a 90-day suspension and a $1,000 fine. Banca, 34, has won 1,695 races, including 42 this year. After never having more than 82 winners in a year, his win total shot up to 174 in 2015 and he won 200 races in 2016. The horses he had entered Monday night at Yonkers were scratched. By Bill Finley Reprinted with permission of The Thoroughbred Daily News

YONKERS, N.Y. – Quincy Blue Chip is a rare type to find for sale. Blue Chip Farms bred the Chapter Seven daughter out of the Cantab Hall mare Sirenuse and the filly accomplished big things for her breeder and owner. At 2, Quincy Blue Chip won four legs of the New York Sire Stakes for trotting fillies and placed in another three before finishing second to Winndevie in the $225,000 Final at Yonkers last September. At 3, Quincy Blue Chip returned to sweep the elimination and $209,500 final of the Empire Breeders’ Classic for sophomore trotting fillies at Vernon Downs May 17 and 27, respectively. She then rattled off another two wins and two seconds in New York bred stakes in the barn of Gareth Dowse, including a 1:53.2 lifetime best score at Tioga July 14. One day later, Quincy Blue Chip sold to Rich Banca in an online auction for $335,000. “She’s a good horse. You don’t see horses like her where you’re able to buy them very often, if ever,” Banca said. “I bought her on OnGait. I saw her race, but I didn’t see her in person before. It’s very hard to find good horses and she’s a good horse. She came up for sale and I bought her.” When Quincy Blue Chip arrived at Banca’s stable and the trainer finally laid eyes on her, he was impressed. “I loved her. She’s beautiful. She’s just a perfectly built horse,” Banca said. “She’s really good-looking. She looked really healthy; she was well taken care of. I couldn’t ask for more.” Quincy Blue Chip debuted for Banca and co-owners Barbara and Jim Boese in a $118,800 leg of NYSS at Monticello July 29. Starting from post two, the filly led at every call and posted a 1 3/4-length victory in 1:56.2. Quincy Blue Chip then returned to Vernon Downs Aug. 8 for another NYSS leg. Starting from post seven, driver Jim Morrill, Jr. had the whip on the filly’s tail leaving the gate in a bid to secure the early lead. However, Sweet Chapter and Sensibility left to Quincy Blue Chip’s inside and Woodside Charm blasted to her outside. Barreling three wide into the first turn, Quincy Blue Chip made a rare break in stride before a :26.2 opening quarter. Despite the miscue, which left her eighth 9 1/4 lengths behind, Quincy Blue Chip recovered to finish fourth. “Jimmy said they were just flying into that turn and it’s just something that happened. I don’t think there was any real reason for it, they were just going that fast. It just happened; she made a mistake,” Banca said. “I don’t think that was her fault, I just think she got pushed a little hard into the turn,” Banca continued. “I think she was really good even after she made a break. She came back to finish fourth. If that didn’t happen, I don’t think they could have beat her.” Quincy Blue Chip’s next effort gives credence to Banca’s high opinion of the filly. She went to Batavia Aug. 23 and streaked to a 2-length win over Winndevie in a track-record 1:55.4 mile. Quincy Blue Chip’s 11th win in 20 starts boosted her earnings to $525,387. “She was super. Jimmy said she was just unbelievable. She was great,” Banca said. Off her latest win, Banca feels Quincy Blue Chip has earned a chance to compete in open company stakes. She will do so for the first time at Yonkers Raceway Saturday night (Aug. 31) when she starts in the $124,334 Hudson Trot. Quincy Blue Chip drew post five in the first of four stakes on the card and will again have Morrill in the sulky.  “I just think she’s good enough. I think she’s good enough for it. It’s close to home and I wouldn’t miss it,” Banca said. “There’s good horses in there. It’s not going to be easy, but I think if she gets a good trip and nothing unfortunate happens, I think she’ll be fine.” Quincy Blue Chip is the 3-2 morning line favorite, but will have six challengers. Joe Holloway’s Starita will make her first start on a half-mile track. She won in the Reynolds at the Meadowlands July 6 and enters off a third in the $135,000 Zweig Memorial at Vernon Aug. 17. Jezzy’s Legacy posted a 4-length win in the Stallion Series at the Meadows Aug. 19 and drew the inside post in the Hudson Trot. Magical Beliefs won in the Arden Downs Stakes at the Meadows July 27 and enters the Hudson Trot off a third in Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Aug. 19. Sexy Wow, Golden Tricks, and Personal Paradise complete the lineup. For Banca, a win with Quincy Blue Chip on the Grand Circuit at Yonkers would be especially meaningful. Leading trainer at Yonkers in 2017 and third in the current standings with 80 wins in 544 starts, the Hilltop is Banca’s home track. Banca was also introduced to the Boeses through an SOA of NY program. “It would be unbelievable for me, especially since it’s at Yonkers where I race. The owners are great people and I would love to win the race for them,” Banca said. “The first horse I got for them was one of those French trotters (Adagio de la Tour). They called me up about getting one of those and it’s really just worked out. They own Weslynn Dancer and a lot of nice horses. They’re great owners and friends and it’s worked out great for us.” Saturday night’s card also features the $500,000 Messenger Stakes Final, the $500,000 Yonkers Trot, and the $122,224 Lady Maud. The $46,000 Open Handicap Pace supports the stakes-laden 12-race card. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. First post time is 6:50 p.m.  By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Friday, December 7, 2018 - Tepid favorite Monica Gallagher (Jason Bartlett, $6.20) pounced from the pocket Friday night (Dec. 7th), winning Yonkers Raceway's harness racing $44,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace. Nose-to-gate from penultimate post position No. 7, Monica Gallagher left into a pocket behind Angel's Pride (Brent Holland). Her quarter-move attempt was rebuffed as Angel's Pride laid down early intervals of :27.1 and a flat 57 seconds. It was a :27.4 third quarter (1:24.4) to dispose of Keystone Wanda's uncovered bid from fourth, but 'Monica' was ready. She vacated the cones early, about to polish off much a better trip than the self-inflicted, horrid sojourn of a week ago. Monica Gallagher rolled by, widening to 2¾ lengths over Angel's Pride in 1:53.3. Pole-assigned Regil Elektra (Joe Bongiorno) was a three-hole third, with Delightfulmemphisn (Dan Dube) and Made of Jewels AS (Jordan Stratton) picking off the remainder. For Monica Gallagher, a 4-year-old daughter of Mach Three co-owned and D'Elegance Stable IX, Carmen Iannacone, T L P & Gandolfo Stables and trained by Richard Banca, it was her 10th win in 24 seasonal starts. The exacta paid $27.60, the triple returned $147.50 and the superfecta paid $794. YONKERS’ SATURDAY PICK 5 FEATURES $3,700 CARRYOVER, 15G GUARANTEE  A friendly reminder from Yonkers Raceway that Saturday evening’s (Dec. 8h) Pick 5 wager starts with a carryover of $3,735.44 and a $15,000 guaranteed pool. The guarantee is in conjunction with the U.S. Trotting Association’s Strategic Wagering Program. The Pick 5 is a 50-cent base wager comprising races 6 through 10 Saturday night. It has no consolation payoff, meaning if no one selects all five winners (as was the case Friday night), the entire pool (minus takeout) moves to the next racing program. Saturday’s Pick 5 program pages accompany this release. Frank Drucker

YONKERS, NY, Friday, September 28, 2018-Favored Mach It A Par (Jason Bartlett, $4.10) prevailed from the pocket Friday night (Sept. 28th), winning Yonkers Raceway's $44,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace. Making the first lead from assigned post position No. 4, Mach It A Par gave it up to second choice Newborn Sassy (Eric Goodell) before a :27.2 opening quarter-mile. That one rated a :29.1 second subsection (:56.3 intermission) before Magic Forces (George Brennan) made her second move, first-up from fourth. However, a :27.4 third quarter (1:24.2) disposed of that challenger, 'Sassy' taking a length-and-a-quarter lead into the lane. Mach It A Par then eased her way out and by, winning by a length-and-three-quarters in 1:53. Second went to Keystone Wanda (Jim Marohn Jr.), who closed from seventh at the three-quarters. Newborn Sassy saved the bottom of the ticket, with Terror at Night (Mark MacDonald) and Scandalicious (Brent Holland) rounding out the payees. For Mach It A Par, an 8-year-old daughter of Mach Three co-owned by D'Elegance Stable IX, Carmen Iannacone, T L P & Gandolfo Stables and trained by Rich Banca, it was her ninth win in 31 seasonal starts (career 46-for-139, earnings over $982,000) The exacta paid $37.60, the triple returned $207.50 and the superfecta paid $901. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

Hug The Wind N (Bettor's Delight) made his local debut on Saturday night at Saratoga Casino Hotel while competing in the evening's feature. The Rich Banca trainee started from post position four in the eight-horse Open Pace with driver Jay Randall in the sulky. The action came fast and furious in the $14,500 feature as rivals slugged it out early to the tune of first-half fractions of 26.1 and 54 seconds. All the while, closers like Hug The Wind N waited patiently and when Randall gave the seven year old the cue, the response was instant. Maxdaddy Bluechip (Billy Dobson) was also coming from the back of the pack in the Open when he surged up three wide. It appeared it would be that one who would swoop the group but Hug The Wind N shifted gears and breezed by that Maxdaddy Bluechip and a host of others in the stretch before coming on to win in 1:51.3. Maxdaddy Bluechip finished second while Americanprimetime (Phil Fluet) earned the show spot. For Hug The Wind N, who went winless in 2017, it was victory number four on the season and his first at Saratoga. The invader paid $14.00 to win in the mild upset and led an exacta and triple that came back $236.50 and $1,886, respectively. With the earnings from the Open score, Hug The Wind N moved his career bankroll to just shy of the $400,000 mark. Live racing resumes on Tuesday night at Saratoga with a first post time set for 7:05pm. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, August 18, 2018-Tepid choice Somewhere in L A (Jason Bartlett, $6.10) finished what he started Saturday night (Aug. 19th), winning Yonkers Raceway's $44,000 Open Handicap Pace. Somewhere in L A-from post position No. 5-threw down intervals of :26.2; 55.4; 1:23 and 1:51.4. He whipped a pocketed McErlean (Brent Holland) by a length, with Theartofconfusion A (Mark MacDonald), Techtor Hanover (Dan Dube) and Always at My Place (George Brennan) rounding out the payees. For Somewhere in L A, a 7-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding co-owned by D'Elegance Stable IX, Carmen Iannacone, T L P & Gandolfo Stables and trained by Richard Banca, it was his eighth win in 20 seasonal starts. The exacta paid $32.20, the triple returned $102 and the superfecta paid $397. It was one of Bartlett's six wins during the dozen-race card. Sears won thrice, while New Zealand driving champion Dexter Dunn began his stateside odyssey with a pair of drives. Dunn finished third as an odds-on favorite and seventh with an outsider. Sunday's (Aug. 19th) matinee has a first post of 12:35 PM, with races 1 through 4 of 'French' theme, two at the mile-and-a-quarter and two at the mile-and-a-half distance. The 'New York, New York Double' is comprised of Saratoga's first race and Yonkers' third. Post times are 1 PM and 1:35 PM, respectively. A friendly reminder from Yonkers Raceway that Sunday afternoon’s (Aug. 19th) Pick 5 wager starts with a carryover of $4,390.53 and a $15,000 guaranteed pool. The guarantee is in conjunction with the U.S. Trotting Association’s Strategic Wagering Program. The Pick 5 is a 50-cent base wager comprising races 7 through 11 (if 11 or less races, the gimmick is the last five races on the card). It has no consolation payoff, meaning if no one selects all five winners (as was the case Saturday night), the entire pool (minus takeout) moves to the next racing program. Sunday‘s program may be downloaded at http://www.empirecitycasino.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/sun_program.pdf First post Sunday is 12:35 PM. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway  

YONKERS, NY,- Mach it Par (Jason Bartlett, $4.60) repeated-barely-Friday night (June 15th), winning Yonkers Raceway's featured $44,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace. Forwardly-placed from post position No. 5 (in one notch after a defection), Mach it a Par easily worked around Medusa (George Brennan). There were cheapy fractions (:28.4, :58.1) before Motu Moonbeam N (Mark MacDonald) tried it first-up from fourth. The one never came close in and out of a 1:25.3 three-quarters, with Mach it a Par owning a length-and-three-quarter lead off the final turn. Medusa edged out and closed resolutely, but missed a nose in 1:53.2. Dude'salady (Brent Holland), just-over-even-money fave Newborn Sassy (Dan Dube) and Sell a Bit N (Jordan Stratton) came away with the minors. Someone, somewhere jumped over some bridge, as the show prices returned $8.30, $17.20 and $18.80, respectively. For second choice Mach it a Par, an 8-year-old daughter of Mach Three co-owned by D'Elegance Stable IX, Carmen Iannacone, T L P & Gandolfo Stables and trained by Rich Banca, it was her sixth win in 17 seasonal starts. The exacta paid $27.60, the triple returned $100 and the superfecta paid $217. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, NY, Wednesday, December 20, 2017—The B’s had it in Westchester 2017, with Jason Bartlett and Richard Banca winning Yonkers Raceway’s harness racing driver and trainer titles, respectively. The 235-program season (three postponements), which concluded this past Sunday (Dec. 17th), saw Bartlett roll along to a seventh local title. The 36-year-old Bartlett, originally from Augusta, ME, was both the winningest (542) and busiest (2,635) driver, winning at a 22.9 a percent clip. His $10.4 million in purses also led the list. Jordan Stratton ascended to second with 378 wins and $8.3 million in purses, with the top five win list completed by George Brennan (327), Brent Holland (214) and Dan Dube (182). Banca, a 42-year-old native of Paterson, NJ, sent out 187 winners, 36 more last season’s leading trainer, Rene Allard. Banca also led with 986 starters (19 percent winning percentage) and purses ($4.01 million). Scott DiDomenico (117 wins), Ron Burke (109) and Gilberto Garcia-Herrera (87) completed the first quintet among wins.   The Raceway’s 2018 season is set to begin with a Sunday (Jan. 7th) matinee (post time TBA). A complete schedule accompanies this release, with all dates pending approval of the New York State Gaming Commission. Frank Drucker, Yonkers Raceway Publicity Director

Champion pacing mare Lady Shadow p,5,1:48.1s ($1,905,144), who finished a hard fought third in last week's Breeders Crown at Hoosier Park, sold to harness racing trainer Richard Banca of New Jersey for $310,000 in an onGait.com hosted auction on Tuesday afternoon (Oct. 31). The 6-year-old daughter of Shadow Play fell just short of defending her Crown title, getting caught right near the wire by Pure Country and Bedroomconfessions. Lady Shadow should be leaving Canada soon and land in the Metropolitan New York area before continuing her brilliant race career. from onGait.com

YONKERS, NY, Sunday, July 16, 2017 - There was a fair amount of Yonkers Raceway symmetry Sunday afternoon (July 16th), as Hemi Seelster (Jason Bartlett)-at 12-1-won the $68,000 Open Handicap Trot-from post position No. 12. Working out a perfect second-over sojourn from the back of the bus, Hemi Seelster was towed into the race by no less than International Trot world champion Resolve (Ake Svanstedt). The latter, after leaving for a seat, had to rough it first-up against Obrigado (Mark MacDonald). That one, caught three-deep early, led through sensible-enough intervals of 28.1, :58.4, 1:28.4 and 1:57.3. However Obrigado, with a length-and-a-quarter lead entering the lane, was unable to close the sale. Hemi Seelster went by, winning a blanket photo for the mile-and-a-quarter in 2:26.2. The wagering choice in each of his last two starts, Hemi Seelster paid $26.80 this time around. Homicide Hunter (Brian Sears), another dozen-to-one proposition, roared home from third-over to miss a head. Obrigado saved the bottom the ticket, beaten a neck with Maestro Blue Chip (Brent Holland) and Buen Camino (Jordan Stratton) settling for the remainder (the five payees were separated by three-quarters of a length). Resolve, meanwhile, faded to eighth as the 4-5 favorite, the first time he crossed the line worse than fourth since Svanstedt's first start with him (May 15, '15). For sixth choice Hemi Seelster, a 5-year-old Holiday Road gelding co-owned by Howard Taylor & Abraham Basen and trained by Richard Banca, it was his sixth win in 17 seasonal starts. The exacta paid $226.50, with the triple returning $10,686. Hemi Seelster Sunday's latest installment of the 'New York, New York Double' offered a winning combination of 1-Karma Delight (Belmont's 3rd race) and 3-Ultimate Shopper (Yonkers' 7th race) paid $12.40 for every correct $1 wager. Total pool was $5,208. The gimmick wager now shifts to Saratoga as its thoroughbred venue when that meeting begins Friday (July 21st). Note the Raceway's next two Sunday post time are 12:30 PM (July 23rd) and 11:30 AM (July 30th), respectively. New York Sire Stakes return her Tuesday night (July 18th), with the $159,500 Bruce Hamilton Trot for 2-year-old fillies. Frank Drucker

YONKERS, NY, Sunday, July 2, 2017 - A pair of second-tier harness racing starters decided the issue Sunday afternoon (July 2nd), with Hemi Seelster (Jason Bartlett, $6.20) edging Rubber Duck (Joe Bongiorno) in en route to winning Yonkers Raceway's $68,000 Open Handicap Trot. Hemi Seelster, as the wagering choice, employed the sane out-every-step tact that Rubber Duck used a couple of weeks ago. From post position No. 10, he floated out seventh while Springbank Sam N (Jordan Stratton) and DW's NY Yank (George Brennan) took turns leading the dozen. The latter rated at cheaply (:28, :58, 1:28, 1:57) while 'Hemi' methodically moved up outside. 'DW' owned a half-length lead into the lane, but was about to give way. Hemi Seelster went by, holding off Rubber Duck-who gapped a bit down the backside-by a head in 2:25.4 for the mile-and-a-quarter distance. The smaller envelopes went to DW's NY Yank, Springbank Sam N and Buen Camino (Trond Smedshammer). For Hemi Seelster, a 5-year-old Holiday Road gelding co-owned by Howard Taylor & Abraham Basen and trained by Richard Banca, it was his fifth win in a 16 seasonal starts. The exacta paid $66.50, the triple returned $404.50 and the superfecta paid $4,957. Hemi Seelster Prime Power N impressive in debut Prime Power N was flawless in his North American debut winning easily in 2:27 for the mile and a quarter. Rick Dane Jr trains and Jordan Stratton drove the winner of 16 races Down Under.  Prime Power N The latest installment of the 'New York, New York Double' offered a winning combination of 7-Splash of Sass (Belmont's 3rd race) and 5-Brando's Muscle Man (Yonkers' 7th race) paid $13.20 for every correct $1 wager. Total pool was $3,681. A reminder that live racing returns Friday night (July 7th) at the evening post time of 7:10 PM Frank Drucker

YONKERS, NY, Sunday, May 28, 2017-"Hemi Seelster has fled the scene." So said track announcer John Hernan, who did not lie, as 'Hemi' (Brent Holland, $9.90) made quick work of 11 harness racing rivals Sunday afternoon (May 28th), winning Yonkers Raceway's mile-and-a-quarter $68,000 Open Trot. Away alertly from post position No. 3, Hemi Seelster stuffed Red Hot Herbie (Dan Dube) in behind coming toward a :27.4 opening quarter-mile. The remaining eight furlongs (:58, 1:27.2, 1:56.1, 2:24.3) were angst-free, with a final margin of 5¾ lengths. 'Herbie' clearly was second, with Money Maven (Eric Goodell) a three-hole third. Second-tier starters Wing Flash (Tyler Buter) and Homicide Hunter (Anthony Napolitano) rounded out the payees, while 5-2 favorite Tag Up and Go (Joe Bongiorno) was a never-in-it ninth and second choice Wings of Royalty (Brian Sears) couldn't get out his own way. For third choice Hemi Seelster, a 5-year-old Holiday Road gelding co-owned by Howard Taylor & Abe Basen and trained by Rich Banca, it was his fourth win in 13 seasonal starts (now over a half-million dollars for his career). The exacta paid $69, with the triple returning $616. For Holland, it was career driving win No. 4,993. The weekly featured trot was the first of four 'French' races during the dozen-race, all-trot card. Sunday's revival of the 'New York, New York Double' saw a winning combination of 9-(Bustin' It, Belmont's 3rd race) and 4-(Andy Ray, Yonkers' 7th race) paid $13.90 for every correct dollar ticket (total pool $7,361). Live racing (and evening simulcasting) returns Friday, June 16th (post time 7:10 PM). Afternoon simulcasting remains available, including the June 10th Belmont Stakes. Frank Drucker

YONKERS, N.Y. - When harness racing trainer Rich Banca purchased Somewhere In L A at the 2016 Harrisburg Sale, he thought he was getting a solid older gelding with potential to race in the upper-level conditions at Yonkers Raceway. Instead, heading into Saturday (April 22) night’s $529,000 George Morton Levy Series Final, Somewhere In L A tops the leader board with 287 points earned in the series’ five preliminary legs and leads all standardbreds in North America by earnings in the young racing season with $180,750 on his card. “If you told me that in November when I bought him, I would have told you, you were crazy,” Banca joked. “Even if he was just a winners over kind of horse at Yonkers, it would have been good to have him. He ended up better than I thought.” While Somewhere In L A competed on the Grand Circuit at 2 and 3 and earned more than $800,000 before selling last fall, the 6-year-old is in career form at the Hilltop Oval. After finishing third in the first leg of the series, Somewhere In L A posted consecutive second place efforts in weeks two and three before getting his first series victory in leg four. Last week, Somewhere In L A doubled up, winning the final preliminary in wire-to-wire fashion in 1:51.3. The victory pushed his earnings over the million dollar mark. “He’s been good the whole time,” Banca said. “That’s a tough series because it’s hard to make the final. He pretty much had to race every leg, but he has been good. He’s just a nice horse, he’s just consistent.” While Somewhere in L A is a star on the track, he’s unassuming in the barn. In contrast to his flashy gate speed on race day, his laid-back training style makes his easy to work with. Five consecutive weeks of tough racing in the series means the son of Somebeachsomewhere had a relaxed week ahead of the biggest race of his career. “He’s just a quiet horse. He really doesn’t do anything wrong,” Banca explained. “We definitely didn’t work him that hard. He just had a normal week because he’s been racing hard every week. Hopefully he’s got one more week in him before he gets a little break.” While Somewhere In L A and regular driver Jason Bartlett are the 2-1 morning line favorites from post position five in the Levy Final, he isn’t Banca’s only chance. Yonkers’ leading trainer in 2017 will also send out Blood Brother, a 12-1 shot who drew comfortably in post two and picks up the services of Brian Sears. Despite finishing second to rival Missile J in week one and winning his division in week four, Blood Brother’s ability to make the Levy Final remained in doubt until last Saturday due to the 5-year-old gelding’s bad luck in legs two and three. Back-to-back bouts with post seven resulted in off the board finishes. In his final chance to earn points last Saturday, Blood Brother again faced Missile J and the series’ defending champion Bit Of A Legend. “I really wasn’t sure if he would make the final,” Banca admitted. “I thought he was in by far the toughest division and I didn’t know how it was going to work out. I was hoping he would, but I thought there was a good chance he wouldn’t.” While Bit Of A Legend wired the field, Blood Brother worked first-over and charged his final quarter in :26.3. At odds of 30-1, he finished third beaten just 1 1/4 lengths and secured his spot in the final with 217 points. “I thought he raced as good as any horse last week. He’s a very fast horse, but he’s not as tough as Somewhere In L A,” Banca explained. “If you race him hard early, he’s not going to have as much late; he’s got to get his trip.” While Banca is confident in the ability of his finalists, the depth of this year’s Levy Final means no result would surprise him. “I don’t know if there’s a horse in there that if he won, I’d be surprised,” he said. “Somewhere In L A, I’m sure he’s going to leave. I don’t know if he’s going to end up on the front or not. These finals end up being crazy races and you never know what’s going to happen. “Blood Brother, I think Sears will give him the best trip he can. He’ll finish with any of them if he’s anywhere close. I think he’s very fast, but he’s got to get things his way.” Two races before Somewhere In L A and Blood Brother race in the Levy, Banca’s star mare, Mach It A Par, will go postward as the 2-1 morning line choice in the $310,600 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series Final. For the 7-year-old daughter of Mach Three, it’s a chance at redemption after she finished eighth in last year’s Matchmaker Final. “Last year, she wasn’t good. It was one of a few weeks last year that she wasn’t really any good, for whatever reason, but she wasn’t really good in the final last year,” Banca said. Like her stablemates in the Levy, Mach It A Par raced in all five preliminary legs of the Matchmaker Series. She defeated Bedroomconfessions by a nose in leg one and hit the board in weeks three and four. Her most impressive performance, however, came last week when she willingly tracked the cover of rival Hidden Land before tipping wide in the stretch and powering home with a :27.0 final panel to a 2 1/2-length victory in 1:53.2. While some horses require a week off in the middle of the grueling series, Mach It A Par thrives on racing. Last week’s effort shows just that, Banca explained. “I think she was a lot more of her old self last week. She really hadn’t been as good and last week she looked like her old self, so I was really happy to see that,” he said. “She’s not that hard on herself. I probably could have given her a week off if I wanted to, but I just think she’s better when she’s racing every week. It just seems like she’s better when she has the same routine every week.” While Banca thinks the results of the Matchmaker will largely depend on trips, he is optimistic that Mach It A Par will prove best. While raising the trophy would be nice, Banca mainly wants to see Mach It A Par’s toughness and heart rewarded with a Grand Circuit win. “I’d love to win it, more because she deserves it than anything else. She races so hard and you really appreciate it because she’s just a tiny little thing and she just tries as hard as she can,” he admired. “There’s a lot of horses who are fast, but a lot of times, they don’t give you all they’ve got. She does. She’s got a big heart, that’s for sure.” First post time at Yonkers is 7:10 p.m. Click here for entries for Saturday’s card. Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Friday, February 24, 2017 - Mach it a Par (Jason Bartlett, $6) was the third and last leader Friday night, winning Yonkers Raceway's harness racing $50,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace. Into the game early from assigned post position No. 7, Mach it a Par waited her turn as Empress Deo (Matt Kakaley) and Lispatty (Mark MacDonald) took turns with the lead. Mach it a Par grabbed her chance just after a :27.2 opening quarter-mile. After a 29-secone next substation (:56.2 half), it was 48-1 rank outsider For the Ladies N (Dan Dube) taking out of fourth. Regil Elektra (Brent Holland) was second-up, while 19-10 choice Mackenzie A (Jordan Stratton), in her U-S parimutuel debut, was behind that one Mach it a Par continued her work night in and out of a 1:25 three-quarters, taking a length-and-a-quarter lead into the lane. Despite drifting a bit, she held sway, negating the sharp close of Mackenzie A to win by a head in 1:52.4. Third went to Lispatty, with Empress Deo and Regil Elektra rounding out the payees. The five cashers were separated by just 1¾ lengths at the line. For second choice Mach it a Par, a 7-year-old daughter of Mach Three co-owned by D'Elegance Stable IX, Carmen Iannacone, Gandolfo & T L P Stables and trained by Richard Banca, it was her first win in two seasonal starts. The exacta paid $28, with the triple returning $75.50. Frank Drucker

YONKERS, N.Y. - When harness racing trainer Rich Banca purchased Mach It A Par sight unseen last winter, he thought he was getting a mare who knew how to win and who could be effective in the mid-level conditions at Yonkers. When she showed up to the barn, her appearance didn’t instill confidence, but Banca was undeterred. “If you looked at her and didn’t know who she was, you wouldn’t want to give $20,000 for her,” Banca said. “She’s just a tiny little thing. She’s very plain, small. I thought she was a non-winners of 15, 20, 25 (thousand dollars last in her last five starts-caliber horse). But you see a lot of horses that don’t look like anything special that are.” Mach It A Par’s debut for Banca came in last year’s first leg of the Bluechip Matchmaker Series at Yonkers March 18. To Banca’s surprise, she upset the field, paying $81 to win, and set the tone for the rest of the year. At the end of her 39-race campaign, she amassed 13 wins and another 17 seconds and thirds good for $404,200. In winning Yonkers’ Filly and Mare Open Handicap in 1:50.3 September 18, she set a world record for an aged pacing mare on a half-mile track. “It was just unbelievable from start to finish,” Banca recalled. “She was good just about every single start of the year. The only start that she wasn’t 100 percent was the final of the Matchmaker, but she was good all year long. What she’s accomplished is really amazing. I could have never imagined it.” Compounding Mach It A Par’s success is the thrilling way in which she races. She frequently comes from well off the pace and sometimes circles the field to win, a rarity at Yonkers. “I’ve seen her go races that I didn’t know she’d get a check and she ended up winning,” Banca admired. “She could be sitting eighth at the top of the stretch and still win. I don’t know if you could ever see another horse at Yonkers do that as often as she does. It happens every once in a while, but she did it a lot of times.” As the 7-year-old by Mach Three out of the Village Jiffy mare Taylorlane Action gears up for her 2017 campaign, Banca is setting his sights on redemption in the Matchmaker Series. The only black mark on her record last year, she finished last of eight in the series final in 2016. “There’d been other races last year that she was just too far back and had no chance, but she was still good. But the final of the Matchmaker, she just wasn’t good that night,” Banca explained. “I think I know her better now. She ended the year last year very strong. She wasn’t tired and she got a little break. I think she’s the best horse in there.” Mach It A Par appeared on the racetrack for the first time since winning a Filly and Mare Open Handicap at Yonkers December 16 when she went behind the gate for a qualifier Saturday, February 11. With the earplugs still in, she finished second, pacing her mile in 1:55 and posting a final quarter of :27.2. Driver Jason Bartlett was satisfied with the effort. “Going into the qualifier, obviously you just want to qualify, get a good run in her, make the last quarter her best quarter,” he explained. “Everything worked out pretty well. Just trying to get a good line, not overdoing it, and just having her hit their best stride at the wire; I think that’s the main goal.” Although he’s grown accustomed to her and paired up with her for several of her victories last year, like Banca, Bartlett’s first impression of Mach It A Par was lackluster. “To watch her score down and even sitting behind her, you would never think she does what she does,” Bartlett said. “She’s small, she’s going slow, she’s half -galloping, half-pacing. When you turn her in front of the gate, her attitude changes and she’s very willing. She loves her job.” Mach It A Par’s 2017 campaign will mirror last year’s: She’ll contest the Bluechip Matchmaker Series and the Filly and Mare Opens at Yonkers, but won’t travel for other stakes due to her tendency to tie up. Although Banca isn’t one to push a horse in their first start, he is optimistic about Mach It A Par’s chances in her seasonal debut in Friday’s Filly and Mare Open Handicap at Yonkers. “Usually they need a start or two before they’re at their best. I don’t like to train them very hard before they qualify. It’s a long year,” he said. “I know it’s her first start of the year, but she’s a good horse. I expect her to race well.” Mach It A Par will face seven rivals Friday and landed the unusually comfortable post position five. It’s one of the rare occasions she won’t be handicapped by the seven or eight hole. “I don’t know what she’s going to think about having the five hole,” Bartlett joked. “It’s her first start of the year, so obviously I want to give her the best trip I can possibly give her and be as easy as I can on her, but at the same time, put her in a spot to win the race. With the five hole, take off the gate and try to find a helmet to the top of the lane.” Mach It A Par is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line for Friday’s $50,000 sixth race at Yonkers Raceway, trailing 5-2 favorite Bedroomconfessions. Regil Elektra, Arielle Lynn, Empress Deo, Bettor N Better, Wrangler Magic, and Set Me Up complete the field. First post is 7:10pm. by Brandon Valvo for SOA of NY

A shrewdly-driven Mach it a Par (Jordan Stratton, $6.90) prevailed from the pocket Friday night, winning Yonkers Raceway's $45,000 harness racing filly and mare Open Handicap Pace. Usually a authentic closer, Mach it a Par-from mandated post position No. 7-was put in play here, and it obviously served her well. She and eight-hole assignee Krispy Apple (Jason Bartlett) both cleared the inside half-dozen ladies, with a three-wide latter making the lead just after a :27.3 opening quarter-mile. Longshot So Nice (Tyler Buter) left into a three-hole, which didn't do much for the cause of pole-sitting Regil Elektra (Dan Dube). The song remained the same at the :57.1 intermission, before Hidden Land (Brent Holland) moved...from seventh. Bedroomconfessions (Scott Zeron), as the tepid 2-1 fave, was away last and chased that one toward a 1:25.1 three-quarters. Mach it a Par was fidgety in the pocket, extricating it to grab a short lead in and out of the final turn. She then finished is off, winning by 2 lengths in 1:52.3. Hidden Land put in a fine effort, continuing first-up for second, with a needing-room Regil Elektra, Krispy Apple and Moto Moonbeam N (Matt Kakaley) rounding out the payees. Bedroomconfessions was devoid of pace and backpedaled to last. For second choice Mach it a Par, a 6-year-old daughter of Mach Three co-owned by D'Elegance Stable IX, Carmen Iannacone, T L P & Gandolfo Stables and trained by Rich Banca, it was her 13th win in 31 seasonal starts. The exacta paid $64, the triple returned $250 and the superfecta paid $1,143. Yonkers' 2016 live season concludes with cards Saturday (first post 7:10 PM) and Sunday (first post 1 PM). A reminder that there's no simulcasting Dec. 19th through 28th, inclusive and the '17 season begins Sunday (post time TBA, dates pending approval of New York State Gaming Commission). Frank Drucker

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