A banner day for the sport of amateur harness racing climaxed when "Lady Monica" Banca and Bob "the Headhunter" Hechkoff each won their respective $6000 divisions of the CKG Billings Amateur Driving Series at Yonkers Raceway on Thursday night (May 28). Banca won on the betting card while Hechkoff's triumph came in a non-wagering trot. Earlier in the day at, Monticello Raceway, "Hot-Handed Hannah" Miller won two amateur events, a NAADA trot and a Catskill Amateur Series pace, marking the first time that amateur drivers--and there were four-- did double duty racing at one track in the afternoon and at another in the evening. Once again Banca's victory was on the betting card at Yonkers Raceway and it came with the same horse (Meadowview Arny) that she used to defeat a team of visiting French amateurs in an international competition a month ago. As she did against the visiting French, Banca wasn't content to follow anyone and moved her horse to the lead after getting looped on the first turn. Once on the engine she kept up the strong pace and she and Meadowview Arny trotted through fractions of :29, :58.4 and 1:28.2 before going on to a length victory over Wygant Prince and driver "Coach Paul" Minore. Third place went to Rev It Now driven by Hannah Miller who was looking for a perfect day of three wins in three drives that day. Banca, Norwegian by birth, notched her second driving victory in five seasonal starts. The winner is owned by Joe Faraldo and Chris Wittstruck and trained by Richard Banca. He paid $3.40 for win. In the non-wagering split Hechkoff, as he usually does, sent his trotter, No Recess, to the lead from the seven hole and they had two lengths on the field as they passed the first stanza. Hechkoff seemed comfortable on the lead but as the field headed to the halfway point David "Proud Poppa" Glasser pulled the three hole with Csi What's My Name when he heard Dave "Steady As" Yarock coming with Rompaway Alvin. Glasser's trotter and No Recess and side by side around the paddock turn and up the backside and they were still one-two heading for home. But No Recess proved stronger and turned back Csi What's My Name for a one length victory in a 2:01.1 clocking. Mark "Shoprite" Schullstrom picked up the show dough with Catalyst. Hechkoff's RBH Veentures owns the winner whose trained by Kyle Spagnola.For Hechkoff it marked his seventh winning drive of the season and 61st of his 15 year amateur driving career. by John Manzi for the Billings Series
YONKERS, NY, Wednesday, October 8, 2014--Yonkers Raceway has a simple four-word, 15-letter request for everyone attending the sixth annual harness racing Fall Harvest Festival, set for this Saturday night (Oct. 11). "Have Fun. Wear Pink." All the popular Festival sights, sounds and tastes are back... ...live music, pony rides, New York State craft beers, exciting harness racing (including the Legislators' Challenge), face painting, a pumpkin patch and so much more in a fun, family atmosphere. Now, the reason for the request. Empire City, Yonkers Raceway, its horsemen and the North American Amateur Drivers Association (NAADA) have once again joined in the fight against breast cancer. A donation of $10 shall be made (with a maximum gift of $15,000) to the Susan G. Komen Greater NYC Chapter for every Fall Harvest Festival guest who wears the color du jour. In keeping with the theme, pink horseshoes shall be given away on the apron (while supplies last), all the drivers that evening are carrying pink whips and the winning horses receive pink blankets, sponsored (alphabetically) by Team Allard, Richard Banca, Amber Buter, Rick Dane Jr., Scott DiDomenico, Mark Ford, Allan Johnson, Peter Pellegrino, Jody Riedel, Brittany Robertson, Nick Surick and Anita Vallee. Representatives from the Komen organization are also going to be on hand to answer questions, provide informational materials and accept an oversized donation check in the winner's circle at 6:30 PM. Need some extra incentive to help a worthy cause? The first 1,500 Empire Club members who visit a promotions booth that day receive a free, $2 exacta box ticket on one of that evening's live races. The Fall Harvest Festival takes place trackside from 4 PM-8 PM, with the first Legislators' Challenge races set for 5:30 PM. Post time for the live racing card is the usual 7:10 PM. The Raceway's five-night-per-week live schedule continues, with first post every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:10 PM. Evening simulcasting accompanies all live programs, with afternoon simulcasting available daily. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway
On October 22, 2013, the New York State Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, agreed to hear the harness horsemen's appeal challenging the state's out-of-competition testing regulations. The court determined that the appeal was as a matter of right. In August 2011, a Supreme Court Justice in Schenectady, New York determined in Ford et al. v. The New York State Racing and Wagering Board that the regulations were unconstitutional, devoid of due process, were arbitrary and capricious and “so lacking in reason as to require nullification in their entirety.” In July 2013, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, sitting in Albany, reversed parts of the Schenectady judge's decision. The Court of Appeals will now issue the final ruling as to the legality and enforceability of the rules as they relate to Standardbred racing. Joseph Faraldo, President of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York, one of the petitioners in the lawsuit, commented, "Like the United States Supreme Court, New York's Court of Appeals hears only a very small fraction of the cases presented to it for appeal each year. We are heartened that the court will hear our arguments against the rules in 2014. From the time this process started several years ago, we have always maintained two things. One is that while we need rational and reasonable out-of-competition rules that catch and punish cheaters, we also need to ensure that the innocent are not ensnared in an indiscriminate dragnet. The other is that the rules promulgated over our strenuous and repeated objections are neither rational nor reasonable; are unconstitutional and, in some instances, would actually assist the cheaters to escape scrutiny and justice. We are confident that after our arguments are heard, the high court will reinstate the reasoned decision of the Schenectady Supreme Court." In addition to the Standardbred Owners Association of New York, the petitioners are USTA director Mark Ford, SOA director and USTA district chairman John Brennan, veteran horseman Richard Banca, Sr. and retired SOA executive director George Casale. The Petitioners have been represented throughout the proceedings by Andrew J. Turro, Esq. of the law firm Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klien, P.C. Submitted by the SOA of New York
It was an extremely busy racing week at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Several other nearby tracks went on hiatus recently, so many of the horses from those tracks came to Pocono to keep up their schedules. In fact, both of the horses who captured our top Weekly Awards were shippers from other tracks. Let's hand out those awards and honor all of the other top performers of both the equine and human variety from the week that was at MSPD. PACER OF THE WEEK: SCOTT ROCKS One of the most fun divisions all year long at Pocono has been the non-winners of four races pacers, ages three and four years old. These horses are still only a relatively short way into their racing careers but are nonetheless at an age where they start to really come into their best form. Many have performed in tough stakes or racing series, so they are really primed when they come into this group, which usually takes center stage on Wednesday nights. This past Tuesday night, a great showdown in this class took place between two peaking three-year-olds, Scott Rocks and Cadillac Phil. Both are handled by top trainers and both had recently found solid success at Harrah's after coming down from Canada. In their battle at Pocono, Scott Rocks, who had won his previous start, grabbed the engine, while Cadillac Phil settled In The Pocket. By the time the stretch rolled around, this dynamic duo were the only ones who still had a shot at winning. The stretch duel was a thriller, with both horses all-out and burning down the track at top speed. Scott Rocks, with George Napolitano Jr. in the bike for trainer Chris Oakes, came out on top in a tight finish, pacing the mile in a career-best 1:50:2 in the process. That outstanding race was just one more in a long line of instant classics from this ultra-competitive condition grouping. Other top pacers this week include: Dynamic Youth (Andrew McCarthy, Aaron Lambert), a 4-year-old gelding who captured Saturday night's $25,000 Preferred pace in 1:49:2, the fastest time of the week at Pocono; Rick's Crossroads (Matt Kakaley, Richard Banca), a gelding whose victory over the $10,000 claimers on Saturday night was his second straight win and sixth in his last seven races; and B J's Skye (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), whose romping win in a claiming pace for mares on Wednesday night in 1:51:3 was her third win in a row, with two of those victories at Pocono. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: WORLD CUP There were some excellent trotters lined up for Saturday night's condition trot for non-winners of $23,500 in the last five starts, a race with a $21,000 purse that was the biggest prize for trotters at Pocono this week. Sand Wyndham had won his last start, Keystone Thomas had conquered two in a row, and Luckycharm Hanover had rolled up victories in three of his last four. Throw in outstanding veteran mare Definitely Mamie, who always races well at Pocono, and you had quite the field. The horse who was made the favorite at 6-5 was World Cup, a 4-year-old stallion from the Ron Burke barn who hadn't managed quite the recent success as some of the others in the field. What he did have going for him was the level of competition he had recently been facing at Harrah's and Harrington, giving him the kind of class that would toughen up for any kind of race. On Saturday night, World Cup, with Matt Kakaley in the bike, proved his mettle by powering from behind in the stretch for the victory. His winning time of 1:52:4 was not just the best of his career but it was also the fastest trotting time at Pocono for the week. It also pushed him closer to six figures earned in what has been an outstanding 4-year-old season. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Martino (George Napolitano Jr., Mike Watson), who followed up a win at Harrah's with a condition win on Friday night at Pocono in 1:55:2; Waiting On A Woman (Kevin Wallis, Travis Kolaczynski), who returned off a win at Tioga to score a condition victory on Wednesday night in 1:54; and Money On My Mind (Eric Carlson, Julie Miller), who exploded for a condition victory on Friday night in a sharp 1:53. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: ABSOLUTELY MICHAEL In a claiming pace on Tuesday night, Absolutely Michael, with Anthony Napolitano in the bike, overcame an outside post and a tough first-over journey to score at 16-1, paying out $35.60 on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: GEORGE NAPOLITANO JR. The meet's leading driver had 43 drives on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night and he won 19 of them. That's pretty much all you need to know about his amazing week. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: JAMES EATON Eaton trained three winners this week, two on Saturday night and one on Wednesday, with all of them coming in rugged condition paces. That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jim Beviglia
We returned to a full racing schedule this past week at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs after a few weeks of an interrupted slate. The action picked up fast and furious from where it left off, producing a plethora of candidates for the Weekly Awards. Without further ado, let’s get right to it and highlight the best of the best of the week that was. PACER OF THE WEEK: ROCKIN THE HOUSE Saturday night witnessed the first sloppy track at Pocono in quite some time, but that didn’t stop the powerhouses in the $25,000 Preferred Pace from putting on an impressive show. The best of the group appeared to be red hot Chester invader Bestjetyet, but his early break threw the race wide open for the other competitors. Rockin The House proved to be ready for the opportunity. The 6-year-old gelding from the Ron Burke barn had won his previous start in a rugged condition group in gate-to-wire fashion, but, because of the move up in class, he was only a 9-1 shot on Saturday. Driver Matt Kakaley settled him in the pocket early, but things still looked dire when pacesetter Flem N Em N opened up a nice margin heading into the stretch. Rockin The House had something left to give in the lane though, while Flem N Em N began to falter. As they approached the line, Rockin The House went past and prevailed by a half-length. That made it two wins in a row and three in the last five for the gelding, who scorched the slop to the tune of a 1:50:2 winning time. Other top pacers this week include: Competition Cam (Tyler Buter, Richard Banca), who stepped up in class to handle the toughest pacers on the grounds on Saturday night with a rallying win in 1:51:4, giving him three victories in a row; First Impression (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who, despite moving up his claiming price and switching barns, chalked up his third win in a row on Saturday night, this one in 1:53:1 in the slop; and Lotsa Chrome (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), whose rallying win in Tuesday night’s condition pace came in 1:50:1, fastest time of the week at Pocono. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: KEYSTONE THOMAS When Keystone Thomas arrived at Pocono earlier in the meet, he was immediately slotted against the very best trotters on the grounds and was maybe a tad overmatched. Thus began a process of his handlers moving him from class to class in an effort to find the right spot for him to compete. That process seems to have reached its fruition the last few weeks. Trained and driven by Joe Pavia Jr., the gelding parlayed a pocket trip into a victory in 1:54:2 on September 6. On Saturday night, he moved up in class into a condition for non-winners of $19,000 in the last five races and got away at 5-1. Pavia was the aggressor nonetheless, putting Keystone Thomas in front early and holding tight. Things did indeed get tight, but the 7-year-old gelding dug deep and held off all comers. Pavia guided him across the line in 1:55:3, a rock-solid time considering the lousy racing conditions. With wins in two races in a row, this talented veteran appears to have finally found his stride, meaning that he might be able to advance even higher to continue an already-impressive season. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Quantum Lightning (George Napolitano, Bill Mullin), who stepped up in class to the $10,000 claimers on Tuesday and earned his second straight win at Pocono, this one coming in 1:56; Judith (Anthony Napolitano driver and trainer), a mare whose win over the $7,500 claimers on Friday night in 1:56:2 was her second straight in that class; and Wind Of The North (Matt Kakaley, Clifton Green), who scored a win over an excellent condition field on Saturday night in 1:55:1 in the slop. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: EXCEL NINE He got a break when the horse that crossed the line first was disqualified for interference, meaning this condition pacer driven by Matt Romano inherited a victory Saturday night at 29-1, paying off $60 to win. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MATT KAKALEY Kakaley is currently experiencing one of the hottest stretches of his season. He followed up four victories on Saturday night with six more winners on Tuesday. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: PIERRE PARADIS Pierre has been a productive member of the training community at Pocono for many years, and this week he added two more wins to the ledger, including a 21-1 shot on Wednesday with ER Mr T. That will do it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com. by Jim Beviglia for Pocono Downs
The New York Sires Stakes will make a stop at Vernon Downs on Friday evening, where seventeen three year old filly trotters race for over $130,000 in purses. The first division (race 5) fields nine, with Joie de Vie Farms' consistent Credit Winner lass Lola De Vie the choice. She has won six times in eight outings this season, including the $237,600 Empire Breeders Classic final in early June for trainer Chris Ryder. She leaves from post seven with Jim Morrill, Jr aboard. Lady Riviera is the morning line choice in division two (race 7). This Sand Vic filly has yet to find the form that she exhibited at two, when she compiled eight board finishes in nine starts. Recently relocated to the Linda Toscano barn by owner Richard Banca, she was second beaten only a neck in 1:57.4 at Yonkers two back. Morrill has the drive on her as well. Five Excelsior divisions for the sophomore co-eds will provide an interesting undercard. The races begin at 6:45pm at Vernon and a visit to the track website will provide greater depth of information. Nick Salvi
Odds-on harness racing favorite Real Nice (Jordan Stratton, $3.30) worked out a pocket trip Saturday night (October 27), winning Yonkers Raceway's $44,000 Open Handicap Pace.
With the temperature hovering around 91 degrees and the race track lightning fast New York-bred harness racing freshmen trotting fillies were front and center at Monticello Raceway with five divisions of the $148,000 NYSS and three $12,800 splits in the Excelsior Series.
Real Nice and harness racing driver Jason Bartlett lasted on the lead Saturday night, winning Yonkers Raceway's $44,000 Open Handicap Pace.
Real Nice has found racing in the George Morton Levy Pacing Series at Yonkers Raceway to be real nice. A 7-year-old gelding pacer, Real Nice is the defending Levy harness racing champion and was 5-for-5 in this season's preliminary rounds. He has won eight of his last nine starts in the Levy and has hit the board in 18 of his 22 lifetime Levy trips.
Yonkers Raceway Saturday night offered up fifth and final preliminary round competition in its George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series competition. Four $50,000 harness racing events comprised the fourth round, with many of the usual names--save for the AWOL Foiled Again--strutting their stuff.
Foiled Again turned 60 Saturday night (April 7)...doesn't look it, doesn't act it, but it says it right there on his record...60. Sixty as in the number of harness racing wins in his career after his wrapped-up, public workout in the fifth, $50,000 division of Yonkers Raceway's George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series.
"Six" was the magic number of divisions in last week's opening round of Yonkers Raceway's harness racing 'George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series'. As luck would have it, "six" is again the defining digit for Saturday night's second round, as in races 3,4,6,7,8 and 9...at $50,000 a pop. All six winners from their first-round forays are back in search of encores.
On Oct. 22 at Woodbine, in the first Breeders Crown elimination for sophomore colt trotters, Chapter Seven, with harness racing driver Tim Tetrick, took advantage of a duel from the half between supplements Daylon Magician and Dejarmbro to win in 1:53.2.
Real Nice and harnss racing driver Jordan Stratton was much the best Saturday (july 16), winning Yonkers Raceway's featured $52,000 Open Handicap Pace. Had it been any easier, Real Nice could have sent out for refreshments.
Yonkers Raceway broke all the harness racing rules Saturday night, offering not one, not two, but three--count 'em, three-$43,000 Open Handicaps. Delightful Diva (Cat Manzi) did the hard way--eight-hole, wide early, then first-up--in the distaff derby.