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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
The Rich Banca-Mark Beckwith tandem teamed up to sweep the opens at Saratoga Casino and Raceway on Saturday night (May 28) . Banca's Rare Jewel is normally the local showstopper but this week the classmaster yielded to his harness racing stablemate Real Nice.
There is no better way to describe the winner of this past Saturday's $495,000 George Morton Levy Series Final than by using his real name: Real Nice. As of today, you can also now describe Real Nice as the winner of the U.S. Trotting Association's harness racing 'Horse of the Month Award' for April 2011.