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BEDFORD PA - The Pennsylvania Fair Harness Horsemen's Association, in conjunction with their good friends at the Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen's Association and the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association, honored their best and brightest harness racing stars of 2015, both human and equine, at the annual awards banquet traditionally held after the USTA District 7 (Pennsylvania) meeting.   The event was held at the historic Bedford Springs Omni Hotel and Resort, in the hometown of USTA District 7 Chairman and PHHA President Sam Beegle, who presided over the distribution of awards with Darryl Breniser of MH Eby, Inc., always among the most generous of suppliers of door prizes, with this year's prizes climbing by one unofficial count to approximating $15,000. 20-30 inches of snow fell over different parts of Pennsylvania during the 36 hours before, during, and after the banquet, but of the 180 ticket purchasers approximately 100 attended (and those that didn't but called in and canceled were included in the door prize drawings).   The highlights of the evening were the inauguration of two awards which will become annual Fair Banquet events. The first award was the Walter "Boots" Dunn Rising Star Award, named after the former Chairman of District 7, fair legend, and possessor of the spirit of a colt even if the body has bouts with lameness. Boots himself was present to give the award to Brady Brown, the up-and-coming western Pennsylvania horseman who was fourth in the fair driving standings last year. At age 22, Brown already boasts three drives behind Fair Championship winners, and when you consider that there are only twelve drivers who have more in their career - and their names are Hammer, Schadel, Merriman, Hall, Offutt, Zendt, McNeight, Bolon, Schoeffel, Palone, Stillings, and Wilder, a collection which has to his credit two Hall of Fame members, two national dashwinning champions, and four national UDR champions - and you can see the sky is the limit for young Brown.   The second new award was the Top Gun Award, which was given in its inaugural year to the legendary Roger Hammer, not merely because of his resemblance to Tom Cruise, but for the fact that for the umpteenth year Hammer led all Pennsylvania fair horsemen in driving wins (86) and training wins (81).   A third award was presented in absentia to Ron Battoni, longtime executive vice-president of the PHHA who semi-retired (Beegle kept emphasizing the "semi-") at the end of 2015, and who was one of the major driving forces behind the fair horsemen getting their share of the prosperity generated in the Keystone State with the introduction of slots. Battoni was going to drive from his brother's birthday party in North New Jersey Friday night to Bedford (Meadowlands to Bedford is 269 miles), but the snow put paid to that idea; quick-thinking PHHA marketer Ed Kobesky did a panorama cell phone shot of the crowd applauding Battoni, which he will no doubt enjoy.   Two sets of eight horses and their connections earned awards last night - and there were 16 different winners because none of the leading pointwinners during the 20-stop fair season could come back to win their Fair Championship race at The Meadows October 10, showing what a tightly-matched group from top to bottom this year featured.   Pointwinning leaders:   2TC - Keystone Shotgun, owned by Roger Hammer and Todd Schadel, and trained by Hammer; 2TF - A Little Laid Back, owned and trained by Hammer; 2PC - Billy's Falcon, owned and trained by Hammer; 2PF - Unbeamlievable, owned by Mason Shaw and trained by his father Jason;   3TC - Wimborne Hanover, owned by Susan Daugherty and trained by Bill Daugherty Jr; 3TF - Peoplesaimnogood, owned and trained by Hammer; 3PC - R N Nate, owned and trained by Hammer; 3PF - Betterthanrevenge, owned by the Thomson Sisters Racing Stable and trained by Harold Brocklehurst (who, surprisingly, was the only native of Albuquerque, New Mexico at the banquet).   Fair Championship racewinners:   2TC - Major Matter, owned by Rick and Regina Beinhauer and trained by Rick Beinhauer; 2TF - Waterview Hanover, owned by Susan Daugherty and trained by Bill Daugherty Jr.; 2PC - Wagon Master, owned by Bob Key and trained by Mike Gillock; 2PF - Worthy Jackie, owned by the Bay Pond Racing Stable and trained by Sam Beegle;   3TC - Simeon, owned by Dave and Delores Wade, Jerry Brittingham, and William Peel III, and trained by Dave Wade; 3TF - Piano Rose, owned by Ralph Del Priore Jr. and trained by Steve Schoeffel; 3PC - Royaltyhasarrived, owned by Virginia & Kathy Schoeffel and Michael Munn and trained by Steve Schoeffel; 3PF - Crumcake, owned by Mike and Yvonne Medors and trained by Pat Medors.   A final note - you may have done the division of those $15,000 of door prizes by even all 180 tickets sold and gotten about $85 for an average "swag takeaway" for a $35 ticket. We invite you to come to the Pennsylvania Fair Banquet next year!   (And who won the most "swag," including a $6000 Spyder racing bike? Well, if your guess has initials other than "RH," you need to spend more time at the Pennsylvania fairs next year!)   Jerry Connors  

WASHINGTON, PA, Oct. 8, 2015 -- It reaches from Bloomsburg in the east to Wattsburg and Meadville in the northwest to Waynesburg and Washington in the southwest. It's the Pennsylvania Fairs circuit, a pillar of harness racing in the Commonwealth that helps promote and perpetuate the sport even as it provides employment and entertainment for thousands. The 2015 season of the PA Fairs culminates Saturday, Oct. 10 at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino, when the top point-earners on the 20-stop circuit compete for $200,000 in purses over eight championship races. The Meadows and the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association (MSOA) will create a county fair-like atmosphere for the event by offering a variety of family-oriented activities, including a bounce house for kids, sulky rides for all and the chance to get up close and personal with a Standardbred. "County fair racing is important to our state and our horsemen," said Kevin Decker, director of racing for The Meadows. "We are delighted to host the fair championships each year to show our appreciation for the contribution fairs racing makes to our sport." First post on fair championships night is 6:55 PM. Mingling of Generations One reason for the ongoing popularity of Pennsylvania fairs harness racing is the earnings opportunity it provides. Typically, PA Fairs Sires Stakes for 2- and 3-year-olds offer purses of about $5,000. While that's only a fraction of the sires stake purses at the state's three pari-mutuel tracks, there are so many fair stakes that it's not uncommon for horses to turn profits for their owners with their fairs winnings alone. Says trainer/driver Steve Schoeffel: "The fairs are a nice place to race my horses. I can make money with them and teach them how to be racehorses." Schoeffel, of Evans City, has campaigned his horses at The Meadows and PA fairs for about 30 years and uses the Butler County Fairgrounds as his base of operations. This year at the fairs, Schoeffel won 30 races as a trainer, 14 as a driver. Just as important as the cash is the mingling of generations on the fairs circuit, a vehicle for the exchange of information and experience across age groups. That sort of pollination, if you will, is a key factor in the perpetuation of Pennsylvania harness racing. Stars in many sports retire in their late 30s, but that's hardly true in harness racing. This year's leading trainer (81 wins) and driver (87 wins), as he's been so many times, is 69-year-old Roger Hammer, known as the "King of the Fairs," who collected his 4,000th career victory last May at The Meadows. Those accomplishments notwithstanding, in any fairs stake, Hammer may find himself battling such younger rivals as Schoeffel, 45, and the Johnston brothers, Aaron and Shawn, whose combined age is 47. Schoeffel has turned over many of his driving responsibilities to a protege, 22-year-old Brady Brown, who responded by logging 45 wins -- including 10 straight with Schoeffel's top horse, Royaltyhasarrived -- to rank fourth in the standings. "It's Brady's time; he's been waiting a long time to get started," Schoeffel says. "We turned him loose on all the good ones this year." Families Working & Prospering Together Finally, PA Fairs give families the chance to work and prosper together. Consider the Shaws, where Jason trains 'em (47 wins), his brother Chris drives 'em (61 wins), and Jason's 3-year-old son Mason owns many of them. Mason's ownership might mean little to him now, but as he grows and stays close to harness racing, he'll have ready-made entre to the business. Much the same is true of the Johnstons who, as Schoeffel, reside in Evans City and train at the Butler County Fairgrounds. The brothers got involved in harness racing through their father, trainer Gary Johnston, and their grandfather, Charles Moses, who bought Shawn his first horse. That mare, Tremor Hanover, is approaching $600,000 in career earnings, but Shawn Johnston wouldn't think of giving up fairs racing to concentrate on more lucrative raceway purses. "I won in my first race at the fairs when I was 17 or 18, and I've loved fair racing since then," he said. "You're always with the same group of people, although we do try to get newcomers involved. Everyone's family at the fairs." * * * * * Following the fairs championships, The Meadows will take a nearly three-week break from live racing to prepare for its fall-winter meeting. Live racing returns Friday, Oct. 30, when the card begins at 12:55 PM, with a special program set for Saturday, Oct. 31, first post 11:25 AM. Those programs will complement the track's simulcast presentation of the two-day Thoroughbred Breeders Cup, always a fan favorite. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

YORK PA -- The "King of the Pennsylvania Fairs," Roger Hammer, has generated a lot of headlines during the summer season with his two-year-old trotting filly A Little Laid Back, who has set three divisional track records, and now it looks like he may sweep the Fair Championship filly trots, as Peoplesayimnogood has nobody saying that after the sophomore equaled the all-age track trotting record of 2:01.2 here Tuesday, closing day of a two-day meet.   The Lear Jetta filly Peoplsayimnogood had been the division's leading pointwinner in an evenly-matched group summerlong, but she claimed a spot alongside sophomore trotting colt Southwind Nitro in the boldface York record books as she trotted in 29.4, 1:00.1, and 1:31.1 en route to the record-equaling clocking for owner/trainer/driver Hammer.   A divisional track record had been demolished on Monday as the homebred Explosive Matter - Tahiti Springs freshman trotting gelding Major Matter cruised the slick York oval in 2:02.1, wiping out the previous mark of 2:03.4 set by Markup Hanover, with trainer Rick Beinhauer, also the trainer, in the sulky; Beinhauer also co-owns the fast gelding with wife Regina. Major Matter is undefeated in four fair starts, but he may have to win at Gratz and Bloomsburg, the circuit's last two stops, to get enough points to guarantee himself a spot in his $25,000 Fair Championship October 10 at The Meadows.   Hammer's powerhouse pair of pacing colts kept rolling along; in one case, his chief rival kept pace, while the other was upset in his York start. The Nuclear Breeze-B T Falcon gelding Billy's Falcon (12-10-2-0 at the fairs) won a division of the two-year-old event in 2:01.4 for his owner/trainer/driver, while archrival Well Lets See (12-10-0-2) ran his win streak to five in 2:04.1, with Brandon Givens driving the Well Said - Lionness Hanover colt for trainer Kevin Lare and owner Frank Chick.   On the sophomore side, R N Nate made it seven straight and 11-10-1-0 for the year, the Nuclear Breeze gelding buzzing home in 27.3 to complete a 2:00 mile for his breeder/owner/trainer/driver. But in the other section, Royaltyhasarrived lost his ten-race winning streak when Hammer's friendly wrestling rival from high-school days, Sam Beegle, guided Modern Yankee, a 1:51.2 winner at Philly on August 30, around the York oval in 1:58.3, with "Royalty"'s furious rally into the mile's 29 kicker coming up just a neck shy. The victorious Yankee Crusier colt is also trained by Beegle, USTA District Directorvfor Pennsylvania and president of the PHHA, for his Ginger Tree Stable LLC, James Brown, and Donald Currie.   In fact, Beegle wound up with the two fastest miles of the meet, as three races later, the sophomore Quik Pulse Mindale filly Angel Fling toured the twicearound in 1:59.4-28.1. This was the initial fair appearance for both of Beegle's three-year-olds and thus they are unlikely to make the Championships, so defending divisional champ Kesytone I Wish, who won the other 3PF section in 2:00.2 for Todd Schadel, might well repeat. (Schadel was unlucky the day before: his 2TC St Michel Hanover won in 2:03.3, which eclipsed the local divisional standard at the start of the day, but Major Matter's record mile was carded just ahead of his.)   One double-digit fair winning streak still alive is that of the Moon Beam - DVC Ibleievnangles baby pacing filly Unbeamlievable, who won for the tenth straight time in 2:02, a divisional season's record for the fairs. The filly, now 11 for 12 at the fairs, is campaigned by Team Shaw -- driver Chris, trainer Jason, and "sophomore" owner Mason -- who also have the filly Tropical Terror, last year's winningest two-year-old in all of North America.   From the Publicity Office, PA Fair Harness Horsemen's Association    

MEADVILLE PA - The Pennsylvania Fair Circuit set up shop for a four-day stay at the Crawford County Fairgrounds in this northwest Pennsylvania city, with the first two days of harness racing action devoted to two-year-olds. Here are some of the highlights from that action:   --The Great George Two-Annabelle Lane trotting filly A Little Laid Back, possibly named for owner/trainer/driver Roger Hammer, sped around the fairgrounds oval Monday in 2:04.1 for a new divisional track mark, her second of the summer following a 2:03.4 at Hughesville. To put the clocking it perspective: it lowered the old mark of Glide By Shooting by 1 2/5 seconds; it is more than two seconds faster than any colt counterpart has won a race in here; it was 3 1/5 seconds faster than the faster colt division Monday; and it went 3/5 faster than the quickest pacing filly section went the next day. A Little Laid Back is tied for second among North American 2TF with eight wins (believe it or not, there is an Illinois/Iowa filly named Surviver Di with 16 wins already, in just 84 days of racing!). Hammer had four wins on Monday and added another Tuesday.   --Continuing a fine tradition on to its fourth generation, 20YO horseman Nicholas Cook visited Victory Lane for the first time Tuesday, guiding the Well Said-Dragon So pacing colt Ginger Tree Currie to a 2:04.3 over Mclassic - the colt and his driver "breaking their maidens" at the same time. Nicholas's father is horseman Steve Cook, the main trainer for the stable of his grandfather Sam Beegle (like Beegle, Nick was an excellent high school wrestler), and his grand-grandfather was George Heit Jr., a noted southwest Pennsylvania horseman.   In the other two 2PC colts, the Western Terror-Free At Last colt Wagon Master made it three for three in his fair career, downing Hammer's highly-regarded Billy's Falcon, the only 2:00 freshman on the circuit to date, in 2:02.4, and Well Lets See joined Billy's Falcon at 7 for 9 at the fairs with a 2:04.3 triumph. --Possibly no victory was better received than the 2:05.3 victory of Bellagio Bay in the FFA trot Tuesday, as the trainer was none other than hometown hero Boots Dunn.   The racing continues at Meadville continues Wednesday (trotters) and Thursday (pacers) for the three-year-old set.   Publicity Office, PA Fair Harness Horsemen's Association

WASHINGTON PA - Harness Racing came to this town's fairgrounds oval, known as Arden Downs during its Grand Circuit days, just down the road from The Meadows for two days of action on Monday and Tuesday, and the standout performance was generally agreed to be the 1:59.1 victory of the first day turned in by the sophomore Nuclear Breeze gelding R N Nate, who ran his fair record for 2015 to 7-6-1-0, with two three-race winning streaks bookending a second at Hughesville. The indomitable Roger Hammer is "Nate"'s breeder, owner, trainer, and driver; the "magic mile" is the sixth of the Pennsylvania fair season, which has not been blessed with the best of weather.   Also among the three-year-olds, the Andover Hall gelding Simeon kept his fair record perfect after four starts with a 2:05 win for trainer/driver Dave Wade, who also co-owns with Jerry Brittingham, William Peel III, and Delores Wade. Earlier this month, Simeon had tied the all-age trot mark at Clearfield by winning in 2:02.   When the two-year-olds got their turn on Tuesday, two of them continued remarkable runs of form and consistency for babies by advancing their local records on twicearounds to 8-7-1-0. The pacing filly Unbeamlievable (Moon Beam-DVC Iblievenangles) won in 2:06.1 to bolster her credentials for Team Shaw (owner/3YO Mason, trainer/father Jason, and driver/uncle Chris), perhaps bringing to mind that team's success with Tropical Terror in this division last year; while "Beam"'s gelding counterpart Billy's Falcon (Nuclear Breeze - B T Falcon) also got to that seasonal recordline with a 2:05.1 win for Team Hammer (Roger the breeder, Roger the owner, Roger the trainer, and Roger the driver). The win by Billy's Falcon was hardly an upset, seeing as he had the circuit's first 2:00 mile of the year, a 1:59.4 at Gratz on July 11 (remember, he's a two-year-old).   Hammer was in a tie for the lead for the meet championship in both training and driving: both he and Brady Brown sulkysat four returnees to Victory Lane, while he and Mike Gillock each harnessed three winners.   One other item perhaps worth the reporting might be a 2:05.3 win by the SJ's Caviar sophomore filly HS Pearl in the first race of the meet, not so much as she came out of nowhere (the win was her fourth in her last five fair starts), but her connections were new to the recent Keystone fair scene: driver named Palone, trainer named Burke, owners named Burke Racing and Weaver Bruscemi. Rumors are these "new fellows" might do pretty well in the sport if they keep at it, based on their "debuts" (Palone hadn't had a PA Fair Sire Stakes win in the 23 years of computerized records kept by the USTA; must be busy somewhere else).   FINISHING LINES - The PA fair circuit swings right back into action Wednesday and Thursday at Dayton PA, with some of the top Fair Sire Stakes horses not racing at Washington slated for action at Dayton, where the bell will be rung for the first race at high noon each day.   Publicity Office, PA Fair Harness Horsemen's Association

After the cancellation of the Pennsylvania Fair Sire Stakes program for three-year-olds yesterday, harness fans got to see some talented two-year-olds on the track today (Thursday) at the Wayne County Fair.   Roger Hammer had two geldings run their fair records to 7-6-1-0 in the racing for the freshmen. He posted the fastest time on the pace with the Nuclear Breeze - B T Falcon gelding Billy's Falcon, whom he owns, trains, drives, and bred.    (We should note, though, that despite that lofty record, Billy's Falcon is fractionally behind in the seasonal pointstandings to the McArdle-Timeless Classic gelding Mclassic, who has an 8-4-3-1 tally after winning at Waynesburg Monday.)   Also 7-6-1-0 on his tour of Pennsylvania is the Donato Hanover-Gaytanes gelding High Octane, this time home in 2:08.2 for owner/trainer/driver Hammer.   Hammer's A Little Laid Back, the leader among baby trotting fillies, lost a four-race winning streak when she ran into the Cantab Hall-Eclat Hanover buzzsaw miss Connie Jean, now four-for-four at the country twicearounds after a 2:10 win for trainer/driver Todd Schadel and owners Charles Keller III (the Hall of Fame nominee), Charles Keller IV, and Dan and Brett Bittle.   Trainer/driver Schadel also posted the fastest trot time in the FFA event with the SJ's Caviar mare Caviar Call Girl, a 2:07.3-29.3 winner for himself and wife Christine, also the breeders.   It seems only appropriate, five days after the tenth anniversary of their Vivid Photo winning the Hambletonian, that Hammer and Schadel both sat atop the training and driving lists with three winners during the abbreviated session.   Brandon Givens drove a pair of winners as he continues his comeback, with his seasonal totals 59-20-9-7-.463, and he sits fourth in the sulky statistics behind Hammer (44), Chris Shaw (37), and Brady Brown (24).   Next week the Pennsylvania Fair Sire Stakes circuit makes two stops.   First will come the action at the Washington County Fairgrounds, the site known as Arden Downs during its Grand Circuit days, where sophomores will go Monday and freshmen Tuesday, both days at 10.   The circuit then moves on to the (relatively) nearby Dayton Fair, for action starting at high noon on Wednesday (three-year-olds) and Thursday (two-year-olds).   Jerry Connors

The four-day  harness racing meet at the Clearfield County Fair came to an end today (Wednesday), with the last card featured sophomore pacers: two geldings upped their fair records for the year to 6-5-1-0, and one filly - already very familiar with winning - also notched her fifth fair win of 2015.   In three divisions for the males, the Western Terror gelding Royaltyhasarrived recorded the fastest clocking, 2:01.1, to post his fifth straight fair victory, this time by 6¼ lengths.   The all-time track recordholder at Hughesville by virtue of a 1:58.1 victory there in July, Royaltyhasarrived won again Wednesday for driver Brady Brown, trainer Steve Schoeffel, and owners Virginia and Kathy Schoeffel and Michael Munn.   Driver Brown also won another division of this event with EJ And Orr in 2:03.1 for conditioner Dan Walski and the Walski Stables LLC, to give him three scores on the day.   R N Nate also impressed as he kept pace with Royaltyhasarrived, having to race on the rim throughout, yet still tallying in 2:01.3 by 12¾ lengths.   Owner/trainer/driver/breeder Roger Hammer is the guiding force behind the altered son of Nuclear Breeze - whose dam, R N Artist, was the 2003 PA Fair Champion in her sophomore division.   The Western Terror filly Tropical Terror, who led all North American two-year-olds last year with 16 visits to the winners circle (including 15 at the fairs), ran her 2015 tally to five victories on the twicearounds (four in current succession) with a 2:04.1 win for driver/uncle Chris Shaw, trainer/father Jason Shaw, and owner Mason Shaw, like the filly a three-year-old and the CEO/COO/CFO of the powerful Team Shaw.   The fastest filly division fell to the McArdle filly Clear Winner, who pulled a 2:04 major upset of Keystone I Wish, co-fastest PA fair horse of the year with Royaltyhasarrived (her 1:58.1 was at Gratz).   Keystone I Wish made an early burst after the ¼ to the lead, but Clear Winner, 6¼ lengths behind at the 3/4s, unleashed a powerful move through the turn and the stretch to edge her rival by a head for most of the team behind Royaltyhasarrived: driver Brady Brown, trainer Steve Schoeffel, and owner Virginia Schoeffel, with Fred and Seth Dowling also co-owning Clear Winner.   For the four days of racing, Roger Hammer had eight driving victories and seven training triumphs to lead all horsemen; the sulky success allowed Hammer to win the Buster DiSalvo Trophy for most driving wins at Clearfield for the twelfth time.   Hammer solidified his perch atop the season-long standings, now having 40 sulky victories and 39 conditioning wins.   The highlight of the meet had to be the 2:02 trotting victory by Simeon and Dave Wade on Tuesday, equaling Cottonwood Sam's all-age track trotting record set in 2003.   The 2015 Pennsylvania fair circuit reaches its midpoint next week with racing at two fairs, stops number 10 and 11 on the 20-stop circuit, and about as far apart as you can get in Pennsylvania - there are 358 miles between Waynesburg PA (hometown of Dave Palone), in the southwest corner of the state, and Honesdale PA in the far northeast.   Waynesburg will race 2YO events this coming Tuesday and 3YO events this coming Wednesday, with first post each day 10 a.m.   The racing starts Wednesday at Honesdale at 4 p.m., with 3YO contests plus a $2000 FFA pace, while Thursday's 1 p.m. start will showcase 2YOs and a $2000 FFA trot.   Jerry Connors

The first two days of the 2015 four-day meet at the Clearfield County Fairgrounds in this northcentral Pennsylvania city are in the books, with two-year-olds in the spotlight: trotters on Sunday and pacers on Monday.   This week is the 10-year anniversary of the victory in the prestigious Hambletonian achieved by Vivid Photo, who made and won his first career start in PA Fair Sire Stakes action at the local circuit's Bloomsburg Fair, so perhaps it was appropriate that Vivid's co-owners, Roger Hammer and Todd Schadel, swept all five of the Fair Sire Stakes trotting events offered Sunday.   Roger trained and drove three winners, including two horses who have lost but once at the fairs: the Great George Two-Annabelle Lane filly A Little Laid Back (2:06; 7-6-0-0) and the Donato Hanover-Gaytanes gelding High Octane (2:07.2; 6-5-1-0). The other Hammerite was Keystone Shotgun, a Yankee Glide gelding out of Keystone Sirena who won in 2:06.4 for the partnership of Hammer --- and Todd Schadel.   Schadel's two winners included the Yankee Glide-Keystone Brittany gelding Keystone Blade, fastest winner of the day at 2:05.2 for his second straight victory (his first handed High Octane his only defeat), whom Schadel trains, drives, and co-owns with wife Christine; and the Cantab Hall-Eclat Hanover filly Connie Jean, now perfect in three fair outings after a 2:07.2 jaunt for the partnership of Charles Keller III (a candidate for the Harness Hall of Fame), Charles Keller IV, Dan Bittle, and Brett Bittle.   Come Monday and the pacers, the spotlight shifted to the red-hot triumvirate who have come to the Pennsylvania fair circuit this year with great success: driver Brandon Givens, trainer Kevin Lare, and owner Frank Chick. The trio had three winners on the day, including the card's fastest, 2:03.4, posted by the Well Said-Lioness Hanover colt Well Lets See, who ran his fair record to 7-6-0-1 and in the process handed Billy's Falcon (Hammer), who had won in 1:59.4 at Gratz earlier, his first fair setback after five straight triumphs.   In the baby pacing filly ranks, Worthy Jackie (Shark Gesture-Jakes Lil Sis) was quickest in 2:05.4 for trainer/driver Sam Beegle and Bay Pond Racing Stable. Two other fillies ran their fair marks to 6-5-1-0: Unbeamlievable (Moon Beam-DVC Ibelieveinangles, 2:06.2) for driver Chris Shaw, trainer/brother Jason, and owner/nephew Mason; and Devious Behavior (Dragon Again-Ideal Sign, 2:06.4) for Team Givens/Lare/Chick. Both fillies, ironically, had their only defeat at Bedford - they have yet to meet.   The two days saw Roger Hammer train and drive four winners to lead those respective columns; Givens and Lare of course had three each; and also with three training wins is Gary Johnston, having a fine season, with Shawn Johnston winning with two and Aaron Johnston piloting the other.   The three-year-olds will be in the spotlight at noon on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the trotters leading off the sophomore action at Clearfield.   Publicity Office, PA Fair Harness Horsemen's Association

BEDFORD PA - Roger Hammer, "King of the Pennsylvania Fairs" and coming to race in his home town of Bedford, where he is in the Sports Hall of Fame, posted three victories on both Monday and Tuesday at the local fairgrounds to be the leading driver for the meet and retake command of the local seasonal win category.   Hammer posted the fastest mile of the meet, 2:01.3, and got the biggest purse of the session when he won the one-division PA Fair Sire Stakes for three-year-old pacers, with an $11,345 purse, with his homebred Nuclear Breeze gelding R N Nate, who earlier in the year had rewritten the Butler standard for his class to 2:01 - for thirty minutes, until Royaltyhasarrived, who was not entered at Bedford, beat the new mark by a tick.   With his sextet of visits to Victory Lane, Roger raised his 2015 total on the fair circuit to 32, four ahead of Chris Shaw, who had come out of the gate hot this year but was inexplicably 0-for-15 over the Bedford half-miler. Hammer also trains all six of his winners, now giving him a 32-22 lead in the conditioning colony over Chris's brother Jason, who entered only two horses in the two days.   Since we are fast approaching the 10th anniversary of the magical (hey, it is to us!) Hambletonian win of Vivid Photo, owned by Hammer in partnership with Todd Schadel, it seems appropriate that Todd was right behind Roger with five victories over the two days, including winning with the fastest trotter, the sophomore filly Scarlett's Legacy, in 2:03.1. Todd trains all five of his successful quintet, and co-owns three with his wife Christine; Max J. Hempt, grandson of Hall of Famer Max C. Hempt, owns one of the others, and the second is backed by a quartet that includes Hall of Fame nominee Charles Keller III.   A shout-out should also go to another member of the Bedford Sports Hall of Fame, Sam Beegle - who got in the local Hall for his wrestling skill, having gone to the high school State Finals, and who of course has had a fine career as a trainer/driver, President of the PA Harness Horsemen's Association, and now Chairman of USTA District 7, of which he has been a longtime director. Beegle guided the Shark Gesture-Jakes Lil Sis baby pacing filly Worthy Jackie home first in 2:04.2.   The Pennsylvania fair action now heads to the Clearfield County Fair in the northcentral part of the state. Racing is being held on a Sunday through Wednesday schedule this year, with post time the day after the Adios 1 p.m. and noon for the following three sessions.   PA Fair Harness Horsemen's Association  

After taking a battering on Wednesday with the resetting of the Lycoming County Fair records on both the pace (Royaltyhasarrived, 1:58.1) and trot (Aloysius, 2:01), the local harness racing record book had to absorb another alteration during Thursday's Pennsylvania Fair Sire Stakes action for two-year-olds, as trotting filly A Little Laid Back was nothing like her name by winning in 2:03.4. (We originally typed "trotting fully" instead of "trotting filly," but both are applicable.)   A Little Laid Back, a daughter of Great George Two - Annabelle Lane owned, trained, and driven by (the always "laid back") Roger Hammer, shaved 2/5 of a second off the former track mark for this section, set by Desired Outcome four years and two days ago - but all they had to white-out is the time, date, and the horse's name, as Hammer had sulky duty on Desired Outcome's recordsetting day as well.   Fastest baby trotting male, and the Pennsy fair season's leader for freshman diamondgaiters, is Major Matter, an altered son of Explosive Matter - Tahiti Springs, who won nicely in 2:02.1 for trainer/driver Rick Beinhauer, who shares ownership and breeding bragging rights with Regina Beinhauer.   The day's other big story were the PA fair circuit newcomers who combined for a triple: driver Brandon Givens, trainer Kevin Lare, and owner Frank Chick. (Givens had a fourth winner through a catch drive, and his total of 10 fair wins puts him fourth in the standings.) The triumvirate took down half of the four 2PC divisions, including the fastest with the Well Said - Lionness Hanover freshman Well Lets See, who took his third win in four starts with a 2:02 clocking.   The local fair circuit moves on to Bedford for racing on Monday and Tuesday.   The oval at Bedford, in its second year back after a 23-year hiatus of harness racing, was in lightning shape last year, and perhaps the weather will be cooperative in giving the young stars chances at fast clockings.     Jerry Connors

Roger Hammer, "King of the Pennsylvania Fairs," had five horses he owns, trains, and drove visit Victory Lane during the two-day harness racing Pennsylvania Fair Sire Stakes event at Dayton over the weekend - and lost the seasonal driving lead to Chris Shaw, who guided five winners on both two-year-old Saturday and three-year-old Sunday for a total of ten wins in all.   Six of Chris Shaw's winners were strictly "all in the family" affairs - driven by him for trainer/brother Jason and owner/nephew Mason, himself only three but likely to be able to pick the college and even program of his choice with all of this "college tuition" money that Team Shaw keeps winning.   Among the Team Shaw sextet of victories was one with Tropical Terror, the Western Terror filly who in 2014 led all of North America's freshmen with 16 victories. On Sunday she toured the Dayton twicearound in 2:02.3, fastest heat in her division, tacking on a 29.3 last quarter to her wire-to-wire triumph.   Two sophomore colts went in 2:01 to tie for meet speed honors.   One was R N Nate, a Nuclear Breeze gelding who had earlier set a 2:01 divisional track record at Butler for breeder/owner/trainer/driver Hammer.   The other was Royaltyhasarrived, already author of a fair 2:00 mile via his 1:59.1 triumph at Gratz and the "eraser" of R N Nate in the Dayton books when later in the day he went 2:00.4.   "Royalty" was king in his Dayton outing for driver Brady Brown, who had an excellent Sunday with four victories; trainer Steve Schoeffel, who provided Brown with three of his winners; and owners Virginia and Kathy Schoeffel and Michael Munn.   Trotting speed honors for the meet went to the Muscle Massive filly Missive, another Brown/Schoeffel collaboration who earlier had also erased a line in the track record book at Butler.   Sunday she traversed the local twicearound in 2:04 on the engine for the Lander Stable LLC and Kathy Schoeffel.   On the two-year-old side, generating the most "buzz" is still the Nuclear Breeze-B T Falcon gelding Billy's Falcon, who had won in 1:59.4 at Gratz.   Only Saturday Billy's Falcon moved early and won by a country mile, here translating to 18 3/4 lengths, in posting the fastest Dayton freshman clocking of 2:03.1 as yet another success story for owner/breeder/trainer/driver Hammer.   The PA fair circuit now moves to Hughesville for cards on Wednesday and Thursday.   When the circuit arrives at that midstate town not too far from the Little League World Series home of Williamsport, the top five trainers and drivers for the 2015 PA fair season to date will look like this:   DRIVERS: Chris Shaw, 23; Roger Hammer, 21; Brady Brown, 11; Steve Schoeffel, 6; and tied with 5, Shawn Johnston and Wayne Long (who got four of those at Dayton).   TRAINERS: Roger Hammer 21; Jason Shaw 17 (he had seven in all at Dayton); Steve Schoeffel 12; Bill Daugherty Jr., 5; and tied with 4, Lisa Dunn-Adams, Kevin Lare, and Todd Schadel.   Jerry Connors

Seeing that next month will be the 10th anniversary of Vivid Photo's winning of The Hambletonian, it seems correct that his owners, Roger Hammer and hometown hero Todd Schadel, would tie atop the horsemen's standings for the harness racing meetings on Saturday/Sunday in Pennsylvania Fair Sire Stakes action here at the central Pennsylvania oval, perhaps the local circuit's fastest, with four wins each as trainer and driver.   Schadel posted the fastest mile of the young Keystone fair season, 1:58.1, with the Art Official filly Keystone I Wish, last year's 2PF Fair Championship winner, whom he owns with his wife Christine.   Another highlight for Todd came when he swept the two-year-old trotting filly divisions in the first two races of the meet, with the Explosive Matter miss, home in 2:03.3 for Todd and Christine, and Connie Jean, a Cantab Hall miss who clocked in 2:03 for Charles Keller III (Hall of Fame nominees race at the Pennsylvania fairs!), Charles Keller IV, E. Dan Bittle, and Brett Bittle. Keystone I Wish and Connie Jean, like their fellow six horses who were the fastest divisional winner in their respective Gratz events, also became PA Fairs season's leaders in notching their winning clockings.   Hammer's highlight was the 1:59.4 victory with the two-year-old ( on a fair half-mile track in mid-July!) pacing gelding Billy's Falcon, who in his only other fair start went 2:00.1 at Bloomsburg.   The Nuclear Breeze gelding is owned by Hammer, as were his other three weekend winners, giving him 16 victories in just six fairs as both trainer and driver, leading both sets of statistics.   The other sub-2:00 mile of the weekend was notched by Royaltyhasarrived, a sophomore Western Breeze gelding who had set a divisional track record at Butler in his last start.   On Sunday he covered the Gratz twicearound in 1:59.1 for driver Brady Brown, trainer Steve Schoeffel, and owners Virginia and Kathy Schoeffel and Michael Munn.   Special mention must be made of two drivers named Brandon, especially Brandon Givens, who had been away from the races over five years putting his life back together.   Now working for fellow "comeback kid" Kevin Lare, Brandon, a career winner of over 1000 races who had not driven for 1917 days, fashioned a sulky triple on Saturday, two of them for trainer Lare.   The other Brandon, Brandon Henley, made his first Pennsylvania fair appearance Sunday - in fact, it was the first time he had raced at a fair since the very first start of his career, in the summer of 2010 at The Great Pocomoke City (MD) Fair.   He was also quick to find the winners circle, rounding out the weekend's action by guiding the Tom Ridge 3TG Oregon Ridge to a 2:04 victory for lessee/trainer Syl King Jr.   Jerry Connors

BLOOMSBURG PA - If you ask the Pennsylvania fair harness racing horsemen's community to consider an old adage, they would definitely say that the glass is half-full.   For the second straight week, the PA fair circuit was reduced from two scheduled days to one because of rain. Last week at Wattsburg, the three-year-olds got to race Sunday; this past weekend, the two-year-old set got their first action on Saturday at Bloomsburg, the speedy northeast Pennsylvania half-miler.   The star of the Saturday action had to be Billy's Falcon, a Nuclear Breeze gelding out of B T Falcon, and whose granddam produced two Sire Stakes champions - so he had the pedigree. In his corner is breeder / owner/ trainer / driver Roger Hammer - "the King of the PA Fairs."   And he has the speed - he won in 2:00.1 over a fair track rated "good," in his second career start, with back fractions of 58 - 28.4. The other 2PC winners went good miles (McClassic in 2:04.3 - 28.4, Crazy Idea home in 30.2 in a 2:07 outing), but Billy's Falcon and Hammer certainly stamped themselves as the early horse to keep an eye on.   Fastest 2PF winner was Unbeamlieveable (a Moon Beam filly backed by driver Chris Shaw, trainer Jason Shaw, 3YO owner Mason Shaw), stopping the clock in 2:04 - 28.3. On the trot, speed honors went to the filly She's Seaworthy (Cantab Hall), a 2:07.3 winner for trainer/driver Steve Schoeffel and owners Virginia and Kathy Schoeffel, James Nelson, and the BPN Partnership; fastest colt was another trainer-driver Hammerite, the Yankee Glide gelding Keystone Shotgun, home in 2:08 for the ownership team of Hammer and Todd Schadel, the partnership behind Vivid Photo, the Hambletonian winner ten years ago.   In all, Hammer had an owning / training / driving triple; horsemen doublers were trainer/driver Schoeffel, driver Shaw and trainer Shaw, and driver Shawn Johnston.   The circuit heads back west this weekend to the Meadville Sertoma event at the Crawford County fairgrounds, where legendary "host" Boots Dunn will do his best to give his fellow horsemen a "full glass of action."     Pennsylvania Fair Harness Horsemen Association's Publicity Office        

WASHINGTON, PA, May 18, 2015 -- Harness racing driver Roger Hammer notched career win 4,000 Monday at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino when he piloted Joevidal to victory in the sixth race. Hammer said that as a young trainer/driver, he never imagined he would achieve such a lofty milestone. "I never thought of the victories; I thought more of the money," he joked. "I was just enjoying the races." Hammer's involvement in harness racing, which now extends more than six decades, began when he was 6 and started helping his father, the late Clay Hammer, as the elder Hammer plied the Pennsylvania and Ohio fair circuits. Young Roger was 16 when he drove his first horse. It wasn't long before Hammer was amassing training and driving victories -- at raceways to be sure, but particularly at PA fairs -- and earning assignments from such renowned trainers as Harry Harvey. His career received a key boost when he formed a productive, long-lasting relationship with the late Max C. Hempt of Hempt Farms, an important breeder then and now. They became partners in many horses over the years. "A big part of my career was Max," Hammer said. "One thing about Max: Max never bothered you, never called you. He was just a true horseman. When he did call it was always after noon. He'd say, 'You're busy in the morning, and I don't want to bother you.' That's the way he was." Hammer indicated the notion that Hempt would tab the best "Keystone" yearlings for their partnership is false. "Everybody thought that, but that wasn't Max. It was after I bought his yearlings that he would say, 'Give me your list,' and he would pick out the ones he wanted for our partnership." With that steady supply of capable young horses, Hammer began to roll up eye-popping numbers. He's an eight-time North American UDR champion -- usually in the 300-499 starts category -- and his UDR exceeded .300 for a remarkable 26 straight years. On Sept. 9, 2003, he drove 11 winners at the York Fair; only Bruce Ranger (13 victories at Pompano Park on Sept. 5, 2009) has collected more wins on a single program. But Hammer's reputation as "King of the Fairs" underwent serious revision on Aug. 6, 2005, when he drove the gelding Vivid Photo, whom he trained and co-owns with Todd Schadel, to a stunning victory in the Hambletonian. That triumph -- with a horse he campaigned at the Big Butler Fair and the Clearfield Fair, no less -- proved that Hammer could, at the same time, be a throwback and a success in an environment dominated by catch drivers. Consider how unlikely his feat was. In the Hambletonian's first 25 years, 23 of the winners were driven by their trainers. In the most recent 25 years of the race, only five trainer/drivers have won: Stefan Melander (Scarlet Knight, 2001), Trond Smedshammer (Windsongs Legacy, 2004), Ray Schnittker (Deweycheatumnhowe, 2008), Jimmy Takter (Trixton, 2014) and Hammer. Even now, Hammer has no second thoughts about having raced his future Hambo champion at the fairs. "He was a mean horse in the stall, climbing the walls and running around biting himself," he told USTA a few years ago. "We had to castrate him to keep him from damaging himself. Best thing that ever happened to him, but here's the point. If I'd known how great he would become, I still would have raced him at the fairs at 2. It's educational, and if you pick the right fairs, it doesn't hurt them." Hammer says winning the sport's most prestigious race didn't change him. "It was the greatest thing, to win the Hambletonian, but it never changed my lifestyle, and it never changed my attitude as far as racing goes," he said. "It was a pleasure winning that race, but I was right back to the fairs the next day. I was glad that Harry Harvey was there. I only wish my dad and Max could have seen it." Today, Hammer operates his farm in Bedford, PA, roughly 100 miles east of The Meadows, where he manages about 70 head, including racehorses, broodmares, youngsters and a few retirees. Among the latter are Vivid Photo and Shark Kosmos, another top trotter of yore for Hammer, who pal around in their own paddock. Hammer has cut back a bit, typically driving only at The Meadows while relying on catch drivers elsewhere. "I like to torment the guys at The Meadows," Hammer said. "I like to tease them here." He's trying to reduce his equine holdings as well but is finding it difficult to do so. "When you raise 10 or 11 yearlings a year, it's hard to cut back because they accumulate too much," he said. "I'm trying to get rid of most of my racehorses, just keep a couple around to pay the bills. I'd like to cut back to 15-to-20 head, but I don't know what else I would do. That's the thing that keeps me going." Evan Pattak

HARRISBURG PA - Example A of why never to say "Oh, he (or she) is 'just a fair horse'" is the pacer Sapphire City, a seven-year-old son altered son of Metropolitan, winner of his Pennsylvania Fair Sire Stakes Championship at age 2 - and the sport's newest millionaire following victory in Saturday's $100,000 Levy Series Consolation at Yonkers.   Just over two years removed from their Vivid Photo Hambletonian fame, Pennsylvania horsemen Roger Hammer (by the way right now just two wins short of 4000) and Todd Schadel purchased the baby from his breeder, the late Dr. John Hurtgen. As is the case with many Hammer/Schadel copurchases of yearlings in a given year (Vivid Photo would be one), they divvied up the horses between them to train, and Schadel got Sapphire City.   At two, Sapphire City got checks in the "big" Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and was undefeated in five starts at the fairs, after which he posted a wire-to-wire victory in his Fair Championship at The Meadows. At three, Sapphire City got checks in p/m Sire Stakes competition and even won a Stallion Series event, so a late-season flurry of 5-3-2-0 fair activity wasn't enough for him to get to the Final, soon after which he was sold to Illinois' Centaur Stable and Indiana's Jordan Sklut, who still own him, and has been under the shedrow of trainer Paul Blumenfeld the vast majority of that time.   Sapphire City won over $200,000 in each of his 4, 5, and 6YO years, and $773,895 combined in those three seasons, taking a mark of 1:49.4 at Tioga Downs. This year he had two early wins in Yonkers' Open handicaps, which triggered his campaigned in the Levy, where he had two seconds (one a half-length loss to Levy champion Domethatagain), a third, and two fourths to earn him a spot in the Consolation. Ironically, he was never higher than 8-1 in his Levy prelims, but he was 13-1 in the Consolation, where - for the sixth straight week against top-level horses - he used his early speed, perhaps learned in his fair days, to work out a pocket trip, then rallied in the passing lane to win in 1:52.2 and go over seven figures in earnings.   Schadel and Hammer purchased Sapphire City for $27,000 as a yearling and made almost $80,000 with him at two and three, and undoubtedly got a good price when he was sold to the Midwesterners, who obviously have gotten a great deal as well. Sapphire City, new millionaire, is the embodiment of why using the dismissive term "He's just a fair horse" is a risky choice of words for anyone.   Publicity Office, Pennsylvania Fair Harness Horsemen's Association

WASHINGTON, PA, April 21, 2015 -- Pinned along the pylons in the stretch, RN Nate swerved sharply outside and roared home to pull off a 24-1 upset victory in Tuesday's $32,800 championship of the Visible Gold Pace for 3-year-old colts and geldings at The Meadows. Roger Hammer, driver, trainer, breeder and owner of RN Nate, was giving the Nuclear Breeze-RN Artist gelding a ground-saving trip but found himself sitting fifth behind a stopping rival, in desperate need of room. "We came off the rail so fast that we nearly hit Dickie's (Stillings) wheel," Hammer said. "I had to take up a little bit to make sure I cleared him." With that clearance, RN Nate gobbled up the leaders and scored in a career-best 1:53.3. Well Bred shot the Lightning Lane for place, a length behind, with the first-over Chaching Hanover and Stillings third. RN Nate showed considerable promise at 2, winning eight of 10 starts while taking a mark of 1:54, when injury struck. "He got a hairline crack in a coffin bone -- that's why we had to quit with him," Hammer said. For the balance of RN Nate's sophomore campaign, Hammer indicated he would follow the recipe that has been so successful for him over the years -- a touch of PA Fairs, a dash of PA Stallion Series, perhaps a dollop of PA Sires Stakes for flavor. "I'll just take a little bit of money," he said. The win gives Hammer 3,998 career driving victories. Wednesday's card at The Meadows features the $36,700 championship of the Daylon Miracle Trot for 3-year-old fillies (race 9) as well as a $15,000 total-pool guarantee for the Pick 4 (races 4-7). First post is 12:55 PM. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

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