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At this point last year in the 2014 season, the sport of harness racing was awash in stars. Sebastian K had won seven of eight starts, including a world record 1:49 in the Sun Invitational at Pocono. He also had wins in the Cutler and the Cashman. Sweet Lou had swept ten in a row, with six straight in under 1:48. The premier son of Yankee Cruiser had recently taken the Dan Patch, and scored in the USPC, Haughton and Franklin prior to that. Trixton had captured the hearts of the fans, even before he pulled off an upset win in the Hambletonian. And diminutive speedball He’s Watching won the Meadowlands Pace in a world record equaling 1:46.4 and had just followed that up with a win in the EBC. And prior to that, In 2013, Bee A Magician was a perfect ten for ten by mid-August, with wins in the Oaks and Del Miller; Captaintreacherous was six for seven, having captured the North American Cup and the Meadowlands Pace; and I Luv The Nitelife, who earned more money at two and three than any pacing filly ever had, was nine for ten, with wins in the Fan Hanover and the Jim Lynch. What looked to be a star studded year of racing in 2015 hasn’t gone exactly as planned. Father Patrick, who was recently retired, has a win in the Maxie Lee and a world of frustration to show for his four-year-old efforts. JK She’salady inexplicable raced poorly early and is now recuperating from a lung infection. Last year’s Horse of the Year will not be in the mix until Lexington.  McWicked, who has been missing until recently, looked dreadful in a Mohawk preferred the other night. Nuncio is racing successfully in Europe. Shake It Cerry has been on shaky ground all year. Maven has been hijacked to Europe, where she rarely wins. Miki is on the shelf. Foiled has one win in 12 starts. Artspeak is not the next big thing. In The Arsenal was dull in the EBC on Sunday. The Dan Patch winner, Color’s A Virgin, seems to have hit her ceiling in the Hoosier Park F&M invitational. Another division winner, Classic Martine, is two for ten. In short, promise has not been fulfilled on a number of fronts. Sebastian, Lou, Trixton, Captain T and Nitelife are all retired. They ain’t trottin’ and pacin’ through that door, as Rick Pitino would say. So the current crop of horses will have to get it done. Wiggle It Jiggleit and Mission Brief are both genuine superstars. The Mr Wiggles gelding rebounded from his loss in the Cane with a pair of head turning performances in the Milstein and the Battle Of Brandywine, blowing up the track record in the former and setting a world record in the latter. At the very least, he’s the equal of the Sebastian K of 2014. Wiggle will be off the grid for a month as he prepares for the Jug. And Mission Brief won her Hambletonian elimination and finished second in the final, before humbling her peers in Friday’s Moni Maker. She’s faster than Bee A Magician, and she’s managed with a fearlessness that was foreign to the Kadabra mare, Shake It Cerry and Check Me Out. Ron Burke is seriously considering starting her in the Kentucky Futurity, a move that would put Lexington on the front page, particularly if Pinkman can rebound from his poor last start and can win the Yonkers Trot and then is going for the Triple Crown. We should see Mission Brief in action in Friday’s Casual Breeze. A superstar in the making is Burke’s Muscle Hill freshman Southwind Frank. The $100,000 Lexington purchase has won 5 of 6 starts, with his only loss coming on a break. He won the NJSS final, then dominated in the elimination and final of the Peter Haughton. Sunday he won a split of the Reynolds in a track record 1:54.2—back half in :54.2—at Tioga.  He’s staked to the Champlain at Mohawk in two weeks, and the Wellwood, two weeks after that. Four-year-old JL Cruze has been the king of the aged trotting ranks through the first half of the season. He has taken 16 of his 19 starts and tops the money and speed lists in his division. The Crazed gelding won the Hambletonian Maturity, Graduate Series, Super Bowl and Singer. Unfortunately, these are all races for three/four-year-olds. He wasn’t staked to the Cashman or the Crawford Farms Trot at Vernon, and isn’t eligible to the Maple Leaf, Allerage or the Breeders Crown. It’s tough to remain a star racing on the margins. His fourth place finish in the Sebastian K at Pocono may herald the end of his reign. Pinkman has won the Hambletonian, Stanley Dancer, Beal and Zweig this year, but he doesn’t possess much duende. The Explosive Matter gelding does just enough to get a win, which he has done in eight of his 10 starts, with earnings of more than a million dollars. He’s so workmanlike and efficient that he hasn’t generated the sort of buzz his record calls for. Breaking stride at the start of the Colonial as the 1/9 choice on Saturday didn’t add to his appeal. State Treasurer, the leader of the FFA pacing set, just won the Roll With Joe in a track record 1:47.2 at Tioga. It was his sixth win in 12 starts; he won the USPC, Molson (his third) and Mohawk Gold Cup. He came up short in the Franklin, Battle Of Lake Erie, Haughton and a TVG open. The six-year-old son of Real Desire came into his own at five and is a pleasant surprise, but he’s no Sweet Lou, vintage 2014. The fact that the FFA pacing class is as thin as paper enhances his image. D’One, the American bred daughter of Donato Hanover and Giant Diablo, just followed up her come from behind win in the Fresh Yankee with another in the Muscle Hill. She’s a mid-season gift from the Continent. Bee A Magician, who was beaten by D’One in both of those stakes, was riding high after wins in the Armbro Flight, Cutler and Charlie Hill Memorial, but Roger Wallmann’s repatriated closer is clearly the division leader at this point. So D’One, who is staked to the Centaur at Hoosier Downs at the end of September, where she would face E L Titan, Obrigado and the rest of the boys, as well as the Allerage Mare and the BC Mare, may well achieve stardom. The same goes for rookie trotter Southwind Frank. And Wiggleit Jiggle It and Mission Brief are already stars. Maybe Pinkman and State Treasurer will capture our hearts and minds and a few more will make it to the marquee by season’s end. Joe FitzGerald has been an avid harness racing fan and historian for the last half-century. He writes a weekly blog for  http://viewfromthegrandstand.blogspot.com/. Joe’s commentary reflects his own views and not that of Harnesslink.

 The harness racing meeting at Yonkers Raceway  on Monday night hosted the $151,624 New York Sire Stakes Pat Quaglietta Trot for 2-year-old fillies. Four divisions, worth $37,556, $37,556, $38,256 and $38,256, comprised the event. Odds-on choice Goosebump Hanover (Jim Morrill Jr., $3.30)-from post position No. 4--slipped out late, went wide and won the opening grouping in 1:59.1. Credit to Thelimit (Sam Schillaci), who actually beat the winner to the outside, settled for second, a half-length behind. Royal Surprise (Dan Daley) was third. For "Goosebump," a daughter of RC Royalty co-owned (as Burke Racing) by (trainer) Ron Burke, Joe DiScala Jr., Crawford Farms and J&T Silva Stables, it was her third win in six seasonal starts. The exacta paid $21.20, with the triple returning $78. The evening's second Quaglietta event was strictly a two-lass affair, with pole-sitting Dizzy Broad (Morrill Jr., $6.90) picking off 3-5 favorite Posterity (Charlie Norris) from the pocket in a life-best/night's-fastest 1:58.1. The margin was a length-and-a-half, with Dazzling Dollars (Trond Smedshammer) a best-of-the-rest third. For Dizzy Broad, a daughter of Broad Bahn co-owned (as Burke Racing) by (trainer) Burke, Weaver Bruscemi, Frank Baldachino and Earl Smith Jr., she's now 3-for-5 in her first season. The exacta paid $10.80, with the triple returning $34.80. Monday's third sire stakes event was another two-speed number, with short-price miss Non Stick (Dan Dube, $2.80) handily besting Pampered Winner (Jimmy Takter). From post No. 2, the people's preference two-moved and won by 2½ lengths in 1:59.4. Straight A Student (Mark MacDonald) was a rallying third. For Non Stick, a daughter of Lucky Chucky co-owned (as Svanstedt Racing) by (trainer) Ake Svanstedt and Little E LLC, she's a perfect 4-for-4 to begin her career. The exacta paid $11, with the triple returning $23.40. The evening's final statebred division was a maiden-breaker for Franniegetyourgun (Takter, $15.60). She sat pocketed from post No. 2, then eased past Lima Playtime (Scott Zeron) by a length-and-a-quarter in 1:59.2. Lucky Kristen (Brian Sears) was third. For "Frannie," a Lucky Chucky miss trained by her driver for her driver's wife, Christina, Herbert Holland, Serafino Barone and Steve Bitlisli, is was that first win in four frosh tries. The exacta paid $110.50, with the triple returning $505. The Raceway's live season continues Tuesday with a "French-centric" matinee (first post 1 PM). Frank Drucker

Hambletonian champion Pinkman went off stride at the start, opening the door for his eight rivals in Saturday's (Aug. 22) $500,000 Colonial Trot for 3-year-old male trotters, and Crazy Wow was the one to take advantage. Crazy Wow, who was not eligible to the Hambletonian, won the Colonial by 1-1/4 lengths over The Bank in 1:52.3 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Uncle Lasse finished third and Wicker Hanover was fourth. Crazy Wow, sent off at odds of 9-1, was the third choice in the betting behind 1-5 favorite Pinkman and Uncle Lasse. The Bank and Uncle Lasse are from the stable of trainer Jimmy Takter, as is Pinkman. Uncle Lasse took the early lead and remained on top through fractions of :26.3, :55.1, and 1:23.3. Canepa Hanover made a first-over bid, but was unable to pass Uncle Lasse. Crazy Wow, who enjoyed a trip following the leader, took charge in the stretch and pulled away to victory. "I wanted to follow Pinkman, but it didn't work out that way," said Tim Tetrick, who drove Crazy Wow for trainer Ron Burke. "He made a break and I got a perfect trip out of it." "I sat the two hole and my horse responded well." "He felt good. He's a big strong horse and he's great to drive. He works at it, he's got a great attitude, and he likes to win." Crazy Wow has won five of nine races this year and earned $542,537. For his career, the son of Crazed-No Pan No Gain has won 10 of 20 starts and banked $775,465. He is owned by Our Horse Cents Stables, JT45, J&T Silva Stables, and Deo Volente Farms. "It's a big win," Burke said. "He's a good horse that I think can go with them all the time when he gets the chances. In the big races, I think he will acquit himself well. He'll have some more chances to race against these." Crazy Wow's future schedule includes the Canadian Trotting Classic in September at Mohawk. Yannick Gingras, who drove Pinkman, was unsure why the gelding went off stride. Pinkman, the winner of 14 of 18 lifetime races, had never made a break in a pari-mutuel race in his career and wound up last in the nine-horse field. "I don't know," Gingras said. "I was just taking him to the gate and he made a break." Colonial Consolations If you backed Centurion ATM in the $200,000 Consolation I and saw driver Ake Svanstedt pull his horse out of the two-hole nearing the three-quarters to battle favored Whom Shall I Fear, you had to be encouraged, for Svanstedt is one of the best sulksyitters in the world. Centurion ATM went right to the lead and strode off to a 1-3/4 length win in 1:53.3, a tick off of his lifetime record. Svanstedt, whose world champion Sebastian K was retired to stud during special on-track ceremonies earlier in the card, is also the trainer of Centurion ATM, a son of SJ's Caviar, who is owned by Courant A B and Knutsson Trotting Inc. (Sebastian K's sponsors). Muscle Diamond, second in the Breeders Crown at the end of last year but slow to find top form this season, may have turned a corner in the $100,000 Consolation II, coming from second-over to win a five-horse across-the-track finish in 1:53.2, equaling his lifetime mark while defeating Cruzado Dela Noche by three-quarters of a length. Hall of Fame nominee Charles Keller III is a co-owner of the son of Muscle Hill with trainer Brett Bittle, Dan Bittle, and Charles Keller IV. Ken Weingartner

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, August 22, 2015 - Dynamic Youth (George Brennan, $5.10) and (Cashontherocs, Brennan again, $29.20) divided Yonkers Raceway's Saturday night glory, winning the $48,000 harness racing co-features. Dynamic Youth, as the 3-2 favorite, just about went the distance in the blind-draw Open Pace. In play from post position No. 6, he retook from Rock on Moe (Dan Dube) after a :26.2 opening quarter-mile. After that, intervals of :55.3, 1:23.3 and 1:51.1 closed the sale. The final margin over a stubborn, first-up Sapphire City (Jason Bartlett) was a length-and-a-half, with a belated The Real One (Pat Lachance), Texican N (Eric Carlson) and Rock on Moe coming away with the minor moolah. For Dynamic Youth, a Bettor's Delight 6-year-old gelding trained by Ron Burke for co-owners Ken Tucci, C&G Racing and J&T Silva Stables, it was his fifth win in 13 seasonal starts. The exacta (two wagering favorites paid $15, with the triple returning $53.50. The week's marquee trot, this one handicapped, saw pole-assigned Cashontherocs stalk Sevruga (Lachance), then beat him up the inside. The former threw down fractions of :27.4, :57.1 and 1:26, while parking out Dewycolorintheline (Jordan Stratton). Sevruga had a length-and-a-half into the lane, but Cashontherocs went in, and by. The margin was a half-length in 1:55.1. A wide Not Afraid (Dube) was third, with tepid 3-1 choice Tober (Bartlett) and Outburst (Tyler Buter) completing the cashers. For seventh choice Cashontehrocs, a 6-year-old Cash Hall gelded trained by Scott DiDomenico for owner Larry Fischer, he's now 3-for-21 this season. The exacta paid $55, the triple returned $221 and the superfecta paid $8,725 (base $2 payout). Also Saturday night, Bright Blue Eyes (Brian Sears, $5.60) and Murderer's Row (Bartlett, $25.20) won their respective $20,000 eliminations for the Hudson Filly Trot. The 3-year-olds won in 1:56.3 and 1:57.1, respectively, and shall be joined in next Saturday's $149,240 final by (alphabetically) Katniss, Lady Winona, Marion Millionair, Oh My Darlin', Scented Roses and Wouldn't Itbesweet. Rules of the Road (Bartlett), the 1-2 choice in the first elim, broke early and often and finished last. The Raceway's live season continues Monday night (first post 7:10 PM), with the $151,624 New York Sire Stakes Pat Quaglietta Trot (2-year-old fillies). Frank Drucker

WASHINGTON, PA, Aug. 20, 2015 -- When Mission Brief demolished a field of 3-year-old fillies in Friday's $174,000 Moni Maker at The Meadows, it reinforced the notion gaining momentum across harness racing--when she's healthy and competing against fillies, the only horse that can beat Mission Brief is Mission Brief. Fresh off her second-place finish to Pinkman in the Hambletonian, Mission Brief waltzed to victory--winning driver Yannick Gingras never cut her loose--in 1:52.3 for trainer Ron Burke and owners Burke Racing Stable, Our Horse Cents Stables, J&T Silva Stables and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. I'm So Fancy finished second, 3-1/4 lengths back, while Gatka Hanover earned show, giving trainer Burke a 1-2-3 sweep. Hambletonian Oaks winner Wild Honey, the only filly in the field given a shot to challenge Mission Brief, stalked the winner from the pocket but broke stride in the stretch, finishing fourth-placed-sixth. From the gate, Gingras idled outside with Mission Brief, waiting for the dust to settle before pushing her to the front. "I thought the only way to get beat is to do something stupid," Gingras said. "Even if someone decided to go on, I thought I could trot by them. So I wanted to give her a chance to get her feet under her and go from there. She's faster, bigger, and stronger. She doesn't look like a filly; she looks like a colt." The daughter of Muscle Hill-Southwind Serena, who extended her career bankroll to $1,153,417, recorded even fractions of 28/56.1/1:24.1/1:52.3 in winning for the 14th time in 20 career outings. Burke, harness racing's perennial leading conditioner, showed no hesitation in calling Mission Brief "a special horse, the best horse I've ever trained." "There's no part of me that wavers on that--she's the best horse I've ever trained," he said. Prior to the race, Burke indicated he likely would keep Mission Brief in against fillies for the balance of the season, but what he saw in the Moni Maker has him considering other options. "I would like to maybe try it (racing against males)," he said, "but it won't be an easy sell to everybody else in our group. I'm a little bit gamer--maybe I believe more in her than anybody does. For a while, it's a decision we don't have to make." Burke said Mission Brief's next race will be the Peaceful Way at Mohawk, with a lot of "green" time for the filly between now and then as well as continuing medical treatments for her back. "We'll keep after that, but I don't think it's a chronic condition," he said. "It was something that came on. She got out of kilter like anybody else and had to work her way through it. When she warmed up tonight, she was as sound as she's been all year." The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

Trois-Rivieres, Quebec – The Ron Burke Stable entry of All Bets Off and Limelight Beach headline many of the top four-year-olds in harness racing that have entered the $200,000 second annual renewal of the Prix D’Ete Sunday at the Hippodrome 3R. Canada’s premier pacing event for many years, the Hippodrome 3R management revived the race last year for four-year-old only as part of the Grand Circuit and in 2014 saw Sunfire Blue Chip erase the prior track record by nearly three seconds with a 1:50.3 triumph. “This year’s field,” said 3R General Manager Vincent Trudel, “could very well break that record. Our forecast is for a beautiful sunny and warm day and our track will be lighting fast Sunday afternoon. Our race secretary has assembled a great program for our fans.” All Bets Off, a career winner of $1.4 million, is the star attraction. He starts from post four for driving sensation Matt Kakaley. The son of Bettors Delight comes into the race off two strong second place finishes and was race timed in 1:49.1 at both Hoosier Park and the Meadowlands. Earlier this season he also won the Confederation Cup final at Flamboro Downs, setting the track record in his elimination race in 1:50.4. The second part of the Burke entry, Limelight Beach, drew post six but has early gate speed as shown three starts back when he won at Yonkers Raceway in 1:51.4 and the Hippodrome 3R has a brand new slanted starting gate. Limelight Beach will be driven by talented Mark MacDonald. Big Boy Dreams starts from post two for driver Simon Allard and was purchased at the Tattersalls January Select Mixed Sale at The Meadowlands for $265,000 by trainer Rene Allard with the Prix D’Ete their main goal in mind. He comes into the race off an impressive qualifying win at Pocono Downs in 1:50.2. Jimmy Takter was the trainer of Sunfire Blue Chip, last year’s Prix D’Ete winner and he wants to win another one this year with Somewhere In L A. The gelded son of Somebeachsomewhere has been first or second in his four of his last five starts and has a record this year of 1:50.4. Somewhere In L A drew post three and will be driven by Trois-Rivieres most famous native son, Daniel Dube. Trainer Justin Jones gets back in the race bike and will drive his Winds Of Change from the rail. They will ship in from Ontario where Winds Of Change was third in his last start in 1:50.2. Rounding out the field is the local favorite, Boomboom Ballykeep for trainer Richard Moreau. They start from post five and in the bike will top reinsman Mario Ballargeon. They have had it rough the last few weeks but back on July 25, Boomboom Ballykeel won at Mohawk Raceway in 1:49.3 and the son of Mach Three knows the 3R oval. Prior to the revival of the Prix D’Ete at 3R, the race was initially known as the Prix d’Automne and was won by older horses such as the great Bret Hanover. The marquee event at Blue Bonnets racetrack in Montreal was converted into a race for 3-year-old pacers in 1970 and remained one of the major North American stakes in the division until its last running in 1992. Past winners included Cam Fella, Niatross, Albatross, Strike Out, Abercrombie, Matts Scooter and Beach Towel. Prix D’Ete Notes: There will be four divisions of the second round of the $200,000 Quebec-Bred Series for two-year-old pacers as part of the 12-race extravaganza race program Sunday. The race program is available free of charge by visiting www.quebecjockeyclub.com. From the Quebec Jockey Club

There were 3 divisions of Pennsylvania Sires Stakes action for freshman pacers on Thursday afternoon (Aug. 20) at the harness racing meeting at Harrah's Philadelphia, each going for a purse of just over $81,000 each. In the first division, it was Jt45 and Burke Racing's Big Top Hanover (Brett Miller) springing the upset. The son of Western Ideal latched on to live cover at the half, and was able to out close leader Ideal Jimmy (Marcus Miller) to pick up the win. Heavy favorite Spider Man Hanover dropped back sharply through the field and was distanced in the end. It was the first career win for the Ron Burke trainee, who completed the mile in 1:52.4. He paid $69.20 to win. In division two, another Ron Burke charge Check Six (Yannick Gingras) was victorious. The son of Somebeachsomewhere showed tactical speed from post 7, putting him in position for a quarter brush, which he utilized just after the quarter. He led the rest of the way, winning by two lengths in 1:53 I'm Some Graduate (Tim Tetrick) closed sharply to be second while Allie's Cruiser (Matt Kakaley) closed up the inside for third. It was the fourth straight victory for Check Six, who returned $5.00. He is owned by Weaver Bruscemi, Burke Racing, Bill Switala, and James Martin. Division three completed the Ron Burke sweep as JK Will Power took advantage of a perfect trip to win. The son of Somebeachsomewhere prevailed in a stretch duel over another Burke trainee Manhattan Beach (Yannick Gingras) to prevail in 1:53.1. JJ Flynn (Brett Miller) finished third. It was the second career win for JK Will Power, who is owned by 3 Brothers Stables. He paid $5.00. Michael Bozich

WASHINGTON, PA, Aug. 20, 2015 -- When Mission Brief finished second in the Hambletonian and Wild Honey took the Hambletonian Oaks, they solidified their credentials as harness racing's top 3-year-old filly trotters. However, the two didn't face each other on Hambletonian Day. They'll take care of that little omission Friday at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino when they clash in the $174,000 Moni Maker. The event goes as race 3, with first post at 6:55 PM. Mission Brief long had been considered a candidate to take on males in the Hambletonian, but back problems put those plans on hold for a while. She responded well to medical treatment and turned in a memorable Hambletonian performance, losing to Pinkman by 3/4 lengths. Ron Burke, who trains the daughter of Muscle Hill-Southwind Serena for Burke Racing Stable, Our Horse Cents Stables, J&T Silva Stables and Weaver Bruscemi LLC, said Mission Brief had treatment for her back and went two strong training trips in New Jersey before her mid-week ship to The Meadows. Although Burke is based here, Mission Brief has followed the Grand Circuit throughout her career and will be making her first lifetime start at The Meadows, perhaps erasing some of the home-track advantage. "I trained her here for about a month earlier in the year, so I know she gets around this track well," Burke said. "She's very comfortable here." He said he'll likely continue to race Mission Brief, whose Hambletonian check made her a millionaire, against fillies but that he'll play that by ear. "It would be a hard push for me to get everyone on board to do it (race against males) again, but I wouldn't rule it out," he said. Wild Honey, the 2014 Pennsylvania Sires Stakes champion who has won several times at The Meadows, has been a model of speed and consistency, winning 13 of 19 lifetime starts and $838,488. Trainer Jimmy Takter said he expects more of the same from the daughter of Cantab Hall-U Wanna Lindy. "I think we'll give Mission Brief a run for the money," Takter said. "You cannot beat that filly (Mission Brief) on the bigger tracks, so it depends how she gets over The Meadows' surface." In addition to the battle between Mission Brief and Wild Honey, the Moni Maker is yet another round in the long-running Burke versus Takter series; only one of the six fillies in the field, Mickey Peterson's Sistas, is conditioned by someone other than Burke or Takter, arguably the two most successful in the sport in recent years. The Moni Maker also features round two of Gingras versus Gingras, as Yannick Gingras, regular driver of Mission Brief and frequent driver of Wild Honey, was forced to choose between them, just as he had to pick between Mission Brief and Pinkman for the Hambletonian. For the Moni Maker, he's sticking with Mission Brief. "It's a great problem to have," Gingras said. "I picked Mission Brief over Jimmy's best colt, so this wasn't a tough call, even though it stinks because I love Wild Honey. She's a sweetheart. I think I only lost once with her. Obviously, Mission Brief is special." Mission Brief and Gingras will leave from post 4 while Wild Honey and Dave Palone go from post 3. The complete Moni Maker field, in post position order with drivers, trainers and morning line odds: 1. Sistas, Eric Goodell, Mickey Peterson, 3-1 2. I'm So Fancy, Tony Hall, Ron Burke, 10-1 3. Wild Honey, Dave Palone, Jimmy Takter, 5-2 4. Mission Brief, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke, 8-5 5. Smexi, Dan Rawlings, Jimmy Takter, 5-1 6. Gatka Hanover, Mike Wilder, Ron Burke, 12-1 The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

In our final week of racing at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono before our Super Stakes Saturday/50th Anniversary Celebration, we witnessed steamy temperatures, blisteringly fast winning times, and extremely competitive harness racing. There were a lot of possibilities, but here are my choices for the best of the best as we hand out the Weekly Awards. PACER OF THE WEEK: ALWAYS AT MY PLACE It's always fun to see what kind of talent that our track will attract whenever there's an Open pace on the card. There was just such an event on Saturday night, carrying a purse of $30,000. Most of the competitors in the eight-horse field were Pocono regulars or at least had participated in a few races at the track this season. But there was one newcomer, Always At My Place, and he came into town with an intimidating record. The 4-year-old gelding was a dominant force in Indiana for much of the season, then headed to Yonkers in July to win back to back Open Handicaps against his own age. Overall he entered Saturday night's Open at Pocono with six wins in ten for the year including his last four in a row. He got away a bit slowly in the race and had to make a tough first-over grind, but Matt Kakaley guided his charge steadily to the front end anyway. By the time he reached the top of the stretch, Always At My Place, trained by Ron Burke, had taken over and finished strong despite the long journey. He came home 1 ½ lengths in front of Malak Uswaad N with a winning time of 1:48:1, which was a career-best, just a tick off a world record for his age group and the fastest mile paced at Pocono this season. Always At My Place has a name that is proving to be prophetic, because no matter where he travels, he seems to be feeling right at home. Other top pacers this week include: *China King (Matt Kakaley, Jennifer Sabot), who churned out his second straight condition won on Tuesday night, matching his career mark of 1:50 in the process *Bodacious (Simon Allard, Steve Elliott), a three-year-old filly who picked her his second straight win at Pocono on Friday night, this doing so against Stallion Series competition in a career-best 1:51:1 Perfect Pitch (George Napolitano Jr., Matias Ruiz), a mare whose condition victory on Wednesday night, her second in a row, came in a career-best time of 1:51:3. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: PROUD MOMENT This 10-year-old veteran has always been a consistently solid performer, hitting the board about half the time and usually grabbing a handful of wins each year. And he was going along in that vein for most of 2015 until July 15. Taking advantage of a prime post position and an excellent trip that evening, Proud Moment rallied to win a condition trot in 1:52:3, just shy of his fastest time ever. In his next start he took on a claiming handicap group from an outside post, and this time he earned the victory by winging it on the front end in 1:53. On Saturday night he faced a condition trotting group of non-winners of $17,500 in the last five starts with an optional claiming price of $25,000. It was a classy group, featuring some who were used to Open company and others who had raced in big stakes races this season. But Proud Moment, racing for the first time in the barn of trainer Daniel Maier, isn't racing like a journeyman these days. With George Napolitano Jr. in the bike, he took over the lead on the front stretch and had no problems from that point, winning by 1¼ lengths in another ripping time of 1:52:3. The career record might tell you that Proud Moment is a solid if unspectacular trotter, but his recent streak tells the tale of one of the best trotters on the grounds. Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: *HS Certified (Jim Taggart Jr., Dawn Dellaporte), a mare who moved up in class on Sunday night and scored her second straight upset win, this one in 1:57 *B Yoyo (Joe Bongiorno, Robert Bongiorno), whose condition victory in 1:52:3 on Saturday night not only was a career mark, but it also matched Proud Moment for the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono *Lightning Storm (Andrew McCarthy, Tony Alagna), who followed up a win at Harrah's at Philadelphia with a condition win at Pocono on Tuesday night in 1:53:4. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: MAYTIME TERROR This gelding, driven by Joe Pavia Jr., came from off the pace to upset a claiming handicap field on Saturday night at 27-1, paying off $57.20 on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ANTHONY NAPOLITANO A win on Sunday night gave A-Nap 100 victories for the meet, making him the fourth Pocono driver to reach mark that this year after his brother George, Simon Allard, and Jim Morrill Jr. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: ROSS CROGHAN Croghan is well-stocked with talented young fillies, as he showed when a pair of his 2-year-old distaffers scored maiden victories on Tuesday night. That will do it for this week, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com. Jim Beviglia

 Trailing by 6 lengths at the half, Count Me In launched a prolonged move that carried him to victory in Monday's $18,000 Preferred Handicap Trot at the harness racing meeting at The Meadows. Count Me In picked up live cover from Lady's Dude but remained 3 lengths back at the top of the lane. The 6-year-old Full Count-Howl gelding found another gear for Mike Wilder and zipped by the leader, Tamarind, to triumph in 1:54.1. Classicality rallied for second, 3/4 lengths back, while Tamarind saved show. Ron Burke trains Count Me In, who extended his career bankroll to $439,319, for Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, M1 Stable and Michelle Yanek. Palone picked up three victories on the 14-race card, but the most noteworthy Palone news came earlier Monday from the nearby Washington County Fair. In a rare fair appearance for the sport's "winningest" driver, Palone piloted Burke's HS Pearl to victory in a Pennsylvania Fairs Sires Stake. According to the United States Trotting Association, it was the first PA Fairs Sires Stake win for the Hall of Famer since 1992 -- when USTA began archiving fairs results -- at the latest. Palone collected several wins in fairs overnight events after 1992. Tuesday's program at The Meadows feature a $100,000 PA Stallion Series stake for 2-year-old filly pacers. First post is 12:55 PM. Evan Pattak

ANDERSON, Ind.-August 14, 2015 - In an action-packed harness racing undercard leading up to the 22nd edition of the $300,000 Dan Patch Stakes presented by Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, the fillies were the first to strut their stuff in the first two editions of the four $75,000 Indiana Sire Stakes Finals on Friday, August 14 and each post time favorite certainly relished the spotlight. Nora Rockwell, whose owner and trainer, Marlin Fry was a bundle of nerves prior to the contest for 3-year-old pacing fillies, proved the public was spot on and Fry had no cause for concern as she would let no other rival put their nose down first on the wire. She captured her event in 1:51.0, which ties her lifetime mark and was the public's overwhelming choice at 4-5. White Metro, the second selection at 2-1 came away on top and led the field through the first quarter in :26.4, but Yannick Gingras, who picked up the drive this evening, confidently sent Nora Rockwell straight to the lead. She paced a half in a strong :54.3, with Rockin Good breathing down her neck and hit the three quarter pole in 1.21.3. At the top of the lane the favorite dispensed of that lass, but faced another challenge in Mystical Treasure. Throughout the length of the strength Mystical Treasure attempted with every stride to overhaul the leader, but Nora Rockwell refused to be denied as she tripped the timer by a very long head, with Mystical Treasure annexing second place and White Metro in the show slot. The daughter of Palone Ranger and the V P Finance mare, Norma Rockwell, paid $2.40 to win, now sports a resume of 31-13-9-2 and has collected purse money collected of nearly $250,000. "I knew there was no way I wanted to behind that horse and although I have not driven her before I was confident from the program lines, as well as how she felt, I had the horse to do it," Gingras said. "She paced through some fast fractions, but she felt great right until the finish line. I am very thankful for the drive. I'm not here at Hoosier Park very often, but whenever you get the opportunity to drive a horse like this in a $75,000 race you are thrilled to have it. She definitely is a very nice filly and it was a pleasure to drive her." After the scratch earlier in the day of what would have been the heavy favorite in Churita, the 3-year-old final for trotting fillies definitely left the door wide open for any member in nine horse field to rise to claim the crown. The wagering public decided to cast their lot with the Ron Burke conditioned Hannelore Hanover who was sent to the gate as the 1-5 favorite. It was Diamond Dagger, however, at 10-1 that took the field through the first panel in :28.0 and the half in :57.0. Midway to the three quarter pole the rest of the fillies decided to give chase with Jesse's Promise the biggest threat. After three quarters in 1:26.0, Hannelore Hanover made her bid and it was a demolishing one. The filly, steered by Hoosier Park's all-time leading driver in Ricky Macomber, trotted by the rest of her colleagues like they were standing still and continued to pour it on all through the homestretch. The duo stopped the clock in 1:55.0, which is a new lifetime standard for the daughter of Swan For All and the Dream Vacation mare All Society. Jesse's Promise and Diamond Dagger were second and third. Hannelore Hanover paid $2.40 to win and is the property of Burke Stable, Weaver and Bruscemi, William Haas Jr. and Frank Baldachino. With her third victory of the season, the filly now possesses a career record of 16-4-8-2 and a bankroll of roughly $165,000. "We only started her twice as a 2-year-old because she was sore and we think she had a cranky attitude because of it," Jamie Rucker, Burke's assistant trainer, said. "Also, we knew she was a nice filly and we would just bring her back this year. You have to be patient with her and let her do what she wants to do out there. Did she see how she totally changes her stride while she's racing? For the first half (mile) she is kind of choppy but she knows when it is time to go and she shifts into gear. Then she adjusts and is perfectly gaited. We are very pleased with her and think she is improving at the right time." Live racing continues at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Saturday, August 15. With an adjusted post time of 4:00 p.m., Saturday's 14-race card will feature the $75,000 Indiana Sires Stakes finals for the two-year-old divisions. For more information on the upcoming entertainment and live racing schedule at Hoosier Park, please visit www.hoosierpark.com. Kimberly French

Trois-Rivieres, Quebec - "There is no way that I am not sending a horse to the Hippodrome 3R and try and win the Prix D'Ete again," said Hall of Fame harness racing trainer Jimmy Takter. Last year Takter sent Sunfire Blue Chip for the inaugural revival of the Prix D'Ete. Despite drawing the far outside eight post, Sunfire Bluechip and driver Yannick Gingras were able to overcome the bad post and the top competition plus a rainy track surface in setting the all-age track record with a 1:50.3 triumph. This year the Prix D'Ete race, which is restricted to four-year-old pacers only and is part of the national Grand Circuit, is on Sunday, August 23, a month earlier than last year. A total of 19 horses have remained eligible to the race and the top eight money earners in 2015 that enter will get behind the starting gate for the $200,000 race. "I am sorry that I cannot come up for the race again this year," Takter explained, "the race day is in conflict with the stakes races at Tioga Downs and I have more entered there so I must be there that day." But just like last year, Takter is sending another outstanding pacer to Quebec in Somewhere In L A. The son of Somebeachsomewhere is a career winner of $642,000 and has been racing against the best in the sport week in week out. Two starts back he was second in the Roy Davis Memorial at The Meadows and in his prior start he won at Yonkers Raceway, wiring the field in 1:52 for driver Daniel Dube. The Prix D'Ete is one of the richest races of the year for four-year-olds at $200,000 and there are some other trainers and owners who would like to win it. "We will see how Ideal Cowboy races this Saturday night," said owner Jeff Bamond. "I think if he comes out of the race OK then we will send him to the Prix D'Ete. We had a wonderful time last year when Mach It So finished fourth." Ideal Cowboy goes at Yonkers Raceway Saturday in their four-year-old open pace. The Ron Burke Stable has two top horses eligible for the Prix D'Ete in All Bets Off and Limelight Beach. "They are both racing tonight in the $300,000 Dan Patch Stake at Hoosier Park," said co-owner Mark Weaver. "If everything goes well I would think we would send both of them to the Prix D'Ete." It will be interesting after this weekend's racing action to see who will be traveling up to Trois-Rivieres in Quebec for the Prix D'Ete. "My only question about the Prix D'Ete," said trainer Jimmy Takter, "is who will drive my horse? That will be an interesting decision next week as I usually use Corey Callahan or Daniel Dube with Somewhere In L A." That decision and a few more will all have to be made by next Wednesday, August 19 before noon when they close the entry box for Sunday's program on Prix D'Ete Day. Other top contenders eligible to the Prix D'Ete include Luck Be Withyou, Big Boy Dreams, Mattamerican and National Debt. First race post time on Prix D'Ete Day is 1:30 pm. Also on the race program will be the final leg of the $200,000 Quebec-Bred Series for two-year-old pacing colts. From The Quebec Jockey Club  

WASHINGTON, PA, Aug. 14, 2015 -- Third over in the cover flow, At Press Time was widest and fastest through the lane as he captured Friday's $18,000 Winners Over $10,000 Life/Preferred Handicap Pace at The Meadows. At Press Time had finished out of the money his last three races from challenging post positions. But he left from post 4 Friday and made the most of it, scoring for Dave Palone in 1:51.1. The winner's stablemate, I'm The Pied Piper, rallied for second, 1-3/4 lengths back, with early leader Sam Hill third. Ron Burke trains At Press Time, a 4-year-old son of Western Terror-So Right who now boasts $485,862 in career earnings, for Burke Racing Stable and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. Tony Hall and Burke each enjoyed a four-bagger on the 12-race card while Palone and Mike Wilder fashioned triples.. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

A field of ten will be sent post-ward in the $300,000 Dan Patch Stakes at the harness racing meeting at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Friday, August 14. Featuring the largest purse in the 21-year-history of the event, ten of the top rated older pacers in North America will take center stage as they go to post seeking glory in Hoosier Park's signature harness racing event. The 2015 installment of the Dan Patch Stakes will highlight the 14-race program that is set to begin at 5:15 p.m. and be supported by an all-star undercard includes Indiana Sires Stakes and overnight series action. The 2015 Dan Patch field boasts combined career purse earnings over $17 million and includes five millionaires and two World Champions. North America's leading money-winning trainer, Ron Burke, will look to be the first trainer to score back to back victories in the Dan Patch Stakes since Nat Varty scored with Ready To Rumble and Pacific Rocket in 1994 and 1995. Foiled Again, the richest horse in harness racing history, with $7.09 million in career purse earnings, headlines the ten horses entered in this year's Dan Patch Stakes and will play the role of morning line favorite at odds of 5-2 from post two. The 11-year-old World Champion pacer will make first appearance in the race, and third Hoosier Park start, with regular pilot Yannick Gingras in the bike for trainer Ron Burke. Burke has enlisted Hoosier Park's all-time leading driver, Ricky Macomber Jr., who visited the Dan Patch winner's circle in 2000 and 2002, to drive Bettor's Edge from post nine. Bettor's Edge and Macomber Jr. finished second in the 2014 edition of the Dan Patch to stablemate Sweet Lou in a track record setting mile of 1:47.2. Joining Foiled Again and Bettor's Edge from the Burke Stable on Friday will be Limelight Beach from post seven, All Bets Off from post eight, and Clear Vision from the trailing post position ten. JK Endofanera will join the stellar cast of entrants and be a main contender for the 2015 Dan Patch title from the coveted rail position. With over $1.5 million in career earnings, the Jimmy Takter trainee has been tabbed as the 3-1 morning line second choice. Brett Miller has been listed to drive both JK Endofanera and World Champion Clear Vision. The 2015 Dan Patch field, in post-position order with named driver and trainer includes:   1. JK Endofanera Tr: Jimmy Takter Dr: Brett Miller 3-1 2. Foiled Again Tr: Ron Burke Dr: Yannick Gingras 5-2 3. Lyonssomewhere Tr: Julie Miller Dr: Andy Miller 8-1 4. Captive Audience Tr: Douglas Berkeley Dr: Andrew McCarthy 20-1 5. Duc Dorleans Tr: Jacques Dupont Dr: Peter Wrenn 15-1 6. Let's Drink On It Tr: Joe Seekman Dr: Travis Seekman 20-1 7. Limelight Beach Tr: Ron Burke Dr: Ed Hensley 12-1 8. All Bets Off Tr: Ron Burke Dr: Matt Kakaley 6-1 9. Bettor's Edge Tr: Ron Burke Dr: Ricky Macomber Jr. 10-1 10. Clear Vision Tr: Ron Burke Dr: Brett Miller 4-1 Racing fans will have the opportunity to participate in two special wagers offered for the Dan Patch card. A $25,000 Guaranteed Dan Patch Superfecta pool will be available as part of the Strategic Wagering Program for the Dan Patch race. The wager will have a minimum bet of 10 cents and is available through the cooperative efforts of the United States Trotting Association, Hoosier Park Racing & Casino and the Indiana Standardbred Association. Slated as the twelfth race on the card, estimated post time for the Dan Patch Stakes is 9:44 p.m. A 10,000 Guaranteed Pick-4 pool will also be available to racing fans on Friday's 14-race card. The Pick-4, which offers a 50-cent minimum wager, begins in the third race and will continue through the sixth race. Approximate post time for the first leg of the wager, the third race, is 5:55 p.m. (EST). Hoosier Park's most prestigious pacing race has become a tradition that is close to the hearts of Hoosiers. The Dan Patch not only highlights some of the best athletes in the sport of harness racing, but is deeply rooted throughout Indiana soil. Hoosier Park's event is named after the early 1900's racehorse phenomenon, Dan Patch born in Oxford, Indiana. Now, 100 years after his birth, the great pacer is still remembered every year at Hoosier Park with this signature race. Since its inception in 1994, the Dan Patch Stakes has drawn the very best older pacers in North America. Previous Dan Patch winners include World Champions and harness racing greats like Pacific Fella, Jenna's Beach Boy, Maltese Artist, Won The West, Mister Big, and Sweet Lou. The race will be part of a special weekend tagged as "Dan Patch Festival Weekend" and will feature extreme entertainment, giveaways, and racing. The evening will also be complimented by Indiana Sires Stakes finals, sending the purse money to be distributed throughout the evening over the $800,000 mark. Emily Gaskin

The harness racing meeting at Yonkers Raceway on Monday night hosted the $163,874 New York Sire Stakes Dick McGuire Trot for 3-year-old colts and geldings. The event, honoring the memory of a popular New York Knickerbocker (and avid horseplayer), produced a pair of popular parimutuel winners, with members of the McGuire family making the presentations. The opening ($81,187) division was, in the words of driver Yannick Gingras, "a walk in the park" for Crazy Wow ($2.10). Leaving from post position No. 2, last season's statebred fresh champ stuffed second choice Apostle's Creed (Dan Dube) in behind, then waltzed through intervals of :28.3, :57.3, 1:27 and 1:56 The final margin was five lengths, with Maestro Blue Chip (Trond Smedshammer) closing for second and "Apostle" third. For Crazy Wow, a son of Crazed trained by Ron Burke for co-owners Our Horse Cents, JT45 and J&T Silva Stables & Deo Volente Farms, it was his fourth win in eight seasonal starts. The exacta paid $15.20, with triple wagering cancelled due to the short (five-horse) field. Monday night's second ($82,687) event saw Smedshammer and Buen Camino ($3.20) also run away and hide. In play from post No. 6, he worked around Royal Deceptor (Mickey McGivern), with subsections of :29.1, :59, 1:28.3 and 1:56.2. This margin was four lengths, with Home'n Dry (Brian Sears) snapping Royal Deceptor for second. For Buen Camino, a Cash Hall gelding trained by his driver for owner Purple Haze Stables LLC, he's now 2-for-5 this season. The exacta paid $27.20, with the triple returning $66.50. "He's been battling sickness for a while, but as long as he can stay away from Habitat and Crazy Wow, he can go with the rest of them," Smedshammer said. Frank Drucker

East Rutherford, NJ --- Pinkman and Brian Sears, who got the drive on the horse less than an hour before the race, took control of the $1 million Hambletonian for 3-year-olds at the half and never gave it up as they cruised under the wire to be the 90th winners of the trotting classic in a world record time of 1:51 on Saturday (Aug. 8) at Meadowlands Racetrack. Pinkman (Explosive Matter-Margie Seelster) is trained by Jimmy Takter and owned by Christina Takter, John and Jim Fielding, Joyce McClelland and Herb Liverman. His winning time was the fastest ever by a sophomore trotting gelding on a mile track. The filly Mission Brief, who Yannick Gingras chose to drive after her win in the second elimination, gave futile chase in deep stretch and made up ground, but not enough to win. Uncle Lasse, also trained by Takter, was third after adding trotting hobbles between the elimination and the final. As the field trotted off the starting gate, it was Uncle Lasse (David Miller) who was first to the lead from post seven, hitting the quarter-mile mark in :27.2, with The Bank (Johnny Takter) outside and behind him and Pinkman in third. The Bank was on the move just past the quarter-mile mark, with Pinkman behind him. By the time they reached the half-mile marker in :55.2, Pinkman had the lead on the outside and The Bank was second. Mission Brief, who had been fourth, a few lengths from the leaders most of the way to the half, hustled to join the crowd and bore down on the leader, Pinkman, around the final turn, getting to his wheel as the field turned for home. She lost contact when they straightened out, but re-engaged under urging from Gingras as the wire drew closer. She got close, but not close enough, three-quarters of a length back. Uncle Lasse was third, The Bank fourth and Jacksons Minion got the final purse check. Trainer Jimmy Takter won both the Hambletonian and the Hambletonian Oaks for the second straight year. He won last year with Trixton in the Hambo and Lifetime Pursuit in the Oaks. “I was looking forward to try in the final with a couple that I did have (Habitat and Wings Of Royalty) and I managed to do that,” said winning driver Brian Sears. “But opportunity knocked and it’s just great that they gave me the call. “I didn’t hear much (about the chance to drive Pinkman if necessary). I heard a little bit from Herb (Liverman). I talked to Herb a little bit, but I’m very grateful for the opportunity. He (Pinkman) was pretty much push button and it was a pleasure.” Pinkman has now won eight times in nine season's starts, with earnings of $1,170,965. Lifetime he has been a winner in 14 of 17, with $1,737,925. “It’s very emotional and I just want to thank all the connections that were involved,” said co-owner John Fielding. “Brian Sears stepped in and did a great job and of course, my friend and partner Jimmy Takter and Christina, have done again an amazing job. We’ve been at this for 30 years trying to win this trophy and I’ll tell you, this is the greatest thrill you could ever want in this sport and I’m just blown away, very honored and happy to be in this situation. I’ve got a plane I’ve got to catch to go back to a party in Toronto tonight, but we’re going to have to stop at the windows (to cash bets). “We leave these decisions (about drivers) up to Jimmy and he always seems to make the right decisions. We’ve had Brian Sears, who everybody knows is a fantastic, great driver, one of the best there ever was when the money is on the line, so I wasn’t worried at all, very confident in Jimmy.” Of the filly runner-up Mission Brief, trainer and co-owner Ron Burke said, “She raced really good and I think if things would have shook out a little differently the result would have been different. She was the only one still going forward at the wire. She really gave it her all and at the wire she was still coming. I would never change anything that I did and I don’t regret anything about the conditioning. She’s still a super horse, some day we will be back and we are not going to give up. We are going to win the Hambletonian.” Mission Brief’s driver, Yannick Gingras, who picked her over the eventual race winner, said, “I’m still young and I’m blessed to have two great chances at the Hambo like I’ve had the last few years. I will have plenty more chances I hope. Everyone ignores Pinkman because he isn’t flashy, they want to talk about Uncle Lasse and Canepa Hanover, but Pinkman beats them every week, he was just a flat out winner. You have to give the horse all the credit in the world. “I’m not disappointed in her effort at all. She wasn’t quite as strong as the first heat. She wasn’t quite as good gaited as before, so I couldn’t make the moves I wanted to with her. I knew I didn’t have enough at the top of the stretch. You have to give it to Pinkman. He’s a great horse and he’s a winner. “I was happy with how the race went. Takter’s horses were being used and if she went her A1 effort, she might have won. My son joked with me this week and said don’t make a break (as with Father Patrick in 2014), Well, I got that accomplished at least and it’s still been a great day. Pinkman is Brian’s horse now, of course.” Hambletonian eliminations East Rutherford, NJ --- Pinkman (Yannick Gingras) won the first $100,000 elimination race for the Hambletonian for 3-year-old harness racing  trotters by a half-length in 1:51.2 over The Bank (Johnny Takter) on Saturday (Aug. 8) at Meadowlands Racetrack. Donatomite (Trond Smedhammer) was third. The other two spots for the final went to Habitat (Brian Sears) and Jacksons Minion (Tom Jackson). Pinkman is trained by Jimmy Takter for owners Christina Takter, John and Jim Fielding, Joyce McClelland and Herb Liverman. Gingras and Pinkman made it quite clear they wanted the lead from post ten as the two charged off the starting gate and went straight for the front, getting past the rail horse, Donatomite, to get to the lead just past the :26.2 first quarter. The Bank was out and moving at the three-eighths to get the lead and held it to the :54.3 half with Pinkman tucked in behind him. Jacksons Minion was on the move for the top when the field passed the half, while the lead horses remained unchanged at the 1:23.2 three-quarters. With the finish line in sight, Gingras went to work on Pinkman and they passed The Bank for the win and a chance to draw for posts one through five in the final. “I figured (Smedshammer) was going to try to get position and sit behind me,” said winning driver Gingras. “His horse (Donatomite) has got good gate speed. He’s not had much luck with his horse, but he’s a nice horse too. “It kind of worked out. I was hoping to cut it, but The Bank is a very good horse. If I was going to follow anybody, he was the horse to follow. “(Winning) is exactly what he does. In this race I had to get after him pretty hard in the stretch, but that’s Pinkman. All he does is win.” Trainer Ron Burke's filly Mission Brief set up the anticipated Hambletonian showdown against male rival Pinkman, winning her elimination by 4-3/4 lengths over Aldebaran Eagle in 1:51.3. French Laundry, Uncle Lasse and Wings Of Royalty also advanced to the $1 million Hambletonian final. Mission Brief is trying to become the first filly since Continentalvictory in 1996 to win the Hambletonian. Uncle Lasse (David Miller) led to the quarter in :26.3, with Mission Brief in fifth place. Yannick Gingras then moved Mission Brief to the front, hitting the half in :54.2 and three-quarters in 1:23. She drew off in the stretch for the easy win in 1:51.3. Gingras will drive Mission Brief (6-5 morning line) in the final and Brian Sears will take over behind Pinkman (5-2). “In the first turn it got a little crowded, she wasn’t anxious, I was,” Gingras said. “There were a lot of horses around us and she’s not used to that. But she acted very professionally. At the top of the stretch, I could hear Brett (Miller driving French Laundry) on my back and it sounded like he had some trot. I kicked the earplugs but she did it on her own.” Gingras added prior to making his decision, “It’s going to be a tough one. It’s two guys (Jimmy Takter and Ron Burke) that really helped my career, two horses that I started with from the beginning, so it’s very tough.” Mission Brief, a daughter of Muscle Hill-Southwind Serena, is owned by Burke Racing, Our Horse Cents Stables, J&T Silva Stables, and the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi. Pinkman Mission Brief by Ellen Harvey and Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications 

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