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Bontz N (American Ideal) continued her win streak in the Fillies and Mares Open at Saratoga Casino Hotel on Thursday as she changed tactics to score her fourth consecutive victory in the local feature. Trainer Gary Levine thrived in 2019 after acquiring Bontz N who has enjoyed as good of a '20 campaign as could be. Thursday was the fifth start of the season for the nine year old mare who was assigned the outside post in the $8,500 feature. Bontz N came into the race on a three-race win streak, which dated back to March, with all three of those wins coming in wire-to-wire fashion. In Thursday's feature, driver Shawn Gray was forced to come from off the pace with the race's 2-1 betting favorite but the closing style suited Bontz N just fine as she put the swoop to the group before stopping the timer in 1:54.1 to record her fourth win in as many tries. The final time served as a new seasonal mark for the standout distaffer who has become the lady to beat this season at the Spa. Thats Incredible (Billy Dobson) came charging hard in the stretch to finish second while Jewels Forreal (Mark Beckwith) closed to be third. Bontz N paid $6.90 to win and led an exacta and triple that paid $27.20 and $136, respectively. Live racing resumes on Sunday at Saratoga with a matinee beginning at 12 Noon. There will be a $3,885 carryover in the Pick Five pool with the Pick Five beginning in the afternoon's first race. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

Sunday's co-featured Opens at Saratoga Casino Hotel saw a familiar face and an Open newbie record harness racing victories. Crockets Cullen N (Christian Cullen) is the defending Pacer of the Year at the track and when he won the season's first Open Pace in February, it was the tenth consecutive victory in the local Open for the standout Larry Stalbaum trainee. After some lackluster tries prior to the quarantine layoff, Crockets Cullen N made his return last Sunday afternoon (June 21) but faded on the front end before finishing fifth. This week, the classy veteran drew the rail for his try in the $8,500 co-feature and Stalbaum got a pocket trip for him behind the race's favorite Hudson Phil (Shawn Gray). Hudson Phil, who finished second in the Pacer of the Year vote in '19 to Crockets Cullen N, again finished as the runner-up to him once again on Sunday as he got reeled-in in the final eighth of a mile. Crockets Cullen N got up to win in 1:52.3. Paying $5.10 to win on Sunday, Crockets Cullen N led an exacta with Hudson Phil second that returned $9.90. Deetzy (Jay Randall) earned the show spot and rounded out a $42.80 trifecta. The $8,500 Open Trot went to Gemologist (Cantab Hall) on Sunday as he went coast-to-coast for his owner/trainer/driver Jordan Derue. Gemologist has been competitive in the Opens at the Spa from time to time but had yet to win one heading into Sunday's try in which he started from post four. Derue marched the five year old out to the early lead and despite moving quickly to the quarter in 27.4, Gemologist had plenty left in the tank to complete a wire-to-wire score in 1:56.4. Unlike Crockets Cullen N who has been a winning machine in local Opens, Gemologist's victory was the first of his career in the local feature. The 6-5 betting favorite paid $4.40 to win and led an exacta and triple with Volare (Claude Huckabone III) second and Waiting On A Woman (Phil Fluet) third that returned $28.20 and $109.50, respectively. Live racing resumes on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga with a 12 Noon start to the matinee.   Mike Sardella

Her most recent trips to the winner's circle were separated by more than three months but on Thursday afternoon Bontz N (American Ideal) recorded her third consecutive victory in the harness racing Fillies and Mares Open at Saratoga Casino Hotel. A nominee for Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year in 2019 in her first season at the Spa, Bontz N has enjoyed a strong start to her '20 campaign winning on Thursday for the third time in just four tries on the season. Shawn Gray, who pilots the nine year old mare for owner April Aldrich of Greenfield Center, NY and trainer Gary Levine, was aggressive at the start of the $8,500 feature powering the star mare out to the early lead while overcoming their assigned outside post in the seven-horse Open. Cruising through a first quarter of 27.2, Bontz N paid a stiff price to the get to top but soon got a breather that saw her reach the half in 57 seconds. Longshot Pasultimatedelite N (Jordan Derue) came first-over on Bontz N and took over the lead past three-quarters in 1:25.1. While the upset minded Pasultimatedelite N got by Bontz N, she never got clear and those two turned for home together while joined by other closing rivals. Bontz N rallied before stopping the timer in 1:54.2 to secure her third consecutive win in the Open, a streak that started back in March. Bontz N Another 2019 nominee for top distaffer at the Spa, Spreester (Phil Fluet) came charging hard in the stretch to finish second while Pasultimatedelite N earned the show spot. Despite coming in on a winning streak, Bontz N paid $11.80 to win and with the race's two biggest longshots finishing second and third, the exotics paid very well. The exacta in the feature returned $162.50 while the triple came back $559. Live racing resumes on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga with a first post time set for 12 Noon. Mike Sardella

Thursday afternoon marked the return of harness racing at Saratoga Casino Hotel with a thirteen-race program on a beautiful June day in the Spa City. With only about a month of the scheduled season being contested in 2020 heading into Thursday, trainer-driver Alek Chartrand had just ten starts as a trainer and six as a driver under his belt on the year. The return card was a big one for the 35 year old Chartrand who enjoyed his best day of the “young season” as he not only recorded a pair of victories but secured both wins with horses who had drawn post position eight. The dazzling mile of the day came from a Chartrand trainee who was making just his second lifetime start. My Pal Joe (Roll With Joe) raced only once as a freshman in 2019 but came into Thursday’s event for maiden pacers off an impressive 1:56.3 romp in a qualifier contested last week. Chartrand powered My Pal Joe out from his outside post and made it to the top. The sophomore dominated his group of fellow three year olds before scoring a decisive eleven-length win in an eye-popping 1:53.4. Chartrand’s Onspeed N (Bettor’s Delight) also drew the unfortunate task of starting from post eight on Thursday when she made her local debut. Dismissed at odds of 16-1, Onspeed N pulled off the upset in her first Spa start as she parlayed a pocket trip to a win in 1:57.1. Onspeed N, a new addition to Chartrand’s stable, paid $35.60 to win on Thursday. Trainer Jaymes McAssey and driver Jordan Derue teamed up for a pair of victories on the matinee card as well with Derue piloting three winners in total. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga with a thirteen-race card set to kickoff at 12 Noon.    Mike Sardella  

Saratoga Casino Hotel announced that harness racing will resume on Thursday the 18th June, but no spectators are allowed at the track due to state guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fans can wager remotely on the races through the hotel's online wagering platform, SaratogaBets.com, or any other state-approved online wagering platform. The harness track began its 2020 season, but has been closed since the completion of its March 22 card. There are new policies and procedures in place to reduce the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak and ensure human and equine health. Races will run two days a week, every Thursday and Sunday with a noon post time. The casino remains closed and is awaiting further guidance from the state regarding a reopen date for the entire property.  

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Harness Racing, Inc. (SHRI) and American Gaming Group, LLC (AGG) announced May 20 that they have mutually agreed to terminate an acquisition agreement under which the parties had agreed that SHRI would acquire the operating assets of Wildwood Casino in Cripple Creek, CO from AGG. Both parties cite that the termination, although disappointing, was necessary based on the current economic impacts resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19) health crisis. The pandemic has resulted in a need for each company to focus on its respective businesses, and has impacted the companies’ ability to realize the benefits of the transaction during these unprecedented times. SHRI owns and operates Saratoga Casino Hotel, in Saratoga Springs, featuring over 1,200 slots, electronic table games, a live entertainment venue, a variety of dining options and bars, live harness racing, and simulcast wagering. SHRI also owns and operates Saratoga Casino Black Hawk, located in the historic town of Black Hawk, CO featuring over 425 slot machines, 10 table games, a full-service restaurant, bar and a variety of guest services. SHRI is also a partner with Delaware North Companies in the operation of Gideon Putnam Resort and Roosevelt Baths in Saratoga Springs.  Additional information about Saratoga Casino Hotel can be found at saratogacasino.com. Reprinted with permission of Saratoga Today

With the coronavirus pandemic shutting down casinos across the U.S., Saratoga Harness Racing, Inc. and American Gaming Group, LLC, the owner of Wildwood Casino, decided to terminate the previously announced acquisition of Wildwood Casino. Both parties deemed the termination necessary because of the current economic impacts of the COVID-19 health crisis. "At this time, we believe it's in the best interest of both companies, and our respective casinos, to cancel the deal so we can focus on doing what's best for our casinos and our players," Joe Canfora, the owner of Wildwood Casino, said. "At Wildwood, we're taking this time to develop and implement an entire health and safety strategy that goes above and beyond state and local guidelines to better protect our players and provide a comfortable, safe environment for gaming." Among the new health and safety practices, Wildwood will have on-demand cleaning crews moving throughout the casino to clean surfaces as needed and as requested by players. The casino will also be reducing its operating hours to allow for extended, deep cleaning every night. Additionally, management is looking into UV light technologies for potential air filtration and other newly discovered, best practices for protecting patrons from the virus. "This is all about the safety and security of our players and our employees," Wildwood Casino's Assistant General Manager Matt Andrighetti said. In mid-April, Wildwood distributed a digital survey to their player database asking for thoughts and feelings regarding the current pandemic and what will be important when returning to the casino. Close to 1400 players participated in the survey. "We received a lot of great input from our players, and now, we're using their feedback to create a comprehensive health and safety plan that surpasses the county and state, mandatory precautions," Andrighetti said. Also, as the newest casino building in Cripple Creek, Wildwood features high ceilings and a single-level gaming floor to offer players a more spacious, less cramped environment, he said. Along with extensively preparing for the casino's reopening, Wildwood has multiple other initiatives that are pushing forward despite the coronavirus pandemic. Construction for Wildwood's 104-room, $14-million hotel has continued throughout the crisis and will continue, Andrighetti said. Wildwood's sports betting will be launching soon. And, Wildwood is rebranding their in-casino restaurant, Joe's Diner, to feature a new theme, design and menu to cater to players and provide great seating for Wildwood's sports betting players.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — While the pandemic keeps harness racing fans guessing about the prospects for the sport, grooms and trainers at the Saratoga Casino Hotel’s harness track must still care for the nearly 400 horses in the barns there — with workers’ pay being cut or the future of their jobs in question. “They are going on and continuing to jog and train the horses,” said Tom McTygue, president of the Saratoga Harness Horseperson’s Association. “They are keeping the horses conditioned and continuing just as if they were racing. But the owners aren’t making any money. If we don’t get racing pretty soon, I don’t know.” The Saratoga Casino Hotel where the harness track is situated suspended racing after March 21 indefinitely, when the season normally runs from March 1 to mid-December. The week before the suspension, the horses ran with no fans in the stands. The track did, however, take bets off-track. Director of Racing John Matarazzo said they raced like that so the horse owners could earn some income to pay drivers, trainers and grooms — the people who care for the horses by walking, saddling, brushing and feeding them. “It went OK,” Matarazzo said. “It’s not the ideal circumstance without fans. We had some business, not a lot. We did it to get the horsemen some purse money. If (the horses) run, the horsemen get some money in their pockets.” The Horseperson’s Association, which is meeting more often than normal during the pandemic to discuss ways to help, has started their efforts with the grooms. They have been giving the 50 or so people who go to work every day — which includes 30 people who live in a dorm on the backstretch — a $50 coupon per week for food from the track kitchen. And this week, the owners got some relief from Chatham Agway, which will donate feed for a week to all the horses that live in the barns. “I partnered with the feed suppliers,” said Paul O’Neil, general manager of Chatham Agway. “Everyone has been very generous. We wanted to make a gesture because they lost every avenue to make money and still have to feed they animals. They are really up against it.” McTygue said his association will also consider on a weekly basis how to help the 50 or so trainers at the track, as well as drivers veterinarians, farriers (hoof specialists) and farmers who supply the hay—all of whom continue to work but might not get paid if the races continue to be shutdown. The group will meet this Saturday to further discuss these matters, including the cost of feed. “The horses are being fed this week,” McTygue said. “We will see what we have to do for next week.” Meanwhile, the backstretch and paddock are on lock down. Only those who work on the backstretch are allowed to be there. And it’s not just people. Owners are not allowed to bring any horse up from the Yonkers Raceway or any track south of Albany. The horseperson’s association also purchased a used trailer to house any groom who gets infected with the virus, so that they have a place to convalesce and be quarantined. The shutdown on the harness backstretch is the same as at New York Racing Association’s Belmont Park, where 585 workers — many of who come to the Saratoga Race Course — live. NYRA’s spokesman said that the track “is restricted to only employees and workers who are essential to the ongoing training operation. The property can now only be accessed at one specific gate where personnel are subjected to standard health assessment performed by EMTs that includes a temperature check.” Horses outside of the area are also restricted to those with “extenuating circumstances subject to the approval of Martin Panza, NYRA’s senior vice president of racing operations.” Everyone there also must adhere to social distancing protocols and clean and sanitize heavily trafficked and touched common areas. Belmont Park’s racing season was originally scheduled to begin April 24 and conclude July 12, but has now been delayed. Brad Maione, the spokesman for the state Gaming Commission, said that any commission decision on reopening tracks statewide will be “consistent with executive direction.” In other words, it is up to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Back at the harness track, management is putting together a proposal for the state Gaming Commission to consider how the track can reopen. In addition to racing without bettors in the stands, the harness track management is considering stagger races so that fewer people and horses are waiting in the paddock area. “It’s not a fix-all, but at least it would keep people separated,” said Wayne Kellogg, owner of Kellogg Racing Stables in Hudson Falls. “If you are in the paddock and can’t keep six feet, you can be required to wear a mask. It can be enforced in the paddock.” Kellogg said he’s lucky that he saves much of his purse money and has enough to care for his eight horses and pay his staff through the first half of the summer. But by August, he doesn’t know how he will make ends meet. Still he feels lucky compared to other owners who don’t have the cash on hand to pay grooms and trainers. McTygue said though its hard now, it could get worse if someone gets sick in the dorms. “If that happens, I’m afraid we are in trouble,” McTygue said. Reprinted with permission of The Post Star

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY (March 16, 2020) - Saratoga Casino Hotel announced today that it is temporarily shutting down effective as of 8pm tonight. Although there have been no known cases of COVID-19 at the property, Saratoga Casino Hotel officials said they have decided to close after consulting with the New York State Gaming Commission. The casino and simulcast wagering areas of the property will close, however the hotel will remain open and harness racing will resume as scheduled on Wednesday, March 18 without fans in the stands. Fans can wager remotely on the races on SaratogaBets.com or on any other New York State approved online waging platform. Morton's The Steakhouse will also remain open offering take-out and delivery service between noon-8pm daily. Employees impacted by the shutdown will receive 2 weeks' pay during the suspension. "We will continue to monitor the situation and carefully follow the advice and guidance of the state and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)." said Alex Tucker, General Manager of Saratoga Casino Hotel. Madison Winters Marketing Coordinator

Certify (Credit Winner) lengthened his impressive local harness racing win streak on Sunday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The four year old was assigned post six in the six-horse Open Trot and driver Jay Randall was tasked with piloting the talented trotter who came out of the Melissa Beckwith barn for the first time. Certify won his first start for new connections last September when he prevailed in the $55,000 New York Sire Stakes Excelsior Series Final and has gone on a tear at the Spa ever since. Bringing a six-race win streak into Sunday's try into the $15,000 Open Trot, Certify was the public's 6-5 betting favorite and got away last in the feature. Randall was patient with the favorite who began to make his move after a half mile of 56.3. Certify progressed quickly and overpowered the race's leader past three quarters of 1:26.3 before turning on the afterburners. Shorething Fashion (Shawn Gray) mirrored the move of Certify, following his cover until the chase proved futile. Certify stopped the timer in 1:56.2 for his second Open win of the season and his seventh consecutive Saratoga victory. Shorething Fashion was the runner-up for the third consecutive week while Cartier Volo (Brian Cross) earned the show spot. Certify, who is owned by William Hartt and Marc Reynolds, paid $4.50 to win and led an exacta and triple that returned $15.60 and $130.50, respectively. Live racing is set to resume on Wednesday at Noon. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

Franco Tristan N (McArdle) prevailed in his local debut last month at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Amanda Kelley-trained pacer was the 1-9 favorite after drawing the rail in that start in a conditional race. Following a third place finish last week, Franco Tristan N moved up into the Open Pace on Saturday night. Billy Dobson sat behind the eight year old New Zealand invader in the $15,000 as they sat the pocket to the track's defending Pacer of the Year Crockets Cullen N (Larry Stalbaum). Crockets Cullen N has a ten-race local win streak in the Open snapped earlier two weeks ago and didn't factor in last weekend's installment of the Open. Still, the nine year old was the race's 3-5 betting favorite on Saturday in a five-horse field. Franco Tristan N got the perfect trip riding the coattails of the favorite in a first half that went in just 57.3. The Kelley trainee flew up the inside in the stretch before stopping the timer in 1:54.1 to record his first Open win. Betterlatethnnever (Jay Randall) came on to finish second for the second straight week in the Open while Crockets Cullen N had to settle for third. Franco Tristan N paid $8.00 to win and led an exacta that returned $39.20. Franco Tristan N is owned by the Scheigert Racing Stable of Saratoga Springs. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon with a matinee kicking off at noon. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

The field for the Fillies and Mares Open was reduced to three participants after a host of harness racing scratches on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga Casino Hotel. In a race offering win betting only, Miss Irish Rose A (Larry Stalbaum) was the betting favorite in a feature that went for a purse of $15,000. Bontz N (Shawn Gray), a nominee for Pacing Mare of the Year at the Spa in 2019, wound up getting the pocket trip to Miss Irish Rose A in what was her second start back this season. Invader Fool Me Again (Mitch Cushing) got away third in the compact field of three as Miss Irish Rose A cruised through a first half in 58.3. Bontz N got geared up to go around the final turn and cruised past Miss Irish Rose A in the stretch to record the victory in 1:56. Miss Irish Rose A was the runner-up and has now finished first or second in all four of her tries in the Fillies and Mares Open at the Spa this season. Bontz N, who paid $4.60 to win, is owned by April Aldrich of Greenfield Center, NY and is trained by Gary Levine who came into the day atop the trainer standings after about a month of the racing season at the Spa. Live racing is scheduled to resume on Saturday evening at Saratoga with a 5:00pm first post.   Mike Sardella

Young pacer Flow With Joe (Roll With Joe) had a terrific harness racing season as a two year old in 2019. The Jody Weidman trainee recorded seven wins in eight starts last year while competing mostly in the New York Sire Stakes Fair Circuit. Flow With Joe followed up his good-looking freshman campaign with a fast third-place finish in his seasonal debut at the Spa in February. Last Wednesday (March 4), the sophomore went coast-to-coast to record his first victory of the season. Appearing maybe a bit green on the front end, Flow With Joe was all out to win in 2:00.2 as his race's 1-2 favorite. This Wednesday, the young pacer stepped up in company and squared off against a strong group in a $6,000 race for colts and geldings. Dan Cappello Jr piloted the Weidman trainee who was fifth in the six-horse field turning for home but displayed his versatility as the youngster who won on the engine last week came flying home to outclose his rivals to repeat on Wednesday. The victory came in 1:57.4 for Flow With Joe who pulled off a bit of an upset while dismissed at odds of 9-1. The win was one of two on the afternoon for the eight-time Saratoga driving champion Cappello who has enjoyed a solid start to his 2020 campaign. With his Wednesday win, Flow With Joe has now prevailed in nine of his eleven lifetime starts and could be poised for another solid season in NY Sire Stakes competition. Live racing continues on Thursday afternoon at Saratoga with a first post time set for noon. There is a $5,000 guarantee in the Pick Five pool on Thursday with the Pick Five beginning in the afternoon's first race.   Mike Sardella

Mister Muscle won the Open Trot at Saratoga Casino Hotel five times in 2019 after debuting here out of the Melissa Beckwith harness racing stable. As a five year old last season, Mister Muscle (Muscle Mass) enjoyed a career year winning ten races and finishing second eight times en route to just dollars shy of $100,000 in earnings. Now in his six year old campaign, Mister Muscle made his third start of 2020 in Sunday afternoon's feature for trotters and this time reinsman Jimmy Devaux got the driving assignment. Mister Muscle, who finished second in his first start back a few weeks ago, moved right out to the front end in Sunday's $15,000 Open and though he worked hard to get the first quarter in 27.3, he got a bit of a breather in the middle half before checking in at three quarters in 1:27.1. Shorething Fashion (Shawn Gray), who had a first and a second place finish in his first three Open tries at the Spa this season, sat the pocket to Mister Muscle on Sunday and gave him a bit of a scare in the stretch. The favored Cash Me Out (Brett Crawford) was looking to go back-to-back in the Sunday feature but put in just a mild bid before leveling off late in the mile. Mister Muscle stopped the timer in 1:56.2 to record his first win of the year besting Shorething Fashion who wound up as the runner-up for the second straight week. Cash Me Out had to settle for the third spot. Mister Muscle, who is owned by Patricia Scheeberger of Valatie, NY, was the 9-5 second choice in the wagering and paid $5.80 to win. The exacta with Shorething Fashion second returned $21.60. Jimmy Devaux piloted three winners on Sunday's card. Live racing resumes at Saratoga on Wednesday afternoon with first post time set for noon. There is a $5,000 guarantee in the Pick Five pool on Wednesdays and Thursdays during the month of March. The Pick Five begins in the first race of the day. Mike Sardella

Americanprimetime (American Ideal) recorded his second consecutive victory in the Open Pace on Saturday evening at Saratoga Casino Hotel. The Rick Dane Jr trainee broke the lengthy local win streak of rival Crockets Cullen N last Saturday (February 29) when he went coast-to-coast in the $15,000 Open. This weekend, with Jimmy Devaux once again in the sulky, Americanprimetime was the public's top choice in the feature when bet down to odds of 3-5. The favorite wasted little time powering out to the lead and once he got there, he proved to be tough as nails. Americanprimetime paced his first half in 56.3 before being confronted by Crockets Cullen N who suffered his first defeat in his last eleven tries when he was the runner-up to Americanprimetime this week. The journey got the best of Crockets Cullen N on Saturday and the Spa's defending Pacer of the Year faded from the scene around the final turn as Americanprimetime drew away. Going back-to-back, Americanprimetime stopped the timer in 1:52 for the fastest time of the young meet at Saratoga. Betterlatethnnever (Jay Randall) sat the pocket to the winner before finishing second while Topville Olympian (Phil Fluet) came on to earn the show spot for the second straight week in the local feature. The exacta and triple in the Open paid $27.80 and $146.50, respectively. Americanprimetime is owned by the Rock&Roll Stable of Chicago, IL. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon beginning at noon. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

Robyn Camden (Art Professor) has thrived in her limited starts at Saratoga Casino Hotel over the course of her young career and on Thursday afternoon, the Rene Allard trainee returned to the Spa to compete in the $15,000 Fillies and Mares Open. Assigned post six in the six-horse feature, Robyn Camden cruised out to the front-end in a fast first quarter paced in 27.1. Miss Irish Rose A (Larry Stalbaum), who owned a win and a second in the two installments of the feature for distaffers in 2020 leading up into Thursday's card, had made the top before yielding to Robyn Camden in the early going. Those two drew off from the competition past three quarters and it appeared that the public's top two choices in the wagering were poised for a good battle in the stretch. Robyn Camden put those thoughts to bed pretty quickly as reinsman Billy Dobson asked the 4-5 favorite to crank up the speed around the final turn and the results were instant. Robyn Camden paced away to win decisively in 1:54.2 triumph while Miss Irish Rose A held off longshot Firstup (Shawn Gray) to earn the place spot. Robyn Camden won her previous try at Saratoga when she scored in the local Open during closing week of the 2019 meet, dominating the competition en route to a victory by better than four lengths. On Thursday, the favorite paid $3.80 to win and led an exacta and triple that returned $7.80 and $29, respectively. Robyn Camden is owned by Jason O'Sullivan of Dublin, Ireland. Live racing resumes on Saturday evening with a first post time set for 5pm. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway

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