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CHESTER, PA - A quartet of $11,200 contests for developing younger horses, two races on each gait, were the features Friday afternoon at Harrah's Philadelphia, with the most impressive winner the Western Ideal sophomore colt Buy In, who brought immediate returns for his new connections with a 1:51 victory, lowering his mark by almost five seconds. Acquired by Triple D Stables Inc. and Tim Tetrick LLC after his last start and entrusted to trainer Scott Di Domenico, Buy In certainly did not have an easy route to victory. Tetrick kept him outside early, then let him gradually go up, and it took him to nearing the half to clear to the lead in a demanding :54.4. But after that point the only battle was for the minor honors, as Buy In powered off to win by 5¾ lengths, hinting that better things might be right around the corner for him.   In the other featured pace, the Somebeachsomewhere gelding Diamondbeach reclaimed the throttle for driver George Napolitano Jr. past the quarter, set his own tempo while rebuffing a challenge from favored Southwind Dredge, then was 1¼ lengths ahead of 43-1 pocketsitter Ginger Tree Pete at the end of a 1:54.1 mile. Jim Campbell trains the winner for Frederick and Shirley Schwartz and Onda Racing Stable LLC. Both of the trotting headliners were timed in 1:57.3. In one, pocketsitting favorite Baldaquin looked like he had lost all chance when Scirocco Patrick cleared on his first-over challenge and opened up 2½ lengths by the three-quarters, with horses trailing two-wide in his wake. But the new leader made a break into the final turn, and Baldaquin, given a second life like the rest of the inner tier, came back on nicely late to claim victory by 2¼ lengths. The Marcus Miller-driven Explosive Matter four-year-old gelding, trained by Louise Pepin for owner Steven Bryden, triumphed for the third time in only seven lifetime starts. In the other top trot, the Donato Hanover sophomore gelding Willing Hanover is beginning to like winning - after seven seconds and seven thirds but no firsts in his first 21 starts, "Willing" has now won two in a row, as trainer/driver Tim Lancaster rallied him from far back for a half-length verdict over Test My Naughty B while establishing a new mark. Tim Lancaster is also co-owner with Mark and Meghan Lancaster. George Napolitano Jr. took Friday driving honors with three victories, the second day in a row he has led the Philly sulky colony, and he has nine wins during the three days of racing here so far this week. From the PHHA / Harrah's Philadelphia

YONKERS, N.Y. – The Standardbred Owners Association of New York will make a presentation to the 2019 leading drivers and trainer at Yonkers Raceway Monday night (March 2). Drivers Jason Bartlett and George Brennan, who dead-heated for the most wins last season with 427 each, and trainer Scott Di Domenico, who dominated the trainer’s standings with 180 victories, will each be recognized for their achievements on the racetrack The driver’s race became one of the highlights of the 2019 season at Yonkers and put an unexpected twist on the final few days of racing. After nearly 11 months of competition and over 2,000 starts by the track’s leading drivers, there is typically little left to be settled in the meet’s final weeks. For instance, by Dec. 1, 2018, Jason Bartlett had a 104-win edge on Jordan Stratton. In 2017, Bartlett came into the stretch of the meet with a 153-win margin. However, with two racing days left in the 2019 season, Jason Bartlett and George Brennan were locked in a tight battle for the Yonkers driving title. At Dec. 1, the duo was separated by just three wins, with Brennan ahead 406 to 403. After trading blows throughout December, Bartlett brought a three-win margin into the penultimate night of competition (Dec.16) with 423 wins. It was the closest race in Bartlett’s memory. “Usually by this time, everything is cut and dry of who’s going to get it and who’s not,” Bartlett said. “Between me and George, we drive hard against each other. We’ve always done that. At the end of the day, we still respect each other on and off the track. It’s a good competition, but at the end of the day, we still have a job to do and that’s to win races and get as much money as we can for the trainers.” Bartlett drove four winners on the penultimate card to Brennan’s two, giving the former a 427-423 edge going into the final night of racing Dec. 17. Adding a further complication to the contest, Bartlett missed the final card due to a previously scheduled family vacation. Brennan won four of the first 10 races on the Closing Night program, tying the standings at 427 and had a chance to take sole possession in the final race with Lord Of Misrule. However, when that pacer finished fourth, the standings were final. After 2,657 races from January 7 through December 17, the contest ended in a dead heat. “It was very exciting. I’ve been leading driver before, but this was the most exciting driving race I’ve been involved in. It was a lot of fun,” Brennan said. “I just went about my business and that’s how it ended. It’s a lot of work, a lot of dedication, good clients. It means a lot. “You can’t really think about it. You just have to go about your business and try to stay safe and win races,” Brennan said. “There was something going on with the driving title, but in a sense, it’s secondary because you still have to get the job done, you still have to get the most amount of money for your owners and trainers you’re driving for. That’s the number one priority there.” Bartlett and Brennan both experienced memorable wins in the final week of racing. Bartlett drove Mach It A Par to victory Friday, Dec. 13 in her final career start. The $1.1 million-earning mare aired by 4 1/2 lengths in her bow, her 82nd start and 17th win with Bartlett. Brennan scored with 11-year-old millionaire trotter DW’s NY Yank on the final night of racing in the pair’s 82nd start and 25th win together. Bartlett, 38, won his ninth Hilltop title while Brennan, 52, earned his third. Bartlett saw Brennan as a mentor and an inspiration growing up, making the contest even more meaningful. However, the pair can leave the competition on the track and focus on their work. “He’s a driver that I’ve looked up to my whole life,” Bartlett said. “Being in a competition against him, running for number one, is a pretty big deal for me. Growing up and knowing George and looking up to him. “For me, it means I’m doing my job. I’m there to win races and business is good. Every year, you shoot for it. You’ve got to have a little luck along the way and get some horsepower,” Bartlett said. “It’s a job that I love to do, I’m very competitive at it and it’s really nice to go to work and know every race matters. There’s no messing up. I know a lot of people are watching it.” “I just want to thank all the trainers and owners and caretakers that look after and train the horses, because I can’t do it without them. A big thank you to them,” Brennan said. While Bartlett and Brennan battled to the wire for the driving title, Scott Di Domenico enjoyed an insurmountable lead in the training ranks. The 38-year-old harnessed 180 winners at Yonkers in 2019, 27 more than 2018 champion Rene Allard. It is Di Domenico’s first training title at Yonkers, a goal the he has been working toward for years. He was second in the standings last year with 160 wins and third in 2017 with 117. “It was great. To do that, it’s been something that I’ve been close to a few times over the last three or four years, but never got it solidified. To be able to get it done last year was really special,” Di Domenico said. “It was never anything that I was praying every night that I would get, but you work hard every day and you strive for goals and you strive to win races. When it all comes together like it did, it was really gratifying.” Allard topped the standings through July, but Di Domenico took over a narrow lead in August. Di Domenico extended the margin through the end of the season. However, which such a long season, the title wasn’t something Di Domenico focused on nightly. “Never gave it a lot of thought. Just tried to have our head down working hard and tried to come to work every night prepared and tried to win races,” he said. “The rest of it, it was going to work out one way or the other. I’m glad it worked out the way it did, but it was never something that you sat there every night getting your voodoo doll out and hoping the other guy didn’t win any races.” By mid-November, when he enjoyed a lead of more than 30 victories, Di Domenico could finally step back and look at the big picture. “It was looking promising, it really started to set in, in the middle of November. I was paying more attention to it than I had been at any other point in the year,” Di Domenico said. “But you still try to work hard, and you didn’t want to let up on the gas any to not be able to win. Just tried to stay on the same plan we were on the whole year and tried to keep buying horses and have fresh horses coming in and out all the time and doing the best we could.” Di Domenico averaged 60 to 70 horses in his stable throughout 2019, most of which were pointed to Yonkers, where he made 810 starts last season. Di Domenico credits owners Dana Parham and Jo Ann Fucci not only for being great clients, but also for being great for the industry. “Last year we took kind of a step up. As always, as it’s been since I’ve been out here, Yonkers was my main focus,” Di Domenico said. “All of (the owners), they’re the key to any success. If you don’t have good clientele behind you and guys that are ambitious about buying horses, ambitious about racing, then it is what it is. You’ve got to have people that are ambitious about it and want to win as much as you do.” One of the highlights to Di Domenico’s season was the development of trotter Swansea. The Swan For All gelding joined Di Domenico’s stable in late 2018 and rose through the ranks in 2019. He won three preliminary legs of the SOA of NY Bonus Trotting Series last spring before finishing second in the $75,000 Final. Swansea then made the leap to the Open Handicap, winning three local trotting features before year-end. For the season, he went 14-for-29 and earned $255,815. “He was a horse that came from Indiana that nobody had any real high expectations of and to see him come here and make $250,000 and win a lot of races,” Di Domenico said. “He had a little bit of bad luck in the Trotting Series Final in the spring where the trip didn’t work for him as well as we were hoping that night. That horse, he’d have to be at the top of the list. “That series, three horses that really stood out to me now that you can look back on it, Swansea, Joey Bats, and Rich And Miserable,” Di Domenico continued. “It says a lot about that series and it shows how tough that racing can be at Yonkers.” Di Domenico also praised his team for the training title win. “It’s special, those guys work hard every day and certainly they deserve a lot of the credit,” he said. “They’re in the thick of going to the races every night, getting home late, up early, and taking great care of the horses. They certainly deserve a lot of credit for that.” Looking ahead to 2020, Di Domenico hopes for continued success and has his sights set on a repeat. “I’d like to do it again,” Di Domenico said. “It was fun and just the fact that you go to the track and most nights you feel like you’re prepared and you have as good a chance as any to win is a very good feeling. Going home after winning a race or two races is very gratifying.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The M Life Rewards Ladies Series begins Monday night, March 2 while the M Life Rewards Gents Series kicks off Tuesday, March 3. The Blue Chip Matchmaker Series will return Friday, March 13 and the Borgata Pacing Series starts Saturday, March 14. First post time is 7:05 p.m. For entries to the races, By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

Freehold, NJ --- A field of seven will line up for the Preferred Handicap Pace this Saturday (December 14) at Freehold Raceway, featuring an almost entirely different cast of harness racing characters from last week's Preferred.   The outside two horses, both shipping in from Yonkers Raceway, figure to be the favorites. Gokudo Hanover, from the Scott DiDomenico barn, lost the preferred at Yonkers by a neck on November 16. Last out, he was sixth in a NW $30,000 race at the New York oval. On the year, he's won three races, and earned almost $107,000. Pat Berry will drive from post position six.   Sunfire Blue Chip, trained by Gary Candell, was assigned the outside post position. He won a NW $30,000 event by a nose two races back, and finished fifth in the open last week. Austin Siegelman will be in the bike, for the 9-year-old horse's first trip over the Freehold half-miler.   Hot Deuce has been in sharp form lately, having won three of his last six races. He's no stranger to Freehold, with two victories at the fall meet. Joe Bongiorno will drive for his sister Jenn.   Tisadream, shipping from Plainridge, Spirit of Truth, a two-time recent winner at Freehold, Shellie de Vie, most recently seventh in the fillies & mares open at Yonkers, and Bullet Bob, fifth in last week's Preferred at Freehold, complete the septet.   The Preferred is scheduled as the eighth race on Friday at Freehold, at approximately 2:50 PM EST.   The first of eleven at Freehold on Saturday is listed for 12:30 PM EST.   From Freehold Raceway  

YONKERS, N.Y. – When Swansea joined the ranks of Scott Di Domenico’s stable last September, the harness racing trainer had high hopes for the Swan For All son. The gelding began his career last July as a sophomore racing in the non-winners classes in the barn of Lester Haber at Hoosier Park. Despite the late start to the gelding’s career, Swansea made an immediate impression. He finished second on debut before rattling off consecutive wins and took a mark of 1:55.4 in only his third start.  “My number one agent found him,” Di Domenico recalled. “He watched the horse go and he had a relationship with the guy that trained him and we bought him. He liked the way he trotted. He was a big horse, had a clean gait, he kept coming. At that time, we were trying to find a non-winners horse to race in New York and we just thought he would be a horse that fit that ticket.” Despite the praise from Di Domenico’s top recruiter, the trainer received a shock when Swansea arrived in the barn. The horse was physically impressive as indicated, but the clean gait which was the basis of purchasing the gelding was missing.   “My first impression looking at him was he was gorgeous. My first impression training him was that we were in trouble,” Di Domenico said. “He was hitting and hitching and hopping and did about everything he could do wrong the first time I trained him.  “It was disappointing. I went out and trained him and he was just all over the place. I was thinking, ‘oh my gosh, what did I get into,’ ” Di Domenico continued. “It almost didn’t look like the same horse from the horse we watched on TV.” After his troubling training debut, Di Domenico went to the drawing board and formulated a plan to get Swansea back on track. A change in shoeing was deemed necessary and after being reshod that same day, an immediate change was noted. “Between me and my blacksmith, we came up with a plan of making a few changes to him and it really clicked,” Di Domenico said. “We put our heads together and we made a couple changes in his shoeing and it’s been smooth sailing since.” Swansea earned four straight checks for Di Domenico before breaking through with a victory in a $14,000 overnight at Harrah’s Philadelphia November 9. By year-end, he won three more times and lowered his mark to 1:55.0. Then, after a 1:54.3 score at Dover Downs January 22, Do Domenico decided to bring Swansea to New York. “At that time, just trying to get speed into him and stretching out and making him go fast was helpful,” Di Domenico said. “We raced him at Chester toward the end of last year and then took him to Dover. By about the time he was out at Dover, he was ready to go the half and do something.” Swansea connected in his first local try, capturing the winner’s share of a $20,000 overnight January 31. He doubled up in the same class the following week and after a runner-up finish while up in class on Valentine’s Day, returned to the winner’s circle for $26,000 February 28.  Swansea continued to improve as his 4-year-old season progressed. His talent showed in the SOA of NY Bonus Trotting Series. Swansea won all three $25,000 preliminary legs of the series in convincing fashion, leading at every call and scoring in 1:55.1, 1:55.4, and 1:55.0. However, after being engaged by in a speed duel Joey Bats in the $73,000 series final, Swansea lost a photo finish with Rich And Miserable. “He was wonderful. The night of the final of the trotting series was a hard pill to swallow. That wasn’t exactly what I dreamt up, trip wise, but it is what it is,” Di Domenico said. “It was tough that he got beat an inch; he certainly deserved to win, but that’s racing and prior to that and after that, it’s been ‘A-1’ efforts every time.” After the trotting series, Swansea made the jump into the open trotting ranks. Despite being handicapped by post seven and post six in his first two bouts, the 4-year-old managed to earn a check in each of his first two attempts in the weekly $44,000 feature. Then May 18, Swansea earned his first victory at the open level with Joe Bongiorno in the sulky. Since then, Swansea has hit the board in each of his last two starts. The gelding is 14-for-34 with $207,320 earned. “It was a little bit discouraging coming out of that series because they handicapped me the outside in the Open for a couple weeks,” Di Domenico said. “He trotted home, he stormed home and got money both times. He did a little bit better the night Joe drove him and he won and the next week he got nailed right at the wire by a really good horse in Weslyn Dancer. She’s a Grand Circuit mare, so not much you can say. “The biggest thing about him was he was really, really green when we got him and he’s figured it out now. You can leave the gate, you can take him off, you can race him just about any way you want. His versatility and his handiness is great. He’s really, really good that way.” Di Domenico said. “He’s a trotter that’s really matured and he’s figured it out and he’s got it. The one thing that you can be sure you’re going to get from him is a hard-trying effort.” Swansea will start from post six in the $44,000 Open Handicap Trot Saturday night (June 15). Mark MacDonald will take the lines behind the 12-1 morning line chance. The field includes Will Take Charge, who came from well off the pace to win last week’s trotting feature, and Winning Shadow, last week’s runner-up who drew advantageously in post three.  Smalltownthrowdown, who tired after setting the pace last out, will start from post two while Lean Hanover, who could not overcome post eight last out, drew better in midfield in post five. Trotting Grace and Chasin’ Dreams complete the lineup. “It’s a tough spot,” Di Domenico said. “There’s a lot of speed inside of him. It looks like he’ll have to race off the pace. It will probably take somebody else to do something silly for him to win, but that being said, I think he’ll be going forward late and I think he can get money.” Saturday night’s card also features the weekly $44,000 Open Handicap Pace. First post time is 6:50 p.m. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. For entries to the races, click here By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY.

YONKERS, N.Y. – When Al-Mar-Got A Fever came to Scott Di Domenico’s barn, the harness racing trainer was skeptical. Although the 5-year-old mare built an impressive resume in the Midwest, winning 12 of 48 starts and earning $226,231 while racing primarily in the barn of Steven Carter, Di Domenico knows doing it against top competition in New York is a tougher task.  Despite his early reservations, Al-Mar-Got A Fever is 4-for-4 since entering Di Domenico’s barn and will take on open company for the first time since shipping east Friday night (June 14) in the $44,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace at Yonkers Raceway. “She’s been a really pleasant surprise,” Di Domenico said. “Sometimes, it seems like Ohio is a little bit cheaper than what New York is. To think she was going to come out here and win four in a row and go in 52 a couple of times, I’d be lying if I said that was how I forecasted it.” By Kentucky stallion Third Straight, Al-Mar-Got A Fever began her career in Kentucky Sire Stakes and finished second in the $175,000 KYSS Final as a freshman. At 3, Al-Mar-Got A Fever made the Fan Hanover Final with a second-place finish in her elimination and again was the runner up in the KYSS Final.  Last year at 4, Al-Mar-Got A Fever competed regularly in the distaff open ranks at Northfield Park. Although she didn’t win any of those features, she finished second or third in seven tries and was four times beaten by Feelin Red Hot, a standout of the Burke stable who made the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series Final in April. As Al-Mar-Got A Fever grappled with Feelin Red Hot, she caught the attention of Foulk Stable. “A buddy of mine bought her from Ohio and he had been telling me about her,” Di Domenico said. “He was watching her last fall, she raced a bunch against Feelin Red Hot; raced her tooth-and-nail a lot of times out in Ohio. Feelin Red Hot came out here and did really well. He mentioned that he was looking to buy her, he ended up getting her bought, and he sent her over. Since she arrived in Di Domenico’s barn, Al-Mar-Got A Fever has been perfect in four races, leading at every call while continuously stepping up in class. Her streak began in a $7,000 overnight at Harrah’s Philadelphia May 4, when she cruised in 1:53.0 as the 1-10 favorite with Trace Tetrick in the sulky. “I liked her. The first time I trained her, she trained well. The first start, I got her in a cheap race at Chester and Tim wasn’t around, so Trace came over. She won pretty handy,” Di Domenico commented. Di Domenico then brought Al-Mar-Got A Fever to Yonkers, where she wired the field at the non-winners of $10,000-, $20,000-, and $30,000-last five levels with George Brennan in tow. Her last two victories came in 1:52.4 and 1:52.3, respectively and she recorded a 4-length score last out June 7. “That’s hard to do. They were terrific,” Di Domenico said. “She beat some really quality mares. She set the tempo and you can’t say enough about her. She’s really done a good job. She’s adapted to the Yonkers racing, she’s adapted to the track and she handles it very well and that’s reassuring.” For her efforts, Al-Mar-Got A Fever added $38,700 to her bankroll this season and will face her toughest test yet Friday night when she takes on open competition. She will start from post six as a 6-1 morning line chance. However, she will get a new driver in Joe Bongiorno as Brennan opted to drive her old rival, Feelin Red Hot, who won the $44,000 feature May 17 and will start from post seven at 5-1. The field also includes Alex’s Power, who won the local feature May 10 and was fourth last out in the Great Northeast Open Series at Pocono Downs and starts from post four. Lispatty won the distaff feature May 3 and was sixth last out in the Betsy Ross Invitational at Harrah’s Philadelphia and drew post five Friday night while Golden Orchid drew the inside off a fifth-place effort in the Rainbow Blue at the Meadowlands last out. Matchmaker competitor Twinkle tuned up with a qualifier at Yonkers June 7 and landed post three. Lance Hudson’s Glenferrie Blade won her first local feature May 24, but drew post eight Friday night. Rockstar Angel completes the lineup from post two. Although all four of Al-Mar-Got A Fever’s wins this season have come on the front end, Di Domenico doesn’t think she’s a one-dimensional horse. With plenty of early speed in the field, the trainer isn’t sure how her trip will set up. “She doesn’t need to be (on the lead). She can win any way,” he said. “Just those races set up to where it looked like the front end was her best option, and that’s what George did. It paid off. “If you do leave, how hard will it be to get to the front and if you take her off, who’s going to leave to make the race for you? It’s certainly a little bit tougher than what it’s been,” the trainer continued. “It’s her fourth jump up in a row. You’ve just got to play it by ear and see how it goes. It doesn’t look like there’s a shortage of early speed in there, so we’ll see.” First post time is 6:50 p.m. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. For entries to the races, click here. Twenty-five large, people. A friendly reminder from Yonkers Raceway that Friday evening's (June 14th) Pick 5 wager starts with a carryover of $9,416.12 and a $25,000 guaranteed pool. The guarantee, approved by the New York State Gaming Commission, is in conjunction with the U.S. Trotting Association's Strategic Wagering Program The Pick 5 is a 50-cent base wager comprising races 7 through 11 Friday night. It has no consolation payoff, meaning if no one selects all five winners (as was the case Thursday night), the entire pool (minus takeout) moves to the next racing program. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY  

CHESTER PA - On a cold day where the track condition went from "fast" to "good" to "sloppy" during a dusting of snow, a day when speed did not hold up very well, the Mach Three gelding Internet Hanover was the star of the day, going wire-to-wire in 1:53.1 to win one of three co-featured $16,000 harness racing contests at Harrah’s Philadelphia. Tim Tetrick guided the impressive sophomore to the lead past a 27.4 quarter, got a breather to the half in 58, then put up a third quarter in 27.4 and then a fourth quarter in 27.3 - on a day where only one other race beat 29 home. Internet Hanover won by 5¼ lengths as the heavy favorite as he captured his third straight for trainer Scott Di Domenico and the ownership of Triple D Stables Inc., Daniel Kiwak, and Jay Spector. In the other co-feature on the pace, when the track was still rated "good," the Yankee Skyscraper gelding Fox Valley Hijinx and trainer/driver Kyle Husted worked out the winning journey, just edging Lisburn by a nose in a personal best of 1:53.2. Lisburn had made the lead by the 27.2 quarter, then yielded to follow the heavy favorite Aleppo Hanover through middle splits of 56.2 and 1:24.1, with the winner sitting just behind them. Both horses behind the frontstepper moved out before the 3/4, with Lisburn putting away the speed, but then just missing against the late charge of Fox Valley Hijinx, who is owned by David Brigham. The trotting co-feature produced no fewer than seven lead changes, with IMF the only horse to have the lead twice, including the most important point of command: at the wire in a 1:57.4 mile. IMF had made the lead in front of the stands the first time, yielded, was lucky to get out in a blindswitch at the ¾, then got a clear path and outfinished his opposition by 2¼ lengths. Yannick Gingras guided the Chapter Seven sophomore filly for trainer Ed Gannon Jr., their second successful teaming on a day where Gingras and George Napolitano Jr. had three wins, and trainer Gannon and driver Gingras share in ownership of the winner with Frank Canzone and Ronald Sabatini. PHHA / Harrah’s Philadelphia

YONKERS, N.Y. – Gokudo Hanover joined the ranks of harness racing trainer Scott Di Domenico’s stable last fall and quickly became one of the top horses in his barn. He won the local Open Handicap Pace at Yonkers Raceway twice and placed another two times over the winter. Di Domenico thought enough of the gelding to enter him in the first leg of the George Morton Levy Series March 17. However, the day before the race, Di Domenico found Gokudo Hanover in a state of shock. “He jogged that morning and he was OK,” Di Domenico recalled. “Around lunchtime, he got violent. He was really uncharacteristically in pain and uncomfortable. That’s certainly not part of his temperament, so we shipped him immediately to the Mid-Atlantic Clinic. “It was terrible, especially a horse of his personality. He’s very friendly, quiet, nice, real pleasurable horse. To see him up and down and in a lot of pain was certainly alarming.” Gokudo Hanover suffered from an episode of colic and required emergency surgery. A portion of his intestine was removed, and surgeons also discovered and took out a non-cancerous tumor. Gokudo Hanover pulled through, but the budding pacing star went to the sidelines. “He missed quite a bit of time. He was probably out two to three months just not doing much of anything. Just healing up and making sure everything was OK,” Di Domenico said. “It was a little bit questionable of how he was going to come back. It seems like most horses who have that don’t come back quite as well as they did before they had it. “When he started back to work and back on the track, he had no issues of any sort that would lead you to believe anything was out of the ordinary. He jogged back, trained back, did everything right,” the trainer said. With a significant amount of money still on his card from his early-season success, Di Domenico had no choice but to bring Gokudo Hanover back in Open company, finishing off-the-board in two starts in the Great Northeast Open Series this August.  The 6-year-old posted two victories at Freehold in September before returning to Yonkers. The Cam’s Card Shark son worked his way back up the class-ladder, his comeback culminating with a pair of wins in the $35,000 Preferred and $44,000 Open Handicap Pace November 10 and 17, respectively. “We took him to Freehold and he kind of woke up down there and it’s been smooth sailing since,” Di Domenico said. “It’s really gratifying to see where he was, to see how much fun we had early with him, then to the nightmarish day where he was in so much pain, shut him down, bring him back. It’s fulfilling and most of all, to see the horse overcome such struggle is most gratifying.” Gokudo Hanover left from post five in his latest win, but Techtor Hanover and Mach It So were faster into the first turn, leaving Gokudo Hanover parked outside in third. Dan Dube put the whip on Gokudo Hanover’s tail and forged to the lead in :26.2.  Gokudo Hanover sped through a half-mile in :55.1 and soon felt pressure from the looming first-over favorite Mach It So. Dube kicked out the plugs entering the backstretch and raised the lines high in his left hand as he urged the gelding on with the whip in his right. Mach It So reached Gokudo Hanover’s wheel past three-quarters in 1:23, but wouldn’t get any closer. Under a sustained drive, Gokudo Hanover turned back his rival and kicked away to a length win in 1:52. “It was a big mile. The front end didn’t hold up great Saturday night. He went some big fractions. He’s been really, really good,” Di Domenico said. “The other thing about that horse, he’s one of the horses that just loves Yonkers. He really, really enjoys that track, he gets around it so handily and that’s where he does his best work.” Gokudo Hanover will try to double-up in the Open this week. He will start from post six as a 7-1 shot in the $44,000 feature. Bettor Memories was second in this race two weeks ago and is the 3-1 favorite from post four while last week’s Preferred winner Always At My Place is 7-2 from post five. Techtor Hanover, last week’s runner-up, drew post three and is 9-2. Theartofconfusion, Soho Lennon, Great Vintage, and Mach It So complete the lineup. “I think he’s up against it,” Di Domenico admitted. “There’s some speed inside of him, probably in a spot where he has to race from off the pace, but that’s pretty common when you win the Open and you have to move to the outside. When you’re racing for the kind of money they race for and have a horse of that caliber, you take everything in stride and just try to handle every week differently.” Saturday’s 12-race card also features a $44,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace and a $35,000 3- and 4-Year Old Open Handicap Pace. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.  YONKERS SETS SUNDAY POST TIME, ‘DOUBLE’ INFO Yonkers Raceway’s Sunday matinee this weekend (Nov. 25th) shall offer a first post of 11:10 AM. Races 1 through 7 go as those added-distance ‘French’ trots, with post times as such… 1st  – 11:10 AM 2nd  – 11:40 AM 3rd  – 12:10 PM 4th  – 12:40 PM 5th – 1:10 PM 6th – 1:40 PM 7th – 2:10 PM Post time for the 12th-race finale is 3:50 PM.    Sunday’s ‘New York, New York Double’ is comprised of the first race from Aqueduct (post time 12:20  PM) and the fifth race from Yonkers (post time 1:10 PM). Program pages accompany this release.   After this weekend, the next Sunday matinee is Dec. 2nd (post time TBA).    By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

The countdown is on to the Breeders' Crown, now just a couple weeks away from taking place at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Based on some of the incredible stakes performances being delivered recently at other tracks around the country, this has the making of one of the most memorable Breeders Crown editions in many years. We can't wait, but we also don't want to give short shrift to the excellent overnight action going on each and every racing night at Pocono. With that in mind, let's hand out some Weekly Awards. PACER OF THE WEEK: PEMBROKE WILDCAT Throughout the summer and even into the early part of September, this six-year-old gelding competed against the toughest claimers on the grounds at Pocono. He was often a kind of best-of-the-rest competitor, but that started to change when worked out a pocket trip for a victory in the $30,000-$40,000 claiming handicaps on September 22 in 1:50, a new career-best. The following week, Pembroke Wildcat once again worked out the perfect trip and scored, this time in 1:51.4. On Saturday night, he once again faced off with the $30,000-$40,000 claiming handicappers, leaving from post position #2 in a field of eight. Pembroke Wildcat was made a 6-5 second choice behind Ideal Kiss at 2-5, even though he had beaten Ideal Kiss in one of his previous two victories. Perhaps bettors were a bit skeptical about the fact that he had need a trip to win the previous two. When Pembroke Wildcat got away mid-pack while Ideal Kiss set the pace, it was time for him to prove that he had another trick up his sleeve. Driver Anthony Napolitano sent Pembroke Wildcat, trained by Brittany Robertson, on a first-over journey on the back stretch to try and corral the leaders. Once he pulled up even, Pembroke Wildcat flew right on past the defenseless Ideal Kiss and kept right on rolling until he hit the line in front by two lengths in 1:50.1. There shouldn't be any more lingering doubts about this gelding, because he certainly picked up that third straight victory the hard way. Other top pacers this week include: Voracity (Eric Carlson, Ron Burke), who moved up in class on Saturday night but still managed his second consecutive condition win in sub-1:50 territory, pacing the mile in 1:49.4; Zero The Hero (George Napolitano Jr., Hunter Oakes), who tore it up on Saturday night for this third straight claiming win, this one coming in 1:49.4; and That Man Of Mine (George Napolitano Jr.,), whose win on Saturday night in a claiming handicap in 1:51.4 gave him five victories in a row, four of which have come at Pocono. TROTTER OF THE WEEK: TWO AM Sunday night's featured condition trot with a purse of $21,500 was filled to the brim with trotters who were having excellent seasons. Two AM, a four-year-old gelding trained by Todd Buter, came into the race with four victories on the season, but none quite at the level he was dealing with on Sunday night. Still, he had won his previous race at Pocono on September 29 in 1:53.4, and was a star as a three-year-old, so the move up in class wasn't completely out of the question. With Tyler Buter in the bike, Two AM sat back early as the pace was set by Crazshana. Tyler Buter waited for some cover and then sent the gelding second-over once he found that cover on the back stretch in the form of Elysium Lindy. That horse carried Two AM as far as he could go before starting to tire. The same fate befell Crazshana, who started to feel it in the lane as well. That left Prairie Fortune, the 3-2 favorite who was sitting in the pocket, and Two AM, who was revving up out wide. Two AM may have had the tougher journey, but it didn't stop him from showing powerful closing kick. In fact, he out-trotted Prairie Fortune and came up a winner by three-parts of a length. His winning time of 1:52.4 was the fastest that anyone trotted at Pocono this past week. With his second straight victory, this time against the toughest trotters on the grounds, Two AM is looking very much like the big earner he was just a year ago. Honorable mention on the trotting side this week goes to: Mighty Macko (George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes), a three-year-old filly who scored her second straight condition win on Sunday night, this one in 1:55.3; Silvermass Volo (Eric Carlson, Michael Holcman), who powered to a condition victory on Saturday night in 1:53.3; and Cant U Spell (George Napolitano Jr., Jody Riedel), who moved up in class on Tuesday night to captures his second straight condition trot and get it done in a career-best 1:54.2. LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: RAISING KERCKHAERT It was a memorable maiden victory for this trotter, as he picked up a condition won on Sunday night with Jim Taggart Jr. in the bike at 49-1, paying off $101.40 on a $2 win ticket. DRIVER OF THE WEEK: JIM TAGGART JR. Taggart was the guy you wanted this week if you liked long shots, as he brought home a 49-1 on Sunday night with Raising Kerckheart and then scored at 10-1 with Sneak On Bye on Monday. TRAINER OF THE WEEK: SCOTT DI DOMENICO Di Domenico always seem to bring in a high percentage of winners at Pocono, and he managed victories with both of his starters on Sunday night. That will do it for this week at Pocono, but we'll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com. by Jim Beviglia, for Pocono Downs  

Southwind Chrome is still finding his way as a harness racing horse, but trainer Paula Wellwood likes the direction he is heading. Unraced at age 2 because of an injury, Wellwood has tried to expose the colt to a variety of racing styles in preparation for Saturday's appearance in the 93rd Hambletonian at The Meadowlands Racetrack. Southwind Chrome has won once in seven races and finished second on four occasions. One of his runner-up efforts came in the final of the Empire Breeders Classic, which was won by Six Pack by a half-length. Six Pack is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the second of Saturday's two $100,000 Hambletonian eliminations. Southwind Chrome is in the same division and is 5-1. The top-five finishers from each elimination return later in the day for the $1 million final. Coverage of the Hambletonian and $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks for 3-year-old female trotters will air live from 4-5:30 p.m. (EDT) on CBS Sports Network. First-race post time for Saturday's stakes-filled card at the Meadowlands is noon. "We're maybe not as seasoned as the other horses," said Wellwood, who won the 2016 Hambletonian with Marion Marauder. "It's only his eighth lifetime start. But what he did in the Empire Breeders (final) in his third start was unbelievable. He's a pretty quick study, but he is still a little green and trying to figure out his style of racing. We've tried to expose him to all different styles, so we'll see how that goes. "That's up to the driver." That would be Scott Zeron, who will drive Southwind Chrome in his elimination. Zeron, who won for Wellwood with Marion Marauder on their way to the Trotting Triple Crown, may not be available for the final as he also will be driving filly Atlanta in the first elimination. Atlanta, the lone filly in the race and 3-1 second choice in her heat, is trained and co-owned by Zeron's dad Rick. "If we get lucky enough to make the final I know we'll be looking for a driver, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Wellwood said. "(Zeron) likes Chrome, too. He commented that he's got two nice horses. He's not underestimating him." Southwind Chrome is owned by Dreamville Stable, which is Wellwood, her husband Mike Keeling, son Devin Keeling, and mom Jean Wellwood. Devin and Jean are the owners of Marion Marauder. Southwind Chrome, a son of Chapter Seven out of Counter Pointe, was purchased for $60,000 at the 2016 Lexington Selected Sale. "We had some of the family and always liked the mare," Wellwood said. "We looked at (Southwind Chrome) and really liked him. He was our first Chapter Seven that we bought, and the fact he was a Chapter Seven was an added bonus." Southwind Chrome was lightly staked, but it was not because of a lack of talent. "We gave him a lot of time and brought him back and he struggled a little bit," Wellwood said. "That's why he's not heavily staked. He had a couple of struggles in the winter training down with his gait, but once he got to qualifying, he just changed. He started to excel. "We wanted to make sure the Hambletonian was on his card because he always showed a lot of ability. We started him out and he exceeded our expectations, he's never let us down." He also never gets down. "He's a very honest, happy horse," Wellwood said. "He's just a very pleasant horse. He's not a big horse but he's a very strong horse. He doesn't seem to get tired. That's one of his keys. He's just done everything right, so we thought we would take a chance. He's raced very well. We felt he deserved a shot." And hope he finds his winning style. * * * * * * Another horse that is still learning is Classichap, from the stable of 2004 Hambletonian winner Trond Smedshammer. Classichap, a half-brother to 2012 Hambletonian champ and two-time Dan Patch Award honoree Market Share, was winless in four races in 2017, but finished second to Fourth Dimension in a division of the New York Sire Stakes at Saratoga. Three of Classichap's starts were on the New York circuit. "I knew he had a lot of talent," said trainer Smedshammer, who also drives Classichap for owner Wanda Polisseni's Purple Haze Stables. "He wasn't staked too much; I wasn't planning on racing him on the Grand Circuit. I raced him a few times in New York and he showed me enough to back off and give him some time to mature." Classichap is 6-1 in the second Hambletonian elimination. His most recent three races were at the Meadowlands in preparation for the event. He was third-placed-second in a conditioned race and then posted his first win with a gate-to-wire 1:51.1 triumph by a head over Tactical Landing in a conditioned race on July 6. His final start prior to the Hambletonian was a second-place finish to Wolfgang in a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial on July 14. "He was good the start before the Dancer and he was pretty good in the Dancer," Smedshammer said. "I didn't think he was as good in that race, but he's getting some experience. I think the big track suits him better, the Meadowlands-style racing, than up in New York in his previous starts earlier in the year. "He's still green and learning, but he's got a big engine. If he gets the right trip and things work out, he's shown he can cut a mile in (1):51 on his own. Not every horse can do that. We'll see where he fits in with those top horses." In addition to Classichap, Smedshammer trains Hambletonian Oaks contender Phaetosive. The filly won her Oaks elimination and is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line behind Manchego. Smedshammer trained 2008 Hambletonian Oaks winner Creamy Mimi. * * * * * * Hat Trick Habit has raced four times for new connections, with mixed results. But trainer Scott DiDomenico is hoping the trotter has got it figured out after a second-place finish behind Crystal Fashion in his final Hambletonian prep, the Reynolds Memorial. The horse went off stride in his two prior races. "We're going to give it a shot," DiDomenico said. "I think he is on the way up again. We've been having trouble with his feet, they've been aggravating him some, and I think that's been part of the reason he's been jumping. That's been one of my biggest concerns and I think we've sort of got it under control. I hope it works out OK." Hat Trick Habit debuted for new owners John McGill and Brian Carsey with a career-best 1:52.3 win at the Meadowlands on July 7. He was acquired by McGill and Carsey at the end of June. The horse was owned previously by Fred Monteleone, who passed away in October. For his career, Hat Trick Habit has won six of 17 races and earned $205,054. The colt is 12-1 in the first Hambletonian elimination, starting from post eight with three-time Hambletonian-winning driver Brian Sears. "All things considered, it's probably a little bit of a shot, but how many times are you going to have a shot to race a horse of this caliber in this kind of race," DiDomenico said about racing in the Hambletonian. "We're excited about it and getting the shot to make some money in there. That's a pretty neat feeling. It's cool. I've never been there before, never had a horse that I even considered putting in that race. Now that I do, it's special." * * * * * * Met's Hall, who is 10-1 in the first Hambletonian elimination, was slow to return to the races for his 3-year-old season, not making his debut until July 14. He qualified three times prior to that race, twice in June and once in July. "It's been challenging," trainer Julie Miller said. "He had a lot of health issues starting out the year that made my job difficult. But hopefully it's coming together at the right time. I'm very fortunate that (owner) Natalia Stroy has been patient with me and the horse. "We'll just point him toward next week and hope all our efforts pay off. We're going to need a lot of luck, too. Met's Hall was a stakes-winner in 2017, with his victories including a division of the International Stallion Stakes at Red Mile, where he trotted a career-best 1:52.4. He followed that win with a second-place finish behind Fourth Dimension in a track-record 1:54 mile in their Breeders Crown elimination at Hoosier Park and a week later was second to Fiftydallarbill in the $600,000 final. He made his 2018 debut in a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial at the Meadowlands, where he finished fourth with regular driver Andy Miller, Julie's husband. His next start resulted in a third-place finish in the Tompkins-Geers at the Big M before notching his first win of the year in a division of last weekend's Reynolds Memorial. He won in 1:53 with a :26.4 final quarter and :55.2 back half after a :57.3 first half. "Off that slow half, I thought it was a good back half," Miller said. "When Andy had to kind of check him in the lane he was real handy there. "Every time Andy gets off the bike, after each qualifier, after each race, he says I'm getting there. Now if I can just shed three seconds in the next week," she added with a laugh. Met's Hall has won six of 14 career races and $311,908. The Millers have had consecutive top-three finishes in the Hambletonian, with Devious Man third-placed-second in 2017 and Sutton third, beaten only a neck, in 2016. by Rich Fisher, for the USTA Following are the fields for the Hambletonian eliminations. Hambletonian Elimination One PP-Driver -Trainer-Morning Line 1-Shoshie Deo-George Brennan-Dewayne Minor-10/1 2-Evaluate-Orjan Kihlstrom-Marcus Melander-15/1 3-Met's Hall-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-10/1 4-Lawmaker-David Miller-Andrew Harris-8/1 5-Wolfgang-Yannick Gingras-Jimmy Takter-5/2 6-Crystal Fashion-Tim Tetrick-Jim Campbell-7/2 7-Atlanta-Scott Zeron-Rick Zeron-3/1 8-Hat Trick Habit-Brian Sears-Scott DiDomenico-12/1 9-Zephyr Kronos-Jimmy Takter-Jimmy Takter-10/1 Hambletonian Elimination Two PP-Driver -Trainer-Morning Line 1-Fashionwoodchopper-David Miller-Jim Campbell-10/1 2-Patent Leather-Tim Tetrick-Jim Campbell-15/1 3-Classichap-Trond Smedshammer-Trond Smedshammer-6/1 4-Alarm Detector-Trevor Henry-Benoit Baillargeon-10/1 5-Fourth Dimension-Brian Sears-Marcus Melander-10/1 6-Southwind Chrome-Scott Zeron-Paula Wellwood-5/1 7-Tactical Landing-Jimmy Takter-Jimmy Takter-4/1 8-You Know You Do-Yannick Gingras-Jimmy Takter-8/1 9-Six Pack-Ake Svanstedt-Ake Svanstedt-2/1  

YONKERS, NY, Sunday, July 29, 2018-Lass Rose Run Sydney (Brian Sears, $6.10) beat the boys (and one other girl), then made 'em cry Sunday afternoon (July 29th), winning Yonkers Raceway's featured $44,000 Open Handicap Trot. The weekly trotting feature was a flat-mile event, contested a handful of races after the day's four, mile-and-a-quarter, bigger-field 'French' forays. Away fourth from assigned post position No. 5, Rose Run Sydney saw eight-baller In Secret (George Brennan) eschew a three-hole. That one made the lead around 17-10 favorite Mostinterestingman (Jordan Stratton) after a :27.2 opening quarter-mile. It was a :56.4 intermission before 'Sydney' was and out and moving in the third turn. She engaged In Secret in an out of the 1:25.1 three-quarters, disposing of that one soon thereafter. The lass opened a 2½-length lead in the lane, then whipped a pocket-extricating Mostinterestingman by three-quarters of a length in 1:54.2...a tick off her season and life-best effort. In Secret was a stubborn third, with Madhatter Bluechip (Brent Holland) and the other lady, Weslynn Dancer (Jason Bartlett), coming away with the remainder. It was one of Sears' four wins during the dozen-race card. For second choice Rose Run Sydney, a 4-year-old daughter of Triumphant Caviar co-owned by Steve Carter, Adam Friedland and RBR Racing and trained by Scott DiDomenico, it was his fourth win in 13 seasonal starts. The exacta paid $17.40, the triple returned $70 and the superfecta paid $168. Sunday's go-round of the 'New York, New York Double' featured a winning combination of 7-Glossy (Saratoga's 3rd race) and 4-Casa Palmera (Yonkers' 5th race), returning $7.60 for every correct $1 ticket. Total pool was $4,970. The next Sunday matinee is Aug. 5th (post time TBA). by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

CHESTER PA - Maching Me Zilly and Lifetime Trust slugged it out through the stretch of the $17,000 harness racing pacing feature for distaffs Wednesday afternoon at Harrah's Philadelphia, and in the end the first-over Maching Me Zilly found the reserves to keep her rival at bay late in a lifetime best of 1:52.2. A daughter of Mach Three driven by Yannick Gingras for trainer Scott Di Domenico, Maching Me Zilly came coverless off the second turn, with Lifetime Trust on her tail, and "Zilly" could not clear pacesetting Jaye's A Lady around the far turn, with Lifetime Trust tipping three-deep past midturn to launch her bid. But that bid would come up a neck short against the game winner, who is owned by John McGill, Brian Carsey, and the Triple D Stables Inc. The two-year-olds made their first pari-mutuel appearance at Harrah's for 2018; winning the contest for baby trotting fillies was Cardinale, a daughter of Cantab Hall - Mississippi Beauty, who made every pole a winning one in 1:59.1 as the chalk. Andy Miller, only nine wins away from 9000 career victories after visiting Victory Lane three times Wednesday, was in the sulky for trainer/wife Julie Miller; the Andy Miller Stable is co-owner with Willow Oak Ranch and O'Donnell Equine. Yannick Gingras also had a triple on the card, while Eric Carlson, Andrew McCarthy, and David Miller steered home a pair of winners. FINISHING LINES - The Great Northeast Open Series will gather together trotters and pacing mares on Sunday at Philly, each group competing for $30,000. The trot, an open event, is topped by a formidable pair of females, Ariana G and Broadway Donna, while the mares pace should see Blue Moon Stride and Agent Q getting their fair share of the betting attention. From the PHHA / Harrah's Philadelphia

CHESTER, PA - The Mach Three mare Maching Me Zilly traveled her middle half in 56.1, largely raw, to secure the lead, then held off the field to win the $16,000 mares pacing feature on Friday at Harrah's Philadelphia, with the time if 1:53.1 missing her lifetime record by a tick. Maching Me Zilly won by 1½ lengths over Zane Hanover, who had had the early lead before surrendering to the winner, then having her stretch comeback compromised by bearing out late. Hot-driving Tim Tetrick and reheating trainer Scott Di Domenico (now with 22% wins since May 16 after opening the meet 3-for-37) were the winning connections behind Maching Me Zilly, who is owned by John Mcgill, Brian Carsey, and the Triple D Stables Inc. An even hotter pairing, driver George Napolitano Jr. and trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera, nabbed their fourth winner in the first eight races when Taketothesky N rallied off cover to be most photogenic in a three-horse picture while lowering her mark to 1:51.2 in a $14,500 co-featured mares pace. The victorious daughter of Gotta Go Colluct beat out first-over Amanderosa by a head, with pacesetter Berazzled just another head behind. Garcia-Herrera, who also owns the winner, needed only 130 minutes from the start of the card Friday to come within one of meet leader Ron Burke, with his 19th conditioning victory coming with the Kiwi import. From the PHHA/Chester Philadelphia

YONKERS, N.Y. – Since arriving in the barn of harness racing trainer Scott Di Domenico this year, Bluebird Jesse as surpassed expectations. The 4-year-old trotter won two of the three preliminary legs of the Yonkers Raceway / SOA of NY Bonus Trotting Series before capturing the $85,000 series final April 24. Last week, he made his first start in the local Open Trot, finishing third. “He’s exceeded what I thought he was going to be,” Di Domenico said. “I can’t say we expected this one to win the series final and show that he has a shot to be a very, very useful trotter at Yonkers. That says a lot about the horse.” Bluebird Jesse made his mark in Indiana as a 2- and 3-year old. He won six races at Hoosier for trainer Keith Roth, including a $75,000 Indiana Sire Stakes Final. Bluebird Jesse’s success in the Midwest put him on the radar of Indiana owners Brian Carsey and John McGill and New York partner Adam Friedland.  “They were talking about this horse for a long time even before they had him bought,” Di Domenico explained. “You have to give them the credit. I wish I could say I found him, I bought him, but I didn’t. They saw the horse in Indiana, he came up for sale, they were fortunate to get him.” After purchasing the son of Jailhouse Jesse last fall, the trio of owners placed him with trainer Walter Haynes for the winter. Di Domenico credits him for getting the horse ready. “He got this horse rested up and trained back and when he came to me, he was ready to go do something,” Di Domenico said. “He did a good job with the horse and when he got out here, he was ready to go.” Since arriving in his stable, Di Domenico has been impressed by how easy Bluebird Jesse is to train. Bluebird Jesse rarely does anything wrong in the mornings and jogs with two fingers. His best attribute is his handiness, his trainer says.  “He trots the turns well at Yonkers, he’s pretty sure-footed and he’s fast enough,” he said. “The thing I like most about him is his handiness. You’re able to leave with him off the gate, you’re able to race him off the pace and it seems as though he’s going to give you 100 percent effort every time no matter what you do with him. He’s just a real likeable horse.” Bluebird Jesse showed his versatility in the Yonkers Raceway/SOA of NY Bonus Trotting Series. He secured a first-over win on a sloppy racetrack in leg one and rode a pocket trip to victory in leg three. In the series final, Bluebird Jesse used his inside advantage to drive to the lead in the first turn, avoiding trouble as rivals Tyson and Optimist Blue Chip makes breaks to his outside. Although he was unchallenged on the lead through a :58.1 half mile, Bluebird Jesse faced an early test as 1-9 favorite Seasoned Saint, undefeated in the series preliminaries, pulled the pocket with 3 furlongs to trot.  Racing around the final turn, Bluebird Jesse was confidently handled by George Brennan as Seasoned Saint drew within a neck of the lead under urging from Jim Marohn Jr. Brennan high-lined the trotter and went to a right-handed whip in the stretch as Seasoned Saint drew on even terms with Bluebird Jesse at the sixteenth pole. Bluebird Jesse dug in, holding off the favorite to win in 1:54.4, the fastest trotting mile of the year at Yonkers. “As good as the horse had been, I wasn’t surprised,” Di Domenico said. “He had the capabilities of trotting fast and he did it. He had a very good series. Throwing the second leg of that series out, he was gritty, he fought, he was first-over. He did a little bit of everything and every week he responded and every week he kept coming and showed that he was a very talented horse.” Saturday night (May 12), Bluebird Jesse will start from post six in the $44,000 Open Handicap Trot. In his second try at the open level, he will have Tim Tetrick in the sulky with morning line odds set at 7-1. Seasoned Saint will start to Bluebird Jesse’s inside as the 5-2 favorite while In Secret is 5-1 from post seven in his return from the Cutler Memorial. Melady’s Monet will start from the outside post at odds of 20-1. Gonna Fly, Uva Hanover, Buen Camino, and Mostinterestingman complete the lineup. “I was concerned a little bit moving up to that level. It’s definitely tougher, but I think his versatility, his handiness, and his will to race right now – obviously he’s not going to beat those horses every week, but I think when he’s able to draw the inside and the tougher ones draw the outside, I think he’ll be able to beat those horses,” Di Domenico said. “His handiness is going to keep him in a lot of races and it’s going to let him earn a pretty good living in that class. “He’s got the six. Tim is going to have to look over and see what the inside looks like and make the call at the gate,” he continued. “The race is certainly a little tougher than it was last week. Those are open trotters at any track at any level. In a perfect world, I’d love to see him trotting home strong, I’d love to see him win.” First post time Saturday at Yonkers is 6:50 p.m. The 12-race card also features a $44,000 Open Pace, three divisions of the W. N. Reynolds Memorial for 3-year-old pacing fillies, and three divisions of the Reynolds for 3-year-old pacing colts. For entries to the card, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. - Multiple stakes-winner Missile J returns to harness racing at Yonkers Raceway Saturday night after a brief freshening. Trainer Scott Di Domenico, who purchased Missile J out of the Tattersalls January Mixed Sale with owners John McGill and Brian Carsey, entered the pacer back in the $35,000 sub-featured 4-Year-Old Open Handicap. Off the 83-day layoff, but still with $76,380 on his card, the restricted pace is the ideal spot to bring the 15-time winner and $498,482 earner back. “This class is the race we bought him for in January. This is what our hope for him was when we bought him,” Di Domenico said. “Obviously, I don’t think anybody thought that it was going to go the way that it did with him getting on that kind of roll and competing at the level he did with the horses he was racing against. Fortunately it did. That was a great thrill for everybody involved.” After buying Missile J for $115,000, the son of American Ideal won his first four races for his new connections. He climbed the class ladder in each start and won the Open Pace at Dover Downs in a lifetime best 1:49.1 to cap his grand slam. Missile J then won three straight preliminary legs of the George Morton Levy Series at Yonkers. He paced 1:51.3 in two of those triumphs and posted two sub :27 final quarters on the half-mile track. Missile J’s last win came April 1 at Yonkers. Since then, he finished third in the Levy Final as the race’s even-money favorite, third in the Graduate Final, fourth in an Open Handicap Pace, and seventh in the Stafford Invitational at Harrah’s. His connections came together and decided to give the gelding some well-earned time off. “Racing that caliber of horses, going 1:51, :26 three weeks in a row at Yonkers, that’s very hard to hold up to. Five or six weeks in a row of that Levy series against that competition, they throw a lot of heat on you every week and it’s taxing,” Di Domenico said. “I’m not making any excuses on why he didn’t win the final or the next race or anything else. I just think it was a combination of getting raced fairly hard through the winter and raced at a very high level in the Levy. I just think he needed a break.” Di Domenico came to McGill and Carsey with his decision and they agreed. Despite having to bypass several Grand Circuit events, Missile J’s owners opted to be patient and let their star pacer recuperate from the winter and spring campaign. “When we sat down and talked about giving him a little break, they were very good about it. You always want to do good for people like that. They give me a lot of options to make decisions, which I enjoy and we work well together,” Di Domenico said. “They believe in the horse and they believe in the trainer’s decision to sit a horse of his caliber out. He was eligible to some Grand Circuit races for a lot of money. They knew he was out in the field and they watched those races from the sidelines and never said a word or complained about it ever. I’m appreciative of them for believing in my decision to give the horse a little break and I think he’ll repay them for it, I really do. “Horses don’t do what he did,” he continued. “He came home in some tough spots and mowed them down and I think he’s got a lot of future ahead of him.” After about 35 days off at New Jersey Equine, Missile J returned to Di Domenico’s barn in great shape. He had put on some weight and came back mentally sharp and with a great attitude. Di Domenico prepped Missile J for his first race off the bench with one qualifier at Harrah’s August 8. He finished second to Christen Me and paced 1:53.2 with a :27.1 final quarter. In his first start off the layoff, the race office assigned Missile J post eight. Brent Holland will drive the 9/2 morning line chance for the first time Saturday night. Di Domenico is expecting an off-the-pace trip. “He’s done everything that I’ve asked him to do. Everything really professionally,” the trainer said. “The outside at Yonkers is not a very easy thing to overcome. Hopefully he’ll get some pace ahead of him and he’ll have a shot to pick up some of the pieces and get paid.” Saturday’s 4-Year-Old Open Handicap Pace also includes last week’s winner, Ideal Jimmy. The son of Western Ideal drew post four and is the 7/2 second choice on the morning line. Jordan Stratton will drive again. St Lads Moonwalk finished third last week from post five and drew the same position this time. He is the 3-1 morning line favorite. Dakota Jack, Settlemoir, Mr D`s Dragon, Continual Hanover, and Western Dynasty complete the field. A $55,000 Open Handicap Pace featuring Bit Of A Legend and Somewhere In L A headlines Saturday’s card. Post time is 7:10 p.m. For entries for Saturday’s races, click here. Sunday at Yonkers A reminder regarding Yonkers Raceway’s matinee program this Sunday (Aug. 20th), with a 12:30 PM first post. It’s the sixth of eight consecutive Sundays. It’s a dozen-race, all-trot card, with races 2 (approx.. post time 12:50 PM) through 5 (2:20 PM) of the ‘French’ theme, as in overflow fields at the mile-and-one-quarter distance. The ‘New York, New York Double’ is also back this Sunday, including Saratoga’s 3rd race (post time 2:07 PM) and Yonkers’ 5th race (post time 2:20 PM). Program pages accompany this release. Final post for Sunday is scheduled for 4:50 PM. by Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

WILKES-BARRE PA - 40 days ago, the Changeover pacing mare Areyoureadygirl N had never raced on U.S. soil. In Tuesday's $16,000 distaff feature at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, she proved that the answer implied in her name was a resounding "Yes!" with her fourth straight victory between here at Harrah's Philly, rallying for driver Andrew McCarthy from second-over for a one length harness racing victory in the mountain oval's headliner. After a third in her first United States start, the mare has been unstoppable for trainer Scott Di Domenico and owners CC Racing LLC, Dana Parham, and Triple D Stables Inc., already amassing $29,280 in under six weeks of "Yankee" racing. The crowd has caught on to her quickly, as she was the 1-2 favorite; finishing second was pocketsitting Gymnast Hanover, with Pocono's leading driver George Napolitano Jr. finding himself in the unusual situation of guiding the 41-1 longest shot on the board, though with his usual good result. Top three-year-old pacing filly Agent Q returns to the races Saturday at Pocono, competing in a division of the third prelim of her division's Pennsylvania Sire Stakes series. Starting from post seven for driver Scott Zeron, Agent Q will come into this race off three straight victories: the elimination and Championship of the Lynch Pace here at Pocono, and the Mistletoe Shalee at The Meadowlands. PHHA / Pocono

WILKES-BARRE PA – In race where the harness racing field of eight had collectively earned over $8 million, and five “Goliaths” had bankrolled over a million dollars each, it was the “Down Under David,” Barimah A, with less than $200,000 on his card, coming off of fireball fractions to take the $50,000 Van Rose Memorial Pace at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on Saturday, the evening feature on a doubleheader Kentucky Derby Day of racing.   There had been no fewer than four lead changes at a point just past the 3/8, with wild initial fractions of 25.4 and 53.1 finally going up on the board as Somewhere In L A, the last to the lead, started to feel pressure from Mach It So, the first to the top now back outside with first-over duty. Those two went at it viciously down the backstretch to a 1:20.4 ¾ clocking, with Rockin Ron tiring in the pocket and forcing favored Sunfire Blue Chip (they were the other two early leaders) to come out into a blindswitch heading into the far turn to avoid being shuffled.   The horse creating the blindswitch was the unheralded Barimah A, who went three-wide at the 11/16 and continuously gained ground after the wild pace. Somewhere In L A and Mach It So continued their inside-outside fight for supremacy and Barimah A kept gaining in the three-deep path, forcing the blocked Sunfire Blue Chip to dip inside and then go to the Pocono Pike.   That looked like the winning move for a couple of seconds midstretch, but “Sunfire” showed the effects of being parked past a 25.4 quarter on an off track for the lead, and the gallant Barimah A sustained his gain to put up a head advantage at the wire in 1:50 in the off going; Somewhere In L A, parked 3/8 in the wild numbers to get the front, was another length back in third.   An altered son of Bettor’s Delight patiently handled by driver Pat Berry and owned by Brian Carsey, John Mcgill, and Adam Friedland, Barimah A recently moved under the shedrow of Scott Di Domenico and certainly has taken well to his new surroundings, winning 4 of 5 races and $60,250 of his current $204,505 lifetime money total. Saturday’s 1:50 clocking, taken in the race honoring the late longtime area harness writer, equaled the lifetime mark he had posted in taking the Pocono feature last Saturday.   Barimah A     PHHA / Pocono  

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