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The Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association is looking for eligible high school seniors or returning college students from families of licensed owners, trainers, or drivers who participate full or part time in harness racing. They can now submit an application that could bring them $1,500.00 closer to completing their college education. Through the generosity of Ray Schnittker and Jeff Gural, UNY-USHWA is offering the scholarship named for Schnittker's world class trotter, Deweycheatumnhowe. The sixth annual "Dewey Degree Scholarship" will be given to an eligible student who meets the criteria and is chosen by the chapter officers and an impartial third party judge. It is a $1,500.00 one time, non renewable assistance award. The applicant must be entering college for the first time this fall or already in a college, university, or trade school and be enrolled as a full time student (12 credit hours minimum). Applicants' parent(s), grandparent(s), and/or legal guardian(s) must be a licensed horseman or horsewoman during the year prior to application. (In this case, 2013) Only one relative need be licensed to be eligible. The applicant must be at least a high school senior at time of application. Anyone living in the U.S. or Canada is eligible. You are required to submit an essay discussing your background in harness racing, your work experience in harness racing, what you think could be done to better harness racing in the future, and how you see yourself as part of it. The essay should be around 600 words in length. You will also need to submit proof of your relatives licensing and a minimum of two letters of reference - one from a horse person and one from a teacher or advisor in your current school. All documents must be received by UNY-USHWA no later than May 31, 2014. The recipient of the 2014 Dewey Degree will be announced shortly thereafter and the scholarship will be presented in the winners circle at Tioga Downs this summer. We request the winner be present for that presentation. You can click here to download a copy of the application. By Tim Bojarski, for Upstate NY Chapter USHWA  

April 6, 2014 - HANA Harness is pleased to announce additional sponsors (one new and one returning) to the 2014 HANA Harness Grand Circuit 'Shoot-Out' Handicapping Contest presented by The Hambletonian Society, DRF Harness, Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment, Northfield Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs. New as a Silver Sponsor this year is the Central Ontario Standardbred Association (COSA) which presently represents horsemen at WEG tracks. Returning for a third year of sponsorship at the Silver level is Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at Charlottetown Driving Park. As Canadian sponsors, their donations will be used to benefit Canadian Standardbred rescues. We encourage all followers of the handicapping challenge to visit our sponsors' websites by visiting the contest website and clicking on their logos. Sponsorship opportunities remain available. Tracks, horsemen associations, racing stables, and those vendors who market to the harness racing industry and/or fans are welcome to become sponsors. For additional information regarding sponsorship, click here. HANA is also pleased to announce the roster of handicappers has been finalized with the addition of Brian McEvoy. McEvoy, works for Harnesslink in various capacities. This will be his first appearance in a HANA handicapping contest and he will be playing for Horse Rescue United. The first leg of the 2014 Grand Circuit 'Shoot-Out' is scheduled for April 26, 2014 when the finals of the George Morton Levy Memorial Pace and the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series will be contested at Yonkers Raceway. A complete list of contest days may be found here. by Al Schott, for HANA

Cam's Card Shark, one of the leading stallions of his generation, has just been retired from stud duty, but hopes are high in Ohio that one of his greatest progeny can carry on his dynamic legacy in the breeding shed. Shark Gesture, whose earnings in excess of $2.8 million are the most of the more than 1,700 racehorses that Cam's Card Shark sired and one of the fastest with a speed mark of 1:48.1s, will be represented by a crop of two-year-olds this season. Abby Stables in Sugarcreek, Ohio, is standing the big, dark brown stallion.  "Shark Gesture is the total package," Abby Stables' Teresa Maddox told Harness Racing Update."   Shark Gesture developed into a horse for the ages. A $110,000 yearling purchase by Norm Smiley, Shark Gesture raced from two to four, posting some impressive victories.  He was retired to the breeding shed due to an injury and stood as a stallion in Ontario for the 2008 season. Later that year, when the injury had fully healed and he trained excellently, Shark Gesture returned to the races and started three times. But it was as a six- and seven-year-old that he excelled, earning over $1.8 million. He beat some of the best aged pacers, including the likes of Foiled Again, Mister Big, Art Official, Boulder Creek, Artistic Fella, Shadow Play and Won The West 12 times, including by more than 10 lengths in the Hoosier Cup.  Maddox said because Shark Gesture disappeared from the breeding scene for three years people may be confused about his history.  "He really hasn't gotten a fair shake as a stallion," Maddox said. "If you go back and look at some of his races, he was phenomenal. He's well-mannered, he's intelligent and was a bear on the racetrack. It's just a breath of fresh air to have him in Ohio. We welcomed him with open arms." Shark Gesture can be seen in action on his page at www.abbystables.com . His web page comes complete with race footage, photos, pedigree, articles and both a downloadable and digital breeding contract.  "There is no reason because he had 44 foals that raced from his first and only crop as a stallion, standing in Ontario and bred to mostly Ontario-bred mares, that people should have forgotten about him because he went back to the races," said Smiley. "He is still a good horse.  This year he has two-year-olds that are training and I've got good reports on them. Trainer Fred Grant has a colt by Shark Gesture out of Boca Babe.  Fred owns the dam and owns a piece of the colt and said, 'he's very good-gaited, very sound, very willing and has lots of speed. I just love him.'" Trainer David Miller, currently training a two-year-old Shark Gesture filly named Hex, described her as a "big, strong, great-gaited, intelligent filly who is showing excellent speed." Another trainer, Jenny Melander, has a nice sturdy black filly named When Sharks Fly and echoed Miller's comments about Shark Gesture's offspring. "His foals are big and sturdy, with heart, speed, intelligence and strength," she said.   Shark Gesture is truly an anomaly. How many horses return to the races two years after retiring and earn almost twice as much, facing battled-hardened competitors? In total, he posted 31 sub-1:50 miles, 16 of those 1:49 or better and four of those sub-1:49. As a 2-year-old, he won the Bluegrass Stakes (recording a freshman mark of 1:51.3), the Simpson Stakes and an elimination of the Breeders Crown.  At three, he won the Breeders Crown, the Tattersalls Pace (with a sophomore speed mark of 1:49.1), the Bluegrass Stakes, the Simpson Stakes and the Progress Pace. In an abbreviated four-year-old season, he won the New Hampshire Sweepstakes. In his return to the races, he won the William R. Haughton Memorial two years in a row, the Canadian Pacing Derby Final (with a lifetime mark of 1:48.1), the Graduate Series twice, the Dan Patch Invitational Pace and the Bettor's Delight. He broke track records at Tioga Downs and Hoosier Park and tied the track record when he won the Canadian Pacing Derby. "He's won all the big races, beat all the good horses," Maddox said. "He beat Foiled Again (the top aged pacer last year) more than once. He beat Won The West. He's beat them all at one point or another. His owners believed in him so much, they told us the story (of why he retired and then returned to the races) and it was just a no-brainer for us." 2010 Graduate Final William R. Haughton Memorial Smiley recalled why he bought Shark Gesture. Even though he was big and growthy, Smiley liked him, viewing him six times. "There are certain horses you go to the auction and put a price on and you go to that price or a few bucks more," Smiley said. "With him I said I was buying him, period."  Smiley subsequently offered shares to his brother, Gerald, and Thomas and Louis Pantone. Typical of a Cam's Card Shark offspring, Shark Gesture grew into his body from two to three. He stood about 17 hands high and had a long stride. Early in Shark Gesture's two-year-old season, he won the Bluegrass in 1:51 3/5, but he was still developing and growing. As a three-year-old, he did some amazing things, none more so than winning the Breeders Crown only a week after he fell down in a mishap in his elimination race for the final. He finished third and was moved up to second, but Norm Smiley and trainer Erv Miller feared the colt might not survive the accident. Once the bike and equipment were removed, Shark Gesture stood up and walked off as if nothing had happened, although he did have some cuts and abrasions. Driver Brian Sears, Miller, Smiley and the horse's vet shook their heads in disbelief. "If that's not a tough horse, I don't know what is," Smiley said.   A week later, he won the Breeders Crown with George Brennan, who would become his principle driver, steering him in what was a clean trip, racing on or near the pace. "Nobody knew that horse like Georgie," Smiley said.  "George was tremendous with that horse from the first time he drove him." Shark Gesture raced only eight times in an abbreviated four-year-old season and was retired, his notable victory in the New Hampshire. Some of the notable offspring from the 32 starters from his first crop as a sire include stakes winner Piston Broke, 1:49.2s ($291,131) and Best Ears, 1:49.4f, ($188,483). After Shark Gesture recovered from his injury and trained solidly, Norm Smiley made the decision to bring the horse back to the races. It would prove to be a shrewd decision. In 2009 at the age of six, Shark Gesture came into his own, racing 29 times and winning seven, including the Haughton Memorial and Canadian Pacing Derby and topping all pacers with more than $900,000 in earnings. At age seven, he raced 12 times and winning seven, notably the Graduate, Bettors Delight, Dan Patch (by a whopping 10½ lengths), and repeating in the Haughton.  He finished second by a length in the Franklin. He was retired at the end of the season.  "He was just amazing," Norm Smiley said. "This horse never got the respect he deserved. He was a tremendous racehorse." By Perry Lefko, for Harness Racing Update

March 23, 2014 - HANA Harness is pleased to announce the initial Gold Sponsors of this year's handicapping contest along with the handicappers and rescues they are representing in this year's event. This year's Grand Circuit 'Shoot-Out Handicapping Contest is being sponsored by prior year sponsors, The Hambletonian Society, Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs. New this year to the Gold Level Sponsorship level is DRF Harness and Northfield Park. Thanks to the sponsors which have already committed, at least $3,000 will be distributed to Standardbred rescues as a result of this year's contest. Additional sponsorships, primarily at the Silver and Bronze levels. are still available. Whether a racetrack, horsemen's group, or a provider of services related to harness racing, HANA Harness welcomes your sponsorship of this contest. 100% of all funds are directed to approved standardbred rescues. For further information regarding sponsorship opportunities, you may send an email to allan@hanaweb.org. In addition to the initial gold level sponsors, the contestants for the 2014 HANA Harness Grand Circuit 'Shoot-Out' Handicapping Contest presented by The Hambletonian Society, DRF Harness, Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment, Northfield Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs have been named. This year we have a mix of handicappers of all age groups, from teens and up; some returning and first time contestants. Along with the names of the handicappers is their primary relationship to racing, how they finished in their last HANA Harness Contest (if competed before), and the standardbred equine rescue they are playing for in this year's contest. For complete biographies of the handicappers, you may visit the contest website for additional information. Garnet Barnsdale - Harness Racing Writer; Finished 6th in 2013, Rescue: TROTR; Therapeutic Riding and Off-Track Rehabilitation) Ray Cotolo - Internet Harness Racing Analyst and Writer; Did Not Compete, Rescue: Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals Ray Garnett -Handicapper; Finished 10th in 2013, Rescue: Rockin T Equine Rescue Derick Giwner - Editor, DRF Harness; Did Not Compete, Rescue: New Vocations Sally Hinckley - On-air Handicapping Personality; Finished 9th in 2013, Rescue: Sunshine Horse Rescue. Mark McKelvie - Handicapper; Finished 8th in 2013, Rescue: Rainhill Sanctuary. Rusty Nash - Trackmaster Handicapper; Finished 2nd in 2013, Rescue: Central Virginia Horse Rescue Dennis O'Hara - Handicapper, Former Asst Race Secretary; Finished 5th in 2013, Rescue: Standardbred Retirement Foundation Earl Paulson - Handicapper, Yahoo Harness Racing Forum Director; Finished 3rd in 2013, Rescue: Heading for Home Anne Stepien - Handicapper, Former Trainer; Finished 4th in 2013, Rescue: Heart of Phoenix Gordon Waterstone - Associate Editor, Horseman and Fair World; Finished 7th in 2013, Rescue: Racer Placers Brandon Valvo - Handicapper, Writer; Did Not Compete, Rescue: Changing Fates Equine Rescue Josi Verlingieri - Handicapper; Did Not Compete, Rescue: Helping Hearts Equine Rescue. Bob Zanakis - Ocean Downs Handicapper; Finished 3rd in 2012, Rescue: Horse Lovers United. The first leg of the 2014 Grand Circuit 'Shoot-Out' is scheduled for April 26, 2014 when the finals of the George Morton Levy Memorial Pace and the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series will be contested at Yonkers Raceway. A complete list of bcontest days may be found here. by Allan Schott, for HANA

The Meadowlands wishes to remind horsemen that a number of Meadowlands stakes have sustaining payments due by March 15. However, since the 15th falls on a Saturday this year, payments postmarked by Monday (March 17) will be accepted.   Also, The Meadowlands Pace for foals of 2012 requires a two year old nomination payment of $400 due by March 15 to make those horses eligible to race in the 2015 Pace. This two year old payment will permit a 30% reduction to the sustaining payments required next year at age three to continue eligibility to the Pace.   Please visit The Meadowlands website for forms and further information.   Tioga & Vernon Downs remind horsemen that stakes administered by those tracks have nomination and sustaining payments due by March 15. However, since the 15th falls on a Saturday this year, payments postmarked by Monday (March 17) will be accepted.   Those payments include the Empire Breeders Classic sustaining payments on the foals of 2012 that will race as three year olds this year, nomination payment for this year's two year olds to race in the 2105 edition and stallions that bred mares in New York during the 2012 season to make their foals of 2013 eligible to the 2016 race.   The Kindergarten Trotting Classic for freshman in 2014 and the complete slate of stakes for older horses also have a March 15 nomination.   Please visit the websites for forms and further information.   Submitted by the Meadowlands, Tioga and Vernon Downs    

By Bill Liblick, re-printed with permission by www.sullivancountypost.com As EPR Properties and Empire Resorts prepares to present their resort destination plans next Thursday evening at a private presentation at Bethel Woods, and not at Empire’s operational facility, the harness racing horsemen at Monticello Raceway have declared war. The horsemen feel they have been betrayed and used as a pawn by Empire Resorts, the owner of Monticello Raceway, and are fearful that the Standardbred racetrack and the industry that has employed thousands of residents over the years in Sullivan County will be gone if the company receives a license to operate a full-fledged gaming hall. When racino’s were permitted in New York State it saved the horse racing industry from dying. The introduction of video slot terminals has seen racetracks such as Monticello, Tioga Downs, Saratoga, and Yonkers flourish thanks to a percentage of the take going into racing purses. Although attendance and actual pool totals from Monticello Raceway attendees is minimal, the racetrack has become a cash cow for Empire Resorts thanks to simulcasting and off-track betting wagering.  Monticello Raceway has in essence become a huge television studio. Under proposals from EPR and Empire Resorts they say they are going to construct a new harness track at the Concord no matter what happens – with or without table games – but will they? Horsemen claim Empire Resorts is capping purses at 2013 levels and if they are granted a table gaming license there will be no increases. They also say there are no guarantees the harness track will even remain open. The Monticello Harness Horsemen’s Association has declared a war against Empire Resorts. They argue track owners slammed the door on them once the resort destination amendment was approved in November and that they refuse to negotiate. Things are so bad, the horsemen have exercised their right to stop Monticello’s simulcast signal from being broadcast, preventing Empire Resorts and New York State from receiving millions in revenue. Empire has since slashed purses and cut back the number of races in a card. They have even shut down the horsemen’s lunch room. According to Alan Schwartz, President of Monticello’s Harness Association The dispute between management and the horsemen at Monticello Raceway is very easy to understand. “The parent company of the racetrack seeks to obtain a lucrative license to construct a Las Vegas style casino, complete with slot machines and table games. They would be one of just two, and possibly the only casino permitted in the Catskills. Despite the tremendous windfall such a license would bring to the parent company, it flatly refuses to allow the horsemen or breeders to share in any portion of the huge anticipated profits.” Schwartz claims that “in order to get the casino amendment passed, management both figuratively and literally called the horsemen their “partners.” The logo of their lobbying group prominently contains a horse. Their radio commercials ballyhooed their support for racing. Of course, once the amendment passed, management’s idea of “partnership” quickly degenerated.” Under the present video lottery gaming law, horsemen and breeders get a fixed percentage of the track’s net win. When a racino underperforms, the purse money generated is less, even though it isn’t the horsemen’s fault. When the racino does well, purses go up modestly – In essence a true economic partnership. Schwartz maintains Empire Resorts wants a firm cap on purses and breeding contributions at 2013 levels. He says if that happens, harness racing will become a near-zero or zero growth industry. “Nobody is going to buy or breed horses in this state when places like Ohio, Massachusetts, Delaware and Pennsylvania offer significantly more industry support.” Schwartz acknowledges that harness racing won’t die in the next several years, but “consider, however, that the price of feed, diesel fuel, veterinary services; literally anything you can think of, will be significantly higher in just a few years. Once you can’t pay to maintain racehorses, the sport will evaporate from sheer economics – And that’s exactly what our racetrack management “partners” would love to see happen.” Although Empire Resorts blames Albany for the horsemen’s plight, Schwartz asserts the law speaks only about minimum contributions. “No government can interfere with the private right of contract. Racetrack management hides behind Albany when, in reality, their own lobbyists pushed for and signed off on the legislation.” Schwartz says “The horsemen and breeders at Monticello and elsewhere refuse to be “silent” former partners. If management wishes to embrace us as economic partners, as mandated under the video lottery gaming law, gaming can move forward in a meaningful way in the Catskills, and the renaissance created by Albany through the VLT program can continue to flourish, for not only the six harness tracks owners but also for the state, education and the agriculture and racing industries. If that doesn’t occur, we really have nothing else to lose.” Schwartz professes he is trying to negotiate in good faith, but Empire Resorts is not, so with “few weapons in this fight” they had to pull the simulcasting signal. “We are also acutely aware of the loss of revenue to the track, the horsemen and the industry. Yet, we have pondered just how much money these track operators strive for while they jeopardize an entire industry for their own profit; a racing industry that worked hard to spawn the birth of VLTs at tracks in this and other states. We cannot just sit by and watch an industry get swallowed up by a handful of track operators professing to be concerned about our sport, whose ultimate goal is to kill it.” The right to withhold the export of signal from Monticello is a right granted to horsemen by Federal law. Schwartz explained, “That 1978 law very wisely recognizes that the horsemen at a host track are the real guardians of this sport. It armed the horsemen with the important tool to use only when they perceived a crisis threatening the very existence of the game. It has been used very sparingly and with the utmost of caution.” A mediator has been appointed by the New York State Gaming Commission in an attempt to resolve the situation. Charles Degliomini, executive vice president of Empire Resorts/Monticello Raceway issued the following statement in response the suspension of simulcasting. “Monticello Casino & Raceway (“MC&R”) continues to support the Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act (“Gaming Act”). When they authored the Gaming Act, the Senate, Assembly and the Executive protected the Monticello Harness Horsemen’s Association (“MHHA”), and the entire racing industry. As New York State moves toward approving four casinos in upstate New York, future revenue for the horsemen is governed by the Gaming Act, and current revenue is governed by the New York State Lottery for Education Law. Degliomini added, “It is sad and unfortunate that we are being attacked for legislation that actually protects harness horsemen’s interests. While MC&R continues in good faith, through negotiation and mediation, to attempt to secure an agreement with MHHA, the MHHA is now attempting to amend a law that they don’t like by unfairly punishing our business, our employees, our loyal customers and even their own members. We are simply track owners, not elected officials. The MHHA should stop this destructive behavior and turn the simulcasting signal back on.” With all the new resort destination proposals coming out of the woodwork this dispute is something Sullivan County does not need. Schwartz does raise many valid concerns that must be addressed if a racino operator is granted a full gaming license, Monticello Raceway, the horsemen, and the industry must be protected.  

Rikybrnthegaragdwn and King Of The Crop put on four great battles in the California Sire Stakes series for the 3-year-old pacing males at this standat Cal Expo Harness, ending up with two trophies each once the dust had settled. The Luke Plano reined-and-trained Rikybrinthegaragdwn drew first blood on January 18, but had to be happy with a second and a third in the next two stakes clashes behind King Of The Crop and driver/trainer James Kennedy. Rikybrnthegaradgdwn evened the score last weekend, carving out all the fractions and then coming a :26 and change final quarter to hold safe by a head over his pocket-sitting arch-rival in a very game performance. They're both nice horses, but still green, Plano related after his colt scored in 1:55 2/5, a week after motoring by conditioned foes in a 1:55 tour. Even though Riky is a stud, hes as mild-tempered a horse as youre ever going to be around. Hes got a great personality and a toddler could jog him. By Living It Up out of the fine racemare and producer Sports Bra, Rikybrnthegaragdwn was broken last year in Florida by Lukes dad Rick and has really developed in the last few months. Hes getting better all the time, the younger Plano noted. I think hes going to turn out to be a good one. Of course, one cant interview Luke without asking about the name, which it turns out goes back many years and involves his dad, his uncle and his grandfather. The story goes that my dad burned down the garage when he was a kid, but my grandfather was never told who did it. Anytime my uncle Fran wanted something from my dad and he didnt get it, he would ask my grandfather, Who do you think burned down the garage? and my dad would have to give in. We now have an answer to that burning question. Haggin Oaks has top billing in Open Distaff Pace Haggin Oaks, who returned to her winning ways with a solid score at most recent asking, gets the top billing in Friday nights $5,000 Open Handicap Distaff Pace at Cal Expo. A 13-race card is on tap, with first set for 5:45 p.m. The main event will go as the second contest on the evening with Haggin Oaks leaving from the assignment outside post with trainer James Kennedy at the controls. An 8-year-old daughter of Hi Ho Silverheels from the Incredible Finale mare Ladyladybemybaby, Haggin Oaks races for the partnership of Shari Burns, Ferris Funk and Gerald Cimini. She comes into this assignment with $158.000 in the bank and a 1:52 3/5 mark that was established last year at Tioga Downs. After recording a smart win here on November 22, the dark-hued mare had to settle for a series of place and show finishes while chasing home the likes of Show Runner and Strings. Both of those mares have headed East, leaving Haggin Oaks as the big gun in the division. Sent off at 50 cents on the dollar in her last appearance two weeks ago in the Open, the Kennedy trainee lived up to the backing as she made the lead at the quarter, took complete control at that point and came home with a length and a half to spare in a 1:54 3/5 performance. Ladys Art hits hard with her top mile and has to be respected. James Wilkinson conditions the daughter of Art Major for owner/breeders Kenneth Seastron and James Kouretas and Chip Lackey will be in his usual spot in the sulky. Her last score came in a conditioned affair on January 17. Completing the field are Sea Bug, who leaves from the rail with Patrick Galbraith; Windsun T Bird, to be handled by Luke Plano; and Pismo Beach, who will have the services of Mooney Svendsen. by Matt Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness  

There is a “grass roots” movement currently going on in harness racing, which is being led by two prominent horse owners, Richard and Joanne Young of South Florida. They have been owners in the Standardbred industry for 20 plus years. Joanne has been riding and showing Arabian horses for 30 years. Over the years they have had the pleasure of owning not one, but two world champion performers, Put On A Show (31 wins in 50 starts with earnings of $2.4 million) and I Luv The Nitelife (17 wins in 25 stars with earnings of $1.9 million) in addition to other stakes winners over the years. I Luv The Nitelife was recently announced as the Three-Year-Old Pacing Filly of the Year for 2013. They travel throughout the country to watch their horse’s race and are big supporters of the industry. Now the Young’s are on a different mission, one that has been involved in a series of hotly debated discussions for years but solutions have been far from being solved. The Young’s want every track and state racing commission that has harness racing to put a stop to drivers who over use the whip in races and take their feet and touch or kick their horse during a race. This all came about because someone did a blog on the internet last Fall, regarding the non compliance with the rules regarding kicking and whipping that woke Joanne Young up. The Young’s took the initiative and started asking and inquiring about the rules and regulations of various states. They sent letters and emails to major race and industry officials throughout the country and learned quite a bit. “I couldn’t tell you how many emails, letters and calls we made,” Joanne said. “ We got back some calls and about a half dozen emails and some of them were so encouraging. Most states have rules but track management and the judges need to enforce them and in some cases increase the fines and suspensions significantly so drivers will not abuse the horses as many do.” “Tracks and judges make their own rules and maybe give a fine after a couple of offenses.” Young said. “It’s like a slap on the wrist and some drivers may say it’s worth the fine to win the race because of the purse. Personally I don’t see why either method is used.  These horses are bred to race and I don’t believe that a whip or a “kick” does anything to make the horse perform better.  To those people that say the “kick” is nothing and does not hurt the horse, I say all you have to do is watch what happens to the driver’s leg when he comes into contact with the hock.  The leg is forcefully pushed back and looks like kicking.  So whatever you want to call it, it looks horrible and the public perceives it as abuse.  For that reason alone it needs to be banned.”  According The United States Trotting Association’s penalties that are suggestions as guidelines to pari-mutuel state gaming commission and racetracks are:  “The penalty for kicking as defined herein shall not be less than 9 days suspension.”  For excessive whipping the suggestion is, “The mandatory minimum penalty for a whipping violation shall be a fine in the amount of $100 and a 3 day suspension from driving for the first offense and for each subsequent violation the mandatory minimum penalty shall increase in the amount of $100 and 3 days (e.g. $200 and 6 days for the 2nd offense, $300 and 9 days for the 3rd offense, etc.)”  “These rules are a joke and everyone in the harness racing business knows it, because either they are not enforced or the penalty is too lenient.” Joanne Young said. “ We want to see a cohesive rule that states that the right hand remain on the right line and the left hand remain on the left line during the race and that the feet must have no contact with the horse.    “The penalty for not following these rules will be suspension for 2 months and a $5,000 fine,” Young continued, “or placement of the horse. We need to make the punishment harsh enough to stop the actions.  Of course an easier fix is just to ban both practices immediately. Other countries have rules in place and no kicking or one handing whipping is allowed or tolerated. If the owners/drivers/trainers lose money you can bet that the drivers will stop immediately. We need to bring some credibility back to this sport.” Jeff Gural, the prominent owner and CEO of three racetracks, the Meadowlands, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs, wrote back and also talked with the Young’s about their quest and encouraged them with this scenario. “I met with the drivers before the start of the meet,” Gural said, “and told them anyone kicking a horse would not be allowed to drive at our tracks, period. No one complained. The whipping is tricky because to change the rule in NJ you need public hearings, etc. The drivers are opposed to this but we have implemented a temporary rule which has cut it way down, but I will back any effort to make the rules stricter.” Joanne has been in touch with the Ohio and Kentucky Racing Commission in regards to their recent rule changes.  She is also in the midst of trying to get a rule change on the agenda with the New Jersey Racing Commission. The Young’s also have had encouraging conversations with prominent owners, drivers and trainers who are on board with rule changes and harsher penalties.  Not everyone though wants to publicly share his or her personal views.  According to Joanne, this is due to the fact that the  “old school” of racing sees nothing wrong with the status quo and some fear repercussions.  “We had one judge,” Richard Young said, “Who actually said he had no problem with a driver touching the hock or flank of a horse when racing and that as long as a driver did not slash a horse with a whip, it was okay. He said horses are tough and can take it. That just infuriated us to no end. How can anyone, especially, a racing judge, say something like that?  “We want this movement to be in a positive light,” Joanne Young explained. “There is a public perception of abuse and we can and should stop it. It is an easy fix for the harness racing commissions to all agree to a cohesive and enforceable rule. I also believe the drivers would like the same rule for all the harness tracks making their job easier.  The USTA is going to be meeting this March. If you a proponent of banning the kicking and one handed whipping please voice your opinion with them or contact me. All we need is for the racing commissions to agree, and we can finally put this controversial subject to rest.” By Steve Wolf for Harnesslink.com

Coral Springs, FL - Video streaming of harness racing's biggest night of the year, the Dan Patch Awards Banquet, will take place this Sunday, February 23, 2014 at Dover Downs, Delaware, and can be seen on the United States Trotting Association's (USTA) website, www.ustrotting.com. Heading the awards will be the announcement of the 2013 Harness Horse of the Year along with both the Pacer and Trotter of the Year winners. The voting was conducted by the United States Harness Writers Association membership and race secretaries throughout the country. The cocktail party outside the Grand Ballroom begins at 6:00 pm and the awards ceremony takes place at 7:30 pm. The video streaming of the Dan Patch awards banquet is being provided by Roberts Communications and is being co-sponsored by Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs. Awards will be made to the top trotters and pacers in each of their respective divisions per gait, age and gender from the 2013 race season, with the human stars of last year being honored as well. It will also be the first introduction of the recent inductees to the Harness Racing Museum Living Hall of Fame, David Miller and Bill Weaver, and the Communicators Hall of Fame inductees, Carol Cramer and John Pawlak. By Steven Wolf, president of USHWA

Nichols, NY - Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs have announced their 2014 stakes schedule, with an estimated $4.3 million in purses to attract the top horses in New York and across North America throughout the season. Tioga Downs opens their stakes season on Sunday, June 1 with the $200,000e Roll With Joe Open Pace. New York Sire Stakes races mark the calendar through June and July, leading up to the $350,000e Tompkins-Geers Stakes for two- and three-year-olds of both gaits. Unlike years past, where the Tompkins-Geers Stakes have been contested throughout an entire week of racing, two-year-old pacers will have their events on Sunday, August 3, while two-year-old trotters and three-year-olds of both gaits will race on Sunday, August 17. Between the Tompkins-Geers events, New York-sired sophomore pacers will take the spotlight on Sunday, August 10 in the $500,000e Empire Breeders Classic, with separate events for each sex. If needed, eliminations are scheduled for the week prior. Labor Day (Monday, September 1) proves to be a banner day in the Southern Tier, with a trio of stakes events headlining the afternoon. The $110,000e Shady Daisy for three-year-old pacing fillies and a $40,000e preliminary leg of the Miss Versatility for older trotting mares comprise the undercard features for the day, while three-year-old pacers take center stage in the $350,000e Cane Pace-the first leg of the Triple Crown for pacers. The $125,000 Reynolds Stakes for two-year-olds closes out the stakes schedule at Tioga, with trotting divisions on Thursday, September 4, and pacing divisions on Friday, September 12. Vernon Downs kicks off their stakes season on Sunday, June 8, with New York-sired three-year-old trotters contesting the $500,000e Empire Breeders Classic (like the pacers, separate events are held for each sex). If eliminations are necessary, they will take place on Friday, May 30. New York Sire Stakes events cover the early summer months, leading up to the first of two big nights at Vernon on Friday, August 29. The $700,000e Harry Zweig Memorial Trot for three-year-olds once again serves as the centerpiece of the Vernon Downs stakes schedule, with top open trotters sharing the spotlight that night in the $200,000e Crawford Farms Trot (formerly known as the Credit Winner). Two-year-olds of both gaits and sexes contest the $100,000e Simpson Stakes on Friday, October 24, leading up to a blockbuster Closing Night program, featuring a trio of rich events on Saturday, November 1. Two-year-old trotters wrap up the Kindergarten Classic series with a $200,000e final, and top distaffers compete in a pair of $200,000e events as well-trotters in the Muscle Hill, and pacers in the Artiscape, which moved to Vernon after being raced at Tioga in past seasons. Nomination forms and more information can be found at www.tiogadowns.com and www.vernondowns.com. by James Witherite, for Tioga Downs  

2013 was a dynamic year for super horse Captaintreacherous and his trainer Tony Alagna, winning 13 out of 16 races and bagging over $2,000,000 in purse money. It was truly an unbelievable season that saw the 3 year old son of Somebeachsomewhere travel throughout the continent, winning at Mohawk Racetrack in Canada and at Balmoral Park, Pocono Downs, The Red Mile, Hoosier Park, Tioga Downs and The Meadowlands in the USA. After a well deserved break, the 4-year-old Captaintreacherous returned home to Tony Alagna’s farm at the end of January, in anticipation of a great 2014 season. Will Captaintreacherous, driven by Tim Tetrick, win another $2,000,000 in 2014? That’s tough to predict, but even if Captaintreacherous won half that amount, it would be still be an unbelievable achievement which rarely happens.  Captaintreacherous is the Lebron James of horse racing, all they do is win. Trainer Tony Alagna, (Anthony P. Alagna is his full name), has been working with horses his entire life. Tony would help his family after school, on weekends and during the summer when he wasn’t in school. Ever since Tony can remember, his dream was to run his own stable and have a fleet of world class horses. With the wonderful success of 2013, it’s interesting how some in the industry welcome him as a new comer when he’s been here all along. Tony views that opinion as odd and explains, “People view you as you’re an overnight sensation when you’ve been in the business your whole life. My parents trained horses when I was a kid, my mom still trains in Chicago.” “Sometimes people are surprised of the success I’ve had in the last four years on my own…. It’s hasn’t been a four year plan, it’s been a lifetime of work and goals to get to this part.” says Tony. “I like to tell people I’m the oldest new comer around.” Prior to running his own operation, Tony trained horses for other stables for 16 years, including working for Irv Miller and Fox Valley Standardbreds. “It’s been a lifetime of being around the horses and learning to get to the stage I am at now.” Tony admits.  When it comes to a horse’s personality, they’re just like humans, each one is unique. Tony says “They’re like kids, each one has their own learning curve”. As to what it was like when Captaintreacherous joined Alagna Stables and how his learning curve was, Tony said “…he’s really an easy horse who makes us look good.” “He’s very schedule orientated” Tony says. “During the racing season he doesn’t get any days off, we jog him every day. He’s very simple, when he’s done he is ready for lunch. For what he likes to do, he is very ritual like. He is what the doctor ordered, as far as we are concerned, being the first great son of Somebeachsomewhere.” Once Tony and the ownership group saw his pedigree, it was love at first sight. “We only looked at the horse because it was the pedigree we loved. Secondly, when we saw the horse, he was the complete package…. He’s a great individual and a great athlete.” Tony says. Once they brought him back to the farm and turned him out Tony admits “…he had a presence about him. It was something special from the get-go. Whenever he stopped, he would look at you. Like he was looking for you and you weren’t looking for him. There is just a special presence with a great horse. We spent a lot of money, with the hope of, if he showed up the possibilities would be endless and we are blessed it turned out that way.” With a well deserved vacation over, it’s time to get back to the fun of racing. For 2014, Captaintreacherous will not be ready to race until June and as for any races Tony and the ownership are looking to enter Captaintreacherous, it is too soon to say. Tony points out what they’re going to do and states, “Like we did last year, we are going to pick and choose our spots. We haven’t marked down any dates; we want to try (and) win major stake races and continue to add to his already strong resume.” Captaintreacherous came back to Alagna stables “much bigger and stronger.” according to Tony. “He really filled out and he’s more mature…. We had to let out his harness, it’s much bigger than last year’s. He’s a very entertaining horse, that’s one of the reasons why we did the stall camera. I told everybody that this horse is very entertaining during the day…. He’s so playful it’s a lot of fun for people to watch. I know some people who cannot believe his antics throughout the day.” As to who can challenge Captaintreacherous this season, there are a few Tony thinks can have a breakout year which should make this year quite intriguing. Tony notes, “There are a lot of great horses coming back this year. Foiled Again is coming back and (trainer) Ron Burke has some great horses coming back, there’s Sweet Lou…. There is plenty of competition, we hope our horse is going to continue to do the work he’s done and do us proud.” Tony is proud of Captaintreacherous and hopes to one day guide the sons and daughters of Captaintreacherous to the same level of success. There is still a lot of racing to do, but Tony being one for charting things out, has already given some thought as to which mares he would like to breed with Captaintreacherous. “My long term goal with this horse is, someday train Captaintreacherous’ sons and daughters out of fillies I have in the barn right now. I don’t feel like we are setting up ourselves for having 2 or 3 years of success, rather hoping we set up ourselves for 10 years of success. We bought fillies last year and bought fillies this year, with Captaintreacherous in mind as the stallion. American Ideal and Western Ideal fillies, we think, will compliment Captaintreacherous with him being from Somebeachsomewhere.” Getting to know Tony was great. Tony considers his entire home to be his man cave! He has everything spread out so it’s all accessible at any time for convenience. Since Tony travels extensively throughout the racing season, his form of unwinding is coming home to relax. He does enjoy going to New York City to watch a show, but other than that Tony considers himself very low key. For fans, Tony wants to help promote the sport and deliver top class entertainment. Tony asserts, “It’s our responsibility as trainers, owners and drivers to do our part to keep the positive flow going. We need to make ourselves more accessible to the fans, I think we need to bring down all the stereo types we have within the industry. There are so many things we need to try do to bring the fans back to the track because there’s more competition… we need to make it  family orientated, where it’s a fun night out and not just about gambling.” It’s thanks to people like Tony Alagna, Tim Tetrick, Mike Hamilton and Scott Zeron that fans can continue to enjoy great experiences at the races. by Roderick Balgobin for the Supernova Sports Club www.supernovasportsclub.com   Twitter: @ScSupernova

Nichols, NY -- Horsemen are now able to access all information for Tioga & Vernon Downs live and stakes racing season on each track's website. The 2014 season at Vernon Downs will begin on Friday, April 11 and conclude with a stakes-laden card on Saturday, November 1. The $200,000e Artiscape (mare pace), Muscle Hill (mare trot) and $200,000e Kindergarten Trotting Classic final have been scheduled for the closing night card as a logical springboard to the 2014 Breeders Crown at The Meadowlands. Friday, August 29 is another red-letter day at Vernon, with the $700,000e Zweig Memorial three year old trot and the newly christened $200,000e Crawford Farms Open Trot (formerly known as the Credit Winner) sharing the spotlight. The first leg of the 2014 $50,000 Tioga/Vernon Drivers' Challenge is scheduled for that evening, as well. Tioga will begin, as has been the custom each year, on Kentucky Derby day (Saturday, May 3). Season highlights include the $200,000e Roll With Joe Open Pace on Sunday, June 1 and the $350,000e Cane Pace-the first jewel of pacing's Triple Crown-on Labor Day, September 1. The second half of the Drivers' Challenge is set for that Labor Day card at Tioga as well. Visit tiogadowns.com and vernondowns.com for stakes nomination forms, live racing calendars and other pertinent information. by James Witherite for Tioga Downs  

NICHOLS, NY - The holiday season was a little brighter for hundreds of area families thanks to the generosity of the Southern Tier Harness Horsemen's Association. The group, whose members compete at Tioga Downs, made a $10,000 donation in December to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, which serves a six-county region in and around Tioga Downs. "This donation has become a yearly tradition for our organization and we are thrilled to support the Food Bank especially during the holiday season," said Guy Howard, president of the S.T.H.H.A. "We have a great working relationship with Tioga Downs and Jeff Gural, and since they are such strong supporters of the Food Bank, we are happy to follow their lead and join them with our support." The ninth season of live racing at Tioga Downs is scheduled to begin on Kentucky Derby Day, May 3, 2014 (pending regulatory approval). by Justin Horowitz for Tioga Downs  

East Rutherford, NJ - For the past year, Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment has been conducting out of competition testing on horses racing at The Meadowlands, in part to determine if any trainers are using illegal substances, but also to gather information pertaining to what racehorses are being given prior to their races and to implement rules to keep the horses safe. This testing, performed in a joint effort by The Meadowlands and other jurisdictions, is in the form of blood samples taken from horses racing at The Meadowlands. We had heard rumors that a substance known as Cobalt was being used because it was difficult to detect and was not being tested for. A large number of these samples have revealed the presence of Cobalt in the horse's system. In two cases there were massive amounts present when the samples were analyzed by the lab at the Hong Kong Jockey Club. In both cases those trainers are no longer allowed to participate at our three tracks. After a lengthy process, including researching into what Cobalt is and what it does for the horses and discussions with many veterinarians, The Meadowlands has determined that when an excessive amount of Cobalt is administered to a horse, it can be very harmful. When used in excess, the affects of Cobalt can be, but are not limited to: cardiovascular issues, potential nerve problems, thickening of the blood and thyroid toxicity. Based on this information, The Meadowlands has determined that in excessive levels, Cobalt is both a performance enhancing substance and detrimental to the health and well-being of the horse. We are quite certain that trainers and veterinarians using Cobalt were well aware of this. Therefore, going forward The Meadowlands has established a threshold level of four (4) times the standard deviation above the normal level of Cobalt. If a blood sample reveals that a horse has a Cobalt level higher than four (4) times the standard deviation above the normal level, the trainer of that horse will be deemed unable to participate at The Meadowlands, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs. The odds of a horse having a Cobalt level that exceeds this threshold without having been administered an excessive amount of the substance are roughly 1 in 10,000. "We are committed to providing the most integrity-driven product in harness racing," said Chairman Jeff Gural. "We set out on a mission when taking over The Meadowlands to not only provide our customers with that integrity-driven product, but to do what is best for the horse and for the industry. This threshold of Cobalt being implemented for horses competing at The Meadowlands, Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs is just one step toward achieving what we set out to achieve. If you are found to be giving your horses an excessive amount of this substance, you are not racing at any of our three racetracks, plain and simple. This is not about catching trainers that are cheating, this is about keeping our equine athletes safe and healthy and providing our betting public and all of our participants a product that is on a level playing field." by Rachel Ryan for the Meadowlands                

December 17, 2013 - In addition to providing handicappers an opportunity to show off their handicapping skills and provide race fans with some wagering ideas during the year, one of the major goals of HANA Harness has been to raise awareness and funds for standardbred rescues. Thanks to our handicappers, who have been willing to handicap lengthy contests for nothing more than satisfaction in knowing they are helping unwanted horses and our sponsors who have allowed HANA Harness to donate $in excess of $7,000 over the past two years. While HANA Harness is thankful for last year's sponsors, we would like to specifically thank this year's sponsors for their donations, for without their assistance, we would not be able to donate funds to this year's worthwhile rescues. Thanks to our Gold Sponsors, the Hambletonian Society, Chicago Harness (Balmoral and Maywood Parks), Illinois Harness Horseman Association, Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs. In addition to these sponsors, recognition also goes to our Silver Sponsor, Red Shores Charlottetown for their donation to Canadian Standardbred Rescue. HANA Harness looks forward to hosting another handicapping contest in 2014. We welcome sponsorships from racing organizations, tracks operators, horsemen associations, suppliers, and owners. If you wish to be considered for possible sponsorship opportunities in 2014, you may contact HANA Harness at allan@hanaweb.org to be contacted when the time is appropriate. by Alan Schott for HANA  

December 8, 2013 – With one race remaining in HANA Harness’ 2013 Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge sponsored by the Hambletonian Society, Chicago Harness, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs, handicapper Richard Scott, who has led a majority of the way in the contest, remains in front with a seemingly comfortable lead of $736.45 with a net loss of $134.40.  With only the Cleveland Classic remaining on the docket, it will take some Hail Mary handicapping for anyone to wrest the top spot from Scott. With donations being made to the designated horse rescue charities of the top three, the real race is for the place and show spots which are currently held by Earl Paulson and Rusty Nash.  Hoping to crack into the top three are handicappers Anne Stepien and Dennis O’Hara with Garnet Barnsdale having a slight chance  to make the top three. In this week’s action, with the Reynolds 3yo filly pace being cancelled, the Reynolds 3yo colt pace was the sole contest.  Rusty Nash was top dog for the week with a profit of $6.80. Here are the contest standings at the conclusion of action on December 8, 2013 with one week to go. Pos Handicapper Week Gain Net Profit Behind Last Pos Days Missed 1st Richard Scott ($7.00) ($134.40)   1st 6 2nd Earl Paulson ($30.00) ($870.85) ($736.45) 2nd 7 3rd Rusty Nash $6.80 ($929.07) ($794.67) 3rd 4 4th Ann Stepien ($25.40) ($1,062.35) ($927.95) 4th 1 5th Dennis O'Hara $2.10 ($1,226.35) ($1,091.95) 5th 2 6th Garnet Barnsdale ($30.00) ($1,457.74) ($1,323.34) 6th 10 7th Gordon Waterstone ($30.00) ($2,070.60) ($1,936.20) 7th 4 8th Mark McKelvie ($30.00) ($2,379.79) ($2,245.39) 8th 9 9th Sally Hinckley ($30.00) ($2,700.50) ($2,566.10) 9th 0 10th Ray Garnett ($30.00) ($3,210.43) ($3,076.03) 10th 3 Ten grace days permitted.  After ten days, there is a penalty of $30 per race. This Week’s  Contest Schedule Saturday, December 14, 2013 – Northfield Park; $130,000(Est.) Cleveland Classic - Open by Allan Schott for HANA  

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