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YONKERS, N.Y. – Of the 19 entrants to the M Life Rewards Ladies Series first leg at Yonkers Raceway Monday (March 2), Lovin Cocoa is the least experienced with just nine pari-mutuel starts under her belt. However, harness racing trainer Travis Alexander hopes she will make up for it on speed and talent. She is also one of four starters in the series for Alexander. The 4-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven mare enters the M Life Rewards Ladies off an 8-length victory in a local $14,000 overnight Feb. 11, an effort that caught even her trainer by surprise. Lovin Cocoa had bar shoes on in that start, a move Alexander was sure was a mistake after she warmed up that night. “To be honest, before the race I was absolutely petrified because I had put bar shoes on her and she was absolutely terrible warming up, to the point where we almost scratched her,” Alexander said. “I told Matt (Kakaley) just to be careful, that it was my fault, not hers, she doesn’t like these bars, she doesn’t like the frog pressure. She’s not lame, she just doesn’t like the shoes.” Lovin Cocoa raced in fifth early 9 1/2 lengths off the pace. She moved to the outside straightening away the first time and advanced without cover. Reaching the backstretch, rival Thaneeya pulled the pocket, forcing Lovin Cocoa three-wide approaching the three-quarters. Passing the 6-furlong marker, she glided past the leaders effortlessly and opened up a pair of lengths. Lovin Cocoa kicked clear in the stretch under Kakaley pistol grips to post the dominating score at 1-9. Although Lovin Cocoa enters the M Life Rewards Ladies as a first-leg morning line favorite, last summer, she was a longshot to race at all. A homebred for Mark and Leslie Wasserman’s Fiddler’s Creek Stable, Lovin Cocoa is out of Scrapping Beauty, the first horse the Wassermans and Alexander had together in 2008. Lovin Cocoa and DD Delicious, Alexander’s other M Life Rewards Ladies entrant, grew up together in the same field. Prone to making breaks at 2, Lovin Cocoa was unraced as a freshman. Last year at 3, Lovin Cocoa had one qualifier June 5 before starting in the New York Excelsior B Series over a sloppy track at Tioga Downs June 10. She finished sixth beaten 6 3/4 lengths and came out of the race with an injury, forcing her to the sidelines. “She bowed both front tendons in the mud at Tioga. She hurt both tendons that night,” Alexander said. “It’s a kick in the butt because that day, DD Delicious won the sire stakes and then two races later, that happens. Highs and lows. It wasn’t terrible, but it was enough to where we had to shut her down. We just did the right thing and Lovin Cocoa is one of Mrs. Wasserman’s favorite horses. That’s been her filly since she was born and so we did what we had to do to go forward. “We healed her tendons and lo and behold, here we are. Honestly, she shouldn’t be racing. Her legs were bad. We didn’t give up, we gave her time, healed her up. Her caretaker (Armando Barragan) does an amazing job, he works hard on her legs. She wants to race, she’s fast enough, it’s just a matter of keeping her sound and happy.” Lovin Cocoa qualified back at Yonkers Nov. 15. She paced her mile in 1:55.4 with a :28.2 final panel. The effort took Alexander and Kakaley by surprise. “Once we had the legs set up and the ultrasounds were good, I knew we were looking good. I didn’t know if she’d get around the half and I didn’t know how much speed she truly had and how much she would have lost due to injury,” Alexander said.  “I qualified her the first time at Yonkers and she paced 55. To be honest, I was mind-blown. Matt and myself were like, ‘where did this come from? What in the world?’ ” Despite the encouraging result, Lovin Cocoa made breaks in her next three starts, all at the Hilltop. Alexander regrouped, sending the filly to the Meadowlands. With Alexander in Florida training babies, Roy Marohn drove Lovin Cocoa to a qualifying win at the Swamp in 1:55.3 Dec. 21. Six days later, she finished third in a $15,000 overnight, pacing the mile in 1:52.4 with :27.2 on the end. “She has a temper. That’s why she was making those breaks early. I had too big of a head pole and I was trying to make her do it our way instead of letting her do it her way,” Alexander said. “I took her to the Meadowlands to get her mind right and I took everything off. Roy Marohn did an amazing job getting her qualified and going. “After that 52 mile at the Meadowlands, I knew,” Alexander continued. “She’s always had speed, her whole family has had speed. The colts of that family have the same temper, but they’re a lot tougher to deal with. I knew she’d be more than competitive in this series. Once we got her racing good, we set her up for that.” Lovin Cocoa enters the M Life Rewards Ladies first leg off nearly three weeks rest. Alexander was forced to make adjustments after her outing with bar shoes and then prepped her for this start. “I had to take the shoes off because the day after, she was sore, so we had to adjust again,” Alexander said. “Young horses or lightly raced horses are a learning curve. You have to find what they will tolerate, you have to find a balance. We went back to the drawing board and I’m very happy with what we came up with. “She’s missed two weeks on purpose just to get her right,” the trainer continued. “She’s trained up very well. I expect a big effort on Monday and going forward. Four weeks in the series, I didn’t want to race her, so we’re managing her and we have high hopes for her.” Lovin Cocoa will start from post four with Matt Kakaley in Monday’s fourth race, the third division of the M Life Rewards Ladies Series. The Series kicks off in race two, where Alexander will send out DD Delicious. DD Delicious started her career last year with two straight overnight wins before jumping into New York Sire Stakes competition. She won one leg at Tioga June 10 and placed in five others to earn a berth in the $225,000 NYSS Final at Batavia Sept. 14. After drawing post eight, she earned a check finishing fifth, boosting her earnings to $140,470 for Fiddler’s Creek Stable, and was pointed to the M Life Rewards Series. “She’s special. She’s a very nice mare. We had some issues last year with some sickness, unfortunately a couple bad posts in the wrong stakes races,” Alexander said. “It worked out because now she fits this series. As soon as she didn’t win the sire stakes final, I shut her down and aimed her just for this series because it’s a good starting point for her 4-year-old year.” DD Delicious spent a couple months turned out in Ohio before shipping to Alexander’s Florida stable to train back. She qualified a winner in 1:56 at Pocono Downs Feb. 12 and prepped for the M Life Rewards Ladies with one start at Yonkers Feb. 18, finishing second in a $16,000 overnight from post eight with Kakaley in the bike. “We sent her down to Florida and she prepped as well as any horse could. Her first start, that was beautiful,” Alexander said. “He sat as long as he could, she sprinted home, had pace on the end of it. She trained very, very well (Friday), couldn’t be happier.” Unraced at 2, DD Delicious had 14 starts at 3. Now entering her 4-year-old season, Alexander feels DD Delicious is coming into her prime. “She’s much stronger, she grew, she put on a lot of muscle. I could tell all winter in Florida and when we qualified her at Pocono, that was the first time (Matt) drove her and he even said he could feel she’s just stronger than last year,” Alexander said. “They race the first year at 3, not having those starts at 2 does hinder them a little bit as far as strength goes.” DD Delicious is the 5-2 morning line second choice behind Tom Milici’s North Star Ideal, who enters off three straight wins. Alexander will also send out two starters in the M Life Rewards Gents Series first leg Tuesday (March 3). Marco Beach will start from post four with Joe Bongiorno and is the 5-2 morning line favorite in the first division. Despite his 6-for-19 record and $51,400 in earnings, Alexander doesn’t feel Marco Beach has lived up to his potential yet. “He’s probably one of the smartest horses I’ve ever had, but he’s the hardest horse I’ve ever broke,” Alexander said. “He’s been a challenge to get to this point. “He would notice any change. If a tractor moved, he would stop and try to figure out what was different. If somebody’s truck was parked on the side of the hill and then the next lap was gone, he would sit there for 20 minutes and try to figure out what was different, and you couldn’t make him move. He would sit there and just stare,” Alexander explained. “Last year, there was a race where he was crossing over to the front and he saw the starting gate and went to the outside of the track to go behind the starting gate again,” Alexander continued. “It was bad. That’s why John Kakaley drove him a lot last year because I needed someone that I could get every start that would educate him. He’s so fast, I haven’t even scratched the surface. I can’t train him by himself, his mind wanders. Mentally, he’s a tough horse.” Alexander has seen improvement in Marco Beach from 3 to 4. He qualified in 1:56.4 at Pocono Downs Feb. 12 and won his seasonal debut at the Wilkes-Barre five-eighths-mile track by a neck in 1:53.4 with a :27.3 final quarter Feb. 23. The M Life Rewards Gents first leg will be Marco Beach’s first start on a half-mile track. “I don’t know how he’ll get around the half because he’s never seen a half. Not that he’s bad-gaited, he’s very good-gaited, but you just never know. He is a big horse. That’s the only thing that concerns me is him not being on Yonkers before the series started,” Alexander said. “The reasoning was just more the way things fell in place as far as timing,” Alexander explained. “I shipped him north and qualified him at Pocono and I didn’t want to short rest him and race him at Yonkers with the series coming up. It was better to race on Sunday at Pocono. It was scheduling.” Alexander’s final series entrant is Tellitsabb, a 4-year-old Tellitlikeitis gelding who recently came to Alexander’s stable for owner Brian Carsey. After going 3-for-13 last year in Ohio with Ernie Gaskin, Tellitsabb is 3-for-3 with $24,000 earned already this season. “He’s a fantastic horse. The Gaskins did a great job with him. When they sent him out, he was ready to go. I liked him, so Brian Carsey bought him because I liked him so much,” Alexander said. Tellitsabb’s victories have each come by at least 2 lengths and he’s paced his miles in 1:53.1, 1:53.4, and 1:54.0 with Matt Kakaley and Joe Bongiorno alternating drives to this point. Despite the impressive results, Alexander sees room for improvement. “He’s a horse that wants to lean in on the turns. The last two starts, I’ve tried to help with that and it’s made him worse, so I have to take everything off and go back to how it was the first start,” Alexander said. “I don’t know how fast he is. Joe and Matt are both very high on him. It’s just how he is on the turns and the more you rig him, the more he tries to fight you,” Alexander continued. “I’ll have to leave it to the drivers, let them earn their money a little bit. Speed wise, he’s extremely fast.” Tellitsabb is a 5-1 morning line with Matt Kakaley set to drive. He drew post eight, but with valuable points at stake, Alexander expects the gelding to leave. “We’ve got to go forward. I don’t know how forward we’re going to go, but we can’t just duck and sit and wait,” he said. “We’ve got to race, so we’ll see. I’ll leave that to Matt though.” Alexander hopes to build on early-season success in the M Life Rewards Series. His stable is 11-for-44 at Yonkers this year with an additional 14 seconds and thirds. He credits his wife, Alaina, and caretakers Wilder Allverz (Marco Beach), Lucia Sanchez (Tellitsabb), and Barragan (DD Delicious and Lovin Cocoa). “We’ve had a very good start to the year. We’ve had a lot of horses fit the right spots, that always helps. Nice diversity from non-winners of two up to non-winners of $30,000 trot. It’s been a very good winter and hopefully it keeps going,” Alexander said. “My crew has done a tremendous job. I have to thank them. I’ve been going back and forth between here and Florida. My wife Alaina, she’s amazing. She runs the northern barn. I have no worries when she’s up north. She treats these horses like they’re her kids and it shows. She’s the reason they’re all racing the way they are. She does an amazing job.” 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. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

WILKES-BARRE, PA - Satin Dancer took her field coast-to-coast in winning the $17,500 featured trot Sunday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, equaling her lifetime harness racing mark of 1:53 under the guidance of Dexter Dunn. The Big Stick Lindy five-year-old mare had favored Two AM stalking her through fractions of :27.2, :56.2, and 1:24.3, but Satin Dancer sailed on smoothly on the front end, withstanding Two AM by a length for trainer Travis Alexander. A champion in Indiana at two and three, earning just over $600,000 in his first two years of racing, Satin Dancer now has a lifetime bankroll of $727,040. A large carryover was brought into a mandatory distribution of the Rainbow Pick 5 pool (pick winners in the last five races), with the resultant jackpot up for grabs a staggering $320,237.30. Satin Dancer paid $10.60 as the fourth choice in the Rainbow Pick 5 opener, bringing the record of favorites to 0-for-10 for the night, but things stabilized somewhat thereafter with two favorites, a second choice, and a third choice winning the other Rainbow races, so that a successful 20-cent ticket on the winning 5-4-6-1-9 combination brought $1,280.94 to its backers. The big jackpot helped bring about a total handle for the Pocono card of $621,081 from its followers far and wide. There were a trio of $17,000 co-features, one for each sex of pacers and one on the trot. The American Ideal gelding Daamericansky lowered his mark to 1:49.3 in one of the paces, making the early lead in :26.3 for driver Marcus Miller, yielding to favored Quatrain Blue Chip and sitting behind the sophomore through middle splits of :55.3 and 1:22.3, and then gaining into a :27 last panel to post a length victory. Mark Silva conditions the winner of two of his last three for owner Jean Claude Dessureault. In the mares pace co-feature, the Art Professor mare Robyn Camden lowered her mark over three seconds, making two speed moves to control the pace through :26.2, :55.2, and 1:23 for driver George Napolitano Jr., then burning home in :27.1 to complete a 1:50.1 package for trainer Rene Allard. The mare is owned by Jason Osullivan of Ireland, was bred in Great Britain, and has now won 19 times in 31 Transatlantic starts. The trotting co-feature saw three-year-olds finish 1-2 ahead of their elders, as the Yankee Glide gelding Amador held off late-closing Explosivebreakway by a nose in 1:54.2 for driver Marcus Miller and trainer Joseph King. For Amador, it was his second straight win and fourth in his last seven. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

YONKERS, N.Y. – Since Trotting Grace arrived on the east coast this spring, she’s quickly made a name for herself harness racing in the top conditions at Yonkers Raceway. The 4-year-old is 2-for-5 at the Hilltop and has a pair of runner-up finishes. Her last outing resulted in a victory in her Open Handicap debut, but trainer Travis Alexander thinks the mare is still improving. “I think her best races are yet to come,” the trainer said. “I don’t think we’ve seen the bottom yet.” Trotting Grace spent the first two years of her career racing in the barn of Steven Searle in Illinois and Indiana. She won five races and finished second in the $135,000 Fox Valley Flan Series Final at 2. At 3, Trotting Grace earned another seven victories, including five straight in stakes company.  Trotting Grace moved to the barn of Walter Haynes early in 2019 before shipping east for her first start with Alexander May 3. The Cassis daughter’s ownership group, comprised of Brian Carsey, John McGill, and Adam Friedland, sent the mare to Alexander with their eyes on the lucrative purses at Yonkers. “She was a very good-looking mare and she was clean-gaited,” Alexander recalled of Trotting Grace’s arrival in the barn. “That’s the first thing I noticed; she’s very good-gaited. She can get around the turns so well. That’s what helps her so much, she handles those turns beautifully. That just goes along with her good gait.” Although Trotting Grace finished sixth in her Yonkers debut in a $23,000 overnight, Alexander was encouraged. The start proved to be a learning experience for both the mare and her new trainer. “I was very happy to have a chance to see what she could do. As soon as they sent her out, we actually put her in the box before she arrived in the barn. She raced OK, she came first-over, needed a headpole, little things. We got to know her a little better,” Alexander said. Trotting Grace finished second in the same class the following week after riding the pocket. She was the runner up again May 24 after pouncing on longshot leader Warrawee Shipshape on the third turn and getting caught late by 1-2 favorite Winning Shadow in the stretch of the 1 1/16-mile race.   Trotting Grace broke through in her next start with Brent Holland in the bike, scoring a dominating 4-length victory on the front end at the $29,000 level June 8. She took advantage of an inside draw last week (June 15) to post a front-stepping win in the $44,000 Open Handicap Trot over Smalltownthrowdown in a lifetime mark of 1:54.1. The victories improved Trotting Grace’s record to 15-for-43 with $249,591 earned.  “I think that first start, she had to figure out the half and from there, she got it down,” Alexander said. “After that, she really started to click in our program. Getting better, and better, and better. Her last two starts, she was good. I feel that she’s improving. “With the rail last week, I knew we’d be up close. I didn’t know we’d be on the front, but it just worked out,” he continued. “Brent did a great job rating a nice mile and it couldn’t have worked out any better. She responded and that’s what good horses do, they respond when you give them the trip.” Trotting Grace will start from post five in the $44,000 Open Handicap Trot Saturday night (June 22). Brent Holland will be back in the bike and the pair are 9-2 on the morning line. Alexander feels Trotting Grace is continuing to improve and thinks Holland has played a key role in managing her energy on the track. “She trained very well (Wednesday). So, we’re taking it a race at a time,” he said. “She jogs and we train her a mile-and-a-half Wednesday for Saturday. She’s actually pretty calm and relaxed at the farm, not overly aggressive. At Yonkers, she gets pretty keyed-up. In the post parade, she can get pretty warm. Brent has done a great job getting her to relax in the race and it’s worked out pretty well.” The field for this week’s trotting feature also includes In Secret, who returns to the Open after a runner-up finish in the Preferred trot last out June 15 and is the 5-2 morning line favorite from an assigned post one. Smalltownthrowdown drew post four for Jim Marohn, Jr. and Rene Allard while Will Take Charge, the Open victor two weeks ago who was handicapped by post seven last week, moves inside to post three; the pair are each 3-1 on the morning line.  Ten-year-old Melady’s Monet returns off about a month’s freshening and will start from post two. Chasin’ Dreams, third in last week’s feature, completes the field from post six. “It’s post five in a six-horse field, so it’s not as bad. It’s going to be very interesting to see because I don’t know how Brent is going to approach it,” Alexander said. “There’s a lot of speed on the inside of her, but she can race off the pace, she can race off a helmet. I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried that this week.  “I’m not going to tell him what to do,” Alexander continued. “The owners, they like to go forward, they like to race and be aggressive. Sometimes you think everybody’s leaving and nobody leaves. It’s so hard to know how it’s all going to play out.” 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  

Hightstown, NJ — Filly pacer DD Delicious made a good impression on harness racing trainer Travis Alexander last season as a 2-year-old. Unfortunately for Alexander and the horse’s owner, the Mark Wasserman-led Fiddler’s Creek Stables, physical maturity issues prevented her from making an impression beyond the training center at Mark Ford’s farm in upstate New York. But by starting this spring with wins in her first two career races, DD Delicious looks as though she is out to remedy that situation. Her next opportunity to continue making a name for herself comes Tuesday (May 14) when she steps up from conditioned classes to state-bred stakes action as Yonkers Raceway hosts the first round of the New York Sire Stakes for 3-year-old female pacers. It will not be an easy test. DD Delicious competes in the first of two $85,250 divisions and faces a field that includes Zero Tolerance and St Somewhere, who were both winners on the Grand Circuit in 2018, as well as So Awesome, who lost last year’s New York Sire Stakes final by a nose to Money Shot Hanover. DD Delicious and driver Matt Kakaley are 5-1 on the morning line. Zero Tolerance, with David Miller driving for trainer Joe Holloway, is the 5-2 favorite. In her most recent start, DD Delicious won in 1:54.1 at Yonkers with Scott Zeron in the sulky. The filly won her debut in 1:53.3 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono with Kakaley at the lines. “I’m looking forward to seeing what my filly can do,” Alexander said. “I know Matt thinks a lot of her. She’s been a nice filly all along; I was really high on her last year. She’s not a flashy filly, she just goes about her work. “The best thing about her (previous race) at Yonkers was Scott said she got around the turns as quick as the straightaway. For her, that’s a little bit of an advantage. All the fillies in that race are very nice fillies. If I can get close, I’m not saying I can beat them, but I’ll be happy with a check.” DD Delicious, a daughter of Art Major out of D D Delightful, was bred by Fiddler’s Creek Stables. She impressed Alexander with her speed last year while training down but needed more time to mature physically before she could get to the races. “She had some growing up issues with her knees,” Wasserman said. “We try not to rush our horses. When a horse says they’re ready, then we do it. We turned her out and she came back great. She just needed time to grow up.” In addition to the New York Sire Stakes, DD Delicious is staked lightly on the Grand Circuit. “Sometimes hindsight is 20/20,” Wasserman said. “We didn’t stake her heavy but we’re very happy with where we are. I want to see if we’ve got a nice stakes filly. One step at a time. I’m really excited about (Tuesday). This is her first real challenge. It’s only her third race, but she’s been racing really well. She likes her job. She wants to go; she wants to race.” Said Alexander, “I was very fortunate that Fiddler’s Creek Stables had the patience to wait on her. She’s starting to show what I believed in all along.” Racing begins at 6:50 p.m. Tuesday at Yonkers. The New York Sire Stakes divisions are races nine and 10. Money Shot Hanover, with Tim Tetrick driving for trainer Mark Harder, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the second division. For complete entries, click here.    by Ken Weingartner USTA Media Relations Manager

YONKERS, N.Y. – Satin Dancer will be part of a racing rarity when she competes in the $44,000 Open Handicap Trot Saturday night (July 7) at Yonkers Raceway. The 4-year-old mare’s local debut will come just four days after she raced at Hoosier Park in Indiana. The unusual feat of racing at Hoosier Park and Yonkers in the same week wasn’t what her connections initially planned, according to new trainer Travis Alexander. After Satin Dancer posted two straight victories in the Open ranks at Hoosier Park in early June, trainer Byron Hooley became frustrated when the race failed to fill two weeks in a row. Needing his mare to stay on a consistent schedule and wanting to maximize her earning potential, Hooley contacted Alexander about a potential ship east and gave Alexander the go ahead to enter her at Yonkers July 7. “Byron couldn’t get her in to go. They weren’t filling the Open Trot at Hoosier Park and he didn’t really want to race her at Scioto every week against the boys. If he was going to have to race against the boys, he wanted to race for the $44,000. Let’s be honest, it’s a little bigger pot,” Alexander explained. “Byron called me and said, ‘They aren’t going with the Open Saturday (June 30). Go ahead and enter her for Yonkers and I’ll bring her out on Wednesday.’ Hoosier’s race office moved the Open to Tuesday. She was in to qualify Saturday because he was going to qualify her, tighten her up, and then ship her out. In all honesty, I didn’t think she’d get in (at Yonkers). The draw came up, and there she was with the rail. So here we are.”  Satin Dancer set the pace in the Open Trot Tuesday at Hoosier Park, cutting fractions of :27.0, :55.2, and 1:24.2. Although she came home in :28.0 and trotted 1:52.2, 11-1 longshot Cue Hall tracked her down in the stretch to post a half-length victory.  “She raced fantastic on Tuesday, she just got beat in 1:52. She’s tight,” Alexander said. “Trotters that can trot 1:52 on any size track, there’s not a lot of them.” Satin Dancer arrived at Alexander’s barn around 4 p.m. Wednesday and spent Thursday turned out. The Indiana Sire Stakes Champion and earner of $624,010 made a good first impression on her new conditioner. “She’s only been in the barn 24 hours, but she’s a pleasure and she’s all class. She’s kind of a sassy mare, but she’s earned it,” Alexander said. “With her kind of record, she’s allowed to do whatever she wants, and I think she’ll fit in nicely at Yonkers. “She handled (the trip) well. She didn’t eat the best, but at the same time, she did just race and ship 12 hours, so I just chalk it up to that,” Alexander continued. “We turned her out, the vet ran her some fluids. Right now, all systems are go. Her and the filly in the stall next to her are actually bonding already and they’re buddies. It’s kind of exciting to get a horse like her. It’s going to be interesting to see how she does.” Satin Dancer’s arrival marks another step in Alexander’s commitment to racing at Yonkers. While in years past, his horses proved better suited to racing on larger tracks, the 39-year-old trainer put a deliberate effort toward shifting his focus to Yonkers this year. Year to date, he’s already posted 12 wins in 89 local starts, better than last year’s total of 8 victories in 40 tries.  The success comes in the face of a series of challenges and setbacks earlier this year. Alexander’s horse Lawgiver Hanover suffered a fatal injury in a race at Yonkers March 13. The accident sent driver Matt Kakaley to the sidelines for two months as he recovered from a broken orbital bone and a fractured collarbone. Another of Alexander’s horses, A Sweet Ride, fractured a cannon bone in the same month. “We had a few setbacks, but it’s turning around. March wasn’t a very nice month for us. That was our horse that (Matt) went down with and the horse had to be euthanized. It’s hard. It was a rough month,” Alexander said. “It can slow you down a little bit, but things are looking good. We’ve got a few more horses to train that we really like. Things are moving forward. “Yonkers is a tough place to break into,” he continued. “The horses that we had fit Pocono and the five-eighths better than the half. We made it a conscious effort this year to race more at Yonkers. If you’re racing on the east coast, you need to race at Yonkers. The purse money is just too big to pass up. The driving colony is one of the best in the sport, if not the best. That’s why we’re doing it.” In addition to his focus on racing claimers and overnight horses at Yonkers, Satin Dancer will provide Alexander with his first chance to compete in the rich Open ranks.  “This is something the stable needed, an Open horse,” he said. “We haven’t had an Open mare or an Open pacer yet at Yonkers, so now we get to take a swing at that top-end money. It’s going to be fun.” Satin Dancer will start from an assigned post one in the Open Handicap Trot Saturday night and will have Jordan Stratton at the lines. She’ll face seven rivals, including the top four finishers from last week’s renewal, Smalltownthrowdown, NF Happenstance, DW’s NY Yank, and Weslynn Dancer. Deep Impact, Such An Angel, and Rubber Duck complete the lineup. “I’m looking forward to Saturday as much as everybody else,” Alexander said. “I have no expectations, because she just got here. I’ve had a lot of luck racing horses on short rest, but not this short and with a trip in between. That’s a large ship on a hot day. I don’t want to throw her under the gauntlet and expect a win, but if she trots like she did Tuesday night and handles the four turns and can sit close, she could get us to the winner’s circle.” Satin Dancer has only raced on a half-mile track three times before: she won a division of the Standardbred at the Delaware County Fair at 2 and at 3, finished second in an Open at the Hillard Fair and was the runner up in the Buckette at Delaware. Despite her limited racing record on the small track, Satin Dancer trained on a half on Hooley’s farm and her previous trainer is confident in her ability to handle the tight turns. “She’s a well put together mare. She’s really long. I’m going to be curious,” Alexander said. “She trains on a half, so (Byron) says it’s no problem. Delaware, Ohio isn’t really a true half-mile track. It’s a half, but it has sweeping turns that are really forgiving. I was fortunate enough to get Jordan. Nobody knows Yonkers better than Jordan Stratton, so that’s a huge key for me with her. He can help her through that first turn and give me some pointers or advice afterwards and move forward. Byron Hooley is really confident in her ability to handle the half.” First post time Saturday night at Yonkers is 6:50 p.m. The 12-race card also features a $44,000 Open Pace. To view entries for the card, click here.  by Brendon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

He has conditioned the likes of North America Cup Consolation victor Western Cyclone and two fillies that brought home the Jugette hardware in Just Wait Kate and Eternity's Delight, but Travis Alexander has always wanted to put the progeny of Dragon Again through their paces. He finally possesses that opportunity with the undefeated Candy Corn Hanover and like everything else he has undertaken in life, he plans on making the absolute most of it. "I have always wanted a Dragon Again," said the 37-year-old Lansing, Mich., native. "It has just not ever worked out. Something has come up or the circumstances did not go my way, but we had a credit from Hanover (Shoe Farms) who bred her and she was circled in my book before I ever saw her. When I did, she was so impressive, not only because of her pedigree, but she was so athletic and racy looking. "We got another filly, Raver Hanover, who is from Captaintreacherous' family, from that same sale and although she hasn't made it to the races yet, I am very, very pleased with them both." Candy Corn Hanover, a daughter of the Artsplace mare Clouding Over, is owned by Fiddler's Creek Stables. After only three career trips to the post, all of which are triumphs, she will illustrate what forms her constitution when she takes on the likes of last year's divisional champion Pure Country (2-1), the extremely talented Darlinonthebeach (5-2), the Three Diamonds winner Yankee Moonshine (7-2), the Matron winner Newborn Sassy (5-1) and the promising Kiss Me Onthebeach (6-1) on Saturday (April 30) in a $20,000 elimination for the $313,800 Miss Pennsylvania at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Although many individuals viewing the program might feel the 3-year-old filly is in far, far over her head with only three lifetime tallies, all this season in Weiss Series competition, and with a mere $22,500 in the bank, Alexander is pleased with how the draw came out and believes Candy Corn Hanover, the longest shot on the morning line at 10-1, can definitely keep pace with her more accomplished and distinguished rivals. "I hemmed and hawed with Anthony (Napolitano, her regular pilot) over whether we should go for the big money or keep her in the Weiss Series final," he said. "Obviously I did not think we would get in the elimination where the four best fillies in the country would all be, but I'm happy it happened that way. I wouldn't trade this spot with my filly with anyone in the world. "She's a stone cold closer and Anthony even said when he has gotten her to the front she stops because she doesn't know what she is supposed do. Also, I'm being told these Dragons see all kinds of stuff like ghosts in all types of shadows. With those fillies in there she will never be on the lead early and it sets up for her to come home strongly, which I know she will. After this race we will know exactly what we have on our hands and she will come out of it with learning something." Candy Corn Hanover did not debut as a freshman because Alexander wanted to exercise patience with her. He realized she had ability, but also acknowledged she needed more time to grow into both her body and mind. "I am so glad we waited with her," he said. "When we brought her in this year she was leaps and bounds ahead of what she was the year before. Taking our time with her is going to pay off and it already has. We just have to make sure we manage her correctly throughout the year and have a nice horse for next year as well. Besides, the Dragons only improve with age so this is a filly with tremendous potential which is something I really like. All she has is upside and when her career is over, she will join the broodmare band Fiddler's Creek is putting together." There is another reason, in addition to Alexander's own penchant to overcome long odds, such as when he defeated cancer at age 18, that he is of the opinion Candy Corn Hanover belongs with the elite within her age, gait and gender. "I have been very fortunate to be around some really nice pacing mares during my career," he said. "When I worked for Joe Holloway I was around (Dan Patch Award winner) Lady McBeach and when I was the head trainer for that short time at Fashion Farms, as well as when I worked with Jim Campbell, there was Eternity's Delight. This filly reminds me such much of her. "She is just so willing, is two fingers to drive and has an incredible amount of desire. She will go in 2:40 but if you ask her to jump into a nice fast half from that she is right on it. I think this filly is as good as Eternity's Delight and I really believe in her because she reminds me so much of that mare." Despite what transpires this weekend, Candy Corn Hanover already has an agenda meticulously planned for her sophomore campaign. "She is eligible to everything here in Pennsylvania," Alexander said. "We also staked her to the Shady Daisy, but that is it. There will be no Jugette for this filly. It's really expensive to stake horses, but when you have one that did not race at two it is difficult to put out that kind of money when you don't know what is in your barn. "I think she still needs time to mature throughout the year and I also want to keep her on a larger track until she is more experienced. She is intelligent and will do anything to please you, but I don't think the half(-mile track) is for her because she crossfires a bit. It's not serious and something I think will rectify itself the more she races. I just don't want to take any chances with her. "I do have to be honest though, she is a real pleasure. We always knew she had talent, but you can never tell what kind of desire they have. This filly has so much of that and it is something you cannot give them, train into them or even be assured of because of their pedigree. I had no real expectations with her in that regard and she has amazed me how much she wants to race and win. "She has been a special surprise and in this business when you have something like that happen it is a very, very great thing." by Kim French/USTA Internet News Editor

WILKES-BARRE PA - Iwillmakeyousaywow parlayed a pocket trip into a new lifetime mark of 1:51 in the fastest of three $15,000 divisions of the Bobby Weiss Series for male pacers Sunday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, while in the distaff section, also with three cuts, Candy Corn Hanover proved most photogenic - barely -- to take her division and keep her Weiss and career records unblemished after three starts.   Last week Iwillmakeyousaywow, a first week Weiss winner, drew post eight against Midnight Lightning and saw that foe rush by late for a 1:51 decision and two straight Weiss wins. This week the Manhardt gelding Iwillmakeyousaywow, who had the 4-5* mutuel confidence of the wagerers, parlayed a draw inside of "Lightning" into a pocket trip behind that one, snapped out nearing headstretch, and gained into 55.1 - 27.2 back numbers to won by a half-length over a late-closing Maxdaddy Blue Chip, with Midnight Lightning holding for third.   Iwillmakeyousaywow, a four-year-old Todd Buter trainee, now has four wins in 2016 and 15 in a career which saw him the Michigan program's champion at two and three. Tyler Buter handled sulky duties behind the talented pacer, whom he co-owns with Gene Oldford Farms LLC, Lynette Buter, and James Marion.   The other two divisions carried the common themes of driver Scott Zeron, sire Bettor's Delight, and the winners rallying from the pocket as the second choice to take a new lifetime mark. First to fit that script was the four-year-old gelding Perfect Bet, who just caught pacesetting favored Sentencing Memo by the shortest possible margin in 1:51.2. Perfect Bet made his first Weiss start a winning one for trainer Jeffrey Smith and owner Aimee Scheid.   In the other cut, Options Are Adream entered the race perfect in eight career starts, the last two in Weiss competition, but the "Dream" was shattered early when the horse made a break before the start and was five lengths off the last horse at the word "go."   Zeron had sent the sophomore gelding Bettor Memories, a first leg Weiss winner, to the early lead, then let Options Are Adream complete a daring last-to-first second quarter move to sit the pocket behind a horse who had used a tremendous amount of energy. When tipped out of the two-hole nearing headstretch, Bettor Memories was full of pace and lowered his mark a tick to 1:51.4 for trainer Nifty Norman and owner Gus Dovi. Options Are Adream tired to fourth.   On the distaff side, Candy Corn Hanover made it 3-for-3, in both Weiss Series action and in her career, but the pocket rocket almost got defused by Southwind Tango, who set the pace and just missed beating the victorious Dragon Again filly by a nose in 1:53.4. Anthony Napolitano guided the 1-5 favorite "Candy Corn" to victory for trainer Travis Alexander and the Fiddler's Creek Stables. (For the other side of the Anthony Napolitano mutuel coin, read on.)   American Image had been third, then second in her first two Weiss starts, and carried the logical progession through to a new lifetime mark of 1:52.3 in taking her division, though not all of the bettors noticed the "logical progession" as she was dismissed at 14-1 odds. Sitting third on the rail most of the way, the Rockin Image filly got room in the famed Pocono Pike to register a neck tally for the father/son team of driver Marcus and trainer Erv Miller, and her owners: Paymaq Racing, George Golemes, Red Barn Stable, and Louis Willinger.   "Miller" and "longshot" were also the watchwords in the third female Weiss action; this time it was driver Brett Miller and 9-1 shot She Can Cruise circling from second-over to just catch pacesetting favorite Black Widow Baby in the shadow of the wire to take a maiden mark of 1:54.2. Chris Ryder conditions the Yankee Cruiser filly for owners Philip and Dana Steinberg.   In sum, the Weiss Series was quite a spectacle Sunday at Pocono - the winning margins in the six races were nose / nose / neck / 1¼ lengths / ½ length / head.   Majo Just Do It came from sixth at the stretch call in the second race this evening and just did it to the wire and the winners circle, taking a neck decision while paying the longest dividend for a $2 win bet here this year, $197.00. It's not often you get 97-1 odds on the second-leading driver at your track, but The Downs' scattered faithful received that return for backing Anthony Napolitano, second behind his brother George here and also second in wins at The Meadowlands.   Monday's action, starting at 6:30 p.m., will be highlighted by the second round preliminary of the Weiss Series for trotting males, with four $15,000 divisions set to go.   From the PHHA

Michigan harness racing trainer Travis Alexander was all set to follow his late father, Mark's footsteps and become a veterinarian. He even undertook a pre-vet course at College - but at the age of 18 he received news that would change his life forever - doctors had diagnosed him with leukemia.

In just two and a bit seasons of professional driving Nick Steward has achieved more in harness racing than many reinsman will ever accomplish in a lifetime. But the Steward 'driving machine' is only just starting to kick into gear and with age and a strong will to win on his side this 20-year-old could be anything.

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