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Of all the winners of the Standardbred Retirement Foundation's (SRF) Elitlopp harness racing raffle fundraiser, this year's winner, Joe Sbrocco, an Ohio resident, couldn't contain his excitement and shock.   Joe Sbrocco has been an owner for nearly forty years and has enjoyed tremendous success, most recently with Captaintrecherous, and Artspeak. "You gotta be kidding," were his first words when SRF's Director, Judy Bokman called him with the news. The excitement continued for him. "I'm seventy-five years old and I feel like I was just born!"   The seasoned owner is still in the game with a small stake in horses being trained by Brian Brown, Tony Alagna, Paul Kelly, Nancy Johannsen, Jonas Czernyson, Ake Swendsted, Jimmy Takter and Jimmy Arledge.   Mr. Sbrocco and his wife will enjoy a fabulous five day trip to Sweden visiting famous breeding farms, taking a trip to Mendhammer, visiting a yearling auction, sightseeing, enjoying authentic dining at an old world restaurant dating back to the 1700s, and attending the great race at Solvalla.   SRF is a 27 year old organization, unique in its work, as it never relinquishes ownership of its horses. The Elitlopp raffle, as well as the raffle for a trip to the Prix d'Amerique help fund the care of 205 trotters and pacers of which 130 are retired due to age or injuries under the full care and expense of SRF.   SRF thanks Marc and Marcia Goldberg of the Arch Madness fame for their generous gift of sponsorship of the trip from the SRF's Twelve Days of Giving campaign in December 2015. "We can only give these horses a chance when special people like the Goldbergs, and our supporters of this fund raiser make it possible with their kindness; we so appreciate this wonderful support," Paula Campbell, SRF's President added.   Standardbred Retirement Foundation, 353 Sweetmans Lane, Suite 101, Millstone Twp., NJ 08535  

Well over $1 million in harness racing purses will be up for grabs during Miami Valley Raceway's closing weekend this Friday, Saturday and Sunday (May 6-8). A total of $381,000 will be doled out following the Friday program, which includes eight $40,000 divisions of first leg Ohio Sires Stakes action for 3-year-old pacing and trotting fillies. 2015 champion Miss Me Yet, who won the $225,000 O.S.S. final for freshman pacing fillies last September, will begin her defense of the title in the 6th race, one of five pacing divisions, for the Teague Racing Stable and driver Montell Teague. Other stakes winning 2-year-olds who are hopeful of a winning start towards qualifying for Ohio's big prize, the $250,000 Ohio Sires Stakes championship at Northfield Park on September 3, include John's Sunny Girl, Big Bad Ashley, She Gone, My Tweed Heart, Queen Ann M, Ohsowigglesspecial, and Naked By Nine. Filly trotters will go postward in three divisions with defending champion Count On Kami beginning her title defense in Friday's fourth race. She will face a stiff challenge from Kerfuffle Cookie, who established a divisional Miami Valley track record of 1:57.1 in her final O.S.S. tune up. Other notable stakes winning freshman fillies commencing their 2016 stakes seasons include Consolidator, Oneeyedmomma, Belle'svictoryring and Evanora. The Saturday night card will feature multiple Ohio Sires Stakes divisions for the Buckeye state's best sophomore pacing and trotting colts. A strong undercard will include a $20,000 Open Pace as well as a full menu of higher price claiming events. The Grand Circuit comes to Miami Valley on closing day, Sunday (May 8). A pair of $100,000 stakes races for North America's best older pacing and trotting mares will be featured, plus a $20,000 Open for both pacing mares and a $20,000 Open Trot. Notables expected for the $100,000 Sam 'Chip' Noble Memorial for pacers include Color's A Virgin, Yagonnakissmeornot, Katie Said, Purrfect Bags, Coffee Addict, Lady Shadow, Show Runner and Safe From Terror. The $100,000 Miami Valley Distaff trot starters will likely include Barn Doll, Churita, Daylon Miracle, Hannelore Hanover, Like Old Times, Oho Diamond, Rockin With Dewey and Smokinmombo. Gregg Keidel

Harness racing handicapper Stanley Koper, 67, of Chicago Ridge, IL captured the $16,600 grand prize in the 2016 World Harness Handicapping Championship on Saturday, April 30 at Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment. Koper finished the tournament with a $1,100 bankroll to top the field of 83 players from across North America who competed for $41,500 in prize money. Koper won his spot in the BetAmerica.com & USTA Qualifier hosted in March. "Everyone at BetAmerica is excited to see Stanley win the World Harness Handicapping Championship," said Merv Huber-Calvo, Tournament Director at BetAmerica. "BetAmerica offers harness racing handicapping contests every single day; Stanley is obviously a sage handicapper, and he keeps his contest skills sharp by playing contests regularly on BetAmerica." The WHHC contest format required contestants to bet 10 races: seven Meadowlands races of their choice, plus one mandatory race each from Vernon Downs, Buffalo and Meadowlands racetracks. Bets had to meet a $30 minimum, $100 maximum per race. Contestants could only bet one horse per race and wagers could either be win, place, show or a combination of the three. Koper, a retired operating engineer, cashed on six of his ten bets and had an early $420 score with $100 to win on Roll N Catch in Race 2 at the Meadowlands. His largest score of the night was $450 on $100 win bet on Intheblinkofaneye in Meadowlands' sixth race. This win gave him a total bankroll of $1,215 with six contest races remaining. Koper cashed one more $100 win bet on Alexie Mattosie in the ninth at the Meadowlands. The next closest competitor, Todd Cross, finished well behind with a $688 total bankroll. In addition to the Meadowlands, the following partner outlets sent players to compete in the 2016 WHHC: USTA via BetAmerica.com, BetAmerica.com, Buffalo Raceway, Vernon Downs, Tioga Downs, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, Hawthorne, and Standardbred Canada. Prize $ Bankroll First Last City State $16,600.00 $1,100.00 Stan Koper Chicago Ridge IL $8,300.00 $688.00 Todd Cross Seaman OH $6,225.00 $685.00 Whitney Nassimos Madison NY $4,150.00 $570.50 Arch Glenn Columbus OH $2,075.00 $550.90 Gary Scogna Carmel NY $830.00 $536.50 Brandon Downing Decatur OH $830.00 $488.00 Karen Fossli Yorktown NY $830.00 $453.25 John Murphy East Lyme CT $830.00 $440.20 Wladyslaw Kiczko Fairfax VA $830.00 $436.00 Dean Barone Huntingdon Valley PA   Rachel Ryan

Harness racing driver David Miller could well get to $200,000,000 on the Tuesday card at Pocono, as you'll see in the attachment!   race 10 2  $    7,500  $             199,998,751 race 11 2  $    2,125  $ 200,000,876 race 14 5  $       425  $             200,001,301      $ 36,490           If that doesn't work out, …   WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON AT PHILLY         race 6 3  $    1,680   race 7 5  $       600   race 8 4  $       960   race 9 4  $    1,280   race 10 2  $    3,500   race 12 8   ---    race 14 6  ---         $    8,020           JOHN CAMPBELL   $295,959,607 RON PIERCE   $215,343,639

Saturday April 30th Freehold Raceway set the stage for harness racing three-year-old colt trotters in eliminations of the Dexter Cup. The first elimination was taken by Cufflink Hanover, the son of Andover Hall. He settled in for a two-hole trip behind the favorite Steed. Cufflink Hanover took the lead in the stretch to win in a brisk 1:57.3 for driver David Miller. The three-year old colt trotter is trained by Nifty Norman and has secured a spot in the Dexter final. Dominion Beach was favored to win the second elimination and did just that. Marcus Johansson and Dominion Beach held off a late surge by Sir Royson in the stretch to win in 1:58.0. Trained by Nancy Johansson the Muscle Beach colt looks to repeat in the final. Dante driven and trained by Ake Svanstedt took the lead from the word go and never looked back in the third and final elimination. The son of Credit Winner defeated the favorite Inukchuk Chuck in 1:58.3. The $140,800 final will be held on Derby Day, Saturday May 7th, at Freehold Raceway. The three winners will be accompanied by the three-second place finishers: Steed, Sir Royson and Inukchuk Chuck, and two of the third place finishers. Credevie, Cloud Nine Hanover and Hillman will draw for the two remaining spots in the final, by lot. Courtney Stafford

Post Time with Mike and Mike presented by Bet America will be giving away one free entry into the Bet America Harness Racing Handicapping Contest on it's show coming up Thursday Night at 7:00 PM.   The Handicapping contest has a guaranteed pool of $10,000, and is limited to 100 entrants.   It will take place on Saturday Night, May 7th, 2016.   To be eligible for the free entry, visit posttimewithmikeandmike,com, and click on contest information.   You have until Thursday, May 5th, at 6:00 PM Eastern to register for the free entry.   For more information on the Handicapping contest itself, visit https://www.betamerica.com/extra/handicapping-contests/10000-harness-game/      

If you have been following the Meadowlands over the past few years, you have seen amateur races that were titled as GSY Amateur events. Ever wonder what GSY stands for, who they are, and why they race? VFTRG had the opportunity to talk to two officers of the GSY Amateur Driving Club, David Glasser and David Yarock, to get some answers. The GSY Amateur Series is named after Jeff Gural, Jason Settlemoir, and David Yarock who are the club founders. The series was established four years ago in an effort to add additional races to the C.K.G Billings Amateur Driving Series. Originally, the series was centered around Tioga Downs but included several other tracks. Today though, the series is focused on the Meadowlands even though on occasion they will compete at other area tracks; tracks such as Tioga Downs, Pocono Downs, Monticello Raceway, Harrah's Philadelphia, and Freehold here they are the featured amateur race on Open Space Day.. At this point, GSY's goal is to support the Meadowlands and provide competitive races for amateurs at the most recognized track in the United States. Members of GSY belong to other clubs as they look forward to racing as much as possible. In addition to GSY, many are members of the Freehold Amateur Driving Club as well as NAADA (which races primarily at Monticello, Yonkers, and Freehold) in addition to being members of the CKG Billings series which races nationwide. The beauty of amateur club racing is it give horse owners and others the opportunity to leave their desk job on a Friday afternoon and head to a track's locker room full of professional drivers, including members of the Hall of Fame and they compete on the same racetrack. As to the question of the ability of amateur drivers, there is a misconception as to their ability since 90% of amateurs hold a full license and are able to compete against professionals in regular races. Glasser pointed out he learned to drive in the 1980's when there were no amateur races, others have followed the same path. Bob Krivlen to name one continues to race against professional drivers with some success, while drivers like Glasser, such as Dein Spriggs, Roy Marohn, Bob Davis, and others who cut their teeth before amateur races were regularly contested raced with regular drivers successfully. One may think professional drivers resent the fact these amateur races are on the race card but you would be wrong as many of the pros are supportive of the amateurs. Just recently GSY and the amateur club at Pompano Park held a Pro-Am at Pompano Park which Dave Miller and Tim Tetrick participated in. A Pro-Am may be held at the Meadowlands in the fall and some pros have already indicated an interest in participating if one is added to the schedule. With amateurs racing weekly, how do they get the horses to race? Some drivers provide their own horses but other horses are provided by trainers. To help pay the expenses for these horses, the purse structure has been modified so every horse earns at least 3% of the purse if they finish out of the money. The club works with the racing secretary in determining the class of horses which should compete in this series and this year they are racing horses which would fill non-winners of $3,500 in their last five starts with $10,000 claimers also eligible to race in the 'B' series while those who are non-winners of $6,000 in their last five starts with $15,000 claimers racing in the 'A' races which is the same class which will compete on the Billings circuit. They primary key is to have competitive races so all the horses have a chance to earn money as this is an expensive 'hobby'. As you know, amateurs don't accept compensation for driving in these races. So where does the GSY driver commissions go to? Back in 2009, David Yarock started a scholarship fund in memory of his father and step-father to give scholarships to students seeking to pursue equine and harness racing studies as well as providing scholarships to those in the harness racing industry and their families seeking to pursue higher education. Since inception, over $150,000 has been distributed in scholarships. In addition to the driver commissions, annual club dues are also contributed to the fund. The club seeks racing opportunities to raise funds; the previously mentioned potential Meadowlands Pro-Am will raise additional funds for scholarships. Further information on the scholarship fund is available here. The club makes no secret of the fact they work in partnership with the Meadowlands. They supply races when the Meadowlands needs them. While the drivers enjoy racing for the sake of racing, they also aim to help the Meadowlands survive. With the slots-infused tracks drawing horses away from the Meadowlands, GSY helps fill races to complete the racing card. When GSY races at other tracks, it is either because they wish to support amateur racing and/or have races they need filled. From the amount of money being wagered, it appears the punters are pleased with the amateur races being carded on the wagering program. Glasser feels in some ways having races with amateur drivers is a plus because "anything can happen". He further feels some of today's gamblers want more random possibilities than the predictable outcomes one sees at many racetracks, citing the popularity of slot machines. The GSY races have growing pools and less predictable outcomes. Make no mistake, while fans don't want amateurs to take over an entire card (something done at Monticello Raceway sometime around 2013), they do like the fact amateur racing adds something to a few races on the wagering card. Of course, racing every week, handicappers have the opportunity to get used to the drivers and their abilities. When asked if GSY races could be added to Saturday night programs, it was made clear they are satisfied with the ability to race on Fridays. Dave Yarock always felt amateur racing could have a significant positive effect for the sport and is thoroughly delighted the betting public has embraced GSY races. With all the negative publicity the sport gets, the industry can be proud of the positive feedback coming out of the amateur driver movement; it is truly a growth area in an otherwise stagnant industry Of course, the appreciation goes two ways. The members of GSY appreciate the gamblers support because their wagering is what allows them to continue to race at the Meadowlands. Asked a hypothetical question if they would consider expanding to racing under saddle should pari-mutuels be approved for the sport, Glasser said it would be interesting to consider but they would have to gauge the interest of track officials and their members to see if there would be any interest in pursuing it. Of course, there are a lot of things which would have to happen before it would be an issue they would need to visit. by Allan Schott, for View From The Grandstand  Check out View From the Racetrack Grandstand.    

Elysium Lindy, let go at 21-1 despite a win and two seconds in the first three preliminary legs of the Bobby Weiss Series for trotting males at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, overhauled 1-5 favorite Celebrity Bugatti in the shadow of the wire to post a 1:55.1 win in one of two $15,000 divisions of the fourth and final preliminary round for this harness racing group Tuesday night. In the other division, Magenta Man was on his best behavior and posted a 1:56.1 victory.   Celebrity Bugatti came into Monday's race having gone a perfect 3-for-3 to date in the Weiss, and in midstretch he looked ready to complete a sweep of the prelims. But the Cantab Hall sophomore gelding Elysium Lindy had another idea, being moved outside from third late on the final turn by driver Jim Marshall III, and then kicking into overdrive in the last 1/16 to get a head decision while lowering his lifetime mark, posted in a Weiss event last week, by a tick. Donna Marshall trains the developing youngster for owner George Beck.   Magenta Man had finished second to Celebrity Bugatti in a Weiss cut last week after making a break in his only other start in the series, but this week all systems were "go" as the four-year-old altered son of Muscles Yankee, bet down to 3-5 favoritism, was put on the lead and held off a spirited late charge by Explosive Yankee to post a ¾-length victory. "Magenta" and "orange" may not be two colors you often see together, but for driver Andy Miller and trainer Julie Miller (collectively known as "Team Orange Crush"), along with owners Little E LLC and RBH Ventures Inc., the sight of Magenta and Orange in the Pocono winners circle after next Monday's $30,000 Weiss Series Championship would be beautiful indeed.   Despite tonight's upset, Celebrity Bugatti was still the #1 prelim pointwinner for this group; behind him in line in qualifying for their Championship are Elysium Lindy, Dominus Hanover, Steed, Taxed To The Max, Explosive Leggs, Magenta Man, and (tied) Sweet Royalty and Dominion Beach.   The $30,000 Weiss Championship for trotting distaffs headlines the Tuesday night card at The Downs. Stirling Debutant will likely be a heavy favorite from post three for driver Anthony Napolitano and trainer Steve Salerno after sweeping her four prelims, and her task was made easier by the fact that the Todd Schadel duo of South Side Hanover and Real Caviar, #2 and #3 in the prelim pointstandings with five prelim victories between them, were not dropped in for the Championship. They will reportedly be heading to The Meadows Saturday afternoon for the 2016 debut of Pennsylvania Sire Stakes action in a three-year-old trotting filly event, to be drawn tomorrow.   PHHA / Pocono    

This Saturday, Kentucky Derby Day at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, will provide top harness racing action for three-year-old racehorses, whether pacing, trotting, or running, during a doubleheader card at the northeast Pennsylvania oval. First post for the first card will be at 11 a.m.; after those ten races are completed, the thoroughbreds will take center stage for their Bluegrass classic via simulcasting; and immediately after the Derby is completed (approximately 7 p.m.), there will be a second card of 14 live races at The Downs.   Sticking to the Standardbred side, the Saturday highlights will come during the evening card, as The Downs hosts the inaugural edition of the $561,500 Pennsylvania Classic Final for the best Pennsylvania-sired three-year-old pacing colts and geldings, with their filly counterparts going for $313,800 in the first Miss Pennsylvania Final. The sophomores earned their way into the open-draw Finals through high finishes in elimination races this past Saturday, and there are no coupled entries in either event.   Trainer Ron Burke sent out both Pennsylvania Classic elimination winners, JK Will Power and Check Six, and that pair drew beside each other in posts three and four respectively. Both are sons of Somebeachsomewhere who ran their 2016 records to 2-for-2 in the eliminations: JK Will Power won in 1:51.1 for owners the 3 Brothers Stables, while Classic Six edged his stablemate Big Top Hanover in 1:50.4 for Burke Racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, William Switala, and James Martin.   Something will have to give between these two fast colts in the Pennsylvania Classic; an early indication may come Tuesday morning, when Yannick Gingras, who guided both of them to victory, will have to pick between the two at scratch time.   Big Top Hanover, as mentioned before also a Burke trainee, drew post one Saturday; Manhattan Beach is the fourth member of the Burke barn to make the Classic Final, but he drew the outermost post nine. Trainer Chris Ryder qualified three horses for the Classic Final, but they also had poor luck at the draw: Western Dynasty, JJ Flynn, and Duke Of Delray will start from posts six, seven, and eight, respectively.   The Pennsylvania Classic is race 12 of the Saturday evening card; a race earlier, the top locally-sired fillies will have their turn in the spotlight in the Miss Pennsylvania Final. There were three eliminations for the filly final last Saturday, and the fastest winner was Darlinonthebeach, who won in 1:50.4 to remain unbeaten in two seasonal starts, and she drew post four for driver David Miller, trainer Nancy Johannson, and owner White Birch Farm.   Call Me Queen Be, like Darlinonthebeach a daughter of Somebeachsomewhere, will start just to that foe's right in post five after winning her seasonal bow in 1:51.3 for driver Scott Zeron, trainer Ross Croghan, and the partnership of Let It Ride Stables Inc and Dana Parham. Not so fortunate at the pillshake was the other Miss Pennsylvania elim winner, the Well Said filly I Said Diamonds, who won her elim in 1:51 in her seasonal bow but Saturday must solve the difficult outermost post nine for driver Matt Kakaley, trainer Matias Ruiz, and owners Little Bapa LLC.   The Miss Pennsylvania Final will also be interesting to watch to see if two Jimmy Takter trainees can bounce back from thirds in their elims. Pure Country, undefeated in ten starts at two and voted national divisional champion, was caught in the stretch in her elim, her seasonal debut, and the fast filly will be looking to regain her winning ways from post six for driver Brett Miller. Ivy League, a daughter of former Takter champion mare See You At Peelers who also was third in her elim, drew the rail, with Yannick Gingras taking over her sulky seat after David Miller, who drove her last week, picked Darlinonthebeach for this race.   **********   Also on the outstanding Saturday night card will see a showdown of the top free-for-all pacers on a "neutral site" in the race six $50,000 Van Rose Memorial Invitational, named after the former area harness racing writer. Pocono is a "neutral site" because of the leading FFA duo, Rockeyed Optimist has as of late been unstoppable on the mile track at The Meadowlands, while Bit Of A Legend N won all five Levy Series prelims over the half-mile Yonkers oval and then came back to take the $609,000 Levy Final.   Rockeyed Optimist got an advantage at the post draw, landing post six for driver Tim Tetrick, trainer Steve Elliott, and the ownership combine of Anthony Perretti, Virginia Berkner, A And B Stable, and Joseph Battaglia. The five-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding has six wins and two seconds in eight 2016 starts including a 1:48.2 seasonal best at Dover, and a 1:48 lifetime mark.   Bit Of A Legend N, a seven-year-old son of Bettors Delight, had already earned $650,000 racing in New Zealand before being brought to these shores for this campaign by owner Harry Von Knoblauch. And the Kiwi import has started off his North American career in, well, legendary style, with two wins and two seconds before going on his six-race Levy tear which gave him the biggest bankroll in North American harness racing this year, $451,250. But between the quality of this field and the difficult post nine, this may be the toughest test yet for Bit Of A Legend N, who will be driven by Jordan Stratton for trainer Peter Tritton.   To show the overall quality of the Van Rose field, one could cite facts like five of the entrants are millionaires, including double millionaire JK Endofanera, and that their average lifetime mark is 1:49.2, with ironically the possessor of the least-speedy mark being Bit Of A Legend N at 1:51 - but remember that he has only raced ten times here, and only over the Yonkers half-miler; it'll be interesting to see how he "stretches his game out" over the 5/8-mile Pocono oval. And the field clashes at Pocono in good form - of the 51 charted lines shown without qualifiers or scratches, the field boasts of 25 victories showing, despite the fact that several made one or more starts against each other in the Levy Series.   The field, from inside post position to out, is Take It Back Terry, P H Supercam, Hall Bro, Luck Be Withyou, JK Endofanera, Rockeyed Optimist, Cooperstown, Bushwacker, and Bit Of A Legend N.   * * * * * * * * * *   But wait - there's more! The first card also has a trio of stakes events, as the Pennsylvania All-Star Series for state-sired horses opens its 2016 stand at Pocono with three $30,000 divisions of the three-year-old trotting colt and gelding event, carded as the last three events on the ten-race curtainraising card.   The final of the trio of contests looks the most interesting in terms of returning horses with accomplishments, as the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes divisional champion Lagerfeld makes his first 2016 start from post two for trainer Jimmy Takter and driver Yannick Gingras. Also in this heat is Make Or Miss, who deadheated for the win in the Valley Victory Final at The Meadowlands at the end of last season (post four, trainer Ron Burke, driver Joe Bongiorno), and Pennsylvania Stallion Series champ Mr Right (post six, trainer Leigh Raymer, driver George Napolitano Jr.); these two will make their first starts in 2016 as well in this contest.   PHHA / Pocono

If you're not going to Churchill Downs in Louisville for the Kentucky Derby, Empire City Casino is the place for New Yorkers to watch the "Run for the Roses." Real Housewives of New York megastar Bethenny Frankel, the daughter of the late and legendary Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, will host the casino's Kentucky Derby Viewing Party on Saturday, May 7, trackside at historic Yonkers Raceway. A bevy of trackside activities at the casino's historic Yonkers Raceway will be highlighted by the opportunity to meet and take a photograph in the winner's circle with the wildly-popular Frankel from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. The annual Kentucky Derby "Fancy Hat Contest," a free two-horse exacta box on the "Run for the Roses" to the first 1,000 Empire Club members, the Cooler than Julep made with Bethenny's Skinny Girl Sangria and Skinny Girl Vodka, live entertainment by DJ LAX, and of course the simulcast of the Kentucky Derby at 6:34 pm will turn Empire City into Churchill Downs East. Empire City's Kentucky Derby extravaganza is open to the public, and gets underway at 3:00 pm on the raceway apron. Frankel is among the most popular reality television personalities in America with 1.5 million twitter followers, has hosted the talk show Bethenny, and is the best-selling author of four self-help books, chef, entrepreneur, and founder of Skinnygirl Cocktails. Participants can register for the Fancy Hat Contest trackside from 3:00-4:30 pm, and the winner will be announced at 5:00 pm. The Grand Prize is $500 in cash; second place wins $250 cash, and third place receives $100 cash. A celebrity pick will be announced at 5:30pm and the winner receives $750 cash. While the traditional and classic Mint Julep is on the menu, the Cooler than Julep rules at Empire City. Its ingredients include: Skinny Sangria, Skinny Vodka, Raw sugar, Lime, and Mint. Simulcast locations include trackside, the Winner's Circle Bar in Empire Terrace on the 2nd Floor, the Simulcast Room on the 3rd Floor, the 4th floor Grandstand and Dan Rooney's Sports Bar. The first 1,000 Empire Club Members to visit the entertainment lounge beginning at 4:00 pm will receive a two-horse exacta box for the Kentucky Derby whiles supplies last. With Churchill Downs first post at 10:30 AM both Oaks and Derby Day, Yonkers shall open selected mutuel windows at 10 AM. Advance wagering for the entire Saturday Churchill card begins Friday, including the Oaks/Derby daily double and the Oaks/Woodford Reserve Turf/Derby Pick 3. Yonkers' first post both days is the usual 7:10 PM. Please note that Churchill has set minimum wagering amounts for their gimmicks both Friday and Saturday. Frank Drucker

Peter Venturini and Peter Venturini III and harness racing trainer Brian Malone's Smart Rokker ($9, Tony Morgan) was a 1:52 winner in the $16,000 Open Pace Monday at Harrington Raceway. Bandolito (Daryl Bier) battled Bad Boy Matt for the early lead before the former made the lead in 27.1 under pressure from Vapour N (Pat Berry), who eventually cleared at the half-mile in an action packed 54.2. Special T Rocks (Ross Wolfenden) mounted a first-over attack with Smart Rokker (Rocknroll Hanover) perched perfectly second-over before tipping three-wide and prevailing in 1:52. Special T Rocks held second gamely while Sparky Mark, whose three-race win streak was snapped, finished third. George and Tina Dennis' Allstar Preview (George Dennis, $31.20) sprang an upset in 1:54.2 in the sub-featured $12,500 Open. Trained by his co-owner/driver, it was his second straight win. Morgan had four winners on the program, while Dennis had three. Victor Kirby and Allan Davis had a double. Matthew Sparacino  

For horse owner Joe Battaglia, a trip to the United States Trotting Association Driving School in 2012 had little to do with becoming a trainer or driver, but everything to do with enhancing his enjoyment of harness racing, not to mention his level of participation. Battaglia, who got his first horse in 2006 and two years ago joined the ownership group of top older male pacer Rockeyed Optimist, attended the USTA Driving School in Goshen, N.Y., not far from his home near Saratoga Springs. It was the first of four consecutive years of the school being conducted in upstate New York. This year, the 17th annual edition of the Driving School will be held at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, Delaware, Ohio, home of the Little Brown Jug, June 1-4. The school begins Wednesday evening (June 1) with a welcome reception/dinner and keynote address from George Teague Jr., owner of 2015 Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit and trainer of 2004 Horse of the Year Rainbow Blue. Classroom and hands-on instruction will be conducted each day Thursday through Saturday. In addition to offering basics for driving and training, the school’s curriculum has been expanded to include information on ownership of Standardbreds. “It was a great experience,” said Battaglia, a CPA who has horses with trainer John Mongeon in Saratoga. “It was a lot of fun. I wanted to be a little more hands on. I like going to the barn. I try to stay out of the way because everyone there knows what they’re doing, but I thought if I could occasionally jog a horse it would be interesting to learn how to do it. “I don’t have any aspirations of driving or training; I think those are beyond my skill level. But it’s fun to know I can take one of my horses out and jog them.” Battaglia grew up going to the Thoroughbred and Standardbred races in Saratoga Springs. When he and some friends decided to give horse ownership a try, they partnered on a harness racing horse. “We started with Standardbreds not knowing where it would go from there,” Battaglia said. “I just really enjoyed the breed and the people I dealt with, so that’s where I stayed. There are options for Thoroughbred ownership up here, but I like the Standardbred game because you can be more hands on, more involved.” In addition to owning horses, Battaglia is the president of Heading for Home Racehorse Retraining/Adoption Center in Saratoga Springs. The not-for-profit organization was founded in 2011 and also features equine-assisted therapy in cooperation with ECS Psychological Services of Saratoga. A therapy arena was constructed with funds raised in memory of horseman Alan Kirschenbaum. Standardbred horse owner Erin Christopher-Sisk founded ECS Psychological Services and serves as clinical director. Her husband, Jim, also attended the USTA Driving School in 2012, as did Heading for Home Treasurer John Cimino. “It was a spinoff of ownership,” Battaglia said about the organization, which currently is home to seven horses, primarily Standardbreds. “We thought there should be an organization formed to better help provide an option for people who wanted to stand behind a horse after their racing days were over. We slowly gathered momentum and now have a permanent location.” Battaglia looks back fondly on his participation in the USTA Driving School and still keeps in touch with a number of people who were involved in the program. “It was nice to be around people who were enthusiastic about the business,” Battaglia said. “The people who worked with us were very nice and very helpful, from the USTA to the people in the barns. I was in (trainer) Rob Harmon’s barn. It was fun to learn the behind-the-scenes aspect of the business. As an owner, being around the barn is as much fun as race day. “It was a great time. I would recommend that anyone interested in the business go try it out.” For more information about this year’s Driving School, or to enroll online, click here. Those interested in attending should not delay; enrollment is limited. Click here to learn about incentives for attending the program. by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications 

Every year there are series’ that take place in the springtime that honor the memory of different horsemen and women that were instrumental in the 75 year history of harness racing at Saratoga. Last week, there were three series’ that kicked off featuring some of the top young horses at the Spa honoring the memory of past horsemen John Mongeon Sr. and JP Morel and the “first lady” of Saratoga Harness Virginia O’Brien. The series’ are for trotters and pacers that are five year olds and younger and have yet to achieve any kind of big time success thus far in their young careers. The John Mongeon Sr. Memorial series got underway on Thursday afternoon. This is the fourth installment of the annual series that honors the longtime Saratoga horseman. Trotters that are 5-years old and younger and were non-winners of two races or $20,000 lifetime (with an extra allowance for mares) as of March 21 were eligible for the series. The Mongeon series attracted enough young trotters to allow for four divisions of the first leg which each went for a purse of $7,500. Band Winsome was the fastest of the leg one winners on Thursday as the mare who was faced with tackling a rival who went off as the 1-5 favorite wound scoring impressively after her major danger made a break at the start of the race. Band Winsome, who was the only of the leg one winners to not go coast to coast for her victory, stamped herself as perhaps the one to beat in the Mongeon after scoring in 1:58.3 on Thursday. HMS Firecracker overcame post position eight in his division of the Mongeon to prevail in 1:59.2. The 4-year-old trotter is one to watch in the series as he has found a home for himself over the past month or so since joining the stable of conditioner Andy Sardella. HMS Firecracker followed up a second place finish in his debut for his new trainer with three consecutive victories after scoring wire-to-wire in leg one of the Mongeon. A Jersey Contract and Palmers Pride were the other series winners as they each prevailed on the front end on Thursday. A Jersey Contract was making just his second start of the year when he cruised to victory after having two of his chief challengers make breaks. After a solid two year old season in which he recorded a pair of victories, A Jersey Contract certainly offers major upside as the series moves forward. Palmers Pride was the “slowest” winner of leg one but could still be the one to beat among the young trotters. Don Sherman trains and drives Palmers Pride who is just now in his first season of racing despite the fact that he is five years old. While the late bloomer Palmers Pride’s victory came in just 2:00.2 on Thursday, the trotter has already recorded a 1:58.4 score this year and now has three wins, two seconds and a third in his six career starts. Leg two of the series will take place on Saturday with horses having their final chance to record points toward the Mongeon Final on Sunday May 15th which is set to go for a purse of $28,700. Friday night kicked off the annual Virginia O’Brien Pacing Series. It is only fitting that the series which honors the memory of one of the most influential women in track history is comprised of fillies and mares. There were three divisions of the first leg of the O’Brien for lady pacers who were non-winners of three races or $25,000 lifetime as of March 21. Unlike leg one of the Mongeon where two of the winners were the favorites, none of the favorites prevailed in the first leg of the O’Brien. Four-to-one shots Frontier Sarah and B B Royale each secured Friday victories in 1:55.4 while longshot Harlot’s Dream lit up the toteboard while dismissed at odds of 50-1. Brian Cross co-owns, trains and drives the mare Harlot’s Dream who came from well off the pace to pull off the big time upset. While the race certainly set up for a closer, Harlot’s Dream had to earn the win by bypassing the race’s favorite Southwind Marilyn in the stretch. Southwind Marilyn was the only one of the favorites in leg one of the O’Brien to finish in the top three in their respective divisions. If the first leg is any indication of what the rest of the series will bring, we could be in store for some really good races as the O’Brien series moves towards the second leg next week with the $27,500 Final scheduled for Saturday May 14. Longtime local driving standout JP Morel passed away in 2012 and the annual pacing series in his honor kicked off on Saturday night. There were just two divisions of the first leg of Morel Series. In The Huddle went coast to coast with Kim Crawford in the sulky, prevailing in a career best-matching 1:55. It was just the third start of the season for In The Huddle who was by far the faster of the two winners in the series’ first leg. Brigadoon brought a three race win streak into the Saturday series, a streak that dates back to last year. Billy Dobson pilots the three year old pacer who continued his winning ways as he scored for the fourth consecutive time, stopping the timer in 1:56.3. There was no dominant force in either division of the first leg of the Morel pace which should make for an interesting leg two as they head towards the series final set for Saturday, May 14. The track will feature a rare doubleheader this Saturday on Kentucky Derby day and the matinee portion of the doubleheader will consist of mostly series races. The Mongeon, O’Brien and Morel Series’ second legs will all take place on the Saturday afternoon card as the trotters and pacers get their final chance to qualify for the series’ finals that will be contested the following weekend. Live racing takes place this week on Thursday starting at 4:00 and continues on Friday night beginning at 6:45 p.m. The lone doubleheader for the season is set for Saturday and there will be a Sunday matinee as well. First post for the afternoon race cards is 12:15pm while Saturday night’s program will kick off at 6:45pm, soon after the completion of the Kentucky Derby. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line! Reprinted with permission of The Saratogian

Message to legislators: Fix horse racing first, create jobs The Illinois Harness Horseman's Association today decried legislation that would legalize fantasy sports gambling while at the same time, lawmakers have failed to support the horse racing industry which employs 14,000 people. "Horsemen in Illinois are suffering at the same time that the sport is flourishing in other states," said Illinois Harness Horseman's Association President Marty Engel. "We're grateful to legislators who passed gaming legislation in 2012 but Governor Pat Quinn vetoed that bill. Let me be clear, because of legislative inaction in the last four years, the industry has suffered greatly." Meanwhile, Illinois legislators are currently considering legalizing fantasy sports gambling. That legislation however, will do nothing for horse racing and will grow no new jobs. Horse racing, on the other hand, is a proven job creator. One horse creates jobs for as many as 10 people over its career. That's because horse racing is a labor intensive industry. Racehorses require concentrated care from the breeding process to weaning and training and all of the way through their retirement. The 16,000 jobs that have been lost since 2002 are in part a result of fewer foals being born. For example, in 2002 there were 2,409 foals born in Illinois. That number dropped to 1,390 foals in 2010, 907 foals in 2014 and 796 foals in 2015. Thousands of Illinois horsemen have left the Land of Lincoln for states with healthy horse racing industries like Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. Many other local horseman have joined the ranks of the unemployed. "People aren't buying Illinois racehorses anymore because of the uncertainty in the state," said Standardbred horse breeder Rita Williams. Horse racing states often incentivize breeding programs by offering special races and higher winnings for horses bred in-state. People don't want to buy Illinois horses if they are going to race them in Indiana or Ohio because Illinois bred horses can't compete for as much money as horses bred in those respective states. Illinois also offers breeding incentives but without bigger purses from slot machines, people won't compete here. "It's safer to buy Indiana or Ohio horses," said Williams. "People aren't certain that Springfield will act to restore our sport in Illinois. A lot of breeders are going to Indiana to breed their horses, it just makes more sense for horsemen to go to other states in which horse racing thrives." If legislators continue to ignore the plight of horse racing, more trainers, breeders, blacksmiths, hay and grain farmers, grooms and other industry workers will move to states like Ohio where horse racing has exploded at the same time that Illinois horse racing has imploded. Comprehensive gambling legislation that passed out of the General Assembly in 2012 would have allowed racetracks to diversify by installing slot machines on their property where people already come to gamble. Profits would be used in part to boost purses for live racing, supporting thousands of jobs in the process. Most other horse racing states have already installed slot machines at their racetracks, increasing their purses and leaving Illinois horse racing at a disadvantage. The high purses attract horses, trainers and drivers. Consequently, the breeding in those states flourishes. Horsemen implore legislators to tweak the current Illinois horse racing laws and allow them to compete with other horse racing states before legalizing fantasy sports betting. "It is tempting for legislators to go after new, quick money from fantasy sports and ignore the current broken gaming landscape in Illinois," said Engel. "But if we are serious about growing jobs and getting our state back on track, legislators should work to let horse racing prosper again. The landscape has changed but horse racing is a proven job creator. We've seen it succeed before and it is succeeding in other states. Let's put these Illinoisans back to work again." Mack Communications 1015 Maple Ave, Suite 200 Downers Grove, IL 60515 630-357-7552 Fax: 630-541-3212 www.mackcommunications.com          

The phrases 'Jason Bartlett' and '80-1' aren't usually uttered together, but those harness racing folks who successfully connected the dots were handsomely rewarded Monday evening. Yonkers Raceway's leading driver and Hearts Wild blew up the tote board (figuratively, since it didn't actually go anywhere), rallying from sixth entering the lane for a $163 upset in the $14,000, second-race pace. From post position No. 4, she defeated Mother of Art (George Brennan) by a nose, with 60-1 Lilmisstalksalot (Dan Dube) third. Hearts Wild, a 3-year-old daughter of Western Ideal co-owned by William & Barbara Ethier and trained by Scott Blackler, had make an early break in last week's local debut. Her second win in a dozen seasonal/career starts matched her previous life-best effort. She led a $514 exacta and $2,845 triple, enhanced when 1-5 favorite Soulmate Hanover (Scott Zeron) caved and wound up sixth. Frank Drucker

The celebrated Elitlopp in Solvalla Stockholm (Sweden) is one of harness racing's most exciting events in world for those who love the sport of racing.   Offered through a raffle to benefit the Standardbred Retirement Foundation (SRF), the drawing is tomorrow, Tuesday, May 3rd at 12:30.   This fabulous trip includes a 5 day - 4 night stay for two at a 4-star hotel in the heart of the Stockholm, a welcoming dinner and get together Thursday night, sightseeing on Friday and Saturday morning, entrance to the Solvalla Racetrack Saturday and Sunday and an English speaking tour guide during your entire stay.   Raffle tickets are $25 each and funds raised will be used to provide hay and grain, medical, farrier care, rehabilitation, vaccinations, and other related needs for more than 200 Standardbreds currently in SRF's care. More than half of these horses are unadoptable due to age or injury under the full care and expense of SRF for the rest of their lives.   Last minute ticket purchase can be made by contacting admin@srfmail.com, or by phone at 732-446-4422. The winner does not need to be present.   In its 27th year, SRF is solely dedicated to the Standardbred breed and is different from all others as it provides full care for 208 horses, and retires those who are unadoptable at the full expense of the organization.   VISIT OUR WEBSITE   Standardbred Retirement Foundation, 353 Sweetmans Lane, Suite 101, Millstone Twp., NJ 08535

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