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YONKERS, N.Y. – The ninth race Monday night (Nov. 16) at Yonkers Raceway showcases a deep field of younger pacers comprised of Grand Circuit performers and local standouts. The $18,000 featured pace is for 3- , 4- and 5-year-old colts, horses, and geldings who are non-winners of eight pari-mutuel races or $100,000. The race will close out the evening’s Pick 5 wager, which begins in race five and features a $7,500 guaranteed pool and free past performances. Although not a handicap, the draw shook out that way as the 5-2 morning line favorite Save Me A Dance landed post position eight. A 3-year-old colt by Heston Blue Chip, Save Me A Dance is a homebred for Robert Key out of the Real Artist mare Dance Hall Girl. The most accomplished in the field, Save Me A Dance sports earnings of $246,191 from four victories and another 10 placings in 22 starts.  Save Me A Dance won an elimination of the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace here at 2 before finishing second in the $120,250 final July 13, 2019. He also made the New York Sire Stakes Final for 2-year-old pacing colts and geldings and won a $49,700 division of the Simpson at Harrah’s Philadelphia last October.  This year, Save Me A Dance competed on the NYSS circuit, finishing second in four legs and third in another to make the final for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings. He also competed in the Empire Breeders Classic Final in August, finished third in a division of the Bluegrass at 71-1 at the Red Mile Oct. 4, and finished fourth in each of the Tattersalls, a Breeders Crown Elimination, and the $500,000 Breeders Crown Final. In his last four starts, Save Me A Dance has paced sub-1:49, with none faster than a 1:48 clocking in the Bluegrass. Save Me A Dance will be driven by Jason Bartlett as the colt looks for his first victory since taking a $13,500 overnight at the Meadowlands June 13, 2020. Save Me A Dance is trained by Andrew Harris. Tito Rocks streaks into this race off four consecutive victories: he won an $11,200 overnight at Harrah’s Philadelphia Oct. 13, repeated at Harrah’s Oct. 14 in the $31,300 Liberty Bell Pace, took the $33,067 Simpson at Harrah’s Philadelphia Oct. 28, and captured a $10,000 overnight in the conditioned pacing ranks last out at Pocono Nov. 7.  A 3-year-old gelding by Sweet Lout of the Rocknroll Hanover mare Ticket To Rock, Tito Rocks went 0-for-5 last year, but improved to 6-for-16 with another five placings this season. He won a leg of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes in July and placed in another two legs to earn a spot in the $252,000 PASS Championship this September.  Tyler Buter, who drove Tito Rocks in his last win at Pocono, will drive again Monday night. The pair will start from post seven and are 7-2 on the morning line for trainer Robert Cleary and owner Royal Wire Products, Inc. Ohio-bred 3-year-old gelding Epic Ace will make his second local appearance after going offstride from post seven here Nov. 9. Before that mishap, the Western Vintage son earned six wins and another nine placings to the tune of $80,506 in the Midwest, racing primarily on the Ohio fair circuit for trainer Mike Polhamus. Now owned by Jesmeral Stable and in the barn of Donald Sider, Epic Ace will start from post one Monday night with Jim Marohn, Jr. in the sulky. He is 7-1 on the morning line. The field also includes three local winners in Caviart Rockland, Globaldomination, and Ehrmantraut. Caviart Rockland is a rare Yonkers starter for trainer Nancy Takter and is bred and owned by Caviart Farms. The 4-year-old Sportswriter gelding sports a local record of 8-3-3-0 after scoring two wins here last fall and another in a 23-1 wire-to-wire upset Oct. 5, 2020. Last time out here Nov. 2, Caviart Rockland finished second after leaving to set the pace from post seven. He drew favorably in post two Monday night and will be driven by Joe Bongiorno.  Globaldomination is a 5-time Yonkers winner for Pete Tritton, Vonknobloauch Stable, and Jordan Stratton, but is winless in eight starts since Aug. 24, in which the 5-year-old Bettor’s Delight gelding took a 1:52 lifetime mark. He drew post three Monday night. Ehrmantraut has won three races for new trainer Deborah Daguet: the 4-year-old Somebeachsomewhere son overcame post eight Sept. 21, repeated while up in class Sept. 28, and dead-heated with Mark Witha K Oct. 12. Most recently, Ehrmantraut with third in this class Nov. 9. George Brennan will drive the Lawrence Keethe and John Darrah homebred from post four Monday night. It’s A Marcs World, who dominated in the Minnesota-bred stakes this summer for Jessica Johnson and the Rolands before shipping east to Rob Harmon mid-October, and Motive Hanover, a 15-time winner for Mark Ford, complete the lineup. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

Yonkers, NY--Three $8,000 divisions of harness racing amateur drivers went to post in the 4th leg of this years NAADA Series at Yonkers Raceway and when it was all over bragging rights went to Brett Beckwith, Paul Minore and Dawn Anderson, after each won their respective splits. For 17-year-old Brett Beckwith it marked his second consecutive victory with his mom's horse, DJ's Revenge. After a covered two-hole journey behind Alan Schwartz and Ladys Big Stormont, Beckwith was able to rally in the deep stretch with Dj's Revenge for a one-length victory in 2:00 flat. Three lengths farther back in third place was Bob Hechkoff's Boots N Chains. For the talented youngster it was his 6th lifetime victory and second in three seasonal starts. DW's Revenge is owned and trained by Melissa Bekwith. It's been longtime since Paul Minore was a teenager but the former high school coach knows his way around the racetrack. His victory tonight was the fourth this season and 111th of his illustrious career. Behind his old warhorse Wygant Prince, Minore sent him to the lead from the four-hole and they had command on the first turn and led the field by the quarter pole in :29.3. But coming to the half Nicole Dicostanzo moved Jacks To Open out to challenge and the two leaders were side by side until the final turn where Wygant Prince trotted free and coasted home an easy two-length winner in a 2:02.1 clocking. In mid-stretch Mike Polansky hustled Noble Warrawee home second best while Jacks to Open hung on for the show dough. Minore owns the winner who's trained by Taylor Gower. A final NAADA split saw Dawn Anderson make a laugher out of it when she 'stepped on the gas' and sent Take A Wish to the lead in :28.3 first panel and once there challenges were few and far between. They were two lengths to the good by the half in :59.1 and they had four lengths on the competition by the three quarters in 1:28.2. In the lane they kept pouring it on finishing an 8-1/2 length winner over Pearly Allen and Mugshot Jess. Third place went to Charley Ona Harley, driven by Besim Odza. Ms Anderson trains the winner who she co-owns with Steve Smith. by John Manzi, for NAADA

YONKERS, N.Y. – The first time Justin Huckabone drove Winning Legends at Monticello Raceway Jan. 8, the trotter went wire-to-wire in a $5,500 overnight, drawing away by 6 1/2 lengths in 2:00.4. After another two straight harness racing victories at the Mighty M from posts seven and eight Jan. 15 and 22, respectively the 25-year-old driver was impressed. “He won three in a row and I called owner (Jonathan Appelbaum) after he won his first start and said, ‘wow, this horse is talented. This horse is real talented,” Huckabone recalled. “I was shoeing him and driving him for Austin Gilbert and I said, ‘man, this is a really nice horse, you guys got lucky here.’ ” After the COVID-19 shutdown hit, Winning Legends went on the shelf. By spring, Appelbaum was calling Huckabone asking him to train the trotter. Huckabone declined, ‘sour about training’ after serving a lengthy suspension for possession of hypodermic equipment in 2015. Finally, Appelbaum convinced Huckabone to take Winning Legends. Huckabone began working with Winning Legends June 4. With the 4-year-old Winning Mister gelding unraced and out of training since Feb. 12, Huckabone gave a 12-week timeline to qualify. “He hadn’t done much, he was really out of shape. This horse didn’t have a bad day for 12 weeks. Every single day, he was good and he just kept getting better,” Huckabone said. “He’s a great horse to be around. He’s really enjoyable. He’s always real friendly, always real personable,” Huckabone continued. “This horse has a personality, he knows when you’re talking to him, he’ll be really interactive to be around, really nice that way. “He’s kind of a high-strung horse and that’s probably his biggest limiting factor. If he ever learned to relax, he’d be even better than what he shows now,” Huckabone continued. “That’s his biggest limiting factor by far now is he gets excited. There’s nothing he really can’t do. He can out-leave the car if necessary. He’s got two really good moves. He’s got a wicked eighth off the car and if you sit him in and never use him, he’s got another wicked eighth right at the end. Very athletic, classy sort of horse.” Winning Legends qualified ahead of schedule at Pocono Downs Aug. 12, going wire-to-wire to win by 3 lengths in 1:57.2.  “I knew training down he was a killer, but I qualified him and said, ‘this thing is a real freak,’ ” Huckabone said. “I don’t know how anybody got him to go slow, but this horse is fast. He won his qualifier really handy. He won in 1:57.2, probably had 1:55 in the tank.” Winning Legends made his first pari-mutuel start back in a $10,000 overnight at Harrah’s Philadelphia Aug. 20. After riding in the three-hole, he won by a half-length, trotting a mile in 1:54.3. After a setback in his next start Aug. 27, in which Winning Legends went off stride, Huckabone made a rigging change and it has been smooth sailing ever since. “I took him to Chester, he got a great trip up the inside, he won in 1:54.3. It was a really good tightener and he rose to the occasion. If he had gotten a check, I would have been happy. He’s overachieved,” Huckabone said. “The next start, he made a break and I re-rigged him,” Huckabone explained. “He had a big laceration on his tongue from being hot. He wears a dog chain. So, I put a lip cord on him and ever since then, he’s been really good, really drivable.” Winning Legends has finished first or second in each of his last five starts, including a 1:53.2 lifetime mark at Pocono two back Oct. 10, in which he got a pocket trip before beating Broadway Athena by a neck. Winning Legends also jogged by 2 1/2 lengths at Harrah’s Philadelphia Sept. 17.  “The start that impressed me the most was when he won in 1:53.3 and I never breathed on him. I had the whip tucked the whole way and cut it at Chester and he won handy. Nobody even got near him,” Huckabone said. “He beat Broadway Athena at Pocono.  “I didn’t think he would get here. I thought training him down, he would get to this point, but I thought he would be a 5- or 6-year-old before he matured like that. He’s advanced rapidly. Every week he’s better. I don’t really expect anything from him. Whatever he does, he does. He’s done so well so quickly, he’s taken the pressure right off himself.” Winning Legends went to the Saratoga open handicap pace in his last start Oct. 19. Huckabone timed the gate and advanced from post seven, but looking to his left, saw four horses leaving to his inside. Trotting around the first turn, Huckabone went with plan “B” and took back to land a seat in fifth. Winning Legends didn’t stick to the pylons long, angling first-over from 5 lengths behind hitting the stretch the first time. By the third turn, Winning Legends applied pressure to leader Gruden, who was softened by a :27.3 first quarter. Around the final turn, Winning Legends turned the screws on Gruden, drawing even under a hand drive while the longtime leader was all-out. At the same time, Brett Crawford tipped Ronnie Goldstein three-wide off cover.  Winning Legends put a nose in front at the top of the stretch. Huckabone cracked the whip three times, but approaching the wire, looked to his right at the approaching Ronnie Goldstein and tucked the stick. Winning Legends held on by a nose in 1:56.2. “I knew I had (Gruden) put away going into the last turn. Brett Crawford was the one that I was really worried about and he was third-over, moved wide, got pulled right into the race, never had to use his horse,” Huckabone said. “I wasn’t going to abuse ‘Legends’ to hang on. I quit driving on him and let him finish up what he wanted to and he held on. He was really large that start. He was probably out for three turns out of four.” With Saratoga not carding an open trot Oct. 26, Huckabone entered Winning Legends in the $25,000 trotting feature at Yonkers Raceway Oct. 30. The 14-time winner and earner of $92,602 is 20-1 on the morning line as he steps up to face the likes of Melady’s Monet, Stormy Kromer, Muscle M Up, Cash Me Out, Nows The Moment, Mississippi Storm, and a familiar face in Broadway Athena, who upset this feature Oct. 23 at 12-1. “I saw Broadway Athena was in at Yonkers and the trip worked out for her and she won. There’s really no reason (Winning Legends) couldn’t have done the same thing. I figured I would give him a test and see what he’s made of,” Huckabone said. “The purses are going up and if he acts like he can go with them now, I’ll probably try bringing him regularly. If it seems like it’s too much for him to handle, I’ll probably wait on him until next year. I didn’t want to put him in against the real horses just yet, but it wouldn’t hurt to get a read on him. “Coming in here, these are way better horses than what he’s faced,” Huckabone continued. “He’s kind of in a compromised spot having the four hole. It looks like there are three leavers underneath him, probably somebody is going to press from the outside. They aren’t going to trot away from him at any point, that’s for sure, so it’s all going to depend on how the trip works out.” Although Winning Legends has been close to the pace in most of his starts for Huckabone, the trainer-driver isn’t looking to be as aggressive early in a spot like this. “What’s going to matter is whether the flow keeps going,” Huckabone said. “If the flow doesn’t keep going and you get away fourth, fifth on the rail, it’s going to be hard to make a big move for more than a half-mile on those horses. He’s not going to be able to handle that sort of trip, and there’s no passing lane. I’m just going to drive smart. If I drive him smart, I’m quite sure he can get a piece of it if it goes his way.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

Yonkers, NY--Despite the inclement weather two short-field harness racing divisions roughed the wind and the rain and competed over a muddy racetrack in the North American Amateur Drivers Association's $8,000 non-wagering trots which were presented on Thursday night (Oct. 29) prior to the waging card getting underway at Yonkers Raceway. In the first split 17-year-old Brett Beckwith scored behind DW's Revenge in 2:01 while Paul Minore and If I Must notched their second victory in amateur events in less than a week, having won an American Harness Drivers Club trot at Freehold Raceway on Sat, October 24. Their victory tonight was in a 2:00.3. In his division Beckwith sat a pocket until the three quarters and then rallied DW's Revenge to a going away 4-1/2 length triumph over Jacks To Open (Nicole Dicostanzo) who was cutting the fractions. Tough Get Going garnered the show dough for Joe Faraldo. The winner, a 6-year-old altered son of Archangel, is owned and trained by Melissa Beckwith In the other split, Paul Minore charged If I Must to the lead as the wings of the mobile gate folded then grabbed leather and allowed Tony Ciufettelli to take command with Someway Sam Hall. Minore then sat chilly and followed Ciuffetelli's lead all the way to the top of the stretch and then rallied his trotter to score a head triumph. Third place went to Ladys Big Stormont and driver Alan Schwartz. Minore owns the winner who is trained by Taylor Gower by John Manzi, for NAADA

MGM Yonkers is pleased to announce that two  harness racing stakes races will be added to the racing calendar in November at Yonkers Raceway. On November 28, 2020 there will be a $125,000 Invitational Pace for horses that were eligible to the Borgata Pacing Series and a $100,000 Invitational Mares Pace for horses that were eligible to the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series. These stakes along with several others were unfortunately canceled earlier in the year due to the pandemic and closure of the racetrack and casino. The Yonkers Raceway Race Office will be contacting eligible participants shortly. MGM Yonkers is also pleased to announce a ten percent purse increase across the board for all classes. This increase will take effect for racing the week of November 9. by Alex Dadoyan, for Yonkers Raceway  

YONKERS, N.Y. – Purses at Yonkers Raceway will increase for the week beginning Nov. 8, about seven weeks after Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts Yonkers Raceway reopened to patrons at reduced capacity. The increase will be effective for all classes and on average, represents an approximately 14% bump from current levels. The new purse structure will be as follows: Class of Race Current Purse Purse Effective 11/8/2020 Open $25,000 $30,000 Winners Over $20,000 Last 5 $22,000 $25,000 Non-winners $20,000 Last 5 $17,500 $20,000 Non-winners $15,000 Last 5 $15,000 $17,500 Non-winners $10,000 Last 5 $12,500 $14,000 Non-winners $7,500 Last 5 $10,000 $11,000 Non-winners $5,000 Last 5 $8,500 $9,500 Claiming $30,000 $17,500 $20,000 Claiming $25,000 $15,000 $17,500 Claiming $20,000 $12,500 $14,000 Claiming $15,000 $10,000 $11,000 Claiming $12,500 $8,500 $9,500 Non-winners 8 pari-mutuel races $16,000 $18,000 Non-winners 6 pari-mutuel races $14,000 $16,000 Non-winners 4 pari-mutuel races $12,000 $14,000 Non-winners 2 pari-mutuel races $10,000 $12,000   Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. From the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. - Jamie Durnberger-Smith still remembers the day the harness racing pacer Pat Stanley caught his eye. The agent and co-founder of Summit Bloodstock was watching the races from Menangle, Australia at his Brisbane home Nov. 2, 2019 as Pat Stanley secured a pocket trip in the opener, a $20,400 overnight.  After racing in the two-hole through the first three quarters, Pat Stanley was stuck in behind leader Brocks Territory turning for home as Team Tritton’s Foo Fighter kicked off cover three deep. With 200 meters to pace, Pat Stanley saw daylight along the pylons and although Foo Fighter had the jump on the field, Pat Stanley rallied for a second-place finish.  “I saw him, I saw his point-to-point speed, and that was it,” Durnberger-Smith said. “I clocked his sectionals, his furlong splits. He had a :12.4 split, which is crazy. He’d run the second or third fastest split I had ever clocked at Menangle. His sectional was just unbelievable. When I found out the horse was sound and the camp that I was going to buy him from looks after their horses, I knew he’d be in great health and be ready, so we bought him.” Durnberger-Smith and Summit co-founder Jake Webster enlisted South Carolina-based owner Ron Buker and made a deal for a hefty sum while retaining a minority interest in the horse themselves, much to the bewilderment of the racing community. Pat Stanley had 12 wins to his name at the time, but had never won more than $5,720 in any one victory. He had also never won a metropolitan class race. Undeterred, Summit and Buker sent Pat Stanley to Kerryn Manning and pointed their new purchase to a prestigious Group 2 stakes. “A lot of people said we were crazy, but because he hadn’t won a metropolitan race, we knew that if he went to the South Australian Pacing Cup, he would get post one or two because of the way it’s preferential,” Durnberger-Smith said.  Pat Stanley debuted for his new connections at Melton Jan. 17, finishing third in a $20,000 overnight. Pat Stanley finished third again in a Group 3 stakes at Melton Feb. 1. One week later, Pat Stanley was entered in the Group 2 South Australian Pacing Cup at Globe Derby Park, drawing post two as expected. Manning put the whip on the pacer’s tail leaving the gate and looked to her right, seeing four horses leaving to her outside.  With the inside advantage, Pat Stanley made the lead and faced immediate pressure from Joes A Character. The tempo threatened to slow up the backstretch the first time, and entering the second turn, Little Peanut advanced to make it a three-wide battle for the lead. Joes A Character was first to waive the white flag, taking back into the pocket. Greg Sugars pressed on with Little Peanut, but soon retreated. Taking his place outside the leader, Rackemup Tigerpie charged three-wide to ensure Pat Stanley never got a breather. Entering the final lap, Pat Stanley maintained the lead, challenged by Rackemup Tigerpie. The pair sprinted away from the competition, opening up daylight on the field as the pace quickened up the backstretch. Around the final turn, Manning went to the right-handed whip and yanked down the ear hood with her left. Despite bearing out and showing signs of fatigue from the onslaught he faced to hold the lead, Pat Stanley dug in and beat Rackemup Tigerpie to the wire in a 1:57.1 mile rate over the 2,645-meter trip. “They just attacked him the whole race and he still won. It was just unbelievable,” Durnberger-Smith said. “Everyone thought we were going to lose our money. When we sent him to a really good trainer and placed him perfectly, everyone started to realize, wow this is a pretty damn good horse. He couldn’t win one metro race and all the sudden, he wins the time-honored South Australian Pacing Cup. You don’t see many horses do that. It really set Twitter and the harness racing world down here on fire when he did that. “It was more of a relief than anything, only because I said to Ron that he will win it if we buy him and he doesn’t go to America straight away,” Durnberger-Smith continued. “It was more of a relief to us because we were so adamant that he would be able to win that race drawing barrier one or barrier two.” Pat Stanley won a listed $24,000 free for all at Melton March 7 and placed in three other races before exporting to the United States July 6. After training down with Shane and Lauren Tritton over the summer, Pat Stanley qualified at Yonkers Sept. 18, winning in 1:54.2 with Lauren in the bike. After a second-place finish in his pari-mutuel debut Oct. 2, Pat Stanley captured a $17,500 overnight in 1:52.2 Oct. 10, improving his record to 50-15-11-5 with $118,521 earned and fulfilling Durnberger-Smith’s dream of winning a race in America. “Dreamt of this moment for a long, long time!!!” Summit Bloodstock posted on their Twitter page. “When he won the other day, Jake and I, we’ve been dreaming of that moment since we were kids,” Durnberger-Smith added. Bitten early by the racing bug, Durnberger-Smith worked with trainers Christopher Robinson and Gary Hall. About 10 months ago, Durnberger-Smith and Webster, each 32 years old, joined forces to create Summit Bloodstock, with the mission of introducing new owners to the sport. With the success of their first two horses, Westar Sam and My Bettor Lady, interest in the venture rapidly grew. The stable now boasts a roster of 42 horses. “We said, ‘let’s start buying as many horses as we can and see what happens. We’ve been in the game for so long, we know who the good horses are, we know how to find them. Let’s have a go.’ ” Durnberger-Smith recalled. “We’ve got 152 owners with Summit Bloodstock now, so we’re not going to stop.” In addition to their goals of continuing to grow their stable and selling more horses to America (such as recent exports Demeter, Deltasun and Need Luck), Durnberger-Smith and Webster have lofty aspirations for Pat Stanley’s Stateside career. If the 6-year-old Western Ideal son continues to pan out as expected, he could become a regular in the open ranks at Yonkers Raceway, compete in the Borgata Pacing Series in 2021, and more. “When Pat Stanley is rock-hard fit in two or three starts time, he’ll go 1:47 at the Meadowlands if he has to, I’m certain. If he’s not a 1:47 horse, I’m a poor judge. He’s way better when he’s sitting behind a leader and he’s rock-hard fit. He’s just so blindingly quick,” Durnberger-Smith said. “Shane is taking his time with him, which is the best thing because he’ll be running good races for a long time.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY  

YONKERS, N.Y. – After posting three straight victories at Yonkers Raceway, Ponder The Odds will get her toughest test yet Thursday night (Oct. 15) as she steps up into the $25,000 filly and mare open handicap pace for the first time. Whatever the outcome, she’s already exceeding the expectations of her trainers, owners, and breeders, Kathleen and Donald La Montagne. “To tell you the truth, it’s been shocking,” Donald La Montagne said. “Jimmy (Marohn, Jr.) has been getting along with her better than anyone who has ever driven her. She’s a nice filly, but she’s doing a lot more than I ever thought she could.” Despite going 10-for-27 last year, including a win in the $70,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes Standardbred Development Fund Final for 3-year-old pacing fillies, Ponder The Odds’ 2020 season started slowly. She qualified back after the coronavirus shutdown July 17 and went winless in her first six starts, including a three-race rift in which she didn’t earn a check between Aug. 20 and Sept. 9. Ponder The Odds dropped into a $12,500 overnight at Yonkers Sept. 17 and had a change of drivers to Jim Marohn, Jr. Something clicked. Ponder The Odds raced in fourth until moving first-over with three-eighths to pace. She advanced steadily and passing the three-quarter mile marker, Ponder The Odds took the lead and took off. Her stride quickened and she put up 5 lengths on the field turning for home. Kept to task by Marohn through the stretch, Ponder The Odds extended her margin to 7 lengths, stopping the clock in 1:52.4. Ponder The Odds stepped up to the $15,000 level in her latest two starts Sept. 24 and Oct. 1. In both races, she beat the Ron Burke trained standout Feelin Red Hot, first with a pocket trip and then with a pacesetting effort after leaving from post seven and assuming the lead through fast early fractions. She stayed the course for a 1:52.3 seasonal mark, improving her resume to 13-for-40 with $141,843 earned. “She had a good year last year and she didn’t really come back that good,” La Montagne said. “She wasn’t even getting checks. And then Jimmy just got along with her. We were stunned. She beat a really nice, classy old mare (Feelin Red Hot). She’s not at her best either, that one, but she’s got a lot of class. I was shocked that she won that one when she came first-over. She had some luck in those races, but last week, she did all the work and she got it done. We’re really happy with her. We’re kind of stunned about the whole thing.” Ponder The Odds’ legacy goes back three generations with the La Montagnes. A self-described ‘mom-and-pop’ outfit, the La Montagnes have been breeding, raising, breaking, training, and racing their own horses on their farm for 45 years as a passion, not as a career. Their stable has had two key broodmares over the years, the pacer Motivation, and the trotter Motivational.  The La Montages purchased Motivation for $7,200 in the 1990s. She went 12-for-52, became a multiple stakes winner, took a mark of 1:52.3 at the Meadowlands, and earned $300,847 before retiring to the La Montagne’s farm to breed in 1996. “She was the fastest Direct Scooter mare of all time and she was the New Jersey 3-year-old pacer of the year in 1995. She was a top stakes mare,” La Montagne commented. Motivation produced seven foals to race between 1999 and 2010. Four of them earned six figures, including her 2000 foal Figure The Odds, who went 17-for-74 and banked $247,641 racing from 2002 to 2005. A multiple stakes winner herself, Figure The Odds’ biggest win came in the $70,756 Rose of Tralee Stakes at Yonkers July 12, 2003, when she stopped the clock in 1:55. “Figure The Odds won there and took Bunny Lake’s record (of 1:56.1) in the Rose of Tralee. She was a really top mare herself, a really good stakes filly,” La Montagne said. “From her time as a 2-year-old, she was a top filly.” Figure The Odds produced five foals to race between 2007 and 2016. Three of them have earned six figures. Now 20 years old, Figure The Odds is retired on La Montagne’s farm. Her last foal was Ponder The Odds. While Ponder The Odds hasn’t lived up to her family legacy yet, she inherited some of the most coveted intangible traits among mares and La Montagne hopes she will continue to improve. “This filly comes from a good filly family. I do like her a lot, but there’s plenty in her family that are better than her,” La Montagne said. “Her sire, Ponder, he got much better when he was older. He did his best work for McIntosh when he was 5, so we’re hoping she will come around. That horse gets better with age. “Her mother (Figure The Odds) was much bigger-gaited and faster than (Ponder The Odds), but they’re all similar. All easy to get along with, just good racehorses, no tying up,” La Montagne continued. “There’s an old saying among horsemen, ‘good fillies come from filly families and good colts can come from anywhere.’ The credit goes to this family, all the fillies in this family have been very good. She comes through that family and to get a good filly that tries is hard to do. She tries very hard, that’s how that family is. They have a lot of ability and they try. Those are hard things to put together for a mare.” After her three-race win streak, the La Montagnes gave Ponder The Odds last week off before entering back in the filly and mare open handicap. “That was a very tough race (Oct. 1), they parked her in 27-flat and she didn’t weaken at the end, she hung on” La Montagne said. “There were three tough starts in a row, so she didn’t race last week, that was by design. She got her week off, I trained her in 2 minutes, and that’s it. Hopefully, it’s going to sharpen her, I want to keep her fresh.” Ponder The Odds drew post position three in Thursday’s distaff feature, the seventh race on the program. With Marohn opting for the Rob Harmon trained Robyn Camden, Jason Bartlett picked up the drive and the pair are 9-2 on the morning line. The field includes Lady Dela Renta, who’s won four of her last five starts, including a win in this class last out Oct. 1. She drew post eight and is 7-2 with Jordan Stratton set to drive for Team Tritton. Ron Burke trained Snobbytown enters off four consecutive runner up finishes at this level and is the 3-1 morning line favorite with regular reinsman George Brennan. Robyn Camden upset this bunch with an off-the-pace win at 7-1 Sept. 17. She is 7-1 on the morning line from post five. Alexa’s Power, Wishy Washy Girl, Neverforgetwhour, and Bye Bye Michelle complete the lineup. “I looked at the program and everyone in the race could win, they’re all good horses,” La Montagne said. “It’s our first time moving up in that class, so we have a lot to prove. She went fast a couple times her last three starts, but that’s not the same as going against ones that can stay with you. This will be her true test.  “She’s got a top driver, hopefully she gets along with him like she did with Jimmy. Speed is one thing, class is another. She’ll have her test of class, we’ll see if she can go with these; for a 4-year-old to go against these seasoned mares, that’s the true test. I’m not disappointed if she doesn’t win, she earned her way up in there. “She has really surprised me her last three starts. She seems to be a horse for the course. We’ll see. She has overachieved my expectations.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Harness racing trainer Paul Stafford feels fortunate to have worked in large stables and train many horses throughout his career. He’s trained good ones and inevitably, slow ones, too. Even among the good ones, there are those who need to be made to do their work or who don’t train well. However, when it comes to star trotter Stormy Kromer, Stafford says, “he trains me.” “The more horses you train, the more good horses you train, they’ll train you,” Stafford said. “You turn the right way to go and the further you go in a mile, the more interested they get. When you come out of the turn and for the last quarter, you just hang on for dear life because they know it’s time to go fast and they do it themselves. “He’s a very easy horse to maintain, he doesn’t take a lot of work. He makes my job easy because he’s very low maintenance.” Stormy Kromer joined Stafford’s stable in spring 2019 and since then, has exceeded expectations of being a high-level conditioned trotter. Stormy Kromer rose to the open ranks near the end of last year and won a $35,000 preferred trot at Yonkers Raceway Nov. 23. This year, he’s been even better. Since returning to racing June 25 after the coronavirus shut down tracks across America, Stormy Kromer is 6-for-9 with his last three victories coming at the preferred level at Yonkers and Freehold. In his career, Stormy Kromer is 28-for-104 with $397,224 earned. Stormy Kromer’s streak started with a 5 1/4-length, win at Harrah’s Philadelphia July 16 in which the 6-year-old gelding set a 1:51.4 lifetime mark. Stormy Kromer then came to Yonkers July 24. With Dan Dube in the sulky, he trotted to a 5-length victory in 1:53.3, establishing a North American record for an aged gelding on a half-mile track. Stormy Kromer lowered his own record next out July 31, posting a 4-length victory in 1:52.3, the fastest trotting mile in the history of Yonkers Raceway (besting the previous 1:53.1 mark jointly held by Six Pack and Plunge Blue Chip). Despite all those victories coming on the front end, Stormy Kromer got away with another pace-setting win in the $22,000 preferred handicap trot at Yonkers Aug. 7 before the competition caught on. Next out Aug. 21, Stormy Kromer had a target on his back and was parked the mile after leaving from post five. Succumbing to the trip delivered by the wisening competition, Stormy Kromer finished last beaten by 15 lengths. He rebounded next out at Freehold Aug. 28, taking the $12,000 preferred handicap by 6 1/2 lengths. “Most horses, trotters especially, can’t leave as well as he can and be up 5 lengths the whole mile. Horses like that, you think are basically out of control and that’s the way they have to go. But he’s such a gentleman on the track. He’s two fingers, he’s doing that all on his own, which is awesome,” Stafford said of the open-length victories and blazing miles. Arguably Stormy Kromer’s biggest victory came in his most recent start in the preferred handicap at Yonkers Sept. 9. Starting from post seven and not desiring another ride on the rim, Dube and Stormy Kromer took back to sixth as Obrigado set the tempo. Stormy Kromer angled to the outside passing the half, but faced a 7 1/4-length deficit as Obrigado got soft fractions. Following the cover of Muscle M Up, Stormy Kromer advanced to within 3 lengths of the lead at the three-quarters, but began to gap the cover entering the final turn. Straightening away, Obrigado and Muscle M Up battled for the lead while Stormy Kromer was still 3 lengths behind. Dube tugged on the right line and Stormy Kromer saw open road ahead. Under a right-handed whip Stormy Kromer kicked into gear, trotting home in :28.1 to collar Muscle M Up for a neck victory. “He’s been racing well for us to say the least. He’s beat some good horses. His last start, that was a nice group of horses that he beat in there,” Stafford said. “He did it from off the pace; he came from behind for the first time in a while. It was a testament to him that he’s learned to race both ways. “He was gapped and Obrigado was on the front. Normally, Obrigado would put him away with that kind of a trip. That was impressive,” Stafford continued. “Going into it with the outside and all the speed on the inside, I thought if we sorted out a second- or third-over trip, we could be second or third in there. Stormy Kromer decided that wasn’t going to be good enough.” Stafford attributes Stormy Kromer’s standout summer campaign in part to the trotter’s continued physical development. Stormy Kromer got a break over the winter, making his last start Dec. 14, 2019 before requalifying Feb. 28.  Stormy Kromer got one race in at Yonkers March 7 before the coronavirus shutdown sent him back to the sidelines until June. “He raced the one time and he was third in an open. He was a good third, then we shut down. During the shutdown, he put on some weight. For me, there’s weight and there’s good weight. He put on good weight, he put on a lot of muscle,” Stafford said. “He filled out a lot over those three months because we didn’t do a lot of work. They all jogged every day, but you weren’t doing a lot of speed work. It got him to put on some good weight and it made him stronger, definitely.” Stormy Kromer seeks his seventh win this year and his third straight in the $22,000 preferred handicap trot at Yonkers Raceway Friday night (Sept. 25). After the early scratch of Warrior One, Stormy Kromer will start from post six in a condensed field, which is comprised of New Heaven, Nows The Moment, Lindsey’s Pride, The Last Chapter, and Obrigado. “I think it’s a good spot. The scratch helps, starting one position closer,” Stafford said. “I don’t know what the game plan will be. I think there’s still enough speed in there, we’re not looking to get torched again. We pretty much leave it up to Dube.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – When Hudson Phil started his 2020 harness racing campaign with three straight losses in the open handicap pace at Saratoga from June 21 to July 5, longtime owner Wayne Kellogg of Kellogg Racing Stable was afraid the talented pacer had tailed off or that a long 2019 campaign had taken its toll. However, the 5-year-old gelding has since won four of his last six starts, including two Saratoga opens and two Yonkers overnights. Friday night (Sept. 18), Hudson Phil will make his first start in the open handicap pace at Yonkers Raceway. “He’s getting into a groove,” Kellogg said. “It takes a few starts to get in a groove when you’re racing at that higher echelon. He seems to be there now.” Kellogg Racing acquired Hudson Phil out of the 2018 Harrisburg Mixed Sale. The Shanghai Phil son caught the eye of Janie Kellogg, Wayne’s wife. Hudson Phil had won a leg of the Ontario Sire Stakes and placed in the Battle of Waterloo, the Nassagaweya, and the Champlain at 2 in the barn of Mark Steacy. At 3, Hudson Phil won the Quebec Series Final at Hippodrome 3R and took three legs of the Ontario Grass Roots Series. In his last three starts before the sale, however, Hudson Phil finished no better than sixth. “The last 10 years, we’ve been buying most of our horses out of Canada. My wife does the research on them. She’s really diligent; she watches the replays, she looks at the equipment, she does a lot of that work and makes the suggestion,” Kellogg said. “She went to Harrisburg. I said, ‘come home with a horse.’ Hudson Phil was her number one pick as far as a pacer.” Janie kept bidding on Hudson Phil even after trainer Jackie Greene had bowed out. With a final hit at $58,000, Kellogg brought Hudson Phil home. Hudson Phil began racing at Saratoga for Kellogg and Greene in late November 2018. While he accumulated wins in the overnights and even the open pace, Hudson Phil initially lived in the shadow of Kellogg’s three-time Saratoga Pacer of the Year Artful Way. However, when Hudson Phil recorded a 1:50.2 victory in the Saratoga feature May 25, 2019, Kellogg was impressed. “It was a pretty big challenge for Hudson Phil to do as well as he did last year,” Kellogg said. “The race secretary said to me one night, ‘who do you think is better, Artful Way or Hudson Phil?’ and I said, ‘Artful Way. There’s no quit in him. He just grinds it out.’ Then Hudson Phil put up a couple pretty big miles. Driver Frank Coppola said, ‘I didn’t think there would ever be another Artful Way, but maybe Hudson Phil is as good.’ ” Hudson Phil took seven Saratoga opens from March 16 to Aug. 24, 2019, but went just 1-for-13 in his subsequent starts last year for a seasonal tally of 36-11-8-1 with a bankroll of $134,362. “He had such a good year last year and toward the end of the year, he tailed off,” Kellogg said. “We try to not race them more than 25 or 30 starts. Last year for some reason, we raced him more than normal. Maybe because the stable is smaller than it was. Maybe we’re pushing a little too hard. I always try to do what’s right by the horse. I try to err on the side of the horse all the time.” After a three-month winter break, Hudson Phil qualified back at Saratoga March 14, just before racing shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. He also returned to the races a gelding, which helped settle him down. Previously as a stallion, Hudson Phil was a handful in the paddock and on the racetrack. Hudson Phil resumed racing at Saratoga beginning June 21, finishing second in three straight open handicap paces. Hudson Phil earned his first win of the year with a head win on the lead in the Saratoga open July 12. He doubled-up at Yonkers July 24, scoring in a $17,250 overnight off a pocket trip in 1:52.1.  Hudson Phil earned his third win of the season in the Saratoga open Aug. 25, grinding out a first-over victory by a nose, beating rival Crockets Cullen. Last out at Yonkers Sept. 4, Hudson Phil worked out a pocket trip behind Caviart Luca and sprinting through the final quarter in :27.2, rocketed past the pacesetter to post a 1 1/4-length win in 1:52.4. Like the betting public who dismissed him at 13-1, Kellogg was surprised. “I was hoping to finish second or third. Last week, he really surprised me closing that well. It was very, very, very good. Extremely exciting,” Kellogg said. His record standing at 4-for-9 this year with another three seconds, Hudson Phil will try the $25,000 open handicap pace for the first time Friday night. He drew post four in the weekly pacing feature and will have Pat Lachance in the sulky. The pair are 7-1 on the morning line. None Bettor is the 9-5 favorite on the morning line despite post seven. The Andrew Harris trainee finished second in this open Aug. 21 and was fourth in a division of the ‘#SendItIn’ Invitational at Scioto Downs Sept. 6.  Micky Gee beat None Bettor here Aug. 21 with a 1:50.4 score and was also fourth in another division of the ‘#SendItIn’ at Scioto last out. He will start from post eight tonight. Ideal Jimmy returns to the open after finishing first or second in four straight $15,500 overnights locally. He will start from post two.  Mac’s Jackpot will make his third start of the season and his second start off a February layoff after qualifying at Pocono Sept. 2 and finishing sixth here from post eight last out Sept. 12. The Jeffrey Smith trainee will start from post three tonight. Heaven’s Gait and Shnitzledosomethin complete the lineup. “I don’t know what to expect Friday night. It’s a pretty big jump up from last week,” Kellogg said. “I’m just going to keep my fingers crossed and hope he gets a good trip. Based on the way he finished last week, I’m hoping he’ll be right there.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – For Ron Buker, part of the fun of owning Standardbred racehorses is sharing the experience with the whole family. That’s why on race nights, Ron, his wife Briana, and their three children all gather in front of the TV to root the harness racing horses on and share quality time together. “What really got me into buying more horses was I have three kids. When we turn the TV on to watch the horses race, they would say, ‘daddy, there’s your horse.’ I would say, ‘no, this horse is all of ours.’ That’s priceless, a bond like that,” Buker said. “The kids absolutely love horses. When the horses do race on TV, we all sit together and watch, get excited. Win or lose, it’s a priceless moment with everybody together having a good time.” Buker was a longtime patron of Dover Downs before he relocated to South Carolina for work. He always dreamed of being more than just a fan and took the plunge in January 2019, becoming an owner on the Delaware circuit. In the short time since, Buker or his Bukers Stable expanded to racing across the U.S., starting horses in 289 races. Horses owned wholly or in part by the Bukers have won 56 races, placed in another 86 and earned $634,009. The stable has also raced horses in Australia.  “I owned one and it wins, then you get the itch; you buy another one and then the next thing you know, you have a bunch of them,” Buker said. One of the stars in Buker’s current lineup of 12 horses is Lady Dela Renta, an Australian-bred Well Said daughter who’s won three straight races at Yonkers and will try to make it four in a row in the $25,000 filly and mare open handicap pace Thursday night (Sept. 17). Imported to the U.S. last summer, Lady Dela Renta made an immediate impact, earning a 1:49.2 lifetime mark at Pocono in just her third Stateside start Sept. 3, 2019 for Blindswitch Racing and Dolne Farm. Bukers Stable joined the partnership this February and as of Aug. 27, assumed sole ownership of the standout mare. Lady Dela Renta looked to be a rising star last fall and winter, scoring a neck win in the local filly and mare open handicap Oct. 4, 2019 and three open wins at Saratoga from October to December. She entered the first leg of the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series at Yonkers March 13, but when the series was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, she headed to the Midwest. Lady Dela Renta was winless in four starts in the distaff open at Scioto Downs before her connections made a change. “When she was out there in Ohio, she wasn’t racing to her full potential. Since she is an Australian horse, I knew the one trainer who would be the best for her was (Shane and Lauren Tritton’s) Team Tritton. I called (Shane) up and said, ‘I want to send her to you, you’re going to be the best for her.’ He said he liked her in Australia and they would gladly take her,” Buker said. “They take really, really good care of her. I think she’s Lauren’s pet,” Buker said. “They key behind it all is taking care of the horse. They’re not out there racing her every single week and hard racing her. It’s not all about drying all the money out of her right away, it’s taking care of a good horse.” After making her last Scioto start July 10, Lady Dela Renta qualified with Lauren Tritton in the sulky at Yonkers July 31. She scorched the track with a 1:52.2 victory, pacing a final quarter of :27.2. Lady Dela Renta then posted three straight pari-mutuel wins at Yonkers with Jordan Stratton driving: a 3 3/4-length win in a $15,500 overnight Aug. 13 and back-to-back wins at the $18,000 level by 1 length and 3 1/4 lengths, respectively Aug. 20 and Sept. 3. “With her, it’s the right trainer for the right horse,” Buker said. “It just goes to show that if you take care of the horse - because they aren’t machines - they’ll take care of you and then they show their full potential. “When they qualified her, that was a wow factor. She came back and won the first race, second race, and then the last race. This is for real here, she’s on a roll,” Buker said. “I think the first race stood out because I was anxious to see her in the first start with Shane and Lauren. After the first race, there was a lot of excitement. I think the last race stood out because she was in with a good group of horses and it looked like she won with ease.” Lady Dela Renta drew post three in Thursday night’s feature and will have Stratton in the bike again. The pair are the 3-1 second choice on the morning line. Favored at 5-2 is Snobbytown, a Ron Burke trainee who twice won and twice finished second in this local feature in four starts between June 23 and July 30 (her last pari-mutuel outing). She will return tonight off a runner up finish to Caviart Ally in a Meadowlands qualifier Sept. 5.  The field also includes Neverforgetwhour, who like Lady Dela Renta, streaks into this filly and mare open handicap with three straight wins; she won local $15,500 overnights by a head, nose, and 1 length Aug. 13, Aug, 27, and Sept. 3, respectively. With regular driver Stratton opting for Lady Dela Renta, Scott Zeron gets the call on the 9-2 shot on the morning line. Coral Bella, who steps up off a win in the non-winners of eight condition last out, Robyn Camden, Apple Bottom Jeans, and Imprincessgemma complete the lineup. “I know we’re in with good company, but if any horse is ready to go 4-for-4, it’s her. She’s got the perfect draw, perfect spot. Jordan is the key man. He knows the horse, loves the horse, and when you can get a driver that loves and knows the horse like he does, you can’t lose,” Buker said. “We haven’t seen her best yet,” he continued. “She hasn’t been unleashed yet; Her best definitely is yet to come. She hasn’t let it all out and I think we’re going to see a little glimpse of it (tonight).” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

Yonkers, NY --- The $1.8 million New York Sire Stake finals convened at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday (Sept. 12) with 60 of the best state-bred harness racing Standardbreds clashing to determine year-end honors in eight $225,000 divisions. Although there were a couple of upsets during the evening, several favorites performed as expected and some put on impressive efforts. The Allerage Farm 3-year-old filly trot went to Hypnotic Am (Chapter Seven-Daydream Am S) in a runaway performance that produced a new stake record. A short field of seven got even shorter when the gate released the field when Love A Good Story and Seventimesalady both made breaks as Hypnotic Am (Brian Sears) opened up a five length lead at the quarter in :27.2. From there the filly was on cruise control. With no one getting close enough to challenge, Sears went an easy :30 second quarter and :29 up the backside. Hypnotic Am rounded the last turn all by herself and hit the line the same way; on top by five in 1:55, which was a new stake record.   "She was looking around a little bit at the quarter because she hasn't been on a half in a while, but she kept her mind on her business and really performed," said Sears. "She was really good tonight; she's a real sweetheart. I wish they hadn't canceled the Yonkers Trot because I think she would have been really good in there." Hypnotic Am ($2.50) is now a two-time NYSS Champion and this win has boosted her earnings to $916,260 for breeder/owner Courant Inc. Marcus Melander trains the filly. Then in the Cameo Hills Farm 3-year-old filly pace, Hen Party (Roll With Joe-My Lady Day) won in a strong gate to wire performance to extend her winning streak. Racine Bell (Jason Bartlett) was first for the front but Hen Party (Tim Tetrick) soon overtook and when she did, it was for good. Hen Party got to the half in a moderate :56 as So Rude (Joe Bongiorno) made her move at the five-eighths and pushed the third panel to a :27.4 clip. But that was as far as she got as Hen Party opened up heading down the lane and held off a late rush by Moaning Lisa (Jim Marohn Jr.) and won by 1-1/4 lengths in 1:53.1. It was the fourth straight win and seventh out of the last nine starts for Hen Party ($2.80) who now boasts over a half-million in lifetime earnings with $541,621 in the bank. The Tony Alagna trained Hen Party was purchased by Crawford Farms Racing for $100,000 at the 2018 Harrisburg Sale, bred by Frederick Hertrich III. The NYSS 3-year-old colt and gelding trot was won by Hobbs (Credit Winner-Cruella De Ville) after a dominating performance. Hobbs (Jason Bartlett) left like a bullet and seated Chaptiama (Brian Sears) who had a notion to take the lead himself. Under a tight rein, Hobbs scooted through very even fractions of :28.3, :58.4 and 1:28.1, but still had Chaptiama right behind him. Coming off the turn, Sears pulled Chaptiama to take their best shot at the leader but that shot wasn't nearly enough. Hobbs kicked away in deep stretch and won by 2-3/4 lengths in 1:56.3. "Hobbs is a very handy trotter and you can drive him like a pacer," said Bartlett. "He's honest, he has gate speed and he's always there for you no matter how the mile goes and that's the best thing about him." One of the few owners who attended live was Scott Farber of Runthetable Stable, who also bred Hobbs. He was elated after the race when the horse named after one his father raced became a NYSS champion. "This is a very difficult business and it's hard to get one here and even harder to breed one that gets here," said Farber. "I give a lot of credit to (trainer) Jim Campbell because last year he said this horse was going to come back great, and he couldn't have been more right." Hobbs ($4.60) won his fifth race in his last six starts and pushed his earnings to $282,965 this year for Runthetable Stable and trainer Jim Campbell. The Blue Chip Farm 3-year-old colt and gelding pace was won by Blank Stare (Bolt The Duer-Hypnotize) who upset Splash Brother at the wire. After Major Betts (Dexter Dunn) made a break in the first turn trying for the lead, Splash Brother (Tyler Buter) took the front ahead of Genius Man (Marcus Miller) and Blank Stare (Corey Callahan). As they approached the half, Major Betts had settled himself and was once again moving up the rim towards the leader. But that threat only lasted past the five eighths and that's when Blank Stare made his move on the outside. Blank Stare caught Splash Brother heading into the last turn and the two matched strides into the stretch. Both drivers rocked all the way to the wire but Blank Stare won the battle under the light by 3/4's of a length in 1:52.2. The third win of the year for Blank Stare ($22.40) made him a NYSS Champion and pushed his earnings to $199,699 in 2020. The John Butenschoen trainee is owned by the Harmony Oaks Racing Stable, James Crawford IV and In Over My Head Stable. Blank Stare was bred by Winbak Farm and was a $22,000 purchase at the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale in 2018. The Winbak Farm 2-year-old pacing fillies division was won by Test Of Faith (Art Major-Cannae Cammie) in a powerful front-end performance. Heart Of Mine (Jason Bartlett) and DC Batgirl (Billy Dobson) argued early for the lead but it was Test Of Faith (Jim Marohn Jr.) who ultimately took control. Pacing smartly on the lead, Test Of Faith controlled to front comfortably going to the half in :57 before Party Queen (Tim Tetrick) rolled along outside. That challenge picked up the pace but the leader was holding a strong 1-1/2 length margin. Marohn urged the filly through the last turn and she sped away in the stretch, opening up two at the beam in 1:54.1, tying the stake record. Test Of Faith ($2.40), who was the top point-getter in her division, has now won five out of six lifetime starts and has bankrolled $257,750 this year, all in NYSS events. Owned by Melvin Segal, the Kentuckiana Racing Stable and Eddie Gran, Test Of Faith is trained by Brett Pelling. Test Of Faith was a $92,000 yearling purchase at the 2019 Harrisburg Sale and was bred by Frederick Hertrich III. The Crawford Farms 2-year-old filly trot went to Iteration (Chapter Seven-Steamy Windows) who miraculously recovered from a slow start. Iteration (Brian Sears) had her nose on the gate in the turn and made a break as the car turned into the stretch. Sears got her back trotting but spotted the field eight lengths when the wings folded. That allowed Splash Blue Chip (Ake Svanstedt) to take the front and cut the fractions. With two more breaks by Ifnotmewho and Credit Income, the field was quite spread out and Iteration was trotting fifth, about 10 lengths behind. Splash Blue Chip continued to lead by three past the half until Aela Jamieson (Andy Miller) drew alongside and had Iteration on her back. Aela Jamieson matched strides with Splash Blue Chip around the final bend and down the lane while Iteration tipped three deep and motored by everyone to win by a nose in 1:59. "I had her on the gate because she's been getting a little aggressive lately and she got a little aggressive again," said Sears. "But she came back ok and got the job done." Following in the footsteps of her full brother Gimpanzee and stablemate Hypnotic Am, Iteration ($4.20) is now a NYSS Champion on the strength of her third win of the year. Courant Inc. owns and Marcus Melander is the trainer. Iteration was purchased for $250,000 at the 2019 Harrisburg Yearling Sale, bred by the Order By Stable. The NYSS 2-year-old colt and gelding trot went to Steel (Chapter Seven-Pink Power) who upset the field at 19-1 in his first lifetime victory. Incommunicado (Scott Zeron) was the master of fractions while Steel (Andy Miller) sat the garden spot the entire mile. With the field single file to the half in a slow 1:00.2, Ambassador Hanover (Ake Svanstedt) pulled first up from third and put some pressure on the leader by the time they got to the three-quarters. At the head of the lane Incommunicado had rebuffed the challenge from Ambassador Hanover but Steel popped the deuce and out-brushed the leader to the wire and won by a head in 1:59, which was a new lifetime mark. Steel ($40.20) is owned by the Pinske Stable and Crawford Farms Racing, who also bred the winner. Julie Miller is the trainer. The $65,000 yearling purchase from the Lexington Selected Sale, Steel was bred by Crawford Farms Racing. The NYSS 2-year-old colt and gelding pace was won by King James Express (Art Major-More Diamonds) who made a strong backside brush to take command of the race. Undefeated American Courage (Matt Kakaley) grabbed the lead off the gate in front of Town Gossip (Joe Bongiorno) and Major Makeover (Mark MacDonald) and they paced that way to the half and around the clubhouse turn. There, King James Express (Jason Bartlett) pulled first over just as American Courage experienced some difficulty on the backside and slowed to a walk, locking Town Gossip in behind him. The new order as they headed around the last turn was King James Express on the point followed by Carrythetorchman (Marcus Miller) and Town Gossip, who had extricated himself from his predicament. Heading to the wire, King James Express was just too strong and held off all challenges to win by 2-1/4 lengths in 1:56. "I saw that American Courage didn't look right in the turn, he got a little bumpy. But I was waiting for Mark (MacDonald, Major Makeover) to pull first because my horse is better with cover. But I had to go first and when I cleared he was ok on the point and got game when he heard the horses coming behind him. He's been a nice horse all year, it didn't surprise me when he won the race." King James Express ($11.80) is owned by Mark Harder, Deena Rachel Frost and Wayne Carleton and is trained by Mark Harder. Gregory Dey bred the winner who sold for $20,000 at the 2019 Harrisburg Sale. By Tim Bojarski, for the New York Sire Stakes

YONKERS, N.Y. - “She’s pretty. She’s worth taking a photo of,” trainer Brett Pelling said, describing standout 2-year-old harness racing pacing filly Test Of Faith ahead of her bid in the New York Sire Stakes Final Saturday at Yonkers Raceway. “She’s not a chestnut, but she’s close. She’s very graceful, beautiful balance. She’s a very attractive horse.” Not just a pretty face, Test Of Faith has shown talent to back up her physical. She’s 4-for-5 in the New York bred series and finished second in her only loss. Her earnings stand at $145,250 for owners Melvin Segal, Kentuckiana Racing Stable, and Eddie Gran. And Test Of Faith is the 9-5 favorite on the morning line in $225,000 championship Saturday night (Sept. 12). Bred by Frederick Hertrich, III, Test Of Faith is by Art Major out of the Cam’s Card Shark mare Cannae Cammie, who placed in multiple stakes and earned $538,140 on the racetrack. Test Of Faith is a half to Alexis Faith, 2017 NYSS Champion 2-year-old filly and multiple Grand Circuit stakes winner, and to Cant Beach That, who Pelling trained to a runner up finish in the Kentucky Sire Stakes Final for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings last year.  The pedigree put Test Of Faith on Pelling’s short list at last year’s Harrisburg Yearling Sale and Pelling went to $92,000 to bring the filly home.  “It’s a very good family. She has really good strength, she’s a very strong filly. She’s not really like her brother; her brother goes to a knee a little bit, but she paces very clean,” Pelling said. “One’s a girl, one’s a boy. He’s a big, strong, rugged horse. She’s quite tall, but she’s very graceful.” Test Of Faith trained down without a hitch. As the time to qualify grew closer, Test Of Faith stood out from her peers for her reliability and professionalism.  “She’s been bullet proof. Right from the very beginning, she showed good ability. She’s always trained well. The biggest thing with her is, there’s never been any problem of any kind, which for a 2-year-old is a rarity. She’s been push button right from day one,” Pelling said. “The first time we asked her to go quick, she was perfect. She trains great in front, she trains great behind. Probably her number one quality is she’s very relaxed, she’s very sensible. A lot of these fillies, you race them on the front end and they might get a little aggressive. She could not be more opposite to that. She’s as loose-lined as a horse can be and that’s a good horse.” Test Of Faith qualified at Magical Acres Training Center June 16. She drew in with Farady Hanover, a $275,000 Harrisburg purchase and full sister to Filibuster Hanover trained by Noel Daley, prompting Pelling to be conservative. With Brett’s son Jack in the bike, Test Of Faith stayed inside as Farady Hanover wired the field. Test Of Faith finished last of four, pacing her mile in 2:00 with a :27.3 final quarter. Pelling liked what he saw. “We knew she was good in her qualifier. We locked her in and I knew some of the other fillies that she baby raced with were high-priced fillies with good trainers and I knew they had to be pretty decent,” Pelling said. “I could see she was just sitting there watching them and I felt she could move by them at any time. I think right from the beginning, I knew she was pretty good” Test Of Faith qualified again at Magical Acres June 23. This time, she rode the pocket and with a :27.4 final quarter, sprinted past rival Heart Of Mine to score a 1 3/4-length win in 1:58.1.  Test Of Faith made her pari-mutuel debut in NYSS at Vernon Downs on Independence Day. Floating out from post five, driver Jim Marohn, Jr. had had few options but to forge to the front as two rivals left to his inside. Test Of Faith worked to the top in a :26 opening panel, clearing midway around the first turn. Despite the swift fractions, Test Of Faith turned away the first-over challenge of Major Houlihan before pacing clear of the field in the stretch. She won by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:52.2. “The first time we raced her up at Vernon, that was never the intention to go down the road in 52. But the horse inside of her really pushed forward, (Marohn) didn’t have a spot to put her, and he just ended up going on to the front. I think the first race was the only race that stung her a little bit. She got through that OK and ever since then, she’s been fine.” Test Of Faith’s second start didn’t go as planned either. Racing around the first turn at Tioga in the next NYSS leg July 19, Marohn tried to place her in the pocket, but as the pace slowed, Test Of Faith collided with the leader’s wheel and made a break. She caught back pacing and raced in fourth before recovering for a second-place finish. “We were trying not to bust her out of there. She left in 26 seconds in the first start of her life. The obvious thing is not to do that again,” Pelling said. “It was a shame she got ran into because she would have won. That’s racing. You try to be cute and sometimes being cute doesn’t work.” Since then, Test Of Faith has taken no chances. She’s led at every call in the last three preliminary legs of the NYSS Aug. 4 at Yonkers, and Aug. 12 and 24 at Saratoga, winning by 3 1/2, 4, and 4 lengths, respectively. Pelling pointed out the Aug. 12 start, in which Test Of Faith made a three-wide move to the lead in a :27.3 opening quarter. “She’s been on high-idle, just absolutely cruising. One of the races was very impressive, the one before last,” Pelling said. “They took a shot to leave her out there a little bit. The horse in front had one parked, but Jimmy just pulled her three-wide and he just went to the front. She did that in three or four steps. She’s got a very, very quick step, she’s very reliable.” Test Of Faith drew post six in the NYSS Final, the first of nine races on the $1.8 million program Saturday night at Yonkers. She will face seven rivals, six of which she has beaten at least once in the preliminaries: DC Batgirl, Party Queen, Heart Of Mine, Think Of Galaxies (who beat Test Of Faith at Tioga July 19), Spicy Covina, Rightfully Mine, and Albergita Hanover. “She’s absolutely perfect. She’s looks fabulous. She hasn’t had any issues, that’s the bottom line,” Pelling said. “I imagine she’ll just roll out of there and how much they want to hurt their horses to be the one following her, I don’t know, but she’ll be in front.” Pelling hopes Test Of Faith can make amends after his Allywag Hanover finished fourth as the 3-5 favorite in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Final for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings at Harrah’s Philadelphia Sept. 6. This is also the biggest race of Test Of Faith’s season as she is not eligible to the major fall stakes. “I had one on Sunday over at Chester who was the favorite in his Sire Stakes final and he came up sick, so that was really, really disappointing. There’s only so many races for them,” Pelling said. “This filly is not staked through the end of the year. The owner is quite conservative. “This is the big one for her. She has four starts left and this is the biggest purse she’s going to go for all year,” Pelling continued. “I wish her the best. She deserves to win it, I think she’s been the best filly right through. That’s what it’s all about, when they get there if the best horse can come through and get it, that’s the way it should be.” First post time for the $1.8 million Night of Champions card is 7:12 p.m. Free full card past performances are available here. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY – When trainer John Butenschoen purchased Destined To Dance at the 2019 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale, he thought the filly would be perfect for the New York Sire Stakes program. Nearly a year later, Destined To Dance enters the $225,000 NYSS Final for 2-year-old trotting fillies with a 5-for-5 harness racing record in the statebred stakes program and has a chance to sweep the series with a win on the Night of Champions card Sept. 12. By Chapter Seven out of the multiple stakes winning mare Go Go Dancer, Destined To Dance was bred by Crawford Farms. Butenschoen bid $100,000 to take the filly home for owners Heritage Standardbreds and Richard Preziotti. The group also offered a piece back to Crawford Farms, who obliged. “She’s not very big, but she’s put together very correctly. Conformation wise, she had the right type of physical appearance that I like to see,” Butenschoen said. “I was up there at the farm and saw her turned out. Then her video showed exactly what I saw when she was turned out, just very light on her feet, quick, just acted very athletic. I thought she would be a really good fit for the New York Sire Stakes program. She’s not too big and with the athleticism she showed me, I thought she would handle things and do real well.” Destined To Dance trained down well throughout the winter and spring and showed professionalism on the racetrack. Although Butenschoen does not like to get too high on babies before they qualify, Destined To Dance looked the part. “She’s not a mean filly or anything. She’s a little standoffish, but she’s been a pleasure to work around. She’s pretty good on the racetrack, she’s pretty simply rigged, we don’t have to do much to her,” Butenschoen said. “She just goes out and she’s very professional about her work, even training down. Any time you ask her to go, she’ll go. If you want to go slow with her, she’ll go slow. She’s been a real treat that way.” Destined To Dance qualified at Windgate Farm June 15, winning by a neck in 2:02 with Corey Callahan in the bike. She then made her first start in a $10,400 overnight at Harrah’s Philadelphia June 26, finishing third beaten a neck while trotting the mile in 1:57.3. Then her NYSS streak began. Destined To Dance went straight to the lead in the series first leg at Saratoga July 8. She cruised through the first three-quarters and when driver Tyler Buter asked her at the top of the stretch, Destined To Dance put up 2 lengths on the field in an instant. With whip tucked away. Destined To Dance powered away with a :29.1 final quarter to post a 1:59.4 win.  “I’ve been more pleased than surprised,” Butenschoen said. “More often than not you’re fooled by the ones you think are good. You never know until you race them. You always hope they have that amount of ability. It was fun to see her race well her first start at Chester. Then we went to Saratoga and she won. We were thinking we had a filly who’s competitive.” Destined To Dance came to Yonkers Raceway for the series second leg July 21. Floating out from the inside post, she rode the cones in third until Buter pulled on the right line hitting the backstretch the final time. Trotting past the three-quarter pole, Destined To Dance took flight. She zipped past leader Me Three and barreled around the final turn 3 lengths clear of the field. Destined To Dance was strong through the stretch, scoring a 4 1/4-length victory in 1:58.3. “Tyler said when he pulled her, she was great. The only nervous moment he had at Yonkers was when he pulled her up the backstretch, she was trotting into that last turn too fast. He said when he pulled her, she just took off,” Butenschoen recalled. Destined To Dance overcame post eight in her next start at Batavia Aug. 2 before putting up back-to-back 1:54.4 miles in wins at Vernon Aug. 15 and Tioga Aug. 23. Destined To Dance has earned $103,456 in her six starts to date. “She’s just getting a little better each time,” Butenschoen said. “We don’t know where the bottom is or what’s going to happen, but we’ll keep marching forward with her. Every time we’ve raced her or any time we’ve asked her to do something, she’s stepped up to the plate and done it.” Destined To Dance and Buter drew post three and are the 6-5 morning line favorites in their NYSS Final, the third race on the Saturday night card at Yonkers. The field also includes Aela Jamieson, who drew post one and enters the final with two straight wins for Julie and Andy Miller. Broad Strokes, Iteration, Insured AM, and Splash Blue Chip each won a single division of NYSS this season and made the final. NY Excelsior division winner Credit Income and maiden Ifnomewho complete the lineup. While Ifnotmewho and Credit Income made pari-mutuel starts between the last NYSS leg Aug. 23 and the Sept. 12 Final, Destined To Dance trained at the farm Aug. 28 before shipping to Pocono Downs for another training mile last week. She trained at the farm again Tuesday (Sept. 8) to prepare for her championship bid. “She seems good, she’s had a good week, she trained good. Now we just hope for the racing gods to look out for us so we can get a decent trip out of there,” Butenschoen said. “You hope nothing happens. That’s all you can hope for everybody, a big night of racing to showcase your New York Sire Stakes horses, you want to see everybody get a fair shot, nobody make a break. You like to see everybody get a shot and let the horses figure out what’s going on, on the racetrack. Hopefully things will work out.” First post time for the $1.8 million Night of Champions card is 7:12 p.m. Free full card past performances are available here. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

According to an announcement by the Standardbred Owners Association of New York, there will not be an upcoming shutdown of racing at Yonkers Raceway, which had previously stated that racing would be taking a break after Saturday, September 12. Standardbred Owners Association of New York President Joe Faraldo has announced that, as a result of the SOA of NY covering purses for a number of weeks and an agreement reached with MGM Resorts Yonkers, there will not be a shutdown of racing at the track. Faraldo has stated that racing at Yonkers will continue next week on the same four-day schedule and that, thereafter, Yonkers racing will return to a five-day-per-week schedule through December 22. Faraldo also went on to announce that purses will remain at current levels until a build up in the purse account is seen. From the SOA of NY

This year's harness racing season has been hard on so many but not so much for Love A Good Story (Chapter Seven), the sophomore trotting filly trained by Julie Miller. Dominating a small but fierce division, she's swept all five legs in convincing fashion and now boasts over a half million dollars in career earnings. Miller, who is currently second in the New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) trainer standings, has her eyes set beyond this weekend's $1.8 million New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions at Yonkers Raceway. "We have the option to go onto Lexington as long as she maintains being happy and healthy," said Miller. "We hope to bring her back next year." Andy Miller pilots the 3-year-old for his wife and owners Daniel Plouffe, Pinske Stables and Kentuckiana Racing Stable. "She and Andy have a great connection you just dream about," said Miller. "Real fortunate, she's dominating that level of competition and things have really worked out for her." In 2019, Love A Good Story, demonstrated her promise, winning six legs and finishing fifth in the NYSS Final on her way to more than $230,000 in seasonal earnings. Miller's plan for the 2-year-old at the time seemed to pay off. "We gave her a lot of time, raced at Lexington and then we elected to put her away and give her green grass, some vacation time and then picked up training back in Florida," said Miller. "When back in Jersey, she matured. She filled out and she knows her job and what she is supposed to do." Miller will look to finish the season with a perfect NYSS record. With so many changes to this year's schedule due to COVID-19, Miller reflected on her preparation for this weekend's finals. "There was a little bit of time in between the races - a longer time frame. I was able to train her easy last week - I'll train her up," said Miller. "New York Sire Stakes is the toughest spot to race in. To be a part of the race and be successful, it's all you want." Love A Good Story heads into the Night of Champions as the top overall earner in NYSS purses this season and will look to boost her already impressive $226,850 bankroll in the final for 3-year-old filly trotters, which goes off as race two. She drew post five in the seven-horse field, but will have to contend with top filly Hypnotic AM, who drew inside her in post three. New York's richest night of harness racing returns to Yonkers Raceway this Saturday. Eight final events featuring the best state-bred 2- and 3-year-olds will be contested for $225,000 purses each. Post time is 7:12 p.m. A full list of entries can be found here. By Eliza Bianco, for the New York Sire Stakes  

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