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YONKERS, N.Y. – Of the 19 entrants to the M Life Rewards Ladies Series first leg at Yonkers Raceway Monday (March 2), Lovin Cocoa is the least experienced with just nine pari-mutuel starts under her belt. However, harness racing trainer Travis Alexander hopes she will make up for it on speed and talent. She is also one of four starters in the series for Alexander. The 4-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven mare enters the M Life Rewards Ladies off an 8-length victory in a local $14,000 overnight Feb. 11, an effort that caught even her trainer by surprise. Lovin Cocoa had bar shoes on in that start, a move Alexander was sure was a mistake after she warmed up that night. “To be honest, before the race I was absolutely petrified because I had put bar shoes on her and she was absolutely terrible warming up, to the point where we almost scratched her,” Alexander said. “I told Matt (Kakaley) just to be careful, that it was my fault, not hers, she doesn’t like these bars, she doesn’t like the frog pressure. She’s not lame, she just doesn’t like the shoes.” Lovin Cocoa raced in fifth early 9 1/2 lengths off the pace. She moved to the outside straightening away the first time and advanced without cover. Reaching the backstretch, rival Thaneeya pulled the pocket, forcing Lovin Cocoa three-wide approaching the three-quarters. Passing the 6-furlong marker, she glided past the leaders effortlessly and opened up a pair of lengths. Lovin Cocoa kicked clear in the stretch under Kakaley pistol grips to post the dominating score at 1-9. Although Lovin Cocoa enters the M Life Rewards Ladies as a first-leg morning line favorite, last summer, she was a longshot to race at all. A homebred for Mark and Leslie Wasserman’s Fiddler’s Creek Stable, Lovin Cocoa is out of Scrapping Beauty, the first horse the Wassermans and Alexander had together in 2008. Lovin Cocoa and DD Delicious, Alexander’s other M Life Rewards Ladies entrant, grew up together in the same field. Prone to making breaks at 2, Lovin Cocoa was unraced as a freshman. Last year at 3, Lovin Cocoa had one qualifier June 5 before starting in the New York Excelsior B Series over a sloppy track at Tioga Downs June 10. She finished sixth beaten 6 3/4 lengths and came out of the race with an injury, forcing her to the sidelines. “She bowed both front tendons in the mud at Tioga. She hurt both tendons that night,” Alexander said. “It’s a kick in the butt because that day, DD Delicious won the sire stakes and then two races later, that happens. Highs and lows. It wasn’t terrible, but it was enough to where we had to shut her down. We just did the right thing and Lovin Cocoa is one of Mrs. Wasserman’s favorite horses. That’s been her filly since she was born and so we did what we had to do to go forward. “We healed her tendons and lo and behold, here we are. Honestly, she shouldn’t be racing. Her legs were bad. We didn’t give up, we gave her time, healed her up. Her caretaker (Armando Barragan) does an amazing job, he works hard on her legs. She wants to race, she’s fast enough, it’s just a matter of keeping her sound and happy.” Lovin Cocoa qualified back at Yonkers Nov. 15. She paced her mile in 1:55.4 with a :28.2 final panel. The effort took Alexander and Kakaley by surprise. “Once we had the legs set up and the ultrasounds were good, I knew we were looking good. I didn’t know if she’d get around the half and I didn’t know how much speed she truly had and how much she would have lost due to injury,” Alexander said.  “I qualified her the first time at Yonkers and she paced 55. To be honest, I was mind-blown. Matt and myself were like, ‘where did this come from? What in the world?’ ” Despite the encouraging result, Lovin Cocoa made breaks in her next three starts, all at the Hilltop. Alexander regrouped, sending the filly to the Meadowlands. With Alexander in Florida training babies, Roy Marohn drove Lovin Cocoa to a qualifying win at the Swamp in 1:55.3 Dec. 21. Six days later, she finished third in a $15,000 overnight, pacing the mile in 1:52.4 with :27.2 on the end. “She has a temper. That’s why she was making those breaks early. I had too big of a head pole and I was trying to make her do it our way instead of letting her do it her way,” Alexander said. “I took her to the Meadowlands to get her mind right and I took everything off. Roy Marohn did an amazing job getting her qualified and going. “After that 52 mile at the Meadowlands, I knew,” Alexander continued. “She’s always had speed, her whole family has had speed. The colts of that family have the same temper, but they’re a lot tougher to deal with. I knew she’d be more than competitive in this series. Once we got her racing good, we set her up for that.” Lovin Cocoa enters the M Life Rewards Ladies first leg off nearly three weeks rest. Alexander was forced to make adjustments after her outing with bar shoes and then prepped her for this start. “I had to take the shoes off because the day after, she was sore, so we had to adjust again,” Alexander said. “Young horses or lightly raced horses are a learning curve. You have to find what they will tolerate, you have to find a balance. We went back to the drawing board and I’m very happy with what we came up with. “She’s missed two weeks on purpose just to get her right,” the trainer continued. “She’s trained up very well. I expect a big effort on Monday and going forward. Four weeks in the series, I didn’t want to race her, so we’re managing her and we have high hopes for her.” Lovin Cocoa will start from post four with Matt Kakaley in Monday’s fourth race, the third division of the M Life Rewards Ladies Series. The Series kicks off in race two, where Alexander will send out DD Delicious. DD Delicious started her career last year with two straight overnight wins before jumping into New York Sire Stakes competition. She won one leg at Tioga June 10 and placed in five others to earn a berth in the $225,000 NYSS Final at Batavia Sept. 14. After drawing post eight, she earned a check finishing fifth, boosting her earnings to $140,470 for Fiddler’s Creek Stable, and was pointed to the M Life Rewards Series. “She’s special. She’s a very nice mare. We had some issues last year with some sickness, unfortunately a couple bad posts in the wrong stakes races,” Alexander said. “It worked out because now she fits this series. As soon as she didn’t win the sire stakes final, I shut her down and aimed her just for this series because it’s a good starting point for her 4-year-old year.” DD Delicious spent a couple months turned out in Ohio before shipping to Alexander’s Florida stable to train back. She qualified a winner in 1:56 at Pocono Downs Feb. 12 and prepped for the M Life Rewards Ladies with one start at Yonkers Feb. 18, finishing second in a $16,000 overnight from post eight with Kakaley in the bike. “We sent her down to Florida and she prepped as well as any horse could. Her first start, that was beautiful,” Alexander said. “He sat as long as he could, she sprinted home, had pace on the end of it. She trained very, very well (Friday), couldn’t be happier.” Unraced at 2, DD Delicious had 14 starts at 3. Now entering her 4-year-old season, Alexander feels DD Delicious is coming into her prime. “She’s much stronger, she grew, she put on a lot of muscle. I could tell all winter in Florida and when we qualified her at Pocono, that was the first time (Matt) drove her and he even said he could feel she’s just stronger than last year,” Alexander said. “They race the first year at 3, not having those starts at 2 does hinder them a little bit as far as strength goes.” DD Delicious is the 5-2 morning line second choice behind Tom Milici’s North Star Ideal, who enters off three straight wins. Alexander will also send out two starters in the M Life Rewards Gents Series first leg Tuesday (March 3). Marco Beach will start from post four with Joe Bongiorno and is the 5-2 morning line favorite in the first division. Despite his 6-for-19 record and $51,400 in earnings, Alexander doesn’t feel Marco Beach has lived up to his potential yet. “He’s probably one of the smartest horses I’ve ever had, but he’s the hardest horse I’ve ever broke,” Alexander said. “He’s been a challenge to get to this point. “He would notice any change. If a tractor moved, he would stop and try to figure out what was different. If somebody’s truck was parked on the side of the hill and then the next lap was gone, he would sit there for 20 minutes and try to figure out what was different, and you couldn’t make him move. He would sit there and just stare,” Alexander explained. “Last year, there was a race where he was crossing over to the front and he saw the starting gate and went to the outside of the track to go behind the starting gate again,” Alexander continued. “It was bad. That’s why John Kakaley drove him a lot last year because I needed someone that I could get every start that would educate him. He’s so fast, I haven’t even scratched the surface. I can’t train him by himself, his mind wanders. Mentally, he’s a tough horse.” Alexander has seen improvement in Marco Beach from 3 to 4. He qualified in 1:56.4 at Pocono Downs Feb. 12 and won his seasonal debut at the Wilkes-Barre five-eighths-mile track by a neck in 1:53.4 with a :27.3 final quarter Feb. 23. The M Life Rewards Gents first leg will be Marco Beach’s first start on a half-mile track. “I don’t know how he’ll get around the half because he’s never seen a half. Not that he’s bad-gaited, he’s very good-gaited, but you just never know. He is a big horse. That’s the only thing that concerns me is him not being on Yonkers before the series started,” Alexander said. “The reasoning was just more the way things fell in place as far as timing,” Alexander explained. “I shipped him north and qualified him at Pocono and I didn’t want to short rest him and race him at Yonkers with the series coming up. It was better to race on Sunday at Pocono. It was scheduling.” Alexander’s final series entrant is Tellitsabb, a 4-year-old Tellitlikeitis gelding who recently came to Alexander’s stable for owner Brian Carsey. After going 3-for-13 last year in Ohio with Ernie Gaskin, Tellitsabb is 3-for-3 with $24,000 earned already this season. “He’s a fantastic horse. The Gaskins did a great job with him. When they sent him out, he was ready to go. I liked him, so Brian Carsey bought him because I liked him so much,” Alexander said. Tellitsabb’s victories have each come by at least 2 lengths and he’s paced his miles in 1:53.1, 1:53.4, and 1:54.0 with Matt Kakaley and Joe Bongiorno alternating drives to this point. Despite the impressive results, Alexander sees room for improvement. “He’s a horse that wants to lean in on the turns. The last two starts, I’ve tried to help with that and it’s made him worse, so I have to take everything off and go back to how it was the first start,” Alexander said. “I don’t know how fast he is. Joe and Matt are both very high on him. It’s just how he is on the turns and the more you rig him, the more he tries to fight you,” Alexander continued. “I’ll have to leave it to the drivers, let them earn their money a little bit. Speed wise, he’s extremely fast.” Tellitsabb is a 5-1 morning line with Matt Kakaley set to drive. He drew post eight, but with valuable points at stake, Alexander expects the gelding to leave. “We’ve got to go forward. I don’t know how forward we’re going to go, but we can’t just duck and sit and wait,” he said. “We’ve got to race, so we’ll see. I’ll leave that to Matt though.” Alexander hopes to build on early-season success in the M Life Rewards Series. His stable is 11-for-44 at Yonkers this year with an additional 14 seconds and thirds. He credits his wife, Alaina, and caretakers Wilder Allverz (Marco Beach), Lucia Sanchez (Tellitsabb), and Barragan (DD Delicious and Lovin Cocoa). “We’ve had a very good start to the year. We’ve had a lot of horses fit the right spots, that always helps. Nice diversity from non-winners of two up to non-winners of $30,000 trot. It’s been a very good winter and hopefully it keeps going,” Alexander said. “My crew has done a tremendous job. I have to thank them. I’ve been going back and forth between here and Florida. My wife Alaina, she’s amazing. She runs the northern barn. I have no worries when she’s up north. She treats these horses like they’re her kids and it shows. She’s the reason they’re all racing the way they are. She does an amazing job.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The M Life Rewards Ladies Series begins Monday night, March 2 while the M Life Rewards Gents Series kicks off Tuesday, March 3. The Blue Chip Matchmaker Series will return Friday, March 13 and the Borgata Pacing Series starts Saturday, March 14. First post time is 7:05 p.m. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

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

YONKERS, NY, Sunday, March 1, 2020-- The name may have changed, but the song remains the same. Yonkers Raceway's George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series has been rechristened the MGM Borgata Pacing Series, but it continues to attract harness racing's best Free-For-Allers around. Race secretary Bob Miecuna has unveiled a list of 46 such candidates for the six-week sojourn, which begins Saturday night, March 14th. As usual, it's a five-week run of preliminary legs, with each prelim race worth $50,000. The top eight point earners through the legs (according to the conditions of the event) qualify for the $200,000 (added) final Saturday night, Apr. 18th. One needn't look any further than last season's $664,000 finale, where five foes from that octet are back to try the series again. Defending champion Western Fame and runner-up Rodo Rock, along with Ideal Jimmy (fourth), The Wall (fifth) and The Downtown Bus (sixth) are among the in-to-go's. Western Fame's romp (1:50.4) in the Levy highlighted a $704,000-plus season for the now-7-year-old son of Western Ideal. He and his cronies from 2019 are not alone. Names such as... --2018 Art Rooney Pace winner Trump Nation), --millionaire-in-waiting Sintra (4-for-4 at Mohawk to begin his season), --This is the Plan, who took down the half-million-dollar Ben Franklin (Pocono) a season ago, --Wiggle It Jiggleit, the fan favorite who's on the comeback trail as he approaches the $4 million career earnings plateau enliven the event. ...and lest we forget about the Down Unders, of which there are 17, 13 from New Zealand and four from Australia. None Bettor A, who took down last season's Battle of Lake Erie (Northfield) and was a season-debuting 1:50.4 winner across the river--edging Trump Nation and Rodeo Rock--appears as potent as any of those friendly interlopers. Now for the ladies and the Blue Chip Matchmaker. It's the same month-and-a-half scrum as the MGM Borgata, only with $40,000 per event and Friday night affairs beginning March 13th. The $125,000 added final also goes Saturday night, Apr. 18th. Which brings us seamlessly to Shartin N, leading lass of the 27 mares who paid in. Fresh off her Horse of the Year coronation, the now 7-year-old double-millionairess has her sights set upon a winning a third consecutive Matchmaker. It's not as if Shartin N needs to take any track size with her, but she has won eight of her 10 Westchester work nights...all in Matchmaker competition (finals worth $402,600 in 2019 and $373,000 in '18). The Matchmaker figures to be the first 2020 renewal of Shartin N and Caviart Ally, the latter never have previously raced in this event. 'Ally's lone local tries were a pair of thirds in the 2017 Lismore (elim and final). She begins her 6-year-old season with career earnings in excess of $1.8 million. The list of eligibles for both the MGM Borgata (No. 33) and Blue Chip Matchmaker (12th edition) accompany this release, with the opening draws set for Monday afternoon, March 9th. MGM Borgat (No. 33) Blue Chip Matchmaker (12th edition) by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, February 29, 2020--Even-money Lean Hanover (Jim Marohn Jr., $4) and a repeating Tookadiveoffdipper (Eric Goodell, $19) held on and held sway Saturday night (Feb. 29th), winning Yonkers Raceway's pair of $40,000 co-features. There wasn't any Leap Night leaping per se, but both Lean Hanover and Tookadiveoffdipper did vault over their respective rivals early. Lean Hanover, from post position No. 3 in the blind-draw marquee trot, worked around Mostinterestingman (Austin Siegelman) before a :28.2 opening quarter-mile. It was between a pokey :58.4 intermission and 1:27 three-quarters that Elysium Lindy (Jason Bartlett) moved from third. He ended up pestering Lean Hanover for the duration, though the favorite did last by a scant nose in 1:56.1. Elysium Lindy drifted late and that did have no favors, while Mostinterestingman was third, beaten a neck. Certify (Jordan Stratton) and Photo Bomber (George Brennan) came away with the lesser envelopes, while a returning Tight Lines (Dan Dube) found himself devoid of trot, last among the half-dozen. For Lean Hanover, a 7-year-old Donato Hanover gelding co-owned by P C Wellwood Enterprises & Karen Carroll and trained by Linda Toscano, it was his second win in six seasonal starts. The exacta paid $20.40, with the triple returning $58. Saturday night's $40,000 Open Handicap Pace saw Tookadiveoffdipper--a week after wiring his foes at 17-1--do it again, albeit at a shorter price. From post No. 6--same as last Saturday--'Dipper' finished what he started (:27.1, :57, 1:25, 1:53.4). He was a head in front of a two-move Ostro Hanover (Dube) and a half-length in front of a last-to-third Jack's Legend N (Bartlett). Italian Delight N (Siegelman) and Micky Gee N (Stratton) rounded out the payees, while tepid 2-1 choice Ideal Jimmy (Brent Holland) pulled pocket and backpedaled to sixth.                                                                                           --Besjon Doda photo For fifth choice Tookadiveoffdipper, a 6-year-old Always a Virgin gelding co-owned by Jane & Mark Cross and trained by Virgil Morgan Jr., it was his fourth win in seven '20 tries. The exacta paid $78.50, with the triple returning $359.50.   By Frank Drucker, Publicity Director, Empire City @ Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, NY, Friday, February 28, 2020-- Prohibitive favorite Snobbytown (George Brennan, $3.20) held off Sandy Win (Austin Siegelman) through the lane Friday night (Feb. 28th), winning Yonkers Raceway's $40,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace. Snobbytown, from post position No. 2, wasted no time making the lead. The people's preference worked around polester Ba Ba Ba Banana (Matt Kakaley) before a :27.3 opening quarter-mile. It was after a :56.4 intermission when Sandy Win took out of fourth, with Kaitlyn N in tow. Sandy Win went back inside as Ba Ba Ba Banana hit the skids, while Kaitlyn N (Jason Bartlett)--perched outside that one--inexplicably jumped it off. As that was transpiring in and out of a 1:25 three-quarters, Snobbytown owned a length-and-a-half lead into the lane. She then held off a stubborn 'Sandy' by three-quarters of a length in 1:53.3. Itty Bitty (Dan Dube), Betterb Chevron N (Jordan Stratton) and 'Banana' settled for the small change, ahead of the imploding Kaitlyn N among the half-dozen.   For Snobbytown, a 4-year-old daughter of Non Hill High co-owned (as Burke Racing) by (trainer) Ron Burke, Weaver Bruscemi, & Jason Melillo, it was her third win in six seasonal starts. The exacta paid $13, with the triple returning $65.50. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, N.Y. – At around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night, the door to Alex Dadoyan’s office opened and an employee provided an update: the main camera still didn’t have power, but the electrician was on the way. With about a half-hour to first post and an electrical issue threatening to sabotage the nightly simulcast, Dadoyan remained level and calm. Dealing with such urgent issues is part of the job for the Director of Racing at Yonkers Raceway. “Otherwise it’s going to be hard to show the races,” Dadoyan said with a laugh. Since taking on the role of Director of Racing in Sept. 2019, Dadoyan has made several changes: published post times are now more accurate and there was a shakeup to the betting menu. The nightly pick fours now start in race one and race seven, the sequences no longer overlapping. The pick five moved to race five each night, whereas in the past, its starting point varied depending on the number of races offered. Superfectas are now offered on even races only and there are seven pick threes on a 12-race program. “The biggest thing that I couldn’t stand was overlapping pick fours. It just made all the sense in the world to have an early and a later pick four,” Dadoyan said. “We’ve done really well on the early pick four. It’s averaging around $10,000 a night. The late one is not as strong, but they’re both stronger than they were last year. It just makes sense to split them up and give people different races to look at. “I just made a wagering format I liked and wherever there was nothing else, I put a pick three. I lowered the frequency of supers. That was another thing I felt strongly about,” Dadoyan continued. “I just wanted to build up the pools as best as I could. I think you see it in some races where there’s no super, the tri and exacta pools are really strong. If you can get a $35,000 tri pool at Yonkers, that’s pretty good. I was happy to see that.” If Dadoyan gets his way, another change to the betting menu could be coming soon. The track submitted a proposal to add a nightly pick six wager to the offerings and Dadoyan feels the New York Gaming Commission is close to approving the bet. “We had a traditional pick six at the Meadowlands when I was there and I was a huge fan of it. Everyone wanted to get rid of it and I was the one trying to fight to keep it,” Dadoyan said. “It stayed there until I left and then they replaced it with a jackpot bet. But now years later, they brought it back, but they’re at 20 cents.” The proposal Dadoyan submitted would see the pick six at Yonkers offer a $1 minimum stake, which will boost payoffs to those who hit it and boost the frequency of carryovers. The wager was proposed with a 20-percent takeout rate, the lowest the NYGC will allow on exotic harness wagers. If approved as proposed, the bet would include a 25-percent consolation payoff and 75-percent carryover provision on nights when it is not hit. “I had been trying for a little while to get a pick six in at Yonkers. We had some slight delays but I’m hoping that in the next month we could offer it,” Dadoyan said. “There’s no doubt that any time there’s a carryover, there’s going to be far more eyes on your product. Especially if you’re not the top signal out there, you need to try to get more eyes on your product and a carryover is one of the best ways to do that. “We’re not allowed to offer carryovers in the pick four, we’re not allowed to offer carryovers in the superfecta, so all we’ve got is the pick five, and that’s great, but it’s one race a night. And there’s plenty of nights where you’re not going to get a carryover. A slightly harder bet has the ability to produce more carryovers. Dadoyan sees the $1 minimum as the key to success for the pick six at Yonkers, a half-mile track with eight-horse fields. “Other tracks go for the lower minimums and that’s fine, but Yonkers being smaller fields and more winning favorites, I think the dollar makes more sense,” Dadoyan said. “The drawback is the pools may be smaller at a dollar minimum, but I think the potential for having carryovers is better than having slightly bigger pools each night with a lower minimum.” Dadoyan also hopes the $1 minimum fuels more carryovers, which produce value for horseplayers by reducing the effective takeout of the wager. He cited Tuesday’s $8,300 pick five carryover, which attracted over $46,000 in new money wagered and returned $331.50 for a 50-cent bet, to explain how the pick six may behave differently. “If you have what we have tonight, an $8,000 carryover in the pick five, it’s getting hit tonight. Whatever comes in, it’s getting hit with a 50-cent minimum and a five-race sequence,” Dadoyan said. “If it’s a dollar bet in a six-race sequence, it might not get hit and now your carryover is really big. That’s the goal. “The more carryovers you can create and provide value, you can get more eyes on the product and the better you’re going to do,” Dadoyan continued. “Whether it’s just that night or hopefully in the future too if people follow horses, or want to bet back a horse, whatever it might be. That’s the way horseplayers operate.” One of the most visible and polarizing changes to take place since MGM acquired Yonkers Raceway is the rebranding of many stakes races this season. Notable examples are starting soon: The Petticoat and Sagamore Pacing Series are now the M Life Rewards Ladies and Gents Series and begin Monday (March 2) and Tuesday (March 3), respectively. The George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series is now the Borgata Pacing Series and begins March 14. The changes are more than just new names. Dadoyan revealed they are part of a broader marketing strategy by MGM that is designed to cross-promote its properties. Complete details will be announced by the track soon, but Dadoyan teased some of the promotions to come. “We renamed a bunch of the stakes races to incorporate the MGM name. Part of the reason for that is because there is going to be marketing support for the new events,” he explained. “Those events are now upon us. The M Life Rewards Series starts next week and the Borgata Series starts the week after that. We have a bunch of promotions for those events. I don’t think anything like that has been done at Yonkers around racing.” Each night of the series, horseplayers making a racing bet at Yonkers will receive a coupon to enter in a drawing. There will be six drawings nightly and prizes include cash and trips to the MGM Borgata in Atlantic City. “That’s the whole point of it, they can leverage their properties to support each other. Hopefully racing fans can participate and take advantage of it,” Dadoyan said. “MGM is an entertainment company and racing can be a form of entertainment in their properties and they’re going to try to support it.” The most astute viewers of racing at Yonkers will have noted small tags adorning the horses’ saddle pads over the last few weeks. The tags are part of the Trakus system and are part of another initiative in the works at the Hilltop. Trakus is a tracking system which determines the exact location of each horse throughout the entire race via tags carried by the horses. The system can provide real-team graphics showing the exact location of each horse throughout the race, along with handicapping information, such as sectional times for each horse throughout the race and ground loss. “I was a Trakus fan from day one. I was trying to get it at the Meadowlands back in the day and it was really expensive. When the tracks got privatized, I was trying to work out a deal to get it at Meadowlands and Monmouth together, but we couldn’t work it out,” Dadoyan said. “Trakus has a new version of the product that they wanted to demo at a smaller track, so they asked us. That’s all we’re doing right now, you don’t see it on the graphics or anything,” he continued. “It remains to be seen whether we would pursue it because there would be a cost involved, but I’m a big fan of the product, so hopefully assuming everything works out OK with the testing, maybe there’s a way we could implement it.” Although Trakus hasn’t been used extensively on a half-mile track to this point, Dadoyan takes the stance that any additional data that can be provided to horseplayers is a positive. “The data it provides is so much more than what we have in harness racing now. I think it would be a great addition,” he said. “I understand that everyone watches races differently and things like ground covered or top speed, or speed at a point in the race, those are all factors that people might or might not see value in,” Dadoyan continued. “The data for all that stuff just doesn’t really exist right now. On a smaller track, you don’t have as much going on, but still, people might be interested in how much ground is covered. On a half-mile track, some horses are outside a lot longer than others. There is probably a lot of variation in the distance covered. “I’ll be excited to see some of the test results and see how it turned out. I saw a couple the first week, but I think they’ll be more to see before we’re done.” The changes that have been implemented and those still to come are part of Dadoyan’s strategy of incremental improvements and the philosophy that a series of small changes can make a big difference in handle. “There’s so many different things to address and try to take care of. You have to pick your spots and pick your battles, you can’t do everything at once.” Dadoyan said. “I try to tell people it’s small, incremental, gradual changes to make it overall better. You can’t come in and change everything at any racetrack, but especially one that’s been around a long time. Hopefully we can continue to make gradual improvements.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. First post time is 7:05 p.m.  By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY  

In an effort to aid those whose invaluable service is given to this country, Paul Martinez and the Robbie Siegelman Stable are piloting a transition program for active and recently retired veterans that centers around driving and other equine opportunities in harness racing.  SSG(ret) Paul Martinez is a former Army Ranger Sniper who  advocates for veteran’s in transition through various organizations such as Mentors For Military Podcast and Equine ImmersionProgram ( Paul, accompanied by Jordan  Puccio, US Army, and Elizabeth Quinones, US Marines,  toured the Yonkers Raceway oval thanks to the efforts kindness of trainers Robbie  Siegelman and Dennis Laterza, aided by SOA director Peter Younger. Robbie, whose  efforts on behalf of our military personnel has not waned one bit, continues the work in helping our dedicated service men, aided by Yonkers Raceway.  “There are many benefits in equine programs such as this” said Siegelman, “and we can all do a part to help.” One  big benefit  as Winston Churchill once said, “ because there is something about the outside of a horse,  that is good for the inside of a man”.  Hats off to all who helped and hopefully more can be done in the future. by Joseph Faraldo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Monday, February 24, 2020--Consider this a friendly reminder from Yonkers Raceway, where Tuesday night's (Feb. 25th) Pick 5 wager begins with a $8,398.22 carryover and $20,000 guaranteed pool after a 41-1 long shot Monday evening sent the Pick 5 onto another night. The guarantee has been approved by the New York State Gaming Commission and is in conjunction with the U.S. Trotting Association's Strategic Wagering Program. If the sequence was not hit (as was the case Monday night [Feb. 24th] after Grand Master [Austin Siegelman, $84] won the last leg, the entire pool (minus takeout) moves to the next racing program.   As a reminder, Yonkers' Pick 5 remains a 50-cent base wager (5 through 9). Tuesday night's Pick 5 program pages accompany this release. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, February 22, 2020--The next time Melady's Monet (George Brennan, $3.90) throws in a bad race would probably be the first time Melady's Monet throws in a bad race. It was harness racing career win No 63 (in start No. 207) for 'Melady' Saturday night (Feb. 22nd), taking down Yonkers Raceway's $35,000 Preferred Handicap Trot. Melady's Monet--the odds-on favorite from assigned post position No. 7--left around both Lean Hanover (Jim Marohn Jr.) and Smalltownthrowdown (Dan Dube). Once on the point, Melady's Monet finished what he started (:27.2, :57.3, 1:26, season's-best 1:54.3). Pappy Go Go (Jason Bartlett) tried it first-up from last among those trotting, but tired. Meanwhile, Melady's Monet owned a pair of lengths in and out of the final turn, then whipped Lean Hanover by a length. Third went to Mostinterestingman (Austin Siegelman), with Smalltownthrowdown and Money Maven (Brent Holland) rounding out the payees.   For Melady's Monet, an 11-year-old homebred Revenue S gelding owned by Melady Enterprises and trained by Hermann Heitmann, it was his second win in seven seasonal starts (career earnings in excess of $1.63 million). The exacta paid $17.80, with the triple returning $101.50. Saturday night's $40,000 Open Handicap Pace saw outsider Tookadiveoffdipper (Jordan Stratton, $37.80) beat both the gate and his half-dozen rivals. From post No. 6, Tookadiveoffdipper left to immediate command, well before a :27.1 opening quarter-mile. Season-debuting Mac's Jackpot (Holland), as the 19-10 second choice, was able to get into a chasmic pocket. It was an antsy two-hole that 'Mac' tried to vacate between a :56.2 intermission and 1:24 three-quarters. However, Tookadiveoffdipper stood his ground, taking a length-and-a-three-quarter lead into the lane. He held Mac's Jackpot at bay, the final margin a half-length in a '20-best 1:52.2. San Domino A (Dube), the 17-10 choice was a belated third, with Jack's Legend N (Bartlett) and Rockapelo (Brennan) settling for the smaller envelopes.   For sixth choice Tookadiveoffdipper, a 6-year-old Always a Virgin gelding co-owned by Jane &Mark Cross and trained by Virgil Morgan Jr., it was his third win in six '20 tries. The exacta paid $92, the triple returned $433 and the superfecta paid $850. Saturday props as well to 12-year-old, $1.4 million number Great Vintage (Holland $8.30), who earned his 53rd career win in the $22,000, fourth-race pace (1:53.1). by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, February 15, 2020 -- Favored Swansea (Austin Siegelman, $3.70) and Ostro Hanover (Dan Dube, $7.50) both lasted on the lead Saturday night (Feb. 15th), winning Yonkers Raceway's pair of $40,000 Open Handicaps. Swansea, without a sub-par performance in forever, won the post position Nos.6-thru-8 draw in the week's marquee trot. He didn't squander it, working around Now's the Moment (Jason Bartlett) and leading through early intervals of 28 seconds and a :58.2 intermission. It was Melady's Monet (George Brennan), who had found a four-hole seat, then moving again. 'Melady' engaged Swansea toward a 1:26.1 three-quarters, but in all fairness did not get that close at first. Hill of a Horse (Brent Holland) was lurking wide from second-over when he misbehaved. Meanwhile, Swansea opened a pair of lengths in and out of the turn...and would need it. Swansea was tested late by a resurgent Melady's Monet before holding sway by a head in 1:54.4. Arabella's Cadet (Jordan Stratton) closed for third, with Barry Black (Joe Bongiorno) and Lean Hanover (Jim Marohn Jr.) settling for the minors. For Swansea, a 5-year-old Swan for All gelding co-owned (as Triple D Stables) by (trainer) Scott DiDomenico and Dana Parham, it was his third win in five seasonal starts (career 23-for-50). The exacta paid $17, with the triple (three wagering favorites in order) returned $57.50. Swansea Ostro Hanover disposed of his rivals in the weekly adult-table pace. From post No. 5, he vaulted over Tookadiveoffdipper (Stratton) and finished what he started (:27.2; :56.3; 1:24, season's-best 1:51.4). Jack's Legend N (Jason Bartlett) saved to the lane, then closed well for second. Ostro Hanover, who owned a length-and-three-quarter lead into the lane, prevailed by a diminishing half-length. Tookadiveoffdipper, wide-down-the-backside Trump Nation (Brennan) and a returning-to-town Harambe Deo (Marohn Jr.) came away with the small envelopes, while 17-10 choice Italian Delight N (Holland) came first-up and faded to sixth. For third choice Ostro Hanover, a 5-year-old Betterthancheddar gelding co-owned by Go Fast, B&I and VIP Internet Stables & Kapildeo Singh and trained by Rene Allard, it was his second win in three '20 tries. The exacta paid $21.80, with the triple returned $111.50 and the superfecta paid $433. Ostro Hanover Frank Drucker

YONKERS, N.Y. – When it comes to the success of New Zealand-bred Italian Delight in the U.S., Darran Cassar says there are no secrets. Italian Delight is 3-for-4 since making his American debut in mid-January and the harness racing trainer says the addition of Lasix has been a key in the horse living up to his potential. “Lasix helps him a lot and he’s just a professional horse,” Cassar said. “Nothing bothers him. He makes my life, everyone’s life a lot easier. He’s good-gaited. He just does everything right. No headpoles and he wants to do it. I have to give credit to the horse, really. He’s made my job easy because he really doesn’t take a lot of work. It’s just a matter of keeping him happy.” Cassar began watching Italian Delight in 2018 when an agent informed Cassar the Bettor’s Delight gelding was for sale. Cassar’s interest piqued after seeing Italian Delight beat Seaswift Joy in Auckland April 6, 2018. However, at that time Cassar felt the price was too high and Italian Delight was sold to Australia. “The first thing is he’s a Bettor’s Delight. Usually I’m a big fan. They usually make good racehorses once they’re over here,” Cassar said. “If you go back through his form in New Zealand, he actually beat a horse called Seaswift Joy. She’s a good Open mare over here for Tony Alagna. He sat on her back and beat her fair and square and that was when I started paying attention.” Italian Delight’s Australian performances lacked luster. He only won two races in 26 starts Down Under between Oct. 20, 2018 and Nov. 23, 2019. Cassar again had the opportunity to purchase Italian Delight, and this time he and owner Windermere Stable took the chance, despite a late modification to the deal. “When you’re buying them for the right price, you can always take a chance on a horse like that,” Cassar said. “He was up in the classes, in the Opens or just below it, and he was still functioning without being as good as he probably could have been. If he was more money, maybe I wouldn’t have taken a chance, but I’ve bought a few horses off the same trainer before and he’s usually steered me in the right direction.” Italian Delight arrived in Cassar’s barn in early December. He looked the perfect size for a Bettor’s Delight, but was just OK in his first training trip. Cassar’s experience told him the horse had a bleeding problem. “The second time (training), I gave him Lasix and he was a totally different horse. Ever since then, we really haven’t trained him too hard because of the bleeding situation. It just seems to be working,” Cassar said. “We took care of the bleeding and got him on a program where we don’t stress him, he doesn’t injure himself during the week and we just race him from there.” After that second training trip, Cassar knew the deal they had struck to buy Italian Delight would pay off. “We had him bought and then they came back and said, ‘no, we want (more),” Cassar recalled. “Usually, I walk away from things like that, but I told the owner, you know what, let’s just buy him. I texted him a week before the qualifier and said, ‘that $5,000 you just spent is the best $5,000 you will spend for a long time.’ ” Italian Delight qualified Jan. 4 at the Meadowlands, a couple weeks ahead of schedule. With Dexter Dunn driving, Italian Delight finished fourth and qualified in 1:55.4 with a :27.0 final quarter. One week later, Italian Delight made his pari-mutuel debut in a $16,000 overnight at the Swamp and kicked home in :25.4 to score an off-the-pace 1:50.1 victory. “He never kicked the earplugs. I think it was a bit of a drop in competition from what he was racing, but he was a pretty good closer back in Australia and the race setup right for him,” Cassar said. “I give credit to the horse because he’s so professional. There’s no fancy equipment, no headpoles, he just goes on the track and wants to do it. When they don’t stress themselves, it makes a big difference.” Italian Delight stepped up in class Jan. 18 and doubled up when making another late move, but was only third Feb. 1 in a $37,500 Meadowlands overnight when he raced on the lead. “He’s definitely better closing. I think we saw that at the Meadowlands when he had to cut that mile,” Cassar said. “Saying that, I don’t think he was quite 100 percent that night. He was sick after that second win and I just don’t think was quite right for that Meadowlands start when he ran third.” Last week (Feb. 8), Italian Delight made his Yonkers Raceway debut in a $27,000 overnight. After warming Italian Delight up, Cassar felt confident when handing the lines to Brent Holland. “I spoke to Brent before the race and said, ‘listen, nothing fancy, just take him off the gate, first-over and he’ll win,’ and I was pretty confident when I told him that.” Everything went according to plan as Holland watched from 5 lengths behind as Anythingforlove set the tempo in :27.4 and :56.4. Holland tipped Italian Delight first-over as the field straightened away into the stretch the first time around. Italian Delight advanced willingly and drew even with Anythingforlove through three-quarters in 1:24.1. Racing around the final turn, Holland sat statuesque as Italian Delight headed Anythingforlove. In the lane, Holland put the whip on Italian Delight’s tail and the horse took off, leaving his competition 2 1/2 lengths behind in a 1:52.4 mile. “He got around Yonkers perfect,” Cassar said. “He just did it pretty easy in the end. It was a perfect situation where he just got the job done. There was no traffic, he just got to do his own thing and he was good enough to do it. It was a stress-free race considering he had to go first-over in 52.” Although the MGM Borgata Pacing Series, formerly the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series at Yonkers Raceway, wasn’t initially on Cassar’s radar, the trainer and owner made the decision this week to nominate Italian Delight. “It’s a tough series for a horse that just came over considering he’s only had four or five starts since he’s been here and there’s good horses in there,” Cassar said. “But after we spoke about it, there may not be another place to race. The other tracks aren’t all open, plus they’re not really going to fill Opens, so if you don’t go to the Levy, you really don’t have any other places to race. Is he good enough? I think so, but we’re just going to have to manage him the right way. It’s a tough series. But as of now, he’s going to be in there.” Italian Delight will face his toughest test to date Saturday night (Feb. 15) in the $40,000 Open Handicap Pace. He and Holland will start from post three in the pacing feature and are 7-1 on the morning line. The competition includes Trump Nation, who exits a 1:49.4 victory in the Meadowlands Preferred Feb. 8. George Brennan will drive the 5-year-old from post seven for Ron Burke. Jack’s Legend won last week’s local pacing feature at odds-on and will look to repeat from post six for Jason Bartlett and Rich Banca. Ostro Hanover’s win 4-race streak snapped with last week’s runner up finish to Jack’s Legend; the Rene Allard trainee will look to start a new streak from post five. Joesstar Of Mia, Harambe Deo, and Tookadiveoffdipper complete the lineup. If Cassar has his way, Italian Delight will make a first-over move again and try to duplicate last week’s win. “I’ll leave it up to Brent now that he’s driven the horse once. He knows the competition,” Cassar said. “Personally, I’d like to see the same thing. It’s tougher competition, it’s probably going to be the toughest he’s faced. Whatever Brent does, he does. I’m sure the horse can be used a little bit early, but after last week, if it ain’t broke, I wouldn’t fix it. “Every week you just don’t know who’s going to show up. It’s the Open, that’s just how it is. If he doesn’t face (Trump Nation) this week, he’s going to have to face him in a month in the Levy. He’s pretty exciting right now, but if that’s his limit, that’s his limit,” Cassar said. “We’ll just take care of the horse. He’s been good to us so far, we want to do the right thing by him. I’ve got a lot of horses there now that are 9, 10, 11 years old that are still racing because we do the right thing by them. They show up to Yonkers week in and week out and that can be a little bit tough on them, but if you do the right thing, they can last a long time and make a lot of money.” Saturday night’s card also features the $40,000 Open Handicap Trot. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. First post time is 7:05 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Friday, February 14, 2020--I'mprincessgemma A (Joe Bongiorno, $6.20) was both widest and fastest Friday night (Feb. 14th), winning Yonkers Raceway's $40,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace. Sandy Win (Eric Goodell) fronted the fray, doing so through early intervals of :27.1 and :56.3. Robyn Camden (Jim Marohn Jr.), who had left into a three-hole as the 19-10 favorite, made a second move to go after the leader. Western New York standout HP Sissy (Dan Dube) tried to match strides with 'Robyn," but gapped. It was Sandy Win maintaining her advantage in and out of a 1:25 three-quarters, Meanwhile, I'mprincessgemma A, away last from outside her five (after a scratch) rivals, was saving ground by the pylons and slipping out down the backside right behind Betterb Chevron N (Jordan Stratton). Shady Win owned a length lead off the final turn, but was about to get swallowed up. 'Gemma,' fifth entering the lane, launched past everyone. She widened to win by 2¾ lengths in 1:53.4. Shady Win did hold off the rest to and save second, with Robyn Camden and Betterb Chevron N inseparable for third. Wishy Washy Girl (Brent Holland) picked off the final pay envelope, while 'Sissy' backpedaled to last among the half-dozen in a rare poor effort.   For season-debuting third choice I'mprincessgemma A, a 6-year-old Down Under daughter of Village Jolt co-owned by her chauffeur, trainer Jennifer Bongiorno, Steve Manzi and Wish Me Luck Stables, she entered off an eight-win, $100,000 season in 2019. The exacta paid $19.80, the triples returned $34.20 (Betterb Chevron N third) and $23.40 (Robyn Camden third) and the superfectas paid $60 (Betterb Chevron N third) and $49.60 (Robyn Camden third). A friendly reminder from Yonkers Raceway that Saturday evening’s (Feb. 15th) Pick 5 wager starts with a carryover of $3,899.15 and a $15,000 guaranteed pool. The guarantee has been approved by the New York State Gaming Commission and is conjunction with the U.S. Trotting Association’s Strategic Wagering Program. The Pick 5 is a 50-cent base wager comprising races 5 through 9 Saturday night. It has no consolation payoff, meaning if no one selects all five winners (as was the case Friday night), the entire pool (minus takeout) moves to the next racing program. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, N.Y. – When HP Sissy’s name appeared in the entries for the $40,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace at Yonkers Raceway Friday night (Feb. 14), trainer Mike Ohol’s colleagues on the Western New York circuit voiced their skepticism. “A couple guys up there were telling me, ‘what are you going down there for,’ ” Ohol said, but the harness racing trainer remained steadfast. “You don’t know until you try it.” Ohol campaigned HP Sissy to a 13-win season in 2019. The Up The Credit mare also placed 14 times and earned $116,493 while making the majority of her 37 starts at Buffalo and Batavia Raceways. All but two of her starts last year came at the Open level. Ohol acquired HP Sissy as a project in January 2019. Although the mare won the $50,000 Coupe des Eleveurs at Hippodrome 3R as a 3-year-old in 2016 and competed on the Grand Circuit in the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series as a 5-year-old, HP Sissy went just 2-for-27 in 2018 racing for Rene Allard and Benoit Baillargeon. “She was racing up in Canada and we thought she would be a good buy because she was down in class and she showed a lot of back class,” Ohol said. “If we could get her and turn her around, we thought she could be a heck of a horse.” Despite his high aspirations, Ohol’s first impression of HP Sissy could only be described in expletives. She was high-strung, difficult to handle, and hard to control on the track. However, over time, Ohol and HP Sissy formed a bond. “The more I started working with her and watching her - I pay attention to everything they do in the barn. I feel a horse out like they feel you out - we just seemed to click and once I turned her one time, I said, ‘my god, this horse is pretty fast.’ She just goes.” Ohol’s formula for success with HP Sissy is patience and care. His strategy is focused on managing HP Sissy’s natural speed and not overtraining her. “I don’t let anybody else jog her, I do it all myself. I don’t want anybody else roughing her up. When she gets in an attitude, she just wants to take off on you. I can keep her a little more relaxed and when she gets too hot, I just take her off the track and walk her around a little bit and take her in the barn. She’s got a routine,” Ohol said. “She’ll get to going in the barn,” he continued. “You have to try to keep her relaxed. Don’t bring too many horses around her, she’s always the first one to eat, otherwise she starts kicking the walls down. She wants to be the queen.” With HP Sissy’s record, she may have earned that right. HP Sissy captured the Filly and Mare Open seven times at Buffalo Raceway from February through July before moving on to Batavia, where she took another four features. Ohol ranks her performance Sept. 18 among her best. Starting from post five in a six-horse field, HP Sissy left around rival Lady London and made the lead entering the backstretch the first time. She led at every call and under Drew Monti pistol grips, kicked away from the field in the final quarter to post a 3-length win in 1:53.3. HP Sissy repeated the effort one week later with a 1:53.4 score. “She went to Batavia, she had two wins in a row,” Ohol said. “She won in 1:53.3 and Drew Monti was driving her and he never let her go. He said, ‘Mike, I don’t know how fast she would have gone if I would have let her go. I was hanging onto her the whole mile and she just pulled away from the field. They couldn’t touch her.’ ” HP Sissy’s biggest win in 2019 came Oct. 4, when she shipped to Yonkers to take a $22,000 overnight in gate-to-wire fashion in 1:54.0 with Dan Dube in the sulky. HP Sissy raced through the end of November and reemerged in a qualifier at Buffalo Raceway Jan. 24, posting a 2:02.3 win over a sloppy track with a 3-second variant. “I gave her a couple weeks off in November, but she’s a hard horse to even turn out because she’s just hard on herself,” Ohol said. “I feel she’s better off jogging a little bit. She seems more happy if she’s out on the track doing things instead of out in the field. If you turn her out, she runs up and down the fence. She just seems happy when she’s on the track and doing her thing.” In HP Sissy’s first start of 2020, the 7-year-old posted a 1:57.0 win in the Buffalo distaff feature Feb. 5. In that effort, HP Sissy dueled with Protect Blue Chip, parking that rival through fractions of :28.0, :57.0, and 1:27.0. While the plugs were pulled on Protect Blue Chip before the half, driver Denny Bucceri didn’t get to work on HP Sissy until passing the three-quarters, kicking out the plugs and going to a right-handed whip. Turning for home, HP Sissy still dealt with Protect Blue Chip while Carly Girl angled three-wide and Lady London looked to the passing lane. Despite the onslaught, HP Sissy held off her challengers by a half-length. With her victory, HP Sissy punched her ticket to the Hilltop. “I was extremely happy with her because a horse left against her and she parked that horse who had just won the week before,” Ohol said. “That’s why I thought, if I’m going to go to Yonkers, this is the time to take her because I feel she’s sharp right now.” HP Sissy will be reunited with Dan Dube and the pair will start from an assigned post one in the Valentine’s Day feature. The pair are 7-1 on the morning line. HP Sissy’s rivals include Robyn Camden, who rides a 4-race win streak for Rene Allard and will start from post five as the 5-2 morning line choice. Imprincessgemma posted a win and two seconds in this class to cap her 2019 season last fall. She returns of a qualifying win at Freehold Feb. 8 in which she utilized a :27.0 final quarter to stop the clock in 1:55.4. She and Joe Bongiorno are 4-1 on the morning line. Sandy Win finished second in this race last week for trainer Chuck Connor, Jr. Eric Goodell will drive from post three as a 4-1 morning line. Cay’s Blessing won a local Preferred in December and started her 2020 campaign with consecutive runner-up finishes in the Filly and Mare Open Handicap for Jason Bartlett and Rich Banca. Wishy Washy Girl and Betterb Chevron complete the lineup. “I’m hoping I do good with (HP Sissy); I don’t want to brag, but I think she’s up to the task to give a good race,” Ohol said. “I trained her a little different this week. I hope I didn’t over-train her. I trained her a couple trips instead of just one. I knew I was going down there and was going to be in kind of tough, so I gave her a little extra this week. I don’t think I overdid it, I just trained her within herself. You don’t have to force her to go, she goes.” Ohol expects Dan Dube to utilize HP Sissy’s early speed from her inside post. “Let me tell you, when that gate opens up, look out. She just goes. She went a quarter in :27 at Saratoga, and that’s a half-mile track. If you do sit in a hole with her and pull her out, you better be ready because as soon as you pull on that right line, she’s in high gear; she wants out.” Ohol said. “The gate opens up and she’s on top by the first turn, usually by a length or two. Dube told me last year when I came down there, he said he loved driving her because when that gate opens, she’s gone. You can get to the front, set the pace, an then they have to catch her. “We’ll see what happens. We’ll see if she’s up to the task. You’re up against the best horses there, but she’s raced against them before and done well.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. First post time is 7:05 p.m.  By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Monday, February 10, 2019--The deadline for nomination is fast approaching with some of Yonkers Raceway's more popular harness racing stakes and series closing this Saturday (Feb. 15th). Nominations close for the Mlife Reward Pacing Series, Ladies (formerly the Petticoat) and Gents (formerly the Sagamore Hill). The respective series are open to 3- and 4-year-olds who were non-winners of four races and or $50,000 through this past Dec. 1st. This Saturday, the nominations also close for the big boys and big girls. The Borgata Pacing Series (formerly the George Morton Levy Memorial) and Blue Chip Matchmaker annually attract the best Free-for-Allers around. Nomination blanks for all of the above accompany this release and are also available in the nightly racing program, the Raceway's website ( and selected harness print and on-line publications. For further information, please contact the race office at (914) 457-2627. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, NY, Monday, February 10, 2020--The second Monday of the month (Feb. 10th) resulted in another admirable Yonkers Raceway harness racing handle. A week after the single-season high ($1,025,349) figure, a total of $982,740 was wagered. The soggy dozen-race card included wins by P L Munson (Renaldo Morales III, $6) in the $16,000, sixth-race pace (1:54.3) and Weona Sizzler A (Jason Bartlett, $3.60) in the $14,500, 10th-race pace (1:54.2). Monday night began the Raceway's $7,500 guarantee Pick 5 pools, which continue each Monday and Tuesday. A total of $11,256 was invested, returning $272.25 for every correct (2/3/3/4/5) combination. Yonkers' Pick 5 remains a 50-cent base wager (races 5 through 9). The Raceway's live schedule continues every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with first post at 7:05 PM. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, February 8, 2019 -- Popular propositions Jack's Legend N (Jason Bartlett, $3.60) and Swansea (Austin Siegelman, $2.70) did not disappoint Saturday night (Feb. 8th), winning Yonkers Raceway's pair of harness racing $40,000 Open Handicaps. Jack's Legend N took down the weekly adult-table pace in first-over fashion. From post position No. 3 (in one notch after a defection), he saw Tookadiveoffdipper (Brent Holland) pocket Ostro Hanover (Dan Dube) through intervals of :26.2 and :55.3. Jack's Legend N then moved from third, assaulting in earnest at the 1:23.3 three-quarters. Tookadiveoffdipper gave way gradually in and out of the final turn, with Jack's Legend N grinding by. The latter edged away, whipping Ostro Hanover by a length-and-a-half in a season's-best 1:51.4. San Domino A (George Brennan) loomed but flattened, finishing third, with Tookadiveoffdipper and Bettor Memories (Eric Goodell) settling for the remainder. For Jack's Legend N, a 6-year-old Down Under Bettor's Delight gelding co-owned by (trainer) Richard Banca and James & Barbara Boese, it was his first win in three seasonal starts. The exacta paid $18.80, with the triple returning $46.40. Jack's Legend N The week's marquee trot offered minimal suspense, with Swansea--from post No. 4 (also in one place after a scratch)--taking it the distance (:28, :57.4, 1:26.2, 1:54.3). His job was made much easier after Yes (Holland) was totally devoid of trot and Eye ofa Tiger AS (Bartlett) broke. Swansea whipped Melady's Monet (Brennan) by a length, with newly-minted millionaire Smalltownthrowdown (Dube) third. Eye ofa Tiger AS crossed the line fourth, but flipped placings with Yes after the former's extended transgression. For Swansea, a 5-year-old Swan for All gelding co-owned (as Triple D Stables) by (trainer) Scott DiDomenico and Dana Parham, it was his second win in four '20 trues. The exacta paid $13.60, with the triple wagering cancelled due to the abbreviated number starters. Swansea Frank Drucker

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