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YONKERS, N.Y. – A pair of $60,000 series finals and $30,000 consolations headline the July 20 harness racing program at Yonkers Raceway. The M Life Rewards Ladies and M Life Rewards Gents Pacing Series will each conclude Monday evening after being interrupted and postponed by the efforts to contain the coronavirus in March. The M Life Rewards Ladies Pacing Series was originally scheduled with three preliminary legs March 2, 9, and 16 with a $50,000 added final March 23. However, due to the coronavirus lockdown that halted racing at Yonkers beginning March 10, only the first two preliminary legs were contested. A pair of 4-year-old mares top the standings heading into the rescheduled final, Affluent Seelster and I’m Very Special, who each won divisions of both preliminary legs. Affluent Seelster took advantage of a pocket trip from the inside post position to post a 33-1 upset in her division of the first preliminary leg March 2. The Paul Stafford trainee utilized a :28.2 final quarter to track down pacesetter North Star Ideal in a neck victory. Affluent Seelster proved the shocking result was no fluke when she repeated a week later as the 3-5 favorite. Affluent Seelster has made three starts since harness racing resumed in the Northeast, most recently connecting with a head win on the front end in a $12,800 overnight at Harrah’s Philadelphia July 8. Affluent Seelster drew post four in the M Life Rewards Ladies Pacing Series Final and is 9-2 on the morning line with Brent Holland programmed to drive. Unlike Affluent Seelster, I’m Very Special was heavily favored in her divisions of both preliminary legs of the M Life Rewards Ladies Pacing Series and made good both times for trainer Peter Pellegrino and driver Jason Bartlett. The American Ideal daughter scored by 2 lengths in the first leg, second division and 3/4 lengths in her second leg split, each time clocking 1:53.4 with a :27.3 final quarter. Affluent Seelster (Seen here winning on the 9th of March this year) I’m Very Special has a pair of placings at the Meadowlands and Harrah’s Philadelphia June 24 and July 3, respectively since returning to racing post-lockdown. In her latest start July 16 at Yonkers, she finished sixth in the non-winners of $25,000 last five condition. I’m Very Special drew post eight in the M Life Rewards Ladies Pacing Series Final and is 8-1 on the morning line. Although sixth in the series standings after a narrow loss to Affluent Seelster in leg one and a fifth-place finish in the second leg, North Star Ideal was installed as the 6-5 morning line favorite in the final. The Tom Milici owned and trained mare qualified an 11 3/4-length winner locally June 29, pacing a 1:55.3 mile with a :27.3 final quarter. The Western Ideal daughter then posted a front-stepping win in 1:53.4 in a $13,500 Yonkers overnight July 13. North Star Ideal drew the inside post in the $60,000 final and will employ the driving services of Matt Kakaley after Jason Bartlett opted for I’m Very Special. Kakaley drove North Star Ideal to a pair of open-length victories at Yonkers earlier this year before Greg Merton piloted in the preliminaries and Bartlett drove last time out. The field for the M Life Rewards Ladies Pacing Series Final also includes Platinum Pearl, who returns to Yonkers after racing in the overnights at Northfield Park since late May and HP Xanadu, who enters off a neck loss in a $7,500 Meadowlands overnight July 3. Red River Jane, Triple Dip, and How About Murph complete the lineup. Like its distaff companion series, the M Life Rewards Gents Pacing Series was originally scheduled with three preliminary legs beginning weekly March 3 and culminating in a final March 24. As the March 10 Yonkers program was the first to fall to the coronavirus lockdown, only the first preliminary leg was contested. There were four divisions of the series first leg, and all four winners from those four splits entered the final. Semi Tough overcame post seven in the first division of the preliminary leg to post a 1 1/4-length victory in 1:54.2. Trained by Ron Burke, the 4-year-old Somebeachsomewhere son competed in legs of the Graduate Pacing Series at Tioga Downs and the Meadowlands June 21 and July 4, respectively, before posting a 1:51.1 win in a $10,400 Meadows overnight in his most recent start July 13. Semi Tough drew post six in the M Life Rewards Gents Pacing Series Final and is 7-5 on the morning line for driver George Brennan. The Andrew Harris-trained Tap Tap Tap took advantage of a pocket trip to track down heavily favored rival East Beach in the second division of the preliminary leg to post a mild 4-1 upset in 1:54. A homebred for S S G Stable, Tap Tap Tap finished seventh from post seven, beaten 3 3/4 lengths in the non-winners of $25,000 last five condition at Yonkers in his return June 25. Tap Tap Tap was caught as the pacesetter in his most recent start in a $9,000 overnight at Harrington July 13. Tap Tap Tap and driver Jason Bartlett will start from post one in the M Life Rewards Gents Pacing Series Final. The pair are 5-2 on the morning line. The third M Life Rewards Gents Pacing Series preliminary leg division went to Razor’s Edge by a nose over Lying In Cash and Shamma Lamma, who dead-heated for second in a blanket finish. Razor’s Edge was trained by Ron Burke when last seen at Yonkers in the preliminary, but since moved to the Gilbert Garcia-Herrera stable. Razor’s Edge finished second in a dead heat for his new conditioner in a $13,600 overnight at Pocono Downs June 27 and was up the track in his last start at Harrah’s Philadelphia July 12 after starting from post eight. He is 20-1 on the morning line for Austin Siegelman and will start from post five. Virgin Storm was the only wire-to-wire winner in the series preliminary, having scored by 3/4 lengths for Jason Bartlett and Chris Marino. Now in the barn of Michael Spaccarelli Jr., Virgin Storm has been racing in the Pocono conditions and was most recently third on Independence Day. Mike Simons will drive Virgin Storm in the final at 12-1. First leg runners-up Shamma Lamma, Ehrmantraut, Lying In Cash, and Apex Seelster comprise the field. Yonkers Raceway returns to its normal five night per week live harness racing schedule beginning July 20 and continuing through Dec. 19. First post time is 7:12 p.m. The complete revised racing calendar is available online here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY - Yonkers Raceway hosted two harness racing divisions of New York Sire Stakes action for three-year-old trotting colts and geldings Tuesday night. In the first $75,900 division, Hobbs took control of the race early and led all the way in 1:55.4 by three-quarters of a length over Barn Holden with Take The Credit two lengths back in third.   Hobbs is a three-year-old gelded son of Credit Winner driven to victory by Jason Bartlett for trainer Jim Campbell and the Runthetable Stables of Montvale, New Jersey. Five of the six trotters in the first division were sons of Credit Winner. In the second $75,900 division, driver Brian Sears picked up the catch drive aboard Chaptiama and also led all the way scoring a neck victory over Berkery J in 1:55. It was three and three-quarter lengths back to Bourbon Express in third.   Chaptiama is a three-year-old gelded son of Chapter Seven for trainer Trond Smedshammer and the Purple Haze Stables of Fairport, New York. Four of the six trotters in the $75,900 second division were sons of Chapter Seven. Racing continues at Yonkers Raceway Thursday and Friday nights this week, first post is at 7:12pm. by Alex Dadoyan, for Yonkers Raceway  

YONKERS, NY - American Courage made a decisive brush to the lead approaching the first quarter and held off the pocket sitting Town Gossip to prevail in the $104,250 MGM Springfield Stakes at Yonkers Raceway Monday by a half length in 1:53.3. American Courage remains unbeaten in four lifetime harness racing starts for trainer Travis Alexander, driver Matt Kakaley and the Fiddler's Creek Stables of West Bloomfield, Michigan.His time of 1:53.3 was a lifetime mark.   The two year old colt by American Ideal is the first foal out of the Art Major mare Nota Fool Bluechip. The heavy favorite in the race, American Courage paid $2.40 to win. Crystal Beach was six and three quarter lengths back in third. by Alex Dadoyan, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, N.Y. – Trainer Erv Miller entered three colts in the eliminations of the MGM Springfield Stakes (formerly the Lawrence B Sheppard) eliminations: Carrythetorchman, Crystal Beach, and Not Today. All three made the $104,250 final, set for Monday night (July 13) at Yonkers Raceway; Carrythetorchman by virtue of a victory and Not Today with a fourth in the second elimination and Crystal Beach with a third-place finish behind American Courage in the first elimination. With Carrythetorchman unbeaten in two baby races and his first pari-mutuel start, he leads the pack against the race’s 8-5 morning line favorite American Courage. By American Ideal out of the Astreos mare Kattimon, Carrythetorchman is a half to Classic Pro, a winner of two Ontario Sire Stakes legs and an earner of over $500,000 to date, and a full to Grand Circuit winner and New York Sire Stakes standout Devil Child. Carrythetorchman was a $70,000 buy from the 2019 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale for Miller and owners Ronald Michelon and War Horse Stable. “He’s a good conformation horse. You might want one a little bigger for the big stuff, but for New York, I thought he was about the right size for getting around the half,” Miller said. “So far, he’s proven that. He doesn’t wear any boots and just gets around the half-mile track real easy.” Although Miller says Carrythetorchman showed class from the beginning of his training, the colt began to develop a bad habit while training in Florida over the winter and into the spring as he dealt with minor foot trouble. “Early on, he was really good. Then he went through a phase and I think it was more his feet than anything just had him where he wasn’t happy with what he was doing,” Miller said. “He wasn’t easy to keep under control when they jogged. He’d switch back and forth from the pace to the trot and we got that under control by leaving the hopples on him all the time.  “He was really fussy on the track at one time, but now he doesn’t do anything wrong,” Miller continued. “Since we got him close, a couple weeks before qualifying, he gotten over everything and it seemed like he was way better.” With that hiccup behind them, Miller shipped Carrythetorchman and the rest of his stable from Florida to Pennsylvania’s Wingate Farm uncertain when the horses would be able to qualify. With efforts to contain the coronavirus closing racetracks across North America, Wingate improvised, like many training centers throughout the country. “With COVID-19, it was just one of those things that we had to come up with a new solution. We couldn’t go anywhere to get qualified, so we came up with the next best plan,” Miller said. “I saw it coming when we left Florida, PA is shut down, things aren’t moving, so we better see if we can get our farm OK’d to qualify. That worked out good. We had a couple weeks of qualifiers that got things going.” Carrythetorchman was one of the horses who benefited, qualifying at home over the five-eighths mile track at Wingate June 15. He led his field of four gate-to-wire, stopping the clock in 1:59.2 with a :28 final quarter.  Nine days later, Miller was able to ship to Pocono Downs for a second baby race. Carrythetorchman left from post eight and utilized a :28.2 last quarter to power away from the field to win by 10 3/4 lengths in 1:57.  “He did really well. Because of training and knowing what kind of horse he was, we wanted to get a little faster mile in him there that day than what he did (at the farm) and expose him a little more. We did that and he just handled it really well,” Miller said. Carrythetorchman debuted July 6 at Yonkers, 20 minutes after American Courage posted a blowout 7 1/4-length win in the first MGM Springfield Stakes elimination in 1:55.2. Carrythetorchman left in between horses and glided to the front reaching the backstretch the first time. Driver Scott Zeron was simply a passenger as Carrythetorchman cruised home a 1 1/2-length winner in 1:55.4. Carrythetorchman drew post position three in the MGM Springfield Stakes Final and at 9-5, is the second choice on the morning line. American Courage will start from post four with Matt Kakaley as the 8-5 morning line favorite. “(American Courage) looked really sharp in his qualifier for this race, too. We just have to see how it plays out,” said Miller, who wasn’t sure what will happen when the two unbeaten colts face each other Monday night. Crystal Beach drew post two in the final and is a 20-1 morning line after finishing 9 lengths behind American Courage last week. Crystal Beach left hard from post five in his elimination, but was denied the lead by Major Makeover and was forced to take back into third heading to the quarter. With Crystal Beach keen in the hole, driver Marcus Miller angled to the outside turning into the stretch the first time and brushed to the top before being forced to yield again as American Courage forged to the lead at 1-5. “(Crystal Beach) really raced well the other day, but he was moved a lot, so it’s hard to tell how much he will go when he gets a nicer trip, maybe not used up quite as hard,” Miller said. “He’s also a very handy horse and gets around a half really good.” Crystal Beach was a $36,000 purchase from the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale and is owned by Miller and Tanah Merah Farm. Crystal Beach impressed training down and won his first baby race by 7 3/4 lengths at Wingate June 15 before finishing second behind Carrythetorchman June 24 at Pocono ahead of his debut in the Springfield elimination. “He’s been a really nice horse. He’s always trained like just a top, top colt. When you’re getting ready to race them, sometimes you don’t get quite what you expect or quite as much as you thought they trained like,” Miller said. “His biggest attribute is he’s just so handy, he’s very handy on a half-mile racetrack.” Not Today is also 20-1 on the morning line after drawing post six and will employ the driving services of Jason Bartlett. A $77,000 purchase as the Harrisburg Sale last fall, Not Today is owned by Anderson, Willinger, and Golemes.  Not Today was second behind Crystal Beach June 15, but won his trial at Pocono June 24 by 2 3/4 lengths in 1:58.4. He finished seventh 10 lengths behind American Courage in an overnight at Pocono June 30 before his fourth-place effort in the Springfield elimination last week. “He’s a little but more of an immature horse, not quite as mature as the other two, but he’s a little bigger, stronger horse. Hopefully at some point, he’ll catch up to the other guys a little bit,” Miller said. Town Gossip, Victory Move, Coalition Hanover, and Major Makeover complete the lineup for the MGM Springfield Stakes Final, carded as the fourth of eight races Monday night. “I think it’s a nice race to have. With everything going on, it’s nice for the 2-year-olds to be able to race for $100,000 right now,” Miller said. “With all the COVID-19, all the races being cut, and schedules being redone, it’s nice to still have this race.” The amended Yonkers Raceway calendar will see live harness racing conducted Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights until July 17. Beginning the week of July 20, the schedule will add Saturday nights as the track returns to its normal five night per week schedule through Dec. 19. First post time is 7:05 p.m. The complete revised racing calendar is available online here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

Yonkers, NY -- Due to expected heavy rainfall and high winds, racing and qualifiers have been canceled at Yonkers Raceway for Friday (July 10). Racing is expected to resume on Monday (July 13), with qualifiers being held next on Friday (July 17). From the USTA  

YONKERS, N.Y. – Since harness racing resumed in the Northeast United States in late May, Rich And Miserable has not had much luck racing at the Meadowlands. The talented trotter drew post position 10 in his first start back June 12, got stuck following a blazing 1:50.1 mile by Guardian Angel As in his second start June 20, then drew post position 10 in the Cutler Memorial last time out on Independence Day. As a result, Rich And Miserable failed to take home a check in any of those three starts.  Rich And Miserable made one bid away from the Swamp so far this season, heading to Pocono Downs June 27. He drew post two in the featured $20,000 trot and scored a 2 1/2-length win in 1:52.4. Now, Rich And Miserable looks to capitalize again in the $33,000 open handicap trot at Yonkers Raceway Friday (July 10). He is already having better luck at the Hilltop, drawing post four, but moving inside to the three after the early scratch of Photo Bomber.  “We threw him in with the big guns and we got a couple 10 post positions and that wasn’t a very good starting point. We did take him once to Pocono and he raced very well there, so now we’re going to try the half-mile track again at Yonkers,” said trainer Todd Buter. “The first start over there in the open, he had the 10-hole and just followed along,” Buter continued. “Last week in the Cutler, had the 10-hole and in with those type of horses, it’s tough from the 10, but we’re hoping to turn things around.” Besides the advantageous post position, Rich And Miserable has the resume to compete at this level. The Explosive Matter son always showed promise for Buter, but last year at 4, had a breakout season. After posting a 5 1/2-length win and earning two other placings in the preliminary legs of the SOA of NY Bonus Trotting Series, Rich And Miserable won the $73,000 series final by a nose last April.  Rich And Miserable also won a leg and the final of the Mr. Muscleman Series at the Meadowlands, won the $100,000 Great Northeast Open Series Final at Pocono, and captured a local $42,000 open handicap trot from post position eight last fall. The $305,125 Rich And Miserable earned last year boosted his career tally to $417,922 for owners Buter Farm, Lynette Buter, and William and Carol Fuhs. “Last year was a very pleasant surprise. He showed good things as a 3-year-old and as a 4-year-old, things just kept falling in place and we got a couple nice draws in some big purse races, got good trips, and he lived up to what we were hoping for. It was a great year,” Buter said. “He was always a sound horse as a 2- and 3-year-old and it seemed like he just got bigger, stronger, matured more and could race either way; race on the front, race from the back,” Buter continued. “He just ended up being a very smart horse, very easy on himself. We’re hoping we can turn things around back at Yonkers.” Rich And Miserable raced through the end of December last year before getting some well-earned time off. He was ready to qualify by mid-March, but due to the response to the coronavirus pandemic, harness racing across North America shuttered. Like the rest of the industry, Buter was forced to wait. “We just got put on hold and it was, ‘maybe next week,’ so you’d train them light. ‘Maybe next week,’ so you’d train them a little harder. The next week just train them easy, maybe it will be next week,” Buter said. “Everybody was in the same boat, nobody knew what was going on, so we just had to sit back and wait for them to turn the lights back on and I tried to have him as good as we could.” Rich And Miserable was finally able to qualify May 30 before his bad-luck streak at the Meadowlands began. Friday night will be Rich And Miserable’s first local start since finishing 10th in the $250,000 Harry Harvey Invitational Trot Oct. 12. Regular driver Tyler Buter will be in the sulky and the pair are 5-2 on the morning line. Rich And Miserable will face six rivals, including 2-1 morning line favorite Melady’s Monet, who will start from post four. The 11-year-old and earner of $1.6 million twice finished second in the local open trot and won a local preferred from post seven before the shutdown. He posted a front-stepping qualifying win in 1:58 at Magical Acres Training Center June 23 in preparation for his first start since March 7.  Swansea earned three wins in the local open before the shutdown and picked up right where he left off in his return June 25, tallying a fourth victory in six starts this season in 1:55.3 for trainer Scott DiDomenico. Swansea was assigned the outside post Friday night and is 3-1 with Austin Siegelman programmed to drive.  Paul Kelley’s 10-year-old Obrigado continues to deliver after emerging from retirement late last year. The $1.8 million-earner won an $18,750 overnight in 1:51.2 at the Meadowlands June 5 and was second to Rich And Miserable in his most recent start at Pocono June 27. Obrigado drew post six Friday night. Mostinterestingman, Elysium Lindy, and Lean Hanover complete the lineup.  “We’ll just have to see how it shakes out,” Buter said of Rich And Miserable’s chances. “He’s raced on the front at Yonkers and won and he’s raced from the back at Yonkers and won. He seems good and healthy and sound, so we’ll hope for the best.” Friday night’s eight-race card also features the $33,000 open handicap pace. The amended Yonkers Raceway calendar will see live harness racing conducted Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights until July 17. Beginning the week of July 20, the schedule will add Saturday nights as the track returns to its normal five night per week schedule through Dec. 19. First post time is 7:05 p.m. The complete revised racing calendar is available online here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY - Tuesday night, Yonkers Raceway hosted four $35,450 New York Sire Stakes Divisions for two-year-old colt and gelding trotters and harness racing stallion Chapter Seven stole the show with his offspring winning three of the four divisions. In the first division, race three, Incommunicado led from start to finish, prevailing by two and a quarter lengths in 1:59. Ahundreddollarbill was second with Dee's Red Delicious finishing third.   Incommunicado is a gelded son of Chapter Seven trained and driven by Ake Svanstedt and owned by Knutsson Trotting Inc. of Del Ray Beach, Florida and Little E LLC from New York, New York. In the second division, race four, Special Prosecutor held off a fast closing Super Cruiser by a neck in 2:02.1 with Manuka being placed third after Limitless Winner was disqualified from that show spot.   Special Prosecutor is also a gelded son of Chapter Seven. He was driven to victory by Andy Miller for trainer and co-owner David Dewhurst of Clinton, New York. Philip Hale from New Hartford, New York co-owns the trotter. In the third division, race six, Ambassador Hanover made a strong brush to the lead around the final turn and held off Sevenshadesofgrey by a length in 1:59.1 with Steel finishing third.   Just like the first division winner, Ambassador Hanover is a son of Chapter Seven trained and driven by Ake Svanstedt. Svanstedt also owns the colt along with Order By Stable from Boras, SD and Howard Taylor of Philadelphia, PA. In the eighth race final division, In The Cards sat a perfect pocket trip and prevailed by a length in 2:00.1 over the pace-setting Credit Con with Fix-It-Up finishing third.   In The Cards is a gelded son of RC Royalty owned and trained by George Ducharme. Other co-owners are Campbell, Dickson and Cimetti with Scott Zeron the winning driver. Tuesday's card also featured the first pick 5 carryover for Yonkers Raceway since returning from the stoppage. A $5,894 carryover from Monday night produced an additional $39,291 in wagering for the Tuesday Pick 5. The winning sequence of 2-2-3-1-6 returned $462.25 for a 50 cent wager. This week and next week, Yonkers expands to a four day race week, adding Friday nights to the Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights, first post is 7:12pm each night. by Alex Dadoyan, for Yonkers Raceway

Yonkers Raceway featured two elimination races for the first two-year-old stakes of the harness racing season, the MGM Springfield Stakes, on Monday night. In the first elimination, American Courage brushed to the lead approaching the half and was an easy seven and one-quarter length winner in 1:55.2 over Town Gossip with Crystal Beach third and Major Makover fourth.   The 1-5 favorite, American Courage paid $2.70 to win. The son of American Ideal was driven to victory by Matt Kakaley for trainer Travis Alexander and the Fiddler's Creek Stables of West Bloomfield, Michigan. In the second elimination, Carrythetorchman took control of the race from the start and led wire to wire to a 1:55.4 victory. Coalition Hanover was a length a half back in second with Victory Move third and Not Today fourth.   Carrythetorchman, also a son of American Ideal, also paid $2.70 to win and was driven to victory by Scott Zeron for trainer Erv Miller and owners Ronald Michelon of Northbrook, Illinois and War Horse Stables of Malvern, Pennsylvania. The top four finishers in each elimination return for the $104,250 MGM Springfield Stakes Final next Monday July 13 at Yonkers Raceway by Alex Dadoyan, for Yonkers Raceway  

The following letter was received at Harnesslink from Joseph Faraldo and it pertains to a letter in Harness Racing Update over the weekend from Danielle Henri, the mother of Rene and Simon Allard. If Rene Allard’s mom owned her own  horses for years she should be allowed to race her horses if her only involvement in any of the allegations against Rene, is her being Rene’s mom. A  similar argument could be made for Simon Allard ie., that guilt, by association is similarly wrong. As far as the new trainers they are free to choose who they train for and guilt by association should not be the standard by which the industry further tarnishes otherwise  innocent trainers who are not acting as beards.  The presumption that relatives are as  guilty as those charged, whose guilt is not yet proven,   is a favorite pastime of our industry and is why the industry suffers in the eyes of the outside world , because it comes from inside.  The justice system is competent in ferreting out the guilty from the innocent and those who are guilty should and must be penalized. Those who are complicit with anyone directly involved in breaking regulations whether they rise to the level of crimes or not,  including other trainers, beards, grooms and even owners, should  be punished. Penalizing any of the owners, trainers or a myriad of others who would aid criminal activity should have some modicum of proof, not be applied by mere association. As far as Yonkers, the HRU headline was disgraceful in and of itself but endemic of the mob mentality that is prevalent in this business. Yonkers rightfully accepted her  entry and that was appropriate until the firestorm created by Harness Racing Update article. At that point  Yonkers then succumbed to the mob mentality giving the impression that  the entry was accepted incorrectly and then decided to follow up by sacrificing up this owner to satiate the presumably false narrative that was promulgated by HRU.  It was interesting to hear a  new version  for the Yonkers action and that  was that Rene’s mom made a lot of money  from the prior relationship with her son . One has to wonder if all the owners, some of the biggest to the smallest in the game, should be barred by some or all the tracks in the country or at their own tracks who used any specific  trainer or driver who subsequently violates any rule. The question is which trainer with a valid license may be the next to get get accused of some wrongdoing or trouble. Some very good owners have quit the business because some tracks have taken this just a bit too far, Yonkers included. You can’t make this up.  Think of the hypocrisy inherent in this mob mentality. So many others who have  horses with those indicted or  those charged in an information, are allowed to still race their  horses even though they may have indirectly profited from trainer activities which are alleged to be criminal in nature  but whose activities were  unknown to them. Where is the outcry for similar punishment  to that meted out to  this one owner and driver or is that too  logical for the industry to ask? Or is it simply that the industry does not wish to apply the same rationale to others it gives a pass too.? It is because  all of this, that this current industry sanctioned  approach is wrong and hypocritical for so many reasons. Many presumed guilty  owners have sold their horses because they are now wearing their “scarlet letter” and have quit the game altogether.  Every, let it be repeated that every  successful trainer starting in my memory with George “Buddy” Regan, is suspect of wrongdoing by this wrongheaded mentality. George  was so disheartened he basically quit the game. Lets  acknowledge then that every successful trainer and all their owners in our game are  guilty regardless of the necessity of proof. We all know better than to need proof and we can all just keep demeaning the game instead of better policing it. When speculation becomes the substitute for proof and rumor mongering and innuendo become the basis for action, driven manly from within the game, the game is shooting itself in the foot. The failure to make more serious efforts to regulate the sport by those vested with such responsibility has in part led us to this precipice.   Hopefully, an independent, repeat independent  and hard working organization like Dr Jablonsky has  recommended and USTA president Russell Williams and the Executive Committee has embraced will do its work successfully and the industry will enjoy a reawakening. From Joseph Faraldo

YONKERS, N.Y. – The Grand Circuit returns to Yonkers Raceway with the eliminations of the MGM Springfield Stakes Monday night (July 6). For many trainers across North America whose stables are heavily invested in 2- and 3-year-olds, the resumption of stakes racing post-coronavirus lockdowns has been a huge relief. Blake MacIntosh, who will debut three 2-year-old colts in the Springfield eliminations, includes himself in that group. “For two months there, I was worried. I didn’t have any money coming in and we make all of our money over the summer with the stakes races,” MacIntosh said. “I have 70-something in training and I own at least a quarter of 65 of them, so it’s nerve-wracking. You’re worried about racing coming up and we’re lucky enough all the governing bodies let us start racing and to just have money coming in, cash flow coming in. I can sleep again at night.” Originally scheduled for July 4 with a final July 11, the MGM Springfield Stakes (formerly the Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace) was minimally displaced by measures to contain the coronavirus, with the eliminations and final moving to July 6 and July 13, respectively. There were 16 entries to the stakes for 2-year-old pacers, resulting in two full fields of eliminations racing for $25,000 each. MacIntosh feels his trio is led by Major Makeover, part of a coupled entry in the first elimination who drew post position three with George Brennan. A $25,000 purchase out of the 2019 Harrisburg Sale for MacIntosh, Hutt Racing Stable, and Touchstone Farm, Major Makeover shares a stallion with MacIntosh’s 2018 Meadowlands Pace winner Courtly Choice and will be the first foal to race for the Cam’s Card Shark mare Mako Wish. “He’s an Art Major. With ‘Courtly’ being an Art Major, we always look at all the Art Majors,” MacIntosh said. “He was a very good looking individual. He looked very much like ‘Courtly’ I thought. He stood good and he’s just a nice colt. “To drive, he does everything perfect. He does nothing wrong,” MacIntosh continued. “You can do whatever you want with him. He was really good that way. In the barn, he seems like a nice horse. He was actually right close to my office, so I saw him every day. He didn’t do anything wrong as far as I know and was pretty easy to handle.” All three of MacIntosh’s entries sport a pair of qualifiers June 12 and 20 at Woodbine Mohawk Park. Although their times may not appear flashy on paper in comparison to the baby racing at venues like the Meadowlands, MacIntosh says that is by design. “I don’t tell the drivers anything when we qualify them. I don’t want them rolled is the whole thing, I want to make sure their last quarters are their best quarters, sit them in, try to get away third, fourth and let them pace for home is usually what I like to see,” MacIntosh said. “The second qualifier, we may let them go a little more, but up here, it’s not like the Meadowlands where they go fast qualifying. We teach them a little more the first couple times than they do down there. There’s no specific time or anything set for the horse, it’s just teaching them so they can learn.” Major Makeover finished second in his first outing, clocking a mile in 2:00.2 with a :29.2 final quarter. In his second trial, Major Makeover was more aggressively handled, leaving from the gate and initially sitting the pocket before brushing to the lead upon reaching the backstretch. Major Makeover opened up a 4 1/2-length lead under confident handling by driver James MacDonald on the final turn.  MacDonald put the whip on Major Makeover’s tail straightening away and cracked the sulky shaft once with a furlong to pace. Major Makeover finished with a :27 final panel to post a 1:56 win. “He’s probably the best of the three,” MacIntosh opined. “He qualified really well last week, he was under wraps. He’s been very consistent all winter and we’ve been very happy with him. Just a nice little guy.” Ole Joe comprises the other half of the entry in the first elimination. A son of Roll With Joe out of the unraced Western Hanover mare Bandolera Hanover, MacIntosh and partners Hutt Racing Stable and Steve Heimbecker paid $14,000 for the colt at the 2019 Goshen Yearling Sale. “Ole Joe was a pretty cheap yearling. We had some luck with Roll With Joe in the past with Groovy Joe and a couple others,” MacIntosh said. “He’s a nice-looking little guy, wasn’t an overly striking horse, but I’ve had some luck with them in the past. He’s a nice little horse.” Ole Joe finished third in both of his qualifiers and paced a final quarter of :28.3 each time. In his first outing, he clocked in in 2:00.1 and he paced a mile in 1:57.2 in his latest baby race. Although not charted as a break, Ole Joe was a bit steppy around the first turn in his latest outing.  “Last time qualifying, he wasn’t as good as he should have been I felt because training down he’s been a lot better than what he showed qualifying,” MacIntosh said. “I think he got on the big track and got lost. I think he’ll be more of a half-mile track specialist.” Jim Marohn, Jr. will drive Ole Joe from post four. The coupled entry of Major Makeover and Ole Joe is 9-5 on the morning line. The first elimination also includes American Courage, one of only two horses in either elimination to make a pari-mutuel start. The Fiddler’s Creek Stable homebred son of American Ideal won his debut by 6 lengths in 1:54.1 in a $10,400 overnight at Pocono Downs June 30. Matt Kakaley will drive the Travis Alexander trainee. Owned by the same connections as Ole Joe, MacIntosh’s Victory Move will start as part of an entry with Erv Miller’s Carrythetorchman in the second Springfield Stakes elimination. By American Ideal, Victory Move is out of the Powerful Toy mare Ireneonthemove, a multiple Delaware-sired stakes winner of the mid-2000s and later a consistent open-type who earned $846,091. She has produced three winners to date, including 10-time winner and $155,848 earner Carly Girl. MacIntosh and partners paid $65,000 for Victory Move at the 2019 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale. Victory Move finished second in his first qualifier, clocked in 1:59.2 with a :28.3 last quarter. He was fourth in his second trial timed in 1:58.1 with a :27.3 final panel despite being charted with broken equipment.  “Training down, he was in the top set,” MacIntosh said. “His two qualifiers were as good as we expected out of him.  You have to work him a little more. I think being in New York will be a lot better for him than being up here whereas you can get after them a little more, chase them a little more because he’s a little lazy. Other than that, he’s got a great gait to him and does everything pretty good. “In the qualifiers up here, I wasn’t disappointed, but there was one time I thought he was going to blow by them and he sort of waited on them,” MacIntosh continued. “I know what talent he’s got and I think he’ll be fine. I think Matt (Kakaley) will get the best out of him this week.” With travel restrictions in place at the U.S.-Canada border, the trio of Major Makeover, Ole Joe, and Victory Move shipped to MacIntosh’s New York stable in Middletown, which is headed by Jessica Dowse.  “We stayed on track with the 2-year-olds. The only difference right now is I’m not going down to the barn down there. I train them all up here and then send them down. Usually, I’d be down every week splitting my time 50-50. This year, I won’t be down until they lift the border restrictions because when I come back I have to quarantine 14 days,” MacIntosh explained. “Jessica Dowse will be running the stable down there full time. She sends me videos and we talk every day; she’s a great communicator and we’re able to talk throughout. That’s the only difference right now, but we’ve got them hung up the way we want them and our training track is a tight track, so when I send them down, they don’t have to change much.” With 2-year-old racing commencing across North America, MacIntosh already has four freshman winners this season, including two in Woodbine Mohawk Park overnights and two in the Stallion Series at Harrah’s Philadelphia. The trainer hopes his luck will continue in the Springfield Stakes.  “It’s a little nerve-wracking. You work so hard all winter, you hope everything goes well. You hope you have a couple that can make the money and do well for you,” MacIntosh said. “We’re fortunate enough to have had some luck right out of the gate with the 2-year-olds. We just hope everything keeps going good. We have a big chunk of money out there that we have to make back. If we can win in the first couple and do well and keep going forward and get the bills paid, we’ll be happy.” The amended Yonkers Raceway calendar will see live harness racing conducted Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights until July 17. Beginning the week of July 20, the schedule will add Saturday nights as the track returns to its normal five night per week schedule through Dec. 19. First post time is 7:05 p.m. The complete revised racing calendar is available online here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY  

Yonkers, NY - Yonkers Raceway hosted their first New York Sire Stakes legs of the season Thursday night as three-year-old harness racing pacing fillies were on display with three $52,000 divisions. In the first division sixth race, the 1-5 favorite So Rude was victorious by three-quarters of a length in 1:53. The daughter of So Surreal out of the Allamerican Native mare I Am A Snob paid $2.70 to win. Racine Bell was second with Galleria Gal five and a half lengths back in third. So Rude was trained by Jennifer Bongiorno and driven to victory by Joe Bongiorno for owners Geoffrey Lyons, Glenn Goller and Abe Basen.   In the second division seventh race, the 4-5 favorite Hen Party held off the pocket sitting Alleyesonme As by a half length in 1:53.3. Hen Party, a daughter of Roll With Joe was trained by Tony Alagna with Andrew McCarthy in the bike for Crawford Farms.   In the third division eighth race, Eye Popping sprung a 7-1 upset in 1:53.4. Precious Alexis was a length and a half back in second with Moaning Lisa third. A daughter of So Surreal, Eye Popping was trained by Scott Di Domenico and driven to victory by Tim Tetrick for owner William Hartt.   Also on the card was the fourth race $33,000 Open Handicap Pace where Tookadiveoffdipper with Yannick Gingras driving held off Jesse Duke N in 1:52.4. That race saw $152,012 in wagering, the highest of the year so far at Yonkers. In total, the eight race card handled just over $700,000, the highest figure since returning from a three month stoppage. Racing resumes at Yonkers next week with a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday schedule with first post at 7:12pm. by Alex Dadoyan, for Yonkers Raceway        

Yonkers, NY -- Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts announced the dates of several stakes races to be held at Yonkers Raceway. The previously scheduled races were interrupted earlier in the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and have been rescheduled for later this year. The MGM Borgata Pacing Series final will be held Saturday (Nov. 21) with an estimated purse of $400,000 and a $100,000 consolation. There will be two preliminary legs in the series on Nov. 7 and Nov. 14, each carrying a $50,000 purse with no declaration fee. The first leg of the series had been drawn for March 14 before the racetrack was closed on March 10. The Blue Chip Farms Matchmaker Series will also be held on Saturday (Nov. 21) with an estimated $200,000 final and a $75,000 consolation. There will be two preliminary legs in the series on Nov. 6 and Nov. 13, each carrying a $40,000 purse with no declaration fee. The first leg of the series had been drawn for March 13 before the temporary closure of the track. A total of 27 mares are eligible for the Blue Chip Matchmaker and 46 horses are eligible for the MGM Borgata Pacing Series. Another Yonkers Raceway series that was interrupted in March was the M life Rewards for Ladies and Gents. The M life races have been rescheduled for Monday (July 20). The M life Rewards Ladies and Gents will both have a $60,000 final and $30,000 consolation. Final standings for the series are available online at Due to travel restrictions and pandemic concerns around the world, the $1 million MGM Yonkers International Trot, originally scheduled for Saturday (Sept. 12), will not be held this year. The $250,000 trotting and pacing invitationals planned for that day are also canceled. The Sept. 12 card will still feature more than $1.8 million in purses as part of the New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions which will be comprised of eight $225,000 New York Sire Stakes finals. by Alex Dadoyan, for Yonkers Raceway  

YONKERS, N.Y. – One of the biggest rivalries in harness racing resumes with another round Tuesday night (June 30) at Yonkers Raceway as Horse of the Year Shartin and reigning Breeders Crown Pacing Mare Champion Caviart Ally headline the featured $33,000 filly and mare open handicap pace. The pair of star mares were assigned the outside post positions, with Caviart Ally starting from post seven for driver Andy McCarthy and trainer Brett Pelling while Jim King Jr.’s Shartin will start from post eight with Tim Tetrick. “I actually think when you’re racing in those divisional races, when you’re in a rivalry, a rivalry is by far the greatest thing we have in the sport. It’s great,” Pelling said. “You know the other horses inside and out, the drivers get to know the horses inside and out. I think it’s cool.”  With 20 rounds between Shartin and Caviart Ally completed to date, the record stands at 15-3 Shartin with only two occasions where another horse has won when they have both been in the field. However, Caviart Ally has proven victorious in three of the last four matchups: the Filly and Mare Allerage Pace at the Red Mile Oct. 6, the Breeders Crown Open Mares Pace Oct. 26, and the TVG FFA Mares Final Nov. 23, the pair’s most recent faceoff. “Last year, it took us different attempts at different ways of trying to beat Shartin. I’m not saying we figured it out, but we got better at it,” Pelling said. “It was trial and error on Andy’s part, my part, everyone’s part. We never gave up trying to beat her. “I think one of the big things was not going full gas out of the gate. We found that (Caviart Ally) was just better to be put in position rather than trying to out-speed (Shartin) because Shartin gets off the gate extra-good and they have a lot of speed, so they take advantage of that speed. If you have three horses that are trying to race the same way, something has to give.  “A lot of times, we were drawn outside of her, so you had work that little bit harder early and you’re put in the wrong spot, sitting in the two-hole,” Pelling continued. “The two-hole is not actually a good spot to race against Shartin because she’s so quick at the top of the lane, she’d just put a length on us and we’d never really get close enough. Getting away in the three or the four spot and being able to work up close to her, that seemed to help. Sometimes the two-hole is not the best place to be; they have you stuck where they want you and horses are so good these days, they only need an eighth-of-a-mile breather and they’re tough to beat.” While Shartin is a Yonkers veteran, owning seven victories in 10 local starts, including back-to-back Blue Chip Matchmaker Series Finals in 2018 and 2019, Tuesday night will mark Caviart Ally’s first start at the Hilltop since logging a pair of third-place finishes in the Lismore Pace Eliminations and Final in May 2017 for previous trainer Noel Daley. “I had nowhere else to race, it’s as simple as that,” Pelling said of the decision to enter at Yonkers.  Caviart Ally was entered multiple times at multiple tracks since her last start June 5 at the Meadowlands, but Yonkers proved to be the only venue carding a filly and mare open. As such, Pelling was not surprised when Shartin also showed up in the entries. “They had the same issue that we had, so I kind of expected that,” he said. “I nearly raced her the week before, but I just tried to time it a little bit as well. We always planned on racing there through the winter. She was in the Matchmaker, we had her all ready for the Matchmaker, that was a real goal. The best laid plans have gone awry this year I’m afraid.” Caviart Ally Caviart Ally, a 26-time winner and earner of $1.8 million for owner Caviart Farms, qualified twice in February before winning her 2020 debut in 1:49.4 in a $30,000 filly and mare preferred at the Meadowlands March 6. She was entered in the first leg of the Matchmaker March 13, the same week racing halted at Yonkers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With no way of knowing when racing would be allowed to resume, Pelling kept Caviart Ally in training throughout the interruption.  “We never missed a day, we just kept right on going,” Pelling said. “I didn’t bike them up and go (1:) 53 or any of that stuff, I just couldn’t do that. We basically treated every day as if it was an off week and just let her cruise along, just keeping her on hold. I never buzzed her or anything. She had a good time; for a horse, it was a good time. It might have been a bit boring, but she definitely wasn’t put under any stress.” Pelling describes Caviart Ally as “a machine” and says the most difficult part of training her is managing her weight. “Every time I look at her, I think she’s carrying twins. People that see her can’t believe she’s a racehorse because she carries so much condition,” he said. “She thrives on racing because she’ll just eat anything. She’s one of the best eaters you’ve ever seen in your life,” Pelling said. “Keeping the weight off of her is always the goal, it’s really nothing else; no soundness issues, no health issues, it’s all about keeping the weight off her. She was all up and ready to go in March and she really hasn’t done a lot. You can only train them so much.” Caviart Ally qualified behind Kissin In The Sand May 30 before finishing third behind the same rival upon her return to racing in a $22,500 filly and mare preferred at the Meadowlands June 5. While Kissin In The Sand dictated the pace in that start, Caviart Ally was followed the cover of Imprincessgemma, who never got closer than 1 3/4 lengths of Kissin In The Sand. Although Caviart Ally closed with a :25.4 final quarter after kicking off the cover, she could not make up the ground. “She got away fourth, she got away in the right spot and then a horse who was (10-1) pulled in front of her and basically just got in her way,” Pelling said. “She would have been much, much better just coming first-over and I think if she had got to Kissin In The Sand’s wheel, it would have been a dogfight, but she just never got close enough.” Caviart Ally tuned up with a 1:51 qualifying win at the Meadowlands June 20 ahead of her return to Yonkers.  Like Caviart Ally, Shartin had one start in March ahead of a planned attempt at a third conquest of the Matchmaker Series. Shartin earned a neck victory in 1:50 in a $50,000 filly and mare invitational at Dover Downs March 4 before the shutdown hit. She qualified twice for her return Tuesday night, scoring a 2-length win in 1:53.3 at Magical Acres training center June 3 and another qualifying win in 1:51 at Harrah’s Philadelphia June 18. Owned by Poillucci, King, and Tetrick, Shartin is a 42-time winner and earner of $2.1 million. In addition to the two heavyweights, Tuesday night’s pacing feature also includes last week’s winner Snobbytown, who drew post three for George Brennan and Ron Burke, and last week’s runner up Imprincessgemma, who will start from post five for the Bongiornos. Machnhope scored a 1:51.4 victory in a local $20,250 overnight June 23 and will start from post four for Dexter Dunn and Noel Daley. Delishka, Sandy Win, and Anytime complete the field.  “I’d just like to stay in front of Shartin, that’s all,” Pelling said. “I’m sure that will mean moving forward. (Caviart Ally) will get around there like a hoop around a barrel. She won the Jugette, so I’m not concerned about how she gets around there or anything. She’ll be fine. She also has a long stakes season coming up, so this is another race, and it’s a race because we need to race. “It’s a good race. I’m really thankful to Yonkers for going with the filly and mare open,” Pelling continued. “No one else is. For a Tuesday night, I can guarantee you that the harness racing world will be watching Yonkers, and I think that’s a good thing. Good on them for doing that.” The amended Yonkers Raceway calendar will see live harness racing conducted Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights until July 2. Beginning the week of July 6, the schedule will add Friday nights. Saturday night racing will resume the week of July 20 as the track returns to its normal five night per week schedule through Dec. 19. First post time is 7:05 p.m. The complete revised racing calendar is available online here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

The Team Tritton harness racing juggernaut rolled into Yonkers Raceway just before midday yesterday (AEST) - and a sentimental favorite brought home the chocolates at the Aussie stable's first look at the famed New York Raceway. Shane and Lauren Tritton have now won six of their eight starts since hitting the American tracks for the first time a little over a fortnight ago. Yesterday it was a stable favorite, the consistent Yayas Hot Spot (Jeremes Jet-Star Of Heaven (In The Pocket) posting a first-up US win and taking his career victories to 27. "He went super because he was up a bit in grade. Our driver Jordan (Stratton) thought the horse was day-dreaming and could have gone a little faster," Shane said. "We were very pleased with it. He went into the race a bit fat, so hopefully there's some improvement to come with more racing," he said. Yayas Hot Spot has been a great old horse for the Trittons, winning more than $620,000 so far in his career. "He won his first 10 starts with Lauren driving in seven of them, then he's been in two Miracle Miles and won the ($100,000 G1) Newcastle Mile early last year, so he's a pretty special horse for us," Shane said. "The half mile tracks just suit him down to the ground. When we were back home, we were always wanting to send him across to see how he'd go, but it just never worked in, so it's terrific to now be over here with him ourselves." The former Sydneysiders headed off in March this year with a team of a dozen horses to try their luck in the US. And while all the preparation work had been done, the couple is no doubt pinching themselves at how well their relocation is playing out so far. Yayas Hot Spot was their sixth winner, adding his name to a list of Meadowlands successes in Gods Spirit (1.50-1); My Ruebe Star (two wins - 1.50-1 & 1.50.3); Flaming Flutter (1.49-1); and Letspendanitetogtha (1.51). They have had another two starters. Ohoka Johnny ran third in 1.49-3, while Im A Director lost any chance when checked with 800 metres to go and suffering a flat tyre. "We've had an unbelievable start but we realize that it's going to get tougher from here," Shane said. "There's a few bad barrier draws coming up in our next couple of meetings and one of our starters in Foo Fighter is nearly in the open class," he said. "But we have to just aim on being consistent. All we can do is build on what we've learnt so far, putting in the work and doing our best." Tritton said they had received some enquiries from potential owners in recent weeks. "There's been a few reaching out to us and we'll have to sit down and weigh things up at some stage but our first priority is always to our loyal owners," he said. "We arrived here with a stable of 12 and then we've picked up another six since. We've got a few staff with us now and after knowing nothing about horses, they've come a long way!" Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura  

YONKERS, N.Y. – The lucrative weekly features return to Yonkers Raceway June 23 as the filly and mare open headlines the Tuesday night harness racing program. Major Occasion is the 9-5 morning line favorite in the $33,000 feature after drawing post four off an impressive mile last time out at the Meadowlands. Major Occasion made her first start post-coronavirus shutdown in the filly and mare preferred at the Meadowlands June 5. While Grand Circuit performer Kissin In The Sand played catch me if you can, and won, Major Occasion made it close. Major Occasion raced on the inside in fifth 5 lengths behind Kissin In The Sand throughout before closing in the stretch with a :25.3 final quarter. Kissin In The Sand had an open-length lead at the sixteenth pole, but Major Occasion lunged under Dexter Dunn urging, closing within three-quarters of a length at the finish. The effort surprised both the bettors who dismissed Major Occasion at 17-1 and trainer Nifty Norman, who thought Major Occasion would need a start having just one qualifier on May 30 since her last race March 4. “She was very good. I was pleased,” Norman said. “It was like having a win there racing against that caliber of horse and she was good and strong through the wire, too. I was really happy with the way she finished up. She’s a really nice mare. “I thought she was probably going to be a run short and she went even better than I expected,” Norman continued. “She’s been a real pleasant surprise since she came over. She’s been good every start really, so I’ve been really happy with her.” Although Major Occasion was individually clocked in a blistering 1:48 in her runner-up effort, Norman tries to avoid obsessing over the timer. “We’re seeing a lot of it now. The Meadowlands, the miles they go there are crazy. It doesn’t even pay to look at the clock anymore because it’s just crazy what they’re doing,” he said. “Now 48 is just acceptable, no one even talks about it; it’s commonplace to go 48, which is just amazing.” Major Occasion is a 6-year-old Art Major daughter out of the Fake Left mare Fake Occasion. The Australia-bred was a stakes performer before exporting to the United States last October, having won the Group 2 Sibelia Stakes at Menangle Feb. 16, 2019 before finishing second in the Group 1 Ladyship Mile a fortnight later. Major Occasion also finished second in the Group 1 Empire Vicbred 2-Year-Old Fillies Stakes at Melton in 2017. “I had some owners that wanted to buy the mare and she really wasn’t for sale,” Norman recalled. “I got talking to the owners and we just hit it off really good, ended up having several conversations with them. The trainer (Chris Frisby) and the owner (Peter Ward) are just really top guys. They decided to send her over to me and it’s working out great for me and for them.” Norman heard from many Down Under horsemen that Major Occasion was a good mare and when she arrived stateside, Norman could see why. “When she arrived, she was such a specimen,” he said. “She’s an absolutely beautiful, big, strong, good-looking thing, fantastic nature and when you sit behind her, it’s like sitting behind a bus. There’s nothing bad about her. She’s nice to look at, she’s nice to drive, she’s nice to be around. She’s just a perfect horse. “She’s a big mare, but she’s well put together,” Norman continued. “She’s got good conformation; she’s an Art Major, so Art Major’s are pretty good-looking. She carries a lot of weight, wears a big hopple, just impressive to look at.” Major Occasion made seven starts for Norman and owner Enzed Racing Stable before the shutdown, earning three wins and a lifetime mark of 1:49.4. She came within a neck of Shartin in a $50,000 filly and mare invitational at Dover Downs March 4. Major Occasion, an 18-time winner and earner of $241,105, was then entered into the first leg of the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series March 13, which was indefinitely postponed as the coronavirus ceased harness racing in North America. “It was very tricky to manage. The hard part was, there were rumors that we would get going, so you’d go train your horses up a little bit thinking maybe we’re going to race in two weeks,” Norman said. “It dragged on and on. I kind of wished I had turned the horses out since owners were paying bills while nothing was happening and they had no money coming in. “It was a difficult period, but I basically backed off, didn’t do a whole lot with them, just tried to keep them fit,” Norman continued. “You could tell the horses were getting sour like us. They were ready to get back to work, too. They were sick of just training, and training, and training. It was a strange time. I don’t think anyone really knew what the right thing was to do.” Major Occasion will make her second start post-shutdown in Tuesday’s feature and regular driver Dexter Dunn will be in the sulky. With the fate of Yonkers’ winter series still uncertain and with no distaff feature carded at the Swamp since June 5, Norman chose to test Major Occasion over the smaller track at Yonkers. “I elected to go to Yonkers and find out whether she can get around there. Obviously, she’s great at the Meadowlands, but going 1:48 every week isn’t the greatest plan either,” Norman said. “I thought I would try to avoid those big miles, try her on a shorter track and see how she handles it. I trained her on a half-mile track and she got around it good. She runs in a little bit, but most horses do. I don’t have any concerns, I think she’ll be fine.” Major Occasion will face seven rivals in the Tuesday feature, including three who exit the same race: Snobbytown, Imprincessgemma, and Gold Orchid. Snobbytown finished ninth last out, but earned $150,635 last year for trainer Ron Burke and won the local distaff feature Feb. 28. She is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line and will employ the driving services of George Brennan. Imprincessgemma won the local filly and mare open handicap impressively by 2 3/4 lengths Feb. 14 and was second in the feature the following week. She is 9-2 for the Bongiornos. Gold Orchid earned $120,170 last year for Mark Harder, won the local filly and mare preferred March 6, and will make her third start of the season. She and driver Brian Sears are 6-1 on the morning line. The field also includes Diamondtoothgertie, Sandy Win, Crystal Sparkles, and Dibaba. “I think, like a lot of foreign horses, (Major Occasion) is better with a target,” Norman said. “She could come first-up or she’s got good speed on the end too, it wouldn’t matter if she came from off the pace. I’d imagine Dexter, since he’s coming over to drive her, is going to be reasonably aggressive. I’ll leave it up to him.” The amended Yonkers Raceway calendar will see live harness racing conducted Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights until July 2. Beginning the week of July 6, the schedule will add Friday nights. Saturday night racing will resume the week of July 20 as the track returns to its normal five night per week schedule through Dec. 19. First post time is 7:05 p.m. The complete revised racing calendar is available online here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY  

YONKERS, N.Y. – Live harness racing will return to Yonkers Raceway Monday, June 22 with 64 trotters and pacers set to compete on an eight-race program beginning at 7:05 p.m. Monday’s card marks the first race day at the half-mile oval since the effects of COVID-19 halted the 2020 season on March 9. Yonkers successfully conducted qualifiers last Monday (June 15) in preparation for reopening. In accordance with guidelines issued by the New York State Gaming Commission, health and safety protocols are in place for racing’s return. These include capacity limitations and distancing measures, temperature checks and health screenings, installation of no-touch fixtures and disinfectant stations, equipment usage and cleaning protocols, mandatory use of face masks, and hand sanitizer stations throughout the racing area.  Monday’s program will be the first of three this week and features the return of Hysteria, a 4-year-old Shadow Play gelding trained by Jenn Bongiorno, who brings an eight-race win streak dating to June 22, 2019 into the sixth race, a $13,500 conditioned pace. Tuesday’s card will feature the Filly and Mare Open Pace while Thursday’s program co-features the Open Pace and Open Trot, each carrying a purse of $33,000. Although the track remains closed to bettors and fans, punters can watch and wager on the action at, which offers an 8% rebate on all wagers placed on Yonkers’ races (except place and show). The betting menu has been adjusted as follows for the eight-race format: Early Pick 4 beginning in race one Pick 5 beginning in race four Late Pick 4 beginning in race five Pick 3s beginning in races two, three, and six Doubles beginning in races one and seven Superfectas offered on even-numbered races Win, place, show, exacta, and trifecta on all races Free TrackMaster platinum past performances are available for Monday’s entire card on the Yonkers Raceway website. Stakes season will resume at the Hilltop with the first leg of the New York Sire Stakes for 3-year-old pacing fillies July 2. Sire Stakes will continue throughout July and August with Yonkers Raceway set to host the New York Sire Stakes Finals Sept. 12. Additional announcements regarding the stakes schedule will be made when available.  The amended Yonkers Raceway calendar will see live harness racing conducted Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights until July 2. Beginning the week of July 6, the schedule will add Friday nights. Saturday night racing will resume the week of July 20 as the track returns to its normal five night per week schedule through Dec. 19, apart from dark days Friday, Sept. 11 and Thursday, Nov. 26. First post time is 7:05 p.m. The complete revised racing calendar is available online here.  

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