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YONKERS, NY, Saturday, January 11, 2020--It was a change of tactic for the harness racing trotter Lean Hanover (Jim Marohn Jr., $15.20) Saturday night (Jan 11th), serving him well in winning Yonkers Raceway's $40,000 Open Handicap Trot Usually an off-the-pace number, Lean Hanover--from assigned post position No. 4--made the first lead in the first adult-table trot of the season. He then deferred to second-choice Swansea (Austin Siegelman). The latter put up intervals of :27.4, 57.3 and 1:26.3, with minimal first-up grief from just-over-even-money favorite Will Take Charge (Jordan Stratton). Swansea owned a length-and-a-half lead into the lane, but was unable to stall the pocket sitter. Lean Hanover edged out and by, the margin a head in 1:55.1. Hill of a Horse (Brent Holland) rallied for third, with Trotting Grace (Matt Kakaley) and Obrigado (Dan Dube) settling for the minors. Will Take Charge backpedaled to last among the half-dozen.   For third choice Lean Hanover, a now-7-year-old Donato Hanover gelding co-owned by Wellwood Enterprises & Karen Carroll, it was a successful seasonal debut for an 18th career victory. The exacta paid $34.20, the triple returned $406 and the superfecta paid $723. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway    

Columbus, OH — The Daily Racing Form reported on Thursday (Jan. 9) that “Bullet” Bob Meyer, longtime announcer at Yonkers Raceway, has died. He was 80. Meyer, who served as the principal race caller at Yonkers through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, concluded his career with a six-year stint at Saratoga before retiring in 2005. He called his final race on Dec. 2, 2018. Derick Giwner, editor of DRF Harness, offers a remembrance of Meyer here.

YONKERS, NY, Tuesday, January 7, 2020--Yonkers Raceway's Tuesday night (Jan. 7th) harness racing Pick 5 wager had some old money and some new shooters. A $4,751.30 carryover and a $15,000 guaranteed pool resulted in $22,253 of fresh investments. The sequence proved rather formful until 18-1 shot Be Best (Brent Holland, $38.80) rallied to win the concluding leg going away in 1:54.4. The winning combination of 6/3/1/1/5 returned $586.50 for every correct half-a-buck wager. As a reminder, Yonkers' Pick 5 wager now encompasses races 5 through 9 nightly. A night after Jim Marohn Jr. won four races to begin the Raceway's 2020 season, Jason Bartlett did him one better, with five winners during the dozen-race card. Note the Raceway's usual five-program-per-week schedule (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday) has returned, though with a new first post of 7:05 PM. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway  

YONKERS, NY, Monday, January 6, 2020--Yonkers Raceway began its 2020 harness racing season Monday night (Jan. 6th), with Jim Marohn Jr. throwing down an early gauntlet. Marohn Jr., whose 177 wins placed him sixth locally a season ago, won four races during Yonkers' dozen-race opener. He and 29-1 outlier Sugar Shock ($60.50) busted any number of Pick 5 tickets, upsetting in the first leg of that sequence in 1:53.4, a tick off his life-best effort. Whomever was left standing after that race then had to unearth 28-1 shot Sir Machalot (Cory Stratton, $59) in the next race. For some good measure, 18-1 Milliondollar Wave (Austin Siegelman, $39.20) won the final leg. It wasn't surprising that the sequence went unclaimed, meaning Tuesday evening's (Jan. 7th) gimmick starts with $4,751.30 carryover and a $15,000 guaranteed pool. 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. As a reminder, Yonkers' Pick 5 wager now encompasses races 5 through 9 nightly. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, N.Y. – Entering the penultimate night of racing at Yonkers in the 2019 season, Jason Bartlett led George Brennan in the driver standings 423 to 420. The Dec. 16 program saw the drivers combine for six wins on the 11-race program and at the end of the night, Jason Bartlett extended his margin to 4, leading with 427 victories. However, Bartlett would be absent from the Closing Night program, Tues. Dec. 17 as he departed on a family vacation, never anticipating the driving title would be decided on the final night of a 2,657-race season. To that point, the two drivers had never spoken about the dash title. However, as Bartlett left the driver’s room, the pair acknowledged their rivalry for the first time. “OK, I got you by four. Win four tomorrow and we’ll just end in a tie,” Bartlett told Brennan.  “OK. Done,” Brennan responded. The tongue-in-cheek exchange proved prophetic as the Closing Night program unfolded. Brennan won four of the first 10 races, tying the standings at 427 apiece. After each victory, the Yonkers TV department displayed the standings on the track’s simulcast feed and track announcer John Hernan narrated the update for the viewers. “Yonkers had it on TV the last few nights. They were keeping count for us,” Brennan said. “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 drove Lord Of Misrule from post three in the 11th race, the final heat of the season. Leading trainer Scott Di Domenico sent out the 8-year-old gelding who chased only his second seasonal win in his 31st start of the year. “Bruce Saunders said to me, ‘do you like your chances in the last race,’ ” Brennan recalled. “I said, ‘well, he’s 1-for-30 for the year. That says it all right there.” Lord Of Misrule raced along in third throughout, but lost ground in the stretch and finished fourth 7 lengths behind a 1:53.4 score by Knocking Around. “(Lord Of Misrule) ended up getting a perfect trip, he sat third, I never had to pull him, but they went a really good mile in 1:53.4 and 1:53.4 kind of stretches him out in the summer anymore,” Brennan said of the $545,485-earner. “It was going to have to work out, it was going to have to line up perfectly for him. And it actually did and I didn’t have enough horsepower.” With the final race complete, Brennan had four on the card as promised and shared the driving title with Jason Bartlett. “I just went about my business and that’s how it ended,” Brennan said. “It’s a lot of work, a lot of dedication, good clients. It means a lot.” Bartlett enjoyed a lead from January through June as he focused solely on racing at the Hilltop. However, as New York Sire Stakes season ramped up through the late spring and summer, Barlett’s time was divided while Brennan stayed put at Yonkers. Bartlett and Brennan flip-flopped on the lead in July, but by September Brennan seized command with a double-digit advantage. The race narrowed again in late fall, as Brennan’s margin shrunk to eight wins by Nov. 1. By December, the drivers were in a tug of war. Brennan was sure his scheduled vacation in December would crush his chances. “He was creeping back up there pretty quickly,” Brennan said. “But then, I honestly didn’t think it was going to be close when I was taking four days off in December. I thought he would have a comfortable lead after that. I got lucky, got some good mounts, good post positions, and things worked out.” Brennan’s approach to the contest, much like his opponent’s, was to block out the race as much as possible. “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.” Considering memorable horses or victories on the season, Brennan zeroed in on DW’s NY Yank. The 11-year-old Dilbert Hanover gelding has earned 58 wins and $1.5 million in 200 starts. His most recent score came with Brennan in the second race Closing Night, a $17,000 overnight in which DW’s NY Yank aired by 2 easy lengths. It was the pair’s 82nd start and 25th win together. “Some horses I really enjoy driving. Some of those old horses for Burke, like DW’s NY Yank, he’s one of my favorites. I enjoy driving those older horses like that,” Brennan said. “I’ve been driving him now since he was 4 years old. He tries hard. He’s definitely not what he was anymore, but he’s just a lot of fun to drive. He’s tailor-made for a half-mile track.” Although the spotlight was on the drivers for the final few weeks of the racing season, Brennan pointed out that the drivers only comprise a small piece of the puzzle and expressed gratitude for the other hardworking individuals who hand over the lines for two minutes each week. “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. To read Jason Bartlett’s account of the driver’s race, visit http://ustrottingnews.com/bartlett-to-make-case-for-yonkers-driving-title-monday/. Yonkers Raceway opens its 2020 live racing season Monday, January 6. 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, visit https://www.empirecitycasino.com/racing/condition-sheets-entries-results/. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY  

YONKERS, NY, Friday, January 3, 2020—Yonkers Raceway has announced its 2020 harness racing stakes schedule, featuring a slew of name changes and a pair of cancellations from previous seasons. The renamed stakes/series races reflect the Raceway’s inclusion in the MGM Resorts portfolio, highlighting some of MGM’s other properties as well as its customer loyalty rewards program. The names (old and new) are as such… STAKES/SERIES NAME (OLD)   STAKES/SERIES NAME (NEW) DATE OF FINAL *-Petticoat Pacing Series *-M life Ladies March 23   *-Sagamore Hill Pacing Series *-M life Gents March 24   *-Blue Chip Matchmaker *-Same April 18   *-George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series *-MGM Borgata Pacing Series April 18     *Yonkers Raceway/SOA of New York Bonus Trotting Series   *-Same   April 21     Art Rooney Pace   Cancelled   N/A   Lismore Cancelled N/A   *-Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace *-MGM Springfield Stakes July 11     Yonkers Trot   MGM Yonkers Trot   Sept. 5     Hudson Filly Trot   New York New York Mile   Sept. 5     Messenger Stakes   MGM Grand Messenger Stakes   Sept. 5   Lady Maud   Park MGM Pace   Sept. 5   Harry Harvey Invitational Trot Bellagio Classic Invitational Trot Sept. 12     Dan Rooney Invitational Pace   Aria Invitational Pace   Sept. 12     Yonkers International Trot   MGM Yonkers International Trot   Sept. 12     New York Night of Champions   New York Day of Champions by MGM Resorts (matinee card)   Sept. 12             *-nomination blanks for these stakes/series available at empirecitycasino.com/racing/nomination-blanks The calendar also includes the usual 16 visits (two per division for 2- and 3-year-olds) of the New York Sire Stakes leading to the aforementioned Day of Champions. For more information, please contact the race office at (914) 457-2627. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway  

YONKERS, NY, Thursday, January 2, 2020--Yonkers Raceway begins its 237-card 2020 harness racing season Monday night (Jan. 6th). It was a full entry box which greeted race secretary Bob Miecuna for the opening double draw, as in 150 entrants for Monday and 130 for Tuesday night (Jan. 7th). Both nights feature a dozen races, with 22 of the 24 races offering standing-room-only eight-horse fields. A reminder that Friday's (Jan. 3rd) draw for Thursday (Jan. 9th) has the entry box for closing at 9 AM sharp. A condition sheet can be found at empirecitycasino.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/conditionsheet.pdf, with the new first post of 7:05 PM. For more information, please contact the race office at (914) 457-2627. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, NY, Wednesday, January 1, 2020--Yonkers Raceway is gearing up for its 2020 harness racing season opener with three morning draws over a two-day period. Thursday (Jan. 2nd) has the box for Monday and Tuesday nights (Jan. 6th and 7th), while Friday (Jan. 3rd) draws for Thursday (Jan. 9th). Entry box for both days closes at 9 AM sharp. A condition sheet can be found at empirecitycasino.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/conditionsheet.pdf The five-program-per-week schedule (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday) returns, however note the new first post of 7:05 PM. For more information, please contact the race office at (914) 457-2627. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, NY, Tuesday, December 17, 2019--Yonkers Raceway concluded its 2019 calendar Tuesday night (Dec. 17th) with a season-long harness racing dead-heat. George Brennan won four of the closing-night's 11 races--all with wagering favorites--and in doing so caught the idle Jason Bartlett with 427 local wins. Historians were trying to determine if there had been a leading-driver deadlock previously, but couldn't swear either way to that oddity. As for Brennan, he won Tuesday's $17,000, second-race trot with DW's NY Yank ($2.70) in 1:58.4, Showmeyourguns ($2.90) in the $14,500, seventh-race trot (1:58.3), Jet Rock ($4.50) in the $12,500, ninth-race pace (1:55.1) and Westchester-debuting Ginger Tree Marty ($3.70) in the $15.750, 10th-race pace (1:55.2). Brennan's chance to have the big chair all to himself was thwarted when Lord of Misrule was a never-threatening fourth in the $17,000 pacing finale. Yonkers' final 2019 leaderboard story shall be sent in the coming days. The Raceway's 2020 season is scheduled to begin Monday night, Jan. 6th, pending approval of the New York State Gaming Commission. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, N.Y. – By the time December comes around, the driving and training titles at Yonkers Raceway are usually sewn up. After nearly 11 months of racing 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. By December 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 are locked in a tight battle for the Yonkers driving title. At December 1, the duo was separated by just three wins, with Brennan ahead 406 to 403. After trading blows throughout the last two weeks, Bartlett brings a three-win margin into Monday night (Dec.16) with 423 wins. It is the closest race in Bartlett’s memory. “Not since I’ve been to Yonkers, never have. 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.” Although the race is proving a nail-biter, Bartlett had written off the title at the end of stakes season, when Brennan lead by double-digits. However, after Brennan took a week off from Dec. 7 to Dec. 14, Bartlett took a slight edge. “Obviously, in any sport, you want to be number one. At that track, that year, it shows what a good year I had and the hard work I put in,” Bartlett said. “Going through the year, it’s not something you really think about. I was chasing Sire Stakes all year. Obviously, I can’t be in both places on a given night, so you have to give up something. This year, I focused a little bit more on the Sire Stakes, which got me behind a little bit not being at Yonkers all the time. “As the stakes races got done, I was behind him and I kind of just chalked it up that I wasn’t going to catch him,” Bartlett said. “Then I got a little bit closer and he ended up going on his normal annual vacation, so I knew I would be able to close the gap a little bit then.” Bartlett, 38, is chasing his ninth Hilltop title while Brennan, 52, seeks 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. “Between me and him, we’ve never really mentioned (the standings). I know he’s aware of it. Obviously, I’m aware of it. But we’re not driving any different against each other,” Bartlett continued. “You have enough to think about and try to put your horses in the best spot. That’s hard enough. Then you start thinking about George all the time and what I’m doing, is it going to affect George winning the race or not? You can only control what you can control. I can do my best to try to win races, I can control that. I can’t control what he’s doing and whatever else is going on. I try to control what I can and after that, it’s horse racing.” Bartlett enjoyed another season as Yonkers top money-earner, with horses he drove winning $8.3 million through Saturday (Dec. 14). With Brennan away, Bartlett won 12 races last week. He won five races Friday (Dec. 13), including Mach It A Par’s final bow. The Minister of Speed answered with three victories upon his return Saturday, including a wire-to-wire score from post eight with 18-1 upsetter Shoreview. Barlett will drive in all 11 races Monday night (Dec. 16) while Brennan has nine calls. The contest could be decided sooner than expected as Bartlett will miss Closing Night (Dec. 17) as he leaves on his family vacation. Brennan will drive in all 11 races on the Tuesday program. Regardless of the outcome, the contest is validating to Bartlett. “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. The track announcer is right on top of it. It’s nice to see it’s going to come down to the wire and to put a little spin on it, I will not be there the last day, so whatever I get through Monday is it. “Whatever happens, happens. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. And if not, it was fun while we were doing it.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The 2019 season closes Tuesday, Dec. 17 and the 2020 season opener is set for Monday Jan. 6. First post time is 6:50 p.m. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, December 14, 2019--Yonkers Raceway bid adieu to one of its harness racing favorites, Bit of a Legend N. The 10-year-old dual hemisphere double-millionaire, who was profiled earlier this week, was retired Saturday night (Dec. 14th) in an appropriate place, the Raceway winner's circle. Before going to his next job--stallion duty at Midland Acres in Bloomingburg, OH--Bit of a Legend N was honored by his human posse. Among those who gave their props to the 2016 Levy champion were co-owners Susan and Harry Von Knoblauch Jr., trainer Peter Tritton, driver Jordan Stratton, caretakers Smiley Quinteros and Carlos Rodriguez and official groupie Peter Venaglia. "(Bit of a Legend N) allowed me to retire," Von Knoblauch Jr. said, adding, "He bought our family closer together. We can't say we'll find another as good as him, but we try." Bit of a Legend N was an original $103,000 purchase by the late Harry Von Knoblauch. He went on to earn $1.9 million in 99 North American starts, winning a third (that's 33 after some fast math). "Peter (Tritton) and his staff took such good care of him," Stratton said. "I think that's why he lasted so long. "The horse's name is Bit of a Legend, but the real legend was Peter. He never put any pressure on me. I wasn't as established a driver then, and even when we didn't get the results, he understood my thought process." Saturday night's pair of $42,000 Open Handicaps were won by... --Trot, Swansea (Austin Siegelman, $4.50) in 1:55.4,                                                                                                -- Mike Lizzi photo --Pace, Mac's Jackpot (Brent Holland, $12.20) in 1:52.2.                                                                                                -- Mike Lizzi photo George Brennan, back from some R&R, won three races, halving the difference (423-420) between himself in Jason Bartlett in the local driver standings with two programs remaining before the '19 season ends Tuesday night (Dec. 17th). Bartlett was blanked Saturday evening.   Frank Drucker Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, NY, Friday, December 13, 2019--Mach it a Par (Jason Bartlett, $2.80) went out a winner Friday night (Dec. 13th). The millionairess harness racing pacing mare, profiled earlier this week, handily notched career win No. 53 at her second home, Yonkers Raceway. Undeterred by pouring rain and a pared-down field of five rivals in the $22,000, second-race pace, odds-on Mach it a Par--from post position No. 2--retook early from Bellatricks (Brent Holland). She eventually widened in a 'sloppy' 1:54.1. The final margin was 4½ lengths over Annabeth (Jordan Stratton), with Bellatricks, Line Dancer (Eric Goodell) and Jewels Forreal (Matt Kakaley) rounded out the payees. For Mach it a Par, a 9-year-old daughter of Mach Three co-owned by D'Elegance Stable IX, Carmen Iannacone, T L P Stable and the Gandolfo Stables and trained by Richard Banca, it was her seventh win in 36 seasonal starts. The exacta paid $8.90, the triple returned $27.40 and the superfecta paid $9,150. Mach it a Par ended her career with 182 starts, 53 wins, 29 seconds and 30 thirds ($1,152,767). The plan is for the lass to be bred to a to-be-determined New York stallion, After her final race night, Mach it a Par was given an official sendoff in the paddock, surrounded by her connections and racing officials and complete with congratulatory sign. Bartlett, meanwhile, won five of the night's 11 races to grab a six-win lead (423-417) over the idle George Brennan with three programs left in the local season. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway  

YONKERS, NY, Thursday, December 12, 2019— Harness racing trainer Peter Tritton, that fairly competent Down Under imported trainer, was asked about Bit of a Legend N, that fairly competent Down Under imported pacer. “We were coming off after a race one night and Jordan (Stratton) said to me, ‘Every driver should have a chance to sit behind a horse like this.’ ” Bit of a Legend N, who rarely ran out of real estate on the racetrack, has nonetheless run out of daylight as a racehorse. The 10-year-old double-millionaire is set to retire after a Yonkers Raceway winner’s circle send-off Saturday night (Dec. 14th). The son of Bettor’s Delight is off to Midland Acres in Bloomingburg, OH, to begin a stallion career. “I’m going to have to plan a road trip to go see him,” Stratton said. Bit of a Legend N and Stratton have gone down the road together, the number of memorable miles too numerous to mention. “He’s my favorite horse. No question,” Stratton said. Bit of a Legend N came over as advertised, having won Australian Breeders Crowns at ages 3 and 4. “Peter (Tritton) told me he was a getting a pretty nice horse,” Stratton said of the then 7-year-old who the late Harry Von Knoblauch purchased for $103,000. “I went to the farm to see him. He just looked good running in the paddock and in his first qualifier (Yonkers, January of 2016), I knew. “He didn’t go much (third, timed in 1:57.1), but the way he drove, the way he carried himself.” Rising through the overnight ranks with two wins and two seconds in four tries, it was time to wear the big-boy pants and the ’16 George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series. Sweep. Bit of a Legend N won all five of his preliminary legs starts, including a stirring, track-record 1:51.2 dead-heat with Wiggle It Jiggleit. In the $609,000 final a week later, he drew well, took control early and won in a facile 1:51 (see accompanying photo). He was (and remains) the only Free-For-Aller to run the Levy table. The 2016 season saw Bit of a Legend N win 13-of-28 starts (with six seconds and one third), socking away $723,850. Proving he was no one-hit wonder, Bit of a Legend N threw down consecutive half-million-dollar seasons in 2017 and ’18. The 2017 Levy saw Bit of a Legend N win twice (with two seconds) during preliminary-round competition before a no-chance-trip fourth (to Keystone Velocity) in the final. He then hit the road, winning the $109,600 Molson (Western Fair, 1:51.3), $260,000 Gerrity Memorial (Saratoga, 1:50.3…at 15-1) and Quillen Memorial (Harrington, 1:52.1).  The next season saw another standout Levy-leg log (two wins, two seconds, one third) and yet another less-than-no-shot trip in the final. From post position No. 7, Bit of a Legend N charged home for second, again to Keystone Velocity. Bit of a Legend N eventually returned to Londontown, looking to defend his Molson (renamed to Camluck Classic) title. He wound up a flat, never-in-it fifth and “the only time he ever disappointed me,” Stratton said. “He’s had some EPM (parasite) issues throughout his career,” Tritton said. “We’ve been able to stay on top of it, usually, but I think that, and the ship up to Canada, was too much for him. His blood was no good, but he bounced back.” Indeed. A week later at Northfield, it was a first-up, life-best 1:49.4 effort in the $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie, putting away the same horse—Rockin’ Ron—who had dusted his rivals in the Camluck. “Everyone was excited for him,” Stratton said. “There were people, wherever we went, who said he was their favorite horse.” Bit of a Legend N’s 2019 season was hampered by some poorly-timed quarter cracks, essentially costing him any shot of doing damage in the Levy. “It’s never a good time to get them, but this was a bad time for him, and us,” Tritton said. “It took about six or seven weeks to completely heal and the series doesn’t allow for any time off.”  “It not that he’s even slowed down that much, but the competition is just better,” Stratton said. “Before, you could win a race in 1:52. Now, it’s no better than third.” Stratton offered some of the same platitudes about Bit of a Legend N that were bestowed upon Foiled Again by his primary driver, Yannick Gingras. “He can relax and go a quarter in 30 (seconds), then sprint in :27. He won’t do more than what’s necessary. It’s just his way of taking care of himself. Look at his races. The margins are never that much. He knows what he has to do. That’s why he’s lasted so long.” The plan was for Bit of a Legend N to be racing Saturday nights through the end of the season, but after a second-place finish in late November, Tritton detected a bit of a problem with an ankle (“There was nothing to gain by having him go a couple of more weeks”), so the North American racing career ended with 33 wins in 99 starts and earnings of $1,909,935 (more than $2.5 million including foreign take-home). “I’ve had good horses before,” Tritton said, “but he’s different. To have the longevity he’s had and to produce in the big races the way he did, that’s what stands out.” …and they named him right, too. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, NY, Wednesday, December 11, 2019-- Harness racing driver Jason Bartlett's first words about Mach it a Par were hardly the stuff of testimonials. "She doesn't look like much, her gait isn't the smoothest, very choppy, she has to use many more steps to cover same amount of ground," her usual chauffeur said. "But"--and there's always a 'but'--"what no one could measure was her heart." Mach it a Par makes the 182nd and final start of her seven-figure career Friday night (Dec. 13th), after which she'll be honored by her home away from home, Yonkers Raceway. Entering the $22,000 second race, the 9-year-old daughter of Mach Three has made her last 87 starts in Westchester for co-owners D'Elegance Stable IX, Carmen Iannacone, T L P Stable and the Gandolfo Stables, "She's not supposed to do the thing she's done," trainer Richard Banca said of the 52-time winner. "She did overcome so much, all sorts of foot issues. She's just been tremendous and gets around Yonkers great. I don't know why, maybe it's her size. She took a (1:50.3) mark there (September of 2016, Brian Sears driving), which I think was a world record at the time. We've had her since early (March) 2016. I think the owners paid $60,000 for her. She was racing at Pompano. She had a lot of wins, but hadn't made much money. "We put her right in the (2016 Blue Chip) Matchmaker," Banca said. "She was probably eligible to non-winners of $10,000 (in last five starts), but we threw her in the series. She ended up winning and paying a lot ($81, George Brennan driving) and that really surprised us. There weren't that many surprises after a career-best '16 season (39 starts, 13 wins, nine seconds, eight thirds, $404,200), with Yonkers as her nearly-exclusive place to race. The past two full seasons have seen Mach it a Par pay her way, earning $200,000-plus in each. "It's not that she can't race anymore (six wins, more than $144,000 in 2019)," Banca said. "The owners just want to breed her (to as as-of-now undetermined New York stallion)," It wasn't all sunshine and Skittles on the track for Mach it a Par, however. The lass cost herself any number of winner's circle pictures and a fair amount of coin by not necessarily pacing the straight and narrow through the lane. "We never could figure out why she runs out," Banca said. "She doesn't do it every time (cue Bartlett...'She was a winner last [Friday] night [Dec. 6th], but off the last turn, she wants to go and get a hamburger in the grandstand') and we've tried some equipment changes, but then she ran in." So, there. Mach it a Par wasn't always pretty, but with more than $1.1 million on account, she was pretty good. A friendly reminder from Yonkers Raceway that Thursday evening’s (Dec. 12th) Pick 5 wager starts with a carryover of $4,791.45 and a $15,000 guaranteed pool. The guarantee is in conjunction with the U.S. Trotting Association’s Strategic Wagering Program. The Pick 5 is a 50-cent base wager comprising races 6 through 10 Thursday night. It has no consolation payoff, meaning if no one selects all five winners (as was the case Tuesday night), the entire pool (minus takeout) moves to the next racing program. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, NY, Tuesday, December 10, 2019--Yonkers Raceway has announced its live 2020 harness racing schedule, pending approval of the New York State Gaming Commission. The 237-program docket begins Monday night, Jan. 6th, and encompasses the usual five nights per week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday) throughout the bulk of the season. It's nighttime--first post remaining at 6:50 PM--the entire way, save for a Saturday, Sept. 12th, matinee. That program (first post 1 PM) shall feature both the $1 million International Trot and the New York Day of Champions, finals of the New York Sire Stakes. The 2020 calendar accompanies this release. Note that the 2019 season ends a week from tonight (Tuesday, Dec. 17th). By Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway    

YONKERS, N.Y. – Multiple stakes winner Obrigado made his last harness racing start in the $200,000 Caesars Trotting Classic at Hoosier Park Sept. 21, 2018. Despite finishing fourth beaten just 1 3/4 lengths by Triple Crown winner Marion Marauder and trotting his final quarter in :27.0, Obrigado did not emerge from the race well. Trainer Paul Kelley faced the reality that the career of his $1.8 million earner was over. “He had a little bit of a suspensory issue going around there, which was something we had never experienced with him before. "He’s had other aches and pains for sure. It wasn’t really looking too good. We scanned it a few times and pretty much the prognosis looked like retirement was probably the right thing to do,” Kelley said. “Wintertime was coming on and you want to find any horse a good, permanent home,” Kelley continued. “I was kind of scrambling; I didn’t really have any options. I figured the best scenario would be to get him someplace where he could be turned out for the winter and let him heal up naturally on his own.” Kelley sent Obrigado to Chris Coyle's Olive Branch Farm in North Carolina, where the 9-year-old son of Boy Band wintered and recuperated. Come April, Kelley still didn’t have a forever home lined up for the Boy Band son, so the trainer brought him to his racing stable at Congress Hill Farm in Monroe, N.J. “He’s one of those horses that you don’t really want to part with,” Kelley said. “At one point, I was thinking maybe I’ll be the permanent home.” However, Obrigado didn’t find retired life of daily paddock turnouts interesting enough, especially when forced to watch the other Standardbreds going to the track every morning. Kelley recognized the horse needed work. “We were putting him out in the paddock every day, but you could tell he was a little bored just doing that; that wasn’t enough, especially being in the barn with all the other horses that were getting tacked up and going to the track every day. He’s an intelligent horse and he wanted to do that too,” Kelley explained. Kelley had Obrigado’s leg scanned again, and with a green light from the vet, began light jogging on the track, swimming sessions, and under saddle riding. Obrigado took to his work and started to rebuild his foundation. With routine scans coming back clean, Kelley started to step on the gas over the summer. “The horse loves being on the track. He loves being out there with other horses. That was really the easy part of it all,” Kelley said. “It wasn’t like we had to push him along. He’s always been a happy horse, likes work, likes the competition and all that. “We just gradually increased the workload to the point where we got to August and we felt like he’d had enough groundwork, maybe we can start some more speed work with him. We did that and I held my breath for a long time thinking, ‘Is he going to be OK? Is he going to come out of it OK?’ So far, he’s been remarkable, he’s been just fine.” A 45-time winner in 92 starts, Obrigado’s accomplishments include a pair of Maine Sire Stakes championships in 2012 and 2013 and the Crawford Farms Open Trot in 2015. Obrigado’s biggest season came in 2016, when he captured the Maxie Lee, Charlie Hill Memorial, Cleveland Trotting Classic, Cashman Memorial, repeated in the Crawford Farms Open Trot, won the Dayton Trotting Derby, and competed in the $1 million Yonkers International Trot before closing the year with a victory in the $400,000 TVG FFA Trot. Obrigado remained competitive on the Grand Circuit in 2017 and 2018 before going on the shelf. “Mentally, that horse has never changed. That’s what’s remarkable about him,” Kelley said. “You see people sometimes; your attitudes go up and down throughout a racing season. You see that with horses; horses have lulls where they just don’t seem to be too keen. He’s never ever been that way. He’s always just been real bright-eyed, real keen, head out over the gate, and ears are always forward. That’s just the kind of horse he is. He’s a happy fella and he really loves being out on the track and he loves being out with other horses all the time.” Obrigado will make his comeback Saturday night (Dec. 7) in the $42,000 Open Handicap Trot at Yonkers Raceway. Dan Dube will drive the 8-1 morning line shot from an assigned inside post position for owners Paul Kelley Racing Stable, S R F Stable, and Linwood Higgins. Obrigado prepared for his return with three qualifiers at Freehold. Rene Sejthen drove Obrigado to a second-place finish in 2:01.1 over a good track with a minus two variant Nov. 1 and again took the lines in a 13 1/4-length qualifying win on a fast track in 2:00.0 with a minus one variant Nov. 8. Kelley brought in Dube for Obrigado’s final trial Nov. 22, in which the gelding posted a 1:59.2 win. “My second trainer Rene took him the first two times and he was doing the right thing with the horse and being cautious and letting the horse do it on his own,” Kelley said. “I know from talking to Rene the weather conditions on those days weren’t particularly good. According to Rene, they were both really good miles for Obrigado considering the conditions and the horse did everything on his own and real easy. “I skipped a week and then I had Dan Dube take him the last time and I just told him, ‘Make sure he does a little work the last half of the mile. He’s got to go a little bit.’ It was kind of a funny qualifier because he got caught in and a couple of pacers were battling things out up front. When Dan finally got him out and got rolling, I think he trotted his back-half in about :57.2 and he came a good last quarter, so that was good. It gives him a little bit of speedwork.” Obrigado will face a difficult field in his return, including the first four finishers from the $35,000 Preferred Handicap Nov. 23: Stormy Kromer, Will Take Charge, Lean Hanover, and Swansea. Sumatra and Winning Shadow step up off overnight wins Nov. 22 to complete the lineup. “I suspect it’s going to take him a couple of races to get up to speed with the rest of the horses he’s got to race against, but everything has gone very well,” Kelley said. “He’s come back very well, so it will really be interesting to see what happens over the course of the winter. “He’s coming off the bench and he’s been on the bench for 14 months, so I can’t expect him to be tip-top, but maybe by having the inside, he can save some ground,” Kelley continued. “I know the horse is going to be competitive from his own standpoint, but maybe he’s not physically ready quite yet. I would expect it’s going to take two races for him to get up to speed. I think that’s realistic.” Although he will take things on a start-by-start basis, Kelley hopes to race Obrigado at Yonkers throughout the winter. Obrigado sports a 7-for-19 record at the Hilltop with seven additional placings, all at the Open level or higher. Kelley will also look for options during Yonkers’ hiatus beginning Dec. 18 and continuing into early Jan. 2020. “We’ll get a couple of starts in at Yonkers and then they go on break,” Kelley said. “Maybe with Yonkers down, (Freehold) will be able to fill an Open. That’s a possibility if I can do that for a race or two until Yonkers comes back, but I think Yonkers is where I’d like to race him the most over the course of the winter. I think he could be a real good winter horse for Yonkers.” Kelley also hopes to reunite Obrigado with Mark MacDonald, who’s last driving start came with Kelley’s The Veteran at Saratoga July 20. MacDonald suffered a fractured shoulder joint, among other injuries, in a pre-race spill later that night, but is approaching a return to the sulky. “(Obrigado) definitely likes this track, he knows his way around that track for sure, so it makes sense,” Kelley said. “I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but I’m hoping around the first of February, Mark MacDonald should be back and it would be great if I have the horse coming off the shelf and Mark coming off the shelf and we can reunite the two of them. “The partners are all excited. They’re all amazed just like I am that he’s back. Horses like that, they’re once-in-a-lifetime horses,” Kelley said. “They’re remarkable in their own way. Where there’s a will, there’s a way and they find a way to get back in the game. I’m just hoping we can go week to week, he can stay sound and we can manage him properly and it can be a fun 2020.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through December 17.  By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

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