How many harness drivers have been saluted by racetracks where they competed upon their retirement from driving? Few if any, but Catello (Cat) Manzi was. And not by one, but two racetracks, and the biggest ones in the game; The Meadowlands last summer and Yonkers Raceway on Saturday, Oct.18. Both racetracks responded wonderfully by inviting Cat’s family and his close friends to the salute at each, replete with dinner and cocktails for the entire groups. And at each venue a portion of the facility was set aside for “The Catman” and his well-wishers. I, of course, went to both racetracks as did many from our family. Track managements at both tracks really outdid themselves by offering all the amenities without charge. And at both venues the salute was highlighted with the feature race on the card named in Cat’s honor and they had him sign autographs on pictures they supplied for the attending fans in front of the winners circle after the race presentation. I know Mr. (Tim) Rooney at Yonkers and Mr. (Jeff) Gural at the Meadowlands were appreciative of Cat’s tenure at both racing facilities. And they put their money where their heart is. Take it from me, not many would do that, but class always shows. I’m not sure that many know that Cat that was born in Monticello on June 27, 1950, eight years to the day before Monticello Raceway had its inaugural program. Cat grew up in nearby Liberty(NY) and comes from a long line of harness horsemen. His dad Al, and uncles, John, Sr. and Dick, became involved in the standardbred business in the spring of 1951 and the family’s second generation, which included Cat, his brother, Steve, and cousins, Ed Lohmeyer, Richard Manzi, Jr., and yours truly, all started racing at Monticello Raceway. Cat drove his first race at the Mighty M in the fall of 1968 and by 1972 he became the dominant force on the driving scene there. On the warm summer night of August 21, 1973 he won six races in six drives on one card, a world record at that time. After dominating the driving colony at the Mighty M in the mid-1970’s in the fall of 1976 Cat decided to try his luck at the new mile track that opened in the swamplands in East Rutherford, NJ which became known as The Meadowlands. And from its inception “the Big M” was, and continues to be, the premier racing facility in North America. Cat has been the regular pilot behind a number of record setters, including 1992 Horse of the Year Artsplace; Beat The Wheel, Pacific Fella and Hit Parade, to name a few. Over the years “the Catman”, as he’s referred to by his legion of fans, has also won driving titles at Liberty Bell Park, Garden State Raceway, Yonkers Raceway and Freehold Raceway, where he has garnered an incredible 18 driving titles. He has also won a countless amount of “Classic Races” including: the Yonkers Trot, three times; the World Trotting Derby, the Cane Pace, the Driscoll Final; the Niatross; the Lady Maud; the Woodrow Wilson, the Dexter Cup ; the Hambletonian Oaks; the Breeders Crown; the U.S Pacing Championship, twice; the William Haughton Memorial, three Hudson Filly Trots, the Sheppard Pace; and the $1.6 million North American Cup. His career reached a pinnacle in 2002 when he was inducted into Harness Racing’s Living Hall of Fame, the only Monticello native to receive such honor. For the record, Cat didn’t retire completely…. he retired from driving but he still trains, currently for the Cancelliere Brothers. He finished with outstanding career totals of 14,812 driving victories and purses of $158,560,663. by John Manzi
YONKERS, NY, Tuesday, October 28, 2014-Brian Sears won the 9,000th race of his illustrious career Tuesday night, the milestone coming The Way I Am ($9.80) in the fifth race of Yonkers Raceway's 12-race program. The 3-year-old Muscle Mass gelding went wire-to-wire from post position No. 3, winning the mile-and-one-sixteenth event trot by 8¼ lengths in 2:05.4. Sears began his work night needing two wins for the latest plateau. He took the $11,000 pacing opener with Wayward Son ($7.80), pacing the mile-and-one-sixteenth in 1:59.2. "It's great to win (No. 9,000) here, because Yonkers Raceway is my home now," Sears said, congratulatory sign in tow. "I'm really happy to win it for (trainer) Buzzy (Sholty), because our families have known each other for years and we grew up in the business together." Sears is the 15th driver in harness racing history to win 9,000 races. A 46-year-old native of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Sears-the Raceway's defending driving champion---has career purse earnings in excess of $158 million. Prior to relocating his base to Westchester last season, Sears was the leading driver at Vernon Downs, Pompano, the Meadows and the Meadowlands. His escorts have made at least $10 million in purses in all but one of the past 10 full seasons. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway
YONKERS, NY, Monday, October 27, 2014--Brian Sears began his work night needing six wins to turn over the odometer yet again, and he nearly did just that. Sears sat in the waiting room of the 9,000 win plateau Monday night, winning four of his 10 drives during Yonkers Raceway's 12-race card to get within two of that milestone. He began the evening with a pair of odds-on halves of a chalky, $7.80 early daily double, Bettor Business ($3.30) in the $9,000 pacing opener (1:56.2) and Do it For Annie ($3.20) in the $9,000 second-race trot (1:58.4). After having the gall not to win either of the next two races, Sears strolled with favored Annapolis ($4.90) in the fifth-race trot (2:04.4 for the mile-and-one-sixteenth). Win No. 4 came when Supplemental Income ($6.30) nailed the leader late in the sixth-race pace (1:55.2). He next four assignments finished sixth, fifth, fifth and second, respectively. A 46-year-old native of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Sears--the Raceway's defending driving champion---has career purse earnings in excess of $158 million. Prior to relocating his base to Westchester last season, Sears was the leading driver at Vernon Downs, Pompano, the Meadows and the Meadowlands. His escorts have made at least $10 million in purses in all but one of the past 10 full seasons. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway
Natural Herbie, at odds of 9-1, posted his fourth straight win with a world record performance at Yonkers Raceway Saturday, beating many of the best trotters in the world in the $250,000 International Preview. Despite being parked-out first-over on the outside from after the opening quarter half mile in the one and one-quarter mile extra distance race, owner/trainer/driver Verlin Yoder properly rated his Indiana-bred four-year-old gelded son of Here Comes, inching his way towards race leader Arch Madness (George Brennan) and Commander Crowe (Orjan Kihlstrom). Then on the final turn, Natural Herbie had not only collared the leaders, but took the lead and then held off Commander Crowe to win by three-quarters of a length with Bee A Magician (David Miller) third. His time for the race, 2:24.4, according to the United States Trotting Association, set the world record for the extra distance on a half mile track, surpassing the 19-year-old record of 2:26.2, that was set in 1995 by His Majesty S (Stefan Melander) in the International Trot at Yonkers, besting it by nearly two full seconds. From the start of the race the Iwas furious as 6/5 race favorite, Sebastian K and trainer/driver Ake Svanstedt tried to get to the lead but was hung three-wide by Arch Madness and Commander Crowe and for the first time in the USA, make a break and had to be taken back to last place. Arch Madness took command with Commander Crowe on his back to the opening quarter mile in :27.4 as Yoder moved Natural Herbie to the outside first-over, then Arch Madness led to the half mile in 1:26.2 with Yoder biding his time on the outside. They pasted the mile marker in 1:55.1 and that was when Natural Herbie kicked in another gear and took command. For Yoder, it was his first time ever to New York City and to have competed at Yonkers Raceway. “It was a little bit earlier then I wanted to, but I had to move,” said Verlin Yoder when asked about sending Natural Herbie first-over. “He stood up to it. He is a nice horse and I have put him in bad spots before and he always comes through. But he had his work cut out for him tonight. “It’s an honor to have beaten a field like this,” Yoder said. “It keeps me speechless. I don’t know what to say. He’s done way above whatever I expected him to do. He’s got a lot of talent and he is a very smart horse. And he knows how to win races. “I was hoping in the backstretch not to have to pull the blinds,” Yoder explained. “When you pull the blinds he gives you another effort. And he waits on it. I had made to the turn when I had to drop them. And he stepped up to the plate and did what he’s supposed to. “I knew he was trotting good (down the stretch),” Yoder said, “and he was trying hard. Whenever he is trying hard he is usually going forward.” A former factory worker who used to build RVs, Yoder has been involved in harness racing since 2004. It started as a hobby, but turned into a fulltime pursuit. He enjoyed his best year in 2013, when he conditioned not only Natural Herbie but Indiana Sire Stakes 3-year-old female trotting champion Lady Blitz. "He's taken me to places I've never been to before," Yoder said about Natural Herbie. "Just being a trainer-driver, it just does not happen nowadays, especially when you own them yourself. It's very special. He took us places that we never expected to go. Yoder, 41, from Indiana, now resides in Bell, Florida and he owns Natural Herbie. It was his 12th win in 23 starts this year. Natural Herbie paid $21.60 to win. By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink.com
Highest Peak took advantage of both parts of the 1-5 favored entry of Market Rally and Avalicious going off stride to capture Saturday's $124,590 Hudson Trot for 3-year-old fillies at Yonkers Raceway in a time of 1:58.2. Sent off at odds of 8-1, Highest Peak and driver/trainer Ake Svanstedt saw Market Rally make a break on the first turn and Avalicious go off stride on the second turn. Market Rally fought back to take the lead from Highest Peak at the halfway point, reached in 1:00, but was unable to sustain the effort. Highest Peak reclaimed the lead in the stretch and held off Mistresswithmuscle by 1-1/2 lengths. Bambino Supreme finished third. Highest Peak (Andover Hall-Highland Glider) has won five of 14 races this year and $133,850. Svanstedt owns the filly, which he purchased in August. "She minded her manners," said Bjorn "Bernie" Noren, Svanstedt's assistant trainer. "We were attracted to her because she's a nice bred filly and she was good on her manners for (former trainer) Noel Daley. "She had been training good and I thought she would have a good chance tonight." Act Now, the 1-5 favorite, took the lead from Tyra in the early moments of the race and cruised to a 1:53 win in Saturday's $150,854 Lady Maud Stakes for 3-year-old female pacers at Yonkers Raceway. Fancy Desire, who was parked for much of the mile, finished second and Beautiful Lady was third. George Brennan drove Act Now (Western Ideal-CPA) for trainer Nik Drennan and owners Joe Davino and Patrick O'Brien. She has won five of 12 races this year and $307,444. "She was really good," Brennan said. "She was a little hotter than I wanted, she was hitting my bike a little, that's why I got down there a little quicker in three-quarters (in 1:24.3) but she was well in hand. She was good." by Ken Weingartner, for Harness Racing Communications
Nuncio and driver John Campbell ended up being just a half-length off of sweeping the harness racing Trotting Triple Crown as Nuncio captured the third jewel, the $500,000 Yonkers Trot final, at Yonkers Raceway Saturday. It seemed nearly an effortless effort for the three-year-old son of Andover Hall, who got away in second place early as Don Dorado (Tim Tetrick) shot to the early lead from post seven. Once they reached the opening quarter mile in an easy :29 second, Campbell moved Nuncio to the front and it was pretty much a cake-walk from that point on. Nuncio led the field to the half mile in a leisurely :58.4 with no one coming up to challenge. In the backstretch Journey (Daniel Dube) was able to flush Datsyuk (Charlie Norris) to come first-over as they passed the three-quarters in 1:27.3. Then on the final turn the pocket-sitting Don Dorado went off-stride and it became a two-horse race to the wire. Nuncio went wide coming down the stretch but Datsyuk was unable to gain ground as Nuncio went on to win by two and one-quarter open lengths in 1:56. Datsyuk held for second place with Resolve (David Miller) finishing third. “Father Patrick has gotten a lot of accolades,” said John Campbell, “And Trixton deservingly so too. But this horse (Nuncio) is just so consistent. I have so much admiration and think so highly of this horse because he always gives me such a big effort. Horses like him are hard to find. “Any horse at this level has to have consistency,” Campbell added, They have to have speed, they have to have heart, but his consistency over two years has just been remarkable. He has never put in a poor performance for me at all.” “It takes a pretty good horse,” Campbell said, “to have never raced on a half mile before and put in two great miles like he has is unbelievable.” It was the 60th edition of the Yonkers Trot and the third time that Campbell has won the Triple Crown jewel. Trained by Jimmy Takter and owned by Stall TZ of Vero Beach, FL, it was the tenth win in 15 starts this year for Nuncio. He now sports $1,297,096 in earnings this year. Nuncio paid just $2.10 to win was the 1/9 overwhelming favorite. Nuncio Last week All Bets Off and driver Matt Kakaley barely made it to the final of the $500,000 Messenger Stakes, the third jewel of the Pacing Triple Crown. He tried to wire the field and ended up finishes fourth, beaten just one length. But with the first four official finishers returning for the final, All Bets Off was back in the hunt and drew post six for the final and this time Matt Kakaley made sure no one was able to catch them. Shooting to the early lead with Lyonssomewhere (Brett Miller) fighting off Stevensville (Mark MacDonald) for the two-hole spot, Kakaley made the lead with All Bets Off and cut the mile to the opening quarter mile in a quick :26.3 seconds. Kakaley and All Bets Off were then able to back down the speed slightly, going to the half mile in :55.1 as McWicked and driver David Miller, the 1-2 favorite, made their move first-over from fourth place with Luck Be Withyou (Tim Tetrick) following their outside cover. All Bets Off was in full gear and took the field to the three-quarters in 1:23 and was not letting off the pace. By the top of the stretch, Kakaley and All Bets Off were up by four lengths and then breezed to the wire to win by two and three-quarter lengths in 1:51.1. Luck Be Withyou came on for second with McWicked third. “He wasn’t that good last week,” Matt Kakaley said, “He wasn’t himself. But I had all the faith in the world in Ronnie (Burke) that they would have him ready and they showed up tonight. “I was leaving tonight no matter what,” Kakaley said. “We were not doing to duck’em. He (All Bets Off) can leave so quick. I had him jammed on the car pretty good and he just sprinted right out of there. He was rolling along and had a pretty good hold on me. He was in the bits and felt pretty good and I was pretty confident. “This is huge,” Kakaley said. “This is the biggest win of my career. It’s been a great year for me. And Ronnie has been giving me great opportunities. Things have been going really well thanks to him.” The time of the race for the 50th edition of the Messenger, 1:51.1, was the fastest Messenger Stakes ever held at Yonkers. Sired by Bettor’s Delight, it was the 11th win in 15 starts this year for All Bets Off. Trained by Ron Burke and co-owned by the Burke Racing Stable, Frank Baldachino, Panhellenic Stable and Rosemary Shelswell, All Bets Off paid $11.80 to win. All Bets Off By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink.com
When harness racing's International Trot was last run in 1995 at Yonkers Raceway, it was Sweden's His Majesty who crossed the wire first. On Saturday night, when the $250,000 International Trot Preview is contested, Sweden's colors will once again be well represented with Commander Crowe and Sebastian K, the top two favorites in the field of eight trotters going a mile-and-a-quarter. Commander Crowe, an 11-year-old gelding, who has raced most of his career in Sweden, has won 60 of 106 career starts with nearly $5 million in earnings, but never started in the United States. He was made the 7-2 second-choice on the morning line leaving from the rail with driver Orjan Kihlstrom in the bike. "We are really looking forward to race in the International Trot, or as we call it in Sweden: The World Championship," said Joakim Wihlborg, owner of Commander Crowe. "It is going to be very exciting to meet Sebastian K again. They have had many good duels over the last couple of years in Scandinavia with wins and fantastic performances from both horses including the European record at Jagersro in Sweden that is held by Commander Crowe." Sebastian K, a winner of 34 races from 74 career starts, has won eight of 11 starts this year in America, including setting a world record for the fastest mile on June 28. The 8-year-old will leave from post six and was made the 3-1 morning line favorite with Ake Svanstedt driving. Before coming to America, Sebastian K and Commander Crowe, battled each other in Sweden, trading decisions throughout 2012 before Sebastian K was named Sweden's Horse of the Year that year. "Meeting Commander Crowe is great!," said Tristan Sjoberg, who is part owner of Sebastian K. "We have had so many great battles over the years, especially in the summer of 2012 when Commander Crowe took all the early season honors (Olympiatravet, Elitloppet & Hugo Ã…bergs Memorial) and then Sebastian K won most of the late season battles (Ã…by Stora Pris, Sundsvall Open Trot and UET Masters). It was a great summer of racing. Someone said it is currently 7 - 6 in favor of Sebastian K, but I cannot vouch for that statistic, haha. Either way, it has been a very close fought battle. With Commander Crowe now drawing post one, I think he must be considered the slight favorite. I predict another close battle!" Both Commander Crowe and Sebastian K enter Saturday's $250,000 Preview off of losses when each was second best, Commander Crowe in the Grade 1 Gran Premio Turilli from Rome on Oct. 5, while Sebastian K was caught on the wire in the $173,000 Allerage Farm Open Trot at The Red Mile in Lexington also on Oct. 5. "Sebastian is doing great," Sjoberg said. "He has shown a bit more alertness in training in the last week or so, which we take as a good sign." Natural Herbie appears the best of the American contingent having won his last three starts and was made the 4-1 third-choice in the wagering and will leave from post seven. Completing the field is the 2013 Horse of the Year, the filly, Bee a Magician (post two, 8-1), Obrigado (post four, 8-1), Arch Madness (post five, 5-1), the 2012 Yonkers Trot winner Archangel (post six, 6-1) and Not Afraid (post eight, 20-1). "What a race it will be, the fastest horse in Europe, the fastest horse in the world and the best American Trotters," said Wihlborg. The International Trot Preview will go off as race nine of a 12-race program, sharing the card along with the final for the Messenger Stakes and the Yonkers Trot. The International Trot, with its full pageantry, will return to Yonkers Raceway in 2015, where it will try to attract the top trotters from around the globe. Â· Yonkers Raceway will keep the international flavor going on Sundays, beginning Nov. 9 through Dec. 14, when it will simulcast its races to Paris and throughout Europe, starting with an 11 a.m. first post. The track will offer fans many promotions to come out early and watch the special Sunday cards. More details about the promotions will be available as the time draws closer. By Jerry Bossert
YONKERS, NY, Friday, October 24, 2014--Yonkers Raceway's Friday night $35,000 co-featured Open Handicaps--one for distaff pacers and one for any trotter with acceptable street cred--were won by a pocketed Set Me Up (George Brennan, $6) and a two-move Melady's Monet (Jason Bartlett, $6.10). The week's fairer-sex feature was strictly a two-speed number, with slight 2-1 favorite Set Me Up--in play from post position No. 4--grabbbing the first lead before surrendering to Scandalous Hanover (Brian Sears). That one threw down early weigh stations of :28.1 and :58.1 as longshot Simple Saver N (Eric Carlson) tried it first-up. A brisk, :27.3 third quarter (1:25.4) dispatched that challenge as Scandalous Hanover owned a length-and-a-half lead into the lane. However, Set Me Up edged in and edged past, winning by head-fought head in 1:54. Coffee Addict (Dan Dube) rallied well for third, with ground-savers Seafood Annie (Larry Stalbaum) and Keystone Wanda (Brent Holland) rounding out the payees. For Set Me Up, a 5-year-old daughter of Shark Gesture co-owned (as Burke Racing) by trainer Ron Burke and Weaver Bruscemi, it was her seventh win in 30 seasonal starts. The exacta paid $22.40, with the triple (three wagering favorites in order) returning $82. The week's marquee trot saw Melady's Monet, assigned post No, 7, left into a comfy three-hole. It was Andie Sophia (Dan Dube) leading through intervals of (:28.1, :57.4 and 1:26.2), with "Melady"--having taken out past the half--about to wear that one down. Melady's Monet secured the lead in and out of the final turn, then widened. The final margin was 2Â½ lengths in 1:54.4 Second went to Andie Sophia, with 7-5 choice Bambino Glide (Sears), Alternat Thursdays (Brennan) and Fortunista (Carlson) settling for the remainder. For second choice Melady's Monet, a 5-year-old Revenue S gelding trained by Melady Enterprises and trained by Kevin McDermott, he's now 5-for-23 this season. The exacta paid $24.20, the triple returned $103.50 and the superfecta paid $535. Saturday's stakes-stuffed program includes the $500,000 Yonkers Trot, $500,000 Messenger Stakes, $250,000 International Trot Preview (1Â¼ miles), $150,854 Lady Maud and $124,590 Hudson Filly Trot. Those races comprise a $20,000 guaranteed Pick 5 pool and there's also a T-shirt giveaway [while supplies last]). The Raceway's five-night-per-week live schedule continues, with first post every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:10 PM. Evening simulcasting accompanies all live programs, with afternoon simulcasting available daily. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway
YONKERS, NY, - An important wagering/refund notice from Yonkers Raceway. Regarding the early Pick 4 wager from Saturday, Oct. 18th, Yonkers Raceway regrets any confusion caused by the late "barring" of two horses-Nuncio and Amped Up Hanover-from all wagering in the fourth race. Those horses should have been coupled as a wagering entry soon after the draw, but regrettably were not. Anyone who wagered on either of those horses in the Pick 4 was, by New York State Gaming Commission rules, given the wagering favorite as a "replacement." When Nuncio (racing for purse money only) won the race and would have gone off as the heavy favorite, customers in many instances were left with a horse they did not choose. While the rules state that a refund would also be available prior to the start of the wager (third race), we understand that this may not have been communicated to, or understood by, some guests either on track, at a simulcast location or on-line. Yonkers Raceway has decided to refund any Pick 4 wager that had either of those two horses (Nuncio or Amped Up Hanover) included in the bet....and if your wager was made at EmpireCityBets.com, we are going to double the refund. Please bring your ticket to the mutuel office (4th floor), or send the ticket, or a screen shot from your wagering site confirming the wager, to... From the Mutuel Department at Yonkers Raceway
In the world of harness racing there is not much that super star trotter Sebastian K has not done. The eight-year-old stallion by Korean has nearly $3 million in career earnings, has won most every major event in Europe, came to the USA this year and scored the fastest one mile race in Standardbred history with his 1:49 mile at Pocono Downs. So what’s left for the world champion to prove? How about making his first start ever on a half mile track! That’s right. Sebastian K has never raced on a half mile oval. He has 74 lifetime starts, 34 wins, 14 seconds and 2 thirds in his championship career. But can he handle the sharper turns on a half mile track? “It will not be a problem,” said Bjorn “Bernie” Noren, second trainer for Ake Svanstedt, “He (Sebastian K) is in good shape and with his quick early speed he will be OK on the smaller track.” This Saturday Sebastian K and Svanstedt will start from post six in the $250,000 International Trot Preview at Yonkers Raceway. The invitational event has drawn eight of the top trotters in racing. Included in the field and making his USA debut of another European champion, Commander Crowe, who has raced against Sebastian K in the past. Also in the field and the only mare against male rivals, is the 2013 Dan Patch Harness Horse of the Year, Bee A Magician. In fact, the total career earnings of the eight horses in the race is an amazing $17 million. Both Commander Crowe and Arch Madness are career earners of more than $4 million each. The Yonkers International Trot also tests the stamina of these champion trotters as the race is not the usual distance of one mile, the mainstay of North American harness racing, but is an extra distance race at one and one-quarter mile. How will that affect Sebastian K, who now has to maneuver the sharper turns of a half mile oval five times instead of just four times. “It will affect the American horses much more than it will Sebastian K,” said Noren. “They are not use to going an extra quarter mile, but Sebastian K, Commander Crowe and Arch Madness have all raced extra distances and should have an advantage over the other horses.” Commander Crowe has just come over from Europe and may not have had enough time to recover from the stress of trip and according to Noren, “He may not be at 100% for this race. He is a very great horse but the trip overseas is very tough on a horse. He could be in good shape but I would look for him to be at his best for the Breeders Crown next month at the Meadowlands. “It is good that he (Commander Crowe) has come over here to race,” Noren added, “The competition will help make the races more exciting for everyone here.” When asked to size up the competition against Sebastian K on Saturday, Noren summed it up. “Of course Sebastian K is the best in the race,” Noren chuckled, “And Ake Svantsted is so good at measuring a horse in an extra distance race. I think that Archangel and Arch Madness can be good and if Commander Crowe is feeling good he will be tough too.” The big question in the race will be that most of the horses entered have not set foot on a half mile track for most of their careers and they include Commander Crowe, Archangel, Sebastian K, Natural Herbie and Not Afraid. That’s five of the eight starters. And the other three, Bee A Magician, Obrigado and Arch Madness, have all won or were second in their last starts on Yonkers half mile oval. The morning line has Natural Herbie from post seven as the 3-1 race favorite. He is on a three-race winning streak. Arch Madness is the second choice at odds of 7/2 and for the first time since arriving in the USA, Sebastian K is not the race favorite in the morning line, but third choice at 4-1. With such keen competition, the revival of the International Trot will be quite the event to watch this weekend. Here is the field in post position order: $250,000 International Trot Preview 1 ¼ miles Commander Crowe (Orjan Kihlstrom) 8-1 Bee A Magician (David Miller) 8-1 Archangel (Matt Kakaley) 6-1 Obrigado (Jason Bartlett) 5-1 Arch Madness (George Brennan) 7/2 Sebastian K (Ake Svanstedt) 4-1 Natural Herbie (Verlin Yoder) 3-1 Not Afraid (Brett Miller) 20-1 By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink.com
Last week we once again showed a minor loss on win bets (-$3.80) but made money with some decent exacta and tri hits. The action will be fast and furious this weekend as the Grand Circuit is in full swing around North America. We venture to Dayton Raceway Friday for their two opening season main events, the Dayton Pacing Derby and Dayton Trotting Derby for older horses and they have attracted some of the best in harness. Then Saturday its show time at Yonkers with the third jewel of the trotting Triple Crown, the Yonkers Trot, plus the Messenger Pace and the revival of the International Trot. Then over to Woodbine for the Big Four Finals, the Governor's Cup, Valley Victory, Goldsmith Maid and Three Diamonds. Great racing and good luck! $122,000 Pace Dayton Pacing Derby Dayton Raceway 11th race FRIDAY - After crushing much weaker opposition the last two weeks, Dancin Yankee gets back to taking on the big boys but I think he is ready for the challenge. It will be a slugfest for sure but based on his last two impressive wins I think that Dancin Yankee is up for the challenge. Use Foiled Again and Clear Vision in exotic plays. $162,000 Trot Dayton Trotting Derby Dayton Raceway 12th race FRIDAY - Racing fans at Dayton will get to see some good trottin action in here. Well matched field has some superstar performers but I think that Creatine has returned to his old self from last year as of late and will continue to dominate the older trotting ranks. His last two wins were super impressive and can take another in here. Use DW's NY Yank and Wishing Stone in exotic plays. $464,000 Trot Goldsmith Maid Final Woodbine Racecourse 3rd race SATURDAY - It's make it or break it and I mean that literally as Mission Brief has the race her own to win or lose. If she minds her manners she will take this field with trot to spare but if she jumps it off as she has in the past then the others will have a field day. I think this world champion has turned the corner on her bad manners off her past two starts and will wire the field again. Use Gatka Hanover and Jolene Jolene in exotic plays. $500,000 Trot Yonkers Trot Final Yonkers Raceway 5th race SATURDAY - Nuncio has now been barred from wagering on the race. So from a wagering perpsective, I will go to my second choice, Gural Hanover. So even if he finishes second to Nuncio, you still win. He won his elim with ease and has been super sharp all season with 10 wins. I still think Nuncio will capture the third jewel of the trotting triple crown. Nuncio has been razor sharp and with no Father Patrick or Trixton to go again I think he will wire the field for John Campbell to take two of the three jewels of the Triple Crown. Now use Datsyuk and Don Dorado in exotic plays. $521,000 Trot Valley Victory Final Woodbine Racecourse 5th race SATURDAY - No matter how hard you look at this field you just can't pick against Habitat. He has had an awesome season and is currently on a three-race winning streak for the Ron Burke Stable. His only loss in last two months was when he was not on the front end so figure that Gringras will be sending him in here. Win last week from post eight was very impressive. Use Uncle Lasse and Pinkman in exotic plays. $500,000 Pace Messenger Stake Final Yonkers Raceway 6th race SATURDAY - It will be a real good race for the third jewel of the Pacing Triple Crown here. I am going against the morning line and taking the entry of All Bets Off/Forty Five Red from the Ron Burke Stable. Despite outside posts they both have what it takes to win, one is all front end speed, the other great closing speed (at least last week) and combined they can win and pay a price. Use Luck Be Withyou and McWicked in exotic plays. $565,000 Pace Governor's Cup Final Woodbine Racecourse 7th race SATURDAY - Here is another situation where it is all up to the horse. If Artspeak has his head on straight and decides not to make a break and he returns to his former self he can take this field for fun. But he has not been right the last two weeks. I'm betting that he will put the past behind him and rise up in returning to his winning ways. Use Pierce Hanover and Lyons Again in exotic plays. $124,590 Trot Hudson Filly Final Yonkers Raceway 7th race SATURDAY - Disappointing short field for this Grand Circuit event and I think the Ron Burke Stable will finish one-two with their strong entry of Market Rally/Avalicious. Market Rally is the strong horse of the two and is the NYSS champion filly. Avalicious is coming off a lifetime mark of 1:53.2 at Pocono Downs. Too tough to go again. Use Highest Peak and Bambino Supreme in exotic plays. $150,854 Pace Lady Maud Final Yonkers Raceway 8th race SATURDAY - Last week in winning her elimination division for this final, Act Now showed her dominance and also that she can handle a half mile track with a very impressive 1:53.1 romp by three open lengths. All she needs to do in here is repeat that effort and she is home free. Use Fancy Desire and the entry of Beautiful Lady/A La Notte Hanover in exotic plays. $424,000 Pace Three Diamonds Final Woodbine Racecourse 9th race SATURDAY - Currently the only unbeaten star in North America, JK She'salady goes for her tenth straight win in here. She has just been perfect in every start all season long and continues to roll on by her opponents once again. Use The Show Returns and Band Of Angels in exotic plays. $250,000 Trot International Trot Preview Yonkers Raceway 9th race SATURDAY - Saving the best for last this weekend. Throw out the morning line on this race, it was done by a computer. This is real trotting action at its best. And the best in here is Sebastian K. While Commander Crowe and Arch Madness have nearly twice the lifetime earnings of Sebastian K, their best days are behind them. Sebastian K may be making his first start ever on a half mile oval but he will overcome it with little issue. The extra quarter mile in this distance race is the difference that Sebastian K will flourish on. Use Bee A Magician and Natural Herbie in exotic plays.
As the C.K.G. Billings Harness Driving Series heads into the homestretch the battle for the Eastern Region points championship drew ever closer when both Tony "the Capo" Verruso and Robert "Rapid Rail" Krivelin each were victorious in their respective divisions at Yonkers Raceway Thursday evening (Oct.23). Verruso won with Its Bush Time in 2:02.1 while Krivelin copped his division with Current Crisis in a time of 2:01. In his split Verruso left softly from the four hole with Its Bush Time and settled in along the pylons in fifth position. They moved up to fourth at the halfway point as "Johnny on the Spot" Kolkowski cut the fractions with Alaric. Up the backside Verruso moved to challenge and his trotter was second alongside the leader at the third stanza. Meanwhile "Mighty Matt" Zuccarello with Homer Jay, followed Verruso around the final turn and when they headed for paydirt the three trotters were side by side and it appeared to be anyone's race especially when all three trotters hit the finish line nearly simultaneously. That caused the judges to scrutinize the photo and when they did they found Its Bust Time a head winner over Homer Jay with Alaric a nose back in third place. All three trotters were time in 2:02.1. Its Bush Time is owned by the Allen Cisco Stable of Michigan. For Verruso, the president of the Billings Series, it marked his fourth seasonal triumph and 52nd of his amateur driving career. Krivelin's journey, with Current Crisis, was somewhat different than Verruso's because David "Poppa" Glasser sped away from the gate with Sir Siro and they trotted by the quarter in a stiff :28.3 which had the trailing horses gapped. Krivelin's trotter was 13-lengths behind at the first stanza in fifth position but Current Crisis didn't remain there. When Glasser stepped on the breaks Krivelin was out and going with Current Crisis and they were third on the limb at the halfway point two lengths off the leader. But up the backside Krivelin got the best of Glasser and Current Crisis opened up three lengths on Sir Siro. In the lane Krivelin and Current Crisis braced for a stiff challenge from Celtic Merchant and driver Paul "the Coach" Minore who was following Sir Siro from the get-go. But Current Crisis was up to the challenge and finished a one length winner over Celtic Merchant. Sir Siro tired, but still finished third. Krivelin owns the winner and for him it was his 165th driving victory. With just one east region trot remaining at Pocono Downs on November 12th , both Verruso and Krivelin may be looking for mounts there. Verruso earned 13 points for his victory and now has 54 points which moves him to third place on the Eastern Region which leaves him nine points behind leader, "Mighty Matt" Zuccarello's 63 . leaderboard. Krivelin also earned 13 points and is now in fourth place with 46 points . A good showing at Pocono Downs by any of the drivers near the top of the leadrerboard could determine the East region points champion. The overall Billings Series finale - the Delvin Miller Gold and Silver Cup Championships--will be contested at Chester Downs (Harrah's Philadelphia) on Sunday, November 23. by John Manzi, for the Billings Amateur Drivers Series
YONKERS, NY, Thursday, October 23, 2014--Yonkers Raceway's stakes-stuffed Saturday night program has all the required-by-law ingredients. There's the more than $1.5 million in purses for the five features, a $20,000 guaranteed all-stakes-race Pick 5 pool...and the obligatory free t-shirt (while supplies last). First post for the baker's-dozen buffet is 7:10 PM, and a gentleman who figures to have say in the soiree is one David Miller. The Harness Hall of Famer (Class of 2013), he of the more than 11,100 career wins and $185 million in purses, has drives in four of the five events. Toward that end, he offered some insights... Race 5 - $500,000 YONKERS TROT NO. 60 (3-year-old colts/geldings) -- Revolve (post position No. 5) --"I've never driven him before. I spoke with Timmy (Tetrick, who drove him last week but opted for Don Dorado here) a bit last week, but with (elimination winners) Gural Hanover and Nuncio drawing inside (post Nos. 1 and 2), we're going to have a few breaks." Miller goes with a third Trot victory. Race 6 - $500,000 MESSENGER STAKES NO. 59 (3-year-old colts/geldings) --McWicked (head number 5, post position 4) -- "Just a very pleasant horse to get along with. He's held his form for just about the entire year, though I thought he was a bit flat at Delaware (OH). The last couple of weeks (a "Messenger prep" and last week's nine-to-get-rid-of-one elimination), the plan was just to race him conservatively get him ready for this race. I was very happy with his race last week (closing stoutly for third in a paceless event) and I expect him to race very well (Saturday). He's coming into it in good shape." (Note that McWicked becomes a seasonal millionaire with just about any payday here, while Miller has won this race three times, but has never won it here.) Race 7 -- $150,874 HUDSON FILLY TROT (3-year-olds) -- no drive. Race 8 -- $124,590 LADY MAUD (3-year-old pacing fillies) -- Fancy Desire (head number 6, post position 5) -- "I've never driven here before, either, but I've seen enough of her in Pennsylvania. I have driven for (trainer) Kevin (Carr) quite a bit, and I know she has talent. She won the Lynch (Pocono) and beat some good fillies. I'm not surprised George (Brennan, who drove both elim winners) stayed with Act Now (HN 3, PP 2), but I think that mine has a shot." Race 9 -- $250,000 INTERNATIONAL TROT PREVIEW (1Â¼ miles) -- Bee a Magician (post position 2) -- "Again, she's another I've never driven before, and I was so happy to get a chance (Miller is her first driver not named Brian Sears or Rick Zeron). I love the draw, because I'm not sure how much early movement there's going to be and she should be close. Sure, the added distance is a concern with a mare going against older males, but not as much on a half as it would be on a big track for her." Please be advised that program pages for Saturday's Pick 5 (50-cent base) wager are now available for perusal at www.yonkersraceway.com. Yonkers Raceway's five-night-per-week live schedule continues, with first post every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:10 PM. Evening simulcasting accompanies all live programs, with afternoon simulcasting available daily. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway
Baseball fans in New York are familiar with the "Le Grand Orange," the nickname of popular former Mets star Rusty Staub. Now, nearly 30 years after Staub's retirement, racing fans in New York will get their first in-person look at "Le Grand Blonde," globe-trotting trotter Commander Crowe. Commander Crowe races Saturday night in the $250,000 International Trot Preview Invitational at Yonkers Raceway. It will be Commander Crowe's first start on American soil. He has raced twice previously in North America, both in the Breeders Crown Open Trot at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, finishing third each time. An 11-year-old Swedish-born gelding, Commander Crowe has won 60 of 104 career races, earning $4.78 million. His earnings rank No. 5 among all trotters in history and his triumphs include the prestigious Elitlopp Invitational, which he captured in 2012. The International Trot Preview, to be contested at 1-1/4 miles with a field of eight horses, is the precursor to the return of the International Trot next year at Yonkers after a two-decade hiatus. Joining Commander Crowe in this season's event are Sebastian K, another star from Europe who this year became history's fastest trotter, and 2013 Horse of the Year Bee A Magician, the lone female in the field. Also in the race are Arch Madness, a multiple-stakes-winner of $4.25 million lifetime who finished second to Commander Crowe in the 2012 Elitlopp, and 2012 Yonkers Trot winner Archangel. Rounding out the group are Obrigado, Natural Herbie, and Not Afraid. Commander Crowe will start the International Trot Preview from post No. 1 with Orjan Kihlstrom at the lines for trainer Fabrice Souloy. He enters the race off a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Gran Premio Turilli in Rome on Oct. 5. In August, he raced three heats to win the Grade 1 Aby Stora Pris in Sweden. "We hope for the best," Souloy said. "For us, in Europe we know the track, we know what to do. But in America, we don't know so much. We don't know the track, we don't know which (post) is the best; it's a little new to us. If it's a race in France or Scandinavia, I could say, yes, that's good. We'll see." Souloy expects Commander Crowe to have no trouble negotiating the turns on Yonkers' half-mile oval. "The turns are not a problem for him," Souloy said. "He will not care about it." Commander Crowe arrived in central New Jersey on Saturday, following two days in quarantine, and will remain there in preparation for November's Breeders Crown at the Meadowlands. Souloy hopes the extra time will help Commander Crowe get acclimated to racing in North America. In his previous trips to the Breeders Crown, the horse arrived just prior to the event. "We were disappointed, yes and no," Souloy said about Commander Crowe's previous Breeders Crown starts. "The season was so long for him; he started to race in March and he went all the season, so many transports, and I think when he got here he was a little down. I think in 2012 if he had come in June or July, he would have been much better than that. The trip was really tough. "In 2012, he had raced 14 times. He went to Norway, he went to Denmark, he went to Sweden; he went everywhere. It was a tough season. It is so difficult to keep him on the top until November." Commander Crowe, a chestnut gelding who didn't begin racing until late in his 3-year-old season and won the first 23 starts of his career, moved to Souloy's stable in 2010. He is owned by the Snogarps Gard ownership group of Barbro Wihlborg, Ulf Wihlborg and Joakim Wihlborg. He is a son of Juliano Star, out of the Mack Lobell-sired mare Somack. "For me, in 2012, the horse was fantastic," Souloy said. "He won everything in Europe. In 2013, he had so many problems, (including) an infection in the leg. This year, he has been really good. It is nice to be asked to come back here again because we feel the horse has come back really good." On Saturday, Commander Crowe will renew his rivalry with Sebastian K, who followed trainer/driver Ake Svanstedt to the U.S. last winter and has won eight of 11 races and $663,853 this season. On June 28, he won in 1:49 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs to become the fastest trotter in history. "I am not surprised because he was so fast in Sweden," Souloy said. "Long distance, I think he is not his best. He is a real miler, really fast. It's not the same style (of racing here). In Europe, you get many attacks and you need to be really strong. For me, it is a horse for a mile. I am not surprised by his success." Souloy, like many fans, is looking forward to Commander Crowe's starts in the States. "It's nice for the sport," he said. "It's nice to have many good horses." by Ken Weingartner, for Harness Racing Communications
A half-length loss in the Hambletonian Stakes prevents Nuncio from a chance at history, but the 3-year-old male trotter can add to his credentials with a win in Saturday's $500,000 Yonkers Trot at Yonkers Raceway. The Yonkers Trot is the third jewel in harness racing's Trotting Triple Crown. Nuncio finished second to stablemate Trixton in the first leg, the Hambletonian, and defeated stablemate Father Patrick by 1-1/4 lengths in the second leg, the Kentucky Futurity. Nuncio, trained by Jimmy Takter and driven by John Campbell, will start the eight-horse Yonkers Trot from post No. 2. The colt has won nine of 14 races this year, including his Yonkers Trot elimination last week, and earned $1.04 million for owner Stefan Melander's Stall TZ Inc. The most recent horse to win the Trotting Triple Crown was Glidemaster in 2006. The last horse to capture two jewels and finish second in the remaining leg was Mack Lobell in 1987. Takter has won the Yonkers Trot three times; Campbell has won twice. "John was very pleased with him (last week)," Takter said about Nuncio, who brings a three-race win streak to Yonkers. "He was very strong in the stretch. He's in great form. The horse is sharp." Nuncio has never finished worse than second in any of his 24 career starts, posting 14 victories while earning $1.50 million. Eight of Nuncio's 10 lifetime second-place finishes have come behind Father Patrick, who leads all harness racing horses in purses this season with $1.38 million. Takter did not enter Father Patrick in the Yonkers Trot. "That's very difficult, especially racing in all the major stakes," Takter said, referring to Nuncio finishing first or second in all his starts. "He's got a fantastic resume. He's a really hard worker. "Father Patrick, he's (Wayne) Gretzky or Michael Jordan. There's no effort. Nuncio really has to work at it to be what he is. The other one, he's just got it. But Nuncio has got a hell of an attitude; a great attitude." New York Sire Stakes champion Gural Hanover, who won the other Yonkers Trot elimination, starts from post No. 1 with Jim Morrill Jr. driving for trainer Ron Burke. Saturday's card at Yonkers also includes the $500,000 Messenger Stakes for 3-year-old pacers and the $250,000 International Trot Preview Invitational, along with the $150,854 Lady Maud for 3-year-old female pacers and $124,590 Hudson Trot for 3-year-old female trotters. The Messenger is the third leg of the Pacing Triple Crown. Takter's Lyonssomewhere won the first jewel, the Cane Pace, and starts the Messenger from post No. 3. Limelight Beach, who won the second leg of the Crown, the Little Brown Jug, did not enter the Messenger. Lyonssomewhere went off stride while leading his elimination in the Little Brown Jug and failed to advance to the second heat. "He could have won the Jug if he didn't do whatever he did in the last turn," Takter said. "It was like the biggest shock of the year. If he won his elimination, he would have had a hell of a shot at it. It's the small details. You've got to click. That's why it's tough to win it." Luck Be Withyou, who won the Messenger elimination last week, starts from post five with Tim Tetrick at the lines for trainer Chris Oakes. The field also includes multiple-stakes-winners McWicked and All Bets Off. The last horse to win the Pacing Triple Crown was No Pan Intended in 2003. Sebastian K, history's fastest trotter with a mark of 1:49, headlines the International Trot Preview, which also features European star Commander Crowe and 2013 Horse of the Year Bee A Magician, who is the only female trotter in the eight-horse event. Commander Crowe is making his first start in North America since the 2012 Breeders Crown. He will stay in the U.S. to compete in this year's Breeders Crown in November at the Meadowlands. by Ken Weingartner, for Harness Racing Communications
The following letter was sent to the membership of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York by its president, Joe Faraldo. The Standardbred Owners Association of New York and Yonkers Raceway have spent a great deal of time, effort and resources in securing new markets to simulcast races from Yonkers. It started with a relationship with Australian harness racing, which has now grown to a market that wagers more than $30 million a year on races from Yonkers. The next new market is Europe. For the last year, no kidding, we have been working on getting races from Yonkers simulcast to the PMU, the French pari-mutuel wagering association that takes bets from much of Europe. Those efforts are coming to fruition with the start of Sunday simulcasting on November 9 and continuing every Sunday through the end of the Yonkers meet December 14. It’s always challenging to enter a new market and this European market is extra special. The PMU hosts the second largest wagering pools in the world. And Yonkers will be the first track, harness or thoroughbred, which will be simulcast there from the United States on a weekly basis. Here are some of the things Yonkers & the SOA of NY have teamed together on to educate bettors overseas and to help make this venture a success: Developed web site in French www.yonkers-france to promote Yonkers and have an easy way to give out racing information to bettors overseas. Created social media pages (facebook, twitter, pinterest) in French for fans to keep up with American racing. Started and funded in cooperation with Yonkers an ad campaign in the daily French racing form, The Paris Turf, and also on the French racing television channel in an effort to insure that we properly promote Yonkers’ signal. Engaged domestic ADWs to offer promotions for members to wager on Yonkers on Sundays. Some ADWs will provide multiple reward benefits for wagering on this special Sunday card. The Yonkers signal will also be distributed to Switzerland, Belgium, Spanish Basque community, Germany, Austria, Luxemburg, Holland, Estonia and Malta The French PMU marketing branch is offering $5,000 Euros (approx. $6,500) on the first two Sundays to the French bettors that wager on Yonkers. Engaged an expert as an overseas liaison to help us make decisions and coordinate our efforts to put our best foot forward. We believe this will open the door to more of this simulcasting at more reasonable times on a different day of the week – that would be more convenient to the horsmen . Obtained permission to have advanced wagering on Sunday card from the NYS Gaming Commission. As part of this effort the International Trot will return in 2015 to Yonkers Raceway and its Preview will be raced October 25th, 2015 on a blockbuster card including the Yonkers Trot, The Messenger Stakes, the Lady Maud and the Hudson Filly Trot. The real payoff to the global expansion is commingling because it presents the opportunity for much bigger wagering pools which would be very attractive to our players currently based here in the US. Basically, we have busted our butt to for a long time and with a lot of days, weeks and months of extraordinary cooperation with Yonkers and the NYS Gaming Commission. The Commission has been encouraging us to move forward to promote our sport and has been extremely sensitive to the sacrifices and unique needs of the French initiative. There is no doubt as to its untapped potential. We realize that this initial Pilot Program will mean sacrifices for everyone and so far everyone has gone out on a limb to make this work, however but this initial sacrifice will lead to the start of a global exposure for Yonkers and our industry. It will insure to a large extent, more than anything else, a future for our game. We are excited about the Pilot Program’s potential expansion which will not be as onerous on all of our resources as this startup is. We are pleased about the participation and cooperation from the NYS Gaming Commission and Yonkers and truly believe that Tim Rooney, Sr. aptly said of these six weeks of the Program, “we have but one chance to get this right, we can’t fail”. The SOA and Yonkers will see to it that those horsemen participating in these French simulcasts will be rewarded. We know the sacrifices the SOA and Yonkers have made; the numerous meetings, the planning, the expense and we sincerely hope that all horsemen join hands in the effort to insure the vitality of our business. Programs like this are essential for our future. A future which as we have seen can be altered overnight.