Day At The Track
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Rikybrnthegaragdwn and King Of The Crop put on four great battles in the California Sire Stakes series for the 3-year-old pacing males at this standat Cal Expo Harness, ending up with two trophies each once the dust had settled. The Luke Plano reined-and-trained Rikybrinthegaragdwn drew first blood on January 18, but had to be happy with a second and a third in the next two stakes clashes behind King Of The Crop and driver/trainer James Kennedy. Rikybrnthegaradgdwn evened the score last weekend, carving out all the fractions and then coming a :26 and change final quarter to hold safe by a head over his pocket-sitting arch-rival in a very game performance. They're both nice horses, but still green, Plano related after his colt scored in 1:55 2/5, a week after motoring by conditioned foes in a 1:55 tour. Even though Riky is a stud, hes as mild-tempered a horse as youre ever going to be around. Hes got a great personality and a toddler could jog him. By Living It Up out of the fine racemare and producer Sports Bra, Rikybrnthegaragdwn was broken last year in Florida by Lukes dad Rick and has really developed in the last few months. Hes getting better all the time, the younger Plano noted. I think hes going to turn out to be a good one. Of course, one cant interview Luke without asking about the name, which it turns out goes back many years and involves his dad, his uncle and his grandfather. The story goes that my dad burned down the garage when he was a kid, but my grandfather was never told who did it. Anytime my uncle Fran wanted something from my dad and he didnt get it, he would ask my grandfather, Who do you think burned down the garage? and my dad would have to give in. We now have an answer to that burning question. Haggin Oaks has top billing in Open Distaff Pace Haggin Oaks, who returned to her winning ways with a solid score at most recent asking, gets the top billing in Friday nights $5,000 Open Handicap Distaff Pace at Cal Expo. A 13-race card is on tap, with first set for 5:45 p.m. The main event will go as the second contest on the evening with Haggin Oaks leaving from the assignment outside post with trainer James Kennedy at the controls. An 8-year-old daughter of Hi Ho Silverheels from the Incredible Finale mare Ladyladybemybaby, Haggin Oaks races for the partnership of Shari Burns, Ferris Funk and Gerald Cimini. She comes into this assignment with $158.000 in the bank and a 1:52 3/5 mark that was established last year at Tioga Downs. After recording a smart win here on November 22, the dark-hued mare had to settle for a series of place and show finishes while chasing home the likes of Show Runner and Strings. Both of those mares have headed East, leaving Haggin Oaks as the big gun in the division. Sent off at 50 cents on the dollar in her last appearance two weeks ago in the Open, the Kennedy trainee lived up to the backing as she made the lead at the quarter, took complete control at that point and came home with a length and a half to spare in a 1:54 3/5 performance. Ladys Art hits hard with her top mile and has to be respected. James Wilkinson conditions the daughter of Art Major for owner/breeders Kenneth Seastron and James Kouretas and Chip Lackey will be in his usual spot in the sulky. Her last score came in a conditioned affair on January 17. Completing the field are Sea Bug, who leaves from the rail with Patrick Galbraith; Windsun T Bird, to be handled by Luke Plano; and Pismo Beach, who will have the services of Mooney Svendsen. by Matt Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness  

Laurel, DE --- “It was amazing.” That’s all 20-year-old driver Brandon Henley could say about winning five races on one card at Ocean Downs. “Races were just working out for me,” the Bridgeville, Del. resident said. The five-win night at Ocean Downs on Sept. 2 is so far the highlight of what has already been an exciting season for Henley, who has nearly tripled last year’s earnings already with $190,114 in money won as a driver in 2013. In his third year driving, Henley, with a 2013 UDR of .265, has won 59 races lifetime and amassed earnings of $268,720 in 525 starts. Not bad considering he spends his days as an electrician. “Eventually I’d like to have my own stable and just race horses,” he said. In the meantime, he spends the first part of his day doing electrical work and heads to the barn in the afternoons. With the help of his family, including grandfather Melvin Cannon, Henley maintains a stable of five horses that he races in Maryland and Delaware. They include Scootin Cammie and Lady Gamelton, the horse Henley won his first race with. While that Rosecroft Raceway win is one he’ll never forget, when asked what his most memorable win was Henley couldn’t decide. “I like all my wins!” he said. Henley said it was through helping his grandfather as a child that he became interested in harness racing. After learning to jog and train he was hooked. What is it about sitting in the bike that he likes? “How a horse grabs on,” he said. “How they feel when you move them off the rail. A lot of things go on when you’re on the track.” He earned his driver’s license primarily through qualifying Cannon’s horses. Although he knew he wanted to drive, Henley said he always told himself he wouldn’t go out and ask for drives. “I figured if people liked the way I drove I’d get catch drives,” he said. Sure enough, over time Henley has managed to pick up some catch drives. He stayed quite busy at Ocean Downs this summer and was excited to be listed in every race at the half-mile track on Labor Day. He says he’s thankful to all of the trainers who have given him drives, particularly Garey Jump, who puts him up on all of his horses. Maryland trainer James Wilkins is another trainer who has taken to using Henley. “He’s done a good job for me,” Wilkins said, adding that Henley had steered pacer Pilgrims Easel to three wins at Ocean Downs. Henley, who admittedly got his start driving cheap horses, does not dwell on how good or bad a horse is when he’s on the track. “I just try to get a horse in the best position I can,” he said. “I started off driving bad horses. I was always driving the ones that had problems and just had to learn to drive them through it and make the best out of the race.” He believes that has helped him pick up more mounts. “I just try to drive the best I can and give them the most honest drive I can,” he said. by Charlene Sharpe, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent Courtesy of the United States Trotting Association Web Newsroom

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