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From the moment Ella Johansson saw him, there was a connection. The colt's name was Captain Bean and Ella spotted him as soon as she and her parents, harness racing trainer Nancy and driver Marcus Johansson, arrived in Harrisburg to look at yearlings the day before the 2017 Standardbred Horse Sale. Ella, who accompanied her parents only because it seemed a better option to sitting at her brother's baseball tournament, implored her mother to buy him. Nancy also liked the colt, but knew acquiring him might be easier said than done. She put together a group of owners interested in buying the horse, set a budget, and on the opening day of the sale waited for Captain Bean to enter the auction ring. Ella, watching the live stream of the sale at home in New Jersey, waited too. Ella knew what the group was prepared to spend and when Captain Bean eventually sold for $85,000 she knew who had the winning bid. "We got him!" she exclaimed to Marcus in the kitchen. And a year later, her enthusiasm for the colt, now known as Captain Crunch, is undiminished. "He was the first horse that I saw," 13-year-old Ella said, recounting her initial moments with Captain Crunch. "We walked in and he was there. He was big, he was pretty; a very sweet horse. I petted him. "He's sweet and he's nice. He's just fun to be around." Said Nancy, "He's big, but he's gentle with her. He lets her pet him and he plays with you. He's as nice as a 2-year-old colt can be. If you spend a couple minutes with him you can't help but to like him. He's got unbelievable charisma." Captain Crunch, who was renamed by Ella and Nancy's mom Christina Takter, has won five of eight races this year. His most recent start came Oct. 27 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, where he won the $600,000 Breeders Crown championship for 2-year-old male pacers on a cold, rainy night. Ella greeted him in the winner's circle with a kiss. "He stood like a perfect gentleman, like he always does," Nancy said. Captain Crunch's next start is Saturday at the Meadowlands in the sole $20,000 elimination for the Governor's Cup, which is one of the Fall Final Four stakes for 2-year-olds at the Big M. The top-seven finishers will join bye recipients Blood Money, Semi Tough, and Sugar Factory in the $469,300 final on Nov. 24. The elimination winner will draw from posts one through six for the final. Scott Zeron will drive Captain Crunch, who starts from post eight in the field of 10. Prior to each race, Ella offers words of encouragement to Captain Crunch via FaceTime. "I just tell him good luck," Ella said. "Win." "When they FaceTime he's paying attention to what she's saying, like he's listening," Marcus added. "It's kind of funny." Captain Crunch is a son of Captaintreacherous out of Sweet Paprika, from the family of Dan Patch Award-winner Sweet Lou and $2.78-million-earner Bettor Sweet. In addition to the Breeders Crown, his wins include divisions of the Nassagaweya and International Stallion Stakes (in a career-best 1:49.1). His only off-the-board finish was in his Metro Pace elimination in September, when he came up sick. The colt is owned by 3 Brothers Stables, Christina Takter, Rojan Stables, and Caviart Farms. "He's a good-looking horse," Marcus said. "He's got a great personality. He's happy all the time. He's always in a good mood. I like horses like that. If you walk into work and see someone who is miserable, you become miserable even if you were happy. He's the first horse on the end (of the stable). I park my car there so I can go and see him. It starts out the day good." And while one might expect Ella to be a horse-crazy kid given her environment, it is not the case. "As much of a horse girl that I am, she's not," Nancy said, laughing. "She doesn't care about the horses much at all." Captain Crunch is the exception, which has made his season all the more special. "We live a crazy life, on the road a lot," Nancy said. "It's almost like joining the circus. So it's nice when (our kids) see we're working hard and it's paying off and they feel involved in that." For the record, Ella's brother, Marcus Jr., has a favorite horse as well. His is also a 2-year-old colt pacer, Caviart Rockland. "They each have a horse that they follow," Marcus said. "It's 'their' horse. It makes it fun for all of us." The stakes in addition to the Governor's Cup that make up the Fall Final Four are the Three Diamonds for 2-year-old female pacers, Valley Victory for 2-year-old male trotters, and Goldsmith Maid for 2-year-old female trotters. Eliminations were unnecessary for the Goldsmith Maid and Three Diamonds. There will be two eliminations Saturday for the Valley Victory. For Saturday's complete Meadowlands entries, click here. Racing begins at 7:15 p.m. (EST). by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

Ella Christina (Marcus Johansson) sneaks through on the inside to capture the Filly and Mares harness racing feature ($5,000) on Thursday night at Vernon Downs (July 6). Tiger Boudoir (Truman Gale) would jump out to the lead right out of the gate. The 7 year-old would put up the early fractions of :27.2, :56.1, 1:24.1. Love You Bye (Jimmy Wittemore) would hold the pocket trip going for most of the circuit coming out of the pocket to lead at the top of the stretch. That is when Ella Christina (Western Ideal), who is owned and trained by Nancy Johansson, would make her move sneaking by on the pylons while slipping by to win in a lifetime best of 1:52.2. Love you by would take second with Tiger Boudoir holding on for third. Barn Sis (Cole Wimmer) would be a winner in her second career start. The 2 year-old by Credit Winner - Baby I'm Bad, would use a late move to nip first time starter Stella Agnes (Deweycheatumnhowe-Stella Hall) in 2:02. Barn Sis ($7.10) is owned by Morrisville Col Fdn Inc. and trained by Keith Cluff. Stella Agnes would finish second and Poe Epic (Joe Nassimos) would get second. Four division of the New York SIre Stakes for 2 year-old pacing fillies will be on center stage when Vernon Downs returns for live racing on Friday (July 7). The 10 race card will begin at 6:45 p.m. For more information go to John Horne for Vernon Downs

FREEHOLD, NJ -- September 16, 2016 -- The third race today at Freehold was the $42,000 Charles Smith Final for the harness racing three year old colt trotters. Dominion Beach driven by Marcus Johansson took the lead from Inukchuck Chuck before the quarter. Dan Dube and Steed put the pressure on just past the half, Dominion Beach was able to hold him off for the win in 1:57.3. Southwind Flash driven by Joe Bongiorno finished second while Steed was able to hold on to third place. This makes win number 4 for on the season for the three year old son of Muscle Hill, Dominion Beach trained by Nancy Johansson. The favorite Southwind Flash finished second, while Steed took third place, both Muscle Hill sired colts. Courtney Stafford

Nichols, N.Y. -- After his late push to the fore in last week's Open, Hititoutofthepark ($3.10) earned his third straight harness racing win in his $38,440 Arthur Tompkins Memorial Stakes division on Friday (July 1) evening at Tioga Downs.   Mike Simons situated the 3-year-old Yankee Glide ridgling behind the live cover of Tight Lines (Jeff Gregory) on the backstretch, towed closer to pacesetter Steed (Matt Kakaley) through middle fractions of :57.1 and 1:26.2 before making his three-wide push in the final 300 yards. Hititoutofthepark accelerated off the far turn, working clear in mid-stretch and accelerating to hold sway of the late-rallying Blownoutofthewater (Jim Morrill, Jr.) in 1:55.2. Steed, while collared after repelling his first-over rival, checked in third after his game front-trotting effort.   John Butenschoen trains 9-time winner Hititoutofthepark for the Give It a Shot Stable, Kurt Welling, and the VIP Internet Stable.   Dominion Beach ($80.00) upset in his $38,940 Tompkins division, surging up late to collar the first-over odds-on favorite Cufflink Hanover in 1:54.2. Marcus Johansson drove the son of Muscle Hill for Courant AB and trainer Nancy Johansson.   In the two $27,690 Tompkins splits for fillies, Goosebump Hanover ($5.60, Morrill, 1:55.2) lunged to the fore off second-over spotting, and Celebrity Eventsy ($2.30, John Campbell, 1:54.4) edged clear of her foes handily after brushing to the fore with a circuit to go.   The Geers Stakes for 3-year-old pacers headline Monday (July 4) afternoon's program at Tioga, with $119,750 in aggregate purses on the line. Art Rooney winner Missile J (Tim Tetrick) headlines the $66,375 split for colts and geldings, carded as the fifth of nine races on the Independence Day program. Racing returns most immediately to Tioga on Saturday (July 2) evening, with the first of nine races due off at 6:30 p.m. Eastern.   by James Witherite, Tioga Downs

Saturday April 30th Freehold Raceway set the stage for harness racing three-year-old colt trotters in eliminations of the Dexter Cup. The first elimination was taken by Cufflink Hanover, the son of Andover Hall. He settled in for a two-hole trip behind the favorite Steed. Cufflink Hanover took the lead in the stretch to win in a brisk 1:57.3 for driver David Miller. The three-year old colt trotter is trained by Nifty Norman and has secured a spot in the Dexter final. Dominion Beach was favored to win the second elimination and did just that. Marcus Johansson and Dominion Beach held off a late surge by Sir Royson in the stretch to win in 1:58.0. Trained by Nancy Johansson the Muscle Beach colt looks to repeat in the final. Dante driven and trained by Ake Svanstedt took the lead from the word go and never looked back in the third and final elimination. The son of Credit Winner defeated the favorite Inukchuk Chuck in 1:58.3. The $140,800 final will be held on Derby Day, Saturday May 7th, at Freehold Raceway. The three winners will be accompanied by the three-second place finishers: Steed, Sir Royson and Inukchuk Chuck, and two of the third place finishers. Credevie, Cloud Nine Hanover and Hillman will draw for the two remaining spots in the final, by lot. Courtney Stafford

CAMPBELLVILLE, September 5 - Hot off the heels of a successful Canadian Pacing Derby night, Mohawk Racetrack will play host to another stakes filled card tomorrow night. Grand Circuit week will wrap up with the Simcoe Stakes for three-year-old pacers and the Champlain Stakes for the two-year-old pacers of both sexes. Lyons Levi Lewis (PP4), the runner-up in last Saturday's $667,000 Metro Pace, headlines the first $123,120 Champlain Stakes division for two-year-old pacers. Trained by Ron Burke, Lyons Levi Lewis finished 3 ½ lengths behind Artspeak in the Metro, but paced his final quarter in a solid :26.3. A son of Well Said - Tongue In Cheek, Lyons Levi Lewis has one win in seven starts, but has finished second on four of those occasions. Owned by Geoffrey Lyons Mound, Lyons Levi Lewis will team up with driver Sylvain Filion for the first time tomorrow night and is listed as the 5/2 morning line favourite. Also in the field of eight is Freedomformysoul (PP2) for trainer Nancy Johansson and driver Marcus Johansson. A son of If I Can Dream - Hello Grin, Freedomformysoul has shown a lot of promise with two victories in the New York Sires Stakes, but has not been able to find consistency in his performances. "He is wicked fast that one, but he is kind of green," said Marcus Johansson, "You don't know what side he wakes up on, but if he wake up on the right side he can go as fast as any horse I've ever sat behind." Freedomformysoul sold for $12,000 at last fall's Lexington Selected Yearling Sale and has earned more than $35,000 in six career starts. In the second $123,120 division, another Ron Burke trainee is the 5/2 morning line choice. Lyons Again (PP1) races for the same connections as Lyons Levi Lewis and just like his stablemate took home a big chunk of the Metro Pace purse when he finished third in last Saturday's final. A son of Dragon Again - A Filly To Fear, Lyons Again has yet to win in six career starts, but has finished second three times, along with two third place finishes. A consistent performer, Lyons Again has the highest earnings ($130,821) in the field of nine despite having never won a race. Starting beside Lyons Again is Nassagaweya Stakes division winner Traceur Hanover (PP2). Trained by Normand Bardier Jr, Traceur Hanover finished fourth in the Metro Pace final and has won three times in six career starts. Randy Waples will drive the son of Western Ideal. Two divisions of the Simcoe Stakes will also take place for the three-year-old pacers. The first $106,038 division will feature a small, but talented group of six lining up behind the gate. Western Vintage (PP1) has been installed as the 7/5 morning line favourite for trainer Nancy Johansson and driver Marcus Johansson. After a successful two-year-old campaign, Western Vintage's three-year-old season hasn't gone exactly as planned with only one win in seven starts, but he is coming off a good second place effort in last week's three-year-old open. Marcus Johansson noted the son of Western Ideal had a bit of a health issue earlier in the season that was holding him back. "We had a little trouble with his blood in the beginning of the year," said Johansson. "But he seems like he is getting better now and hopefully he can put a good effort in." Western Vintage was just a $7,000 yearling purchase and has earned more than $412,000 in his career. Also in the field of six is the Tony Alagna trainee, Dancin Hill (PP4). Dancin Hill won two starts back in a conditioned event at Mohawk and last week finished third in the three-year-old open. The son of Rocknroll Hanover has picked up a cheque in all eleven starts this season and will once again team up with driver Scott Zeron. Starting from post six in the opening division is On Golden Ponder for trainer Bob McIntosh and driver Randy Waples. On Golden Ponder most recently won the $175,000 Kentucky Sires Stakes final last Sunday night at The Red Mile. Rounding out the field is Winds Of Change (PP2), Carracci Hanover (PP3) and Major Deagan (PP5). Seven three-year-old pacers will contest the second division for a purse of $107,538. Ontario Sires Stakes star Jet Airway (PP2) is the 7/5 morning line favourite. Before finishing fourth in last week's three-year-old open, Jet Airway had won three starts in a row, including a seven length blowout victory in an Ontario Sires Stakes Gold leg on August 4 at Grand River. Trained by Tony Alagna, regular pilot Randy Waples will be at the controls. Looking to build off his victory in last week's three-year-old open is Melmerby Beach (PP5). Last week's victory earned a new career mark for Melmerby Beach of 1:50. Melmerby Beach races for the same duo that raced his sire, Somebeachsomewhere, trainer Brent MacGrath and driver Paul Macdonell. The other five starters in the second division are Three Of Clubs (PP1), Victor Bayama (PP3), Somewhere Fancy (PP4), Play It Again Sam (PP6) and Surprise Hanover (PP7). 14 freshman pacing fillies have been split into two Champlain Stakes divisions. Despite having three starters from last week's $480,000 Shes A Great Lady Stakes final, the first $117,557 division could be the breakout party for a filly making her Grand Circuit debut. Shes A Hot Mess (PP3) broke her maiden last Friday at Mohawk in a dazzling 1:52.1. Trained by Tony Alagna, Shes A Hot Mess struggled in her first two starts, but after a few weeks off those issues appear to be put to rest as she won by seven lengths last week. Scott Zeron will sit behind the daughter of American Ideal - Sure Fun Tryin, who is the second choice on the morning line at 3-1. Shakai Hanover (PP7) is the morning line favourite at 2-1 and is coming into the Champlain off a third place finish in the Shes A Great Lady. Trained by Carl Jamieson and driven by Jody Jamieson, Shakai Hanover won a division of the Eternal Camnation Stakes at Mohawk on August 16. The daughter of Well Said - Shes A Fan has two victories in six career starts and earnings of over $139,000. The second $117,557 division appears to be a wide open affair. Sports Chic, the 5/2 morning line choice, has been having a ton of success racing on the Ontario Sires Stakes circuit. A daughter of Sportswriter - Vesta Blue Chip, Sports Chic is trained by Blake Macintosh and has won four times in six starts, while never finishing worse than second. Jody Jamieson will sit behind Sports Chic who has earned more than $139,000 in her young career. Looking to build off her victory in the Shes A Great Lady consolation is The Show Returns (PP6). A daughter of Rocknroll Hanover - Stienams Place, The Show Returns broke her maiden in a leg of the Whenuwishuponastar Series on July 24, but was never better than fourth in her next three starts. Last Saturday night, The Show Returns got back on track with a career best victory of 1:52. This week, the filly moves into the Tony O'Sullivan barn and will be driven by Scott Zeron. Originally scheduled for tomorrow night, eliminations were not needed for the Canadian Trotting Classic as the field of seven trotters will head straight to the rich final on Saturday, September 13. Post time for tomorrow night's stakes filled card is 7:25 p.m. by Mark McKelvie, for WEG  

There were longshots galore in the New York Sire Stakes on Wednesday night at Saratoga Casino and Raceway. Two year old filly trotters were in town and comprised five divisions of the $32,700 Sire Stakes for freshman highsteppers. There was only one favorite who prevailed among stakes fillies on Wednesday as Pig Hunt (Conway Hall) scored a convincing win for driver George Brennan in 2:01.1 at odds of 1-5. The fastest winner of the night for the freshman fillies was Miss B’ville J (Rc Royalty) who wired the field for Jim Morrill Jr in 1:59.2. It was the second victory on the season and easily a new lifetime mark for the Tracy Brainard-trained filly. Miss B’ville J went off at odds of 5-1. Three longshots won the remaining three stakes races as Concentration (Conway Hall) upset for driver Chris Lems at 16-1, Counsellor As (Conway Hall) prevailed for reinsman Marcus Johansson at 17-1 and Dancewithme Chuck (Lucky Chucky) scored at odds of 19-1 with Charlie Norris in the sulky. The New York Sire Stakes return to Saratoga on Saturday August 16th, the same night that the Joe Gerrity Jr. Memorial Free-For-All Pace will take place. Live racing continues on Thursday night at Saratoga with a first post time set for 7:05pm.   Mike Sardella

Everything appears to be right on with All Bets Off as he heads into Saturday's $300,000 Art Rooney Pace for 3-year-olds at Yonkers Raceway. All Bets Off, trained by Ron Burke and driven by Matt Kakaley, won his Rooney elimination last weekend by 2-1/2 lengths over Some Playa in 1:52.3. In his eight starts since joining the Burke Stable last September, All Bets Off has won five times and finished second on three occasions. He finished last season by winning the Matron Stakes at Dover Downs, beating Stevensville by a half-length in a track-record 1:50. Stevensville also is in the Rooney, having won his elimination by 3-3/4 lengths over Gold Rocks in 1:53. All Bets Off will start the Rooney final from post four; Stevensville, with driver Tim Tetrick at the lines for trainer Ray Schnittker, from post six. All Bets Off is the 7-5 morning line favorite. "He was very good," Burke said about All Bets Off's elimination win. "He's been super since we got him. We're trying to figure out how good he is and where he fits. This is a chance for us to see if he belongs in the group with the top 10 colts in the division. "But he's been pretty special since we got him." Burke owns All Bets Off with Frank Baldachino, The Panhellenic Stable Corp. and Rosemary Shelswell. A resident of Ontario, Shelswell was part of the previous ownership group that purchased All Bets Off for $7,000 at the 2012 Standardbred Horse Sale. All Bets Off is a son of stallion Bettor's Delight out of the mare Armbro Penelope, who enjoyed success on the Ontario circuit in the mid-1990s. For his career, All Bets Off has won six of 15 races, finished second five times, and earned $216,917. All Bets Off is not eligible to the North America Cup or Meadowlands Pace, but has the Max C. Hempt Memorial, Messenger Pace, Progress Pace and New York Sire Stakes on his schedule. This season, he had a win and a second against older horses before his victory in his Rooney elim. "He's done everything we've asked of him," Burke said. "He's got a good spot (for the Rooney final). He can do it both ways, so he should be good there." If luck counts for anything, trainer Tony Alagna should feel good heading into the Rooney final. He saw his Bondi Hanover and Gold Rocks draw posts two and three, respectively, and then found out his Maxi Bon, who was also-eligible, got the coveted post No. 1 when Thereisapaceforus scratched. Gold Rocks and Bondi Hanover finished second and third behind Stevensville in their Rooney elim. Maxi Bon went off stride and finished fifth in his elim, which was won by All Bets Off. "Both (Gold Rocks and Bondi Hanover) raced very well," Algana said. "Gold Rocks won the Babic at Freehold last year, so we knew he was a good half-mile horse. That was only Bondi Hanover's fourth lifetime start and he raced excellent. For a maiden to go against those horses and be third, we're very happy with him. "Maxi Bon is a fast horse that had some trouble in the last turn when he was out and going. We made some adjustments and he trained well (Wednesday)." Alagna said All Bets Off and Stevensville are the horses to beat. "Other than that, I think our horses are as competitive as anyone else's," Alagna said. "Gold Rocks, the half-mile track and five-eighths are going to be his thing. He's handy and you've got to use that to your advantage. I don't think the big track picks him up nearly as much. He's Meadowlands Pace eligible just in case he rises up, but we're going to concentrate on the smaller tracks." Following is the field in post order for the Art Rooney Pace with listed drivers and trainers: 1. Maxi Bon, Daniel Dube, Tony Alagna; 2. Bondi Hanover, Jason Bartlett, Tony Alagna; 3. Gold Rocks, Eric Goodell, Tony Alagna; 4. All Bets Off, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 5. Some Playa, George Brennan, Jennifer Sabot; 6. Stevensville, Tim Tetrick, Ray Schnittker; 7. Unlocked, Brent Holland, Erv Miller; 8. Ideal Fashion, Jordan Stratton, Jim Campbell. SOUTHWIND SILENCE HOPES TO MAKE NOISE IN LISMORE Ron Burke is happy with Southwind Silence as she prepares for Saturday's $124,744 Lismore Pace for 3-year-old filly pacers at Yonkers. Southwind Silence finished fourth in a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes in her seasonal debut at The Meadows on May 3, but bounced back last weekend to win her Lismore Pace elimination by 1-1/2 lengths over Bettor Business in 1:54. Last year, Southwind Silence won the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship for 2-year-old filly pacers and also won a division of the Kentuckiana Stallion Management Stakes. For her career, the daughter of Well Said-Southwind Solara has won four of 15 races, hit the board 13 times, and earned $391,211 for owners Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Larry Karr and Joseph DiScala Jr. "She was a very good filly last year," Burke said. "I wasn't completely happy with her first start this year. It was alright, but she had to come first up and that doesn't usually work at The Meadows if you can't clear. (In her elimination) she seemed more like her normal self. "She seemed to handle the track well, and at Yonkers that's a big thing." Tyra, who was third in last year's Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship, also won a Lismore elimination. She beat Rusty's Bliss by 1-1/2 lengths in 1:54.4 and is the 8-5 morning line choice in the final. Following is the field in post order for the Lismore Pace with listed drivers and trainers: 1. Also Encouraging, Matt Kakaley, Casie Coleman; 2. It Was Fascination, Brent Holland, Tony Alagna; 3. Bettor Business, Daniel Dube, Scott DiDomenico; 4. Tyra, Tim Tetrick, Joann Looney-King; 5. Southwind Silence, George Brennan, Ron Burke; 6. Rusty's Bliss, Jason Bartlett, Douglas Lewis; 7. Gentlemens Delight, Marcus Johansson, Nancy Johansson; 8. Palm Beach, Eric Carlson, Douglas Lewis. by Ken Weingartner, for Harness Racing Communications

MANALAPAN, NJ – October 10, 2013 – Chocolate Day and Muscle On In turned in winning performances in New Jersey Futurities for two-year-old trotters on Thursday, October 10, 2013 at Freehold Raceway. In the third race, Chocolate Day battled Choco Sun, prevailing for a length and a half victory in the $14,500 division.  It was three and a half lengths to Hot Type in third.  All three are sons of Chocolatier. Chocolate Day [$3.40], driven by Marcus Johansson and trained by Julie Miller, trotted the mile in 2:02.2, picking up his fourth win with six seconds and one third in 14 starts. The trotter has earned $42,601 for the Andy Miller Stable of Millstone, NJ and Arden Homestead Stable of Delhi, NY. Harold Dancer winner Muscle On It added the New Jersey Futurity to his credits with a wire-to-wire half-length victory in the first split, a non-wagering race with a purse of $14,000.  The mile was timed in 2:00.2 Daniel Dube drove the son of Muscle Hill for trainer Chris Ryder.  Skates N Plates was second and Angels Ransom was three-quarters of a length back in third.  Both are sons of Revenue. Muscle On In has earned $59,665 for co-owner Ryder and his partners Robert Mondillo of Delaware, OH and Max Wernick of New City, NY. The New Jersey Futurity is restricted to New Jersey-sired trotters and is sponsored by the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey. Dube and Ryder also combined to win a $7,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes – Green Acres for three-year-old trotting fillies with Vida De Vie in the first of two non-wagering events, in 2:00.4  Vida De Vie, owned and bred by Joie De Vie Farm LLC of Jobstown, NJ, completed a sweep of the three preliminary legs of the Green Acres.  Connie Keeper was second and Ninety Five Janet was third, 23 ½ lengths back.  All three are daughters of Muscles Yankee. by Carol Hodes for SBOA/NJ  

Nancy Johansson is hoping she and the "Gator" can do something she never accomplished while working for her father, trainer Jimmy Takter. Win a Breeders Crown. Johansson took care of a number of top horses while working for her dad, including 2010 Hambletonian winner Muscle Massive and world champion Tom Ridge, but never one that won a Crown. It seems difficult to believe because Takter has the leading stable in Breeders Crown history, with $6.42 million in purses and 15 trophies. Now a trainer on her own, the 32-year-old Johansson sends Western Vintage into Saturday's eliminations for the $600,000 Breeders Crown for 2-year-old male pacers at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Western Vintage, aka Gator, competes in the second of three $25,000 elims and is the 2-1 morning line favorite in his division. The top three finishers from each division advance to the final on Oct. 19 at Pocono Downs. "It's exciting to have my first Breeders Crown as a trainer," said Johansson, who works with her husband, driver Marcus Johansson, and is based in central New Jersey. "Hopefully I can follow in my dad's footsteps a little bit there. If I can do as well as he's done, that would be great. It's exciting. Like they say, it all comes down to the Breeders Crown, so we're happy to be a part of it. "It's one of the few races I haven't won as a groom, so hopefully I can get it done as a trainer. We'll see." Western Vintage has won five of seven races this year, including the $150,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes championship and a $76,750 division of the Bluegrass Stakes, and finished second in the $648,850 Metro Pace. He has won $316,838 for the Johanssons, owner Perry Soderberg and driver Yannick Gingras. "We trained him down and I remember Marcus always telling me 'We have the best colt in the country' and I would always tell him he was crazy because we only have two pacers and (what were the chances) one of them would be the best one," a laughing Johansson said. "But he is one of the best ones now. Marcus knows what he's talking about, I guess." Western Vintage is a son of stallion Western Ideal out of the mare Major Harmony. He was purchased for $7,000 under the name Unity at the 2012 Lexington Selected Sale. His family includes Silk Stockings (the first filly to be named Pacer of the Year) and 1952 Little Brown Jug winner Meadow Rice. Fourth dam Napa Valley produced Art's Vintage, the mom of former Takter star Vintage Master. "He's just been awesome and he's matured," Johansson said about Western Vintage. "He loves his work and he loves to race more than anything. I'm just thrilled with him. He's never tired, ever. I've tried to wear him out many times and I've never managed to wear him out. I think that's a really good quality to have in a racehorse. He's a sound horse and very smart. He takes good care of himself." And he is almost always a pleasure to be around. "He's a little bit of a biter," Johansson said, laughing. "That's why he gets his nickname Gator. He's never really bitten anybody, though, but he threatens to bite. I think he's just playful; he wants somebody to play with him. He's like any 2-year-old boy." Western Vintage's Breeders Crown elimination includes Ontario Sire Stakes championship runner-up Crafty Master and Takter-trained Bakersfield. The first division is led by International Stallion Stakes winners Somestarsomewhere (5-2 morning line choice) and So Surreal (3-1) while the third elim features Battle of Waterloo champ Three Of Clubs (3-1) and Bluegrass division winner Smack Talk (7-2). "I think the 2-year-old pacing colts are kind of even," said Johansson, who has 14 horses in training. "It's not going to be easy; it never is. That's for sure. "Western Vintage is heading into his elimination very strong," she added. "He's healthy and he raced well in Lexington (in the Bluegrass) so I'm thinking he's going to have a really good shot." by Ken Weingartner for HRC      

MANALAPAN, NJ – October 9, 2013 – Chocolate Day and Choco Sun, both by Chocolatier, are the top contenders in a $14,500 division of the New Jersey Futurity for two-year-old trotters on Thursday, October 10, 2013 at Freehold Raceway. The two will face four others in the third race while Harold Dancer winner Muscle On In takes on four others in a $14,000 division that will be contested prior to the betting card. The New Jersey Futurity is restricted to New Jersey-sired trotters and is sponsored by the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey. Chocolate Day, driven by Marcus Johansson and trained by Julie Miller, has been installed as the 2-1 morning line favorite while Choco Sun, with Jim Meittinis driving for trainer Orjan Torstensson, is the 3-1 second choice.  Both uncharacteristically broke stride in the $66,500 Harold Dancer Final on September 27 at Freehold. Prior to the Dancer, Chocolate Day defeated Choco Sun by a nose in the $25,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes – Green Acres Final.  Chocolate Day has three wins, six seconds and one third in 13 starts and earnings of $43,555 for the Andy Miller Stable of Millstone, NJ and Arden Homestead Stable of Delhi, NY. Choco Sun, owned by Norwegian Eirik Djure, has two wins and two seconds from six starts for a bankroll of $24,885. The field from the rail out, with sire, driver, trainer and morning line odds:  Celebrity Spitfire, Muscles Yankee, Tom Jackson, Susanne Strandqvist, 6-1; Hot Type, Chocolatier, DR Ackerman, DR Ackerman, 5-1; Chocolate Day, Chocolatier, Marcus Johansson, Julie Miller, 2-1; Choco Sun, Chocolatier, Jim Meittinis, Orjan Torstensson, 3-1; Body Talk, Muscles Yankee, Rick Zeron, Rick Zeron, 4-1 and Clavicle Hanover, Muscles Yankee, Vincent Ginsburg, Ned Urbanski, 8-1. Harold Dancer winner Muscle On It, who has three victories in nine tries, drew the rail in the non-wagering division.  Daniel Dube will drive the son of Muscle Hill for trainer Chris Ryder.  Muscle On In has earned $52,665 for co-owner Ryder and his partners Robert Mondillo of Delaware, OH and Max Wernick of New City, NY. The competition includes Yoga, a daughter of Muscles Yankee, who has four wins in five starts, including three divisions of the Kindergarten Series and a division of the Historic Stakes.  Jimmy Takter trains and drives Yoga who races in the name of Christina Takter of East Windsor, NJ and brothers John and Jim Fielding of Toronto, Ontario. The field, from the rail out, with sire, driver, trainer:  Muscle On In, Muscle Hill, Daniel Dube, Chris Ryder; Skates N Plates, Revenue, Jim Marshall III, Paul Reid; Angels Ransom, Revenue, Roland Mallar, Roland Mallar; Yoga, Muscles Yankee, Jimmy Takter, Jimmy Takter and Valbrunella, Muscles Yankee, Rick Zeron, Rick Zeron. There are three fillies in the Futurity --  Body Talk, Yoga and Valbrunella. by Carol Hodes for SBOA/NJ  

BATAVIA, N.Y. --- It didn't look like the weather was going to cooperate with any attempts the 3-year-old filly trotters were going to have in breaking the track record in the New York Sire Stakes at Batavia Downs Saturday night (Sept. 21). But someone forgot to tell Bouncing Bax. Despite rainy conditions during the day, the Batavia Downs strip was listed as 'good' but it was Bouncing Bax (Credit Winner-Bax Machine) who was 'fast' as she tied the track record of 1:57.2 set by Cowgirl Hall in 2012 winning her $42,679 division of the Sires Stakes. It was her fourth consecutive victory and also set a lifetime mark. Royal Malinda raced to a huge early lead and hung on to win her $41,879 leg in 1:58.3 while Palm Beach Chic rallied in the stretch to capture her $41,879 division in 1:59.2. But it was Bouncing Bax ($2.90) who stole the spotlight. She contently trotted along in third place until midway down the backstretch the final time. That's when driver Jim Morrill Jr. pulled out and went first over and easily trotted away from the field, beating the pace-setting Alphadoodle (Rick Zeron) by two lengths. Local favorite Barn Babe (John Cummings Jr.) finished in third. With the victory, Bouncing Bax has now earned $198,732 for the Harbor Racing Stable this season and $255,964 lifetime. Jim Raymer trained the winner. In the opener, Royal Malinda raced to a seven-length lead to the half and was throttled down by driver-trainer Dan Daley in the lane to notch a 2-1/4 length victory over Isabella Gal (Aaron Byron). Dubai Angel took the show spot for driver Roman Lopez. Heavily-favored Lola De Vie, who trailed by 10 lengths at the half, broke stride there and finished a distant fourth. It was the fourth win in 16 appearances for Royal Malinda (RC Royalty-Linda MacDream) and pushed her seasonal earnings to $114,916 for owners Ann-Mari Daley, Richard Lombardo and the Purple Haze Stables. The final division saw Kinda Crazy Linda (Jim Marohn Jr.) play 'catch me if you can' with the field of six and Palm Beach Chic (Marcus Johansson) did just that. Kinda Crazy Linda set fractions of 29.0, 59.3, 1:29.1 but a 29.2 last quarter by Palm Beach Chic ($9.20) was more than enough to catch the front runner and score the two-length victory. Cassa's Image (Fern Paquet Jr.) took the show position. With her fourth win on the campaign, Palm Beach Chic has now earned $112,982 on the year and $155,934 for owners Jeff Gregory and William Richardson. In the $12,800 Excelsior Series for the 3-year-old trotting fillies, See You At Office ($2.80) had the fastest time with a 2:01 with Morrill Jr. in the bike. Cash Now ($6.90) took a leg for John Cummings Jr. in 2:01.2 while Morosita Bi ($5.30) posted a 2:02.1 victory for reinsman Brian Cross. Sportsman ($6.70) went gate-to-wire in 1:55.3 for Cummings Jr. and captured the $8,500 Open Pace beating Western Alumni (Morrill Jr.) by 3-1/2 lengths. The racing continues at Batavia Downs on Tuesday night with a 12-race program slated to begin at 6:30 p.m. The entire card will be televised on Time-Warner Cable, Channel 98 in the Rochester and surrounding area. For more information on North America's oldest lighted harness track including upcoming schedule, promotions, race replays, news and statistics, click here. by Brian J. Mazurek, for Batavia Downs  

BATAVIA, N.Y. --- There are three legs of the New York Sire Stakes for 3-year-old filly trotters on Saturday night (9/21) at Batavia Downs and on paper all divisions seem to have a different flavor to them which should make for some intriguing racing. Besides battling for $42,000 in each leg, they'll all be chasing the Batavia Downs' track record for 3-year-old filly trotters of 1:57.2 set by Cowgirl Hall in 2012. On Wednesday night, the Bstavia Downs surface was lightning fast as the track record for 2-year-old pacing fillies was broken and the all-aged time for mare pacers was tied. With good weather, it could be in serious jeopardy. The opening division appears to have a solid favorite in Lola De Vie, the second division looks to be a much anticipated match up between local favorite Barn Babe and the red-hot Bouncing Bax while the final leg has a six-horse field with all but one having at least two victories and any of which are capable of pulling off a win. With that said, races aren't run on paper. The first race on the 13-race program is the opening division of the Sire Stakes and Lola De Vie will open as the 2-1 morning line favorite from the three spot with Jim Morrill Jr. in the sulky. She has earned $327,224 this season with seven victories in 12 starts. Lola De Vie (Credit Winner-Fan Favourite) had a break in her last appearance on September 5th at Yonkers Raceway in Sire Stakes action and looks to rebound from her disappointing fourth place finish. She'll be battling five other fillies who have a combined bankroll of $244,846 in 2013 and just eight victories in 52 starts. The main threat could come from Bostonz Credit (Credit Winner-Pleasecometoboston) who is fresh off a 1:59.2 win at Yonkers on September 5th. She used a late drive to score a neck decision over Wygant Lady. Brett Miller will steer Bostonz Credit, a winner of $77,009 this season. Local favorite Barn Babe, owned by Steven and Nancy Pratt of nearby Corfu, N.Y., looks to improve on her already impressive credentials in the second division which will go off as the fourth race. She's won $173,662 in 2013 and $320,236 lifetime and just posted a three-length win in 1:59.4 at Yonkers in Sire Stakes competition on September 5th. John Cummings will be in the sulky and score Barn Babe (Cash Hall-My Baby's Momma) out of the six hole as the 3-1 second choice. The favorite, however, is the ever-improving Bouncing Bax (Credit Winner-Bax Machine) who arrives on a three-race win streak including a 4-3/4 length victory in 1:57.3 at Yonkers on September 5th. She has a half-length win over Barn Babe under her belt at Saratoga Raceway on August 29th in 1:58.1. Morrill Jr. will drive the 2-1 favorite who has $234,624 in the bank, $177,392 coming this season. The final division is the seventh race and a case could be made for just about all of the entrants. The two inside fillies in the six-horse field are the favorites. Palm Beach Chic (Conway Hall-Back On Track) gets the rail for driver Marcus Johansson and is the 5-2 choice. It's a rare starting position for Palm Beach Chic as her last sniff of an inside post was the two-hole back on June 23rd. Since then she's been relegated to the outside and a start from the pylons could be a huge factor. She has won three times this year in 11 tries and has made $91,942. Proclaiming April starts next door to Palm Beach Chic and has the services of Morrill Jr. She finished in a hard-fought third place finish, just a neck behind Bostonz Credit, at Yonkers Raceway on September 5th. Proclaiming April has two victories and has been in the money four other times, good for $160,114. The 13-race card, which will also have three $12,800 divisions of the Excelsior Series for 3-year-old filly trotters along with the $8,500 Open Pace, will begin at 6:30 p.m. For more information, including upcoming promotions, race replays, news and statistics, go to by Brian J. Mazurek, for Batavia Downs  

MANALAPAN, NJ - September 19, 2013 - Muscle On In has been installed as the slight 3-1 morning line favorite in the $25,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes - Green Acres Final for two-year-old trotting colts and geldings, the seventh race on Friday, September 20, 2013 at Freehold Raceway.. The son of Muscle Hill, driven by Daniel Dube for trainer Chris Ryder, drew post seven. The colt has two wins in seven starts, including an Arden division and last week's third leg of the Green Acres. He has banked nearly $20,000 for Ryder and partners Robert Mondilo of Delaware, OH and Max Wernick of New City, NY. Second choice in the morning line is the Revenue gelding Angels Ransom, trained and driven by Roland Mallar, listed at 7-2 from post three. Angels Ransom won the opening leg of the Green Acres and finished second in his last two starts. He has finished in-the-money in four of eight starts for owner Michael Andrew of Gorham, ME. The Green Acres field [from the rail out with sire, driver, trainer and morning line]: Holiday Spirit, Chocolatier, Steve Smith, Nicholas Callahan, 5-1; Skates N Plates, Revenue, Jim Marshall III, Paul Reid, 8-1; Angels Ransom, Revenue, Roland Mallar, Roland Mallar, 8-1; Celebrity Spitfire, Muscles Yankee, Eric Abbatiello, Susanne Strandqvist, 10-1; Choco Sun, Chocolatier, Jim Meittinis, Orjan Torstensson, 6-1; Chocolate Day, Chocolatier, Marcus Johansson, Julie Miller, 9-2; Muscle On It, Muscle Hill, Daniel Dube, Chris Ryder, 3-1 and Time N Tide, Chocolatier, Steven Smith, Nicholas Callahan, 5-1. Chocolate Day and Time N Tide are coupled in the wagering. Hall of Fame driver Cat Manzi, who suffered a fracture pelvis in a racing accident at Freehold Raceway on September 6 and went into rehab on September 11, is scheduled to be released and head home on Friday, September 20, 2013, according to his wife, Ellen. Super Classic, a Hambletonian hopeful in August, makes his next start in the $38,500 Charles I. Smith Final, a non-wagering event for New Jersey-sired three-year-old trotters which drew three entrants. Super Classic, owned by William J. Augustine of Hammonton, NJ, has two wins, one second and four thirds from 21 career starts and earnings of $54,703. Eric Abbatiello will drive for trainer Jim Doherty. The competition includes Bouncer, a son of Muscles Yankee driven by Tom Jackson and trained by James Petruccelli, and Dagget, a Chocolatier gelding from the barn of John Butenschoen and driven by Tyler Butenschoen. The Charles Smith is sponsored by the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey. The Charles Smith Final has a post time of 12:20 p.m. and follows a $7,000 second leg of the New Jersey Sire Stakes - Green Acres for two-year-old trotting fillies at 12:15 p.m. Three are entered in the filly trot: Worldrecordsweeper by Muscles Yankee, I'll Bring Dessert by Chocolatier and Muscle Pump Queen by Muscles Yankee. by Carol Hodes for SBOANJ  

Crazy About Pat trotted to a new 3-year-old colt track record at Monticello Raceway when Jimmy Morrill, Jr. guided the son of Crazed to a 1:57 triumph in his division of the $155,000 New York Sires Stakes on Tuesday afternoon, September 17. The colt’s victory erased the former standard of 1:57.1 set by Napoleon and driver Stephane Bouchard on June 11, 2008. Morrill also won the second NYSS split with Tirade Hanover in a time of 1:58.2 and he won a $12,700 division of the Excelsior Series with Robin Would in 2:00.4. But the buzz was about the ease in which Crazy About Pat established the new track record where the son of Crazed-Dibrizzi trotted off to a stunning nine length victory over Order By Keeper driven by Marcus Johansson. Sent off the prohibitive favorite from the five-hole Morrill sent his trotter to the lead but they didn’t gain command until they neared the quarter pole. From there Crazy About Pat trotted off by himself and was open lengths in front the rest of the mile.. At the half the colt was three lengths and was four in front on the final turn. When Crazy About Pat straightened in the lane, without any urging from his driver, they sailed home an easy nine- length victor over Order By Keeper and driver Marcus Johansson. Third place went to Crazed N Lindy (Jimmy Marohn, Jr.) When told he set a new mark for 3 year old trotters, Morrill was asked if his colt could have gone faster since he had beaten the record by just one-fifth of a second. “He had a lot left in the tank and we could have gone more but why would we?” Morrill said. “We’ve got enough points for (to be eligible to) the ($225,000 NYSS) final.” Owned by the Patricia Stable of Massapequa, NY and trained by Noel Daley, Crazy About Pat raised his seasonal bankroll to over 256,000 and returned a $2.40 win mutuel. In the other $79,375 division Morrill left cautiously from the seven hole with Tirade Hanover and they skirted the confusion triggered by the breaking horses on the first turn and they ended up on the lead in a soft :29.4 first stanza. From there Morrill got away with a :30.3 second quarter and Tirade Hanover went on to a very easy six- length triumph over Theraputic and driver Aaron Byron in a 1:58.3 clocking. Modest Prince (Andy Miller) was third under the wire but placed fifth by the judges when his interference while on a break which caused the field to scatter on the first turn. Kegler Hanover (Marcus Johansson) was awarded the show dough. Morrill, who never says too much about the winners he drives, had a broad smile on his face when he and Tirade Hanover returned to the winners circle. “He’s the horse to beat in the(NYSS) final,” Morrill blurted out without even being asked a question.. Owned by Leigh Raymer, Stephen Moss and Harold & Helene Solomon, it was the fourth consecutive victory and fifth in 10 starts for Tirade Hanover and the son of Crazed-Teagarden Hanover raised his seasonal earnings to over $188,000. Of the five Excelsior Series trots the most impressive was Bay Pond Stables Ex King when Dan Daley drove the CR Excalbur-Crown Crysta gelding to a 1:57.1 victory for the youngster’s third win in his last five starts. Asked why they raced Ex King in the Excelsior Series instead of the Sire Stakes , Daley replied; “He was no good early and only has come around recently. And besides we needed to earn enough points to be eligible to the (Excelsior) series final.” Other Excelsior Series winners included Brookroaddonnie (1:59.1- Mike Simons); Signal Hill PK (1:59.4-Stephane Bouchard) and Jelectric (2:01-Jimmy Marohn, Jr.) John Manzi

MANALAPAN, NJ – September 13, 2013 – Choco Sun and Shelikescandy, two-year-olds by Chocolatier, accounted for two of the three victories in $7,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes – Green Acres on Friday, September 13, 2013 at Freehold Raceway. Choco Sun [$8.60] was a head winner over Angels Ransom [by Revenue] and held a nine and a quarter length advantage over Rannoch Moor [by Muscles Yankee] in third race division for colts and geldings. Marcus Johansson was at the lines of the Orjan Torstensson trainee.  The mile was clocked in 2:02.4. It was Choco Sun’s first win along with two seconds in four starts.  He is owned by Eirik Djuve of Sola, Norway. Only four contested the filly division, carded as a non-betting event, and Shelikescandy prevailed by a length and three-quarters over first-time starter Worldrecordsweeper [by Muscles Yankee].  I’ll Bring Dessert [by Chocolatier] was third by two lengths in the 2:03.4 mile. Shelikescandy, driven by Steve Smith and trained by Nifty Norman, now has a win and two thirds in four starts, racing for the Enzed Racing Stable Inc. of Allentown, NJ. Muscle On It [$11] by Muscle Hill claimed the third division, a split for colts, carded as the ninth race, with the fastest clocking, 2:00.4. Muscle On It, a Chris Ryder trainee, was handled by Daniel Dube.  He finished a length and three-quarters ahead of Chocolate Day and four and a quarter head of Holiday Spirit, both by Chocolatier. Ryder co-owns the trotting colt with Robert Mondilio of Delaware, OH and Max Wernick of New York, NY. No elims were necessary for the Charles Smith Trot for three-year-old New Jersey-sired trotters which drew three entrants – Bouncer, Dagget and Super Classic – who will vie for $38,500 on September 20.  by Carol Hodes for SBOA/NJ    

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