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Hightstown, NJ — The moments following Ramona Hill’s win in the Hambletonian Stakes were unlike any Andy McCarthy ever experienced as a driver. “The feeling I got when I crossed the wire, I’ve never had that before, that amount of joy and emotion,” McCarthy said. “I don’t want to compare it to my kids being born, because that’s a completely different thing, but it was definitely emotional. Heading back to the winner’s circle, I’ve never felt anything like it in my life on the racetrack. Embracing the moment, just the feeling of joy, it’s unbelievable.” McCarthy and Ramona Hill captured the 95th edition of the Hambletonian this past Saturday at The Meadowlands. The duo won the $1 million event by one length over Ready For Moni in a stakes-record-equaling 1:50.1 for trainer Tony Alagna and owners Brad Grant, Crawford Farms Racing, Robert LeBlanc, and In The Gym Partners. Ramona Hill, a daughter of Muscle Hill out of Lock Down Lindy bred by Crawford Farms, became the 15th filly to win harness racing’s top race for 3-year-old trotters. The Hambletonian was McCarthy’s fifth win of the day on the stakes-filled Big M card. He won four of the afternoon’s first six races, including the Shady Daisy with Reflect With Me and the Jim Doherty Memorial with Darlene Hanover, and the fast start was beneficial. “It’s good to get some good vibes going for the day,” McCarthy said. “Confidence has such a main role in how you drive, I think. When the ball’s rolling and things are going good, you feel like you can do nothing wrong. For me, anyway, confidence is definitely a major player in how I do.” McCarthy’s biggest challenge was finding a way to enjoy the wins without getting too pumped up along the way. “You want to celebrate, and you want to feel that emotion, but you also don’t want to carry that over to the next drive,” he said. “You want to stay focused and you’ve still got work to do. I like to be confident but calm at the same time. I don’t want to be carrying too much emotion with me, just really stay focused on the job at hand. There are a million things that can go wrong in a race and you have to be super focused and aware of these things.” A native of Australia, the 34-year-old McCarthy has raced regularly in North America since 2007. He has seen his purse earnings increase annually since the start of 2013, reaching a career-best $7.67 million last year, when he ranked ninth among drivers in North America. In 2019, McCarthy became the eighth driver in history to win at least four Breeders Crown finals in a year. He became the first to accomplish the feat without driving a favorite. Last year, he also made his first appearance in a Hambletonian final, finishing seventh with Pilot Discretion. This year with Ramona Hill, he was fourth after a quarter mile, moved to the front on the backstretch, and cruised to victory. Her time equaled the stakes mark set by her sire Muscle Hill in 2009. “In my mind, I had the best horse in the race,” McCarthy said. “I just wanted to be safe through the first turn. Once I got through the first turn, I thought I could win the race however it went down.” McCarthy followed the Hambletonian while growing up in Australia but became more focused on the race after arriving in the U.S. to compete. He is the 28th different driver to win the Hambletonian in the 40 years it has called The Meadowlands home. “When I was a teenager, I started following the American racing more,” McCarthy said. “Back then, it was kind of pre-social media days, so it was kind of hard to keep up with it. I always liked American racing and I loved the Hambo. As far as thinking I could win it one day, that was a different story. “Once I got over here and went to the Hambo every year and watched it, it’s become the race. It’s the race you want to win, for sure. I’m just very lucky and privileged to be able to do that.” by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

The progeny of champion sire Muscle Hill stole the show with four big feature race winners on Hambletonian Day at Meadowlands last Saturday (August 8). Muscle Hill led in the winners of the $1 million Hambletonian in Ramona Hall, who equalled the race record of 1:50.2, the $600,000 Hambletonian Oaks in Sorella (1:51), the $319,000 Peter Haughton Memorial for two-year-old colts in Zenith Stride (1:55.2) and the $166,550 Dr John Steele Memorial for mares with When Dovescry (1:50). Interestingly, Muscle Hill’s two fastest three-year-old colts Trixton and Tactical Landing and his world champion two-year-old son Southwind Frank are all members of the Stallions Australasia frozen semen roster for this season. Trixton himself was represented by an important winner on Hambo Day in the three-year-old filly Caviart Eva, winner of the $30,000 Continentalvictory in 1:53.6. He also sired the recent Bendigo three-year-old winner Van Sank, who posted his third lifetime success. On the same night Keayang Ninja, a two-year-old gelding by international trotting star Wishing Stone, was a most impressive winner on debut, clocking 60.1 for his last 800 metres. Wishing Stone boasts the enviable record of seven winners from seven starters from a total Australian foal crop of 10.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The sensational filly Ramona Hill took a well-deserved gulp from the Hambletonian trophy after beating the boys on Saturday (Aug. 8) in the $1 million harness racing trotting classic at the Meadowlands Racetrack.   It was the latest chapter in the developing saga of harness racing's newest superstar.   The victory, the 15th by a filly in the race's illustrious history, was hardly a surprise. She was the 2-5 favorite following the previous week's jaw-dropping win from an impossible spot, kicking home with a :25.4 final quarter in the Hambletonian eliminations.   She was just as good in the final. Andy McCarthy turned Ramona Hill loose down the backside and she easily surged past Threefiftytwo to take command for good.   "When I came out early there, I sensed I could find the front," McCarthy said. "I went for it, and she knows her job."   As Ramona Hill made the lead, main rivals Ready For Moni -- the other elimination winner -- and Back Of The Neck took up the chase.   Through the lane, Ramona Hill remained solidly in command, beating Ready For Moni by a length with Back Of The Neck third.       "She was starting to work a little bit towards the wire, but she finished it off," McCarthy said.   The time for the mile only confirmed what observers already knew: Ramona Hill is the real deal. The 1:50.1 clocking equaled the stakes mark set by her sire Muscle Hill in 2009.   It was a muted winner's circle celebration with access limited and everyone masked to ward off the coronavirus.   John Campbell, president of the Hambletonian Society, summed up the day and the performance eloquently.   "What a great performance by a tremendous filly," Campbell said. "Throughout history, society has dealt with crises and troubles, but great horses and great horse racing have found a way to bring people together to forget about what's going on in their everyday lives. I think that's what's happened here today."   It was the first Hambletonian victory for McCarthy and trainer Tony Alagna, who took a very patient approach with his talented filly. The race was only her fourth of the year and 11th of her career.   "People talked earlier about how COVID affected this filly's schedule," Alagna said. "Honestly, this was our schedule from the beginning, with or without COVID. She's very much like a Thoroughbred. She doesn't need the starts to be at her best."   Of course, the Hambletonian Oaks for fillies earlier in the day was a possible target. But after Ramona Hill cruised to a convincing win in the Del Miller on July 18, Alagna set his sights on the bigger goal.   "We always had it (the Hambletonian) in the back of our minds, but nobody wanted to be the first one to say it," Alagna said. "After the Del Miller, it became a reality."   It had already been a great afternoon for McCarthy with four victories. Number five, the Hambletonian, will be the one he'll always remember.   "It was a very good start to the day and I was trying to keep my cool, and I was trying to let it sink in too much because I still had a lot of work to do," McCarthy said.   The driver and the filly completed the mission in style.   "The adrenalin you get from winning a race like this, words can't explain it," the Australian reinsman said. "It's an amazing event and a privilege to be involved."   With the victory, Ramona Hill improved her record to 9-0-2 in 11 starts for Bradley Grant, Crawford Farms Racing, Robert LeBlanc and In The Gym Partners. The 2019 Breeders Crown and Dan Patch Award winner is the second filly to capture the Hambletonian in the last three renewals, joining Atlanta (2018).     by Mike Farrell, for the Hambletonian Society

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When Dovescry ($11.20) sustained a first-over strike on the far turn, dueled down champion mare Manchego. and became harness racing's newest millionaire by way of a 9-2 upset in the $166,550 Dr. John R. Steele Memorial for harness racing trotting mares on Saturday (Aug. 8) at The Meadowlands.   The 4-year-old daughter of Muscle Hill challenged Plunge Blue Chip for the early lead before retreating to the pocket on the first turn. After drafting closely behind a :26.4 quarter, When Dovescry was relegated to third up the backstretch when Dexter Dunn brushed 1-9 favorite Manchego out from fourth to clear the lead at a :54.3 midway split.   Driver David Miller angled When Dovescry off the pegs with three-eighths to go, and she quickly made up 2-1/2 lengths before engaging Manchego past three-quarters in 1:23 and setting the stage for a stretch duel -- but Manchego offered little resistance to When Dovescry's advance into the lead an eighth from home. From there, Miller kept When Dovescry to task, and they defeated Plunge Blue Chip -- who rallied up the pegs in deep stretch -- by a half length while driven out in 1:50.3. Manchego could only muster third, another three-quarters of a length in arrears.       When Dovescry, whose 11 career wins include the 2019 Hambletonian Oaks, is trained by Brett Pelling for Yves Sarrazin, Dumain Haven Farm, Singh and Soulsby, and John Lengacher.   by James Witherite, for the Hambletonian Society .

It has been one heck of a roller coaster ride for Ramona Hill where the Hambletonian is concerned. The journey has gone from uncertainty, to bleak dismay, to sheer harness racing euphoria, to odds-on favorite. And the race is still three days away! In short order, the connections waited until the last minute to enter the filly, then watched disconcertingly as she fell into last place with just over a quarter-mile to go in last Saturday's elimination. Amazingly, Andrew McCarthy drove her to victory from that point, sending shock waves through upstate New York. The result is that Ramona Hill has been made the 5-2 morning line favorite for Saturday's 95th Hambletonian for 3-year-old trotters at The Meadowlands. "No pressure there, huh?" said co-owner Michelle Crawford with a laugh. "I think (fellow owner) Brad Grant has to drive his truck down from Ontario so he can hold my hand through the whole thing." Crawford and her husband Al own and operate Crawford Farms in Syracuse, N.Y., where Ramona Hill was bred. They also have a stake in Atlanta, the last filly to win the Hambo in 2018. Ramona Hill sold for $70,000 at the 2018 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale to the Crawfords, Grant, Robert LeBlanc and In The Gym Partners. "We liked her at the sale," Crawford said. "You never know who's going to buy your horses. We said 'If you guys would have us, we'll take it.' It just worked out well we were able to get back in on 25 percent and be the breeder." A daughter of Muscle Hill out of Lock Down Lindy, Ramona Hill took six firsts and a third last year in seven starts while being trained by Tony Alagna. The season culminated with a victory from post 10 in the Breeders Crown for 2-year-old filly trotters at Woodbine Mohawk Park. She was then named the Dan Patch Award winner as 2-year-old Trotting Filly of the Year in 2019. Due to COVID-19, she only raced twice this year prior to the Hambletonian eliminations, finishing third in her debut in the Reynolds Memorial before winning the Del Miller Memorial in 1:50.3 from post 10 on July 18 at The Meadowlands. "Pulling up after that mile - and it doesn't happen very often - but I actually got goosebumps," McCarthy said of the Del Miller. "Hats off to the horse. I've just got so much respect for her. She's just a game, tough horse, and will do whatever you ask her to do. And she enjoys it." When it came to entering her in the Hambo, Crawford said the decision was basically going to be made by Alagna and Grant, since he was the majority owner. But, she added, everyone would have a voice. "We said 'Tony, you're the trainer, you're going to tell us if she can handle this; and we respect Brad's opinion and value that," Crawford said. "I think we were all just of the opinion of 'Yeah, why not.' Of course, as a breeder, you're like 'No way, this is not happening.' "But it happened last weekend right before the draw. It wasn't like it was preplanned and premeditated, we just let it play out. We all made the decision together. That's how it should be." So, this past Saturday night, the Crawfords lit a bonfire on their back deck and gathered around a TV with friends Chad and Heather Marshall. Chad is operations manager for Crawford Farms while Heather (formerly Reese) is a breeding manager. The foursome, which always gathers for big races, had their excitement turn to disbelief once the race got underway as Ramona Hill fell to the back. "I had a little pit in my stomach," Crawford said. "I was like 'Whew, this isn't going like I thought it would be going.' I think everyone just wants to see their horse do well and draw the one through five for the final. I think that was on my mind at first, and then it felt like everything was just slipping away and at that point I'm like 'Look, we just need to get in.'" And then it happened. After trotting dead last over the first three-quarters, Ramona Hill exploded for a :25.4 final quarter to overtake the field and, unknowingly, scare the heck out of Crawford's neighbors. "I'm pretty sure my neighbors thought I was dying over here, or something was happening to me," Crawford said. "It was really kind of crazy. When she came flying home, we were crazy. We were all screaming and jumping up and down. It was so exciting. I can't imagine it coming out any other way. The feeling we had when she won, it was like she won the Hambo. It was definitely an 'ah hah' moment. "I wish I were there. The people who were there were screaming 'girl power' as she was coming from the stretch, which gave me goose bumps. From everything I've read and heard, it's your proud parent moment." The deck got so loud, Crawford thinks the noise carried 250 miles. "I'm pretty sure Tony could hear me at The Meadowlands," she said. The victory guaranteed Ramona Hill a one-through-five post for the Hambo, and she ended up in the five hole. Getting good draws is one thing the horse can't seem to master. "Tony said she might be blinded by the toteboard if she ever draws a one or two," Crawford said. Unlucky posts have yet to deter Ramona Hill, as she gives the Crawfords another filly with a chance to make her name against the sport's top male 3-year-old trotters. This situation is slightly different, though, as they bought into Atlanta just months before the 2018 Hambo. The emotional attachment is a little stronger this time with Ramona Hill. "Of course it is, because we bred her," Crawford said. "We love Lock Down Lindy, so I'm super attached to her mom. She's actually back in foal with a full brother or sister in the belly, a Muscle Hill. We brought her to the new farm we're building. She's turned out up here. So you're closer because you're attached to the family." Crawford added that they have grown attached to Atlanta since they have been together for three years, but their relationship started as a financial venture. "It was overwhelming we could buy into a filly for the price we did and then win the Hambo," she said. "It was almost like 'Oh my God I threw myself on the ledge and now I can peel myself back off the ledge.' It was a lot of overwhelming feelings for a filly to win a Hambo but it was a financial relief that we made the right decision buying her at the price we did." In comparing the two, Crawford feels that Ramona Hill needs a little more attention. "Atlanta always just put her head down and just did it," she said. "She's super sound all the time. I think that we've had to take a little bit of time with Ramona. Tony's been very cautious since we started her as a 2-year-old. We've had to watch her knees. He was very calculated in her 2-year-old year. He saw signs of greatness there and managed her carefully. "It's the same thing coming back this year. She's got some ouches and she just goes with it. Her heart just keeps going. Tony's always watching, making sure she comes out of the race well." Because of those "ouches" it may be a blessing that Ramona Hill has not raced often this year. "She hasn't been over-raced and I think we've been aggressively getting race ready," said Crawford, who plans on being at The Meadowlands this Saturday with her Ramona Hill face masks. "With what she's shown us, she definitely deserves a shot. And you can't leave out Andy McCarthy, who knows her so well. He's a great judge. He and Tony have a great relationship. We rely heavily on them. And at this point I don't see anybody jumping up and down thinking 'You're crazy thinking she can go with the boys.' After the horse's incredible effort in the eliminations, Crawford is not surprised Ramona Hill is the morning line favorite. She knows, of course, that doesn't guarantee anything. "Obviously she's still got some super-stiff competition in there," Crawford said. "She's in tough, nobody's going to take that for granted. I think we had a tough division on Saturday and she drove like a rock star. The fact she was dead last and rallied and came home in :25.4 tells me she's capable of anything. "I just always wish everybody good luck. It's a big day for everybody. I'm sure everybody has the same angst and anxiety as I do. We're going to drive down, stay isolated as well as we can, but enjoy it live and in person. We have quite a bit of racing that day. We've had a pretty exciting couple of months right now." And a very exciting two weeks leading up to Saturday. $1 Million Hambletonian PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-ML 1-Ready For Moni-Yannick Gingras-Nancy Takter-3/1 2-Back Of The Neck-Scott Zeron-Ake Svanstedt-4/1 3-Hollywood Story-David Miller-Marcus Melander-15/1 4-Big Oil-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-15/1 5-Ramona Hill-Andrew McCarthy-Tony Alagna-5/2 6-Threefiftytwo-Daniel Dube-Luc Blais-6/1 7-Capricornus-Tim Tetrick-Marcus Melander-15/1 8-Rome Pays Off-Mattias Melander-Marcus Melander-15/1 9-Sister Sledge-Brian Sears-Ron Burke-12/1 10-Amigo Volo-Dexter Dunn-Nifty Norman-12/1  by Rich Fisher, for the USTA 

CHESTER, PA - The Muscle Hill - Order By Wish four-year-old Marseille, whose full brother Rome Pays Off goes in the Hambletonian eliminations tomorrow, set a good example for his "younger brother" with a commanding 1:53.2 victory in the $12,800 trotting feature Friday afternoon at Harrah's Philadelphia. Marseille, who posted a 50-1 upset holding off Greenshoe in the Beal Final last year at Pocono, had the top here in a matter of steps and put up fractions of :27.4, :57, and 1:25.2 for trainer/driver Ãke Svanstedt, coasting home to win by three lengths while raising his lifetime bankroll to $509,678 for Ãke Svanstedt Inc., Order By Stable, and Howard Taylor. Svanstedt didn't have quite as good luck in one of two $10,400 co-featured events for baby trotters, as his filly Red Redemption made a break in her debut as the favorite. It was the Muscle Hill - Rarely Wrong colt Rare Muscle who rallied up the inside to just get by Mystical King for a new mark of 1:57.2. Tim Tetrick drove the Lucas Wallin trainee for Mazza Racing Stable LLC. Another late charger won the other baby co-feature - this style going against the pattern of recent racing at Philly. The Donato Hanover - Aunt Mae filly Anoka Hanover came home furiously for the second race in a row, closing with a :56.1 last half and making up four lengths from headstretch to decision favored DD's Diamond in the shadow of the wire in a new mark of 1:56.4. Andrew McCarthy had the timing just right with the filly for trainer Noel Daley, who is also co-owner with L A Express Stable LLC and Caviart Farms. From the PHHA / Harrah's Philadelphia

Sister Sledge might not have attracted overwhelming attention heading into this year's Hambletonian, but as one of two harness racing fillies in Saturday's (Aug. 1) eliminations at The Meadowlands, she should find plenty of eyes on her now. The Ron Burke-trained Sister Sledge has won three of four races this season and 11 of 16 lifetime. She has hit the board in every start, finishing worse than second only once, on her way to $622,058 in purses. Sister Sledge finished second to Ramona Hill in Dan Patch Award voting for best 2-year-old female trotter of 2019. Ramona Hill also was entered in the Hambletonian, which is the sport's premier race for 3-year-old trotters. This is the first time multiple fillies will take on the boys in the Hambletonian since Act Of Grace and Continentalvictory in 1996, and only the second time since 1983. Continentalvictory won the 1996 Hambletonian and was the last filly winner until Atlanta in 2018. Sister Sledge is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line in the second of Saturday's two $50,000 Hambletonian eliminations. She will start from post two in a nine-horse field. Ready For Moni, trained by Nancy Takter, is the 5-2 favorite after winning his only start of the season, a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial on July 18, in 1:51.4. The top-five finishers from each elimination advance to the $1 million Hambletonian final Aug. 8 at The Meadowlands. "We're in a very good spot," Burke said. "(Post two) gives her options. It's going to be tough, but I at least like where we're starting." Burke decided Tuesday morning to put Sister Sledge up against the boys in the Hambletonian, rather than entering the fillies-only Hambletonian Oaks, but it was something he had been considering all year. "I don't think the Hambo is any tougher than the Oaks," Burke said. "I think if you graded the races out, they would be equal. If anything, I thought the fillies were a tad tougher. So even if you say they're even, one race goes for $1 million and the other goes for ($600,000). It doesn't take a lot of brain work to realize that if I can race for a million in basically the same class, I'm going to go for the million. "I think there are a lot of very nice horses (in the Hambletonian) but I don't think anyone is tons better than the others. So, I'll take my shot. It wasn't like you were going to go to the Oaks and just go a training mile around there. They're going to go too. Hopefully, we get past the elimination. I like the decision I made. Even if it doesn't work out, in my mind, I put time into it and thought it out and I had reasons for what I did." Another factor was the return to Hambletonian eliminations being contested the week prior to the final, rather than the single-day format for elims and final in recent years. "If there had been two heats, it would have been a different decision," Burke said. In the build up to this year's Hambletonian, several fillies were mentioned as possible contenders to challenge the boys, with Ramona Hill, Sorella, Hypnotic AM, and Panem among that group. Sister Sledge was not. "I don't know where she fell out of favor," Burke said. "To me, she was the best filly last year; you could rate her or Ramona Hill. This year, everyone is talking about different horses. We beat all them last year and all we've done basically this year is win. If you look at her lines, she's consistently good. Even when she's been beat, there have been excuses. I think she's classy. I think she deserves the shot." Sister Sledge, a daughter of Father Patrick out of Behindclosedoors, won her first two races this season at The Meadows, both Grand Circuit stakes, by a total of 10 lengths. She finished second by a quarter-length in a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes at Harrah's Philadelphia before winning a division of the Tompkins-Geers Stakes by 4-3/4 lengths in 1:51.2 at The Meadowlands last weekend. "We've gone where her races are," said Burke, who trains the filly for Burke Racing, Jason Melillo, J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby, and Weaver Bruscemi. "She's a Pennsylvania-bred, I'm not going to race her at The Meadowlands every start. I've got to make money with her. The money was in Pa., knowing I would come (to The Meadowlands) the week before the Hambo. "She's been great. Maybe she didn't get around Philly great, but she was great at The Meadows and, to me, she has every right to improve off that (last start). She's only been (at The Meadowlands) one week and she needed to stretch. I think you'll see her be better." Among the 17 Hambletonian entrants, Sister Sledge's 1:51.2 mile is tied for second fastest this year. Ramona Hill holds the fastest win time in the group, 1:50.3. Ramona Hill is 5-1 in the first Hambletonian elimination, starting from post seven in the eight-horse field with Andy McCarthy driving for trainer Tony Alagna. Back Of The Neck, trained by Ake Svanstedt, is the 2-1 favorite. Amigo Volo, last season's male 2-year-old Breeders Crown champion, is 7-2 and Beads is 9-2. Last year, Ramona Hill won six of seven races, capped by her victory from post 10 in the Breeders Crown for 2-year-old filly trotters at Woodbine Mohawk Park. She has raced twice this year, finishing third in her debut before winning the Del Miller Memorial with her 1:50.3 score from post 10 on July 18 at The Meadowlands. "I have a lot of confidence in Ramona Hill; she'll get me where I need to go," McCarthy said. "When you have a horse that you know whatever happens, I know I'm going to leave fast enough to either make the front or get close and we can figure it out after that, it does make you feel better no matter what the draw is. "Pulling up after that mile (in the Del Miller), and it doesn't happen very often, but I actually got goosebumps. Hats off to the horse. I've just got so much respect for her. She's just a game, tough horse, and will do whatever you ask her to do. And she enjoys it." Ramona Hill, a daughter of Muscle Hill out of Lock Down Lindy, is owned by Brad Grant, Crawford Farms Racing, Robert LeBlanc, and In The Gym Partners. Racing begins at 7:15 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at The Meadowlands. The Hambletonian eliminations are races six and eight on the 13-race card. Eliminations for the Aug. 8 Hambletonian Oaks were unnecessary, but eight Oaks finalists will be in action in an open for 3-year-old filly trotters. Also in action will be Meadowlands Pace champ Tall Dark Stranger in the Tompkins-Geers Stakes for 3-year-old male pacers. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA    

CHESTER, PA -- The Cantab Hall filly Whose Blues sat a pocket trip behind the favored Sherry Lyns Lady, then caught her rival up the inside to win her $63,462 section of the first prelim of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes for three-year-old trotting fillies Wednesday afternoon at Harrah's Philadelphia in a track record time of 1:52.3. Whose Blues and driver Daniel Dube pushed Sherry Lyns Lady past a :27.2 quarter, then yielded to sit the pocket as the leader hit the half in :55.3 and then had to dig in against outside pressure from second choice Creature Of Habit to the 1:24.3 three-quarters and beyond. Dube and his filly made it three to a drive, and after Sherry Lyns Lady got a little rough in the big fight home, Whose Blues could produce enough kick to defeat the chalk by a half-length, with Creature Of Habit the same margin behind while settling for third. The 1:52.3 clocking was also an individual best for the winner, now 6-of-11 lifetime. Luc Blais trains the filly for the Determination ownership group. If the next Sire Stakes division had gone twenty minutes earlier, its 1:52.4 time would have set a Philly standard. But it wouldn't have been 2019 Sire Stakes champion Sister Sledge who would have gotten the ink - it would have been another pocket rocket, the Muscle Hill filly Solsbury Hill, who bettered her own previous best by 2 4/5 seconds. The scenario in the two races were similar, except this one was basically a two-horse battle: Solsbury Hill went to the lead in a :28.2 opener, let 1-20 favorite Sister Sledge complete a quarter-move which carried her past the midrace poles of :57.1 and 1:25.1, then came out and just got by her game rival by a neck. Scott Zeron had the sulky duty behind the $46.20 "second choice" for trainer/father Ron, with the latter's Rick Zeron Stables sharing ownership with Howard Taylor, the Rojan Stables, and William Donovan. A pair of even-money shots clashed in the other Sires division, with slight favorite Next Level Stuff equaling her lifetime best of 1:53.2. The daughter of Sebastian K S, driven by Tim Tetrick for trainer Jim Campbell and the Runthetable Stables, pressed on past a :28 opener to get around main rival Crucial in front of the stands, and was able to provide the goods from there, hitting the next two poles in :56.1 and 1:25.1 before turning back a stretch challenge by Crucial by 1½ lengths. Next Level Stuff has now won 9 of 13 lifetime starts, including seven in a row spanning her freshman and sophomore seasons, and has bankrolled $210,786. For Tetrick, the filly was one of five winners on the program. There were six $20,000 divisions of PA Stallion Series action raced Wednesday afternoon. Three of them were won by daughters of Muscle Hill, including the two fastest: Hannah, who was very impressive setting the pace and taking a new mark of 1:53.3 for driver Andy Miller, trainer/wife Julie, and the partnership of Andy Miller Stable Inc., Dumain Haven Farm, and Little E LLC; and Dune Hill, who went a tick slower in being a pocket rocket for driver Yannick Gingras, trainer Ron Burke, and owner Joseph Di Scala Jr. The third of the Muscle Hills was Tuscany, who is undefeated in two lifetime starts after a 1:55.1 romp for driver George Brennan, trainer Nik Drennan, and the ownership package of Joseph Davino, Brad Shackman, and Drennan Stable LLC. A Father Patrick filly winning in impressive fashion was Impressive Fashion, whom Dexter Dunn drove to a 1:54.4 score for trainer Jim Campbell and Fashion Farms LLC. Impressive Fashion was the only StS winner who was not favored - she was the 6-5 second choice. Tim Tetrick added a Stallion Series success onto his big day when he brought the Muscle Massive filly Miss McKee to a 1:54.1 success, reducing her lifetime mark for trainer Jack Baggitt Jr. and J L Sadowsky LLC. Finally, trainer Susan Callihan pushed her lifetime UTR to .667 - two wins in three starts - when the Donato Hanover Aunt Bee went to the lead in front of the stands and lowered her mark a tick to 1:56.3. Wilbur Yoder was in the sulky; Susan Callihan and Gregory Callihan are the owners of the winner of three straight. From the PHHA/Harrah's Philadelphia

One night a couple years ago while enjoying dinner with a friend, horse owner Elmer Fannin had a thought. If the yet-to-be-raced homebred filly harness racing trotter he had in his stable was as good as the wine they were enjoying, she would be something special. "So, I decided I was going to name her Sorella for the bottle of wine," Fannin said. "That's how it happened. It was just an enjoyable dinner, enjoying some good wine, and now I've got a good horse." Sorella is showing signs of maturing like a fine wine. Last season at age 2, she went off stride in three of her nine starts. Her remaining six races, though, included two wins and two seconds. She won divisions of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and Arden Downs and both runner-up efforts came to Sister Sledge, including in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship. This year, she is 3-for-3. She won the lone division of the W.N. Reynolds Memorial for 3-year-old female trotters last week, when she scored in 1:50.2, the fastest mile of the season by any 3-year-old trotter. One start earlier, she beat a group of Hambletonian-eligible boys in 1:51.2.   "She was good last year but she was shying away from stuff," Fannin said about Sorella, who in 2019 was trained by Staffan Lind and this year is in the stable of Nancy Takter. "She just wasn't settled down and was making some breaks. But when she didn't make a break, she was really good. "Nancy has done a tremendous job with her. You never know how far up the ladder they'll go before they stop. But she's certainly been an amazing filly. She didn't look like she was all out in her last race. It wasn't like she was waiting for the finish line to come to her, she was OK going to the finish line. That was great." Sorella makes her next start Saturday in the $253,500 Del Miller Memorial for 3-year-old filly trotters at The Meadowlands. Sorella will leave from post one with driver Yannick Gingras and is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line. Empire Breeders Classic winner Hypnotic AM is the 3-1 favorite. All but one of the 11 fillies in the Miller Memorial are eligible to August's Hambletonian Oaks, but could be entered against the boys in the Hambletonian. Has Fannin given that scenario any thought? "Yeah, probably all of my life," he said with a laugh. "To have a filly and beat the boys, who wouldn't be thinking about it. A lot of people, like Nancy and Yannick, would have a say in that, but we'll see. She's got a race this week and we'll see how she does. You don't want to get overanxious and get in over your head and not do yourself or the industry, or the filly, any favors." Sorella is a daughter of Muscle Hill out of Kadealia. Fannin raced Kadealia, best remembered for a 75-1 upset in the 2008 Breeders Crown for 3-year-old fillies, and retained her as a broodmare following her career on the track. Sadly, the mare died earlier this year while in foal to Father Patrick. "All of her foals made it to the races, and I thought at some point she was destined to have a good one," Fannin said. "I'm certainly happy to honor Kadealia with Sorella doing so well. Hopefully Sorella continues on and does well and the Father Patrick (yearling) colt I have will do well next year." Fannin, a Delaware resident who with his wife Mary Ann founded custom home builder Country Life Homes a little more than 25 years ago, owns Sorella with Crawford Farms Racing and Brent Fannin. "We're just happy to have her," Fannin said. "We're just all enjoying it and I've got nothing but praise for the trainers, drivers, partners, and, of course, the filly. With her out of the equation, there ain't any fun for anybody." The Miller is part of a big night of racing at The Big M, headlined by the $636,650 Meadowlands Pace for 3-year-old male pacers. In addition, Saturday's racing includes two $142,250 divisions of the Stanley Dancer Memorial for 3-year-old male trotters, the 13-horse $464,900 Hambletonian Maturity at 1-1/8 miles for 4-year-old trotters, the 11-horse $391,300 William R. Haughton Memorial for older male pacers (as well as a $123,100 consolation), $172,850 Dorothy Haughton Memorial for older female pacers, the 11-horse $194,400 Mistletoe Shalee for 3-year-old female pacers, and the third leg of the Miss Versatility Series for older female trotters. For complete entries, click here. by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA  

It has been discovered that Sunday’s €600,000 Elitloppet winner, Propulsion, may be disqualified from the victory because the horse was nerved in both front legs before coming to Europe. This has been reported by Truls Pederson on the harness racing website Trav og Galopp-Nytt in Norway. Nerving is in violation of Europe’s horse racing doping regulations. Propulsion’s earnings from winning the final of the Elitloppet was $321,261 US. Nerving is considered a “last resort” procedure performed on horses with caudal heel lameness syndrome or navicular syndrome that have not responded to therapeutic shoeing and medication. This is a temporary procedure that, in most cases, can relieve the horse of pain for two to seven years, and has helped thousands of horses to continue on in their careers, without the pain that had plagued them before. Nerving is allowed on racehorses in North American and once completed, a certificate is issued by the veterinarian to that breeds governing organization. Propulsion, who is sired by Muscle Hill from the Andover Hall mare, Danae, was bred by Fredericka Caldwell and Bluestone Farms in the USA. He is owned by the Brixton Medical Ab of New Jersey. Unraced at age two for former trainer Tony Alagna, Propulsion made a total of 21 starts in North America during his three and four-year-old career with eight wins and earnings of $86,178 before shipping to race in Europe. Propulsion is now age nine and while in Europe has made 79 starts with 39 wins and earnings of $3.677 million US. It has been listed on Propulsion's USTA information data also on Trackit the Standardbred Canada website that the horse was nerved. Copy of USTA data Copy of Trackit data Now in question will be if not only the purse money and the victory in the Elitloppet will be taken away from Propulsion, but whether all of his victories in Europe will be disqualified and all purse earning returned. This story will continue to be further updated. By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink

Washington, PA — Had they met as 3-year-olds, champion trotters Moni Maker and Muscle Hill could have helped settle the debate as the greatest of them all. But since they raced a decade or so apart, it will be up to harness racing fans to decide who was better. What started with a bracket of 32 world-renowned Standardbreds comes down to Moni Maker versus Muscle Hill in the championship of the Greatest of All-Time Challenge. Fans can cast their final vote from Wednesday-Friday (May 6-8), via the Harness Racing FanZone twitter page. Voting will close Friday at 9 a.m. (EDT) for the contest sponsored by Omega Alpha. Moni Maker was a three-time Trotter of the Year in North America from 1998-2000 and went on to become an international star before she retired as the top-earning Standardbred of all-time with $5.58 million in the bank and 67 wins in 105 starts. Muscle Hill was a two-time Breeders Crown winner in the late 2000s, Horse of the Year in the U.S. and Canada and a $3.27 million earner with 20 wins in 21 starts — all by one length or more. Both were inducted into the U.S. Harness Racing Hall of Fame a decade apart. But it was their prowess at age 3 that launched both trotters toward super stardom. Moni Maker won 18 consecutive races as a sophomore for trainer William Andrews. Muscle Hill, a $55,000 yearling purchase trained by Greg Peck, was undefeated in 12 starts as a sophomore, including a six length win in the Hambletonian and a single-season record $2.45 million in earnings. It didn’t end there. Moni Maker won 21 races and $2 million over the next two seasons, setting world records in Sweden’s Elitloppet and Denmark’s Copenhagen Cup. Muscle Hill was retired to stud, where his first seven foal crops produced nine millionaires, making him the leading trotting sire four years running. Their latest fete was advancing through the Greatest of All-Time Challenge semifinals. Moni Maker received 55.7 percent of the 228 votes cast to edge pacing star Niatross (37-for-39, $2 million), winner of the 1980 Meadowlands Pace, the sport’s first $1 million race. Muscle Hill edged Mack Lobell, a three-time Breeders Crown winner and the best horse Hall of Famer John Campbell said he ever drove. — printed with permission from Xpressbet.com

WASHINGTON, PA, March 10, 2020 -- Feel The Muscle overcame post 9 by following cover and kicking home strongly to score in Tuesday's Dale McConnell Memorial Trot at The Meadows. Enzio sprang a 9-1 upset in the other $12,500 second-leg split in the harness racing series for 3- and 4-year-old colts, stallions and geldings. The Dale McConnell is one of four late-closing series The Meadows currently is featuring, with the championship leg of each set for Friday, March 20. Feel The Muscle picked up the live backside cover of Danny's Boy. When Mike Wilder tipped him off that cover through the final turn, the 4-year-old Muscle Hill-Macy Lane gelding roared past Danny's Boy and downed him by 1-1/4 lengths in 1:56.4 -- a life mark despite the sloppy conditions. Long shot Norwegian Dad rallied for show.   Charlie Norris trains Feel The Muscle for Share A Horse Inc. In the $20,000 Filly & Mare Open Handicap Pace, Lakeisha Hall rallied wide through the stretch to triumph in 1:53.2 for Dave Palone, trainer Ron Burke and owners Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and Jack Piatt II. The 7-year-old daughter of Third Straight-Lantana Hall now boasts a lifetime bankroll of $772,489. Burke collected four wins and Palone three on the 13-race card. After multiple carryovers, the Super Hi-5 was hit, with the sole winning ticket returning $22,913.72 Live racing at The Meadows continues Wednesday, first post 1:05 PM. By Evan Pattak, for The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association

Dover, DE - Jack Vernon cruised to victory in the Winners Over Select Trot at Dover Downs on Tuesday night. Harness racing driver Tim Tetrick confidently sent the 3/5 race favorite Jack Vernon to the front.  Tetrick was able to control the race and set fractions of 27.4, :57 to the half and three-quarters in 1:25. Home’N Dry gladly sat in the pocket. The field remained in single file until Bluebird Jesse pulled at the halfway point.  Allan Davis sent his charge 1st over but his bid stalled on the outside.  Filled Donut was forced to trot three wide at the three quarter station, as time was running out. Sheez On A Cruze remained on the rail. In the stretch, it was all Jack Vernon as he trotted to victory in 1:53.2.   He won by a handy, length and a quarter as the three to five race favorite. Jack Vernon (Muscle Hill -Vernon Blue Chip-Sir Taurus) is owned by Howard Taylor and Michael Casalino Jr.  Dylan Davis was the winning trainer. Home’N Dry finished a non-threatening second for trainer Brian Malone and driver Tyler Davis. Jamin Jack sat on the rail and picked up the show spot for trainer and driver Victor Kirby. Shartin N returns to the races in the $50,000 Mares Invitational on Wednesday night.  It will be the 12th race on the card.  Backstreet Shadow and Jesse Duke N collide in the $50,000 Invitational pace at Dover Downs on Thursday.  Both pacers have won three races in a row.   Backstreet Shadow, trained by Ron Burke, earned his victories at Dover Downs and has been assigned post 8.  In two of his wins he paced in under 1:49.4 Jesse Duke N, who dominated his fields at the Meadowlands, is trained by Chris Ryder and drew post 7. He paced his last quarters in 26 flat in all three victories. Bettor Memories finished 2nd to Backstreet Shadow and took a lifetime mark at Dover Downs.  He must be considered. Franco Totem N and Harambe Deo ship in from the Meadowlands where they raced  against Preferred company. They must be respected. The field assembled is as follows.   Trojan Banner N Bettor Memories Ideal Feeling Shnitzledosomethin Franco Totem N Harambe Deo Jesse Duke N Backstreet Shadow Dover Downs post time is 4:30 pm by Alex Kraszewski, for Dover Downs    

The charmed run of progeny of Muscle Hill continues unabated across Australasian racetracks with the stallion continuing to flex his siring power with victories coming in bunches over the last fortnight and potential riches on the horizon for those he’s sired at upcoming harness racing features.   Recent New Zealand based winners by Muscle Hill have included the royally-bred John and Joshua Dickie trained Daisy Hill who scored by 4 1/2 lengths at Alexandra Park on the 24th of January, Bolt For Brilliance (Harness Jewels winner last season) who extended his record to two wins from just six starts with a win on the 17th of January, and two runners from the Nigel Mcgrath stable who won at different tracks last week with Chloe Rose being too strong at Banks Peninsula on Sunday while One Over Da Son outstayed a nice field to take victory a couple of days prior at Addington Raceway. One Over Da Son will look to continue putting palings on his growing picket-fence form-line (he’s won his last two) at Addington on Friday night.     Recent Australian victories by progeny of Muscle Hill have been spearheaded by arguably the sires Australasian headline-act in Dance Craze. The 6yr old Anton Golino-trained mare accounted for both Tornado Valley and Wobelee in the E B Cochran Trotters Cup at Group 2 level on the 18th of January at Ballarat. To watch Dance Craze win the 2020 E B Cochran Trotters Cup click on this link. To watch Dance Craze win the 2019 "What The Hill" Great Southern Star click on this link. Dance Craze will attempt to defend her Great Southern Star title, a title she won last year by beating out Temporale, on Saturday night at Melton where the mare has drawn the inside of the second row and will follow out Red Hot Tooth. A repeat been-there-done-that performance of last years victory would be some feat indeed with this years field being one of both outstanding depth and quality. All things said and done this latest spate of victories continues to outline just what a magnificent addition Muscle Hill has been to breeding stocks and operations around the world from the time of his racetrack retirement right up until the current day. His progeny winning in excess of $65 million (including ten millionaires) in North America alone so far!  Average earnings per starter is just over $140,000. Muscle Hill will once again be strongly represented at this years 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale with the sire still attracting top-line mares despite only having limited lots in the sale. The three Muscle Hill lots to be offered at Karaka are all offered by Breckon Farms and include- Lot 115, a bay filly ,“My Fear Lady” who is out of former 2yr trotting filly of the year Fear Factor. The yearling looks likely to produce a bit of fear factor herself if her illustrious lineage plays any part in affairs.   Lot 115 - My Fear Lady This well known trotting family has shown a genuine knack for early success on the race track with both Prince Fearless (8 wins including the 2yr old NZ Yearling Sales Series at listed level) and Group 1 Victorian Trotters Derby winner Stress Factor showing that the breed is a genuine threat to all when first hitting the track. That go-early-win-early trend has been marvelously carried on by the Tony Herlihy trained Cheeky Babe (again by Muscle Hill) who went 100% through her first four race day appearances before running a 3rd (first filly home) in the NZ Yearling Sales Open Trot Final behind the Nathan Williamson driven Ultimate Stride. Cheeky Babe is out of a 1/2 sister to My Fear Lady. Lot 64 - Hill Of Grace Another potential star square gaiter by Muscle Hill is found in lot 64 “Hill Of Grace” The filly is out of (Im) Whitney who managed to win 8 times during her career including a win in the Group 3 Northern Trotting Breeders Stakes (when beating out Pretty Sunday) (Im) Whitney also placed in two Group 2 races behind Queen Kenny and All Royal Gal (14 wins, $172’000) Hill Of Grace is the first foal out of Whitney and is sure to carry interest with those interested in an entry into proven trotting bloodlines. Ben McMillan              

Hanover Shoe Farms welcomed its first foal of 2020 on Thursday January 16th at 2:30 am. The sturdy bay colt is a son of Muscle Hill and the first foal of the Conway Hall mare Abbie Hall 3,1:56.3 ($41,358). Abbie Hall is out of Armbro Archer thus making her a half sister to iron horse Arch Madness 1:50.2 $4,288,981. Hanover is expecting approximately 340 foals this season. New arrivals are listed daily on the farm website www.hanoverpa.com. by Gunjan Patel, for Hanover Shoe Farms  

Propulsion (8m Muscle Hill-Danae) returned to harness racing action this day after a multi-month absence to win the Super Lights STL Gold at Romme in Sweden, clocked in 1.14.4kr over 2640 meters autostart. Orjan Kihlstrom was the pilot for trainer Daniel Reden as he earned 200,000SEK first prize in the 461,985SEK purse event. Propulsion is five for nine in 2019 and 37 for 74 for his exceptional career. He was bred by Caldwell (Cane Run Farm) and Bluestone Farm. Off at 1.16/1 odds he bested stablemate Michelangelo As (8g Allstar Hall-Harmonika As-Mack Lobell) reined by Carl Johan Jepson for trainer Reden, this one bred by Christin Lorentzen and J.E. Magnusson. He was off at 41.7/1. Third was 13.1/1 Zenit Brick (8g Make It Happen) for Mika Forss and trainer Timo Nurmos. The 42/1 Snowstorm Hanover was fourth. The question remains whether Propulsion will be in the Amerique at end of January. He could be a factor against a probable field that is youthful and/or post-peak among the aged campaigners. by Thomas H. Hicks, for Harnesslink

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