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Freehold, NJ --- Freehold Raceway harness racing fans have known how good Lyons Steel is for a long time. He's won four of his last five races over this track, including a perfect 2-for-2 mark in 2021.   In recent times, Lyons Steel has enjoyed great success elsewhere as well. The six-year-old gelded son of Rock N Roll Heaven won the winners-over pace at the Meadowlands February 20, for his second straight win at that track. On Monday night (March 15), he won a division of the first leg of the MGM Borgata series at Yonkers Raceway.   This Saturday, he returns to Freehold, for the Preferred Handicap pace. He's been assigned the outside post position eight, for trainer Dennis Watson. Austin Siegelman, who drove him to victory on Monday at Yonkers, will be in the sulky.   Lyons Steel will face an interesting field of top-level pacers. Two mares have entered: Dongal Rundlscrk N, for trainer Shaun Vallee, and Best Honey Hanover, trained by Edwin Quevedo. Dongal Rundlscrk N was fourth in the Fillies & Mares Preferred Handicap at Yonkers last out, and won three races in a row at that track earlier in the year. Best Honey Hanover has won three of her last six between the Meadowlands and Yonkers. They were assigned the inside two post positions, respectively.   The field also includes three recent Freehold winners. Tisadream N, from post position three, has been on a hot streak. He's won his last three races at Freehold, including a narrow win at the non-winners of $8,000 last 5 pace last out. Tom Fanning is his trainer.   Soho Chelsea A won at the non-winners of $8,000 last 5 level two starts back, for trainer Travis Kolaczynski. Both of his wins this year have come at Freehold. He'll leave from post position four. Capozzo won a non-winners of $6,000 last 5 pace gate-to-wire last out, for trainer Tom Shay. He was assigned post position five.   Two of the top trainers in harness racing, Jenn Bongiorno and Ron Burke, entered a horse. Hot Deuce, making his second start of the year for Team Bongiorno, will leave from post position six. Yankee Roller A represents the Burke Brigade, having won five of his seven races on the year. He was assigned post position seven.   The Preferred Handicap will go as the ninth race on the card, with a scheduled post time of 3:10 PM.   The first of thirteen races at Freehold on Saturday is scheduled for 12:30 PM.   From Freehold Raceway      

WASHINGTON, PA, Feb. 4, 2021 -- It took him two moves to do it, but All About Heaven pulled off a 9-1 upset in Thursday's harness racing co-feature at The Meadows, a $9,800 Claiming Handicap Pace. All About Heaven left from post 9 and was able to find a seat fifth. But the 6-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven-Ain't That Funny was out before the half for driver Jim Pantaleano with an extended uncovered move that carried him to the top. He thwarted the late charge of Winning Is Sweet to down him by a head in 1:51.4, matching his career best. Whos Better completed the ticket.   Neil Balcerak trains the winner for Matthew Morrison, who realized immediate dividends after claiming the horse for $15,000 last week. In Thursday's co-feature, a $9,800 Conditioned Pace, East Beach rallied from well back to score for Ronnie Wrenn, Jr., trainer Ron Burke and owners Burke Racing Stable and Weaver Bruscemi, LLC. Aaron Merriman collected four wins and Burke three on the 13-race card. Live racing at The Meadows continues Friday when the 13-race program features a $2,767.09 carryover in the final-race Super Hi-5. First post is 12:45 PM. by Evan Pattak, for the MSOA

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - Handle reached remarkable heights and Let It Ride N stamped himself as the top harness racing horse currently in training on an eventful Saturday night at The Meadowlands. Wagering on the 15-race program totaled $4,562,477, which topped the "non-event" 2020 best of $4.1 million on June 20, when there were 18 races on the card. The average per race was $304,165, a number not seen since Hambletonian Day, when an average of $358,163 was put in play. From the get-go Saturday, the action was fast and furious, as $565,076 was bet in the first race, thanks to $314,217 in "new money" wagered into the 20-cent Pick-5, which saw a total pool of $360,948 after the carryover of $46,731 was added in. Another $468,040 was wagered on the sixth race, due in large part to an Early 50-cent Pick-4 pool of $120,947. The Late 50-cent Pick-4 was predictably popular as well, with $102,248 in action leading to $351,354 in total play. The single-race $350,000 barrier would be broken four times during the night. RIDE, RIDE, RIDE: The incredible early success of the Nifty Norman-trained Let It Ride N continued in the featured $28,000 Open/Preferred Handicap for pacers, as the 8-year-old gelded son of Rock N Roll Heaven-Love A Gamble stayed perfect in five North American starts since his arrival from Australia in late November. Driver Dexter Dunn didn't ask Let It Ride N for big speed at the start, settling in seventh along the rail from post nine in the nine-horse field around the first turn. Searching for a second consecutive score, Harambe Deo set a fast pace, hitting the quarter in :26.1. Before the half, Dunn had Let It Ride N racing on the rim, following the first-over Rock Diamonds N as Harambe Deo paced the half in :53.2. Nearing the five-eighths, Rock Diamonds N started to back up in the 1-2 favorite's face, so Dunn had to move three-wide likely earlier than he would have liked. It didn't matter. "He had no choice [but to move him]," said Norman of Dunn's aggressiveness. "But the horse has a huge kick and seems to be able to carry his speed a long way." Let It Ride N Let It Ride N gobbled up ground while three-wide around the far turn and collared Harambe Deo shortly after they straightened up in the stretch before blowing his foes away in a thoroughly dominant performance, scoring by 2 lengths over the late-rallying Hesa Kingslayer N after pacing his final quarter in :26.1. Vettel N closed for third. Highalator, the 9-2 second choice, finished seventh, with Harambe Deo (7-1) eighth. "He really amazed me," said Norman of his prized pupil. "He doesn't seem to have any bottom in him. I'm in shock again tonight. He's got an amazing brush. What impressed me the most, is once he passed Harambe Deo, he kicked off again like he had another gear." Let It Ride N, who won at The Meadowlands on Dec. 12 in 1:48.4 and now has three wins at the mile oval, lowered his lifetime best to 1:48.1. He's now won 23-of-59 lifetime starts and earned $360,958 for owners Enzed Racing Stable Inc. "He's 8 years old," said Norman. "You don't expect 8-year-olds to do this. All I've done is put him on Lasix, so he must have been bleeding back home. Next, I'll take him to Yonkers to see if he can get around a half-mile track. We might try the [Borgata] series there. I'm going to have to stake him to some races this year. He looks like he can be a Grand Circuit horse. I have to give him that chance." A LITTLE MORE: Dunn and Yannick Gingras picked up right where they left off in 2020, as each won three times on the card. ... Norman had a training double, as did Stacy Chiodo. ... Racing resumes Friday at 6 p.m. ... The Big M will race every Friday and Saturday from now through Hambletonian Day, Aug. 7. By Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations

WASHINGTON, PA, Sept. 23, 2020 _ Hedges Avenue A worked out a cozy pocket trip, then roared through the Lightning Lane to spring a 14-1 harness racing upset victory in Wednesday's feature at The Meadows, a $10,800 Conditioned Pace. Always Giggling, the 4-5 favorite, took the field through three-quarters in a reasonable comfortable 1:24.4. But when Brady Brown pointed Hedges Avenue A inside, the 7-year-old daughter of Rock N Roll Heaven-Presidential Night was the fresher mare, downing Always Giggling by 1/2 length in 1:53.1. Greenhilldebatable completed the ticket.   J.L. Adams trains the winner for Martin Valentic, John Bednarski and Karl Malik. Tony Hall and Chris Shaw each piloted three winners on the 13-race program. Live racing at The Meadows resumes Friday when the 13-race program features a $34,507.17 carryover in the final-race Super Hi-5 and a $1,237.97 carryover in the Early Pick 5 (race 2). First post is 12:45 PM. by Evan Pattak, for the MSOA  

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The Rock N Roll Heaven gelding Bell I No was an unchallenged winner in the $16,000 top claiming handicap pace at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on Saturday afternoon, his fourth straight victory - for four different trainers - and he was claimed for the fourth straight time from this class for the $30,000 tag. George Napolitano Jr., the meet's top driver and a five-time winner on the card, moved Bell I No to the lead in front of the stands and just had too much pace for his rivals, stopping the clock in 1:52. The winner of $348,391 was trained by Matias Ruiz and co-owned by him and James Mascola - and they made a nice profit on their seven-day "visitor," $8000 for the winning purse minus "George Nap"'s commission and the week's training fees.   There were a pair of $14,000 events for fast-class performers, one on each gait. On the trot, the Credit Winner gelding Vic's Winner continued to get no mutuel respect - after dispatching lesser foes in a career-best 1:52.4 last week at 23-1, the bettors allowed him to get away at 30-1 this week, and he took advantage of a pocket trip from driver John Kakaley to take the late lead without problem and return $62.40. Chris Lakata trains the newest member of the Six-Figure Earnings Club for Joie De Vie LLC. On the pace, the Somebeachsomewhere gelding Semi Tough took the lead, seemed to be under siege for much of the mile, yet still withstood the stretch-seam-splitting Branquinho by a head in 1:50.3. Semi Tough had won his previous two starts, including a $60,000 series final at Yonkers in 1:50, but had missed 26 days since his last race. Yet no rust showed on him as he raised his earnings to $550,557 for driver Joe Bongiorno, trainer Ron Burke (the meet leader), and Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Frank Baldachino, and J&T Silva- Purnel & Libby. There will be a Rainbow Pick 5 carryover of $124,269.89 on the line for the last five races of Sunday's 5 p.m. twilight card at Pocono, as well as three divisions of the third preliminary leg of the $215,461 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes for two-year-old pacing colts, in which Lou's Pearlman will be bidding for his third straight PaSS win. From the PHHA / Pocono Downs

WILKES-BARRE, PA - "Youthful veteran" harness racing driver Anthony Napolitano recorded the 3000th victory of his driving career Tuesday afternoon at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono with a hard-earned victory behind the Artspeak sophomore pacing miss Winning Words. The favored filly had to go the difficult first-over route, yet held off a host of distaffs coming from every direction to take a new mark of 1:53.4. The 38-year-old Napolitano, brother of local top reinsman George Napolitano Jr., is currently in the 20th year of his sulky career. His horses have won over $1 million for twelve consecutive years, including the last five years with their earnings each being over $2 million. His best money year came in 2018, when he handled the winners of $3.5 million. Anthony has also won over 200 races in each of the last four seasons, with his yearly high in 2009 at 295. Anthony currently ranks fifth in victories and third in money earned among the talented Pocono driving community. The Rock N Roll Heaven gelding Rockapelo, who a month ago was racing against Meadowlands Preferred company, got a far easier field to face in the finale and responded with an all-by-himself victory in 1:49.1, fastest mile so far in 2020 at Pocono. Matt Kakaley sent the winner of $354,662 right down the road and increased his lead throughout the last half in winning for trainer Ron Burke and the ownership of Burke Racing Stable LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC along with Phil Collura. From the PHHA / Pocono Downs

Plainville, MA --- After not racing since February 8 at Menangle Park in Australia, Paternity Suit A made his North American harness racing debut a winning one after going from last to first in the $12,000 Winners-Over pace at Plainridge Park on Thursday afternoon (July 16). Bettors Fire N (Ron Cushing) took the lead before the quarter and stepped off a quick :26.1 panel while the field lined up single file behind him. At the half, JK Will Power (Mitchell Cushing) pulled first over and started his march towards the leader with Beachchip Hanover (Kevin Switzer Jr.) on his back. Up the backstretch, it was a battle between Bettors Fire N and JK Will Power as they paced side by side past the three-quarters and into the last turn. It was there that Beachchip Hanover tipped three deep in pursuit, but Paternity Suit A (Drew Monti) who had been shuffled to last, tipped four deep as the race spiraled into the stretch and was gaining momentum. Monti tapped the disc and Paternity Suit A responded with a furious stretch drive that launched him past the field to the lead and a victory in 1:53.2. It was the third win in six starts this year for Paternity Suit A ($9.80), pushing his earnings to $19,776 in 2020. The 7-year-old gelded son of Rock n Roll Heaven is owned by Tony Gruppo and Tim Bojarski and is trained by Scott Rollins. The fillies and mares also had the spotlight on Thursday with a pair of conditioned events that saw their winners put in strong efforts. The $12,000 5-year-olds and younger event saw Rockin Ellie (Bruce Ranger) pull from sixth at the three-eighths pole and follow cover until the three-quarters where she tipped three deep into the last turn to run down the race long leader, Maverick Fiber (John Nason) to win by 2-1/2 lengths in 1:54.2. Rockin Ellie ($5.00) is owned by Just Enough LLC and Michael Girouard, who also trains the winner. Then the $12,500 Freedom Trail series for resident Plainridge distaff pacers went to Life Isa Shortwalk (Shawn Gray) who went wire to wire from post seven to win by a nose over Avery Seelster (John Nason) in 1:55.4. Life Isa Shortwalk ($13.60) is owned and trained by Ed Blash. Several drivers had multiple win efforts on Thursday's card. Drew Campbell led all and registered a driving triple while Nick Graffam, Shawn Gray and Bruce Ranger all visited the winner's circle twice. Racing resumes on Friday (July 17) at Plainridge Park with a 12-race card that features the $12,000 Winners-Over trot scheduled to go in race five. Post time for the first race is 4 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts

Rock N Roll Heaven further enhanced his credentials with a Group 1 siring double on Saturday night. Wolf Stride extended his win streak to six with a strong front running display in the $100,000 Metropolitan Region Championships Final. (Watch Replay) The star pacer began the race as favourite and he gave his backers no reason to be concerned. He settled in front and ran the field along in solid fashion. On the home bend Anthony Butt gave Wolf Stride some rein and he sprinted clear to win. The Emilio and Mary Rosati bred pacer has now won seven of his thirteen starts for $83,320. While at Newcastle, Kanye Crusader led and scored his maiden Group 1 win in a thrilling finish. (Watch Replay) After speeding to the front early, the son of Rock N Roll Heaven was able to dictate terms and fend off his rivals to win in a photo finish. Kanye Crusader was bred by Clayton Harmey out of the Fake Left mare Khloe. At stud she has a perfect record with four winners from four foals. The win pushed Kanye Crusader's lifetime earnings to $86,280.

On Sept. 23, 2010, Rock N Roll Heaven dominated the Little Brown Jug with a historic and still unparalleled harness racing performance. The colt won his first Jug heat in a world-record-equaling 1:49.2 and returned later in the afternoon to sweep the event by winning the second heat in a duplicate 1:49.2. It was the first time in history a horse won twice on the same day with sub-1:50 miles. There have been 27 Little Brown Jug miles since Rock N Roll Heaven's victory a decade ago and only twice has 1:49.2 been equaled or bettered. Wiggle It Jiggleit won his first heat in 2015 in 1:49.2; Betting Line won the second heat in 2016 in 1:49. Rock N Roll Heaven's trainer Bruce Saunders recently looked back at that memorable day and memorable year for his colt. THE FIELD Rock N Roll Heaven's seven rivals in the second, and final, heat of the 2010 Little Brown Jug were (in alphabetical order) Classic Rock Nroll, Doc's Yankee, Dreamlands Art, I'm Gorgeous, Piece Of The Rock, Razzle Dazzle, and Rockin Image. One More Laugh was scratched. "He beat a very nice bunch of horses," Saunders said. "People want to say they weren't that good, but if the race went in (1):50 and a piece or (1):51, it would have been a very competitive race. The fact Rock N Roll Heaven was up to going (1):49 and a piece, and came home as quickly as he did, dwarfed the other horses' ability that particular day. "It made the race fairly boring as far as competition was concerned, but it wasn't boring for us." THE LEAD-IN Rock N Roll Heaven won four of his first five races in 2010, including the Berry's Creek and New Jersey Sire Stakes championship before a costly blip in a division of the Burlington Stakes at Mohawk. Racing in heavy fog, Rock N Roll Heaven got the lead on the backstretch but was frightened by a light on the infield's half-mile timer and went off stride. He had to qualify three days later to compete in the North America Cup eliminations. He won his qualifier in 1:52 and four days after won his Cup elim in 1:48.4. In the North America Cup final, he finished fourth. "He scoped full of pus and mucous," Saunders said. "I think he was definitely the best horse in the North America Cup. In my mind, it was that extra (1):52 mile he had to go in the middle of the week that stressed his immune system enough that he wasn't on his game for the final. It was what it was." Rock N Roll Heaven bounced back with a win in his Meadowlands Pace elimination, then finished second by a head to One More Laugh in the final after battling for the lead through hotly contested early fractions. A second-place finish by a head to Rockin Image in the Oliver Wendell Holmes followed, but the colt would not lose again the rest of the season. He captured the Battle of the Brandywine in a stakes- and track-record 1:48.4 over a rain-soaked "good" surface at Harrah's Philadelphia and then headed to Delaware, Ohio, for the Little Brown Jug. LITTLE BROWN JUG DAY In his first heat, the first of three Jug eliminations, Rock N Roll Heaven started from post two and was third for the first quarter. On the second turn, driver Dan Dube sent Rock N Roll Heaven on his way and the colt powered to a three-length win over Razzle Dazzle in 1:49.2, equaling the world record for a 3-year-old pacing colt on a half-mile track set by Somebeachsomewhere at Flamboro Downs in the 2008 Confederation Cup final. Classic Rock Nroll won the second elim in 1:50.4 and I'm Gorgeous won the third in 1:50.2. When the field was set for the second heat, Rock N Roll Heaven again started from post two. This time, Dube only waited to come off the first turn to move Rock N Roll Heaven to the front. He was not threatened from there, winning by 2-1/4 lengths over I'm Gorgeous, again in 1:49.2. He paced the second half of the race in :53.4 and final quarter in :26.2. Rock N Roll Heaven's two-heat time of 3:38.4 established the world record, lowering the former time of 3:40.1 set by Shadow Play in the 2008 Jug. Wiggle It Jiggleit is the only Jug winner to threaten Rock N Roll Heaven's mark, missing by a fifth of a second in 2015. "Winning the Jug was an unbelievable experience; it was sensational," Saunders said. "I guess as races go, there were far more exciting ones in the Jug than Heaven's dominant win in 2010, but his performance may not be beat for a while. His last half in the last heat, home in :26.2, without being contested was pretty remarkable." To view a replay of the race, click here. Following the race, Saunders told reporters, "I've been reluctant to call him a great horse, but he is a great horse." Looking back at that comment, Saunders said, "I aspire to Tim McGraw's song, 'Humble and Kind.' I think it's best to be humble, be kind, to your competition. But once (Rock N Roll Heaven) got to that level, I think he established himself. It wasn't braggadocious, it was more just a statement of fact." The atmosphere at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, where fans visit with the horses in the Jug Barn in the days preceding the race and 48,118 showed up for Jug Day, made Rock N Roll Heaven's victory even more memorable. "The two or three days when you're there, it's kind of like an out-of-body experience," Saunders said. "You go through doing what you've got to do (to prepare) and try to accommodate all the people that come by to see the horse to make sure it's a great experience for them as well as you. "Like most horses, he loved the attention. Horses love to be looked at and spoken to, they know when they're the focus. That whole aspect of it was very rewarding. The fans there love the game, they love the horses, and love the winner. To put in that kind of effort was special." THE AFTERMATH Rock N Roll Heaven won his remaining seven starts following the Little Brown Jug on his way to U.S. Horse of the Year honors. Five of those victories were by at least three lengths and the triumphs included the Breeders Crown, Tattersalls Pace, Messenger Stakes, and Matron Stakes. For the year, he won 16 of 21 races and earned $2.15 million. He paced a record 11 sub-1:50 miles, with victories in 1:49.2 or faster on every size racetrack -- half, five-eighths, seven-eighths, and mile. The colt, a son of Rocknroll Hanover out of Artistic Vision, was owned by Frank Bellino and bred by Steve Stewart, Charles "Cotton" Nash, Julie Nash, and Francene Nash. In 2017, Rock N Roll Heaven was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame. "He was an unbelievable horse in so many regards," Saunders said. "One of the remarkable attributes he had was that he could pace away from a field of horses any time during the mile. In the middle part, the first part, from the top of the stretch home; if he was fresh, he could just sprint away from horses. And a lot of them stood on their toes trying to keep up with him. "To get a horse that is Horse of the Year is pretty spectacular. He was special." At the end of the 2010 campaign, The Meadowlands Racetrack produced a video looking at Rock N Roll Heaven's season, which can be viewed here. Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager

Frank J. Bellino, 85, owner of hundreds of harness racing during his life including 2010 Horse of the Year Rock N Roll Heaven, passed away Tuesday morning (March 17) of a heart attack. Bellino, who founded a successful construction firm and also owned commercial real estate throughout the United States, started in the harness racing industry in 1982 and has owned a number of top pacers and trotters by himself and in partnership with his sons Joe and George. In addition to Rock N Roll Heaven, a 2017 Harness Racing Hall of Fame inductee who earned $2,748,818 during his career and went on to stallion duty, Bellino owned Pet Rock ($1,780,454), another stallion who stands at Midland Acres. While the resident of Bronxville, New York may be best remembered for some high-priced yearling purchases along with the above stallions, his eye for upper-level conditioned horses was second-to-none. The list includes several horses that earned hundreds of thousands as part of Bellino's stable. Classic Rock NRoll earned $814,556 during his career, nearly three-quarters of that for Bellino. Casimir Jitterbug spent six years on the track for Bellino and brought in approximately $800K while American Rage and Polak A also earned well north of $300K each for the stable. "He loved harness racing more than any business he was ever involved with," said Joe Bellino, who added that his father's favorite race was when Rock N Roll Heaven won the Little Brown Jug in 2010. Bellino is survived by his son Joe and many grandchildren. Funeral arrangements were not available at this time.

WILKES-BARRE, PA - Some high-powered free-for-all and invitational harness racing pacers were very impressive winning Wednesday morning qualifiers at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Fastest of all was the veteran Riverboat King gelding Theartofconfusion A, who paced a 1:49.3 all-age track record mile at Yonkers last year. On Wednesday Theartofconfusion A motored home in :56 flat despite being first-up to complete a 1:55.1 victory for driver Eric Carlson and trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera, auguring well as he sets out to post a third consecutive $200G+-winning season for co-owners Garcia-Herrera and Barbara and Donald Arnstine. The Real Desire eight-year-old mare Eclipse Me N, who set a 1:48.2 divisional world record at The Downs last year, flew home in :55.2 to stop the timer in 1:55.4 in her event. Simon Allard was in the sulky for trainer/brother Rene and the ownership of Allard Racing Inc., Yves Sarrazin, and Donald Mac Rae. Trainer Rene Allard has been le Boss of the local conditioners with six titles in the last seven years, and his 2018 Hempt Championship winner Springsteen sounded a strong winning note with a 1:56.1 victory, his own last half :56.1 with Simon Allard sulkysitting. Allard Racing Inc. co-owns the son of Rock N Roll Heaven with Bruce Soulsby, Alan Weisenberg, and Kapildeo Singh. From the PHHA/Pocono Downs

YONKERS, N.Y. – Of the 19 entrants to the M Life Rewards Ladies Series first leg at Yonkers Raceway Monday (March 2), Lovin Cocoa is the least experienced with just nine pari-mutuel starts under her belt. However, harness racing trainer Travis Alexander hopes she will make up for it on speed and talent. She is also one of four starters in the series for Alexander. The 4-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven mare enters the M Life Rewards Ladies off an 8-length victory in a local $14,000 overnight Feb. 11, an effort that caught even her trainer by surprise. Lovin Cocoa had bar shoes on in that start, a move Alexander was sure was a mistake after she warmed up that night. “To be honest, before the race I was absolutely petrified because I had put bar shoes on her and she was absolutely terrible warming up, to the point where we almost scratched her,” Alexander said. “I told Matt (Kakaley) just to be careful, that it was my fault, not hers, she doesn’t like these bars, she doesn’t like the frog pressure. She’s not lame, she just doesn’t like the shoes.” Lovin Cocoa raced in fifth early 9 1/2 lengths off the pace. She moved to the outside straightening away the first time and advanced without cover. Reaching the backstretch, rival Thaneeya pulled the pocket, forcing Lovin Cocoa three-wide approaching the three-quarters. Passing the 6-furlong marker, she glided past the leaders effortlessly and opened up a pair of lengths. Lovin Cocoa kicked clear in the stretch under Kakaley pistol grips to post the dominating score at 1-9. Although Lovin Cocoa enters the M Life Rewards Ladies as a first-leg morning line favorite, last summer, she was a longshot to race at all. A homebred for Mark and Leslie Wasserman’s Fiddler’s Creek Stable, Lovin Cocoa is out of Scrapping Beauty, the first horse the Wassermans and Alexander had together in 2008. Lovin Cocoa and DD Delicious, Alexander’s other M Life Rewards Ladies entrant, grew up together in the same field. Prone to making breaks at 2, Lovin Cocoa was unraced as a freshman. Last year at 3, Lovin Cocoa had one qualifier June 5 before starting in the New York Excelsior B Series over a sloppy track at Tioga Downs June 10. She finished sixth beaten 6 3/4 lengths and came out of the race with an injury, forcing her to the sidelines. “She bowed both front tendons in the mud at Tioga. She hurt both tendons that night,” Alexander said. “It’s a kick in the butt because that day, DD Delicious won the sire stakes and then two races later, that happens. Highs and lows. It wasn’t terrible, but it was enough to where we had to shut her down. We just did the right thing and Lovin Cocoa is one of Mrs. Wasserman’s favorite horses. That’s been her filly since she was born and so we did what we had to do to go forward. “We healed her tendons and lo and behold, here we are. Honestly, she shouldn’t be racing. Her legs were bad. We didn’t give up, we gave her time, healed her up. Her caretaker (Armando Barragan) does an amazing job, he works hard on her legs. She wants to race, she’s fast enough, it’s just a matter of keeping her sound and happy.” Lovin Cocoa qualified back at Yonkers Nov. 15. She paced her mile in 1:55.4 with a :28.2 final panel. The effort took Alexander and Kakaley by surprise. “Once we had the legs set up and the ultrasounds were good, I knew we were looking good. I didn’t know if she’d get around the half and I didn’t know how much speed she truly had and how much she would have lost due to injury,” Alexander said.  “I qualified her the first time at Yonkers and she paced 55. To be honest, I was mind-blown. Matt and myself were like, ‘where did this come from? What in the world?’ ” Despite the encouraging result, Lovin Cocoa made breaks in her next three starts, all at the Hilltop. Alexander regrouped, sending the filly to the Meadowlands. With Alexander in Florida training babies, Roy Marohn drove Lovin Cocoa to a qualifying win at the Swamp in 1:55.3 Dec. 21. Six days later, she finished third in a $15,000 overnight, pacing the mile in 1:52.4 with :27.2 on the end. “She has a temper. That’s why she was making those breaks early. I had too big of a head pole and I was trying to make her do it our way instead of letting her do it her way,” Alexander said. “I took her to the Meadowlands to get her mind right and I took everything off. Roy Marohn did an amazing job getting her qualified and going. “After that 52 mile at the Meadowlands, I knew,” Alexander continued. “She’s always had speed, her whole family has had speed. The colts of that family have the same temper, but they’re a lot tougher to deal with. I knew she’d be more than competitive in this series. Once we got her racing good, we set her up for that.” Lovin Cocoa enters the M Life Rewards Ladies first leg off nearly three weeks rest. Alexander was forced to make adjustments after her outing with bar shoes and then prepped her for this start. “I had to take the shoes off because the day after, she was sore, so we had to adjust again,” Alexander said. “Young horses or lightly raced horses are a learning curve. You have to find what they will tolerate, you have to find a balance. We went back to the drawing board and I’m very happy with what we came up with. “She’s missed two weeks on purpose just to get her right,” the trainer continued. “She’s trained up very well. I expect a big effort on Monday and going forward. Four weeks in the series, I didn’t want to race her, so we’re managing her and we have high hopes for her.” Lovin Cocoa will start from post four with Matt Kakaley in Monday’s fourth race, the third division of the M Life Rewards Ladies Series. The Series kicks off in race two, where Alexander will send out DD Delicious. DD Delicious started her career last year with two straight overnight wins before jumping into New York Sire Stakes competition. She won one leg at Tioga June 10 and placed in five others to earn a berth in the $225,000 NYSS Final at Batavia Sept. 14. After drawing post eight, she earned a check finishing fifth, boosting her earnings to $140,470 for Fiddler’s Creek Stable, and was pointed to the M Life Rewards Series. “She’s special. She’s a very nice mare. We had some issues last year with some sickness, unfortunately a couple bad posts in the wrong stakes races,” Alexander said. “It worked out because now she fits this series. As soon as she didn’t win the sire stakes final, I shut her down and aimed her just for this series because it’s a good starting point for her 4-year-old year.” DD Delicious spent a couple months turned out in Ohio before shipping to Alexander’s Florida stable to train back. She qualified a winner in 1:56 at Pocono Downs Feb. 12 and prepped for the M Life Rewards Ladies with one start at Yonkers Feb. 18, finishing second in a $16,000 overnight from post eight with Kakaley in the bike. “We sent her down to Florida and she prepped as well as any horse could. Her first start, that was beautiful,” Alexander said. “He sat as long as he could, she sprinted home, had pace on the end of it. She trained very, very well (Friday), couldn’t be happier.” Unraced at 2, DD Delicious had 14 starts at 3. Now entering her 4-year-old season, Alexander feels DD Delicious is coming into her prime. “She’s much stronger, she grew, she put on a lot of muscle. I could tell all winter in Florida and when we qualified her at Pocono, that was the first time (Matt) drove her and he even said he could feel she’s just stronger than last year,” Alexander said. “They race the first year at 3, not having those starts at 2 does hinder them a little bit as far as strength goes.” DD Delicious is the 5-2 morning line second choice behind Tom Milici’s North Star Ideal, who enters off three straight wins. Alexander will also send out two starters in the M Life Rewards Gents Series first leg Tuesday (March 3). Marco Beach will start from post four with Joe Bongiorno and is the 5-2 morning line favorite in the first division. Despite his 6-for-19 record and $51,400 in earnings, Alexander doesn’t feel Marco Beach has lived up to his potential yet. “He’s probably one of the smartest horses I’ve ever had, but he’s the hardest horse I’ve ever broke,” Alexander said. “He’s been a challenge to get to this point. “He would notice any change. If a tractor moved, he would stop and try to figure out what was different. If somebody’s truck was parked on the side of the hill and then the next lap was gone, he would sit there for 20 minutes and try to figure out what was different, and you couldn’t make him move. He would sit there and just stare,” Alexander explained. “Last year, there was a race where he was crossing over to the front and he saw the starting gate and went to the outside of the track to go behind the starting gate again,” Alexander continued. “It was bad. That’s why John Kakaley drove him a lot last year because I needed someone that I could get every start that would educate him. He’s so fast, I haven’t even scratched the surface. I can’t train him by himself, his mind wanders. Mentally, he’s a tough horse.” Alexander has seen improvement in Marco Beach from 3 to 4. He qualified in 1:56.4 at Pocono Downs Feb. 12 and won his seasonal debut at the Wilkes-Barre five-eighths-mile track by a neck in 1:53.4 with a :27.3 final quarter Feb. 23. The M Life Rewards Gents first leg will be Marco Beach’s first start on a half-mile track. “I don’t know how he’ll get around the half because he’s never seen a half. Not that he’s bad-gaited, he’s very good-gaited, but you just never know. He is a big horse. That’s the only thing that concerns me is him not being on Yonkers before the series started,” Alexander said. “The reasoning was just more the way things fell in place as far as timing,” Alexander explained. “I shipped him north and qualified him at Pocono and I didn’t want to short rest him and race him at Yonkers with the series coming up. It was better to race on Sunday at Pocono. It was scheduling.” Alexander’s final series entrant is Tellitsabb, a 4-year-old Tellitlikeitis gelding who recently came to Alexander’s stable for owner Brian Carsey. After going 3-for-13 last year in Ohio with Ernie Gaskin, Tellitsabb is 3-for-3 with $24,000 earned already this season. “He’s a fantastic horse. The Gaskins did a great job with him. When they sent him out, he was ready to go. I liked him, so Brian Carsey bought him because I liked him so much,” Alexander said. Tellitsabb’s victories have each come by at least 2 lengths and he’s paced his miles in 1:53.1, 1:53.4, and 1:54.0 with Matt Kakaley and Joe Bongiorno alternating drives to this point. Despite the impressive results, Alexander sees room for improvement. “He’s a horse that wants to lean in on the turns. The last two starts, I’ve tried to help with that and it’s made him worse, so I have to take everything off and go back to how it was the first start,” Alexander said. “I don’t know how fast he is. Joe and Matt are both very high on him. It’s just how he is on the turns and the more you rig him, the more he tries to fight you,” Alexander continued. “I’ll have to leave it to the drivers, let them earn their money a little bit. Speed wise, he’s extremely fast.” Tellitsabb is a 5-1 morning line with Matt Kakaley set to drive. He drew post eight, but with valuable points at stake, Alexander expects the gelding to leave. “We’ve got to go forward. I don’t know how forward we’re going to go, but we can’t just duck and sit and wait,” he said. “We’ve got to race, so we’ll see. I’ll leave that to Matt though.” Alexander hopes to build on early-season success in the M Life Rewards Series. His stable is 11-for-44 at Yonkers this year with an additional 14 seconds and thirds. He credits his wife, Alaina, and caretakers Wilder Allverz (Marco Beach), Lucia Sanchez (Tellitsabb), and Barragan (DD Delicious and Lovin Cocoa). “We’ve had a very good start to the year. We’ve had a lot of horses fit the right spots, that always helps. Nice diversity from non-winners of two up to non-winners of $30,000 trot. It’s been a very good winter and hopefully it keeps going,” Alexander said. “My crew has done a tremendous job. I have to thank them. I’ve been going back and forth between here and Florida. My wife Alaina, she’s amazing. She runs the northern barn. I have no worries when she’s up north. She treats these horses like they’re her kids and it shows. She’s the reason they’re all racing the way they are. She does an amazing job.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The M Life Rewards Ladies Series begins Monday night, March 2 while the M Life Rewards Gents Series kicks off Tuesday, March 3. The Blue Chip Matchmaker Series will return Friday, March 13 and the Borgata Pacing Series starts Saturday, March 14. First post time is 7:05 p.m. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

Saturday evening's harness racing card at Saratoga Casino Hotel consisted of three divisions of the second leg of the Holiday Pacing Series. Participants had their final chance to accrue points towards next Saturday's (December 14) Series Final. Bob Uhl's Babinga Wood (Dragon Again) became the only repeat winner in the two legs of the series as the 2-5 betting favorite in his division of the Holiday Pace came from last before circling the field to win a photo in 1:56.3. Mitch Cushing piloted the Uhl trainee and now has three wins and a second place finish while sitting behind the track's Claiming Pacer of the Year from 2017. Babinga Wood will likely head into next Saturday's Final as the one to beat. Blueberry Heaven (Rock N Roll Heaven) went coast-to-coast in his $7,500 division of the series on Saturday as leading driver Billy Dobson piloted the Gary Levine-trained pacer to victory in 1:56.4. Levine claimed Blueberry Heaven last month and finished third with him in the series' first leg before stamping his ticket to next week's Final behind his leg two score. The final division of the night went to Santanna One (Santanna Blue Chip) who lasted on the lead for trainer Jessica Derue and reinsman Chris Long. Santanna One, a fourth-place finisher in leg one, posted the fastest time of the series thus far with his 1:55.1 score which came as his race's 1-2 betting favorite. The $20,000 Final of the fourth annual Holiday Pacing Series is set for next Saturday night. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon with a matinee set to kick off at 12 Noon. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway  

YONKERS, N.Y. – “He’s back.” That’s the first thing that went through harness racing trainer Nick DeVita’s mind after watching Heaven’s Gait score a comeback win in the $14,000 winners over at Saratoga Nov. 9. Although the race setup for a closer as a pair of leaders hooked up in a speed duel through panels of :26.3 and 54.2, Heaven’s Gait proved impressive. The 5-year-old wheeled first-over from a 6-length deficit in sixth passing the half, went three-wide around the leaders on the third turn under Jay Randall pistol grips, and opened a 4-length advantage through three-quarters in 1:22.4. With Randall still statuesque in the bike, Heaven’s Gait reported home a 5 1/2-length winner in 1:52.2. “That was a big relief to see him win the way he did at Saratoga. That’s the horse we knew we had,” DeVita said. “There was no doubt anymore that he was going to come back as good as he was. “Obviously, we have bigger plans for him next year with the Levy and everything,” DeVita continued. “We are just trying to get his feet back under him and trying not to push him too hard. He’s come back pretty good and we’re real happy with him so far and just trying to race him back into shape now.” The Saratoga victory was Heaven’s Gait’s first victory and only his second pari-mutuel start since winning the Empire Breeders Classic Final at Tioga Downs Aug. 20, 2017. Heaven’s Gait emerged from his 1:49.2 victory in the $263,000 stakes with an injury that send him to the sidelines. “He didn’t come out of that race too great,” DeVita said. “He was a little sore for a few days and we took a few X-rays and saw that he broke his P1 (first Phalanx). We just stopped with him, obviously and gave him the rest of the year off to heal.” By Rock N Roll Heaven out of the Somebeachsomewhere mare Booya Beach, Heaven’s Gait is a homebred for John Cummins. The horse stood out to DeVita from day one. “When he first came into the farm, he just looked like a big ball of muscle. He looked like he was going to be a nice athlete,” DeVita said. “He did everything right from the start and as we started going faster miles, he just did it so easily and seemed to enjoy it so much. He never gave us any problems and he just had a special look about him, the way he carries himself. He’s a very intelligent horse.” Heaven’s Gait made just five starts at 2, winning a pair of overnights at Pocono Downs. At 3, he won two legs of the New York Sire Stakes and the $75,000 Hempt Consolation. He crossed the wire first in the last five starts of his sophomore campaign, culminating with the Empire Breeders Classic. “He was a homebred for us, so we really worked with him from the ground up,” DeVita said. “To win a big race like that, it was quite a thrill and such an honor. I was just proud to be part of the team and John has been so hands-on with him. John loves his horses, so it was really special to win that race. It was very rewarding, the road to get there.” DeVita took Heaven’s Gait’s injury in stride and the support of Cummins, a veterinarian based in Lexington, proved invaluable. “It’s part of the game, so you can only play the card you’re dealt. Dr. Cummins is a very knowledgeable veterinarian and he told us what we needed to do. He was onboard in helping us any way he could,” DeVita said. “We followed his advice and he said, ‘if you do the right thing, he should come back no problem,’ and he did. “We’re very careful with him. John doesn’t put a lot of pressure on us; he wants the right thing done by his horse and we respect that,” DeVita continued. “That makes it so much easier when the owner wants the best thing done with their horse and you don’t have the pressure to bring them back too early or do something that you don’t feel comfortable doing. We just took our time with him and he let us know when he was ready to come back.” Heaven’s Gait qualified five times between Aug. 22, 2018 and Dec. 1, 2018, but never started in a pari-mutuel race. He trialed again Oct. 9 at Pocono Downs in 1:55 before posting a final qualifier one week later in 1:54.2. Heaven’s Gait finished second in his return to the races at Saratoga Nov. 2. After his comeback win, he started from post eight in Saratoga’s Open Handicap, but found himself at a 12 1/2-length disadvantage through a :57.1 half. In his last start at Yonkers Nov. 23, Heaven’s Gait finished sixth in the $35,000 Preferred Handicap. “His last start at Saratoga, they nearly went a second quarter in 31 seconds and he was sitting last. It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you’re that far out of it, especially at a track like Saratoga, you’re hoping to finish fifth at that point,” DeVita said. “We had the rail last week and just our first start at Yonkers, tried to get around there safely. He did and he finished strong. Hopefully we get away a little closer this week.” Heaven’s Gait will continue his comeback in the $42,000 Open Handicap Pace Saturday night (Dec. 7). George Brennan, who leads Jason Bartlett in the driver standings 411 to 407, will drive the stallion from post one. The pair are 6-1 on the morning line. Last week’s Open Handicap winner Mac’s Jackpot will start from post six as he seeks four straight wins. Jack’s Legend was assigned post eight off a pair of impressive victories in the Open Handicap and Preferred Handicap in his last two starts Nov. 16 and 23, respectively. The Real One and Saying Grace, who finished second and third to Mac’s Jackpot last week, drew posts seven and two, respectively. The Wall, who was handicapped by post seven last week, drew post five Saturday night. Raukapuka Ruler and Sunfire Blue Chip complete the lineup and enter off wins for $27,000 Nov. 23. “He’s in against tough horses, but we plan to race him against the best horses,” DeVita said. “I think he can go with them no problem. He was one of the best 3-year-olds in 2017 in New York and he raced against good horses then and I’m sure he’ll be able to compete with them. “He’s shown that he can win on the lead, he can win from off the pace, he can fly home. He’s great off a helmet. I really have no concern there,” DeVita continued. “Yonkers is a good track to race off the pace and there’s really no pressure on George to put him on the lead by no means. He is in against those tough horses and hopefully he can work out a trip and hopefully it works out for us.” Regardless of the outcome Saturday night, DeVita still sees the same spark in Heaven’s Gait that made him stand out as a yearling. “He loves to work, very classy horse, professional. He never gave us a problem. He’s still a stallion and he’s a perfect gentleman. You can walk a mare right past him. He’s a pleasure to work with. You know a special horse when you’re around them. They act different, they carry themselves differently, they know they’re special.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through December 17. First post time is 6:50 p.m.  By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

Chester, PA -- Following two consecutive Preferred wins at Freehold, Lyons Steel ($4.40) extended his streak to three with a 1:52.3 harness racing victory in the $18,000 pacing feature on Sunday (Nov. 24) at Harrah's Philadelphia. The 4-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven gelding and driver David Miller worked clear of Nine Ways (Tony Morgan) after a :27.1 first quarter, and then parried two separate challenges en route to the 15th win of his career. After rating a :55.4 half mile, Lyons Steel staved off a first-over push from JK Musicman (George Napolitano Jr.) through three-quarters in 1:23.4, and then dug in to defeat the late-rallying Billy Badger N (Dexter Dunn) by three-quarters of a length. JK Musicman narrowly held third over Mako Banner N (Corey Callahan). Dennis Watson trains Lyons Steel for BD Racing LLC. Tim Tetrick notched a grand slam on the 14-race card, winning with King Harvest ($5.80), Song Cycle Senese ($1.20), Sadiq Hanover ($13.40) and In Rock We Trust ($10.40). Due to an insuficent amount of entries, qualifiers at Harrah's are cancelled on Tuesday. Live racing returns to Harrah's Philadelphia on Wednesday afternoon (Nov. 27), with a 14-race card due to commence at 2:05 p.m. Eastern. by James Witherite, for Harrah's Philadelphia 

CHESTER, PA - Harness racing drivers Dexter Dunn and George Napolitano Jr. won the feature races at Harrah's Philadelphia on Friday afternoon - and red-hot Tim Tetrick won about everything else. Dunn guided the Captaintreacherous sophomore filly Philly Hanover to her second straight victory while winning the $18,000 top-billed distaff pace in 1:51.4. The "hometown horse" had to go the first-over route, but the uncovered journey did not faze the heaviest of favorites at all as she won by 2¾ lengths over Modesta, who tailed her cover, for trainer Ron Coyne Jr. and the partnership of Ron Coyne Stables Inc. and Blair Corbeil. Napolitano was the driver behind the Rock N Roll Heaven mare Jive Dancing A, who has now won four of her last five starts after tallying in 1:52.2 in the $17,000 co-feature. The Mike Hall trainee set the pace with two moves and had second-place Privacy Hanover three lengths in arrears of her as she ran her win record to 12 for 21 this season, to the pleasure of owners Blindswitch Racing Stable. Tetrick came out of the box smoking on Friday, winning five of the first six races (and missing a head in the other), and added a sixth victory later in the program to give him "boxcars" - a pair of sixes on the Wednesday and Friday cards (he drove at Dover on Thursday with the Matron sophomore stakes). During the month of November Tetrick has a 65-23-16-4-.511 log just at Philly, and he has won 41 races overall in the month's first 15 days, despite not competing on three of the days. He is second in North America in victories, first in money, and was tenth in UDR as the day started; at Philly, Tim is tops in all three categories. From the PHHA / Harrah's Philadelphia

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