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Nows The Moment went wire-to-wire for his first win of the 2021 harness racing season in the Yonkers Raceway $37,000 Open Trot on Friday.   Matt Kakaley commanded early speed from the six-year-old gelding, who promptly provided it from the rail. Nows the Moment secured front-end control before the first turn and took the field through fractions of :28.2, :58.2, and 1:27 unopposed.   Nows The Moment kept all threats at bay coming down the stretch and completed the two-length victory in 1:56.3. Mostinterestingman (George Brennan) found late trot up the rail and got up for second. Pocket-sitter Full Rights (Jason Bartlett) settled for show.   NOWS THE MOMENT REPLAY     Nows The Moment is now 23-for-85 lifetime with earnings exceeding $350,000. Lloyd Alex Macdonald trains the son of Credit Winner for Sonya Mac Donald of South Paris (ME).   Yonkers Raceway will return on Monday, May 3.   For full race results, click here.   by Nicholas Barnsdale, for Harnesslink

The Standardbred Owners Association of New, York is pleased to announce that the 2021 SOA of NY / Yonkers Raceway John R Brennan Scholarship application and rules are now available. The Scholarship awards a $5,000 first prize, $3,000 second prize and a $2,000 third prize. Application deadline is May 31, 2021. The Scholarship applicant or his/her immediate family member must be a 2021 SOA of NY member in good standing or the applicant can be an immediate family member of a backstretch employee (caretaker) covered by the SOA Welfare Plan. "Immediate family" means spouse or child. Either the applicant or their parents must have participated at Yonkers Raceway in the last 12 months as an owner, trainer, driver or caretaker. For a complete list of rules and eligibility please visit WWW.SOAOFNY.COM or call (914)-968-3599. From the SOA of New York  

Racine Bell ensured her hot streak was not extinguished on Thursday night at Yonkers Raceway by winning the $37,000 Open Pace in a first-up harness racing effort.   She left quickly under orders from Jason Bartlett, but her outside post forced her to drop into the five-hole as the eight-horse field straightened onto the backside. Snobbytown (George Brennan) took over the lead as they hit the quarter in :27.3 and carried the field to the half in :57.4, after which Racine Bell moved first-over.   Racine Bell stormed up on the outside and struck the front just past the three-quarters in 1:25.4. She cleared Snobbytown as she entered the stretch and sealed the half-length 1:54 victory with a sufficient stretch drive. A resilient Snobbytown fought back and regained ground approaching the line, but she had to settle for second. Bronskimackenzie A (Todd McCarthy) closed from last to third.   RACINE BELL     Racine Bell has now won 16 of her 32 starts and made more than $350,000 for Chris Lawton of Vernon and Dale Lawton of Verona. David Dewhurst trains the four-year-old So Surreal mare.   Yonkers Raceway's next card starts at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Apr. 30.   For full race results, click here.   by Nicholas Barnsdale, for Harnesslink

A resilient Sound Idea repelled two attacks in the stretch to win the harness racing feature pace on Wednesday at a rainy Yonkers Raceway.   George Brennan sent the four-year-old mare directly to the lead from post five, clearing midway through the first turn, and took the field through :28.1 and :58.1 opening splits. Galleria Gal (Scott Zeron) left the four-hole going toward the half and made steady inroads on the leader, reaching Sound Idea's hindquarters as she passed three-quarters in 1:26.1.   Galleria Gal drew level with Sound Idea as the field angled into the final turn, and the pair battled through the downpour to the finish. Rose Run Victoria (Jordan Stratton) made herself heard as they approached the line, but Sound Idea found the wire in time to score by a nose in 1:54.3.   Galleria Gal was a game second, and Rose Run Victoria closed well but ultimately finished third. The winner paid $7.20.   SOUND IDEA REPLAY     Sound Idea's tight victory was her seventh in 36 career appearances. The daughter of Mach Three has earned more than $230,000 for the ownership group of John and Thomas Balzer of Hampton Bays and Donald and Lisa Kayser of East Moriches. Balzer is the conditioner.   The rain did not prevent Brennan from catching fire - he won four of the night's nine dashes. He is currently second in the Yonkers driver standings with 95 wins to Stratton's 99.   Yonkers Raceway will be back on Thursday night with a 10-race program beginning at 7:15 p.m. EDT.   For full race results, click here.   by Nicholas Barnsdale, for Harnesslink

So Many Roads needed only the stretch drive to go from third to first in his feature pace harness racing victory at Yonkers Raceway on Tuesday night.   Pat Lachance left passively with him, placing So Many Roads in the three-hole in the opening stages. Genius Man (Jason Bartlett) led unchallenged through splits of :29, :57.1, and 1:25 and held a one-and-a-quarter-length gap turning for the stretch.   Levine (Scott Zeron) popped the pocket to go after the leader, but So Many Roads fanned out three-wide as they entered the lane and stormed up, getting by late to score by a head in 1:53.1. Levine got up for second, and Genius Man was relegated to third.   SO MANY ROADS REPLAY     So Many Roads broke the $100,000 lifetime earnings barrier with this win. The four-year-old Captaintreacherous gelding has won seven of his 41 lifetime appearances. Lachance also trains and co-owns with M and M Harness Racing LLC of Englewood and Daniel Baer of Millburn.   Yonkers Raceway will return on Wednesday with another nine-race card that kicks off at 7:15 p.m. EDT.   For full race results, click here.   by Nicholas Barnsdale, for Harnesslink  

Rollwithpapajoe scored with a front-end performance in the headline $37,000 Open Handicap harness racing event at Yonkers Raceway on Apr. 26.   Joe Bongiorno took no chances and sent Rollwithpapajoe directly to the front. The five-year-old son of Roll With Joe enjoyed a pressure-free first three quarters, setting :27.2, :56.3, and 1:25.1 splits without a challenge. He carried a one-and-a-half-length lead into the turn.   Pocket-sitter Twin B Tuffenuff (George Brennan) found some late pace in the stretch, and The Real One (Pat Lachance) closed quickly, but Rollwithpapajoe was in control and got home three quarters of a length the best in 1:53.1. Twin B Tuffenuff was second, and The Real One came from fifth to snag the show spot.   ROLLWITHPAPAJOE REPLAY     Rollwithpapajoe won his 16th race on 46 starts and increased his earnings to more than $330,000. Jennifer Bongiorno trains the gelding for Barbara Bongiorno Stable LLC of Monroe, Bill Lambos of Astoria, and Dionisios Liberatos of Manhasset Hills.   The horse's win price was $3.70.   Yonkers Raceway is back in action on Apr. 27 with a nine-race card starting at 7:15 p.m. EDT.   For full race results, click here.   by Nicholas Barnsdale, for Harnesslink

Full Rights flew from second-last to win by a nose in the $33,000 Yonkers Raceway harness racing Open Handicap Trot on Apr. 23.   Jason Bartlett dropped back early with the gelding, positioning him sixth in a group of seven as a three-horse speed duel brewed up front. Nows The Moment (Matt Kakaley) won it, reaching the front going past the quarter in :27.2. The leader took a breather to the half, hitting it in :57.1 as Full Rights mobilized second-over.   Nows The Moment continued to lead through three-quarters in 1:26.1, but the backfield powered up as they straightened for home. Pocket-sitter Arabella's Cadet (Joe Bongiorno) dove to the passing lane and Full Rights fanned out three-wide. Arabella's Cadet dispatched Nows The Moment at the 1/16th pole, but he couldn't stop Full Rights, who soared late and got up to win in a very tight photo in 1:56.   Arabella's Cadet was second, and Nows The Moment held onto third.   FULL RIGHTS REPLAY     Full Rights improved to 13-for-65 lifetime with the win, and his earnings now total more than $180,000. Ray Schnittker trains the son of Rc Royalty for Runthetable Stables of Montvale.   The horse paid $16.70 for a $2 base.   Yonkers Raceway will return with a nine-race card on Monday, Apr. 26.   For full race results, click here.   by Nicholas Barnsdale, for Harnesslink

Racine Bell didn't miss a beat after skipping a week, winning the Thursday, Apr. 22 Yonkers Raceway $33,000 Open Handicap Pace in a front-end harness racing romp.   Brian Sears sent her away sharply from post eight on the far outside, going three-wide into the turn and taking the lead as they straightened onto the backstretch. Racine Bell set opening panels of :27 and :57.3 and kicked away at three-quarters in 1:23.2, opening up a large gap at the head of the stretch.   Sears put the whip away going to the finish as Racine Bell secured a two-length victory in 1:52.2. Bronskimackenzie A (Todd McCarthy) circled from well back to take second, and Jewels Forreal (Scott Zeron) got up for show.   RACINE BELL REPLAY     Racine Bell is now 15-for-31 lifetime with just shy of $340,000 in earnings for Chris Lawton of Vernon and Dale Lawton of Verona. David Dewhurst trains the four-year-old So Surreal mare. The horse paid $3.50 to win.   Yonkers Raceway is back in action on Friday, Apr. 23 with a nine race card starting at 7:15 p.m. EDT.   For full race results, click here.   by Nicholas Barnsdale, for Harnesslink

Get Legs rallied after working out a second-over trip and got up through the lane to win the $69,000 final of the John Brennan Trotting Series on Wednesday night (April 21) at Yonkers Raceway as the 1-9 favorite. Starting from post six, Get Legs (Andy Miller) didn't have the quickest of beginnings, landing in sixth, but he was able to improve one spot to fifth as Look In My Eyes (Jordan Stratton) miscued on the opening turn. Meanwhile, Lady Jeter (Yannick Gingras) did have a fast start, as she blasted out from post six and established command well before the 28.4 opening quarter. Guilty Desire (Nick Clegg), who made a brief break just prior to the start, was able to get back on-stride quickly and then began a first-over move out of fourth on the second turn, giving Get Legs cover. Guilty Desire advanced into second as Lady Jeter tripped the half-mile point at 59.3, and remained in that position to the 1:28.4 three-quarters as Lady Jeter continued on the front-end and gave her two-wide challenger the cold shoulder. On the far turn Gingras asked Lady Jeter to accelerate as Get Legs tipped out three-wide, and Lady Jeter responded as she had a couple of lengths on Get Legs turning into the lane. It was not enough, though, as despite drifting out, Get Legs was hand-driven home by Miller and surged by Lady Jeter en route to a 1 3/4 length decision in 1:58.3. Tad Krazy Hanover (Scott Zeron) was third, followed by Guilty Desire and Windsong Pioneer (Brent Holland).   GET LEGS REPLAY   Trained by Julie Miller, Get Legs is a 4-year-old son of Muscle Hill owned by Andy Miller Stable and Michael Anderson. Get Legs has compiled a record of 11-0-2 from 13 starts, and he has now pocketed $120,510. He returned $2.10 to win, place, and show and was atop a $15.00 exacta and a $94.50 trifecta. In the $30,000 consolation event of the series, Halo Its Me (Gingras) sailed to the lead from post seven and reached the opening quarter in 28.2 before yielding to Stinglike A B K (Tyler Buter). Stinglike A B K then made a break prior to the 58.4 half, leaving Halo Its Me back on the point as Blue And Bold (Holland) briefly vacated the cones to go first-over before he went back to the inside on the third turn. Halo Its Me got some separation on the others going towards three-quarters, which she posted in 1:28, but 3-2 favorite Hunting AS (Todd McCarthy) was making steady progress after tipping out first-up once Blue And Bold elected to drop back down to the pylons and joined Halo Its Me on the last turn. Hunting AS was able to forge his way into the lead in the stretch and then held off a determined bid by Bazillionaire (George Brennan), who surged from second-over, to win by a nose in 1:59.2. Blue And Bold wound up third.   HUNTING AS REPLAY   Hunting AS is a 4-year-old Lionhunter gelding trained by Jenny Melander for owners Melander Racing Inc., Clark Stables LLC., and Robert Bernaski. Hunting AS picked up his seventh career win, and he has now earned $96,956. Hunting AS paid $5.00 to win and led a $116.50 exacta and a $452.00 trifecta. Stakes racing at Yonkers Raceway will resume on Friday, May 7 when the track plays host to the Reynolds Stakes, a Grand Circuit event for 3-year-old pacers of both sexes.    For full race results, click here.   From Yonkers Raceway

Soho Burning Love A, half of the Jim King Jr.-trained entry that was sent off at odds of 1-5, was a dominant force in the $60,000 Blue Chip Matchmaker consolation at Yonkers Raceway Monday, distancing herself from the field on the final turn and scoring powerfully in 1:51.4 for driver Tim Tetrick. Soho Burning Love A took control on the first turn and set a sensible early pace, hitting the quarter in 27.4 and half in 56.2, with entrymate Keep Rockin A (Andrew McCarthy) in pocket position. Tetrick allowed Soho Burning Love A to turn on the afterburners on the third turn, and the 7-year-old blew out a 27.2 third quarter, losing the majority of the field in the process. In the homestretch Soho Burning Love A sealed the win with a 28 second final quarter, as Bettors Heart N (Dexter Dunn) rallied late to be a distant second ahead of Parisian Blue Chip (Dan Dube). SOHO BURNING LOVE A REPLAY   Owned by Richard Poillucci and Jo Ann Looney-King, Soho Burning Love A returned $2.50 as the prohibitive choice, keying a $8.90 exacta and $23.20 triple. The mare by Auckland Reactor N has now won 20 of 28 career starts both down under and in the USA and sports career earnings of $415,018. For full race results, click here. From Yonkers Raceway

Caviart Luca won the Yonkers Raceway conditioned harness racing feature on Apr. 20 with a textbook final quarter first-up sweep.   George Brennan was unable to win the early pace duel with the gelding and dropped him into third. He sat there through splits of :26.4 and :55.4 set by Runrunjimmydunn N (Scott Zeron) but pulled out approaching three-quarters and advanced quickly.   Caviart Luca reached the leader's sulky as they completed the third panel in 1:24.2 and edged out an advantage as the field headed down the lane. Pocket-sitter Fizzing N took his shot in the final eighth (Jim Marohn Jr.), and Flying Finn N slid up the rail late, but Caviart Luca consolidated the 1:53 victory under mild urging. Flying Finn N got up for second, and Fizzing N was third.   CAVIART LUCA REPLAY     Caviart Luca's 200th lifetime start resulted in his 44th win. The 10-year-old by Somebeachsomewhere has now earned more than $1,060,000. Ron Burke trains and co-owns via his Burke Racing Stable LLC of Fredericktown with Weaver Bruscemi LLC of Canonsburg and Phillip Collura of Mountain Top.   Also on the card, Australian import Galante A took his fourth straight win in the second in a new life's mark of 1:52.1. The six-year-old Art Major gelding was driven by Scott Zeron and trained by Shaun Vallee of Jackson who co-owners with John Moderack of Manchester (NJ).   In the sixth, Springfield and New York Sires Stakes Final placed Town Gossip got off the schneid in 2021 with a three-quarter length win in a new lifetime best 1:54.3. Joe Bongiorno drove the three-year-old American Ideal gelding for trainer Jennifer Bongiorno and owner Robert Weinstein of Bellmore.   For full race results, click here.   by Nicholas Barnsdale, for Harnesslink

This Is The Plan was able to overcome starting from the outside post eight with a blitz off the harness racing starting gate and then never let anybody get close to him after that in winning Monday night's (April 19) $514,000 MGM Borgata Pacing Series final at Yonkers Raceway in 1:50.4. This Is The Plan, driven by Yannick Gingras and one of three in the final sent out by trainer Ron Burke, was dispatched at odds of 11-1. Rockapelo (George Brennan), Hesa Kingslayer N (Jim Marohn Jr.), Mach N Cheese (Joe Bongiorno), Western Joe (Dexter Dunn), Backstreet Shadow (Tim Tetrick), and This Is The Plan all showed speed at the start of the race, but it was This Is The Plan who was able to go from six-wide early on the bend to leading over stablemate Rockapelo by the time they entered the backstretch for the first time. Everybody else then got down to the cones except for Backstreet Shadow, who was left on the outside as the first quarter rang up in 26.4. On the second turn, 6-5 favorite Western Joe, who had landed in fourth, flushed Hesa Kingslayer N out of third, and they made some progress towards This Is The Plan at the 55.1 half, but then the pace dramatically quickened past that marker as Gingras stepped on the accelerator and This Is The Plan responded by opening up a gap on the rest of the field in a third quarter that went on the board in 27 seconds flat. After building up that advantage on his pursuers, This Is The Plan was not about to relinquish it, as he paced home in 28.3 to seal the deal by a length and a half over Rockapelo, who went off at 13-1. Mach N Cheese saved ground on the inside and finished third at 32-1, and 26-1 offering Lyons Steel (Corey Callahan) also stayed on the pylons and wound up fourth. Leonidas A, the 5-2 second choice, got away last from post seven, could never get involved, and had to settle for fifth. THIS IS THE PLAN REPLAY   "That was the plan for sure, at least plan A. I wasn't going to sit eighth. Maybe I was going to be parked the whole mile, but I was going to leave as hard as I could. The horse has great gate speed, and I thought I had the best horse, so I had to get him into the race somehow," said Gingras. "I was four-wide for a ways there, and I was just telling Ronnie (Burke), 'the plan became catch me if you can at the half.' I knew the backfield would be coming, but I figured I'd just take off and make them try to catch me." A 6-year-old gelding by Somebeachsomewhere, This Is The Plan is owned by Burke Racing Stable LLC., Weaver Bruscemi LLC., J&T Silva- Purnel & Libby, and Larry Karr. This Is The Plan is now a 16-time winner in his career, and the winner's share of the purse made him harness racing's newest double millionaire, as his lifetime earnings now stand at $2,073,700. This Is The Plan paid $24.40 to win and was atop a $240.50 exacta and a $2,020 trifecta. This Is The Plan's victory also triggered a $3,493 and change carryover in the Tuesday night's (April 20) Pick 6 sequence. "When they came out with the nominations for the series, I thought 'this is the best horse.' He's got $2 million made. He's a true free-for-aller," said Burke. "Even before the race, I was like, 'I think he can make the top from the eight-hole,' and [co-owner] Mark (Weaver) was like, 'Do you think he can clear from there?' and I was like, 'I think he can clear from there.' The only thing that almost stopped him was Backstreet (Shadow) having a leg underneath him when he hit the turn. When you come away with first and second out of that, it's a lot of money." Western Fame (Dan Dube), who won the MGM Borgata Pacing Series final the last time it was held in 2019, was victorious in tonight's $100,000 consolation event. He pulled out of the pocket going to the 1:22.4 three-quarters, wore down leader San Domino A (Todd McCarthy) and prevailed by two lengths in 1:51.2. Mac's Jackpot (Tim Tetrick) was the runner-up from second-over, and Raukapuka Ruler N (Jordan Stratton) got up for third. WESTERN FAME REPLAY   Purchased in an online auction earlier this month, Western Fame, an 8-year-old Western Ideal stallion, scored in his second start for trainer Daniel Renaud and owner Dune Road Stables LLC. Western Fame is now a 30-time winner in his career, and he has banked $1,882,775. Western Fame returned $4.80 to win as the favorite and keyed a $33.60 exacta and a $260.00 trifecta. Monday night's card at Yonkers Raceway drew plenty of attention on the wagering front from start to finish, as the handle on the 10-race program went into seven-figure territory, ending at $1,121,424. Stakes action resumes at Yonkers Raceway on Wednesday night (April 21) with the $69,000 John Brennan Trotting Series final and $30,000 consolation. Get Legs is the favorite on the morning line in the final, as he looks to add to his two victories in the preliminary rounds. For full race results, click here. From Yonkers Raceway

The betting was focused on two harness racing mares in Monday's $232,800 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series final at Yonkers Raceway, but in the end it would be 6-1 shot Machnhope that would get the job done in game fashion, overtaking Blue Ivy near the wire to score in 1:52.2 for driver Andrew McCarthy. The action was hot and heavy at the outset as four horses left the gate, including favored Alexa Skye from post six, but the even-money choice would have to be content with a tuck in the four- hole as George Brennan, behind Snobbytown, circled Blue Ivy on the first turn and drove past Machnhope to take charge. Tyler Buter, driving 3-2 second choice Blue Ivy, may have been outsprinted early, but the two quickly seized control well before the 27.1 opening quarter. From there, Buter and Blue Ivy kept the pace somewhat lively, hitting the half in 55.3 before feeling any heat. Todd McCarthy and Alexa Skye got off the pylons at the half and quickly flushed Machnhope's cover. What looked like a perfect trip for the favorite at that juncture didn't turn out that way, though, as while Machnhope moved towards the pace-setter, Alexa Skye stalled and couldn't stay on her cover. With Blue Ivy still in control at three-quarters in 1:23.4, the second choice looked in position to win, but Machnhope, under steady urging by Andrew McCarthy, kept grinding her way towards the leader. The field got a bit crowded in deep stretch as Snobbytown searched for room but was unable to find any. Machnhope showed her tenacity near the wire, securing the victory for trainer Noel Daley, who shares ownership in the 6-year-old daughter of Mach Three with Deo Volente Farms LLC., Tom Pontone, and L A Express Stable LLC. Snobbytown settled for third behind Blue Ivy, with Alexa Skye holding fourth on the line. MACHNHOPE REPLAY   "Everything went right out there," said Daley. "She was sound, with no issues, and Andy really knows how to drive her. She just got there on her own." It was the fourth win in 11 tries this year for Machnhope and her 30th career victory. She also pushed her 2021 earnings to $184,115 and her lifetime bankroll to $521,394. Machnhope returned an even $14 to win, with the exacta returning $53.50 and the triple $223.50. Soho Burning Love A, half of the Jim King Jr.-trained entry that was sent off at odds of 1-5, was a dominant force in the $60,000 Blue Chip Matchmaker consolation, distancing herself from the field on the final turn and scoring powerfully in 1:51.4 for driver Tim Tetrick. Soho Burning Love A took control on the first turn and set a sensible early pace, hitting the quarter in 27.4 and half in 56.2, with entrymate Keep Rockin A (Andrew McCarthy) in pocket position. Tetrick allowed Soho Burning Love A to turn on the afterburners on the third turn, and the 7-year-old blew out a 27.2 third quarter, losing the majority of the field in the process. In the homestretch Soho Burning Love A sealed the win with a 28 second final quarter, as Bettors Heart N (Dexter Dunn) rallied late to be a distant second ahead of Parisian Blue Chip (Dan Dube). Owned by Richard Poillucci and Jo Ann Looney-King, Soho Burning Love A returned $2.50 as the prohibitive choice, keying a $8.90 exacta and $23.20 triple. For full race results, click here. From Yonkers Raceway  

YONKERS, N.Y. – Although he’s raced at the stakes level for much of his harness racing career, Western Joe has never before tackled the MGM Borgata Pacing Series, or the George Morton Levy Pacing Series as it was formerly known. In fact, of the 7-year-old’s 101 starts heading into the Borgata Series first leg, only seven of them had come at Yonkers Raceway, the latest being an open handicap pace in Nov. 2019. The decision to nominate and race in the grueling six-week Borgata Series was a change of tactics by Western Joe’s connections in an effort to bring out the gelding’s best. Now he's going for $514,000 Monday night. Yonker's card Monday features more than $1 million in purses. Western Joe’s biggest season to date came in 2018 when he won the $260,100 Sam McKee Memorial Pace on Hambletonian Day and the $100,000 Great Northeast Open Series Final at Pocono Downs in Sept. 2018. Western Joe raced through the winter leading up to that campaign, but had time off before his 2019 and 2020 seasons, which did not see Western Joe replicate his 2018 successes. Although he banked just under $100,000 in each of the last two years, Western Joe hadn’t found the Grand Circuit winner’s circle again. “We’ve done some stakes the last few years and honestly, it seemed like he was maybe a step behind,” said breeder and co-owner Anthony Ruggeri. “Toward the end of 2020, he had been racing well at the Meadowlands, he was pretty sharp. We decided to try the Borgata.  “We’ve been doing all the regular stakes races at the Meadowlands and all these big tracks and we figured we would try something different. Especially since in 2018, we raced him through the winter that year and we decided that’s what we were going to do this year. He loves to race every week; he actually doesn’t like time off. He gets a little moody when he gets time off, he gets a little pouty. It’s tough and there are five legs, but we thought maybe he would like it.” Western Joe was thrown to the wolves in the Borgata Series first leg, drawing into the first division with preseason favorite Let It Ride and 2020 MGM Borgata Invitational Pace champion This Is The Plan. Dismissed at odds of 12-1, Western Joe followed along in third from post two and despite pacing home in :27.4, lost a position in the stretch to finish fourth.  “Right out of the gate, it was a tough draw,” Ruggeri said. “We did get a nice post, which is not regular for us. I knew it would be tough, but I thought we had a shot. He raced pretty well that first leg. I think it took a little bit of time to get used to the half-mile. He ran in a little bit that first week. He’s been pretty straight since then and as the legs went on, I think he got more comfortable.” Western Joe improved in the second leg, leaving from post six to set the pace through fractions of :26.2, :55.3, and 1:23.2. Western Joe kicked home in :27.3, pacing the mile in 1:51.1, but was caught in the stretch by pocket-riding Rockapelo for a nose loss. In the third leg, Western Joe had a breakthrough win over Backstreet Shadow, circling three-wide into the stretch to cruise 2 lengths clear as driver Dexter Dunn put away the whip and leaned back in the final sixteenth. For Ruggeri though, Western Joe’s most impressive Borgata Series performance came in the fourth leg. Forced to deal with post seven, Dunn tried to leave with Western Joe, but took back into sixth as None Bettor blitzed an opening quarter of :26.3 and a half of :55.1 on a clear lead. With the field single file and strung out behind None Bettor, Western Joe needed to make up 13 lengths in the final lap.  Entering the final turn, None Bettor weakened as the fractions took their toll. Sheriff pulled the pocket. Rockapelo vacated the pylons in third. Pat Stanley and Mac’s Jackpot got in gear from the backfield. Only Idea Jimmy and Western Joe stuck to the inside, but turning into the stretch, Brent Holland guided Ideal Jimmy off the pegs in search of a clear run at None Bettor. The move proved costly for Ideal Jimmy as the inside opened up and Dunn saw a path through with Western Joe. He shifted in, went to a strong right-handed whip, and Western Joe accelerated through the narrow opening for a neck victory. “I know that everyone thinks that was all a matter of luck, but you have to be able to take advantage of that,” Ruggeri said. “The rail opened up for him, but I thought that was a great race. He loves to come the inside route, so when I saw the inside open up, I knew he was going to take off. We just took advantage of that little opening and came on and won.  “He’s been closing well. You can never give up on ‘Joe,’ ” Ruggeri continued. “Sometimes it can look like he’s gapping or he’s being a little lazy, he’ll always come back and he always gives you that great last quarter. If the driver knows him, then he’s going to be OK. I think Dexter knows him really well now.” Western Joe finished second a half-length behind Backstreet Shadow in the final preliminary leg April 12 to boost his record to 33-for-106 with $791,858 earned and 283 points toward the Borgata Series Final, putting him second in the standings behind Leonidas and earning a spot behind the gate in the $514,000 Series Final Monday night (April 19). “It’s been fun. I think he’s done pretty well. We had a couple of nice wins and a couple of good seconds. He was close enough to win four legs, he’s been sharp as of late, Ruggeri said. “I was never 100 percent sure about racing on a half-mile with him. It’s been a nice surprise.” No matter the performance in the preliminaries, the open post position draw in the final can be the undoing of many horses. This Is The Plan won his division of the Borgata fourth leg and finished second in the other four legs for Ron Burke and Yannick Gingras, but drew post eight in the final, the same unlucky position he drew ahead of his victory is last fall’s Borgata Invitational.  Leonidas won all four preliminary legs he entered for Sheena McElhiney and Austin Siegelman, but will need to overcome post seven in the final. Backstreet Shadow had two wins and two seconds in the preliminaries and drew post six for Ron Burke and Tim Tetrick. Western Joe drew just to the inside of those rivals in post five. The field also includes Rockapelo, the third member of the ‘Burke Brigade’ and winner of two preliminary legs who will be driven by George Brennan from post one. Hesa Kingslayer captured three Borgata legs and was third in another for Mike Deters and Jim Marohn, Jr. and drew post two. Mach N Cheese and Lyons Steel complete the lineup. “The post position is what I was originally worried about,” Ruggeri said. “No matter where he goes, he seems to be on the outside. But the five is a decent spot here because the big stakes horses are on the outside of us, which is a bonus. It’s better than the six, seven, or eight, so we’ll take it. “We’re excited and we feel we have a good shot,” Ruggeri continued. “He’s sharp and we got a great driver. Everything seems to be falling into place here. I’m hoping he wins, but I’d be happy with second or third. He’s a great horse and he’s always been a notch underneath where I think he could be. Hopefully this series will boost him up a little bit.” For Ruggeri, a win in the MGM Borgata Series Final would mean more than the check that comes along with it. Western Joe is the only homebred in the field. Ruggeri claimed Western Joe’s dam, Ante Fay, for $20,000 at the Meadowlands in June 2004 and kept her as a broodmare. He bred her to Western Ideal in 2014 and she produced Western Joe, who Ruggeri partners in ownership with Richard Tosies and sent to Chris Choate to train. Western Joe is currently the only horse in Ruggeri’s stable. “I really liked (Ante Fay), she was a tough mare, so I kept her and bred her. I’ve had ‘Joe’ since he was a baby. It feels like it’s your own kid. He’s been by far the best horse I’ve ever had,” Ruggeri said. “Hopefully he’ll continue to race and do great things. It’s a very personal experience for me, it’s not just a business. I don’t have many horses, the most I have is two or three at a time. He’s a labor of love. “I could have never got ‘Joe’ through any other way,” Ruggeri continued. “It’s much more risky to breed than to claim one that’s been racing, but it’s high risk, high reward. You’ll never get a champion through the claiming game.” Ruggeri visited Western Joe in Choate’s stable Saturday morning and was pleased with what he saw. “He looks dynamite. He has a great attitude. He’s frisky, he’s sharp, he really looks good,” Ruggeri said. “I’m cautiously optimistic. You’re still racing against Yannick and Tetrick and you have George Brennan on the rail. You can’t be too confident. This is not going to be an easy race. It’s going to be a lot of luck and position and you just hope you get a good trip. Leonidas won four legs and he has the seven hole. Everyone can’t leave, so we’ll see what happens. “The money is great, but it would mean a lot emotionally,” Ruggeri continued. “He’s been such a great horse for a long time. We won one or two big races along the way, but if you don’t consistently win them, you’re not considered a champion so to speak. I think ‘Joe’ needs that, he needs another big race or two on his resume to really cement him as a great horse. I’d like to see him get that.” Monday night’s 10-race card also features the $232,800 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series Final, the $100,000 MGM Borgata Pacing Series Consolation, the $60,000 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series Consolation, a $40,000 race for MGM Borgata Series eligibles, and a $35,000 open handicap pace. First post time is 7:15 p.m. Free past performances for the races are available here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – It’s not every day the phone rings and the person on the other end wants to send a stakes-caliber mare to your stable. But that’s exactly what happened a few weeks before the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series first leg when Todd Buter answered Bill Bercury’s call. Then the trainer of Blue Ivy, who he was pointing to the Matchmaker Series at Yonkers Raceway, the western Pennsylvania-based Bercury asked New York-based Buter to take the mare on the recommendation of Todd’s son, Tyler. “Mr. Bercury contacted Tyler and said he wanted him to drive Blue Ivy in the Matchmaker. He asked if Tyler had any suggestions of who he should send her to. Tyler said, ‘well, I’m sure my dad would take her,’ so he gave me a call and that’s how it ended up. He brought her out about a week before her first start.” Todd Buter didn’t know Bercury before that call and Tyler Buter hadn’t driven Blue Ivy since Bercury took over the training in Nov. 2019. However, Tyler Buter had success with the mare in the past; in nine starts together from July 2018 through Oct. 2019, Buter and Blue Ivy paired for four wins, two seconds, and a fourth in the $122,224 Lady Maud Pace at Yonkers. Bercury’s instructions were concise. “She’s easy to get along with and likes being outside as much as possible; being a mare, that’s kind of routine anyway. He left the rest up to me,” Todd Buter said. Buter found that Blue Ivy was easy to get along with, as advertised, and had no bad traits.  “When you put her on the racetrack to head to the starting gate, she’s all business,” he said. “Very easy on herself on the racetrack, very good attitude on the track, and since she’s been here, she’s had all good days.” Blue Ivy debuted for the Buters in the Matchmaker first leg March 12. After a fifth-place finish in a Meadows open handicap against males the week prior, the public dismissed her at 6-1, the second longest shot in the field of a half-dozen distaffers. Blue Ivy got away fifth as 4-5 favorite Soho Burning Love set the tempo. In the second lap, Blue Ivy grabbed the cover of Lady Dela Renta and advanced within 2 3/4-lengths of the lead passing the three-quarters.  At the midway point of the final turn, Buter – motionless in the sulky to that point – made his first move, popping the ear plugs and putting the whip on Blue Ivy’s tail before guiding her three-wide into the stretch. Buter tucked the whip in the final yards as Blue Ivy glided past Soho Burning Love to record a length win in 1:53.3. “She went some good miles before and you never know what to expect coming over to Yonkers and putting them on the half-mile track, but she adapted well and she’s been very good,” Todd Buter said. “I thought after the first week that we probably could go up against most of the ones that were in there. She did that very easily. That built our confidence up, that’s for sure.” In the Matchmaker second leg, Blue Ivy charged home with a :27.1 final quarter to finish second behind Seaswift Joy, who had set a dawdling pace. The third leg saw Alexa Skye catch a soft half of :57.3 and Blue Ivy unable to track her down in the stretch, again finishing second. Legs four and five each resulted in a win for Blue Ivy, including a 4-length, 1:53 romp April 2 and a 1 1/4-legnth, 1:52.3 effort while setting the pace April 9. In her career, Blue Ivy is 25-for-56 with $374,040 earned. “She’s won on the front, she won first-over, and she won second-over. She’s done it all ways, she doesn’t just have to go one way all the time,” Todd Buter remarked. With 325 points accumulated throughout the preliminaries, Blue Ivy leads the standings heading into the $232,800 series final Monday night (April 19). She secured a coveted inside position in the open draw in post three while Jeff Cullipher’s series favorite Alexa Skye will start from post six. The field also includes Machnhope, winner of two preliminary legs for Noel Daley and Andrew McCarthy, Nick Devita’s duo of Siesta Beach and Caviart Cherie, Monica Gallagher, Snobbytown, and My Ruebe Star.  For Todd Buter, drawing inside Alexa Skye, who won all four Matchmaker preliminary legs she entered, is already a win. The Matchmaker final will be Blue Ivy’s second crack at Alexa Skye after the pair avoided each other in all but one of the preliminary legs.  “I was glad to see that. I surely didn’t want to have the six, seven, or eight,” Buter said. “It’s probably going to depend on the trip. They’ve both shown that they’re very nice mares. We’ll just have to see how it shakes out. The ideal trip would be sitting the two-hole behind Alexa Skye, but I think there’s probably six other ones in there that would like to do the same thing. “We’ll hope she’s happy and healthy on Monday and see how it shakes out,” Buter continued. “She’s been feeling good, we didn’t change anything. It seems like she’s having a very good week leading up to it. She doesn’t take a lot of work.” Monday night’s 10-race card also features the $514,000 MGM Borgata Pacing Series Final, the $100,000 MGM Borgata Pacing Series Consolation, the $60,000 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series Consolation, a $40,000 race for MGM Borgata Series eligibles, and a $35,000 open handicap pace. First post time is 7:15 p.m. Free past performances for the races are available here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

Harness racing pacers Leonidas A and Alexa Skye finished the preliminary rounds of the MGM Borgata Pacing Series and the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series at Yonkers Raceway with equal four-for-four records, but for their respective finals on Monday night (April 19) both of them face outside draws, with Leonidas A starting from post seven and Alexa Skye beginning from post position six. Driver Austin Siegelman raced Leonidas A from second-over in the first leg of the MGM Borgata Pacing Series, and that trip resulted in a victory, and then in his subsequent three starts in the event, which also saw Leonidas A emerge triumphant, Siegelman was more aggressive with his charge, planting him on the point before or just after the opening quarter. While Siegelman acknowledged that stalking horses is the 6-year-old Mach Three gelding's preferred journey, he had no issue with more aggressive handling either. "He got stuck on the front three out of four of those races. I don't think that's particularly his strong suit, but he didn't have a problem winning those races," Siegelman said. "We just kind of drew inside, and there was no reason not to put him on the front in any of those races. He was just better than those horses that he was racing against. There's no reason to take a risk and go to race him off-the-pace when he can easily just go on the front." While it might look like on the program that Leonidas A and Siegelman will be switching it back up to race off the speed in Monday's $514,000 final now that they're stuck outside on the gate, Siegelman explained that that's not necessarily going to be the case, due to the presence of known early speedster This Is The Plan to his right at post eight. "I think he's a better horse off-the-pace, but I wouldn't 100 percent say he's going to race from behind because I'm sitting eighth then, and that's not really ideal," offered Siegelman. "Even from off-the-pace, as long as he doesn't hit too many roadblocks, I think he can still be close at the wire." Racing over five weeks like horses do in the MGM Borgata Pacing Series certainly separates the true contenders from those that are a notch or two below, so everybody in the field merits respect, but Siegelman noted that he does have his eye on a few particular horses when the big purse is on the line. "There are a few horses in that race that worry me a little bit. We raced Backstreet Shadow the first leg, and he didn't really have a problem beating that horse, although he's very sharp right now," remarked Siegelman. "Obviously, This Is The Plan - he's probably the class of that field. I think Lyons Steel is a bit of a sleeper in there. He was good both starts I drove him there. He was easily good enough to win the second time I drove him. He just got unlucky and didn't get any room. Hesa Kingslayer N (post two) drew a very fortunate spot in that race. Those would be my two or three that I'm worried about in there." Siegelman and Leonidas A, who is trained by Sheena Mcelhiney for owner Jesmeral Stable, had a taste of success late last year when they teamed up to win the Potomac Pace at Rosecroft Raceway, and while the MGM Borgata Series will be race with the biggest purse Siegelman has competed in to date, the 29-year-old driver is heading in with a positive mindset. "I'm confident going in. It is what it is, whether we race for $20,000 or $500,000. It's a horse race, and (the purse) doesn't change anything," he said. Alexa Skye, co-owned by trainer Jeff Cullipher in partnership with Pollack Racing LLC., came into the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series with high expectations, and she certainly delivered, winning her four appearances by 4 1/2, 1 1/2, 1 3/4, and 2 3/4 lengths. Todd McCarthy has driven her in all but two starts since October 16, 2020, and he said she handled the grind of the series like a pro. "She felt pretty good through all the prelims. I was really happy with her each time. I think that Jeff and the team have done a terrific job managing her through the prelims," said McCarthy. "It can be tricky when they race week-in and week-out going to the final over so many weeks close together. She had that week off there prior to the last leg, and she felt terrific the last time around, so I'm sure she'll be spot on for the final on Monday." While her performances through the series would have been impressive no matter the circumstances, it certainly catches the eye that Alexa Skye is the only 4-year-old in Monday's $232,800 championship, bucking the popular notion that aged mares have the upper hand in this event. "It was always going to be a little bit of an ask for her, but each time she's faced a challenge, she's sort of taken the step," remarked McCarthy. "Early on, even when I was driving her, I kind of didn't know where she was at, but each time she had to take a step, she took the step. She's doing what the good horses do, and I'm certainly pleased to have her in the final." Starting from post six with all the other fancied contenders starting to her inside certainly isn't the most ideal situation for Alexa Skye, but she has experience racing from outside posts at Yonkers before, so McCarthy is expecting her current sharp form to remain status quo. "Obviously any time it's half-mile racing, the closer you draw the better it is. I would have liked to have been a little closer in, but in a lot of the prelims she drew out there too," McCarthy stated. "She can leave pretty good when I ask her, and she's always been the sort of horse that likes being a part of the action and racing up on the speed. Hopefully it doesn't faze her too much, but I think she'll be okay from there." The $232,800 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series final goes as race seven on the 10-race program on Monday at Yonkers Raceway, and the $514,000 MGM Borgata Pacing Series final follows it in race eight. There are also consolations for both events, with the MGM Borgata Pacing Series consolation carrying a purse of $100,000 and the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series consolation going for $60,000. Post time is at 7:15 p.m. The full fields for both finals, with drivers, trainers, and morning line odds, are listed below. $514,000 MGM Borgata Pacing Series final 1-Rockapelo (George Brennan/Ron Burke, 9-2) 2-Hesa Kingslayer N (Jim Marohn Jr./Mike Deters, 6-1) 3-Mach N Cheese (Joe Bongiorno/Edwin Quevedo, 8-1) 4-Lyons Steel (Corey Callahan/Dennis Watson, 20-1) 5-Western Joe (Dexter Dunn/Chris Choate, 3-1) 6-Backstreet Shadow (Tim Tetrick/Ron Burke, 4-1) 7-Leonidas A (Austin Siegelman/Sheena Mcelhiney, 6-1) 8-This Is The Plan (Yannick Gingras/Ron Burke, 5-1) $232,800 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series final 1-Machnhope (Andrew McCarthy/Noel Daley, 4-1) 2-Siesta Beach (Matt Kakaley/Nick Devita, 5-1) 3-Blue Ivy (Tyler Buter/Todd Buter, 2-1) 4-Monica Gallagher (Jason Bartlett/Chris Height, 20-1) 5-Snobbytown (George Brennan/Ron Burke, 7-1) 6-Alexa Skye (Todd McCarthy/Jeff Cullipher, 5-2) 7-Caviart Cherie (Austin Siegelman/Nick Devita, 20-1) 8-My Reube Star N (Jordan Stratton/Shane Tritton, 20-1)   From Yonkers Raceway

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