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The Standardbred Owners Association of New York has announced that it will be providing grants to qualified grooms in order to assist them during the temporary shutdown of harness racing at Yonkers Raceway.  The qualified grooms (those who have paddocked horses more than a threshold number of racing nights) will be receiving a subsidy of $400.  The payments will be sent out during the week of April 6th. “The grooms who paddock the horses at Yonkers Raceway have seen their income disappear due to no fault of their own,” said Joseph Faraldo, President of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York.  “They provide an important contribution by providing care to our equine athletes before and after they compete at the track.  The grant is designed to assist them until we can resume racing and the grooms can get back to doing their job and we can all get back to the sport we love,” added Faraldo. Standardbred Owners Association of New York

Columbus, OH – NJ.com’s Keith Sargeant examines the impact of the coronavirus on a number of harness racing horsemen at Yonkers Raceway and the possible effect it had on the outbreak of the virus in New Jersey in his Sunday (April 5) story, “N.J.’s coronavirus outbreak may have started at a Yonkers racetrack.  Horsemen are still unravelling the mystery” posted on NJ.com. Sargeant recalls driver Pearly Allen’s difficult battle with COVID-19 and reports on the deaths of John Brennan, the first N.J. resident to die from the virus, and four members of the Fusco family as well as the illnesses of other horsemen, including SOA of NY President Joe Faraldo and Yonkers’ leading driver Jason Bartlett. To read the complete NJ.com story, click here. Check out valuable information for horsemen and the latest news on the coronavirus pandemic in the USTA COVID-19 Resource Center…here. USTA Communications Department

Perhaps the biggest scandal in all of U.S. sports to come out in the past year is the federal indictment of dozens of thoroughbred and harness racing insiders alleged to have been involved in doping leading racehorses. And while the initial indictments came on March 9, other indictments trickled out even as the COVID-19 disaster overtook virtually the entire news cycle. But the stunning allegations are no less stunning because of the timing. The main indictment had as its stars Monmouth Park thoroughbred big names Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis — but later ones placed Yonkers Raceway and its harness racing leading lights in its target. The Yonkers horse racing community already was reeling from the deaths of three trainers from COVID-19, including the first fatality of a New Jersey resident. Rene Allard, who at $5.8 million in purse winnings was third in the industry in North America last year, has been charged in a conspiracy involving longtime veterinarian Louis Grasso, who was indicted on Feb. 26 for allegedly misbranding drugs in interstate commerce. Last fall, according to the indictment, Grasso and another alleged co-conspirator, Ross Cohen, discussed the fact that a number of Allard’s horses had died. The disturbing conversation Cohen, according to the indictment, asked Grasso, “What’s going on with the Allard death camp?” Grasso then said “two or maybe three” horses have died from “amino acids” that caused “high fever, kidneys shut down.” “One of them just died on the table, they just cut him open and poof it died,” Grasso is alleged to have said. Cohen: “Holy f-ck f-ck did they do an autopsy.” Grasso: “Their heart rate was like triple they were breathing real heavy their membranes were going f-cking purple.” Allard — second in earnings at Yonkers so far this year — also is alleged to have sent a text message to Grasso in October 2019 that read: “I will need 3 bottles of red Acid [an anti-inflammatory drug] to go to canada Thursday.” Per the indictment, a barn raid on March 9 in Middletown, N.Y. — where Allard stabled a number of horses — led to the discovery of multiple syringes and numerous bottles of mislabeled drugs. Other harness racing figures indicted Also named is Donato Poliseno, owner of a veterinary supply business in Delaware who is alleged to have purchased and distributed PEDs from Grasso. Trainers Thomas Guido III and Conor Flynn are alleged to have obtained the PEDs from Grasso as well. Richard Banca, the leading trainer at Yonkers Raceway so far this year, was named in a separate indictment on similar charges and employed Flynn. Banca owns the Middletown, N.Y. facility that was raided, according to his indictment. “Flynn has stated, in substance and in part, that Flynn administers horses owned, trained, or otherwise under Banca’ s control, with PEDs at Banca’s direction,” the indictment alleges. Banca first rose up to the top ranks at Yonkers in 2015, producing 174 winners — more than double his previous best — and another 200 in 2016. Allard and Banca were the two trainers involved in a controversy at the Meadowlands Racetrack in 2017, when each — already banned at that track by owner Jeff Gural — turned over the reins of horses that were then allowed to race. Among the PEDs involved aside from “red acid”: Erythropoietin, better known by brand name Epogen and nicknamed “epo” in the industry and designed to improve endurance A variety of “pain shots” or “joint blocks” designed to deaden a horse’s nerves, which can result in leg fractures that require a racehorse to be euthanized Bronchodilators, or “Bronk,” designed to increase a horse’s oxygen intake The latest indictments, if proven, echo the callousness for the welfare of racehorses demonstrated in the Navarro and Servis indictments. In February 2019, Servis is alleged to have warned Navarro via text about a racing official. Navarro then allegedly told another conspirator, “He would have caught our asses f-cking pumping and pumping and fuming every f-cking horse that runs today.” By John Brennan John Brennan has covered NJ and NY sports business and gaming since 2002 and was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist in 2008, while reporting for The Bergen County Record. Reprinted with permission of The njonlinegambling.com

Thoroughbred Daily News reporter Bill Finley has reported that harness racing trainer Rene Allard has joined the long list of those indicted for their role in a massive horse doping scheme that has rocked Thoroughbred and harness racing. The number of individuals who are known to have been involved is now 29. Allard was not among the original list of names of those who were indicted that was released Monday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Allard is second in the current trainer’s standings at Yonkers Raceway, behind only Richard Banca, who has also been indicted as part of the doping probe undertaken by the FBI. According to a source, Allard was arrested earlier this week while vacationing in Las Vegas. He is being charged with “misbranding” drugs, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. During its investigation of Allard and others, the FBI intercepted a disturbing phone conversation between Ross Cohen and Louis Grasso, who were among those indicted Monday, discussing the deaths of horses who were given illegal drugs by Allard. It reads (exactly): Cohen: What’s going on with the Allard death camp? Grasso: (Laughter) well I didn’t get anymore emergency calls yesterday so I am assuming… Cohen: Assuming the number stopped at 7? Grasso: Well yeah Cohen” How many died? Grasso: Three Cohen. Jeez. What were you thinking? Grasso: Three or two maybe. The pair continue to discuss the situation before wrapping up: Grasso: …One of them just died on the table they just cut him open and poof it died. Cohen: Holy f–k did they do an autopsy? Grasso: Their heart rate was like triple they were breathing real heavy their membranes were going f-ing purple. To read the rest of the story, click here.

YONKERS, NY – Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts (“Empire City”) announced today the suspension of racing operations at its harness track, Yonkers Raceway, through Wednesday, March 18th . Empire City learned on Tuesday, March 10th that an employee of the Standardbred Owners Association (“SOA”), the harness horsemen association, tested positive for COVID-19 before passing away. The individual had an office in the Yonkers Raceway paddock building located next to the racetrack and was last there on February 28, 2020. His death was announced Tuesday, March 10th by New Jersey officials, as he was a resident of that state. As a precaution, racing was canceled on March 10th and employees who had direct contact with the individual were provided with information to secure testing, self-quarantine, and advised to contact their healthcare providers if they are experiencing symptoms. Professional cleaners were engaged to deep clean and sanitize the impacted areas, including the race office and paddock. In addition to regular cleaning procedures, Empire City has increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting protocols, with a specific focus on high-touch surfaces. Additional hand sanitizer stations have been placed throughout the casino. Empire City released the following statement: “The health and safety of our guests and employees remains our highest priority. We continue to monitor the evolving COVID-19 situation and closely follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health officials. We offer our deepest sympathies to the family of the colleague we lost. It is a tremendous loss to the sport of racing, the SOA, and the Yonkers Raceway team. He will be missed.” Empire City Casino and its dining entities remain open with regular operating hours.  It was also reported that leading driver Jason Barlett has been quarantine as coronavirus precaution. From Yonkers Raceway

Yonkers Raceway has announced that Tuesday night’s live race card has been canceled. There was no reason given why they have canceled with rumors about that it is due either to the coronavirus scare and/or from horses having to be scratched due to the Federal indictments handed down on Monday.    

YONKERS, NY, Monday, March 9, 2020--Post positions have been drawn for the opening rounds of Yonkers Raceway's Blue Chip Matchmaker and MGM Borgata Pacing Series. Friday night (March 13th) offers three, $40,000 Matchmaker divisions (races 2, 4 and 6) for the premier mares...and it didn't take long for Shartin N (Tim Tetrick, post 1) and Caviart Ally (Andrew McCarthy, post 5) to get acquainted, both drawing into the first grouping. The two-time defending series champ---and current Horse of the Year--Shartin N returns to town for her first visit since winning last season's finale, included in a 42-for-57, $2.1 million career resume. The 7-year-old Down Under daughter of Tintin in America began her season with a 1:50 flat win at Dover. 'Ally' also wasted no time getting her picture taken in 2020, a 1:49.4 effort across the river. The 6-year-old daughter of Bettor's Delight enters with 26 wins in 73 career starts ($1.8 million). Friday night's second division includes last season's Matchmaker runner-up, Bettor Joy N (Tetrick, post 4) and Apple Bottom Jeans (Corey Callahan, post 6). Both ladies find their way back from Delaware for this series, having finished third (Apple Bottom Jeans) and fourth (Bettor Joy N), respectively, to Shartin N a week ago. The final Matchmaker get-together is led by Seaswift Joy N (Jim Marohn Jr., post 2), a 7-year-old Down Under Bettor's Delight miss fresh off a 10-win, $263,000 2019 season. Saturday night (March 14th) finds four consecutively-contested, $50,000 Borgata (nee George Morton Levy Memorial) divisions, going as races 5 through 8. The opening event of Free-For-All lads features the rock-solid None Bettor A (Tetrick, post 2) meeting up with Rodeo Rock (Eric Goodell, post 4) and millionaire-in-waiting Sintra (George Brennan, post 7). The second division is led by the series champ of a year ago, Western Fame (Dan Dube, post 7). The 7-year-old son of Western Ideal won seven races and in excess of $704,000 last season. Saturday night's third Borgata event includes weekly Local Open Handicap standout Jack's Legend N (Jason Bartlett, post 4), Trump Nation (Brennan, post 6) and Lyons Steel (Pat Lachance, post 7). The fourth and final grouping goes through the red-hot Backstreet Shadow (Tetrick, post 2), who eyes a fifth consecutive victory, the first four all down at Dover. Both the Blue Chip Matchmaker and Borgata offer five preliminary rounds leading to finals set for Saturday night, Apr. 18th. Early program pages for the Friday/Saturday series races accompany this release. Changes shall be made Tuesday night (March 10th). For the fields for the Matchmaker For the fields for the MGM Borgata Pacing Series by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, N.Y. – Expectations were low when Affluent Seelster started in the first division of the M life Rewards Ladies Pacing Series first leg March 2 at Yonkers Raceway. Despite starting from the inside, the public dismissed the 4-year-old harness racing mare at 33-1 in favor of Darn Tooth Hanover, who was the even-money favorite, and North Star Ideal, who was the 6-5 second choice. Both favorites entered on three-race win streaks. Despite Affluent Seelster’s long odds, she left from her inside spot, but yielded to North Star Ideal to ride a pocket trip. Turning for home, Affluent Seelster was still breathing down the neck of the longtime leader and straightening away, driver Joe Bongiorno pulled the ear plugs and angled Affluent Seelster inside. With a few right-handed whip taps, Affluent Seelster glided past North Star Ideal to post a neck win in a lifetime best 1:53.4 and kick off the series with a $69 mutual. “I thought that was maybe a little bigger number than she needed to be from the rail,” trainer Paul Stafford said. “Her qualifier was OK. She’s a big mare. Going into the series, she had raced there before, so we knew she could get around the half-mile racetrack, as big as she is. It just worked out perfect, Joey put her in a great spot getting a two-hole trip.” Stafford and Tom Ceraso purchased Affluent Seelster online last fall. The Mach Three daughter had five placings in eight starts racing for Richard Moreau in Canada and fit the bill for the conditions at Yonkers. However, Affluent Seelster’s size gave Stafford pause. “She’s big, so when she showed up, obviously you have a question mark about whether she would get around Yonkers,” Stafford said. “Really lightly raced, which is what we like to see. We like to buy 3-year-olds with not very many starts, non-winners of two-, non-winners of three-type horses.” Affluent Seelster debuted for Stafford at Yonkers Nov. 18, finishing second in a $14,000 overnight. She broke her maiden from post seven in the same class one week later, and then doubled up from the same post Dec. 9. In all three of those starts, Affluent Seelster left the gate hard and got wound up. “She was one who would get excited behind the gate because she thought she was going to leave every week,” Stafford said. Training back this winter, Stafford pointed Affluent Seelster to the M life Rewards Ladies Series and focused on teaching her to relax in her races. When she returned in a qualifier Feb. 21, Affluent Seelster came from off the pace to finish third. Stafford was happy to see the mare comfortable in the pocket in her first start of the season. “She trained back exceptionally well and we taught her a few manners training back so she wasn’t a front-running thing, which is how we finished up the year with her,” Stafford said. “That’s what we worked on training her back the last six weeks, teaching her that’s is OK to sit in, you don’t always have to be on the front. That transitioned into her qualifier and into her first race.” Affluent Seelster drew the inside post again in the second leg of the series Monday (March 9) and will again have Bongiorno in the sulky. The pair are the 3-2 favorites on the morning line. One race after Affluent Seelster’s upset win last week, Stafford sent out Windsong Parisian to a runner up finish in the second series split. Like her stablemate, Windsong Parisian and driver Matt Kakaley started from the inside and got a pocket trip. After chasing 3-5 favorite I’m Very Special around the track, Windsong Parisian finished second beaten 2 lengths and was 9 1/4 lengths clear of third-place finisher Saskatoon. An acquisition for Patricia Ceraso last fall, Windsong Parisian came to Stafford’s barn with more experience than Affluent Seelster, having logged 23 starts and four wins. Despite showing half-mile track experience at Grand River, Flamboro Downs and Western Fair, Windsong Parisian struggled in her first two starts at Yonkers in October. She made breaks in each start and was well beaten. “We bought a horse that showed half-mile racing, so we brought her to Yonkers and for whatever reason, she just decided that she wasn’t going to participate at Yonkers Raceway, she couldn’t get around the first turn for whatever reason,” Stafford said. The trainer decided a change of scenery was needed and Stafford took Windsong Parisian to Harrah’s Philadelphia. Despite starting from post seven and getting away 8 1/2 lengths behind the field, Windsong Parisian posted a :27.4 final quarter to rally for third beaten just a length. She won her next start at Harrah’s Philadelphia Nov. 29 and finished second in her final 2019 start Dec. 13. “We decided to change her look and took her to Chester,” Stafford said. “We had the seven hole, Tim Tetrick raced her like he should, ducked her last and she was flying on the end of it. She finished third, but she almost got there. She definitely showed she was OK at Chester.” Despite Windsong Parisian’s lackluster performances at Yonkers, she just made the earnings cutoff to be eligible for the series, so Stafford nominated for the low $200 fee. The move proved prudent. “She trained back well, you couldn’t ask for them to train back any better. For whatever reason, I can’t explain it, maybe it was just a matter of growing up, but she was good the other night. I think that was a little better than we expected. I thought maybe she would have been third or fourth in there, but she was good. Matt was happy with her.” Windsong Parisian will start from post five in Monday’s first series division in race one. With Kakaley opting for rival Lovin Cocoa, Brent Holland will drive Windsong Parisian as the 8-5 morning line favorite. “I think she drew into a good division. I think she’ll be OK in there,” Stafford said. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The M life Rewards Series for Ladies and Gents continue with their second legs Monday (March 9) and Tuesday (March 10), respectively. 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. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

RYONKERS, NY, Saturday, March 7, 2020--Down-the-roaders I'm Some Graduate (George Brennan, $6) and Elysium Lindy (Dan Dube, $27.40) proved best Saturday night (March 7th), winning Yonkers Raceway's pair of $44,000 Open Handicaps. I'm Some Graduate, from assigned post position No. 5 in the adult-table pace, had few issues in maintaining his current form. He worked around pole-sitting I'marocknrollegend N (Joe Bongiorno), then finished what he started (:27.1; :57, 1:24.2; 1:52.2) after a weak, first-over attempt by Tremendous Play (Jason Bartlett). 'Legend" chased in vain, beaten a couple of lengths, with Soho Lennon A (Jim Marohn Jr.) a non-threatening third.   Luciano N (Austin Siegelman) and Micky Gee N (Jordan Stratton) rounded out the payees. For I'm Some Graduate, a 7-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding co-owned (as Burke Racing) by (trainer) Ron Burke, Weaver Bruscemi, J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby and Larry Karr, it was his fourth win in five seasonal starts (fourth in last five tries). The exacta (two wagering favorites) paid $18, with the triple returning $68. Elysium Lindy also went the distance in a strange week's marquee trot. From the pole, he was seemingly content to sit behind Weslynn Dancer (Bartlett)...until the latter "wanted to go back to the paddock or something," Bartlett said. At any rate, after two-moving to the lead, Weslynn Dancer found herself out in the air, serving as a fortuitous 'pick' for Elysium Lindy. That one was more than accepting of the largesse, completing his appointed rounds (:27.1; 56.4; 1:25.1; 1:55) a length in front of cone-skimming Mostinterestingman (Siegelman). Third went to Stormy Kromer (catch-driver Bongiorno), with even-money choice Melady's Monet (Brennan) fourth after having to go wide early around Weslynn Dancer.   Arabella's Cadet (Stratton) picked off the final envelope, ahead of the self-imposed grief of Weslynn Dancer. For fifth choice Elysium Lindy, a 7-year-old Cantab Hall gelding owned Panic Stable and trained by Andrew Harris, it was his fourth win in eight '20 tries The exacta paid $178.50, with the triple returning $713. From Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, N.Y. – Stormy Kromer will make his first start of the year Saturday night (March 7) in the $44,000 Open Handicap Trot at Yonkers Raceway. The Dejarmbro son rose through the harness racing ranks last year, earning eight wins and $154,195 in 2019, and became competitive in the weekly trotting features, exceeding the expectations of his trainer, Paul Stafford. A private trainer for Tom Ceraso, Jr. since Aug. 2018, Stafford manages a 26-strong stable at Gaitway Farm. When the duo shop for horses, they have Yonkers Raceway in mind. Such was the case when they acquired Stormy Kromer last spring. “I’ve known Tom for probably 10 years, maybe a little longer,” Stafford said. “I had trained a horse for him in Chicago and we’ve been friends ever since. Never really had any discussions about training his horses out here, but opportunity presented itself, and here we are. “We race primarily at Yonkers,” Stafford said. “We like to race at Yonkers. It’s the best money. We try to buy horses that can go around a half-mile racetrack.” Stormy Kromer raced for Pete and Melanie Wrenn in the Midwest and at Pompano during the winter. Stormy Kromer won his last three starts for the Wrenns, including two legs and a final of a late-closing series at Hoosier Park in April 2019, all on the front end and all by open lengths. His victory in the $16,000 series final came by 8 3/4 lengths. “He looked like a nice horse on the track,” Stafford said. “It’s tough to adjust times off a five-eighths or a seven-eighths to a half, but we knew were buying a horse who obviously had a ton of gate speed because the horse was always on the front for Pete when he was good. It was just a matter of if he was going to be OK for the half.” Stormy Kromer made his first start for Stafford at Yonkers Raceway May 3, 2019 and removed any doubt. Starting from post seven in a $23,000 overnight, the gelding made the lead and never looked back, cruising to a 1 3/4-length win in 1:56. “When I talked to Pete, it was ‘what you see is what you get.’ The horse wears almost no equipment. It’s nice to take a horse that you’re going to race on a half-mile racetrack and not have to put any additional equipment on,” Stafford said. “First impressions were maybe he wouldn’t be able to go the other way, maybe he would just be able to go on the front, but about five or six starts in for us, he raced out of a hole and he was good and it was like, ‘OK, maybe we have a horse who can do it both ways now.’ " After his triumphant Hilltop debut, Stormy Kromer was unplaced in two Open Handicap tries before posting a pair of seconds in $29,000 overnights. Ten starts after his initial victory, Stormy Kromer found the winner’s circle again in an $18,500 overnight July 30 after posting a 13 1/4-length win in 1:54.4. By late-fall, Stormy Kromer became competitive in the higher classes. He finished second in a Preferred Handicap Nov. 9 and rode a pocket trip to a 1:54.0 victory in the same class two weeks later. Stormy Kromer earned checks in two of three Open Handicap tries late last year. “We thought we were buying a middle condition horses, non-winners of $10,000, non-winners of $20,000, maybe jump up in (non-winners of) $30,000 every once in a while, but Stormy Kromer has decided otherwise for us that he wants to be an Open trotter,” Stafford said. “I think he’s maybe a step below the top, top trotters, but he’s definitely shown us that he can compete either way. He can go on the front or he can race off the pace, which those horses are tough to come by.” Despite his acceleration off the gate, Stormy Kromer doesn’t get headstrong and settles for his driver after a quick opening quarter. “Once you get in the Opens and the Preferreds, you’re not going to be able to have your own way on the front like he was in those lower classes,” Stafford said. “Those are great horses that make a lot of money up there because they’re going to come after you, they’re not just going to let you stay up there. “One of the luxuries of ‘Stormy’ is when he leaves the gate, he comes right back to you, which is another thing you don’t usually see with horses, especially trotters. Usually, if you get them wound up a few weeks in a row, you have to reel them back in otherwise they get too excited behind the gate thinking they’re going to leave every week. ‘Stormy’ isn’t like that. He can leave in :27 with the car or he can duck and get away sixth if you need him too.” Stormy Kromer raced through the end of the 2019 season at Yonkers and got three weeks off before resuming training. He had one qualifier with regular driver Brent Holland in preparation for his return Saturday, winning the trial gate-to-wire by 7 1/4 lengths in 1:56.4 at Yonkers Feb. 28. “So far, he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. I thought he qualified really well. Brent was happy with him,” Stafford said. “When you start talking about a horse that you know is going to have to go into an Open in his first start, you have to get them a little tighter. I spent some extra time at the farm and trained him fast one more time because we knew we had to go a little quicker qualifier than you normally would like because of where he had to go.” Stormy Kromer drew post two and is a 5-1 morning line in his return. He will face five other trotters, including Melady’s Money, who was handicapped the outside off a 1:54.3 victory in the Preferred Feb. 22 and Weslynn Dancer, who looked like her old self winning a $27,000 overnight by 5 1/2 lengths Feb. 29. Elysium Lindy was beaten a nose by Lean Hanover in last week’s Open and drew post one. Arabella’s Cadet and Mostinterestingman complete the lineup. “I think he should be OK. He got a tough bunch. I know it’s only a six-horse field, but that’s a nice group of horses that we’re in with,” Stafford said. “He did draw the inside. I think with the qualifier and the way he came out of his qualifier, I think he’s competitive in there.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The M Life Rewards Series for Ladies and Gents continue with their second legs Monday and Tuesday night, respectively. 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. For entries to the races, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Stormy Kromer will make his first start of the year Saturday night (March 7) in the $44,000 Open Handicap Trot at Yonkers Raceway. The Dejarmbro son rose through the ranks last year, earning eight wins and $154,195 in 2019, and became competitive in the harness racing weekly trotting features, exceeding the expectations of his trainer, Paul Stafford. A private trainer for Tom Ceraso, Jr. since Aug. 2018, Stafford manages a 26-strong stable at Gaitway Farm. When the duo shop for horses, they have Yonkers Raceway in mind. Such was the case when they acquired Stormy Kromer last spring. “I’ve known Tom for probably 10 years, maybe a little longer,” Stafford said. “I had trained a horse for him in Chicago and we’ve been friends ever since. Never really had any discussions about training his horses out here, but opportunity presented itself, and here we are. “We race primarily at Yonkers,” Stafford said. “We like to race at Yonkers. It’s the best money. We try to buy horses that can go around a half-mile racetrack.” Stormy Kromer raced for Pete and Melanie Wrenn in the Midwest and at Pompano during the winter. Stormy Kromer won his last three starts for the Wrenns, including two legs and a final of a late-closing series at Hoosier Park in April 2019, all on the front end and all by open lengths. His victory in the $16,000 series final came by 8 3/4 lengths. “He looked like a nice horse on the track,” Stafford said. “It’s tough to adjust times off a five-eighths or a seven-eighths to a half, but we knew were buying a horse who obviously had a ton of gate speed because the horse was always on the front for Pete when he was good. It was just a matter of if he was going to be OK for the half.” Stormy Kromer made his first start for Stafford at Yonkers Raceway May 3, 2019 and removed any doubt. Starting from post seven in a $23,000 overnight, the gelding made the lead and never looked back, cruising to a 1 3/4-length win in 1:56.0. “When I talked to Pete, it was ‘what you see is what you get.’ The horse wears almost no equipment. It’s nice to take a horse that you’re going to race on a half-mile racetrack and not have to put any additional equipment on,” Stafford said. “First impressions were maybe he wouldn’t be able to go the other way, maybe he would just be able to go on the front, but about five or six starts in for us, he raced out of a hole and he was good and it was like, ‘OK, maybe we have a horse who can do it both ways now.’ ” After his triumphant Hilltop debut, Stormy Kromer was unplaced in two Open Handicap tries before posting a pair of seconds in $29,000 overnights. Ten starts after his initial victory, Stormy Kromer found the winner’s circle again in an $18,500 overnight July 30 after posting a 13 1/4-length win in 1:54.4. By late-fall, Stormy Kromer became competitive in the higher classes. He finished second in a Preferred Handicap Nov. 9 and rode a pocket trip to a 1:54.0 victory in the same class two weeks later. Stormy Kromer earned checks in two of three Open Handicap tries late last year. “We thought we were buying a middle condition horses, non-winners of $10,000, non-winners of $20,000, maybe jump up in (non-winners of) $30,000 every once in a while, but Stormy Kromer has decided otherwise for us that he wants to be an Open trotter,” Stafford said. “I think he’s maybe a step below the top, top trotters, but he’s definitely shown us that he can compete either way. He can go on the front or he can race off the pace, which those horses are tough to come by.” Despite his acceleration off the gate, Stormy Kromer doesn’t get headstrong and settles for his driver after a quick opening quarter. “Once you get in the Opens and the Preferreds, you’re not going to be able to have your own way on the front like he was in those lower classes,” Stafford said. “Those are great horses that make a lot of money up there because they’re going to come after you, they’re not just going to let you stay up there. “One of the luxuries of ‘Stormy’ is when he leaves the gate, he comes right back to you, which is another thing you don’t usually see with horses, especially trotters. Usually, if you get them wound up a few weeks in a row, you have to reel them back in otherwise they get too excited behind the gate thinking they’re going to leave every week. ‘Stormy’ isn’t like that. He can leave in :27 with the car or he can duck and get away sixth if you need him too.” Stormy Kromer raced through the end of the 2019 season at Yonkers and got three weeks off before resuming training. He had one qualifier with regular driver Brent Holland in preparation for his return Saturday, winning the trial gate-to-wire by 7 1/4 lengths in 1:56.4 at Yonkers Feb. 28. “So far, he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. I thought he qualified really well. Brent was happy with him,” Stafford said. “When you start talking about a horse that you know is going to have to go into an Open in his first start, you have to get them a little tighter. I spent some extra time at the farm and trained him fast one more time because we knew we had to go a little quicker qualifier than you normally would like because of where he had to go.” Stormy Kromer drew post two and is a 5-1 morning line in his return. He will face five other trotters, including Melady’s Money, who was handicapped the outside off a 1:54.3 victory in the Preferred Feb. 22 and Weslynn Dancer, who looked like her old self winning a $27,000 overnight by 5 1/2 lengths Feb. 29. Elysium Lindy was beaten a nose by Lean Hanover in last week’s Open and drew post one. Arabella’s Cadet and Mostinterestingman complete the lineup. “I think he should be OK. He got a tough bunch. I know it’s only a six-horse field, but that’s a nice group of horses that we’re in with,” Stafford said. “He did draw the inside. I think with the qualifier and the way he came out of his qualifier, I think he’s competitive in there.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The M Life Rewards Series for Ladies and Gents continue with their second legs Monday and Tuesday night, respectively. 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. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY, Friday, March 6, 2020 -- Season-debuting Gold Orchid N (George Brennan, $11) could not have mapped it out any better Friday night (March 6th), winning Yonkers Raceway's soggy $37,000 filly and mare harness racing Preferred Handicap Pace. Unhurried early from post position No. 2, Gold Orchid N saw Ba Ba Ba Banana (Matt Kakaley) set sail through snappy early intervals of :26.4 and :55.4. Diamondtoothgertie (catch-driver Joe Bongiorno) moved from third, with Gold Orchid N along for the lift. 'Gertie' engaged Ba Ba Ba Banana in and out of a 1:24 three-quarters, with the leader giving way readily soon thereafter. That didn't help tepid 2-1 choice Itty Bitty (Dan Dube), trapped in behind. Diamondtoothgertie ended up winning the battle, but losing the war as Gold Orchid N rolled right by. The final margin was a widening 3¼ lengths in 1:53.2. Diamondtoothgertie did save second over Lady Dela Renta A (Jason Bartlett), with Sandy Win (Austin Siegelman) and Itty Bitty settling for the small envelopes. For fourth choice Gold Orchid N, a now-6-year-old Down Under daughter of Bettor's Delight owned by Bamq LLC and trained by Mark Harder, she's off a seven-win, $120,000 season in 2019. The exacta paid $96, the triple returned $286 and the superfecta paid $1,954 (base $2 payout, 10-cent ticket worth $97.70). Frank Drucker

YONKERS, NY-- The 2020 North American Amateur Driver Association (NAADA) harness racing season commenced tonight at Yonkers Raceway with two non-wagering divisions presented prior to the betting card getting underway and when the judges hung the official signs, Tony Verruso and Pearly Allen each emerged victorious in their respective $8000 splits. Verruso won with The Cuse Is Loose in 1:59.2 while Allen scored behind veteran Wygant Prince in 2:00.1. Both trotters scored from off the early pace and rallied late for decisive victories. Verruso and The Cuse Is Loose started slowly while Joe Faraldo and Muzzy's Muscles cut the early fractions and led the 6-horse field by the first stanza in :29.1 and by the halfway point in 1:00. Trailing in fourth place Veruso moved his charge off the pylons and was out and challenging as the field headed to the half. Third at that point Verruso then hustled The Cuse Is Lose and they took command as the field rounded the final turn and headed for paydirt. Aping Verruso's moves, John Calabrese kept Wild Smile on the leader's back but The Cuse Is Loose proved to much for his challenger and the 6-year-old Deweycheatumnhowe gelding went on to a solid one-length victory. Wild Smile held on for second money while Pop I garnered the show dough for Brett Beckwith. The winner is owned by his driver and trained by Ethan Sisco. In the other division Wygant Prince started from post four and after the start Pearly Allen settled him in second along the pylons and was content to sit still while Melissa Arbia showed the way with Finnick Odair. But when the field rounded the final turn Allen moved the veteran trotter out to challenge and Wygant Prince rallied to a 2-1/4 length triumph in 2:00.1. Finnick Odair was second best while Southwind Dorian chugged home in third place. Paul Minore owns Wygant Prince while Taylor Gower does the training. Next Thursday the NAADA 10-race series moves on to Monticello Raceway. by John Manzi, for NAADA .

Monticello, NY--The North America Amateur Drivers Association (NAADA), one of harness racing's oldest and longest running amateur driving organization, will kick off its 37th season with two trotting events at Yonkers Raceway on Thurs March 5th Two 6-horse trots will be presented before the first race on the betting card and they will be the first of three 10-race series to be presented by the organization for its members during the 2020 racing season. Current events will be contested on consecutive Thursdays at both Yonkers and Monticello Raceways with the $15,000 series final slated at Yonkers on Thursday. May 14. "We're scheduled to have multiple international contests throughout the season with the first slated for early May against a visiting Italian team from Turino," noted NAADA vice president, Alan Schwartz. "But finalized dates will not be solidified until there is clearance from the current Coronavirus circulating throughout a good portion of the globe." The series is open to all amateur drivers who be come members of the North American Amateur Drivers Association (NAADA). Last years December finale was won by Glenferry Dreamer reined to victory by Paul Minore. by John Manzi, for NAADA        

YONKERS, NY, Tuesday, March 3, 2020--Yonkers Raceway's Tuesday evening (March 3rd) program produced not only a season-high handle total, but the largest Tuesday figure in recent memory. The dozen races saw $1,091,119 wagered, including the largest on-track count of the season. While Tuesday represented a 2020 standard, it was by no means an isolated occurrence. The past few handle figures... Tue., March 3rd $1,091,119 Mon,, March 2nd $931,276 Sat., Feb. 29th $814,092 Fri,. Feb. 28th $994,517 four-program total $3,831,004 (avg. $957,751) The Raceway's five-program-per-week schedule continues, with first post every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:05 PM. March is flush with series competition, including M Life Rewards Ladies (Mondays), Gents (Tuesdays), Blue Chip Matchmaker (Fridays, beginning the 13th) and MGM Borgata Pacing Series (formerly George Morton Levy Memorial, Saturdays, beginning the 14th). by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, NY, Tuesday, March 3, 2020--Those of a certain demographic might remember the name 'Whelan' doing very good things at metropolitan New York-area harness racing tracks. The 'Whelan' in question is Walter, and back in 1987, Walter Whelan teamed with then 4-year-old Armbro Emerson to take down both the Breeders Crown at Roosevelt Raceway and Yonkers Raceway's William Haughton Memorial. Those and other stakes wins highlighted a $1.4 million racing resume ('87 Pacer of the Year) which, along with a prolific stallion career, earned 'Emerson' a 2006 induction into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. All of the above is a roundabout way of saying that Walter Whelan, the father/trainer, and Michael Whelan, the son/driver, are invading Yonkers Tuesday night (March 3rd), bringing with them Ohare Hanover for the opening round of the M Life Rewards Gents Pacing Series. The event (nee the Sagamore Hill) is open to 3- and 4-year-old lads who are/were non-winners of four races and/or $50,000 through this past Dec. 1st. Welcome Ohare Hanover, a 4-year-old Russell Hanover gelding who drew position No. 6 in the first, $20,000 division...conveniently carded as the first of a dozen races (first post 7:05 PM). The $8,000 Goshen (NY) yearling purchase left a good impression up north, breaking his maiden in his 16th career start at Mohawk (1:55) late last month while taking a whole lot of back-half air. For the 42-year-old escort, who is set to make his local driving debut, there's some promise with his charge. "The last few starts, it's clicked for (Ohare Hanover)," Mike Whelan said. "I mean, he was never bad, just mentally immature. "We tried him in the Snowshoe Series (Mohawk) in January, but he drew badly both times and the races had no pace. Undaunted, father, son and the rest of the Whelans ("It's a family operation, to be sure," Mike Whelan said) had scoped out a trip stateside. "(Ohare Hanover) had no problem getting around the half (-mile track) at Flamboro. He's quick-gaited and we think the small ovals may suit him better, though we weren't disappointed how he raced in Toronto." Unfortunately for Team Whelan, their four-legged friend has a big bully right next door. Semi Tough (Matt Kakaley, post 7) makes his 2020 purse debut off a $205,000 season in '19, which ended with handy overnights wins (at odds of 1-10 and 1-20) here. The open stakes-placed 4-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding has earned just under a half-million-dollars. "Ideally, I would have preferred to draw better, have the option to sit with him and hopefully make a few dollars, but this is good test for him," Mike Whelan said. Tuesday's other 'Gent' divisions are races 3,4 and 5. The series offer three preliminary legs leading to a $50,000 (added) finale Tuesday night, March 24th. Yonkers Raceway’s Monday evening (March 2nd) Pick 5 wager began with a carryover of $4,148.77 and a $15,000 guaranteed pool. Those two fun factoids led to $33,154 of fresh investing. The sequential phrase that pays was… 2-Reigning Bills (Jason Bartlett, $4.90) 1-My Spirit Soars (Brent Holland, $23.20) 5-Canbec Kingkazimir (George Brennan, $4.80) 6-Followyourdestiny (Bartlett, $7.20) 7-Ari Allstar (Brennan, $20.40) …returning $1,813.25 for every correct half-a-bucket ticket. The Pick 5 is a 50-cent base wager (5 through 9). by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway    

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