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YONKERS, N.Y. - Jamie Durnberger-Smith still remembers the day the harness racing pacer Pat Stanley caught his eye. The agent and co-founder of Summit Bloodstock was watching the races from Menangle, Australia at his Brisbane home Nov. 2, 2019 as Pat Stanley secured a pocket trip in the opener, a $20,400 overnight.  After racing in the two-hole through the first three quarters, Pat Stanley was stuck in behind leader Brocks Territory turning for home as Team Tritton’s Foo Fighter kicked off cover three deep. With 200 meters to pace, Pat Stanley saw daylight along the pylons and although Foo Fighter had the jump on the field, Pat Stanley rallied for a second-place finish.  “I saw him, I saw his point-to-point speed, and that was it,” Durnberger-Smith said. “I clocked his sectionals, his furlong splits. He had a :12.4 split, which is crazy. He’d run the second or third fastest split I had ever clocked at Menangle. His sectional was just unbelievable. When I found out the horse was sound and the camp that I was going to buy him from looks after their horses, I knew he’d be in great health and be ready, so we bought him.” Durnberger-Smith and Summit co-founder Jake Webster enlisted South Carolina-based owner Ron Buker and made a deal for a hefty sum while retaining a minority interest in the horse themselves, much to the bewilderment of the racing community. Pat Stanley had 12 wins to his name at the time, but had never won more than $5,720 in any one victory. He had also never won a metropolitan class race. Undeterred, Summit and Buker sent Pat Stanley to Kerryn Manning and pointed their new purchase to a prestigious Group 2 stakes. “A lot of people said we were crazy, but because he hadn’t won a metropolitan race, we knew that if he went to the South Australian Pacing Cup, he would get post one or two because of the way it’s preferential,” Durnberger-Smith said.  Pat Stanley debuted for his new connections at Melton Jan. 17, finishing third in a $20,000 overnight. Pat Stanley finished third again in a Group 3 stakes at Melton Feb. 1. One week later, Pat Stanley was entered in the Group 2 South Australian Pacing Cup at Globe Derby Park, drawing post two as expected. Manning put the whip on the pacer’s tail leaving the gate and looked to her right, seeing four horses leaving to her outside.  With the inside advantage, Pat Stanley made the lead and faced immediate pressure from Joes A Character. The tempo threatened to slow up the backstretch the first time, and entering the second turn, Little Peanut advanced to make it a three-wide battle for the lead. Joes A Character was first to waive the white flag, taking back into the pocket. Greg Sugars pressed on with Little Peanut, but soon retreated. Taking his place outside the leader, Rackemup Tigerpie charged three-wide to ensure Pat Stanley never got a breather. Entering the final lap, Pat Stanley maintained the lead, challenged by Rackemup Tigerpie. The pair sprinted away from the competition, opening up daylight on the field as the pace quickened up the backstretch. Around the final turn, Manning went to the right-handed whip and yanked down the ear hood with her left. Despite bearing out and showing signs of fatigue from the onslaught he faced to hold the lead, Pat Stanley dug in and beat Rackemup Tigerpie to the wire in a 1:57.1 mile rate over the 2,645-meter trip. “They just attacked him the whole race and he still won. It was just unbelievable,” Durnberger-Smith said. “Everyone thought we were going to lose our money. When we sent him to a really good trainer and placed him perfectly, everyone started to realize, wow this is a pretty damn good horse. He couldn’t win one metro race and all the sudden, he wins the time-honored South Australian Pacing Cup. You don’t see many horses do that. It really set Twitter and the harness racing world down here on fire when he did that. “It was more of a relief than anything, only because I said to Ron that he will win it if we buy him and he doesn’t go to America straight away,” Durnberger-Smith continued. “It was more of a relief to us because we were so adamant that he would be able to win that race drawing barrier one or barrier two.” Pat Stanley won a listed $24,000 free for all at Melton March 7 and placed in three other races before exporting to the United States July 6. After training down with Shane and Lauren Tritton over the summer, Pat Stanley qualified at Yonkers Sept. 18, winning in 1:54.2 with Lauren in the bike. After a second-place finish in his pari-mutuel debut Oct. 2, Pat Stanley captured a $17,500 overnight in 1:52.2 Oct. 10, improving his record to 50-15-11-5 with $118,521 earned and fulfilling Durnberger-Smith’s dream of winning a race in America. “Dreamt of this moment for a long, long time!!!” Summit Bloodstock posted on their Twitter page. “When he won the other day, Jake and I, we’ve been dreaming of that moment since we were kids,” Durnberger-Smith added. Bitten early by the racing bug, Durnberger-Smith worked with trainers Christopher Robinson and Gary Hall. About 10 months ago, Durnberger-Smith and Webster, each 32 years old, joined forces to create Summit Bloodstock, with the mission of introducing new owners to the sport. With the success of their first two horses, Westar Sam and My Bettor Lady, interest in the venture rapidly grew. The stable now boasts a roster of 42 horses. “We said, ‘let’s start buying as many horses as we can and see what happens. We’ve been in the game for so long, we know who the good horses are, we know how to find them. Let’s have a go.’ ” Durnberger-Smith recalled. “We’ve got 152 owners with Summit Bloodstock now, so we’re not going to stop.” In addition to their goals of continuing to grow their stable and selling more horses to America (such as recent exports Demeter, Deltasun and Need Luck), Durnberger-Smith and Webster have lofty aspirations for Pat Stanley’s Stateside career. If the 6-year-old Western Ideal son continues to pan out as expected, he could become a regular in the open ranks at Yonkers Raceway, compete in the Borgata Pacing Series in 2021, and more. “When Pat Stanley is rock-hard fit in two or three starts time, he’ll go 1:47 at the Meadowlands if he has to, I’m certain. If he’s not a 1:47 horse, I’m a poor judge. He’s way better when he’s sitting behind a leader and he’s rock-hard fit. He’s just so blindingly quick,” Durnberger-Smith said. “Shane is taking his time with him, which is the best thing because he’ll be running good races for a long time.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY  

YONKERS, N.Y. – After posting three straight victories at Yonkers Raceway, Ponder The Odds will get her toughest test yet Thursday night (Oct. 15) as she steps up into the $25,000 filly and mare open handicap pace for the first time. Whatever the outcome, she’s already exceeding the expectations of her trainers, owners, and breeders, Kathleen and Donald La Montagne. “To tell you the truth, it’s been shocking,” Donald La Montagne said. “Jimmy (Marohn, Jr.) has been getting along with her better than anyone who has ever driven her. She’s a nice filly, but she’s doing a lot more than I ever thought she could.” Despite going 10-for-27 last year, including a win in the $70,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes Standardbred Development Fund Final for 3-year-old pacing fillies, Ponder The Odds’ 2020 season started slowly. She qualified back after the coronavirus shutdown July 17 and went winless in her first six starts, including a three-race rift in which she didn’t earn a check between Aug. 20 and Sept. 9. Ponder The Odds dropped into a $12,500 overnight at Yonkers Sept. 17 and had a change of drivers to Jim Marohn, Jr. Something clicked. Ponder The Odds raced in fourth until moving first-over with three-eighths to pace. She advanced steadily and passing the three-quarter mile marker, Ponder The Odds took the lead and took off. Her stride quickened and she put up 5 lengths on the field turning for home. Kept to task by Marohn through the stretch, Ponder The Odds extended her margin to 7 lengths, stopping the clock in 1:52.4. Ponder The Odds stepped up to the $15,000 level in her latest two starts Sept. 24 and Oct. 1. In both races, she beat the Ron Burke trained standout Feelin Red Hot, first with a pocket trip and then with a pacesetting effort after leaving from post seven and assuming the lead through fast early fractions. She stayed the course for a 1:52.3 seasonal mark, improving her resume to 13-for-40 with $141,843 earned. “She had a good year last year and she didn’t really come back that good,” La Montagne said. “She wasn’t even getting checks. And then Jimmy just got along with her. We were stunned. She beat a really nice, classy old mare (Feelin Red Hot). She’s not at her best either, that one, but she’s got a lot of class. I was shocked that she won that one when she came first-over. She had some luck in those races, but last week, she did all the work and she got it done. We’re really happy with her. We’re kind of stunned about the whole thing.” Ponder The Odds’ legacy goes back three generations with the La Montagnes. A self-described ‘mom-and-pop’ outfit, the La Montagnes have been breeding, raising, breaking, training, and racing their own horses on their farm for 45 years as a passion, not as a career. Their stable has had two key broodmares over the years, the pacer Motivation, and the trotter Motivational.  The La Montages purchased Motivation for $7,200 in the 1990s. She went 12-for-52, became a multiple stakes winner, took a mark of 1:52.3 at the Meadowlands, and earned $300,847 before retiring to the La Montagne’s farm to breed in 1996. “She was the fastest Direct Scooter mare of all time and she was the New Jersey 3-year-old pacer of the year in 1995. She was a top stakes mare,” La Montagne commented. Motivation produced seven foals to race between 1999 and 2010. Four of them earned six figures, including her 2000 foal Figure The Odds, who went 17-for-74 and banked $247,641 racing from 2002 to 2005. A multiple stakes winner herself, Figure The Odds’ biggest win came in the $70,756 Rose of Tralee Stakes at Yonkers July 12, 2003, when she stopped the clock in 1:55. “Figure The Odds won there and took Bunny Lake’s record (of 1:56.1) in the Rose of Tralee. She was a really top mare herself, a really good stakes filly,” La Montagne said. “From her time as a 2-year-old, she was a top filly.” Figure The Odds produced five foals to race between 2007 and 2016. Three of them have earned six figures. Now 20 years old, Figure The Odds is retired on La Montagne’s farm. Her last foal was Ponder The Odds. While Ponder The Odds hasn’t lived up to her family legacy yet, she inherited some of the most coveted intangible traits among mares and La Montagne hopes she will continue to improve. “This filly comes from a good filly family. I do like her a lot, but there’s plenty in her family that are better than her,” La Montagne said. “Her sire, Ponder, he got much better when he was older. He did his best work for McIntosh when he was 5, so we’re hoping she will come around. That horse gets better with age. “Her mother (Figure The Odds) was much bigger-gaited and faster than (Ponder The Odds), but they’re all similar. All easy to get along with, just good racehorses, no tying up,” La Montagne continued. “There’s an old saying among horsemen, ‘good fillies come from filly families and good colts can come from anywhere.’ The credit goes to this family, all the fillies in this family have been very good. She comes through that family and to get a good filly that tries is hard to do. She tries very hard, that’s how that family is. They have a lot of ability and they try. Those are hard things to put together for a mare.” After her three-race win streak, the La Montagnes gave Ponder The Odds last week off before entering back in the filly and mare open handicap. “That was a very tough race (Oct. 1), they parked her in 27-flat and she didn’t weaken at the end, she hung on” La Montagne said. “There were three tough starts in a row, so she didn’t race last week, that was by design. She got her week off, I trained her in 2 minutes, and that’s it. Hopefully, it’s going to sharpen her, I want to keep her fresh.” Ponder The Odds drew post position three in Thursday’s distaff feature, the seventh race on the program. With Marohn opting for the Rob Harmon trained Robyn Camden, Jason Bartlett picked up the drive and the pair are 9-2 on the morning line. The field includes Lady Dela Renta, who’s won four of her last five starts, including a win in this class last out Oct. 1. She drew post eight and is 7-2 with Jordan Stratton set to drive for Team Tritton. Ron Burke trained Snobbytown enters off four consecutive runner up finishes at this level and is the 3-1 morning line favorite with regular reinsman George Brennan. Robyn Camden upset this bunch with an off-the-pace win at 7-1 Sept. 17. She is 7-1 on the morning line from post five. Alexa’s Power, Wishy Washy Girl, Neverforgetwhour, and Bye Bye Michelle complete the lineup. “I looked at the program and everyone in the race could win, they’re all good horses,” La Montagne said. “It’s our first time moving up in that class, so we have a lot to prove. She went fast a couple times her last three starts, but that’s not the same as going against ones that can stay with you. This will be her true test.  “She’s got a top driver, hopefully she gets along with him like she did with Jimmy. Speed is one thing, class is another. She’ll have her test of class, we’ll see if she can go with these; for a 4-year-old to go against these seasoned mares, that’s the true test. I’m not disappointed if she doesn’t win, she earned her way up in there. “She has really surprised me her last three starts. She seems to be a horse for the course. We’ll see. She has overachieved my expectations.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Harness racing trainer Paul Stafford feels fortunate to have worked in large stables and train many horses throughout his career. He’s trained good ones and inevitably, slow ones, too. Even among the good ones, there are those who need to be made to do their work or who don’t train well. However, when it comes to star trotter Stormy Kromer, Stafford says, “he trains me.” “The more horses you train, the more good horses you train, they’ll train you,” Stafford said. “You turn the right way to go and the further you go in a mile, the more interested they get. When you come out of the turn and for the last quarter, you just hang on for dear life because they know it’s time to go fast and they do it themselves. “He’s a very easy horse to maintain, he doesn’t take a lot of work. He makes my job easy because he’s very low maintenance.” Stormy Kromer joined Stafford’s stable in spring 2019 and since then, has exceeded expectations of being a high-level conditioned trotter. Stormy Kromer rose to the open ranks near the end of last year and won a $35,000 preferred trot at Yonkers Raceway Nov. 23. This year, he’s been even better. Since returning to racing June 25 after the coronavirus shut down tracks across America, Stormy Kromer is 6-for-9 with his last three victories coming at the preferred level at Yonkers and Freehold. In his career, Stormy Kromer is 28-for-104 with $397,224 earned. Stormy Kromer’s streak started with a 5 1/4-length, win at Harrah’s Philadelphia July 16 in which the 6-year-old gelding set a 1:51.4 lifetime mark. Stormy Kromer then came to Yonkers July 24. With Dan Dube in the sulky, he trotted to a 5-length victory in 1:53.3, establishing a North American record for an aged gelding on a half-mile track. Stormy Kromer lowered his own record next out July 31, posting a 4-length victory in 1:52.3, the fastest trotting mile in the history of Yonkers Raceway (besting the previous 1:53.1 mark jointly held by Six Pack and Plunge Blue Chip). Despite all those victories coming on the front end, Stormy Kromer got away with another pace-setting win in the $22,000 preferred handicap trot at Yonkers Aug. 7 before the competition caught on. Next out Aug. 21, Stormy Kromer had a target on his back and was parked the mile after leaving from post five. Succumbing to the trip delivered by the wisening competition, Stormy Kromer finished last beaten by 15 lengths. He rebounded next out at Freehold Aug. 28, taking the $12,000 preferred handicap by 6 1/2 lengths. “Most horses, trotters especially, can’t leave as well as he can and be up 5 lengths the whole mile. Horses like that, you think are basically out of control and that’s the way they have to go. But he’s such a gentleman on the track. He’s two fingers, he’s doing that all on his own, which is awesome,” Stafford said of the open-length victories and blazing miles. Arguably Stormy Kromer’s biggest victory came in his most recent start in the preferred handicap at Yonkers Sept. 9. Starting from post seven and not desiring another ride on the rim, Dube and Stormy Kromer took back to sixth as Obrigado set the tempo. Stormy Kromer angled to the outside passing the half, but faced a 7 1/4-length deficit as Obrigado got soft fractions. Following the cover of Muscle M Up, Stormy Kromer advanced to within 3 lengths of the lead at the three-quarters, but began to gap the cover entering the final turn. Straightening away, Obrigado and Muscle M Up battled for the lead while Stormy Kromer was still 3 lengths behind. Dube tugged on the right line and Stormy Kromer saw open road ahead. Under a right-handed whip Stormy Kromer kicked into gear, trotting home in :28.1 to collar Muscle M Up for a neck victory. “He’s been racing well for us to say the least. He’s beat some good horses. His last start, that was a nice group of horses that he beat in there,” Stafford said. “He did it from off the pace; he came from behind for the first time in a while. It was a testament to him that he’s learned to race both ways. “He was gapped and Obrigado was on the front. Normally, Obrigado would put him away with that kind of a trip. That was impressive,” Stafford continued. “Going into it with the outside and all the speed on the inside, I thought if we sorted out a second- or third-over trip, we could be second or third in there. Stormy Kromer decided that wasn’t going to be good enough.” Stafford attributes Stormy Kromer’s standout summer campaign in part to the trotter’s continued physical development. Stormy Kromer got a break over the winter, making his last start Dec. 14, 2019 before requalifying Feb. 28.  Stormy Kromer got one race in at Yonkers March 7 before the coronavirus shutdown sent him back to the sidelines until June. “He raced the one time and he was third in an open. He was a good third, then we shut down. During the shutdown, he put on some weight. For me, there’s weight and there’s good weight. He put on good weight, he put on a lot of muscle,” Stafford said. “He filled out a lot over those three months because we didn’t do a lot of work. They all jogged every day, but you weren’t doing a lot of speed work. It got him to put on some good weight and it made him stronger, definitely.” Stormy Kromer seeks his seventh win this year and his third straight in the $22,000 preferred handicap trot at Yonkers Raceway Friday night (Sept. 25). After the early scratch of Warrior One, Stormy Kromer will start from post six in a condensed field, which is comprised of New Heaven, Nows The Moment, Lindsey’s Pride, The Last Chapter, and Obrigado. “I think it’s a good spot. The scratch helps, starting one position closer,” Stafford said. “I don’t know what the game plan will be. I think there’s still enough speed in there, we’re not looking to get torched again. We pretty much leave it up to Dube.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – When Hudson Phil started his 2020 harness racing campaign with three straight losses in the open handicap pace at Saratoga from June 21 to July 5, longtime owner Wayne Kellogg of Kellogg Racing Stable was afraid the talented pacer had tailed off or that a long 2019 campaign had taken its toll. However, the 5-year-old gelding has since won four of his last six starts, including two Saratoga opens and two Yonkers overnights. Friday night (Sept. 18), Hudson Phil will make his first start in the open handicap pace at Yonkers Raceway. “He’s getting into a groove,” Kellogg said. “It takes a few starts to get in a groove when you’re racing at that higher echelon. He seems to be there now.” Kellogg Racing acquired Hudson Phil out of the 2018 Harrisburg Mixed Sale. The Shanghai Phil son caught the eye of Janie Kellogg, Wayne’s wife. Hudson Phil had won a leg of the Ontario Sire Stakes and placed in the Battle of Waterloo, the Nassagaweya, and the Champlain at 2 in the barn of Mark Steacy. At 3, Hudson Phil won the Quebec Series Final at Hippodrome 3R and took three legs of the Ontario Grass Roots Series. In his last three starts before the sale, however, Hudson Phil finished no better than sixth. “The last 10 years, we’ve been buying most of our horses out of Canada. My wife does the research on them. She’s really diligent; she watches the replays, she looks at the equipment, she does a lot of that work and makes the suggestion,” Kellogg said. “She went to Harrisburg. I said, ‘come home with a horse.’ Hudson Phil was her number one pick as far as a pacer.” Janie kept bidding on Hudson Phil even after trainer Jackie Greene had bowed out. With a final hit at $58,000, Kellogg brought Hudson Phil home. Hudson Phil began racing at Saratoga for Kellogg and Greene in late November 2018. While he accumulated wins in the overnights and even the open pace, Hudson Phil initially lived in the shadow of Kellogg’s three-time Saratoga Pacer of the Year Artful Way. However, when Hudson Phil recorded a 1:50.2 victory in the Saratoga feature May 25, 2019, Kellogg was impressed. “It was a pretty big challenge for Hudson Phil to do as well as he did last year,” Kellogg said. “The race secretary said to me one night, ‘who do you think is better, Artful Way or Hudson Phil?’ and I said, ‘Artful Way. There’s no quit in him. He just grinds it out.’ Then Hudson Phil put up a couple pretty big miles. Driver Frank Coppola said, ‘I didn’t think there would ever be another Artful Way, but maybe Hudson Phil is as good.’ ” Hudson Phil took seven Saratoga opens from March 16 to Aug. 24, 2019, but went just 1-for-13 in his subsequent starts last year for a seasonal tally of 36-11-8-1 with a bankroll of $134,362. “He had such a good year last year and toward the end of the year, he tailed off,” Kellogg said. “We try to not race them more than 25 or 30 starts. Last year for some reason, we raced him more than normal. Maybe because the stable is smaller than it was. Maybe we’re pushing a little too hard. I always try to do what’s right by the horse. I try to err on the side of the horse all the time.” After a three-month winter break, Hudson Phil qualified back at Saratoga March 14, just before racing shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. He also returned to the races a gelding, which helped settle him down. Previously as a stallion, Hudson Phil was a handful in the paddock and on the racetrack. Hudson Phil resumed racing at Saratoga beginning June 21, finishing second in three straight open handicap paces. Hudson Phil earned his first win of the year with a head win on the lead in the Saratoga open July 12. He doubled-up at Yonkers July 24, scoring in a $17,250 overnight off a pocket trip in 1:52.1.  Hudson Phil earned his third win of the season in the Saratoga open Aug. 25, grinding out a first-over victory by a nose, beating rival Crockets Cullen. Last out at Yonkers Sept. 4, Hudson Phil worked out a pocket trip behind Caviart Luca and sprinting through the final quarter in :27.2, rocketed past the pacesetter to post a 1 1/4-length win in 1:52.4. Like the betting public who dismissed him at 13-1, Kellogg was surprised. “I was hoping to finish second or third. Last week, he really surprised me closing that well. It was very, very, very good. Extremely exciting,” Kellogg said. His record standing at 4-for-9 this year with another three seconds, Hudson Phil will try the $25,000 open handicap pace for the first time Friday night. He drew post four in the weekly pacing feature and will have Pat Lachance in the sulky. The pair are 7-1 on the morning line. None Bettor is the 9-5 favorite on the morning line despite post seven. The Andrew Harris trainee finished second in this open Aug. 21 and was fourth in a division of the ‘#SendItIn’ Invitational at Scioto Downs Sept. 6.  Micky Gee beat None Bettor here Aug. 21 with a 1:50.4 score and was also fourth in another division of the ‘#SendItIn’ at Scioto last out. He will start from post eight tonight. Ideal Jimmy returns to the open after finishing first or second in four straight $15,500 overnights locally. He will start from post two.  Mac’s Jackpot will make his third start of the season and his second start off a February layoff after qualifying at Pocono Sept. 2 and finishing sixth here from post eight last out Sept. 12. The Jeffrey Smith trainee will start from post three tonight. Heaven’s Gait and Shnitzledosomethin complete the lineup. “I don’t know what to expect Friday night. It’s a pretty big jump up from last week,” Kellogg said. “I’m just going to keep my fingers crossed and hope he gets a good trip. Based on the way he finished last week, I’m hoping he’ll be right there.” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – For Ron Buker, part of the fun of owning Standardbred racehorses is sharing the experience with the whole family. That’s why on race nights, Ron, his wife Briana, and their three children all gather in front of the TV to root the harness racing horses on and share quality time together. “What really got me into buying more horses was I have three kids. When we turn the TV on to watch the horses race, they would say, ‘daddy, there’s your horse.’ I would say, ‘no, this horse is all of ours.’ That’s priceless, a bond like that,” Buker said. “The kids absolutely love horses. When the horses do race on TV, we all sit together and watch, get excited. Win or lose, it’s a priceless moment with everybody together having a good time.” Buker was a longtime patron of Dover Downs before he relocated to South Carolina for work. He always dreamed of being more than just a fan and took the plunge in January 2019, becoming an owner on the Delaware circuit. In the short time since, Buker or his Bukers Stable expanded to racing across the U.S., starting horses in 289 races. Horses owned wholly or in part by the Bukers have won 56 races, placed in another 86 and earned $634,009. The stable has also raced horses in Australia.  “I owned one and it wins, then you get the itch; you buy another one and then the next thing you know, you have a bunch of them,” Buker said. One of the stars in Buker’s current lineup of 12 horses is Lady Dela Renta, an Australian-bred Well Said daughter who’s won three straight races at Yonkers and will try to make it four in a row in the $25,000 filly and mare open handicap pace Thursday night (Sept. 17). Imported to the U.S. last summer, Lady Dela Renta made an immediate impact, earning a 1:49.2 lifetime mark at Pocono in just her third Stateside start Sept. 3, 2019 for Blindswitch Racing and Dolne Farm. Bukers Stable joined the partnership this February and as of Aug. 27, assumed sole ownership of the standout mare. Lady Dela Renta looked to be a rising star last fall and winter, scoring a neck win in the local filly and mare open handicap Oct. 4, 2019 and three open wins at Saratoga from October to December. She entered the first leg of the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series at Yonkers March 13, but when the series was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, she headed to the Midwest. Lady Dela Renta was winless in four starts in the distaff open at Scioto Downs before her connections made a change. “When she was out there in Ohio, she wasn’t racing to her full potential. Since she is an Australian horse, I knew the one trainer who would be the best for her was (Shane and Lauren Tritton’s) Team Tritton. I called (Shane) up and said, ‘I want to send her to you, you’re going to be the best for her.’ He said he liked her in Australia and they would gladly take her,” Buker said. “They take really, really good care of her. I think she’s Lauren’s pet,” Buker said. “They key behind it all is taking care of the horse. They’re not out there racing her every single week and hard racing her. It’s not all about drying all the money out of her right away, it’s taking care of a good horse.” After making her last Scioto start July 10, Lady Dela Renta qualified with Lauren Tritton in the sulky at Yonkers July 31. She scorched the track with a 1:52.2 victory, pacing a final quarter of :27.2. Lady Dela Renta then posted three straight pari-mutuel wins at Yonkers with Jordan Stratton driving: a 3 3/4-length win in a $15,500 overnight Aug. 13 and back-to-back wins at the $18,000 level by 1 length and 3 1/4 lengths, respectively Aug. 20 and Sept. 3. “With her, it’s the right trainer for the right horse,” Buker said. “It just goes to show that if you take care of the horse - because they aren’t machines - they’ll take care of you and then they show their full potential. “When they qualified her, that was a wow factor. She came back and won the first race, second race, and then the last race. This is for real here, she’s on a roll,” Buker said. “I think the first race stood out because I was anxious to see her in the first start with Shane and Lauren. After the first race, there was a lot of excitement. I think the last race stood out because she was in with a good group of horses and it looked like she won with ease.” Lady Dela Renta drew post three in Thursday night’s feature and will have Stratton in the bike again. The pair are the 3-1 second choice on the morning line. Favored at 5-2 is Snobbytown, a Ron Burke trainee who twice won and twice finished second in this local feature in four starts between June 23 and July 30 (her last pari-mutuel outing). She will return tonight off a runner up finish to Caviart Ally in a Meadowlands qualifier Sept. 5.  The field also includes Neverforgetwhour, who like Lady Dela Renta, streaks into this filly and mare open handicap with three straight wins; she won local $15,500 overnights by a head, nose, and 1 length Aug. 13, Aug, 27, and Sept. 3, respectively. With regular driver Stratton opting for Lady Dela Renta, Scott Zeron gets the call on the 9-2 shot on the morning line. Coral Bella, who steps up off a win in the non-winners of eight condition last out, Robyn Camden, Apple Bottom Jeans, and Imprincessgemma complete the lineup. “I know we’re in with good company, but if any horse is ready to go 4-for-4, it’s her. She’s got the perfect draw, perfect spot. Jordan is the key man. He knows the horse, loves the horse, and when you can get a driver that loves and knows the horse like he does, you can’t lose,” Buker said. “We haven’t seen her best yet,” he continued. “She hasn’t been unleashed yet; Her best definitely is yet to come. She hasn’t let it all out and I think we’re going to see a little glimpse of it (tonight).” Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

Yonkers, NY --- The $1.8 million New York Sire Stake finals convened at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday (Sept. 12) with 60 of the best state-bred harness racing Standardbreds clashing to determine year-end honors in eight $225,000 divisions. Although there were a couple of upsets during the evening, several favorites performed as expected and some put on impressive efforts. The Allerage Farm 3-year-old filly trot went to Hypnotic Am (Chapter Seven-Daydream Am S) in a runaway performance that produced a new stake record. A short field of seven got even shorter when the gate released the field when Love A Good Story and Seventimesalady both made breaks as Hypnotic Am (Brian Sears) opened up a five length lead at the quarter in :27.2. From there the filly was on cruise control. With no one getting close enough to challenge, Sears went an easy :30 second quarter and :29 up the backside. Hypnotic Am rounded the last turn all by herself and hit the line the same way; on top by five in 1:55, which was a new stake record.   "She was looking around a little bit at the quarter because she hasn't been on a half in a while, but she kept her mind on her business and really performed," said Sears. "She was really good tonight; she's a real sweetheart. I wish they hadn't canceled the Yonkers Trot because I think she would have been really good in there." Hypnotic Am ($2.50) is now a two-time NYSS Champion and this win has boosted her earnings to $916,260 for breeder/owner Courant Inc. Marcus Melander trains the filly. Then in the Cameo Hills Farm 3-year-old filly pace, Hen Party (Roll With Joe-My Lady Day) won in a strong gate to wire performance to extend her winning streak. Racine Bell (Jason Bartlett) was first for the front but Hen Party (Tim Tetrick) soon overtook and when she did, it was for good. Hen Party got to the half in a moderate :56 as So Rude (Joe Bongiorno) made her move at the five-eighths and pushed the third panel to a :27.4 clip. But that was as far as she got as Hen Party opened up heading down the lane and held off a late rush by Moaning Lisa (Jim Marohn Jr.) and won by 1-1/4 lengths in 1:53.1. It was the fourth straight win and seventh out of the last nine starts for Hen Party ($2.80) who now boasts over a half-million in lifetime earnings with $541,621 in the bank. The Tony Alagna trained Hen Party was purchased by Crawford Farms Racing for $100,000 at the 2018 Harrisburg Sale, bred by Frederick Hertrich III. The NYSS 3-year-old colt and gelding trot was won by Hobbs (Credit Winner-Cruella De Ville) after a dominating performance. Hobbs (Jason Bartlett) left like a bullet and seated Chaptiama (Brian Sears) who had a notion to take the lead himself. Under a tight rein, Hobbs scooted through very even fractions of :28.3, :58.4 and 1:28.1, but still had Chaptiama right behind him. Coming off the turn, Sears pulled Chaptiama to take their best shot at the leader but that shot wasn't nearly enough. Hobbs kicked away in deep stretch and won by 2-3/4 lengths in 1:56.3. "Hobbs is a very handy trotter and you can drive him like a pacer," said Bartlett. "He's honest, he has gate speed and he's always there for you no matter how the mile goes and that's the best thing about him." One of the few owners who attended live was Scott Farber of Runthetable Stable, who also bred Hobbs. He was elated after the race when the horse named after one his father raced became a NYSS champion. "This is a very difficult business and it's hard to get one here and even harder to breed one that gets here," said Farber. "I give a lot of credit to (trainer) Jim Campbell because last year he said this horse was going to come back great, and he couldn't have been more right." Hobbs ($4.60) won his fifth race in his last six starts and pushed his earnings to $282,965 this year for Runthetable Stable and trainer Jim Campbell. The Blue Chip Farm 3-year-old colt and gelding pace was won by Blank Stare (Bolt The Duer-Hypnotize) who upset Splash Brother at the wire. After Major Betts (Dexter Dunn) made a break in the first turn trying for the lead, Splash Brother (Tyler Buter) took the front ahead of Genius Man (Marcus Miller) and Blank Stare (Corey Callahan). As they approached the half, Major Betts had settled himself and was once again moving up the rim towards the leader. But that threat only lasted past the five eighths and that's when Blank Stare made his move on the outside. Blank Stare caught Splash Brother heading into the last turn and the two matched strides into the stretch. Both drivers rocked all the way to the wire but Blank Stare won the battle under the light by 3/4's of a length in 1:52.2. The third win of the year for Blank Stare ($22.40) made him a NYSS Champion and pushed his earnings to $199,699 in 2020. The John Butenschoen trainee is owned by the Harmony Oaks Racing Stable, James Crawford IV and In Over My Head Stable. Blank Stare was bred by Winbak Farm and was a $22,000 purchase at the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale in 2018. The Winbak Farm 2-year-old pacing fillies division was won by Test Of Faith (Art Major-Cannae Cammie) in a powerful front-end performance. Heart Of Mine (Jason Bartlett) and DC Batgirl (Billy Dobson) argued early for the lead but it was Test Of Faith (Jim Marohn Jr.) who ultimately took control. Pacing smartly on the lead, Test Of Faith controlled to front comfortably going to the half in :57 before Party Queen (Tim Tetrick) rolled along outside. That challenge picked up the pace but the leader was holding a strong 1-1/2 length margin. Marohn urged the filly through the last turn and she sped away in the stretch, opening up two at the beam in 1:54.1, tying the stake record. Test Of Faith ($2.40), who was the top point-getter in her division, has now won five out of six lifetime starts and has bankrolled $257,750 this year, all in NYSS events. Owned by Melvin Segal, the Kentuckiana Racing Stable and Eddie Gran, Test Of Faith is trained by Brett Pelling. Test Of Faith was a $92,000 yearling purchase at the 2019 Harrisburg Sale and was bred by Frederick Hertrich III. The Crawford Farms 2-year-old filly trot went to Iteration (Chapter Seven-Steamy Windows) who miraculously recovered from a slow start. Iteration (Brian Sears) had her nose on the gate in the turn and made a break as the car turned into the stretch. Sears got her back trotting but spotted the field eight lengths when the wings folded. That allowed Splash Blue Chip (Ake Svanstedt) to take the front and cut the fractions. With two more breaks by Ifnotmewho and Credit Income, the field was quite spread out and Iteration was trotting fifth, about 10 lengths behind. Splash Blue Chip continued to lead by three past the half until Aela Jamieson (Andy Miller) drew alongside and had Iteration on her back. Aela Jamieson matched strides with Splash Blue Chip around the final bend and down the lane while Iteration tipped three deep and motored by everyone to win by a nose in 1:59. "I had her on the gate because she's been getting a little aggressive lately and she got a little aggressive again," said Sears. "But she came back ok and got the job done." Following in the footsteps of her full brother Gimpanzee and stablemate Hypnotic Am, Iteration ($4.20) is now a NYSS Champion on the strength of her third win of the year. Courant Inc. owns and Marcus Melander is the trainer. Iteration was purchased for $250,000 at the 2019 Harrisburg Yearling Sale, bred by the Order By Stable. The NYSS 2-year-old colt and gelding trot went to Steel (Chapter Seven-Pink Power) who upset the field at 19-1 in his first lifetime victory. Incommunicado (Scott Zeron) was the master of fractions while Steel (Andy Miller) sat the garden spot the entire mile. With the field single file to the half in a slow 1:00.2, Ambassador Hanover (Ake Svanstedt) pulled first up from third and put some pressure on the leader by the time they got to the three-quarters. At the head of the lane Incommunicado had rebuffed the challenge from Ambassador Hanover but Steel popped the deuce and out-brushed the leader to the wire and won by a head in 1:59, which was a new lifetime mark. Steel ($40.20) is owned by the Pinske Stable and Crawford Farms Racing, who also bred the winner. Julie Miller is the trainer. The $65,000 yearling purchase from the Lexington Selected Sale, Steel was bred by Crawford Farms Racing. The NYSS 2-year-old colt and gelding pace was won by King James Express (Art Major-More Diamonds) who made a strong backside brush to take command of the race. Undefeated American Courage (Matt Kakaley) grabbed the lead off the gate in front of Town Gossip (Joe Bongiorno) and Major Makeover (Mark MacDonald) and they paced that way to the half and around the clubhouse turn. There, King James Express (Jason Bartlett) pulled first over just as American Courage experienced some difficulty on the backside and slowed to a walk, locking Town Gossip in behind him. The new order as they headed around the last turn was King James Express on the point followed by Carrythetorchman (Marcus Miller) and Town Gossip, who had extricated himself from his predicament. Heading to the wire, King James Express was just too strong and held off all challenges to win by 2-1/4 lengths in 1:56. "I saw that American Courage didn't look right in the turn, he got a little bumpy. But I was waiting for Mark (MacDonald, Major Makeover) to pull first because my horse is better with cover. But I had to go first and when I cleared he was ok on the point and got game when he heard the horses coming behind him. He's been a nice horse all year, it didn't surprise me when he won the race." King James Express ($11.80) is owned by Mark Harder, Deena Rachel Frost and Wayne Carleton and is trained by Mark Harder. Gregory Dey bred the winner who sold for $20,000 at the 2019 Harrisburg Sale. By Tim Bojarski, for the New York Sire Stakes

YONKERS, N.Y. - “She’s pretty. She’s worth taking a photo of,” trainer Brett Pelling said, describing standout 2-year-old harness racing pacing filly Test Of Faith ahead of her bid in the New York Sire Stakes Final Saturday at Yonkers Raceway. “She’s not a chestnut, but she’s close. She’s very graceful, beautiful balance. She’s a very attractive horse.” Not just a pretty face, Test Of Faith has shown talent to back up her physical. She’s 4-for-5 in the New York bred series and finished second in her only loss. Her earnings stand at $145,250 for owners Melvin Segal, Kentuckiana Racing Stable, and Eddie Gran. And Test Of Faith is the 9-5 favorite on the morning line in $225,000 championship Saturday night (Sept. 12). Bred by Frederick Hertrich, III, Test Of Faith is by Art Major out of the Cam’s Card Shark mare Cannae Cammie, who placed in multiple stakes and earned $538,140 on the racetrack. Test Of Faith is a half to Alexis Faith, 2017 NYSS Champion 2-year-old filly and multiple Grand Circuit stakes winner, and to Cant Beach That, who Pelling trained to a runner up finish in the Kentucky Sire Stakes Final for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings last year.  The pedigree put Test Of Faith on Pelling’s short list at last year’s Harrisburg Yearling Sale and Pelling went to $92,000 to bring the filly home.  “It’s a very good family. She has really good strength, she’s a very strong filly. She’s not really like her brother; her brother goes to a knee a little bit, but she paces very clean,” Pelling said. “One’s a girl, one’s a boy. He’s a big, strong, rugged horse. She’s quite tall, but she’s very graceful.” Test Of Faith trained down without a hitch. As the time to qualify grew closer, Test Of Faith stood out from her peers for her reliability and professionalism.  “She’s been bullet proof. Right from the very beginning, she showed good ability. She’s always trained well. The biggest thing with her is, there’s never been any problem of any kind, which for a 2-year-old is a rarity. She’s been push button right from day one,” Pelling said. “The first time we asked her to go quick, she was perfect. She trains great in front, she trains great behind. Probably her number one quality is she’s very relaxed, she’s very sensible. A lot of these fillies, you race them on the front end and they might get a little aggressive. She could not be more opposite to that. She’s as loose-lined as a horse can be and that’s a good horse.” Test Of Faith qualified at Magical Acres Training Center June 16. She drew in with Farady Hanover, a $275,000 Harrisburg purchase and full sister to Filibuster Hanover trained by Noel Daley, prompting Pelling to be conservative. With Brett’s son Jack in the bike, Test Of Faith stayed inside as Farady Hanover wired the field. Test Of Faith finished last of four, pacing her mile in 2:00 with a :27.3 final quarter. Pelling liked what he saw. “We knew she was good in her qualifier. We locked her in and I knew some of the other fillies that she baby raced with were high-priced fillies with good trainers and I knew they had to be pretty decent,” Pelling said. “I could see she was just sitting there watching them and I felt she could move by them at any time. I think right from the beginning, I knew she was pretty good” Test Of Faith qualified again at Magical Acres June 23. This time, she rode the pocket and with a :27.4 final quarter, sprinted past rival Heart Of Mine to score a 1 3/4-length win in 1:58.1.  Test Of Faith made her pari-mutuel debut in NYSS at Vernon Downs on Independence Day. Floating out from post five, driver Jim Marohn, Jr. had had few options but to forge to the front as two rivals left to his inside. Test Of Faith worked to the top in a :26 opening panel, clearing midway around the first turn. Despite the swift fractions, Test Of Faith turned away the first-over challenge of Major Houlihan before pacing clear of the field in the stretch. She won by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:52.2. “The first time we raced her up at Vernon, that was never the intention to go down the road in 52. But the horse inside of her really pushed forward, (Marohn) didn’t have a spot to put her, and he just ended up going on to the front. I think the first race was the only race that stung her a little bit. She got through that OK and ever since then, she’s been fine.” Test Of Faith’s second start didn’t go as planned either. Racing around the first turn at Tioga in the next NYSS leg July 19, Marohn tried to place her in the pocket, but as the pace slowed, Test Of Faith collided with the leader’s wheel and made a break. She caught back pacing and raced in fourth before recovering for a second-place finish. “We were trying not to bust her out of there. She left in 26 seconds in the first start of her life. The obvious thing is not to do that again,” Pelling said. “It was a shame she got ran into because she would have won. That’s racing. You try to be cute and sometimes being cute doesn’t work.” Since then, Test Of Faith has taken no chances. She’s led at every call in the last three preliminary legs of the NYSS Aug. 4 at Yonkers, and Aug. 12 and 24 at Saratoga, winning by 3 1/2, 4, and 4 lengths, respectively. Pelling pointed out the Aug. 12 start, in which Test Of Faith made a three-wide move to the lead in a :27.3 opening quarter. “She’s been on high-idle, just absolutely cruising. One of the races was very impressive, the one before last,” Pelling said. “They took a shot to leave her out there a little bit. The horse in front had one parked, but Jimmy just pulled her three-wide and he just went to the front. She did that in three or four steps. She’s got a very, very quick step, she’s very reliable.” Test Of Faith drew post six in the NYSS Final, the first of nine races on the $1.8 million program Saturday night at Yonkers. She will face seven rivals, six of which she has beaten at least once in the preliminaries: DC Batgirl, Party Queen, Heart Of Mine, Think Of Galaxies (who beat Test Of Faith at Tioga July 19), Spicy Covina, Rightfully Mine, and Albergita Hanover. “She’s absolutely perfect. She’s looks fabulous. She hasn’t had any issues, that’s the bottom line,” Pelling said. “I imagine she’ll just roll out of there and how much they want to hurt their horses to be the one following her, I don’t know, but she’ll be in front.” Pelling hopes Test Of Faith can make amends after his Allywag Hanover finished fourth as the 3-5 favorite in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Final for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings at Harrah’s Philadelphia Sept. 6. This is also the biggest race of Test Of Faith’s season as she is not eligible to the major fall stakes. “I had one on Sunday over at Chester who was the favorite in his Sire Stakes final and he came up sick, so that was really, really disappointing. There’s only so many races for them,” Pelling said. “This filly is not staked through the end of the year. The owner is quite conservative. “This is the big one for her. She has four starts left and this is the biggest purse she’s going to go for all year,” Pelling continued. “I wish her the best. She deserves to win it, I think she’s been the best filly right through. That’s what it’s all about, when they get there if the best horse can come through and get it, that’s the way it should be.” First post time for the $1.8 million Night of Champions card is 7:12 p.m. Free full card past performances are available here. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. by Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, NY – When trainer John Butenschoen purchased Destined To Dance at the 2019 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale, he thought the filly would be perfect for the New York Sire Stakes program. Nearly a year later, Destined To Dance enters the $225,000 NYSS Final for 2-year-old trotting fillies with a 5-for-5 harness racing record in the statebred stakes program and has a chance to sweep the series with a win on the Night of Champions card Sept. 12. By Chapter Seven out of the multiple stakes winning mare Go Go Dancer, Destined To Dance was bred by Crawford Farms. Butenschoen bid $100,000 to take the filly home for owners Heritage Standardbreds and Richard Preziotti. The group also offered a piece back to Crawford Farms, who obliged. “She’s not very big, but she’s put together very correctly. Conformation wise, she had the right type of physical appearance that I like to see,” Butenschoen said. “I was up there at the farm and saw her turned out. Then her video showed exactly what I saw when she was turned out, just very light on her feet, quick, just acted very athletic. I thought she would be a really good fit for the New York Sire Stakes program. She’s not too big and with the athleticism she showed me, I thought she would handle things and do real well.” Destined To Dance trained down well throughout the winter and spring and showed professionalism on the racetrack. Although Butenschoen does not like to get too high on babies before they qualify, Destined To Dance looked the part. “She’s not a mean filly or anything. She’s a little standoffish, but she’s been a pleasure to work around. She’s pretty good on the racetrack, she’s pretty simply rigged, we don’t have to do much to her,” Butenschoen said. “She just goes out and she’s very professional about her work, even training down. Any time you ask her to go, she’ll go. If you want to go slow with her, she’ll go slow. She’s been a real treat that way.” Destined To Dance qualified at Windgate Farm June 15, winning by a neck in 2:02 with Corey Callahan in the bike. She then made her first start in a $10,400 overnight at Harrah’s Philadelphia June 26, finishing third beaten a neck while trotting the mile in 1:57.3. Then her NYSS streak began. Destined To Dance went straight to the lead in the series first leg at Saratoga July 8. She cruised through the first three-quarters and when driver Tyler Buter asked her at the top of the stretch, Destined To Dance put up 2 lengths on the field in an instant. With whip tucked away. Destined To Dance powered away with a :29.1 final quarter to post a 1:59.4 win.  “I’ve been more pleased than surprised,” Butenschoen said. “More often than not you’re fooled by the ones you think are good. You never know until you race them. You always hope they have that amount of ability. It was fun to see her race well her first start at Chester. Then we went to Saratoga and she won. We were thinking we had a filly who’s competitive.” Destined To Dance came to Yonkers Raceway for the series second leg July 21. Floating out from the inside post, she rode the cones in third until Buter pulled on the right line hitting the backstretch the final time. Trotting past the three-quarter pole, Destined To Dance took flight. She zipped past leader Me Three and barreled around the final turn 3 lengths clear of the field. Destined To Dance was strong through the stretch, scoring a 4 1/4-length victory in 1:58.3. “Tyler said when he pulled her, she was great. The only nervous moment he had at Yonkers was when he pulled her up the backstretch, she was trotting into that last turn too fast. He said when he pulled her, she just took off,” Butenschoen recalled. Destined To Dance overcame post eight in her next start at Batavia Aug. 2 before putting up back-to-back 1:54.4 miles in wins at Vernon Aug. 15 and Tioga Aug. 23. Destined To Dance has earned $103,456 in her six starts to date. “She’s just getting a little better each time,” Butenschoen said. “We don’t know where the bottom is or what’s going to happen, but we’ll keep marching forward with her. Every time we’ve raced her or any time we’ve asked her to do something, she’s stepped up to the plate and done it.” Destined To Dance and Buter drew post three and are the 6-5 morning line favorites in their NYSS Final, the third race on the Saturday night card at Yonkers. The field also includes Aela Jamieson, who drew post one and enters the final with two straight wins for Julie and Andy Miller. Broad Strokes, Iteration, Insured AM, and Splash Blue Chip each won a single division of NYSS this season and made the final. NY Excelsior division winner Credit Income and maiden Ifnomewho complete the lineup. While Ifnotmewho and Credit Income made pari-mutuel starts between the last NYSS leg Aug. 23 and the Sept. 12 Final, Destined To Dance trained at the farm Aug. 28 before shipping to Pocono Downs for another training mile last week. She trained at the farm again Tuesday (Sept. 8) to prepare for her championship bid. “She seems good, she’s had a good week, she trained good. Now we just hope for the racing gods to look out for us so we can get a decent trip out of there,” Butenschoen said. “You hope nothing happens. That’s all you can hope for everybody, a big night of racing to showcase your New York Sire Stakes horses, you want to see everybody get a fair shot, nobody make a break. You like to see everybody get a shot and let the horses figure out what’s going on, on the racetrack. Hopefully things will work out.” First post time for the $1.8 million Night of Champions card is 7:12 p.m. Free full card past performances are available here. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through Dec. 22. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

According to an announcement by the Standardbred Owners Association of New York, there will not be an upcoming shutdown of racing at Yonkers Raceway, which had previously stated that racing would be taking a break after Saturday, September 12. Standardbred Owners Association of New York President Joe Faraldo has announced that, as a result of the SOA of NY covering purses for a number of weeks and an agreement reached with MGM Resorts Yonkers, there will not be a shutdown of racing at the track. Faraldo has stated that racing at Yonkers will continue next week on the same four-day schedule and that, thereafter, Yonkers racing will return to a five-day-per-week schedule through December 22. Faraldo also went on to announce that purses will remain at current levels until a build up in the purse account is seen. From the SOA of NY

This year's harness racing season has been hard on so many but not so much for Love A Good Story (Chapter Seven), the sophomore trotting filly trained by Julie Miller. Dominating a small but fierce division, she's swept all five legs in convincing fashion and now boasts over a half million dollars in career earnings. Miller, who is currently second in the New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) trainer standings, has her eyes set beyond this weekend's $1.8 million New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions at Yonkers Raceway. "We have the option to go onto Lexington as long as she maintains being happy and healthy," said Miller. "We hope to bring her back next year." Andy Miller pilots the 3-year-old for his wife and owners Daniel Plouffe, Pinske Stables and Kentuckiana Racing Stable. "She and Andy have a great connection you just dream about," said Miller. "Real fortunate, she's dominating that level of competition and things have really worked out for her." In 2019, Love A Good Story, demonstrated her promise, winning six legs and finishing fifth in the NYSS Final on her way to more than $230,000 in seasonal earnings. Miller's plan for the 2-year-old at the time seemed to pay off. "We gave her a lot of time, raced at Lexington and then we elected to put her away and give her green grass, some vacation time and then picked up training back in Florida," said Miller. "When back in Jersey, she matured. She filled out and she knows her job and what she is supposed to do." Miller will look to finish the season with a perfect NYSS record. With so many changes to this year's schedule due to COVID-19, Miller reflected on her preparation for this weekend's finals. "There was a little bit of time in between the races - a longer time frame. I was able to train her easy last week - I'll train her up," said Miller. "New York Sire Stakes is the toughest spot to race in. To be a part of the race and be successful, it's all you want." Love A Good Story heads into the Night of Champions as the top overall earner in NYSS purses this season and will look to boost her already impressive $226,850 bankroll in the final for 3-year-old filly trotters, which goes off as race two. She drew post five in the seven-horse field, but will have to contend with top filly Hypnotic AM, who drew inside her in post three. New York's richest night of harness racing returns to Yonkers Raceway this Saturday. Eight final events featuring the best state-bred 2- and 3-year-olds will be contested for $225,000 purses each. Post time is 7:12 p.m. A full list of entries can be found here. By Eliza Bianco, for the New York Sire Stakes  

Splash Brother is making quite a comeback this year, having earned his place behind the gate on the $1.8 million New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions at Yonkers on Saturday. According to co-owner and trainer Ray Schnittker, the 3-year-old harness racing gelded pacer looked solid last year until a fateful day at Saratoga. "He looked really good that day until Mark McDonald fell off and Splash Brother got loose," said Schnittker of the incident while scoring down for a leg of the New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) on July 20, 2019, at the half-mile track. The driver sustained a broken shoulder, which was later repaired by surgery, and was forced to sit out the rest of the year on the sidelines. Schnittker said the horse was also impacted, despite performing well in NYSS events the rest of the season and finishing fourth in the Final at Batavia Downs to close out his 2-year-old year. "We believe he hurt his shoulder because something was just bothering him, but we still to this day don't really know. We just knew that he wasn't the same." But the son of So Surreal trained back well in 2020, winning the $240,600 Empire Breeders Classic and two legs of the Sire Stakes while being steered by regular driver Tyler Buter. His last start on Sept. 1 was a return to Saratoga where he dug in for a 1:51 victory, just a fifth of a second off the track record. "It's funny when he came back this year, it was no problem," said Schnittker. "It is like he is a 5-year-old child with that type of energy behind him." Schnittker is trying to capture some of the same magic he had in last year's NYSS season. He picked up two Night of Champions wins at Batavia last year with Cigars And Port and USTA District 8 Horse of the Year Hickfromfrenchlick. For now, Schnittker is concentrating on the NYSS Final, where his horse starts from the rail as the 9-5 morning line favorite in the eighth race on Saturday. Following that, Splash Brother is heading to Indiana for five races in which Schnittker is expecting good outcomes. The New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions takes place September 12 at Yonkers Raceway. Post time is 7:12 p.m. Spectators are not permitted, but owners of horses competing may reserve their spot to attend in-person by calling the NYSS office at 518-388-0224 by Friday at 3:00p.m. By Leah Rostohar, for New York Sire Stakes

Harness racing trainer Travis Alexander is not letting a recent setback stop American Courage from vying for the title of top 2-year-old pacing colt on the $1.8 million New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions on Saturday, Sept. 12. The trainer calls an equine virus that ran through his barn in mid-August a blessing in disguise as it may give his colt an edge in his $225,000 Final. The virus caused Alexander to scratch American Courage from the fifth preliminary leg for freshman pacing colts at Vernon Downs on Aug. 28. "We could have raced and pressed for points as he was clean on race day but we weren't taking any chances," said Alexander. "We let him tell us how he was feeling, and we decided to scratch." Still, American Courage remains unbeaten in his career with a perfect seven-for-seven and with $180,000 in total earnings accumulated already this year. This includes starts in the New York Sire Stakes and the Springfield (formerly the Sheppard) at Yonkers. "You never know how they are going to be, he's been a surprise," said Alexander. "I always knew he had a large amount of ability, but things just have to go your way. All of these horses are fast and bred so well; they're getting more Thoroughbred-like." Despite easing up on the colt's training as he recovered, the Alexander is still confident pointing the colt into the largest purse start of his young career. He will leave from Post 5 in the fifth race on Saturday with driver Matt Kakaley. "I haven't even trained him a mile in August," said Alexander. "I haven't even tightened the screws. I just started him back up yesterday (Sept. 2), but he'll be ready to go." Alexander isn't just referring to the Night of Champions, but to three major stakes races ahead, including the Metro Stakes in Canada on Sept. 26. The scheduling proximity between the NYSS Finals and the Metro poses a challenge to trainers and any connections looking to cross the border. As of right now, any person coming from the United States must quarantine for two weeks in accordance with COVID-19 regulations. Back-to-back races across the border means Alaina, Alexander's wife, is already in Canada for the Metro Stakes while Travis focuses on the Night of Champions. "Alaina is somewhat upset about not being here for the finals in person. She takes care of him and runs his barn. She's basically the boss," said Alexander. "She knows every wrinkle of American Courage so, being here alone, it puts a lot of pressure on me for sure." A lot of pressure, but also a belief that he has the right team in place to realize the pacer's brimming potential. "Matt (Kakaley) has done an amazing job. It makes my job easier," said Alexander. "I have full confidence in American Courage." The New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions takes place September 12 at Yonkers Raceway. Post time is 7:12 p.m. By Leah Rostohar, for New York Sire Stakes  

YONKERS, N.Y. - New York's richest night of harness racing returns to Yonkers Raceway this Saturday with the $1.8 million New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions. Eight finals races featuring the best state-bred 2- and 3-year-olds will be contested for $225,000 purses each. Post time is 7:12 p.m. A full list of entries can be found here. American Courage (American Ideal) will be heavily favored among the 2-year-old colt pacers. It's been seven wins in seven starts for trainer Travis Alexander and driver Matt Kakaley, including four wins in the NYSS. The freshmen has proven he knows how to win at Yonkers with three wins on the track this year, including a win in the $104,250 MGM Springfield Stakes Final. American Courage will start from the 5 post for owner Fiddler's Creek Stables LLC. Test of Faith (Art Major) will be the filly to watch as the points leader looks to cement her place as the best 2-year-old pacer this season. In five NYSS starts, she's recorded four wins and a second-place finish. She's also the top earner among 2-year-olds in the series this year with $145,250.00 for trainer Brett Pelling and owners Melvin Segal, Kentuckiana Racing Stable, and Eddie Gran. She starts from post 6 in the final. Ambassador Hanover (Chapter Seven) is undefeated in four NYSS starts. Ambassador Hanover is trained by Ake Svanstedt and is owned by Howard Taylor, Judith Taylor, Order By Stable. Destined To Dance (Chapter Seven) stands atop the points among 2-year-old filly trotters at a perfect five-for-five in NYSS starts this season. John Butenschoen trains for co-owner/breeder Crawford Farms and co-owners Heritage Standardbreds and Rich Preziotti. Destined To Dance drew the 3 post in her division final. Chapter Seven has sired the point leaders in each of the four NYSS trotting divisions. Standout rivals Major Betts (Art Major) and Splash Brother (So Surreal) will be favorites looking to settle their score in the final for 3-year-old colt pacers. Major Betts is trained by Mark Harder for owners by Joe Jannuzzelli and Deena Frost. Splash Brother is trained by Ray Schnittker, who co-owns with Steven Arnold, Tammy Flannery and Nolamaura Racing. Hen Party (Roll With Joe) sits atop the points standing for 3-year-old filly pacers with four wins in five NYSS starts. This past week, the Empire Breeders Classic winner tied the track record for her division with a 1:52 at Saratoga. She starts from post 3 for trainer Tony Alagna and owner Crawford Farms Racing. Chaptiama (Chapter Seven) will want to avenge a second-place finish in last year's final as a 2-year-old in what's proven to be the most competitive division in the NYSS this season: 3-year-old colt trotters. Chaptiama is facing challengers Hobbs, Barn Holden, Berkery J, and Bourbon Express, all finalists last year. Chaptiama is trained by Trond Smedshammer for owner Purple Haze Stables. Top overall earner in the NYSS this season, Love A Good Story (Chapter Seven), will look to bolster her already impressive $226,850 in purse money in the final for 3-year-old filly trotters. Finishing the season with a perfect record will be the goal for trainer Julie Miller and owners Pinske Stables, Kentuckiana Racing Stable and Daniel Plouffe. "We saw great performances from our New York-breds in what proved to be a very competitive season, despite it being a little shorter than usual due to the current pandemic," said M. Kelly Young, executive director, Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund. "We'd like to congratulate all the owners, trainers and drivers representing the New York Sire Stakes at the Night of Champions, and thank all of our participants throughout our program for their flexibility this season." Race sponsors for the event include New York-based breeders and institutions: Allerage Farm, Blue Chip Farms, Cameo Hills Farm, Crawford Farms and Winbak Farm. The Finals for the NYSS Excelsior Series are scheduled for Sept. 11 at Tioga Downs, post time is 3 p.m. The County Fair Finals were raced on Sept. 6 at Goshen Historic Track. A livestream of the event can be viewed here. From the New York Sire Stakes

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. - The New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) will be livestreaming the draw for the 2020 "Night of Champions," via Facebook on Monday, September 7. The finals for New York State's premier harness racing program for 2- and 3-year-olds is set to take place Saturday, September 12 at Yonkers Raceway. Monday's draw will begin at 12:00 p.m. and can be accessed through the NYSS website, NYSS Facebook page and the Yonkers Raceway Facebook page. This year's draw will be closed to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions. "The 2020 season presented a unique set of challenges for our members and fans so we are thrilled to be able to still offer ways to connect with them through virtual events such as this live draw," said M. Kelly Young, executive director, Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund. "We are looking forward to an exciting evening of racing at the Night of Champions and this live streaming event helps build further anticipation of what is to come the following weekend." From the New York Sire Stakes

YONKERS, N.Y. – When Leonidas makes his Yonkers Raceway debut Friday night (Sept. 4) in the $18,000 pacing feature, it will end a long wait for owner Steve Finklestein of Jesmeral Stable and trainer Sheena McElhiney. An Australia-bred 5-year-old by Mach Three, Leonidas was purchased by Finklestein this spring as a Yonkers prospect, but owing to interruptions in travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic, was marooned in his home county until this summer. Leonidas moved to the David Aiken stable in Australia and continued to race Down Under. He finished first or second in nine straight races at Tabcorp Park Menangle, Shepparton, and Bendigo between March 14 and June 26. Leonidas’ streak included a 1:51.7 victory at Bendigo June 6, which established a track record for the 1,650-meter distance at the Victoria oval and two second-place finishes to Australian pacing star and three-time Group 1 winner Lochinvar Art. “With all the restrictions and the tracks being closed down, we couldn’t get him over right away,” McElhiney said. “One of (Steve’s) lifelong friends, David Aiken, took over training. He broke some track records there and we were excited to get him over here because we knew the caliber of horse he is.” Leonidas was finally exported to the United States July 6. He received some downtime after arriving in McElhiney’s stable, but acclimatized quickly and was back to work in short order. Leonidas proved himself to be a professional on the track once his training resumed. “Obviously, we couldn’t wait to get him over here. The time we had to wait for him just seemed like forever. Just watching him race over there, he’s a really good-caliber horse,” McElhiney said. “When he came here, he looked great, he was in great shape, he adjusted pretty well. He had a winter coat already when he came over. We gave him a little time and let him hang out in the paddock and just be a horse before we started really training him down again. “He had been racing pretty consistently over there,” she continued. “It wasn’t too tough to get him back into shape. He’s a nice horse to train. He went right out on the track like he’d been here forever.” Leonidas qualified Aug. 7 at Yonkers Raceway with Jason Bartlett in the sulky. Leonidas raced in third for the first 6 furlongs before moving to the lead and powering away from the final with a :27.4 final quarter to win the trial by 12 1/4 lengths in 1:55. McElhiney then entered Leonidas to race at Pocono Downs Aug. 20. “He qualified well, Jason was happy with him. The plan was to race him at Yonkers, but we could get him in (at Pocono) right away. We decided to put him in there.” Leonidas drew post seven and faced a Grand Circuit-quality field that included Filibuster Hanover, Western Joe, Dancin Lou, San Domino, and Southwind Ozzi in his first American start. Although he was dismissed at odds of 39-1 and got away seventh, Leonidas angled to the outside on the backstretch and latched onto third-over cover. Bartlett angled Leonidas four-wide into the stretch and he paced past San Domino and Dancin Lou to finish third individually clocked in 1:48.4 with a :27 final panel. “The plan was to just race him easy his first start and then bring him to Yonkers. I think he had to go a little bit more than we expected, but he definitely didn’t disappoint,” McElhiney said. “Just watching, I knew he was the horse that we thought he was. He came out of it great, no issues with that. He just did it easy. Jason said he wasn’t pushing him, he was kind of doing his thing out there. It was nice to have him go out there in the first start and be impressed with him. It makes you excited for the rest of the year, for sure.” Leonidas drew post two in the Friday pacing feature at Yonkers, for horses who are non-winners of $25,000 in their last five starts. Jason Bartlett will drive again and the pair are 2-1 on the morning line.  The field includes Hudson Phil, who won the Saratoga open pace in his last start Aug. 25, Heaven’s Gait, who won two straight at this level July 17 and 31 before finishing fifth in the local open Aug. 21, and Caviart Luca, who won the local open handicap pace two back Aug. 7. Speed Man, Rodeo Rock, Capozzo, and One Off Delight complete the lineup. “We trained (Leonidas) Tuesday and went a slow trip with him because we put the miles on him jogging,” McElhiney said. “When we train him, he’s just two fingers and really easy. He’s a little bit lazy, but you chirp to him a little bit and he’s ready to go. “Steve has some quality horses, but this one is pretty special.” Yonkers Raceway’s revised schedule features live harness racing Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (Sept. 8 – 10) and New York Sire Stakes Night of Champions on Saturday, Sept. 12. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

YONKERS, N.Y. – Mister Rebbily looked every bit a professional racehorse when cruised to a 5 3/4-length harness racing victory in a $12,000 conditioned pace at Yonkers Raceway Aug. 10. He relaxed in fourth and watched a speed duel play out in front of him before launching a bid three-wide entering the backstretch the final time, clearing the lead around the final turn, and imposing his will in the stretch under a Jordan Stratton hand drive to post a 1:52 victory.  Considering Mister Rebbily’s professional appearance in his last outing, and his 3-for-5 record since being imported into the United States by trainer Tahnee Camilleri for owner David Kryway, one wouldn’t know that only a few months prior, the horse was terrified of just about everything. Camilleri found Mister Rebbily while on a trip to Australia to visit her family in January. Mister Rebbily was racing in overnights at Albion Park and although he was picking up checks each start, hadn’t won since going back-to-back in April and May 2019. The October 2016 foal had less than $13,000 Australian dollars earned and wasn’t listed for sale. However, as a half to Firebby, who won her first three starts in the United States for Camilleri at Yonkers in 2018, the trainer was interested. “I saw him at the races and at his home farm. At the farm, he was very quiet and well-mannered, but at the races, he was quite hot and naughty. I knew I was going to have my work cut out for me,” Camilleri said. “He’s actually a half-brother to a mare called Firebby who was the mare I initially brought over and started my American dream. There was a little bit of a family connection there and I liked what I saw. He looked like a nice type to get around Yonkers; I purchased him as a Yonkers prospect. “He wasn’t really for sale, but because I had trained and sold his sister over here, he was on my radar and I was luckily able to negotiate a sale while I was over there,” Camilleri continued. “He was extremely lightly raced, just at the start of his career. Most trainers don’t want to lose horses that early on. I was very fortunate to be able to buy him.” Mister Rebbily was cleared to the United States Jan. 20, but even a month after arriving Stateside, was no closer to starting in a race. Moving from a small farm in Australia to New Jersey’s bustling Gaitway Farm made everything a challenge for Mister Rebbily and his connections. “He was born and broken in on the farm that he was trained out of. It was like he came to the big city and it was very overwhelming for him,” Camilleri said. “He’d never experienced horses training coming at him while he was jogging, which he was petrified of. And don’t get me started on the tractor. He would be jogging on the half-mile track and he would see the tractor on the mile track and he would run off the track. His eyes were bugging out of his head, there was just so much stimulation for him and he’s already a hot little horse. “He wasn’t used to crossties, he had to be broken to crossties and just a simple thing such as picking up his feet on the crossties would send him into a panic. It took a lot of work in the barn and a lot of work on the track,” said Camilleri, who credits caretaker Yvan for working with Mister Rebbily in the barn. Recognizing she was effectively breaking a new horse from scratch, Camilleri enlisted the help of Ernie Hendry, an assistant trainer at Julie Miller’s stable who has significant experience breaking and training difficult young horses.  “Ernie said he’s never had a horse who was as fearful of the tractor or as hot as Mister Rebbily when he came, and that’s saying something,” Camilleri said. Gradually, Mister Rebbily started to improve. Mister Rebbily and Hendry trained in a set with stablemate Billy Lincoln, driven by Camilleri. With each training session, Camilleri could feel Mister Rebbily’s talent revealing itself. “Billy Lincoln is a lovable fellow, unflappable, nothing phases him. He’s a big, tall, strong horse whereas Mister Rebbily is a small, flighty horse. Couldn’t get two more opposite horses, but they’re stabled next to each other, they love each other, they go out in the field together, and they train down together. They do everything together,” Camilleri said. “I would always cut the mile with ‘Billy’ and ‘Rebel’ would sit behind, just teaching him to relax and follow a helmet and see the tractor and the water truck and everything else that was happening. After about a month or two, he was really breathing hard on my helmet and Ernie started pulling him out and we worked them to the line together, and I was just so excited because he was really impressing me. It didn’t take long to realize just how good they both were.” Mister Rebbily was finally ready to qualify May 29 as the coronavirus racing shutdowns began to ease across the eastern United States. After finishing fifth in a trial at Gaitway, pacing his mile in 1:53.1 with a :27.3 final quarter, Camilleri entered Mister Rebbily in a $11,000 overnight at the Meadowlands June 6. He started from post 10 and finished up the track. “He was very upset and very nervous. That was his first time racing under lights; he had only raced in the daytime in Australia. Meadowlands in and of itself can hot up even the quietest horse, so it was just a little too much stimulation,” Camilleri said. “I took him to the races expecting he would be a handful, and he was. He didn’t do anything wrong in the race, thank goodness, but he was just washed out. He had run his race before he stepped foot on the track.” Mister Rebbily qualified again at Gaitway June 29 with Dexter Dunn in the sulky and returned to the Meadowlands July 4. Mister Rebbily made short work of the competition in a $6,000 overnight, cruising to a 3 3/4-legnth win in 1:52. Mister Rebbily moved to Yonkers and scored another open-length win in a $12,000 conditioned pace July 13 before finishing second by a nose in the same class July 27. After his win Aug. 10, Mister Rebbily improved his record to 5-for-17 with another five placings and $27,169 earned. Mister Rebbily winning on August 10th. Mister Rebbily will make his next start Monday night (Aug. 24) in the seventh race at Yonkers, a $14,500 pace for non-winners of eight pari-mutuel races or $100,000. He drew post position two and will have a new driver in George Brennan as Stratton opted for Pete Tritton’s Globaldomination, who drew post six and seeks his fifth win in nine starts this season. The field also includes The Moonshadow, who drew inside and looks to make it four in-a-row for Mark Harder. “(Mister Rebbily’s) heart rate was really good and he had plenty left (after his last start). I’m sure if pressed, he could go 1:51. I think he could make a lot of money at Yonkers if he can do that,” Camilleri said. “I’m so proud about what he’s done. I can’t help but sing the horse’s praises. I’m very proud of the little bugger.” Yonkers Raceway’s revised schedule features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, Friday nights through Sept. 12. First post time is 7:12 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.   By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY 

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