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Saturday, December 9, 2017


FRANK DRUCKER, Publicity Director, Empire City @ Yonkers Raceway

YONKERS, NY, Friday, December 8, 2017—Stop us if you’ve read this missive before.

Mackenzie A (Jordan Stratton, $8.40) did her thing from first-up Friday night (Dec. 8th), winning Yonkers Raceway’s $40,000 Filly and Mare Open Pace.

Away fourth from the pole, the Matchmaker victress watched Best of Jenna (Mark MacDonald), Newborn Sassy (Brent Holland) and 3-5 choice Lady Shadow (Jason Bartlett) all take early shots.

Lady Shadow, back here first the first time since the 2016 Matchmaker, had to work for it, racing wide to  make the lead. The $1.9 million lass, now racing for her fourth trainer in the last three months, did get around Newborn Sassy after a 27-second opening quarter-mile.

It was a rated :56.1 intermission when Mackenzie A moved to engage. She did so passing a 1:24.4 three-quarters, her gait better than it was off the same trip a week ago. Mackenzie A collared Lady Shadow in the final turn, closing the repeat sale by a length-and-a-half in a life-best 1:52.4.

Newborn Sassy ducked inside to grab second, with Lady Shadow tiring to third. Lakeisha Hall (Joe Bongiorno) and Pretty Image (Matt Kakaley) settled for the remainder. 
For third choice Mackenzie A, a 5-year-old Down Under daughter of Rock N Roll Heaven co-owned by Ellen Kinser & Harry von Knoblauch Stables and trained by Peter Tritton, it was her fifth win in 14 seasonal starts. The exacta paid $22.60, with the triple returning $63.

Friday, December 8, 2017


                          BY FRANK DRUCKER, Publicity Director, Empire City @ Yonkers Raceway          

YONKERS, NY, Friday, December 8, 2017—Yonkers Raceway has announced its 2018 live racing schedule.

The 238-program season is set to begin with a ‘French’ Sunday, Jan 7th. Post times for that matinee and all subsequent 21 Sundays are TBA.

Evenings are Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday in January, with Thursdays added the next month (all @ 7:10 PM), The mid-season hiatus goes from May 27th-June 7th, inclusive, with other breaks around Thanksgiving and Christmas. The fourth renewal of Yonkers International Trot @ Empire City Casino is set for Saturday afternoon, Oct. 13th (post time TBA).

Racing concludes with a special ‘French Thursday’ Dec. 27th (again, post time TBA). 

A copy of the 2018 schedule accompanies this release. As always, all dates are pending approval of the New York State Gaming Commission. The stakes schedule shall be sent when available.

A reminder that 2017’s season concludes Sunday, Dec. 17th (first post 11:30 AM)

Saturday Night at The Meadowlands

The Meadowlands' Saturday night card offers a dozen pari-mutuel puzzlers for those horseplayers questing for value. The fields are solid in size and quality with the better classes for pacers and trotters alike being concentrated on the Saturday card. 

Jody Reidel's Can Do is a contender in the fifth race $13,000 conditioned trot. Can Do has been in Jody's barn for some time now and the 8-year-old shows up pretty much every week to do his work. In 39 starts this season Can Do has won 7 and been on the board in 21 of them for earnings of $83,325 and only recently crept past the half million dollar mark in career earnings. He'll begin from post four on Friday with Anthony Napolitano in the sulky.

Always At My Place (PP #4) will look to repeat in the pacing feature for the top trainer/driver team of Ron Burke and Yannick Gingras in the $17,500 third race. Gingras floated Always At My Place from the gate, ground to the front past a 26.4 opening quarter then set an honest pace using a 27.3 close to hold Art History at bay in 1:50.4. Burke Racing, Weaver Bruscemi, Larry Karr and Phil Collura share ownership of the career winner of more than $750,000.

Pink offers a delightful buffet and a grand view of the racing action for the hungry handicapper.

Post time is 7:15 p.m. on both nights.


There will be a Pick Five carryover at the Meadowlands Friday for the second straight week. $17,117.45 will be added to the pool tomorrow that covers Races 2-6. It carries a 50-cent base wager and a low 15-percent takeout rate.

In other Meadowlands wagering news the Early Pick 4 (Races 3-6) returned $10,625. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017


  by  john manzi for USHWA National Amateur Driver of the Year Award

It was unanimous. The USHWA National Amateur Driver of the Year Award Committee has named  “Yankee Joe” Lee the  National Amateur Driver of the Year for 2017.  The ever- improving 38-year-old Bronxville, NY native is enjoying his best season in the sulky while being  a member of multiple  amateur organizations.

When contacted, Lee was at Yankee Stadium where he is the New York Yankee’s assistant equipment manager, thus the moniker “Yankee Joe.”

When told of his recent accolade, Lee paused a moment and then said: “I’m greatly honored and I’m humbled by the award. This is only my third full season of amateur driving and I love it.  And I’m especially grateful for the confidence that the owners and trainers have shown in my abilities”
Lee could be considered a true amateur in that he owns no racing stock nor does he have any  specific trainer to drive for exclusively (save Bruce Aldrich, Sr. at Monticello Raceway) and has taken the reins from at least 15 different trainers this year alone.

This National Award comes on the heels of the local Amateur Driver of the Year Award from the  Monticello-Goshen Chapter USHWA ,which, by the way, pioneered showcasing the talents of amateur drivers back in the 1980’s.

Currently Lee has a career best 15 driving victories to go along with 11 seconds and 10 thirds. Arguably the most prolific was the triumph in the 1-1/4-mile $25,000 CKG Billings Gold Cup Final at Yonkers Raceway with Dizzy Rizzy  on November 26.  However, it didn’t come easy.
And Lee recalls that triumph vividly.

“We had tough trip that that night but we got the job done. I tried leaving but Steve Oldford , with Gonna Fly, was giving Paul Minore and Wygant Prince a tough time. I then tried to slip down along  the pylons to no avail but got lucky when Bob Krivelin’s horse made a break.

“Sitting third I thought I had a good spot. Then Oldford pulled the pocket with over a half mile to go so I got to slip into the two hole. At the top of the stretch I rolled out of the pocket grunted at her (Dizzy Lizzy) a little and she scampered  past the leader and got there in time. I was real honored to win the Billings Gold Cup for her connections.”

However, Lee’s  fastest victory this year was a 1:54.3 triumph with Soul Train  at the Meadowlands on September 8th for trainer Al Annuziatta.

Not bad for a kid who began with show jumpers. “Once I jogged a (harness) horse I never had anything more to do with jumpers,” he said.

Lee credits his friend Buzzy Sholty as his mentor. “ I love the sport  and once this game gets into your blood it consumes you. And the more involved you become the more dedicated you are to the sport of harness driving.” Lee alleges.

Says competitor and two time National Amateur Driver of the Year, Dein Spriggs:  “Joe Lee demonstrates what I feel is required to receive the 2017 National Amateur Driver of the year Award” “He’s a strategic driver using tactics and not losing composure during a race while readjusting strategies  during the race to overcome his competition. He’s of good character and moral standing besides being the 2017 Billings Gold Cup winner.”

Lee will receive his accolades at the National US Harness Writers Awards Banquet in Orlando, Florida during late February, 2018.

Kenny Fowler gets things started at Cal Expo

By Mark Ratzky, publicity – Cal Expo Harness

The start of a harness race is extremely important, and when it comes to getting the fields away in good order here at Cal Expo, Kenny Fowler is the man.

Along with his assistant/driver Larry Dana, Fowler is responsible for making sure everybody is up close and personal with the starting gate when the car starts to speed ahead to send them on their way.

“I’m coming up on my 30th year,” said Fowler. “I started in 1988 with Larry Jones and then I spent 20 years as the driver with Bill Vallandingdam, and that experience was invaluable.”

For the last four years, Fowler has been the starter here at Cal Expo and does an excellent job of giving every horse and driver the best possible start. Much like a referee in a sporting event, when you don’t hear much about them, that means they are doing a good job.

One of the changes that has been made over the years is the switch from the traditional Cadillac to a four-wheel drive, which is especially import when it comes to traction and off tracks.

“There are special challenges when it’s raining, no question about that,” Kenny related. “One is getting the wings on the starting gate closed before you get into the turn. When the wings are open all the weight is on the back of the car, so it’s a little tricky.

“To be honest, the wind and the fog are much tougher obstacles than the rain and a muddy racetrack.”

Robert Staats Prep matches pacing distaffers

A well-matched field of eight pacing fillies and mares will do battle in Saturday night’s featured Robert Staats Prep, with Rockin Repeat and Be My Lucky Lady among the major contenders.

The feature will go as the eighth on an 11-race program under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post set for 6:10 p.m.

Rockin Repeat and Be My Lucky Lady will have a rematch Saturday after finishing a head apart in a conditioned event here last week. Rockin Repeat got the better of that skirmish after sitting a pocket trip that evening.

A 3-year-old daughter of Rockin Image, Rockin Repeat is owned by George Reider and Dave and Rob Haness with Reider training and Luke Plano once again doing the honors. Last week’s 1:53 2/5 victory established a new lifetime mark for the sophomore.

Be My Lucky Lady is a Hi Ho Silverheel’s homebred who takes her lessons from Kathie Plested and will have Steve Wiseman at the controls. She has been runner-up in her last two trips to the post and is a nice fit with this group while leaving from the No. 6 post.

Cenalta Call Girl took the measure of several of these rivals in the Annette Funicello Final last month and should be right in the thick of things. The Canadian miss races for Rene Goulet and Helen and Myrna Empey with Goulet reining and training.

Rounding out the field are Cenalta Couger, Yeswellnomaybe, Alwaysalittlemore, Free Radical and Wizzel Stix.

G-Notes Featured on Friday at The Meadowlands

East Rutherford, NJ - Friday night at The Meadowlands brings eleven overnight races led by the $17,500 final of the popular "Dash for the G-Note" short series. That race comes up as the seventh on the card, kicking off the $50,000 Guaranteed Late Pick 4 Pool. 

Ron Burke sends three entries out in pursuit of the top prize including ten-year-old class-master Ideal Matters, a recent addition to the barn. Ideal Matters (PP #9) has raced the best around the East coast for the past few seasons then finally found the claimers a few weeks ago and eventually was transferred via a private purchase.

The fresh surroundings apparently agreed with him (a perfect trip from driver Anthony Napolitano certainly didn't hurt) as he dashed from the pocket to wear down 1-5 race favorite Kotare Yael N for a comfortable win with something left.

Ideal Matters now races in the Burke stable colors for the interests of the trainer as Burke Racing, LLC in partnership with Weaver Bruscemi, LLC and Napolitano retains the drive on Friday.

Moonlight Ransom collected his first win of the 2017 season in last week's elim and has drawn well, starting from post three on Friday. Moonlight has shown steady improvement since joining the Jenn Bongiorno stable for owner Michael Singer and is poised to contend for driver Simon Allard.

Justified is the third horse returning off a win last week for trainer-driver Eric Abbatiello. Another "War-Horse" the nine-year-old winner of nearly a third million dollars went the fastest mile in the elims when he crossed the wire in 1:52.2. He races in the familiar colors of The Red Man Stable.

Promotions-wise The Meadowlands is in holiday mode with the direction being cash for the giving season. Friday it's that old chestnut "Money Machine Fever", a true fan favorite, that is not to be missed.

The fun starts at 7:15 p.m.

George Reider expecting things to heat up

By Mark Ratzky, publicity – Cal Expo Harness

George Reider admits his barn “hasn’t been lighting them up so far” at this meeting, but he’s optimistic that things are headed in the right direction.

“We had a good meet this summer at Running Aces,” Reider noted. “At the end of that meet we purchased a few horses and now it’s just been a case of getting to know them.”

One pacer in the barn that George is really pinning his hopes of is a 2-year-old who answers to the name of Pride of the Sierra. “I think he’s going to be a real nice colt. We’ll be qualifying him in a few weeks.”

Meanwhile, the Reider barn of 14 is starting to warm up and you can look for him to bemaking his share of winner’s circle appearances in the near future and through the end of this session in the spring.

George also mentioned that he’s very pleased that his good friends Nick Roland, Jessica Johnson and Terry Kaufman are among the new connections competing here at Cal Expo “They’ve really added to our races and I’m so glad to see them competing here.”

Pair of Opens sit atop the marquee

A $6,600 Open Pace featuring Jazzmanian Devil and Firedrake and a $5,500 Distaff Open Pace headed by Sparkin Your Fire and Capitol Hill are the main events on Friday night’s Cal Expo program.

Jazzmanian Devil is a 6-year-old son of Sand Shooter from the Artsplace mare Artbeat who is owned by William Condon, takes her lessons from Kathie Plested and will have Mooney Svendsen giving directions.

The long-fused performer looped the field to prevail at 6-1 in the November 4 Open, had to settle for the show money at this level the following week, then got back to his winning ways at most recent asking as he came home in a sizzling :26 flat to get the job done by a neck.

Firedrake also has two Open victories to his credit at this meeting for Set The Pace Racing LLC and driver/trainer Nick Roland. The Dragon Again gelding has posed for snapshots following 11 of his 20 starts on the year with a 1:51 2/5 lifetime standard that was recorded at Running Aces over the summer.

Firedrake accounted for the October 28 top dance despite a tough trip from the demanding No. 10 post and also captured the November Open as the 3-5 favorite, but has had to settle for a third and fifth behind Jazzmanian Devil in the other two contests for the top pacers on the grounds.

Looking at the Filly and Mare Open, Sparkin Your Fire carries the banner of Peg Hoffman with Gerry Longo the conditioner and Mooney Svendsen handling the lines.
She got a nice prep race in her local debut in the November 25 distaff Open, then stormed home to prevail at 9-2 in the most recent clash at the top level for the pacing fillies and mares while taking the measure of favored Capitol Hill.

The latter mare won three of her four outings at this Open level between November 4 and November 25 and had to settle for second in the most recent clash after being hard used on the front end. George McChrystal and Kathie Plested own, Plested is the trainer and Steve Wiseman will be in the sulky.

There are two wagers offered here each night that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate, affording players the chance to gets some real value.

They are the 50-cent Pick 5, which is decided on the first five races of the evening; and the 20-cent Pick 4, which covers the penultimate four contests on the program. The Pick 4 comes with a $30,000-guaranteed gross pool.