Hard-hitting trotters headline opening night at Cal Expo
By Mark Ratzky, publicity – Cal Expo Harness
The curtain is set to go up on the Watch and Wager LLC harness meet at Cal Expo Saturday night, with popular veteran performers Alpine Hawk, Franky Provolone and Franks Best among those set to do battle in the featured $4,000 Open 3 Trot.
There will be Saturday racing through the month of October, with the trotters and pacers in action and Friday and Saturday nights beginning in November.
Bob Johnson, the leading trainer at the spring meet, will be sending out three of the six trotters in the main event, with the aforementioned Franks Best joining stablemates Giles LS Hanover and Inside Broadway in the line-up. They will square off against local favorites Franky Provolone and Alpine Hawk with Axle rounding out the cast.
Franks Best is a 6-year-old son of Armbro Scribe and the American Winner mare Inside Edition who is owned and trained by Johnson and will have Mooney Svendsen guiding from the cozy inside post position. He comes into this assignment having posed for pictures following 26 of his 95 starts with $173,000 in the bank and a 1:56 2/5 lifetime standard.
Franky Provolone is the pride and joy of owner Robin Clements with Vickie Desomer the conditioner. Another member of the 2007 crop sired by Armbro Scribe, he is looking to add to a $113,000 bankroll and has a 1:56 3/5 mark on his card.
Alpine Hawk and Rich Wojcio have been a staple here for several years and add to the class of the field. The 12-year-old son of Movie Mogul is poised to go over the $200,000 earnings mark with 54 victories from his 202 lifetime trips to the post and has gone many big miles over this layout.
The leading drivers at the spring meeting will be returning as Luke Plano and Steve Wiseman figure to once again make their share of visits the charmed enclosure. Wiseman is closing in on a milestone as the session begins, needing just two victories to the reach the 2,000-win plateau.
On the wagering front, fans will be able to play trifecta and Pick 4 wagers in 20-cent denominations for the first time in California history. Cal Expo will also continue to offer a reduced 16 percent takeout rate on the Pick 5, Pick 4 and Super High 5 wagers while also continuing the 10-cent minimums on the superfecta and Super High 5. The Pick 4 will feature a $15,000-guaranteed pool for the first two weeks of the meet, jumping to $20,000 on October 19.
Gary Seibel takes over in the announcer’s booth
Gary Seibel, one of the most recognizable voices and faces in harness broadcasting, is set to begin announcing duties Saturday night as the Watch and Wager LLC meet at Cal Expo gets underway.
Seibel has helped bring the sport to national prominence on network television for two decades running, with the 2013 edition of the Hambletonian marking his 21st consecutive year as either host or co-host of harness racing’s most prestigious event, including a 13-year run on CBS and a five-year stint with NBC.
For more than a decade, he hosted ESPN’s coverage of the Breeders Crown, harness racing’s divisional championship series, and filled a similar role for the network on the American Championship Harness Series back in the late 1990’s. And, for nearly a dozen years, from 1999 through 2011, he brought the sport of harness racing into the living rooms of fans across America on a daily basis as host and racing analyst for the popular nightly program, “Drive Time,” on TVG, the interactive horse racing network.
“Im looking forward to being a part of the Cal Expo team and I’m excited about the chance to get back to the announcer’s booth,” Gary related. “Calling races is something I’ve always enjoyed and over the years it has provided me with many of my most memorable moments in the sport.
“Chris Schick and Ben Kenny – and their entire staff – are completely committed to harness racing in California and I couldn’t think of better people to work with when it comes to achieving the goal of a viable industry in the state. I’m happy for the opportunity to be part of their vision.”
Seibel has been honored with harness racing’s Dan Patch media award and the Allen J. Finkelson award, with his body of work in the industry over the years earning him induction into the Communications Corner of the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2011.A graduate of the Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University, Seibel spent several of his early years as a radio disc jockey and sportscaster in upstate New York before heading to Pompano Park, where he served as track announcer for 18 years. In addition to other roles as publicity director, in-house simulcast TV host and public handicapper, Seibel was Pompano’s assistant general manager for two years.