California Harness Legends series get underway
By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness
The opening leg of four California Harness Legends late-closing series events; an Open 2 Trot and an Open 2 Pace share the spotlight Saturday night at the Watch and Wager LLC meet at Cal Expo.
A 14-race card is on tap with first post set for 5:55 p.m. There will Saturday racing throughout October, with the schedule shifting to Friday and Saturday night action starting in November.
All four of the series openers on Saturday are for the pacing set. The Bill Conlin kicks off in the seventh race; the Annette Funicello will go as the ninth; the Jim Dennis occupies the 12th race on the evening and the Mike Corley will be decided as the nightcap. The second legs will be next week and the finales are set for October 26.
The Open 2 Handicap Trot will find a rematch between the popular performers Franks Best and Alpine Hawk, who have been giving the outside posts in the field of six after finishing one-two in the opening week headliner. Franks Best races for owner/breeder/trainer Bob Johnson and will once again have Mooney Svendsen at the controls, while Rich Wojcio guides Alpine Hawk for owner Jim Winske and conditioner Gordie Graham.
The Open 2 Handicap Pace for fillies and mares finds a solid field of eight doing battle. Twin B Heartland, who hails from the Junior Wilkinson barn, will set sail from the outside post with the Gene Vallandingham trained-and-driven That’s Maria one of her main rivals and drawn just to her inside.
Completing the cast are Wild About Eagle and Scooter Babe from the Steve Wiseman barn; the Tim Brown-trained pair of Blessingfromabove and Mousseline Hanover; Lil Miss Nylation for Tim Clevenger and the Rick Cisco representative Hi Fidelity.
A reminder that next Saturday will find a complete simulcast of the Breeders Crown from Pocono, with such superstars as Captaintreacherous and Bee A Magician set to strut their stuff on what promises to be an outstanding card of trotting and pacing.
Trotting pros put on a good show
Last Saturday’s opening-night feature saw two of the most popular trotters in recent memory completing the exacta, with Franks Best and Mooney Svendsen showing the way home over a fast-closing Alpine Hawk and Rich Wojcio.
Franks Best is a multiple stakes winner who pushed his career bank account to $175,00 for his owner/trainer/breeder Bob Johnson. “Frank is just tough, honest horse who is glad to be home, because he races better in California than back East,” Johnson noted. “It’s tough in Indiana, where every field has 10 across with a trailer. He has his problems, but he loves to race.”
At age 6, Franks Best is just a pup compared to the 12-year-old Alpine Hawk, who carries the banner of Jim Winske and hails from the Gordie Graham barn. The veteran sidewheeler and Wojcio have became a fixture at this track and combined to win half of their 22 teamings last season. Another nice paycheck and he’ll go over the $200,000 earnings plateau with a 1:56 4/5 mark.
“He raced very well and I thought the track was in excellent condition,” related Wojcio, who found his charge shuffled past the half and then ignited when given open space to get the second money. “He had a long time off this summer and I think he actually got a little depressed. He stayed at Kathy Jones farm for three months and I believe he thought he was retired.
“When we brought him back to the track at the end of August, you could gradually see a change in his attitude. When I went to the main track to warm him up for his qualifier, he actually whinnied as he stepped on the track.
“He is a good honest horse who likes to race and always gives his best, you cant ask for any more than that. As I have said many times before, my girlfriend Meredith Ann Higgins is really the main reason the horse has stayed as good as he is.”
Franks Best and Alpine Hawk get another chance to settle the score in Saturday evening’s eighth event, with racing secretary Fred Kuebler assigning the Johnson performer the outside slot in the field of six, while Alpine Hawk leaves just to his inside. As always, it should be interesting.