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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Meadowlands Racing Recap – Friday, December 30, 2016

by James Witherite, Meadowlands racing media

Windsun Glory, Crosbys Clam Bake repeat in Big M co-features

East Rutherford, N.J. – Windsun Glory ($4.00) and Crosbys Clam Bake ($5.80) controlled the terms in their respective featured events and held all comers at bay to score repeat wins on Friday (December 30) evening at The Meadowlands.

In the $18,000 featured distaff pace, carded as race six, Windsun Glory lived up to even-money billing and captured her ninth career win, also her third in four starts. After she was looped off the gate by Inittowinafortune (Corey Callahan), Joe Bongiorno pressed the 3-year-old Mach Three filly to the fore to clear at the completion of a :27.2 first quarter mile.

Despite first-over pressure from Delightful Dragon (Marcus Miller) through the middle splits of :55.3 and 1:24, Windsun Glory would not relinquish control, edging clear off the far turn and maintaining 1-1/2 lengths of clearance while driven out to a 1:53 triumph. Delightful Dragon maintained second narrowly from Truth and Liberty (Kyle DiBenedetto), who sustained belated gains after angling off fourth-over cover.

Ron Burke trains Windsun Glory for the Burke Racing Stable, the Weaver Bruscemi partnership, the J & T Silva Stables, and Larry Karr.

The seventh-race top-level conditioned trot, also carrying a purse of $18,000, saw Crosbys Clam Bake make every yard a winning one, coasting through splits of :28 and :57 before parrying a stern first-over challenge from Classical Annie (Marcus Miller) through the last five-sixteenths of the mile. Jim Marohn, Jr. urged the 6-year-old Kadabra gelding to edge away in the final sixteenth to secure a 1:55.3 victory by 2-1/4 lengths.

Waiting On a Woman (Vinny Ginsburg) protected second from his pocket trip, and Classical Annie held third after leveling off. Second favorite Kelsey’s Keepsake lost all chance after breaking stride on approach to the first turn.

Crosbys Clam Bake earned his 31st career win for trainer Andy Federico and owners Randy Bendis, Jack Piatt, II, and Tom Pollack.

Total handle for the 12-race card was $2,955,888.

A 13-race New Year’s Eve program closes out 2016 at The Meadowlands; post time is 7:15 p.m. Eastern.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Cal Expo Sunday Advance

Bettormeboy eyes New Year’s feature
By Mark Ratzky, publicity – Cal Expo Harness

Bettormeboy looks to get 2017 off to a fast start when he suits up in Sunday’s main event for owners Richard Morita and David Yamada and trainer Lino Pacheco. Luke Plano will do the honors.

The newly-turned 7-year-old son of Bettor’s Delight made a half-dozen trips to the winner’s circle from 32 appearances in 2016, including a lifetime-best 1:52 performance over this layout.

Since returning from a summer campaign at Running Aces, he has a win, a second and a third from his last three trips to the post. The victory came over a bit easier on a sloppy track on December 3, followed by a third behind one of Sunday’s rivals in Windsong Jack.

“I’ve had Bettormeboy for a couple of years now and he gives his best,” trainer Pacheco noted at entry time. “He likes to come from off the pace, and sometimes that can hurt him when the race doesn’t set up right.

“Three starts back, when he was the favorite, he got stuck behind some very poor cover and I think it cost him the win. Then he raced over that sloppy track and put in a real big finish to win. I don’t think it really matters to him if it’s an off track or a fast track.”

Bettormeboy is coming off a third-place when last seen on December 17 and leaves from the No. 5 post for this go-around. “He had a little bit of traffic last time,” his mentor noted.

Pacheco has trained for Morita and Yamada for seven years and has sent out some solid performers for the pair over that time. “They’re great owners who let me do the training,” he said. 

Main event brings out Windsong Jack

Windsong Jack, runner-up in two of his three local appearances, looks to get the overdue snapshot in Sunday night’s featured $4,400 Open III Handicap Pace.

A 14-race card is on tap under the banner of Watch and Wager LLC with first post set for 4:45 p.m.

Windsong Jack will leave from the outside post in Sunday’s headliner with Mooney Svendsen at the controls. The 6-year-old son of Santanna Blue Chip races for Little Bapa LLC and takes his lessons from Gene Vallandingham.

The dark-hued performer was 4-5 when he made his Cal Expo debut in a November 12 Open and lost a heartbreaker that evening after carving out all the fractions and being overhauled late in a 1:54 mile.

He was again odds-on when wheeled back two weeks later at the top rung, but this time stopped badly. The Vallandingham trainee made his most recent start on December 17 in a conditioned/optional claiming affair and missed by three-quarters of a length in a solid outing.

Taking him on are Fort Knox, Bettermeboy, Why Ask Why, Dontdoubthelakers, Rusty Carter and Bestnotlie Handover.


Beginning next week, the racing action here at Cal Expo will return to the regular Friday and Saturday night schedule.

Auld Lang Syne headlines New Year’s Eve at Big M

by James Witherite, Meadowlands racing media

East Rutherford, N.J. – A full field of ten pacers—three of them millionaires—will contest the $35,000 Auld Lang Syne Invitational on New Year’s Eve (Sat., Dec. 31) at The Meadowlands.

Trainer Ron Burke’s pair of Limelight Beach and Clear Vision have been installed as the 5-2 favored entry on the morning line. Limelight Beach, the 2014 Little Brown Jug winner, earned top-level wins at both Saratoga and Dover in recent weeks while most recently just missing Mach It So in an Open at Yonkers. Drew Monti, who just scored his first Meadowlands driving win on Thursday night, assumes the driving assignment on the 5-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding. His entrymate Clear Vision boasts over $2.5 million in career earnings, and he returns to East Rutherford after capturing the first race of the fall-winter meet in gritty first-over fashion. The 10-year-old Western Hanover gelding seeks his fourth win of the year, and Joe Bongiorno will be at the lines.

Among those looking to topple the Burke duo are the rapidly-rising City Hall (Brett Miller, 6-1), who reeled off four straight Big M wins while climbing the class ladder; millionaire Doctor Butch (Jim Marohn, Jr., 8-1), who rises markedly off a 1:50.1 score; Lucan Hanover (Vinny Ginsburg, 7-2), a winner of two Levy preliminaries in March and 27 races in his career; and National Seelster (John Campbell, 8-1), who prevailed in a hard-fought 1:50.3 mile after leaving from post 10 in his last.

In the sub-featured $15,000 top-level conditioned/optional claiming pace, Betty Tauber’s Elrama N seeks a fourth straight win and second straight at the level after sustaining a first-over push to the fore and parrying El Bloombito’s late charge to prevail in 1:51.4 last week. The Michael Russo trainee remains at the level via the optional $50,000 tag, and Corey Callahan is back aboard the 5-2 morning line favorite.

Fans on-track can pad their bankrolls in the Win Your Share of $2,016 giveaway, and enjoy a special buffet dinner in Pink, complete with a champagne toast and fireworks display to ring in the new year. Horsemen are invited to a New Year’s Eve party in the skyboxes, courtesy Allerage Farms.

Post time for the first of 13 races is slated for 7:15 p.m. Eastern.

Monti scores first Meadowlands win

East Rutherford, N.J. – Batavia Downs driving champion Drew Monti notched his first ever driving victory at The Meadowlands, teaming up with owner-trainer Rick Dane’s I Found My Beach ($10.80) in Thursday (December 29) evening’s ninth event, a $6,500 first-level conditioned pace.

The 22-year-old Canisius College alumnus put the 7-year-old Mach Three gelding into play immediately, clearing on the first turn but yielding to Sapient Hanover (Joe Bongiorno) at the completion of a :27.1 first quarter. I Found My Beach enjoyed clear sailing from the pocket through the middle half before angling off the pegs to challenge with five-sixteenths to go.

After wearing down Sapient Hanover and taking charge at the eighth pole, I Found My Beach was called upon for everything he had left to parry a late challenge from Twincreeks Jesse (Tyler Smith), prevailing by a head in 1:55.1 over good going.  Yankee Favorite (Brett Miller) rallied belatedly to claim third as the 8-5 favorite.

For I Found My Beach, the win was his third of the year and the 23rd of his career.

Brett Miller was the only driver to score multiple wins on the 10-race card, teaming up with a pair of odds-on favorites. Miller captured the second race with Heidi Rohr trainee Sportsmuffler ($3.40, 1:55.1), as well as the finale with Tom Shay trainee Mr Bubbles N ($3.60, 1:54.3).

Live racing returns to the Big M on Friday (December 30), with the first of 12 races due off at 7:15 p.m. Eastern time. Friday's last-race 20¢ Jackpot High Five will boast a carryover of $13,245.02.

Thursday, December 29, 2016



HARRISBURG PA – Thomas H. Hicks, whose longtime experience in both the Standardbred sport and top financial circles gave the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) a chance to have a wealth of experience at the head of an effort to their stabilizing and growing the organization’s finances, has done his Association jobs so well that he has been voted the Member of the Year Award by USHWA, the sport’s leading organization for communicators.

Hicks, a member of USHWA’s Florida chapter and a National Director for the last four years, has bred national champions such as the million-dollar-winning racehorse turned coveted sire Crazed, and was the Executive Director of the Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association (FSBOA) in 2011. He regularly writes about North American monte (saddled) racing and the European Grand Circuit, especially his beloved Vincennes racetrack in Paris and its world-class Prix d’Amerique Trot. The Florida Chapter of USHWA honored him with the Allen J. Finkelson Award for journalistic excellence in 2013.

It is the business side of Hicks’s “pedigree,” though, replete with prestigious names such as the Harvard Business School, that has made him immensely valuable to USHWA. Hicks is founder and managing partner of Renaissance Partners LLC, a management and turnaround firm which, as its name suggests, specializes in developing and then helping to implement a rebirth and profit plan, both short- and long-term, for its clients. The Renaissance “touch” is evident in Tom’s guidance and plans to both keeping a sharp eye on expenses while also growing the association’s income through such varied venues as USHWA’s annual award dinner and through the group’s website,

In announcing Hicks as the recipient of the “USHWAn of the Year” award, as it is known within the Association, USHWA President Tim Bojarski stated, “A panel of recent recipients of this award selected Tom for his longtime dedication to the Florida Chapter, his work on USHWA’s national tax and audits committees in recent years, and now his spearheading the new Budget Committee, which will ensure the long-term viability of the Association. Everyone in USHWA appreciates Tom’s efforts on behalf of the group, and this award adds the exclamation point to these sentiments.”

Tom Hicks will be honored at the “Night Of Champions,” the Dan Patch Awards Banquet Presented by Hoosier Park, which will take place on Sunday, February 26 at the Planet Hollywood hotel/casino in Las Vegas. Information about the banquet and the entire weekend, which will also contain the annual meetings of USHWA, can be found on the communicators’ website, – including links for making hotel reservations at special rates at Planet Hollywood; banquet tickets; and congratulatory or acknowledgment ads in the keepsake Souvenir Banquet Journal, annually one of the best chronicles of a year in North American harness racing.


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

YONKERS, NY, Thursday, December 29, 2016—The ‘New York, New York Double,’ featuring one race from Aqueduct Racetrack and one from Yonkers Raceway, is set to return in 2017.

The gimmick, which began late in 2016, shall continue during all Yonkers’ live Sundays, at least in the outset of the season, which begins Sunday, Jan. 8th (post time TBA, dates pending approval of the New York State Gaming Commission).

“We’re happy to keep this wager going into 2017,” Raceway COO Bob Galterio said. “The handle was steady when it was offered, and we and NYRA are both committed to including very competitive and challenging races for our fans.

“Again, we appreciate the cooperation from all parties, including our horsemen, NYRA, its horsemen and the simulcast locations which have made this bet available to their horseplayers.”     

Information about the races involved for Week 1—including race numbers and post times—shall be announced shortly. The ‘New York, New York Double’ remains a $1 minimum wager and has an 18½ percent takeout.

Please be advised Yonkers has three January Sundays (8th, 15th and 29th) in its schedule.

Past performance pages for the ‘New York, New York Double’ are to be included in on-track as well as simulcast programs. The wager is also available through any number of ADW portals, including Empire City Bets.

Friday Night at the Meadowlands

East Rutherford, NJ - Friday night's card offers another densely populated twelve race program with a balanced mix of six trotting races and six on the pace. 

Friday's trotting feature is the seventh race for a purse of $18,000. The ten horse field led by a pair of  stakes tested four-year-old mares starting from the far outside posts.

Kelsey's Keepsake (post nine) picked up checks in both the $170,000 Muscle Hill at Vernon Downs in August and the $200,000 TVG FFA final last month, facing the best of her division in both. She has been at her best recently, following up a solid second here at The Meadowlands by winning the Mare Open Trot The Meadows one week ago. Kelsey's Keepsake seems to maturing nicely under the tutelage of trainer Richie Johnson and has drawn the favor of the track handicapper, listed at 3-1 on the morning line for owners David Heffering and Barbara Bongiorno. Joe Bongiorno will drive.

Just to the right leaves Classical Annie from post ten at 4-1. She is closing out a six-figure season for the Burke Racing Stable after spending much of 2016 on the Grand Circuit stakes trail that included a fifth in the $250,000 Breeders Crown and fourth (just in advance of Kelsey's Keepsake) in the $200,000 TVG FFA Final. Classical Annie has tactical speed and first time driver Marcus Miller may need to use it to get her into the race early.

Friday's lead promotion is a $2,016 giveaway and there's still time to join the Own a Horse promotion if you sign up by December 31.

Free program pages for the Late Pick 4 are available.

Horsemen are reminded of the NYE party offered by The Meadowlands and Allerage Farms to ring out the old and ring in the new on Saturday night.

Post time is 7:15 p.m.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


HARRISBURG PA -- Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld, veteran breeders and racehorse owners who were responsible for the production of two of the top trotting fillies of 2016 – Ariana G and All The Time – were the unanimous choice for Breeders of the Year by the Breeders/Broodmares committee of USHWA. The committee was also undivided in naming the top broodmares of the year: for the trotters, Cantab It All – owned by Libfeld/Katz and the dam of Ariana G and All The Time, and for the pacers, Artstopper, the dam of Always B Miki, who lowered the sport’s all-time speed record to 1:46.

The 25+ year partnership of Ontarians Katz and Libfeld certainly had one of its greatest seasons in 2016, owning both diamondgaited fillies and also sending out Breeders Crown champion Bar Hopping and the multiple-stakes winner Idyllic Beach, voted Two-Year-Old Pacing Filly of the Year. “Idyllic” was joined as divisional champion on the trotting side by Ariana G, who dominated the baby trotting misses through the major portion of the stakes calendar. Ariana G’s older sister by a year, All The Time, made a remarkable recovery from emergency colic surgery after her Hambletonian Oaks victory to return to the races and win a Breeders Crown elimination.

The dam of these two talented trotting distaffs is Cantab It All, a White Birch Farm-bred daughter of Cantab Hall-Better Odds-Pine Chip, who herself took a mark of 1:53 and earned over $280,000 on the racetrack. Her first two foals, both by top racehorse turned top sire Muscle Hill, are All The Time and Ariana G, and one can only imagine the potential of, and interest in, the next foals in the Cantab It All “production line.”

Artstopper, who was unraced, has certainly made up for lost time in the broodmare shed for the Roll The Dice Stable of Delaware’s Joe Hurley. Before “Miki” came along, she had produced Yagonnakissmeornot, a $1.45M-winning daughter of The Panderosa who has raced the best of her class for several seasons – and has given Artstopper the rare distinction of having both a son and daughter who have beaten 1:50.

But 2016 was the year of Always B Miki, Harness Horse of the Year, reducer of record speed with a 1:46 mile at the famed Red Mile in Lexington on October 9. A son of Always A Virgin who like his sister Yagonnakissmeornot can trace their topline pedigree back to the hugely-influential Western Hanover, Always B Miki clashed with 2015 Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit in an epic series of duels in the free-for-all pacing ranks, with Miki winning four, including the season-ending Breeders Crown, and Wiggle winning three. (These two pacing giants brought extra attention to Indiana, where they were both sired, and to Hurley’s Delaware, where they are both owned.)

Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld, along with Cantab It All, Artstopper and their connections, will all be feted at the “Night Of Champions,” the Dan Patch Awards Banquet Presented by Hoosier Park, which will take place on Sunday, February 26 at the Planet Hollywood hotel/casino in Las Vegas. Information about the banquet and the entire weekend, which will also contain the annual meetings of USHWA, can be found on the communicators’ website, – including links for making hotel reservations at special rates at Planet Hollywood; banquet tickets; and congratulatory or acknowledgment ads in the keepsake Souvenir Banquet Journal, annually one of the best chronicles of a year in North American harness racing.

Cal Expo Friday advance

By Mark Ratzky, publicity – Cal Expo Harness

Nobody likes a forced retirement, but the rules of the game say Frankthebank will be making his final start in Friday night’s 13th race as the pacer officially turns 15 years old on Sunday.

A son of Sportsmaster out of the Incredible Finale mare Go Go Coco, Frankthebank has made 443 starts in his career, with $470,000 in his bank account and a 1:51 mark that was established five years ago.

Frankthebank is owned by Rick and Marlene Thomas and will be sent out for the final time in his racing career by longtime conditioner George Reider. Luke Plano will be in the sulky.

Reider has trained Frankthebank for 125 of his trips to the post, and that includes 11 wins, 23 seconds and 17 third-place finishes. Bernie Wolin had the most starts with the pacer, sending him out for 191 starts.  

“It’s going to be a sad day when he leaves for his retirement, like saying goodbye to a good friend and a good buddy,” Reider said.

“We’ve traveled a lot of places together and I’m pretty sure he’s going to miss being at the barn. Hopefully he’ll adjust to his new life quickly.

“Frankthebank is the definition of an iron horse, especially when you think of all the places he’s been and all the different barns. As we’re getting close to the end of his career, it makes me kind of sad.”

Instead of giving Frankthebank a gold watch, George has something more practical in mind for the pacer. “On the first day of 2017, he’ll be eating a 25-pound of carrots – just not all at the same time. I’ll ration them.

“When he heads to his home just outside of Yosemite Valley, I’ll have the fondest memories of my boy.”

Cal Expo salutes Frankthebank and wishes him the best in his retirement!

Pair of Carryovers, Goudreau Prep on tap

A $10,140 carryover in the Pick 5, a $1,523 carryover in the Pick 6 and the prep for next week’s Shelly Goudreau Final are among the main attractions on Friday night’s Cal Expo program.

The card is conducted under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post at 5:55 p.m.

The Pick 5 is a 50-cent bet encompassing the first five races on the card and comes with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. The 20-cent Pick 4 also comes with the 16 percent takeout rate and is decided on the four penultimate races of the evening, while the Pick 6 is a 50-cent wager.

The Goudreau Prep has lured a full and contentious cast. Eastender figures to be one of the major players in the line-up for driver/trainer Luke Plano and owners Maryann Plano and Nikki Hudson.

A 5-year-old son of Cheyenne Rei, Eastender was runner-up and a close third in his first two starts after coming in from Hoosier Park, then put it all together at most recent asking while posting a two and a quarter-length score as the 1-5 favorite.

Total Classic is a Ron Rettig-Zucchi-owned, James Kennedy reined-and-trained performer who fits well in the Goudreau. He scored a 14-1 upset here on December 3 and was hard used in his last start before checking in fourth in a tight finish.


There will be no Saturday racing this week, with a special Sunday program that will have a first post of 4:45 p.m. The trotters and pacers will return to the regular Friday and Saturday night schedule next week.

Thursday Night Card at the Meadowlands

East Rutherford, NJ - The final live programs of 2016 are set to go at The Meadowlands as a three day week of racing. A ten race card boasting full field of ten in every race gets things under way on the evening of Thursday, December 29. 

With so few tracks in operation, horses are literally coming from everywhere to race at The Meadowlands. One of the more interesting examples is Johnny Z, a ten-year-old gelding who most recently been grinding it out on the Maine circuit. 

Johnny Z has been around, starting his promising career in the George Teague, Jr stable way back in 2008 with a pair of stakes wins at two before an early seasonal shut down. He came back early at three and won the $300,000 Max Hempt Memorial Grand Circuit stake.

Johnny Z remained on Team Teague until mid way through his four-year-old season where he moved into the Ron Burke barn. From there it's been a long journey from barn to barn racing competitively around the metropolitan for several seasons before Maine became his home in early 2015.

He's back on the major circuit this Thursday in race seven for his eighteenth owner, McCoo, Inc and Jonathan Klee Racing, with trainer Mike Watson and gets Brett Miller to drive in a spot that may well be to his liking.

It’s not too late to join the fun and excitement of being a horse owner without the risk by signing up for the popular “Own A Horse” promotion. Get your name in at customer service before time runs out.

The racing rolls right through the weekend with New Year’s Eve on Saturday a focus. Pink, the track’s highly reviewed tiered dining facility, is hosting a NYE celebration with a delightful buffet and fireworks after the races to greet 2017 in style.

Post time each night is 7:15 p.m.


HARRISBURG PA – Barbara Brooks, secretary of the United States Trotting Association (USTA), a person who during her remarkable 62-year career with the Association has worked with generations of horsemen and horses via the USTA’s Registration Department, ensuring meticulous recordkeeping and a smile at every turn, has been voted the sport’s Unsung Hero Award by the members of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), the sport’s leading group of communicators.

When Barb first joined the USTA, the world record for a mile was 1:55; now it is 1:46. When she first went to work there, the tools of her trade were the typewriter and the file folder; now they are the computer and the database: just like the speed for a mile, research and production go much more quickly and efficiently. This upturn in individual production time is part of what has allowed the USTA to retain its ever-growing mass of records about the sport, and to explore and implement new ways of serving its public.

The one constant, the other half of the equation for this progress, has been Barb Brooks, at the end of a telephone, mail, or (now) computer inquiry directed to the USTA’s registry by a horseman or horsewoman wanting to make sure a horse, parentage, and ownership has been correctly recorded. Barb is by no means a “one-man team” – as she would be the first to acknowledge – but it seems no accident that the Registration Department has functioned so smoothly over decades in an exponentially-expanding sport, and she has represented the best of customer service, knowledge, and collegial cooperation. Barb Brooks retires from the USTA on Friday, but the effects of her service to the Association, to its history and its future via the registry, will be felt for decades to come.

Mike Tanner, executive VP/CEO of the USTA, noted, “Barb Brooks exemplifies everything that is right about this industry.” No higher tribute can be made.

Barbara Brooks will be honored at the “Night Of Champions,” the Dan Patch Awards Banquet Presented by Hoosier Park, which will take place on Sunday, February 26 at the Planet Hollywood hotel/casino in Las Vegas. Information about the banquet and the entire weekend, which will also contain the annual meetings of USHWA, can be found on the communicators’ website, – including links for making hotel reservations at special rates at Planet Hollywood; banquet tickets; and congratulatory or acknowledgment ads in the keepsake Souvenir Banquet Journal, annually one of the best chronicles of a year in North American harness racing

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Meadowlands Hosts New Years Eve Party for Racing Horsemen

East Rutherford, NJ --- In keeping with the holiday spirit, The Meadowlands extends an invitation to those horsemen racing on the Saturday (Dec. 31) card to welcome 2017 at a gala New Year's Eve celebration in the grandstand skyboxes as a guest of the track.

Sponsored by Jeff and Paula Gural's Allerage Farms, the evening includes complimentary buffet style dinner for owners, trainers, drivers and up to three guests for each licensed horseman participating that evening. There will be a cash bar.

The New Year will be toasted with a "complimentary glass of champagne" and a gala fireworks display after racing is concluded.

After the fireworks show, the party moves down to Victory nightclub for more celebrating hosted by Kirill Was Here and dancing to "Music by Boris; DJ Camilo". Admission to Victory will be waived for horsemen.

Please be advised that Trotters owner's club will be closed for the evening on Dec. 31 and all members are invited to join us for the complimentary buffet in the skyboxes as well.

Interested horsemen must make reservations to attend as soon as possible by calling (201) 460-4079 and ask for Joslyn.


HARRISBURG PA – Allison Conte, riding on the leading curve of the “new wave” social media communications designed to bring the excitement and fun of harness racing to an ever-expanding audience, has “broken through” the communications clutter with such success in her job as Social Media Manager for the U.S. Trotting Association that the U.S. Harness Writers Association (USHWA), the sport’s leading industry for communicators, has voted her the winner of the Breakthrough Award, which honors those in the sport 35 years or younger for outstanding early-career non-training/driving contributions to harness racing

Conte is overseer of the many platforms established within the USTA’s Communications department: the acclaimed Harness Racing FanZone website; the Facebook page of both the FanZone and the USTA’s own central organizational page; and the various means to cover three of harness racing’s flagship events: the Hambletonian, the Little Brown Jug, and the Breeders Crown. In addition, she functions as host for the USTA’s weekly online show Morning Line; edits for the USTA’s website, the most widely-viewed website in the industry; and conducts advisory sessions in how to utilize social media effectively and how to bring more owners into the sport. And her vision into the sport and new ways to tell its story has led to many successful programs involving the new media, and certainly will lead to many more.

One striking feature running through the vast majority of Allison’s work is the insight she gives into the people and horses involved in putting on “the show,” devoting time and energy to the individuals and events “behind the scenes” that may surprise people and interest them further in the sport. The faculty that Conte has in this area is no accident: the daughter of horseman Carl Conte Jr., Allison has been a caretaker for fast horses, rich horses, and durable horses – all of those characteristics rolled up together in her most famous charge, Foiled Again, the sport’s all-time leader in earnings with earnings nearing $7.5 million, an evergreen campaigner who is still racing at a high level as he turns 13 next week.

Allison does not oversee her “media empire” by viewing a bank of consoles at the USTA’s Ohio office – she is one of the Association’s most visible employees, having spent 73 days on the road this past year. She is helpful and patient with horseman, horse, manager, and fan alike – a person who honestly has the good of the sport in the forefront of her mind at all times.

Allison Conte will be honored at the “Night Of Champions,” the Dan Patch Awards Banquet Presented by Hoosier Park, which will take place on Sunday, February 26 at the Planet Hollywood hotel/casino in Las Vegas. Information about the banquet and the entire weekend, which will also contain the annual meetings of USHWA, can be found on the communicators’ website, – including links for making hotel reservations at special rates at Planet Hollywood; banquet tickets; and congratulatory or acknowledgment ads in the keepsake Souvenir Banquet Journal, annually one of the best chronicles of a year in North American harness racing.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Elrama N rises for three-peat in feature

East Rutherford, N.J. -- Another step up, another convincing win.

Betty Tauber's Elrama N ($3.20) rose to the occasion in Friday (December 23) evening's featured $15,500 top-level conditioned pace at The Meadowlands, using a strong first-over push through the far turn to reel off his third win in a row.

Brett Miller was unhurried early on with the 7-year-old Elsu gelding, settling in fourth as Alberto Contador N (Jim Marohn, Jr.) and Rufo (Drew Monti) alternated on the lead through early splits of :27.2 and :55.4. At race's midpoint, Elrama N began his first-over ascent, charging boldly after Rufo, forcing a :28.3 third quarter, and pushing to the fore at head-stretch. After putting away Rufo, Elrama N edged clear of a brief bid from the second-over Windsun Stetson (Joe Bongiorno) and ultimately held sway by three-quarters of a length for a 1:51.4 score. El Bloombito (John Campbell) rallied down the grandstand side off third-over cover to narrowly take second over Alberto Contador N, who held third from his pocket trip.

Michael Russo trains Elrama N, now a 23-time winner. For Miller, the driving win was one of five on the program.

The early 20¢ Jackpot High Five was captured again in the night's fifth race, as 130-1 shot Miramontman (Steve Smith) sustained late gains to take fourth behind the favored trio of Toatsmygoats ($10.60, Andy Miller), Pansformative (2-1, Bongiorno), and Hugh Hefner N (2-1, Marohn) to spur a $5,834.08 score. UF Larry Alltheway (9-1, Tyler Smith) rounded out the 8-7-2-10-9 combination. The late Jackpot High Five will see $10,891.52 carry over to Thursday's card.

Total handle for the 13-race program was $2,868,800.

Live racing returns to the Big M with a 10-race card on Thursday (December 29), and programs on Friday (December 30) and Saturday (December 31) evenings to round out the 2016 season. Post time each night is 7:15 p.m. Eastern.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Meadowlands Hosts New Year's Party for Horsemen

East Rutherford, NJ - In keeping with the Holiday spirit, The Meadowlands extends an invitation to those horsemen racing on the Saturday, December 31 card to welcome 2017 at a gala New Year's Eve celebration in the grandstand skyboxes as a guest of the track.

Sponsored by Jeff and Paula Gural's Allerage Farms, the evening includes complimentary buffet style dinner for owners, trainers, drivers and up to three guests for each licensed horseman participating that evening. There will be a cash bar.

The New Year will be toasted with a "complimentary glass of champagne" and a gala fireworks display after racing is concluded.

After the fireworks show, the party moves down to Victory nightclub for more celebrating hosted by Kirill Was Here and dancing to "Music by Boris; DJ Camilo". Admission to Victory will be waived for horsemen.

Please be advised that Trotters owner's club will be closed for the evening on December 31 and all members are invited to join us for the complimentary buffet in the skyboxes as well.

Interested horsemen must make reservations to attend as soon as possible by calling (201) 460-4079 and ask for Joslyn.

Truth and Liberty sweeps to feature win; Pick 5 carryover sparks massive payouts

East Rutherford, N.J. – A sustained three-wide push of the far turn propelled Truth and Liberty ($15.60) to victory in Thursday (December 22) evening’s featured $15,000 distaff pace at The Meadowlands, while Tony Ciuffetelli took top honors in the GSY Series final for amateur drivers on a night which proved to be a longshot player’s paradise.

Truth and Liberty settled in mid-division on the first turn, well behind That Woman Hanover (Jim Marohn, Jr.) and Ideal Nuggets (Joe Bongiorno), who would duel through a :54.4 first half mile. As That Woman Hanover labored on the far turn after repelling a first-over challenge from Ideal Nuggets, Andy Miller moved the 4-year-old Total Truth mare first-over with three-eighths to go, and was carried three-wide around Caviart Shelly (John Campbell) amid her push to an upper-stretch lead. Truth and Liberty edged clear in the final sixteenth, and held clear of the late-rallying UF Dragon’s Queen (Tyler Smith) by just over a length in 1:53.2 as the pace folded. Better Said (Vinny Ginsburg) just reached third over odds-on favorite Sheeza Shark N (Brett Miller).

Bob Lounsbury trains 14-time winner Truth and Liberty for owner Tracy Moss. For Miller, the featured win capped a natural hat trick.

In the $12,500 final of the fall-winter GSY Series for amateur drivers, Tony Ciuffetelli and Avivas Winner ($24.20) made every yard a winning one, successfully bottoming out the field for a 1:59.2 score over fast going. The 5-year-old Credit Winner gelding outsprinted Count Speed (Bob Hechkoff) into the first turn and immediately gained separation on the field through sectionals of :28.1, :56.2, and 1:26, at one point drawing clear to a 10-length lead. Despite Count Speed being unable to close any ground in upper stretch, Avivas Winner was fully extended off the far turn to hold sway of a sustained late charge from Ellen’s Streak (Dr. John Kokinos), who angled out to claim second off the far turn and closed ground steadily to ultimately reach within a length and a quarter. Dream Rocker (Hannah Miller) was a staying third, just holding off a mild stand-side rally from Feisty Love (David Glasser).

The GSY final was the first leg of the night’s 50¢ Pick 5, which attracted $212,276 in new money in great part to a $25,874 carryover. As four of five favorites in the sequence were vanquished—two of those defeated public choices being sent off at odds-on, the dividend ballooned to $17,908.35 for the successful 6/2/7/9/3 combination. Additionally, the fifth-race 20¢ Jackpot Super High Five was taken down for $4,676.44 after Carobbean Pacetry ($40.60) and Andy Miller successfully evaded odds-on choice Not Before Eight (John Campbell) to key the 3-2-9-8-6 combination. Miller came back immediately to team up with Sumatra ($4.00) in the sixth and round out an early Pick 4 sequence which returned $9,900.70 on a dollar ticket before continuing to capture the feature.

Total handle for the 12-race card was $2,190,429. A Jackpot High Five carryover of $8,321.98 will await players in Friday's closing race.

Racing continues at The Meadowlands with a 13-race card on Friday (December 23) evening; post time is 7:15 p.m. Eastern.


Thursday, December 22, 2016


HARRISBURG PA -- They were the pairing that seemed to be almost too good to be true – combining a proud family tradition, a love of the trotting horse, a woman pursuing the dream that her late husband never quite attained, and a young man, a college student, with sparkling “bloodlines” on both sides of his pedigree.

But it was this perfect harness team – Marion Jean Wellwood and Devin Keeling – who owned Marion Marauder, winner of the Triple Crown of Trotting and Trotter of the Year honors during 2016. And they loved every minute of it.

Now, they have been voted Owners of the Year for 2016 by the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), the sport’s leading trade group for communicators.

“Jean,” as she is generally known, is the wife of the late Canadian Hall of Famer Bill Wellwood, a “trottin’ horse” man who trained many quality horses during his distinguished career, but never quite came up with “the big one”. Devin is a college sophomore, Jean’s grandson and the son of her daughter Paula and horseman Mike Keeling, who had been a caretaker for Bill Wellwood.

This living of a dream started in Lexington in 2014, where Jean picked a royally-pedigreed horse (Muscle Hill-Spellbound Hanover) via a catalogue, with daughter Paula haltering the colt for a bargain $37,000.  

Then came patient development under the tutelage of Paula Wellwood and Mike Keeling (improving from start to start), perfect handling by driver Scott Zeron, and Marion Marauder realizing  that he could be the type of colt that Bill Wellwood and those in his family always wanted, all resulting in a sensational sophomore campaign in 2016. He ended up the season with a record of 15-10-3-0, and he led all North American trotters with earnings of $1,484,532.

Marion Marauder became only the ninth horse to win Trotting’s Triple Crown, and the first since Glidemaster in 2006. The “Marauder” was certainly the right horse at the right place at the right time – winning the Hambletonian by a nose and the Yonkers Trot and Kentucky Futurity by a head each – and Jean Wellwood and Devin Keeling, experience and youth, “trottin’ people”, part of an extended “happy family,” climbed to the pinnacle of success as harness horse owners.

Marion Jean Wellwood and Devin Keeling (along with Marion Marauder) will be honored at the “Night Of Champions,” the Dan Patch Awards Banquet Presented by Hoosier Park, which will take place on Sunday, February 26 at the Planet Hollywood hotel/casino in Las Vegas. Information about the banquet and the entire weekend, which will also contain the annual meetings of USHWA, can be found on the communicators’ website, – including links for making hotel reservations at special rates at Planet Hollywood; banquet tickets; and congratulatory or acknowledgment ads in the keepsake Souvenir Banquet Journal, annually one of the best chronicles of a year in North American harness racing.

Cal Expo Monday Advance

Special Monday program at Cal Expo
By Mark Ratzky, publicity – Cal Expo Harness

Rockinaroundheaven, a punctual favorite in her Cal Expo debut, looks to keep the momentum going in Monday night’s feature for pacing fillies and mares.

Watch and Wager LLC will present a 14-race card on Monday with first post at an earlier 4:45 p.m. The headliner goes as the second contest on the evening.

In addition to this special Monday program, this week will find the trotters and pacers in action on Friday, December 30, and Sunday, January 1. The following week will see a return to Friday and Saturday night cards.

Rockinaroundheaven is a 3-year-old daughter of Rock N Roll Heaven who carries the banner of Kenneth Seastrom and is reined and trained by Chip Lackey. She comes into this assignment having posed for pictures following three of her nine lifetime trips to the post.

The bay sophomore began her career in Chicago and set her 1:56 4/5 standard at Hawthorne in August. She finished up her Midwest campaign with a pair of seconds and a third, narrowly missing on each occasion.

After a nice tightener in a qualifier here on December 9, the Seastrom colorbearer was ready for action eight nights later, as she validated her 6-5 backing with a powerful move to the lead on the final bend en route to a length and a half victory with Lackey.

Taking her on Monday, from the rail out: Very Western, Listentotheheart, Chilma, Little Emma, Delightfully Wild, Afaceinthecrowd, Yeswellnomaybe and Moonstone Beach.
Sweet One happy with new surroundings

No need to ask Indiana invader Sweet One if she enjoys California, as the pacing mare has two wins from three starts since arriving at Cal Expo, including a victory in the Robert Staats Final at most recent asking.

A 4-year-old daughter of Art Major, Sweet One is owned and trained by Rick Cisco and has been handled in her last two trips to the post by Mooney Svendsen. She lowered her lifetime mark to 1:56 2/5 with the Staats decision.

“I bought here through Chip Lackey,” Cisco related. “She’s not very big and on the chunky side, but it looks like she has heart and some ability. All three of her races here have been solid.”

Sweet One closed out her Indiana Downs campaign with a victory on November 11, then made her local debut in a conditioned event here on December 3 and came from far back to prevail with Steve Wiseman at the controls.

She was a game third in the Robert Staats prep at next asking while doing her work from the demanding nine post while joining forces with Svendsen, then did the track-and-attack to perfection from the four slot and was up by a neck over favored The Bearded Lady to account for the Staats Final.

“After Mooney drove her that first time, he told me he was impressed because she was trying so hard the entire way,” Cisco explained. “He gave her a perfect drive last time and she responded.”

Interestingly, Cisco still doesn’t know why Sweet One missed her entire 3-year-old campaign, but she’s certainly finishing her 4-year-old season in style and he’s looking forward to more photo sessions with the bay miss.

Top-level pacers, young drivers headline Big M Friday

by James Witherite, Meadowlands racing media

East Rutherford, N.J. – A top-level conditioned pace headlines Friday (December 23) evening’s 13-race card at The Meadowlands, and players will note a couple youthful additions to the Big M driver colony.

The night’s sixth race takes top billing, as nine upper-level pacers square off for a $15,500 purse in the closing leg of the early Pick 4. Betty Tauber’s Elrama N seeks a third consecutive win after circling off cover to a 1:50.3 score over fourth-level rivals on a chilly December 16 evening. As Corey Callahan will be absent for the Friday card, trainer Michael Russo secured Brett Miller—a winner of eight races last Friday—to handle the driving duties of the 22-time winner. Elrama N, one of two horses in the field to be entered for the optional $50,000 claiming price, has been installed as the 3-1 morning line favorite from post 3.

Among the eight with whom Elrama N will contend are Ron Burke trainee Rufo, who has been first or second in four of his last five races in Pennsylvania, and Alberto Contador N, who arrives from Yonkers following a pair of strong closing bids. Rufo, a pillar-to-post winner at Pocono two back, figures well to be the pacesetter in this group after likewise nearly controlling the terms in a similar event at Harrah’s Philadelphia more recently. Joe Bongiorno drives the 7-2 second choice from post 4. Alberto Contador N could well be a factor from off the pace, noting his near miss at Yonkers in his last effort. Jim Marohn, Jr. drives the Darran Cassar trainee from post 6.

In terms of new additions to the driver colony, Tyler Smith will look to build momentum after his driving double last Thursday. The top-five Hoosier Park driver will drive in 12 of the night’s 13 races, including five starters at 6-1 or lower in the morning line. Smith will have company this week as Drew Monti arrives after capturing the Batavia Downs driving title. The 22-year-old Canisius College alumnus is slated to drive in seven races on the Friday program.

As usual, $105,000 in guaranteed Pick 4 and Pick 5 pools await players on- and off-track alike throughout the Friday card. Post time is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. Eastern.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Big Pick 5 Carryover Highlights Thursday Meadwlands

East Rutherford, NJ - Live racing returns to The Meadowlands on Thursday evening (Dec. 22) evening, and brings with it a $25,874.24 carryover buoying the Pick-5 sequence, which spans the first five races of the program. It is not unrealistic to expect the total to exceed six figures with new play added to the pool.

Get the jump on handicapping the carryover with free program pages courtesy of The Meadowlands and Trackmaster.

The entry box was overflowing for the Thursday and Friday card with right at 500 entries, affording Racing Secretary Pete Koch and his staff the chance to put together a deep and competitive twelve race puzzler.

New shooters 22 year old Drew Monti (just in from Batavia Downs) and 23 year old Tyler Smith (a top Hoosier Park driver) join a very young and hungry driver's colony featuring east coast based gunslingers like Marcus Miller, Joe Bongiorno and Vinny Ginsburg.

Brett Miller won an all-time Meadowlands record tying eight races last Friday and will join John Campbell, Andy Miller, Steve Smith and Jimmy Marohn, Jr representing the established core.

Speaking of drivers, the opener and first leg of the aforementioned Pick 5 is the GSY Amateur Series Winter Final where ten of the best in the division face off for a $12,500 purse. Hannah Miller's star has shone brightly in amateur completion over the past few seasons and she has a live mount here in Mark Ford's Dream Rocker.

Looking ahead, now's the time to make those dinner reservations for the gala New Year's Eve celebration in the track's tiered dining room Pink featuring a special buffet and fireworks after the races.

Racing again is confined to Thursday and Friday this week with Saturday Christmas Eve. Next week it's three live racing days; Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Post time is 7:15 p.m.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Meadowlands Races Toward 2017

East Rutherford, NJ - As the calendar turns to 2017 at The Meadowlands, the reasons are many to be optimistic about the future of harness racing's flagship racetrack. A total of 91 live Standardbred racing dates have been granted for the new calendar year, a slight increase over 2016.

While there's no denying that the defeat of the expanded gaming referendum was a disappointment to those directly and indirectly affected, The Meadowlands Racetrack remains committed to the long term future of horse racing at the facility. Meadowlands management will continue to endeavor to preserve jobs at the track and within the industry and do our very best to help protect green space.

Clearly, generating sufficient revenue to operate at the desired level and keep quality racing on the track is an ongoing problem. The purse account currently stands overpaid by more than $5 million. That issue required considerable contemplation, turning the tide of red ink while continuing to offer owners and horsemen the type of stakes program that is expected from The Meadowlands, done without the advantages of an alternative source of revenue. 

Rather than reduce the stakes as was originally proposed, Jeff Gural considered the remarkable optimism demonstrated by the buyers of yearlings at the major sales last fall and realized a vision of how to maintain the stakes program while holding the line on overnight purses.

He proposed that industry stakeholders share in the support of The Meadowlands stakes program by becoming stakes sponsors, contributing to help cover the nearly $5 million in added money for 2017 thus lightening the burden on the purse account. 

The response was overwhelmingly positive, with breeders, owners, drivers, trainers and veterinarians all answering the call. As a result, with that support The Meadowlands stakes program will continue virtually intact for 2017. All of the marquee open stakes remain on the schedule with the added money levels maintained largely on par with years past. 

An adjustment was made to stimulate nominations to the Mistletoe Shalee for three-year-old filly pacers, which has seen a steady decline in numbers. The payments were reduced by 25% while the added money remains at the same level.  

Without the cost of the Breeders Crown this year, The Meadowlands will add the $1.25 million Fall Final Four stakes for two-year-olds to the fall meet in November.

With the final touches currently being added to the informational ads, the entirety of the 2017 stakes information will be available on The Meadowlands website very soon.  

It is our hope that horsemen will support both the stakes and overnights with their entries this coming season to enable The Meadowlands to be the most popular betting product in the Standardbred world, as it has been for a generation.  

On the horizon is the hope of welcome relief from gaming. The fact is the as the citizens of Manhattan and Northern New Jersey continue their travel to game at Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut locations, Atlantic City continues to decline. As more casinos open in PA and eventually down state New York, voters will recognize the importance of a casino in Northern NJ and the prospect of adding what Meadowlands Chairman Jeff Gural estimates to be $500 million in annual tax revenue to New Jersey coffers.  

When that day comes, the forecast for harness racing at The Meadowlands immediately becomes bright and sunny.

2016 O’Brien Finalists Announced

On Tuesday, December 20, Standardbred Canada announced the finalists for the 2016 O’Brien Awards, which honour Canada’s best in harness racing over the past season.

The winners will be announced at the annual O’Brien Awards Black Tie Gala on Saturday, January 28, 2017 at the Hilton Mississauga / Meadowvale Hotel in Mississauga, Ont.

This will be the 28th edition of the O’Brien Awards, named in honour of the late Joe O’Brien, an outstanding horseman and member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

Twelve past O’Brien Award winners are looking to add to their trophy collections and are either defending titles or are nominated in a new division. Past winners include Caprice Hill, Flanagan Memory, L A Delight, Lady Shadow and Solar Sister in the horse categories as well as Casie Coleman, Travis Cullen, Sylvain Filion, Richard Moreau,  Rick Zeron, the partnership of Marvin Katz & Al Libfeld, and Seelster Farms.

In the driver of the year category, Sylvain Filion, the leading money-earning driver so far this year, is up against Bob McClure, the leading dash-winning driver to date.  

Filion, a resident of Milton, Ont., won this award in 2012, 2013 and 2015.  He’s driven 310 winners and leads all Canadian drivers in the earnings column with more than $7.7 million.  He was the regular driver for a trio of O’Brien finalists -- Beyond Delight, Emoticon Hanover and Yaris Bayama.

Bob McClure of Elora, Ont., receives his first O’Brien Award nomination and is en route to a career best year. McClure leads all Canadian drivers in the wins column with 561 victories and has driven horses to more than $2.9 million in earnings.  McClure is the leading reinsman at Flamboro Downs, sits in second at The Raceway at the Western Fair District, and won the dash winning titles at Georgian Downs and Grand River Raceway.

Casie Coleman and Richard Moreau, two of Canada’s top trainers will see if they can add to their respective O’Brien collections.

Casie Coleman of Cambridge, Ont., reduced her stable size this year to focus on her stakes performers.  She conditioned 53 winners and horses who earned more than $2.8 million, including stable star and O’Brien finalist, Betting Line, a winner of $1.7 million, who also added North America Cup and Little Brown Jug victories to Coleman’s 2016 accolades. Coleman is looking for her sixth Trainer of the Year title.

Richard Moreau, of Puslinch, Ont., is the defending Trainer of the Year and is looking to take home his fourth consecutive O’Brien bronze.   Moreau, who has been a regular on the Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) circuit for over 12 years, leads all Canadian trainers in the wins column with 249 wins to his credit and has trained the winners of nearly $4.0 million.

Travis Cullen, who relocated to Rockton, Ont., from Airdrie, Alta. near the end of September, and Rick Zeron, of Oakville, Ont., are the two finalists for the O’Brien Award of Horsemanship.  

Cullen was nominated in this category last year and won an O’Brien in 2013 as Canada’s Future Star winner.  This past year Cullen has driven 239 winners and horses to $1.3 million in purse earnings while training 215 winners and horses to $1.2 million in earnings.  He was both the leading trainer and driver at Century Downs this past season.

Veteran horseman Rick Zeron continues to successfully compete as a trainer and driver on the Woodbine Entertainment circuit.  This year he’s driven 116 winners and horses to $2.6 million in purse earnings, while training 49 winners and horses to $1.7 million in earnings.  Two of his trainees are O’Brien Award finalists -– two-year-old trotting colt Mass Production, and Older Pacing Horse Shamballa.

Idyllic Beach and Yaris Bayama are the nominees in the two-year-old pacing filly division.

Idyllic Beach hit the board in all of her 14 races, boasted eight wins and almost $730,000 in purse earnings. Major stakes wins for the Somebeachsomewhere filly included the Shes A Great Lady elimination and final at Mohawk Racetrack, along with the Kentuckiana Stakes at Hoosier Park, and the International Stallion Stake at The Red Mile.  

Yaris Bayama, a homebred who won half of her 10 starts and purses exceeding $231,000, posted a mark of 1:52.4 in an Ontario Sires Stakes Gold event at Mohawk.  The Sportswriter filly had three Ontario Sires Stakes victories, including the season-ending Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final.

Beyond Delight and Sports Column are the two-year-old pacing colt finalists.
The Bettors Delight colt Beyond Delight won three of 11 races and more than $423,000 for his connections.  His three wins were major ones as he swept the elimination and final of the Metro and won a division of the Champlain Stakes, all at Mohawk Racetrack.

The Sportswriter colt Sports Column finished 1-2 in all six season starts for $222,000 in earnings.  Victories included a sweep of the Battle of Waterloo elimination and final and two Ontario Sires Stakes events including one in July at Mohawk where the $20,000 yearling purchase posted a season’s best 1:52.1.

L A Delight and Pure Country compete for O’Brien honours in the sophomore pacing filly category.

L A Delight, an O’Brien champion at two, put together another stellar season as a sophomore, winning nine races in 19 starts and more than $787,000.  She was perfect in the Ontario Sires Stakes events, sweeping six of six, including the season-ending Super Final.  She posted a life’s best 1:49.1 in winning the Nadia Lobell at The Meadows.

Pure Country, a homebred daughter of Somebeachsomewhere scored 10 wins and bankrolled more than $1.1 million in her sophomore season to top the earnings chart in her division.  She scored many stakes victories on both sides of the border and her richest payday of the season came in winning the Fan Hanover at Mohawk Racetrack in 1:49.3.

Millionaires Betting Line and Racing Hill enjoyed incredible seasons and earned nominations in the three-year-old pacing colt division.

Betting Line finished the season with 14 wins and a second in 15 season starts to go along with almost $1.7 million in earnings.  The Bettors Delight colt’s victories included the $1-million Pepsi North America Cup, the Battle of the Brandywine, the Milstein Memorial, the Little Brown Jug, the Simcoe Stakes, and a sweep of all of his Ontario Sires Stakes races, including his OSS Super Final.

Racing Hill hit the board in 14 of 16 races and racked up more than $1.6 million in earnings during a season that saw victories in the Hempt, the Adios elimination and final, the Messenger, the Tattersalls and the Breeders Crown Championship.

Lady Shadow and Solar Sister are the Older Pacing Mare finalists.

Lady Shadow is up for her second consecutive O’Brien Award in the Older Pacing Mare category. She put together another profitable season with 12 victories and more than $945,000 in earnings.  She was strong throughout the season, sweeping the elimination and final of the Roses Are Red, the Milton Stakes, and the elimination and final of the Breeders Crown before capping her year with a win in the TVG FFA at The Meadowlands.

Solar Sister put together a solid season, winning four of 17 and more than $400,000. She took a mark of 1:49.4 in winning the Artiscape at Tioga Downs, which was also her biggest payday of the season.

The Older Pacing Horse pool always runs deep, and this year’s two finalists, Shamballa and Wiggle It Jiggleit were at the top of their game in 2016.

Shamballa boasted 11 top-three finishes in 19 starts for almost $440,000 in purse money.  He took a mark of 1:47.1 in winning the US Pacing Championship and also picked up cheques in many stakes engagements.

Wiggle It Jiggleit, the sport’s richest harness horse this year with $1.8 million bankrolled, never finished worse than third in his 24 races which included 15 wins and a mark of 1:47.2 posted in the Graduate Final at The Meadowlands.  The multiple stakes winner captured Canada’s oldest stakes event, The Canadian Pacing Derby at Mohawk Racetrack and also secured runner-up finishes in the Prix d'Été and Confederation Cup on Canadian soil.

On the trotting side, Ariana G and Magic Presto are the two-year-old filly nominees.

The Muscle Hill filly Ariana G won nine of 11 races and earned $804,245 during her rookie campaign which included stakes wins in the Breeders Crown, Jim Doherty Memorial, Peaceful Way elimination and final, and New Jersey Sire Stakes Championship.

Magic Presto won four of nine races and netted more than $393,000 with wins in three Ontario Sires Stakes events.  The daughter of Kadabra’s richest payday came in her final start of the season on November 19 when she trotted to a dominating win in the Goldsmith Maid at Woodbine Racetrack and collected $223,500 for her efforts.

The Muscle Mass colt, Mass Production, won five of nine races and more than $285,000 during his rookie campaign,  earning him a nomination in the two-year-old trotting colt division.  His victories included four Ontario Sires Stakes wins highlighted by a season’s best 1:54.4 stakes record effort in the OSS Super Final.
Seven And Seven, a son of Chapter Seven, is the other finalist and recorded four wins in eight races along with over $226,000 in earnings.  His stakes wins included an elimination and final of the Define The World, along with a sweep of the elimination and final of the William Wellwood Memorial where he posted a season’s mark of 1:55.3.

Two talented Kadabra fillies are finalists in the sophomore trotting filly division.
Caprice Hill, an O’Brien champion at two, put together another profitable campaign in 2016, with eight wins in 15 starts and purses in excess of $630,000 for her connections.  She won three of four Ontario Sires Stakes events, the Casual Breeze, Simcoe Stakes and was runner-up in the Hambletonian Oaks.

Emoticon Hanover, won seven of 15 races and $604,000 while posting a mark of 1:53.1 in winning the OSS Super Final at Mohawk.  She won four of six Ontario Sires Stakes events and also scored wins in divisions of the Simcoe and Casual Breeze.  She ended her season with solid runner-up finishes in the elimination and final of the Breeders Crown.

Millionaires Bar Hopping and Marion Marauder will compete for O’Brien hardware in the three-year-old trotting colt division.

The Muscle Hill colt Bar Hopping won nine of 19 races and more than $1.2 million in his three-year-old season, taking a mark of 1:51.4 at The Meadowlands.  He won several major stakes, including a sweep of the Canadian Trotting Classic and the elimination and final of the Breeders Crown.

Marion Marauder, a winner of 10 of 15 starts, became the ninth Trotting Triple Crown winner in 2016 –- and first since 2006 –- by sweeping the Hambletonian, Yonkers Trot, and Kentucky Futurity.  The son of Muscle Hill won the Goodtimes Stakes and a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial en route to a season that amassed more than $1.5 million in purses, topping the North American earnings charts for all trotters.

Charmed Life and Hannelore Hanover were voted the Older Trotting Mare finalists. Charmed Life scored 15 top-three finishes in 24 races which included four wins along with $185,000-plus in earnings.  She was a top preferred campaigner and placed in a handful of stakes events.

Hannelore Hanover won 17 of 20 races and earned $1.1 million in purses, leading all female trotters in earnings. Her victories included the Breeders Crown Mare Trot and the Hambletonian Maturity, where she defeated male rivals. She also beat the boys in the Centaur Trotting Classic in addition to winning the Armbro Flight Stakes, TVG Series championship for female trotters, Fresh Yankee, Muscle Hill, and Miami Valley Distaff. Her mile time of 1:51 in winning the Armbro Flight equaled the world record for a four-year-old trotting mare.

Flanagan Memory and Musical Rhythm are the Older Trotting Horse finalists.

Flanagan Memory, a six-year-old son of Kadabra won six of 14 races including the Allerage, and the Breeders Crown Championship, and banked more than $663,000.

Musical Rhythm won 12 of 21 starts and purses exceeding $361,000.  He swept both the General Brock Trotting Series and the Don Mills Trotting Series and also won two legs of the Graduate during his four-year-old campaign.

In the Armstrong Breeder of the Year category, Marvin Katz (of Toronto, Ont.) and Al Libfeld (of Pickering, Ont.) will be looking to defend their title against Seelster Farms, who won this award in 2006 and 2013.

What started as a partnership that focused on buying yearlings and racing horses has evolved into one of harness racing's most respected breeding enterprises for Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld. Horses bred by this partnership won 29 races and purses in excess of $1.3 million this season.  Their top horses were O’Brien finalist Ariana G, Princess Aurora and O Narutac Perfecto.

Seelster Farms of Lucan, Ont., Canada’s largest commercial breeder,  had horses that won 293 races and more than $3 million this past season.  Their top performers were Mayhem Seelster, Nirvana Seelster and Tessa Seelster.

The Future Star Award finalists are Brett MacDonald of Embrun, Ont. and Louis Philippe Roy of Mont-Joli, Que.

In just his second season of full-time driving, Brett MacDonald competes regularly at Rideau Carleton Raceway and has driven 100 winners and horses to nearly $500,000 in purse money.  MacDonald finished second in the Quebec / Eastern Ontario Regional Driving Championship to earn his way into the National Driving Championship where he managed a solid fifth place finish.

The 2016 season marked the third year that Louis Philippe Roy drove in 100-plus races and he put together some phenomenal numbers, winning 233 races and driving horses to earnings of more than $1 million.  Roy was the leading dash-winning  driver at Hippodrome 3R and currently tops the charts for wins at Rideau Carleton Raceway.

One of the 24 horse nominees will be honoured as Canada’s Horse of the Year. The winners will be announced at the O’Brien Awards Gala on Saturday, January 28, 2017, at the Hilton Mississauga / Meadowvale Hotel in Mississauga, Ontario.

Here is a complete list of nominees and their respective owners:
2016 O’Brien Award Nominees
Two-Year-Old Filly Pacer
Idyllic Beach
Owned by Christina Takter, East Windsor, NJ – John Fielding, Toronto, ON – Brixton Medical Inc., Matawan, NJ and Marvin Katz, Toronto, ON
Yaris Bayama
Owned by Bayama Farms Inc., Saint-Andre-D’Argenteuil, QC
Two-Year-Old Colt Pacer
Beyond Delight
Owned by Jeffrey Snyder, Michael Snyder, New York, NY and Four Friends Racing Stable LLC, Moorestown, NJ
Sports Column
Owned by Hutt Racing Stable, Paoli, PA –Blake MacIntosh, Cambridge, ON –Daniel Plouffe, Bromont, QC
Three-Year-Old Filly Pacer
L A Delight
Owned by Robert McIntosh Stables Inc., Windsor, ON – CSX Stables, Liberty Center, OH, and Al McIntosh Holdings, Inc., Leamington, ON
Pure Country
Owned by Diamond Creek Racing, Wellsville, PA
Three-Year-Old Colt Pacer
Betting Line
Owned by West Wins Stable, Cambridge, ON, Christine Calhoun, Chatham, ON and Mac Nichol, Burlington, ON
Racing Hill
Owned by Tom Hill, Hamilton, ON
Older Pacing Mare
Lady Shadow
Owned by David Kryway, Amherstburg, ON, Carl Atley, Xenia, OH, Ed Gold, Phoenixville, PA and BFJ Stable, Philadelphia, PA
Solar Sister
Owned by David Willmot, King City, ON & Clay Horner, Toronto, ON
Older Pacing Horse
Owned by Rick Zeron Stables, Oakville, ON – Tao Racing LLC, Pompano Beach, FL –Howard Taylor, Philadelphia, PA – Cool Cat Racing Inc., Flemington, NJ
Wiggle It Jiggleit
Owned by George Teague Jr Inc., Harrington DE – Teague Racing Partnership, Boynton Beach, FL
Two-Year-Old Filly Trotter
Ariana G
Owned by Marvin Katz, Toronto, ON & Al Libfeld, Pickering, ON
Magic Presto
Owned by Melvin Hartman, Ottawa, ON – Herb Liverman, Miami Beach – David Mc Duffee, Delray Beach, FL – Little E LLC, New York, NY
Two-Year-Old Colt Trotter
Mass Production
Owned by Rick Zeron Stables, Oakville, ON- James Walker, Port Perry, ON- Bruno Dipoce, Wasaga Beach, ON and Rene Allard, Matamoras, PA
Seven And Seven
Owned by June Durand- Tom Durand, Puslinch, ON & Allan Smith, Oakville, ON
Three-Year-Old Filly Trotter
Caprice Hill
Owned by Tom Hill, Hamilton, ON
Emoticon Hanover
Owned by Determination, Montreal, QC
Three-Year-Old Colt Trotter
Bar Hopping
Owned by Christina Takter, East Windsor, NJ- Hatfield Stables, Columbus, OH – Marvin Katz, Toronto, ON & Al Libfeld, Pickering, ON

Marion Marauder
Owned by Marion Jean Wellwood, Stratford, ON & Devin Keeling, Cambridge, ON
Older Trotting Mare
Charmed Life
Owned by Allard Racing Inc., Saint-Esprit – Yves Sarrazin, La Presentation, QC-VIP Internet Stable LLC, Piscataway, NJ
Hannelore Hanover
Owned by Burke Racing Stable LLC, Fredericktown – Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Canonsburg, PA – Frank Baldachino, Clarksburg, NJ – J And T Silva Stables LLC, Long Beach, NY

Older Trotting Horse
Flanagan Memory
Owned by Liette Flanagan, Repentigny – Rene Dion, Saint-Lazare, QC
Musical Rhythm
Owned by Santo Vena, Brampton – Nunzio Vena, Bolton, ON – Claude Hamel, Ayer’s Cliff, QC – Ben Baillargeon, Guelph, ON
People Awards
O’Brien Award of Horsemanship
Travis Cullen, Rockton, ON
Rick Zeron, Oakville, ON
Armstrong Breeder of the Year
Marvin Katz, Toronto, ON / Al Libfeld, Pickering, ON
Seelster Farms, Lucan, ON
Driver of the Year
Sylvain Filion, Milton, ON
Bob McClure, Elora, ON
Trainer of the Year
Casie Coleman, Cambridge, ON
Richard Moreau, Puslinch, ON
Future Star Award
Brett MacDonald, Embrun, ON

Louis Philippe Roy, Mont-Joli, QC