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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Cal Expo Saturday Advance

All in the name for Junior Rocks
By Mark Ratzky, publicity – Cal Expo Harness

We had a suspicion that Junior Rocks might be named for trainer Jim (Junior) Wilkinson, and it was confirmed last weekend by co-owner Billie Schwartz after the 4-year-old pacer made his second straight trip to the winner’s circle with James Kennedy doing the honors.

Junior Rocks was proving a punctual 4-5 favorite that night while posing for pictures for the fifth time this season from eight trips to the post for Schwartz, Wilkinson and Ivan Axelrod.

Billie explained, “Ivan and I felt that Junior did such a bang up job in Indiana for us with A Real Miracle, Clara Bea and Tony Cheesecake, we thought it would be a great way to honor him by changing the name of a yearling we purchased at auction as a surprise gift.

“It was a way to let him know how we felt about him as a trainer and how much we liked having him as a trainer and partner.”

Schwartz admits that things didn’t work out so well at first with Junior Rocks, but he seems to be hitting his best stride now, establishing his 1:55 1/5 mark with his January 28 score.

“We felt badly when he didn't quite perform the way we expected, but now the name befits him,” she said. “He grew into it and we couldn't be more pleased.”

Featured Pace brings out contentious cast

There are several ways to go in Saturday night’s main event at Cal Expo, with class droppers I’m An Athlete, Fly Away and One And Only taking on multiple Sire Stakes hero Allmyx’sliventexas.

Watch and Wager LLC will present 12 races on Saturday and the action is set to get under way at 6:10 pm. The headliner is the fifth race and there will be two California Sire Stakes for the 3-year-old pacers going as non-betting races prior to the regular card.

I’m An Athlete figures to appreciate the class relief this weekend and will be looking to make amends after being the beaten favorite in his last three appearances. The 7-year-old son of Art Major is owned by Ronald Rettig-Zucchi and is reined and trained by James Kennedy.

I’m Athlete won nine times last year from 35 starts and established his 1:51 2/5 career standard over this layout in the process. He figures to be a major player Saturday evening no matter how things shake out early.

Fly Away had a troubled trip in last week’s Open II clash and was a sharp winner in his previous outing on the barn change. Scott Ehrlich and George McCrystal own, Kathleen Plested trains and Steve Wiseman will once again do the honors from the outside slot.

One And Only has gone some huge races over this track in the past for trainer Lino Pacheco, while the Bob Johnson-conditioned Allmyx’sliventexas has dominated the 4-year-old Sire Stakes ranks, including a 1:51 4/5 tally over a “good” track on February 4.

Completing the field are Fly Away’s barnmate Lodi Machete Man; the Luke Plano trained-and-driven Mint To Cruise; and the Steve Nichols-trained, William Hernandez-guided Fire On The Water.