The California Harness
The 2015Annual Membership Meeting
Cordially invites you to attend
Sunday, March 29, 2015
The 2015Annual Membership
Cal Expo Clubhouse
K D Nicol
gives Willey winning effort
Friday, March 27th, 2015 - Mark Ratzky, publicity – Cal Expo Harness
It had been some time between drinks for the trotter K D Nicol when he suited up for owner/trainer Keith Willey and pilot Tim Maier last weekend, but the 9-year-old came through with his first victory of the year and lowered his mark to 1:58 2/5 in the process.
“K D Nicol was named in honor of our good friend Nicol Trembaly, who passed away the same year this horse was born,” related Willey. “Earlier in his career, he came with throat problems, so we had surgery done.
“The first time did not do the job, so we did it again and that time it was successful. Next came the problem of getting him to finish down the stretch, as he had gotten into the habit of giving up due to his breathing problems.”
While he hadn’t reached the winner’s circle in nine starts on the year, K D Nicol had been dropping some hints and a class drop and cozy rail draw put him over the top last Saturday night.
“This year, Patrick Galbraith did a good job of getting him to finish and he started picking up some checks,” Keith continued. “When Patrick left to take care of some family matters, we turned to Tim, who has been giving him some very aggressive drives.”
In that last assignment, K D Nicol made a strong brush at the quarter to take command past the half, showed the way to the lane with a clear advantage and didn’t give an inch while returning $16 to his backers.
“We felt that he had been racing well and with the right post and trip, he would be able to pull it off. Tim gave him the perfect drive and he was able to hang on down the stretch. I always felt he was better than what he was showing and here’s hoping he can continue.”
Program features Sire Stakes, Distaff Open Pace
A pair of $10,000 California Sire Stakes, including a very contentious event for the sophomore pacing fillies; and a Distaff Open Pace will be the highlights on Sunday evening’s program at Cal Expo under the Watch and Wager LLC banner.
There are 11 races scheduled with a first post of 4:55 p.m. The Distaff Open is the 3rd event on the card, while the Sire Stakes for pacing fillies is the 5th event on the evening and the Sire Stakes for the trotters will be a non-betting affair prior to the regular program.
The five Sire Stakes events for the sophomore pacing fillies have resulted in four different winners, with Smash being the one with two trophies on her mantle. The Little Steven homebred races for Junior Wilkinson and Billie Schwartz with Wilkinson the conditioner and Luke Plano in his usual spot in the bike.
After finishing second in the first stakes clash back on January 18 and missing the next one due to a sick scratch, Smash accounted for the February 15 and March 1 big-money clashes in sharp style, setting her 1:56 1/5 mark in the latter event. She had to settle for third as the 3-5 choice in the most recent stakes gathering two weeks ago.
It was Speak English who got the job done that evening at 15-1 while making her debut for owner/breeder Frank Nevarez, trainer Gordie Graham and driver Tim Maier. She rallied from last to win going away by two and three-quarter lengths in an impressive unveiling. Rounding out the line-up are Little Cher Amio, Pips Valentina, Avila Beach and Hold For Gold.
Sandy’s Song has made a clean sweep of the Sire Stakes for the 3-year-old trotters, dominating her rivals on each occasion. Henry Wieseneck owns, Bob Johnson trains and Steve Wiseman has guided the bay miss to all her victories. Taking her on are Zoeys Delight, Jk Journey and Cadet.
Next week will find the trotters and pacers in action on Friday and Saturday night, April 3 and 4, with no racing Easter Sunday. The following week racing returns to the Saturday and Sunday schedule.
Kennedy’s resolve rewarded with first victory
Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - Mark Ratzky, publicity – Cal Expo Harness
Mark Kennedy admits that when he was not in a good place at the end of 2013, but a 2014 New Year’s resolution got him back on track and it all came together when he drove his first winner here last Saturday night.
Mark is a 31-year-old Colorado native who has a harness pedigree – his father is longtime horseman Earl Kennedy and his brother James is one of the top driver/trainers on the grounds. “We’re a very close family and I’ve been around the sport all my life,” he said.
While Mark had done a lot of grooming and eventually assistant training, events had kept him from his dream of being a harness driver until 2014 rolled around and he made his mind up to change his life. “I really did it for my daughter Kinsey and my son Colten, to show them that you can accomplish what you dream,” Kennedy explained.
The first part of the plan found Mark going back to Pennsylvania and working with Lou Pena, which gave him the chance to be around some very nice horses while getting some excellent first-hand experience.
“I got my qualifying license last fall, just before I came back to California, and it was thanks to my dad, my brother, Mark Eaton and Gene Vallandingham that I got the chance to get in those qualifying drives.”
Mark received his ‘P’ driving license on March 1 and three weeks later was posing for pictures with Fox Valley Largo in his sixth lifetime trip to the post. It was a family affair, with Earl owning the 11-year-old and James doing the training. “It was the resolution I made coming true,” Kennedy noted. “I felt great and it was like a great stress had been lifted from me. It was everything I thought it would be.”
Sire Stakes, Open Pace command the spotlight
A $10,000 California Sire Stakes for 3-year-old pacing colts featuring Uringoodhands and Hi Ho’s Little Rev and an Open Pace headed by St Lads Lotto top Saturday night’s Watch and Wager LLC program at Cal Expo.
A 12-race card is on tap with first post set at 6:10 p.m. There will be Saturday and Sunday racing this week, with the trotters and pacers in action on Friday and Saturday night next week, April 3 and 4, with no racing on Easter Sunday.
Uringoodhands is a homebred son of Kent’s On Nuke out of the Surmo Hanover mare Sparks Will Fly who is owned by Mark Anderson, hails from the Gordie Graham barn and will once again have the services of James Kennedy.
The dark-hued performer has captured four of the five stakes races decided for the division, with his lone setback being a neck loss to Hi Ho’s Little Rev in their January 31 meeting. Uringoodhands has made every pole a winning in the three subsequent Sire Stakes, with Hi Ho’s Little Rev checking in second in each of those races.
The latter is a son of Hi Ho Silverheel’s who carries the banner of Vanessa Gilliam with Bob Johnson training and Mooney Svendsen at the controls. He was runner-up to Uringoodhands in the first stakes gathering on January 17, hung that neck decision on him in the next match-up, and has finished second in the last three big-money match-ups. Laissezmoipicoler, Devil’s Rein, Loci Machette Man, Sounion and Musician complete the field.
There are four wagers on the program that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate. They are the Jackpot 6 and Hi-5, which are 10-cent minimum bets; the 50-cent Pick 5; and the 20-cent Pick 4, which has a $25,000-guaranteed pool as part of the USTA Strategic Wagering Program.
Last Saturday night there was one perfect Jackpot 6 ticket returning $65,456, not a bad return for a dime investment.