loving position with El Azteca
Friday, February 27th, 2015 - Mark Ratzky, publicity – Cal Expo Harness
After being saddled with the demanding No. 10 position in recent weeks, El Azteca does his work from the 4 slot in Sunday’s featured Stan Bergstein Trot
That sits just right with his regular chauffeur James Kennedy, who has established himself as one of the top drivers at Cal Expo and has formed a fine partnership with this outstanding trotter at this meeting.
Despite having that 10 post handicap in his last three appearances, James has guided the Marco Rios colorbearer to two wins and a nose loss, making him look awfully tough over this weekend’s level playing field.
“Having the 10 hole is very tough, because you have so much extra ground to cover,” Kennedy said. “The drivers watch you at the start, and if you leave they try to torture you, and if you take back they do their best to slow it up.”
James no doubt realizes this because he has certainly had occasion to be on the other side of the equation, driving a horse who leaves from the inside with a horse or even two being assigned far outside draws.
“This is definitely the best trotter I’ve ever driven and I want to thank Marco for giving me the chance with him at the start of the meeting,” Kennedy continued. “He tried to make a couple of breaks earlier on, but he’s been perfect since and a real pleasure to drive. He’s a Cadillac out there.”
The bettors are likely to make El Azteca a solid favorite once again in the Bergstein and his driver shares that confidence. “I wouldn’t trade places with anybody, even if he we had the 10 post.”
Stan Bergstein Trot brings out El Azteca
The $10,000 Stan Bergstein Trot, which will feature the likes of El Azteca, Its Not Over and A Crown For Lindy, headlines Sunday night’s Watch and Wager LLC program at Cal Expo.
There will be 12 races and first post is 4:55 p.m. The Bergstein goes as the fifth event and there will also be a pair of $10,000 California Sire Stakes that will be decided as non-betting events prior to the regular card.
El Azteca is strictly the one to beat in the Bergstein for owner/breeder/trainer Marco Rios and pilot James Kennedy. He comes into this assignment with $141,000 in his bank account and a 1:54 2/5 mark that was set last season over the seven-eights Hoosier Park oval.
The 6-year-old son of Panama Hanover won his first four starts this season, with two of those victories coming from the assigned No. 10 post position, then came up a nose shy at most recent asking while again doing his work from the demanding slot.
El Azteca has proven that he can get the job done up front, from a tracking position or from the back of the pack and without the handicap of that 10 post on Sunday, is certainly the one to fear most with Kennedy back in the bike.
Taking him on are Brussel Sprout from the Ray Burt shedrow; the Luke Plano-trained Winsom Kelly; Flight Of The Kiwi from the Marc Winacott barn; the Bob Johnson-conditioned Its Not Over and A Crown For Lindy, who takes his lessons from Gene Vallandingham.
A reminder there are four wagers offered each night that come with a reduced 16% 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 comes with a $25,000-guaranteed pool.
Bergstein remembered with races at Cal Expo
Thursday, February 26th, 2015 - Mark Ratzky, publicity – Cal Expo Harness
Lloyd Arnold and Stan Bergstein, two legendary figures in harness racing, have races named in their honor this weekend at Cal Expo. The Lloyd Arnold Pace is set for Saturday night and the Stan Bergstein Trot is the feature on Sunday.
Lloyd Arnold was an owner and track operator of the highest caliber. He passed away in 2012 at the age of 83. Originally the owner of Arnold Cattle Co. in Iowa, Mr. Arnold raced hundreds of horses in Illinois and across the Midwest throughout the 1960s and early 1970s.
During that era, Mr. Arnold raced horses like Warm Breeze, who earned more than $250,000 in two seasons of racing in the mid-1970s, and Dancing David, who earned more than $200,000 in the 1960s. Warm Breeze took Mr. Arnold to racing’s pinnacle for the first time when he set the all-age world record at over this track, then known as Golden Bear Raceway.
His top horses in later years included the pacing mare Sanabelle Island, who earned $1.6 million lifetime and won 57 of 110 starts. Also of note was Bagel Beach Boy, who won the 2001 Messenger and Matron stakes.
In August 2003, Mr. Arnold bought Chevie Duramax, who then went on to set world records for 2-year-old pacing geldings on both mile and half-mile tracks. The fastest 3-year-old pacer in North America in 2004 belonged to Mr. Arnold as Quik Pulse Mindale won in 1:48 at Balmoral.
In addition to being a prominent standardbred owner, Mr. Arnold operated this track during those Golden Bear Raceway years and also bought Los Alamitos in the late 1980s, eventually selling the track to his partner, Ed Allred.
Mr. Arnold was inducted into the California Harness Hall of Fame in April of 2008. He also enjoyed personal honors in 2001 when he was feted by the Delaware Sportswriters and Broadcasters at their annual awards dinner and received the Owner of the Year Award from the U.S. Harness Writers' Association.
Chris Bardis said, “Harness Racing was one of Lloyd's great passions. He accomplished so much for the sport not only in California, but nationwide. He was ‘Mr. Harness Racing’.
“He conducted race meetings at Cal Expo, Bay Meadows, Golden Gate Fields, Del Mar, Pomona, Hollywood Park and Los Alamitos. I know of no one else who has had a greater impact on the harness world.”
Sunday’s Stan Bergstein Trot is named for the legendary figure in harness racing who passed away in 2011 at the age of 87.
Mr. Bergstein was a harness-racing titan who advocated for cooperation between the Standardbred and Thoroughbred industries to solve the sports' common problems.
He stepped down in 2011 after 50 years as the executive vice president of Harness Tracks of America, the Standardbred industry's trade association. He was immediately appointed as the organization's first executive emeritus, and continued to advise the association and write guest columns for the Daily Racing Form until the weeks before his death.
The only person to ever be inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame and its Communicators Hall of Fame, Mr. Bergstein worked in a wide variety of roles at racetracks, auction houses, announcer's booths, and racing publications, and he maintained extensive collections of harness-racing books and artwork.
He was widely respected not only in the harness industry, but also in the Thoroughbred industry, and he served as a mentor to generations of young racing professionals through a close association with the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program, located in Tucson, for the past 40 years.
Mr. Bergstein was a forceful proponent of forging closer ties between the Standardbred and Thoroughbred industries, most notably in tackling medication abuse and problems with drug-testing. In dozens of commentaries, Bergstein maintained that the Standardbred industry's problems were, or would be those of the Thoroughbred industry, and that neglect of a problem in one sport would damage the other.
Bergstein borrowed from the Thoroughbred industry early in his career, incorporating claiming races as a racing secretary while working at the Chicago tracks in the 1950's. At the time, the harness racing industry did not run claiming races, and they are now as commonplace in Standardbred racing as they are in Thoroughbred racing Bergstein also spearheaded the creation of Standardbred Investigative Services, a security agency modeled on the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau.
A native of Illinois, Bergstein attended harness races as a young man and received a journalism degree from Northwestern University. He was the former executive editor of Hoof Beats magazine, and the former vice president of publicity and public relations for the United States Trotting Association.
Cal Expo trackman/program director Marty Bridges credits Stan Bergstein with bringing him into harness racing as a profession.
“After college and two years in the Army, I was employed by the small business association. At night, after work, I was a regular patron at Sportsman’s Park and Maywood in Chicago.
“My supervisor, a former sportswriter for the Chicago Daily News, knew of my interest and called Stan to set up a meeting. Surprisingly, I was to meet him at Du Quoin on Hambletonian Day. Watching Stan call the races from a slightly elevated booth on the infield adjacent to the finish line was thrilling and between races we talked about racing, horses, drivers and trainers.
“His knowledge of the sport was amazing and I had never met anyone like him, and still haven’t. He introduced me to John Tinsley, the program director for all the Chicago tracks and John hired me on the spot. It’s been a great ride, doing something I love.”
Gene Vallandingham first met Stan Bergstein in 1959 when he was working for the legendary Joe O’Brien.
“Stan came to Joe’s farm every spring for the annual Camptown racing weekend, when all of Shafter would be there for a day of racing. Stan was the true voice of harness racing, he was liked by all and I miss him.”
Chris Schick said, "Stan was foremost a kind and compassionate person. He was a true visionary in the harness racing industry. In 1979 well before simulcasting, he so rightly stated the future of the industry was in how well we brought the product to the public. He was also very vocal of the industry for being reluctant to embrace change. Our industry lost a giant when he passed.”
Arnold Pace, Sire Stakes, Jackpot 6 spotlighted
The $10,000 Lloyd Arnold Free-for-all Pace, a pair of $10,000 California Sire Stakes and a $48,130 carryover in the Jackpot 6 are among the main attractions Saturday night at Cal Expo.
A 14-race card is on tap under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with first post set for 6:10 p.m. The Jackpot 6 is one of four wagers on the program that feature a reduced 16% takeout rate.
The others are the Hi-5, which like the Jackpot 6 is a 10-cent minimum bet; the 50-cent Pick 5; and the 20-cent Pick 4, which comes with a $25,000-guaranteed pool.
Looking at the Arnold Pace, China King is fresh from a 22-1 upset in last week’s Open when he hung a narrow decision on heavily-favored Pancetta in a 1:52 1/5 mile He drew the outside post in the field of seven.
A 7-year-old American Ideal gelding who carries the banner of Gary and Jen Sabot with Gene Vallandingham training and Steve Wiseman in the sulky, he went-to-coast to capture the January 17 Open at 19-1, then came back last time to score from a tracking position at another nice price.
Taking him are Pointsman, who gives the Vallandingham barn two looks at the outcome; Rusty Skipp and J C Onthebeach for conditioner Ray Burt; Alligator Falls from the Sal Wenceslao shedrow; the Junior Wilkinson-trained A Real Miracle; and Love Live Laugh for trainer Denise Maier.
Uringoodhands and Hi Ho’s Little Rev have dominated the sophomore pacing colts Sire Stakes to this point and get another chance to settle the score on Saturday, while Placer gets top billing in the stakes gathering for the 4-year-old trotters.