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East-West Amateur Driver Challenge This Weekend At Cal Expo
Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - by Mark Ratzky, Publicity – Cal Expo

Friday (April 15) and Saturday night (April 16) at Cal Expo will see the renewal of the popular TVG East-West Amateur Driver Challenge, with the local team of Robert Stepien, Rick Bertrand, Chris Hernandez and David Siegel taking on the Eastern contingent of Jamie Marra, Laura Mac Namara, Simeon Hunsdon and Steve Oldford.

In two weeks, on April 29 and 30, a group of New Zealand drivers will be invading Sacramento for the Down Under Friendship Challenge, which will add a Kiwi flavor to the proceedings and should prove to be very interesting.
 
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Last weekend saw the first round of Sire Stakes action for the 3-year-olds, and Shamderock picked up right where he left off last season with a dominating 14-length decision over the pacing colts for owner/breeders D&E Racing Inc. and driver/trainer Rick Plano.  The bay performer swept last year’s four big-money events in similar facile fashion.

Speaking of multiple stakes-winning pacers under the D&E Racing/Plano banner, Pacinello turned up in a qualifier last week and had a useful 1:57.2 spin.  He hasn’t seen action since last September at Vernon Downs.   A 5-year-old son of Little Steven, Pacinello was an ace here during his Sire Stakes days.  He has accounted for 20 of his 56 lifetime appearances with a $245,000 bankroll and a 1:50.2 standard that was established last year at the Meadowlands.

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Beginning this Thursday night (April 14) and for the next four weeks, the Thursday Late Pick 4 will have a $10,000 guaranteed gross pool and both the Early and Late Pick 4’s on Thursday will feature a reduced 15 percent takeout.

On Saturday nights, the guaranteed gross pool for the Late Pick 4 has been increased to $15,000.  Both the Early and Late Pick 4's on Saturdays have a reduced 15 percent takeout, with a bonus payout of 17.65 percent for winning Late Pick 4 tickets played on track at Cal Expo or at TwinSpires.com
 
Biggest Big Bertha In The Thursday Cal Expo Spotlight

Biggest Big Bertha, who has returned to the winner’s circle following 61 of her 220 lifetime appearances, looks to add another picture to the scrapbook in Thursday night’s (April 14) $3,900 feature for pacing fillies and mares at Cal Expo.

A 10-year-old daughter of Little Steven, Biggest Big Bertha is owned by Marilee Keene with Rick Plano doing the driving and training.  She comes into Thursday’s assignment with $359,000 in her account and a mark of 1:51.1, which was set five years ago.

A 10-time victress from 33 tries last season, the classy mare has three scores to her credit in 2011.  The most recent came last week at this same level, as she tucked early, then made a power brush to the lead at the half.  She took complete control of things from that point, reporting the wire with two and three-quarter lengths on her nearest rival in a 1:54.3 tour of the oval.

Castle Oaks should prove to be the main rival.  Alan Kirschenbaum’s Hi Ho Silverheels homebred was also a 10-time winner last year and has two tallies and a runner-up finish in her last three outings for trainer Tim Maier, who will be at the helm.

Castle Oaks did the track-and-attack to perfection for Tim in her March 10 and April 1 wins, then put in a game first-over mile last week but was no match for the free-wheeling Biggest Big Bertha that evening while finishing a clear second.  She figures to be in prime stalking mode once again in this spot.

Blue Note is coming off back-to-back third-place finishes at this level and has to be considered. Laurette Odney owns and bred the 6-year-old mare with Rick Cisco the conditioner and Scott Cisco at the controls. She is looking for her third victory on the season and has had pace-setting duties in those last starts with this group.

Completing the line-up are Bewareofthisaffair for trainer Nathalie Tremblay and pilot James Kennedy; and Sweet Treats, who gives the Maier barn two looks at the outcome with Rich Wojcio in the sulky.  A 10-race card is on tap, with the feature going as the second on the evening.

Live racing resumes at Cal Expo on Thursday (April 14) and continues through Saturday (April 16).  Post-time on Thursday is 5:30 p.m. (PDT).  Post-time on Friday (April 15) & Saturday is 6:00 p.m.  On Thursday and every live card, Cal Expo offers free admission, as well as free preferred & general parking after 4:30 p.m.  Also on Thursday night from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Cal Expo offers a complete Lasagna dinner, which includes salad and bread, for just $3.00.  Additionally on Thursday, beer & wine can be purchased for $3.00 each as well.