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Hernandez Is Up To The Challenge At Cal Expo
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - by Mark Ratzky, Publicity -- Cal Expo

Chris Hernandez is confident in the Cal Expo quartet when it comes to this weekend’s (Friday, 15 & Saturday, April 16) East-West Amateur Driver Challenge, while at the same time acknowledging that the visiting team represents a strong threat.

“I’ve seen all these drivers that are coming out here, and I believe this is the toughest group that we in California have ever faced,” Hernandez said when asked about the eight-race series that takes place over the next two nights.

“I’ve seen Laura Mac Namara race at Monticello, and Jamie Marra won the Billings Trot at Tioga Downs. I’ve watched Simeon Hundson drive at Harrah’s Chester, and Steve Oldford was the 2008 and 2010 CKG Billings combined points champion and has over 40 years in harness racing.”

Chris points out that just as with any sport, doing battle in your own backyard is preferred.
“The edge we have is the home field advantage, as well as driving our own bikes.  That should level the playing field a bit.

“I know that the drivers coming out here show plenty of respect to other horsemen, but I also know that they didn’t fly all the way across the country to go home empty handed.”

In addition to featuring the second leg of the Amateur Challenge, Saturday’s program is headed by two excellent co-features.  Claudius Augustus looks to continue his winning ways in the trotting event, while multiple stakes-winning Pacinello makes his return to California and seasonal debut in the pacing headliner, where he will face the likes of Split Ticket and Ivegotwhatuneed.
A reminder that 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
East-West Amateur Driver Challenge Gets Underway At Cal Expo

Friday (April 15) and Saturday (April 16) will see the renewal at Cal Expo of the popular TVG East-West Amateur Driver Challenge, with four events set for each evening.

The local team is made up of Robert Stepien, Rick Bertrand, Chris Hernandez and David Siegel, and they will take on the invading squad of Laura Mac Namara, Steve Oldford, Jamie Marra and Simeon Hunsdon.

Laura Mac Namara resides in upstate New York with her husband and two sons age 7 and 11.  When not busy with school and the usual family duties, she helps her husband with his equine veterinary practice. After 23 years of competing in combined training, Laura decided it was time to try something new with horses and began racing in the Billings series in 2010.
Simeon Hunsdon began his foray into the equine world when he owned a riding horse as a teenager.  In 1976 he purchased and trained a harness horse for the first time, shortly thereafter he starting driving in matinee races and in 1982 he joined the CKG Billings.  When not on the track, Simeon is an electrical contractor, and he and his wife formed Hour Electric Company, Inc.
Steve Oldford was born, raised and still lives in Michigan on a standardbred horse farm where he races performers in that state and Grand Circuit racing.  Steve has been involved with harness racing for some 40 years as a groom, trainer, breeder, owner and amateur driver.  The owner of a manufacturer’s representative agency that specializes in automotive components, he has been married for 28 years and has three children.

Jamie Marra, who will be profiled in Saturday’s Cal Expo program, was born into the sport as his grandfather Jimmy was one of the founders of Batavia Downs in New York.  Jamie is based at Pompano Park and was recently elected president of the Florida Amateur Driving Club and secretary of the Florida Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association. He and his wife Paula have two girls.

A 14-race card is on tap, with the Amateur Challenge occupying the fifth, seventh, twelfth and thirteen spots on the program.

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.

Starting this Thursday night, Cal Expo offers the Late Pick-4 with a $10,000 guaranteed pool. The wager will be conducted on races six through nine and will be offered for four weeks. Further, the takeout for the Late Pick-4 will be lowered to 15 percent, as it will also be on the Early Pick-4.