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A Fast Track At Cal Expo Would Be Bliss
Thursday, January 13, 2011 - by Mark Ratzky, Publicity -- Cal Expo

Gene Vallandingham has his fingers crossed that a fast track is in play at Cal Expo this Saturday night (January 15), as his veteran pacer Blissfull Winds goes for two in a row from the cozy one-hole.
Michael Silber’s color-bearer began December with a win and a solid runner-up finish, but caught sloppy tracks in his next pair and was well beaten on both occasions.  Back on firm footing for last week’s assignment, Blissfull Winds proved a punctual 6-5 favorite with a second-over journey.
“Needless to say, he wants a fast track,” Vallandingham related.  “He wasn’t able to handle those sloppy tracks at all, but he got what he wants last time and gave me a real good finish.”
Gene is also happy to have the inside slot this weekend.
“This is basically a horse who has one move, and when you have the one-hole, that usually means one less move you have to make.”
This is the second go-around for Vallandingham and the 8-year-old Blissfull Winds.  He trained this guy for half a year before losing him via the claim box this fall, then reached in a month later to take him back.  When the weather is dry, it’s worked out nicely.
For the record, the snapshot with Blissfull Winds was No. 2,895 for the 70-year-old Vallandingham, whose red, white and blue colors have been a mainstay in California driver’s rooms for over four decades.
Red Star Ruffles Attempts Curtain Call At Cal Expo
Red Star Ruffles and Haggin Oaks, who put on quite a show last week while finishing one-two at this level, get another chance to settle the score in Saturday night’s (January 15) headliner.
The $4,500 affair finds mares Red Star Ruffles, Haggin Oaks and Biggest Big Bertha taking on males Nittany Linebacker, Deep Red and Cycle Power and a solid case can be made for each of these pacers.
Red Star Ruffles is a 7-year-old Canadian-bred daughter of Rustler Hanover who is owned and trained by Robley Johnson and will once again have Sue Boyce at the controls while doing her work from the rail.  The bay miss was a solid third on New Year’s night after a first-over journey, then got the job done by a head last time after smoking her final quarter in :26.2 in that 1:53.4 once-around.
Haggin Oaks carries the banner of Shari Burns, Ferris Funk and Gerald Cimini with James Kennedy doing the driving and training.  She accounted for six of her 16 appearances last year, including a 1:54.3 lifetime best over this layout.
Getting the fast track she prefers for last weekend’s assignment, the Hi Ho Silverheels offspring sat a tracking trip for Kennedy at 13-1 and battled it out gamely the length of the drive, just missing to the late charge of Red Star Ruffles.  She figures to get more respect at the windows with that last line showing on the past performances. 
Nittany Linebacker carved out all the fractions in that mile and was only beaten three-quarters of a length. Jim Wilkinson Jr. conditions the son of Real Desire and also co-owns with Billie Schwartz and Ads Up Racing Stable and is going to be tough no matter how things shake out early.
Live racing resumes at Cal Expo on Thursday (January 13) and continues through Saturday (January 15).  Post-time on Thursday is 5:30 p.m. (PST).  Post-Time on Friday (January 14) & Saturday is at 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. 
On Saturdays, Cal Expo offers a reduced 15 percent takeout rate on both the Early & Late Pick-4 wagers with both Pick-4’s having a $10,000 gross guaranteed pool.  Additionally, on Saturdays, for winning wagers made on the Late Pick 4 online at or on track at Cal Expo, a bonus payout of 17.65 percent of the gross Late Pick 4 mutuel payoff will be paid.