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Mark 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.