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East vs. West Challenge This Weekend At Cal-Expo
Thursday, April 3, 2008 - by Mark Ratzky, Publicity Dept., Cal-Expo

The third annual East vs. West Amateur Driving Challenge will take place here on Friday (April 4) and Saturday nights (April 5). Team East will feature five of the nation’s top CKG Billings Drivers, with Bob Troyer (Ohio), George Casale (New York), Steve Oldford (Michigan), Scott Woogen (Virginia) and Howie Gelfand (Ontario, Canada) taking on the local team.
 
The Sacramento quintet consists of Sabrina Shaw, Susan Boyce, Jason Maier, Rick Bertrand and David Siegel.  In the first two installments, the West team nudged out the invaders from the East in the 2006 and 2007 challenges.
 
The winners will be determined by a point system.  The six races will feature random draws and will cover a variety of classes.  California amateur driving, which was reborn in 2005 during the California State Fair, has enjoyed much interest from the wagering public, with equal or higher handles than similarly slotted non-amateur events.        
 
In Thursday night’s (April 3) $6,300 feature at Cal-Expo, Cherry Tree Luke, Jess Or No, Howwilddoyawantme and Final Choice, who were involved in one of the closest blanket finishes of the meet last week, are back in action.
 
The contest brings together trotters who are carrying base claiming prices ranging from $20,000 down to $15,000, and if last week’s gathering is any indication, it should be another battle right down to the wire.
 
It was Cherry Tree Luke who got the nose decision last time in a race where the fourth-place finisher was only another nostril and a head away.  The winner returned a cool $25.40 the tally and Jim Lackey will again be guiding the Clint Lugar color-bearer, who hails from the Lou Pena barn.
 
An 8-year-old son of Sierra Kosmos, Cherry Tree Luke comes into this assignment with $129,000 in his account and a 1:57.2 mark, which was established three years ago.  He will most certainly get more respect a the windows this time around.
 
Jess Or No ended up on the wrong end of the photo last week and could easily turn the tables Thursday night.  Ed Hensley reins and trains the 5-year-old British Sterling offspring for his wife Jessica and he hits hard at this level.  He scored eight times last season and has four wins from his 13 trips to the post this year.
 
Howwilddoyawantme represents the Rick Plano shedrow and figures right in the thick of things once again after missing by a nose and a head in that crowded affair last week.  This gal packs a very strong punch, coming home in :27.4 last week, and will be very dangerous with the right early set-up. She set her career standard of 1:56.4 when winning here on February 28 over slightly softer company.
 
Final Choice was the 4-5 favorite last time, looked like a winner when he opened up by 2-1/2-lengths at mid-stretch, but was nailed right on the money and got the worst of the four-horse jam at the line.  Gilbert Herrera owns, trains and drives the 7-year-old California-bred of Jonathan Lobell, who recently went over the $200,000 earnings plateau.
 
 
Back To The Outside Looking In
 
One sure sign that spring has sprung is the return of the No. 10 horse to the actual outside post on the starting gate.
 
During the winter months, horses drawing the 10 slot are allowed to start in the second tier.  This is done because when the track is off, the extreme outside post can be even more of a disadvantage than it already is starting that far out on the gate.
 
So, when handicapping past performances of horses for the next several starts, be sure to note that in races before April, trotters and pacers who show the 10-post were starting in the second tier.  From Thursday forward, however, they will be doing their work from the far outside.
 
Most drivers and trainers agree that a horse beginning from the second tier, unless they are a need-the-lead type, have a much better shot from that trailing position behind the inside performers than when they’re forced to start from the actual No. 10 slot on the gate.  Good luck and good racing!
 
Live racing will resume at Cal-Expo on Thursday (April 3) at 5:50 p.m. (PDT), and will continue through Saturday (April 5).   Post-time on Friday (April 4) and Saturday (April 5) is at 5:55 p.m.  On Thursday, Cal-Expo offers a complete Lasagna dinner, which includes salad and bread, for just $3.00.
 
The Pick-6 at Cal-Expo is now a $1 wager!