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Amateur Series, Sire Stakes Holding Friday Spotlight At Cal Expo
Thursday, April 12, 2012 - by Mark Ratzky, Publicity -- Cal Expo

Tony VerussoThe first night of the 2012 East-West Amateur Driving Challenge and a pair of $12,000 California Sire Stakes for the 3-year-old fillies, headline the Friday night (April 13) action at Cal Expo.
Leading the cast for the Pacing Sire Stakes are Diva Las Vegas and Pismo Beach, who accounted for the last two big-money clashes last season.
Diva Las Vegas is a daughter of Hi Ho Silverheels who is owned by Denise Maier and Wayne Knittel with Denise training and Steve Wiseman at the controls.  She accounted for the most recent stakes race back on November 18, holding sway by a neck that evening as an 11-1 shot with Wiseman handling the lines.
Pismo Beach is another Hi Ho Silverheels offspring who is owned and was bred by Wayne and Rod Knittel, takes her lessons from Bob Johnson and has Rich Wojcio guiding.  She picked up her trophy when capturing the November 4 added-money gathering for his group.
In the East-West event, the local team will consistent of Amanda Fraser, Karen Isbell, David Siegel and Rick Bertrand and they will be challenged by the invading contingent of Steve Oldford, Joe Faraldo, Tony Verruso and Peter Gerry.
Taking A Closer Look At Team East:
Steve Oldford was born, raised, and still lives in the 'thumb' of Michigan on a Standardbred horse farm where he raises colts for Michigan and Grand Circuit racing.  He has been involved with harness racing for about 40 years as a groom, trainer, breeder, owner, and amateur driver. 
Steve joined the Billings circuit about seven years ago and has made a host of great new friends.  Mr. Oldford graduated from Western Michigan University and joined the family business.  His day job is the owner of a manufacturer's representative agency that specializes in automotive components.
Joe Faraldo drove his first race in 1980 at Goshen Historic Track and since then has accumulated over 130 wins.  Joe competed in races internationally at almost every Hippodrome in Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria.
In 1986 he competed in an international competition in Taranto, Italy and was encouraged to, and did organize, the first World Cup of Amateur Racing ever conducted outside of Europe in 1988 then repeated the effort in 2008 when David Siegel was the US representative.
Joe represented the US in the World Cup when the event was conducted on Canadian soil.  Joe is one of original participants in the Billings amateur series and is the founder of the North American Amateur Drivers Association and an honorary member of many European amateur associations.
Under his direction, the North American Amateur Drivers Association has hosted many international competitions and aided in others run by local amateur clubs Joe has encouraged over the years.  Joe gives guidance to many aspiring drivers at the USTA Driving school where many people like our own David Siegel started out.
He continues to serve as a Director of the USTA, Chairman of that group’s NYC District and served four years as Chairman of the Board.  Joe has also been the Chief Executive Officer of the Standardbred Owners Association of NY and has guided horsemen through years of contract negotiations and legislative battles to an end result that Yonkers Raceway and all of NYS has enjoyed a renaissance in Standardbred racing.
Tony Verruso is the owner of a small embroidery shop in Queens, NY.  He makes many of the garments worn by amateur and professional harness racing individuals.  He is married and has one child.  His wife, Dawn, and daughter, Kristina, travel extensively with him in his racing endeavors.  He plays golf and ice hockey, but neither compare to his love of harness racing.
He acquired his love for the sport at 10 years old going to Roosevelt and Yonkers Raceways with his Mom and Dad on weekends.  Verruso is well known for driving numerous hours just for the thrill of a 2-minute race.  He has been driving for 13 years and last year was named President of the CKG Billings Harness Drivers Association.
Verruso won the Billings Gold Cup once and last year finished first in the Eastern Division.  He also competes in many of the other local Amateur Races across the country.  His other passion is obviously his daughter, who excels at baseball and basketball and an avid equestrian.
Peter Gerry has competed passionately in each of the 30 editions of the Billings Series since its founding in 1982.  A professional venture capitalist five days a week, he is a gentleman driver on the sixth day.
From 1991 until 2010, Peter served as President of the Delvin Miller Harness Drivers Association, which administers the annual C.K.G. Billings Harness Driving Championship Series.  During that period he grew the Billings Series membership from 10 members to a high of 150 members in 2006.
In addition he instituted the Delvin Miller Harness Drivers Championship Gold Cup and Silver Races contested annually for $25,000 and $15,000 respectively. 
In addition to continuing as the Treasurer of the Delvin Miller Harness Drivers Association, he serves as Vice President and Trustee of the Standardbred Retirement Foundation and as Treasurer and Trustee of the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame.
Formerly he served as Treasurer and Director of the Hambletonian Society, as Chairman of the New Jersey Sires Stakes and as a trustee of the Harness Horse Youth Foundation.
A graduate of Harvard College and the Harvard Business School, Peter is the Managing Partner of Sycamore Ventures, a Princeton; New Jersey based private equity and venture capital investment firm he co-founded in 1995.
Previous to starting his own investment firm, he was, for eleven years, President of Citicorp Venture Capital, Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Citigroup where he had been employed for 23 years.
Here is a closer look at the Team West:
Karen Isbell was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana and now lives in Lincoln, California with her husband Allen Aldrich.  They have two children and two grandchildren.  She was a jockey for 23 years and rode her first Thoroughbred to victory on September 3, 1979 at Cal Expo.  Karen also won races aboard Quarter Horses, Arabians and Mules.
After retiring as a jockey in 2001, Karen's competitive spirit kept her active, riding hunters and jumpers.  At the age of 54, exactly 31 years after her first victory aboard a Thoroughbred, Karen drove in a harness race at Cal Expo on September 3, 2010. Two months later, she won her first race.
David Siegel was born in New Jersey; Dave migrated to California 30 years ago to pursue his MBA at Stanford.  Little did he know the site of a farm where 700 brood mares resided in the late 1800s would be connected to his mid-40s discovery of harness racing.
Dave is the president of TrackMaster, a company that provides handicapping data for Standardbred, Thoroughbred and Quarter horse racing to the public and the industry.  Through that connection, he bought his first race horse in 2002, a horse he still owns and rides daily for pleasure today.
He attended the USTA Amateur Driving school and as a result, became passionate about his new found avocation.  He was honored by being named Amateur Driver of the Year, representing the US when it hosted the World Cup, and has driven in New Zealand in a very special racing tour of the country with 4 other US drivers (including Steve Oldford).
He is the president of the California Amateur Driving Club and works diligently doing his part to see that amateur driving remains an avenue for participation for horse owners in California.
Rick Bertrand was born and raised three miles from Hazel Park Raceway in Michigan in a family of harness racing fanatics.  When he was 14 he got a job cleaning stalls and fell in love with the racing industry and soon after start jogging and learning how to train and then drive. Rick has been driving horses since 1989 and still loves every minute of it.
He drove in the Billings for a couple of years which took him to a variety of venues.
His most memorable victories included winning the Fauts Memorial race at Delaware, Ohio, representing the California Amateur Driving Club, and, of course winning the final race of the Pro-Am at Pompano Park on March 13, which propelled team Cal Expo to narrowly defeat the Florida Pro-Am Team.  Rick works full-time in the flooring business to support his hobbies. 
His other love is bowling.  He bowls in tournaments almost every weekend and travel to tournaments when I can.  Rick has four kids and three grandchildren.
Amanda Fraser was born in Nova Scotia, Canada.  Amanda, 33, joined the CADC in spring of 2011.  After working with Thoroughbred racehorses as a groom in beginning in 2002 in Alberta, Canada, Amanda started working with Standardbreds.  After two years of spending half of each year with Thoroughbreds and the other half with Standardbreds, Amanda made the decision to become fully involved with harness horses.
In 2007 she met her husband, Scott Cisco, and has since had the chance to race horses in Ohio, Ontario, Alberta, and California to race in Sacramento.  Amanda gives credit to her deep interest in harness racing to her stepfather for buying her a retired Standardbred mare as a riding horse as a young girl.
This induced a life-long love and respect for Standardbred racehorses which eventually led to her present-day passion and love for the sport.
Live racing resumes at Cal Expo on Friday (April 13) & Saturday (April 14) at 6:00 p.m. (PST).  On every live card, Cal Expo offers free parking & free admission after 4:30 p.m.   On Friday, Cal Expo offers Happy Hour from 4:00-7:00 p.m. on which Beer; Well Drinks & Wine are offered at $4 each, while a Burger with fries is offered at $5.
Cal Expo currently offers a reduced 15 percent takeout rate on all Pick 4’s.  Additionally, all Late Pick 4’s now come with an increased $20,000-guaranteed gross pool.  Also, the Friday Late Pick 4 will offer a 0% takeout on all winning wagers made on track or at, while the Saturday Late Pick 4 will be broadcast on TVG.