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Thursday, December 13th, 2012 By Mark Ratzky, publicity – Cal Expo Harness

Among the new faces at this meet is Dan Gassien, who is invading from Ontario while making his first venture to California. He currently has six horses on the grounds with at least three more set to arrive shortly.

“The situation is obviously pretty shaky right now up in Ontario, so I decided to come down and give it a try,” Gassien explained. “I also have a couple of friends who kept telling me to come and then of course, there’s the weather.”

The 48-year-old horseman was literally born into the sport, being around the trotters and pacers from day one thanks to his father Paul, while his brothers are also making their living at the racetrack.
“I always knew this is what I wanted to do, and I left school at 15 to start working full time with my dad and my older brother Reg. I drove my first race at Flamboro Downs when I was 18, and got my first winner with my third drive. It was a horse named Chip Supreme, and you never forget that one.”

Dan has been around some nice horses over the last 30 years, including a pacer named Durham’s Kahula who went some big miles at Woodbine before retiring to the Gassien farm. Number one in his heart, however, would have to be the 9-year-old pacing mare The Shebaran, who is in action here at Cal Expo. “She’s got 40 wins and earned over $250,000 for us, so she’d have to be the favorite,” he said.
In addition to being his first trip to Cal Expo, this is also Gassien’s first time competing on a regular basis over a mile racetrack, and he was asked if he’s had to make any significant adjustments. “As far as training goes, except for getting them over the track a few times, I haven’t made any changes. When it comes to driving, though, there are adjustments I’ve had to make as opposed to driving over half-mile and five-eighths tracks, where you have to be more aggressive.”


The second legs of the Dr. Gary Budahn Trotting series and the Bob Gordon Pacing series and an Open Pace are the featured attractions at the Watch and Wager LLC stand at Cal Expo on Saturday evening.
The Gordon divisions will go as the 1st and 12th races on the 16-race program, while the Budahn has a single division occupying the 11th-race slot and the Open Pace will go as the third event on the evening.
The first leg of the Gordon two weeks ago saw Big Better Best and Gold Duece prevailing in the two divisions, while the Budahn consisted of one race on that program with El Azteca posting the upset.

As luck would have it, both Big Better Best and Gold Deuce end up in the same race this time around. Dave Siegel guides the former for Raul Escobedo from the cozy rail slot while the Steve Wiseman reined-and-trained Gold Deuce has the No. 6 slot in the field of seven.
El Azteca is coming off back-to-back sharp efforts and this multiple stakes-winner looms large in the Budahn for owner/breeder/trainer Marco Rios and pilot Scott Cisco. The 3-year-old son of Panama Hanover joined forces with Cisco in the opening leg of the series on December 1 and was a game, first-over winner, then came back to capture an overnight affair last weekend as the even-money choice.
In the Open Pace, Pancetta is looking to go five-for-five at the meeting. The 3-year-old son of No Pan Intended has put his class and versatility on display here for owners Richard Morita and David Yamada, conditioner Liberio Pacheco and driver Luke Plano. He sports a 1:52 4/5 mark that was set this summer at Tioga Downs. He has the outside post as he attempts to keep his local record perfect.

The holiday schedule here will find the trotters and pacers in action on Friday-through-Sunday (Dec 21-23) with first post on each of those special daytime cards being 2:35 p.m. The following week will see a Wednesday (Dec 26) program with a 5 p.m. starting time, followed by racing on Friday and Saturday (Dec 28-29) with a scheduled first post of 5:55 p.m.