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Funny Guy Pulls A Fast One At Cal Expo
Thursday, March 29, 2012 - by Mark Ratzky, Publicity -- Cal Expo

Most players expected trainer Matias Ruiz to be posing for pictures at Cal Expo after last Friday night’s (March 23) 10th race as he sent out the 2-5 shot Shoot The Works from the cozy rail slot.
While they were right his trainee would land in the circle, it turned out to be the 18-1 Funny Guy who got the job done as he overpowered his more highly-regarded stable-mate by a length and a half with Anthony Succarotte doing the honors.
Dave Siegel owns the 5-year-old Illinois-bred son of Park Place, who was making his first start in over a month but did have a facile qualifying mile under his belt to keep him on edge.
“He’s turned out to be a nice claim,” Siegel said.  “Matias liked the way horse traveled and he had a good string of races back East.  I liked what I saw and thought Matias could improve the horse.
“I won my first start with him and then finished second before moving up and winning for $3,500, which seems to be the right level for him.  He had some back luck after that, falling after getting loose in the barn area and sustaining a minor injury.  After that he had a shoeing issue, so it meant more time off to recover.”
Funny Guy returned with an easy qualifying score over a good track, then recorded last week’s upset over his odds-on barn-mate.
“He obviously raced real well and I was only sorry I wasn’t available to drive him,” Siegel noted.  “Tony did an excellent job.  I’ll be back driving in April and look forward to getting behind him.  He is a lot of fun to drive.”
Dave is still beaming about the Sunshine Pro-Am Drivers Challenge that took place earlier this month at Pompano Park and saw the four-man team from California edge out the squad from Florida in what proved to be an excellent two nights of racing over that five-eighths oval.
“What a wonderful event it was,” Siegel related.  “The weather was great and the horsemen treated us very well.  My hat is off to John Yinger (Director of Racing) and Jamie Marra (President of the local amateur club) for working to put this together.  Handle was noticeably up and combining our series with the Legends race made for a special Pick Four sequence.”
“I was happy that Luke Plano could visit with his family and Steve Wiseman was able to make a trip to warm weather with his daughter,” said Siegel.  “I have to tell you, I have never rooted for another driver like I was when they were coming down the stretch in the final race.
“I knew I was out of it, so I was cheering for Luke.  After that I switched to Rick Bertrand when he sped past me and it was clear he was going to catch Luke.  We came away with a victory and eked out the win in the team series.  What a way to finish and I could not have been happier for Rick.”
Each member of the California squad got a trip to the winner’s circle in the series, with Siegel prevailing in the opener with Lucky Hit.
“Six years ago, when I first started driving, Clay and Peggy Faurot put me on some horses when I was just cutting my teeth and were so nice.  As luck would have it, I drew their horse in the first leg.  They had purchased the horse a few weeks earlier from Ed Hensley, who was first trainer and driving mentor.  Ed let me use his UFO bike and I won.
“Some of my family was there, which was the icing on the cake.  It was the first winner’s circle photo I’ve ever had with my mom.”
Siegel also reports that the 2012 installment of the East-West Amateur Driving Challenge will take place here on April 13 and 14. 
The Californian contingent has won four of the first six annual events, but the Easterners have assembled their most competitive team ever and looking to make it two in a row.  For the first time, all four Eastern drivers are making a return trip to the left coast.
Team East, comprised of four of its historically strongest Billings drivers, will be treated to spring in The Golden State, and four races on each of two weekend nights.  Local horsemen will enjoy increased purses for the events and fans will be treated to seeing a variation to the professional drivers they see night in and night out at the track.
Joe Faraldo, with 134 lifetime wins, leads the Eastern Team which has amassed 309 career victories between them.  Veteran amateurs Peter Gerry, Steve Oldford and Tony Verruso round out the squad, all of which have 40 or more victories to their credit.
Team West has quite a different look to it.  Overall, the Californians pale in years of driving experience, but their two most experienced drivers race much more frequently than their Eastern Brethren.  Dave Siegel (189 wins) and Rick Bertrand (38 wins) lead the western contingent with relative newcomers Amanda Fraser and Karen Isbell, who have each been driving for less than two years.  Home field advantage will be in Team West’s favor, but the combined experience of the Billing’s Boys will be running in their favor.
Alan Kirschenbaum, California Harness Horseman’s Association President remarked,
“The CHHA is happy to continue to support the Challenge as it has the last several years.  As an avid amateur myself, I know how much diversity amateur driving brings to our program out here and all over North America.  We are particularly appreciative of the Billings group traveling such a long distance to support this unique series.”
Dave Elliott, Cal-Expo’s General Manager agreed. 
“We love the notion of this special annual amateur event.  Amateur racing is at the historic heart of harness racing and we are happy to endorse it.  Our local club and the Billing organization are shining examples of what can be accomplished in amateur competition.”
TrackMaster will be providing Racing Fans free programs for the two-day event on their web site.
For information about the California Amateur Driving Club, the Challenge or Amateur Driving in general, please visit
Ivegotwhatuneed, Stanza Hold Friday Night Spotlight At Cal Expo
Bob JohnsonIvegotwhatuneed and Stanza, who chased home the very sharp Albion last week, get away from that rival and head the cast at Cal Expo for Friday night’s (March 30) $3,600 main event for the pacing set.
Ivegotwhatuneed will be one of two Bob Johnson trainees in the line-up with Myra’s Hiho also representing the shedrow.  The former is a 9-year-old son of Givemewhatineed who is owned by his conditioner and Marty Garey and will have Lemoyne Svendsen back at the controls.
The veteran is closing in on the $300,000 earnings plateau with a 1:52 mark that was established three years ago.  He was a distant runner-up behind Albion last weekend and is overdue for his first snapshot of the season.
Stanza is a Mark Benvenga color-bearer who is reined and trained by Steve Wiseman and is coming off a fifth-place finish in that swift Albion contest.
The son of Power Of Art has two wins from six starts this year, the most recent coming in a lifetime best 1:53.2 clocking on January 21 under these same conditions.  He fits quite nicely in this line-up and figures to make his presence felt in the serious stages.
Rounding out the field are Myra’s Hiho, who will have the services of Scott Cisco from the one-hole; while Jim Wilkinson Jr. is sending out a pair in Ra Ra Steven, to be guided by Rich Wojcio and Whipped Dreams, who has Luke Plano at the helm.
The aforementioned Albion will move back up to the Winners-over Pace on Saturday (March 31), where he will square off against the likes of the very sharp Cycle Power and the hard-knocking mare Haggin Oaks.
Live racing resumes at Cal Expo on Friday (March 30) & Saturday (March 31) 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.