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Watch and Wager fall meet underway
Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 - Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness

 Harness racing returns to Cal Expo Saturday night under the Watch and Wager LLC banner with a 14-race program on tap and a first post of 6:15 p.m.
 
Racing will be conducted on Saturday nights in October, expanding to Saturday and Sunday programs in November. Plans then call for a three-night a week schedule beginning on December 26 with Friday racing added to the mix.
 
Heading the opening-night card are two divisions each of the opening legs of the Bill Conlin and Annette Funicello Pacing series; an Open II event for the pacers and an Open II contest for the trotters.
 
Robin Schadt is the new Director of Racing. “My goal is to produce a racing program where every horseman gets their horses raced on a regular basis for decent money and to provide the betting public with competitive fields on which to wager,” she said.
 
Saturday’s program features four wagers at a reduced 16 percent takeout, including the new 10-cent Cal Expo Jackpot Pick 6 that starts on the third race. The wager requires a single winning Pick 6 ticket, or there is a carryover.
 
The other low-takeout wagers are the 50-cent Pick 5 that begins on the first race; the 20-cent Pick 4 that covers races 10 through 13 and comes with a $20,000-guaranteed pool; and the 10-cent Super Hi-Five on the nitecap.
 
Taking a closer look at the Open II Trot, multiple stakes-winning I Love New York returns to California for Bruce Clarke, while the Open II Pace finds A Real Miracle heading an interesting cast as he makes his way back from Indiana for Junior Wilkinson.
 
Luke Plano back to defend driving title
 
Luke Plano, fresh from capturing the driving title at the winter/spring Watch and Wager LLC meeting here at Cal Expo, is back to defend the crown.
 
At that last meet, Luke made 160 trips to the winner’s circle, with his nearest competitor being James Kennedy, who had 121 winning tours at that session. Both will be in action on Saturday’s 14-race program.
 
“It’s exciting to be back,” said Plano, who has been plying his trade in Indiana this summer. “I know there are going to be some new horsemen here, and that should certainly add to the competitiveness of the racing.
 
“As far as switching from the seven-eighths track at Hoosier Park to the one mile here, there are a lot of similarities. The one difference would be that even though you can win from the back at Hooiser, there is more of a speed bias and you want to be close if you can.
 
“Here are Cal Expo, it’s a much fairer track in that regard and you have more options.”
 
As has been the case in the past, Plano will have a very small stable of his own while normally driving in just about every race on the card. “I’ll have anywhere from three to six horses in my barn, but I prefer to concentrate on the driving,” he explained. “It’s worked out real well that way.”
 
Luke will be looking to get off to a quick start on opening night with several very live performers set to go to the post under his direction. It’s a good bet he’ll be posing for more his share of pictures.