Meadows, MSOA announce October schedule changes

On July 22, 2015, the MSOA and Meadows Racing requested a reduction of race days between October 12 and October 29.  The purpose of this change is intended to refresh the purse account and to provide a scheduled break for horses and horsemen.  The delay in announcing this break was due to the tabling of the proposal by the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission at the August 1 meeting.

The MSOA and The Meadows received the approval letter regarding this change on August 24.

The last day of live racing will be October 10.  Racing will resume on October 30.  October 31 has also been added to the racing schedule, with an 11:25AM post.  

Newcomer to PA Fairs trying to make a name for himself

Lester Smealby Rich Fisher, for the US Trotting Association
When he was a 10-year-old boy, Lester Smeal II visited the Clearfield (PA) Fair, and it was love at first sight with the sport of harness racing.

He told that to his dad, Lester, whose reply was “You’ve got to wait until your opportunity comes.”

The opportunity began in an unusual way when a year later the Smeals rescued two Thoroughbreds from a track and brought them on to their farm in Morrisdale, Pa., situated near Penn State University.

“We had seen an ad in the paper and we went and got two of them,” the 20-year-old Smeal said. “We used them as normal riding horses, and my dad said ‘If you want to see how good you are, train the one.’ My dad helped me out and I trained a Thoroughbred in a cart. If you can train a Thoroughbred to do it off the racetrack you can probably do a Standardbred.”

Smeal went to the U.S. Trotting Association’s Driving School in 2014, got his license, and bought and trained two Standardbreds — Amber Eyes and License To Steal. He drove qualifiers at The Meadows before heading out to the fair circuit. After getting rained out a few times, his first race came earlier this year at the Bloomsburg Fair, where he finished fourth out of five horses.

“I was a little bummed out about the finish but I was happy with the way I drove,” Smeal said. “You can’t do anything about it for your first time. It was still pretty good.”

He said the thrill of being in a race was everything he thought it would be. He rated it higher than stuffing a running back for a five-yard loss from his linebacker position at West Branch Area High School.

“I loved doing it,” Smeal said. “I used to play tons of football when I was younger. I told my dad I loved doing this more than I loved playing football.”

After a fifth-place finish, Lester came up with his first win, driving Amber Eyes to first place in a division of the Quaker State 3-year-old pace on July 3 at the Butler Fair.

At the start of the race, Aaron Johnston’s horse took the lead and Smeal said “I had my horse literally right up behind his ear, breathing right down his neck.”

The horses stayed that way until an inside hole opened up on the second lap. Johnston and another driver took their horses high and Smeal said, “I didn’t know if I could take the hole down on the inside, but that’s what I did, and took off and got the first win.

“It was pretty exciting, very emotional for my whole family,” he added. “I had my whole family there, they were all watching me. They couldn’t believe I got my first win in my third race. They were all proud.”

Since then, Smeal has raced at as many tracks as possible “to keep my horses going.” He has driven Amber Eyes to two thirds and License To Steal to a second, and enjoys driving horses that he owns and trains.

“It’s pretty sweet,” he said. “Whenever you do that you learn more about your horse. By training them, you get to know the horses and know how to trigger them to go fast.”

Smeal makes no secret that he wants a career in harness racing. His dream is to get his professional driver’s license as soon as he gets enough drives, and he also enjoys being an owner and trainer.

“Honestly, it’s not a hard deal for me to do it all,” he said. “For football I always had the same commitment. With the training and driving, it is a big deal, always working with horses, constantly driving them. It’s fun. People might not think it’s fun, both training and driving, but for me it’s a blast. I’d rather be doing that than sitting at a desk. I love the personality of horses, each horse is completely different.”

And while he is confident in his ability, Smeal is humble at the same time, as he acknowledged having plenty of help up to this point.

“I want to give a big thanks to my family and everybody on the fair circuit,” Lester said. “(Trainer/driver) Roger Hammer has given me pointers on how to get a horse faster. (Driver) Chris and (trainer) Jason Shaw were the first people I had to work with to get my license. And everyone else on the circuit has been helping me out so much. I really owe a lot to them.”

Mission Brief dominates Moni Maker Trot

Mission Brief Moni Maker 8 21 15When Mission Brief demolished a field of 3-year-old fillies in Friday’s (August 21) $174,000 Moni Maker at The Meadows, it reinforced the notion gaining momentum across harness racing—when she’s healthy and competing against fillies, the only horse that can beat Mission Brief is Mission Brief.

Fresh off her second-place finish to Pinkman in the Hambletonian, Mission Brief waltzed to victory—winning driver Yannick Gingras never cut her loose–in 1:52.3 for trainer Ron Burke and owners Burke Racing Stable, Our Horse Cents Stables, J&T Silva Stables and Weaver Bruscemi LLC.

I’m So Fancy finished second, 3-1/4 lengths back, while Gatka Hanover earned show, giving trainer Burke a 1-2-3 sweep. Hambletonian Oaks winner Wild Honey, the only filly in the field given a shot to challenge Mission Brief, stalked the winner from the pocket but broke stride in the stretch, finishing fourth-placed-sixth.

From the gate, Gingras idled outside with Mission Brief, waiting for the dust to settle before pushing her to the front.

“I thought the only way to get beat is to do something stupid,” Gingras said. “Even if someone decided to go on, I thought I could trot by them. So I wanted to give her a chance to get her feet under her and go from there. She’s faster, bigger, and stronger. She doesn’t look like a filly; she looks like a colt.”

The daughter of Muscle Hill-Southwind Serena, who extended her career bankroll to $1,153,417, recorded even fractions of 28/56.1/1:24.1/1:52.3 in winning for the 14th time in 20 career outings.

Burke, harness racing’s perennial leading conditioner, showed no hesitation in calling Mission Brief “a special horse, the best horse I’ve ever trained.”

“There’s no part of me that wavers on that—she’s the best horse I’ve ever trained,” he said.

Prior to the race, Burke indicated he likely would keep Mission Brief in against fillies for the balance of the season, but what he saw in the Moni Maker has him considering other options.

“I would like to maybe try it (racing against males),” he said, “but it won’t be an easy sell to everybody else in our group. I’m a little bit gamer—maybe I believe more in her than anybody does. For a while, it’s a decision we don’t have to make.”

Burke said Mission Brief’s next race will be the Peaceful Way at Mohawk, with a lot of “green” time for the filly between now and then as well as continuing medical treatments for her back.

“We’ll keep after that, but I don’t think it’s a chronic condition,” he said. “It was something that came on. She got out of kilter like anybody else and had to work her way through it. When she warmed up tonight, she was as sound as she’s been all year.”

Dude’s The Man wins Adios Pace

Dude's The Man Adios 2015 Finish line 8 1 15He was forced into a first-over challenge and skipped shadows for much of the mile, but when all was said and done, Dude’s The Man captured Saturday’s (August 1) $400,000 final of the Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids Presented by Coors Light at The Meadows in 1:48.4, fourth-fastest in the 49-year history of the event.

Yankee Bounty rallied for second, 2 lengths back, while Lost For Words, who threatened briefly in the lane, was third.

Winning trainer Jessica Okusko won the Adios orchids in her first try while winning driver Corey Callahan, who had 13 previous Adios starts including eliminations, took his first Adios title.

M&L of Delaware and Victoria Dickinson own Dude’s The Man, a son of American Ideal-Art’s Risk who finished second to Wiggle It Jiggleit in the Meadowlands Pace final but has been hampered at times by lack of early speed. Callahan said he wanted to get the colt into the race early from post 2.

“On these speed-favoring tracks, you can’t circle them from last,” Callahan said. “You can’t get away seventh, be third over and have a shot. I wanted to get away as close as possible, and fourth is where I ended up.”

Although Dude’s The Man was first up from fourth, he had little trouble clearing My Hero Ron, winner of an Adios elimination last week.

“I thought My Hero Ron was just okay last week,” Callahan said. “I came at him last week with Yankee Bounty and almost got him, so I was pretty confident being first up with that horse on the lead.”

Of greater concern was the winner’s persistent battle with shadows. Okusko said she added a Daisy roll and a Pelling pacifier during the week to keep the colt more focused, but their impact was limited.

“I was trying to talk him over the shadows and hold onto him,” Callahan said. “Around the last turn, clouds came over. Someone was looking out for me in the last turn. The clouds covered the sun, and he paced right home.”

Another potential problem for Dude’s The Man vanished in the lane when Lost For Words, right on the winner’s bumper, didn’t finish strongly.

“At the top of the stretch I thought I had a shot,” said Brian Brown, who trains Lost For Words. “He scoped with blood, so he may need more Lasix. Any time a horse bleeds, he’s in trouble.”

Okusko said Dude’s The Man may be pointed to the Cane Pace and also remains eligible to the Battle of the Brandywine, the Little Brown Jug and several stakes at the Red Mile.

“He’s from a great family, and he has great conformation,” she said. “He’s really come into himself. This was the first time he raced on a five-eighths, and he got around it great.”

Story by Evan Pattak for The Meadows Racing.  Photo by Chris Gooden Photos.

REMINDER: Keep PHRC informed of changes

Horsemen are reminded to include the PHRC to the list of their contact in regard to changes in address, phone number, email address, etc.

35-1 Cooperstown, National Seelster, My Hero Ron win Adios elms

Cooperstown 7 25 15Dismissed at 35-1, Cooperstown rallied wide and strong in the lane and became the most improbable of the trio of winners in Saturday’s (July 25) eliminations in the $525,000 Delvin Miller Pace for the Orchids Presented by Coors Lite at The Meadows. National Seelster and My Hero Ron, both favorites, captured the other eliminations.

They’ll be joined in next Saturday’s final by Angelo J Fra, Dreams Beachboy, Lost For Words, Dude’s The Man, Yankee Bounty and Trading Up. Ron Burke trains two elimination winners—Cooperstown and My Hero Ron, each piloted to victory by Yannick Gingras—and also will be represented by Yankee Bounty. Tony Alagna (Dreams Beachboy, Trading Up) will send a pair to the final.

An open draw for Adios final post positions is set for Tuesday, July 28, 12:30 PM, and can be seen on Meadows Live!

Cooperstown, whose most recent victory came in a non-winners of 3, appeared to be in an unenviable position—third over and chasing a leader, Tomy Terror, who’d enjoyed a 29.2 second-quarter breather. Gingras, however, didn’t see it that way.

“Actually, I liked my spot,” he said. “I didn’t think the leaders were the horses to beat, and I knew my cover would take me a long way. I wasn’t thinking about winning—he was 35-1 for a reason. But around the last turn, I knew I’d made the final, anyway.”

Cooperstown blazed the back half in 54.1 and scored in 1:49.4, defeating Lost For Words by a neck. Dude’s The Man rallied from last for show. Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Keith Pippi and Michelle Yanek campaign Cooperstown, a son of Four Starzzz Shark-American Charm.

National Seelster, who is 4 for 4 in New York Sires Stake action this year, got away in third. Tim Tetrick moved him to the front at the quarter, a decision Tetrick said he nearly came to regret.

“My horse was kind of falling asleep on the front,” Tetrick said. “He’s only cut it a few times, and he didn’t know what to do up there. When he saw that Yannick couldn’t get around him, he got brave. He swelled up enough to get to the wire. I think he needs a helmet to follow for quite a while. He can rough it some, but on the front, he’s too lazy. I won’t do that again with him.”

The son of Bettor’s Delight-No Strikes Against woke up in enough time to repel the stern first-over challenge of Rufo and triumph in 1:51.1, 3/4 lengths better than long shot Angelo J Fra. Dreams Beachboy completed the ticket. Chris Ryder conditions National Seelster for Robert Mondillo and Oompa’s Farm.

My Hero Ron took command early, put away his well-intended stablemate, Yankee Bounty, and downed him by 1-1/2 lengths in 1:50.3, with Trading Up third. It was the third straight win for the Well Said-Emma La Em gelding since his private acquisition by Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, Larry Karr and Frank Baldachino.

“He’s a little bit lazy, but he’s the kind of horse who will step up when they get to him,” Gingras said. “Those were pretty soft fractions for this bunch, so I knew he’d have plenty left.”

MSOA Announces 2015 Scholarship Winners

The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association is pleased to announce the winners of its 2015 MSOA Collegiate Scholarships.

The $5,000 MSOA Scholarship, presented by the MSOA Board of Directors, has been awarded to Ryan Zidek, a student at Saint Vincent College.  He is the son of Jeff Zidek.

Riley Harvey, son of Naquel Harvey, has been awarded the $3,200 Crazed Scholarship, presented by the MSOA and Hanover Shoe Farms.  He is attending Wright State University.

Alyssa Cummings, a student at Pittsburgh Technical Institute, has been named the winner of the $2,500 MSOA/CSC Insurance Options Scholarship.  She is the daughter of Todd and Tammy Cummings.

The $1,000 MSOA/LCM Nutraceuticals Barry Betts Memorial Scholarship has been awarded to Jessica Cocciolone.  The daughter of Carl and Sharon Cocciolone is a student at Robert Morris University.

The MSOA would like to congratulate all of this year’s winners, and thank all of its partners in making the scholarship program a success, including Tom Svrcek of CSC Insurance, Dr. Larry Smith of LCM Nutraceuticals and Hanover Shoe Farms. 

A formal presentation will be made to the winners on Adios Day (Saturday, August 1) at The Meadows Racetrack.

PHRC issues notices regarding Cobalt, Hobbles and Methylprednisolone

The MSOA advises horsemen of three notices released by the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission.  Please read each of the notices below by clicking on the links.

Hopples/Hobbles 05-2015

Methylprednisolone 05-2015 (UPDATED)

Cobalt Testing

PHRC Notice: Cobalt Testing now underway

The Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission is conducting random cobalt testing on samples being collected at our various racetracks, effective May 1, 2015.

Warnings will be issued to horsemen whose findings are above a 25 parts per billion until June 1, 2015, when the Commission will officially adopt a policy identifying findings and thresholds leading to a possible penalty for violations.

360-Degree Camera takes a trip around The Meadows

360Fly, a company based just a few miles from The Meadows, recently teamed with the MSOA to test out their product on the helmet of Mike Wilder during a race.  Enjoy the video!

Qualifying standards: Effective April 16, 2015

From The Meadows Race Office:
Effective April 16h the new Qualifying standards will be, until further notice:

2:00 Pacers
2:02  Trotters

Three-year-olds will be allowed 2 seconds.
Two-year-olds will be allowed 4 seconds.

Cambria Suites Meadow Lands discount available to MSOA members

cambria2A reminder, MSOA members are eligible to receive a discount at the Cambria Suites, Meadow Lands.

Be sure to mention the MSOA when booking by phone at 724-223-5555.

The Cambria Suites is located at 451 Racetrack Road.