Bill Finley

Bill Finley has been covering both thoroughbred and standardbred racing for more than 25 years. He is a racing columnist for ESPN.com and can also be heard on the Down the Stretch show on Saturdays on Sirius XM radio.

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Friday, May 09, 2014


The Secret to Brian Sears’ Success? Perhaps It’s “The Manager”


Driver Brian Sears is so good that it sometimes seems like he has a secret weapon, something beyond ability that separates him from the rest. And maybe he does.

If you've been to Yonkers lately you've seen him. You couldn't possibly not. Dressed in white from head to toe, he darts and dashes across the apron, does his dance and, most all, helps will his hero Brian Sears to the wire. His name is John Cutrone, but you know him as "The Manager."

His role is to help Sears win, and he has no doubt that he is playing at least some part in the success of the top driver at Yonkers Raceway.

"Can someone make someone who is great even greater?" asks The Manager. "Can you take something that is perfect and make it even better? Is there a force that is unseen to mankind? Is there something that flows through the air between two minds that have a direct angle? The Manager believes so. The Manager has perfected the power of suggestion that flows through the air unseen and the power of influence and learned how to master it."

Yes, he's serious. Completely.

"I go with the power of influence and the power of suggestion," The Manager said. "I give him a boost before the race when I yell. I give him a little more energy."

Cutrone is 52, unemployed and lives in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. He said he has been attending the harness races for more than 20 years but until he became "The Manager" he was just another face in the crowd at the Meadowlands, Yonkers and his local OTB branch.

That all changed on a night at the Meadowlands in 2012 when he saw that Sears was driving a horse named Get Packin. He liked Sears' nickname and when Get Packin came on the track he called out to him.

"I saw the White Knight and I started going crazy on the apron, calling out ‘White Knight, White Knight,’" he said. "That horse, Get Packin, won and he started winning and winning and I thought we have a good thing here."

Over time Cutrone seemed to conclude that the nickname the "White Knight" didn't do Sears justice. Now, he mainly refers to him as the "King" or the "King of the Universe."

When Sears decided to drive full time at Yonkers in 2013 The Manager took things to the next level. He was determined to never miss any of his drives there and started to dress in all white. He is very proud of the fact that since 2013 he has been at Yonkers for all but three of Sears' wins.

That has taken some doing. Cutrone does not drive and must rely on public transportation to get to the track. With Yonkers racing at night, it is particularly hard for him to get home and he says he usually doesn't arrive back at his door until 3:15 am. This was among the worst winters in New York history, but the freezing cold didn't faze The Manager.

"One night I left Sheepshead Bay and it was 2 degrees, but I said if the King is out there doing what he has to do then The Manager has to be by his side," he said. "I wouldn't do that to the King, make him come out in the cold like that and leave him flat ."

Before every race that Sears drives in The Manager takes his spot along the apron. He prances back and forth while the gate gets rolling and when the field comes by he struts back and forth nervously. He cannot stand still. As the field comes by the first time he'll call out to Sears. During Tuesday's second race, which would be won by Sears, he yelled out "You've got to work hard to beat the King. The King is always coming."

As the field heads into the stretch for the second time he chases the field down the stretch at a dead sprint, hoping it ends in the winner's for both him and his idol. Often, The Manager will appear in the winner's circle photos along with Sears.

"We are the best driver-fan team in the history of harness racing," Cutrone said.

For his part, Sears has been a good sport about the whole thing.

"He's always been very respectful to me," he said. "He has a good attitude, that's for sure."

Cutrone seems to understand that there are lines that cannot be crossed. He says he has no personal relationship with Sears and has never made any attempt to interact with him beyond his rituals on the apron.

"When I see him, it's just like ‘hi, how ya doing,'" Cutrone said. "Everything is good. No big talk. There's just some nods, knowing that we're both there for each other. That's how it works and I don't want to break that. I don't want it to get too personal. I've never once went around to where the drivers park. I don't go back to the paddock. People say why don't you go meet him. No, I don't want to do that. I don't want to get to know him personally. If I do it might become something different."

The Manager said some aren't enamored with his routines.

"Most of the fans are good," he said. "I have some mockers but I can deal with them."

He doesn't bet: "What I am doing doesn't have anything to do with betting. If he wins, I win, no matter what," he said.

He does follow Sears to the Meadowlands when he drives there but isn't able to get to any other tracks because he doesn't drive.

In races in which Sears isn't driving he will not root for anyone else and says he has turned down offers from trainers to use his powers to help their horses, ones not driven by Sears, win.

"A trainer came up to me at the Meadowlands and said, "Please Manager, can you root for my horse next race?' I said I am sorry I cannot do that. He said if I win the next race I want you to come to winner's circle and I said I cannot do that and they understood that."

He is now on Twitter, but it’s not him but a “Manager” wannabe. Cutrone does not have a computer.

Sears won again in Tuesday's fourth, and in the fifth, eighth and twelfth, five winners in all. The last race ended at about 11:10 and The Manager began the trip back to Brooklyn. It was a long night and he would not get home for nearly four hours. But it had been worth it. It was a good night for Sears. It was a better one for "The Manager."

To watch video of The Manager in action click here

Written by Bill Finley of Harness Racing Update

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Wednesday, May 07, 2014


Cutler Memorial on Roosevelt Legacy Night at The Meadowlands


By Press Release

Richard Gutnick looked at the field for the Arthur J. Cutler Memorial at Meadowlands Racetrack and reached a conclusion that might be bad for an owner, but good for a fan.

Gutnick, fortunately, is both.

“It’s not going to be an easy race, but it’s going to be a good race,” said Gutnick, who co-owns two-time Dan Patch Award-winner Market Share.

“It’s like a who’s who of harness racing. To me, these are the (races) you’re waiting for. Races like this where you’re racing against the best, you can’t take anything for granted.

“I’m excited about the year. There are a lot of tough horses out there, especially when you add in the 4-year-olds that are coming back, and it’s going to be a tough year. But that’s what racing is all about. I like when we go against the best. It’s how you find out how good you are.”

Market Share was among 15 horses entered in the Cutler, so two $40,000 eliminations will be held Saturday night at the Big M. The top five finishers from each division will return for the $180,000 estimated final on May 17.

The first elim in post order is Sebastian K, Sweet Justice, DW’s NY Yank, Intimidate, Archangel, Modern Family, Americash Express, and Upfront Billy. The second elim in post order is Sevruga, Market Share, Daylon Magician, Possessed Fashion, Quick Deal, Undercover Strike, and Arch Madness.

Market Share, a 5-year-old who has won 21 of 39 career races and $3.11 million, is making his 2014 debut. Trained by Linda Toscano and driven by Tim Tetrick, Market Share’s top wins include the 2012 Hambletonian and Canadian Trotting Classic and the 2013 Breeders Crown, Maple Leaf Trot, and TVG Free For All Series Championship.

He received the 2012 Dan Patch Award for best 3-year-old male trotter and the 2013 Dan Patch Award for best older male trotter.

Market Share prepped for the Cutler with two qualifiers at the Meadowlands, winning the second on May 3 in 1:52.4 with a :54.4 final half-mile.

“I was very happy with his qualifiers,” said Gutnick, who owns Market Share with TLP Stable and Bill Augustine. “Last week he did the second half under a hold, at least toward the end he was not being asked (to go). It’s nice when you have a horse that can leave fast and close fast. He can do both.”

Sebastian K, an 8-year-old, will be making his North American debut with trainer-driver Ake Svanstedt. Sebastian K, who was Sweden’s Horse of the Year in 2012, has won 26 of 63 career races and the equivalent of $2.29 million in U.S. dollars. He finished last season by winning the Group 1 Aby Stora Pris for the second consecutive year.

Intimidate won the 2012 Breeders Crown for 3-year-old male trotters and has captured 21 of 30 career starts and $605,293. Archangel was the 2012 Yonkers Trot winner and spent 2013 in the stallion shed. He has won 14 of 32 races and $906,579 lifetime. Modern Family and Sweet Justice are among three trotters sharing this season’s fastest mile to date, 1:51.1.

Sevruga is the defending Cutler champion and has won 28 of 64 races and $913,566 in his career. Arch Madness, who won the Cutler in 2010, has won 34 of 108 starts and $4.14 million lifetime. Other top wins for Arch Madness include the 2007 Breeders Crown for 3-year-old males, the 2008 Maple Leaf Trot, and 2011 Oslo Grand Prix.

* * *

Saturday’s card also features the opening round of the TVG Free For All Series for older male pacers. The field in post order is Modern Legend, Thinking Out Loud, Foiled Again, Word Power, Sweet Lou, Bolt The Duer, Warrawee Needy, Dovuto Hanover, Bettor’s Edge, and Golden Receiver.

Written by John Pricci of Harness Racing Update

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Sunday, May 04, 2014


Milestones Set at The Meaodwlands


By Press Release

With over 12,000 people attending the Kentucky Derby festivities throughout the day, The Meadowlands inherited a huge crowd remaining from the Derby day afternoon's business and they were witness to two milestones on the program.

It's not every day that a world record mile occurs in a C-1 Pace, but that happened tonight at The Meadowlands in the 11th race as Mighty Young Joe lowered his lifetime mark again at age 11, to 1:49.3 for trainer/driver Stacy Chiodo.

That mark is the fastest mile ever for a female driver and the first sub-1:50 mile by a female driver, and Chiodo clearly knew it as she waived her whip in triumph when she crossed the wire and saw the teletimer. For Mighty Young Joe, this marked the 30th victory in his career, with earnings approaching $500,000.

On the heels of that milestone came another, as Dave Miller guided Dull Roar to a 1:50.3 victory in the 12th race C-2 Pace for the 11,000th win of his driving career. Miller will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer.

The Saturday night feature saw ten sophomore colt pacers assemble in the $47,253 “Albatross” John Simpson Memorial, a Grand Circuit stake. JK Endofanera made his sophomore debut a winning one via a long uncovered move in 1:49.4 for Yannick Gingras.

Away mid-pack as Allstar Partner rolled off fractions of 26.3, 55-, and 1:23.2 Gingras edged JK Endofanera into a first over position attacking the leader until he succumbed to the winner's unrelenting presence. Jet Airway was a fast closing second and Ideal Cowboy third.

The Art Major colt is trained by Ronnie Burke for the 3 Brothers Stable of New York who are both owner and breeder.

As April turns to May a number of three year olds are starting to show up in preparation for stakes engagements and trainer Tony Alagna sent out a pair of impressive Somebeachsomewhere colts making their 2014 debuts.

Maxi Bon (Knock Three Times) set a hot pace then drew away from a Non Winners of two in 1:49.4 with a 27.4 close. He is owned by Carver Stables, Dave Prushnok, Joe Sbrocco and Eagle Soar Partners.

A few races later in another division of the same class, That’s My Opinion (Boldnbrash Hanover) moved to the lead going to the half through slower splits and broke his maiden in 1:50.3. He is owned by the partnership of Brittany Farms, Marvin Katz, Joe Sbrocco and Jeff Gural’s Little E LLC. Scott Zeron drove both colts.

Tony also sent out Odds On Equuleus for his four year old debut in a B-2 overnight and the 2013 Meadowlands Pace runner up won his first race since September of 2012 in a career best 1:49.1. He was driven by Tim Tetrick and is owned by Odds On Racing of Ft Lauderdale.

B-1/A-2 pacers raced for $22,500 in race two with Rockin Amadeus winning for the second time in three 2014 starts, this one in a new personal record of 1:49.1. Corey Callahan sent him right to the front and rated even numbers before sprinting home in 26.3 to close the deal. Frankie’s Dragon was a very game first over and went right to the wire with the winner.

Rockin Amadeus is owned by Lothlorien of Ontario, Canada and hails from the Takter barn.

Total handle for The Meadowlands Saturday card was $3,287,734.



Written by John Pricci of Harness Racing Update

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