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, April 18, 2014


Andy Miller Likely Will Be Out for SIx Months


Injured in a spill Tuesday night at Yonkers driver Andy Miller underwent successful surgery Wednesday at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital to repair broken vertebrae in his back. He continues to have feeling in all his extremities, but Miller still faces a long recovery.

Speaking yesterday to Harness Racing Update, Miller's wife, Julie, said the estimate is that her husband will be out of action for about six months.

"How long will he be out? That's the $1 million question," Julie Miller said. "The doctors are hesitant to say, but they did say that it usually takes a good three months for the bones to heal and another three months for the ligaments to heal. So we're looking at six months, but time will tell.

"The doctors are really optimistic. They said it really helps that he was healthy and fit before he came in here. He is a good candidate for a full recovery. It's just going to take time."

Miller was driving a horse named Marmara Denizi for his brother, trainer Erv Miller. The spill began when In The Clear, driven by George Brennan appeared to step on the wheel of another horse and fell.

Racing near the back of the pack, Miller fell as part of a chain reaction. Brennan was not hurt.

Miller was originally taken to Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville, New York before being transferred to Columbia Presbyterian in Manhattan. The surgery involved placing rods and screws in his back to stabilize the injured area.

"They expect he'll be walking around by (Friday) and if things continue to go well he should be out of the hospital on Monday or Tuesday," Julie Miller said.

The accident came at a particularly inopportune time for Miller as stakes season is right around the corner and it appears he's going to miss virtually all of the big money races.

"He's disappointed, especially with the 2-year-old races coming up," Miller said. "But we could be talking about something far worse. He could have been paralyzed. He's got mobility and he's strong and, in my opinion, he's a pretty tough guy. So he's going to come out of this OK.

It could have been a lot worse. I've got to thank Mr. (Jeff) Gural and Jason Settlemoir who were very helpful. They referred us to the very best doctors and made sure we got to see them.

Andy has also been really happy with the outpouring of thoughts and prayers we've received from people in the horse racing community and is very appreciative of that."

Written by Bill Finley of Harness Racing Update

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Friday, April 11, 2014


Takter Preparing For A Monster Year


By Perry Lefko

With a barn full of superstar horses, including a couple that he considers the best two- and three-year-old male and female trotters he has ever trained, Jimmy Takter is optimistic about the 2014 season.

Given that Takter, voted three times as trainer of the year and an inductee in the Harness Racing Hall of Fame, he could be headed for another banner campaign.

Takter is excited about the prospects of three-year-old colt trotter Father Patrick, a winner of 10 of 11 races and currently with nine consecutive wins, who won the Breeders Crown last year and the Dan Patch Award for his particular division.

Takter is also looking forward to the sophomore season of female trotter Shake It Cerry, a winner of eight of 11 races, including the Breeders Crown, and also a Dan Patch winner. As if that weren't enough, Takter acquired Nuncio, who was the only one to beat Father Patrick last year, in January when the colt's trainer, Jim Oscarsson, returned to Sweden.

Add in Uncle Peter, a five-year-old who beat standout mare Maven in a recent qualifier, along with numerous quality two-year-olds, and it is easy to understand why Takter is looking forward to competing in all the big races this year.

Takter told Harness Racing Update that he is fortunate to be equipped with better horses than ever, although he has also learned in the last few years how to make them perform to their optimum best.

"It's a lot of good fortune, plus I've developed them myself (better) in the last four or five years," he said in an interview in which he talked about a variety of subjects. "You always try to experiment a little bit in your training methods. With a combination of all those things, the results get better.

"With more experience you see the signs to go on harder or when to back off. Things like that make a big difference when you train young horses. Pushing a horse when it's not ready to be pushed that's very important not to do or push when you're supposed to push. That's something where experience (helps)."

With more than 30 years experience and a who's who of top horses he's trained in both the trotter and pacer sides, Takter is proof that you're never too old to learn.

Father Patrick, whose other big wins came in the Peter Haughton Memorial (by 10 lengths), William Wellwood and Champlain, is expected to make his three-year-old debut some time in May, likely at Pocono Downs in a Sires Stakes race. He is by the Pennsylvania sire Cantab Hall.

"He's been training super," Takter said. "He's a bit older now and he's matured quite a bit actually. Going into a three-year-old season, it's the best horse I've ever had. He's the best colt I've ever developed.

The best horse I ever trained was Moni Maker, but he's the best horse I've developed. I think I saw that potential in him quite early."

With the addition of Nuncio, Takter said it's a privilege to have two quality three-year-old trotters.

Written by Bill Finley of Harness Racing Update

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Sunday, March 30, 2014


Morrill Banned at Pocono, Has No Idea Why


There’s a reason why Jim Morrill Jr. has yet to drive a race this year at Pocono: he has been banned.

Morrill, who was the third leading driver last year at Pocono and is widely considered one of the very best in his profession, said he has heard no explanations from track management and the only way he
knows he is not welcome is because trainers have told him that every time they try to enter a horse with him down as the driver the racing office tells them they must choose someone else.

“I have no idea what’s going on there,” he said. “I just know they won’t accept any entries with me down to drive. I’ve been calling around to everyone there to try to get an answer and no one will call me back.

I’ve called (VP Racing Operations) Dale Rapson a bunch of times and left messages and I hear nothing back.”

Rapson did not respond to an email message from Harness Racing Update asking for information on Morrill’s status.

Morrill said he has asked attorney Howard Taylor to take up the case and see if he can’t get some answers from Pocono, but Taylor’s job won’t be an easy one. Privately owned racetracks are not required explain their decisions when ruling someone off.

“I like driving there and I give 150% every time I am out on the track,” he said. “I don’t know what this is all about. I know it can’t be anything major because I know I haven’t done anything wrong. I haven’t failed a Breathalyzer test, I haven’t fought with any racing officials. I didn’t fix any races, I didn’t drug any horses.

Since 2010 Morrill has had 588 winners at Pocono and has won at a 21 percent rate. Unable to drive at Pocono, Morrill has set up shop at the Meadowlands, where he is driving the Ron Burke horses while Yannick Gingras is participating at Yonkers in the Matchmaker and Levy. Morrill will also pick up plenty of business on the New York sire stakes circuit.

He says one of his primary concerns is to pick up enough drives this year to remain eligible for his pension.

Written by Bill Finley of Harness Racing Update

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