Cal-Expo To Kick Off 'Second Season'

Published: August 13, 2010 10:31 am EDT

“I’m excited and optimistic about the summer, fall, winter meet!” said Cal-Expo Director of Racing Dave Elliott in regard to the Friday, August 13 second-half season opener.

“To start off with, we are offering free admission, as well free preferred and general parking after 4:30 p.m. every live harness racing night,” Elliott explained. “Also, for the first time, we are offering a 50-cent Pick 5 on every racing night in the fifth race. Additionally, beginning in September, we are looking at a Guaranteed $10,000 Late Pick 4 on Saturdays, as well as a reduced takeout of 15% on Saturday night Pick 4s.”

When asked about opening weekend, Elliott was very pleased.

“On Friday and Saturday of this week, we have over 210 horses competing in 28 races, for which the horsemen should be commended for having their horses ready to go,” he said.

Calzone, Meringue Head Cal-Expo Featured Trot

Meringue, who closed out the spring session with a pair of sharp wins; and Calzone, making his first appearance since late January, get the marquee treatment in Friday night’s $5,200 headliner.

Meringue and Calzone both tuned up for this in a Matinee event last week. Meringue made every pole a winner in that once-around to show the way home by three lengths over Calzone, who came from well back with a sharp :28.2 final quarter. Both should be quite fit off that mile.

Meringue is a five-year-old son of Jonathan Lobell who is owned by Dawn Evango, is conditioned by Kennedy Lindsey and will have Etienne Desomer in the sulky. The dark-hued performer comes into this assignment with $170,000 in his bank account and a mark of 1:55.2 that was established last year at the Meadowlands.

As mentioned earlier, Meringue finished up the last meet in style with back-to-back victories. He sat a perfect stalking trip on June 12 and cruised home by nearly five lengths with James Kennedy at the controls, then took matters into his own hands and went coast-to-coast with Rick Plano a week later and held safe by a neck over Jess Or No in that contest.

Calzone is a five-year-old son of Yankee Glide who is owned and trained by Gordie Graham with Rich Wojcio in the sulky. He has won eight of his 17 starts, with a 1:56.4 best over this track, and was last seen taking on some quality trotters like Claudius Augustus and Cherry Tree Luke at the Open level.

Rich Wojcio Returns To The Sulky

Rich Wojcio, who has won 3,632 races in his career for earnings of over $21 million, returns to action Friday night after being away from the wars since January following a very scary spill.

The 49-year-old Wojcio suffered a concussion, broken left arm and facial injuries in that accident, and is happy to be back to work as the second half of this meeting gets under way.

“I don’t remember a thing about the race, just waking up and being all banged up,” he related. “It’s the worst accident I’ve had in 34 years of driving, and I was just grateful that nobody else was hurt.”

Rich has been back at the track since early April, gradually building his strength back up.

“The healing process went pretty well, but I had to go to physical therapy for about seven weeks for what they call frozen shoulder, which means everything in that area had tightened up.”

Wojcio recorded the biggest win of his career in the late 1980s when he guided the pacing filly Hiding Place to victory in the Art Rooney at Yonkers, which was a $300,000 race at the time. He moved his base to California late in 2003 and immediately became a mainstay of the local drivers' room.

Last weekend saw a series of matinee races to get both horses and drivers ready, and Rich came away with a quartet of victories.

“It felt good to be back in the bike,” he said. “I was a little anxious for the first one, but after that it was just like I didn’t miss a day. I want to thank everybody for their support, because it’s meant a lot to me.”

Interestingly, one of Wojcio’s drives on Friday will be behind Calzone in the featured trot. Like his pilot, the side-wheeler is making his initial evening foray in seven months.

The Horse Of A Different Color And Size

Blue Canyon is one of the easiest horses to spot at Cal-Expo, as the eight-year-old pacing son of Tulane is not only just this side of white, but also literally towers over most of his rivals.

When Blue Canyon suits up in the Saturday opener, he will be making his 188th lifetime appearance, with 19 wins, 24 seconds and a like number of thirds to show for these efforts and a 1:55.2 career standard from two years ago. The veteran is owned by Bridget Desomer and will as usual be guided by her husband Etienne.

When last seen under the lights here in late May, Blue Canyon was definitely floundering with a pair of breaks, but judging by his sparkling victory in a Matinee event last weekend, he’s gearing up for a much brighter second half of his 2020 campaign.

“I have two people to thank for Blue Canyon’s mile last week,” related Bridget. “One is Pam Greer, who I met indirectly through my mother-in-law Vickie. Pam was nice enough to let Blue Canyon stay up at her place during the break, and they had five acres of grass, trees and a pond that they shared with a quarter horse and a retired standardbred named Riverman.

“Blue Canyon and my other horse, Tu Charming, spent the majority of their vacation swimming in the pond, which I believe kept them sharp. They both came back to the racetrack with a new attitude and muscles I didn’t even remember seeing before.”

Bridget also credits her husband Etienne with some adjustments that seem to be agreeing with the big gray.

“He’s changed his shoeing behind to something that I have never seen in many years in this business. Tien and our blacksmith Louie have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to shoe him. If Blue Canyon continues to pace the way he did in that mile last Saturday (August 7), by George, I think they’ve got it!”



I'd like to know how owners make money with those purses!
Maybe the trainers only charge $10 - $15 per day?

California is doing much better than the rest of us. 140 days of racing looks awfully good compared to BC. Also competitve fields, helps owners make money.

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