Driver, trainer races going down to the wire

With just two programs remaining, Nick Roland holds a five-length lead over Jake Cutting in the driver’s race while Rick Bertrand and Gordie Graham are tied atop the trainer standings.

Roland and Cutting have been putting on a great battle here among the pilots, with Roland returning to the charmed circle after 101 of his 470 drives, while Cutting has almost identical numbers with 96 victories from his 461 trips to the post.

Meanwhile, Bertrand and Graham have each sent out 47 winners and it will be up to the closing weekend to see if they remain in a deadlock or one of them comes away with a clear-cut victory.

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Saturday’s main event is named for famed harness owner and track operator Lloyd Arnold, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 83.

Mr. Arnold raced such outstanding performers as Warm Breeze, who set an all-age world record over this track when it was known as Golden Bear Raceway; the brilliant distaffer Sanabelle Island; Bagel Beach Boy, Chevie Duramax and Quik Pulse Mindale.

In addition to being a prominent standardbred owner, Mr. Arnold operated this track during those Golden Bear Raceway years and also bought Los Alamitos in the 1980s, eventually selling the track to his partner, Ed Allred.

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With this being closing weekend, Sunday will find mandatory payouts in all wagers. A reminder there are three bets offered each night that come with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate – the 20-cent early and late Pick 5 and the 20-cent Pick 4, with the latter featuring a $25,000-guaranteed gross pool.  

Im A Magic Man puts it all together

After having to settle for minor awards in his initial stakes appearances, it was Im A Magic Man’s chance to shine in last week’s final big-money clash for the sophomore males at this session.

Sent off the 3-1 second choice with Tony Kerwood at the controls, Im A Magic Man left into a stalking spot, attacked pace-setting Lodi Phillip in the lane and posted a three-quarter length trophy earner while posting an excellent 1:53 3/5 clocking.

The Mystician homebred carries the banner of Richard Schneider, is put through his paces by Ariel Alvarez and is now two-for-two since joining forces with Kerwood.

“You can really see the difference in his last few starts,” said Alvarez after the Sire Stakes score. “It was just a matter of getting his head and his legs to click, and then the improvement came.

“He was beating an easier field the week before, but it was strong, and I think quite a few people were surprised when he was able to beat Lodi Phillip in the stakes. He’s got a lot of talent and now he’s putting it all together.”

While Im A Magic Man has returned to his native Alberta and a reunion with Schneider, following closing week here Alvarez will be packing his bags and heading to what he hopes will be a successful spring and summer at Running Aces.

This being closing night, there will be mandatory payouts in all wagers. A reminder that there are three bets with a reduced 16 percent takeout rate – the 20-cent early and late Pick 5 and the 20-cent Pick 4, with the latter featuring a $25,000-guaranteed gross pool.

Easy lies the crown on Mandeville

With his victories in the Gary Budahn and the Stan Bergstein, Mandeville is certainly making his case for Trotter of the Meet honors when things wrap up here this week.

Veteran Gerry Longo owns and trains the 9-year-old and Luke Plano has been the perfect partner for the gelding as he has put his class and versatility on display in his last three victories.

The win in the March 6 Budahn came in game, first over fashion, he did the track-and-attack to account for the march 21 Open and then came back to go coast-to-coast in the Bergstein as the heavy favorite with Plano sitting chilly.

While Silverhill Volo dominated the division early in the meeting for Chip Lackey and track record-holder Pridecrest has gone some big miles of his own at this stand, it’s hard to look past Mandeville as the king of the hill.

California icon Bill Vallandingham passes

California harness racing Hall-of-Famer Bill Vallandingham passed away on April 4 due to complications from a lung transplant he had seven years ago. He was 74.

Billy V, as he was affectionately known, was the starter at Cal Expo for 20 years before health issues forced him to leave the job in 2014, but he did return to limited duties at the Sacramento track in 2018.

He wore many hats around the racetrack, including groom, paddock judge, horse identifier and horse tattooer before assuming his stint as the starter in 1994.

Mr. Vallandingham was a veteran of the Army and served in Vietnam.