Bill Vallandingham Pace heads Sunday program

Graceful Horizon, a winner of 7 of her 11 appearances this season, eyes another photo session in Sunday night’s $30,000 Bill Vallandingham DHA Pace for fillies and mares.

The 11-race Watch and Wager LLC program will also feature a pair of $20,000 California Sire Stakes for the 3-year-old pacers and things get underway at 4:50 p.m.

A 6-year-old daughter of Vertical Horizon, Graceful Horizon carries the banner of Set The Pace Racing LLC with Nick Roland driving and training.

The last time these distaffers got together for a DHA contest, Graceful Horizon showed the way early, was headed in the stretch but gamely re-rallied to prevail over Divine Art in that March 31 contest.

In last week’s Kirk Breed Pace, Roland sat just off some sparkling fractions with his charge, ignited along the rail in the stretch and pulled away to a two and quarter length score in a lifetime best 1:51 2/5.

Divine Art went a big mile last week in the Breed, checking in third after being parked the mile and may prove the main rival. Gerry Longo owns, drives and trains the daughter of Outrageous Art, who is seeking her 30th win from 71 lifetime appearances.

Set to line up against them this weekend are Give Me This Dance, What Cheer, Senga Nightmare, Shirley Skip Shady and Wish I Had Thyme.

Looking at the two Sire Stakes, Little Miss Boss will seek an encore in the distaff contest while Fiery Conclusion was taking pictures following the most recent stakes clash for the males.

Fiery Conclusion picks up first trophy

Fiery Conclusion was a game winner of the most recent Sire Stakes for the 3-year-old male pacers, gamely prevailing over Celebrity Status who had accounted for the first two big-money contests at the meet for this group.

Fiery Conclusion was only making the third start of his career for his owner/driver/trainer Gerry Longo, spotting most of his stakes rivals an experience edge that evening.

The son of Wind Me Up will look to another trophy to the case when the final Sire Stakes for this group is decided next week.

“I bought him last year and he devloped a little filling, so I gave him some time off and pointed for his 3-year-old campaign,” Longo related.

“Even though he won his qualifier easily, he only came home in 30 and a piece, but in his second start when he closed into that slow pace with a :27 and change final quarter, I started to be impressed.”

In last week’s Sire Stakes, Fiery Conclusion sat third early, brushed to the front past the quarter and then had enough left to hold safe by a head over even-money Celebrity Status in a 1:58 2/5 tour.

“I actually wanted to track Celerity Status, but when that longshot (Say So’s Wind Up) took the lead, I said ‘What the heck’ and sent my horse up there. He surprised me how game he was in the stretch, it being only his third start and all.”

California Sire Stakes moving in right direction

This meeting features a total of $420,000 in California Sire Stakes events, including a pair of $50,000 finales for 4-year-olds to be decided on May 3.

To give you some idea how things have improved, in 2017 there was a total of $54,000 paid out for the Sire Stakes with a pair of $10,000 finals.

The California Sire Stakes program was on the verge of extinction when legislation was passed in 2017 that opened up these races to horses bred in other jurisdictions.

Eligible now are horses from Alberta, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Maine and from only a dozen horses that were able to compete in 2016 there are now 60 eligible performers this year.

This was all due to the hard work of Watch and Wager, the Sire Stakes Committee and the California Harness Horseman’s Association working diligently with the state legislature.