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Devilish Donnie is a memory maker for Shurman
Thursday, June 17, 2010 - by Mark Ratzky, publicity, Cal-Expo

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Sacramento, CA --- Devilish Donnie isn’t mixing it up with the big boys like he was a couple of years ago, but he’s still making his share of winner’s circle appearances for Cliff Shurman and Rocky Stidham with five victories on the season.

Shurman has been a fan of the trotters and pacers for 50 years, and it was in 2002 that he decided to take the plunge into ownership with his first harness performer.

“I was introduced to harness racing at Santa Anita in 1959, when I was 19, by my longtime friend Marty Galluccio and his dad Larry,” Shurman related. “They had a few claiming horses with Louie Rapone, and I continued to enjoy the harness racing at Hollywood Park thorough the 1970s, when I was able to see horses like Albatross, Falcon Seelster and Nihilator.”

It was during his trips to Sacramento to see relatives that Cliff would visit Cal-Expo, and in 1995 he moved here and became a regular patron.

“As time passed, I became acquainted with many of the owners, drivers and trainers. I admired Rocky Stidham for his many abilities as an individual with high ethical standards who had taken time to encourage me to became an active participant, not just a spectator who watched races and hopes the horse I bet on crosses the line first.”

Some seven years ago Shurman made the move from fan to owner, and his first horse with Stidham was a pacer named Peterford N.

“Rocky, myself and Cindy Tupper had a mare named Red Star Tripper, who was claimed for us,” Shurman said. “We ended up claiming him back, and this got Cindy looking for others for us to claim.”

This led to dropping the claim slip in on Devilish Donnie a few years ago, with the result being plenty of trips to the winner’s circle, including 14 visits during his 2008 campaign. Among those tallies was a 1:52.2 career standard at a time when he was one of the top-ranked performers on the grounds.

She's moving from off Broadway

After Broadway Victory’s 17 length romp last week, it appears as though John McKeon’s sophomore trotting filly is beginning to put it all together.

McKeon owns, trains and drives the daughter of Broadway Hall, who had her troubles in her first four attempts, but turned in a solid runner-up finish two back and then made 6-5 look like a gift in the recent coast-to-coast tour of the oval.

“I bought her as a yearling at the Harrisburg sale,” McKeon related. “Her dam Tag A Victory was fourth in the Hambletonian Oaks and won $250,000. Rick Plano trained her until last spring and she was ready for a qualifier, but something wasn’t right.”

In the interim, Broadway Victory has been a work in progress for her mentor.

“She’s got a lot of speed, but she’s had her problems, including a slight splint issue, and we’ve had to work on her behavior.”

McKeon credits trainer Nathalie Tremblay with helping the dark-hued filly.

“It so happened she was riding in the starting car to watch another horse in the race, and she mentioned to me that my filly had her tongue over the bit when we went into the far turn. I added a tongue-tie to her equipment right after that.

“I also started to race her with a Murphy blind, which has helped her to go straighter around the turns, which is very important. These two things and a slight shoeing change seemed to have really worked.”

Broadway Victory may have taken advantage of a couple of her main rivals making miscues last week, but you can’t take anything away from her, turning a two length advantage to five in the stretch and then an eye-catching 17 lengths at the wire after carving out fractions of :28.1 and :58.4 en route.

In case you were wondering, this is the biggest winning margin ever posted by a McKeon charge, but not by much. Last year his trotting mare Caviart Annie crushed a field by 16 lengths in a similar drubbing.

Keeping track of Greg Robinson

Greg Robinson got hooked on the trotters and pacers in the mid-1990s and has managed to combine his work and his passion as the harness product manager for TrackMaster.

Earning the moniker TrackMaster Greg, he has worked for that company since 2000 and has also owned horses with his boss David Siegel for the last seven years. Among the solid performers they have campaigned during this period are Wastin Time and Sea Song.

“I lived in San Mateo and used to get over to Bay Meadows when they were racing on Friday nights back in the mid-90s,” Robinson related. “Even though it was Thoroughbreds, I found it was the harness racing they were showing via simulcast that got my attention.”

After graduating with a business degree from Santa Clara University, Greg took a position at TrackMaster, where he is now an account manager in addition to being the harness honcho. He’s proud of having developed the TrackMaster ratings for the trotters and pacers, which have proven to be popular.

As far as getting into the ownership arena, it was longtime owner and sometimes driver Siegel who made it easy for Greg to make the transition from fan to having his name on the program.

“Dave and I talked about it for a while, then I went in partners with him on Wastin Time, who was a real nice one for us. I guess we’ve had about 25 horses, most of which we claimed.

“That first win by Wastin Time was really special, something I’ll never forget. We also did real well with a horse named Sea Song, who definitely ranks as one of my favorites.”

Robinson was asked about the differences between betting on a winner and having one that he owns.

“I get quite a bit of satisfaction from both, but they’re different,” he replied. “To be honest, sometimes I actually get more from picking and betting on a winner than from one I own.”

Robinson definitely touched on one of the things that make this game so great, as you don’t have to necessarily get your picture taken to get just as much of a thrill from a winner as the owners, driver and trainer. It’s available to all of us.

Live racing resumes at Cal-Expo on Thursday (June 17) and continues through Saturday (June 19). Post time on Thursday is at 6:15 p.m. (PDT). Post time on Friday (June 18) is at 6:20 p.m. Post time on Saturday (closing night/Winter-Spring meet) is at 6:40 p.m.

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