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Joe O'Brien Series to debut Sunday at Cal Expo
Saturday, January 05, 2013 - by Mark Ratzky, for Cal Expo

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Sacramento, CA--Two divisions of the opening leg of the Joe O’Brien Pacing Series hold the spotlight Sunday night (Jan. 6) at the Watch and Wager LLC meeting at Cal Expo. A 12-race program is on tap with first post at 5:10 p.m. (8:10 Eastern)

The O’Brien will go as the ninth and 12th races on the evening. Hello Sevens and Little Anna Mae loom large in the first division as they seek repeat scores, while Notable Intention and Boot Scootin Bow figure to have their share of backers in the other section.

Hello Sevens is a 3-year-old Indiana-bred son of Kilowatt who is conditioned by Dario Solares and will once again be guided by Dave Siegel, who co-owns the pacer with Robert Thronson and Greg Robinson. He has a win and a second since coming in from Canada.

The bay performer did the work first-over in his local debut in the slop on Dec. 23, 2012, then proved a punctual even-money favorite for Siegel at most recent asking. Hello Sevens made a power brush to command past that half and went on to a three and a half-length romp in a 1:57 tour.

Little Anna Mae is a 3-year-old Little Steven filly who is likewise coming off a convincing victory last weekend. Denise Maier, Eileen Brodbar and Daniel Maier own with Tim Maier doing the driving and training. The dark-hued miss went coast-to-coast in that last victory, holding safe by a head over Sunday rival Littlehannahsue.

Notable Intention gives the Solares barn another good look in the second division as the Osmin Carrera colorbearer lands a cozy post in search of an encore, while Boot Scootin Bow is coming off a runner-up finish behind Hello Stevens and competes for the Kc C Carvalho/Tim Brown combination.

Next week will find the trotters and pacers in action on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (Jan. 10-12).

Sunday’s main event is the opening leg of the Joe O’Brien Series, named for the great Hall of Fame trainer-driver. Born June 26, 1917, in Alberton, P.E.I., O'Brien was introduced to the sport by his father Harry, along with his brothers Claude, Lloyd and Ray.

He won his first race at the Summerside track in 1933, at age 16, with a horse called Mickey Mouse. This may have been some foreshadowing as “Little Joe” as he was known went on to reach the height of his sport over the next 50 years while leaving his native country in 1947 to move to the United States.

As a driver, he won 4,285 races with earnings of over $20 million. An expert trainer and conditioner of horses, his vast experience in the sport made him an astute judge of racing talent as well. Although he eventually left Canada and made his home in California, O'Brien maintained close ties with Canadian horsemen.

He trained and drove some of the Armstrong Brothers' finest race horses for some 15 years. That association prompted a tribute from Dr. Glen Brown, the farm manager for the Armstrongs. Said Dr.Brown, "The most remarkable thing about Joe was his competitive nature on the race track. He was a different man out there. He drove every race to win, asking no quarter and expecting none. Nobody was his friend in the bike."

It was generally agreed that no driver in history ever had a greater sense of timing and knowledge of how much horse he had left. Horsemen paid him the highest compliment of all by saying he drove like he had a stopwatch in his head. Even in his senior years, O'Brien was the most sought after driver for time trials at Lexington, Kentucky.

O'Brien always remained loyal to Scott Frost, the 1955 Triple Crown trotting champion, as his favorite horse of all time. For the Armstrong Brothers, O'Brien handled Armbro Flight, the Roosevelt International winner in 1966 and the champion of the Dexter Cup and Kentucky Futurity in 1955. He gained widespread stature with the superb mare, Fresh Yankee, the Roosevelt International winner in 1970 and the sport's first million-dollar winner who went 62 races without ever being worse than second.

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