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Smith’s trotting mare shows right 'Spark'
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - by Mark Ratzky, publicity, Cal Expo Harness

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Sacramento, CA --- After knocking on the door in her first four starts this year, Blue Spark got her picture taken last week at Cal Expo in emphatic fashion for owner/trainer Gretchen Smith with son Sean at the controls. 

The 5-year-old trotting daughter of Valley Victory came up on the wrong end of a nose photo in her previous mile, but left no doubt in last Saturday night’s opener as she won going away despite a long journey.

“I bought her last August in Ohio,” Gretchen related after the victory. “She had conditions and I figured she would fit class-wise out here. It also looked like she could handle the smaller tracks back East during the summer.”

There have been some breaking problems along the way, but if her last two efforts are any indication, Blue Spark has put things together and has the majority of her issues behind her at this point.

“It was really just a matter of getting her head on straight,” Smith explained. “She’s pleasant around the barn, but at the same time she can also be cantankerous. We’ve tried some different things and learned that you pretty much have to give her head when she’s racing.”

Gretchen was very pleased with Blue Spark’s recent score, which found a gap of nearly three lengths back to the nearest rival while stopping the timer in 1:57.2 that evening.

“If you watch Sean, you’ll see that she could have gone a lot faster. Hopefully, we’ve figured her out.”

As for summer plans, Smith said the trotter would more than likely go to Pennsylvania with her son and could also make stops at Yonkers and Saratoga in New York, both half-mile tracks. 

Barbarian has top billing in Open Pace

Barbarian, going in razor-sharp form with back-to-back scores at the head of the class, sets his sights on a hat trick in Friday night’s featured $6,600 Open Pace. 

Watch and Wager LLC has scheduled 12 races Friday evening with first post set for 6:10 p.m. The headliner goes as the eighth event on the program. 

Barbarian is a 6-year-old son of Somebeachsomewhere out of the Western Ideal mare Rightous Renee who carries the banner of Robert Orr, is conditioned by Sparky Clarke and will once again have Luke Plano at the controls.

The hard-hitting performer was 7-2 when he made every pole a winning one in the Feb. 24 Open as Plano was able to carve out the fractions without challenge and came to the line with 4-1/2 lengths on his nearest rival in a sparkling 1:52.4 mile.

For his most recent assignment, Barbarian left from the outside slot in a field of seven and was dispatched as the 6-5 favorite. Once again they were able to set the pace up front, this time with fairly modest splits, and held safe by a neck over a fast-finishing Doc’s Deal that evening. 

Taking him on, from the rail out, are Lodi Machete Man, Why Ask Why, Jazzmanian Devil, Docs Deal, China King and Pancetta. 

Saturday night’s main event is the Open Trot, with Silverlode once again being asked to do her work from the assigned 10 post while looking for her fourth straight win on the year at the head of the class.

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