To help you make your picks for the Grand Circuit $1 Million Challenge, we’ve assembled a crackerjack group of experts who will run down their picks in the week leading up to each of the 30 races. Introducing the 2014 Grand Circuit $1 Million Challenge advisor panel:
Nick Salvi – Stakes Consultant for Jeff Gural’s racetracks since 2007. Nick is from a racing family and trained and drove standardbreds for 25 years before moving to the administrative side. He worked at the famed Red Mile and Pompano Park as Racing Secretary and is currently a Grand Circuit Vice President.
Follow him @NickSalvi1
Darin Zoccali – The Director of Racing Operations at the New Meadowlands and responsible for weekly race reviews. Zoccali also is a Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing announcer and analyst. While the Meadowlands is home base for Zoccali, he also does work for Parx Racing at Philadelphia Park and Tioga Downs and regularly fills in on Sirius XM Radio’s Down The Stretch broadcast.
Follow him @atTheTrack7
Bob “Pandy” Pandolfo – has been writing about harness and thoroughbred racing and handicapping for 27 years. His popular “Pandycapping” column has appeared in many publications, including The Daily Racing Form, and Sports Eye. He has also been published on the USTA site, in Hoofbeats magazine, American Turf Monthly, and other publications.
Follow him @bobpandolfo
Casie Coleman – has been a force in the ranks of North American trainers for the past ten years. In 2005 she became the first female trainer to win Canada’s O’brien award for top trainer. In 2012, at just 32 years-old, she became the youngest trainer to pass $40 million in earnings. She has loved harness racing for her entire life and learned at a young age from her parents. She has won the Little Brown Jug back to back, with Michael’s Power in 2012 and in 2013 with Vegas Vacation. Some of her start pupils over the years include American Idea, Sportswriter, BetterThanCheddar, Idyllic and one of the top 3-year-old pacers of 2014, McWicked.
Follow her @fastlane111
Mark McKelvie – Communications Coordinator for Woodbine Entertainment Group-Standardbred Division. McKelvie grew up in Milton, Ontario, learning about Harness Racingfrom his parents, who worked in the industry. In 2012 he was the champion of HANA Harness’ The Pen vs. The Chip Handicapping Challenge.
Follow him @MohawkMarkM
Ken Middleton – Standardbred announcer at Woodbine and Mohawk Racetracks, and has worked for Woodbine Entertainment Group since 1998. Middleton has called six North America Cup champions, including Somebeachsomewhere, as well as many other Harness Racing stars, such as Foiled Again, San Pail and Muscle Hill.
Follow him @Middleton_WOMoh
Chad Rozema – On-air commentator and racing analyst for Woodbine Entertainment Group. He has experience in analyzing both Harness Racing and Thoroughbred racing. He is a regular in providing handicapping analysis and major stakes previews.
Follow him @MohawkChad
Greg Gangle – Horse racing enthusiast and commentator/analyst for Woodbine Entertainment Group. Working in the media department at WEG, Gangle has had the opportunity to work with the biggest trainers and drivers in Canada and get up close and personal with Harness Racing. He also contributes to handicapping resources, showcased by The Horseplayers Journal, available through WEG.
Follow him @GGangle_WOMoh
“The Professor” – has nearly 30 years of experience as a horseman, handicapper and bettor, and provides a daily tip sheet on Meadows racing. He is the official handicapper of the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association, and his tip sheet can be found daily on their site.
“The Dean” – provides and in-depth look at the races for the MSOA. His many years of studying races and horses contribute to his natural handicapping prowess. His regular picks can be found at theMSOA.com. He prefers to remain anonymous as to avoid the paparazzi and stalking fans.
Roger Huston – the iconic voice of The Meadows Racetrack and the Little Brown Jug, and a member of the Harness Racing Communicators Hall of Fame. He has not only seen, but called, many of the sport’s most amazing moments and memorable athletes. To date he has called over 167,000 races in 129 different locations and seven different countries: US, Norway, Canada, Finland, Sweden, Australia and Wales. On August 9th and 10th he will add Ireland to that list as he travels to Portmarnock in Dublin. His favorite racing moments include Falcon Seelster’s world record at Delaware, Dragons Lair’s 1984 Breeders Crown win and Nansemond defeating Albatross in the Little Brown Jug. You can watch him call Falcon Seelster’s world record mile.
Ron Burke – the trainer behind one of the most powerful stables in the sport. He is the all-time leader in wins and money with over 4,000 wins and over $90,000,000 for his connections. He also conditions the richest standardbred ever to grace a racetrack, Foiled Again. Among his other stars of past and present are Won The West, Buckeye St Pat, Sweet Lou, and this year’s 2-year-old trotting sensation Mission Brief.
Follow him: @RonBurkeRacing
Steve Cross – has been a staple at Hoosier Park since 1998, when he began announcing races there. He comes from a family that raised standardbreds in Middlebury, Ind, but has extensive experience handicapping and calling races for both Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds. He began calling fair races in 1987 and has been the voice to races from Columbus, OH to Pompano Park, FL.
Cliff Fraser – Race Marketing Manager for Hoosier Park. He also provides daily analysis of live racing at Hoosier, including key plays and featuring the “Best Bet” and “Longshot” of the program. His regular race analysis can be found here.
Follow him: @HoPCliff
Ayers Ratliff – announcer at Northfield Park for the past six years. Previously he has worked at Scioto Downs, called thoroughbred races at Thistledown and is the voice of many county fairs in Ohio. Ayers learned harness racing at a young age from his father Ayers Ratliff Sr. Since he was a child, he has found race calling to be his personal calling. His nightly handicapping picks can be found for free online on the Northfield website.
Brandon Valvo – started going to the races at Saratoga Harness about 5 years ago. Since then, he’s rarely missed a weekend at the harness track. Last year, he joined Harness Racing America as a writer and handicapper. Currently, he leads 14 other handicappers in the HANA Harness Grand Circuit Shoot Out and has been part of the sport at almost every level: fan, bettor, horse owner, writer, and handicapper.
Follow him: @BValvsRacing
Mike Sardella – the handicapper and has announcer at Saratoga Casino and Raceway since 2001. After a stint as the handicapper/announcer at Ocean Downs in Maryland, he took over the full time announcing duties at Saratoga in 2006.
Follow him: @mikesardella
Matt Sparacino – In his 15th year at Harrington Raceway, Matt is the track handicapper and Assistant General Manager. He also served at the President of the Standardbred Media and Marketing Association from 2005 to 2007. Before coming to Harrington, he worked as a sports producer for WMAR-TV Channel 2 in Baltimore. He also has past experience as a horse racing beat writer and as a co-anchor for WMJF-TV. Each night of live racing he can be heard on Harrington’s in-house programming and/or on any of the 400-plus simulcast outlets across the country.
Heather Vitale – Probably harness racing’s most charismatic and recognizable personality. She is a host on two harness racing broadcasts, “Post Time” and “PA Harness Week.” A third generation horse person, Heather has been involved in all aspects of the sport and works tirelessly to promote and draw attention to all of the super stars and characters that harness racing has to offer. She is a tireless advocate for harness racing and all things sparkly.
Follow her: @
Gabe Prewitt – originally a thoroughbred fan, until he moved across the street from The Red Mile in Lexington, KY during college. He began working there as a teller and eventually became the resident handicapping expert and voice of the iconic clay surface. He also announces at Pompano Park.
Follow him: @gabe_prewitt
Barry Vicroy – one of the busiest announcers in the game. He travels the Ohio fair circuit calling races as well as being the full-time announcer at Scioto Downs and the soon-to-open Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway. Barry’s has been involved in harness racing on both sides of the fence, training and driving before he became an announcer.
Follow him: @SciotoBarry
Steve Carpenito – Director of Mutuels and resident handicapping expert at Scioto Downs. Catch all of his picks for the card on the Scioto Downs simulcast show!
Follow him: @CarpenitoDiem
Marv Bachrad – Former sports announcer for several Philadelphia radio stations, WCAU, CBS Radio and all-news KYW. Has been a fan and harness owner since the 1960. Called races at Liberty Bell Park. Was PR director at ill-fated Garden State Park until it burned in the 1970s. PR director at Brandywine Raceway until it closed in 1989. Served as Sr. Editor at TIMES: in harness magazine during the early 1990s. Came to Dover Downs in 1996.