Writing Samples

Featured on USAToday.com

Yannick Gingras: Saturday’s Hambletonian is Southwind Frank’s race to lose

They say the third time’s a charm, but Yannick Gingras prefers to place his confidence in future success rather than dwell on past failures while driving the favorite.

Gingras will drive Southwind Frank in the second of two eliminations for Saturday’s $1 million Hambletonian at the Meadowlands (Live, CBS Sports Network, 4 p.m. ET), piloting the favorite for the third consecutive year.

In the last two Hambletonians, Gingras fell short, first with Father Patrick, who broke at the start in 2014, and then with Mission Brief, who finished second in 2015. But Gingras refuses to focus on the past.

“I’ve wanted to win the Hambletonian just as badly years ago as I do today,” he said. “The last two years are in the past. I don’t look back at the past. Saturday is a new race.”

Southwind Frank, trained by Ron Burke, is the  4-5 morning-line favorite in the second elimination after winning last Saturday’s W.N. Reynolds Memorial. He equaled his career-fastest winning time despite a sloppy Meadowlands track surface in his final start before the Hambletonian.

“I’m very confident, especially after last Saturday,” he added. “He was really powerful and had plenty left.”

Last year’s loss was especially difficult because Gingras drove both elimination winners, filly Mission Brief and gelding Pinkman, but chose the filly for the final and came in second as the two battled to the wire.

He doesn’t regret his decision, though. “I don’t live with regrets,” he said. “If I had to do it again, I’d pick Mission Brief again.”

As long as Southwind Frank is 100%, Gingras believes he can win the Hambletonian. But he’s not counting out the competition, including first elimination 9-5 morning-line favorite Bar Hopping.

“This Saturday is going to be a different Hambletonian,” he said, “and my mind-set is that it’s my horse’s race to lose.”

Featured on NYDailyNews.com

Long shot Dealt A Winner defeats 1-5 favorite Wiggle It Jiggleit to win Cane Pace at Meadowlands

In an overwhelming upset, 26-1 shot Dealt A Winner beat the odds defeating 1-5 favorite Wiggle It Jiggleit, winning the $319,400 Cane Pace at the Meadowlands on Saturday afternoon in 1:47.3.

The winner was a long shot, paying $55.60 to win, and crossed the finish line with the fastest time among the 454 races in Triple Crown history. Owner Jeffrey Snyder didn’t believe in his horse enough to stay and watch the race. Snyder’s horse finished ahead of Artspeak (11-1) by 1¼ lengths.

“He didn’t think the horse had a shot to win today. That’s why he left (the track prior to the race). He didn’t want to stay in the car, I guess,” said Mike Snyder, son of the owner. “He just contacted me. He’s in shock now. He can’t believe it. I can’t believe it. I’m in shock.”

Trained by Mark Silva and driven by David Miller, Dealt A Winner was able to use the battle between Wiggle It Jiggleit, who was on the lead, and In The Arsenal, who was first over, to his advantage. The two pacers flew to the quarter in 25.4 and continued to fight, arriving at the half in 52.1.

“I thought that was going to help us. He’s always got a huge, huge kick to him. In the last turn, believe it or not, he kind of grabbed up on me. He wanted to go. I just went ahead and moved him and he did the rest,” said Miller.

Dealt A Winner was able to go three wide on the far turn and take the lead mid-stretch.

“That’s what had to happen, a big half,” said Miller. “His big asset is he’s a very good closer. It set up for a closer.”

With eight starts this season, the Cane Pace was Dealt A Winner’s first win, giving him the first jewel in the Pacing Triple Crown.

Miller said: “He’s been struggling this year. (Silva) has done a tremendous job. He worked very hard on him to get him sound. It paid off.”

Wiggle It Jiggleit, the Meadowlands Pace champion, was driven by Montrell Teague and trained by Clyde Francis. After his battle in the first three-quarters of the race, he lost the lead in the stretch.

Teague took away a valuable lesson from the race.

“I knew that horse (In The Arsenal) bled last week and I didn’t want to jeopardize myself and get stuck behind him if he backed through the field,” Teague said. “If I had known he would challenge me that hard, I probably would have surrendered, but you live and you learn.”

Despite finishing fourth, Wiggle It Jiggleit did not disappoint Teague.

“I’m happy with the way he raced. Obviously that was a tough first quarter and a half, but he never surrendered,” said Teague.

Featured on Philly.com

Central and St. Joseph’s Prep tennis teams combine for annual ‘Clash in the City’ tradition

St. Patrick’s Day features all kinds of traditions. For the Central and St. Joseph’s Prep tennis teams, it means a weekend of on-court competition and off-the-court fun.

Central coach Mike Horwits and St. Joseph’s Prep coach Mark Kravetz started the Philadelphia Challenge in 2007 when they took over their teams, and the timing of the event just so happened to fall over and over on St. Patrick’s Day.

“It’s about more than tennis,” Horwits said after Saturday’s meeting, which St, Joseph’s won, 3-2. “It’s about doing something the kids will remember and the camaraderie of it.”

A few years ago, the coaches expanded the local competition to include tennis teams from the Pittsburgh area, and they renamed the event the Clash in the City. Each year, Central and St. Joe’s either travels to Pittsburgh to play teams there or hosts teams that visit from Pittsburgh.

Last year, Hampton High School, coached by Grant McKinney and located just north of Pittsburgh, hosted the Philadelphia teams. This weekend, Hampton traveled to Philadelphia.

On Friday, Hampton swept Central, 5-0, and beat St. Joseph’s Prep, 4-1, on the first day of the event.  St. Joe’s second doubles team of Mark Stahl and Rich Stahl posted the only victory for a Philly-area team.

In Saturday’s featured meeting between Central and St. Joe’s, the Hawks avenged last year’s loss and beat Central by one match. St. Joseph’s got victories from second singles Joe Wahba, third singles Krish Chawla and the second doubles teams of Rich Stahl and Mark Stahl.

For Central, victories were earned by first singles Anthony Goncharenko and the first doubles team of Joe Trachtman and Huihuang Zhu.

Later Saturday, the Lancers and Hawks combined teams to create a “Philadelphia team” that beat Hampton, 4-3, in a format with three singles and four doubles teams. However, Hampton was the overall winner with 12 wins and five losses.

Off the court, the hosts treated their guests to dinner on Friday at Chickie’s & Pete’s. Later, they attended the 76ers-Nets game at the Wells Fargo Center. On Saturday, all three teams shared lunch.

“We went all out with homemade soda bread and our own Philly Special sandwich with corned beef, cole slaw, Russian dressing and pickles,” said Horwits. “We even designed our logos as the fighting Irish leprechauns to celebrate the holiday.”

Next, Horwits said, Central and St. Joseph’s Prep plan to join forces in April and travel to Boston to face off against Boston Latin School in a Super Bowl rematch called the “Battle for Boston.”

Featured on NBCphiladelphia

Mental Health Advocates Petition Walmart to Remove ‘Suicide Scar Wound’ Makeup Kit

Outraged mental health advocates petitioned Walmart to stop selling a “Suicide Scar Wound” makeup kit offered on the retailer’s website.

Walmart, one of the leading retailers in the United States, can be a one-stop shop for Halloween necessities like candy, costumes, and decorations.

This year the site featured a “Razor Blade Suicide Scar Wound” latex costume makeup kit. The product, according to Walmart, was not something they put up for sale online, but rather a third-party vendor, that Walmart did not identify.

The title and photo of a razor blade with two bloody slash marks instigated outrage from the community.

“I would like to know which part of this is a suitable costume for anyone,” one person said on Twitter. “Self harm isn’t a ‘scary costume’ for all to wear.”

A group called Revolving of Doors launched a change.org petition.

“This is not just a disgrace to the sensitivity to those who suffer from self-harm, but a shame on Walmart for making light of the situation,” the petition stated.

“This ‘costume’ is real life for many people, many people who are contemplating volumes higher than self-harm,” the petition added. “Suicide is not a joke, not a costume, and not funny.”

The controversy prompted Walmart to remove the costume from their site over the weekend, telling Facebook followers they too thought it was “unacceptable.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1-800-273-8255.

Chaka Fattah, 3 Co-Defendants Want Acquittals or New Trial

Chaka Fattah, former U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania’s second district, and 3 co-defendants asked Friday for acquittals or new trials in their federal corruption case, decided in June.

Senior Judge, Harvey Bartle III, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, heard arguments on the motions for Fattah, Herbert Vederman, Robert Brand and Karen Nicholas.

During the trial, prosecutors said Vederman, a lobbyist and friend of Fattah’s, showered the former congressman with gifts so vFattah would recommend Vederman for a U.S. Ambassador post. Fattah wrote letters of recommendation and even hand-delivered a letter to the White House advocating for Vederman.

Vederman’s attorneys argued Friday against 7 of his 8 bribery convictions based on rules established in the Supreme Court’s McDonnell v. U.S. case.

They said Fattah’s support for Vederman was routine and couldn’t be considered bribery because his role was that of supporter, not adviser; that Fattah didn’t intend or expect his support for Vederman to be taken by anyone as advice.

Prosecutors told the judge Fattah’s actions — especially hand-delivering the letter to the White House — were not routine. They also referred to trial testimony by U.S. Senator Bob Casey and Ed Rendell that it was not routine to send letters or make phone calls about an ambassador role.

Fattah’s attorneys also argued the jury was not properly instructed on charges involving Tom Lindenfeld’s phony nonprofit, Blue Guardians.

The government claimed Fattah, who was on the appropriations committee, told Lindenfeld he’d earmark $15 million dollars to Blue Guardians in exchange for Lindenfeld forgiving Fattah’s campaign debt.

Fattah’s attorneys said he could not promise an action if he couldn’t make it happen, and he never had the ability to actually give or get that $15 million to Blue Guardians.

Prosecutors responded by quoting the McDonnellm case, stating bribery does not require a person to actually carry out an action, an individual just has to promise the action, they do not have to be explicit or state how they intend to make it happen. The Government believes Lindenfeld’s testimony about the illegal $1 million campaign loan and Lindenfeld’s phony non-profit is sufficient evidence on this count.

Robert Brand and Karen Nicholas also had attorney’s present to argue they should be acquitted of their conspiracy charges because their involvement was outside the statute of limitations. Acquittal of these counts would call into question the entirety of the RICO conspiracy.

The government disagreed, arguing if some of the RICO conspiracy charges are found valid it is basis that the conspiracy exists even if actions of certain parties fall outside the statute of limitations and that every member took part in the concealment of illegal actions.

They argued there is sufficient evidence to link each individual to at least two counts of racketeering and that not every conspirator needs to be knowledgeable of the actions of every co-conspirator.

Judge Bartle did not render a decision Friday.

PPA Tows Hundreds of Cars Before Philly Free Streets

Many residents of the Philadelphia area will not remember Saturday for the Philly Free Streets event, but rather for the trip they had to make to the Philadelphia Parking Authority to retrieve their towed cars.

At least 200 South Philadelphia and Old City residents went to bed knowing where their cars were parked, and woke up to find the streets empty.

Anastasia Cappelli lives near 18th and Lombard Streets and last walked by her car, parked at 20th and Lombard at 7:30 p.m. last night and did not see any signs posted warning residents to move their cars.

She’d heard about the Philly Free Streets event, but said she wasn’t aware there would be parking restrictions.

While down at the PPA waiting to pay the $175 towing and storage fee as well as a $76 ticket for parking in an area designated as “Temporary No Parking” by police, Cappelli found other upset residents in the same predicament. Some said their security cameras recorded signs being posted around 9 p.m. Friday.

“I am disappointed that such a lovely event is now tarnished to the residents that live here,” Cappelli expressed. “It seems like a violation of what we’re allowed as city residents and it’s a shame that this will be the aftermath of an event that was supposed to be great.”

Open Streets Philadelphia posted a blog post about the route that would be closed to traffic, but no mention or warning about parked cars. UWISHUNU also had a post about driving and linked to a parking restriction list that does mention cars would be prohibited on streets included in the route.

“Due to miscommunication, some cars parked along the event route were ticketed and towed rather than simply relocated,” Mike Dunn, City of Philadelphia Deputy Communications Director, stated.

Dunn said the City will do the right thing for Cappelli and all the others who woke up to find their cars towed.

“All tickets will be canceled. Anyone who already paid a towing charge to retrieve their car will have the payment refunded and anyone who has not yet retrieved their car will not have to pay,” Dunn said.

Posting signs along the 10-miles of shut down streets was a process Dunn said that started Thursday and was finished by 8 p.m. Friday. “Flyers [sic] were placed on doors and the Streets Department made robo-calls to inform affected residents of the parking restrictions.”

“The City apologizes for the inconvenience the towing may have caused,” Dunn said in a statement Saturday afternoon.

“Had someone done their job properly and provided ample notice, not at 8-10 p.m. the night prior, I am sure we would have participated in this event.” Cappelli stated.

Temple University Breaks Peanut Butter and Jelly Guinness World Record

It was “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” at Temple University Monday as students broke a record.

More than 1,100 volunteers broke the Guinness World Record for most peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made in one hour. The previous record is 39,303 sandwiches, but Temple students managed to make 49,100 in an hour.

All of the sandwiches will be donated to more than 15 food banks and shelters throughout Philadelphia.

The volunteers used 4,475 pounds of peanut butter, 3,800 pounds of jelly, 1,875 loaves of bread, 45,000 plastic bags, 1,000 boxes, 3,000 knives, 3,00 spoons, 3,000 pairs of gloves and 350 table cloths to complete the task.

Eagles Long Snapper Jon Dorenbos’ Magical Ride to ‘America’s Got Talent’ Finale

Most people do not associate football with magic, but in Philadelphia it is hard to do anything but.

If you haven’t been following this season of America’s Got Talent, you may not know Jon Dorenbos, Eagles’ long-snapper, is also a magician.

After judge Ne-Yo used his golden buzzer on July 12 to send the two-time pro-bowler straight to the live shows, Dorenbos upped the stakes every time he competed during this season of AGT.

Dorenbos began his run with card tricks of a higher caliber than “Is this your card?” The long-snapper most recently advanced to the finals after he performed a trick that involved footballs, a map and some change.

He balanced his football schedule and TV schedule as he flew back and forth to compete on and off the field.

After the Eagles win Sunday over the Cleveland Browns, Dorenbos jetted to Los Angeles to prepare for his final act.

NBC10 reporter Jacqueline London also flew out to LA in order to talk with the magic man before he competes.

Watch Dorenbos compete live on the America’s Got Talent Finale at 8 p.m. Tuesday on NBC10. After the competition, make sure to cast your vote.

Advertisements