May 23rd, 2013
May 18-24, 2013
We saw a lot of excellent performances at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs this week, so there were plenty of great candidates for Weekly Awards honors. Still, the action in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes on Sunday night was so intense and electric that it needed to be retold over the course of a full article rather than just a few lines. So the Weekly Awards will return next week while we take the time this week to relive Sunday night’s outstanding performances, which included a superstar’s triumphant return to racing and an unexpected track record.
The Sire Stakes races on Sunday night, which were for 3-year-old colts and geldings on the pace, were the first of the season at Pocono, and it was a great way to kick things off. There were four divisions held in this glamour group, each carrying a hefty purse of $62,587. With that kind of dough on the line, it was a foregone conclusion that some of the best horses and horsemen in the country would be on the scene.
The action heated up right off the bat with the night’s first Sire Stakes split. In that race, Apprentice Hanover was made the favorite based on his outstanding two-year-old campaign in which he earned over $266,000. But it was his first start of the year, and he got off to a bit of a sluggish start in the race. By contrast, Martini Hanover, a 3-year-old gelding from the Chris Ryder barn, already had one start under his belt in 2013, so he was primed for a big effort.
With Dave Palone, no stranger to big Sire Stakes victories, in the bike, Martini Hanover took over the lead just shy of the half-mile marker and just rolled from there. He ended up with a romping 5 ½ length win over Apprentice Hanover in 1:49:3, which gave an early glimpse of the sizzling times to come.
Palone was at it again in the next Sire Stakes race, which was a bit of an odd one in that there were only six horses in the field and two of them went off-stride before the quarter-pole. Beach Memories had broken stride in his previous race so he knew well about issues with staying flat. But on this night, the 3-year-old gelding from the Brian Brown barn was not only flat but very fast, as Palone guided him to the front early and led him all the way home for an easy win in 1:51:2.
The third split featured the return to racing of Captaintreacherous, who was one of the sport’s transcendent stars as a 2-year-old in 2012 when he won 8 of 10 races and earned a stunning $918,253 for trainer Tony Alagna. Regular driver Tim Tetrick also made the trip to drive Captaintreacherous, who went off as the 1-9 favorite despite the nearly seven months off.
Any questions of rust were answered as Captaintreacherous glided to the lead with an effortless brush on the front stretch. From there, Tetrick let his horse do the rest, never lifting a finger as the star colt kept his competition at a safe distance and secured a 3 ½ length victory. He paced a mile of 1:49:4, including a final quarter of 26:3, without any urging whatsoever. That’s amazing for a first start of the year, and it’s also a good indication that Captaintreacherous is ready to build on his already fantastic resume.
That would have been a great highlight for any night’s racing, but there was still one split to go and Normandy Invasion had big plans for it. Also trained by Brian Brown and driven by Palone, the 3-year-old gelding won two of three starts to start his year at The Meadows. Still, he wasn’t favored in Sunday night’s race; that honor went to Lonewolf Currier, who had won five of his six career starts coming into the night.
Once again Palone played the aggressor, cutting loose Normandy Invasion on the front end. He built up a sizable lead and kept a scorching pace so that the rest of the field never had a chance. The gelding ended up a 2 3/4 length winner, but the eye-popping numbers were reflected in the timer: Normandy Invasion paced the mile in 1:48:4.
That time set a new track record for 3-year-old geldings on the pace, one that was set just last October at Pocono by Bet On The Law. So Captaintreacherous might have been the headliner, but the Grand Finale put forth by Normandy Invasion may have stolen the show. And considering the entire evening, it’s just the opening act for what promises to be an amazing Pennsylvania Sire Stakes season at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.
That will do it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.