American Pharoah jockey Victor Espinoza at Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono

Triple Crown fever is striking everywhere, and anticipation is high for American Pharoah’s bid on Saturday, June 6th with the Belmont Stakes.

With a big celebration planned for Belmont Stakes Saturday, the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono is excited to announce that jockey Victor Espinoza will be appearing for autographs and photos on Tuesday, June 2 from 3:30pm to 5:00pm in the Racing Lobby.  This is a wristband-only event, and fans may obtain their wristband starting at 1:00pm, with a very limited amount available.

Only the authorized photo, which will be distributed at the signing, will be autographed, and a professional photographer will be on hand for photos, which will then be posted on the Mohegan Sun Pocono Facebook page for sharing.

Belmont Stakes Saturday will be a huge party, with live harness racing at 3:30pm until 5:00pm, and 12 additional races immediately following the 147th Belmont Stakes.  Food trucks; the “Belmont Breeze” in souvenir glasses; and plenty of bars with ice cold beverages will be on the apron for the fans to enjoy in anticipation of post time and history in the making.  American Pharoah merchandise will be for sale on the apron as well.

Victor Espinoza has won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes  three times, riding War Emblem in 2002; California Chrome in 2014; and American Pharoah this year.  As of this date, he is the first jockey in history to enter the Belmont Stakes with a third opportunity to win the Triple Crown.

Stealing Neil Crowned Winner of Battle of the Bands

Band awarded $10,000 grand prize

WILKES-BARRE, PA (May 22, 2015) – At the long-aStealing Neilwaited grand finale on Thursday, May 21st, Rock/Alternative band Stealing Neil was crowned the winner of Mohegan Sun Pocono’s 5th Battle of the Bands at Breakers, and awarded the $10,000 grand prize.

Founded in 2004, Stealing Neil has cultivated a devoted and ever-growing following thanks to the diverse talents of the band’s current lineup including lead singer and guitarist R.J. Scouton, lead guitarist Jared Scavone, rhythm guitarist Pauly Young, drummer Tony Scavone and bassist/vocalist Bruce Christian. The band’s set list is wide-ranging, thanks to the members’ eclectic and varied musical influences of Grunge, Country, Classic Rock and Hair Metal.

The 2nd, 3rd and 4th place winners of the event were Nowhere Slow, Coast 2 Coast and Facing the Giants, and each was also awarded a cash prize.

To learn more about Stealing Neil and their future shows, visit facebook.com/stealing.neil.

ABOUT MOHEGAN SUN POCONO:      
Mohegan Sun Pocono, owned by the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut, is one of the most distinctive and spectacular entertainment, gaming, shopping and dining destinations in Pennsylvania. Situated on 400 acres in Plains, Pennsylvania, Mohegan Sun Pocono features a 238-room hotel with on-site spa and adjacent 20,000 square-foot Convention Center. It is currently home to 82,000 square feet of gaming space including 91 live table games, 2,300 slot machines and electronic table games, a variety of dining and shopping options, nightlife, entertainment and live harness racing. Mohegan Sun Pocono is within easy access of New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware. More information is available by calling 1.888.WIN.IN.PA (1.888.946.4672) or visiting our website. Connect with us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, download our app and view us on YouTube.

Stallion Series offers big return to bettors on Sunday card

For a track with a 47.8% winning favorites rate heading into Sunday’s program, May 17th, The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono offered some tasty win mutuels on well-pedigreed horses in the first three of the four $20,000 divisions of the Pennsylvania Stallion Series for three-year-old pacing colts.

The chalkplayers finally had their moment in the spotlight in the fourth and final division, and even in that event favored Parklane Eagle had a couple of anxious moments before winning in a personal best 1:51 for driver David Miller and trainer Peter Foley. The son of Somebeachsomewhere, owned by Shirley Le Vin, had controlled the early pace with fractions of 26.4 and 55.1, but 47-1 shot Kwik Mac gave the frontstepper something to think about as he got to within a neck at the 1:23.1 3/4s. Parklane Eagle shrugged off that challenge though, and by the wire he had that rival 3¾ lengths in arrears of him.

Hall of Fame driver Miller also brought in the “best bet for the odds” winner of the four, a horse with impeccable connections making his first start of the year for trainer Jim Campbell. Gallic Beach is a son of Somebeachsomewhere out of Western Gallie, whose dam Galleria (herself a champion racemare) has also produced the unlucky Gallie Bythe Sea, a Breeders Crown elimination winner at two and three who through misfortune got to start in neither final. And Gallic Beach was ready right out of the box, setting the pace and blazing home in 54.3 to earn a new speed badge of 1:51.4 for owner/breeder Fashion Farms LLC – and returning a generous $15.40.

Sire Somebeachsomwhere had a third Stallion Series winner in Guantanamo Bay, who overcame the first-over route to hang a head loss on Jo Pa’s Well Said, flying late after coming from sixth at the half, to take a new mark of 1:52 for driver Mike Simons, at 11-1 odds, highest return on the four winners. Trainer Fred Grant, a native of Nova Scotia, conditions the winner for owners from his native province, James Bagnell and Ann Smith.

It’s rare to get 5-1 at Pocono on the track’s eight-time driving champion George Napolitano Jr., and even rarer if “GNap” is teaming with top trainer Chris Oakes. But the backers of the McArdle gelding Mckenry got just such a windfall in his division, as the pacesetting winner got a nontaxing half in 57, then flew home in 55 for “GNap” to hold off “ANap” (his brother Anthony) and hard-charging Angelo J Fra by a half-length, with the 1:52 final package giving each series winner a rewritten speed mark. Mckenry won for Susan Oakes, Conrad Zurich, Hauser Brothers Racing Enterprises, and the Wheelhouse Racing Stable.

The Stallion Series’ four winners reflect the purpose of Pennsylvania’s ”little brother” to the Sire Stakes – it gives a chance for horses not quite yet at the top a chance to race competitively for good money. Parkland Eagle had three lifetime wins coming into his race – which was the exact total of the other three winners combined. But after four miles in 1:52 or better, one of more of the visitors to Victory Lane Sunday at The Downs could be stepping up to battle the “big boys” as they develop.

PA Sire Stakes action shines on Preakness night

Trainer Brian Brown, trainer of 2014 divisional and Jugette champion Color’s A Virgin and a resident of Delaware OH, may be having himself a two-day party late this September at the famed half-miler, as he already has five different Pennsylvania Sire Stakes-winning three-year-old pacing horses, three fillies and now the two colts who continued the hot trainer’s winning ways Saturday night, May 16th, at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, being among the four winners in the $226,168 first leg of their Sires action.

As the track turned “sloppy” for the fifth race Sires division (Pocono is about 150 miles northeast of Baltimore as the crow flies, and the Preakness rain started about two hours before the storms hit northeast PA), Rise Up Now remained undefeated in five outings this year, tucking in the pocket down the back and then catching leader Blood Brother in the stretch to post a 1½-length 1:51.3 over a newly-christened “sloppy” track. Blood Brother had snapped off splits of 26.1, 55.3, and 1:22.2, but the 53 usage in the odd-numbered quarters did not allow him to hold off the Somewheresomebeach gelding and driver Simon Allard, who piloted the Brown trainee for King McNamara of Florida, the only non-Buckeye in the ownership group which includes the Strollin Stable, William Robinson, and Country Club Acres.

Brown is now two-for-two seasonally with the Well Said colt Lost For Words, who reclaimed the lead down the backstretch, opened up four lengths turning for home, then held off the late charge of the game little Allbeef N Nobull to win by 1½ lengths in 1:51.4 in the night’s second division, when the track was still “fast.” Lost For Words, a finalist in both the Governors Cup and Breeders Crown last year, was driven by Jim Morrill Jr. for the three Ohioans who share in Rise Up Now’s ownership and another Buckeye, Richard Lombardo.

For years Brown has done very well in the Pennsylvania program, but this year his numbers are only slightly short of unbelievable. He’s perfect in five Pocono starts, and at The Meadows he sports a 13-9-3-0 tally, for a Keystone State total of 18-14-3-0 – which produces a mind-boggling state UTR of .870!

McArdles Lightning teamed with driver Anthony Napolitano to post a 6-1 upset in taking the first division, coming from last at the half in the seven-horse field and blitzing his own back two quarters in 54.2 to equal his lifetime mark of 1:51. Steve Elliott conditions the McArdle ridgling (double thoroughbred Triple Crown racewinner American Pharoah is also a ridgling) for the Lightning Stable.

In the final Sires heat, Wazikashi Hanover was a pocket rocket in catching last year’s 2YO Sires champion, Yankee Bounty, by 1¼ lengths, with the time on the sloppy track 1:52. Yankee Bounty overcame the outside “eight-ball” to post splits of 27, 57, and 1:24.4, but “Wazikashi,” a Dragon Again gelding, was relentless and gained into the 27.1 kicker for trainer Joann Looney-King and the Tri County Stable. Driver Jim Morrill Jr. joined trainer Brown as a double winner in the Sires races.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week in Review

May 9-15, 2015

Next week, the action at Pocono really kicks into another gear with our first Sire Stakes action of the season and our first Open pacing and trotting events for the meet. This past week was no slouch though, thanks to Pennsylvania All Stars action and some thrilling overnight racing. Let’s take a look at which horses and horsemen stood above all in the past four racing nights by handing out the Weekly Awards.

PACER OF THE WEEK: DYNAMIC YOUTH

It’s good sometimes to have a long memory when you’re trying to handicap a race. Take the case of Dynamic Youth in Saturday night’s condition pace for non-winners of $15,000 in the last five starts. The 6-year-old gelding from the Aaron Lambert barn had won his previous start against lower company in a solid effort in 1:51:1.

Saturday night represented a step up the condition ladder though, and considering he had finished ninth in a lower group at The Meadowlands, the morning line oddsmaker, who shall remain nameless (although his name rhymes with Schmim Schmeviglia), decided to tag him with odds of 6-1. The betting public, however, who likely remembered how many classic miles this one has put together in the past at Pocono, bet him down to a 4-5 favorite.

The fans were right. With George Napolitano Jr. in the bike, Dynamic Youth took charge early and powered through the second half of the mile, keeping his competition at bay for a victory in 1:50:1. Maybe he just needed to be back at his old haunts, or maybe he just needed the backing of the faithful. Whatever the case, Dynamic Youth is back on top of his game with two straight victories, so underestimate him at your own peril.

Other top pacers this week include: Rose Run Quest (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who, even after a barn switch, picked up his third straight condition pacing win on Tuesday night in 1:52:3, which was a new career mark for him; A J Corbelli (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who rolled to his second straight condition win on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:50:3; and Caviart Shelley (Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke), who moved up in class and still won her third straight condition pace on Wednesday night, matching her career mark of 1:51:4 in the process.

TROTTER OF THE WEEK: ALI DE VIE

This 5-year-old gelding loves to race at Pocono. Coming into his start on Wednesday night in a $12,500 to $15,000 claiming handicap, he had won four races in a row when he was at the Pocono oval. Sprinkled in that stretch were a pair of struggling performances at Harrah’s at Philadelphia, so maybe the right thing to do would be to keep this one here until somebody knocks him off.

After wins the past two weeks for trainer Rene Allard, Ali De Vie was claimed and joined the barn of Jenny Melander for his start on Wednesday night. Leaving from post position #2 in a field of nine, the gelding sat in fourth early on as Browner Shuttle set the pace. Driver Jim Morrill Jr. waited for an opening and then sent Ali De Vie on a first-over journey on the back stretch.

Although he found no cover to help him out, Ali De Vie corralled Browner Shuttle at the top of the stretch. Once he had the lead, he had to deal with Fall Creek Bandit, who had an excellent trip in the pocket and was coming up the passing lane. But Morrill and Ali De Vie had just enough to hold him off and win it in 1:55:3. That makes three wins in a row overall and five for his last five at Pocono. This horse truly loves this course.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: P L Eureka (George Napolitano Jr., John Barchi), whose claiming handicap victory on Wednesday night in 1:54:2 was his fourth in his last five; Sentry (Larry Stalbaum, Jenny Melander), who snuck up the inside late on Saturday night for an upset win in the week’s top condition trot in 1:54, which matched a career-best; and Picture This (Charlie Norris driver and trainer), who rolled to a condition victory on Tuesday night in 1:53:3, the fastest trotting time of the week at Pocono.

LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: CANE RIDGE

Driver Joe Pavia Jr. worked out a pocket trip for this pacer on Saturday night and he rallied to win a claiming handicap at 45-1, paying out $92.40 on a $2 win ticket.

DRIVER OF THE WEEK: JOE PAVIA JR.

Pavia only recently returned to driving duties, but he made his presence felt on Saturday night with ba pair of victories, including the huge long shot Cane Ridge.

TRAINER OF THE WEEK: MARK KESMODEL

Talk about efficiency: Kesmodel sent out three starters at Pocono al week, two on Saturday and one on Wednesday, and every one of the three came back to the barn a winner.

That will do it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at jbeviglia@mohegansunpocono.com.