July 30-August 5, 2016
After several weeks of hot, dry weather, Mother Nature brought some rain to the party in Northeastern Pennsylvania this past week. That created sloppy tracks on two of the four racing nights at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, making for some fascinatingly unpredictable racing. In the midst of the on-and-off precipitation, several horses and horsemen handled the less-than-ideal conditions with aplomb, and they’re the ones receiving the Weekly Awards.
PACER OF THE WEEK: PANCETTA
Whenever you see that a Standardbred has some sort of variation of the word “pan” in its name, it’s a good bet that the Peter Pan Stables of Ohio were involved in its development. While the names can be quite humorous, the horses with them often are outstanding competitors. Such has proven to be the case with Pancetta, a seven-year-old stallion bred by Peter Pan Stables who has been a handful since arriving at Pocono a few weeks back.
Trained by Matias Ruiz, Pancetta had been splitting time between Harrah’s at Philadelphia and Yonkers before coming to Pocono, with very little success. As a matter of fact, he didn’t even hit the board through his first seven races of the season. But he quickly proved that he loved the Pocono surface, ripping off a victory on July 23 in a $6,000 condition event in a career-best 1:52:1.
On Saturday he had to overcome the double whammy of moving up in class to the $12,500 level and dealing with the far outside #9 post position. Going off at 8-1, Pancetta was undaunted. Driver Anthony Napolitano hustled him to the lead on the front stretch and he held the advantage from that point. Even with the race favorite Rather Swell bearing down him late, the stallion held together for the victory by a length in 1:52:1 in the slop. That makes two straight victories, meaning that the name might be clever, but it’s Pancetta’s game that has really stood out of late.
Other top pacers this week include: Dancin Yankee (George Napolitano Jr., Josh Green), who overcame sloppy conditions on Saturday night to beat a condition field in 1:49:1, the fastest pacing time of the week at Pocono; Check’s Commodore (Anthony Napolitano, Rene Allard), who picked up his second straight win over the $15,000 claimers on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:52:2 in the slop; and Lindy’s Nightmare (Brett Miller, Frank Antonacci), a three-year-old filly who returned from Mohawk to win a condition on Tuesday night in 1:52:4, giving her five consecutive victories.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: STONEBRIDGE COMBAT
When humans fail at something, they’re often told to get back on the horse. When horses fail at something, what do they do? While you ponder that existential query, consider the case of Stonebridge Combat, a 3-year-old gelding trained and driven by Chris Ryder who hadn’t known a lot of defeat until a third-place finish on July 24 against the non-winners of five trotters at Pocono. Prior to that he had won three races in a row and five out of six for the year, which was his first in racing after sitting out his 2-year-old campaign.
In that loss in his previous race, Stonebridge Combat set the pace as he had in many of his previous wins, only to cough up the lead late. When he faced the non-winners of five again on Sunday night, Ryder decided to change up the strategy. He allowed Mr Lucky Luke to set the pace early while holding his horse back in the middle of the back. It was only on the back stretch that he set Stonebridge Combat in motion.
Even though he didn’t find any cover to help him toward the front of the pack, Stonebridge Combat pulled up alongside Mr Lucky Luke in the stretch, finally wearing him down to prevail by three-quarters of a length in 1:55:2. It was quite a nice bounce-back performance for the gelding, who has now won six of eight races in his young career.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Can’t I (John Campbell, Bob Stewart), a 2-year-old who now has two straight wins to start his career after a condition win in the slop on Monday night in a career-best 1:57:3; Three Crow Mo (Matt Kakaley, Tony Farina), who scored his second straight victory over the $7,500 claimers on Monday night, winning in 1:57:3 in the slop; and Croquet Rose (Andrew McCarthy, Anette Lorentzon), a mare who overcame an outside post to pick up her second consecutive condition win on Tuesday night, this one coming in a career-best 1:55:3.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: SAVANNAH SUNSET
In Sunday night’s final race, this trotting filly won a condition at 46-1 to pay off $95.40 to win and completed a $2,445 Late Daily Double where both winners were driven by Marcus Miller.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: ERIC GOODELL
We’re seeing much more of Goodell at Pocono than we have in several years, and we’re seeing him win a lot of races as well, as he picked up driving doubles on Saturday and Sunday.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: GILBERTO GARCIA-HERRERA
Garcia-Herrera has been a steady performer all year long at Pocono, and he kept it up this week with three training wins including a double on Monday night.
That will do it for this week, but we’ll see you at the track. Feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com.