The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week in Review

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

September 25-October 1, 2015

Now that the month of October is upon us, we have entered the final quarter of the racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. And after an incredible stretch of pleasant weather, we also saw our first sloppy track in quite some time. Nonetheless it was still an interesting, intense week of racing at Pocono. To recap, let’s hand out some Weekly Awards.


In July of this year, Luck Be Withyou managed one of the most memorable victories of the season at Pocono, overcoming an incredible field of some of the world’s top pacers and an outside post to win the Ben Franklin Pace. It was a sentimental kind of victory for the Pocono faithful, since driver George Napolitano Jr. and trainer Chris Oakes, both Pocono regulars for many years, won this huge race on their home track.

Luck Be Withyou spent much of the rest of the summer months racing at Mohawk in Canada, where he didn’t have quite the same level of success. When he returned to Pocono and the Oakes barn, he did so on September 19 at the $20,000 condition level. Once again he got stuck with the outside post, but he had no problems, rolling on the front end to a four-length win in 1:49:1.

The 4-year-old gelding was back at it in the same group on Saturday night, only this time from the friendly confines of a #3 post position. As the 1-9 favorite, he controlled the pace on the front end. He was briefly challenged late by Fort Knox, but Napolitano was having none of that, coaxing more late out of Luck Be Withyou. Nobody could hang with him in the stretch, and he won by a length-and-a-half in 1:50. It’s nice to see Luck Be Withyou back and at the top of his game at his favorite track.

Other top pacers this week include: Art’s On Fire (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), whose claiming victory on Saturday night in a career-best 1:49:4 was the fastest pacing time of the week at Pocono; Preparty (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who moved up in class to score his second straight condition pacing win on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:51:2; and The Summer Wind (Jim Marohn Jr., Gregory White), who won Wednesday night’s featured distaff condition pace as a 24-1 long shot in 1:51.


Boffin has experienced the extremes of harness racing his past few times out. Two starts ago in a $24,000 condition trot at Pocono, the 5-year-old gelding from the Anette Lorentzon barn used an excellent trip for a victory in 1:53:4. Last week he tried out on Open trotting group, only to go off stride early in a race in which the mare Daylon Miracle set a record.

On Saturday night Boffin was back at it in the $24,000 condition group with George Napolitano Jr. in the bike. The pace was set by the veteran Proud Moment, who set some daring fractions on the front end. That pace repelled the horses who wanted to come up on the outside, but Boffin once again had the pocket seat as he did two races ago, putting him in prime pouncing position.

Proud Moment, as he has been all year, was game, but he caved at the top of the stretch and Boffin took over. He exploded through the lane and easily held off race favorite Ray Hall by 2 ¼ lengths. What was most impressive was the winning time of 1:51:1, a career-best, fastest of the week and one of the fastest this year at Pocono. Boffin may be riding some ups and downs of late, but he certainly hit a spectacular high on Saturday night.

Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Mr Candyman (Simon Allard, Clifton Green), who overcame an outside post on Friday night to win his second straight claiming handicap, matching a career mark of 1:55 in the process; Gray N Cloudy (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who chalked up his second straight win over the $11,000 claimers on Friday night, this one in 1:54:1; and My Way The Highway (George Napolitano Jr., Leigh Raymer), a 3-year-old filly who followed up her maiden win by moving up to handle a condition group on Tuesday night in 1:56 in the slop.


It’s hard to believe a horse of this caliber could ever get away at 50-1, but he did on Saturday night and, with Joe Bongiorno in the bike, won a condition pace to pay off $105.40 for a $2 win ticket.


In the midst of another big week, George captured his 300th win of the meet at Pocono, the eighth time he’s managed that feat; no other driver has ever picked up 300 wins in a season at Pocono.


It seemed like everywhere you turned last week, another Lorentzon trotter was doing damage, as she picked up the big win on Saturday with Boffin and then two more training victories on Tuesday.

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

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week in Review

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

September 18-24, 2015

Lest anyone think that the racing action at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono has slowed up a bit as summer makes its transition into fall, this past week’s excitement should definitively put that theory to rest. Four nights of action produced times as quick as any we witnessed in the heart of summer. We even had a world record performance to really push this week over the edge. That performance, needless to say, kicks off our Weekly Awards.


In the $30,000 Open Handicap trot on Saturday night, Wind Of The North was assigned the outside post in the nine-horse field, meaning that he conceivably should have been the one that stood a notch above the rest of the field. But it was the mare Daylon Miracle who went off as the even-money favorite from post position #7.

Maybe the betting faithful saw a horse on top of her game after a close 3rd in a $100,000 race at Pocono and a sharp condition win at Yonkers in her previous two starts. Or maybe they realized that her human companions, trainer Rene Allard and driver Simon Allard, were in the midst of a monster night. In any case, Daylon Miracle rewarded the bettor’s faith, taking the lead on the front stretch and trotting away to hide.

She kicked away from her pursuit to cross the line 7 ½ lengths in front of the best trotters on the grounds. The winning time of 1:50:3 revealed just why Daylon Miracle was so far out in front, as it broke the world record for aged trotting mares on a 5/8-mile oval. Only Sebastian K and Father Patrick, two all-time greats, have ever trotted faster at Pocono than what Daylon Miracle achieved on Saturday night.

Other top trotters this week include: Extracurricular (Simon Allard, Rene Allard) whose victory in Tuesday night’s featured condition trot was his second straight and came in a career-best 1:53; Racer X (George Napolitano Jr., Chris Oakes), who now has three straight wins, two of which were at Pocono, following a victory Friday night in a career best 1:53:3; and Cantabs Fortune (George Napolitano Jr., Kevin Carr), a mare who moved up in class on Tuesday night to score her second straight condition win, this one coming in 1:55.


This four-year-old gelding from the barn of trainer of Carmen Auciello has spent his time in 2015 bouncing back and forth amidst Pennsylvania, New York and Canada. In his previous start before going toe-to-toe with a $13,000 condition group at Pocono on Saturday night, he overcame an outside post to win at Tioga by a neck in 1:52:1.

Although that winning time might have seemed modest next to some of the speedsters in Saturday night’s race, Bugger Bruiser also had a 1:49:1 win at Mohawk to his credit in 2015. He needed that speed early to find the pocket seat behind Mustang Art, a classy Pocono veteran who made the front end and tried to scare off the rest of the field by setting intimidating fractions.

Those fractions didn’t frighten Bugger Bruiser, who stayed close behind Mustang Art as the leader dealt with pressure on the outside. At the top of the stretch, driver Simon Allard tipped Bugger Bruiser to the outside and the gelding pounced, blowing by the pacesetter to win by two lengths in a sizzling 1:50. With two straight wins, this precocious pacer appears ready to step up and take on even tougher foes, no matter where he races next.

Honorable mention on the pacing side goes to: Dynamic Youth (Joe Bongiorno, Ron Burke), who battled to a win in Saturday night’s $30,000 Open Handicap pace in 1:49, the fastest pacing time of the week; Artistic Major (Eric Goodell, Steve Elliott), a 3-year-old colt who beat some tough older horses in a condition on Saturday night in a career-best 1:49:4; and Frost Damage Blues (Mike Simons, Tom Fanning), a three-year-old filly who, after winning five straight races in New York to start her career, handled a condition field at Pocono on Wednesday night in a career-best 1:51:1 to stay perfect.


At 36-1, this filly wasn’t given much of a chance on Tuesday night, but she upset a condition trotting field with Marcus Miller in the bike to pay out $74.80 on a $2 win ticket.


As if five wins on Friday night weren’t enough, he came right back to dominate the proceedings with eight wins on Saturday night, a personal best for him here at Pocono.


After notching four training wins on both Friday and Saturday night, the meet’s leading trainer now has twice as many wins in 2015 as his nearest competitor in the Pocono training standings.

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

Stellar weekend for drivers Allard and Napolitano

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Drivers Simon Allard and Anthony Napolitano pretty much had a “wire-to-wire” domination of the Friday night, September 18th card at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with the second- and third-leading driver at The Downs, respectively, each guiding five winners — Allard four of the card’s first five and Napolitano four of the last five.

Allard almost opened the card with a natural five-bagger, taking races 1, 3, 4, and 5, and losing the second by only a head. He also just missed by a nose in the seventh, which may have been the tipping of the night’s power, because Anthony Napolitano’s horse was just barely more photogenic for his first of his evening’s quintet. He then beat Allard — by a length, a big margin this night — in the tenth to start his 4 for 5 finish.

Both Simon Allard and Anthony Napolitano have brothers who also campaign at Pocono — in fact, they are respectively the leading trainer and driver at the mountain oval, Rene Allard and George Napolitano Jr., and both of them also had productive days. Rene Allard had four wins on the card, including sending out three of Simon’s five (and the photoed-out streak interrupter in the second), with his fourth winner guided for Rene by — um, Anthony Napolitano (and yes, that was the 10th race, where Simon was second as mentioned above).

George Napolitano Jr. visited Victory Lane twice Friday at Pocono and hit the board in nine of ten drives, following a 9-4-2-0 afternoon at Harrah’s Philadelphia — the third straight day he’s had at least four wins at Philly. Today’s six wins gives him a staggering 20 in the last three days (including his ten-bagger on Wednesday between the two plants), and he has 54 winners through the 18th day of the month in a (very outside) pursuit of a third straight month with 100 or more sulky triumphs.

The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Week In Review

Monday, September 21st, 2015

September 4-10, 2015

The Pennsylvania Sire Stakes series is one of the highlights of any racing season at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, showcasing some of the best young horses not just in the state, but often in the entire country. The preliminary legs are held throughout the spring and summer, and although they boast pretty big purses themselves, the other lure of these prelims is that horses who wish to reach the state championships need to perform well in them.

On Saturday, September 5, Pocono hosted the 3-year-old championships. Each of the four races held a purse of $350,000, which, in many cases, is the last time these horses will have the chance to go for a score that big. As always seems to be the case on Sire Stakes championships night, we saw a little bit of everything. Here is a look back at the four title races and the horses who can call themselves a state champion.


Despite the fact that she was crowned the Hambletonian Oaks champ just two starts ago, Wild Honey went off as a 5-2 second choice on Saturday night in her final. That was partly due to the fact that she was saddled with the outside post in the race, and partly because she showed a worrisome break of stride in her previous start. Livininthefastlane instead went off as an odds-on favorite. But Wild Honey, trained by Jimmy Takter, fought hard to overcome the outside post, making the lead shy of the half despite getting parked around the first turn. Driver Dave Palone opened up a nice lead from there, and a furious rally from Bright Baby Blues came up a length short of Wild Honey, who trotted the mile in 1:53. Adding the 3-year-old title to the 2-year-old crown she won a year ago, the filly went over $1 million in lifetime earnings and set a record for most money earned in two Pennsylvania Sire Stakes campaigns.


Momas Got A Gun, a consistent performer from the Virgil Morgan Jr. barn, was the even-money favorite in this field, but there seemed to be solid choices up and down the lineup. One exception appeared to be Safe From Terror, who, despite being the second-biggest earner in the field in 2015, went off as a 45-1 long shot for trainer Ron Burke. She also had an outside post, and, with the exception of back-to-back wins at the Meadows in the middle of the summer, had slumped since a fast start to the year. Imagine Dragon set the pace in the race, Momas Got A Gun was in a prime pocket spot, and Safe From Terror seemed hopelessly buried on the inside at the back of the back. Yet in the stretch, driver Tim Tetrick found some room for her at the very edge of the pylons, and she uncorked some serious late kick to speed by Momas Got A Gun and pull off the stunning upset by a head in 1:51:3.


It’s easy to be overlooked when you’re a young trotter in the barn of Jimmy Takter, simply because he always has a bunch of great ones for every division. The Bank faced just such a fate for much of the season, overshadowed by Hambletonian champ Pinkman and even Uncle Lasse, another Takter trainee who went off as the favorite on Saturday. The Bank, with the exception of a win in the Dancer at The Meadowlands, had been stuck with a lot of near-misses in big races. But the colt set out to change that in a big way on Saturday night, moving first-over aggressively with Jim Morrill Jr. in the bike to make a up a ton of ground after starting in the middle of the pack. At the top of the stretch, it seemed like anybody’s race, with Uncle Lasse, Wicker Havover, and Honor And Serve all in good position. But it was The Bank who trotted by them all by a length in 1:53:1, earning the signature win of his career.


Speaking of overshadowed, Wakizashi Hanover knows that feeling well. The gelding from the barn of trainer Joann Looney-King has spent most of the summer battling it out with superstar Wiggle It Jiggleit and often coming up just short. Since his main rival wasn’t a part of Saturday night’s field, it seemed like it was Wakizashi Hanover’s time to shine, and he went off as a 1-9 favorite. Lost For Words set a screaming pace early, trying to pace away and hide from the competition. But driver Tim Tetrick didn’t panic, finding a spot in the pocket for the heavy favorite and staying close to the pacesetter. In the stretch, Wakizashi Hanover was ready to pounce on a tiring Lost for Words. He took over the lead and had to withstand a late challenge from closing My Hero Ron, holding on by a half-length. The winning time of 1:48:1 was the fastest ever in Pennsylvania championship history, a fitting way to close out another scintillating Sire Stakes season at Pocono.

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

$1.7 Million PA Sire Stakes Championship Night Saturday 9/5/15

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

The richest Sire Stakes Championship series begins Saturday night, September 5th,  at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono will host four $350,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championship for three-year-olds. Each of the four divisions will also have a $60,000 Consolation race; the total program on Saturday at Pocono will distribute purses of $1,770,000.


$350,000 Championship – race 12

$60,000 Consolation – race 5

Championship record: 1:48.4, McWicked, 2014 (fastest Championship in PA history)

Defending champion from 2YO year: Yankee Bounty

Leading pointwinner in four preliminaries: Lost For Words

Most of the attention in the “glamour division” will be focused on Wakizashi Hanover, already a winner of over $840,000 this year, including the North America Cup Final, and regarded as second-best on the North American scene to the amazing Wiggle It Jiggleit. Wakizashi has driven post five for the Championship, and as usual trainer Joann Looney-King has tapped Tim Tetrick to drive the altered son of Dragon Again for the Tri County Stable of Nova Scotia. The sophomore has experience over the track, winning a Hempt elimination and then finished fourth from a difficult draw, and following that outing up with a second to “Wiggle” in the Battle of the Brandywine.

It’s unusual to see a defending champion and a leading prelim pointswinner regarded as “outsiders” in the field, but Yankee Bounty and Lost For Words, respectively, are not only figurative outsiders, but the literal outsiders as well in the field of eight – Yankee Bounty, starting from post seven for all-time Sire Stakes driving champion Dave Palone,does come off a 1:49.3 win in a Sire Stakes prelim, while Lost For Words (post eight, David Miller) was the only three-time winner in the Sires prelims.


$350,000 Championship – race 11

$60,000 Consolation – race 4

Championship record: 1:52.4, Father Patrick, 2014

Defending champion from 2YO year: Billy Flynn (the only 3YO who did not qualify for these finals)

Leading pointwinner in four preliminaries: Wicker Hanover

Wicker Hanover and Uncle Lasse were both three-time Sires prelim winners. Wicker Hanover, an Explosive Matter colt who has done well on or off the pace, will start from post six for driver Andrew McCarthy, trainer Ross Croghan, and the Christer Haggstorm Racing Stable Inc., while the Donato Hanover colt Uncle Lasse, third in both the Hambletonian Final and the Colonial, drew post two for driver David Miller, trainer Jimmy Takter, and owners Solveig’s Racing Partners and Goran Falk.

A horse conspicuous by his absence is Pinkman, #2 in the prelim pointstandings while achieving three victories, but when he won the Hambletonian trainer Takter chose the Triple Crown road for him, and he goes Saturday night at Yonkers in the Yonkers Trot, the second Crown leg. But even with two recent losses to Crazy Wow, in the Colonial and Yonkers Trot elim, Pinkman likely would have been a big favorite here, and using the “glass is half full” theory, the race is much more competitive this way.


$350,000 Championship – race 10

$60,000 Consolation – race 3

Championship record: 1:49, Economy Terror

Defending champion from 2YO year: Southwind Roulette

Leading pointwinner in four preliminaries: Somewhere Sweet

Perhaps the best testimony to the contentiousness of this division all year, and in theory here Saturday, is the fact that prelim pointleader Somewhere Sweet won only once in the prelims. But the daughter of Somebeachsomewhere, trained by Brian Brown for Miller’s Stable, has been a very consistent miss, winning half her ten seasonal starts and never finishing worse than fourth, and she draws the favorable post two for driver David Miller.

There were two two-time prelim winners in this division, but for Saturday they had the misfortune of drawing the two outside spots on the gate: Serious Filly (PP7, also trained by Brown, Tim Tetrick listed) and Safe From Terror (PP8, trainer Ron Burke, also listing Tetrick on the early sheet).


$350,000 Championship – race 9

$60,000 Consolation – race 14

Championship record: 1:51.3, Check Me Out, 2012 (fastest trot Champion ever)

Defending champion from 2YO year: Wild Honey

Leading pointwinner in four preliminaries: Sarcy (not entered), Smokinmombo #2

Last year’s divisional champion Wild Honey has come back sharply in 2015, with a win in the Hambletonian Oaks Final and two Sire Stakes wins. The Cantab Hall filly is likely to be held as the horse to beat despite drawing post eight for driver Dave Palone, trainer Jimmy Takter, and the ownership combine of Takter, Fielding, Liverman, and Fielding.

Jimmy Takter is also the trainer of Sarcy, who was #1 in the prelim points, but that filly has not raced since finishing fifth in the Oaks Final on August 8 and has not won since June 25, so she is not entered in the Championship. But Wild Honey is certainly a fine “backup plan.”

FINISHING LINES – Dave Palone has 38 career wins in Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championships, and the driver in second needs a telescope to see him even though winning five Championships last year – Yannick Gingras, with a total of 12. We know Yannick will not duplicate that output in 2015, as he will be driving Pinkman at Yonkers on Saturday. Palone, however, has a call in three of the four Championships, and there are two to-be-resolved double calls in the race he currently is not listed.