April 9-15, 2016
This past racing week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono was the first in which we raced our normal schedule of four nights per week so far this season. And despite some iffy weather, the action seemed to intensify during the four consecutive evenings of live racing, producing plenty of candidates for the Weekly Awards. So instead of blabbing on and on about them, why don’t we hand them out?
PACER OF THE WEEK: JINS DRAGON
What a start to the 2016 Pocono meet it’s been for this six-year-old gelding from the Michael Rashkin barn. Considering that Jins Dragon hadn’t done much early in the year at the Meadows, hitting the board just once in seven races without a win, there wasn’t much to suggest that he’d do anything special at MSPD. Yet he quickly ripped off a pair of condition wins when he arrived, the latter coming in a new career mark of 1:50:3.
On Saturday night, Jins Dragon moved into the claiming ranks, where he faced Pocono’s highest-priced claiming handicap grouping. Since Larry Stalbaum, who had driven the gelding to the previous two wins, had another driving commitment in the race, the reins were handed to George Napolitano Jr., the meet’s top pilot so far. And George Nap put Jins Dragon on the lead with a quick swooping maneuver on the first turn.
On the back stretch, the gelding, who went off as an even-money favorite, opened up a comfortable margin on the rest of the six-horse field. That allowed Napolitano to gear him down on the stretch, as Jins Dragon still came home a solid two lengths in front in 1:53 on an off-track listed in good condition. He was unsurprisingly claimed from the race, so we’ll see if he can keep up his winning ways going forward for the new barn.
Other top pacers this week include: Camcruiser Hanover (Jim Morrill Jr., Dale Loney), who romped over a $15,000 claiming class on Saturday night, his second straight win at that price, in 1:54:1; Glammit (Jim Morrill Jr., Daniel Maier), who moved up in class and captured his second straight condition win on Saturday night, this one coming in 1:52:4; and Sweet Talkin Satin (Simon Allard, Josh Green), whose condition win on Tuesday night in 1:50:4 was the fastest pacing mile of the week at Pocono.
TROTTER OF THE WEEK: ABC MUSCLES BOY
Moving up in class is never an easy task. But sometimes there are circumstances surrounding a horse which make a step or two up the ladder less daunting than it would otherwise be. Take, for example, the case of ABC Muscles Boy. On Saturday night he moved up from an $11,000 condition class to one with a $14,000 purse.
Normally that would be a recipe for an up-the-track finish. But ABC Muscles Boy, a 5-year-old gelding from the Rene Allard barn, had a few things going for him. For one, he had won his previous start from the #9 post, proving his ability to overcome tough odds. For another, his 2015 season, which included over six figures in earnings and a career-best 1:52:3 mile at Pocono, demonstrated that he had the class to capably handle this group if he was on top of his game.
On Saturday night, ABC Muscles Boy quickly stepped to the front on the first turn. As the 2-1 second choice on the board, he held the lead from that point. Its Payday Friday, the 3-2 race favorite, went off-stride trying to catch him, and ABC Muscles Boy, under urging from Simon Allard, held off the rest to win in 1:55:3. Moving up in class was no sweat for this gelding; as a matter of fact, don’t be surprised if he successfully does it again in the very near future.
Honorable mention on the trotting side goes to: Noble Lover (Larry Stalbaum, Kimberly Asher), a mare who moved up in class to win a claiming handicap trot on Sunday night, which was her second straight victory and came in a new career mark of 1:55:3; Stormont Lancelot (Simon Allard, Rene Allard), who stepped up in the claiming ranks on Monday night to pick up his second straight victory, this one coming in 1:56:1; and JJ Alex (George Napolitano Jr., Gilberto Garcia-Herrera), who moved up in class and picked up his second straight condition win on Tuesday night, this one in 1:56.
LONG SHOT OF THE WEEK: NOBODY
That’s not the name of a horse; that’s just recognition of the fact that it was a good week for chalk and that no horses at 10-1 or over came up with a win in four nights of racing.
DRIVER OF THE WEEK: MATT KAKALEY
Kakaley ripped off three straight driving triples from Sunday through Tuesday night, and four of those victories came aboard horses in the Bobby Weiss series.
TRAINER OF THE WEEK: RICHARD JOHNSON
Johnson looks set in the Weiss series for three and four-year-old trotting colts, stallions, and geldings after winning two of the four divisions Monday night with Sweet Royalty and Steed.
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.